Introduction: At long last Jonah is back on track. God has asked him
once again to go and share God’s word with the people of Nineveh.
This time Jonah obeys. Think back to the lesson when we discussed all
the reasons why Jonah would not want to go to Nineveh. Remember them?
Will those worries and fears come true? Let’s dive into our study
this week and find out what happens as Jonah enters Nineveh!

  1. The Message

    1. Read Jonah 3:3-4. What do you think about the tone of
      Jonah’s message? Is it attractive, upbeat and designed
      for the modern man and woman?

      1. Does this message appeal to the vanity of the

      2. Does this message appeal to the curiosity of the

      3. Is it possible the message was condensed for us for
        the purpose of brevity?

    2. What reasons would the citizens of Nineveh have to not
      believe Jonah?

      1. What would you say if you owned a financially strong
        company and one of your competitor’s employees came
        to you and said, “In 40 days you will be out of

        1. What reasons would you have to not believe this

      2. What if Saddam Hussein came to the United States and
        said “In 40 days the great mother of all winds will
        come and sink your entire navy?” Would he be
        believed? (Jonah came from a country that was hostile
        to the Assyrians. They could dismiss him as a hostile
        lunatic. They could simply dismiss him as no one
        they knew or should trust.)

    3. What reasons would the citizens of Nineveh have to believe

      1. Is there a convincing case either way? (Everything so
        far in this story has been illogical when viewed in
        human terms. God’s hand has been on everything. My
        belief is that this is no different. The reason the
        Ninevites should believe is that the Holy Spirit is
        acting on their hearts and minds. The message itself
        does not seem to be attractive.)

    1. Read Luke 11:30. This New Testament comment sugggests
      additional insight into the evidence before the Ninevites.
      What reason does it suggest that the Ninevites believed
      Jonah? (It calls Jonah a “sign.” This suggests that Jonah
      told his story to the citizens of Nineveh and they
      believed him.)

      1. What are the similarities between the Ninevites and

      2. What hope does Jonah’s experience give to the
        Ninevites? (That God will show mercy to them like He
        showed mercy to Jonah.)

    2. If you were a citizen of Nineveh, how would you interpret
      God’s intentions in a message that said you had 40 days
      before destruction – as opposed to God just destroying you
      without a word? (This would give me some hope that God was
      allowing me the opportunity to repent. A deadline seems to
      clearly indicate an opportunity exists while time still
      lasts. The Ninevite might think,”Perhaps destruction will
      not come in 40 days if I do the right thing.” Certainly,
      hearing Jonah’s story would strengthen that hope.)

  1. The Reaction

    1. Read Jonah 3:5. How did the citizens of Nineveh react?

      1. Was it only the poorer, less educated, classes who

      2. Did Jonah have a “traction” problem with his message
        in certain segments of the Ninevite community? (No.
        All segments of society got the message and

    2. This verse highlights the fact that the citizens believed
      God. What does that statement reveal about the
      understanding of the citizens of Nineveh? (It was not just
      Jonah they believed. They believed that God was behind
      Jonah’s message.)

      1. What does this teach us about the supernatural
        component of Jonah’s work? (This is further evidence
        that God’s Spirit was actively at work in Jonah’s

      2. The New Bible Commentary on these verses gives us
        some interesting insight into other factors that God
        may have brought to bear to get the attention of the
        citizens of Nineveh. Historical records show that the
        Assyrians were suffering military defeats during this
        time frame. There is a report of a major earthquake
        in Assyria during the reign of one of the kings names
        Ashurdan. A total eclipse of the sun over Assyria
        occurred on June 15, 763 BC, which was during the
        reign of Ashurdan III. Although we cannot be sure
        that all of these correlate with the approximate time
        of Jonah’s visit, it is possible. God may well have
        used nature to prepare the hearts of these people for
        Jonah’s message just as He used nature in Jonah’s

    1. What does the fast and the sackcloth tell us? (These were
      outward symbols of submission and contrition. See 1 Kings

    2. Read Jonah 3:6-9. Verse 6 starts out, “When news reached
      the king.” Tell me what you think the King heard? (He
      heard that something unique was going on in the kingdom. A
      foreign prophet had come with a message of doom and all
      the people believed him.)

      1. Is the reaction of the King of Assyria what you would
        expect? (How many important people do not like to
        accept an idea that “comes from below?” I would
        think the King was used to leading the nation – not
        just following the people.)

      2. How does the King interpret the 40 day deadline?
        (This explicitly reveals to us the Assyrian
        interpretation of the deadline – perhaps it is a sign
        of the opportunity to repent and avoid destruction.)

      3. Notice that the animals are fasting and covered with
        sackcloth. Why is this?

        1. The next time you fast, should your pet be

        2. For those who fast, notice the rigorous nature
          of this fast: nothing touches your lips!

      4. What instruction, other than fasting and sackcloth,
        does the King give? (To turn from evil and violence.)

      5. The church/state separationists tell us that you
        cannot change a person’s heart from the outside in.
        Is this true? (Yes. See generally, Matthew 15:16-20.)

        1. If this is true, how do you explain the King’s
          command to turn from evil and violence? More
          importantly, how do you explain God’s reaction
          ( Jonah 3:10)? God decided not to destroy the
          city based on the reaction of the people. (There
          are two answers. First, the people seem to have
          already had a changed heart based on Jonah’s
          message. Second, I think the King’s reaction and
          God’s response teach us a very important lesson
          which the radical church/state separationists do
          not understand. While you cannot change a
          person’s heart from the outside, you certainly
          can influence behavior and attitudes by national
          standards. A nation which passes and enforces
          laws which promote right living has a positive
          influence on its citizens.)

      6. So far we have discussed the King’s command for
        fasting and sackcloth, and his command to turn away
        from evil and violence. What have we left out? What
        else does the King command? (He commands prayer!
        Church/state separationists should now be clutching
        their hearts!)

      7. Notice the four components of the message of the
        (formerly wicked) King of Assyria: fasting and
        sackcloth, prayer, giving up evil, and relying on God
        for mercy. Is this pretty much the gospel in a
        nutshell? (It sounds pretty good to me. Repent, call
        on God, walk in God’s ways and rely on God’s mercy.
        From the New Testament perspective you would add the
        central factor that we need not hope for God’s mercy,
        Jesus is proof of God’s mercy and forgiveness.)

    3. I want to end where we started. Jonah’s central message
      was judgment and destruction. This is generally not the
      way we approach evangelistic efforts these days. Are we
      missing something very important? Are we “wimping out” in
      our duties to the pagan world?

    4. Friend, Jonah’s experience in Nineveh shows God’s power to
      accomplish the most remarkable and difficult tasks. If God
      has a mission for you that you have refused to accept,
      will you reconsider in light of the unbelievable talent
      and power of your “Partner?”

  1. Next week: Conversing With God.