The Bible


Jonah 4:2

Greek OT: LXX [A] Accented         

Study the Inner Meaning

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2 καὶ προσεύξατο πρὸς κύριον καὶ εἶπεν ὦ κύριε οὐχ οὗτοι οἱ λόγοι μου ἔτι ὄντος μου ἐν τῇ γῇ μου διὰ τοῦτο προέφθασα τοῦ φυγεῖν εἰς θαρσις διότι ἔγνων ὅτι σὺ ἐλεήμων καὶ οἰκτίρμων μακρόθυμος καὶ πολυέλεος καὶ μετανοῶν ἐπὶ ταῖς κακίαις

   Study the Inner Meaning

Exploring the Meaning of Jonah 4      

By New Christian Bible Study Staff

In this fourth chapter of the Book of Jonah, (Jonah 4), the prophet Jonah has a strange reaction to his success. He's angry, and sulky. He thinks he knows better than God does. What is this story about?

Rev. George McCurdy, in his exegesis of this chapter, offers a summary in his Study Guide for the Book of Jonah, which is available for free as a .pdf, for your use. Below, we've excerpted part of his summary, and edited it for use in this context.

The people of the Jewish church in Jonah's time didn't want to reconsider their belief in their "most-favored-nation status." They challenged the Lord. They couldn't understand why He wanted to save their enemies in Nineveh.

Despite the hard lessons in chapters 1 and 2, and his success as described in chapter 3, Jonah still thought he knew better than the Lord. He thought that God was being too soft and loving -- too forgiving -- and that He needed to come around to Jonah’s tougher view.

Jonah got so angry and vengeful that he preferred to die rather than approve of the Lord’s way to save the Ninevites. His self-love wanted shade -- protection for its concepts. The Lord needed to bring such thinking to an end; the worm brought about death to the gourd from within. The Lord then sent a vehement east wind, that represents a blowing away of the stagnant thinking of the church.

The Lord's heavenly sun shone upon Jonah, but he felt faint. Here, Jonah's insistence on his own troubling view of things made him uncomfortable with the Lord’s view. The Divine guidance offered him a way to learn to enjoy the success of his neighbors as his own, but he wouldn't take it.

For us, then -- what? This story is telling us that we can't just keep the truths of the Word for ourselves; we have to go to Nineveh and share them. And then, if people start to hear them, and use them to turn their lives around, we can't allow ourselves to get resentful that the Lord accepts their repentance and forgives them. It's a very human reaction; think of the disciples vying to be first in the Lord's command structure (Luke 9:46), or the brother of the prodigal son (Luke 15:28-29), or the workers in the vineyard who had worked all day for a denarius (Matthew 20:10-12). But... it's not a good reaction. The Lord doesn't admire it in Jonah, and doesn't admire it when it crops up in our minds, either.

Rev. Martin Pennington recommends several explanatory passages from Swedenborg's theological writings:

"Shade or shadow means the perception of good and truth lies in obscurity." (Arcana Coelestia 2367)

"A vine is spiritual good (the spiritual church)". (Arcana Coelestia 217)

"A worm represents falsity gnawing away and tormenting one." (Arcana Coelestia 8481)

"'And the sun grew hot' in the contrary sense means self-love and love of the world." (Arcana Coelestia 8487)

And... here's a link to an interesting (audio) sermon on this chapter, by Rev. Todd Beiswenger.

From Swedenborg's Works

Main explanations:

The Inner Meaning of the Prophets and Psalms 214

Other references to this verse:

Arcana Coelestia 10441

Sacred Scripture 51

True Christian Religion 226

Hop to Similar Bible Verses

Psalms 86:15

Jonah 3:9

Resources for parents and teachers

The items listed here are provided courtesy of our friends at the General Church of the New Jerusalem. You can search/browse their whole library at the New Church Vineyard website.

Article | Ages 15 - 17

Lesson outline provides teaching ideas with questions for discussion, projects, and activities.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 7 - 10

 Jonah and the Gourd
A New Church Bible story explanation for teaching Sunday school. Includes lesson materials for Primary (3-8 years), Junior (9-11 years), Intermediate (12-14 years), Senior (15-17 years) and Adults.
Teaching Support | Ages over 3

 Jonah and the Gourd (3-5 years)
Project | Ages 4 - 6

 Jonah and the Gourd (6-8 years)
Project | Ages 7 - 10

 Jonah and the Gourd (9-11 years)
Project | Ages 11 - 14

 Jonah and the Great Fish
A lesson for younger children with discussion ideas and a project.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 Jonah Goes to Nineveh
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Prophet Jonah
This article shows how the Lord tried to teach Jonah to be merciful and kind when Jonah disobeyed the Lord because of his hatred toward the Assyrians. 
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

From Swedenborg's Works


True Christian Religion #226

True Christian Religion (Chadwick translation)      

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This is because the Word in its literal sense is composed of nothing but correspondences, in order that it should simultaneously hold spiritual and celestial meanings; and every single word is a container and support for these. That is why in the literal sense the Divine truths are rarely uncovered, but are clothed. They are then called appearances of truth, and in many cases are made suitable to be understood by the simple, who do not lift their gaze above what is in front of their eyes. Some appear to be contradictions, when in fact there is no contradiction, if the Word is looked at by its own spiritual light. Moreover in some passages of the Prophets there are collections of place-names and personal names, from which no sort of sense can be extracted. Seeing that the Word is like this in its literal sense, it can easily be established that it could not be understood without doctrine.

The Word is not to be understood without doctrine. Doctrine is to be drawn from the literal sense of the Word. But Divine truth, on which doctrine is based, is not visible to any but those who are enlightened by the Lord.

[2] But let us take examples to illustrate this. It is said that Jehovah regrets (Exodus 32:12, 14; Jonah 3:9; 4:2); and also that Jehovah does not regret (Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29). These statements cannot be reconciled without doctrine. It is said that Jehovah visits the wickedness of the fathers upon the sons, to the third or fourth generation (Numbers 14:18); and also that a father shall not die on account of his son, nor a son on account of his father, but each in his own sin (Deuteronomy 24:16). Doctrine can show that these statements do not conflict, but are in harmony.

[3] Jesus says:

Ask and it shall be given you; seek and you shall find. To him that knocks, the door shall be opened, Matthew 7:7-8; 21:21-22.

Without doctrine one might believe that each will receive what he asks for; but we know from doctrine that whatever a person asks from the Lord, that is granted. For this too is what the Lord teaches:

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you will, and it will be done for you, John 15:7.

[4] The Lord says:

Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of God, Luke 6:20.

Without doctrine one might think that heaven was for the poor and not the rich; but doctrine instructs us that the poor in spirit are meant, for the Lord says:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens, Matthew 5:3.

[5] The Lord says further:

Do not judge, so that you are not judged; with whatever judgment you judge, so will you be judged, Matthew 7:1-2; Luke 6:37.

Without doctrine anyone could be induced to assert that we must not judge wicked people to be wicked; but doctrine tells us we may judge, so long as we do so justly. For the Lord says:

Give just judgments, John 7:24.

[6] Jesus says:

Do not have yourselves called teacher, for you have one teacher, Christ. Do not call anyone on earth your father, for you have one father in the heavens. And do not have yourselves called master, for you have one master, Christ, Matthew 23:8-10.

Without doctrine this would mean that we are not to call anyone teacher, father or master; but doctrine tells us that we may do so in the natural sense, but not in the spiritual.

[7] Jesus said to the disciples:

When the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you too will sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel, Matthew 19:28.

One might infer from these words that the Lord's disciples too are to act as judges, though in fact they can judge no one. Doctrine therefore will reveal the mystery by the fact that the Lord alone, who is omniscient, and knows the hearts of all, can and will be judge. His twelve disciples mean the church in respect of all its truths and all its kinds of good, which are given to it by the Lord by means of the Word. Doctrine infers from this that it is the truths and kinds of good which will judge everyone, as the Lord said in John (John 3:17-18; 12:47-48). There are many more passages like this in the Word, which show plainly that the Word cannot be understood without doctrine.

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From Swedenborg's Works

Inbound References:

True Christian Religion 243

   Parallel Passages:

Sacred Scripture 51

Thanks to the Swedenborg Society for the permission to use this translation.