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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Jonah 4

 

 

Verse 1

Jonah 4:1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.

Ver. 1. But it displeased Jonah exceedingly] Mirabilis homo profecto fuit Ionas, saith Winckelman here, as strange a man was Jonah of an honest man as you shall lightly hear of. Well might David caution, Psalms 37:8, "Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; fret not thyself in any wise to do evil. A fretful man is easily drawn to evil. David was (once at least) displeased at God’s dealing, which was no whit for his credit or comfort, 2 Samuel 6:8. Discontented he was, not at God’s lenity, as Jonah, but at God’s severity against Uzziah, and that all the people’s joy should be dashed and damped with such a sad and sudden disaster. How much better minded was he when dumb, not once opening his mouth, because God did it, Psalms 39:9. The Greeks give this rule, Either say nothing, or say that which is better than nothing, η σιγαν η κρεισσονα σιγης λεγειν. "O that you would altogether hold your peace! and it should be your wisdom," said Job to his friends, Job 13:5. Silence sometimes comes to be a virtue; and never more than when a man is causelessly displeased. Prima semper irarum tela maledicta sunt, saith Sallust. Angry people are apt to let fly, to mutter and mutiny against God and man, as here. Reason should say to choler that which the nurse saith to the child, Weep not, and you shall have it. But either it doth not, or if it do, yet the ear (which tasteth words, as the mouth doth meat) is oft so filled with gall (some creatures have fel in aure gall in gold) that nothing can relish with it. See Exodus 6:9. If Moses’ anger was pure, free from guile and gall, Exodus 32:19, yet Jonah’s was not so. It is surely very difficult to kindle and keep quick this fire without all smoke of sin. Be angry and sin not is, saith one, the easiest charge, under the hardest condition that can be. Men, for the most part, know not what they do in their anger; this raiseth such a smoke. Put fire to wet straw and filthy stuff, and it will smoke and smutch you quickly; yea, scorch you and scald you, when once it breaks out. Leviticus 13:5, we read of a leprosy breaking out of a burning: seldom do passions burn but there is a leprosy breaking out of that burning. It blistereth out at the lips: hence the Hebrews have but one and the same word for anger and foaming at the mouth, Ketseph, spuma, Hosea 10:7, Esther 1:18, Zechariah 1:2. They have also a proverb, that a man’s disposition is much discovered, bechos, bechis, becagnab, by his cup, by his purse, and by his passion, at which time, and in which cases, "A fool uttereth all his mind," Proverbs 29:11 (all his wrath, say the Seventy, θυμον), and that suddenly, rashly, as the Hebrew intimateth; but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards, Proverbs 29:11 ( פתר a fool, and פתאם suddenly, rashly, are from the same root. De sera numin, vindict.). Ahasuerus, when he felt himself enraged against Haman, walked into his garden, Esther 7:7. And Plutarch tells of one Archytas, that, displeased with his servants for their sloth, he fled from them, saying, Valete quoniam vobis irascor, I will leave you, for that I am angry with you. The very first insurrections of inordinate passions are to be crushed, the first smoke of them to be smothered, which else will fume up into the head, and gather into so thick a cloud, as we shall lose the sight of ourselves and what is best to be done. Cease, therefore, from rash anger, and stint strife betime. "The beginning of it," saith Solomon, "is as when one letteth out water; therefore leave off contention before it be meddled with," Proverbs 17:14. Storms rise out of little gusts, and the highest winds are at first but a small vapour. Had Jonah stopped or stepped back when he felt himself first stirred, he had not so shamefully overshot himself, nor heaped up so many sins, as he did in the following intercourse with Almighty God. He was naturally hot and hasty, and so were those two brethren, the sons of thunder; they had quick and hot spirits, Luke 9:54-55. Now, where there is much untowardness of nature there grace is the more easily overborne: sour wines need much sweetening. God’s best children, though ingrafted into the true vine, yet carry they about them a relish of the old stock still. It is thought by very good divines, that Jonah, feeling his own weakness in giving place to anger, thought to strive against it, and so addressed himself to prayer, Jonah 4:2; but transported by his passions of grief and rash anger, while by prayer he thought to have overcome them, they overcame him and his prayer too. So true is that of the apostle, "The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God," James 1:20.


Verse 2

Jonah 4:2 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.

Ver. 2. And he prayed unto the Lord] i.e. He thought to have done so, but by the deceitfulness of his own heart he quarrelled with God, and instead of wrestling with him, as Jacob, he wrangled with him. The words seem to be rather a brawl than a prayer, which should ever proceed from a sedate and settled spirit, and hold conformity with the will of God. Could Jonah be in case to pray, when he had neither right conceptions of God nor a heart of mercy to men, but that millions of people must perish rather than he be held a false prophet? Say there were something in it of zeal for God’s glory, which he thought would suffer, as if God were either mutable or impotent; say that there were in this outburst something of affection to God’s people, who had then no greater enemy to fear than these Ninevites, whom therefore Jonah would have had destroyed, according to his prediction; yet cannot he be excused for falling so foul upon God, and upbraiding him with that which is his greatest glory, Exodus 33:18-19; Exodus 34:6-7. The truth is, nothing makes a man eccentric in his motions so much as headstrong passions and private respects. He that brings these into God’s presence shall do him but little good service. The soul is then only well carried when neither so becalmed that it moves not when it should, nor yet tossed with tempests to move disorderly, as did Jonah here, and Job, in that peevish prayer of his, Job 6:8-9. See also Jeremiah 20:7-8.

I pray thee, O Lord, was not this my saying, &c.] That is, my thought: for whether he worded it thus with God till now it appeareth not; but God heareth the language of men’s hearts, and their silence to him is a speaking evidence.

When I was yet in my country?] And had Jonah so soon forgotten what God had done for him since he came thence? Oh, what a grave is oblivion! and what a strange passage is that (and yet how common!) "Then believed they his words; they sang his praise. They soon forgot his works; they waited not for his counsel." [Psalms 106:12-13] Jonah did not surely wait for God’s counsel, but anticipated it. ldcirco anteverti, saith he in the next words (therefore I fled before), and thought he had said well, spoke very good reasoning. It is the property of lust and passion so to blear the understanding of a man that he shall think he hath reason to be mad, and that there is great sense in sinning. Dogs in a chase bark at their own masters; so do people in their passions let fly at their best friends. "They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth," Psalms 73:9. Jonah in his heat here justifieth his former flight, which he had so sorely smarted for, et quasi quidam Aristarchus, he taketh upon him to censure God for his superabundant goodness, which is above all praise.

For I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, &c.] This he knew to be God’s name, Exodus 34:6-7, but withal he should have remembered what was the last letter in that name, viz. that he will by no means clear the guilty. See Nahum 1:2; Nahum 1:8. The same fire hath burning heat and cheerful light. Gracious is the Lord, but yet righteous, saith David, Psalms 116:5, his mercy goes ever bounded by his truth. This Jonah should have considered; and therefore trembled thus to have upbraided God with that mercy by which himself subsisted, and but for which he had been long since in hell, for his tergiversation and peevishness. But "mercy rejoiceth against judgment," James 2:13, and runneth as a spring, without ceasing. It is not like those pools about Jerusalem that might be dried up with the tramplings of horse and horsemen. "The grace of God was exceeding abundant," 1 Timothy 1:14. It hath abounded to flowing over ( υπερ επλεονασε) as the sea doth above the largest rocks. See this in the present instance. Jonah addeth sin to sin, and doth enough to undo himself for ever: so that a man would wonder how God could forbear killing him, as he had like to have done Moses when he met him in the inn. But he is God, and not man; he contents himself to admonish Jonah for his fault, as a friend and familiar, velut cum eo colludens, jesting with him, as it were, and, by an outward sign, showing him how grievously he had offended. Concerning these attributes of God here recited, {See Trapp on "Joel 2:13"} and say, with Austin, Laudent alii pietatem: Dei ego misericordiam. Let no spider suck poison out of this sweetest flower: nor out of a blind zeal make ill use of it, as Jonah doth, for a cloak of his rebellion, lest abused mercy turn into fury.


Verse 3

Jonah 4:3 Therefore now, O LORD, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for [it is] better for me to die than to live.

Ver. 3. Therefore now, O Lord, take, I beseech thee, my life from me] A pitiful peevish prayer, such as was that of Job, and that of Jeremiah above noted; to which may be added Sarah’s hasty wish for God to arbitrate between her and her husband; Moses’ quibbling with God, till at length he was angry, Exodus 4:10; Exodus 4:14; Elias’s desire to die out of discontent, &c. What a deal of filth and of flesh clogs and cleaves to our best performances! Hence David so prays for his prayers, and Nehemiah for pardon of his reformations. Anger is ever an evil counsellor; but when it creeps into our prayers it corrupts them worse than vinegar doth the vessel wherein it standeth. "Submit yourselves therefore to God," as Jonah should have done, "resist this devil" of pride and passion, "and he will flee from you," James 4:7; as by giving place to impatience ye "give place to the devil," Ephesians 4:26, who else by his vile injections, or at least by his vain impertinencies, will so spoil and mar our duties that we may well wonder they are not cast back as dirt into our faces. Sure it is that if the Holy Ghost had not his hand in our prayers there would not be the least goodness in them; no, not uprightness and truth, without which Christ would never present them, or the Father accept them.

For it is better for me to die than to live] sc. in that disgrace that I shall now undergo of being a false prophet, not henceforth to be believed. Lo, this was it that troubled the man so much, as it did likewise Moses, Exodus 4:1, "They will not believe me; for they will say, The Lord hath not appeared unto thee." But God should have been trusted by them for that, and his call obeyed howsoever, without consults or disputes; careless of their own credit, so that God might be exalted. True it is that a man had better die with honour than live in disgrace truly so called. "It were better for me to die," saith holy Paul, "than that any man should make my glorying void," 1 Corinthians 9:15. Provident we must be (but not overly tender) to preserve our reputation; learning of the unjust steward by lawful (though he did by unlawful) means to do it; for our Saviour noted this defect in the children of light, that herein they were not often as wise as they should be, Luke 16:8. But Jonah was too heady and hasty in this wish of his death; because his credit, as he thought, was cracked, and he should be looked upon as a liar. But was the Euge of a good conscience nothing to him? was God’s approbation of no value, nor the good esteem of his faithful people? It was enough for Demetrius that he had a good report of the truth, 3 John 1:12, whatever the world held or said of him. What is the honour of the world but a puff of stinking breath? and why should any Jonah be so ambitious for it, as that without it he cannot find in his heart to live? Life is better than honour. "Joseph is yet alive," saith Jacob. To have heard that Joseph lived a servant would have joyed him more than to hear that he died honourably. The greater blessing obscureth the less. He is not worthy of honour that is not thankful for life. St Paul’s desire to be dissolved that he might be with Christ, which is far the better, Philippians 1:23, was much different from this of Jonah.


Verse 4

Jonah 4:4 Then said the LORD, Doest thou well to be angry?

Ver. 4. Doest thou do well to be angry?] Or, what? art thou very angry? Nunquid recte? Summon the sobriety of thy senses before thine own judgment, and see whether there be a cause. "Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil because I am good?" Matthew 20:15. Shall I not show mercy on whom I will show mercy? Or enviest thou these poor Ninevites their preservation, for my sake? Cannot I provide for mine own glory and for thine authority by other means and ways than thou imaginest? Have patience, Jonah, and rest better satisfied with my dispensation. "Be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath." For, I wot well, the "wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God," James 1:19-20. This thou wilt see, and say as much, when thou comest to thyself, for now thou art quite off; and being transported as thou art,

Nil audire voles, nil discere, quod levet aegrum ”( Horat.).

Jerome seeks to excuse Jonah’s anger; but God here condemneth it, as not well: and Jonah himself, partly by not answering it again, and partly by recording the story, seems to say of himself, as Father Latimer doth in another case (Serm. 3rd Sund. in Advent), I have used in mine earnest matters to say, Yea, by Saint Mary, which indeed is not well. Anger is not altogether unlawful so it be well carried. It is, saith one, a tender virtue; and as it is not evil to marry, but good to be wary, so here. Let a man ask himself this question, Do I well to be thus angry? and is mine indignation rightly regulated for principle, object, measure, end? If it be not, the Spirit of God will be grieved in the good soul, and sensibly stir; yea, thou shalt hear the correcting voice thereof within thee, saying, Doest thou well to be thus angry? Should not "all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away, with all malice?" And should ye not be "kind one to another, and tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you?" Ephesians 4:30-32.


Verse 5

Jonah 4:5 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.

Ver. 5. So Jonah went out of the city] As not yet knowing what God might do, though he found him inclinable to show them mercy upon their repentance. Or he might think, haply, that these Ninevites were only sermon sick, penitent indeed for the present, but it was too good to hold long: these seemingly righteous men would soon fall from their righteousness, and then be destroyed, though for present somewhat favoured of God. Mercer reads the text in the pluperfect tense, and makes it a hysteron proteron, (a) thus, exierat autem Ionas; but Jonah had gone out of the city, sc. before he had shown himself so hot and hasty against God, and brawled with him as above. Others think that when he saw which way the squares were like to go, he flung out of the city in a great pout: and if God had fetched him again with a sharp blow on the ear (as Queen Elizabeth did the Earl of Essex, her favourite, when being crossed by her of his will, he uncivilly turned his back, as it were in contempt), he had done him no wrong. But God is longsuffering; he considereth whereof we are made, and with what strong corruptions we are beset. He knows that sin hath a strong heart, and will not easily be done to death; that nothing cleaves more pertinaciously or is more inexpugnable than a strong lust, whether it be worldliness, wantonness, passionateness, pride, ambition, revenge, or the like: these Jebusites will not easily be driven out; these sturdy rebels will hardly be subdued; these stick closest, as a shirt doth to a leprous body, and cannot be done off but with great ado. Now if Jonah be of a choleric constitution, and soon kindled; if this evil of his nature have been confirmed by custom (a second nature); if Satan stir up the coals, and say to him, as the people did to Pilate, "Do as thou ever hast done"; God graciously considereth all this, and beareth with his evil manners.

And sat on the east side of the city] Quite out of the precincts; where he might see their ruin, and not suffer with them. Fawkes, after he had laid his train, and set it to work to fire the powder at such an hour, was to have retired himself into George’s Fields, and there to have beheld the sport. That Jonah was so uncharitable as to wish and wait for the overthrow of Nineveh, and not that they would rather return and live, admits no excuse. But that expecting its overthrow (according to that God had threatened by him), he secured himself by separating from those sinners against their own souls, was well and wisely done of him. See Isaiah 48:20; Isaiah 52:11, 2 Corinthians 6:17, Revelation 16:4 Lot did so from Sodom, the people from Core and his accomplices, John and his disciples from Cerinthus the heretic: he sprung out of the bath from that blasphemer ( εξηλατο του Bαλανειου), lest he should be punished with him; so the Church of Jerusalem packed away to Pella (Euseb. 1. 3. c. 5).

And there made him a booth] A sorry something, wherein to repose himself, till the indignation were overpast. Ministers, as good soldiers of Jesus Christ, must suffer hardship, be content to dwell in tents, or to lie in huts, till they come to the heavenly palace, where they shall have a better building, 2 Corinthians 5:1; yea, a throne in that city of pearl, whose master builder is God, Hebrews 11:13. Meanwhile, let them not seek great things for themselves, but, as the Turks never build sumptuously for their own private uses, but content themselves with simple cottages, how mean soever, good enough, say they, for the short time of our pilgrimage here; so much more should Christians, and especially ministers, whose reward, how little soever upon earth, is great in heaven, Matthew 5:12. Let them live upon reversions, and though their dwelling be but mean, a booth, or little better, yet they shall have stately mansions above, and, in the mean time, if they can but say as that heathen did, Eνθα και οι θεοι, God dwells here with me, this house of mine is a little church, a tabernacle of the God of Jacob; oh, how happy are they in that behalf, even above the Great Turk, with his harem. (which is two miles in compass); yea, with his whole empire, which (saith Luther) is but a crust cast by the great housekeeper of the world to his dogs.

And sat under it in the shadow] "Having food and raiment," saith the apostle, "let us therewith be content." Where the word σκεπασμα, rendered raiment, signifieth any covering over head, if it be but a hair cloth. Some say it signifies domicilium, a house; others say that houses are not named, for that they wore not anywhere to fix, but to be ready to run from place to place, and to leave house and all behind them; or as soldiers burn their huts when the siege is ended, that they may go home to their houses, being discontentedly contented in the mean while; so should we, glad to hover and cover under the shadow of the Almighty by the grace of faith, quae te pullastrum, Christum gallinum facit, which makes Christ the hen and thee the chicken, saith Luther.

Till he might see what would become of the city] Whether God would not ratify his word by raining down hell from heaven upon it, as once he did upon sinful Sodom, or overwhelm it with the river Tigris, as once he did some part of it, saith Diodorus Siculus, so that two and a half miles of the town wall were thrown down by it. And the prophet Nahum threateneth, that with an overflowing flood God would make an end of the place thereof, Nahum 1:8.


Verse 6

Jonah 4:6 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.

Ver. 6. And the Lord God prepared a gourd] sc. after that his booth was dried up, and the leaves withered, God, by his providence, and not without a miracle (because without seed, and so suddenly), furnished Jonah with his gourd or ivy bush, or white vine, or the plant called Palma Christi, or Pentedactylon, because it resembleth a man’s hand with five fingers; something it was, but what is not certainly known. Kimchi thus describeth it: Est herba longis et altis frondibus umbrosa: It is a herb or plant that yieldeth good shade with its long and large leaves. And many years before him, one Rabba, son of Hanna, said, that it grows by the water’s side, is commonly set for shade’s sake before tavern doors, and that oil is made of the seeds of it.

And made it to come up over Jonah] Not only to refresh him (who having been so lately in the whale’s belly, was haply more tender skinned than before, and not so well able to endure the heat of the sun), but also to make way to that reproof he afterwards gave him, Jonah 4:10. Hoc enim externo signo, saith Mercer, for by this outward sign, God sporting with him, as it were, clearly convinceth him of his impatience, and admonisheth him of his duty; and this he thinketh was not done till the forty days were over.

To deliver him from his grief] From his headache, caused by the heat of the sun; which yet he cursed not as the scorched Atlantes are said to do. Or to exhilarate and refresh his spirits after his self-vexing; for the hasty man never wants woe, and the envious person, because he cannot come at another man’s heart, feedeth upon his own. Now though God chide him for his fault, yet, as a father he tendereth his infirmity, and taketh care that the "spirit fail not before him, and the soul that he had made." And it is as if he should say: Jonah goeth on frowardly in the way of his heart; "I have seen his ways and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him," Isaiah 57:16-18; as it is a rule in medicine still to maintain nature.

So Jonah was exceeding glad] Heb. rejoiced with great joy, that is, supra modum, he was excessive in all his passions, which speaks him a weak man. Some think he rejoiced the more in the gourd, as conceiving that God thereby voted with him, and for him. This was also Leah’s error, when rejoicing in that whereof she should have repented rather, she said, Genesis 30:18, "God hath given me my hire, because I have given my maiden to my husband, and she hath borne me a fifth son." So much mistaken are the best sometimes, and so bladderlike is man’s soul, that filled with earthly vanities, though but wind, and gone with a wind, it grows great, and swells in pride and folly, but if pricked with the least pin of piercing grief it shrivelleth to nothing.


Verse 7

Jonah 4:7 But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered.

Ver. 7. But God prepared a worm] All occurrences are to be ascribed not to nature, fate, or fortune, but to God, who, as he is great in great things, so is he not little in the least, maximus in magnis, nec parvus in minimis. He prepared first the gourd, and then the worm, and then the wind. He was the great doer in all. He so attempereth all that his people shall have their times and their turns of joy and sorrow. These two are tied together, said the heathen, with chains of adamant; hence also Ageronia’s altar in the temple of Volupia (Plut.). See the circle God usually goes in with his, Psalms 30:5-7, &c., to teach them that all outward comforts are but as grass or flower of the field, which he can soon blast or corrode by some worm of his providing. Moneo te iterumque iterumque monebo, saith Lactantius, I warn thee, therefore, and will do it again and again, that thou look not upon those earthly delights as either great or true to those that trust them; but as things that are not only deceitful, because doubtful, but also deadly, because delicious. There is a worm lies couchant in every gourd to smite it, a worm to waste it, besides the worm of conscience bred in that froth and filth, for a perpetual torment.

And it smote the gourd that it withered] Plants have also their wounds, diseases, and death, saith Pliny (lib. 17, cap. 14). The gourd being gnawed at the root, and robbed of its moistness, withered. Sic transit gloria mundi. So fleeting is the glory of the world. But "the righteous shall flourish like a palm tree" (not like this palm crist), Psalms 92:12. Now the palm tree, though it have many weights at the top and many snakes or worms at the root, yet it still says, Nec premor nec perimor, I am neither borne down nor dried up; but as Noah’s olive drowned, kept its verdure; and as Moses’ bush fired but not consumed; so fareth it with the righteous, "persecuted, but not forsaken," &c., 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, and at death a crown of life awaits him, quanta perennis erit, an imperishable crown, an inheritance undefiled, and that withereth not, 1 Peter 5:4, that suffereth no wasting away but is reserved fresh and green for you in heaven; like the palm tree, which Pliny saith never loseth his leaf nor fruit; or like that Persian tree, whereof Theophrastus saith, that at the same time it doth bud, blossom, and bear fruit.


Verse 8

Jonah 4:8 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.

Ver. 8. God prepared a vehement east wind] The winds then blow not where they list, at random I mean, and without rule; but are both raised and laid again by God at his pleasure. He prepared, and sent out of his treasure, Jeremiah 10:13, this

Violent east wind] Heb. silent; so called either because it silenceth all other winds with its vehemence; or because when it blows men are made silent or deaf with its din, so that their tale cannot be heard. There are those who, by silent here, understand a still, low, gentle east wind, that cooled not the heat of the air inflamed by the sun, but rather added to it, and set it on; καυσωνα the Greeks interpret it; and this suits well with that which followeth.

And the sun beat upon the head of Jonah] Ussit et laesit, Psalms 121:6. So the poet,

feriente cacumina Sole.

Chrysostom cannot but wonder, that whereas all fire naturally tendeth upwards, the sun should shoot his beams downwards, and affect these lower bodies with his light and heat. Whereby if he be troublesome to any Jonah, it is because God will have it so (for he is a servant, as his name שׁמשׁ in Hebrew importeth), without whom neither sun shineth nor rain falleth, Matthew 5:45, and who by afflictions (set forth in Scripture by the heat of the sun) bringeth back his stragglers, Psalms 119:75, Matthew 13:6; Matthew 13:21, Revelation 7:16; Revelation 16:8-9, 1 Peter 4:12.

That he fainted] Though the head of man hath a manifold guard upon it, as being overlaid first with hair, skin, and flesh, like the threefold covering of the tabernacle; and then encompassed with a skull of bones like boards of cedar; and afterwards with diverse skins like silken curtains; and lastly enclosed with the yellow skin which Solomon calleth the golden bowl. Ecclesiastes 12:6

Yet Jonah fainted and wished in himself to die] Ita ut ab animo suo peteret mori, he required of his soul to go out of his body, Obtectus fuit maerore, ολιγοψυχησε (Sept.) Egredere o anima mea, as Hilarian said, but in a better sense he called for death, as his due; being, belike, of Seneca’s mind, that nature hath bestowed this benefit on men, that they may bereave themselves of life, whensoever they please, not considering that God is Lord of life and death, neither may any one lay down his life but when he calleth for it, as a soldier may not leave his station but at the command of his captain.

It is better for me to die than to live] Not so, Jonah, unless you were in a better mind. You should rather say, as Martinus on his sick bed did, Domino, si adhuc populotuo sum necessarius, Lord, if I may yet be serviceable to thee, and useful to thy people, I refuse not life and labour. Or as Mr Bolton on his death bed, desirous to be dissolved, when he was told by some bystanders, that though it was better for him to die than to live, yet the Church of God would miss him: he thus sweetly replied with David, 2 Samuel 15:25-26, "If I shall find favour in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me again, but, if otherwise, lo here I am, let him do what seemeth good in his eyes" (Mr Bagshaw in the Life of Mr Bolton). A good man is born for the benefit of many, as Bucer’s physicians said to him (Melchior Adam), Non sibi se, sed multorum utilitati esse natum, neither may he desire to die out of discontent, as Jonah did for a trifle, wherein he was crossed; and rather than which to have been deprived of, Nineveh, that great city, by his consent should have been destroyed. That he never after this would return to his own country, but was so sick of the fret that he died of the sullens, as some Hebrews say, I cannot believe. {See Trapp on "Jonah 4:3"}


Verse 9

Jonah 4:9 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.

Ver. 9. Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd?] What? so soon blown up for a thing of nothing.? Tantaene animis coelestibus irae? (Eneid. lib. i.).

Diine hunc ardorem mentibus indunt

Euryale? an sua cuique deus fit dira libido? ”

Knew not Jonah that to be angry without a cause was to be in danger of the judgment? Matthew 5:22, that it was a mortal sin, and not venial, as Papists falsely conclude from the text; which sets not forth a different punishment of rash anger, but a diverse degree of punishment? that it is the murder of the heart, as our Saviour there shows, and the fountain of the murder both of the tongue and of the hand? will he be like the foolish bee, who loseth her life to get revenge? {See Trapp on "Jonah 4:4"}

And he said] Before he said nothing when reproved for his rash anger, Jonah 4:4, and that was best. Now he chats against God, laying the reins on the neck of his unruly passions and running riot. Who can understand his errors? and who can tell how often a servant of God may fall into a foul sin, if strongly inclined thereto by nature, or violently tempted by Satan and his instruments? Of Judah indeed it is expressly noted, that he knew his daughter-in-law Tamar again no more, Genesis 38:26. But what shall we say to Lot’s double incest? to Samson’s going down again to Gaza, 16:1? to Abraham’s twice denying his wife? to John’s twice adoring the angel, Revelation 19:10; Revelation 22:8? "Let him that standeth take heed lest he fall": and let God’s people see that there be no way of wickedness found in them, that they allow not, wallow not in this guzzle: since hereby they lose not their ius haereditarium, but yet their ius aptitudinale, not their title, but yet their fitness to God’s kingdom; and, perhaps, their fulness of reward there, 2 John 1:8.

And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death] A fearful outburst! Resist passion at the first rising up; else who knows whither it may transport us? Passions, saith one, like heavy bodies down steep hills, once in motion move themselves; and know no ground but the bottom. Jonah (saith another upon this text) slights admonition, riseth up in an animosity against it to a desperate degree of anger; such wild beasts are furious passions when we give them the reins. Thus he, Surely as the lion beateth himself with his own tail, and as sullen birds in a cage beat themselves to death, so could Jonah in this rage find in his heart to do and he shames not to tell God as much. It was therefore no ill wish of him that desired God to deliver him from that naughty man himself ( Domino libera me a malo homine meipso), from headlong and headstrong passions, which may not only dissweeten a man’s life, but shorten it. The Emperor Nerva died of a fever contracted by anger. Valentinian by an irruption of blood. Wenceslaus, King of Bohemia, in a rage against his cupbearer, fell presently into a palsy, whereof he died. What disease Jonah died of I know not: but this I know, that in his heat he did and said enough here in this text to have made Almighty God resolve, as he did once against those muttering rebels in the wilderness, "As truly as I live, saith the Lord, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you," Numbers 14:28. Thou shalt surely die, Jonah; out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, &c. But God chose rather to glorify himself in Jonah’s salvation than in his deserved destruction. Dat igitur poenitentiam, et postea indulgentiam (as that father prayed), he therefore first giveth him repentance, and then pardon, as appeareth partly by his recording these passages, and so shaming himself, as it were, before all the world; and partly also by his closing up his prophecy with silence; not striving with God for the last word, as Peter did with Christ, and would needs carry it, till the events of things confuted him, and he was glad to seek a corner to cry in, Matthew 26:35; Matthew 26:75.


Verse 10

Jonah 4:10 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:

Ver. 10. Then said the Lord] He did not roar upon Jonah, nor run upon him with a drawn sword, even on his neck, upon the thick bosses of his bucklers, Job 15:26; but gently said unto him, that he might the more admire his own impotence and God’s lenity; both which he studiously describeth all along this prophecy; a good sign of his sound repentance.

Thou hast had pity on the gourd] Here is the end, scope, and application of the parable; whereby it appeareth that God prepared not the gourd so much for the ease and use of Jonah’s body as for a medicine to his soul, convincing him of the iniquity both of his ways and wishes, by an argument drawn from the less to the greater; and confuting him by a comparison. Thou, a sinful and wretched man, hast had pity, or spared, and art sorry it perished. The gourd a sorry shrub, a mean mushroom, and none of thine either, but as lent thee; Alas, master, said they, it was but borrowed.

For the which thou hast not laboured] And so canst not be so fast affected to it. For all men love their own works rather than other men’s, as parents and poets, saith Aristotle ( παντες αγαπωσι μαλλον τα εργα αυτων. Ethic. 1, 4); proving thereby, that those which have received their riches from their parents are more liberal than they which have gotten them by their own labour.

Neither madest it grow] Thou hast neither planted nor watered it, or any way added to it, by thine industry; for that also was no part of thy pains, but mine. Not that God laboureth about his creatures, for he doth all his work without tool or toil, Isaiah 40:28; but this, as many other things in Scripture, are spoken after the manner of men, and so must be taken.

Which came up in a night] Heb. was the son of a night, not without a miracle; though Pliny speaks of the quick and wonderful growth of this shrub.

And perished in a night] Cito oriens, cito itidem moriens, quickly come, and as quickly gone; a fit emblem of earth’s happiness. Surely man walketh in a vain show; foenea quadam faelicitate temporaliter florens: they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. They are but ημεροβιοι; their life is but a day (and such a day too, as no man is sure to have twelve hours to it), as this gourd was but of one day’s continuance, as it came up in a night, so it perished the next; cito crevit, cito decrevit, repente prolatus, repente sublatus, quickly created, quickly destroyed, suddenly coming, suddenly cut down, of very small continuance (Tarnov.).


Verse 11

Jonah 4:11 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?

Ver. 11. And should not I spare Nineveh] I, who am all bowels ( Ego emphaticum. Mercer); I, who am a sin pardoning God, Nehemiah 10:31, none like me for that, Micah 7:18; I, who am "the Father of mercies, and God of all comfort," 2 Corinthians 1:3, whose property and practice it is to comfort "those that are cast down," 2 Corinthians 7:6; I, who am so transcendently gracious, that thou hast even hit me in the teeth with it, Jonah 4:2; should not I be affected with the destruction of Nineveh?

That great city] {See Trapp on "Jonah 1:2"} {See Trapp on "Jonah 3:3"} {See Trapp on "Jonah 3:4"} Yea, I will spare it, since it is ten thousand times more worth than that gourd of thine so much pitied.

Wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons] More than twelve myriads of innocent infants that cannot discern, &c., but live a kind of sensitive life, as not yet come to the use of reason, and are therefore matched and mentioned with beasts.

And also much cattle] A part of my care, which have had their share, as they could, in the common humiliation; and shall therefore share in the common preservation. And hast thou a heart to repine at this, and not to be set down with so good reason? Jonah is now sad and silenced; and although we hear no further of him, yet methinks I see him (Job-like) laying his hand upon his mouth in a humble yieldance; yea, putting his mouth in the dust, and saying, "Once have I spoken; but I will not answer: yea, twice; but I will proceed no further," Job 40:5. "Teach me, and I will hold my tongue: for thou hast caused me to understand wherein I have erred. How forcible are right words!" Job 6:24-25.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Jonah 4:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/jonah-4.html. 1865-1868.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, December 12th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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