Jonah 4:1-11

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Home > The Old Testament > Jonah > Chapter 4
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Summary[edit]

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Relationship to Jonah. The relationship of Chapter 4 to Jonah as a whole is discussed at Jonah.

Story.

  • Jonah 4:1-4: Jonah is angry that Ninevah’s is saved.
  • Jonah 4:5-6: A gourd grows in a day to provide Jonah with shade.
  • Jonah 4:7-8: A worm kills the gourd in a day, the sun beats Jonah.
  • Jonah 4:8-9: Jonah is angry at the death of the gourd.
  • Jonah 4:10-11: The Lord desires to spare a large city more than a plant.

Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapter 4 include:

Discussion[edit]

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a. The Lord is merciful and kind (4:2)
b. Jonah is angry that Ninevah’s is saved (4:1-4)
c. a gourd grows in a day to provide Jonah with shade (4:5-6)
c. a worm kills the gourd in a day, the sun beats Jonah (4:7-8)
b. Jonah is angry at the death of the gourd (4:8-9)
a. The Lord desires to spare a large city more than a plant (4:10-11)
In chapters 1 and 3 the Lord speaks only to command Jonah to go and preach to Ninevah. In chapter 2 the Lord does not speak at all. But in chapter 4 the Lord engages in an extensive conversation with Jonah.
Jonah is angry that Ninevah is saved from destruction, and the Lord sets out to teach him about the Lord’s view of love (4:1-4). As Jonah sits outside the city to see what will happen to it, the Lord causes a gourd plant to grow up quickly to provide Jonah with shade “to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceedingly glad of the gourd.” But the next day a worm kills the plant, and Jonah is exposed to a vehement east wind and the beating sun. Jonah’s gladness quickly dissipates, he desires to die, and the Lord asks him “Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd?”
The Lord points out that the gourd came and went in the space of only two days and that Jonah had expended no effort in nurturing it. The Lord then compares the gourd to a city of 120,000 people, suggesting that the Lord had spent both time and effort in nurturing the city, and makes the point that such a city is worthy of much more concern than the gourd for which Jonah laments.
This chapter is often recognized as teaching the Lord’s chosen people that they are not the only people he loves, and that his chosen people should share that love and concern for their fellow men.
To again summarize the book of Jonah, the Lord’s justice is inescapable unless one qualifies through repentance for the mercy that he desires to show all his children.
  • Jonah 4:2: Repentest thee of the evil. This phrase also occurs in Joel 2:13. Perhaps a clearer translation is offered by the NRSV with "ready to relent from punishing."
  • Jonah 4:2. In the end, it is this single verse that interprets the whole of the Book of Jonah. Though it might be suggested that Jonah fled his prophetic call because he feared the reaction of the Ninevites, and though it might be suggested that Jonah fled his prophetic call because he was afraid for his own ability, and though there might be a thousand other reasons Jonah might have fled his prophetic call, here Jonah himself explains his flight: "I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil." That completely bizarre reasoning is the whole ground upon which the book rests, and all interpretation of it. So, what does the phrase mean?
It looks, at the very least, as if Jonah were calling the Lord a pushover. Jonah fled the call because he knew that it would result in a retraction of the will of God, thus leaving Jonah to be a sort of false prophet. Jonah seems to have a problem with the Lord's way of getting things done. And this results in his refusal to take up the call.
  • Jonah 4:5: Jonah sitting. Jonah's leaving of the city and sitting under the tree in response to God's word in verse 4 contrasts with the king of Nineveh's sitting in ashes in Jonah 3:6. The sitting of Jonah here in the final pericope of the book also forms an interesting contrast to the opening command given to Jonah in Jonah 1:2 to arise. Note also the sun arising in verse 8 (though a different Hebrew word is used there...). It may be that by sitting, Jonah is now taking the role of the Ninevite king and the sun is taking the role of Jonah by effectively declaring judgment on Jonah in verse 8.
  • Jonah 4:8: Fainted. The Hebrew word for lp(fainted) is also used to mean "disguise, enwrap or cover oneself." This forms an interesting parallel with the king of Nineveh in Jonah 3:6 where he covered himself (ksh) with sackcloth and ashes (actually, the king of Nineveh, in response to the word of God, arose then covered himself whereas here Jonah sat and then fainted from/was covered by the sun.
  • Jonah 4:10-11: Pity and spare. The same Hebrew word, chuwc ("khoos"), is used to mean both "pity" (have regard for) and "spare" in these verses.
  • Jonah 4:10-11: Cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand. The NET takes this phrase as an idiom and translates it as "do not know right from wrong."
  • Jonah 4:10: The gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured. Just as Jonah did not labor to grow the gourd, we might think of the people of Nineveh as a people who grew up without labor from the Lord. They were not his covenant people and hadn't received the attention Israel had.
  • Jonah 4:11: And also much cattle. The point of mentioning cattle may be that Nineveh was worth saving on the basis alone of all of the cattle in it. Certainly all the cattle are worth more than the gourd that shaded Jonah. The cattle may also be mentioned because they lack intellectual prowess and are therefore innocent (perhaps like the Ninevites who are ignorant and therefore likewise innocent).

Points to ponder[edit]

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Notes[edit]

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