Narrative :: Jonah: Introduction Notes on ch: 1 2 3 4
Study Notes on Jonah (including Hebrew narrative) by Tim Bulkeley
4:1 There is an interesting development to the use of the word "evil" in the book: it begins as a straightforward statement of Nineveh's wickedness:
1:2 "for their evil has come up before me."
The "evil" is soon what God must do as a consequence of Jonah's disobedience: 1:7 "on whose account this evil has come upon us." At 1:8 similar words in the form of a question;
then when finally God sees the Ninevites' repentance 3:8 & 3:10 "let every one turn from his evil way" his response "evils Jonah a great evil" (4:1) for God has shown himself 4:2 "a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from evil."
however finally in 4:6 he gives Jonah shade "to save him from his evil"
4:2 Third traditional statement of faith (cf.1:9 and the psalm), by this faithless prophet. [cf. Wolff 1986, 167f.] Note how Jonah almost only speaks in two ways, these pious platitudes and his death wish (1:12; here; 4:8-9), his extra brief preaching in Nineveh is the striking exception.
Notice that the next phrase in Joel, also in bold above, was previously echoed by the "king of Nineveh" in 3:9. Jonah is not the only one able to use "the language of Zion"!
4:3 Is Jonah's death wish in fact motivated not by unfaith but by his desire not to live in a world where God does not rule "with justice"? After all, Nineveh's guilt is evident and longstanding, why should one brief repentance cancel out the due punishment?
4:6 Compare the gourd over his head with the weed in Jonah's psalm (2:5).
Some interpreters suggest parallels between the gourd & the tree of life, the worm & the serpent - note the use of Lord God (10% of the occurrences of which are in Gen 2-3).
© Tim Bulkeley, 2003