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. 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. He issued a proclamation and it 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 will 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.
Notice that God didn’t seem threatened by Jonah’s attitude; He dealt with it as only God can.
Jonah, in context, is an unwilling servant of God, and God is dealing with His prophet’s disobedience. Meanwhile, there is a wicked king, and the people who dwelt in the capital city of Assyria. (The Assyrians were known for their cruelty to other nations that they warred against and took into captivity.)
Notice that Nineveh “believed in God” (v.5) and called a fast for everyone. Then the king (a ‘sovereign’) humbled himself also, in sackcloth and ashes, and decreed a fast for all (vv.6-8) and said: “...let men call on God earnestly” (don’t miss this) “that each may turn from his wicked way and from the violence in his hands” (v.8) so that “God may turn and relent and withdraw His burning anger.” (v.9) What was God’s response? He relented.
Notice the when/then and if/then, conditional time phrases: When God saw “their deeds” of repentance, in that they “turned from their wicked way,” then He relented.
Notice that v.5 shows that the people responded before word ever reached the king, and realize that the city was made up of individuals who were responding to God’s message through Jonah. How very Calvinistic to suggest “we don’t know ‘who’ repented...”
Also, for a Calvinist to point out that there was no true repentance, fails to take into consideration that these had believed and repented in the first place. How can this happen, according to Calvinistic standards, except by an Irresistible Grace, and yet if they later fell away, what happened to their alleged Irresistible Grace? According to some Calvinists, however, if Nineveh had believed and repented without an Irresistible Grace, then they would be their “own Savior,” stealing credit from God. This is the kind of mixed up thinking that it takes to be a Calvinist.