"Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second
time, saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it
the message that I tell you.’ So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh,
according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly
great city, a three-day journey in extent. And Jonah began to enter
the city on the first day’s walk. Then he cried out and said, ‘Yet
forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!’ So the people of Nineveh
believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the
greatest to the least of them. Then word came to the king of Nineveh;
and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself
with sackcloth and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and
published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles,
saying, ‘Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do
not let them eat, or drink water. But let man and beast be covered
with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from
his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who can tell
if God will turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not
perish?’ Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil
way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would
bring upon them, and He did not do it."
Passages From the Writings
- "The nations, hearing from the Word of God about their sins, and
that they would perish, were converted after repenting, and were heard
by the Lord, and saved."
AC 9437 
- "As ‘forty’ signified what is full or complete…forty signifies what
is complete in respect to instruction and influx…for this reason it was
said by Jonah to the Ninevites that ‘the city would be overthrown after
forty days" (Jonah 3:4)
- "By being clothed in sackcloth is signified mourning on account of
the vastated truth in the church; for garments signify truths; and
therefore, to be clothed in sackcloth, which is not a garment, signifies
mourning that there is no truth; and where there is no truth, there is
no church." Jonah 3:5-6 is cited.
AE 637 
- "…in the Jewish and Israelitish church mourning was represented by
‘rending the clothes and being clothed in sackcloth;’ and this because
grief of mind and mourning of heart, which are interior things, were
represented at that time by external things, which because of their
correspondences with spiritual things were significative." Jonah 3:5,
6, and 8 are cited among the examples from the Word.
AC 4779 
- "…the rite of putting sackcloth on the loins to testify…mourning may
be seen from the historic and prophetic parts of the Word, as in…Jonah
3:5-8…for a sign representative of mourning over the evil on account of
which Nineveh was to perish; thus over destroyed good."
- "From the signification of garments it is also manifest why they
rent their garments, when any one spoke against the Divine truth of the
Word…and why, on account of transgressions against Divine truths, they
put off their garments, and put on sackcloth." Jonah 3:5, 6, and
8 are cited.
AE 195 
- "That in mourning for transgression against Divine truths they
should put off their garments and put on sackcloth." Jonah 3:5, 6,
and 8 are cited.
- "That ‘ashes’ denote falsity, may be confirmed from passages where
another word for ‘ashes (cinis)’ is used, for these ashes have a like
origin…" Jonah 3:6 is cited.
- "…by ‘ashes’ in the opposite sense, namely, what is condemned that
remains after the burning from the fire of self love. This is signified
by ‘the ashes’ which they carried on the head, and in which they rolled
themselves when bewailing their sins." Jonah 3:6 is cited.
- "In the spiritual sense by kings those who are in truths are
signified, by the great ones those who are in goods, by the rich those
that are in the knowledge of good, by the mighty they that are in
erudition, by servants they that are in such things from others, and
thus from memory, and by freemen they that are in such things from
themselves…" Jonah 3:7 is cited.
AE 408 
- "Internal goods are signified by ‘great ones,’ because these four,
namely, ‘great ones,’ ‘the rich,’ ‘the commanders of thousands’ and ‘the
mighty’ signify all the goods and truths that are with man, thus the
goods and truths both of the internal or spiritual man and of the
external or natural man…Like things are signified by the ‘great ones’
elsewhere in the Word (namely in…Jonah 3:7)."
- "The interior good and also the interior evil…are signified by
‘man,’ are those which are of the intention or end, for the intention or
end is the inmost of man; but the exterior good and also the exterior
evil which are signified by ‘beast,’ are those which are of the thought,
and of the consequent action when nothing stands in the way…By
‘beast,’…in respect to the external or natural man, a man is nothing
else than a beast, for he takes delight in the like cupidities and
pleasures, as also in the like appetites and sense…Therefore…from a holy
rite it was commanded by the king of Nineveh, that both man and beast
were to fast, and were to be covered with sackcloth (Jonah 3:7, 8)."
- "…in the spiritual world a man’s affections appear at a distance
like beasts…and beasts, viewed in themselves, are nothing but forms of
natural affections…By man and beasts together is signified man as to
spiritual and natural affection, in the following passages…Jonah 3:7,
AE 650 
- "…‘man’ signifies the internal spiritual man, and ‘beast’ signifies
the external or natural…" Jonah 3:7-8 are cited as an example.
AC 623 
- "Here ‘webs’ and ‘garments’ are predicated of things of the
understanding, that is, of the thought; ‘iniquity’ and ‘violence,’ of
things of the will, that is, of works. In Jonah 3:8…the ‘evil way’ is
predicated of falsities, which are of the understanding; and ‘violence,’
which are of the will."
AC 588 
- "…the ‘wrath of anger’ is attributed to Jehovah, and consequently
‘repentance.’ In Jonah …[3:9]."
DSS 51 
- "…the Word is such in the sense of the letter, it may be evident
that it cannot be understood without doctrine. But let examples
illustrate this. It is said that Jehovah repenteth (Jonah 3:9; 4:2), and
it is also said that Jehovah repenteth not (Num. 23:19…): without
doctrine these statements do not agree."
TCR 226 
- Please note that this reference has the same wording and sources as
cited in the quote above.
AC 10441 [2-4]
- "In these passages (Jonah 3:9,10) Jehovah is said to have
‘repented,’ when yet it cannot be that He repents, because He knows all
things before He does them; from which it is evident that by ‘repenting’
is signified mercy."
"Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time…"
- The word of the Lord coming to Jonah for the second time seems to
convey a restoration—an opening again—of a covenant between heaven and
earth. "The conjunction of heaven with man is by means of the Word, and
the Word is called a covenant, because a covenant signifies a
conjunction." (White Horse 10)
- A second time, perhaps, signifies an acknowledgment that a
conjunction would involve "labor and combat." See AC 755
regarding the correspondence of "second." Two, or second, signifies
conjunction. AC 5194 explains that two or twain represent the
conjunction of the external natural with the things of the internal
natural. Two also represents the conjunction of the will and
"Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it
the message that I tell you…"
- AC 1612 teaches that to "arise" signifies a Divine edict to
survey the heavenly kingdom.
- AC 2326 teaches that arising represents acknowledgment from the
elevation of the mind, or a state of affection from charity.
- AC 3050 and 5605 add to the meanings of the word "go"
this thought: it is to elevate one’s mind within to more interior
- Nineveh signifies falsities of doctrinal things from reasoning and
contrived by the proprium (selfhood). (AC 1184) Nineveh signifies
falsities from the fallacies of the senses in the obscurity of an
unenlightened understanding, or ignorance. (AC 1188 )
- To preach signifies about the same thing spiritually as naturally,
but to teach rather than exhort. (AE 612)
- The "message I tell you…" directs us to the true source of mercy and
"So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word
of the Lord.
- Nota bene how well this verse repeats and ties together the derived
teachings we turned to above.
"Jonah began to enter the city on the first day’s walk."
- The city was a three-day journey in extent. This is the first day.
"Day" signifies the successive states of a person’s regeneration. (AC
6) "Three" signifies what is holy; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit;
Love, Wisdom, and Use.
- That which is "first" sets the tone or theme for all that is to
follow: Repentance, Reformation, and Regeneration.
"To enter the city…"
- To enter in, when predicated of the Lord, signifies to conjoin
Himself to man. (AE 251)
- A city denotes the order and organization of the interiors of the
mind, specifically as to good and truth. (AC 3538)
- Forty signifies the duration of temptation and likewise its
vastation. (AC 730 , AC 862, and AC 1963)
The people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast…"
- A fast signifies to mourn because of a lack of good and truth.
(AE 1189 ) A fasting signifies to be in an unhappy state when
good is no longer conjoined with truths. (AC 9182 )
Putting It All Together
The great city of Nineveh has many spiritual
representations. The world saw Nineveh as a mighty nation, but in the eyes
of the Lord, it represented the shallowness and weakness (death) of false
doctrines, contrived beliefs confirmed by the proprium (self love), the
fallacies of the senses, and the unenlightened understanding that spawns
spiritual ignorance. The Lord’s mercy and love for all prompted Him not
only to send His message to Nineveh, but to ensure that it would be
preserved for eternity.
Jonah’s call to "arise and go" preach to Nineveh what the
Lord told him is a call for spiritual renewal. It is a call for
repentance. Thus, the fasting, sackcloth, and ashes symbolize a call to be
aware that "where there is no truth, there is no church." Where the Word
is closed and not loved, there is a loss of conjunction with the Divine
resources. The fasting of man and beast symbolizes a need for the
spiritual and natural appetites to come to the Lord for that "bread which
comes down from heaven." The Ninevites giving up their natural food and
drink represents their turning away from the "as-of-self" concepts and
reminds all who read and hear the Word of the Lord to rely on heavenly
manna. "Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for
what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me and eat what is good, and
let your soul delight itself in abundance…" (Isaiah 55:2)
The king sitting in ashes and mourning represents a
sorrowful attitude toward "the remains of the fire of self-love."
Repentance involves: self-examination, making oneself guilty for the sins
and evils committed, asking the Lord for His help, and desiring to attain
a new life.
As we mull over this concept, think about the Lord’s
preaching on earth. As He went about His mission, He often used these
words: "You have heard it said of old…but I say unto you…" Putting aside
human traditions and taking on the Lord’s teachings is an ongoing effort.
Jonah was told to preach the words of the Lord. He was not to make things
up from his memory. He was to be a true and faithful prophet of the Lord’s
P&P tells us of the results of Jonah’s mission:
"The nations, hearing from the Word of God about their sins, and that they
would perish, were converted after repenting, and were heard by the Lord,
Read and Review
Read the selection from P&P.
Read Jonah 3:1-10.
Questions to Stimulate Reflection
- Where there is no truth, there is no church. Can you imagine any
society where there is a total absence of truth? Could there be
situations where truth is present but empty because people ascribe it to
themselves and deny the Lord?
- How did the Lord’s words to Jonah strike you when He said
"…preach…the message that I tell you"? For me, those words carry power.
Sermons, doctrinal classes need to be carefully worked to keep the focus
on the words of the Lord. Jokes, humor, have their place in the proper
setting. Is the church or worship a proper setting?
- Were you struck with the quickness of Nineveh’s repentance? First,
the people of the city responded, and then the king did so with his call
for national observance of fasting.
- Was the literal sense of the king sitting on ashes to mourn clear
enough that you can now make some application to a life situation? Ashes
represent the remains from the fire of self-love. Can you recall
some project or cause that carried you away and in spite of advice or a
warning from the conscience you pressed on? Looking back you clearly see
that your motives grew out of self-love. In retrospect you now see what
a waste of time it was. Instead of doing it for the good of the Lord or
neighbor it was "all about ourselves." An unhealthy self-love leaves us
with a burnt out useless pile of residue. What had appeared at the time
a momentous cause really ended up a little thing that sadly was limited
in eternal uses. Is this your insight of this king on the ashes scene?
One last doctrinal thought: A king represents ruling loves. Is this
passage giving us a picture of the Lord as the mourning king or is it a
picture of ourselves as a repentant king?
- The Lord’s love for us is a major theme in this chapter. The
impossible happening ought to give us cause to be thankful. What
emotions usually accompany gratitude to the Lord? How do we associate
gratitude and repentance, or do we? Should we?
- Preaching should teach and not exhort. I’m still mulling over that
quote from the Writings. Effective preaching, if it involves opening the
spiritual sense of the Word, eventually brings some kind of exhortation.
Could this be a reminder to teach and then let the Lord do the
exhorting? Does teaching inspire self-exhortation? How and when?