And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do to them…
As to what Jonah adds, that God was led to repent, it is a mode of speaking that ought to be sufficiently known to us. Strictly speaking, no repentance can belong to God; and it ought not to be ascribed to His secret and hidden counsel. God, then, is in Himself ever the same, and consistent with Himself, but He is said to repent when a regard is had to the comprehension of men; for as we conceive God to be angry whenever He summons us to His tribunal, and shows us our sins, so also we conceive Him to be placable when He offers the hope of pardon. But it is according to our perceptions that there is any change when God forgets His wrath, as though He had put on a new character. As then we cannot otherwise be terrified, that we may be humbled before God and repent, except He sets forth before us His wrath, the Scripture accommodates itself to the grossness of our understanding. But, on the other hand, we cannot call confidently on God unless we feel assured that He is placable. We hence see that some kind of change appears to us, whenever God either threatens or gives hopes of pardon and reconciliation; and to this must be referred this mode of speaking which Jonah adopts when he says that God repented. There is a twofold view of God — as He sets Himself forth in His word, and as He is in His hidden counsel. With regard to His secret counsel, God is always like Himself, and is subject to none of our feelings; but with regard to the teaching of His Word, He is accommodated to our capacities. God is now angry with us, and then, as though He were pacified, He offers pardon, and is propitious to us. Such is the repentance of God. Let us remember, then, that it proceeds from His Word that God is said to repent.
( John Calvin.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.