The Old Testament Lesson for this Sunday is from the Book of the Twelve, the Prophet Jonah. The text is Jonah 3:1-5, 10 which begins with a unique, unusual case in Scripture. Jonah is the only prophet who is “called twice!” As you may recall, Jonah’s first call is recorded in chapter one of Jonah—a call which he ran from fast and far! Jonah rejected his first call and job description and headed in the opposite direction (probably a sermon there somewhere). Now, after spending three days in the belly of the big fish, Jonah is called again. The language used in the two calls is almost identical. God has not changed His mind through all that has transpired, although there seems to be evidence He has toned down His attitude toward Nineveh as He does not bring up their “great evil” like He did in 1:2. The LORD also makes no mention of the first call or Jonah’s failure to take up that call. It is most likely Jonah does not need reminding—he has gotten the point!

Another interesting question may be, “Why does Jonah fulfill the parameters of the call the second time?” Perhaps, he was afraid another big fish would be in his future or perhaps he was hopeful the LORD would smite and destroy the Assyrian City. It could also be he was just happy to do the LORD’s bidding, but that seems a bit unlikely considering his reaction later when the LORD spares the great city because of the repentance which occurs. Certainly, following his journey to the pit of Sheol in the belly of the big fish and then his resurrection back to dry ground (via vomiting) a tone and attitude of rising/resurrection is seen in the vocabulary of the text. Think also what Jesus says: “You want a sign? I will give you a sign. I will give you the sign of Jonah!”

One other thing to consider before we look at the grammar. The repentance demonstrated by the people of Nineveh, from the greatest to the least, including animals, is greater than any demonstrated by the people of Israel throughout history. And, in this Book of Jonah, everyone repents… except Jonah!

And, in this Book of Jonah, everyone repents… except Jonah!

My thanks to Reed Lessing and his fine commentary on Jonah in the Concordia Commentary Series.

3:1 שֵׁנִית (she-Nit) “Second” “A second time”, “Again”

This verse is identical to chapter 1:1 except “son of Amittai” is replaced by “a second time.”

3:2 קוּם לֵךְ (kum lech) Qal, imperatives: “Rise up, go!”

הַקְּרִיאָה (hak-ke-ri-Ah) “Proclamation; message”

*Again, the first part of the verse is identical to the previous call found in chapter one. Note that קוּם (koom) “rise up” is paired with אֵלֶיהָ (e-Lei-ha) “to her” as compared to 1:2 which uses עָלֶיהָ (a-Lei-ha) “against her”.

3:3 וַיָּקָם וַיֵּלֶךְ (vai-Ya-kom vai-Ye-lech) roots: קוּם/הלך (koom/haw-lak) “rose and went” This time Jonah’s actions mirror the LORD’s command from 3:2, as opposed to his first call.

כִּדְבַר יְהוָה (kid-Var Yah-weh) “according to the Word of the LORD”

מַהֲלַךְ (ma-ha-Lach) “journey; stretch of road” Not necessarily a straight line journey. In verse 4 it is likely referring to going around and preaching the message throughout the city.

3:4 וַיָּחֶל (vai-Ya-chel) root: חלל (khaw-lal) Hiphil: “to begin to do something; to begin” Also literally: to untie, loosen, or open.

לָבוֹר (la-Vo) root: בוא (bo) Qal, infinitive: “to go” “And Jonah began to go into the city.”

נֶהְפָּכֶת (neh-Pa-chet) root: הפך (haw-fak) Niphal: “to be destroyed; to be overthrown” Lessing: “to be changed”

3:5 וַיַּאֲמִינוּ (vai-ya-a-Mi-nu) root: אמן (aw-man) Hiphil: “to trust in; to believe in” “to cause to believe in”

צוֹם (tzOm) “fast; time of fasting”

שַׂקִּים (sak-Kim) “sackcloth; clothing worn during mourning”

קְטַנָּם (ke-tan-Nam) “small; least; unimportant; insignificant”

Note the very short and non-specific nature of Jonah’s message/sermon. His efforts are half-hearted at best, yet the city of Nineveh responds with repentance.

3:10 וַיִּנָּחֶם (vai-yin-Na-chem) root: נחם (naw-kham) Niphal: “to change; to repent; to relent”


Additional Resources:

Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Jonah 3:1-5, 10.

Text Week-Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Jonah 3:1-5, 10.