So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth…
God had delivered Jonah; but God's pardoning mercy was no plea for negligence of duty. The Lord requires Jonah to consider again the message with which he was originally charged. God will have His people obey His will instantly, unreservedly, and with a full desire to carry it out in all things.
I. THE SUBSTANCE OF THE MESSAGE WHICH JONAH WAS BIDDEN TO DELIVER. He has to proclaim that destruction is nigh at hand, that evil awaits the city, and that this evil is the immediate act of God. Second causes there may be, but they are only second. Most people talk in their time of trouble about God being "all-merciful." It is true, but He is also holy and faithful and just. Men speak of God's mercy as if it were to set aside God's truth.
II. THE CONDUCT OF THE NINEVITES. They acknowledged that the message must have come from the Lord. External signs of repentance were used, anal external signs are useful when they express internal feeling. Here we find that these outward signs were to be accompanied by prayer for pardon and for the averting of judgments, and also by cessation from sin.
III. THE MERCY OF THE LORD. He is indeed more ready to forgive than to punish. Though there are fearful threatenings spoken in God's Word against the impenitent, there are full and free offers of mercy and pardon to every soul that turns from his wickedness and believes in Jesus.
(Montagu Villiers, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.