Narrative :: Jonah: Introduction Notes on ch:  3  4  

Study Notes on Jonah (including Hebrew narrative) by Tim Bulkeley

Characters: Ninevites

"This 8th century Assyrian relief from the Palace of Tiglath-Pileser lll at Nimrud, shows scribes noting down the numbers of prisoners

At this time the size of a victory was gauged by the  amount and value of plunder." (Bible Today: The Jerusalem Version with commentary, illustrations and historical notes n.p.: Marshall Cavendish, 1970, 835)

Notice the heads, to enable an accurate count

Nineveh is described at the start of the book as a "great city" whose "wickedness has come up before" Adonai. The wickedness of Nineveh may well have been something that the narrator of Jonah could have taken for granted (read Nahum to get a feel for how Hebrew readers may have felt about the imperial city). Yet rather he has God declare it at the very start of the book.

Nineveh's greatness is suggested by the two reconstructions from Clack

When Nineveh is next mentioned (3:2) its wickedness is no longer mentioned. By contrast it is said to be "a great city to God" (3:3), and three days journey. When Jonah begins to enter the city and preaches his miserly (5 word) message, the people instantly "believe God" (3:5). Both the greatest and smallest of them act on this belief, fasting and putting on sackcloth.

Their king goes two better, he strips his robe and sits in ashes, before proclaiming a great fast and repentance, which includes not only great and small but even their animals! This is no token repentance for they are to "turn from their evil... and from... violence".  

If the sailors of chapter one were very responsive to Jonah's hints about his God then the Ninevites of chapter three are religious fanatics!

Again the magnitude of their repentance contrasts Jonah's meager response to God. 

© Tim Bulkeley, 2003