The Ninevites and the Redemption of Creation

During Gutenberg College’s Summer Institute, I made the point that redemption was for all of creation and not just man, and I gave biblical references to support my claim. After my talk, Jack Crabtree pointed out to me that I had missed an event in the Old Testament also making that point. When Jonah proclaimed that Nineveh would be overthrown in forty days, the people of Nineveh responded by believing God. When the king heard about it, he made his own proclamation. I will quote the whole of Jonah chapter three to provide the context (bold is mine for emphasis):

Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you.” So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three days’ walk. Then Jonah began to go through the city one day’s walk; and he cried out and said, “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”

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. When the word reached the King of Nineveh, he arose from his throne, laid aside his robe from him, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat on the ashes. And he issued a proclamation and said, “In Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let man, beast, herd, or flock taste a thing. Do not let them eat or drink water. But both man and beast must be covered with sackcloth; and let men call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked way and from the violence which is in his hands. Who knows, God may turn and relent, and withdraw His burning anger so that we shall not perish?”

When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it.

The king understood that God’s judgment for their wickedness would affect both man and beast. As a result, the king ordered that the animals must fast as well as the people. We also learn in the last line of Jonah (chapter 4) that the king was right; God did have in mind that the judgment of animals as well as man was in view in Nineveh:

And should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?

While there is much that I do not understand in the book of Jonah, the king’s proclamation is a clear acknowledgment that in Nineveh the judgment of God would affect man and beast together, and God confirmed the king’s judgment (Jonah 4:11). While this example only shows the situation at one point in time, it is an instance certainly supporting the idea that in God’s mind judgment and redemption of man and creation are linked. Thanks, Jack!


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