3 Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 “Go to Nineveh the great city and declare to it the message which I am going to tell you.” 3 So Jonah went to Nineveh in accordance with the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a [a]three days’ walk [about sixty miles in circumference]. 4 Then on the first day’s walk, Jonah [b]began to go through the city, and he called out and said, “Forty days more [remain] and [then] Nineveh will be overthrown!”
5 The people of Nineveh believed and trusted in God; and they proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth [in penitent mourning], from the greatest even to the least of them. 6 When word reached the king of Nineveh [of Jonah’s message from God], he rose from his throne, took off his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in the dust [in repentance]. 7 He issued a proclamation and it said, “In Nineveh, by the decree of the king and his nobles: No man, animal, herd, or flock is to taste anything. They are not to eat or drink water. 8 But both man and animal must be covered with sackcloth; and every one is to call on God earnestly and forcefully that each may turn from his wicked way and from the violence that is in his hands. 9 Who knows, God may turn [in compassion] and relent and withdraw His burning anger (judgment) so that we will not perish.”
10 When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God [had compassion and] relented concerning the disaster which He had declared that He would bring upon them. And He did not do it.
Jonah 3:3It is usually assumed that the “three days’ walk” was the distance equal to the circumference of the walled city, but it would also include the open fields, farms, and villages that would have been considered the territory of Nineveh. In fact, a significant portion of what was considered an ancient city’s population typically were farmers who lived outside the city, and only left their farms for the protection of the city when an invading army threatened to attack. For another explanation of the distance, see note v 4.
Jonah 3:4Even though it probably would not have taken Jonah long merely to walk from one end of the city to another, to reach the entire population of more than 120,000, Jonah undoubtedly had to work his way through countless streets and alleys. The term “day’s walk” here and in v 3 does not occur elsewhere in Scripture, so perhaps it refers to the time required to visit every part of the city rather than to walk the circumference (see note v 3).
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