4:1 But Jonah was greatly [intensely] displeased [or seethed with burning anger; he did not want to see God’s mercy extended to any people but his own; Jonah was displeased with what pleased God] and became angry [perhaps because he knew that the Assyrians were the enemies of his people or because the Ninevites’ response threatened to discredit him as a prophet (because his prophesy did not come to pass)].
4:2 [Jonah’s prayer gives us insight into his prejudiced mind] He prayed [or perhaps bitterly whined] to the LORD, “O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home [indicates Jonah may have protested to God prior to his flight to Tarshish]? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious [gives sinners what they do not deserve] and compassionate [loving and merciful] God, slow to anger [patient and long-suffering] and abounding in love [Hebrew, chesed — God’s covenant faithfulness and love; see also Ps. 103:8], a God who relents from sending calamity [this experience should have taught Jonah a lesson about the magnitude of God’s love, instead it embittered him].
4:3 Now, O LORD, take away my life [others might ask to die because their message failed, but Jonah asked to die because his message succeeded], for it is better for me to die [perhaps because he felt he was a discredited prophet] than to live [indication of Jonah’s deep prejudice].”
4:4 But the LORD replied, “Have you any right [justification] to be angry [to burn]? [a convicting question designed to get Jonah to examine whether his anger was justified; in essence, God was telling Jonah to think about what he was saying and to reevaluate his attitude]“
4:5 Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city [where he could observe the city from a distance]. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city [perhaps he thought that the Ninevites’ repentance would be short-lived and God would send judgment anyway].
4:6 Then the LORD God provided [for a distinct purpose; just as God appointed a great fish to rescue Jonah from drowning in 1:17] a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy [first time Jonah was happy; his comfort was more important to him than the welfare of Nineveh] about the vine [he was happy about his personal comfort but sad over Nineveh’s response].
4:7 But at dawn the next day God provided [cf. 1:17; 4:6] a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered [the only thing that was destroyed in the book].
4:8 When the sun rose, God [controls nature] provided [cf. 1:17; 4:6,7] a scorching east wind [a hot and scorching sirocco wind from the east], 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.”
4:9 But God said to Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry [cf. v. 4] about the vine?” “I do,” he said [Jonah felt justified in his anger over the death of the plant]. “I am angry enough to die [Jonah’s values were wrong — he was more concerned about his interests, comfort, and convenience than about the welfare of the Ninevites].”
4:10 But the LORD said [explained the object lesson of the vine and the worm], “You have been concerned [pity or compassion] about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight.
4:11 [God explains to Jonah that people are more important than things (plants)] But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left [perhaps a reference to children or infants, suggesting population of the city was more than 600,000 people; perhaps a reference to the Ninevites lack of clear moral discernment], and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned [pity, spare, or grieve for] about that great city? [Nineveh was to God as the plant was to Nineveh]“
Note: Jonah could not understand how God could love all people, especially the Ninevites. God is not willing that any should perish but that all men should come to repentance (see Ezekiel 33:11 and 2 Peter 3:9). We should see people as God sees them. Someone has written:
Lord, help me see in those I meet,
On country road or city street,
Not just people passing by,
But those for whom Jesus came to die.