Jonah 4 - Jonah gets an object lesson from God
4 But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. 2 He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. 3 Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
4 But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?”
5 Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. 6 Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. 7 But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. 8 When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”
9 But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”
“It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”
10 But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”
What an interesting end to one of the most interesting books in the bible! In chapter 3, Jonah’s brief (very brief) proclamation to Nineveh had God’s desired effect and they repented … saving the city. Now Jonah’s very unhappy (“… Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live”). He clearly had hoped for a different outcome.
God then provided an object lesson for Jonah. He gives Jonah safety from the weather by way of a large plant. The next day God takes away that temporary “housing” and Jonah and again becomes angry at how the world (and God?) is treating him. So angry in fact, that he wishes he were dead. He certainly has “issues”. As evident here and elsewhere in the Bible, God works through real people.
Jonah hoped that Nineveh wouldn’t repent and God’s wrath would rain down on the city and destroy it (bringing to mind the Sodom/Gomorrah story). This would have secured Jonah’s reputation as a prophet of God. Jonah was so concerned about himself, he was prepared to even have God punish 120,000 children (“people who cannot tell their right hand from their left”) and the animals of Nineveh so that his prophecy would come true. How utterly selfish and arrogant of Jonah. Fortunately, “God is God and we are not” (as Delton often tells us). Nineveh’s true repentance brought God’s forgiveness. His compassion reigns supreme. Who is Jonah, and who are we, to second-guess God’s actions?