Jonah 4 – Sparing of the City Anger Jonah & Tarshish

Pay close attention to this chapter, it only has 11 verses, but it speaks volumes about God.

Jonah hated the Ninevites, he would rather die if they were going to live, just like terrorists.

Or lets come closer to home, we don’t have to like or enjoy everyone, but to hate or refuse to help another human being due to their skin color or age or sex does not sit well with God.  Who are we to judge another person?

“Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matt 7:1).

And remember:

“When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:

And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:

And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:

I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.

 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?

Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.

And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matt 25:31-46).

This is the last chapter so tomorrow…

Jonah 4
Sparing of the City Anger Jonah

Tribute bearer with an oryx, a monkey, and a leopard skin.

1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.

“Angry” – Jonah was angry that God would have compassion on an enemy Israel.  He wanted God’s goodness to be shown only to Israelites, not to the hated Assyrians.

2 And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.

“Gracious…merciful” – Jonah again uses a fixed, confessional formula, it may be that Jonah understood that the Lord’s compassion was not the result of the covenant at mount Sinai but the cause of it.

Just as God showed compassion to the willfully disobedient idolaters in Ex 33, now he will show compassion because it is His very nature.

God never saves anyone for what we do, it is only by His grace.

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph 2:8-9).

“Slow to anger” – Jonah became angry quickly, the opposite of God.

3 Therefore now, O LORD, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.

“Take…my life” – to Jonah, God’s mercy to the Ninevites meant an end of Israel’s favored standing with Him.  Jonah shortly before had rejoiced in his deliverance from death, but now that Nineveh lives he prefers to die.

Head of a Roaring Lion
Assyrian-style ivory carving, contrasting with Phoenician- and Syrian-style ivories found at Nimrud, is illustrated by this ferocious lion’s head.

4 Then said the LORD, Doest thou well to be angry?

5 So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city.

“Till he might see” – Jonah was still hoping that God would change his mind and destroy Nineveh.

6 And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.

7 But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered.

8 And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live.

9 And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death.

10 Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not labored, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night:

11 And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than six score thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?

Sickle Sword
This curved sword bears the cuneiform inscription “Palace of Adad-nirari, king of the universe, son of Arik-den-ili, king of Assyria, son of Enlil-nirari, king of Assyria,” indicating that it was the property of the Middle Assyrian king Adad-nirari I (r. 1307–1275 B.C.).

The inscription appears in three places on the sword: on both sides of the blade and along its (noncutting) edge. Also on both sides of the blade is an engraving of an antelope reclining on some sort of platform.

“Should not I spare…?” – God had the first word (1:1) and He also has the last.

The commission He gave Jonah displayed His mercy and compassion to the Ninevites, and His last word to Jonah emphatically proclaimed that concern for every creature, both man and beast. 

The Lord not only “preservest man and beast” (Ps 36:6), but He takes

“…no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but [desires] that the wicked turn form his way and live… (Eze 33:11).

Jonah and his countrymen traditionally rejoiced in God’s special mercies to Israel but wished  only His wrath on their enemies.  God here rebukes such hardness and proclaims His own gracious benevolence.

As I stated above, we have no right to judge anything.

As God said to Jonah in verse 10:

“…thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not labored, neither madest it grow…”

And also what He said to Job:

“Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?  Declare, if thou hast understanding” (Job 38:4).

We have no right to question God or to treat His creations improperly.

I cannot stand the Bushs, the Clintons, and the Obamas and I have no control over the fact that consciously, deep down, I wish them the worst life possible.  I have no right to request God to destroy them, so, just like with Bob, I pray for them.

So is it wrong for me to post negative messages about them?  I truly don’t know, but I’m not telling any lies.

Tarshish

It is impossible to say with certanly where Tarshish was located. What is known is that Nineveh was to the east and that Jonah was trying to get as far as possible from Nineveh by boarding a ship and sailing westward.

Inscribed clay cylinder from ancient Nineveh recording the vassals of King Esarhaddon of Assyria around 672 BC, including ten kings of Cyprus.

If Tarshish were a specific port, it certainly would have been located somewhere along the  coast of the Mediterranean Sea, as may be suggested by several Old Testament texts (Ps 48:7; Isa 23:6; Eze 27:25) and by an inscription of Esarhaddon of Assyria.

Many suggest that it was a city associated with mining and metallurgy, since the name Tarshish may be derived from a word referring to smelting or refining. Places that could satisfy these requirements include:

Tartessus – Southwestern Spain. This would be appropriate to the story, for it would have been difficult to sail any farther from Nineveh.

The Island of Sardinia – A 9th century B.C. Phoenician inscription suggests the possible presence of Tarshish there.

Cuneiform prism describing the restoration of Babylon by Esarhaddon, stamped with Assyrian hieroglyphic inscription.

Carthage in North Africa – This is supported by the Septuagint version of Eze 27:12, which identifies Carthage with Tarshish (but there was also a Carthage in Spain).

Tarsus in Anatolia (modern Turkey) – This city would later become the hometown of Paul.

Some scholars, however, believe that the term “Tarshish” refers not to a specific location but simply to the “open sea.” If this is the case, the author’s intent may have been simply to describe Jonah as going off to sea.

The church father Jerome, in his commentary on Jonah, accepted this interpretation.

Regardless of the intended destination of the ship Jonah boarded, it is obvious that the reluctant prophet sought to sail in the opposite direction from the destination to which God was calling him.

….we will move on to the next Prophet.