Photo courtesy of David Sharir

The worm of despair. In a sulk after God grants clemency to the Ninevehites, Jonah retreats east of the city. As he sleeps, God causes a bush to grow over him to shield him from the burning sun (Jonah 4:6). Then, in what seems an act of deliberate cruelty, God sends a worm to attack and destroy the bush. In this painting, David Sharir depicts the moment Jonah awakes—the prophet’s bitter surprise as the worm begins its work of destruction. A moment later, in black despair over the bush’s demise, Jonah tells God he wants to die. God upbraids the prophet for feeling anger over the bush “for which you did not labor and which you did not grow” while demanding that the more than 120,000 people of Nineveh be destroyed. For author Lance Wilcox, this episode reveals a central meaning of the story: Jonah, who earlier begged for God’s mercy, must learn to show mercy.