JONAH CHAPTER 4.
Jonah's Displeasure and the Lord's Reproof.
That Jonah was easily swayed by his emotions is evident from the entire story of his book, but appears particularly from the last chapter. At the same time, the Lord's patience in dealing with His erring children is brought out in a most remarkable manner. V. 1. But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, namely, that the Lord did not carry out His threat of punishment upon the people of Nineveh, and he was very angry, provoked, filled with grief and vexation. V. 2. And he prayed unto the Lord and said, I pray Thee, O Lord, was not this my saying, the argument which he had used within himself, when I was yet in my country? when lie first received the commission to go to Nineveh. Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish, that is, he anticipated the fruitlessness of his errand, the fact that his prediction against Nineveh was not fulfilled; for I knew that Thou art a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness, and repentest Thee of the evil. Cp. Ex. 34, 6. The words were spoken out of a very decided ill humor, because Jonah, as he thought, had been sent to deliver a message which the Lord intended to revoke, and which so readily produced repentance. It was a sad contradiction between a peevish mood and the better knowledge of his head and heart. V. 3. Therefore now, O Lord, take, I beseech Thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live. "Jonah's impatience of life under disappointed hopes of Israel's reformation through the destruction of Nineveh is like that of Elijah at his plan for reforming Israel, 1 Kings 18, failing through Jezebel. Cp. 1 Kings 19, 4." V. 4. Then said the Lord, in a preliminary, gentle reproof, Doest thou well to be angry? Was there any justification for Jonah's attitude? V. 5. So Jonah, still smarting under the displeasure which he felt, went out of the city and sat on the east side of the city, choosing a place in its immediate neighborhood, and there made him a booth, a temporary hut of branches and leaves, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city, whether the original judgment would not, after all, be carried out upon it; for the forty days named in his message had not yet elapsed. V. 6. And the Lord God prepared a gourd, the castor-oil plant, commonly called palm-crist, and made it to come up over Jonah, the plant growing up very rapidly, with its large leaves quickly casting a pleasant coolness, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief, to cause his peevishness to disappear and thus to afford him some relief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd, he enjoyed the shadow offered by the green plant. V. 7. But God, intending to teach Jonah a further lesson, prepared a worm, appointing it to that end, when the morning rose the next day, at the breaking of the dawn, and it smote the gourd that it withered, for it is a peculiarity of the castor-oil plant that it fades readily when injured. V. 8. And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind, blowing with a sultry heat; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah that he fainted, overcome with the heat, and wished in himself to die, the reaction once more being rapid and furious, and said, It is better for me to die than to live, namely, in such circumstances, with everything combining to make life unpleasant. V. 9. And God, taking this opportunity to drive home His lesson, said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, with a sudden flare of bitterness, I do well to be angry, even unto death. V. 10. Then said the Lord, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not labored, which had cost him no toil to rear, neither madest it grow, Jonah not being obliged so much as to water it; which came up in a night and perished in a night, being, as the Hebrew has it, the son of a night, of only a night's duration; v. 11. and should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein there are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand, that is, 120,000 infants, who could not be accused of any particular wrong-doing, and also much cattle? This argument of Jehovah, in exposing the selfishness of the prophet, was at the same time sufficient to silence him, as he stood rebuked before this exhibit of God's mercy. Moreover, the tidings which Jonah was able to bring back to his countrymen was a most emphatic call to repentance, as Jesus brings out in His reference to the repentance of the Ninevites. Israel failed to learn the lesson and therefore was cast out of its land. All the more is it necessary for us to consider the sign of the prophet Jonah and to cling to the confession of Him who could say of Himself, "Behold, here is more than Jonah!"