So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. … 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 and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?
When Jonah finally came to Nineveh and proclaimed God’s prophecy of its destruction for sins, something unusual in the story of biblical prophecy happened! The people actually listened and believed him. Even the king believed that God had the power to destroy them, and he humbly tried everything he could think of to convince God to relent.
Fasting means to go without food and drink, and wearing sackcloth was a sign of mourning and repentance. Turning from our ways of evil is what God wants—He doesn’t want to see people die, but to change (Ezekiel 18:32).
For more about the story of Jonah and the lessons it teaches us, see our article “Purpose of Prophecy.”