And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also many cattle?
Read Chapter 4
Ambrose of Milan
The next day the book of Jonah was read according to custom, and when it was finished I began this sermon: Brothers, a book has been read in which it is prophesied that sinners shall return to repentance. It is understood to mean that they may hope for the future in the present. I added that the just man had been willing to receive even blame, so as not to see or prophesy destruction for the city. And because that sentence was mournful, he grew sad when the vine withered. God said to the prophet, “Are you sad over the vine?” Jonah answered, “I am sad.” The Lord said that if he was grieving because the vine had withered, how much greater should his care be for the salvation of so many people! And, in fact, he did away with the destruction that had been prepared for the entire city.
this is something beyond infants, and it is logical to accord them loving-kindness before all others, since they have not sinned; what sins could they be guilty of if still unfamiliar with their own hands?
We read of Eli the priest that he became displeasing to God on account of the sins of his children. And we are told that a man may not be made a bishop if his sons are loose and disorderly. It is written of the woman that “she shall be saved in childbearing, if she continues in faith and charity and holiness with chastity.” If then parents are responsible for their children when these are of ripe age and independent, how much more must they be responsible for them when, still unweaned and weak, they cannot, in the Lord’s words, “discern between their right hand and their left,” when, that is to say, they cannot yet distinguish good from evil? Letter
When, at one time, God had been offended by the sins of the Ninevites, he was appeased by the crying and wailing of children. For though we read that the whole people wept, yet the lot of innocence of the little ones merited the greatest mercy. God said to Jonah, “You are greatly grieved over the vine.” And a little later, “Should I not spare Nineveh, the great city, in which there are more than , persons, who know not their left hand from their right hand?” He thereby declared that because of the purity of the innocent ones, he was also sparing the faults of the guilty ones.