Jonah Awaits the Destruction of Nineveh
|30 x 48
Gouache, chalk, pencil and pen on canvas
The Story Behind the Painting...
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 that Jonah 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 racism and desire for revenge.
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. Jonah's futile escape
attempt takes him to Joppa, where he boards a ship headed in a direction away from Nineveh - toward
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. Jonah realizes his presence on the ship is the cause of the weather
disturbance and 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 righteouness, 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 made himself 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 Middle Eastern 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
God prepares a vehement east wind - a sirocco - a harsh, hot wind common to the Middle East - 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?
|Worlds Bible Gallery
Ohio Bible Artist Trenét Worlds
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