Jonah 4:1
But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.
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(1) But it displeased Jonah.—The Hebrew (it was evil to) is stronger. The prophet was vexed and irritated.

He was very angry.—Literally, it (anger) burnt to him. David’s feeling at the death of Uzziah (2Samuel 6:8; 1Chronicles 13:11) is described in the same terms. Selfish jealousy for his own reputation, jealousy for the honour of the prophetic office, a mistaken patriotism disappointed that the great enemy of his country should go unpunished, Jewish exclusiveness which could not endure to see the Divine clemency extended to the heathen, have each been adduced as the motive of Jonah’s anger. Possibly something of all these blended in his mind.

Jonah 4:1-3. But it — The divine forbearance in sparing Nineveh; displeased Jonah exceedingly — “Seeing that what he had foretold against the Ninevites did not happen, he was afraid lest he should pass for a false prophet and a deceiver, his ministry be despised, and his person exposed to the violence of the Ninevites. He was therefore very peevish and impatient, and he vents his complaints in the following verse.” And he prayed unto the Lord — He uttered expostulations and complaints in his prayer to God, wherein he pleaded an excuse for his former disobedience to God’s commands. O Lord, was not this my saying — Did I not think of this, and suppose that it would be the case, that thy pardon would contradict my preaching? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish — Namely, to avoid coming upon this message, for I knew that thou art a gracious God — I knew by the declarations thou madest to Moses, (Exodus 34:6,) and by several instances of thy mercy, that thou dost not always execute the punishments thou threatenest against sinners; being moved by thy essential goodness and mercifulness to spare them. Therefore now, O Lord, take, I beseech thee, my life from me — “I cannot survive the confusion of seeing my prediction vain and to no effect; I cannot bear to live under the imputation of being a false prophet.” For it is better for me to die than to live — We may learn from this, that Jonah was naturally a man of a hasty, impatient temper; for he here shows himself to have been exceedingly vexed without any just cause. For it does not appear that the Ninevites would have despised him, or looked upon him as a false prophet, though the city was not destroyed; because their having recourse to fasting, humiliation, and turning from their evil ways, was in order to avert the wrath of God, that he might repent and turn from his fierce anger, and they perish not; see Jonah 3:9; and therefore they would, in all probability, have attributed the city’s preservation to this their humiliation and repentance, and have still looked upon Jonah as one that was divinely commissioned. So that he was indeed moved to these passionate expressions and exclamations purely by his own hasty disposition, and not from any just cause given him.4:1-4 What all the saints make matter of joy and praise, Jonah makes the subject of reflection upon God; as if showing mercy were an imperfection of the Divine nature, which is the greatest glory of it. It is to his sparing, pardoning mercy, we all owe it that we are out of hell. He wishes for death: this was the language of folly, passion, and strong corruption. There appeared in Jonah remains of a proud, uncharitable spirit; and that he neither expected nor desired the welfare of the Ninevites, but had only come to declare and witness their destruction. He was not duly humbled for his own sins, and was not willing to trust the Lord with his credit and safety. In this frame of mind, he overlooked the good of which he had been an instrument, and the glory of the Divine mercy. We should often ask ourselves, Is it well to say thus, to do thus? Can I justify it? Do I well to be so soon angry, so often angry, so long angry, and to give others ill language in my anger? Do I well to be angry at the mercy of God to repenting sinners? That was Jonah's crime. Do we do well to be angry at that which is for the glory of God, and the advancement of his kingdom? Let the conversion of sinners, which is the joy of heaven, be our joy, and never our grief.And Jonah was displeased exceedingly - It was an untempered zeal. The prophet himself records it as such, and how he was reproved for it. He would, like many of us, govern God's world better than God Himself. Short-sighted and presumptuous! Yet not more short-sighted than those who, in fact, quarrel with God's Providence, the existence of evil, the baffling of good, "the prison walls of obstacles and trials," in what we would do for God's glory. What is all discontent, but anger with God? The marvel is that the rebel was a prophet ! "What he desired was not unjust in itself, that the Ninevites should be punished for their past sins, and that the sentence of God pronounced against them should not be recalled, although they repented. For so the judge hangs the robber for theft, however he repent." He sinned, in that he disputed with God. Let him cast the first stone, who never rejoiced at any overthrow of the enemies of his country, nor was glad, in a common warfare, that they lost as many soldiers as we. As if God had not instruments enough at His will! Or as if He needed the Assyrians to punish Israel, or the one nation, whose armies are the terror of Europe, to punish us, so that if they should perish, Israel should therefore have escaped, though it persevered in sin, or we!

And he was very angry - , or, may be, "very grieved." The word expresses also the emotion of burning grief, as when Samuel was grieved at the rejection of Saul, or David at "the breach upon Uzzah" 2 Samuel 6:8; 1 Chronicles 13:11. Either way, he was displeased with what God did. Yet so Samuel and David took God's doings to heart; but Samuel and David were grieved at God's judgments; Jonah, at what to the Ninevites was mercy, only in regard to his own people it seemed to involve judgment. Scripture says that he was displeased, because the Ninevites were spared; but not, why this displeased him. It has been thought, that it was jealousy for God's glory among the pagan, as though the Ninevites would think that God in whose Name he spake had no certain knowledge of things to come; and so that his fault was mistrust in God's wisdom or power to vindicate His own honor. But it seems more likely, that it was a mistaken patriotism, which idolized the well being of his own and God's people, and desired that its enemy, the appointed instrument of its chastisement, should be itself destroyed. Scripture being silent about it, we cannot know certainly. Jonah, under God's inspiration, relates that God pronounced him wrong. Having incurred God's reproof, he was careless about men's judgment, and left his own character open to the harsh judgments of people; teaching us a holy indifference to man's opinion, and, in our ignorance, carefulness not to judge unkindly.


Jon 4:1-11. Jonah Frets at God's Mercy to Nineveh: Is Reproved by the Type of a Gourd.

1. angry—literally, "hot," probably, with grief or vexation, rather than anger [Fairbairn]. How sad the contrast between God's feeling on the repentance of Nineveh towards Him, and Jonah's feeling on the repentance of God towards Nineveh. Strange in one who was himself a monument of mercy on his repentance! We all, like him, need the lesson taught in the parable of the unforgiving, though forgiven, debtor (Mt 18:23-35). Jonah was grieved because Nineveh's preservation, after his denunciation, made him seem a false prophet [Calvin]. But it would make Jonah a demon, not a man, to have preferred the destruction of six hundred thousand men rather than that his prophecy should be set aside through God's mercy triumphing over judgment. And God in that case would have severely chastised, whereas he only expostulates mildly with him, and by a mode of dealing, at once gentle and condescending, tries to show him his error. Moreover, Jonah himself, in apologizing for his vexation, does not mention the failure of his prediction as the cause: but solely the thought of God's slowness to anger. This was what led him to flee to Tarshish at his first commission; not the likelihood then of his prediction being falsified; for in fact his commission then was not to foretell Nineveh's downfall, but simply to "cry against" Nineveh's "wickedness" as having "come up before God." Jonah could hardly have been so vexed for the letter of his prediction failing, when the end of his commission had virtually been gained in leading Nineveh to repentance. This then cannot have been regarded by Jonah as the ultimate end of his commission. If Nineveh had been the prominent object with him, he would have rejoiced at the result of his mission. But Israel was the prominent aim of Jonah, as a prophet of the elect people. Probably then he regarded the destruction of Nineveh as fitted to be an example of God's judgment at last suspending His long forbearance so as to startle Israel from its desperate degeneracy, heightened by its new prosperity under Jeroboam II at that very time, in a way that all other means had failed to do. Jonah, despairing of anything effectual being done for God in Israel, unless there were first given a striking example of severity, thought when he proclaimed the downfall of Nineveh in forty days, that now at last God is about to give such an example; so when this means of awakening Israel was set aside by God's mercy on Nineveh's repentance, he was bitterly disappointed, not from pride or mercilessness, but from hopelessness as to anything being possible for the reformation of Israel, now that his cherished hope is baffled. But God's plan was to teach Israel, by the example of Nineveh, how inexcusable is their own impenitence, and how inevitable their ruin if they persevere. Repenting Nineveh has proved herself more worthy of God's favor than apostate Israel; the children of the covenant have not only fallen down to, but actually below, the level of a heathen people; Israel, therefore, must go down, and the heathen rise above her. Jonah did not know the important lessons of hope to the penitent, and condemnation to those amidst outward privileges impenitent, which Nineveh's preservation on repentance was to have for aftertimes, and to all ages. He could not foresee that Messiah Himself was thus to apply that history. A lesson to us that if we could in any particular alter the plan of Providence, it would not be for the better, but for the worse [Fairbairn].Jonah, repining at God’s mercy, Jonah 4:1-3, is reproved by the type of a gourd, Jonah 4:4-11.

But, Heb. And, it, the Divine forbearance sparing the great and sinful Nineveh,

displeased Jonah; was very disagreeable to Jonah’s hasty and fierce temper, to his love of his own credit, and it afflicted him to see Nineveh survive the forty days limited for their continuance.

Exceedingly; it was a great affliction to him, so highly distempered is Jonah at God’s goodness to a repenting city.

And he was very angry: this kindled a fire in his breast which was made up of envy, indignation, and grief, for that it was not done, and desire that yet it may be done. Jonah would yet have Nineveh a sacrifice to God’s justice, and an eternal monument of his truth who foretold its ruin.

But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry. Jonah was "mirabilis homo", as one calls him, an "amazing man"; the strangest, oddest, and most out of the way man, for a good man and a prophet, as one shall ever hear or read of. Displeased he was at that, which one would have thought he would have exceedingly rejoiced at, the success of his ministry, as all good men, prophets, and ministers of the word, do; nothing grieves them more than the hardness of men's hearts, and the failure of their labours; and nothing more rejoices them than the conversion of sinners by them; but Jonah is displeased at the repentance of the Ninevites through his preaching, and at the mercy of God showed unto them: displeased at that, on account of which there is joy in heaven among the divine Persons, Father, Son, and Spirit, and among the holy angels, even over one repenting sinner; and much more over many thousands, as in this case: displeased at that which is the grudge, the envy, and spite of devils, and which they do all they can to hinder: and the more strange it is that Jonah should act such a part at this time, when he himself had just received mercy of the Lord in so extraordinary a manner as to be delivered out of the fish's belly, even out of the belly of hell; which one would think would have warmed his heart with love, not only to God, but to the souls of men, and caused him to have rejoiced that others were sharers with him in the same grace and mercy, reasons of this strange conduct, if they may be called reasons, are supposed to be these: one reason was, his own honour, which he thought lay at stake, and that he should be reckoned a false prophet if Nineveh was not destroyed at the time he had fixed; but the proviso implied, though not expressed,

"except ye repent,''

secured his character; which was the sense of the divine Being, and so the Ninevites understood it, or at least hoped this was the case, and therefore repented, and which the mercy shown them confirmed: nor had Jonah any reason to fear they would have reproached him with such an imputation to his character; but, on the contrary, would have caressed him as the most welcome person that ever came to their city, and had been the instrument of showing them their sin and danger, and of bringing them to repentance, and so of saving them from threatened ruin; and they did him honour by believing at once what he said, and by repenting at his preaching; and which is testified by Christ, and stands recorded to his honour, and will be transmitted to the latest posterity: another reason was his prejudice to the Gentiles, which was unreasonable for, though this was the foible of the Jewish nation, begrudging that any favours should be bestowed upon the Gentiles, or prophesied of them; see Romans 10:19; yet a prophet should have divested himself of such prejudices, as Isaiah and others did; and, especially when he found his ministry was so blessed among them, he should have been silent, and glorified God for his mercy, and said, as the converted Jews did in Peter's time, "then God hath granted unto the Gentiles repentance unto life", Acts 11:18; to do otherwise, and as Jonah did, was to act like the unbelieving Jews, who "forbid" the apostles to "preach to the Gentiles, that they might be saved", 1 Thessalonians 2:16. A third reason supposed is the honour of his own countrymen, which he thought would be reflected on, and might issue in their ruin, they not returning from their evil ways, when the Heathens did: a poor weak reason this! with what advantage might he have returned to his own country? with what force of argument might he have accosted them, and upbraided them with their impenitence and unbelief; that Gentiles at one sermon should repent in sackcloth and ashes, when they had the prophets one after another sent them, and without effect? and who knows what might have been the issue of this? lastly, the glory of God might be pretended; that he would be reckoned a liar, and his word a falsehood, and be derided as such by atheists and unbelievers; but here was no danger of this from these penitent ones; and, besides, the proviso before mentioned secured the truth and veracity of God; and who was honoured by these persons, by their immediate faith in him, and repentance towards him; and his grace and mercy were as much glorified in the salvation of them as his justice would have been in their destruction.

But it displeased {a} Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.

(a) Because by this he would be taken as a false prophet, and so the name of God, which he preached, would be blasphemed.

1. it displeased Jonah, &c.] Lit. It was evil to Jonah, a great evil, and it (viz. anger) kindled to him. Comp. Nehemiah 2:10. It is clear that the immediate cause of Jonah’s anger and vexation was the preservation of Nineveh and the non-fulfilment of the threat which he had been sent to pronounce. It was the anticipation of this result, founded on the revealed character of God, that made him decline the errand at first (Jonah 4:2). It was the realisation of it that so greatly troubled him now. But why this result of his mission should have thus affected him it has not been found so easy to decide. Some have thought—but the view has nothing to commend it—that his annoyance was purely personal and selfish, and that he was stung by the disgrace of appearing as a false prophet in the sight of the heathen because his predictions had not been verified. Others with better show of reason have assigned to his displeasure the more worthy motive of jealousy for the honour of God, in whose name and with whose message he had come to Nineveh, and on whom he thought the reproach of fickleness and inconstancy would fall. “He connected,” writes Calvin, “his own ministry with the glory of God, and rightly, because it depended on His authority. Jonah, when he entered Nineveh, did not utter his cry as a private individual, but professed himself to be sent by God. Now, if the proclamation of Jonah is found to be false, the disgrace will fall upon the author of the call himself, namely on God. There is no doubt, therefore, that Jonah took it ill that the name of God was exposed to the revilings of the heathen, as though He terrified without cause.” It is far more satisfactory, however, to suppose that Jonah was displeased that the mercy of God should be extended to heathen, and especially to heathen who were the enemies and future oppressors of his own people, and that he himself should be the messenger of that mercy. This view falls in entirely with the exclusive spirit which marks the Old Testament dispensation, while it brings out into bold relief the liberal and Catholic spirit of the New Testament, which it is the object of this book to inculcate.

Ch. Jonah 4:1-11. Jonah’s Displeasure, and its Rebuke

Greatly displeased at the clemency of God towards Nineveh, Jonah confesses that it was the expectation that that clemency would be exercised, which rendered him unwilling to undertake the divine mission at the first, and in his annoyance and chagrin requests that he may die, 1–3. Met by the calm appeal to reason, which however he is in no mood to entertain, Doest thou well to be angry? Jonah goes out of the city, and constructs in the immediate vicinity a booth or hut, under the shelter of which he may dwell and watch, till the forty days are expired, what the fate of Nineveh will be, 4, 5. Intending to correct and instruct him by an acted parable, in which he himself should bear the chief part, God causes a wide-spreading plant to spring up and cover his booth with its refreshing shade. But scarcely has Jonah begun to enjoy the welcome shelter from the burning rays of the sun thus afforded him, when God, in pursuit of His lesson, causes the plant to be attacked by insects, which rapidly strip it of its protecting leaves and cause it to wither away, 6, 7. Once again, the hand that governs all things sets in motion, like the blast of a furnace, the burning wind of the desert, and the sun’s unbroken rays pour down on the now defenceless head of Jonah, so that faint and weary, beneath the weight of bodily distress and mental disappointment, he urges anew his passionate complaint, Better for me to die than to live! 7, 8. And now the parable is complete, and only needs to be applied and interpreted. Thou couldst have pity upon a short-lived plant, which cost thee and which owed thee nothing; thou art angry and justifiest thine anger, even unto death, for its loss; and shall not I, the Maker and the Lord of all, have pity upon a great city, which, apart from its adult population who might seem to have deserved their doom, numbers its six-score thousand innocent children, and “very much cattle”—they too “much better than” a plant? 9–11.Verses 1-11. - JONAH'S DISPLEASURE AND ITS CORRECTION. Verses 1-4. - 1. Jonah is grieved at the sparing of Nineveh, the expectation of which had led to his former flight, and complains of God's clemency. Verse 1. - It displeased Jonah exceedingly; literally, it was evil to Jonah, a great evil. It was more than mere displeasure which he felt; he was vexed and irritated. The reference is to what is said in the last verse of the preceding chapter, viz. that the predicted destruction was not inflicted. How the knowledge of this reprieve was conveyed to the prophet we am not informed. It probably was made known to him before the expiration of the forty days by Divine communication, in accordance with the saying in Amos 3:7, "Surely the Lord will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets" (see ver. 5). Various reasons have been assigned for this displeasure.

(1) Personal pique, lest, his prediction having failed, he should be liable to the charge of being a false prophet.

(2) Zeal for the honour of God, whose knowledge of the future might be discredited among the heathen, when they saw his own servant's words unfulfilled.

(3) Because he saw in this conversion of Gentiles a token of the ruin of his own people, who remained always hardened and impenitent.

(4) A mistaken patriotism, which could not endure to find mercy extended to a heathen nation which had already proved hostile to Israel and was destined to oppress it still further. This last seem to have been the real ground of his annoyance. So deep was this, that he would gladly have seen the sentence executed even after the city had repented (comp. ver. 11, "Should not I spare Nineveh," i.e. which thou wouldst have me even now destroy?) He was very angry; Septuagint, συνεχύθη, "was confounded." His vexation increased unto anger. The same thing may be said of the fourth chastisement mentioned in Amos 4:10, "I have sent pestilence among you in the manner of Egypt, have slain your young men with the sword, together with the booty of your horses, and caused the stench of your camps to ascend, and that into your nose; and ye have not returned to me, is the saying of Jehovah." In the combination of pestilence and sword (war), the allusion to Leviticus 26:25 is unmistakeable (compare Deuteronomy 28:60, where the rebellious are threatened with all the diseases of Egypt). בּדרך מצרים, in the manner (not in the road) of Egypt (compare Isaiah 10:24, Isaiah 10:26; Ezekiel 20:30), because pestilence is epidemic in Egypt. The idea that there is any allusion to the pestilence with which God visited Egypt (Exodus 9:3.), is overthrown by the circumstance that it is only a dreadful murrain that is mentioned there. The slaying of the youths or young men points to overthrow in war, which the Israelites endured most grievously in the wars with the Syrians (compare 2 Kings 8:12; 2 Kings 13:3, 2 Kings 13:7). עם שׁבי סוּסילם does not mean together with, or by the side of, the carrying away of your horses, i.e., along with the fact that your horses were carried away; for שׁבי does not mean carrying away captive, but the captivity, or the whole body of captives. The words are still dependent upon הרגתּי, and affirm that even the horses that had been taken perished, - a fact which is also referred to in 2 Kings 13:7. From the slain men and animals forming the camp the stench ascended, and that into their noses, "as it were, as an 'azkârâh of their sins" (Hitzig), but without their turning to their God.
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