Jonah 4:8
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.
Jump to: BarnesBensonBICalvinCambridgeClarkeDarbyEllicottExpositor'sExp DctGaebeleinGSBGillGrayGuzikHaydockHastingsHomileticsJFBKDKingLangeMacLarenMHCMHCWParkerPoolePulpitSermonSCOTTBWESTSK
(8) Vehement east wind.—The derivation from a root meaning silent (see margin) points to what travellers describe as the “quiet kind of sirocco,” which is often more overpowering than the more boisterous kind. (See Thomson, The Land and the Book, pp. 536, 537.) Ewald, however, derives differently, and makes it a rough, scrapy, stingy wind.

Fainted.—See Jonah 2:7. Here the effect of sunstroke, in Amos 8:13 of thirst

Wished in himself to die.—Literally, wished his soul to die. (Comp. 1Kings 19:4.)

It is better.—The italics are unnecessary, and weaken the passage, Better my death than my life. Physical suffering was now added to the prophet’s chagrin, and, as usual, added to the moral depression. It seemed much worse that the logical consistency of Jonah’s teaching should go for nothing now that he was so uncomfortable.

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.God prepared a vehement - o (The English margin following the Chaldee, "silent," i. e., "sultry").

East wind - The winds in the East, blowing over the sand-deserts, intensely increase the distress of the heat. A sojourner describes on two occasions an Assyrian summer . "The change to summer had been as rapid as that which ushered in the spring. The verdure of the plain had perished almost in a day. Hot winds, coming from the desert, had burned up and carried away the shrubs. The heat was now almost intolerable. Violent whirl-winds occasionally swept over the face of the country." "The spring was now fast passing away; the heat became daily greater; the grain was cut; and the plains and hills put on their summer clothing of dull parched yellow. "The pasture is withered, the herbage faileth; the green grass is not." It was the season too of the Sherghis, or burning winds from the south, which occasionally swept over the face of the country, driving in their short-lived fury everything before them.

We all went below (ground) soon after the sun had risen, and remained there (in the tunnels) without again seeking the open air until it was far down in the Western horizon." The "Sherghi" must be rather the East wind, Sherki, whence Sirocco. At Sulimania in Kurdistan (about 2 12 degrees east of Nineveh, and 34 of a degree south) "the so much dreaded Sherki seems to blow from any quarter, from east to northeast. It is greatly feared for its violence and relaxing qualities," "hot, stormy and singularly relaxing and dispiriting." Suffocating heat is a characteristic of these vehement winds. Morier relates at Bushire ; He continues, "Again from the 23rd to the 25th, the wind blew violently from the southeast accompanied by a most suffocating heat, and continued to blow with the same strength until the next day at noon, when it suddenly veered round to the northwest with a violence equal to what it had blown from the opposite point." And again (p. 97) "When there was a perfect calm, partial and strong currents of air would arise and form whirlwinds which produced high columns of sand all over the plain. They are looked upon as the sign of great heat. Their strength was very various. Frequently they threw down our tents."

Burckhardt, when professedly lessening the general impression as to these winds says, "The worst effect (of the Semoum "a violent southest wind") is that it dries up the water in the skins, and so far endangers the traveler's safety. In one morning 13 of the contents of a full water skin was evaporated. I always observed the whole atmosphere appear as it in a state of combustion; the dust and sand are carried high into the air, which assumes a reddish or blueish or yellowish tint, according to the nature and color of the ground from which the dust arises. The Semoum is not always accompanied by whirlwinds: in its less violent degree it will blow for hours with little force, although with oppressive heat; when the whirlwind raises the dust, it then increases several degrees in heat. In the Semoum at Esne, the thermometer mounted to 121 degrees in the shade, but the air seldom remains longer than a quarter of an hour in that state or longer than the whirlwind lasts.

The most disagreeable effect of the Semoum upon man is, that it stops perspiration, dries up the palate, and produces great restlessness." Travels in Nubia, pp. 204-205.) "A gale of wind blew from the Southward and Eastward with such violence, that three of our largest tents were leveled with the ground. The wind brought with it such hot currents of air, that we thought it might be the precursor of the "Samoun" described by Chardin, but upon inquiry, we found that the autumn was generally the season for that wind. The "Sam" wind commits great ravages in this district. It blows at night from about midnight to sunrise, comes in a hot blast, and is afterward succeeded by a cold one. About 6 years ago, there was a "sam" during the summer months which so totally burned up all the grain, then near its maturity, that no animal would eat a blade of it, nor touch any of its grain."

The sun beat upon the head of Jonah - o. "Few European travelers can brave the perpendicular rays of an Assyrian sun. Even the well-seasoned Arab seeks the shade during the day, and journeys by night, unless driven forth at noontide by necessity, or the love of war."

He wished in himself to die - (literally he asked as to his soul, to die). He prayed for death. It was still the same dependence upon God, even in his self-will. He did not complain, but prayed God to end his life here. When men are already vexed in soul by deep inward griefs, a little thing often oversets patience. Jonah's hopes had been revived by the mercy of the palm-christ; they perished with it. Perhaps he had before him the thought of his great predecessor, Elijah, how he too wished to die, when it seemed that his mission was fruitless. They differed in love. Elijah's preaching, miracles, toil, sufferings, seemed to him, not only to be in vain, but (as they must, if in vain), to add to the guilt of his people. God corrected him too, by showing him his own short-sightedness, that he knew not of "the seven thousand who had not bowed their knees unto Baal," who were, in part, doubtless, "the travail of his soul." Jonah's mission to his people seemed also to be fruitless; his hopes for their well-being were at an end; the temporal mercies of which he had been the prophet, were exhausted; Nineveh was spared; his last hope was gone; the future scourge of his people was maintained in might. The soul shrinks into itself at the sight of the impending visitation of its country. But Elijah's zeal was "for" his people only and the glory of God in it, and so it was pure love. Jonah's was directed "against" the Ninevites, and so had to be purified.

8. vehement—rather, "scorching"; the Margin, "silent," expressing sultry stillness, not vehemence. And it came to pass, after all these passages both in chastising and refreshing Jonah, and after all Jonah’s deportment under them, but more immediately after the withering of the gourd and the loss of the shadow.

When the sun did arise; with the rising of the sun, so early in the morning as the sun arose.

God prepared; by a particular command from God.

A vehement east wind; a dry, scorching, blasting wind wherever it blows, but more than ordinarily so in those climates, and most so when sent out on such an errand by the Lord. Silent, saith the Hebrew. Ruffling winds usually cool the air, but the silent, which blow with even tenor, rather increase the heat of the air. However, this wind was sent to do so, and certainly did it.

The sun beat upon the head of Jonah; did perpetually and vehemently shine, or point its burning beams, upon the-undefended head of Jonah: no wind to cool, no shade to cover, scorched Jonah.

He fainted; overcome by the heat, he was no longer able to stand, but as a fainting man fell down ready to die. His strength of body and his courage of mind also failed him.

Wished in himself to die; in this weakness and pain, in this perplexity of body and mind, he comes once more to a downright impatience and weariness of life.

It is better for me to die than to live; and here he will justify his passion, it is best of the two; but Jonah must be wiser, and humbler, and more merciful too ere he die. Before God hath done with him, he will teach him to value his own life more, and to be more tender of the life of others.

And it came to pass when the sun did arise,.... After that the gourd was smitten and withered; when it was not only risen, but shone out with great force and heat:

that God prepared a vehement east wind; or, "a deafening east wind" (u); which blew so strong, and so loud, as R. Marinus in Aben Ezra and Kimchi say, made people deaf that heard it: or, "a silencing east wind"; which when it blew, all other winds were silent, as Jarchi: or it made men silent, not being to be heard for it: or, "a silent" (w), that is, a still quiet wind, as the Targum; which blew so gently and slowly, that it increased the heat, instead of lessening it: or rather "a ploughing east wind" (x); such as are frequent (y) in the eastern countries, which plough up the dry land, cause the sand to arise and cover men and camels, and bury them in it. Of these winds Monsieur Thevenot (z) speaks more than once; in sandy deserts, between Cairo and Suez, he says,

"it blew so furiously, that I thought all the tents would have been carried away with the wind; which drove before it such clouds of sand, that we were almost buried under it; for seeing nobody could stay outside, without having mouth and eyes immediately filled with sand, we lay under the tents, where the wind drove in the sand above a foot deep round about us;''

and in another place he observes (a).

"from Suez to Cairo, for a day's time or more, we had so hot a wind, that we were forced to turn our backs to it, to take a little breath, and so soon as we opened our mouths they were full of sand;''

such an one was here raised, which blew the sand and dust into the face of Jonah, and almost suffocated him; which, with the heat of the sun, was very afflictive to him:

and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted; the boughs of trees, of which the booth was made, being withered, and his gourd, or whatever plant it was, also, he had nothing to shelter him from the heat of the sun; but the beams of it darted directly upon him, so that he was not able to sustain them; they quite overwhelmed him, and caused him to faint, and just ready to die away:

and wished in himself to die; or, "desired his soul might die" (b); not his rational soul, which was immortal; by this animal or sensitive soul, which he had in common with animals; he wished his animal life might be taken from him, because the distress through the wind and sun was intolerable to him:

and said, it is better for me to die than to live; in so much pain and misery; see Jonah 4:3.

(u) "surdefacientem", Munster; "ex surdentem", Montanus; "surdum", Drusius. (w) "Silentem", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Mercerus, Grotius, Tarnovius; so Stockius, p. 397. and Burkius. (x) "Aratorium", Hyde. (y) Via. Petitsol. Itinera Mundi, p. 146. & Hyde, Not. in ib. (z) Travels, par. 1. B. 2. p. 162. (a) Travels, par. 1. B. 2. ch. 34. p. 177. (b) "animae suae", V. L. Pagninus, Montanus, Cocceius; "animam suam", Burkius.

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.
8. a vehement east wind] Margin, silent. This, or sultry, R.V., is probably the true meaning of the word. “We have two kinds of sirocco,” writes Dr Thomson, “one accompanied with vehement wind which fills the air with dust and fine sand … The sirocco to-day is of the quiet kind, and they are often more overpowering than the others. I encountered one a year ago on my way from Lydd to Jerusalem. There is no living thing abroad to make a noise. The birds hide in thickest shades; the fowls pant under the walls with open mouth and drooping wings; the flocks and herds take shelter in caves and under great rocks; the labourers retire from the fields, and close the windows and doors of their houses; and travellers hasten, as I did, to take shelter in the first cool place they can find. No one has energy enough to make a noise, and the very air is too weak and languid to stir the pendent leaves of the tall poplars.” Land and Book, pp. 536, 537. The occurrence of this wind at sunrise is referred to as a usual thing by St James, James 1:11, where the same Greek word (καύσων) is used for “burning heat” as is used by the LXX. here.

fainted] It is the same word as occurs in Genesis 38:14, “covered her with a veil,” veiled herself, the reference being either to the film that comes over the eyes in fainting and exhaustion, or to the clouding of the mental powers from the same cause. This word is used again of fainting from thirst in Amos 8:13, and a similar word in the same metaphorical sense in ch. Jonah 2:7 of this book, where see note.

wished in himself to die] Lit. asked for his life to die. Exactly the same expression occurs with reference to Elijah when he was fleeing from the wrath of Jezebel, 1 Kings 19:4. The meaning of the phrase seems to be that the prophet, both in the one case and in the other, recognizing that his life was not his own, but God’s, asked for it of Him as a gift or boon, that he might do with it what he pleased. Then the object with which he asked for it, the way in which he would have it disposed of, is expressed by the word “to die,” or “for death.” Hezekiah might have asked for his life, as indeed he did, in his grievous sickness, but it was not “to die,” but “to live.” The example of Elijah may perhaps have been in Jonah’s mind when he penned these words, or even when he gave vent to his impatient desire to die. If the Jewish tradition that Jonah was the son of the widow of Zarephath and the “servant” whom he left at Beersheba, 1 Kings 19:3, could be accepted, this would be the more probable. The cases of the two prophets were however in reality very different. Both were weary of life. Both desired to die. Both gave expression to their desire in the same words. But here the resemblance ends. Elijah’s was a noble disappointment. “On Carmel the great object for which Elijah had lived seemed on the point of being realised. Baal’s prophets were slain, Jehovah acknowledged with one voice: false worship put down. Elijah’s life aim—the transformation of Israel into a kingdom of God—was all but accomplished. In a single day all this bright picture was annihilated.” (Robertson.) But Jonah’s was a far less worthy grief. It was not that God’s kingdom was overthrown in Israel, but that it was extended to the heathen world, that made him weary of his life. Elijah grieved because he had failed in his efforts to convert and save Israel; Jonah because he had succeeded in converting and saving Nineveh.

It is better &c.] The words “It is” which, as the italics in A.V. show, are not in the original, are better omitted: “And said, Better for me to die than to live.”

The excess of Jonah’s joy and grief over the bestowal and loss of the gourd was partly due to his sanguine and impulsive character. But the influence here ascribed to physical circumstances over the mind, especially when it is burdened with a great grief, is very true to nature. “We would fain believe that the mind has power over the body, but it is just as true that the body rules the mind. Causes apparently the most trivial: a heated room—want of exercise—a sunless day—a northern aspect—will make all the difference between happiness and unhappiness, between faith and doubt, between courage and indecision.” (Robertson.)

Verses 8-11. - § 4. Jonah grieves bitterly for the loss of the gourd; and God takes occasion from this to point out the prophet's inconsistency and pitilessness in murmuring against the mercy shown to Nineveh with its multitude of inhabitants. Verse 8. - A vehement east wind; Septuagint, πνεύματι καύσωνι (James 1:11) συγκαίοντι "a scorching, burning wind;" Vulgate, vento calido et urenti (Hosea 13:15). The word translated "vehement" is also rendered "silent," i.e. sultry. Pusey and Hitzig rather incline to think it may mean the autumn or harvest wind. Either interpretation is suitable, as, according to Dr. Thomson, there are two kinds of sirocco, equally destructive and annoying - the violent wind, which fills the air with dust and sand; and the quiet one, when scarcely any air is stirring, but the heat is most overpowering ('The Land and the Book,' p. 536, etc.). Beat upon the head. The same word for the effect of the rays of the sun as in Psalm 121:6 and elsewhere. Trochon quotes Ovid, 'Metam ,' 7:804 -

"Sole fere radiis feriente cacumiua primis."

"The sun with earliest rays
Scarce smiting highest peaks."
Rich, 'Koordistan,' 1:125, "Just as the moon rose, about ten, an intolerable puff of wind came from the northeast. All were immediately silent, as if they had felt an earthquake, and then exclaimed, in a dismal tone, 'The sherki is come.' This was indeed the so much-dreaded sherki, and it has continued blowing ever since with great violence from the east and northeast, the wind being heated like our Bagdad sauna, but I think softer and more relaxing. This wind is the terror of these parts." "Few European travellers," says Layard ('Nin. and Babyl.,' p. 366), "can brave the perpendicular rays of an Assyrian sun. Even the well seasoned Arab seeks the shade during the day, and journeys by night unless driven forth by necessity or the love of war" (quoted by Dr. Pusey, in loc.). He fainted (see note on Amos 8:13, where the fame word is used of the effects of thirst: comp. Jonah 2:7). His position on the east of the city (ver. 5) exposed him to the full force of the scorching sun and wind. Wished in himself to die; literally, asked for his soul to die; Septuagint, ἀπελέγετο τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ, "despaired of his life" (1 Kings 19:4). The expression implies that he asked God to grant him his life to do with it what he liked. In his self-will and impatience he still shows his dependence upon God. He may have had in his mind the precedent of his great master Elijah, though his spirit is very different (see note on ver. 3 above). Better for me to die. His wish for death arose from his now assured conviction that God's mercy was extended to the heathen. He argued from the sudden withering of the gourd that he was not to stay there and see the accomplishment of his wishes, and, in his impatience and intolerance, he would rather die than behold Nineveh converted and saved. Jonah 4:8On 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!"

Jonah 4:8 Interlinear
Jonah 4:8 Parallel Texts

Jonah 4:8 NIV
Jonah 4:8 NLT
Jonah 4:8 ESV
Jonah 4:8 NASB
Jonah 4:8 KJV

Jonah 4:8 Bible Apps
Jonah 4:8 Parallel
Jonah 4:8 Biblia Paralela
Jonah 4:8 Chinese Bible
Jonah 4:8 French Bible
Jonah 4:8 German Bible

Bible Hub

Jonah 4:7
Top of Page
Top of Page