So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow…
So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, end there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city, etc. Jonah appears to have gone out of the city and taken up his abode in the booth before he knew that Nineveh was to be spared. As Noah entered the ark before the Flood came, and waited for the moment when the judgment of Heaven would verify the warnings of a hundred and twenty years, so Jonah entered his booth before the expiry of the forty days, and waited the moment when the judgment of Heaven would verify his warning. We can imagine him speculating on the form the judgment would take: "what would become of the city" - whether it would perish as Sodom and Gomorrah perished, or as the Tower of Babel, or as the walls of Jericho had fallen down in presence of the ark. That something was to happen he appears not to have had the slightest doubt; this may account for his mortification when he found that, after all, the city was to be spared. The revulsion of feeling after his mind had been wound up to the highest pitch of expectation, and the sense of having been befooled before men, may explain the vehemence of his feeling. In rebuking Jonah it pleased God to do so by means of an acted parable - the parable of the gourd.
I. THE GOURD (or Palma Christi, palmcrist, as some suppose) PREPARED. (Ver. 6.) Further indication how God is Lord of the whole earth and all therein. This book shows God controlling things inorganic (winds and waves, ch. 1., and the east wind, Jonah 4:8); vegetables (the gourd); things fortuitous (the lot); animals (the great fish); reptiles (the worm); also men, both Jonah and the Ninevites. The great object, both of the transactions themselves and of this record of them, is to vindicate the universal sovereignty of God, both natural and moral. The gourd partly natural, partly supernatural; God's purpose in it was to deliver Jonah from his grief. So far as supernatural, a pleasant token that God had not forsaken him. Natural effect to ward off sun, cool the air, prevent feverish irritation, keep mind and body calm and cool. Jonah probably suffered much before it grew up, but would feel immediate relief when it came. Learn herein God's ability to effect important results by simple means-influence of mind on body, and body on mind: "Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd."
II. THE GOURD DESTROYED. (Ver. 7.) Again, an important result due to a trifling cause - a worm. Figuratively and spiritually, "the worm Jacob threshing mountains" (Isaiah 41:15). Apparent collisions and contradictions in nature - one force seems to destroy what another creates - as if there were a Siva as well as a Brahma - in the plan of God all work together - it was alike of God to prepare the gourd and to destroy it - the purposes of Divine discipline often require opposite influences at different times, but all are to be regarded as parts of a gracious plan: "I will sing of mercy and of judgment" (Psalm 101:1); "All things are yours, whether the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come" (1 Corinthians 3:22).
III. JONAH'S VEXATION. (Ver. 8.) Aggravation of his uneasiness by the vehement east wind - whatever comfort of mind might have come through the remarkable origin of the gourd was counteracted by this wind, which seemed a token of God's displeasure - combined distress of body and mind in Jonah - impulsiveness of his nature again apparent contrast between his two faintings - at Jonah 2:7, "when my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord;" here "he fainted, and wished in himself to die" - Jonah his own reprover. The great lesson - we should sit loose to creature comforts, like the gourd - thankful for them while we have them, not repining, and, above all, not despairing, when we lose them. Habakkuk's spirit the model, "Although the fig tree shall not blossom," etc. (Habakkuk 3:17) - Jonah walked by sight, not by faith; he should have said, "When heart and flesh faint and fail, God is the Strength of my heart, and my Portion forevermore."
"But O, thou bounteous Giver of all good,
Thou art of all thy gifts thyself the sum!
Give what thou mayst, without thee we are poor,
And with thee rich, take what thou wilt away." It is impossible to help 'moralizing' on the worm and the gourd They are felt inwardly to be emblems, too faithful, of the swift-coursing, closely linked joy and sorrow of this mortal life. The fine plant, leafy green, type of our comforts, successes, joys. The single day of shade it furnished to the heated prophet... transiency of our pleasure. The worm... a small and mean creature, may be a very formidable enemy. The place of its operations probably under the soil... agents unknown to us may smite in secret the sources of prosperity. The time - morning - human helps and hopes often wither at any season when most needed. Utter loss...warning not to set our affections on anything which can be utterly lost.... The preparation, indicating how God orders trials for our good (Raleigh abridged). "Is it not a blessing when the gourds wither? Is it not a mercy in God to sweep them away, even though the heart should be half broken by the loss?... Many will bless God forever because their gourds were withered. Had the gourd not withered, the soul would not have been saved; and the withering of the gourd therefore makes the anthem of the saved the louder" (Tweedie, 'Man by Nature and by Grace').
IV. GOD'S REMONSTRANCES. (Ver. 9.) Repetition of an old question, and, as before, without evoking a suitable answer. We may note man's self-justifying tendency - especially tendency to excuse passion; excitement of passion is sometimes so great that even a question from God fails to convict - Jonah's mood is so completely self-justifying, that he justifies his wish to die - as if his suffering was really beyond what could be borne. Observe the unbecoming attitude and spirit before God; the true attitude . sinners is that in Romans 3:19, "that every mouth might be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God." Silence is the true condition of the sinner, as far as justifying pleas concerned; or, when silence is broken, such words as the publican's, "God be merciful to me a sinner."
V. DIVINE APPLICATION OF THE GOURD HISTORY. (Vers. 10, 11.) Unexpected, yet felicitous, adaptation of the physical to the moral - light thrown on a dark providence - a foreshadow of revelations of many enigmas of providence yet to come. The argument is ad hominem: If Jonah would have spared his gourd, why should God not spare Nineveh? It is also a fortiori: If the fate of the gourd, a perishing and trifling thing, was an object of concern to Jonah, much more must the fate of such a city as Nineveh be an object of concern to God. Observe the force of the how much more - the numbers so different - the relative endurance of the two objects - the labour bestowed on them - the one sensitive beings, the other not. The special reason for sparing Nineveh; it contained more than a hundred and twenty thousand infants, and also much cattle. God's regard for children is here set forth - in these Eastern countries lives of children were little thought of - infanticide was common - in some countries (Moab, etc.) children were made to pass through the fire to their gods - massacres of children common (Judges 9:5; 2 Kings 2:1) - their lives precious in eyes of God, even though pagan and uncircumcised - a foreshadow of the gospel view: "of such is the kingdom of heaven" - children may peradventure ward off great calamities - children in great cities are often neglected - immense proportion of deaths occurs under the age of five - mostly due to preventible causes - hence sanitary reform becomes a great duty - laws of healthy upbringing of children are most important - spiritual and moral oversight not less so - the New Testament rule is, Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." God's regard for cattle - he likes to see them enjoying life - shrinks from what needlessly entails or destroys it - thoughtless and needless infliction of suffering and death on animals is a great sin in God's eye. The prophet is silenced now - he opens not his mouth. The narrative ends somewhat abruptly; but leaves two great truths full in view - the littleness of man; the greatness of God. The littleness even of a good man, one who in his deliberate judgment and inmost soul honoured God, and sought to serve him, but was very excitable, and could not subdue the poor impulses of the lower part of his nature. The greatness of God, Lord of the earth and the sea, caring for his creatures, not willing that they should perish, but that they should be saved. Especially the greatness of God in clemency, compassion, sparing mercy; for the very attributes that Jonah depreciated are as real as they are noble: "a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repeutest thee of the evil." This is emphatically the gospel aspect of God's character: "just, and the Justifier of him that believeth in Jesus" - rich in mercy and great in love, sending his Son into the world, "that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but should bare everlasting life." Let us cherish the view of the Divine character that Jonah disparaged; it is the only hope lot us sinners. And again let us remember how the men of Nineveh have not passed entirely off the scene, for, as our Lord said, "The men of Nineveh shall rise up in judgment against the men of this generation, and shall condemn them; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and, behold, a greater than Jonah is here." - W.G.B.
Parallel VersesKJV: So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city.