“Who knows? God may relent and change his mind; he may turn from his fierce anger, so that we do not perish.” When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it. But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. He prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing.” (NRSV 3:9-4:2)
Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not? And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not. But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry. And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil. (KJV 3:9-4:2)
Nineveh repents and God changes his mind about destroying the city, which just happens to be the Assyrian capital. Jonah, however, would rather see Nineveh blasted into oblivion, which is understandable given the likelihood that this book was written after Assyria had invaded Israel and cast the ten tribes to the four winds. This is one of the few times that we get a report of God’s compassion and forgiveness against a foreign power, even one who’s been a sworn enemy of Israel.