Jonah Awaits The Destruction of Nineveh
30 x 48
Gouache, chalk, pencil, and pen on canvas
Black Bible Illustrations
Jonah has just preached for people to repent and is now waiting for the
fire of God to fall. Not the fire of revival, but the fire of divine punishment.
Jonah is the Old Testament prophet best known for his harrowing experience in the belly of a whale'. 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 things of nature to demonstrate His disapproval of 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 worshipers and sworn enemies of Israel; 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 escape plan takes him to Joppa, where he boards a ship headed for Tarshish - about 2000 miles in the opposite direction from where he is supposed to be going.
God prepares a huge sea storm—so violent the sailors resort to jettisoning the cargo. Throughout this entire scenario, Jonah is in the bottom of the ship asleep!! They all begin calling on their various gods for help. The ship's captain finds Jonah, wakes him, and begs Jonah to call on his god—hoping his is the deity capable of calming the storm. When Jonah realizes he is the one causing 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 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.
After God commands the fish to 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 most preachers 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 greatly and brings us to the moment captured in the painting. Jonah has constructed a makeshift booth for his viewing comfort, but...
God causes a leafy gourd vine to sprout by the barrier—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 teach Jonah why mercy is preferable to judgment. The shade from the gourd vine is a huge relief to Jonah, until...
God prepares a worm—which attacks the vine with relish 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 patiently reminds him that people are much more valuable than plants; and if Jonah can feel sorry for a gourd vine, why wouldn't God have compassion on an entire city?
!! ARTIST OBSERVATION !!
God says mercy rejoices against judgment.
In his interactions with man, God's foremost desire is to demonstrate his goodness and mercy. God is not willing that any should perish. We shouldn't be willing either.