Jonah 3:6
For word came to the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.
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(6) For word came.—Rather, And the matter reached. The Authorised Version treats the royal edict that follows as the same with the proclamation in Jonah 3:5. This is possible, but it is more probable that the writer intended to describe the effect produced on each district of the vast city in succession, and on all grades of people. The piercing cry uttered from street to street, from square to square, reaches at last the king on his throne of state.

And he laid . . .—Stripping off the state mantle (the Hebrew word implies amplitude. See 1Kings 19:13.) It is interesting to find it used of the “Babylonish garment,” found in Achan’s tent. See Joshua 7:21), the monarch assumes a mourning dress. To form a conception of the change involved, the descriptions of Assyrian royal magnificence should be studied in Layard, or their representations in the Assyrian courts of the Crystal Palace. For the usual signs of Oriental mourning, comp. Genesis 37:34; 2Samuel 3:31; Job 2:8; Psalm 35:13; Ezekiel 26:16, &c.

3:5-10 There was a wonder of Divine grace in the repentance and reformation of Nineveh. It condemns the men of the gospel generation, Mt 12:41. A very small degree of light may convince men that humbling themselves before God, confessing their sins with prayer, and turning from sin, are means of escaping wrath and obtaining mercy. The people followed the example of the king. It became a national act, and it was necessary it should be so, when it was to prevent a national ruin. Let even the brute creatures' cries and moans for want of food remind their owners to cry to God. In prayer we must cry mightily, with fixedness of thought, firmness of faith, and devout affections. It concerns us in prayer to stir up all that is within us. It is not enough to fast for sin, but we must fast from sin; and, in order to the success of our prayers, we must no more regard iniquity in our hearts, Ps 66:18. The work of a fast-day is not done with the day. The Ninevites hoped that God would turn from his fierce anger; and that thus their ruin would be prevented. They could not be so confident of finding mercy upon their repentance, as we may be, who have the death and merits of Christ, to which we may trust for pardon upon repentance. They dared not presume, but they did not despair. Hope of mercy is the great encouragement to repentance and reformation. Let us boldly cast ourselves down at the footstool of free grace, and God will look upon us with compassion. God sees who turn from their evil ways, and who do not. Thus he spared Nineveh. We read of no sacrifices offered to God to make atonement for sin; but a broken and a contrite heart, such as the Ninevites then had, he will not despise.For word came - , rather, "And the matter came," i. e., the "whole account," as we say. "The word, word," throughout Holy Scripture, as in so many languages stands for that which is reported of. "The whole account," namely, how this stranger, in strange austere attire, had come, what had happened to him before he came, how he preached, how the people had believed him, what they had done, as had just been related, "came to the king." The form of words implies that what Jonah relates in this verse took place after what had been mentioned before. People are slow to carry to sovereigns matters of distress, in which they cannot help. This was no matter of peril from man, in which the counsel or energy of the king could be of use. Anyhow it came to him last. But when it came to him, he disdained not to follow the example of those below him. He was not jealous of his prerogative, or that his advice had not been had; but, in the common peril, acted as his subjects had, and humbled himself as they did. Yet this king was the king of Nineveh, the king, whose name was dreaded far and wide, whose will none who disputed, prospered . "He who was accounted and was the greatest of the kings of the earth, was not held back by any thought of his own splendor, greatness or dignity, from fleeing as a suppliant to the mercy of God, and inciting others by his example to the same earnesthess." The kings of Assyria were religious, according to their light. They ascribed all their victories to their god, Asshur . When the king came to hear of One who had a might such as he had not seen, he believed in Him.

And he arose from his throne - He lost no time; he heard, "and he arose" . "It denotes great earnestness, haste, diligence." "And he laid his robe from him." This was the large costly upper garment, so called from its amplitude It is the name of the goodly Babylonian garment Joshua 7:21 which Achan coveted. As worn by kings, it was the most magnificent part of their dress, and a special part of their state. Kings were buried as they lived, in splendid apparel; and rich adornments were buried with them. The king of Nineveh dreads no charge of precipitancy nor man's judgment . "He exchanges purple, gold, gems for the simple rough and sordid sackcloth, and his throne for the most abject ashes, the humblest thing he could do, fulfilling a deeper degree of humility than is related of the people."

Strange credulity, had Jonah's message not been true; strange madness of unbelief which does not repent when a Greater than Jonah cries Matthew 4:17, "Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Strange garb for the king, in the eyes of a luxurious age; acceptable in His who said Matthew 11:21, "if the mighty works which have been done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes" . "Many wish to repent, yet so as not to part with their luxuries or the vanity of their dress, like the Greek who said he would 'like to be a philosopher, yet in a few things, not altogether.' To whom we may answer, 'delicate food and costly dress agree not with penitence; and that is no great grief which never comes to light'" . "It was a marvelous thing, that purple was outvied by sackcloth. Sackcloth availed, what the purple robe availed not. What the diadem accomplished not, the ashes accomplished. Seest thou, I said not groundlessly that we should fear, not fasting but drunkenness and satiety? For drunkenness and satiety shook the city through and through, and were about to overthrow it; when it was reeling and about to fall, fasting stablished it" . "The king had conquered enemies by valor; he conquered God by humility. Wise king, who, for the saving of his people, owns himself a sinner rather than a king. He forgets that he is a king, fearing God, the King of all; he remembereth not his own power, coming to own the power of the Godhead. Marvelous! While he remembereth not that he is a king of men, he beginneth to be a king of righteousness. The prince, becoming religious, lost not his empire but changed it. Before, he held the princedom of military discipline; now, he obtained the princedom in heavenly disciplines."

6. in ashes—emblem of the deepest humiliation (Job 2:8; Eze 27:30). This now accounteth for the people’s proclaiming a fast, Jonah 3:5, they did it because it was commanded, and they had the king’s example herein.

Word came to the king: whether Jonah did particularly speak to his hearers to send word to the king, or whether the strangeness of the thing might move some or other to report it to the courtiers, and they to the king, is not specified; certain it is that the king had word brought him, and it was considered by him: nor is it said who this king was; Sardanapalus seems too early, Pul-belochus is with more probability thought to be this king.

Arose from his throne; came down from his royal seat.

Laid his robe from him; put off his rich, gorgeous, and luxurious apparel.

Covered him with sackcloth; put on the rough and uneasy garments of a mourner.

And sat in ashes, as Esther 4:3 Job 2:8 42:6. For word came unto the king of Nineveh,.... Who was not Sardanapalus, a very dissolute prince, and abandoned to his lusts; but rather Pul, the same that came against Menahem king of Israel, 2 Kings 15:19, as Bishop Usher (s) thinks; to him news were brought that there was such a prophet come into the city, and published such and such things, which met with credit among the people; and that these, of all ranks and degrees, age and sex, were afflicted with it, and thrown into the utmost concern about it; so very swiftly did the ministry of Jonah spread in the city; and what he delivered was so quickly carried from one to another, that in one day's time it reached the palace, and the royal ear:

and he arose from his throne; where he sat in great majesty and splendour, encircled by his nobles, receiving their caresses and compliments; or, it may be, giving audience to foreign ambassadors, sent to court his friendship and alliance; or hearing causes, and redressing the grievances of his subjects; for he appears to be one that did not indulge himself in hunting, and such like exercises, or in his lusts and pleasures:

and he laid his robe from him; his royal apparel, his imperial robe, and garments of his glory, as the Targum; or his glorious garments, with which he was richly and most magnificently arrayed; he put off these, and left his throne, in token of his concern at hearing such dismal tidings as the overthrow of his capital city, and of his humiliation and abasement:

and covered him with sackcloth; which was very rough and coarse, and must be very disagreeable to a person so tender and delicate, and was what the meanest of his subjects wore on this occasion:

and sat in ashes; or "in the" or "that ashes" (t); used in such times of mourning, which were either strewed under him, or put upon his head; and this, with the other, were done to afflict the body, and affect the mind with a sense of sin, and the misery threatened for sin, and to shaw deep humiliation for it.

(s) Annales Vet. Test. A. M. 3233. Vid. Rollin's Ancient History, vol. 2. p. 30. (t) "in cinere illo", Vatablus, Tarnovius.

For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.
6. For word came unto] Rather, And the tidings reached, R.V. The introduction of the word “for” for “and” in A.V. is of the nature of a gloss. Our translators appear to have taken the view that Jonah 3:5 states generally the effect of Jonah’s preaching upon the Ninevites, and that Jonah 3:6-9 relate more particularly how the fast mentioned in Jonah 3:5 was brought about. “They proclaimed a fast,” I said, “and it was by a royal edict that they did so, for the report of what was going on was brought to the king, and he too was moved like his people, and both inaugurated in his own person and instituted by his authority a national fast.” The statement in Jonah 3:5, however, is not necessarily proleptical. It may be intended by the writer to describe the effect produced in each district of the city as Jonah reached it, before the Court had any knowledge of what was going on. The people were first impressed, and then their rulers. The tide of penitence and humiliation rose higher and higher, till it reached and included the king and his nobles, and what had been done by spontaneous action, or local authority, received the final sanction and imprimatur of the central government. Whichever view be adopted, the literal translation should be retained.

he arose from his throne, &c.] It is in favour of the view that the people did not wait for the royal edict to commence their fast, that the king himself seems to have been the subject of immediate and strong emotion, as soon as the tidings reached him. He first, as by a resistless impulse, humbled himself to the dust, and then took measures, out of the depth of his humiliation, that his subjects should be humbled with him.

The outward form which the humiliation both of king and people took was that common in the East (comp. Ezekiel 26:16; and see Dictionary of the Bible, Article Mourning), as we know both from sacred and secular writings. In the case of the king of Assyria it is the more remarkable both because of his characteristic pride as “the great king” (2 Kings 18:19; 2 Kings 18:28), and because of the pomp and luxury with which he was ordinarily surrounded. No greater contrast could well be conceived than between the royal “robe” and “sackcloth,” or between the heap of “ashes” and the king’s “throne.” “In the bas-relief I am describing,” writes Layard, “the dress of a king consisted of a long flowing garment, edged with fringes and tassels, descending to his ankles, and confined at the waist by a girdle. Over this robe a second, similarly ornamented and open in front, appears to have been thrown. From his shoulders fell a cape or hood, also adorned with tassels, and to it were attached two long ribbons or lappets. He wore the conical mitre, or tiara, which distinguishes the monarch in Assyrian bas-reliefs, and appears to have been reserved for him alone … Around the neck of the king was a necklace. He wore ear-rings, and his arms, which were bare from a little above the elbow, were encircled by armlets and bracelets remarkable for the beauty of their forms. The clasps were formed by the heads of animals, and the centre by stars and rosettes, probably inlaid with precious stones.” (Nineveh, abridged edition, 1851, p. 97.)

Of the throne the same writer says, “The thrones or arm-chairs, supported by animals and human figures, resemble those of the ancient Egyptians, and of the monuments of Kouyunjik, Khorsabad and Persepolis. They also remind us of the throne of Solomon, which had ‘stays (or arms) on either side on the place of the seat, and two lions stood by the stays. And twelve lions stood there, on the one side and on the other, upon the six steps.’ ” 1 Kings 10:19-20. (lb. p. 164.)

his robe] The same word is used of Achan’s “goodly Babylonish garment,” Joshua 7:21, which this may have resembled. But it is also used of a garment of rough hair-cloth, Genesis 25:25; Zechariah 13:4, and of Elijah’s hairy “mantle,” or cloak, 1 Kings 19:13; 1 Kings 19:19. The root-meaning of the word is size, amplitude.Verse 6. - For word came; and the mater came; ἤγγισεν ὁ λόγος, "the word came near" (Septuagint). The tokens of penitence mentioned in ver. 5 were not exhibited in obedience to any royal command. Rather, as the impression made by the prophet spread among the people, and as they adopted these modes of showing their sorrow, the news of the movement reached the king, and he put himself at the head of it. The reigning monarch was probably either Shalmaneser III. or one of the two who succeeded him, Asshur-danil and Asshur-nirari, whose three reigns extended from B.C. 781 to 750. His robe (addereth); the word used for the "Babylonish garment" in Joshua 7:21. The magnificence of the Assyrian kings attire is attested by the monuments. Sat in ashes (comp. Job 2:8; Esther 4:3). After this threat directed against the voluptuous women of the capital, the prophecy turns again to all the people. In bitter irony, Amos tells them to go on with zeal in their idolatrous sacrifices, and to multiply their sin. But they will not keep back the divine judgment by so doing. Amos 4:4. "Go to Bethel, and sin; to Gilgal, multiply sinning; and offer your slain-offerings in the morning, your tithes every three days. Amos 4:5. And kindle praise-offerings of that which is leavened, and cry out freewill-offerings, proclaim it; for so ye love it, O sons of Israel, is the saying of the Lord, of Jehovah." "Amos here describes how zealously the people of Israel went on pilgrimage to Bethel, and Gilgal, and Beersheba, those places of sacred associations; with what superabundant diligence they offered sacrifice and paid tithes; who they would rather do too much than too little, so that they even burnt upon the altar a portion of the leavened loaves of the praise-offering, which were only intended for the sacrificial meals, although none but unleavened bread was allowed to be offered; and lastly, how in their pure zeal for multiplying the works of piety, they so completely mistook their nature, as to summon by a public proclamation to the presentation of freewill-offerings, the very peculiarity of which consisted in the fact that they had no other prompting than the will of the offerer" (v. Hofmann, Schriftbeweis, ii. 2, p. 373). The irony of the summons to maintain their worship comes out very distinctly in the words וּפשׁעוּ, and sin, or fall away from God. הגּלגּל is not a nominative absolute, "as for Gilgal," but an accusative, and בּאוּ is to be repeated from the first clause. The absence of the copula before הרבּוּ does not compel us to reject the Masoretic accentuation, and connect הגּלגּל with פּלשׁעוּ, as Hitzig does, so as to obtain the unnatural thought, "sin ye towards Gilgal." On Gilgal mentioned along with Bethel as a place of idolatrous worship (here and Amos 5:5, as in Hosea 4:15; Hosea 9:15, and Hosea 12:12), see at Hosea 4:15. Offer your slain-offerings labbōqer, for the morning, i.e., every morning, like layyōm in Jeremiah 37:21. This is required by the parallel lishlōsheth yâmı̄m, on the three of days, i.e., every three days. זבחים ... הביאוּ does not refer to the morning sacrifice prescribed in the law (Numbers 28:3) - for that is always called ‛ōlâh, not zebach - but to slain sacrifices that were offered every morning, although the offering of zebhâchı̄m every morning presupposes the presentation of the daily morning burnt-offering. What is said concerning the tithe rests upon the Mosaic law of the second tithe, which was to be brought every three years (Deuteronomy 14:28; Deuteronomy 26:12; compare my Bibl. Archol. 71, Anm. 7). The two clauses, however, are not to be understood as implying that the Israelites had offered slain sacrifices every morning, and tithe every three days. Amos is speaking hyperbolically, to depict the great zeal displayed in their worship; and the thought is simply this: "If ye would offer slain sacrifices every morning, and tithe every three days, ye would only thereby increase your apostasy from the living God." The words, "kindle praise-offerings of that which is leavened," have been misinterpreted in various ways. קטּר, an inf. absol. used instead of the imperative (see Ges. 131, 4, b). According to Leviticus 7:12-14, the praise-offering (tōdâh) was to consist not only of unleavened cakes and pancakes with oil poured upon them, but also of cakes of leavened bread. The latter, however, were not to be placed upon the altar, but one of them was to be assigned to the priest who sprinkled the blood, and the rest to be eaten at the sacrificial meal. Amos now charges the people with having offered that which was leavened instead of unleavened cakes and pancakes, and with having burned it upon the altar, contrary to the express prohibition of the law in Leviticus 2:11. His words are not to be understood as signifying that, although outwardly the praise-offerings consisted of that which was unleavened, according to the command of the law, yet inwardly they were so base that they resembled unleavened cakes, inasmuch as whilst the material of the leaven was absent, the true nature of the leaven - namely, malice and wickedness - was there in all the greater quantity (Hengstenberg, Dissertations, vol. i. p. 143 translation). The meaning is rather this, that they were not content with burning upon the altar unleavened cakes made from the materials provided for the sacrifice, but that they burned some of the leavened loaves as well, in order to offer as much as possible to God. What follows answers to this: call out nedâbhōth, i.e., call out that men are to present freewill-offerings. The emphasis is laid upon קראוּ, which is therefore still further strengthened by השׁמעוּ. Their calling out nedâbhōth, i.e., their ordering freewill-offerings to be presented, was an exaggerated act of zeal, inasmuch as the sacrifices which ought to have been brought out of purely spontaneous impulse (cf. Leviticus 22:18.; Deuteronomy 12:6), were turned into a matter of moral compulsion, or rather of legal command. The words, "for so ye love it," show how this zeal in the worship lay at the heart of the nation. It is also evident from the whole account, that the worship in the kingdom of the ten tribes was conducted generally according to the precepts of the Mosaic law.
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