About this series: A narrative exploring the stories behind the paintings of late artist Herbert Mandel as explained in the context of the Biblical texts they’re derived from, by his son-in-law, Jim Robidoux.
Jonah son of Amittai received a word from God, “Arise, and go to Nineveh, that great city and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish away from God’s presence.
Jonah got on a ship going in the opposite direction of Nineveh. He went to sleep in the belly of his transport and was awoken by the ships captain. “Get up you sleeper and pray to your God that our ship might not be destroyed.” A violent storm had suddenly come up and was threatening the ship and the ships crew was afraid for their lives. As the tempest got stronger, the men cast lots to determine which one of them had offended God.
Once Jonah was discovered he admitted his guilt and told the crewmen he must be thrown overboard. The crew rowed hard trying to get to dry land but the sea got worse and they had no choice but to throw him overboard. Immediately the sea ceased its raging, and God sent a great fish to swallow Jonah.
From the belly of the fish Jonah began praying to Yahweh. He prayed and prayed, even a prayer of thanksgiving to the God of salvation. He thanked God for saving him from the great depths of the ocean and for His forgiveness. Jonah also thanked God for being in His presence once more after running away. And after 3 days in the belly of the great fish God directed it to vomit out Jonah upon the dry land.
Then Jonah received a word from God a second time. He was given a second chance to go to Nineveh, the Assyrian capitol. Nineveh was a very large city, at times swelling to 120,000 people. The people of Nineveh worshipped their God of war Ashur and other gods.
Nineveh was in the process of becoming the most advanced city in the world once it became the capitol city. The Assyrian empire would be the first to employ a full time army instead of farmers with limited time. Their empire was vast and drained all kinds of resources from the nations around them.
The Assyrian empire boasted proudly that they were alone on top of the world. Believing their warlord god Ashur had blessed them. The empire dealt with their enemies and rebellious nations with awful terrors and war atrocities. They scared all nations into paying heavy tribute or else be utterly destroyed and scattered.
They would put iron hooks into peoples noses or into their jaws and deport whole cities to distant lands. They would increase the numbers in their standing army to 200,000 soldiers and believed they were unstoppable. They would develop tools and tactics for war that would be studied till the end of time. In time nations would fear and respect the might of the assyrians but mostly they were hated intensely.
When Jonah finally arrived in Nineveh he gave the people in the streets Yahweh’s message. Nineveh will be destroyed in 40 days. The people believed and began to put on sackcloth. Word of this reached the king and he took off his royal robe and also put on sackcloth and sat in ashes. He proclaimed to the entire city to put on sackcloth and fast. The king declared that all should call out to God and repent. Everyone must turn from their evil ways and the violence committed by their own hands and said, “Who knows maybe this God will turn from his fierce anger and we won’t all perish.”
And so it was God saw all of Nineveh repenting and pleading with Him, and He did no harm to them. Jonah was unbelievably angry as he told God that he knew this would happen. “That was why I hastily fled to Tarshish, because I knew that you are a God of mercy, full of compassion and love”. Jonah then asked God to take his life instead of seeing Israel’s most hated enemy forgiven. Jonah then went outside of the city hoping to see it destroyed. But God made it clear to Jonah that Nineveh deserved a second chance just like Jonah himself.
Reference: Old Testament/ The Book of Jonah
For more on artist Herb Mandel and his work, go to herbmandel.com.
Jim Robidoux is father of four, lives and works in Manchester, and also writes about life in The Life Section – specifically, his own. He enjoys bicycling to work, urban gardening, exploring his Christian faith, and watching the Phillies at Billy’s. And he happens to be married to Manchester Ink Link editor Carol Robidoux. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.