Jonah was a jerk!
Most of us know the story of Jonah, and we also know that part of his story is that he ran away from God’s calling for him. What most people don’t recall is the rest of the story. It is the 4th chapter of the book of Jonah that reveals that he is a flat out jerk.
Why Jonah is a Jerk
- He was totally full of himself
- He refused to do the job gave him
- He delighted in the thought of God destroying a while population
- He pouted like a baby when God showed mercy on them
Jonah lived in the 8th century from what information we can draw from the book of Jonah and 2 Kings 14:25, which seems to indicated that Jonah is alive or was recently alive at the time.
He was given orders by God to go preach to Nineveh, a city that was in the heart of Babylon, one of Israel’s foes and a dominant world power. Essentially, it would have been like and Iraqi man being told to go proclaim Islam to the Bob Jones campus. As you might imagine, Jonah did not think it was a good idea, and decided he knew better than God and he fled in the opposite direction.
The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”
But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish . He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.
If you are not yet aware of the rest of the typical Jonah story, here is the cutest little girl in the world who is glad to share it with you. She does an impressive job until the end. The end is presented just like everyone else presents it; happily ever after. But lets take a look at what the Book of Jonah actually says. It’s not all butterflies and daisies at the end of the story. In fact, Jonah is more of a jerk at the end than he was at the start.
After fleeing from the Lord on a boat, God sent a mighty storm to the seas. Like most superstitious easterners of that day, they assumed they upset the Gods. It turns out that Jonah was the one who did and he was thrown over-board!! What happened next is what we always remember about Jonah; he was swallowed by a giant fish/whale. Whilst inside said fish, Jonah appears to come to his senses and prays to God.
“When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord,and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.”
God, in His great mercy allows Jonah to live (presumably only because he felt bad for the whale’s indigestion because Jonah did not shape up after the whale incident).
Jonah’s only act of obedience
3 Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”
3 Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it.4 Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” 5 The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.
6 When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust.
Amazingly, the people of Nineveh repented. So much so that they even made the cattle and livestock participate in the city-wide fasting and mourning.
“By the decree of the king and his nobles:
Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”
And as you might have guessed, God was not only merciful on Jonah but much more so on the people of Nineveh for their sincere repentance.
When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.
The uncut alternative ending of the Jonah Saga
This is usually where the story ends. Which is sad because an ENTIRE CHAPTER remains in the story that highlights the awful behavior of Jonah. In fact, the editors of the NIV Bible don’t even mince words. The heading title at the start of chapter 4 reads as thus:
Jonah’s Anger at the Lord’s Compassion
Jonah was not only mad that God spared Nineveh but he was so ticked off he told God that he was a jerk for making him preach to them. On top of that, he was sooo mad that he would have preferred to die! Possibly a bit of a over-reaction to God’s executive decision.
4 But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
The last few verses of the story are the best. God uses a simple plant as an object lesson and informs Jonah of his bafoonery.
5 Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. 7 But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. 8 When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”
9 But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”
“It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”
10 But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”
Jonah’s obedience to preach to Nineveh was out of desperation it seems. His words from within the whale makes it sound like he it truly repentant, but as we can see at the end of this story, Jonah is still completely rebelling against God and NEVER repents. He even uses the 5th grade tactic of wishing death upon yourself in hopes that mom and dad will feel bad for you.