Sunday, October 13, 2019

Joel 2.23-32: Olive Oil and Grasshoppers

I will repay you, God says through the prophet Joel. I will repay you for the crops destroyed by the locusts or eaten by the grasshopper (Joel 2:23-32). Instead of bare fields eaten by insects, there will be vats of wine and olive oil. There will be plenty to eat, and God's spirit will be poured out on all people.
Vincent Van Gogh. Olive Trees.  1889. Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Kansas City, MO. 
Vincent Van Gogh's painting "Olive Trees" shows olive trees in full leaf against a brilliant blue sky. The coolness of the painting is further enhanced by the blue shadows cast by the trees. The ground is a greenish-gray mixed with white. This is a time of plenty. This is the time of repayment. But what about the grasshoppers? How are they "repaid" for the destruction they left in their wake?

Oddly, this painting has a statement about that as well. In 2017 the Nelson-Atkins Museum undertook a close examination of the painting as part of research about fugitive paint colors (those colors that fade over time and change what the artist intended). The examination yielded questions about a red paint that Van Gogh used. But it also yielded the revelation that since Van Gogh sat outside with his paints and canvas, this painting has been the final resting place of...a grasshopper.
A paleo-entomologist determined that the grasshopper was already dead when it found its way to the canvas (there are no signs of struggle in the surrounding paint). But here, in the shade of these full olive trees, this particular grasshopper has been repaid. For all time.

To see the embedded grasshopper and read more about the painting, click here.
For thoughts on Luke 18:9-14, click here.

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