Jehovah-God appointed a Qiqayon, which grew up over Jonah, to give him shade over his head, “to deliver him from his evil.” The Qiqayon, which Luther renders gourd (Kürbiss) after the lxx, but describes in his commentary on the book of Jonah as the vitis alba, is, according to Jerome, the shrub called Elkeroa in Syriac, a very common shrub in Palestine, which grows in sandy places, having broad leaves that throw a pleasant shadow, and which shoots up to a considerable height in a very few days.
(Note: Jerome describes it thus: “A kind of bush or shrub, having broad leaves like vine leaves, casting a very dense shadow, and sustaining itself by its trunk, which grows very abundantly in Palestine, and chiefly in sandy places. If placed in sowing land, being quickly nourished, it grows up into a tree, and in a very few days what you saw as nothing but a herb you now look upon as a small tree.”)
The Elkeroa, however, which Niebuhr also saw at Basra (Beschrieb. v. Arab. p. 148) and describes in a similar manner, is the ricinus or palma Christi, the miraculous tree; and, according to Kimchi and the Talmudists, it was the Kik or Kiki of the Egyptians, from which an oil was obtained according to Herodotus (ii. 94) and Pliny (Hits. n. xv. 7), as was the case according to Niebuhr with the Elkeroa. Its rapid growth is also mentioned by Pliny, who calls it ricinus (see Ges. thes. p. 1214). God caused this shrub to grow up with miraculous rapidity, to such a height that it cast a shade upon Jonah's head, to procure him deliverance (לְהַצִּיל לֹו) “from his evil,” i.e., not from the burning heat of the sun (ab aestu solis), from which he suffered in the hut which he had run up so hastily with twigs, but from his displeasure or vexation, the evil from which he suffered according to Jon 4:3 (Rosenmüller, Hitzig). The variation in the names of the Deity in Jon 4:6-9 is worthy of notice. The creation of the miraculous tree to give shade to Jonah is ascribed to Jehovah-Elohim in Jon 4:6. This composite name, which occurs very rarely except in Genesis 2 and 3 (see comm. on Gen 2:4), is chosen here to help the transition from Jehovah in Jon 4:4 to Elohim in Jon 4:7, Jon 4:8. Jehovah, who replies to the prophet concerning his discontented complaint (Jon 4:4) as Elohim, i.e., as the divine creative power, causes the miraculous tree to spring up, to heal Jonah of his chagrin. And to the same end hâ-Elohim, i.e., the personal God, prepares the worm which punctures the miraculous tree and causes it to wither away (Jon 4:7); and this is also helped by the east wind appointed by Elohim, i.e., the Deity ruling over nature (Jon 4:8), to bring about the correction of the prophet, who was murmuring against God. Hence the different names of God are employed with thoughtful deliberation. Jonah rejoiced exceedingly at the miraculous growth of the shrub which provided for him, because he probably saw therein a sign of the goodness of God and of the divine approval of his intention to wait for the destruction of Nineveh. But this joy was not to last long.