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Sefer Yona 4:11 reads:

וַאֲנִי לֹא אָחוּס עַל נִינְוֵה הָעִיר הַגְּדוֹלָה אֲשֶׁר יֶשׁ בָּהּ הַרְבֵּה מִשְׁתֵּים עֶשְׂרֵה רִבּוֹ אָדָם אֲשֶׁר לֹא יָדַע בֵּין יְמִינוֹ לִשְׂמֹאלוֹ וּבְהֵמָה רַבָּה

In the JPS translation:

and should not I have pity on Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand, and also much cattle?

Two questions:

  1. If God is trying to explain why he had mercy on Ninveh, why not simply state the obvious, that they did teshuva?
  2. What does the above explanation for why he had mercy on Ninveh mean?
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No context is given. Which Yona? (Yona Gross, my next-door neighbor?) When did this occur? Etc. Ping me here with @msh210 after the question's edited, and I'll be glad to reopen. –  msh210 Aug 23 '12 at 17:26
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What answer are you referring to? If you mean the one in ch. 4, that isn't an answer, since Yonah never asked a question –  b a Aug 23 '12 at 17:28
    
@msh210 better? –  user1668 Aug 23 '12 at 17:30
    
PM, apparently not: see @ba's comment. –  msh210 Aug 23 '12 at 17:34
    
PM, I've edited and reopened. If I misrepresented your intent, please edit the question so your intent is clear. –  msh210 Aug 23 '12 at 18:20
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1 Answer 1

Yona's problem is why He gave them a chance to do Teshuva. Yona understood that they did Teshuva, but he would have rather they not have the opportunity (rather like אין מספיקים בידו לעשות תשובה - One who says I will sin and repent will not be given the opportunity to repent Yoma 8:9 - or as was done to Pharoh where his heart was hardened).

Hashem answers by showing Yona that they serve a purpose in creation just like the carob tree served a purpose for Yona and their destruction would prevent them serving their purpose.

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1. where do we see that the people of Ninveh said they would sin and repent? 2. How do we know that concept applies to non-Jews? 3. It is still unclear from the text what purpose the people of Ninveh would serve 4. Is it so difficult for God to find others to fulfill that purpose? –  user1668 Aug 23 '12 at 19:58
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@PM, you miss the point. I'm not saying they said they would sin and repent. I'm saying that Yona wanted them not be given the opportunity to do Teshuva, like someone who says that they will sin and repent. As to your last question, Yona could go find himself another tree was well. –  Yishai Aug 23 '12 at 20:09
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