The Word Made Fresh
1But when Jonah saw what was happening he was very angry. 2He prayed, “LORD, didn’t I predict this while I was still in my home country? That’s why I tried to flee to Tarshish! I knew that you are gracious and merciful, slow to anger and full of love that is faithful, and always eager to refrain from punishing. 3So please, LORD, go ahead and kill me! I’d rather die than keep on living.”
4“Are you right in being angry?” asked the LORD.
5Then Jonah left and found a place to sit east of the city. He made a lean-to to provide shade for himself and sat there, waiting to see what might happen to the city. 6The LORD God provided a plant which quickly grew up over Jonah and gave him more shade to make him more comfortable, and Jonah was very happy about that. 7But the next morning God sent a worm to chew its roots and make it wither. 8When the sun was higher, God sent a warm east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah’s head until he was faint. He wanted to die. “It is better to die than to keep on living like this,” he said.
9But God said to him, “Do you really think you should be angry about the plant that gave you shade?”
Jonah retorted, “Yes! Angry enough to die!”
10The LORD said, “So, you are angry about the leafy plant which you never tended, and which you didn’t grow; instead, it came up in the night and withered in a single day. 11So, should I not be concerned about Nineveh? There are more than a hundred twenty thousand people living there who don’t know their right hand from their left hand. Not to mention all the animals.”
1: The end of the story of Jonah contains a number of difficulties and is more complicated than it appears upon first reading. There is no explanation for Jonah’s displeasure, so the reader’s imagination comes immediately into play. Is Jonah angry because he wants Nineveh to be destroyed? Is Jonah angry because the thing he has gone through so much trouble to announce has not come to pass, and he feels that God has played a big trick on him? Does he resent the fact that God left him no choice but to carry out the mission when the word could have been sent through anybody else?
2-3: We learn now that Jonah and God had a bit more conversation over the matter than was revealed before. Even so, why bother to flee to Tarshish? Why not simply refuse to go? It would seem from Jonah’s complaint in verse 2 that he really wished to see Nineveh destroyed, and resisted going because he knew God would be easily persuaded not to carry out the threat. He is so disappointed and/or humiliated that he wants to die, which seems to me to be a little extreme.
4: The question from God in verse 4 is really an invitation for Jonah to examine his motives and his emotions. Should Jonah be angry that Nineveh was not destroyed, or should he accept God’s mercy even for his enemies?
5: Jonah goes out of the city and sits down to watch what will happen. This is a little curious since it seems apparent from his exchange with God that nothing is going to happen. He makes a booth for himself and sits in the shade to wait and watch.
6: This verse is the most curious of all. There is no need for the bush because Jonah is already sitting in the shade of the booth he has made. It is almost as if the author forgot mentioning the booth a verse back.
7: So, let’s forget about the booth. The next day the bush withers and Jonah is left without any protection from the elements.
8: God sends a hot, dry, windy day. Jonah nearly faints, but the situation does fit with his desire to die.
9: The text does not say that Jonah is angry about the bush, but God asks if he thinks he has a right to be angry. Jonah believes he does.
10-11: Here comes the moral of the story: The enemy’s city is filled with innocent people. Jonah got all worked up over a bush; shouldn’t God be all worked up over the fate of more than 100,000 people?
Shouldn’t God be concerned about our enemies?