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An Argument of the Book of Jonah

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YHWH’S merciful works of salvation are expressions of his good character towards all who repent of their rebellion against him-whether Jew (Jonah) or Gentile (Sailors / Ninevites)

I. YHWH Saves Jonah1: When the prophet, Jonah, fled from YHWH’s command to speak to Nineveh, YHWH pursued him through the storm which he hurled upon his ship, and through the sailors who identified him as the cause of their calamity and cast him into the sea; whereupon, Jonah called to YHWH just before he died and YHWH saved him from drowning through a great fish who after three days spewed him upon the land 1:1--2:10

A. Jonah Disobeys YHWH’s Commission: When YHWH commanded Jonah to go and cry against Nineveh, Jonah disobeyed by fleeing from YHWH’s presence in a boat bound for the opposite direction--Tarshish 1:1-3

1. YHWH’s Call: The word of YHWH came to Jonah commanding him to go to the great city of Nineveh in order to cry against it because God had seen its evil 1:1-2

a. The word of YHWH came to Jonah2 the son of Amittai3 1:1

b. YHWH told Jonah to go to the great4 city of Nineveh5, and to cry against it because their wickedness has come up before him6 1:2

2. Jonah’s Response: Jonah disobeyed YHWH’s call by going in the opposite direction from Nineveh by trying to flee from the Lord in a ship going to Tarshish 1:3

a. Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish7 from the presence of YHWH 1:3a

b. Jonah went down8 to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid its fair, and went down, into the hull of the ship in an attempt to escape from the presence of YHWH 1:3b

B. YHWH Pursues Jonah: YHWH aggressively pursued Jonah in his stern rebellion by sending a storm to threaten his ship, by having sailors urge him to pray to his god and throw him into the raging sea in accordance with Jonah’s words to stop the storm, and by a great fish who swallowed Jonah and held him in his stomach for three days and three nights 1:4-17

1. Through a Storm: YHWH caused a great storm to come upon the ship in which Jonah was sailing threatening to break up the vessel, but Jonah remained asleep in the hold of the boat while the sailors did all that they could to remedy the situation 1:4-5

a. YHWH’s Advance: YHWH hurled a great wind on the sea to bring about such a great storm that the ship was about to break up 1:4

b. Jonah’s Response: Even though the experienced sailors became afraid of the storm and attempted to help themselves through praying to their gods and throwing ballast overboard, Jonah was numb to YHWH’s hand in the storm.

1) The sailors became afraid and each cried to his god 1:5a

2) The sailors attempted to save the ship by throwing the cargo into the sea in order to lighten the ship 1:5b

3) Jonah was down in the hold of the ship deeply asleep 1:5c

2. Through the Sailors: YHWH continued to pursue Jonah through the captain of the ship who found Jonah sleeping and urged him to pray to his god, and through the sailors of the ship who cast lots, and then ask Jonah, when the lot fell upon him, to explain the reason for the storm through answering many questions about himself, and who finally cast him overboard in order to stop the raging of the sea 1:6-16

a. The Captain: When the captain found Jonah asleep in the hold of the ship, he questioned how he could be sleeping, and exhorted him to pray to his god who might be concerned about them and deliver them 1:6

1) The captain9 of the ship came to Jonah and asked him how it was that he was sleeping during the storm 1:6a

2) The captain urged Jonah to rise up and to cry to his god10 1:6b

3) The reason the captain urged Jonah to call to his god was so that perhaps his god woull be concerned about them and help them so that they would not perish (from sin11) 1:6c

b. The Men on the Ship: When the men agreed to cast lots in order to discern the one who had brought this calamity upon them, the lot fell on Jonah, whereupon, they asked himself several questions in order to discern the possible reason his God may be so angry 1:7-8

1) The men on the ship agreed to cast lots12 in order to discern the one who had brought this calamity upon them 1:7a

2) When the sailors cast the lots, the lot was caused13 to fall on Jonah 1:7b

3) As the sailors sought to learn of the source of their calamity, they asked Jonah several questions concerning who might be responsible for the storm14 1:8

a) The sailors then asked Jonah to answer several questions15 1:8a

b) The sailors asked Jonah to explain on whose account the storm had struck them 1:8b

c) The sailors asked Jonah about his employment 1:8c

d) The sailors asked Jonah where he came from (what he did) 1:8d

e) The sailors asked Jonah what his country was 1:8e

f) The sailors asked Jonah who his people where 1:8f

c. Jonah’s Reply: Jonah responded to the men’s probing questions by affirming that he was a Hebrew16 who feared YHWH17, the God of heaven18, who made the sea and the dry land 1:9

d. The Men’s Concern: The men responded to Jonah’s reply with extreme fright, and asked him how he could have placed them in such danger, and what they should now do to him in order to calm the increasingly stormy sea 1:10-11

1) The men became extremely frightened by Jonah’s answer19 1:10a

2) The men asked Jonah how he could place them in the anger of his God (who controls the seas) because he told them he was fleeing from the presence of YHWH 1:10b

3) The men asked Jonah what they must do to him in order that the sea may become calm since it was becoming increasingly stormy 1:11

e. Jonah’s Reply: Jonah urged the sailors to throw20 him into the sea in order for it to become calm because the great storm has come because of him 1:12

f. The Men’s Response: Although the sailors tried to return Jonah to land without throwing him overboard in accordance with his word, they were not successful, therefore, they prayed that YHWH would save them and not hold them guilty for Jonah, threw him overboard, and worshipped YHWH when the raging of the sea stopped 1:13-16

1) The men at first resisted Jonah’s word21 and tried to save him by rowing harder22 to return to land, but the sea became even stormier against them 1:13

2) The men then prayed to YHWH that he would not take their lives along with Jonah’s, and that he would not hold them accountable for Jonah’s death since He was forcing them to act in this way 1:14

a) The sailors prayed that YHWH would not cause them to perish because of Jonah 1:14a

b) The sailors prayed that YHWH would not hold them accountable for Jonah’s death when they threw him overboard because YHWH was forcing their hand (you have done as you have chosen) 1:14b

3) Then the men picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea and the sea stopped its raging.23

4) The men then greatly feared24 YHWH and worshipped him by offering a sacrifice and making vows 1:16

3. Through a Great Fish: YHWH appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah where he remained in his stomach for three days and three nights 1:17

C. Jonah Prays a Psalm25 of Thanksgiving: Jonah proclaimed thanksgiving to YHWH because He saved26 him from death at the bottom of the sea 2:1-9

1. Setting for the Prayer: Jonah prayed to YHWH his God from the stomach of the fish 2:1

2. Prayer of Thanksgiving: Jonah proclaimed his thankfulness to YHWH because He delivered him from death when he looked to Him from the bottom of the sea 2:2-9

a. Introduction: Jonah called to YHWH in his distress from the place of the dead27, and YHWH answered his plea 2:2

b. The Main Section: As Jonah sank from the turbulent surface of the waters into the grave of the waters’ extremity, he considered YHWH, and prayed to him, whereupon YHWH saved him, and he vowed to praise him before the people 2:3-9

1) The Portrayal of Affliction: Jonah described the affliction which YHWH brought upon him as He threw him into the sea where he was tossed by the raging storm and then imprisoned in in the depths below after he had a hopeful thought that YHWH might save him if he looked towards Him 2:3-6a

a) Jonah understood YHWH28 to have cast29 him into the deep--the heart of the seas 2:3a

b) Jonah described his affliction as he was near the top of the water in that YHWH’s30 currents engulfed him, and the breakers and billows passed over him 2:3b

c) A Thought of Hope: Even though Jonah concluded that he had been expelled from YHWH’s presence, he had a hope that YHWH might deliver him if he looked towards him 2:4

(1) Jonah came to the conclusion that YHWH had expelled him from his presence31 2:4a

(2) Jonah nevertheless hoped that YHWH might deliver him if he looked towards him 2:4b

d) Jonah described his affliction as he sank deeper in the water in that water surrounded him unto the point of death32 and he was entangled in weeds at the bottom of the sea33 2:5-6a

2) A Petition for Help and Deliverance: When Jonah was at the bottom of the sea, just before he fainted to death, he remembered YHWH, prayed to him, and YHWH delivered him 2:6b-7

a) Deliverance: When Jonah was at the bottom of the sea, YHWH delivered him34 2:6b

b) While Jonah was fainting away towards death, he remembered YHWH35 2:7

c) Jonah’s prayer came to YHWH in his holy temple 2:7b

c. Conclusion: Jonah concludes his psalm of thanksgiving by affirming that he, unlike the pagans, will loyally worship YHWH and will proclaim that salvation is from Him 2:8-9

1) Unlike those who have a regard for empty idols and thus forsake their loyal love36 (for YHWH)37, Jonah vows to sacrifice38 to YHWH with a thankful voice 2:8-9a

2) Jonah strongly affirms that he will not forsake his vow 2:9b

3) Jonah affirms that salvation is from YHWH 2:9c

D. YHWH Saves Jonah: After three days, YHWH commanded the fish to vomit Jonah up onto the dry land 2:10

II. YHWH Saves Nineveh: When Jonah is obedient to YHWH’s commission to preach to Nineveh, the city repents and YHWH graciously is merciful to them, whereupon he must rebuke his angry prophet because of his self-concerns as opposed to YHWH’s genuine love of the Ninevites 3:1--4:11

A. Jonah Obeys YHWH’s Commission: When YHWH recommissions Jonah to go to Nineveh, Jonah obeys by proclaiming to this city that is great in God’s estimation that in forty days it will be overcome 3:1-4

1. YHWH’s Call: YHWH called Jonah a second time to go to Nineveh and proclaim to them the message which he would give him 3:1-2

a. The word of YHWH39 came to Jonah a second time 3:1

b. YHWH commanded Jonah to arise, go to Nineveh the great40 city, and to proclaim the proclamation which he was going to tell him41 3:2

2. Jonah’s Response: Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, the city which was great in God’s estimation due to its size, and proclaimed in accordance with YHWH’s word that in forty days the city would be overthrown 3:3-4

a. Jonah arose and went to Nineveh in accordance with the word of YHWH42 3:3a

b. Nineveh was an exceedingly great city to God43--a three-days’ walk44 3:3b

c. Jonah began to go through the city a one days walk and to proclaim that in forty days Nineveh was going to be destroyed45 3:4

B. Nineveh Repents: In response to the proclamation from Jonah, all of the people in congruence with a decree from the chief ruler repented externally and internally in hopes that God might be merciful to them and relent of his intended judgment 3:5-9

1. Summary statement: The people of Nineveh believed God46 and showed repentance by calling a fast47 and putting on sackcloth48 from the greatest to the least of them 3:5

2. The Ruler: The chief ruler of Nineveh personally repented and issued a decree that all of the city should show external and internal expressions of repentance in hopes that God might be merciful to them 3:6-9

a. Personal Response: When the ruler of Nineveh49 heard of Jonah’s word, he too showed humble repentance by moving from his throne to a seat of ashes50 wearing sackcloth rather than his royal robes 3:6

b. Official Response: The chief ruler issued a decree on behalf of himself and all of his nobles for the people to express repentance through the external means of all living animals fasting and wearing sackcloth, and the internal means of prayer and ceasing from evil in hopes that God would be merciful to them and repent of his intended judgment 3:7-9

1) External: The chief ruler issued a proclamation on behalf of himself and his nobles ordering all men and beasts51 to fast, and to be covered with sackcloth 3:7-8a

2) Internal: The chief ruler issued a proclamation on behalf of himself and his nobles ordering all people to call upon God earnestly, and to turn from their acts of evil 3:8b

3) Reason: The reason behind the decree was that God may be merciful to them 3:9

C. God Saves Nineveh: When God saw the repentance of the Ninevites, he was merciful to them, and did not judge them52 3:10

D. YHWH’s Rebuke of Jonah53: In response to Jonah’s accusation that YHWH had done wickedness by being merciful to Nineveh, YHWH-Elohim demonstrated to Jonah that he was only concerned about his own self-interest as opposed to He Himself who acted out of genuine concern for the Ninevites 4:1-11

1. Jonah’s Complaint: Jonah considered YHWH’s relenting towards repentant Nineveh to be in accordance with his “gracious” character and thus so great of an evil that he would rather die than live under such a God 4:1-3

a. Summary Statement: Jonah considered YHWH’s relenting toward repentant Nineveh to be a great evil54, and he became angry55 4:1

b. Jonah’s Anger Explained Through Prayer56: In a prayer to YHWH Jonah explained that he initially fled to Tarshish in order to forestall this gracious outcome in Nineveh because he knew of God’s gracious character; therefore, he would rather die than live under such an unrighteous God 4:2-3

1) Jonah prayed to YHWH 4:2a

2) Jonah explained that he knew when he was back in Israel57 that Nineveh would repent and that the Lord would thus relent of the judgment; therefore, he fled to Tarshish to forestall this outcome 4:2b

3) The reason Jonah knew that the Lord would relent was because of His own expression of His character to Moses when he described Himself as: gracious58, compassionate59, slow to anger60, abundant in lovingkindness,61 and one who relents concerning calamity62 4:2c

4) Jonah then prayed for YHWH to take his life from him63 because he considered death to be better for him than life (since YHWH was so unjust) 4:3

2. YHWH’s Instruction of Jonah: When Jonah accused the Lord of being evil by showing compassion to the Ninevites, YHWH-Elohim carefully unveiled for Jonah that the evil was in his own self-interest as opposed the His genuine love for the Ninevites 4:4-11

a. Summary Question: YHWH asked Jonah if it was morally right64 for him to be angry 4:4

b. Jonah’s Response: Jonah felt that he was morally correct by marching out65 of the city and waiting for God to bring judgment upon it by siting east of Nineveh, building a shelter for his shade, and waiting to see the judgment which the Lord would bring upon the city 4:5

c. YHWH-God’s Instruction Through the Plant:66 As the covenant, powerful-God who was committed to Jonah, YHWH-Elohim unveiled Jonah’s sinful self-interest in his accusations against the Lord as opposed to His Own genuine love for the Ninevites 4:6-11

1) LORD God: YHWH Elohim67 appointed68 a plant69 which grew up over Jonah to be a shade over his head in order to deliver him from his evil70 4:6a

2) Jonah: Jonah was extremely happy71 about the plant 4:6b

3) God: On the next day the powerful God appointed a worm to destroy the plant and a scorching east wind, as well as the sun, to beat down on Jonah until he was faint72 4:7-8a

a) On the next day God73 appointed74 a worm which attacked the plant and caused it to writhered 4:7

b) When the sun rose God appointed75 a scorching east wind and the sun beat down on Jonah’s head so that he became faint 4:8a

4) Jonah: Jonah responded by begging with all of his soul to die saying, “Death is better to me than life76 4:8b

5) God: Then God asked Jonah if it was morally right for him to be angry about the plant77 4:9a

6) Jonah: Jonah answered Elohim’s question by affirming that it was morally right for him to be angry-- even to the point of wanting to die78 4:9b

7) YHWH: YHWH revealed to Jonah the goodness of his compassion for the Ninevites by demonstrating that unlike Jonah’s expressed concern for a plant out of self-interest, His compassion was an expression of genuine love for the good of the Ninevites 4:10-11

a) YHWH79 exposed Jonah’s self-centered regret80 for the plant for which he had no intimate connection 4:10

(1) Jonah had regret for the plant which he did not even care for as a gardener (work or cause to grow) 4:10a

(2) Jonah had regret for the plant which was of little value (came up overnight and perished overnight) 4:10b

b) YHWH unveiled to Jonah the goodness of his compassion for great city of Nineveh which was full of more than 120,000 persons who were morally naïve, as well as innocent animals (which He had created81) 4:11

(1) YHWH asked Jonah whether he should not have compassion on Nineveh 4:11a

(2) The reason YHWH asked Jonah as to whether he should have compassion on Nineveh was because more than 120,000 persons82 were in the city who did not know the difference between their right and left hand83 4:11b

(3) The reason YHWH asked Jonah as to whether he should have compassion on Nineveh was because in addition to the people, there were many animals84 4:11c

1 For a consideration of the two-fold structure of Jonah (e.g., 1--2/3--4) see the Introduction to this argument as well as Walton and Hill, Survey, pp. 387-388, Talbert, Literary Patterns, pp. 71-72, and Allen, Jonah, p. 200.

2 This phrase is employed 112 times to prophets (e.g., 1 Sam. 15:10; 2 Sam. 7:4; 1 Ki. 6:11; 16:1; 17:2,8; 21:17,28; Isaiah 38:4; Jer. 1:4; Hos. 1:2).

3 See the Introduction to Jonah.

4 This term runs throughout the book. Although Nineveh is great (1:2), YHWH is greater (1:4,12) by bringing great fear upon men (1:10). Also, Nineveh's greatness before YHWH is later understood to be her many people (4:11).

5 Nineveh was a city which stood for self-exaltation and ungodly power. Situated on the west bank of the Tigris River, Nineveh was the capital city of a cruel, vile, powerful and idolatrous empire--the Assyrians. It was known for brutal treatment of those whom they defeated including cutting off the heads and hands of warriors, flaying the skin of their victims and spreading it upon the wall of the city (see, Luckenbill, Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia 1:127, 146, 148, 213; 2:295, 319)

6 Compare Gen. 18--19.

7 Tarshish may have been Spain. This was the opposite direction (West) of the Lord's command (to go East).

8 The term for down is a physical means of expressing Jonah's attempt to get away from the presence of the Lord.

While he may know that he cannot escape God's presence, he can at least go to where God is not known and perhaps escape such mandatory service (e.g., God dwells in Jerusalem, not Tarshish, cf. Ps. 139:7,9).

9 More literally, this is the chief-rope-puller ( lbjh br ).

10 These are the same terms used by YHWH in Jonah's commission in 1:1 ( <Wq arq ). Jonah would have recognized this similarity.

11 The term for perish has the sense of entering under judgment for sin ( dba ; cf. Lev. 26:38). Unlike Jonah, the captain is aware that this storm is due to sin.

12 This was a technique which depended upon the gods (or more exactly YHWH) to sovereignly make the choice (cf. Prov. 16:33).

It was done through the placement of stones or pieces of wood into a bosom-fold of a garment or into a vessel, and by shaking the container until one sprang out. Perhaps peoples names or initials would be placed upon the stones.

The goal of casting lots may be understood as finding an ordered way to learn from each individual on the boat reasons why his god might be angry (see Hill, Jonah, pp. 19-25; cf. Joshua 7:14-18; 1 Sam. 14;40-42). This is probably what occurs in 1:8 when the sailors begin to ask Jonah questions. Nevertheless, the sense is that the first one to speak was none other than the guilty one--Jonah. YHWH is still pursuing him.

13 The verb is in the hiphil emphasizing causation ( lP)Y!n ).

14 The questions were probably meant to help Jonah think of possible connections to some offense (Hill, Jonah, p. 25).

15 The rapid succession of questions may indicate that they were asked by the crowd around him.

16 This term identified Jonah as a foreigner, e.g., someone from beyond (the river; the term is yrbu ).

17 The statement that Jonah fears YHWH is probably the center of thought in this chapter since the material surrounding it is arranged in a balanced fashion with an inverted order (R. Pesch, Zur konsentrischen Struktur von Jona 1, Biblica, 47 (1966): 577-581; See also Allen, Jonah, p. 197, and Talbert, Literary Patterns, p. 72):

A- The sailors are afraid: the sea rages (4-5a)

B- The sailors cried to their gods (5a,b)

C- Attempts to save the ship (5b,c,6a)

D- Jonah is exhorted to help (6a,b)

E- The sailors ask the cause of their plight (7a)

F- The lot fell upon Jonah (7b)

G- Jonah is asked to explain (8)

H- I fear YHWH, the creator (9,10a)

G'- Jonah is asked to explain (10a,b)

F'- They knew Jonah was fleeing from YHWH (10c)

E'- The sailors ask the remedy to their plight (11)

D'- Jonah gives instructions that will help (12)

C'- Attempts to save the ship are in vain (13)

B'- The sailors cry to YHWH (14)

A'- The sea ceased from its raging: the sailors feared YHWH 15-16

18 This may well describe the realm over which God rules (e.g., the heavens, cf. Gen. 24:3,7) thereby affirming that he is over all other gods.

19 We are not told that Jonah told the sailors that he was fleeing from YHWH's presence. Perhaps they have become so frightened by Jonah's all-inclusive description of his God (e.g., he rules over all of the other gods as the God of heaven) that they now seek advice from him to satisfy his God.

It is also possible that Jonah had earlier told some that he was fleeing from his god, and now when they learned that his god was the creator of the sea, they put two and two together and sought to know how to appease Him. Verse 10b affirms that they did know that Jonah was fleeing from his God.

20 Used of the wind, cargo, and now of Jonah.

21 Salvation only comes through obeying the word of the prophet.

22 The term describes digging into the water ( rtj ; cf. Ezk. 8:8). Perhaps they think that YHWH wants Jonah back at the land.

23 This term is also used of the anger of YHWH which can rage ( puz, cf. Prov. 19:12; Michah 7:9).

The apostles may have thought of this passage in their experience with Jesus on the Sea of Galilee (cf. Lk. 8:22-25).

24 This is what Jonah claimed to do in 1:9. Their fear and worship come out of experiencing salvation.

25 The form of these verses are that of a Psalm of Thanksgiving including (1) an introduction with summary of his testimony (2) a main section with a portrayal of his distress, his cry to God for help, and the deliverance, and (3) a conclusion with his vows to YHWH (Bernhard W. Anderson, Out of the Depths: The Psalms Speak for Us Today, pp. 7, 84-86).

While one would expect a lament (or cry for help) from the stomach of the fish, it is certain that the fish (as awful as it was) was a vessel of salvation to Jonah from the depths of the sea. While he probably thought the words of this psalm while in the fish, he no doubt wrote them down after his experience (perhaps it was then that his thoughts were placed into poetic structure). At that later time he would have been experientially certain that the great fish was for his good rather than his demise. Therefore, Jonah identifies salvation with his entrance into the fish, rather than with his expulsion by the fish.

26 The are many parallels between chapters one and two including: (1) crisis [1:4/2:3; cf. 1:15], (2) a response of prayer [1:14/2:2], (3) Yahweh's salvation [1:15b/2:6b], and (4) worship through cultic acts and vows [1:16/2:9]. See G. M. Landes, The Kerygma, Interpretation, pp. 16,26; also Talbert, Literary Patterns, pp. 71-72.

27 The actual term is Sheol ( loav ) meaning the place of the dead (cf. Gen. 37:35). Even though this was considered to be a place far from God (opposite of heaven), it was still within his reach (cf. Ps. 139:8; Rev. 14:10).

28 See 1:5; this is Jonah's way of describing YHWH as sovereign even over the actions of men.

29 This is the same term that was used in 1:4,5,and 12.

30 Jonah clearly identifies his calamity with the Lord, your breakers ....

31 This was exactly what Jonah was seeking to do himself (1:3,10).

32 The term du means up to. This was as far as Jonah could go and still be alive.

33 Jonah describes the bottom of the sea like a watery tomb: he is wrapped in weeds; he is at the base of the mountains; he is behind the bars of the earth.

34 More literally, YHWH brought up his life from the grave (pit; cf. Job 33:22-24).

35 The word order is emphatic: while I was fainting, YHWH, I remembered ( yTrkz hwhy-ta).

36 The term is dsj , covenant, loyal love.

37 It is entirely possible that Jonah has the sailors in mind from chapter one. If so, this may be a hint of his attitude which again gets him into trouble in chapter 4.

38 The term for sacrifice describes a thank offering ( jbz , cf. Lev. 7:12).

39 This is the same phrase as in 1:1.

40 Now Jonah knows that even though Nineveh is great (cf. 1:2), that YHWH is greater (cf. 1:4,10,12,16,17).

41 This was no doubt going to be in alignment with 1:1, but now YHWH is going to give a specific proclamation to Jonah (e.g., Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown 3:4b).

42 The phrase in accordance with the word of YHWH is another element in prophetic narratives (1 Ki. 17:5; Jer. 13:2). Now Jonah is as obedient as YHWH's other servants--the wind, sea, and fish (Allen, Jonah, pp. 220-221).

43 The Hebrew includes the reference to God ( <yhOal). In God's estimation Nineveh is great. The emphasis which follows upon the cities size and inhabitants helps the reader know why God considers it to be so great.

44 This statement is greatly disputed in terms of the actual size of Nineveh. Allen considers it to be an inflated tradition from the time of Sennacherib (seventh century B.C.) when Nineveh was enlarged, but admits that the size of the population in 4:11 (120,000) matches the time of the historical event (Jonah, pp. 221-222).

It is quite possible that Nineveh not only refers to the city proper, but to greater Nineveh as a metropolis (or complex of cities) including the ruin mounds of Mimroud, Kouyunjik, Kjorsabad, and Karamles as four corners of a sixty mile square which at a days journey of 18.75 miles works out to a three days journey. This would also allow for a larger population of around 600,000. However, this is not a great difficulty with 4:11 since the reference may well be to children (see Steitz, The History and Assyrian Background to the Book of Jonah, pp. 17-22).

Another view is that the three days does not refer to the length of the journey, but to the size of the project (e.g., it would take Jonah three days to proclaim the message to all of the major areas of Nineveh; see Hill, Jonah, pp. 37-39). This would then allow the 120,000 of 4:11 to refer to the entire population of Nineveh who were like children in their ability to discern spiritual truth.

45 This probably constitutes the essence of Jonah's message. Repentance is not even mentioned (cf. 3:9). The Ninevites may have responded because they believed that they could not please all of their gods, and thus one may be angry at them. For a fuller discussion see Hill (Jonah, pp. 39-44).

It is possible that the time period of forty days may well have been understood by the Ninevites as a testing period for them to bend their will to the messenger (Allen, Jonah, p. 222).

46 It is difficult to know whether to capitalize this term. They may have simply thought, Jonah's god, without knowing he was God ( <yhOaB ). If the name YHWH had been used, a conversion would be clearer.

The best suggestion is that this statement refers to the word of God which Jonah spoke (cf. Num. 20:12; Hill, Jonah, pp. 46-47; Allen, Jonah, p. 223).

These proud Ninevites probably believed Jonah for some of the following reasons: (1) the were polytheistic, and therefore, may have thought that Jonah was a representative of one of the multitudes of gods, (2) some omen may have occurred before Jonah arrived which made the Ninevites believe that their city was going to be overthrown; Jonah would have then been the direct announcer of the message already signified by the omen, (3) they had experienced a weakening of their empire, a rise in monotheistic worship of Nabu, plagues, revolts, and a eclipse of the sun, and (4) their city name was aetiological in that they were supposedly founded by a fish-god, thus they were known as Fishtown; therefore, as Jonah's experience became known, they would have repented before this pagan concept of a god (see Hill, Jonah, pp. 44-47; Merrill, The Sign of Jonah, JETS, pp. 24,27-30; Steitz, Historicity, pp. 1-16).

47 The fast was a physical means of expressing an awareness of one's dependence upon God (1 Sam. 31:13; 2 Chron. 20:31; Ezra 8:21). While this does not seem to have been a normal practice for all Mesopotamians, they may well have known of the practice by Jonah's people as well as others beside Israel (Amarna letters 29:57), thereby adopting it in response to Jonah's prophecy (see Hill, Jonah, pp. 47-52).

48 The itchy burlap-like cloth made of goats hair (Gen. 42:25,27; Isa. 50:3; Rev.6:12) was also a physical means of expressing one's need before God in mourning (2 Ki. 19:1; Ps. 35:13; Ester 4:1). An external expression of the internal heart.

49 This was probably not the king of Assyria at this time (Adad-nirari III or Shalmaneser IV), but a local ruler of the city (cf., 1 Ki. 21:1).

50 This was a Semitic practice (see Job 12:7; Isa. 58:5).

51 This was a common practice in Persia for mourning (cf. Herodotus ix.24; Plutarch, Alexander 72; Judith 4:10-14). Horses commonly entered into this expression in Western society, but black hearses took this over (cf. the funeral for President Kennedy).

52 This does not necessarily mean that the Ninevites were saved. There is no mention of faith in this verse. God saw their deeds. It seems that their humility before God was reason enough for him to postpone judgment at this time (cf. 1 Ki. 21:27). Jeremiah later directly expressed YHWH's thoughts about his own repentance (Jer. 18:7ff).

As Allen so well writes the saving of the Ninevites is a repetition of Jonah's experience: Jonah had been to object of divine anger, symbolized in the fury of the storm (1:15). He too had been under sentence of death and conscious of his guilt (1:12). He had been saved from drowning at the last moment by a signal [sic] act of grace shown by his sovereign God. Divine inactivity is here the counterpart to the divine activity in rescuing Jonah at 2:1 (Jonah, p. 227).

53 This final unit becomes the key to understanding the message of the book of Jonah. This chapter demonstrates that Jonah is not representative of Israel so much as Nineveh. This can be supported by several factors:

(1) there are many parallels between chapters three and four--crisis situation [3:4/4:1], response to the crisis [3:5-8/4:1-3], response of YHWH [3:10/4:4,6-11].

(2) the divine name that is used with Jonah (YHWH) changes to include the name that was used with the Ninevites (Elohim)

(3) Both Jonah and Ninevah had a calamity and Jonah is being treated as the object of the lesson (cf. 3:10; 4:6 and the repetition of the term hur which is translated calamity in 3:10 and discomfort in 4:6)

However, unlike Nineveh, Jonah is not spared his calamity after all when God sovereignly removes his instrument of grace (4:7). Jonah then received the very treatment which he desired for Nineveh. God is unfolding his sovereign right to bestow his grace upon whomever he wishes, and he does so as people respond in the right direction (cf. Hill and Walton, Survey, pp. 385-387).

54 The verb for displeased is jur meaning to do evil, and the sentence more literally reads, It was evil to Jonah, a great evil.

Note the play once again upon the adjective great. Jonah is now accusing the great God of doing great evil!

As Allen says, He who praised the gracious mercy of God in ch. 2 turns around and deplores it in ch. 4 (Jonah, p. 227).

55 More literally the term is burned or hot ( rjh ) describing someone as burning with anger. Jonah is enraged at what God has done.

56 This prayer is just the opposite of the prayer of thanksgiving offered in chapter two. This reflects more the Jonah of chapter one than the Jonah of chapter two. In view of this Landes has pointed out many parallels between Jonah chapters 1 & 2 and 4: (1) the focus shifts to Jonah 1:17/4:1-11, (2) Jonah prays 2:10/4:1, (3) a reference back to the distressing situation 2:2-6a/4:2a, (4) an emphasis upon God's mercy 2:6b-7/4:2b, (5) Jonah draws conclusions based upon God's deliverance 2:8/4:2a, (6) Jonah responds to YHWH's deliverance 2:9/4:3, and (7) YHWH responds to Jonah 2:10/4:4-11 [The Kerygma, pp. 16,26].

57 Note the play on words. Jonah is affirming his word over YHWH's (e.g., was this not my word yrbd ).

58 This is one who hears the cry of the vexed debtor ( nwnj ; cf. Ex. 22:27).

59 God's care as for people who have repented as for a child ( <Wjr ; Ki. 8:50; Dt. 4:31).

60 Long suffering ( <ypa ira ). God does not act out of impulse (Prov. 14:29).

61 The terms are dsj br .

62 See Exodus 34:1-7; Joel 2:18. They can both use this description without Jonah receiving it from Joel. Allen's interpretation assumes a late date for Jonah (Jonah, p. 228).

Jonah is using all of YHWH's good character qualities as an evil indictment against him.

63 Jonah here echoes the words of the great prophet Elijah when he says take my life away (1 Ki. 19:4). However, it is not in the same tone as Elijah who felt he could never overcome the prophets of Baal. Jonah has had success, but is angry with YHWH over it (see Allen, Jonah, p. 229).

64 The word is bfy expressing ethical right (cf. Gen. 4:7 with Cain).

65 The term is axy to march out (see BDB, p. 424).

66 Remember Jonah's words in 1:9, I fear the LORD God ... who made the sea and the dry land. Now the creator of the land will use it to teach his prophet as he used the sea before.

67 This is the first time that any name other than YHWH has been used with Jonah. YHWH has reference to the covenant Lord of Israel. Now the name Elohim has been added ( <yhOa-hwhy ). This combination is reminiscent of Genesis 1--3. In Genesis 1 Elohim is the powerful creator; in Genesis 2 YHWH Elohim is the powerful Creator who acts in covenant with mankind; in Genesis 3 Elohim is the name used by the serpent and adopted by Eve. In Genesis 3 YHWH Elohim is the powerful covenant God who comes looking for mankind after the fall in order to help them. So here, it is the powerful God whom Jonah desires to act in judgment upon the Ninevites together with the covenant God who is causing the plant to grow--for Jonah's good.

68 The same sovereign term that was used in 1:17 concerning the great fish. The Lord is about to deliver Jonah again, but this time it is going to be from his evil heart.

69 It is difficult to be sure about what kind of plant this was. Perhaps it was a castor-oil plant (Ricinus communis L.). Whatever it was, its rapid growth cannot be explained by natural circumstances--this was miraculous. See R. K. Harrison, Introduction, pp. 910 for a fuller discussion.

70 The NASB translates this word as discomfort, but it is the same word which was used in 4:1, It was a great evil to Jonah. It was also used in 3:10 and translated as calamity ( hur ). God is going to deliver Jonah from his calamity just as he delivered the Ninevites. Just as Jonah has accused YHWH of evil, now the Lord is going to deliver him from his own evil.

71 The term means to rejoice in truth (Jud. 9:19), blessing (Dt. 33:18), or in the good (Eccl. 11:8). Jonah seems to be rejoicing in the thought that the Lord now sees that he was right.

72 As Allen writes, The shoe Jonah wanted Nineveh to wear was on his foot now, and it pinched (Jonah, p. 233).

73 This is Elohim ( <yhOah ) the powerful One whom Jonah desired to judge Nineveh (3:5-10). Now Jonah is going to taste the fruit of the Powerful one apart from the covenant One himself.

74 The same term as in 1:17 and 4:6.

75 Same term as in 1:17 and 4:6 above ( /myw ).

76 Jonah is confused again concerning the nature of God. The last time he requested death it was because God seemed to be unjust by granting the mercy (4:3); now, he seems to be unjust by capriciously destroying the plant. Jonah would rather die than life with such a God.

77 This question is parallel with the one asked by YHWH in 4:4. There it was about the Lord's dealing with Nineveh in mercy; here it is about God's dealing with the plant in judgment. Before Jonah would not even answer YHWH (4:5). Now that it even more directly affects Jonah, he will dare to justify himself.

78 Jonah is not so concerned about the plant as about what seems to be the capricious nature of God. The plant did nothing wrong and it was judged (as well as Jonah along with it); the Ninevites had done plenty that was wrong and they were spared. God does not appear to be just; therefore, Jonah would rather die than live as His representative.

It is possible that the phrase as far as death ( twm-du ) may have the force of an expletive (e.g., yes, I have a right to be angry--damned angry!) [see Allen, Jonah, p. 233].

79 Once again Jonah encounters his covenant God--YHWH. It is He who will unravel the complicated evil of Jonah's heart with Jonah's good wholly in view.

80 The term that is used for compassion in the NASB is tsj meaning,to have pity. However since the plant is an inanimate object, it would probably be better to define it as having regret (cf. Gen. 45:20 where Joseph instructs his brothers not to feel regret about leaving their possessions behind in Canaan). This turns the attention on the subject (Jonah), and thus emphasizes that he was the actual object of pity (cf. Hill, Jonah, pp. 60-61).

81 The comparison engendered between verses 10 and 11 is that Jonah's pain is nothing compared with YHWH's when he contemplates the destruction of Nineveh--people and animals whom he has created and caused to grow (other passages which unfold this similar theme are Jeremiah 45; Hosea 11:8). If Jonah could show concern, how much more would YHWH?

82 There is discussion as to whether this number refers to the entire population of Nineveh, or to simply the children of the metroplex. In part the answer is decided by one's view of the reference to the city in 3:4. If one holds to a larger complex of cities, than the 120,000 would most probably refer to the children of the population. However, if one holds to the concept of 3:4 as a description of the length of the task before Jonah, the number 120,000 could well represent the entire population of Nineveh proper. It seems to this writer that the latter is the better solution in that it holds to geographical descriptions of the city in Jonah's day. The entire population is described as not knowing the difference between their right and left hand as a figurative way of expressing moral immaturity. Although they are adults, they (as compared with Israel [Deut. 1:39) are morally naïve.

83 While ignorance does not relinquish culpability, it may be a mitigating circumstance when there is a chance that encouragement would bear fruit (cf. Luke 23:24; Acts 7:60 with 1 Tim. 1:13; also Acts 3:17; 13:27; 17:23,30) [Allen, Jonah, pp. 234-235; D. Daube, Studia Patristica 4. Texte und Untersuchungen 79 (1961): 58-70).

84 Could it be that this is YHWH's way of saying that he noticed the animals who were in mourning too (cf. 3:7-10; Ps. 36:6; Matt. 10:29).

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines

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