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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Jonah 4

 

 

Verses 1-11

CHAPTER4

[Jonah repines at God’s Mercy to the Ninevites. God employs a Palmchrist as a means to reprove and instruct him.—C.E.]

1But [And] it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.[FN1] 2And he prayed unto [to] the Lord [Jehovah], and said: I pray thee [Ah! now], O Lord [Jehovah], was not this my saying, when [while] I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before [I anticipated it by fleeing] 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 3 Therefore now, O Lord [And now, O Jehovah] take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live [my 4 death is better than my life]. Then [And] said the Lord [Jehovah said], Doest 5 thou well to be angry?[FN2] So [And] Jonah went[FN3] out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him [for himself] a booth, and sat under it in the shadow [shade], till he might [should] see what would become of the city 6 And the Lord [Jehovah] God prepared a gourd [palmchrist] and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be [to be] a shadow [shade] over his head, to deliver him from his grief [distress]. So [And] Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd 7 But God prepared [appointed] a worm when the morning rose [at the rising of the dawn] the next day, and it smote the gourd [palmchrist] [so] that it withered 8 And it came to pass, when the sun did arise [at the rising of the sun], that God prepared [appointed] a vehement [sultry] east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that [and] he fainted, and wished in himself [asked his soul, i.e., asked for himself] to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live [my death is better than my life]. 9And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well [is it right] to be angry for the gourd [palmchrist]? And he said, I do well [It is right] to be angry, even 10unto death. Then [And] said the Lord [Jehovah], Thou hast had pity on [wast grieved for] the gourd [palmchrist], for the which [on which] thou hast not labored, neither madest it [and which thou hast not caused to] grow; which came[FN4] up in a night [which was the son of a night], and perished in a night: 11And should not I spare [have pity upon] Nineveh, that great city, wherein [in which] are more than sixscore thousand persons, that cannot discern [distinguish] between their right hand and their left hand; and also [omit, also] much cattle.[FN5]

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Jonah’s Discontent and Correction. This chapter does not form, as Ch. B. Michaelis thinks, two dialogues between God and Jonah; but as is evident from the retrospective reference of Jonah 4:8 to Jonah 4:3, and as the translation shows, Jonah 4:5 f. gives the scenery for the preceding verses, and these verses presuppose that Jonah must have already gone out of Nineveh, sat a long time in his observatory, and waited in vain for the destruction of the city. For he does not complain because the Ninevites repented, but because God had already shown Himself merciful toward them. (Comp. below at Jonah 4:3; and the solution of the difficulty from the idiom and literary character of the book, Introduction, p8.

Jonah 4:1. He was, therefore, already sitting in the glowing heat of the sun, when the discontent, Jonah 4:1, came over him. The verb רַע is used here of the feeling, in a metaphorical sense, It seemed evil to him, which is usually accompanied in other places by the additional clause, in his eyes. [Same as here, Nehemiah 2:10; Nehemiah 13:8; only with ל instead of אֶל]. He was not angry because he had pondered in his mind the dangers, which were destined to come upon his country and people, in the future, through the Assyrians, who had just been delivered (Abarbanel); nor because he had seen the final doom of the Jews and heathen prefigured by the acceptance of the repentance of Nineveh contrasted with the impenitence of Israel (Hieron.); (this God would have corrected in another way); but his displeasure, as Calvin justly admitted, arose from a common littleness of mind incident to humanity, which, for the moment, thought only of his mortified honor as a prophet; and because the lie had apparently been given to his prediction, he entirely forgot that the life and death of hundreds of thousands were involved in its fulfillment. There is no intimation in the text that he envied the heathen the divine mercy and wished the destruction of Nineveh, either from ardent love to his people (Hengstenberg), or from a wrong notion of God (Keil following Luther), though such a feeling might have influenced him as a secondary motive. Rather his notion of God was in nowise perverted, for he must have known from the law [Torah] ( Exodus 34:6), and he did know ( Jonah 4:2), that God is merciful and gracious, long-suffering and rich in mercy; and the whole of the second verse is spoken out of ill humor that he had been sent, not with the object of delivering a prophecy that was to be fulfilled, but of delivering one that was revoked, which was intended as a means of repentance.

As above Jonah 1:12, so also here, Jonah 4:2. Jonah’s wrong disposition of heart does not prevent his mouth from speaking the whole truth of God. Office and word, apart from the person, his weaknesses, and sins, are, according to the Scripture conception, intimately connected with one another. (Compare the striking example, John 11:50 f.). Jonah, it is said, prayed to Jehovah. “Necesse est in hac Jonæ precatione aliquid agnoscere pietatis et simul multa vitia.” (Calvin.) It is true that when he fled to Tarshish he did not say that he would not prophesy because of the mercy of God (comp. at Jonah 1:3); but it is quite human to palliate an originally unreasonably undertaken step by motives drawn from wisdom subsequently acquired, or from fortunate accident. Therefore I anticipated—προέφθασα, LXX.—the errand, whose fruitlessness I foresaw, and fled to Tarshish. These, of course, were not his words, when he fled to Tarshish, that he was unwilling to prophesy, because of the mercy of God (comp. Jonah 1:3); but it is human nature to color an undertaking, for which originally no reasons can in truth be assigned, with the reasons derived from a more recently acquired Wisdom of Solomon, or from the event. The infinitive with לְ is gerundial. The phrase “in my country,” is an important element for the symbolical interpretation of the book. (See above, p5; comp. Jeremiah 52:27).

As in chap 3 the fifth verse gave a brief summary of the longer statement which follows; so here Jonah 4:3-4, are in part the literal quintessence of the following detailed account. Jonah 4:5-7, as a commentary to be added by way of supplement to Jonah 4:1 ff. give the moving cause ( Jonah, to wit, had, etc.); and the more exact psychological understanding of Jonah 4:3 results from Jonah 4:8.

The non-consideration of the forty days belongs to the symbolical character of the narrative, which cares more for the essential circumstances than for the chronology; and, in any case, it furnishes no reason to assume with Keil, that Jonah 4:1 ff. should be placed within the forty days and during Jonah’s sojourn in the city, and that Jonah 4:5 ff. should be placed after. Jonah was certain that the punishment was revoked, consequently the expiration of the time is presupposed in Jonah 4:1 as in Jonah 4:5; and it is neither probable that Jonah should wait in the city for the threatened destruction, nor that, after the completion of the time, within which the Spirit had instructed him to announce it, he should then go out of the city and wait for it. If Calvin remarks in favor of the latter supposition; “Etsi enim prœterierant quadraginta dies, Jonas tamen quasi constrictus stetit, quia nondum poterat statuere, quod prius ex mandato Dei protulerat carere suo effectu,” then, on the other hand, it may be observed that he was only too ready to maintain the latter, according to Jonah 4:2, and that the עד Jonah 4:5, “till he might see,” indicates a state, not of consternation, but of easy expectation. We accordingly abide by the rendering of Jonah 4:4 in the pluperfect tense, the grammatical probability of which even Keil cannot deny, and the necessity of which is also acknowledged by Starke, Ch. B. Mich, Hitzig, and others; only that we should not restrict the same to Jonah 4:4 exclusively, but extend it to the verses immediately following till Jonah 4:8.

[ Jonah 4:5. “This verse regarded by many commentators as a supplementary remark, וָיֵּצֵא, with the verbs which follow, being rendered in the pluperfect: ‘Jonah had gone out of the city,’ etc. We grant that this is grammatically admissible, but it cannot be shown to be necessary, and is indeed highly improbable. If, for instance, Jonah went out of Nineveh before the expiration of the forty days, to wait for the fulfillment of his prophecy, in a hut to the east of the city, he could not have been angry at its non fulfillment: before the time arrived, nor could God have reproved him for his anger before that time. The divine correction of the dissatisfied prophet, which is related in Jonah 4:6-11, cannot have taken place till the forty days had expired. But this correction is so closely connected with Jonah’s departure from the city and settlement to the east of it, to wait for the final decision as to its fate ( Jonah 4:5), that we cannot possibly separate it, so as to take the verbs in Jonah 4:5 as pluperfects, or those in Jonah 4:6-11 as historical imperfects. There is no valid ground for so forced an assumption as this. As the expression אֶל יוֹכָה וַיֵּרַע in Jonah 4:1, which is appended to עָשָׂה וְלֹא in Jonah 3:10, shows that Jonah did not become irritated and angry till after God had failed to carry out his threat concerning Nineveh, and that it was then he poured out his discontent in a reproachful prayer to God ( Jonah 4:2), there is nothing whatever to force us to the assumption that Jonah had left Nineveh before the fortieth day. Jonah had no reason to be afraid of perishing with the city. If he had faith, which we cannot deny, he could rely upon it that God would not order him, his own servant, to perish with the ungodly, but when the proper time was arrived, would direct him to leave the city. But when forty days elapsed, and nothing occurred to indicate the immediate or speedy fall of the city, and he was reproved by God for his anger on that account in these words, ‘Art thou rightly or justly angry?’ the answer from God determined him to leave the city and wait outside, in front of it, to see what fate would befall it. For since this answer still left it open, as a possible thing, that the judgment might burst upon the city, Jonah interpreted it in harmony with his own inclination, as signifying that the judgment was only postponed, not removed, and therefore resolved to wait in a hut outside the city, and watch for the issue of the whole affair.” (Keil and Delitzsch.)

Dr. Pusey is inclined to Keil’s opinion. Henderson; to that of our author. Newcome renders the verbs, וַיֵּצֵא, etc, Jonah 4:5, had gone, had sat, etc.—C. E.]

But Jonah had gone out of the city and had sat down east of the city—on one of the mountains eastward, which border on the valley of the Tigris, from which the city spreads out over the valley to the river. [Here he made a hut, or a booth, and sat in its shade, “till he might see what would become of the city.”—C. E.]

Jonah 4:6. As the fish, so also the ricinus plant obeyed the command of God: He appointed it. ( Psalm 104:30). The kikayon[FN6] Isaiah, according to Hieronymus, the kiki of the Egyptians (Herod, ii94), the Kirk of the Rabbins, the el-keroa of the Arabs, the κρότων of the Greeks. Besides Hieronymus, Pliny, h. iv15, 7, mentions the Ricans plant, which grows wild in Arabia, Egypt, and Syria, and shoots up rapidly to the height of a tree. It has at first a herbaceous, then a woody stem, hollow within, full of knots and joints; large petiolate, peltate leaves, which, according to Niebuhr, when broken off, or injured, wither in a few minutes, and which are moreover liable to perish quickly, from the fact that, in a gentle rain, black caterpillars, or worms (תּוֹלַעת, Jonah 4:7), of a middling size, are produced on them, which strip the plant of all its foliage in a single night. (Niebuhr, Description of Arabia, p148. Rumpf, Herb. Amboin, iv95.) Such a plant God caused to shoot up, about the time when Jonah was thoroughly convinced of the fruitlessness of his waiting, and when he had already given vent to his ill humor (רעה), in order to recover him from his discontent.[FN7] (ל instead of the acc. Ew, sec292 e.).

This succeeds. To his great petulance, Jonah 4:1, soon succeeds great joy.

Jonah 4:7. A worm (the sing. used collectively, as in Deuteronomy 28:39), comes at the command of God, during the night—at the rising of the sun, next morning. (Comp. Genesis 19:15; Genesis 19:23.) And it smote, destroyed ( Amos 4:9) the plant, so that it withered. And as if this were not enough, God, to attain his disciplinary purpose with Jonah, appointed, in the third place, Jonah 4:8, the silent, that Isaiah, the deadly sultry east wind, whose scorching heat is proverbial throughout the Old Testament ( Ezekiel 17:10). The glowing heat of the sun beat upon Jonah, so that he fainted ( Amos 8:13), was out of his mind. Then were suggested those petulant words, that we have already heard, Jonah 4:3 : he wished in himself to die, literally, he asked as to his soul to die (acc. c. inf. 1 Kings 19:4; Isaiah 53:10; Ew, sec336 b), and said, it is better for me to die than to live. Ch. B. Mich.: “Prœstat me mori, quam sic vivere.”

Jonah 4:9. And God said to Jonah: Dost thou right to be angry for the gourd? namely, on account of its destruction. הַהֵיטֵב is not used adverbially (Keil), but as an auxiliary construed with the impersonal 3 sing. חרה (comp. Deuteronomy 5:25). The short question: Dost thou well to be angry? comprised within itself, by aposiopesis at Jonah 4:3 above, the whole dialogue, Jonah 4:9-11; here it is analyzed into its elements.

Jonah answers: I do right to be angry, even unto death, that Isaiah, to the bottom of my soul, even to weariness of life. (Comp. Matthew 26:38.) God now convicted him from his own words (comp. Matthew 12:37; Luke 19:22), how wrong was his whole anger, in which this momentary vexation only forms an element with a fresh stimulus, but which had its origin in the sparing of Nineveh, by a conclusion a minori ad majus.

Jonah 4:10. Thou art grieved for the gourd, for which thou hast not labored … and perished. Bin-lailah, a son of the night, of a night’s duration. (Comp. Exodus 12:5, and the Syriac translation of Deuteronomy 24:15.) It is evident from Jonah 4:10, why a rapidly growing plant should shoot up over Jonah. If it had been of slow growth, he would have watered and nursed it; consequently the reproof would not have been so forcible. [בִן instead of בֶן on account of the following liquids, Numbers 14:38.]

Jonah 4:11. And should not I …. who cannot distinguish between the right hand and the left (ידעsensu prægnanti, as in 2 Samuel 19:36, 35 A. V.]), who cannot consequently be very guilty; and besides much cattle, which are not guilty at all, and which are of much greater worth than a ricinus plant? By the120,000 mentioned in the relative clause, must be understood young children (comp. Isaiah 7:15). The limit of this period of life, in the East (e.g., among the Persians), is usually the seventh year. If we assume the ratio, fixed by statistics, of those under seven years of age to the whole number of the population as Jonah 1:5, we have for all Nineveh the not improbable number of600,000 inhabitants. This would give, as in the province of Naples, 40,000 persons to the square [German] mile (comp. at Jonah 1:2). The English Admiral Jones, from a survey of the extent of the ruins, without any reference to the statement in this verse, has estimated the population of the city, at about the same number. (Comp. Journal of the Asiatic Society, vol15. p29. M. v. Niebuhr, Assyria and Babylon, p278 f.)

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL[FN8]

See Introduction, p6.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

Jonah, a type of the misery and vanity of the human heart. (Homily).

1. The impatience of the human heart compared with the long-suffering of God. When God forgives, it is angry. When God is patient, it is impatient, Jonah 4:1. And yet Jonah, too, was saved only by grace.

2. The idea of its own honor compared with the great heart of God, who readily foregoes his own honor, when the salvation of men is concerned ( Jonah 3:10). But Jonah would have preferred that all men should perish, that his office and vocation should be relinquished, to the mortification of the idea of his own honor, Jonah 4:2 a.

3. Its bitterness compared with the kindness of God. God speaks comfort; but the human heart extracts from his consolatory words a sting, Jonah 4:2 b.

4. And so inconsiderate is the human heart of the most precious gifts, even of life itself, that on account of the empty shadow of honor, it even thinks that it should despise its own life, Jonah 4:3 But how seriously does God speak of death.

5. In short, how little can the heart, notwithstanding all instruction, dive into the deep thoughts of God! And yet, at the same time, it is always ready to maintain that it is right against God, Jonah 4:1-3.

6. In such miserable selfishness, it is destitute of all love, and lurks for the ruin of others; it wishes that others should be judged and judges them itself; but it does not like to judge itself.

7. It always has only real pleasure in that which happens to its advantage; and should it be something of the most trifling importance, it is more highly prized by it than all the great mercy vouchsafed to others, Jonah 4:6-7.

8. Therefore, is life full of misery. For these short pleasures, on account of which we neglect the eternal good, soon come to an end. And we do not afterward think that they were favors for which we ought to be thankful, however transient they may have been; but imagine that they were our own, that we had a right to them and therefore a right to complain, Jonah 4:8. And what bitter complaints! 2 Corinthians 4:17.

9. And if God’s ways are ever so clear before our eyes, yet our eyes are closed that we cannot perceive them, and we will continually grope in darkness, unless God open our eyes by his spirit, Jonah 4:9-11.

Jonah 4:1. Here we see how it would be, if God would allow each one his own will. It is well that He alone sits at the helm. God’s messengers are in great danger of forgetting that they are messengers and that they act merely under authority. The sinful heart is ever ready to act the Lord, and it wonders when it is forsaken by God.

Jonah 4:2. There are even wicked prayers. It is not a mark of piety, therefore, to disburden one’s heart before God, but to pray in the name of Jesus, according to the pattern of Luke 22:42. Man is always eloquent in exculpating himself. If the heart is in a wrong state, it distorts God’s Word, and applies it according to its own pleasure.

Jonah 4:3. Suppose the Lord had taken Jonah at his word? How inconsiderately does a man speak, who does not bridle his tongue. The sorrow of the world works death.

Jonah 4:5. Some say that God, out of respect to his justice, has delight in viewing the punishment of the lost; that Abraham also, when Lazarus lay in his bosom, reveled in God’s pleasure in the torment of the rich man. These look upon God and Abraham in the same light that they do upon the prophet Jonah. ( Luke 9:55.) His heart even breaks for the souls of the condemned, and if they would be saved, He would save them. ( Matthew 12:31.)

Jonah 4:6. The creature was made for men; and the death of the creature Isaiah, in every way, instructive to men. To a heart devoid of peace, the good gifts of God are only a source of vexation.

Jonah 4:7. “When the morning rose”! Often, at the moment when every thing seems to smile, misfortune is on the way. With the rising star of fortune comes also always a misfortune, even though we do not see it at the moment. Hence the injunction to be always prepared, always humble.

Jonah 4:11. At first sight, it appears as if common guilt and sin were denied in this verse, since God speaks of the children, as if they, like the cattle, did not deserve punishment. But He says only that the severe punishment, which Jonah expected, was not deserved by these relatively to many others, whose death Jonah himself would not desire. The fact that the Ninevites were spared on account of their repentance, would have been sufficient to reprove him for this ( Ezekiel 18:23); but God would bring before the eyes of Jonah his uncharitableness in that he did not consider the relatively innocent and harmless creatures in his blind zeal to see vile sinners perish. The Scriptures have regard for beasts also. ( Deuteronomy 22:6; Romans 8:18 ff.) These have no part in the sin of Prayer of Manasseh, but in his punishment. As they appear here by their participation in the repentance of the Ninevites, so at other times, in the Old Testament, they appear by their blood for the curse of sin. Yet this is only a shadow of things to come.

Luther: How can such a state of grace and such untoward conduct in Jonah be consistent with one another? We cannot deny that he was unreasonably angry, and did wrong, for God punished him for it. We must also acknowledge that he had faith and was acceptable to God, because God spoke so kindly with, him and gave him a sign. We should observe from these facts (1) how wonderfully God deals with his saints, so that no one may inconsiderately judge or condemn any one on account of works alone. (2.) We should learn, how God permits his dear children to act very foolishly and commit grave faults, as Christ did with the Apostles, in the Gospel, for the consolation of all believers who sometimes sin and fall. (3.) We should see how kindly, fatherly, and amiably God deals with and treats those, who confide in Him in trouble. It is a daily sinning on the part of his children, which the Father graciously suffers. With the ungodly He does not deal thus: they cannot reconcile themselves to his dealings, but are altogether insolent and intractable.

Starke: Jonah 4:1. Even well-meaning minds can fall into an indiscreet zeal for God and criticise his wise government according to their weak and sordid ideas, although they do not break out into open murmurs against Him.

Jonah 4:2. To excuse sin, which deserves punishment, is presumptuousness.

Jonah 4:3. There is a great difference between a well-regulated desire for a happy departure from this world and one that is inordinate and self-willed, which arises from impatience, and, alas, often enters into well-disposed minds.

Jonah 4:4. As often as thou art provoked to be angry, ask thyself at once, am I justly angry? Teachers should be moderate in their zeal and seek to restore the erring by friendly words: the example of God admonishes them to this.

Jonah 4:6. God has always been accustomed to guide men by external things and visible signs to the consideration of heavenly things. Hieronymus hits upon the thought that the Jewish people, who have sat under the shadow of ordinances and ceremonies are hereby represented.

Jonah 4:7. Even the very least animals must serve the powerful government of God.

Jonah 4:8. We must not be too much delighted by our success nor too much distressed by our misfortune.

Jonah 4:9. One must really be astonished at God’s love to men, manifested in his patience with his servants. Jonah is nothing else but a little, naughty, spoiled child.

Jonah 4:10. God has pity upon little children. He loves them tenderly, numbers them exactly, and oftentimes spares old people on their account, whom He would otherwise destroy on account of their sins. Did God love the little children in Nineveh so well, and was He pleased to spare the city on their account, then how can he reject those, who are born in Christendom, but die without baptism?

Pfaff: Jonah 4:1. Men are much more wrathful and vindictive than God; for God soon repents of the punishment, provided men comply with the condition of repentance.

Jonah 4:4. Even prophets commit faults. Guard thyself against impatience, and learn composedness and self-denial. Nothing adorns the conduct more, than entire self-abnegation and submission to the will of the Lord, combined with efforts to accomplish it. What a dreadful thing ambition is! To wish rather to die than to be humbled! It must not be Song of Solomon, but thou must willingly bow and humble thyself, if God’s honor is thereby advanced.

Jonah 4:8. Let no one wish for death from a desire to escape the cross.

Quandt: Jonah 4:1. There is joy among the angels of God over one sinner that repents; among us there is joy at the success of the mission; with Jonah there is indignation. This did not arise from the circumstance that the repentance of Nineveh was not sincere and honest; but Jonah’s own repentance was not sincere. He had retained the principal part of his old man at his conversion.

Jonah 4:3. Even other holy men have had such dark hours. ( Numbers 11:15; Job 7:15 f.; 1 Kings 19.) Notwithstanding Jonah’s preaching had the proper effect. The faith of the preacher does not work faith in the hearers, but the preaching of faith.

Jonah 4:5. The word of God, Jonah 4:4, was de signed to convince the prophet of how little reason there was for his anger; but it had exactly the opposite effect. He explained it in his own favor; as if God meant to say: Wait yet a little; and he goes forth to wait. The piety of the heathen is a matter of total indifference to him, but curiosity and a mischievous delight in the miseries of others abide with him. This is instructive to Christians in their relation to the missionary cause.

Jonah 4:8. Before, Jonah was angry at God’s mercy; now he is angry at his seeming unmercifulness. This is a movement in the right direction. There is instruction connected with this.

Jonah 4:11. The old, obstinate Jonah has displayed himself enough in this book; now, at the close, he vanishes, and God, in the end, stands, with his word, alone and majestic: the new Jonah is lost in Him.

Marck: Jonah 4:1. Although all the works of God are entirely irreprehensible, yet there is not one among them, which may not be censured by some one; and the degree of censure is in proportion to the want of understanding on the part of the fault-finder.

Rieger: Before we find fault with Jonah, we should consider well first what would be the result if we were to describe our thoughts and feelings concerning many events in the government of God as frankly as Jonah does here. The worst is that our wickedness remains hidden in us, and we conceal it from ourselves and others. We must also judge Jonah according to his times and temptations; for it could easily be that a man of God should have little regard for the heathen, since Peter, in New Testament times, had to be instructed concerning them. Moreover the solicitude that the Ninevites, inexperienced in the ways of God, might turn his long suffering into contempt and despise his threatenings, was not unfounded. In our estimate in general of the faults and offenses of others, it should be borne in mind, that God knows how our temper exposes us on the one hand to peculiar temptations, but also on the other makes us useful for some purpose; hence no one should cling to the defects of others, but should in advance turn to good account the good qualities with which they are endowed. The vehement disposition of Jonah had plunged him into these faults, but what useful purpose this very disposition served in his office, must not be forgotten. That is a wicked art of our hearts, of which Solomon says, The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit, than seven men that can render a reason: namely he who never undertakes anything, commits, after his way of thinking, fewer faults, and is well pleased with his own conceit.

Burck: Jonah 4:2. Thou hast not to consider what God will accomplish by thee, or without thee, but what He requires of thee and what becomes thee. God bears with much murmuring and impatience on the part of his servants.

Jonah 4:3. Jonah did not pray for the destruction of the Ninevites, but for his own death. They are the readiest to do this, who know least the severity of God in the sentence of death. But Jonah has already endured a tenfold death in the sea. And now zeal for his office and for the honor attached to it by God presses upon him to such a degree that he wishes rather to die than to live. But God can require an offering from us such as He pleases: He did not now require the surrender of Jonah’s life, but a patient waiting; and therefore Jonah found another kind of death and of a more salutary sort, than if God had taken his life away [in answer to his prayer].

Jonah 4:6. The best way to refute a murmurer consists not in arguments, but in deeds.

Marck: God does not always lead sinners in the same manner to the right way; but at one time by severe chastisements, at another by kindness in word, or deed.

Cocceius: We always think that our affliction is something sacred, and yet it is often worldly; for how often are we obliged to see that it is mitigated by worldly consolation!

Rieger: Jonah 4:7 ff. With others we often think that a word and a remonstrance should be enough; but in our case we experience, that we first became acquainted with ourselves under the actual dispensations of God, and thus too are made thoroughly healthy. Such is the vanity of our heart that it can be made glad and be troubled about trifling things. And yet God uses this experience in us as a means of discipline. If we are too much delighted with a gourd, He knows that nothing more than a worm hole is required to sober us again.

Burck: Jonah 4:11. The book begins and closes with the words of God. Jonah is silent, and imitates, without doubt, the example of Job. ( Job 40:3 f.)

[Matthew Henry: Jonah 4:1. Jonah was mirabilis homo, as one calls him, an amazing man; the strangest, oddest, and most out-of-the-way Prayer of Manasseh, for a good man and a prophet, as one shall ever hear or read of.

Pusey: Jonah 4:2. Jonah, at least, did not murmur or complain of God. He complained to God of himself.

Jonah 4:3. Impatient though he was, he still cast himself upon God. By asking of God to end his life, Hebrews, at least, committed himself to the sovereign disposal of God.

Keil: Children who cannot distinguish between right and left, cannot distinguish good from evil, and are not yet accountable.

Cowles: Jonah 4:2. It is awful that a sinner, plucked himself as a brand from the burning, and living on mercy alone, should object to God’s showing the same mercy to his fellow sinners.

Jonah 4:11. Who can estimate the amount of sparing mercy which the guilty of our world owe, in this life, to God’s pity for infants and for the sentient but unsinning animal races?—C. E.]

Footnotes:

FN#1 - Jonah 4:1.—וַיִּחַר לֹו [anger] was kindled to him, i. e, he was angry. Sometimes this formula expresses the feeling of grief, sadness. In the Hithpa. the verb signifies to fret one’s self, Psalm 37:1; Psalm 37:7-8. The LXX. sometimes render it by λυπέομαι, Jonah 4:4.

FN#2 - Jonah 4:4.—הַהֵיטֵב תָרָה לָךְ, Keil and Delitzsch: “Is thine anger justly kindled?” Henderson: “Art thou much vexed”? הַהֵיטֵב is used adverbially. Compare Deuteronomy 9:21; Deuteronomy 13:15; and 2 Kings 11:18. LXX.: Εἰ σφόδρα λελύπησαι σύ; Vulgate: Putasne, bene irasceris tu?

FN#3 - Jonah 4:5.—The verbs in this verse may be rendered in the pluperfect: “Jonah had gone …. had sat …. had made …. and had sat under.” Newcome and Kleinert so render them. See the Exegetical and Critical notes on the verse.

FN#4 - Jonah 4:10.—שֶׁבִּן־לַיְלָה הָיָה וּבִן־לָיְלָה אָבָד, literally, which was the son of a night, and perished the son of a night. בֵּן, a son, is used idiomatically to express what is produced, or exists, during the time predicated of it

FN#5 - Jonah 4:11.—In Nineveh, and also in Babylon, there were probably large spaces where cattle fed.—C. E.]

FN#6 - “Augustine, following the LXX. and Syr. versions, was in favor of the rendering gourd, which was adopted by Luther, the A. V, etc. In Jerome’s description of the plant called in Syr. karo, and Punic el-keroa, Celsius recognizes the Ricinus, Palma Christi, or castor-oil plant (Hierobot, ii 273 ff.; Bochart, Hieroz., ii293, 623). The Ricinus was seen by Niebuhr (Descript. of Arab., p148) at Bosra, where it was distinguished by the name el-keroa; by Rauwulf (Trav., p52), it was noticed in great abundance near Tripoli, where the Arabs called it el-kerua; while both Hasselquist and Robinson observed very large specimens of it in the neighborhood of Jericho (“Ricinus in altitudinem arboris insignis,” Hasselq, p555; see also Robins, i553). Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, s.v. “Gourd.”—C. E.]

FN#7 - That רָעָה has reference to the ill humor of the prophet Jonah 4:1, Isaiah, considering the simple tenor of the narrative, which does not hinder that Jonah 4:5 ff. must be considered as preceding Jonah 4:1, most probable. We cannot well think of the physical illness produced by the glowing heat of the sun: the suffix points too definitely to an already known evil. It would rather be possible to view the matter, in such a way that the whole perverted condition of the prophet’s soul is meant by רעה, which God intended to cure by means of the ricinus, or rather by the lesson connected with its withering. By this the difficulty mentioned before would also be solved.

FN#8 - Reichsgedanken. See note, p20.—C. E.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Jonah 4:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/jonah-4.html. 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, December 11th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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