Jonah 4:11
(11) More than . . .--This number of infants, 120,000, according to the usual reckoning, gives a population of 600,000.

And also much cattle.--This, which at first reads like an anti-climax, is really, perhaps, the most striking thing in the whole of this marvellous book. Already the idea that a sympathy could exist between Jonah and the gourd has seemed to anticipate by thousands of years the feeling of modern poetry expressed in the lines,

"To me the meanest flower that blows can give

Thoughts that too often lie too deep for tears;"

and now the final touch, laying especial emphasis on the thought that even the cattle are an interest and care to God, seems at once to leap to the truth which even our own age has been slow to learn.

"He prayeth best who loveth best,

All creatures great and small,

For the dear God who loveth us,

He made and loveth all."

Verse 11. - Should not I spare Ninevah? The contrast between the feeling and conduct of God and those of the prophet is very forcible. Thou hast compassion for a plant of little worth, in whose growth thou hast had no concern, to which thou hast no right; should I not pity a great city which is mine, which I have permitted to grow into power? Thou hast compassion on a flower which sprang up in a day and withered in a day; should I not pity this town with its teeming population and its multitude of cattle, the least of which is more worth than any senseless plant, and which I uphold daily with my providence? Six score thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; i.e. children of tender years, who did not know which hand was the strongest and fittest for use; or, metaphorically, who had no knowledge between good and evil" (Deuteronomy 1:39), at present incapable of moral discernment. This limitation would include children of three or four years old; and, taking these as one-fifth of the population, we should set the inhabitants at six hundred thousand in number. The multitude of these innocent children, who must needs perish if the city were destroyed, is an additional reason why it should be spared. A still further claim for compassion is appended. And also much cattle. God's mercy is over all his works; he preserveth man and beast (Psalm 36:6; Psalm 145:9), and as man is superior to other animals, so are cattle better than plants. The book ends abruptly, but its object is accomplished. Jonah is silenced; he can make no reply; he can only confess that he is entirely wrong, and that God is righteous. He learns the lesson that God would have all men saved, and that that narrow-mindedness which would exclude heathen from his kingdom is displeasing to him and alien from his design. "For thou hast mercy upon all; for thou canst do all things, and winkest at the sins of men in order that they should repent. For thou lovest all the things that are, and abhorrest nothing that thou hast made; for never wouldst thou have made anything if thou hadst hated it But thou sparest all; for they are thine, O Lord, thou Lover of souls" (Wisd. 11:23, etc.).

4:5-11 Jonah went out of the city, yet remained near at hand, as if he expected and desired its overthrow. Those who have fretful, uneasy spirits, often make troubles for themselves, that they may still have something to complain of. See how tender God is of his people in their afflictions, even though they are foolish and froward. A thing small in itself, yet coming seasonably, may be a valuable blessing. A gourd in the right place may do us more service than a cedar. The least creatures may be great plagues, or great comforts, as God is pleased to make them. Persons of strong passions are apt to be cast down with any trifle that crosses them, or to be lifted up with a trifle that pleases them. See what our creature-comforts are, and what we may expect them to be; they are withering things. A small worm at the root destroys a large gourd: our gourds wither, and we know not what is the cause. Perhaps creature-comforts are continued to us, but are made bitter; the creature is continued, but the comfort is gone. God prepared a wind to make Jonah feel the want of the gourd. It is just that those who love to complain, should never be left without something to complain of. When afflicting providences take away relations, possessions, and enjoyments, we must not be angry at God. What should especially silence discontent, is, that when our gourd is gone, our God is not gone. Sin and death are very dreadful, yet Jonah, in his heat, makes light of both. One soul is of more value than the whole world; surely then one soul is of more value than many gourds: we should have more concern for our own and others' precious souls, than for the riches and enjoyments of this world. It is a great encouragement to hope we shall find mercy with the Lord, that he is ready to show mercy. And murmurers shall be made to understand, that how willing soever they are to keep the Divine grace to themselves and those of their own way, there is one Lord over all, who is rich in mercy to all that call upon him. Do we wonder at the forbearance of God towards his perverse servant? Let us study our own hearts and ways; let us not forget our own ingratitude and obstinacy; and let us be astonished at God's patience towards us.And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city?.... See Jonah 1:2; what is such a gourd or plant to that?

wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons; or twelve myriads; that is, twelve times ten thousand, or a hundred and twenty thousand; meaning not all the inhabitants of Nineveh; for then it would not have appeared to be so great a city; but infants only, as next described:

that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; do not know one from another; cannot distinguish between good and evil, right and wrong; are not come to years of maturity and discretion; and therefore there were room and reason for pity and sparing mercy; especially since they had not been guilty of actual transgressions, at least not very manifest; and yet must have perished with their parents had Nineveh been overthrown. The number of infants in this city is a proof of the greatness of it, though not so as to render the account incredible; for, admitting these to be a fifth part of its inhabitants, as they usually are of any place, as Bochart (e) observes, it makes the number of its inhabitants to be but six or seven hundred thousand; and as many there were in Seleucia and Thebes, as Pliny (f) relates of the one, and Tacitus (g) of the other:

and also much cattle; and these more valuable than goods, as animals are preferable to, and more useful than, vegetables; and yet these must have perished in the common calamity. Jarchi understands by these grown up persons, whose knowledge is like the beasts that know not their Creator. No answer being returned, it may be reasonably supposed Jonah, was convinced of his sin and folly; and, to show his repentance for it, penned this, narrative, which records his infirmities and weaknesses, for the good of the church, and the instruction of saints in succeeding ages.

(e) Phaleg. l. 4. c. 20. p. 253. (f) Nat. Hist. l. 6. c. 26. (g) Annal. l. 2. c. 60.

Jonah 4:10
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