JONAH WAS GREATLY DISPLEASED AND BECAME ANGRY: Do we
work for the repentance of "Nineveh", or do we only hope and wait for its
This is the first clue since Jonah repented and went to
Nineveh that his heart was still not completely right with God. One can do the
will of God without doing it with the right attitude, and that is the focus of
the remainder of the book. The repentance and good deeds of the Ninevites
pleased God, but they displeased His representative. They made God happy, but
they made Jonah angry.
"Jonah finds that the time-fuse does not work on the prophetic
bomb he planted in Nineveh" (Allen). If Jonah was aware of Hosea and Amos'
prophecies, he would have known that Assyria would eventually invade and defeat
Israel (Hos 11:5; Amos 5:27) -- and for this reason alone would want to see the
Assyrians punished or even destroyed before this could happen!
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: To his credit Jonah told God why he was angry (cf Jon
2:1). (Many believers try to hide their true feelings from God when they think
God will not approve of those feelings.) Even though the prophet had been
rebellious, he had a deep and intimate relationship with God.
Jonah's motive in fleeing to Tarshish now becomes known. He
was afraid that the Ninevites would repent and that God would be merciful to
this ancient enemy of God's people. By opposing the Israelites her enemies were
also opposing Yahweh. This is why a godly man such as Jonah hated the Assyrians
so much, and why the psalmists spoke so strongly against Israel's
Jonah's description of God goes back to Exo 34:6,7, a very
ancient expression of God's character (cf Num 14:18; Neh 9:17; Psa 86:15; 103:8;
145:8; Joel 2:13).
TARSHISH: Cp Jon 1:3. See Lesson, Tarshish.
NOW, O LORD, TAKE AWAY MY LIFE, FOR IT IS BETTER FOR ME TO
DIE THAN TO LIVE: Jonah felt so angry that he asked God to take his life (cf
Jon 1:12; 4:8,9). Elijah had previously made the same request (1Ki 19:4), but we
must be careful not to read Elijah's reasons into Jonah's request. Both prophets
obviously became extremely discouraged. Both evidently felt that what God had
done through their ministries was different from what they wanted to see happen.
Elijah had wanted to see a complete national revival, but Jonah had wanted to
see judgment on Israel's enemies. The sinfulness of people discouraged Elijah --
whereas the goodness of God depressed Jonah. How could Jonah return to Israel
and announce that God was not going to judge the nation that had been such an
enemy of the godly for so long? God had to teach Elijah to view things from His
perspective, and He proceeded to teach Jonah the same thing.
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: "In high dudgeon he went out of the city (on its east
side because there was high ground, and on the west Calah abutted on the wide
fast-flowing Tigris). There he built himself a booth, of the sort he had made in
early days at Jerusalem at the Feast of Tabernacles; and there he would
discipline his impatient soul with patience. Perhaps, after all, his
remonstration to the angel would bring thunderbolts from heaven, something
comparable to Sodom's grim fate and would 'turn Nineveh to ashes, condemning it
with an overthrow.' What a satisfaction it would be to himself and to his
countrymen to see a politically-inflated Nineveh wiped out!" (WJon).
Jonah chose his "ringside" seat and waited, hopefully, for the
heaven-sent destruction of the great city. But... nothing happened! Do we --
sometimes -- wait eagerly for what will NOT happen... because we misunderstand
the character of God, or His prophetic timetable?
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: God continued to manifest compassion for Jonah by providing
him with a shading plant that relieved the discomfort of the blistering
Mesopotamian sun. This is the only time that we read that Jonah was happy, and
it was because he was physically comfortable.
"And as he sat there, waiting and expectant, and feeling the
growing heat of the day more and more, he noted that already the stem of a
fast-growing gourd plant, rather like a vine but with more foliage, was climbing
up and over his booth. He marked with amazement the rapidity of its development.
What a blessing this added shelter was to save him from the exhausting heat of a
fierce mid-day sun.
"All that day and all that night Jonah camped out there,
comfortable and expectant. But still nothing happened" (WJon).
AT DAWN THE NEXT DAY GOD PROVIDED A WORM, WHICH CHEWED THE
VINE SO THAT IT WITHERED: God had previously provided the greatest of all
creatures -- the great fish -- to teach Jonah a lesson; now He provided the
smallest of creatures -- a lowly worm!
"Next day, the angel of the Lord went into action. A plague of
caterpillars appeared on the gourd, as if from nowhere. These greedily
devastated all that rich vegetation. Then, as the day wore on, a hot, hot wind
blew up from the desert with vehement intensity. There was no escaping the
fierce heat of scorching sun and blasting wind combined. It was worse than being
in an oven.
"And Jonah groaned aloud in his misery. Now he had an added
reason for wishing himself dead" (WJon).
A SCORCHING EAST WIND: "During the period of a sirocco
the temperature rises steeply, sometimes even climbing during the night, and it
remains high, about 16-22 degrees Fahrenheit above the average... at times every
scrap of moisture seems to have been extracted from the air, so that one has the
curious feeling that one's skin has been drawn much tighter than usual. Sirocco
days are peculiarly trying to the temper and tend to make even the mildest
people irritable and fretful and to snap at one another for apparently no reason
at all" (Baly).
HE WANTED TO DIE...: Why did he not seek shelter back
in the city? Probably because he still held out hope that God would yet send
fire from heaven and consume all of Nineveh, and it wouldn't do to be there when
that divine judgment came!
Jonah: an example of misplaced mercy.
"Even if feeling is aroused, we are aware of the feeling and
its tendencies. We can choose whether we encourage the feeling or thrust it from
the mind by something more worthy. Sometimes men say with Jonah, 'I do well to
be angry', when they are aware that they are not doing well at all. Often they
exaggerate a grievance knowing that they are exaggerating. They can control such
matters if they will" (PrPr).
"Human nature has not changed. These examples were written for
our learning that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have
hope. When we find that we disagree with someone and we feel anger welling up
within us, it should tell us to stop and examine ourselves. Do we do well to be
angry? We usually can convince ourselves like Jonah did that 'we do well to be
angry' but we might be surprised to find that we are wrong to be so angry. If we
are in the right, there is no need to be angry. Instead of being angry, we
should feel pity and compassion for our opponent who is wrong. Since we are in
the right and they are wrong, they need our help, not our anger. If it should
turn out that we are in the wrong, how foolish to have been both angry and
YOU HAVE BEEN CONCERNED ABOUT THIS VINE...: God had
invested much work in Nineveh and had been responsible for its growth. This is
why it was legitimate at the most elementary level for God to feel compassion
for its people. Jonah's compassion extended only to a plant but not to people.
God's compassion extended not only to plants and animals but also to people. The
120,000 people that God cited (v 11) as the special objects of His compassion
included those who for various reasons could not care for themselves (babies,
the mentally incompetent, etc).
God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather
than the wicked turn and repent: Eze 18:23,32. God is no respecter of persons:
"Indeed, there is more to it than that, Jonah. Why don't you
learn from the parable of your own gourd? Just as it sheltered you, so the
strength of Nineveh sheltered your people by holding in check the perennial
threat from Syria. But your gourd withered away and became useless to you. Learn
also from this part of the parable. This repentance is only a flash in the pan.
It won't last. Very soon, they will forget Jehovah and the judgment He can
bring, and they will turn back to their violence and wickedness and to their
false gods. And THEN both Israel and Judah will feel the blast of Assyrian heat.
There will come an ambitious brutal monarch called Sennacherib who will resent
the respect his forefathers were constrained to show to the God of Israel. He
will challenge Jehovah with the might of his national god Ashur, and will bring
against the tribes of Jacob the worst ferocity Assyria can muster. You have
seen, Jonah, what Heaven's compassion has done for Nineveh in your time. But
live to the end of this century, and you will see that God is not mocked"