Jonah Commentary: Chapters 3-4

Jonah 2:9 But I will sacrifice to You With the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.” (Psalm 69:30)

What a change of attitude – at least for the time being. He goes from not doing what God says and then compounding it by running away — to being thankful and willing to do all that Jonah has said that he would do. And of course this includes going to Nineveh.

In the end he declares that God is the only one that can save – both physically and spiritually.

What we see in all of this as well is that God brings Jonah to repentance and grants him forgiveness

Jonah 2:10 So the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

Miracle #5

Some believe that he was deposited near Nineveh because of  Jonah 3:3.
This would mean a trip of ~16,000 miles in three days, around the cape of Africa, through straits and shallow waters that great fish cannot go. These same people say that this is impossible while at the same time believe that Jonah was swallowed by a great fish — they cannot have it both ways.

If I had to guess: God did a reset and brought him back to where he started from or at least near there. This would mean a ~400-500 mile walk was still ahead of him. This translates into being about a month away.

More traditions claim that it was further up the coast from where he left – I won’t bother to mention since the Bible is silent on the subject.

Jonah 3

(The Reset)

Jonah 3:1 Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying,

After we repent we get the chance to do it right. God often tests us in much the same manner to see if we really got the point (Philippians 1:6).

Jonah 3:2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you.”

There was more to the message than we are told as we will see by the actions of the people and even Jonah’s reaction at the end.

Jonah 3:3 So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three-day journey in extent.

This does not mean that he was three days from Nineveh — nonetheless this is why some have to compensate with where Jonah was vomited out by placing him very near that great city.

More than likely it was three days around it or that long to see the sites or to do the circuit Jonah was going to do.  According to history, the city wall had a circumference of about eight miles and the the larger extended area of Nineveh made up of several cities was about 55 miles to 60 miles around.  This, at 20 miles per day would then account for the three days

Jonah 3:4 And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day’s walk. Then he cried out and said, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

first day’s walk… probably the first day of the planned 40 days of preaching and prophesying

“Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”… Now finally: HERE IS THE PROPHECY (that is recorded). This is all of the whole message that we are told even though we know that the core message of prophets is REPENTANCE — which we see in the rest of this chapter.

Jonah 3:5 So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them.

the people of Nineveh believed God … Miracle #6 (Actually this is one of the greatest miracles there is.  It far exceeds the supernatural physical events.)

from the greatest to the least of them…. everyone; they were serious about it!

Jonah 3:6 Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes.

Sackcloth… it’s texture is rough, a symbol representing contrition.

Jonah 3:7 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water.

A fast – throw off their desires and seek God’s will!

Jonah 3:8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands.

They beseeched God as much as they could with only a carnal understanding of God and what He wants.

turn… (shûb) word used for repentanceThey not only said they were sorry, but showed it in their actions as well.

from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands… This would have to include the northern nation of Israel who were threatened by the Assyrian empire. The problem was that Jonah only saw that Nineveh was being spared, but in reality Israel was being give more time to turn from it’s ways.

Jonah 3:9 Who can tell if God will turn (shûb) and relent (nâcham), and turn (shûb) away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?

This is the root of God’s message; the messages of the prophets; and as we see here the Ninevites received the message of repentance from Jonah loud and clear.

Jonah 3:10 Then God saw their works, that they turned (shûb) from their evil way; and God relented (nâcham) from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.

We see this principle in:

Jeremiah 18:7 The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it,
Jeremiah 18:8 if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it.

The main reason for prophecy is not the foretelling of the future, but the repentance of everyone.

This was a great work that had been accomplished! All should rejoice!

Jonah 4

Jonah 4:1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry.

This is a wrong attitude — especially for a prophet of God! This is what we are all aiming for. Even for our enemy

Matthew 5:44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,

Jonah 4:2 So he prayed to the LORD, and said, “Ah, LORD, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents (nâcham) from doing harm.

He did not want God to show mercy to them, even though God had shown it to him. This was the wrong point of view that God would have to work on once again.

Jonah understood the nature of God and the nature of prophecy is often conditional. Therefore this does not make Jonah a false prophet. This is what God truly wants (Jeremiah 18:7-8)

Jonah 4:3 Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!”

Jonah still has this lesson of mercy to be learned (Philippians 1:6). God was extending mercy instead of judgment, which God had recently done for Jonah when he ran from God.  Jonah then became convinced to go Nineveh and now he still does not get it. Because of this he still has to undergo another trial (Jonah 4:6-11).

Jonah 4:4 Then the LORD said, “Is it right for you to be angry?”

God begins to intervene again.

Jonah 4:5 So Jonah went out of the city and sat on the east side of the city. There he made himself a shelter and sat under it in the shade, till he might see what would become of the city.

east side of the city… typically the cooler side; some respite once the sun starts its downward descent in the afternoon.

shelter… [sukkah] a booth of temporary nature that can be thrown together quickly.

Jonah 4:6 And the LORD God prepared a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be shade for his head to deliver him from his misery. So Jonah was very grateful for the plant.

God prepared a plant… Miracle #7 [second of four prepared items for Jonah; Jonah 1:17; 4:7-8]

prepared… appointed

made it come up over Jonah…. seems like it came up quickly

Jonah 4:7 But as morning dawned the next day God prepared a worm, and it so damaged the plant that it withered.

God prepared a worm… Miracle #8

Jonah 4:8 And it happened, when the sun arose, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat on Jonah’s head, so that he grew faint. Then he wished death for himself, and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”

God prepared a vehement east wind… Miracle #9 

vehement… this is the only place that the word is used in the Bible. The connotation is silence[ing] perhaps in that it was so loud everything else was drown out and could not be heard. It may be akin to the sirocco’s of the region.

It is of particular note that wind is the first and last miracle.  The word used in both places is “ruach” which is the same word that is translated “spirit.” This can be seen as a play on words since the power of God was behind and/or in these miracles.

Jonah 4:9 Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” And he said, “It is right for me to be angry, even to death!”

Jonah felt that he had the right to act this way. This empowerment shows his state of mind.

Jonah 4:10 But the LORD said, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night.

pity… compassion for the plight of the plant which suffered due to the worm.

Jonah 4:11 And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?

who cannot discern between their right hand and their left… may refer to children or in another case the adults who were without discernment. This will also account for the differences in the estimated number of pople in Nineveh at the time (from 120,000 to 600,000 people).

It appears that Jonah finally learns his lesson about mercy. This book shows God’s care for not just Nineveh and Israel by extension but Jonah and us too. God’s all-sovereign power and care is available to all.

God has the ability to work out several things at one time. He could have used someone else to go to Nineveh, but He chose Jonah and accomplished a work in him as He did Nineveh and is even doing today in us.

This sums up Jonah:

Psalms 103:10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities.
Psalms 103:11 For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
Psalms 103:12 As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us
Psalms 103:13 As a father pities his children, So the LORD pities those who fear Him.
Psalms 103:14 For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.
Psalms 103:15 As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
Psalms 103:16 For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, And its place remembers it no more.God does not take away a life; but He devises means, so that His banished ones are not expelled from Him.

James 2:13 …Mercy triumphs over judgment.