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JONAH CHAPTER 4
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.
And he prayed; in a strange distempered humour sets about this work, and accordingly manageth it; when he designs to pray, his turbulent affections hurry him into unseemly contests and quarrels with God, yet since he fell on his knees with purpose to pray to God, the Scriptures report it as his prayer to the Lord.
And said; either spake it out in words, or else thus reasoned within himself, and now leaves it recorded what were his words, or his thoughts.
I pray thee, O Lord: this begins his complaint, or quarrel against the Lord.
Was not this my saying? did I not think of this? was I not apprehensive that it would be so I should preach avenging justice, and thou wouldst exercise pardoning mercy; thy pardon would contradict my preaching?
In my country; either in Canaan, or Galilee, or in Gath-hepher, where had I died, and never been a prophet to Nineveh, I had ever had the reputation of a true prophet, but now at Nineveh I shall be reported a false dreamer.
Therefore I fled; there was reason for what I did when I declined the message, and fled away from thy presence: he seems to justify that flight which God condemned in him by a miraculous punishment inflicted on him,
Unto Tarshis: see Jonah 1:3.
For I knew; he might know it by God’s dealings with so exorbitantly passionate a man as Jonah himself was, but he knew it from God’s account of himself, Exodus 34:6,Exodus 34:7, and many other places of the Scripture.
That thou art a gracious God, who hath bowels of compassion, a heart that is a fountain of tender mercy.
And merciful; readily expressing his compassions toward sinners that need and sue for mercy.
Slow to anger; who dost wait long for the sinner’s return, and dost not hasten thy executions.
And of great kindness; and when provoked thou art yet of an infinite goodness lenity, and kindness, and forgivest the sinner that repenteth.
And repentest thee of the evil: see Amos 3:9,Amos 3:10.
Therefore, Heb. And now; now presently, let no time slip. O Lord, who art, as the only Author, so the great Arbiter of life; the mighty and eternal God. His sovereignty was enough to command Jonah’s reverence, but Jonah forgets himself and his God.
Take, I beseech thee, life from me: in a peevish humour Jonah is weary of his life, and prays for death; yet in this request some mixture there is of grace with passion; somewhat of mercy from God to Jonah, in that he doth not give him up to his own passion; and Jonah, as weary as he is, yet will live till God will take away his life.
It is better for me to die; it is more desirable to me to die and be buried, for then my prophesying that never came to pass will be soon forgotten; however, I shall never more blush at the rebukes the world will cast upon me.
Than to live, disgraced and upbraided by atheists and hardened sinners, who will reflect the lie upon me or on my God.
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?
So, when the Lord had taken notice and reproved the passions of Jonah, and made some impression on his mind for the present,
Jonah went out of the city; discontented in himself, and doubtful of the issue whether God would be more tender of the life of multitudes or of Jonah’s credit, the prophet withdrew himself, and waits; how long we have not any ground of conjecture.
And sat; put himself into a posture of waiting, and therefore, to repose himself, rather sat than stood.
On the east side of the city; which in likelihood was some higher ground, the city standing on the east banks of Tigris; the further he went east, the higher the ground was, and the safer, from the uncertain manner of the city’s overthrow.
Made him a booth; some small and mean shed for shade and shelter, usually made of green boughs.
And sat under it in the shadow; these boughs, thus pitched and made into a booth, afforded some shadow, in which Jonah reposed him.
Till he might see what would become of the city: by this passage it should seem the forty days were not fully expired, nor yet wanted much of expiring, and Jonah seems resolved there to expect the event of the city.
Prepared; commanded that in the place where Jonah’s booth stood, this herb, or spreading plant, should spring up to be a shade when the gathered boughs are withered.
A gourd: it is not certain what this was; some say ivy; others say it was palma christi, or five-leaved, whose leaves are so set as to resemble a man’s hand, or a wild vine or colocyntha; nor is it very material we should search further into the nature of this קיקיון in the text, it was some wild plant with long and broad leaves, which suddenly grew, spread itself, and made a good shade.
Made it to come up; God gate it a speedy growth, and directed the growth that it should cover the top of the booth, and be a shade to Jonah against the vehemence of the sun, which did shine very parchingly hot in those countries.
To deliver him from his grief; to give some ease to his mind, refresh his natural spirits, much discomposed by the violence of his passions and by the violent heat of the sun. It is probable this grief was some extreme fit of continued head-ache.
Exceeding glad; as vehement in his joy now as in his grief before; he was a man of great affections, whatever moved them.
Of the gourd; his ease by the gourd made him glad of it, and I observe that here is no mention made of Jonah’s seeing God in it.
But God, by the same power which caused the gourd suddenly, and to Jonah’s great joy, to spring, grow, and spread itself as a canopy,
prepared also a
worm, what, is not said, some contemptible grub that was not seen by Jonah; which early next morning, i.e. by break of day, bit the root, so that the whole gourd suddenly withered.
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.
Doest thou well to be angry? see Jonah 4:4.
For the gourd: God adds this to the same question before proposed, that Jonah might be his own judge, and at once condemn his own passions, justify God’s patience and mercy, and submit himself with satisfaction in that God had spared Nineveh.
And he, Jonah, said; passionately answers for himself: whereas he was silent, Jonah 4:4, now he is out of all patience, and quarrels highly against God, who had spared Nineveh, which Jonah thought should have been consumed as Sodom, or as the old world; but he feels in himself a heat almost as devouring as he wished to the Ninevites; thus unexpectedly crossed he flies out against God himself.
I do well to be angry, even unto death; if in the violence of this passion I should die, (as we know some have,) yet I were not to blame: thus he tacitly chargeth God with hardly using Jonah, and breaking his heart, though he had come a long journey to deliver a message he would fain have been excused from. So exorbitant and unreasonable is Jonah’s anger.
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,
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.
And should not; may not by virtue of my sovereignty, pity, spare, or pardon if I will? or is there not good reason to incline me to do it, and to justify my doing it?
I; God of infinite compassions and goodness.
Spare Nineveh, a mighty city: Jonah, thou hast pity on a sorry shrub, and shall thy God be by thee confined that he should not have pity on a vast and mighty city?
That great city; a stately structure, which cost immense treasures, was the labour of almost one million and half of labourers, through eight years, the great wonder of that world. Thy gourd, Jonah, may not be named in the day with this; only in a passion this must be ruined to please thee, and thy gourd must not lest it displease thee. Is this equal? wouldst thou have me less merciful to such a goodly city, than thou art to a weed?
Wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand: it was a single gourd Jonah pitied, and is angry that it was smitten; here are many hundred thousands of men and women, which I have pitied and spared. Here are more than sixscore thousand innocents who are infants, who are my creatures made for eternity, who grow slowly under my care and charge, whom I value as my own; and, peevish Jonah, wilt thou not allow me (who can) to show pity to mine own invaluable creatures, when thou pitiest what is neither thine nor valuable? Had it been thine, this might have required thy affection; had it been of worth, this might have excused thy earnestness for it; but all this aggravates thy fierce and cruel passion against Nineveh.
And also much cattle: beside men, women, and children who are in Nineveh, there are many others of my creatures that are not sinful, and my tender mercies are and shall be over all my works. If thou wouldst be their butcher, yet I will be their God. I know what becomes me, God of prophets; and though once I hearkened to Elijah to send fire from heaven on contemptuous sinners, yet it is not meet to send fire from heaven upon repenting Nineveh. I know how to impress their minds with a continued belief that Jonah came from God to preach repentance, and that it was their repentance prevented their overthrow; I can salve thy credit, Jonah, and yet not humour thy cruelty. Go, Jonah, rest thyself content, and be thankful: that goodness, mercy, and kindness which spared Nineveh, hath spared thee in this thy inexcusable frowardness. I will be to repenting Nineveh what I am to thee, God gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness, and I will turn from the evil thou and they deserve.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Jonah 4". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19