Jonah’s Anger and God’s Reproof. 1But this greatly displeased Jonah, and he became angry.* 2He prayed to the LORD, “O LORD, is this not what I said while I was still in my own country? This is why I fled at first toward Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger, abounding in kindness, repenting of punishment.* a 3So now, LORD, please take my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.”b 4But the LORD asked, “Are you right to be angry?”*
5Jonah then left the city for a place to the east of it, where he built himself a hut and waited* under it in the shade, to see what would happen to the city. 6Then the LORD God provided a gourd plant.* And when it grew up over Jonah’s head, giving shade that relieved him of any discomfort, Jonah was greatly delighted with the plant. 7But the next morning at dawn God provided a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered. 8And when the sun arose, God provided a scorching east wind; and the sun beat upon Jonah’s head till he became faint. Then he wished for death, saying, “It is better for me to die than to live.”
9But God said to Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry over the gourd plant?” Jonah answered, “I have a right to be angry—angry enough to die.” 10Then the LORD said, “You are concerned* over the gourd plant which cost you no effort and which you did not grow; it came up in one night and in one night it perished. 11And should I not be concerned over the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot know their right hand from their left, not to mention all the animals?”*
* [4:1] He became angry: because of his narrow vindictiveness, Jonah did not wish the Lord to forgive the Ninevites.
* [4:4] The Lord’s question is as unexpected as it is pithy. It is also a mysterious reply to Jonah’s wish to die; perhaps it serves to invite Jonah to think over his situation. However, it goes unanswered, and the request and reply will be repeated in vv. 8–9.
* [4:5] Waited: Jonah still hopes his threat of doom will be fulfilled.
* [4:6] Gourd plant: the Hebrew word, qiqayon, means here a wide-leafed plant of the cucumber or castor-bean variety.
* [4:10] Concerned: the meaning of the Hebrew verb suggests “pity, care for,” and this appears in the Lord’s attitude to Nineveh in v. 11. Jonah has shown only a selfish concern over the plant in contrast to the Lord’s true “concern” for his creatures.
* [4:11] A selfish Jonah bemoans his personal loss of a gourd plant for shade without any concern over the threat of loss of life to the Ninevites through the destruction of their city. If a solicitous God provided the plant for a prophet without the latter’s effort or merit, how much more is God disposed to show love and mercy toward all people, Jew and Gentile, when they repent of their sins and implore divine pardon. God’s care goes beyond human beings to all creation, as in Job 38.