Jonah 4 - Outline of Jonah (Menu Page)
1. But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.
2 And he prayed unto the LORD, and said,
I pray thee, O LORD, [was] not this my saying, when I was yet in my country?
Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish:
for I knew that thou [art] a gracious God, and merciful,
slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.
3 Therefore now, O LORD, take, I beseech thee, my life from me;
for [it is] better for me to die than to live.
God's mercy in response to Nineveh's repentance infuriated Jonah.
'Angry' {HB=charah} literally means 'to be hot, to burn.' It has the sense of being furious, or infuriated. Jonah displays his hot anger throughout this chapter (v.1, v.4, v.9, where it occurs twice).
He was angry at God.
...he prayed ...was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country?...
Here Jonah states the primary reason that he had fled toward Tarshish. He hated the Assyrians, for their characteristic cruelty, and for what he knew they would do to his people. He knew the character of God, and feared that God would spare Nineveh, if they repented.
...I knew that thou are a gracious God...-
  • How did he know? Because he knew the Word of God. In fact, he quotes from Ex 34:6,7, in his prayer.
  • Had he forgotten the undeserved mercy, that God had extended to him... that had brought him up out of certain death, and restored him to life and service?
  • Was he more deserving of God's grace {which is 'unmerited favor'}, as a Jew who knew but did not obey God's Word, than these Gentiles whose first exposure to God's Word may have been from Jonah's lips?
Therefore... take... my life from me... it is better for me to die...-
Being angry at what God had done, he was filled with bitterness, and despaired of life itself. He knew the letter of God's Word, but He did not know the Spirit of God's heart and mind.
     Jonah was still out of sync with God, just as when he had first rebelled against God's will for him. He was angry and bitter because a revival had swept the great city of Nineveh to its knees. Yet, there is joy in heaven when just one sinner repents (Luk 15:7,10).
     The prophet, Elijah, had a similar bout with despair and discouragement, following the contest with the prophets of Baal, and the consequent threats from Jezebel. At that time, God dealt gently with his exhausted servant, first by sending an angel to provide food and rest (1Kin 19:1-7). Then, when Elijah was ready, God drew him into His presence, speaking in a still small voice (inaudible except to a heart prepared to hear), to correct and encourage him, and also to prepare him for further service (1Kin 19:8-18).
     Though Jonah deserved harsh correction, the LORD moved with love and grace, to reveal Himself to His servant.
4 Then said the LORD, Doest thou well to be angry?
The question can be translated: "Is doing good displeasing {or, reason for anger} to you?"
Jonah's anger was directed at the One who is good, for the good that He had done.
5. So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city,
and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow,
till he might see what would become of the city.
...Jonah... sat on the east side of the city...
To the east of Nineveh, there are hills which overlook the plain below.
...to see what would become of the city...
Perhaps Jonah thought the Ninevites would quickly return to their old ways, causing God to send the judgment which they deserved, when the forty days expired.
     Jonah had obediently delivered God's message, to a people whom the prophet despised. God did His work in their hearts... even while He was still working on Jonah's heart.
     In a similar way, the Lord Jesus has commissioned us to go with the Gospel message... to all nations... to every creature. We may have good reasons not to like those who need to hear. We may fear them. We may even hate them. But as we obey Him, He draws men to Himself, and also transforms us into His likeness.
6 And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made [it] to come up over Jonah,
that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief.
So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.
7 But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day,
and it smote the gourd that it withered.
8 And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind;
and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted,
and wished in himself to die, and said, [It is] better for me to die than to live.
...the LORD God prepared a gourd... to deliver him from his grief {HB=ra', trouble, evil}...
Why should the LORD God, who has all authority and power, be so patient with such an angry, bitter servant? Only because He is who He is (as Jonah confessed in v.2b). Once again, God in mercy spares Jonah from the 'evil' which should come upon him, not only from the rightful anger of his Master, but also from the hot sun while Jonah kept his vengeful vigil.
...God prepared a gourd...-
This was probably a castor oil plant, which is common in the area. The plant has large leaves and grows rapidly, to a height of ten feet.
Jonah rejoiced for the plant and the shade which it provided.
...but God prepared a worm...
Castor oil plants often suffer damage or destruction by a type of worm that eats into the root.
...God prepared a vehement {HB=chariyshiy, hot, harsh} east wind...
The plant withered, its drying hastened by hot desert winds from the east.
God removed Jonah's shade and turned up the heat.
...Jonah... fainted {ie., wilted}... and wished... to die...
The comfort provided by the shade had lifted his spirits, briefly. When the plant withered, Jonah wilted and returned to his bitter despair. The heat of the sun inflamed his hot anger which had only begun to cool.
9 And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd?
And he said, I do well to be angry, [even] unto death.
Jonah, listen to yourself! Who are you to snap back at God in hot fury?
This is the point to which God was moving Jonah from the beginning.
It was the purpose of all of the details that God had 'prepared' or 'appointed,' in the life of his servant: the great fish... the gourd... the worm... the east wind... (Each appointment was set for a purpose and at the appropriate time; Some were distressing, some comforting; But all were prepared in love and for His servant's good: that Jonah might see the character of his own heart, in the light of the heart of God.)
10 Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity on the gourd,
for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow;
which came up in a night, and perished in a night:
11 And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city,
wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons
that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand;
and [also] much cattle?
...thou hast had pity on the gourd... should not I spare Nineveh...
The same word is translated 'pity' and 'spare' {HB=chuwc, to have compassion}.
  • Jonah's compassion was directed toward a plant, for his own selfish benefit. Yet, he had not invested himself in its life and growth.
  • The LORD had compassion on people who were His creatures... a great city full of them, including 120,000 children who were too young to understand the meaning of 'left' and 'right.'
    Jonah, can't you, at least, have compassion on the children?
Jonah, you grieve for a gourd. Can't you understand the greatness of my grief, if all of these were to perish? (2Pet 3:9)
Lessons from the book of Jonah (in review)...
  1. The LORD is the God of the Jews and also of the Gentiles.
  2. Salvation is of the LORD (not by works of righteousness that we have done).
    Salvation is entirely His work. Salvation is granted according to His wisdom, grace and mercy... to those who believe what He says, and, turning from their sin, trust wholly in Him.
  3. The Gospel of Christ is foreshadowed...
    • Ch. 1 - The substitutionary sacrificial Death of Christ, who suffered the wrath of God, that we might live.
    • Ch. 2 - The Resurrection of Christ out from death and the grave.
    • Ch. 3 - The Word of Christ, proclaimed and believed, brings salvation to the Gentiles, also.
    • Ch. 4 - The Grace of God in Christ, compassionately waiting for 'whosoever will' to come
      (which is the reason that His second coming seems so long in coming).
  4. God is gracious and merciful, and not desiring that any should perish.
  5. God is patient with his imperfect servants.
    Jonah was a faithless servant. But rather than dealing with him according to his failure, God stopped him, turned him around, recommissioned him, and revealed to him the content of his heart in contrast with the heart of the LORD.
         Jonah {his name means 'Dove'} the son of Amittai {'My truth'}(1:1), as a prophet, knew and proclaimed God's truth... but not with the gentleness, peace and love, suggested by his name (Dove). Instead, he was a 'son of thunder' who knew not 'what manner of spirit he was of' (Luk 9:54-56; Mar 3:17). James and John were Jesus' disciples, but they were moved by a spirit other than His. As a Christian, I am called by His name, but what is the reality within me? (Gal 2:20).
         Scripture does not record where Jonah went from here. According to Jewish tradition, he returned to his hometown of Gath-Hepher and was eventually buried there. However, in Mosul (the modern name for Nineveh) there is a Tomb of Jonah (Yunus, in the local tongue), within a mosque, which occupies the site of an ancient Christian church which formerly housed his tomb. Perhaps, Jonah upon seeing the heart of God, repented of his hardness, learned to love these people with God's love, and returned to the city to spend his days in teaching repentant Ninevites to know and follow the LORD, who had been so merciful to them.
         End Note: On July 24, 2014, the Tomb of Jonah, in Mosul, was destroyed by an explosion set by ISIS. A monument to God's mercy, which stood for 2,800 years was destroyed in a day... perhaps as a hint that the age of Grace will soon be past. "...only what's done for Christ will last." [in quotes from a poem, by missionary C.T.Studd, entitled: 'Only One Life, Twill Soon Be Past.']

This concludes the study in Jonah.
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