"The Vine of Jonah,"

by Eben


O Splendid Lord and Jonah's God,

Show Your mercy and Your grace,

so that we bow before Your rod,

never fleeing from Your face.


Born son of Amittai, "My Truth,"

Jonah, "Dove," received God's Word;

he flew up angry from his booth,

fearful lest God's grace be heard.

"So great and wicked Nineveh,

drown in your own guilty blood!

All I've got to say is "Pah

on you, go drink a flood!"

The purest of the pure lose all,

staunch in their own righteousness;

content to condemn sinner's fall,

their own mis-steps they ne'er confess.

So west, from Gath-Hepher he fled,

God's own presence he abhorred;

Tarshish-bound, he lost his head,

and boarded ship to lose his Lord.

And when a tempest great arose,

Jonah nestled in the hold;

He dreamt of garden gate and rose,

of wheaten hill and full sheepfold.

But Zebulun smote like a rod;

Captain of the ship cried out:

"Why sleep you here? Call on your god!"

And iron ingots rolled about.

On deck each sailor cast his lot,

hoping thus to fix the one

gods were seeking to be caught,

lest all be blamed and ship be none.

A lot at last fell Jonah-ward,

mariners all cried to him:

"Tell us why we're doom-allured,

and why you left the dry land's rim!"

So Jonah drew up straight and tall,

"God of heaven is my Fear;

Lord of dry land, sea, and all,

I am Hebrew from toe to ear!"

Now terror great fell full on them--

fleeing gods he drew the storm!

"What must we do his god to stem?"

In ev'ry wave they saw Death's form.

So Jonah offered his life up;

"Throw me in, your lives to save."

Sailors rowed their filling cup,

and prayed for mercy from each wave.

Then at last they dropped the oar,

pleading gods to perish not;

lest Jonah's punish them the more,

even pled to Him to ease their lot.

So cast into the raging sea,

Jonah sank, the storm grew still;

Fish or whale, whate'er it be,

rose up, in size a heaving hill.

Appointed by the Lord that day,

'twas opened up a mouth so large

that Jonah full-length in it lay,

then closed and sank this devil's barge.

"O Holy One!" was Jonah's cry.

"All Thy floods swept over me!"

Look and see, in weeds I lie,

My life is sunk in deepest sea!"

"Will I Thy holy courts e'er see?

Locked by gate of iron bar,

cast away am I from Thee,

in this foul mouth of reek and tar!

"Deliverance belongs to Thee;

fainting, yet I praise Thee still;

Lord, my God, remember me,

and heed my prayer through yon fish gill!"

Then Jonah's God spoke to the fish;

She fell sick and swam to land;

Heaved up Jonah like a dish

of things too rich upon the sand.

So thus it was the Gath-Hephron,

Jonah, from the Pit was raised;

stripped of strength, his face was wan,

He looked as if he were half-crazed.

The days, the nights, all totaled three;

perfect-numbered was his pain;

God was just as He can be,

yet Mercy tempered Jonah's bane.

Fair Zebulun was not the same,

burnt and pillaged was the land;

Nineveh was easy blame,

so Jonah cursed their thieving hand.

Then scarce had he lain down to rest,

God called Jonah to arise.

"Go and speak at My behest,

to Nineveh My Word apprise."

So north from Gath-Hepher he went,

Plodding to Assyria;

Eastward-bound, his anger pent,

ears still ringing with his "Pah!"

At last the weary prophet stood,

eyes fixed on towers in the east;

wrath was silent, though it would

have burnt them down o'er man and beast.

Proud and lean, the Hebrew stared

and spat on Nineveh's main gate;

Idols matched, by portals paired,

were shaken as he named their fate.

With lion, bird, and man made one,

Blasphemy gazed proud on him.

Prophet cursed, and it was done,

Out rushed demons from within.

"Man of God, oh, leave us be,

and send us not into the sea!"

Which thing Jonah was glad to do,

he took their plea as his own cue,

Like arrows from the prophet's quiver,

All were sent and drowned in Tigris River!

Meantime, Nineveh was wickedly engaged,

her doom drawn near, God's holiness outraged.

As chariots ran down the poor,

robbers beat a farmer up;

harlots leaned by ev'ry door,

while wives slipped divorce in men's cup.

In the shade of each Great House,

shanties of the poor massed thick;

haunt of fever and the louse,

the young rose up and soon fell sick.

In doctors' care the sick were fleeced,

sorcery was their main line;

devils, entrails of a beast

afforded counsel by a sign.

"Yet forty days and be destroyed!"

Preached he to them both great and small;

struck, each heart was shattered, made void.

E'en city towers seemed to fall.

Yet in the palace of the king,

terror seized the royal throne;

tidings of the end did ring

and stripped his pride straight to the bone.

In sack and ash the king declared

fasting, prayer, throughout his realm:

"Let no one drink (unless he dared!),

or eat while I am at the helm!

"Perchance God will his anger hold,

repent of evil we deserve."

Gazing at his stolen gold,

he wept as pangs seized ev'ry nerve.

Then God looked down on man and beast,

Nineveh was proud no more;

sunk in ash, from great to least,

they all repented, and wept sore.

But Jonah was afraid of this!

Staff in hand, he stormed forth east,

hoping to call up a great abyss

to yawn and swallow this great feast!

A plot of cucumbers grew lushly there,

twining up tall willow poles;

Going in a watchman's booth,

the man of God called wrath from bowls.

Then tendrils climbed from night to day, a vine sheltering the man within;

Sun struck not a single ray,

how he longed for judgment to begin!

A worm appointed slew his vine,

full-grown and dead within a day;

scorching wind then made him pine

for plant that in the dust now lay.

How Jonah moaned and pled for death!

Sun beat down on his bald head;

Rued the day he first drew breath,

i And then the Lord spoke soft to him,

"Well do you sorrow and so rant?

Eyes perhaps grow old and dim

to shed such tears for a mere plant!

"I, not you, did make it grow,

tended by My hand, it throve;

watered not and free of hoe,

it sheltered you like a forest grove.

"It perished in a single night;

one day only was its span;

Yet look again with your poor sight,

on all repenting, if you can!

"For thousands cry for My mercy,

cattle, too, wear sack and ash;

Nineveh my sons will be,

though you these babes on stone would dash!"

So Jonah looked on yon City,

tears dropped thick upon his feet;

"Gracious Lord, Thou art pity;

'twas this I fled, Thy Mercy-seat!" And then was seen a Vine Most High,

Plant hung o'er the peopled plain;

who but looked, did live, not die;

for they saw Grace, with angel train.