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Nineveh turned upside down

26-09-2011 - Posted by Andre Piet

shocked reaction


Today I was stimulated when I listened once again to the story of Jonah. After a stay of three days and three nights inside a large fish, Jonah was vomited back on to land. The question arose, What physical effect did the cramped stay, within the belly of the fish, have on Jonah? Did the prolonged exposure to the stomach acid of the fish leave a lasting ‘mark’ on him? Did the inhabitants of Nineveh see something remarkable on Jonah that reminded them of those three days? May we assume that Jonah’s story of his stay in the depth of the sea had become known in Nineveh? If yes, does this perhaps explain their shocked reaction? A visit by a random stranger with an threatening message, would not have turned such a large city as Nineveh upside down. It must be that a very unique reason led to their repentance, something, that had made a deep impression on the citizen of the city. a city turned about And then, the short but to the point unconditional announcement: “forty days more and Nineveh shall be overturned!” (Jonah 3:4). For a long time I thought that God had changed his mind and that the words of Jonah He did not fulfill. But that was a misunderstanding! The word ‘overturned’, can mean: the city will be destroyed. This is undoubtedly the way Jonah had interpreted it, as well as the citizens of Nineveh. However, the word can also have the meaning: the city will be ‘turned upside down’, that is to say, ‘experience a complete change of heart and mind’. Also in that sense is ‘overturned’ used in the Hebrew Bible. This signifies that what Jonah announced, indeed did happen! The city was in forty days ‘overturned’… due to Jonah’s message! True, in a totally different manner than Jonah had pictured it and had hoped it would, but his prophecy, nevertheless, was fulfilled. To Jonah the Hebrew, Nineveh was the capital of the hated country of Assyria. He very much, undoubtedly, liked to see the city being overturned… but not in this manner. How awe-inspiring to note that God in His (solicitous and humorous) way, nonetheless, kept His word! ——————————— translation: Peter Feddema