Did God destroy Nineveh or not?

Question
In Jonah 3:4 God said he would destroy Nineveh, but then in Jonah 3:10 he didn't. How can this be?
Answer

Jonah 3:4: Jonah began to go into the city, going a day's journey. And he called out, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" (cf. Jonah 1:2; 3:2).

Jonah 3:10: When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.

In the intervening verses of Jonah 3:5-9 we observe that Nineveh repented and God is true to his holy and righteous character. As Jeremiah says, "If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it" (Jer. 18:7-8; cf. Gen. 18:25).

God consistently honors his word. He does not and cannot lie (Tit. 1:2).

Proper interpretation includes interpreting Scripture with all of Scripture. The interpreter of the God’s word must bring the entire text of the Bible into any single text in their search for the whole truth. The Bible agrees with itself because it is inspired of God, authoritative, inerrant, and infallible. We must do as Paul exhorted Timothy, "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15).

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Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).