The Fast of Nineveh

February 18, 2021

Fast of Nineveh is three days subsequent fast and repentance of the Ninevites by the warning message of the Prophet Jonah. It is known to be the fast of repentance, humility and the return to God. Thus, the Church considers this fast amongst the Great Fast; Lent and other Fasts.

The people of Nineveh fasted, wore sackcloth from the youngest to the oldest and prayed to God for forgiveness. God accepted their repentance; “God saw their works that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them; and He did not do it.” (Jonah 3:10)

The story of Jonah presages the redemptive work of Lord Jesus Christ. God send Prophet Jonah to the people of Nineveh for they were Gentiles and needed repentance. “But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.” (Acts 10:35)

God saved the mariners on the boat who were Gentiles through Jonah for they were men seeking the Lord. Tough, they prayed to their gods they knew the true God is the almighty. So, they asked Jonah to pray to his God. Prophet Jonah also told the mariners, “I am a servant of the Lord, and I worship the Lord God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” Believing his words, they feared the Lord and offered Him sacrifices. (Jonah 1:16, 1:9-10)

Then, even after he told them to throw him in the sea; “They were endeavoring to find God’s will in order that they might carry it out. When the sea ceased its raging by their throwing Jonah into it they were assured of the presence of God in the matter. They believed in the Lord, offered Him a sacrifice and made vows. In their belief in the Lord they not only believed that He was God but by offering Him a sacrifice they professed their belief in the propitiation of blood.” (Jonah 1:13)

However, it was not the will of God for Jonah to drawn, so He prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah and uses the whale to save him. Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights praying to God. At the third day, God answered his prayers and the whale put Jonah put out on dry Land; He did not prepare it to destroy him but to preserve him.

God command Prophet Jonah again to go to Nineveh. He was first commanded to preach the Ninevites although his prophecy did not reach upon them till after the whale had emitted him out.

God saves Jonah from his pride as he was still egocentric when He caused a plant with thick leaves to grow up and shade Jonah from the sun and GOD destroyed the plant with worm. The next day, he suffered from the heat of a wind blow. Once more, with rage, Prophet Jonah wished his death and God reveals his mercy and compassion through the plant.

Prophet Jonah was preaching God’s words to spread His kingdom in Nineveh City and God willed to save Ninevites. “A greater than Jonah is here” Jonah was a figure of Lord Christ. Saint Cyril of Jerusalem says, “As Jonah was thrown to the belly of the whale, the Lord Christ went by His own will to the unseen whale of death, to coerce him to give those who were swallowed by him; as it is written, “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death.” (Matthew 12:41, Hosea 13:14)

The Ninevites were saved by the Prophet Jonah. Saint John Chrysostom said, “Nineveh freed itself from death by fasting. Like a heavenly power overseeing Nineveh’s charge, fasting snatched the city from the gates of death and returned Nineveh to Life.”

Thus, “Let us use these three days to offer repentance from our hearts, as did the Ninevites, seeking the forgiveness of our sins. Let us give thanks to the Lord who prepares our way for us through all tribulations and trials, as He prepared the belly of the whale for Jonah. Let us put ourselves before our Lord, as humble obedient and faithful servants of the One True God, seeking to hear the message that He desires to give to the world through us.”

May the blessings of this Holy Fast bring to our hearts, minds, and spirits the true love, mercy, longsuffering nature, and compassion of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Source: H.H. Pope Shenouda III – Contemplations on the Book of Jonah the Prophet