Narrative :: Jonah: Introduction Notes on ch:  3  4  

Study Notes on Jonah (including Hebrew narrative) by Tim Bulkeley


Jonah Talks to God Again

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.

Jonah's statement "for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing", echoes Joel 2:13-14
13rend your hearts and not your clothing.
Return to Adonai, your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing.
14Who knows whether he will not turn and relent,
and leave a blessing behind him,
a grain offering and a drink offering for Adonai, your God?

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