These small group studies of Jonah extensive cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, lessons to learn, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Jonah 3:6-10 Inductive Bible Study

Jonah 3:6-10

Nineveh Repents

Summary-As soon as Jonah’s proclamation reached Nineveh’s king, he began mourning, and proclaimed that every man and beast in the land should refrain from eating food or drinking. Rather, they should cover themselves in sackcloth and call out mightily to the Lord. He urged everyone to truly repent, in the hopes that God would relent, turn from His fierce anger, and not destroy them. God saw their genuine repentance, and relented from His course of judgment.

Central Teaching- God forgives the genuinely repentant.

Key Words- sackcloth, ashes, call out, turn, evil way, relent

Key Verse- 3:10

Ten things this passage says-

  1. The word that Jonah was proclaiming reached the king of Nineveh.
  2. When it reached him, the king arose, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.
  3. The king issued a proclamation that neither man, beast, herd nor flock could taste anything, either food or water.
  4. The king told every man and beast to be covered with sackcloth.
  5. The king urged everyone to call out mightily to God.
  6. The king told everyone to turn from his evil way and from the violence that he was doing.
  7. They hoped that their repentance would cause God to relent.
  8. They hoped that God’s relenting would mean he would no longer be angry and destroy them.
  9. God saw their repentance.
  10. God relented from the disaster He said He would send, and did not do it.

Ten things this passage does NOT say-

  1. Jonah’s message only got to the common people, not the rulers.
  2. The ruler laughed at Jonah’s prophecy and did not change.
  3. The king made a vague profession of repentance, but did not really change.
  4. The king thought if he repented, it would be enough to save the nation.
  5. The king ordered the people to repent, but was not willing to do so himself.
  6. The Ninevites’ repentance was half-hearted.
  7. Only some of the Ninevites repented.
  8. The Ninevites had no hope that God would hear or change.
  9. God didn’t hear the Ninevites, and His heart was hardened against them.
  10. God destroyed the Ninevites.

What does this passage teach me about God?

His Word will reach whom He wants it to reach.

His Word will affect whom He wants it to affect. He hardens and softens hearts at will.

He can use weak vessels in ministry to accomplish mighty things.

He desires true repentance. Half measures are not satisfactory.

He hears everything. Nothing escapes His knowledge.

The right response on our part can cause Him to relent from His previously stated course of action.

Sin angers Him.

He holds the power of life and death in His hands.

He is merciful and gracious.

How can I apply this to my life?

When God brings sin to my attention, I should completely and whole-heartedly repent.

I should have confidence that if I am obeying God, He can use even my weak efforts to accomplish mighty things.

My obedient actions do have an impact on God’s reactions.

Mark when God changes the course of circumstances in my life, so I can praise Him.

Lead by example.


Why do you think the people listened to Jonah’s words with such faith? V6 (Of course, God softened their hearts, but He used Jonah’s experience in the belly of the fish to do it, I think. If you remember, we said before that the Ninevites worshipped Nanshe, the fish goddess and Dagon, the fish god. The fact that Jonah was swallowed by a large fish [historically, other who were swallowed by fish had skin that bore the mottled markings of the fish’s digestive juices on it], and then was spit out by it, would seem to show that he or his God had conquered their god. This would give much more impact to his words.)

What was the king’s response to Jonah’s words? V6

What did the king’s response teach us about leadership? V6

What did laying aside his robe, putting on sackcloth, and sitting in ashes represent? V6

How did he use his leadership to bring about the repentance of his subjects? V7

Why do you think he said, “by the decree of the king and his nobles”? V7

What do you think about making no person or animal eat or drink anything? Was that necessary? Why or why not? V7

What is sackcloth? (A rough cloth of camel’s hair, goat hair, hemp, cotton, or flax.) What was its significance? Garments made of this cloth, worn as a symbol of mourning or penitence.) V8

What were the people supposed to do besides refrain from food and drink and cover themselves in sackcloth? V8

Why were they supposed to call on God earnestly? V8

In calling out like this, what were the king and the people admitting? V8

What seems to be the motivation behind the repentant actions? V9

What might this motivation indicate about their spiritual situation? V9

Do you think their repentance was heart-felt and genuine? What would indicate that it was not? V9 (37 years later, they destroyed the Israelites.)

The Ninevites were a fierce, war-like people. They usually feared nothing. Why do you think they were afraid in this instance? What did that fear display about their heart? V9

What did God see about the Ninevites? V10

What was the Lord’s reaction concerning the Ninevites’ actions? V10

What had he planned to do to the Ninevites? V10

What did He end up doing to the Ninevites? V10

What does this display about the influence of man’s actions and heart on God? V10

Cross References-

Jonah 3:6-

Jer 13:18

18 Say to the king and the queen mother,

“Take a lowly seat,

For your beautiful crown

Has come down from your head.”

Ps 2:10-12

10 Now therefore, O kings, show discernment;

Take warning, O judges of the earth.

11 Worship the LORD with reverence

And rejoice with trembling.

12 Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way,

For His wrath may soon be kindled.

How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!

James 1:9-10

9 But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; 10 and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away.

James 4:6-10

6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.” 7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.

Est 4:1-4

When Mordecai learned all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city and wailed loudly and bitterly. 2 He went as far as the king’s gate, for no one was to enter the king’s gate clothed in sackcloth. 3 In each and every province where the command and decree of the king came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping and wailing; and many lay on sackcloth and ashes. 4 Then Esther’s maidens and her eunuchs came and told her, and the queen writhed in great anguish. And she sent garments to clothe Mordecai that he might remove his sackcloth from him, but he did not accept them.

Job 2:8

8 And he took a potsherd to scrape himself while he was sitting among the ashes.

Job 42:6

6 Therefore I retract,

And I repent in dust and ashes.”

Jer 6:26

26 O daughter of my people, put on sackcloth

And roll in ashes;

Mourn as for an only son,

A lamentation most bitter.

For suddenly the destroyer

Will come upon us.

Lam 3:29

29 Let him put his mouth in the dust,

Perhaps there is hope.

Dan 9:3

3 So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes.

Jonah 3:7-

2 Chron 20:3

3 Jehoshaphat was afraid and turned his attention to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.

Ezra 8:21

21 Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God to seek from Him a safe journey for us, our little ones, and all our possessions.

Joel 2:15-16

15 Blow a trumpet in Zion,

Consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly,

16 Gather the people, sanctify the congregation,

Assemble the elders,

Gather the children and the nursing infants.

Let the bridegroom come out of his room

And the bride out of her bridal chamber.

Jonah 3:5

5 Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them.

Joel 1:18

18 How the beasts groan!

The herds of cattle wander aimlessly

Because there is no pasture for them;

Even the flocks of sheep suffer.

Rom 8:20-22

20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.

2 Kings 22:11

11 When the king heard the words of the book of the law, he tore his clothes.

Ezra 7:28

28 and has extended lovingkindness to me before the king and his counselors and before all the king’s mighty princes. Thus I was strengthened according to the hand of the LORD my God upon me, and I gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me.

Jonah 3:8-

Ps 130:1-2

Out of the depths I have cried to You, O LORD.

2 Lord, hear my voice!

Let Your ears be attentive

To the voice of my supplications.

Jonah 1:6

6 So the captain approached him and said, “How is it that you are sleeping? Get up, call on your god. Perhaps your god will be concerned about us so that we will not perish.”

Jonah 1:14

14 Then they called on the LORD and said, “We earnestly pray, O LORD, do not let us perish on account of this man’s life and do not put innocent blood on us; for You, O LORD, have done as You have pleased.”

Isa 1:16-19

16 “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;

Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight.

Cease to do evil,

17 Learn to do good;

Seek justice,

Reprove the ruthless,

Defend the orphan,

Plead for the widow.

18 “Come now, and let us reason together,”

Says the LORD,

“Though your sins are as scarlet,

They will be as white as snow;

Though they are red like crimson,

They will be like wool.

19 “If you consent and obey,

You will eat the best of the land;

Isa 55:6-7

6 Seek the LORD while He may be found;

Call upon Him while He is near.

7 Let the wicked forsake his way

And the unrighteous man his thoughts;

And let him return to the LORD,

And He will have compassion on him,

And to our God,

Isa 58:6

6 “Is this not the fast which I choose,

To loosen the bonds of wickedness,

To undo the bands of the yoke,

And to let the oppressed go free

And break every yoke?

Ezek 18:21-24

21 “But if the wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed and observes all My statutes and practices justice and righteousness, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 22 “All his transgressions which he has committed will not be remembered against him; because of his righteousness which he has practiced, he will live. 23 “Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” declares the Lord GOD, “rather than that he should turn from his ways and live? 24 “But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity and does according to all the abominations that a wicked man does, will he live? All his righteous deeds which he has done will not be remembered for his treachery which he has committed and his sin which he has committed; for them he will die.

Ezek 18:27-28

27 “Again, when a wicked man turns away from his wickedness which he has committed and practices justice and righteousness, he will save his life.28 “Because he considered and turned away from all his transgressions which he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die.

Ezek 18:30-31

30 “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, each according to his conduct,” declares the Lord GOD. “Repent and turn away from all your transgressions, so that iniquity may not become a stumbling block to you. 31 “Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! For why will you die, O house of Israel?

Ezek 33:11

11 “Say to them, “As I live!’ declares the Lord GOD, “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?’

Dan 4:27

27 “Therefore, O king, may my advice be pleasing to you: break away now from your sins by doing righteousness and from your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor, in case there may be a prolonging of your prosperity.

Matt 3:8

8 “Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance;

Acts 3:19

19 “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;

Acts 26:20

20 but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance.

Jonah 3:9-

2 Sam 12:22

22 He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, “Who knows, the LORD may be gracious to me, that the child may live.’

Ps 106:45

45 And He remembered His covenant for their sake,

And relented according to the greatness of His lovingkindness.

Joel 2:13-14

13 And rend your heart and not your garments.”

Now return to the LORD your God,

For He is gracious and compassionate,

Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness

And relenting of evil.

14 Who knows whether He will not turn and relent

And leave a blessing behind Him,

Even a grain offering and a drink offering

For the LORD your God?

Amos 5:15

15 Hate evil, love good,

And establish justice in the gate!

Perhaps the LORD God of hosts

May be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

Jonah 1:6

6 So the captain approached him and said, “How is it that you are sleeping? Get up, call on your god. Perhaps your god will be concerned about us so that we will not perish.”

Luke 15:18-20

18 “I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”‘ 20 “So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.

Ex 32:12

12 “Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, “With evil intent He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your burning anger and change Your mind about doing harm to Your people.

Acts 8:22

22 “Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you.

Luke 15:18

18 “I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight;

Zeph 2:3

3 Seek the LORD,

All you humble of the earth

Who have carried out His ordinances;

Seek righteousness, seek humility.

Perhaps you will be hidden

In the day of the LORD’S anger.

Jonah 3:10-

1 Kings 21:27-29

27 It came about when Ahab heard these words, that he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and fasted, and he lay in sackcloth and went about despondently. 28 Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, 29 “Do you see how Ahab has humbled himself before Me? Because he has humbled himself before Me, I will not bring the evil in his days, but I will bring the evil upon his house in his son’s days.”

Job 33:27-28

27 “He will sing to men and say,

‘I have sinned and perverted what is right,

And it is not proper for me.

28’He has redeemed my soul from going to the pit,

And my life shall see the light.’

Luke 11:32

32 “The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.

Luke 15:20

20 “So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.

Jer 18:8

8 if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it.

Joel 2:13

13 And rend your heart and not your garments.”

Now return to the LORD your God,

For He is gracious and compassionate,

Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness

And relenting of evil.

Jonah 4:2

2 He prayed to the LORD and said, “Please LORD, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.

Study Jonah 4:1-6
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