Jonah 3:4 New American Standard Bible 1995

Then Jonah began to go through the city one day’s walk; and he cried out and said, “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”

Jonah 3:9-10 New American Standard Bible 1995

9 Who knows, God may turn and relent and withdraw His burning anger so that we will not perish.” 10 When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it.

Jonah 4:1-2 New American Standard Bible 1995

1 But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry. 2 He prayed to the Lord and said, “Please Lord, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.

In Jonah 4:2, when Jonah uses the word "this" what exactly is he referencing?

  1. Is he referencing the (Jonah 4:3) overthrowing of Nineveh?


  1. Is he referencing the (Jonah 4:9) chances of God relenting the calamity?)

I'm asking because if you read Jonah 4:2, Jonah says that he knows God is "slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents calamity" so when Jonah says forestall this then it could interpret said reading as:

  • Since God is "slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents calamity" then God will forestall the calamity

  • But on the other hand, one could also read Jonah 4:2 as Jonah referring to forestalling Nineveh's repentance (which means God would allow the calamity to occur)

Is Jonah 4:2 use of "this" referring to forestalling of the calamity Or forestalling of Nineveh's repentance?

1 Answer 1


The New Living Translation Study Bible makes this comment with regard to Jonah 4:1-2:

This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. So he complained to the Lord about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people.”

NIV Comment: Jonah expresses his motive in originally fleeing from the Lord (Jonah 1:3). He knew that the Lord would not destroy the wicked Ninevites if they repented.

*I knew: Jonah practically quotes Exodus 34:6-7, a passage set in the context of Israel’s covenant relationship with the Lord. Even in the O.T., God was concerned to spread salvation to the nations.

What Jonah says next (in verse3) is most telling:

Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.

Was Jonah’s hatred for Israel’s enemies (the Ninevites) the real reason he ran away to Tarshish? Only after the Lord disciplined Jonah and then delivered him did he submit and deliver God’s message of judgment on the enemies of Israel. Here is the NIV comment:

Jonah’s desire to die rather than embrace God’s will (see also Jonah 4:8-9), and his willingness to wait in hope that the city would be destroyed (Jonah 4:5), are signs of his hard-heartedness and his hatred for the Assyrians.

On the one hand we have the suggestion that Jonah knew God would not destroy the people of Ninevah, Israel’s enemies, and then we have what looks like the reality, that Jonah was angry with God for sparing them.

I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.

What Jonah “predicted” was the wrath of God on the people of Ninevah.

I suspect that “this” is a reference to the delivery of God’s judgment and wrath. He was hypocritically angry that God showed mercy to the inhabitants of Ninevah.

  • Thanks. (Jonah 4:1) might just be about Jonah being frustrated about him being sent all the way to Nineveh, and warning the people of their sin, but in the end thinking that it was all in vain because God forgave the Ninevehians after they repented. It might be just Jonah being upset about why he had to go on this voyage, and thinking it was all in vain. would that be a possibility? Mar 8, 2022 at 21:17
  • 1
    @crazyTech, Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria, was a hateful enemy of Israel. Imagine if God decided to seek the repentance of Hitler after the holocaust. Some people might have a problem with that. Jonah wasn't angry because he was inconvenienced, he was angry because he hated the people of Nineveh and wanted the full judgment of God to fall on them and was beside himself that God would offer them repentance.
    – Austin
    Mar 8, 2022 at 21:45
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    As Austin rightly points out, Nineveh and the ruthless and cruel Assyrians were longtime enemies of Israel. In 701 BC the Assyrians under Sennacherib took 46 of Judah’s fortified cities (Isaiah 36:1). Then they laid siege to Jerusalem—the Assyrian king engraved upon his stele that he had the king of Judah caught like a caged bird in his own country. No wonder Jonah didn't want to obey God the first time round to deliver a message of repentance! What Jonah thought I couldn't say, and all we can do is speculate because the Bible is not specific - but God knew his heart, mind and motives.
    – Lesley
    Mar 9, 2022 at 11:30
  • @Austin FYI. I attend a Charismatic/Pentecostal church that focuses on Holy Spirit's Charismatic guidance whether it's via Godly Revelations, Dreams, Visions, Unctions, etc. I'm trying to study bible parts that help us know what is Godly Or fleshly( direct lie Or our fleshly emotional desires). FYI, remotely related to these: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/74835/… hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/74779/… Mar 9, 2022 at 13:49

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