What is amazing to me about Jonah’s work in Ninevah is the speed with which his declaration seems to overturn the exisitng sin in such a large city. There are no time markers in this text other than the one that says it was a three day walk from one side of Ninevah to the other. We also know that Jonah started preaching after his first day’s walk. I get the feeling when I read this passage that Jonah proclaimed the truth to the Ninevites and they immediately recognized the error of their ways. I think it is my hope that they immediately repented because the text simply says, “The Ninevites believed God.” It never says how long it took for them to get it. As a matter of fact there is no time frame for anything in this chapter. We do not know how long the people fasted. We do not know how long it took the message to get to the King. We do not know how long Jonah toiled and preached to entice the people to listen. But we do know that God had compassion on them when they repented and changed their lives. I like to think that like most Biblical stories everything happened within that 40 day time frame, but it seems a bit too neat and tidy.
My first question which seems a bit irrelevant: who is the Queen of the South? Ah, she is the Queen of Sheba, which I probably should have known. The connection between Jesus and Jonah interests me because I know that Jesus preached for somewhere around three years and he was arguably much more influential, you know being the Son of God and all, than Jonah or Solomon and people still didn’t get it. How in the world did Jonah influence those Ninevites?!? How did Solomon influence the Queen of Sheba? In verse 32, Luke writes: “The men of Ninevah will stand up at judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here.” On more investigation this passage seems to be an indictment on anyone who heard Jesus’ message but refused to repent. How could the people listen and be influenced by a minor prophet and a king, when they wouldn’t listen to Jesus? Even the likes of the Ninevites and the Queen of Sheba repented at the words of lesser men.