So Jonah went out of the city - I believe this refers to what had already passed; and I therefore agree with Bp. Newcome, who translates, "Now Jonah Had gone out of the city, and Had sat," etc.; for there are many instances where verbs in the preterite form have this force, the ו vau here turning the future into the preterite. And the passage is here to be understood thus: When he had delivered his message he left the city, and went and made himself a tent, or got under some shelter on the east side of the city, and there he was determined to remain till he should see what would become of the city. But when the forty days had expired, and he saw no evidence of the Divine wrath, he became angry, and expostulated with God as above. The fifth verse should be read in a parenthesis, or be considered as beginning the chapter.
So Jonah went out of the city - oThe form of the words implies (as in the English Version), that this took place after Jonah was convinced that God would spare Nineveh; and since there is no intimation that he knew it by revelation, then it was probably after the 40 days. “The days being now past, after which it was time that the things foretold should be accomplished, and His anger as yet taking no effect, Jonah understood that God had pity on Nineveh. Still he does not give up all hope, and thinks that a respite of the evil has been granted them on their willingness to repent, but that some effect of His displeasure would come, since the pains of their repentance bad not equalled their offences. So thinking in himself apparently, he departs from the city, and waits to see what will become of them.” “He expected” apparently “that it would either fall by an earthquake, or be burned with fire, like Sodom”. “Jonah, in that he built him a tabernale and sat over against Nineveh, awaiting what should happen to it, wore a different, foresignifying character. For he prefigured the carnal people of Israel. For these too were sad at the salvation of the Ninevites, i. e., the redemption and deliverance of the Gentiles. Whence Christ came to call, not the righteous but sinners to repentance. But the over-shadowing gourd over his head was the promises of the Old Testament or those offices in which, as the apostle says, there was a shadow of good things to come, protecting them in the land of promise from temporal evils; all which are now emptied and faded. And now that people, having lost the temple at Jerusalem and the priesthood and sacrifice (all which was a shadow of that which was to come) in its captive dispersion, is scorched by a vehement heat of tribulation, as Jonah by the heat of the sun, and grieves greatly; and yet the salvation of the pagan and the penitent is accounted of more moment than its grief, and the shadow which it loved.”
When Jonah learned of God's purpose to spare the city that, notwithstanding its wickedness, had been led to repent in sackcloth and ashes, he should have been the first to rejoice because of God's amazing grace; but instead he allowed his mind to dwell upon the possibility of his being regarded as a false prophet. Jealous of his reputation, he lost sight of the infinitely greater value of the souls in that wretched city. The compassion shown by God toward the repentant Ninevites “displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.” “Was not this my saying,” he inquired of the Lord, “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.” Jonah 4:1, 2. PK 271.1
Once more he yielded to his inclination to question and doubt, and once more he was overwhelmed with discouragement. Losing sight of the interests of others, and feeling as if he would rather die than live to see the city spared, in his dissatisfaction he exclaimed, “Now, O Lord, take, I beseech Thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.” PK 271.2Read in context »