• Slider Image

04. Jonah’s Anger and the Lord’s Compassion

Jonah 3:10  When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it. 
Jonah 4:1  But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. 
Jon 4:2  And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. 
Jon 4:3  Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” 
Jon 4:4  And the LORD said, “Do you do well to be angry?” 
Jon 4:5  Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city. 
Jon 4:6  Now the LORD God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. 
Jon 4:7  But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered. 
Jon 4:8  When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” 
Jon 4:9  But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” 
Jon 4:10  And the LORD said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. 
Jon 4:11  And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?” 


Jonah 3:10  When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it. 
Jon 3: 11  But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. 

Here God just rescued an entire city from destruction, from their sinfulness.  What would’ve been the proper response?  Something like: “Praise the Lord!  Praise the Lord!!”  But rather than praising God, Jonah gets angry - literally “hot”.  Jonah does not see the blessing of 120,000 people being saved by God.  How sad the contrast between God's feeling on the repentance of Nineveh, and Jonah's feeling on the repentance of God towards Nineveh! This was probably for a number of reasons:

  1. John Calvin suggests that Jonah was grieved because Nineveh's preservation, after his denunciation, made him seem a false prophet. In other words, Jonah had lost face, something that was very important in the middle-eastern culture. How tragic – Jonah considers his own dignity more important than the lives of a whole city.

For thought: how often do we stand on our dignity – even if it means alienating ourselves from family and friends?

  1. Another suggestion is that Jonah saw the destruction of Nineveh as a fitting punishment for the enemy of Israel. He thought that they deserved to be destroyed, and was then angry when God disagreed with him and chose not to destroy them.

For thought: how often do we think that God agrees with our view of life? I am tempted to think that my enemies are also God’s enemies – and so am annoyed when God does not want to destroy them!

Getting angry at God doesn’t work.  EVER! I can be as angry at God as I want and it doesn’t make me right, and it isn’t going to change God’s plan.  

Jonah 4:5  Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city

The story continues to get sadder for Jonah.  Jonah didn’t want the Ninevites to be saved, and he certainly wanted nothing to do with participating in their redemption.  We see Jonah still holding out hope that God will judge Nineveh for their sins and so leaves the city for his own safety, just in case God decides to judge them.  And then Jonah sets up camp where he can hopefully watch God destroy his enemies.

For thought: How often do we hold onto anger and hurt when God has already forgiven? How often do we miss out on chances to celebrate great works of God because we are mired in our own anger and resentment? 

Jonah 4:6  Now the LORD God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant.
Jon 4: 7  But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered.
Jon 4:8  When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said,
“It is better for me to die than to live.” 

A Plant:better translated as a gourd--Hebrew, kikaion;  the "ricinus" or castor-oil plant.  It grows from eight to ten feet high. Only one leaf grows on a branch, but that leaf being often more than a foot large, the collective leaves give shelter from the heat.

Jonah is angry about losing a plant that wasn’t his in the first place! Rather than admitting that he is wrong, rather than changing his ways and repenting, Jonah would rather die than to give up his anger.  This kind of anger ruins lives.  It destroys relationships.  It destroys our relationship with God.

Jonah 4:10  And the LORD said, “You pity the plant...11  And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city….?

Jonah has been more concerned about this vine that he didn’t own, that he didn’t make grow than the 120,000 Ninevites God was saving! Here sits a “man of God” on the outskirts of town, throwing a temper tantrum, filled with rage and hate.  Jonah was willing to have compassion on the plant, but not on the people. 

And so the story of Jonah ends in a form of a tragedy.  On the surface it appears that we have no resolution to this story.  But let us be reminded of who the hero of this story is:  It’s God, not Jonah!  This whole book is pointing to the greatness of God. 

“To comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” Finley Peter Dunne (1867–1936)