4:6-11 God’s Final Lessons For Jonah
Memory Verse: Jonah 4:10-11
4:6-8 God’s Plan To Get Jonah’s Attention
- 4:1-5 After God graciously ceased from causing Nineveh to be overthrown of the calamity that He had said that He would do unto them as judgement for their sin, Jonah became exceedingly displeased and very angry. Jonah understood that God was willing to give the Ninevites a second chance, but Jonah himself wasn’t. The Lord questions Jonah, but there is no recorded answer. Instead Jonah responds to the city wide revival with isolation, inactivity, false hope and folly.
- 4:6 But God still wasn’t done with Jonah. There was still a lesson that Jonah needed to learn. The Lord often uses different agents to help teach us the lessons that we need to learn. God has already used a storm and a great fish to teach Jonah some important lessons. Now the Lord God prepares a gourd, a worm and a vehement east wind to teach Jonah another lesson. First, God prepares the gourd and made it to come up over Jonah to make a shadow over his head and deliver him from his grief (apparently his home-made booth was insufficient). At first glance, it seems that God has ignored Jonah’s rebellious spirit and has chosen to show grace to Jonah. And indeed He has. But God is using this grace to teach Jonah an important lesson that he has stubbornly refused to accept. In the meantime, Jonah was exceeding glad because of the gourd. There is a great paradox here: Jonah is angry that God showed mercy to Nineveh, sparring a whole city from destruction, but he is really happy that he has a comfortable place to rest in the shade. Maybe Jonah thought that this was a sign from God that he was doing something right—because from his perspective it seemed God was blessing him at that moment.
Jonah 1:4, 17; 4:6-8
- 4:7 But when the morning rose the next day, God prepared a worm to smite or destroy the gourd so that it withered—it could no longer be used as shade over Jonah’s head to deliver him from his grief. Jonah’s exceeding joy and thoughts of God’s blessings has quickly fled away as he sits there—still on strike against God hoping that God wouldn’t relent His decision to destroy the city. Was Jonah’s joy misplaced? Yes, his focus wasn’t on spiritual things, but on physical things.
- 4:8 Next, when the sun rose, God prepared a vehement east wind—a type of hot wind that intensifies the temperature, making it hotter than normal. The sun also beat upon Jonah’s head. Jonah fainted—probably from heatstroke or sunstroke. He was miserable. Jonah being emotionally unstable and unwilling to repent, again wishes to die for the third time—telling himself that it is better for him to die than to live. Jonah has made this desperate and selfish notion twice before. When he fled from God the first time, he almost came to the point of death, asking the sailers to throw him overboard, but God saved his life. The second time was after God showed mercy to Nineveh and he plead with God to take his life from him, also saying that it is better for him to die than to live. God still hasn’t given up on Jonah, but Jonah’s rebellion and unwillingness to repent has caused himself much pain and grief in this life.
Jonah 1:12; 4:3
4:9-11 God Questions Jonah Again
- 4:9a The Lord again questions Jonah with a single question, saying: “Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd?” This is similar to the Lord’s previous question: “Doest thou well to be angry?” but this time He puts the focus on the gourd. Apparently, Jonah is angry about what has happened concerning the gourd—therefore God is asking him if he is right to feel this way about it. He is holding Jonah accountable for his emotions and feelings. Jonah has exemplified what a person looks like who is controlled by the way he feels in the moment instead of choosing to allow the truth to control his emotional state—we should not allow our feelings to dictate our lives.
- 4:9b Last time Jonah was asked a question by God there was no recorded answer. But this time, Jonah answers God and tells Him, “I do well to be angry, even unto death.” Jonah plainly tells God that he is angry about what happened to the gourd and that he is angry enough to die.
- 4:10 The Lord responds to Jonah and tries to teach him a lesson. Jonah had pity—to feel bad about the circumstances—on the gourd, but he did not labour for it or do anything to make it grow. It came up in a night, then it perished in a night. It should have been obvious to Jonah that this plant supernaturally grew to be able to be big enough in one day to provide shade for him. He also knew that he didn’t water it or do anything to care for it, he just simply enjoyed the benefits of it. God was the creator of the plant and he is the one who gives and takes away. God doesn’t rebuke Jonah for having pity on the plant, but he points out the problem in the next verse by asking another question
- 4:11 After pointing out that Jonah had pity on the gourd, the Lord ask Jonah a final question, “And should not I spare Nineveh?” God points out the hypocrisy to Jonah that if a gourd has value, then how much more does the city of Nineveh. If Jonah can have pity on a plant that he did nothing for, then why can’t the Lord have pity on people whom He created. The Lord goes on to describe Nineveh as a great city with a population more than 120,000 people (sixscore thousand persons) who can’t “discern between their right hand and their left hand”—which has two possible understandings: (1) it refers to the population of children since they don’t know how to make decisions and thus the total population is greater or (2) it refers to the pollution of the city but says the people are spiritually and morally ignorant. Either way, it is a great number of people. At the last, God mentions that the city also has much cattle—probably pointing out to Jonah that God could have mercy on Nineveh for the sake of the animals, which would still be better than having compassion on a plant.
- Jonah doesn’t not respond to the Lord’s final question but instead the book ends. We can speculate that Jonah finally understood the lesson that God was teaching him because he recorded his own story for others to read. If he didn’t learn the lesson then why would he write down this embarrassing experience for others to read? Therefore, this book itself is the answer to the question.
- The book also ends with the question unanswered possibly as a way to emphasize to future readers that the question is being asked of them. What is your answer?
- What does God use to get Jonah’s attention this time?
- How does Jonah respond?
- What is Jonah’s hypocrisy?
- What is the emphasis of God’s question to Jonah?
- What are lessons we learn from the book of Jonah?