And God saw their words, that they turned from their evil way,
&c.] Not their outward works, in putting on sackcloth and ashes, and fasting; but their inward works, their faith in him, and repentance towards him; and which were attended with fruits and works meet for repentance, in that they forsook their former course of life, and refrained from it; and these he saw not barely with his eye of omniscience, as he sees all persons and things, good and bad, but so as to like them, approve of them, and accept them, in which sense the word is used, ( Genesis 1:4 Genesis 1:31 ) ( 4:4 ) ; and so the repentance of these men is spoken of with commendation by Christ, and as what would rise up in judgment, and condemn the men of that generation, ( Matthew 12:41 ) ; and God repented of the evil that he had said that he would do unto
them, and he did [it] not;
this is spoken after the manner of men, as Aben Ezra observes; and is to be understood, not of any such affection in God as repentance; but of an effect done by him, which carries in it a show of repentance, or resembles what is done by men when they repent; then they change their course and conduct; so, the Lord, though he never changes his will, nor repents of or revokes his decrees, or alters his purposes; yet he sometimes wills a change, and makes an alteration in the dispensations of his providence, according to his unchangeable will. God, in this case, did not repent of his decrees concerning the Ninevites, but of what he had said or threatened respecting the overthrow of Nineveh, in case of their impenitence; it was his will that they should be told of their sin and danger, and by this means be brought to repentance, and the wrath threatened them be averted; so that here was a change, not of his mind and will concerning them, but of his outward dispensations towards them; see ( Jeremiah 18:7-10 ) .