Jonah wants to die (Jon 4:3-4:3)

“Therefore now,

O Yahweh!

Please take my life

From me!

It is better for me

To die

Than to live!”

Jonah was a little down on himself.  He knew that he had originally refused this mission.  Then he had done it, only to find out that Yahweh had changed his mind about destroying Nineveh.  Now he just wanted to die, since he had no desire to live.  This is a strong suicidal plea.

Jonah’s justifying prayer to Yahweh (Jon 4:2-4:2)

“Jonah prayed

To Yahweh.

He said.

‘O Yahweh!

Is this not what I said

While I was still

In my country?

That is why I fled

To Tarshish

At the beginning.

I knew that

You are a gracious God.

You are merciful.

You are slow to anger.

You are abounding

In steadfast love.

You are ready

To relent from punishing.’”

Jonah in his prayer to Yahweh tried to justify his former actions.  He claimed that Yahweh was so gracious and merciful that he would not have inflicted any damage on Nineveh.  Jonah gave that as his reason for originally trying to flee to Tarshish.  He knew that Yahweh was slow to anger and abounding with steadfast love.  Thus, he knew that Yahweh was eager and ready to not punish the people of Nineveh.

Jonah was not happy (Jon 4:1-4:1)

But this was

Very displeasing

To Jonah.

He became angry.”

Not only did Jonah refuse to take on this mission originally, now he was mad that God had not followed through on his original proclamation.  He looked like a fool, since he went around screaming about the 40 days until Nineveh would be destroyed.  Now, there was to be no destruction.  Jonah was not a happy man.  He was angry.

God saves Nineveh (Jon 3:10-3:10)

“When God saw

What they did,

How they turned

From their evil ways,

God changed his mind

About the calamity

That he had said

He would bring upon them.

Thus,

He did not do it.”

This is one of the few cases where God changing his mind.  God did not bring destruction to Nineveh.  God saw how the people and the leaders of Nineveh had turned from their evil ways.  Thus, he decided not to bring destruction to this non-Israelite town, because of their repentance.  God showed mercy to them.

The great fast proclamation (Jon 3:7-3:9)

“The king had a proclamation

Made in Nineveh.

‘By the decree

Of the king

With his nobles.

No human being,

No animal,

No herd,

No flock,

Shall taste anything.

They shall not feed them.

They shall not drink water.

Human beings,

With animals,

Shall be covered

With sackcloth.

They shall cry mightily

To God.

All shall turn

From their evil ways.

They shall turn

From the violence

That is in their hands.

Who knows?

God may yet relent.

God may change

His mind.

He may turn

From his fierce anger.

Thus,

We may not perish.’”

This king of Nineveh sent out a proclamation from the capital city.  No humans or animals should eat or drink anything, a total fast.  Both the humans and animals should be covered in sackcloth.  They all should cry out to God.  They were to turn from their evil violent ways.  His thought was that maybe God would change his mind about the future destruction of Nineveh.  Perhaps God would not be angry with them.  Thus, they would not die.

The king responds favorably also (Jon 3:6-3:6)

“When the news reached

The king of Nineveh,

He arose

From his throne.

He removed

His robe.

He covered himself

With sackcloth.

He sat in ashes.”

When the king of Nineveh heard about the proclamations of Jonah, he rose from his throne and took off his royal robes.  He then covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes.  The use of the common sack cloth used for carrying vegetables instead of better clothes was a sign of mourning and repentance.  Like a good king, he was going along with his subjects who took the warnings of Jonah very seriously.

The positive response of the people of Nineveh (Jon 3:5-3:5)

“The people of Nineveh

Believed God.

They proclaimed a fast.

Everyone,

Great and small,

Put on sackcloth.”

In a sudden conversion or the fear of destruction, the people of Nineveh believed in God.  Notice that they believed in God, not Yahweh, which would have been more difficult.  Just like on the boat, Jonah seemed to be successful, even if he was not trying very hard.  They proclaimed a fast.  Then everyone, no matter whether they were important or not, put on sackcloth to go into mourning.

Jonah’s proclamation (Jon 3:4-3:4)

“Jonah began

To go into the city,

Going a day’s walk.

He cried out.

‘Forty days more,

Then Nineveh

Shall be overthrown!’”

The text does not say how long it took Jonah to get there, but he was certainly in the city.  He walked one day into the center of the city and began to cry out that Nineveh would be overthrown in 40 days.  Forty days was a common biblical number, since Noah’s trip during the flood was 40 days, while the Israelites spent 40 years in the desert.

Jonah goes to Nineveh (Jon 3:3-3:3)

“Thus,

Jonah set out for Nineveh.

He went to Nineveh,

According to

The word of Yahweh.

Now Nineveh was

An exceedingly large city.

It would take three days

To walk across it.”

This time the response of Jonah was quite different.  Instead of running away, Jonah went to Nineveh as the word of Yahweh had instructed him.  Next, we have a short description of this Nineveh, the capital city of the Assyrians, a very large city that would take 3 days to walk across it.  Actually, it was only about 3 miles wide and 1½ miles wide.  It was one of the largest cities in the ancient world until the civil war of 612 BCE, probably with a population of around 120,000 people.  Geographically, Nineveh was on the outskirts of modern day Mosul, Iraq, on the east bank of the Tigris River.

The second call of Jonah (Jon 3:1-3:2)

“The word of Yahweh

Came to Jonah

A second time,

Saying.

‘Get up!

Go to Nineveh,

That great city!

Proclaim to it

The message

That I tell you!’”

This second call to Jonah to go to Nineveh was like the first call of Yahweh in chapter 1.  However, there are some changes.  There was no immediate ‘at once’ demand on Jonah.  He was, of course, to go to the great city of Nineveh, but there was no mention of the wickedness in Nineveh.  Instead, Jonah was to proclaim the message that Yahweh was going to tell him.  How will Jonah respond this 2nd time?