Jonah 4 Commentary

A lesson about mercy (4:1-11)

It now became clear why Jonah did not want to preach in Nineveh. He wanted the Ninevites to be destroyed, not spared; he wanted them to be punished, not forgiven. He knew that God was merciful to sinners, but he wanted this divine blessing reserved solely for the people of Israel. He would rather die than see Gentiles forgiven the same as Israelites (4:1-3).

God wanted to make Jonah see that he had no right to be angry, but Jonah refused to listen.

Apparently still hoping that God would change his mind and destroy Nineveh, he went outside the city, built himself a temporary shelter, and waited to see what would happen at the end of the forty days (4-5).

Since Jonah had not responded to God’s earlier rebuke, God now gave him an object lesson in sympathy. When Jonah’s shelter proved inadequate to protect him from the heat of the sun, God made a big leafy plant grow up to provide Jonah with shade. As a result Jonah felt thankful. Then God made the plant die, and exposed Jonah to the blazing sun and a burning wind. As a result Jonah became angry (6- 8).

Jonah did not want the plant to die, and neither did God want the people of Nineveh to die. Jonah felt sorry for a plant that he had not made and that lasted only one day. How much more should God feel sorry for the people of Nineveh whom he had made and who, in their ignorance, had faced total destruction (9-11).

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