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Jon 4:1-11. JONAH FRETS AT GOD'S MERCY TO NINEVEH: IS REPROVED BY THE TYPE OF A GOURD.
1. angry--literally, "hot," probably, with grief or vexation, rather than anger [FAIRBAIRN]. How sad the contrast between God's feeling on the repentance of Nineveh towards Him, and Jonah's feeling on the repentance of God towards Nineveh. Strange in one who was himself a monument of mercy on his repentance! We all, like him, need the lesson taught in the parable of the unforgiving, though forgiven, debtor (Mt 18:23-35). Jonah was grieved because Nineveh's preservation, after his denunciation, made him seem a false prophet [CALVIN]. But it would make Jonah a demon, not a man, to have preferred the destruction of six hundred thousand men rather than that his prophecy should be set aside through God's mercy triumphing over judgment. And God in that case would have severely chastised, whereas he only expostulates mildly with him, and by a mode of dealing, at once gentle and condescending, tries to show him his error. Moreover, Jonah himself, in apologizing for his vexation, does not mention the failure of his prediction as the cause: but solely the thought of God's slowness to anger. This was what led him to flee to Tarshish at his first commission; not the likelihood then of his prediction being falsified; for in fact his commission then was not to foretell Nineveh's downfall, but simply to "cry against" Nineveh's "wickedness" as having "come up before God." Jonah could hardly have been so vexed for the letter of his prediction failing, when the end of his commission had virtually been gained in leading Nineveh to repentance. This then cannot have been regarded by Jonah as the ultimate end of his commission. If Nineveh had been the prominent object with him, he would have rejoiced at the result of his mission. But Israel was the prominent aim of Jonah, as a prophet of the elect people. Probably then he regarded the destruction of Nineveh as fitted to be an example of God's judgment at last suspending His long forbearance so as to startle Israel from its desperate degeneracy, heightened by its new prosperity under Jeroboam II at that very time, in a way that all other means had failed to do. Jonah, despairing of anything effectual being done for God in Israel, unless there were first given a striking example of severity, thought when he proclaimed the downfall of Nineveh in forty days, that now at last God is about to give such an example; so when this means of awakening Israel was set aside by God's mercy on Nineveh's repentance, he was bitterly disappointed, not from pride or mercilessness, but from hopelessness as to anything being possible for the reformation of Israel, now that his cherished hope is baffled. But GOD'S plan was to teach Israel, by the example of Nineveh, how inexcusable is their own impenitence, and how inevitable their ruin if they persevere. Repenting Nineveh has proved herself more worthy of God's favor than apostate Israel; the children of the covenant have not only fallen down to, but actually below, the level of a heathen people; Israel, therefore, must go down, and the heathen rise above her. Jonah did not know the important lessons of hope to the penitent, and condemnation to those amidst outward privileges impenitent, which Nineveh's preservation on repentance was to have for aftertimes, and to all ages. He could not foresee that Messiah Himself was thus to apply that history. A lesson to us that if we could in any particular alter the plan of Providence, it would not be for the better, but for the worse [FAIRBAIRN].
2. my saying--my thought, or feeling.
3. Jonah's impatience of life under disappointed hopes of Israel's reformation through the destruction of Nineveh, is like that of Elijah at his plan for reforming Israel (1Ki 18:1-46) failing through Jezebel (1Ki 19:4).
4. Doest thou well to be angry?--or grieved; rather as the Margin, "Art thou much angry," or "grieved?" [FAIRBAIRN with the Septuagint and Syriac]. But English Version suits the spirit of the passage, and is quite tenable in the Hebrew [GESENIUS].
5. made him a booth--that is, a temporary hut of branches and leaves,
so slightly formed as to be open to the wind and sun's heat.
6. gourd--Hebrew, kikaion; the Egyptian kiki, the "ricinus"
or castor-oil plant, commonly called "palm-christ" (palma-christi).
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 good shelter from the heat. It grows rapidly, and fades as suddenly
7. a worm--of a particular kind, deadly to the ricinus. A small worm
at the root destroys a large gourd. So it takes but little to make our
creature comforts wither. It should silence discontent to remember, that
when our gourd is gone, our God is not gone.
8. vehement--rather, "scorching"; the Margin, "silent," expressing sultry stillness, not vehemence.
10, 11. The main lesson of the book. If Jonah so pities a plant which cost him no toil to rear, and which is so short lived and valueless, much more must Jehovah pity those hundreds of thousands of immortal men and women in great Nineveh whom He has made with such a display of creative power, especially when many of them repent, and seeing that, if all in it were destroyed, "more than six score thousand" of unoffending children, besides "much cattle," would be involved in the common destruction: Compare the same argument drawn from God's justice and mercy in Ge 18:23-33. A similar illustration from the insignificance of a plant, which "to-day is and to-morrow is cast into the oven," and which, nevertheless, is clothed by God with surpassing beauty, is given by Christ to prove that God will care for the infinitely more precious bodies and souls of men who are to live for ever (Mt 6:28-30). One soul is of more value than the whole world; surely, then, one soul is of more value than many gourds. The point of comparison spiritually is the need which Jonah, for the time being, had of the foliage of the gourd. However he might dispense with it at other times, now it was necessary for his comfort, and almost for his life. So now that Nineveh, as a city, fears God and turns to Him, God's cause needs it, and would suffer by its overthrow, just as Jonah's material well-being suffered by the withering of the gourd. If there were any hope of Israel's being awakened by Nineveh's destruction to fulfil her high destination of being a light to surrounding heathenism, then there would not have been the same need to God's cause of Nineveh's preservation, (though there would have always been need of saving the penitent). But as Israel, after judgments, now with returning prosperity turns back to apostasy, the means needed to vindicate God's cause, and provoke Israel, if possible, to jealousy, is the example of the great capital of heathendom suddenly repenting at the first warning, and consequently being spared. Thus Israel would see the kingdom of heaven transplanted from its ancient seat to another which would willingly yield its spiritual fruits. The tidings which Jonah brought back to his countrymen of Nineveh's repentance and rescue, would, if believingly understood, be far more fitted than the news of its overthrow to recall Israel to the service of God. Israel failed to learn the lesson, and so was cast out of her land. But even this was not an unmitigated evil. Jonah was a type, as of Christ, so also of Israel. Jonah, though an outcast, was highly honored of God in Nineveh; so Israel's outcast condition would prove no impediment to her serving God's cause still, if only she was faithful to God. Ezekiel and Daniel were so at Babylon; and the Jews, scattered in all lands as witnesses for the one true God, pioneered the way for Christianity, so that it spread with a rapidity which otherwise was not likely to have attended it [FAIRBAIRN].
11. that cannot discern between their right hand and their left--children under three of four years old
Six score thousand of these, allowing them to be a fifth of the
whole, would give a total population of six hundred thousand.
MICAH was a native of Moresheth, not the same as Mareshah in Mic 1:15, but the town called Moresheth-gath (Mic 1:14), which lay near Eleutheropolis, west of Jerusalem, on the border of the Philistine country; so called to distinguish it from Moresheth of Judah. His full name is Micaiah (not the Micaiah mentioned 1Ki 22:8, the son of Imlah), signifying, Who is like Jehovah? The time of his prophesying is stated in the introduction to be in the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, that is, between 757 and 699 B.C. Jeremiah (Jer 26:18) quotes Mic 3:12, as delivered in the reign of Hezekiah. He was thus a contemporary of Isaiah and Hosea. The idolatries practised in the reign of Ahaz accord with Micah's denunciations of such gross evils, and confirm the truth of the time assigned Mic 1:1. His prophecies are partly against Israel (Samaria), partly against Judah. As Samaria, Israel's metropolis, was taken first, and Jerusalem, the capital of Judah subsequently, in the introductory heading, Mic 1:1, Samaria is put first, then Jerusalem. He prophesies the capture of both; the Jews' captivity and restoration; and the coming and reign of Messiah. His style is full, round, and perspicuous; his diction pure, and his parallelisms regular. His description of Jehovah (Mic 7:18, 19) is not surpassed by any elsewhere in Scripture. The similarity between Isaiah and Micah in some passages (compare Mic 4:1-3, with Isa 2:2-4) is to be accounted for by their being contemporaries, acquainted with each other's inspired writings, and having the same subjects for their theme. HENGSTENBERG maintains that the passage in Micah is the original. Isaiah was somewhat the older, being a prophet in the reign of Uzziah, Jotham's predecessor, whereas Micah began his prophecies under Jotham.
The book consists of two parts: (1) the first through fifth chapters; (2) the sixth and seventh chapters, a dialogue or contestation between Jehovah and His people, in which He reproaches them with their unnatural and ungrateful GOTO NEXT CHAPTER - D. J-F-B INDEX & SEARCH