The Assyrians are spared, and Jonah is furious, the very idea of a prophet being sent to Nineveh-Nineveh the capital of the hated Assyrian empire, the home of the people who had destroyed the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the ten tribes of Israel in 722BC, dispersing those ten tribes forever, the nation that had then laid siege to Jerusalem and exacted tribute from Judah for many years-Nineveh appears as another Sodom, Yahweh is going to punish them for immorality, but not necessarily for idolatry. But the stronger problem for Jonah seems to be the lack of punishment for the wicked. Jonah is indignant that the Assyrians didnít get what they so richly deserved: didnít Jonah say this would happen, that Yahweh always forgives, heís this slow to anger, compassionate guy; he always repent, the wicked are never punished! It seems Jonah is fed up with the way Yahweh is doing things, his mercy perverts his justice, and some things ought not to be forgiven; people must be held to account for their evil actions, how can Yahweh not do justice! As Jonah is leaving the city to sulk, seems his complaint is twofold. If your going to punish the wicked then just push them; they deserve it. And if youíre planning to spare them, then just spare them and donít waste my time with messages and oracles. As Jonah sits in a little booth that he has constructed, Yahweh causes a leafy plant to grow over him, providing shade and saving him from a good deal of discomfort; and the plant is to be the source of a final lesson for Jonah. How could Yahweh not be compassionate? For even the most evil of peoples are no less his creation that he has cared for than precious Israel. And if they will only turn to Yahweh in humility, heíll wipe the slate clean, heíll show compassion and forgive. It is only human to long for the punishment of the wicked; but Yahweh longs for their re-formation, their turning. Their is the moral law of the Noahide covenant, and itís for this that Yahweh has decreed punishment, and Jonah is a champion of divine justice. Jonah believes that sin should be punished, heís outraged at Yahwehís forgiveness. But Jonah learns that a change of heart is enough to obtain mercy, and that the true role of the prophet is perhaps to move people to reformation and turning.
The Tree Of Life