“Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.’ Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh.” – Jonah 3:1-3a
R. Reed Lessing writes:
Jonah 3:1-3a does not explicitly state that Jonah has repented, that the experience with the sea and the great fish have humbled him, that Yahweh’s salvation promotes his obedience, or that he now plans to change his theology to accommodate God’s desire to save [people from every nation], even pagan Gentiles like the Ninevites.
So why does Jonah go to Nineveh this time? After all, this was a demanding journey of about five hundred miles from the Mediterranean coast across desert routes. The approximate travel time in antiquity from Jerusalem to Nineveh I estimated to have been between a month and forty-five days, based on caravan speed. So why go?
One answer might be that Jonah realizes he cannot escape Yahweh. This God has pursued him from Israel, across the sea, into the ocean depths, even to “the belly of Sheol” and “the underworld,” then out onto the land again. At this point, Jonah may simply be giving in, passively but not joyfully acquiescing to what Yahweh wants.
… Or perhaps Jonah goes to the great city because of his renewed faith. After all, Yahweh had saved him from the death he surely knew he deserved. Despite his rebellion, Yahweh had provided a great fish for his deliverance, not abandoned him to Sheol; raised him up to new life, and reinstalled him into the prophetic office. Yahweh has come “to seek and to save what was lost.” Just as Paul urges the baptized members of the congregation in Rome to present themselves to God as people who once were dead but now are alive, so also Jonah has been through his own “baptismal” drowning of the old man and resurrection of the new man of faith. He is now empowered to follow Yahweh’s command, just as Yahweh’s other servants have done: the wind and the sea and the great fish.
But if this is true, it will become apparent in chapter 4 that Jonah is still simul iustus et peccator, “saint and sinner at the same time,” and this to the very end of the narrative.
MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 74
Q. 74. What is required in the eighth commandment?
A. The eighth commandment requireth the lawful procuring and furthering the wealth and outward estate of ourselves and others.