|30 x 48
Gouache, chalk, pencil and pen on canvas
|Jonah is the Old Testament prophet best known for his harrowing experience in the whale's belly. Not as well
publicized is his anger at God's mercy toward a society he perceived as enemies of his own ethnic group, and
the object lesson God taught him using the creative things of nature to demonstrate His disapproval of desire
Jonah's response to God's commandment to preach to the city of Nineveh is to "get out of Dodge." Warning the
Ninevites of impending judgment is repulsive to him because they are idol worshippers and sworn enemies of
Israel. They were known for their cruelty in battle and conquest. As far as Jonah is concerned, they deserve all
the divine judgment God can pour out. Jonah's futile escape attempt takes him to Joppa, where he boards a ship
headed in a direction away from Nineveh - toward Tarshish.
God prepares a huge sea storm - one so violent the sailors resort to jettisoning the cargo. Throughout this
entire scenario, Jonah is in the bottom of the ship asleep!! They begin calling on their various gods for help.
The ship's captain finds Jonah, wakes him and beseeches him to call on his god - hoping his is the deity capable
of calming the storm. When Jonah realizes his presence on the ship is the cause of the weather disturbance, he
tells the crew to throw him overboard so the storm will cease.
The sailors do all they can to avoid such a drastic measure, but in desperation find themselves with no other
choice. As soon as Jonah hits the water, the sea stops raging. The sailors are astounded and glorify the God of
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, offering a sacrifice and making vows to Him.
God prepares a huge fish - and Jonah is swallowed and spends three days and nights inside its stomach. At
some point in this gastric environment, Jonah repents of his disobedience and prays for God to deliver him. He
actually prays the words of Psalm 42:7 - Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves
and thy billows are gone over me...which leads one to wonder why he didn't think of the words of Psalm 139:
7-10 in the first place before running from God -
Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.
But I digress. After God commands the fish to (yecchh! ) vomit Jonah onto the shore, he obediently preaches
to the city of Nineveh - warning them to repent of their sinful ways, or face divine destruction in forty days.
Word of his preaching spreads throughout the city, to the point where the king himself declares a period of
repentance, fasting and prayer. Meanwhile, Jonah retires to a bluff overlooking the city from the east and
eagerly waits to see the metropolis reduced to smoke and ashes.
In stark contrast to a sincere preacher of righteousness, Jonah is hoping his warning of repentance has no effect
on the hearts of the people. He would rather see God's judgment than His mercy. Much to his chagrin, the
Ninevites sincerely repent. And true to the merciful nature of God, He honors their repentance and withholds
divine punishment. This angers Jonah exceedingly and brings us to the moment depicted in the painting. Jonah
has constructed a makeshift booth for his watch point, but...
God prepares a leafy gourd vine - which quickly grows tall enough to form a shade barrier against the
unrelenting daytime heat. God is showing mercy to Jonah in light of his recent traumatic sea experience and
the stress of preaching to a foreign populace in a city of three days journey. But God is also getting ready to
show Jonah why mercy is preferable to judgment . The shade from the gourd vine is a huge relief to Jonah, but...
God prepares a worm - which smites the vine and kills it. Now the shade is gone.
And as soon as the vine wilts...
God prepares a vehement east wind - a sirocco - a harsh, hot wind common to northern Africa and West
Asia - with speeds that can reach almost 100 kilometers an hour. This, combined with periods of the sun
beating down on Jonah, creates a hostile environment so unbearable he wishes for death.
While Jonah is feeling sorry for himself, God remonstrates with him; reminding him that people are much
more valuable than plants, and that if Jonah can feel sorry for a gourd vine, why would He (God) not
have compassion on an entire city?
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