Sunday, April 08, 2012

Pictures of Jonah

One thing you might notice about our pictures from now on - we've changed format! We've gone from portrait to landscape which is something that some of you have been asking us to do for a while now (as the Powerpoint format is landscape). Why have we changed? Well, we started with the portrait format because we always intended that our pictures would be used in a children's Bible, (which hasn't materialized as yet). We've now changed to landscape as we have an upcoming book project comprising of 15 books that are all going to be in a landscape format. There's also going to be some film work done using the illustrations and the landscape format is more suitable for this too.

Our first completed picture set to appear in landscape format is Jonah which has 10 pictures.
The first picture shows a disgruntled Jonah leaving town to catch a boat departing from Joppa for Tarshish. II Kings14:25 tells us that Jonah's home town was Gath-hepher, (3-5 miles north of Nazareth). It's well known that Tarshish is in the opposite direction from Nineveh, but the journey from Gath-pher (if that's where Jonah set off from) to Joppa was in the opposite direction too! I checked out some photos of Gath-hepher on the Bible places website - a great place to look for photographic reference!

Picture 2 (above) shows Jonah boarding the ship. Further up the coastline you can see the beach where Tel Aviv is today! Picture 3 shows the terrified sailors casting lots - Jonah picks the short straw! There's no information given in scripture that tells us exactly how lots were cast. We know that the Romans used dice, and in earlier times a jar, containing wooden discs, was filled with water. The wooden discs would float, but only one could be pulled out through the narrow neck of the jar at a time. One of the discs would be marked. I chose the long/short straw method as this was easier to see.

Picture 4 shows Jonah being thrown into the sea. Picture 5 (right) is an underwater scene showing the great fish approaching Jonah. I know that traditionally the great fish is shown to be a whale, (and I've stuck with this), but there has been some discussion about whether a man could live in a whale for three days. The Bible says that "the Lord provided a great fish" so I would argue that this prepared fish, whatever it was, was ideally suited for the purpose it was designed for. It may not have been a whale - then again it might have been. could it have been a One-off? a fish that only existed for the purpose of carrying Jonah to land? I'm thinking about the Jewish tradition regarding the Tachash: According to Rashi's commentary the Tachash is a "kosher, multi-colored, one horned desert animal which came into existence to be used to build the Tabernacle and ceased to exist afterward".
Maybe someone would like to comment on this?

Picture 6 shows Jonah inside the fish praying. I couldn't find reference of what the insides of a large fish looked like so I'm afraid I've had to use some artist's license-!! Maybe one of you fishermen out there could put me right? Picture 7 shows Jonah washed up on the beach. Picture 8 (above left) shows Jonah preaching to the Ninevites. Fortunately we have some excellent resources that tell us exactly what the fashions were like in Nineveh. These highly detailed references are in the form of clay tablets which have been perfectly preserved from the time of Nineveh. Most of these are in the British Museum but thankfully we have a few in Manchester Museum too, and I was able to make some sketches from these a few weeks ago.
Jonah dressed in his now shabby clothing stands in contrast to the grandiosity of the Ninevites. We also know from the clay tablets that the Assyrians were a blood thirsty bunch so preaching to them wasn't a job for the faint-hearted!

Picture 9 (right) shows Jonah sat on a hillside overlooking Nineveh. Nineveh was the capital of Assyria for a time and so a very important city. Jonah's sat on the Eastern side overlooking the Shamash Gate which has recently been reconstructed. There were 15 gates in the wall that surrounded Nineveh and each gate was named after an Asssyrian god. We can't see the River Tigris in this picture as this lies on the western side of the city. Again, thanks to those ancient tablets, we know how the great city of Nineveh looked with its lions of bronze, massive sculptures, glazed brick paneling and relief carvings of winged bulls etc - Nineveh really was a lavishly adorned city. The British museum has many of the bas-reliefs that were taken from the city walls.
Jonah is sheltering from the sun in the shadow of a large plant or gourd. Many Bible dictionaries suggest that this may have been the Ricinus Communis, or the castor-oil plant so this is the plant I've illustrated.

Picture 10 shows the plant now withered and Jonah once again angry at God. The book of Jonah is traditionally read out in synagogues around the world at Yom Kippur reminding people of God's Grace and Mercy.
I'll add a link to the Jonah picture set as soon as its uploaded to our website.