Jonah the Faithful Servant (chap.4)
Jonah ch.4 (Intro): Jonah symbolized Israel 5-27-07
Man’s Anger (1,4,9,9) but not the righteous anger of Eph.4:26
Why was he angry? (v.4) Why was he angry? (v.9)
* Matt.20:11 11hr vineyard workers…..Lk.15:28 elder son……Gen.4:6 Cain’s offering
What makes you angry? ……….Whom are you made at? (God)
God’s Compassion/Concern/Mercy (2,11, 3:10) on the lost and wicked
Sailors (ch.1); Jonah (ch.2); Ninevites (ch.3)
Jonah’s Prayer (v.3) compare his on land with his in the ocean (fish)
God’s Question #1 (v.4,9,11)
God’s Provisions (6,7,8)
Wind & Storm (ch.1), great Fish (ch.2), Vine, Worm, Scorching wind
Attitude Adjustment: From shore to shade, he reverted to his old ways traveling 500+ miles
Last Question: for Jonah or for us?
* if we ended in chap.3, Jonah would be a hero
4:1 But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry.
Pero Jonás se apesadumbró extremo [se disgustó, le cayó muy mal], y se enojó.
* he was means to bring a whole city to faith in God but amazingly Jonah didn’t love those he preach to
* Why was Jonah boiling mad?
2 He prayed to the LORD, "O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.
Y oró a Jehová y dijo: Ahora, oh Jehová, ¿no es esto lo que yo decía estando aún en mi tierra? Por eso me apresuré a huir a Tarsis; porque sabía yo que tú eres Dios clemente y piadoso [tierno, bondadoso y compasivo], tardo en enojarte [no te enojas fácilmente], y de grande misericordia, y que te arrepientes del mal [anunciado].
* compare ch.2 prayer --- broken heart VS angry heart…..save my life VS take my life
* imagine, complaining to God about his goodness!!!!
3 Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live."
Ahora pues, oh Jehová, te ruego que me quites la vida; porque mejor me es la muerte que la vida.
* it’s not enough to do God’s will, you must do it from the heart (Eph.6:6) de corazon hacienda la voluntad de Dios
* He missed the joy of his ministry due to self-centered – 9 ref to “I”/me/my in original!
4 But the LORD replied, "Have you any right to be angry?"
Y Jehová le dijo: ¿Haces tú bien en enojarte tanto?
* God’s 1st question reveals diff in hearts, both look at same situation but w/ diff hearts
5 Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city.
Y salió Jonás de la ciudad, y acampó hacia el oriente de la ciudad, y se hizo allí una enramada, y se sentó debajo de ella a la sombra, hasta ver qué acontecería en la ciudad.
*What was Jonah thinking?
6 Then the LORD God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine.
Y preparó Jehová Dios una [planta] calabacera, la cual creció sobre Jonás para que hiciese sombra sobre su cabeza, y le librase de su malestar [incomodidad]; y Jonás se alegró grandemente por la calabacera.
* first time he is happy, delirously
7 But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered.
Pero al venir el alba del día siguiente, Dios preparó un gusano, el cual hirió la calabacera, y se secó
* ironic that the theme of message was destruction and only thing ruined was the vine!
8 When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah's head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, "It would be better for me to die than to live."
Y aconteció que al salir el sol, preparó Dios un recio viento solano [del este], y el sol hirió a Jonás en la cabeza [le daba a Jonás directamente en lacabeza], y se desmayaba, y deseaba la muerte, diciendo: Mejor sería para mí la muerte que la vida.
* 4th things God prepared (wind/storm; great fish; now a vine, worm, hot wind)
9 But God said to Jonah, "Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?" "I do," he said. "I am angry enough to die."
Entonces dijo Dios a Jonás: ¿Tanto te enojas por la calabacera? Y él respondió: Mucho me enojo, hasta la muerte.
* he called others to repent but he wouldn’t repent himself
* the waves, worms, fish, Ninevites submit but Jonah won’t
God 2nd question revealed Jonah’s pettiness
* Moses,Elijah,Jeremiah wanted to die in course of ministry, God said NO, U can’t quit!
10 But the LORD said, "You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight.
Y dijo Jehová: Tuviste tú lástima de la calabacera, en la cual no trabajaste, ni tú la hiciste crecer; que en espacio de una noche nació, y en espacio de otra noche pereció.
* Contrast physical welfare with spiritual welfare
* What is Wrong, Jonah?
1st: He is still not reconciled to will of God, in spite earlier miracles!
2nd, He’d forgotten @ God’s mercy (perhaps along 500mi trip after the fish spit him out)
3rd, He didn’t know God as well as he thot……enough to love the lost, grieve over sin
11 But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people [children] who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?"
¿Y no tendré yo piedad [compassion] de Nínive, aquella gran ciudad donde hay más de ciento veinte mil personas [niños] que no saben discernir entre su mano derecha y su mano izquierda, y muchos animales?
* only asked for 10 in Sodom
* Nahum also delt w/ Ninevah and also ends in a question
* sad when Gods servants are means of blessing for others but miss the blessing themselves
Simple Test of Character:
What makes me happy? What makes me angry? What does it take for me to give up?
* the issue isn’t how Jonah answered the question, but rather, how do we answer the question?
* at every point God’s character is in contrast with Jonah’s character
* can any of us rightly rightly resent God’s grace shown to any other person?
Jonah. God has the first word (Jonah 1:1–2) and God has the last word (4:11), and that’s as it should be, but we aren’t told how Jonah answered God’s final question. It’s like the ending of Frank Stockton’s famous short story “The Lady or the Tiger?” When the handsome youth opened the door, what came out: the beautiful princess or the man-eating tiger? We sincerely hope that Jonah yielded to God’s loving entreaty and followed the example of the Ninevites by repenting and seeking the face of God. The famous Scottish preacher Alexander Whyte believed that Jonah did experience a change of heart. He wrote, “But Jonah came to himself again during those five-and-twenty days or so, from the east gate of Nineveh back to Gath Hepher, his father’s house.” Spurgeon said, “Let us hope that, during the rest of his life, he so lived as to rejoice in the sparing mercy of God.” After all, hadn’t Jonah himself been spared because of God’s mercy?God was willing to spare Nineveh, but in order to do that, He could not spare His own Son. Somebody had to die for their sins or they would die in their sins. “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32). Jesus used Jonah’s ministry to Nineveh to show the Jews how guilty they were in rejecting His witness. “The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it; because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and, behold, a greater than Jonah is here” (Matt. 12:41). How is Jesus greater than Jonah? Certainly Jesus is greater than Jonah in His person, for though both were Jews and both were prophets, Jesus is the very Son of God. He is greater in His message, for Jonah preached a message of judgment, but Jesus preached a message of grace and salvation (John 3:16–17). Jonah almost died for his own sins, but Jesus willingly died for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2). Jonah’s ministry was to but one city, but Jesus is “the Savior of the world” (John 4:42; 1 John 4:14). Jonah’s obedience was not from the heart, but Jesus always did whatever pleased His father (John 8:29). Jonah didn’t love the people he came to save, but Jesus had compassion for sinners and proved His love by dying for them on the cross (Rom. 5:6–8). On the cross, outside the city, Jesus asked God to forgive those who killed Him (Luke 23:34), but Jonah waited outside the city to see if God would kill those he would not forgive. Yes, Jesus is greater than Jonah, and because He is, we must give greater heed to what He says to us. Those who reject Him will face greater judgment because the greater the light, the greater the responsibility. But the real issue isn’t how Jonah answered God’s question; the real issue is how you and I today are answering God’s question. Do we agree with God that people without Christ are lost? Like God, do we have compassion for those who are lost? How do we show this compassion? Do we have a concern for those in our great cities where there is so much sin and so little witness? Do we pray that the Gospel will go to people in every part of the world, and are we helping to send it there? Do we rejoice when sinners repent and trust the Savior? All of those questions and more are wrapped up in what God asked Jonah. We can’t answer for him, but we can answer for ourselves. Let’s give God the right answer.
Boice - God More Merciful Than His Prophet I doubt if there ever has been a story of God’s dealings with men that should give more cause for rejoicing than the story of Jonah. Jonah’s story is a story of God’s mercy. First, there had been God’s mercy for Jonah, who had been given a great commission. Even though he rebelled at the idea of preaching to the pagans of Nineveh, God persevered with him to turn him from his folly and brought him at last to that great capital city of Assyria. God’s mercy to Jonah involved the storm, the great fish, and the repentance of Jonah within the fish, and then God’s recommissioning of him after he had been cast up on the shore. We read at that point that “the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time” (3:1). Parallel to the story of God’s dealing with Jonah is God’s mercy with the sailors who were manning the ship taking him to Tarshish. This too shows God’s mercy. The sailors were pagans at the beginning of the story. We are told that in the midst of the storm “each cried out to his own god” (1:5). By the end, after they had heard Jonah’s testimony and had witnessed the calming of the sea after the rebellious prophet had been thrown overboard, we find them worshiping Jehovah, offering sacrifices, and making vows. Finally, and greatest of all, there is the account of God’s mercy to Nineveh. Nineveh was not godly. On the contrary, it was a particularly wicked city. But God used the preaching of Jonah to bring a revival to Nineveh, probably the greatest revival in history. We read that “the Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth” (3:5). This repentance was so great that even the king was affected. God postponed the judgment that Jonah had prophesied. If there had ever been a cause for rejoicing, certainly those three evidences of God’s mercy—first to his prophet, then to the sailors, and eventually to Nineveh—should provide it, and we should expect Jonah himself to be literally leaping with joy and thanksgiving. Instead, when we come to the fourth and final chapter, we find Jonah in the worst “blue funk” imaginable. In fact, he was angry about what had happened, violently angry. He was angry with God. We find a series of additional lessons in this chapter as God deals with Jonah at the depth of his attitudes. In these final encounters the book more or less comes full circle. At the beginning it was the story of just two personalities: Jonah and God. After Jonah had run away, the sailors came into the story and then eventually all the people of Nineveh. Now, at the end, we are again back to God and his rebellious prophet. It is always that way. God gives us work to do; the work involves other people. But in the end, when it gets right down to basics, it is always a question of each of us as an individual and God. It is a question of whether or not we have obeyed him. Jonah’s Displeasure Jonah’s anger at God’s mercy to the people of Nineveh is disclosed in the first three verses of chapter 4, so we turn to them for an analysis of Jonah’s mood. The verses say, “But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the Lord, ‘O Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live’ ” (4:1–3). Obviously, Jonah is angry. He had obeyed God, doing what God wanted; but God had not done what Jonah wanted. Jonah had told the Ninevites that judgment was coming in forty days, but it had not come. He felt betrayed. He felt that God had let him down by not destroying the city as he, Jonah, had predicted. Moreover, in all this he had not the slightest interest in the people of Nineveh. He should have been happy at their deliverance. Instead, he was displeased that God had not wiped them from the face of the earth. If God had destroyed the city, he would have returned home delighted. In Jonah’s anger at God we notice three significant things. First, he tried to justify himself both in his own eyes and in the eyes of God. That is, he tried to justify his former disobedience. He said, in effect, “This is why I refused to go to Nineveh when you first called me; what is more, I was right in refusing.”
we all do what Jonah did. Things do not turn out as we wish, so we seek to justify our disobedience. We need to learn that we are not sufficient to pass on the appropriateness or inappropriateness of the outcome, nor are we responsible for it. We are responsible only for performing the whole will of God. The second thing Jonah did in his anger is somewhat harder to explain, though it is easy to notice. Jonah tried to turn God against God. Or to put the same thing in another language, he tried to quote God’s word back to him in his warped desire to show that he, Jonah, was right and that God was wrong. This is what he was doing in verse 2. Jonah was probably thinking of Exodus 34:6–7 as he argued. The verses in Exodus say, “And he [the Lord] passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.”“Now,” said Jonah, “is that or is that not what you have said? And if it is what you have said, why did you send me to Nineveh with a message that you never intended to fulfill? Is it not true that I, Jonah, am the consistent one and that you are wrong?”We should find this frightening. It is frightening in itself and also because of its parallels. What is the most infamous of all attempts to turn the word of God against God? It is Satan’s use of Scripture in his temptation of Christ. Jesus had replied to Satan’s first temptation to turn stones into bread by quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3: “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’ ” (Matt. 4:4). Satan retaliated by quoting some Scripture of his own. He took Jesus to a pinnacle of the temple and challenged him to throw himself down, saying, “It is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone’ ” (Matt. 4:6). It was a quotation of Psalm 91:11–12, but he used it wrongly, as Jesus next pointed out. Jesus replied that it is not possible to use one verse of Scripture to overthrow another, and the Bible clearly says, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test” (Matt. 4:7; Deut. 6:16). Satan was using the Bible, the Word of God, to justify evil and show that the course God had set for Jesus was not right. This is what Jonah was doing. So at no point is the diabolical nature of his rebellion more evident than here. In seeking to justify himself and prove God wrong by Scripture, Jonah took a place as Satan’s spiritual progeny. Ellul applies this to our own tendencies to self-justification. “This is a grave warning; it is not enough to lean on a biblical text to be right; it is not enough to adduce biblical arguments, whether theological or pietistic, to be in tune with God. All this may denote opposition to God. It may even be a way of disobeying him. The using of God’s word to tempt God is a danger which threatens all Christians. Every time the Christian thinks he has God’s Word in store to be used as needed, he commits this sin, which is that of Satan himself against Christ. This is the attitude of the historian who dissects Scripture to set it against Scripture, of the theologian who uses a text to construct this doctrine or philosophy, or of the simple Christian who opens his Bible to find himself justified there, or to find arguments against non-Christians or against Christians who do not hold the same views, arguments which show how far superior my position is to that of others. It is not for nothing the Bible shows us that this attitude of Jonah is that of Satan. … This should stir us to great caution in the reading and use of the Bible. It is not a neutral book which one can read and then take arguments from it. It is an explosive power which must be handled with care.” This does not mean that we should leave the Bible alone and not study it, of course. We avoid the danger Ellul speaks of by faithfully applying this formula: When we find ourselves reading the Bible to find verses and passages that justify our own behavior, we are wrong and are in danger; when we read the Bible and find verses that expose our sin and thereby draw us increasingly closer to God, who will forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness, then we are on the right track and will find blessing. Ellul writes: “What revelation teaches us about ourselves is all to the effect that we are not righteous, that we have no means of justifying ourselves, that we have no possibility of disputing with God, that we have no right to condemn others and be in the right against them, and that in this extreme distress only a gracious act of God which is external to us (though it becomes internal) can save us. This is what Scripture teaches us, and if we stick to this, reading the Bible is useful and healthy and brings forth fruit in us.” Jonah did one more thing in his anger, and at that point it was almost comic: He asked for death again. “Now, O Lord take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live” (v. 3). It is hard to understand the prophet’s apparent death wish. When he had run from God and God had caught up to him in the storm, he thought it would be better to die than obey. He asked the sailors to throw him overboard. Now, having obeyed, he is still unhappy and says once more that he would rather die and get it all over with. It is a warning that it is possible to obey God but to do so with such a degree of unwillingness and anger that, so far as we are concerned, the obedience is no better than disobedience. What is Wrong, Jonah? At this point of the story we rightly ask ourselves, “But what is wrong with Jonah?” He should have been happy; he is unhappy. He had been instrumental in the gift of spiritual life to thousands; he prefers death. He claimed to be cognizant of God’s grace and mercy, which he himself had experienced; he resents God for it and says that he would have preferred wrath for Nineveh. One thing wrong with Jonah is that he is not reconciled to the will of God even yet. He had been opposed to God’s will at the beginning and had run away because of his opposition. God had pursued him and had brought him to the point of obedience. He had even experienced the marvels of a rediscovery of God’s grace while in the belly of the great fish and had repented of his sin with one of the most moving and genuine prayers in all Scripture. Perhaps only David’s great psalm of repentance can be said to rival it (Ps. 51). Yet, in spite of this, Jonah’s attitudes had not really changed. He was still unwilling to see the people of Nineveh saved, and he resented the God of mercy for having saved them. We often act the same, even when we are apparently obeying God. We are doing what we think we should be doing, living the kind of life we think a Christian should live. But secretly we are unhappy and angry with God for making the requirement. For this reason many Christians look and act miserable much of the time. Second, Jonah had forgotten God’s mercy to him. We object, “But how could Jonah of all people forget God’s mercy? And forget it so quickly?” Jonah should have perished miserably inside the great fish. He had renounced God. It would have been only proper if God had renounced him. Yet God had showed him great mercy, first in bringing him to repentance and then in saving him and recommissioning him to preach in Nineveh.
Jonah had certainly experienced mercy at the hand of God. But there was the long journey across the desert, and man’s memory is short. Jonah had forgotten God’s mercy and was therefore ill-prepared to appreciate it when God showed the same mercy to others. We must remember this when we find ourselves wondering, somewhat regretfully, why God does not judge someone else for his sin. When we do that—as we all do—we are forgetting that we were once where that other person is now and that we would not be where we are now were it not for God’s great mercy to us. The third reason why Jonah was angry was that he did not know God as well as he thought he did. Undoubtedly he was proud of his knowledge of God. He was a Jew, first of all, and Jews had received an accurate revelation of God which the pagans did not possess; they had the Law and the record of God’s dealings in history. Moreover, Jonah was a prophet—not just any Jew, but rather one who had studied the Law and who had been commissioned by God and given special revelations by him. If anybody knew God, it was Jonah! But did he? He knew something of God, it is true. But he did not know God well enough to grieve over sin as God grieves over sin, or to rejoice at the repentance of the sinner. Instead, he was like the older son of Christ’s parable, who sulked while the father celebrated and felt cheated by the prodigal’s return.
In our day we sometimes find ourselves wishing that the Lord Jesus Christ would return, usher in the final judgment, and escort his own into heaven, and we are grieved when unbelievers scorn our belief in the Second Coming. We wish Jesus would come. We cannot understand his delay. This is because we do not understand God well enough. Peter knew people who thought like this, and he wrote an explanation to them, saying, “In the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, ‘Where is this “coming” he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’ … But… , dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:3–4, 8–9). Peter explained the delay of God’s judgment by God’s mercy, saying that Jesus has not yet returned in order that all whom God desires to call to faith in him might be born, have the gospel preached to them, and believe. Aren’t you glad that Jesus did not return before you were born and believed in him? Well, then, rejoice that his delay makes possible the salvation of countless others. God is a God of judgment. But he is also a God of mercy. We need to know him as that. Three Questions
Jonah had not learned this, however. So God began to teach him more about his mercy, doing so by means of three significant questions that conclude the book. God likes to ask questions because they are effective in helping us see the state of our hearts. God asked questions of Adam and Eve: “Where are you? … Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from? … What is this you have done?” (Gen. 3:9, 11, 13). He questioned Cain after he had murdered his brother: “Where is your brother Abel? … What have you done?” (Gen. 4:9–10). Saul was asked the same thing after he had foolishly intruded into the priest’s office by offering sacrifices: “What have you done?” (1 Sam. 13:11). After David had sinned in committing adultery with Bathsheba and having her husband killed, Nathan came to ask him, “Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes?” (2 Sam. 12:9). God asked Isaiah, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” (Isa. 6:8). Jesus asked Judas, “Are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” (Luke 22:48). It is the same in the Book of Jonah. God asks 3 questions, “Have you any right to be angry? Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?Should I not be concerned about that great city?” (vv. 4, 9, 11).What does God’s first question to his sulking prophet mean? Quite simply it is a challenge to Jonah to judge whether the angry prophet or the great and holy God of the universe is right. It is as though God had said, “We are looking at the identical situation in two different ways, Jonah. I am pleased with it. You are angry. Which of us has the proper perspective?” Whenever God asks that type of question, we must recognize that, whatever our thoughts or feelings may be, it is always God who is correct and not we. “Let God be true, and every man a liar” (Rom. 3:4).Jonah did not think like that. He did not confess his error. Instead, he became even angrier and left the city. On its outskirts he constructed a little shelter for himself and then waited to see if God might not destroy the city after all. Suddenly God’s promise to destroy Nineveh seemed very important to him. Here Jonah made three errors, as Ellul points out. First, he quit. He abandoned his mission to Nineveh even though he had no right or instruction by God to do it. Since God had sent Jonah to Nineveh to preach to the people and since, as a result of Jonah’s preaching, they had repented and turned to Jehovah, Jonah should have stayed and taught them more perfectly, becoming a Calvin to Nineveh as the great Protestant reformer was blessed to the city of Geneva. But Jonah was not willing to do this for the city. In the same way, many Christians today abandon the work God has given them because God does not carry through according to their expectations or their timetable. Students abandon their work when it begins to prove difficult. Parents give up on their children. Many abandon their jobs. Ministers quit the ministry. We have no right to do that. Second, Jonah built a little shelter for himself, a private retreat, which again he had no right to do. Were there no shelters in Nineveh? No homes? No places where the prophet of Israel, who had been the vehicle of such great spiritual blessing, would be welcome? Of course, there were. But Jonah was not interested in these shelters. He still secretly despised the people and hoped that God would judge them. To put it starkly, Jonah launched a little separatist movement in which he established his own independent church or denomination—all because he disliked the people of Nineveh. Ellul says, “He creates his own domain in the shade where he will be at peace according to his own measure, just as Christians try to make a church according to their own measure—it is not the body of Christ—and a divine kingdom according to their own measure, full of intentions which are good and effective and well constructed, but which are only a fresh demonstration of their autonomy in relation to God.” Jonah’s third error was to become a spectator. He sat in the shadow of his shelter “to see what would happen to the city” (v. 5). He was not called to be a spectator, any more than Christians are called to be spectators of the world’s ills and misfortunes today. [Spectator Christians] He was called to identify with those people and help them as best he could by the grace of God. Something for Jonah Jonah had still not come around to God’s way of thinking, but God had not given up on him. God had a second question. But before he asked it, he did something to prepare Jonah’s heart for the message. First, he caused an unusually fast-growing vine to spring up next to Jonah’s rude shelter. We are told that it became a shadow for him, that is, a protection from the blazing desert sun. We read, “Jonah was very happy about the vine” (v. 6). This is remarkable—that Jonah was “very happy.” It is the first time in the story that Jonah has been happy about anything. The first thing we read about in the story was God’s commission to him to preach in Nineveh; he had not liked that. Then there was the storm; he had not liked that. He did not like the great fish, even though it had been the means of saving him from certain death. Apparently, he had not been happy even with the second commission. He had not been happy with the repentance of Nineveh. Nothing pleased him. But here at last “Jonah was very happy.” Why? The answer is obvious. Jonah was pleased because at last, after all the compassion of God for other people, God was finally doing something for Jonah. Selfish? Of course, it was. And petty too! For the vine was a trifle compared with the conversion of the entire city of Nineveh. Having caused the vine to spring up, God then did something else. He caused a worm to attack the vine so that the plant withered. And after that he caused a vehement east wind to blow from the desert that brought Jonah to the point of fainting from the terrible heat. Now Jonah became angrier than ever, and again he expressed a wish to die. At this point God asked his second question. His first question had been, “Have you any right to be angry?” It was a question as to who was right, God or Jonah. This time God asked, “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?” By this question God exposed Jonah’s pettiness, for his anger had brought him from the grandeur of being angry at God—one who is at least a worthy opponent—to being angry at such a petty thing as a vine or worm. The same thing happens when we become angry. We begin by being angry at big things, but quickly we become angry at petty things. First we are angry with God. Next we express our anger at circumstances, then minor circumstances. Finally, our shoelace breaks one morning, and we find ourselves swearing. God was showing this to Jonah, saying, in effect, “Look where your anger has taken you, Jonah. Is this right? Is this the way you want to live? Do you want to spend the rest of your life swearing at petty annoyances?”At last God asked his final question, and it is with this question that the book closes. God said, “You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?” (vv. 10–11). Jonah had been sorry for the vine. So God does not talk to him about the adult population of the city, who undoubtedly deserved the judgment Jonah was so anxious to have fall on them. God talks about the cattle, who were innocent, and the smallest children, designated as those who could not yet discern between their right hand and their left. Was God not right to show mercy for their sake, if not for the adult population? Does not even Jonah’s compassion for the vine vindicate God’s judgment? Wideness in God’s Mercy
The book ends with a question, a question that has no written answer. This is not a mistake. It ends on a question in order that each one who reads it might ask himself or herself the same question: Is God not right? Is he not great for showing mercy? The lessons of this book are many. There are lessons that concern Jonah himself. He is a type of practically everything: a type of Christ (who was buried but who rose again), a type of Israel, a type of all believers (for we all run away from God at times and need to be disciplined). There are lessons that concern Nineveh and the true meaning of repentance. There are lessons relating to the doctrine of God’s sovereignty over men and nature. But greater than all these lessons is the lesson of the greatness of the mercy of God. How great is God’s mercy? We have a hymn that says, “There’s a wideness in God’s mercy, like the wideness of the sea.” But even that is not wide enough. The real measure of the wideness of the mercy of God is that of the outstretched arms of the Lord Jesus Christ as he hung on the cross to die for our salvation. That is the wideness of God’s mercy. That is the measure of the length to which the love of God will go. How can we, who have known that mercy and benefited from it, be less than merciful to others? How can we do less than love them and carry the gospel to them with all the strength at our disposal?
NEW AMER - JONAH’S DISPLEASURE AND GOD’S RESPONSE (4:1–11)
(1) The Prophet’s Displeasure (4:1–3)
(2) God’s Response (4:4–11)
1. The Probing Question (4:4)
2. The Pouting Prophet (4:5)
3. God’s Methods of Discipline (4:6–8)
4. The Rebuke (4:9)
5. God’s Mercy (4:10–11)
JONAH’S DISPLEASURE & GOD’S RESPONSE (4:1–11) The Prophet’s Displeasure (4:1–3)
4:1 Nineveh’s repentance led to the reaction of mercy from the Lord and great displeasure from Jonah. What pleased God displeased Jonah. After recognizing that God had relented of his threatened destruction, Jonah reacted in a way many would deem peculiar. One writer says, “Jonah finds that the time-fuse does not work on the prophetic bomb that he planted in Nineveh.”The NIV speaks of Jonah’s great displeasure and great anger. The literal translation is, “It was evil to Jonah with great evil.” There is a play on words here with the root rā˓â, which can refer to wickedness on the one hand (see 1:2) or to disaster, trouble, or misery as here. The evil that was characteristic of the people of Nineveh here described the prophet of God. As we study this verse in context, we find that several emotions were involved: anger and displeasure as well as a lack of understanding. Jonah literally hated what God had done. As God’s anger and judgment were averted in chap. 3, Jonah’s anger was incited. Why was Jonah’s reaction so negative? Could his reaction have been due to a narrow-minded nationalism as a Hebrew prophet? Many have supposed that this was the primary reason for Jonah’s displeasure and the main target of the book’s author. Others have cited as the cause Jonah’s awareness that Assyria would be the downfall of Israel. Nineveh was head of a resurgent Assyrian military state. Even in this period of Assyrian history, their imperialistic ambitions had been displayed. Perhaps Jonah foresaw and feared the movement of the Assyrian armies toward Israel. The stigma of being instrumental in the sparing of one of Israel’s greatest enemies may have been more than Jonah’s emotional makeup could withstand. Still others point to the possibility that Jonah felt his personal reputation was at stake. After all, he had prophesied destruction, and then it did not occur. Calvin said that the reason for Jonah’s anger was “because he was unwilling to appear as a vain and lying prophet.” This “loss of face” would cause him an embarrassing loss of stature in Nineveh. In addition, what would happen when he returned home to Israel? Another explanation supposes that Jonah had proclaimed devotion to Yahweh in his native Israel with very little success. Israel was experiencing a time of prosperity and resulting lack of dependence on Yahweh. Perhaps Jonah longed for God’s strong hand of judgment to awaken Israel. If God had destroyed Nineveh, what a mighty lesson it would have been to the Hebrews. Jonah recognized that God averted judgment and thereby removed the very weapon from his hand by which he hoped to prevail with his rebellious countrymen. At the very worst we see a prophet with a shocking disregard for human life and a bitter hatred toward those who had experienced mercy. At the very best he was a prophet who misunderstood God’s mercy and had a limited view of God’s plan for the redemption of his own people. While there may have been some reasons for Jonah’s displeasure, it is sad to see him place limits on the same grace that saved him. While missionaries and evangelists would be delighted at such results, Jonah failed to recognize his privilege of being an instrument of God in a miraculous situation. Failing to recognize God’s sovereign plan, he missed the joy of the situation. Much like Elijah (1 Kgs 19:3–18), Jonah sank into a selfish state of mind. Here again the message of the Book of Jonah is seen to be abidingly relevant. Countless numbers of modern-day believers miss much of the joy of being involved in God’s wonderful work because of self-centeredness. 4:2 In this verse Jonah shared with the Lord his reason for anger and turmoil. At least Jonah did express this to the Lord in prayer. Instead of complaining about God, he complained to God. However, this prayer was quite unlike Jonah’s prayer in 2:1. Obviously, differing circumstances call for different kinds of prayers. But often differing kinds of prayers suggest varying stages of maturity or serve as an indication of swings in commitment. In this prayer we find a reversion to the “old Jonah” who ran away from God’s stated wish. The prayer begins with a particle of entreaty, but the petition does not appear until the end. The selfishness of this prayer needs to be noted. The word “I” or “my” occurs no fewer than nine times in the original. Not only does this prayer show an extreme selfishness, but it also indicates Jonah’s shortsightedness. As stated in the prayer, he had already told the Lord what he dreaded, and yet the Lord, by his action, had brought it about. This was a grave offense to Jonah. He presumptuously felt that the Lord should have shaped his course according to his (Jonah’s) mind. Jonah did not want God to do what was right and proper according to his merciful nature. Instead of bestowing upon Nineveh the kind of grace God had granted to Israel, Jonah wished the Ninevites’ destruction without any chance to repent. It is easier to assume that God is with “us” more than he is with our foes. The natural tendency of Jonah and his readers would have been to presume that God could never be “on the side” of the Ninevites. Jonah audaciously stated, in essence, “I told you so.” Then he acted as though this was sufficient to excuse his running to Tarshish. The second half of v. 2 rehearses God’s compassionate nature. In this segment Jonah went on to argue with God by complaining about God’s goodness! To Jonah the most recent occurrences in Nineveh seemed a theological embarrassment and a divine faux pas. In this sarcastic complaint Jonah cited an ancient formula that is basically a quotation of Exod 34:6–7. The wording used here is descriptive of God’s character. First, God is seen as a “gracious” (ḥannûn) God. This word communicates the attitude of the Lord toward those who are undeserving, thereby expressing benevolence in the ultimate sense. The next word used to describe God is the word “compassionate” (raḥûm). This word is translated in many ways and can mean “loving” or “merciful.” It also expresses the understanding and loving compassion of a mother to her child, hence the idea of understanding and loving favor. God is also described as “slow to anger” (˒erek ˒appayim). This speaks to the patience and longsuffering of the Lord. Nineveh was the obvious recipient of this characteristic of the Lord. The next phrase used to describe God in this segment is “abounding in love” (rab ḥesed). The word ḥesed refers to the covenant love of God. This attribute expresses itself in redemption from sin. It encompasses the qualities of kindness, loyalty, and unfailing love. No one term in English adequately and accurately expresses the meaning of ḥesed. This this covenant love issues itself in God’s being “a God who relents [niḥam] from sending calamity” (rā˓â). Amazingly, Jonah did not use these words in praise to the Lord but as a tirade against him. This verse is an extremely disturbing one. It indicates that while Jonah had become obedient, he still lacked a spirit of submission. Lest we judge Jonah too harshly, we should remember the common frailty of murmuring against God’s sovereign will. Throughout the pages of history, believers have stood in direct opposition to God’s revealed will and sought the implementation of their own wishes. 4:3 Here is the conclusion of Jonah’s prayer. While it was commendable for Jonah to have prayed, this prayer stands in stark contrast with the words of Jonah 2:7, where he cried out to the Lord, “My life was ebbing away.” Jonah was a man of irony. As he fled from the Lord in chap. 1 only to lament being banished from the Lord in chap. 2, so in chap. 2 he praised God for saving his life only to pray in chap. 4 for God to take his life. In the second instance he cried out for death, which he did not receive. It is true that God always answers prayer, but not always affirmatively. In this case Jonah’s answer from the Lord was not affirmative. Believers, however, should always be thankful that God knows the depths of every heart and knows every need better than we may know ourselves. The words of this verse are remarkably similar to those in 1 Kgs 19:4, where Elijah also cried out wishing to die. The words also are similar to Moses’ words in Num 11:15, where he pleaded for an early death. While many have noted the similarity between Jonah’s and Elijah’s prayers, the situations were entirely different. Elijah’s prayer appears to have been founded upon the seeming failure of Yahweh worship in Israel. Israel’s sin had depressed him. The underlying cause of Jonah’s prayer was not nearly so admirable. Jonah did not wish to live any longer because God had not carried out Nineveh’s judgment. Nineveh’s redemption had depressed him. Perhaps Jonah felt that life was horribly out of order. Nineveh was the recipient of God’s grace, and his precious Israel was destined to suffer at their hands. One writer states it well: “Here we see how bad theology may also lead to despair. If the Israelites had not had such a limited understanding of their God, an understanding that, among other things, tied together much too closely faith in God and social/political/economic prosperity, they would have been better enabled to cope with the realities of life.” God’s Response (4:4–11) The Probing Question (4:4) 4But the LORD replied, “Have you any right to be angry?” 4:4 God’s response to Jonah came in the form of a probing question. It was not the response many might have imagined. The Lord simply asked a rhetorical question to evoke Jonah’s consideration. Instead of a thunderous blast of rebuke, the marvelous image of a tender God is portrayed. Instead of breaking off the dialogue, God reached out to Jonah, encouraging him to pause and reflect. Here is a divine response that is beyond the comprehension of many. Jonah was asked if it was right or justifiable (lit., “good”) for him to be angry. The word for anger here means “to burn” or “to be kindled.” The root ḥārâ also occurs in 3:9 and 4:1. In an attempt to help Jonah correct his “bad theology,” God asked this question. Jonah’s anger was not justifiable. It was not the “righteous indignation” mentioned in Eph 4:26. God’s dealing so patiently here with Jonah may indicate that Jonah’s anger included a deep concern for Israel since Nineveh had been spared. Nonetheless, his anger was inappropriate, and God sought to help Jonah understand his compassion for all people.(2) The Pouting Prophet (4:5) 5Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city.4:5 The text is silent about the time span, if any, between vv. 4 and 5. Some believe Jonah left the city as soon as he preached his judgment message. Based on this reconstruction of events, some have argued that this verse has been displaced from its original position after 3:4, while others view these verses as a flashback. There is no syntactical indication, however, that the verses constitute a flashback. A simpler explanation is that just as Jonah fled in 1:1–3 after receiving God’s instructions to preach in Nineveh, “Jonah’s departure from the city should be seen as his reaction to God’s indignant question in the preceding verse.”There is no recorded answer from Jonah to God’s question. This silence may have been a sign of stubbornness and resolve to continue in the way of hatred and anger, or it may have been because he was reflecting on God’s ways. Regardless of his intention, when the object lesson was over, Jonah was still angry (v. 9). This suggests to Walton that one of the purposes of the lesson was to help Jonah deal with his anger. Did Jonah go out of the city before the end of the forty-day waiting period? Some feel that God would not have reproved Jonah for his anger before the end of the forty days, nor would the anger have been present before the end of the forty days. On the other hand Jonah had seen the repentance of Nineveh and was inwardly convinced from the merciful character of God that the Lord would, and indeed had, relented prior to the forty days. Perhaps along with Jonah’s displeasure was the lingering hope that Nineveh would revert to its violence and experience God’s judgment. So Jonah went out and stationed himself at a safe distance from the city. The location of his waiting place lay to the east of Nineveh, perhaps because of the higher elevation there, or perhaps because that is where his preaching tour ended. Having arrived there, he constructed a shelter such as one the caretaker of a vineyard would use (Isa 1:8; 4:6). This booth or hut was a crude shelter that provided only slight assistance in deflecting the hot Assyrian sun. The same word (sukkâ; Amos 9:11, “tent”) is used for the structures of leafy branches made for the Feast of Tabernacles, so the making of these booths or huts was a familiar occupation with the Hebrews. The booths were constructed primarily of interlaced branches of trees. After constructing his temporary dwelling place, Jonah sat down under its partial shadow and watched and waited. What transpired in Jonah’s mind during this time? Perhaps it was difficult for him to believe that the repentance of the Ninevites was genuine. Perhaps he had answered the question of v. 4. He may have thought he had convinced God he was right to be angry and that God should carry out his original intention of judgment. Possibly his basic train of thought was morbid anticipation of the Ninevites’ reversion to their old ways. Rather than examining himself as the Lord had wished, he examined the city to see if they were the ones who would change. The verb “see” used of Jonah in this verse was used of God in 3:10. While God looked upon Nineveh’s turning from evil with delight, Jonah looked upon it and God’s consequent reversal of plans with anger and hoped for a return to evil. “Without using any words, his very attitude was a defiant reply: we shall see whether my anger is justifiable or not!” Perhaps Jonah hoped for a destruction similar to that of Sodom and Gomorrah.
(3) God’s Methods of Discipline (4:6–8) 6Then the LORD God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine. 7But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered. 8When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”4:6 The booth Jonah constructed (v. 5) no doubt provided adequate shade for a short time in the oppressive Assyrian heat. The leaves on the brush used for the roof withered quickly, however, and no doubt fell off. It was then that the Lord God provided a vine to minister relief to Jonah. In view of the circumstances, such an act of unmerited favor by the Lord may seem unusual, but God had a lesson in mind for Jonah. Some words in this text are worthy of note. First, the provision of this vine for Jonah’s comfort is ascribed to “Yahweh-Elohim,” the “LORD God.” This composite name perhaps is chosen here to ease the transition from the use of “Yahweh” in v. 4 to “Elohim” in vv. 7 and 8. The name “Elohim” is used to signify God’s divine creative power, which caused the miraculous vine to minister to Jonah. F. D. Kidner, however, notes that prior to this verse Jonah was a “textbook example” of the rule that Yahweh is preferred in an Israelite context and Elohim elsewhere. Walton picks up this observation and further notes that the use of the compound name in v. 6 introduces the object lesson in which the term Elohim is used while Jonah is in focus. This, he argues, signals the reader that God is putting Jonah “in Nineveh’s shoes to help evaluate whether his anger is justified.” He further notes that in the object lesson, “God then did to Jonah what Jonah wanted him to do to Nineveh.”The verb “provided” is the same Hebrew word (mānâ) used in 1:17 to describe the “preparing” of the great fish. Thus both the great fish and the vine are illustrations of God’s continuing sovereignty over creation and his intention to be active in the affairs of human beings through his creation.The word translated “vine” has been a matter of dispute. The Hebrew word qîqāyôn designates an unidentified garden plant. Most scholars seem to believe that this plant may be the castor vine, a shrub with large leaves and common in Eastern lands. Possibly the word is equivalent to the Egyptian kiki, which is the castor oil tree. However, the textual versions (LXX, Syr, Vg) favor the bottle/gourd plant. It is interesting to note the significance of the controversy over the identification of this plant. When Jerome changed the traditional rendering of this word from gourd to identify it with the castor oil plant, a riot broke out in Oea, a city east of Carthage. This disagreement also caused bitter controversy between Jerome and Augustine. While it is true that the gourd plant is commonly employed in Palestine for shading arbors, either plant could have provided sufficient shelter for one man’s relief from the unrelenting rays of the Assyrian sun.The phrase “to ease his discomfort” is literally “to deliver him from his evil” (rā˓â). The latter word is the term occurring throughout the book with its two senses, “wickedness” or “trouble, calamity” (see comments at 1:2; 4:1). The translation of the NIV, “discomfort,” while perhaps on the side of understatement, does express the general state of Jonah’s malcontent. No doubt the heat was a major cause for this discontent. The mean daily maximum temperature in Mesopotamia is about 110 degrees, so the temperature was a factor. Any shade would have been most welcome. Perhaps adding to his discomfort was the sound of mourning and supplication from the city below him. From his overlooking perch he could hear the cries of the cattle and the wailings and earnest beseechings of the human inhabitants. These factors, combined with the restlessness that inevitably occurs when a believer is out of the perfect will of God, accounted for Jonah’s discomfort. The last clause in this verse, “and Jonah was very happy about the vine,” is both fascinating and tragic. Literally, the text says that “Jonah rejoiced over the vine with a great rejoicing.” He was not just happy; he was deliriously happy. The miraculous growth of this vine caused Jonah to experience an emotion that is otherwise unrecorded in the book. In other words, for the first time Jonah was happy. He did not experience this emotion either in his own deliverance from certain death or from the mass turning of the people of Nineveh. His happiness was induced by a plant. His emotion as expressed in 4:1, in fact, at Nineveh’s deliverance was the exact opposite of that expressed here. Perhaps his reason for happiness was twofold. First, there was some relief from the horrible heat. But he also saw in the miraculous growth of this vine an indication of God’s favor and thus a vindication of his own feelings of disappointment at Nineveh’s repentance. This was not a game or a trick God was playing on Jonah; he was in the process of teaching him an important lesson. Jonah’s supposed vindication would be as short-lived as the vine. 4:7 At times God chooses to move slowly, or so it seems to us. At other times, however, even by the reckoning of mere human beings God acts quickly. So it was in this instance. God moved quickly to end Jonah’s happiness and any ill-conceived notions that might have contributed to that happiness. Step by step God’s education of the prophet continued. Having prepared the vine (v. 6), as he had prepared the great fish, God then prepared a worm. Just as the vine was to make Jonah happy and the fish to rescue him, God used a lowly worm to drive home his intended message. The word for “worm” has been translated in a variety of ways, since the variety of crawling creature is uncertain. It may refer to the black caterpillar that abounds in the Nineveh region. The next clause, “which chewed the vine so that it withered,” shows the devastating action of the worm. The destructive effect of worms on many types of vegetation is well known. The cutworm can easily destroy the stem of a plant and can do so almost immediately. Combining the effect of the worm with the torrid heat would cause a plant to wither quickly even without divine intervention. One irony of this segment is that although destruction is a recurring theme of the book, the only destruction that occurs in the Book of Jonah is that of this vine. So destruction came not upon Nineveh but upon something that had become very important to Jonah, something that had brought him great joy. 4:8 Yet again God “prepared” an element of nature to be used in the education of his prophet. The word “prepared” (mānâ) was not used flippantly. It showed the Lord’s intention to demonstrate his control, his sovereignty over creation. This is the fourth time in the Book of Jonah the term appears. In this instance God provided or prepared a scorching east wind. Losing precious shade in this harsh environment was one matter for Jonah. Experiencing this horrible wind was yet another. Most identify this wind as the “sirocco.” When this wind is experienced in the Near East, the temperature rises dramatically, and the humidity drops quickly. It is a constant and extremely hot wind that contains fine particles of dust. It contains “constant hot air so full of positive ions that it affects the levels of serotonin and other brain neurotransmitters, causing exhaustion, depression, feelings of unreality, and occasionally, bizarre behavior.” The Septuagint translates it succinctly as a “scorcher.” The word “blazed” is the same Hebrew word translated “chewed” in v. 7. It is a general word (nākâ) meaning to “strike.” Having been deliriously happy, Jonah was being struck down by a series of natural “calamities” until his misery was complete. The blazing sun beat down on Jonah’s head, which was lacking any helpful shade. The verb translated “grew faint” (˓alap) is almost identical in form and meaning to the word Jonah used in 2:7 (˓aṭap, Heb 2:8) of his life “ebbing away.” Jonah probably felt that God was finally answering his prayer in 4:3 by taking his life. So, since nothing has changed, he repeated the prayer. At his wits’ end, Jonah was completely exhausted; the text says literally, “He asked his life to die.” The issue went even deeper than a lack of understanding about God’s fairness. This verse shows Jonah’s total frustration with his life. Having been asked by God to consider the rightness of his anger and then thinking for a brief time that perhaps his anger was vindicated, Jonah then was shown by the Lord that he was wrong. Not grasping the message of God’s sovereignty and care, Jonah’s depression deepened as he felt that his entire life had been wrong. Having failed as a prophet, now he had failed his God in his heart. He wished to die. This is not the picture of a mature disciple but one who is ready to give up. Kirk is right when he states, “He was now ready to say of his life, ‘Ichabod, the glory is departed.’ ” The Rebuke (4:9) 9But God said to Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?” “I do,” he said. “I am angry enough to die.”
4:9 Again the text portrays God as the great teacher, trying to help Jonah recognize the divine character and his own inadequacy in understanding. In this text God attempted to show Jonah the absurdity of his attitude, yet in a tender fashion. Jonah’s values were topsy-turvy, evidenced by his greater concern for personal physical comfort afforded by a vine than for the spiritual well-being of an entire city. God’s mercy toward Nineveh had made him angry, and then he was angered by God’s withdrawing mercy from him. God attempted to deal with Jonah’s inconsistency by asking him, “Do you have a right?” The question is identical to the one God asked in v. 4. Stuart is right in saying that this question is central to the whole book. “What right do we have to demand that God should favor us and not others? By reducing the question to the particular issue of the gourd, God focused it in a way that would cause Jonah to condemn himself by his own words. Jonah did just that.”The next phrase is Jonah’s reply to this word from God: “ ‘I do,’ he said; ‘I am angry enough to die.’ ” The first time God asked for justification of Jonah’s answer he received no reply. This time an answer came forth quickly. He turns God’s question into an affirmation and adds a prepositional phrase that may be understood as hyperbole (as in the modern English idiom “I am so mad I could die”), although Sasson argues for a more literal meaning on the basis of Jesus’ use of it in Matt 26:38 (//Mark 14:33).What if Jonah had paused for an instant? He might have recognized the “crossroads” of the moment. If he had answered with a negative, he would have had to admit the inconsistency of his logic and the inappropriateness of his anger; but he would have been on the road to recovery. The rashness of Jonah’s reply was due in part to his suffering from heat exhaustion and possible dehydration as well as total frustration with his life. There was also a misconception that God had been more than fair with the pagan Ninevites and far less than fair in dealing with him. One finds here a pathetic picture. As Wolff explained, Jonah “neither wished to live under the governance of free grace (vv. 1–3), nor was he prepared to live under a government without grace (vv. 7–9).”
God’s Mercy (4:10–11) 10But the LORD said, “You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?”4:10 Whereas God’s question in v. 9 seemed to contain the element of tenderness, the statement of the Lord in v. 10 conveys the idea of forcefulness. The reluctant pupil was then addressed in terms that commanded attention. Gaebelein states, “We may be sure, Jonah is at last ready to hear.” The wording in this verse obviously was chosen for emphasis. The emphatic “you” of v. 10 (“You have been concerned about this vine”) is in contrast with the emphatic “I” of v. 11 (“Should I not be concerned about that great city?”). The word translated “concerned” (ḥûs) in vv. 10–11 also is significant. The translation “have compassion” would better express the emotional connotation of this word. While one normally does not have pity on a plant, the Lord was driving home Jonah’s inappropriate expression of anger. The Lord continued his teaching lesson as he admonished Jonah for his inappropriate compassion for a plant for which he had done nothing. He had neither cultivated nor encouraged the growth of the plant, and yet he used it to express ultimate anger. Because of the withering of an inanimate plant whose life was measured by a single day, he wished to die. He simply had no right to make any claims regarding the plant. It had been a gift of God’s grace. The Lord was trying forcefully to drive home the ultimate question, “Who are you [Jonah] to question me?” Jonah’s anger expressed not only a lack of understanding but also a lack of trust. 4:11 Jonah’s deep concern had been expressed on behalf of a relatively insignificant portion of God’s creation, the vine, while God’s deep concern was expressed on behalf of his highest creation, human beings. Jonah apparently had grown completely indifferent to the fate of God’s creation beyond the bounds of Israel. At every point in this entire chapter, Jonah’s attitude stands in complete contrast to God’s relationship to Nineveh. God created and nurtured them and extended to them the hand of mercy. Jonah did not answer correctly God’s questions in vv. 4 and 9 and thereby showed his lack of understanding. Consequently, God drew the tremendous contrast between Jonah’s anger over the death of a plant and his own delight in Nineveh’s turn toward life. The first clause in the Hebrew text is literally, “Should I, on the other hand, not have compassion on the great city of Nineveh?” The NIV moves this phrase to the end of the verse in an apparent attempt to end the text with a question for the readers to answer. The rearrangement of the clause is unnecessary and perhaps unfortunate. Leaving it as it is found in the Hebrew text shows the connection better with v. 10.God’s question captures the very intention of the book. The issue is that of grace—grace and mercy. Just as Jonah’s provision was the shade of the vine he did not deserve, the Ninevites’ provision was a deliverance they did not deserve based upon a repentance they did not fully understand. God’s wish for his creation is salvation, not destruction. He will work to see that the salvation is accomplished if there is willingness on the creation’s part. Can a person ever rightly resent the grace of God shown to another? As G. V. Smith has said:God will (and does) act in justice against sin, but His great love for every person in the world causes Him to wait patiently, to give graciously, to forgive mercifully, and to accept compassionately even the most unworthy people in the world. To experience the grace of God and not be willing to tell others of His compassion is a tragedy all must avoid. Messengers of God can neither limit the grace of God nor control its distribution, but they can prevent God’s grace from having an effect on their own lives. This message is driven home by the Lord as he describes Nineveh as having “more than 120,000 people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well.” This statement is a fascinating one and has been interpreted in various ways. Many writers have assumed it refers to the number of children or infants in the city of Nineveh. According to even the most conservative estimates, such a number of children would suggest a total population in the city of well over 600,000 persons. This population estimate is not substantiated by archaeology if one assumes that the Nineveh in question refers only to the city proper, although if one holds to a district view of Nineveh, then the population estimate would be possible. Others have argued reasonably that the word for “people” (˒ādām) rules out the specification of children. Thus the number 120,000 probably stands for the entire population. The description, literally, “not able to distinguish between the left and the right,” may refer to one or more characteristics. Perhaps it refers to their inability to distinguish between various forms of religion, especially monotheism, polytheism, and the worship of the constellations, which was a mark of the Assyrians. Perhaps this phrase refers to the helplessness or pitifulness of the Ninevites. Possibly the best understanding of this text is to recognize that the Lord was referring to an entire city of morally and ethically naive, though not morally innocent, individuals. The people of Nineveh had already shown sensitivity to their evil ways and so were not ignorant. In contrast to the prophet and the people of Israel, however, the people of Nineveh were in a kindergarten stage of religious knowledge. The Lord ended the statement with the phrase “and many cattle as well.” Here he attempted to impart to Jonah that even cattle are superior to plants or vines. His mercy is great for all his creation. Some have remarked that the Book of Jonah ends abruptly or somehow in an incomplete manner. On the contrary, the book ends in a way that draws attention and, therefore, increases its teaching potential. While the book does not tell the final effect of God’s teaching session on Jonah, the ending is not anticlimactic. It is true no words are wasted, but the message of the book is succinctly stated in v. 11. The book ends with a clear contrast between the ways of God and the ways of Jonah. Kennedy states it well, “It is the choice between gourds or souls.” The story is deliberately left open-ended for those who study its message to complete in their own lives. Ellul is right in saying, “The book of Jonah has no conclusion, and the final question of the book has no answer, except from the one who realizes the fullness of the mercy of God.”
DHH - A Jonás le cayó muy mal lo que Dios había hecho, y sedisgustó mucho. (2) Así que oró al Señor, y le dijo: --Mira, Señor, esto es lo que yo decía que iba a pasar cuandoaún me encontraba en mi tierra. Por eso quise huir de prisa aTarsis, pues yo sé que tú eres un Dios tierno y compasivo, que note enojas fácilmente, y que es tanto tu amor que anuncias uncastigo y luego te arrepientes. (3) Por eso, Señor, te ruego que me quites la vida. Más me valemorir que seguir viviendo. (4) Pero el Señor le contestó: --¿Te parece bien enojarte así? (5) Jonás salió de la ciudad y acampó al oriente de ella; allíhizo una enramada y se sentó a su sombra, esperando a ver lo que leiba a pasar a la ciudad. (6) Dios el Señor dispuso entonces que una mata de ricino crecierapor encima de Jonás, y que su sombra le cubriera la cabeza para quese sintiera mejor. Jonás estaba muy contento con aquella mata dericino. (7) Pero, al amanecer del día siguiente, Dios dispuso que ungusano picara el ricino, y este se secó. (8) Cuando el sol salió, Dios dispuso que soplara un vientocaliente del este, y como el sol le daba a Jonás directamente en lacabeza, él sintió que se desmayaba, y quería morirse. --Más me vale morir que seguir viviendo --decía. (9) Pero Dios le contestó: --¿Te parece bien enojarte así porque se haya secado la mata dericino? --¡Claro que me parece bien! --respondió Jonás--. ¡Estoy queme muero de rabia! (10) Entonces el Señor le dijo: --Tú no sembraste la mata de ricino, ni la hiciste crecer; enuna noche nació, y a la otra se murió. Sin embargo le tienescompasión. (11) Pues con mayor razón debo yo tener compasión de Nínive, esagran ciudad donde hay más de ciento veinte mil niños inocentes ymuchos animales.
JM - 4:1,2 Jonah, because of his rejection of Gentiles and distaste for their participation in salvation, was displeased at God’s demonstration of mercy towards the Ninevites, thereby displaying the real reason for his original flight to Tarshish. From the very beginning, Jonah had clearly understood the gracious character of God (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9). He had received pardon, but didn’t want Nineveh to know God’s mercy (a similar attitude in Luke 15:25ff.).4:3 better … to die than to live! Perhaps Jonah was expressing the reality of breaking his vow (2:9) to God a second time (Num. 30:2; Eccl. 5:1–6). 4:6 a plant. The identity is uncertain, but it possibly could be the fast growing castor oil plant, which in hot climates grows rapidly to give shade with its large leaves. 4:8 vehement east wind. A hot, scorching wind, normally called “sirocco,” blowing off the Arabian desert. The shelter Jonah made for himself (v. 5) would not exclude this “agent” of God’s sovereignty. 4:10,11 God’s love for the people of Nineveh, whom He had created, is far different from Jonah’s indifference to their damnation and greater than Jonah’s warped concern for a wild plant for which he had done nothing. God was ready to spare Sodom for 10 righteous; how much more a city which includes 120,000 small children, identified as those who cannot discern the right hand from the left (cf. Gen. 18:22,23). With that many 3 or 4 year old children, it is reasonable to expect a total population in excess of 600,000.
BKC - The sorrow of the prophet (chap. 4) the displeasure of jonah (4:1-5) Jonah’s anger (4:1)
4:1. Jonah blatantly rejected and repudiated the goodness of God to the Ninevites. In that attitude he symbolized the nation Israel. Jonah’s self-interests were a reminder to Israel of her lack of concern for the ways and mercies of God. The word but points up the contrast between God’s compassion (3:10) and Jonah’s displeasure, and between God’s turning from His anger (3:9-10) and Jonah’s turning to anger. Jonah’s anger (became angry is lit., ”became hot“) at God for sparing Nineveh stemmed from his unbalanced patriotic fervor. Jonah probably knew from Amos and Hosea that Assyria would be Israel’s destroyer. Jonah’s fickle attitude toward God’s dealings with him are remarkably abrupt and variegated (disobedience, chap. 1; thanksgiving, chap. 2; obedience, chap. 3; displeasure, chap. 4). Jonah’s prayer (4:2-3) 4:2. Out of anger and disgust the prophet rebuked his Lord, saying in essence, ”I know that You are forgiving and now look what has happened!“ Jonah admitted that he fled toward Tarshish because he did not want the Ninevites to be saved from judgment. (He wanted to be delivered from calamity, 2:2, 7, but he did not want the Ninevites to be kept from disaster.) The Ninevites were more ready to accept God’s grace than Jonah was. Jonah, an object of God’s compassion, had no compassion for Nineveh’s people. Jonah knew God is willing to forgive but he did not want his enemies to know it. Their threat of doom (3:4) could be diverted if his hearers turned to his forgiving God.The prophet certainly had a clear grasp of God’s character, as reflected in his near-quotation of Exodus 34:6. In fact Jonah’s words about God are almost identical with Joel’s description of Him (Joel 2:13; Neh. 9:17; Pss. 103:8; 145:8). God is gracious (He longs for and favors others) and compassionate (tender in His affection), slow to anger (He does not delight in punishing the wicked; 2 Peter 3:9), and abounding in love (ḥeseḏ, ”loyal love, or faithfulness to a covenant“). The psalmists often spoke of God being ”gracious“ and ”compassionate,“ though sometimes in reverse order (Pss. 86:15; 103:8; 111:4; 112:4; 145:8). Jonah also said He knew God relents from sending calamity. The prophet feared that all these attributes of God would be extended toward the despicable, cruel Ninevites—and it happened! 4:3. Jonah’s anguish over what God did led him to request that he might die (Jonah 4:8; 1 Kings 19:4). Earlier he had prayed to live (Jonah 2:2). Perhaps now he was embarrassed that his threat was not carried out. Because God relented of His wrath and did not destroy the city, Jonah was so emotionally disappointed that he lost all reason for living. God was concerned about the city (4:11) but Jonah was not. Jonah’s action (4:4-5) 4:4-5. Though Jonah knew that God is slow to anger (v. 2) he still wanted the Lord to execute His wrath swiftly. Yet God, hesitant to be angry with even His prophet, sought to reason with him. God asked the sulking messenger whether his anger was justified (v. 9). This question implied a negative response: Jonah had no right to be angry. A person should never angrily question what God does, even when it differs from what he expects or wants. Jonah was so distraught that he did not reply to God. Instead he left the city and built a crude shelter, perhaps from tree branches, and sat down (cf. the king’s sitting in the dust, 3:6) in its shade (Elijah under a broom tree, 1 Kings 19:4; Philip under the fig tree). Apparently Jonah had a clear view of the city. Why he waited to see what would happen to the city is difficult to understand. Perhaps he felt that God would answer his plea and judge the city anyway. Unable to imagine God not carrying out His justice on people who deserved it, Jonah was determined to wait till Nineveh was in fact judged. But he was wrong and his action was childish. Obviously he had forgotten that he, who also deserved death for disobedience, was delivered by God (chap. 2). the explanation of the lord (4:6-11) The illustration prepared (4:6-8) God, being slow to anger (v. 2), again attempted to reason with Jonah (v. 4). This time God gave him a visual lesson. God erected an object of Jonah’s affection (creaturely comfort) and contrasted it with the object of His own concern (the souls of people). God rebuked Jonah, not through a storm in this instance, but by exposing the selfishness of his likes and dislikes.4:6. God provided (”provided“ in 1:17; 4:7-8) a vine to give the prophet shade that his crude shelter (v. 5) could not provide. The God of the sea, who could provide a fish to swallow Jonah, is also the God of the land (1:9) and its vegetation. Here is evidence that God is compassionate (4:2)—even when His servants are upset and depressed. As this plant grew it covered the prophet’s hut. The shade from the green plant, covering his booth with its dense foliage, protected him from the rays of the desert sun. The plant (qîqāyôn) may have been a castor-bean plant (Ricinus communis), which grows rapidly in hot climates to a height of 12 feet and has large leaves. It easily withers if its stalk is injured. The fact that the plant grew overnight (”at dawn the next day,“ v. 7, and note v. 10) shows that more-than-usual rapid growth was as much a miracle as God’s providing the fish for Jonah. Delighted with this relief, Jonah, though he had been angry and depressed, was now overjoyed. Ironically he was glad for his own comfort but not for the Ninevites’ relief from judgment. 4:7-8. Early the next day God provided (provided“ in 1:17; 4:6) a worm that destroyed the plant that had brought joy to the prophet. Then the following day God provided a scorching east wind that left Jonah comfortless and faint. The prophet’s own shelter was not enough to protect him from the terribly hot wind from the east. Strikingly in chapter 1 God intervened by a storm and a huge fish; now He intervened with a lowly worm and a sultry wind. Again the prophet was so discomforted—first by Nineveh’s repentance and now by the loss of the shade from the vine—that he wanted to die (4:3). The explanation stated (4:9-11) 4:9. God asked Jonah the same question He posed earlier. Do you have a right to be angry? (v. 4) But here He added the words about the vine. God was wanting Jonah to see the contrast between His sparing Nineveh and His destroying the vine—the contrast between Jonah’s lack of concern for the spiritual welfare of the Ninevites and his concern for his own physical welfare. Both Jonah’s unconcern (for Nineveh) and concern (for himself) were selfish. Jonah replied that his anger over the withered plant was justified, and that he was so angry he wanted to die. Life for Jonah [is] a series of disconcerting surprises and frustrations. He tries to escape from God and is trapped. He then gives up, accepts the inevitability of perishing, and is saved. He obeys when given a second chance, and is frustratingly, embarrassingly successful. He blows up; his frustration is intensified“ (Judson Mather, ”The Comic Act of the Book of Jonah,“ Soundings 65. Fall 1982). 4:10-11. God wanted Jonah to see that he had no right to be angry over Nineveh or the vine because Jonah did not give life to or sustain either of them. Nor was he sovereign over them. He had no control over the plant’s growth or withering. The vine was quite temporal (it sprang up overnight and died overnight) and was of relatively little value. Yet Jonah grieved over it. Whereas Jonah had no part in making the plant grow, God had created the Ninevites. Jonah’s affections were distorted; he cared more for a vine than for human lives. He cared more for his personal comfort than for the spiritual destiny of thousands of people. What a picture of Israel in Jonah’s day. God’s words to the prophet indicate that Jonah had no right to be angry. Donald E. Baker paraphrases the Lord’s response this way: ”Let’s analyze this anger of yours, Jonah. . . . It represents your concern over your beloved plant—but what did it really mean to you? Your attachment to it couldn’t be very deep, for it was here one day and gone the next. Your concern was dictated by self-interest, not by genuine love. You never had the devotion of a gardener. If you feel as bad as you do, what would you expect a gardener to feel like, who tended a plant and watched it grow only to see it wither and die? This is how I feel about Nineveh, only much more so. All those people, all those animals—I made them; I have cherished them all these years. Nineveh has cost Me no end of effort, and it means the world to Me. Your pain is nothing compared to Mine when I contemplate their destruction“ (”Jonah and the Worm,“ His. October 1983). Whereas Jonah had thought God was absurd in sparing the Assyrians, God exposed Jonah as the one whose thinking was absurd. In contrast with an insignificant vine, greater Nineveh was significant; it had more than 120,000 people. The words, who cannot tell their right hand from their left, may refer to young children, in which case the population of Nineveh and its environs may have been, as some commentators state, about 600,000. But other commentators suggest that the 120,000 were adults, who were as undisciplined or undiscerning as children, thus picturing their spiritual and moral condition without God. (In that case the total population may have been about 300,000.) The figure of 120,000 for Nineveh proper accords with the adult population of Nimrod (Gen. 10:11-12; also known as Calah, a suburb of Nineveh). An inscription states that Ashurnaṣirpal II (883-859) invited 69,574 people of Nimrod to a feast. Jonah is a remarkably tragic example of the plight of the nation Israel. Both Jonah and Israel were accused of religious disobedience and disaffection. What a tragedy when God’s people care more for creaturely comforts than for the interests of God’s will among men. By contrast, God is unselfish. He has a right to be concerned about (ḥûs, ”to spare“; Joel 2:17) that great city, a city with many people who needed His grace. The two Minor Prophets that deal almost exclusively with Nineveh—Jonah and Nahum—each end with a question (cf. Nahum 3:19). The question in Jonah 4:11 leaves the reader with a sense of uneasiness, for the curtain seems to drop abruptly. No response from Jonah is recorded. How is this silence to be understood? Most likely Jonah could not have written the book unless he had learned the point God was seeking to bring home to him. Apparently Jonah perceived his error and then wrote this historical-biographical narrative to urge Israel to flee from her disobedience and spiritual callousness. As the book concludes, Jonah was angry, depressed, hot, and faint. And he was left to contemplate God’s words about his own lack of compassion and God’s depth of compassion. The Lord had made His points: (a) He is gracious toward all nations, toward Gentiles as well as Israelites; (b) He is sovereign; (c) He punishes rebellion; and (d) He wants His own people to obey Him, to be rid of religious sham, and to place no limits on His universal love and grace.
WIERSBE - The Marvel of an Unhappy Servant (Jonah 4:1–11) If this book had ended at the last verse of chapter 3, history would have portrayed Jonah as the greatest of the prophets. After all, preaching one message that motivated thousands of people to repent and turn to God was no mean accomplishment. But the Lord doesn’t look on the outward things; He looks at the heart (1 Sam. 16:7) and weighs the motives (1 Cor. 4:5). That’s why Chapter 4 was included in the book, for it reveals “the thoughts and intents” of Johah’s heart and exposes his sins. If in chapter 1 Jonah is like the Prodigal Son, insisting on doing his own thing and going his own way (Luke 15:11–32); then in chapter 4, he’s like the Prodigal’s Elder Brother—critical, selfish, sullen, angry, and unhappy with what was going on. It isn’t enough for God’s servants simply to do their Master’s will; they must do “the will of God from the heart” (Eph. 6:6). The heart of every problem is the problem in the heart, and that’s where Jonah’s problems were to be found. “But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry” (Jonah 4:1). The remarkable thing is that God tenderly dealt with His sulking servant and sought to bring him back to the place of joy and fellowship. God listened to Jonah (Jonah 4:1–4). For the second time in this account, Jonah prays, but his second prayer was much different in content and intent. He prayed his best prayer in the worst place, the fish’s belly, and he prayed his worst prayer in the best place, at Nineveh where God was working. His first prayer came from a broken heart, but his second prayer came from an angry heart. In his first prayer, he asked God to save him, but in his second prayer, he asked God to take his life! Once again, Jonah would rather die than not have his own way. This petulant prayer lets us in on the secret of why Jonah tried to run away in the first place. Being a good theologian, Jonah knew the attributes of God, that He was “a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity” (v. 2). Knowing this, Jonah was sure that if he announced judgment to the Ninevites and they repented, God would forgive them and not send His judgment, and then Jonah would be branded as a false prophet! Remember, Jonah’s message merely announced the impending judgment; it didn’t offer conditions for salvation. Jonah was concerned about his reputation, not only before the Ninevites, but also before the Jews back home. His Jewish friends would want to see all of the Assyrians destroyed, not just the people of Nineveh. When Jonah’s friends found out that he had been the means of saving Nineveh from God’s wrath, they could have considered him a traitor to official Jewish foreign policy. Jonah was a narrow-minded patriot who saw Assyria only as a dangerous enemy to destroy, not as a company of repentant sinners to be brought to the Lord.When reputation is more important than character, and pleasing ourselves and our friends is more important than pleasing God, then we’re in danger of becoming like Jonah and living to defend our prejudices instead of fulfilling our spiritual responsibilities. Jonah certainly had good theology, but it stayed in his head and never got to his heart, and he was so distraught that he wanted to die! God’s tender response was to ask Jonah to examine his heart and see why he really was angry. God comforted Jonah (Jonah 4:5–8). For the second time in this book, Jonah abandoned his place of ministry, left the city, and sat down in a place east of the city where he could see what would happen. Like the Elder Brother in the parable, he wouldn’t go in and enjoy the feast (Luke 15:28). He could have taught the Ninevites so much about the true God of Israel, but he preferred to have his own way. What a tragedy it is when God’s servants are a means of blessing to others but miss the blessing themselves! God knew that Jonah was very uncomfortable sitting in that booth, so He graciously caused a vine (gourd) to grow whose large leaves would protect Jonah from the hot sun. This made Jonah happy, but the next morning, when God prepared a worm to kill the vine, Jonah was unhappy. The combination of the hot sun and the smothering desert wind made him want to die even more. As He had done in the depths of the sea, God was reminding Jonah of what it was like to be lost: helpless, hopeless, miserable. Jonah was experiencing a taste of hell as he sat and watched the city. A simple test of character is to ask, “What makes me happy? What makes me angry? What makes me want to give up? Jonah was “a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8). One minute he’s preaching God’s Word, but the next minute he’s disobeying it and fleeing his post of duty. While inside the great fish, he prayed to be delivered, but now he asks the Lord to kill him. He called the city to repentance, but he wouldn’t repent himself! He was more concerned about creature comforts than he was about winning the lost. The Ninevites, the vine, the worm, and the wind have all obeyed God, but Jonah still refuses to obey, and he has the most to gain. God instructed Jonah (Jonah 4:9–11). God is still speaking to Jonah and Jonah is still listening and answering, even though he’s not giving the right answers. Unrighteous anger feeds the ego and produces the poison of selfishness in the heart. Jonah still had a problem with the will of God. In chapter 1, his mind understood God’s will, but he refused to obey it and took his body in the opposite direction. In chapter 2, he cried out for help, God rescued him, and he gave his body back to the Lord. In chapter 3, he yielded his will to the Lord and went to Nineveh to preach, but his heart was not yet surrendered to the Lord. Jonah did the will of God, but not from his heart. Jonah had one more lesson to learn, perhaps the most important one of all. In chapter 1, he learned the lesson of God’s providence and patience, that you can’t run away from God. In chapter 2, he learned the lesson of God’s pardon, that God forgives those who call upon Him. In chapter 3, he learned the lesson of God’s power as he saw a whole city humble itself before the Lord. Now in chapter 4 he had to learn the lesson of God’s pity, that God has compassion for lost sinners like the Ninevites; and his servants must also have compassion. It seems incredible, but Jonah brought a whole city to faith in the Lord and yet he didn’t love the people he was preaching to!The people who could not “discern between their right hand and their left hand” (4:11) were immature little children (Deut. 1:39), and if there were 120,000 of them in Nineveh and its suburbs, the population was not small. God certainly has a special concern for the children (Mark 10:13–16); but whether children or adults, the Assyrians all needed to know the Lord. Jonah had pity on the vine that perished, but he didn’t have compassion for the people who would perish and live eternally apart from God. Jeremiah and Jesus looked on the city of Jerusalem and wept over it (Jer. 9:1, 10; 23:9; Luke 19:41), and Paul beheld the city of Athens and "was greatly distressed” (Acts 17:16), but Jonah looked on the city of Nineveh and seethed with anger. He needed to learn the lesson of God’s pity and have a heart of compassion for lost souls. The Marvel of an Unanswered Question (Jonah 4:11) Jonah and Nahum are the only books in the Bible that end with questions, and both books have to do with the city of Nineveh. Nahum ends with a question about God’s punishment of Nineveh (Nahum 3:19), while Jonah ends with a question about God’s pity for Nineveh. This is a strange way to end such a dramatic book as the Book of