Debra Isenbletter, PastorChristian Assembly, Springfield, Missouri
Jonah 4:8—”And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live.”
This verse can be divided into two parts: The Morning and The Afternoon. During this time we see the fourth thing that God prepared for Jonah, the east wind. It is another test, it is another trial for Jonah. It is used to teach him a lesson. We see the sun in the morning and the effect on Jonah and his reaction in the afternoon.
The Morning: “and it came to pass, when the sun did rise that God prepared a vehement east wind.” It “came to pass” after a night of rest and after a night of reflection. When “the sun did rise”, speaks of a new day, and it was a much different day than the previous day. This was a day when God would test Jonah again through adversity. He tested him by revealing His grace, He tested him again by withdrawing His grace. God “prepared,” He “created,” He “ordained” a east wind. It was not an ordinary east wind, it was “a vehement east wind.”
The word for “vehement” is used only here and it does not speak of violence. It means “quiet, sultry, hot, harsh” wind. It is not like the “great wind” that caused the great storm (Jonah 1:4). That wind was visible, this “east wind” is silent and invisible. The “great wind” was used to reach and teach Gentiles. The “east wind” is used to reach and teach Jonah. The “great wind” came while Jonah was asleep and the “east wind” came while Jonah was awake. This is a silent, scorching wind that begins in the morning and continues through the afternoon. Jonah cannot escape it and it will wear Jonah down. Sometimes trials are like that we do well early on but as they go on we are worn down and worn out.
This “east wind”— was not a wind to cool Jonah down, it was a wind to magnify the heat of the sun as the day progressed. Matthew Henry: “This wind was not a fan to abate the heat but a bellows to make it more intense.” The “east wind” is associated with judgment, especially Israel. Ezekiel describes the east wind as a wind that dries up the fruit of Israel and breaks and withers the strong rods (rulers and kings), so that what is left is ready for the fire. (Ezek.19:12). Hosea describes this east wind as the nation of Assyria that the Lord choose, everything that wind touches will be dried up and destroyed. (Hos.13:15).
The Afternoon: “and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted” — This is “the sun” in late afternoon. The early morning sun was easier to bear, the afternoon sun was harder to bear. By late afternoon the sun was impossible to bear. The longer the trial goes on, the harder it is to bear.
The sun “beat upon the head of Jonah.” To “beat” means “to strike lightly (wound) or severely (kill).” The trial was measured carefully by the Lord. This was chastisement more than judgment. God measured it, limited it and allowed it. He did not allow it to kill Jonah but did allow it to show Jonah his weakness. It beat “upon the head of Jonah,” he may have had his head uncovered, he may have had no protection. We do not read that the people in the city suffered, they were not out in the open, and they may have been prepared. This wind was meant for Jonah and was felt by Jonah. The fact that his head was not protected can also speak of the fact that his mind was not protected, it was not fixed on the Lord or filled with the Word. If it had been, his response would have been much different than giving up and wanting to die. He would have called out to the Lord.
Finally “he fainted” because of the unrelenting sun, heat and east wind. As the day went on the sun kept beating down and the wind kept magnifying the heat so that it felt like a furnace, an oven. The result was that Jonah “fainted,” he lost consciousness, he passed out, he collapsed. This would be caused by dehydration and the body being unable to cool itself. The final result would be seen in heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Both are dangerous. The word “fainted” is used to express both a physical and emotional condition. It is used to express “utter despair” (Isa.51:19-20). It is used to show the consequence of “lack of food and water” (Amos 8:13). It is used to show “sunstroke” (Jonah 4:8). Actually, all these things could describe what Jonah experienced: despair, thirst, sunstroke. He fainted and if it was a form of heat exhaustion, the Lord kept Jonah alive and he did not need medical attention. He needed the Lord’s attention. His despair is certainly seen in what he wished for.
Jonah’s Despair: and wished himself to die.”— This wish of Jonah shows that he was depressed and discouraged. Along with the physical symptoms there were mental symptoms. He looked at the moment and the circumstance. He looked at himself. He did not look at the Lord. He looked at the experience but did not realize there was a lesson. Jonah gave up because he was not willing to get up. As long as Jonah resists God’s will and Word he will be depressed, he needed to surrender to the Lord.
Jonah’s Defeat: “and said: It is better for me to die than to live.”— Jonah is utterly defeated. Actually, he is right back where he started at the beginning of this chapter. He said the very same thing after he saw that Nineveh was spared. Jonah has not really learned how to really live for the Lord. To live for the Lord means to surrender your life and to die for the Lord means to surrender your life to Him. Jonah was not really surrendering his life, he was just giving up on life. Jonah was not offering up his life, he was running away from his life.
Warren Wiersbe: “The Ninevites, the vine, the worm and the wind have all obeyed God but Jonah still refuses to obey, and he has the most to gain.”
Jonah’s life, his attitude, his experience are all an example for our own lives. We see the consequences of disobedience and the reward of obedience. We can identify with the emotions and feelings and the fleshly behavior. We have all come to places where we stubbornly sit in the sun and refuse to move or fail to appreciate the Lord’s grace and suffer as a result. But through it all we see how the Lord remains gracious and patient in how He deals with Jonah. The disobedient prophet is still God’s prophet and though we do not know if Jonah changes, we do know that the Lord never changes!