As we all know, Sodom and Nineveh in the Bible were both evil and corrupt cities and the outcry against the cities had reached God’s ears, so God decided to rain disaster and destruction down upon them.
It’s just as what Genesis 18:20–22 says, “And Jehovah said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come to Me; and if not, I will know. And the men turned their faces from there, and went toward Sodom.” And it is recorded in Jonah 3:4, “And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.”
The final result, however, is that Sodom was destroyed by God whereas Nineveh survived. Both were evil, licentious and deeply corrupted cities which God had planned to destroy, so why did Nineveh’s outcome change finally? What can we see from God’s different attitudes toward them? Let’s take a look at the following verses.
Genesis 18:32 says, “And he said, Oh let not the LORD be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And He said, I will not destroy it for ten’s sake.”
Genesis 19:4–9 say, “[T] he men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: And they called to Lot, and said to him, Where are the men which came in to you this night? bring them out to us, that we may know them. And Lot went out at the door to them, and shut the door after him, And said, I pray you, brothers, do not so wickedly. Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out to you, and do you to them as is good in your eyes: only to these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof. And they said, Stand back. And they said again, This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge: now will we deal worse with you, than with them. And they pressed sore on the man, even Lot, and came near to break the door.”
We can see from these verses that God is merciful toward people—God wouldn’t destroy Sodom as long as it had ten righteous people. The facts, however, prove that there was no righteous person other than Lot. When Jehovah God sent messengers to take Lot and his family out of Sodom, the people there didn’t ask their reason for coming, but instead wanted to seize and harm them. By doing so, they were openly opposing and clamoring against God. In the end, because they offended God’s disposition due to their corruption, wickedness, and resistance toward God, God’s wrath descended upon them. Then, how did the people of Nineveh behave when they heard God’s warning through Jonah?
Jonah 3:5–9 provide the following account, “So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. For word came to the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God: yes, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from His fierce anger, that we perish not?”
As we can see, the Ninevites believed when hearing the news that they would be destroyed in forty days, and everyone from the king to the common people immediately confessed and repented in sackcloth and ashes. Moreover, the king ordered all people and livestock alike to eat nothing, hoping that God wouldn’t bring disasters to them after seeing their repentance. Because they made earnest entreaties to God and truly repented, leaving their evil ways behind and giving up their violent behavior, God finally didn’t destroy Nineveh. Just as the Bible records, “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 to them; and He did it not” (Jonah 3:10).
Sodom and Nineveh were both deeply corrupted Gentile cities, but ultimately God destroyed Sodom and saved Nineveh because the attitude of the Ninevites toward God was totally different from that of the people of Sodom. This shows that God changes His attitude at any time based on man’s attitude toward Him—as long as man can repent, God will show abundant mercy, but if man stubbornly resists God, God will become profoundly wrathful. This is a manifestation of God’s real, living disposition.