Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.CHAPTER 4
Jonah’s Discontent and Correction
1. Jonah’s discontent (Jonah 4:1-3)
2. The correction (Jonah 4:4-11)
Jonah 4:1-3. All that had happened displeased Jonah exceedingly and he was very angry. Did he feel that he had lost his prestige as a prophet, having announced the overthrow of Nineveh, when it did not happen? What he feared had come true; God had been merciful to this great city and they were now enjoying what he considered Israel’s exclusive inheritance. Instead of rejoicing in the great exhibition of God’s mercy towards such a wicked city, he was angry. Like Elijah, in the hour of despondency he requests to die. “Therefore, now, O LORD, take, I beseech Thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.” The trouble with Jonah was that he thought only of himself, and, as another has said, “the horrid selfishness of his heart hides from him the God of grace, faithful in His love for His helpless creatures.”
Jonah 4:4-11. The Lord God who had been so merciful to Nineveh is now merciful to His angry servant the Prophet. “Doest thou well to be angry?” How great is the patience and kindness of the Lord, even towards them who fail! Jonah leaves the saved city evidently in disgust, and finds on the east side a place where he constructed a booth and sat there waiting to see what would become of the city. He evidently expected still an act of judgment. Then comes the lesson. The Lord God who had prepared a fish to swallow the disobedient prophet now prepared a gourd to provide a shade for him. This gourd, a quipayon, is a very common plant in Palestine. The Creator whose creation is so wonderful, manifested the Creator’s power in raising up this plant, for the relief of His servant, in a sudden manner. And Jonah was exceedingly glad. Then God prepared a worm which destroyed the gourd. When the morning came and the sun beat upon the head of the prophet he fainted, and once more wished in himself to die. Alas! if the prophet had been in the right place before the Lord he would have accepted the gourd as evidence of His loving care, and when the worm destroyed the plant so that it withered he would have equally acknowledged his Creator-God and not have murmured. He might have said with Job, “The LORD gave, the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” Jonah in his selfish impatience found fault with God. It is still the common thing amongst professing Christians.
And when God asked him, “Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd?” the poor finite creature of the dust answered the Creator, “I do well to be angry, even unto death.” Then comes the lesson. Not God, Elohim, the name of Him as Creator, speaks, but it is Jehovah, 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 six score thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left; and also much cattle?” If Jonah felt pity and was angry because of a small vine he had not planted nor made to grow, should not God with greater right have mercy upon His creatures, whom He created and sustained? Jonah is silenced; he could not reply. The last word belongs to Jehovah, who thus demonstrated that in His infinite compassion He embraces not Israel alone, but all His creation, the Gentile world and even animal creation.
“Most touching and beautiful is the last verse of the book, in which God displays the force and supreme necessity of His love; which (although the threatenings of His justice are heard, and must needs be heard and even executed if man continues in rebellion) abides in the repose of that perfect goodness which nothing can alter, and which seizes the opportunity of displaying itself, whenever man allows Him, so to speak, to bless him--the repose of an affection that nothing can escape, that observes everything, in order to act according to its own undisturbed nature--the repose of God Himself, essential to His perfection, on which depends all our blessing and all our peace” .