“But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry.”
The right-about-face word “but” shows another negative turn by Jonah. God “relented of evil,” and Jonah did not like it. Jonah wanted the Ninevites to suffer punishment from God. He was angry with God because God extended grace to the Ninevites.
it displeased Jonah exceedingly,
Jonah reacted negatively to Nineveh’s positive response to God (4:1-3). This was a strange preacher. Jehovah called Jonah as a prophet. When God called, he did not want to go. When he went, to his consternation, the whole city turned to God. He wanted God to judge Nineveh. A literal translation of the above phrase might be, “But it was badness to Jonah with great badness.” There is great emphasis in the Hebrew here – there is great magnitude of Jonah’s displeasure. The word “exceedingly” means great, large in intensity.
and he became angry
Jonah considered Jehovah’s conversion of Nineveh to be revolting. The word “angry” means to burn, to grieve, to be hot with anger. We could translate this literally, “It burned to him.” Jonah was “hot” over the salvation of Nineveh. It burned him up. The repetition of the same root word for God’s anger and Jonah’s anger contrasts the fact that God’s anger against Nineveh cooled off and Jonah’s anger grew greater. Someone might have said to Jonah, “Great sermon, Jonah. With only five Hebrew words to your sermon, an entire city turned to Jehovah. Aren’t you pleased with such wonderful results?” Jonah was not pleased. He “became angry.” Jonah was angry with God!
What pleased God displeased his ambassador. This anger towards God is the first indication that Jonah was still not right with God since his deep-sea dive! Jonah’s attitude was wrong. Throughout chapter four, God challenges Jonah’s attitude of not understanding the principle of grace. Jonah hated the bloody Ninevites. They had probably killed people close to him. Now we see Jonah’s motivation for running away to Spain in the first place. He did not want the Ninevites to repent; he wanted them to hurt, so he became a fugitive from God.
Some people feel that they can govern the world better than God.
It is useless to become angry with God. We might enjoy the luxury of anger toward our husband or wife once in a while but if we develop anger toward God, we distort everything. What does it help a child to quicken anger toward his parents? It does not help. Jonah wanted mercy for himself, but he did not want to extend mercy to the Ninevites. It is a sad thing for people to begrudge mercy to others. Some people reject the idea that God can be good to very evil people. This is a self-centered view of mercy. It usurps God’s grace. It delimits God to our view of God. Those who do this cannot accept God’s viewpoint; we try to impose our viewpoint on God! This reveals something of a shriveled character and condenses the world around to a very narrow viewpoint. Who are we to say whom God can forgive? Some of us are more passionate about judgment than we are about grace.
Few realize what strong an opinion we have about an issue until something arises that touches our bias. It is then that our character shows itself. There is more of Jonah in us than most of us would like to admit. The state of our soul is despicable and we do not even know it. Some of us cut a sorry figure. We need to face this and deal with it.