Jonah 4:4
Then said the LORD, Do you well to be angry?
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(4) Doest thou well? . . .—This rendering may be supported by Deuteronomy 5:28; Jeremiah 1:12, and agrees better with the context than the marginal translation, which follows the LXX., and is undoubtedly a very likely rendering of the Hebrew idiom if taken by itself. Jonah apparently gave his own interpretation to the question, one that suited his mood, “Is thine anger just?” Such a question might imply that the doom of the city was only deferred, and that he had been too hasty in giving up the fulfilment of his prediction. Accordingly he went outside the walls, and sat down to watch what the issue would be. On the other hand, the rendering “Art thou so very angry?” suits best the reply in Jonah 4:9, “I am very angry, even to death.” Probably the Hebrew word, like the French bien, kept both its original and derived meaning, and must be rendered well or very, according to the context.

Jonah 4:4-9. Doest thou well to be angry? — What a mild reproof was this from God, for such a passionate behaviour as Jonah manifested! Here the prophet experienced that Jehovah was a gracious God, merciful, and slow to anger. Here we learn by the highest example, that of God himself, how mild and gentle we ought to be if we would be like him, even to those who carry themselves toward us in the most unreasonable and unjustifiable manner. So Jonah went out of the city — The words should rather have been rendered, Now Jonah had gone out of the city: for the particulars related in the foregoing verses took place after his departing out of the city, and sitting somewhere in view of it, expecting some extraordinary judgment to come upon it; but being disappointed, he broke out into that expostulation with God already mentioned. We may observe, in this book, several instances of facts related first, and then the manner how these facts were brought about explained afterward. And sat on the east side of the city — Probably in a place where he could best see the city; and there made him a booth — A little cot, or shed of twigs. Or, a shelter, as Bishop Newcome translates the word, observing, that it signifies both an artificial cover, such as a tent, or booth, and also a natural one, as Job 38:40; Jeremiah 25:38, where it is used of the covert of a lion. The LXX. render it σκηνη, a tent; and the Vulgate, umbraculum, a little shed. And the Lord prepared a gourd — This is supposed to be spoken of a shrub growing in Palestine, bearing broad and very thick leaves, so that it affords a great shade. Bochart, Hiller, and Celsius say, that the ricinus, or palma- christi, is here meant; a supposition which is favoured by its height, which is that of the olive, the largeness of its leaves, which are like those of the vine, and the quickness of its growth: see Pliny, Nat. Hist., lib. 15. cap. 7. Whatever kind of plant it was that shaded Jonah, we may justly attribute a miraculous growth to it. Indeed the relation in the text evidently supposes that, saying that God made it to come up over Jonah: that it might be a shadow, &c., to deliver him from his grief — That is, from the inconvenience which he felt from the heat. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd — As vehement in his joy now as in his grief before. His passions were strong, and easily moved by trifling events, whether of an agreeable or disagreeable nature. We are not told that Jonah saw the hand of God in this plant’s rising up so suddenly to shelter him, or that he was thankful to God for it. But God prepared — That is, sent, or excited, a worm — By the same power which caused the gourd suddenly to spring up and spread itself. And it smote the gourd — Early next morning it bit the root, so that the whole gourd withered. And when the sun did arise — That is, when it was got to some height; for the day-break is spoken of before, and this seems to signify some space of time after that: besides, the sun’s being described as beating on the head of Jonah, shows that an advance in the day is here intended; God prepared a vehement east wind — The winds in the hot countries, when they blow from the sandy deserts, are oftentimes more suffocating than the heat of the sun, and they make the sun-beams give a more intense heat. The sun beat upon the head of Jonah that he fainted — Was overpowered by the heat, and ready to faint. And wished himself to die — As he had done before; and said, It is better for me to die than to live — But Jonah must be made more wise, humble, and compassionate too, before it will be better for him to die than to live. And before God hath done with him, he will teach him to value his own life more, and to be more tender of the lives of others. And God said, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? — For an insignificant, short-lived plant? God adds this circumstance to the question before proposed, that Jonah might be his own judge, and at once condemn his own passions, justify God’s patience and mercy, and acquiesce with satisfaction in God’s merciful dealings with the inhabitants of Nineveh. And he said, I do well to be angry — When a similar question was asked before, he was silent; but now he is out of all patience, and quarrels openly and rudely with God, who had spared Nineveh, which Jonah thought ought to have been consumed as Sodom, or as the old world was. Even unto death — I have just cause to be angry, even to that degree as to wish myself dead. The prophet here records his own sin, without concealing any circumstance of it, as Moses and other holy writers have done.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 the Lord said, Doest thou well to be angry? - o God, being appealed to, answers the appeal. So does He often in prayer, by some secret voice, answer the inquirer. There is right anger against the sin. Moses' anger was right, when he broke the tables. Exodus 32:19. God secretly suggests to Jonah that his anger was not right, as our Lord instructed Luke 9:55. James and John that "theirs" was not. The question relates to the quality, not to the greatness of his anger. It was not the vehemence of his passionate desire for Israel, which God reproves, but that it was turned against the Ninevites . "What the Lord says to Jonah, he says to all, who in their office of the cure of souls are angry. They must, as to this same anger, be recalled into themselves, to regard the cause or object of their anger, and weigh warily and attentively whether they "do well to be angry." For if they are angry, not with men but with the sins of men, if they hate and persecute, not men, but the vices of men, they are rightly angry, their zeal is good. But if they are angry, not with sins but with men, if they hate, not vices but men, they are angered amiss, their zeal is bad. This then which was said to one, is to be watchfully looked to and decided by all, 'Doest thou well to be angry? '" 4. Doest thou well to be angry?—or grieved; rather as the Margin, "Art thou much angry," or "grieved?" [Fairbairn with the Septuagint and Syriac]. But English Version suits the spirit of the passage, and is quite tenable in the Hebrew [Gesenius]. Then, so soon as Jonah’s haste had sinned against his God and his own life, said the Lord; either by voice audible to Jonah, or rather by his Spirit; that Spirit which gave Jonah order to go and preach, now takes order to debate the case.

The Lord, who is now, as Jonah needed he should be, gracious, slow to anger, and of great kindness toward Jonah, else he had not lived a moment longer to repent him of his last sins in this matter.

Doest thou well to be angry? is thy vehement anger warrantable? or will this anger of thine do good to thyself or others? Think well of it, whether thou dost act like a prophet, like one that feareth God, or like a man, in this thine anger? Then said the Lord, dost thou well to be angry? A mild and gentle reproof this; which shows him to be a God gracious and merciful, and slow to anger; he might have answered Jonah's passionate wish, and struck him dead at once, as Ananias and Sapphira were; but he only puts this question, and leaves it with him to consider of. Some render it, "is doing good displeasing to thee?" (y) art thou angry at that, because I do good to whom I will? so R. Japhet, as Aben Ezra observes, though he disapproves of it: according to this the sense is, is doing good to the Ninevites, showing mercy to them upon their repentance, such an eyesore to thee? is thine eye evil, because mine is good? so the Scribes and Pharisees indeed were displeased with Christ for conversing with publicans and sinners, which was for the good of their souls; and the elder brother was angry with his father for receiving the prodigal; and of the same cast Jonah seems to be, at least at this time, being under the power of his corruptions. There seems to be an emphasis upon the word "thou"; dost "thou" well to be angry? what, "thou", a creature, be angry with his Creator; a worm, a potsherd of the earth, with the God of heaven and earth? what, "thou", that hast received mercy thyself in such an extraordinary manner, and so lately, and be angry at mercy shown to others? what, "thou", a prophet of the Lord, that should have at heart the good of immortal souls, and be displeased that thy ministry has been the means of the conversion and repentance of so many thousands? is there any just cause for all this anger? no, it is a causeless one; and this is put to the conscience of Jonah; he himself is made judge in his own cause; and it looks as if, upon self-reflection and reconsideration, when his passions cooled and subsided, that he was self-convicted and self-condemned, since no answer is returned. The Targum is,

"art thou exceeding angry?''

and so other interpreters, Jewish and Christian (z), understand it of the vehemency of his anger.

(y) "num benefacere ira est tibi?" Montanus. (z) "Nonne vehemens ira est tibi?" Pagninus; "numquid vehementer indignaris, multumne (valdene) iratus est?" Vatablus; so Kimchi and R. Sol. Urbin. Ohel Moed, fol. 47. 2.

Then said the LORD, Doest thou well to be {d} angry?

(d) Will you judge when I do things for my glory, and when I do not?

4. Doest thou well to be angry?] Two other translations of these words have been suggested. One, which though perhaps possible is far-fetched and highly improbable, is, “Does (my) doing good (that is, to Nineveh in sparing it) make thee angry?” the reproof then being similar to that in Matthew 20:15, “Is thine eye evil because I am good?” The other, which is given in the margin both of A.V. and R.V., “Art thou greatly angry?” is fully borne out by the Hebrew, but, as has been truly said, it “is in this context almost pointless.” But the rendering of the text is in accordance with Hebrew usage (comp. “They have well said all that they have spoken,” Deuteronomy 5:28 [Heb. 25]; “Thou hast well seen,” Jeremiah 1:12) and gives a much more forcible sense. It is the gentle question of suggested reproof, designed to still the tumult of passion and lead to consideration and reflection. God does not as a judge condemn Jonah’s unreasonable anger, but invites him to judge and condemn himself.Verse 4 - Doest thou well to be angry? Septuagint, Αἰ σφόδρα λελύπησαι σύ; "Hast thou been greatly grieved?" Vulgate, Putasne bene irasceris tu? The English Version is doubtless correct. God bids him consider with himself whether his anger is reasonable. The version of the LXX., however grammatically permissible, is somewhat pointless. "Therefore thus will I do to thee, O Israel; because I will do this to thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel. Amos 4:13. For, behold, He that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind, and maketh known to man what is his thought; who maketh dawn, darkness, and goeth over the high places of the earth, Jehovah God of hosts is His name." The punishment which God is now about to inflict is introduced with lâkhēn (therefore). כּה אעשׁה cannot point back to the punishment threatened in Amos 4:2, Amos 4:3, and still less to the chastisements mentioned in Amos 4:6-11; for lâkhēn kōh is always used by Amos to introduce what is about to ensue, and any retrospective allusion to Amos 4:6-11 is precluded by the future אעשׂה. What Jehovah is now about to do is not expressed here more iratorum, but may clearly be discerned from what follows. "When He has said, 'This will I do to thee,' He is silent as to what He will do, in order that, whilst Israel is left in uncertainty as to the particular kind of punishment (which is all the more terrible because all kinds of things are imagined), it may repent of its sins, and so avert the things which God threatens here" (Jerome). Instead of an announcement of the punishment, there follows in the words, "Because I will do this to thee (זאת pointing back to כּה), prepare to meet thy God," a summons to hold themselves in readiness liqra'th 'ĕlōhı̄m (in occursum Dei), i.e., to stand before God thy judge. The meaning of this summons has been correctly explained by Calvin thus: "When thou seest that thou hast resorted in vain to all kinds of subterfuges, since thou never wilt be able to escape from the hand of thy judge; see now at length that thou dost avert this last destruction which is hanging over thee." But this can only be effected "by true renewal of heart, in which men are dissatisfied with themselves, and submit with changed heart to God, and come as suppliants, praying for forgiveness." For if we judge ourselves, we shall not be judged by the Lord (1 Corinthians 11:31). This view is shown to be the correct one, by the repeated admonitions to seek the Lord and live (Amos 5:4, Amos 5:6; cf. Amos 5:14). To give all the greater emphasis to this command, Amos depicts God in Amos 4:13 as the Almighty and Omniscient, who creates prosperity and adversity. The predicates applied to God are to be regarded as explanations of אלהיך, prepare to meet thy God; for it is He who formeth mountains, etc., i.e., the Almighty, and also He who maketh known to man מה־שּׂחו, what man thinketh, not what God thinketh, since שׂח equals שׂיח is not applicable to God, and is only used ironically of Baal in 1 Kings 18:27. The thought is this: God is the searcher of the heart (Jeremiah 17:10; Psalm 139:2), and reveals to men by prophets the state of their heart, since He judges not only the outward actions, but the inmost emotions of the heart (cf. Hebrews 4:12). עשׂה שׁחר עיפה might mean, He turns morning dawn into darkness, since עשׂה may be construed with the accusative of that into which anything is made (compare Exodus 30:25, and the similar thought in Amos 5:8, that God darkens the day into night). But both of these arguments simply prove the possibility of this explanation, not that it is either necessary or correct. As a rule, where עשׂה occurs, the thing into which anything is made is introduced with ל (cf. Genesis 12:2; Exodus 32:10). Here, therefore, ל may be omitted, simply to avoid ambiguity. For these reasons we agree with Calvin and others, who take the words as asyndeton. God makes morning-dawn and darkness, which is more suitable to a description of the creative omnipotence of God; and the omission of the Vav may be explained very simply from the oratorical character of the prophecy. To this there is appended the last statement: He passes along over the high places of the earth, i.e., He rules the earth with unlimited omnipotence (see at Deuteronomy 32:13), and manifests Himself thereby as the God of the universe, or God of hosts.
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