“Get up.” The Hebrew word translated “Get up” is qum (#06965 קוּם), and although qum has a wide semantic range and many different meanings, “get up” is a meaning that figures prominently in the Book of Jonah.
God told Jonah to get up and go to Nineveh (Jonah 1:2), and Jonah did get up, but to flee from God to Tarshish (Jonah 1:3). Then on the boat the captain told Jonah to get up and pray (Jonah 1:6). After Jonah was vomited out by the fish God told Jonah a second time to get up and go to Nineveh and Jonah did (Jonah 3:2-3). Then, after hearing of Jonah’s prophecy, the king of Nineveh got up off his throne and dressed in sackcloth and sat in ashes.
“Nineveh.” Nineveh was located a little east of the east bank of the Tigris River in Mesopotamia, and the ancient ruins are now in the suburbs of the modern city of Mosul in Iraq. The name “Nineveh” is a transliteration of one of the names of the goddess Ishtar. Nineveh provided a great source of learning about the ancient Near East because when it was excavated more than 16,000 clay tablets and fragments comprising some 10,000 texts were discovered there covering many different subjects including epics, legends, rituals, hymns, prayers, lists of gods and temples, letters, and historical texts, some even written in two languages, helping us to understand the ancient languages.
Nineveh is over 400 miles from the Phoenician coast and the mouth of the Orantes River, which is one of the places where Jonah would likely have been vomited out by the whale (or great fish), or he may have been vomited out further north, west of Carchemish. This is important to understand because Jesus Christ twice mentioned Jonah as being a sign, but the two signs are different. Jonah was a sign to Jesus’ generation because he was dead for three days and three nights then got up (Matt. 12:40), and Jonah was a sign to the people of Nineveh because he walked alone into the capital city of an enemy country and boldly spoke the Word of God to it at the risk of his life (Luke 11:29-30). The people of Nineveh would have known nothing about him being dead in a whale, and would not have believed if he told them. [For more on the two signs of Jonah, see commentary on Matt. 12:40].