Jonah Chapter Four


Read Jonah 4:1-3 – Jonah is Angry with God’s Mercy


v.1-2But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry. 2And 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.”


            Jonah seems to have already forgotten his experience when he opposed God.  Nineveh has repented and has been spared.  The very thing that he hoped would not happen, that he fled in order to try to prevent has come to pass.  He goes to God in protest, and in doing so gives us some indication that this was not the first time he has protested to God about the mission he was given.  He knew that God was merciful, a gracious God, slow to anger and would spare Nineveh if they repented.  Just as we’re told by the prophet Joel:


Joel 2:13And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.”


This is apparently the reason that Jonah had fled from the responsibility that God had given him.  Now what he had feared would happen has happened.  Assyria was Israel’s bitter enemy, Jonah wanted to use God to get even but Nineveh has repented and God is forgiving them.


v.3Therefore now, O LORD, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.”


            Jonah is so angry and disappointed that God has not wiped Nineveh from the face of earth that he wishes to die.  This is not the first prophet of God to request that his life be ended.  Elijah also asked God to take his life away:


I Kings 19:4But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.


But Elijah and Jonah made this request of God for very different reasons.  Elijah was hounded, troubled, threatened and even though that through God’s assistance he had just defeated the prophets of Baal the people of Israel would not rally behind him.  Jonah wishes his life to be taken because he has had to perform a mission for God that he did not want to perform.  Elijah has reason to be downcast but Jonah is acting like a spoiled brat.


Read Jonah 4:4-11 – God’s Object Lesson


v.4Then said the LORD, Doest thou well to be angry?”


            God chastises Jonah.  Do you do well to be angry?  Is the nourishment and prolonging of this anger the right thing for you to be engaged in doing?  We know it isn’t.




Proverbs 22:24-25Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: 25Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul.”


And Jonah is angry with Almighty God; he’s acting like a spiteful child that didn’t get his way.  This mindset needs to be corrected and God sets about to do just that.


v.5So 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’s spite and hatred is so strong that even after God has asked him whether his attitude and actions are appropriate or not he continues.  He has made his objections known to God.  Apparently he expected God to change his mind just because he (Jonah) didn’t agree with what was being done.  So he goes to the east of the city.  Since Nineveh straddles a river there was probably a high place there where he could look over the city.  He builds himself a “BOOTH”, a shelter and sits and waits for God to rain destruction upon Nineveh.


v.6-7And 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.  But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered.”


            In his waiting Jonah is apparently troubled by the cold at night and by the heat of the day.  Such would be common in a high desert country.  So God prepares for Jonah a gourd, a vine with large leaves to shield him from the sun.  Jonah rejoices in this small blessing, perhaps even reasoning that since God has sent him a small comfort that God is going to hear his complaint against sparing Nineveh after all.  But God in his wisdom is presenting Jonah a lesson and giving us some further insight into the mind of this prophet.


v.8And 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.”


            God not only has taken the gourd that sheltered him from the sun away from Jonah, now in addition, he sends an east wind.  This is probably the kind of hot, dry air that comes to some places during the dog days of August; the kind that just saps you of any strength and along with the sun can dehydrate a person.  Consequently Jonah, in his suffering from the sun and wind faints from the heat. 

Now we see his mood swing from the euphoria of the small comfort of shade and the anticipation of seeing the enemy city destroyed to deep despair over his personal discomfort and disappointment.  Now because he is not getting his way, not getting what he wants, God is not doing as he wishes; like an immature brat he wishes again that he could just die.


v.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.”


            So God asks Jonah is it appropriate for you to be so angry because of the gourd?  The lesson here is one that all of us should remember:




Do people do outrageous things in anger?  Of course, they do.  Jonah’s anger over the lost of a small comfort, the dying of a weed that exists only for a short time anyway and had no real value is almost unbelievable coming from a prophet, a man of God.




And Jonah is being foolish.


v.10-11Then 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: 11And 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?”


            Jonah has displayed a petty selfishness that is almost unbelievable coming from a man who was one of God’s prophets.  He has mourned and shown a spat of anger over a gourd that provided him a minor blessing of comfort from the sun.  A plant that he did not plant, nor tend, nor did he have anything to do with it’s being there.  Yet, he has no compassion over a city that God’s tells us had at least 120,000 people in it and wants God to destroy it.

            There can be several reasons behind Jonah’s attitude toward Nineveh and its people.  Perhaps he hated them because Assyria was an enemy of Israel.  Perhaps because they were a pagan city known for it’s evil.  Perhaps it is because he was of the chosen people of God and thought himself far above the heathens that lived there as some commentators suggest.  God, however, saw value in this city, it contained thousands of souls, souls that when given opportunity to repent from their evil did so when his own chosen nation refused.  He reminds Jonah that it was his right to spare Nineveh and therein we see the righteousness, compassion and long-suffering of God.