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:
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(10) Which came up.—The original is one of those forcible idioms impossible to reproduce, which son of a night was, and son of a night perished.

Jonah 4:10. Then said the Lord — Jonah having thus showed his love and pity for the gourd, God proceeds to judge him out of his own mouth; Thou hast had pity on the gourd, &c. — Thou deplorest the loss of the gourd, and thinkest it a severe misfortune to thee, and hard that thou shouldest be deprived of it, though it was not made by thee, came up without any labour of thine, and was by its nature of a short duration: — if this is the case with thee in regard to a mean, short-lived plant, think how unjustly thou judgest, when thou condemnest my mercy toward the Ninevites! How much more severe would it have been to have destroyed a whole city, in the ruin of which many innocent creatures, as children and brute animals, must necessarily have been involved; and, what is still more awful, many immortal beings have been plunged into everlasting misery! If thou supposest I ought to have spared or preserved the gourd, because it shaded thee from the heat; think how much more my essential goodness and kindness toward my creatures, the work of my hands, must incline me to spare them whenever it can be done any way consistently with my justice or the laws of my government.

4:5-11 Jonah went out of the city, yet remained near at hand, as if he expected and desired its overthrow. Those who have fretful, uneasy spirits, often make troubles for themselves, that they may still have something to complain of. See how tender God is of his people in their afflictions, even though they are foolish and froward. A thing small in itself, yet coming seasonably, may be a valuable blessing. A gourd in the right place may do us more service than a cedar. The least creatures may be great plagues, or great comforts, as God is pleased to make them. Persons of strong passions are apt to be cast down with any trifle that crosses them, or to be lifted up with a trifle that pleases them. See what our creature-comforts are, and what we may expect them to be; they are withering things. A small worm at the root destroys a large gourd: our gourds wither, and we know not what is the cause. Perhaps creature-comforts are continued to us, but are made bitter; the creature is continued, but the comfort is gone. God prepared a wind to make Jonah feel the want of the gourd. It is just that those who love to complain, should never be left without something to complain of. When afflicting providences take away relations, possessions, and enjoyments, we must not be angry at God. What should especially silence discontent, is, that when our gourd is gone, our God is not gone. Sin and death are very dreadful, yet Jonah, in his heat, makes light of both. One soul is of more value than the whole world; surely then one soul is of more value than many gourds: we should have more concern for our own and others' precious souls, than for the riches and enjoyments of this world. It is a great encouragement to hope we shall find mercy with the Lord, that he is ready to show mercy. And murmurers shall be made to understand, that how willing soever they are to keep the Divine grace to themselves and those of their own way, there is one Lord over all, who is rich in mercy to all that call upon him. Do we wonder at the forbearance of God towards his perverse servant? Let us study our own hearts and ways; let us not forget our own ingratitude and obstinacy; and let us be astonished at God's patience towards us.Thou hadst pity on the palm-christ - In the feeling of our common mortality, the soul cannot but yearn over decay. Even a drooping flower is sad to look on, so beautiful, so frail. It belongs to this passing world, where nothing lovely abides, all things beautiful hasten to cease to be. The natural God-implanted feeling is the germ of the spiritual. 10, 11. The main lesson of the book. If Jonah so pities a plant which cost him no toil to rear, and which is so short lived and valueless, much more must Jehovah pity those hundreds of thousands of immortal men and women in great Nineveh whom He has made with such a display of creative power, especially when many of them repent, and seeing that, if all in it were destroyed, "more than six score thousand" of unoffending children, besides "much cattle," would be involved in the common destruction: Compare the same argument drawn from God's justice and mercy in Ge 18:23-33. A similar illustration from the insignificance of a plant, which "to-day is and to-morrow is cast into the oven," and which, nevertheless, is clothed by God with surpassing beauty, is given by Christ to prove that God will care for the infinitely more precious bodies and souls of men who are to live for ever (Mt 6:28-30). One soul is of more value than the whole world; surely, then, one soul is of more value than many gourds. The point of comparison spiritually is the need which Jonah, for the time being, had of the foliage of the gourd. However he might dispense with it at other times, now it was necessary for his comfort, and almost for his life. So now that Nineveh, as a city, fears God and turns to Him, God's cause needs it, and would suffer by its overthrow, just as Jonah's material well-being suffered by the withering of the gourd. If there were any hope of Israel's being awakened by Nineveh's destruction to fulfil her high destination of being a light to surrounding heathenism, then there would not have been the same need to God's cause of Nineveh's preservation, (though there would have always been need of saving the penitent). But as Israel, after judgments, now with returning prosperity turns back to apostasy, the means needed to vindicate God's cause, and provoke Israel, if possible, to jealousy, is the example of the great capital of heathendom suddenly repenting at the first warning, and consequently being spared. Thus Israel would see the kingdom of heaven transplanted from its ancient seat to another which would willingly yield its spiritual fruits. The tidings which Jonah brought back to his countrymen of Nineveh's repentance and rescue, would, if believingly understood, be far more fitted than the news of its overthrow to recall Israel to the service of God. Israel failed to learn the lesson, and so was cast out of her land. But even this was not an unmitigated evil. Jonah was a type, as of Christ, so also of Israel. Jonah, though an outcast, was highly honored of God in Nineveh; so Israel's outcast condition would prove no impediment to her serving God's cause still, if only she was faithful to God. Ezekiel and Daniel were so at Babylon; and the Jews, scattered in all lands as witnesses for the one true God, pioneered the way for Christianity, so that it spread with a rapidity which otherwise was not likely to have attended it [Fairbairn]. Then, when Jonah had showed his affection of love and pity to the gourd,

said the Lord; showed Jonah the little reason he had to concern himself for the gourd, and the great reason God had on his side in pitying and sparing Nineveh.

Thou, a man, of narrow and uneven compassions,

hast both

had and showed pity on the gourd, a common and worthless weed.

For the which thou hast not laboured; it was not the work of thy hand to set it.

Neither madest it grow; nor didst thou water, and give growth to it; it was not thine.

Which came up, as a mushroom, was the birth of one night,

and perished, died, and was only fit for the fire when withered, in a night; with equal suddenness withered.

Then said the Lord, thou hast had pity on the gourd,.... Or, "hast spared it" (c); that is, would have spared it, had it lain in his power, though but a weeds and worthless thing:

for the which thou hast not laboured; in digging the ground, and by sowing or planting it; it being raised up at once by the Lord himself, and not by any, human art and industry; nor by any of his:

neither madest it grow; by dunging the earth about it, or by watering and pruning it:

which came up in a night, and perished in a night; not in the same night; for it sprung up one night, continued a whole any, and then perished the next night. The Targum is more explicit,

"which was in this (or one) night, and perished in another night;''

by all which the Lord suggests to Jonah the vast difference between the gourd he would have spared, and for the loss of which he was so angry, and the city of Nineveh the Lord spared, which so highly displeased him; the one was but an herb, a plant, the other a great city; that a single plant, but the city consisted of thousands of persons; the plant was not the effect of his toil and labour, but the inhabitants of this city were the works of God's hands. In the building of this city, according to historians (d) a million and a half of men were employed eight years together; the plant was liken mushroom, it sprung up in a night, and perished in one; whereas this was a very ancient city, that had stood ever since the days of Nimrod.

(c) "pepercisiti", Pagninus, Montanus, Mercerus, Burkius; "pepercisses", Piscator. (d) Eustathius in Dionys. Perieg. p. 125.

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:
10. for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow] The principle on which the contrast implied by these words rests is that the effort which we have bestowed upon any object, the degree in which our powers of mind or heart or body have been expended upon it, in a word what it has cost us, is a measure of our regard for it. No claim of this kind had the plant on Jonah. No single effort had he made for it. He had not planted, or trained, or watered it, yet he pitied it, and mourned for its decay with a yearning tenderness. But on Almighty God, though the contrast is rather implied than expressed, all creation has such a claim in fullest measure. He “labours” not indeed; He speaks, and it is done; He wills, and it is accomplished. Yet in all things that exist He has the deepest interest. He planned them, He made them, He sustains them, He rules them, He cares for them. His tender mercies are over all His works. “This entire train of thought,” as Kalisch well remarks, “is implied in the following fine lines of the Wisdom of Solomon: ‘The whole world is before Thee as a drop of the morning dew; but Thou hast mercy upon all … and overlookest the sins of men, in order that they may amend; for Thou lovest all the things that are, and disdainest nothing that Thou hast made.… Indeed Thou sparest all, for they are Thine, O Lord, Thou lover of souls.’ Wis 11:22-26.”

came up in a night &c.] lit. was the son of a night, and perished the son of a night, i. e. it came into existence and reached maturity (comp. for this sense of was, And God said Let light be, and light was, Genesis 1:3) in a single night, and no less rapidly (not literally in a single night, for it was when the morning arose) withered away.

10, 11.] The final appeal is forcible and conclusive, a grand and worthy climax to this remarkable book. The contrasts are striking and designed: Thou and I (the pronouns are emphatic, and each of them introduces a member of the comparison), man and God; the short-lived palmchrist and Nineveh that great city; the plant that cost thee nothing, the vast population, the sixscore thousand children, the very much cattle, which I made and uphold continually. Jonah is met upon his own ground, the merely human sentiment of compassion, regard for what is useful and good after its kind, sorrow for its loss, unwillingness to see it perish. The higher moral ground is for the time abandoned. The repentance of the Ninevites is not brought into consideration. But the lower ground is a step to the higher. “The natural God-implanted feeling is the germ of the spiritual.”

Verse 10. - The Lord. Jehovah. closing the story, and driving home the lesson with unanswerable force, the prophet himself being the judge. Thou hast had pity; thou on thy part hast spared; Septuagint, σὺ ἐφείσω. For the which thou hast not laboured; Septuagint, ὑπὲρ η΅ς οὐκ ἐκακοπάθησας ἐπ αὐτήν, "for which thou sufferedst no evil." The more trouble a thing costs us, the more we regard it, as a mother loves her sickly child best. Neither madest it grow. As God had made Nineveh into a "great city." Which came up in a night, and perished in a night; literally, which was the son of a night, and perished the son of a night. The allusion, of course, is to the extraordinary rapidity of the growth and destruction of the gourd. Jonah 4:10On the rising of the dawn of the very next day, God appointed a worm, which punctured the miraculous tree so that it withered away; and when the sun arose He also appointed a sultry east wind, and the sun smote upon Jonah's head, so that he fainted away. Chărı̄shıth, from chârash, to be silent or quiet, is to be taken when used of the wind in the sense of sultry, as in the Chaldee (lxx συγκαίων). The meaning ventus, qualis flat tempore arandi, derived from chârish, the ploughing (Abulw.), or autumnal east wind (Hitzig), is far less suitable. When Jonah fainted away in consequence of the sun-stroke (for hith‛allēph, see at Amos 8:13), he wished himself dead, since death was better for him than life (see Jonah 4:3). ישׁאל את־נפשׁו למוּת, as in 1 Kings 19:4, "he wished that his soul might die," a kind of accusative with the infinitive (cf. Ewald, 336, b). But God answered, as in Jonah 4:4, by asking whether he was justly angry. Instead of Jehovah (Jonah 4:4) we have Elohim mentioned here, and Jehovah is not introduced as speaking till Jonah 4:9. We have here an intimation, that just as Jonah's wish to die was simply an expression of the feelings of his mind, so the admonitory word of God was simply a divine voice within him setting itself against his murmuring. It was not till he had persisted in his ill-will, even after this divine admonition within, that Jehovah pointed out to him how wrong his murmuring was. Jehovah's speaking in Jonah 4:9 is a manifestation of the divine will by supernatural inspiration. Jehovah directs Jonah's attention to the contradiction into which he has fallen, by feeling compassion for the withering of the miraculous tree, and at the same time murmuring because God has had compassion upon Nineveh with its many thousands of living beings, and has spared the city for the sake of these souls, many of whom have no idea whatever of right or wrong. Chastâ: "Thou hast pitied the Qiqayon, at which thou hast not laboured, and which thou hast not caused to grow; for (שׁבּן equals אשׁר בּן) son of a night" - i.e., in a night, or over night - "has it grown, and over night perished, and I should not pity Nineveh?" ואני is a question; but this is only indicated by the tone. If Jonah feels pity for the withering of a small shrub, which he neither planted nor tended, nor caused to grow, shall God not have pity with much greater right upon the creatures whom He has created and has hitherto sustained, and spare the great city Nineveh, in which more than 120,000 are living, who cannot distinguish their right hand from the left, and also much cattle? Not to be able to distinguish between the right hand and the left is a sign of mental infancy. This is not to be restricted, however, to the very earliest years, say the first three, but must be extended to the age of seven years, in which children first learn to distinguish with certainty between right and left, since, according to M. v. Niebuhr (p. 278), "the end of the seventh year is a very common division of age (it is met with, for example, even among the Persians), and we may regard it as certain that it would be adopted by the Hebrews, on account of the importance they attached to the number seven." A hundred and twenty thousand children under seven years of age would give a population of six hundred thousand, since, according to Niebuhr, the number of children of the age mentioned is one-fifth the whole population, and there is no ground for assuming that the proportion in the East would be essentially different. This population is quite in accordance with the size of the city.

(Note: "Nineveh, in the broader sense," says M. v. Niebuhr, "covers an area of about 400 English square miles. Hence there were about 40,000 persons to the square mile. Jones (in a paper on Nineveh) estimates the population of the chief city, according to the area, at 174,000 souls. So that we may reckon the population of the four larger walled cities at 350,000. There remain, therefore, for the smaller places and the level ground, 300,000 men on about sixteen square miles; that is to say, nearly 20,000 men upon the square mile." He then shows, from the agricultural conditions in the district of Elberfeld and the province of Naples, how thoroughly this population suits such a district. In the district of Elberfeld there are, in round numbers, 22,000 persons to the square mile, or, apart from the two large towns, 10,000. And if we take into account the difference in fertility, this is about the same density of population as that of Nineveh. The province of Naples bears a very great resemblance to Nineveh, not only in the kind of cultivation, but also in the fertility of the soil. And there, in round numbers, 46,000 are found to the square mile, or, exclusive of the capital, 22,000 souls.)

Children who cannot distinguish between right and left, cannot distinguish good from evil, and are not yet accountable. The allusion to the multitude of unaccountable children contains a fresh reason for sparing the city: God would have been obliged to destroy so many thousand innocent ones along with the guilty. Besides this, there was "much cattle" in the city. "Oxen were certainly superior to shrubs. If Jonah was right in grieving over one withered shrub, it would surely be a harder and more cruel thing for so many innocent animals to perish" (Calvin). "What could Jonah say to this? He was obliged to keep silence, defeated, as it were, by his own sentence" (Luther). The history, therefore, breaks off with these words of God, to which Jonah could make no reply, because the object of the book was now attained, - namely, to give the Israelites an insight into the true nature of the compassion of the Lord, which embracers all nations with equal love. Let us, however, give heed to the sign of the prophet Jonah, and hold fast to the confession of Him who could say of Himself, "Behold, a greater than Jonah is here!"

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