Today I learned something important, which is that drawing grapevines is incredibly tedious. If these don't look like any grapevines you've ever seen, that's OK: whatever species they are, they've been extinct since about a millennium and a half after this scene, when the Muslims took over the Middle East and eradicated all the vineyards. So no one can say definitively that the kind of grapevines grown in Gath-hepher didn't look like groups of starfish playing marbles.
So my current project, as we barrel into 2013, is to polish Jonah up to a blinding sheen, and this is the first panel. As most of my detailed panels do, it represents hours of work, and not just the tedious work of drawing hundreds of leaves. I had to learn about Biblical viticulture before I could even start doing that! I was interested to find out that Jonah's is actually the only book in the entire Hebrew Bible that doesn't mention grapes or wine -- though there's an oblique reference to it even here, in the fact that Jonah son of Amittai is assumed to be the same guy of that name mentioned in Second Kings, where he is said to come from the town of Gath-hepher. Gath-hepher means something like "wine-press of the pit," gat being the word for the platform where grapes were trampled. A channel led from this platform to a chamber in which the juice collected, and from there it was poured into wineskins. In some small towns all the farming was done communally, and I've decided that was the case in Jonah's town. So here it's high summer and everyone in Gath-hepher, men and women, old and young, is out in the vineyards cutting clusters and bringing them to the press. The Bible tells us that the grape harvest was a joyous time of laughter and singing, and no wonder: wine, unlike water, was safe to drink, and everyone drank it year-round (though eventually it turned into vinegar, which wasn't very nice, but still nicer than dying of dysentery). The grape was life to the ancient Hebrews, as is obvious from the way both halves of the Bible discuss it, both literally and figuratively. Jesus said he was the vine and his followers were the branches: everyone in his audience would have known that this meant they would be valued if they bore good fruit and ruthlessly pruned away if they did not.
The woman on the right looks a lot like Jonah, doesn't she? Maybe that's his sister or his cousin. I imagine most of Gath-hepher was pretty closely related.