Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.Jonah 4
These are those, I am afraid, who would rather see their neighbours suffer than their own forebodings fail. Jonah is not the only Prophet of evil whom it has displeased exceedingly, and who has been very angry, because God is a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. The beautiful apologue of the gourd is still, and, I fear ever will be applicable to many.
—Julius Hare in Guesses at Truth.
Jonah's Character.—At first it seems inconsistent and contradictory; but a little consideration shows that he represents a large class in every age, a class in which good and bad traits are combined.
I. Jonah's Anger.—Several causes have been suggested for it, and perhaps almost all of them more or less entered into it.
1. Personal humiliation; that his prediction having failed he might be regarded as a false Prophet.
2. Zeal for God's honour among the heathen, which might be diminished by the failure of His Prophet's prediction.
3. The painful contrast between the conversion of Gentile Nineveh and the impenitence of his own people.
4. Patriotism; the danger to his own country of the threatening power of Nineveh. This was probably the principal cause; since, if Nineveh had been destroyed, Israel would have been safe.
His anger causes him such misery that he requests for himself that he may die. God gently rebukes Jonah's anger by the question, 'Doest thou well to be angry?' The best remedy for anger is quiet consideration of the matter, an appeal to our sense of justice, a seeing things as they are in God's sight and not merely in our own prejudiced and selfish vision.
II. God's Gift of the Gourd.—In times of trouble God prepares consolation for the relief of His people. Such a refuge was Jonah's gourd. Jonah quickly recovers his temper. He 'rejoiced with great joy' over the gourd. This reaction is a sign of his peculiar temperament, either very optimistic or very pessimistic.
The gourd, however, did not last. God, who had prepared it, prepared the worm which was to destroy it But worse still. God prepared a vehement wind, the sirocco.
Again there is a reaction, and Jonah desires to die. God sometimes withdraws the gifts of earthly consolations that we may learn to bear our cross in reliance upon Him, and not to rest in mere amelioration of our troubles and difficulties.
III. Jonah's Character.—He was a sincerely religious man and yet very human. His temperament leads him to vacillate between extremes; first open rebellion against God, then deep penitence; afterwards perfect obedience, then discontent and despair. Throughout we see a strong trait of selfishness. A very contradictory character, and yet true to life. A man of irascible temper, easily provoked, and then most unreasonable.
There are many lessons we may draw from Jonah's character. Let us dwell on one Conversion does not mean complete sanctification. The one may be the act of a moment, the result of an overwhelming sense of penitence; the other is the work of many years, often of a lifetime.
—A. G. Mortimer, One Hundred Miniature Sermons, p. 233.
References.—IV. 1.—Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxii. 1902, p. 60. IV. 1, 2.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xliii. No. 2544. IV. 3.—J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. iii. p. 210. IV. 6.—Ibid. p. 216. IV. 7.—D. L. Ritchie, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxiv. 1903, p. 310. IV. 10, 11.—A. G. Mortimer, One Hundred Miniature Sermons, vol. i. p. 249. IV. 11.—R. Hislop, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxx. 1906, p. 212. A. F. Winnington Ingram, ibid. vol. lxxiii. 1908, p. 200.
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.
Therefore now, O LORD, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.
Then said the LORD, Doest thou well to be angry?
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.
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.
But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered.
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.
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.
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:
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?