Who can tell
The Septuagint and Arabic versions prefix to this the word "saying", and take them to be, not the words of the king, but of the Ninevites; though very wrongly: or "who is he that knows"; which some connect with the next word, "he will return": that is, that knows the ways of repentance, he will return, as Kimchi and Ben Melech; or that knows that he has sinned, as Aben Ezra: or that knows the transgressions he is guilty of, will return, as Jarchi; and so the Targum,
``whosoever knows that sins are in his hands, he will return, or let him return, from them:''but they are the words of the king, with respect to God, encouraging his subjects to the above things, from the consideration of the probability, or at least possibility, of God's being merciful to them: [if] God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce wrath,
that we perish not?
he speaks here not as nor as absolutely doubting, but as between hope and fear: for, by the light of nature, it is not certain that God will pardon men upon repentance; it is only probable or possible he may; neither the light of nature nor the law of Moses connect repentance and remission of sins, it is the Gospel does this; and it is only by the Gospel revelation that any can be assured that God will forgive, even penitent sinners; however, this Heathen prince encourages his subjects not to despair of, but to hope for, the mercy of God, though they could not be sure of it; and it may be observed, that he does not put their hope of not perishing, or of salvation, upon their fasting, praying, and reformation, but upon the will, mercy, and goodness of God.