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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible
Jonah 4

 

 

Verse 1

This whole chapter of eleven verses deals almost exclusively with Jonah's disappointment, anger, and resentment because of the conversion of the Ninevites, and with the gentle persuasion of the Lord, who provided motivation for Jonah, pointing him toward a more acceptable attitude.

Jonah 4:1

"But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry."

Bible students have imagined all kinds of reasons for the anger of Jonah, and it is surely possible that there were a number of different considerations making up a complex basis for it. Certainly, this amazing anger on Jonah's part is one of the strangest things in the Bible; and yet, we must believe that it was grounded in very human and very understandable attitudes in Jonah himself. "Here is absolutely the most amazing reaction to spiritual awakening we can find anywhere. Of all people, one would think the preacher would be happy about converts!"[1]

There are different opinions about the exact point in this history that Jonah became angry. Keil was of a very positive opinion that Jonah's anger did not flair until the forty days were concluded, and it became evident that God would not destroy Nineveh. "There is nothing whatever to force us to the assumption that Jonah had left Nineveh before the fortieth day."[2] Dean, on the contrary, thought that:

The fact that God would spare Nineveh probably was made known to Jonah before the forty days expired by Divine communication, in accordance with the saying in Amos 3:7, "Surely the Lord will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret to his servants the prophets."[3]

Both of these viewpoints, of course, are plausible; but we believe there is a clue in the text itself, in the very next verse (Jonah 4:2). Jonah had observed the wholesale conversion of the people; and his knowledge of God's true nature, mentioned by Jonah in the next verse, led him to the conclusion that God would in no wise destroy a penitent and pleading people. That Jonah acted upon this deduction would explain the element of uncertainty in the clause, "to see what would become of the city" (Jonah 4:5). At any rate, the question is one of interest, but not one of importance.

A far more urgent question is the one of "why was Jonah angry"?

REASONS FOR JONAH'S ANGER

(1) There was a terrible "loss of face" on Jonah's part. His words concerning the restoration of Israel's cities (2 Kings 14:25) had been gloriously fulfilled; but now,

His reputation as a prophet was irreparably damaged. He would be called a false prophet, a liar, a deceiver, and would be ridiculed and denounced for prophesying something which did not occur.[4]

(2) It may very well be that Jonah was also aware of the prophetic implications of Nineveh's conversion, forecasting the ultimate rejection of Israel as God's people, and the coming of the Gentiles into that sphere of God's favor, which until then was the sole prerogative of Israel. A true prophet of God (which Jonah surely was) could not have failed to read the dire implications for Israel in the astounding events he had just witnessed.

(3) Deep-seated prejudice and hatred of the Gentiles on the part of Jonah are also mentioned frequently as the cause of his anger; and there is little doubt of the truth of this. Jonah himself confessed that his flight to Tarshish in the first place had been prompted by his unwillingness to see Nineveh converted and spared.

(4) Jonah recognized that the sparing of Nineveh would ultimately result in the loss of Israel's territory, the very territory which, following his prophecy, Jeroboam II had recovered for Israel. He also projected prosperity of Nineveh as a sign that God would ultimately use Assyria to punish Israel for their disobedience, a fact which Isaiah later pointed out (Isaiah 10:5). Thus, Jonah's patriotism and love of his own country could have been at the root of his anger. The Jews of Jonah's time, "could only see God's kingdom being established by the overthrow of the kingdom of the world,"[5] a misunderstanding that persisted and finally resulted in their rejection of the Christ himself. In fact, one of the shameful and destructive influences on earth till this day is the savage, malignant, and carnal patriotism which equated love of one's own nation with the hatred of every other nation.

(5) There may have been in Jonah a deep desire for the destruction of Nineveh that could be used by himself as an example of God's anger with sin, such an example being, in Jonah's mind, the very last hope of arresting the degeneracy and rebellion of Israel against God. With the conversion of Nineveh, his hope of converting Israel through the use of such a terrible example was frustrated, leaving him nothing to look forward to (in regard to Israel) except their ultimate overthrow by the faithful God whose will they had so consistently violated. It was this hopelessness of Jonah on behalf of Israel that angered him, according to some. As Jamieson said:

"When this means of awakening Israel was set aside by God's mercy on the repentance of Nineveh, he was bitterly disappointed, not from pride or mercilessness, but by hopelessness as to anything being possible for the reformation of Israel, now that his cherished hope is baffled."[6]

(6) Common jealousy is discerned by some as the cause of Jonah's anger; and this could surely have entered into it.

"At the root of all this was jealousy. Jonah was jealous because the Ninevites, who had been hated and despised by the Jews for their extreme wickedness and cruelty, were now standing with the Jews in their worship of the one supreme God .... Such a thing is vividly prevalent, even in our day."[7]

Despite the plausibility of such reasons as those cited above, and without denying that traces of the attitudes mentioned must surely have existed in Jonah, there is, it seems to this writer, a far more compelling reason for his anger.

(7) The conversion of Nineveh was the doom of Jonah himself, as far as any further acceptable relationship with Israel was concerned. Jonah could not, after the conversion of the greatest pagan city on earth, return in triumph and honor to his native land. No indeed! Take a look at the case of Saul of Tarsus. The uncompromising hatred and animosity of Israel which already existed toward Nineveh, would, after the conversion of that city, have been intensified and transferred to Jonah. "He saw the utter weakening of his hands, the destruction of his usefulness among his countrymen."[8] All of Jonah's hope of bringing his own nation to do the will of God perished, in the event of Nineveh's conversion, which as it seemed to Jonah, "would eclipse the honor of God, destroy the credit of his ministry, and harden the hearts of his countrymen.[9] To ascribe Jonah's anger to such motivations as this explains his desire to die (Jonah 4:3,8). Did not Paul also prefer to die rather than accept the lost condition of Israel? (Romans 9:2). Regarding the speculation mentioned in the previous chapter concerning the funeral for Jonah in Israel, see under Jonah, the Great Old Testament Type, at the end of this chapter.

Whatever the reasons for Jonah's anger, he was wrong in it.

"The whole of Jonah 4 is an account of Jonah's displeasure. His anger was as much a repudiation of God as was his flight in Jonah 1. It was an anger that could not tolerate the thought of God having compassion upon the heathen."[10]


Verse 2

"And he prayed unto Jehovah, and said, I pray thee, O Jehovah, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I hasted to flee unto Tarshish; for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and abundant in lovingkindness, and repentest thee of the evil.

"He prayed ..." Even when men are not in harmony with God's will they often continue to use the old forms of worship and prayer to God.

"This is true to life in every age, for the most thorough-going rejection of God's will often takes place in persons who observe the forms of piety, and in their own minds count themselves believers."[11]

If, as we have mentioned, Jonah believed that the destruction of Nineveh might have resulted in Israel's conversion, he was totally wrong. God's summary intervention on behalf of the chosen people had been dramatic and spectacular on a number of occasions, and no such thing had ever had the slightest influence in arresting the sinful course of Israel. As Butler said, "Everything of this sort had already been tried with Israel, and still their hearts waxed hard and cold."[12]

"Gracious ... merciful ... slow to anger ... etc." How terrible is the thought that Jonah made these very attributes of the loving God the basis of rejecting his will!

"Jonah is here quoting the `Thirteen Attributes' (Exodus 34:6,7 and Joel 2:13); he may have memorized them as a child, but he did not want to accept them."[13]


Verse 3

"Therefore now, O Jehovah, take I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live."

Even in the state of rebellion which still marked Jonah's condition, there are elements of nobility in it. Desiring death, he would not take his own life, but rather pray the Lord to remove him. The entire world of spiritual reality, as Jonah had misunderstood it, had come crashing down around him; and his frustration was complete. "He saw, or thought he saw, all of his usefulness destroyed."[14]

"Why live any longer? His attitude is reminiscent of Elijah (1 Kings 19:4), both men having apparently risked their lives for nothing, and Israel's enemies remained powerful. Both men seem close to a nervous breakdown."[15]


Verse 4

"And Jehovah said, Doest thou well to be angry?"

Having extended mercy to a great pagan city, God extends mercy also to his servant. Anger and frustration over what God allows, or what God does, are understandable human reactions, wrong to be sure, but arising in part from an inadequate understanding of God's larger purpose. The Father was concerned for other nations besides Israel, incomprehensible as that might have seemed to Jonah.

"Doest thou well to be angry ...?" This remonstrance is a gentle endeavor on the part of the Lord to provoke in Jonah a self-examination of his own emotions and attitudes. How unreasonable it must appear in any objective examination of the facts, that a preacher whose business it was to convert men should have been angry when his efforts met with wholesale success!


Verse 5

"Then 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 shade, till he might see what would become of the city."

See under Jonah 4:1, above for a note on the reason for the apparent uncertainty on Jonah's part as to whether the city would be destroyed or not. It appears that Jonah had already concluded that the city would be spared, a conclusion based upon his knowledge of the character of God (Jonah 4:2), and the evident and overwhelming fact of Nineveh's wholesale repentance.

"East side of the city ..." This was the elevated portion of the terrain and provided a better vantage point for seeing the city overthrown, an event Jonah hoped for, contrary to his expectations. His preaching had probably begun on the west side of the city; and thus it may be concluded that he had completed his warning of the entire metropolis.

"Made him a booth ..." "This was a rough structure made of poles and leaves, like those of the Feast of Tabernacle."[16] Jonah evidently expected to stay a considerable time, yet hoping for the overthrow of hated Nineveh. Although Jonah had already decided that God would spare the city, he was not yet certain of it; and as long as there was hope of its destruction, he would wait. Sure, he knew that Nineveh had repented; but there were examples in God's dealings with Israel in which severe punishment was inflicted even after repentance (2 Samuel 12:10-14); and perhaps Jonah hoped for that pattern to be followed in the case of Nineveh. In any case, there he was, as full of derogatory thoughts about Nineveh as ever, and intently hoping for its utter destruction. As a prophetic type of the old Israel, this attitude of Jonah indicated the hatred which the Jews of the times of Jesus would exhibit against any idea of salvation for the Gentiles. As Barnes stated it, "He prefigured the carnal people of Israel, for these too were sad at the salvation of the Gentiles."[17]

Still another reason why Jonah appears in this verse still expecting and hoping for the destruction of Nineveh may be in the estimate which he had of the depth and sincerity, or rather, of the lack of such depth and sincerity, in which case Jonah would have supposed that the punishment was only deferred, not cancelled altogether, and thus he would go ahead and wait for it!

One of the practical lessons that should not be overlooked in connection with Jonah's actions here was stated thus by Blair, "He overlooked the importance of following through."[18] If there was ever a time when the Ninevites needed Jonah it was immediately after their repentance. Uncounted thousands had turned to the Lord, but they were still as newborn babes without any complete knowledge of what turning to God really meant. His petulant departure from the city without addressing himself to the spiritual needs of those new believers "in God" was as reprehensible as anything that the prophet ever did.


Verse 6

"And Jehovah God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to deliver him from his evil case. So Jonah was exceeding glad because of the gourd."

"God prepared a gourd ..." All kinds of fanciful "explanations" of this have been attempted, one of the favorite devices being that of making this "gourd" to be a "castor bean plant," the remarkably rapid growth of which leads some scholars to accept it as the "gourd" mentioned here. These notions should be rejected.

"The attempt to find a plant which would grow high enough in a single day to provide shade for Jonah is beside the point. This plant grows suddenly, at God's command, just as the great fish swallowed Jonah at God's command. The author does not mean to describe natural happenings."[19]

The supernatural appearance of this "gourd" overnight is one of no less than six lesser wonders that surround, confirm, and support the far greater wonder of Jonah's deliverance from death. (See full discussion of this under Jonah, the Great Old Testament Type, at the end of the commentary on Jonah.)


Verse 7

"But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered."

Here, too, the record plainly refers to a supernatural event, that of God's preparing and commissioning a worm to destroy the gourd which had enjoyed such a short period of growth. This also is one of the "six supportive miracles" mentioned under Jonah 4:6, above.

This worm struck effectively against the very source of Jonah's great gladness, which, strangely enough, was not connected in any way with the great repentance of Nineveh, but was derived from a wretched gourd vine which provided him shade! If there was ever an example of a man's being "exceedingly glad" for the wrong reasons, here it is in these two verses. There are millions of Jonahs everywhere in our society today, people who are glad, exceedingly so, for the comforts and luxuries they enjoy, rather than for the great hope of the soul's eternal redemption in Jesus Christ our Lord. They are more thankful for sports contests, outings on the beach, air-conditioning, soft drinks, plenty of beer, etc., than they are for the right to worship God without molestation. Yes, there are a lot of Jonah's who are still "exceedingly glad" for gourds!

Regarding the "worm" mentioned in this verse, Deane wrote that the term could be used here collectively, as in Deuteronomy 28:39, thus meaning "worms,"[20] that is, a sudden massive infestation of them. This appears unnecessary, however; one worm operating strategically upon the main stem of the gourd at, or near, ground level, would have destroyed it as effectively as any army of 10,000 worms, especially when aided by the scorching east wind that arrived almost simultaneously to hasten the destruction of the gourd. There is no use for the commentators to help the Lord out with little problems of this kind. The whole account clearly deals with events which the inspired author attributed to the direct intervention of God. In short, they are miracles.


Verse 8

"And it came to pass, when the sun arose, that God prepared a sultry east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and requested for himself that he might die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live."

Paul also had a similar thought:

"But I am in a strait betwixt the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ; for it is very far better: yet to abide in the flesh is more needful for your sake" (Philippians 1:23,24).

This is the third miracle in as many verses, the gourd and the worm having already been cited. It is a blind and unlearned objection, however, which fails to see the connection which these lesser wonders have with the central event of the book, Jonah's delivery from death. These lesser wonders are not capricious, unnecessary, or useless miracles at all. For an elaboration of the greater meaning of these supernatural events as they stand related to God's eternal purpose, see under, Jonah, the Great Old Testament Type, at the end of this chapter.


Verse 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."

The almost incredible stubbornness of Jonah is matched historically by only one thing, and that is the obstinate unwillingness of Israel to accept the Lord Jesus Christ, that being exactly the very event which this conduct on the part of Jonah was designed to foretell.

"Doest thou well ...?" How frequently in the divine solicitations concerning sinful mankind has the Father pressed home the truth with questions? Note these examples:

Doest thou well to be angry? (Jonah 4:9).

Adam, Where art thou? (Genesis 3:9).

Where is thy brother, Abel? (Genesis 4:9).

What doest thou here, Elijah? (1 Kings 19:13).

Betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss? (Luke 22:48).

Lovest thou me more than these? (John 21:24).

Wilt thou be made whole? (John 5:6).

Saul, Saul, Why persecutest thou me? (Acts 22:7).SIZE>

Before leaving this verse, it should be noted that a different word in the Hebrew is used for God, than is used in other verses of this chapter. In fact, the following pattern is evident:

Jonah 4:4 "[~Yahweh]," meaning God the Creator is used.

Jonah 4:6, "[~Yahweh] ['Elohiym]," the compound name of God found in the Book of Genesis.

Jonah 4:8, "[~'Elohiym]," the personal God, sends the worm.

Jonah 4:9, "[~'Elohiym]," the Ruler of Nature sends the east wind.[21]

C. F. Keil, and other scholars, have also marveled at this selective use of several different names for God in this book. The significant truth here is that the critical conceit of trying to determine the origin of Old Testament books by the variations of God's name found in them is effectively refuted by this single book, which has a number of different names for God in the same passage!


Verse 10

"And Jehovah said, Thou has had regard for the gourd, for which thou hast not labored, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night."

"Jonah's unreasonableness stands fully unmasked."[22] Yes, Jonah can be appreciative of a gourd, but has no feeling for the vast city with its teeming populations. He did not like to see even a gourd destroyed, but he would gloat over the destruction of half a million precious souls! A gourd is an ephemeral thing, here one day, gone the next, but the soul of a human being will outlast the sun itself! Yet Jonah's delight is focused on the gourd! How unreasonable, and how reprehensible in the eyes of God must many of the preferences of men appear to be. Even if Jonah was unwilling to get the point, God gave it to him anyway, in the very next verse:


Verse 11

"And should not I have regard for 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's reply is not given. He could make none. The logic of the Father is unassailable, and Jonah's selfish and peevish attitude stands exposed for what it is. How strange that this remarkable book should come to such a dramatic and shocking end, with Jonah still standing on his under lip, pouting and dissatisfied with God's purpose of redeeming anybody except him and his fellow Jews! As Dummelow wrote:

"There is no finer close in literature than this ending. The Divine question, "Should not I have pity?" remains unanswered. Its echoes are heard still above every crowded haunt of men. Above the stir, and din, and wickedness the Infinite Compassion is still brooding."[23]

This book began with Jonah running away from God; "And when the book is over, Jonah is still rebelling against God."[24] He is not any longer running away, but he is far away from him in mind and spirit.

The evangelical message of the Book of Jonah was thus summarized by Robinson:

"What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion" (Romans 9:14,15)."[25]

"No man has the right to question or resent the outpouring of God's love in saving man, any man, from sin and destruction."[26]

"Sixscore thousand persons who cannot discern between their right and their left hand ..." Efforts to apply these words to the entire population of Nineveh are fruitless, being usually for the purpose of showing that Nineveh, after all, was not "that exceeding great city" which Jonah called it. The simple and obvious meaning of these words is that there were 120,000 infants and little children in Nineveh. As Deane said:

"This limitation would include children of three or four years old; and taking these as one fifth of the population, we should set the inhabitants at six hundred thousand in number."[27]

Commentators who try to downgrade the size of Nineveh in order to challenge the authority of Scripture have been silenced and refuted by certain discoveries by archeologists.

"A recently-discovered inscription of Ashurnasirpal II (883-859 B.C.) (that is, about a century prior to Jonah), tells of a banquet with a total of 69,574 invited guests! Taking into account the surrounding population and the foreigners, the figures given here in Jonah do not appear as fantastic as is sometimes thought."[28]

Having now examined the text of this remarkable book, we shall take a more particular look at the astounding significance of it as revealed in the typical nature of its contents. Jonah is not merely a type of the Lord Jesus Christ, as revealed by Jesus himself; but he is far and away the most important type to be found in the entire Old Testament, and not merely of Christ, but also of the first Israel.

JONAH; THE GREAT OLD TESTAMENT TYPE

Many of the lists of Old Testament types do not include Jonah at all, despite the truth that this book has the unique distinction of being the only one singled out by the Christ himself as having material in it which he designated as typical of himself. An exploration of this truth reveals some very extraordinary scriptural information. Since the Lord Jesus himself was typified by the first Israel, there being many particulars in which the old Israel was a type of Christ the true Israel, Jonah is therefore a type of the Old Israel also. This typical resemblance and correspondence between the old Israel in their wilderness wanderings, for example, and the experiences of the church of our Lord (the body or Christ) during this present period of their probation and suffering, is usually thought of as pertaining merely to Christ's spiritual body, but it also includes Christ. Israel as a type of Christ may be seen in other comparisons. Matthew, for example, quoted Hosea, "Out of Egypt have I called my son," applying it first to the coming up out of slavery in Egypt by the Israelites, and in the second instance to Christ's coming up out of Egypt, following the flight of Joseph, Mary and Jesus into that country, during the period of Jesus' infancy (Matthew 2:15). The apostolic church pointed out many of such similarities. As Richardson noted:

"The apostolic church saw in the action of Joseph of Arimathea in begging the body of Jesus from Pilate (John 19:38), the fulfillment of an Old Testament type. Another Joseph had begged the permission of Pharaoh to bury the body of the old Israel (Jacob) (Genesis 50:4-6)."[29]

Although the fact of the old Israel's being a type of Christ may be much more extensively documented, this is sufficient to show that whatever is a type of Christ must also, at the same time, be a type of the old Israel as well; and we shall explore this truth with regard to Jonah, first as a type of the Lord Jesus Christ, and secondly, as a type of the fleshly Israel.

Of some forty authors and sources quoted in the notes above, nearly all of them mentioned Jonah as a type of Christ, and several mentioned that he was a type of Israel; but none of them outlined the extent and magnificence of this typical import of Jonah, hence, our efforts to do so here.

JONAH AND JESUS

I. Both Jonah and Jesus were on board a ship in a storm at sea. Both were surrounded by fearful men, Jonah by the mariners, and Jesus by the apostles. Both vessels were in eminent danger of perishing. Both Jonah and Jesus were awakened, Jonah by the shipmaster, and Jesus by the apostles. Both Jonah and Jesus acted to calm the turbulent sea, Jonah by commanding himself to be thrown overboard, and Jesus by fiat, rebuking the wind and the sea (Mark 4:35-41).

II. Both Jonah and Jesus gave themselves up to death for the purpose of saving others. The analogy fails to hold, absolutely, in the characters of the two men, since Jesus was altogether and totally innocent, and Jonah's life was marked by disobediences and imperfections. Nevertheless, in the case of Jonah, despite his previous rebellion, his running away from the Lord, and his repudiation of plain duty, in the last analysis, when others were threatened with eminent and impending death because of his sin, he unselfishly stepped forward, accepted the blame, freely gave himself up to death in order to save them whom he had endangered. Where in all the records of human deeds is there a better example of a mere man giving himself up to die on behalf of others? He is therefore in this event a noble type of the Son of God Himself, despite his humanity having been marred by the common frailties of all men.

III. Both Jonah and Jesus were executed by Gentiles, Jonah by the pagan mariners, and Jesus by the platoon of Roman soldiers, acting upon the orders of the Roman governor. Like so many of these comparisons, this one also is emphasized and intensified by amazing occurrences which reveal design in the remarkable similarities. Although both were executed by Gentiles, the Jewish insistence upon death in each case is fully evident, not only in Jonah's command that he should be overthrown, but in the Saviour's repeated prophecy of his Passion, and in the clamoring of the Jewish mob in Jerusalem for his death. The similarity does not end there, for Gentile elements in both events declared the innocence of the one condemned. The mariners prayed the Lord not to lay "innocent blood" upon them (Jonah 1:14), just as Pilate washed his hands and said,

"I am innocent of the blood of this righteous man" (Matthew 27:24). If the mariners had possessed the same sense of spiritual values as Jonah, they might not have considered him innocent; but according to their light he was innocent, not being guilty of any violence.

IV. Both Jonah and Jesus were delivered from death, Jonah by being deposited upon the dry land after three days and three nights in the great fish, and Jesus by his resurrection from the tomb, after being interred in a sealed and guarded grave for three days and three nights! This is the great central sign in each case, being the one which Jesus singled out in Matthew 12:38-41 and Luke 11:29,30. Even in the barest essentials of the two events, the correspondence between them is startling and convincing; however, the exact reflection in the delivery of Jonah of that far more wonderful and greater event which it typified in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is so accurate, detailed, circumstantial, and amazing that a closer look at the type should be taken.

In the introduction, it was noted that there are six supportive and attendant miracles in each of these events, that of Jonah's deliverance, and that of Christ's resurrection. This is fully in keeping with the divine pattern of setting "the solitary in families" (Psalms 68:6). Also, the placement of six around one is the source of the commonest pattern in all of the natural creation; and the resulting hexagonal formation is found in most of the naturally formed crystals in nature, as well as in the honeycomb, every snowflake that ever fell upon earth, and in many other instances. It has been referred to as "the footprint of God." We should not be surprised to find it here. (For further comment on materials related to this analogy, see in my commentary on Matthew, pp. 483-497.)

Not only do the six miracles in each case cited here correspond in general pattern, but there is also the most remarkable correspondence in a number of specific instances. In each instance, two of the supportive miracles are from above, two from the dead level, and two from beneath the earth's surface. Note that in the case of the gourd vine and the earthquake, two of the dead level miracles, that each of them reached both above and below the surface of the earth. The earthquake's high epicenter was nevertheless below the ground, but the mighty rocks which were cast up by the terrible force of it were heaped up above the surface of the earth, as any traveler in Jerusalem may still see. Likewise, the gourd vine had its tap root going down below the surface, but the height of it reached up above Jonah's head. This quality of being both above and below the surface requires both to be classified as surface wonders.

V. Both Jonah and Jesus, through their delivery from death, were "signs" to the Gentiles. Jesus declared that "Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites" (Luke 11:30), adding that, "So shall also the Son of man be to this generation." The implication of this is that Jonah's delivery from death was the "word that came unto the king," leading to the conversion of Nineveh. The reason that Jonah's message was received in Nineveh and produced such remarkable results was that this "sign" of Jonah convinced them absolutely that God had indeed sent him. In a similar manner, the resurrection of Christ is the great wonder that declared Jesus to be "the Son of God with power" (Romans 1:4), leading to the conversion of millions all over the world.

VI. Both Jonah and Jesus converted fantastic numbers of Gentiles. Jonah singlehandedly converted over half a million souls in Nineveh; and Christ, by the preaching of his apostles, has converted literally millions and millions of Gentiles; and, although Jews are in no manner excluded from the gospel message, it is primarily among the Gentiles that Christianity has been accepted.

VII. Both Jonah and Jesus had two graves. Since this fact is so little known, we shall rehearse, briefly, the grounds for believing it. Isaiah prophesied that, "They made his grave with the wicked (plural) and with the rich (singular) in his death," (Isaiah 53:9); Jesus' burial in the new tomb of Joseph of Arimathea fulfilled the second part of Isaiah's prophesy, but not the first; that was fulfilled by the platoon of soldiers who executed Christ and whose duties would have included the digging of three graves for the three whom they crucified. That grave was, therefore, one which "they" made for Jesus with the wicked (plural), the two malefactors who were crucified with him. Admittedly, this is light on New Testament events from Old Testament Scripture, but this is by no means the only such instance in which this OCCURS.

Now, with regard to the graves of Jonah:

"The mound of Kuyunjik not only covers the vast palace of Sennacherib, but ... the nearby smaller mound of Nebi Yunus (Prophet Jonah), which got its name from the tradition that the Hebrew prophet was buried there."[30]

Nineveh, in its entirety, was destroyed in 612 B.C., therefore, this mound, and the tradition of Jonah's burial there must be dated at a time prior to that; and, although there is no way to "prove" a tradition as old as this one, it admittedly fits all the facts that we have. (See in my commentary on John, pp. 421-423 and in my commentary on Mark, p. 336.)

"In the Vicinity of Nazareth, the grave of Jonah is still shown, this place being near to Gath-Hepher, a town in Zebulun which is given in the Scripture as Jonah's home (2 Kings 14:15)."[31]

A great deal of material may be found in some writings about one or the other of these graves, and we certainly have no way of knowing which one of them is the "original," or where the body of the great prophet actually sleeps. Our point is simply that he had two graves, a truth which there is hardly any basis for denying.

As to the reason why Jonah had two graves, we pray that we may be indulged in a little speculation. Jonah, after converting the largest pagan city in the world would ever afterward have been persona "non grata" in Israel, Jonah's wish to die probably being connected with this certain rejection in Israel. Our basis for this opinion is simply that this was surely the reaction of Israel in the case of the apostle Paul, another Jew, who converted many Gentiles. There is absolutely no reason whatever for supposing that their attitude toward Jonah would have been any different than it was toward Paul; and, if we may believe some of the traditions that have come down to us regarding Paul, how even his wife deserted him, how the hierarchy had a public funeral for him, disowned him for ever, and hounded him to the ends of the earth with the avowed purpose of murdering him - if any of this is true (and certainly, some of it is true, being related in the New Testament), it is not hard to believe that Jonah would likewise have suffered the undying hatred and animosity of his own people.

It was certainly not out of keeping with their national custom to hold a public funeral for "deserters," bury them in effigy, and engrave their names on a grave. It is our speculative opinion that they surely did this for Jonah, and that that is how his name was ever found on a grave in his home community.

If these speculations should be allowed, and we do not allege in any sense, that the Word of God has anything like this in it, there would then be another strange coincidence: Jonah, honored and received by the people of Nineveh, was given a tomb near that of their kings; and thus he, like Jesus, actually rested in that grave which they made him "with the rich (singular)."

The slender basis for this speculation includes the very prophecy of Isaiah quoted above. It is possible that Isaiah, knowing of the two graves of Jonah, in the power of the Holy Spirit, made the deduction that it would be exactly the same way with Jesus.

JONAH AND ISRAEL

Inherent in the fact of our Lord Jesus Christ actually being, not merely the Second Adam, but also the Second Israel, is the truth that any type of Christ is de facto also a type of fleshly Israel. "Jonah was a type, as of Christ, so also of Israel."[32] "He prefigured the carnal people of Israel."[33]

I. Jonah despised the Gentiles, being perfectly happy and satisfied, enjoying the favors and privileges that undoubtedly came to him as a popular prophet of God, holding the status of a national hero for having prophesied accurately the recovery of Israel's lost cities by Jeroboam II (2 Kings 14:15). This typifies perfectly the self-satisfied attitude of Israel, whether in Samaria or Jerusalem. Their hatred of the Gentiles was a national characteristic. When the apostle Paul made his speech upon the steps of the fortress of Antonio in Jerusalem, the great mob listened until Paul used the word Gentile, that single word exploding a riot that shook the whole city:

"And they gave him audience unto this word; and they lifted up their voice, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live" (Acts 22:22).

Above, certain quotations were cited indicating the usual acceptance of Jonah as a type of secular, or fleshly Israel; but, actually, he was a type of Israel, both the old and the new, both the old secular Israel, and the Israel of God which is the church! An attempt will be made to indicate this as this study moves forward. In this very first correspondence between type and antitype, is not Jonah a perfect type of the self-satisfied, complacent and indifferent church, unmindful of its duty to preach to the heathen, in fact actually despising the entire unchristian world? How many so-called Christian ministers are there who, like Jonah, enjoy the privileges of some great earthly capital, having no love at all for the sinful, dying world just outside the periphery of their elite and charming circle!

II. Jonah's refusal to preach to Gentiles is a type of the secular Israel's absolute and adamant rebellion against God in their opposition to Christ, the apostles, and the infant church. Jonah's refusal was grounded in (a) his hatred of Gentiles, (b) his willingness to go to any length to avoid his duty, and (c) his preference of death to the hated prospect of the Gentiles accepting God. Fleshly Israel as the antitype of that refusal measured up to it fully and even went beyond it. (a) They rejected the Christ, despite their full knowledge that he was "the heir" of God and their true and legitimate sovereign (Matthew 21:38). (b) They plotted and achieved the death of Christ himself through a cunning manipulation of suborned testimony, intimidated tribunals, and mob violence. (c) They continued their opposition to the will of God, even after the resurrection of Christ, as seen in their murderous hatred of Paul, their murder of Stephen, their unscrupulous opposition to the preaching on the mission field (as recorded in Acts), and in their enlistment of the Roman government as an ally in their vain efforts to destroy Christianity!

III. Jonah was compelled by the Lord, even against Jonah's will, to deliver God's message to the Gentiles. This is magnificently fulfilled by the fleshly Israel, who this very day, through their glorious Scriptures, are preaching Christ all over the world (against the will of fleshly Israel). It is the Jewish scriptures which "testify" of Christ, as Jesus said (John 5:39). In the very nature of things, Jonah found no way to thwart the will of God who laid upon him the necessity of preaching to Nineveh; and, likewise, fleshly Israel found absolutely no way to remove the authentic witness of the truth and supernatural nature of Christianity from their Holy Scriptures. We agree with DeHaan that:

"The greatest national miracle in all human history is the supernatural preservation and protection of a dispersed nation, persecuted and threatened in their sojourn among the nations, but never to be destroyed. Any other nation would have disappeared from history long ago."

IV. Jonah's opposition to God's will did not end with his deliverance from death, nor with the actual fact of half a million Gentiles "believing in God." No! Jonah was still against it, even preferring death to the very sight of such a thing. This is a perfect type of Israel's continued opposition to God's will, even after the resurrection of Christ, after the conversion of millions of Gentiles. It was the genius of the apostle Paul that discovered in the very manner of Melchizedek's presentation in Scripture, as having neither beginning of days nor end of life, a glorious type of the Lord Jesus Christ; and one cannot help seeing in this very same phenomenon, the peculiar deployment of this record upon the sacred page, a type of the perpetual hardness of Israel, and thus we interpret it. The Book of Jonah closes with sullen and unwilling Jonah still preferring death to God's outpouring of mercy upon anyone except Jonah and his Jewish relatives! This is the perfect type of fleshly Israel's rejection of Christ and of Christianity throughout history.

V. Jonah's being cast overboard is the perfect type of fleshly Israel's overthrow as "the chosen people of God." The dramatic rejection of the fleshly Israel as "God's peculiar people" is inherent in the fact that all of the glorious titles which once pertained to the old Israel are, by apostolic authority, applied to the church of Jesus Christ, which is the new Israel. Thus, it is not fleshly Israel, but the church, the new Israel, who is now:

An elect race

A royal priesthood

A chosen nation

The people of God's possession

Who in times past were no people, but are

Now THE PEOPLE OF GOD! (1 Peter 2:9-10).

This overthrow of fleshly Israel, corresponding to Jonah's being cast overboard at sea, was quite dramatic and extensive. Their political entity was destroyed for a period of at least nineteen centuries when their capital city, Jerusalem, was sacked and destroyed by Vespasian and Titus in August of 70 A.D. Their religious economy was dramatically terminated in the total destruction of their temple, the permanent removal of the office of High Priest, the final cessation of the daily sacrifices, the putting to death of the hierarchy, and the slaughter of over a million of the inhabitants of what had been at one time, "The Holy City," but which was then consigned by the Lord Jesus Christ to the sword and the heel of the invader, "until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled" (Luke 21:24). The casting of Jonah overboard at sea in a storm is an apt type indeed of what happened to Israel as a direct result of their disobedience.

VI. God's forbearance and mercy, as extended to Jonah, even in spite of his sullen stubbornness and rebellion, is a perfect type of the same love and mercy which God is willing to bestow upon fleshly Israel, at whatever time they shall be willing to accept God's mercy upon the terms and conditions attending his proffering it to all men. We may only be amazed at the tenderness and concern for Jonah, manifested on the part of God. That Jonah still remained out of harmony with the will of the Father is apparent, even after he had discharged his commission; but the Lord continued to direct and care for him.

VII. Jonah is the perfect type of the uncertainty which clouds the future of fleshly Israel. The prophetic record in Jonah comes to a dramatic, sudden, and startling conclusion with the issue still undecided, as to whether or not, Jonah will accept God's will. The history concludes with Jonah still protesting that he would rather die than see the will of God accomplished for the Gentiles; and we simply have no way of knowing either when Jonah changed his mind, or even if he ever did! This is a perfect type of the uncertainty that must forever prevail with regard to the future of fleshly Israel. The Holy Scriptures do not prophesy the future conversion of Israel, despite, the popular misunderstanding concerning it; and, at the same time, they do not prophesy that it will never occur. The wonder which we feel with reference to the ultimate resolution of Jonah's attitude applies with equal force to the antitype, fleshly Israel.

There is a New Testament counterpart to this concluding picture in Jonah of a sullen and unwilling prophet being tenderly solicited and encouraged by the Father. It is in the parable of the prodigal son, where, it will be remembered, the elder brother, who certainly stands for Israel in the analogy, is angered and resentful because the loving father has received the prodigal and laid out a feast for him. The elder brother remained in the field, and outside, angered and embittered, even protesting the justice of the father, and laying all kinds of harsh allegations against his brother. The parable closes with the banquet going on inside the house, and the father going outside to entreat his elder son:

"Son, thou are ever with me; and all that is mine is thine. But it was meet to make merry and be glad; for thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found" (Luke 15:31-32).

Just as in Jonah, we are left in suspense as to the ultimate resolution of the problem. Perhaps the sacred records of both the Old Testament and the New Testament were intended to portray the gentle, loving Father as standing forever in an attitude of solicitation, pleading and entreating the fleshly Israel to change their hearts and restore the broken fellowship with God.

Having concluded this investigation of Jonah the Great Type, we believe it is in order to say that no infidel can laugh this off. The hand of God is so conspicuously displayed in every word of this amazing history that only those who are spiritually blind can fail to see it. The allegation that some self-seeking forger, several hundred years after the events related, could have concocted a gem like the Book of Jonah is to suppose a miracle greater than that of Jonah's preservation in the fish. The discernment of the blessed Saviour in uniquely designating this book as prophetic of himself is gloriously revealed by any careful study of this portion of the Word of God.

(See the diagram on page 352 in the book.)

JONAH...THE GREAT TYPE

JESUS...THE GREAT ANTITYPE

 


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Jonah 4:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/jonah-4.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, November 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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