Jonah 3: Bible Chapter Summary

Exploring the third chapter in the Old Testament Book of Jonah

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By the time we get to Jonah 3, the prophet had finished his uncomfortable arrangement with the whale and arrived, rather unceremoniously, near Nineveh. But you would be wrong to conclude that the supernatural part of Jonah's story was over. In fact, God still had some serious miracles up His sleeve.

Getting Back to the Action

While Jonah 2 was a break in the action of Jonah's story, chapter 3 picks up the narrative once again.

God calls the prophet once again to speak His Word to the people of Nineveh -- and this time Jonah obeys.

We're told that "Nineveh was an extremely large city, a three-day walk" (v. 3). This is most likely a slang term or a colloquialism. Probably it did not take Jonah three whole days to walk across the city of Nineveh. Instead, the text simply wants us to understand that the city was very large for its day -- which is confirmed by archaeological evidence.

Looking at the text, we certainly can't accuse Jonah of sugar-coating God's message. The prophet was blunt and to the point. Perhaps that's why the people responded so positively:

Jonah set out on the first day of his walk in the city and proclaimed, “In 40 days Nineveh will be demolished!” The men of Nineveh believed in God. They proclaimed a fast and dressed in sackcloth—from the greatest of them to the least.
Jonah 3:4-5

We're told the word of Jonah's message spread even to "the king of Nineveh" (v.

6), and that the king himself issued an executive order for the people to repent in sackcloth and cry out earnestly to God. 

God wasn't finished with supernatural events in the Book of Jonah. Certainly, it was impressive and extraordinary for a man to survive multiple days inside a large sea creature.

That was a miracle, for sure. But make no mistake: Jonah's survival pales in comparison to the repentance of an entire city. The work God did in the lives of the Ninevites is a greater and grander miracle.

The great news of the chapter is that God saw the Ninevites' repentance -- and He responded with grace:

Then God saw their actions—that they had turned from their evil ways—so God relented from the disaster He had threatened to do to them. And He did not do it.
Jonah 3:10

Key Verses

Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Get up! Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach the message that I tell you.” So Jonah got up and went to Nineveh according to the Lord’s command.
Jonah 3:1-3

God's second call to Jonah is almost exactly the same as His earlier call back in chapter 1. God basically gave Jonah a second chance -- and this time Jonah did the right thing.

Key Themes

Grace is the major theme of Jonah 3. First is God's grace shown to His prophet, Jonah, by extending him a second chance after his flagrant rebellion in chapter 1. Jonah had made a serious mistake and suffered serious consequences. But God was merciful and offered another chance.

The same was true for the people of Nineveh.

They had also rebelled against God as a nation, and God delivered a warning of coming wrath through His prophet. But when the people responded to God's warning and turned to Him, God let go of His anger and chose to forgive.

That points to the secondary theme of this chapter: repentance. The people of Nineveh went full out in repenting of their sin and begging for God's forgiveness. They understood they had been working against God through their actions and attitudes, and they determined to change. What's more, they actively took steps to demonstrate their repentance and their desire to change.