The Meaning of Jonah 3:10 Explained

Jonah 3:10

KJV: And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.

YLT: And God seeth their works, that they have turned back from their evil way, and God repenteth of the evil that He spake of doing to them, and he hath not done it.

Darby: And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil that he had said he would do unto them, and he did it not.

ASV: And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil which he said he would do unto them; and he did it not.

What does Jonah 3:10 Mean?

Study Notes

repented
Repentance (O.T.), Summary: In the O.T., repentance is the English word used to translate the Heb. nacham, to be "eased" or "comforted." It is used of both God and man. Notwithstanding the literal meaning of nacham, it is evident, from a study of all the passages, that the sacred writers use it in the sense of metanoia in the N.T.--a change of mind. Matthew 3:2 (See Scofield " Acts 17:30 ") . As in the N.T., such change of mind is often accompanied by contrition and self-judgment. When applied to God the word is used phenomenally according to O.T. custom. God seems to change His mind. The phenomena are such as, in the case of man, would indicate a change of mind.

Verse Meaning

God noted the genuineness of the Ninevites" repentance in their actions. These fruits of repentance moved Him to withhold the judgment that He would have sent on them had they persisted in their wicked ways. Repentance is essentially a change in one"s thinking. Change in one"s behavior indicates that repentance has taken place, but behavioral change is the fruit of repentance and is not all there is to repentance (cf. Matthew 3:7-10). Nineveh finally experienced overthrow in612 B.C, about150 years later.
"We may know the character of God only from what he does and the words he uses to explain his actions. When he does not do what he said he would, we as finite men can say only that he has changed his mind or repented, even though we should recognize, as Jonah did ( Jonah 4:2), that he had intended or desired this all along." [1]
"That God should choose to make his own actions contingent-at least in part-upon human actions is no limitation of his sovereignty. Having first decided to place the option of obedience and disobedience before nations, his holding them responsible for their actions automatically involves a sort of contingency. He promises blessing if they repent, punishment if not (cf. Jeremiah 18:7-10). But this hardly makes God dependent on the nations; it rather makes them dependent on him, as is the point of the lesson at the potter"s house in Jeremiah 18:1-11, and the point of the mourning decree in Jonah 3:5-9. God holds all the right, all the power, and all the authority." [2]
"Helpful also is the analogy of the thermometer. Is it changeable or unchangeable? The superficial observer says it is changeable, for the mercury certainly moves in the tube. But just as certainly it is unchangeable, for it acts according to fixed law and invariably responds precisely to the temperature." [3]
Notice that in this section of verses ( Jonah 3:5-10) the name "God" (Heb. Elohim, the strong one) appears exclusively. However the name "LORD" (Heb. Yahweh, the covenant keeping God) occurs frequently earlier and later in the story. Jonah did not present God, and the Ninevites did not fear God, as the covenant keeping God of Israel but as the universal Supreme Being. Likewise God did not deal with the Ninevites as He dealt with His covenant people Israel but as He deals with all people generally. Thus the story teaches that God will be merciful to anyone, His elect and His non-elect, who live submissively to natural divine law (cf. Genesis 9:5-6).
If such a remarkable turnaround really did occur in Nineveh, why is there no other historical record of it?
"First of all, the extant records are comparatively few. There are large segments of undocumented history. Second, there was a serious, pronounced bias in recording history that gave only the most favorable of impressions." [4]

Context Summary

Jonah 3:1-10 - A Repentant City
Peter was not only forgiven, but restored to his office; so also was Jonah again sent to Nineveh. Thank God for our second chances! There was no hesitancy this time. The prophet arose and went. The story of his deliverance seems to have reached Nineveh and to have prepared its people to receive his word, Luke 11:30. We must deliver God's messages and preach only as He bids us. He will tell us what to say.
Nineveh is said to have been sixty miles in circuit, the distance of a three days' journey. It was full of violence and cruelty. But the sight of that strange figure, clad in a rude sheep-skin mantle, smote its conscience. The alarm spread from the streets to the palace. Even the great king felt it within his sculptured chambers. It stirred him to action, so that king and court, peers and people, and even the brute creation, became united in one act of common humiliation. The repentance was city-wide in its scope, Jonah 3:5; was practical, Jonah 3:8; and directed toward God, Jonah 3:9. What a contrast to Israel! There, prophet after prophet was exposed to refusal and even to cruel usage. Whatever fear there may have been upon man's side, there was no hesitation upon God's. He abundantly pardoned! See Isaiah 55:7. [source]

Chapter Summary: Jonah 3

1  Jonah, sent again, preaches to the Ninevites
5  Upon their repentance,
10  God relents

What do the individual words in Jonah 3:10 mean?

and saw God - their works that they turned from their way evil and relented God from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them and not He did do it
וַיַּ֤רְא הָֽאֱלֹהִים֙ אֶֽת־ מַ֣עֲשֵׂיהֶ֔ם כִּי־ שָׁ֖בוּ מִדַּרְכָּ֣ם הָרָעָ֑ה וַיִּנָּ֣חֶם הָאֱלֹהִ֗ים עַל־ הָרָעָ֛ה אֲשֶׁר־ דִּבֶּ֥ר לַעֲשׂוֹת־ לָהֶ֖ם וְלֹ֥א עָשָֽׂה

וַיַּ֤רְא  and  saw 
Parse: Conjunctive waw, Verb, Qal, Consecutive imperfect, third person masculine singular
Root: רָאָה 
Sense: to see, look at, inspect, perceive, consider.
הָֽאֱלֹהִים֙  God 
Parse: Article, Noun, masculine plural
Root: אֱלֹהִים  
Sense: (plural).
אֶֽת־  - 
Parse: Direct object marker
Root: אֹות 
Sense: sign of the definite direct object, not translated in English but generally preceding and indicating the accusative.
מַ֣עֲשֵׂיהֶ֔ם  their  works 
Parse: Noun, masculine plural construct, third person masculine plural
Root: מַעֲשֶׂה  
Sense: deed, work.
כִּי־  that 
Parse: Conjunction
Root: כִּי 
Sense: that, for, because, when, as though, as, because that, but, then, certainly, except, surely, since.
שָׁ֖בוּ  they  turned 
Parse: Verb, Qal, Perfect, third person common plural
Root: שׁוּב  
Sense: to return, turn back.
מִדַּרְכָּ֣ם  from  their  way 
Parse: Preposition-m, Noun, common singular construct, third person masculine plural
Root: דֶּרֶךְ  
Sense: way, road, distance, journey, manner.
הָרָעָ֑ה  evil 
Parse: Article, Adjective, feminine singular
Root: רַע 
Sense: bad, evil.
וַיִּנָּ֣חֶם  and  relented 
Parse: Conjunctive waw, Verb, Nifal, Consecutive imperfect, third person masculine singular
Root: נָחַם  
Sense: to be sorry, console oneself, repent, regret, comfort, be comforted.
הָאֱלֹהִ֗ים  God 
Parse: Article, Noun, masculine plural
Root: אֱלֹהִים  
Sense: (plural).
הָרָעָ֛ה  the  disaster 
Parse: Article, Adjective, feminine singular
Root: רַע 
Sense: bad, evil.
אֲשֶׁר־  that 
Parse: Pronoun, relative
Root: אֲשֶׁר 
Sense: (relative part.).
דִּבֶּ֥ר  He  had  said 
Parse: Verb, Piel, Perfect, third person masculine singular
Root: דָּבַר 
Sense: to speak, declare, converse, command, promise, warn, threaten, sing.
לַעֲשׂוֹת־  He  would  bring 
Parse: Preposition-l, Verb, Qal, Infinitive construct
Root: עָשָׂה 
Sense: to do, fashion, accomplish, make.
לָהֶ֖ם  upon  them 
Parse: Preposition-l, Pronoun, third person masculine plural
Root: הֵם 
Sense: they, these, the same, who.
וְלֹ֥א  and  not 
Parse: Conjunctive waw, Adverb, Negative particle
Root: הֲלֹא 
Sense: not, no.
עָשָֽׂה  He  did  do  it 
Parse: Verb, Qal, Perfect, third person masculine singular
Root: עָשָׂה 
Sense: to do, fashion, accomplish, make.