Daily Words of God: Knowing God | Excerpt 112
Jehovah God’s Warning Reaches the Ninevites
Let us move on to the second passage, the third chapter of the Book of Jonah: “And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” These are the words that God directly passed on to Jonah to tell the Ninevites, so of course, these are the words that Jehovah wished to say to the Ninevites. These words tell people that God began to abhor and hate the people of the city because their wickedness had come before His gaze, and so He wished to destroy this city. However, before God destroyed the city, He would make an announcement to the Ninevites, and at the same time, give them an opportunity to repent of their wickedness and start anew. This opportunity would last forty days, and no longer. In other words, if the people inside the city did not repent, admit their sins and prostrate themselves before Jehovah God within forty days, God would destroy the city as He had destroyed Sodom. This was what Jehovah God wished to tell the people of Nineveh. Clearly, this was no simple declaration. Not only did it convey Jehovah God’s anger, it also conveyed His attitude toward the Ninevites, while at the same time serving as a solemn warning to the people living inside the city. This warning told them that their wicked acts had earned them Jehovah God’s hatred and would soon bring them to the brink of their own annihilation. The life of every inhabitant of Nineveh was therefore in imminent peril.
The Stark Contrast Between Nineveh and Sodom’s Reaction to Jehovah God’s Warning
What does it mean to be overthrown? In colloquial terms, it means to no longer exist. But in what way? Who could overthrow an entire city? It would be impossible for man to perform such an act, of course. The people of Nineveh were no fools; as soon as they heard this proclamation, they got the idea. They knew that the proclamation had come from God, they knew that God was going to perform His work, and they knew that their wickedness had enraged Jehovah God and brought His anger down upon them, so that they would soon be destroyed along with their city. How did the people of the city behave after hearing Jehovah God’s warning? The Bible describes in specific detail how the people reacted, from the king down to the commoners. The following words were recorded in the Scriptures: “So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. For word came to the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God: yes, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.”
After hearing Jehovah God’s proclamation, the people of Nineveh displayed an attitude utterly opposite to that of the people of Sodom—whereas the people of Sodom openly opposed God, proceeding from evil to evil, the Ninevites, after hearing these words, did not ignore the matter, and nor did they resist. Instead, they believed God and declared a fast. What does the word, “believed,” mean here? The word itself suggests faith and submission. If we use the Ninevites’ actual behavior to explain this word, it means that they believed God could and would do as He said, and that they were willing to repent. Did the people of Nineveh feel fear in the face of imminent disaster? It was their belief that put fear in their hearts. So, what can we use to prove the Ninevites’ belief and fear? It is as the Bible says: “… proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.” This is to say that the Ninevites truly believed, and that from this belief came fear, which then led them to fast and don sackcloth. This is how they showed that they were beginning to repent. In utter contrast to the people of Sodom, not only did the Ninevites not oppose God, but they also clearly showed their repentance through their behavior and actions. Of course, this was something all the people of Nineveh did, not just the commoners—the king was no exception.
The Repentance of Nineveh’s King Wins Jehovah God’s Commendation
When the king of Nineveh heard this news, he arose from his throne, took off his robe, dressed himself in sackcloth and sat in ashes. He then proclaimed that no one in the city would be allowed to taste anything, and that no sheep, oxen or any other livestock would be allowed to graze or drink water. Man and livestock alike were to don sackcloth, and the people were to make earnest entreaties to God. The king also proclaimed that every one of them would turn away from their evil ways and forsake the violence in their hands. Judging from this series of actions, the king of Nineveh had true repentance in his heart. This series of actions he took—arising from his throne, casting off his king’s robe, wearing sackcloth and sitting in ashes—tells people that the king of Nineveh was laying aside his royal status and donning sackcloth alongside the common people. This is to say that the king of Nineveh did not occupy his royal post to continue his evil way or the violence in his hands after hearing the announcement from Jehovah God; rather, he laid aside the authority he held and repented before Jehovah God. At this moment the king of Nineveh was not repenting as a king; he had come before God to repent and confess his sins as an ordinary subject of God. Moreover, he also told the entire city to repent and confess their sins before Jehovah God in the same manner as he had; additionally, he had a specific plan for how to do so, as seen in the scriptures: “Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: … and cry mightily to God: yes, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.” As the city’s ruler, the king of Nineveh possessed supreme status and power, and could do anything he wished to. When faced with Jehovah God’s announcement, he could have ignored the matter or simply repented and confessed his sins alone; as for whether or not the people in the city chose to repent, he could have completely ignored the matter. However, the king of Nineveh did not do this at all. Not only did he arise from his throne, wear sackcloth and ashes and repent and confess his sins before Jehovah God, but he also ordered all people and livestock within the city to do the same. He even ordered the people to “cry mightily to God.” Through this series of actions, the king of Nineveh truly accomplished that which a ruler should. His series of actions is one that was difficult for any king in human history to achieve, and indeed, no other king achieved these things. These actions can be called unprecedented in human history, and they are worthy of being both commemorated and imitated by mankind. Since the dawn of man, every king had led his subjects to resist and oppose God. No one had ever led his subjects to entreat God to seek redemption for their wickedness, receive Jehovah God’s pardon and avoid imminent punishment. The king of Nineveh, however, was able to lead his subjects to turn to God, to leave their respective evil ways behind and abandon the violence in their hands. Furthermore, he was also able to put aside his throne, and in return, Jehovah God had a change of mind and felt regret, retracting His wrath and allowing the people of the city to survive, keeping them from destruction. The king’s actions can only be called a rare miracle in human history, and even a model example of corrupt humanity repenting and confessing their sins before God.
—The Word, Vol. 2. On Knowing God. God Himself, the Unique II