Debra Isenbletter, pastorChristian Assembly, Springfield, Missouri
Jonah 4:11—”And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than six score thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?”
The City: “And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city.” The Lord reveals His compassion and the justification for that compassion. The Lord reveals to Jonah those that He saw that Jonah did not see. Again the city is called “great,” that cannot be denied. It had a great name. It had great power. It had great wickedness. It had great repentance. Jonah could not see the great repentance but the Lord did.
The Children: “wherein are more than six score thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and knew the exact number. There were more than 120,000 thousand, apart from the adults. He saw each one of them, He saw their innocence. They had not reached the age of accountability, not old enough to understand. They had “no knowledge between good and evil” (Deu.1:39). The adults had already repented, so they are not mentioned. If there were 120,000 children, what was the total population of Nineveh? Many commentaries say it is generally calculated that the young children of any place are a fifth of the population, so that the whole population of Nineveh would amount to about 600,000. (Jamieson, Fausset, Brown; Treasury of Scripture knowledge; Ryrie Bible). If that is true, then the Lord spared at least 600,000 lives. He spared the parents who repented and He spared the children not yet old enough to repent.
The Cattle: “and also much cattle?” The Lord gives another example of His compassion. It was the cattle. He does not give their number but takes note of their lack of guilt. They are not guilty for what men have done. He cares for all of His creation and if we read what Paul writes in Romans, creation is suffering and waiting for deliverance (Rom.8:22). The lesson and theme seen throughout Jonah is God’s love and pity and His patience and grace. Jonah has experienced it twice. First when he ran away from the Will of God and second when He complained about the Will of God. He saw it in his life, in Israel’s life and now in Nineveh’s life. He is a picture of Israel who has repeatedly seen God’s mercy and grace throughout their history. Who stumble at God’s mercy to the Gentiles. Who will one day be obedient servants when they receive God’s grace through God’s Son, their Messiah. Who will one day fulfill their true destiny and be a light to the nations. But Jonah teaches us the same lesson in God’s patience and grace and mercy. It is a wonderful reminder of how easy it is to be legal and to judge based on what we feel and not what we know, for the Lord knows the heart and sees the heart. I am so grateful and thankful for His grace and love. Let us never forget that. “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us” (Eph.2:4).