Here is the sad reality of the book of Jonah: even in the final verses, our prophet is not, nor has ever been, a true follower of Yahweh. From Jonah 1, when he tried to run away to Tarshish because he didn’t want to go to Nineveh, now to Jonah 4 in which he is still mad that Nineveh wasn’t destroyed, not once has he ever submitted to God’s will in full humility and obedience.
Now, the Lord has finally had enough of His would-be prophet. The time for correction is upon Jonah, but first, in Jonah 4:9, God asks him a question: “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” If you remember from yesterday’s post (here), Jonah became mad that God took away his shade, and his answer to God’s question is further proof that he is still angry. Jonah tells God, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die”. His statement is both humorous and ridiculous. Jonah is annoyed with God, and his response drips with condescension and even unbelief as he implies, “Yes, of course I am angry! How can you even ask me such a question?!” Herein is the final characterization that we have of Jonah in this prophetic book: our final picture of Jonah is one in which he challenges God and then wishes to die.
Does this statement sound familiar? In Job 2, after enduring a wealth of sufferings, the wife turns to her husband and says, “Curse God and die” (verse 9). But the man, Job, refuses, and the following verse states that, as a result, “in all this Job did not sin with his lips” (verse 10). In other words, to “curse God and die” is to sin. To curse God means to say “Forget you, God”. It is a willful act of defiance, in which you speak ill of God and then want nothing to do with Him. Job absolutely refuses to do such an unholy act because he has a greater and deeper understanding of God. Job both recognizes and accepts God’s sovereignty over everything, including Job’s possessions, his wealth, his family and even his own life.
Jonah, on the other hand, does not. He desires to do exactly what Job’s wife suggests. He rejects God, and that is the last word that we hear from him in this book. There is no later repentance. There is no later forgiveness. But should we be surprised? The whole book of Jonah has been one of descent, both physically and spiritually, and unsurprisingly in the final verses we see Jonah on descent yet again. Do not look to this man as a hero or model. If anything, he is an anti-hero, an example of how not to relate with God. Jonah is disobedient. He is unloving. But most importantly, he has no faith. Jonah wishes for death, and surely death is coming for him.
Before it does, however, God will have the last word (as He always does). So, stick around for tomorrow’s post on Jonah 4:10–11!