This prophet denounces the certain and approaching destruction of the Assyrian empire, particularly of Nineveh, which is described very minutely. Together with this is consolation for his countrymen, encouraging them to trust in God.
The justice and power of the Lord. (1-8) The overthrow of the Assyrians. (9-15)
Verses 1-8 About a hundred years before, at Jonah's preaching, the Ninevites repented, and were spared, yet, soon after, they became worse than ever. Nineveh knows not that God who contends with her, but is told what a God he is. It is good for all to mix faith with what is here said concerning Him, which speaks great terror to the wicked, and comfort to believers. Let each take his portion from it: let sinners read it and tremble; and let saints read it and triumph. The anger of the Lord is contrasted with his goodness to his people. Perhaps they are obscure and little regarded in the world, but the Lord knows them. The Scripture character of Jehovah agrees not with the views of proud reasoners. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is slow to wrath and ready to forgive, but he will by no means acquit the wicked; and there is tribulation and anguish for every soul that doeth evil: but who duly regards the power of his wrath?
Verses 9-15 There is a great deal plotted against the Lord by the gates of hell, and against his kingdom in the world; but it will prove in vain. With some sinners God makes quick despatch; and one way or other, he will make an utter end of all his enemies. Though they are quiet, and many very secure, and not in fear, they shall be cut down as grass and corn, when the destroying angel passes through. God would hereby work great deliverance for his own people. But those who make themselves vile by scandalous sins, God will make vile by shameful punishments. The tidings of this great deliverance shall be welcomed with abundant joy. These words are applied to the great redemption wrought out by our Lord Jesus and the everlasting gospel, Ro. 10:15 . Christ's ministers are messengers of good tidings, that preach peace by Jesus Christ. How welcome to those who see their misery and danger by sin! And the promise they made in the day of trouble must be made good. Let us be thankful for God's ordinances, and gladly attend them. Let us look forward with cheerful hope to a world where the wicked never can enter, and sin and temptation will no more be known.
Nahum 1:1-15 . JEHOVAH'S ATTRIBUTES AS A JEALOUS JUDGE OF SIN, YET MERCIFUL TO HIS TRUSTING PEOPLE, SHOULD INSPIRE THEM WITH CONFIDENCE. HE WILL NOT ALLOW THE ASSYRIANS AGAIN TO ASSAIL THEM, BUT WILL DESTROY THE FOE.
1. burden of Nineveh--the prophetic doom of Nineveh. Nahum prophesied against that city a hundred fifty years after Jonah.
2. jealous--In this there is sternness, yet tender affection. We are jealous only of those we love: a husband, of a wife; a king, of his subjects' loyalty. God is jealous of men because He loves them. God will not bear a rival in His claims on them. His burning jealousy for His own wounded honor and their love, as much as His justice, accounts for all His fearful judgments: the flood, the destruction of Jerusalem, that of Nineveh. His jealousy will not admit of His friends being oppressed, and their enemies flourishing (compare Exodus 20:5 , 1 Corinthians 16:22 , 2 Corinthians 11:2 ). Burning zeal enters into the idea in "jealous" here (compare Numbers 25:11 Numbers 25:13 , 1 Kings 19:10 ).
the Lord revengeth . . . Lord revengeth--The repetition of the incommunicable name JEHOVAH, and of His revenging, gives an awful solemnity to the introduction.
furious--literally, "a master of fury." So a master of the tongue, that is, "eloquent." "One who, if He pleases, can most readily give effect to His fury" [GROTIUS]. Nahum has in view the provocation to fury given to God by the Assyrians, after having carried away the ten tribes, now proceeding to invade Judea under Hezekiah.
reserveth wrath for his enemies--reserves it against His own appointed time ( 2 Peter 2:9 ). After long waiting for their repentance in vain, at length punishing them. A wrong estimate of Jehovah is formed from His suspending punishment: it is not that He is insensible or dilatory, but He reserves wrath for His own fit time. In the case of the penitent, He does not reserve or retain His anger ( Psalms 103:9 , Jeremiah 3:5 Jeremiah 3:12 , Micah 7:18 ).
3. slow to anger, and great in power--that is, but great in power, so as to be able in a moment, if He pleases, to destroy the wicked. His long-suffering is not from want of power to punish ( Exodus 34:6 Exodus 34:7 ).
not at all acquit--literally, "will not acquitting acquit," or treat as innocent.
Lord hath his way in the whirlwind--From this to Nahum 1:5 , inclusive, is a description of His power exhibited in the phenomena of nature, especially when He is wroth. His vengeance shall sweep away the Assyrian foe like a whirlwind ( Proverbs 10:25 ).
clouds are the dust of his feet--Large as they are, He treads on them, as a man would on the small dust; He is Lord of the clouds, and uses them as He pleases.
4. rebuketh the sea--as Jesus did ( Matthew 8:26 ), proving Himself God (compare Isaiah 50:2 ).
Bashan languisheth--through drought; ordinarily it was a region famed for its rich pasturage (compare Joel 1:10 ).
flower of Lebanon--its bloom; all that blooms so luxuriantly on Lebanon ( Hosea 14:7 ). As Bashan was famed for its pastures, Carmel for its corn fields and vineyards, so Lebanon for its forests ( Isaiah 33:9 ). There is nothing in the world so blooming that God cannot change it when He is wroth.
5. earth is burned--so GROTIUS. Rather, "lifts itself," that is, "heaveth" [MAURER]: as the Hebrew is translated in Psalms 89:9 , Hosea 13:1 ; compare 2 Samuel 5:21 , Margin.
6. fury is poured out like fire--like the liquid fire poured out of volcanoes in all directions (see Jeremiah 7:20 ).
rocks are thrown down--or, "are burnt asunder"; the usual effect of volcanic fire ( Jeremiah 51:25 Jeremiah 51:56 ). As Hannibal burst asunder the Alpine rocks by fire to make a passage for his army [GROTIUS].
7. Here Nahum enters on his special subject, for which the previous verses have prepared the way, namely, to assure his people of safety in Jehovah under the impending attack of Sennacherib ( Nahum 1:7 ), and to announce the doom of Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian foe ( Nahum 1:8 ). The contrast of Nahum 1:7 Nahum 1:8 heightens the force.
he knoweth--recognizes as His own ( Hosea 13:5 , Amos 3:2 ); and so, cares for and guards ( Psalms 1:6 , 2 Timothy 2:19 ).
8. with an overrunning flood--that is, with irresistible might which overruns every barrier like a flood. This image is often applied to overwhelming armies of invaders. Also of calamity in general ( Psalms 32:6 , 42:7 , 90:5 ). There is, perhaps, a special allusion to the mode of Nineveh's capture by the Medo-Babylonian army; namely, through a flood in the river which broke down the wall twenty furlongs Isaiah 8:8 , Daniel 9:26 , Daniel 11:10 Daniel 11:22 Daniel 11:40 ).
end of the place thereof--Nineveh is personified as a queen; and "her place" of residence (the Hebrew for "thereof" is feminine) is the city itself ( Nahum 2:8 ), [MAURER]. Or, He shall so utterly destroy Nineveh that its place cannot be found; Nahum 3:17 confirms this (compare Psalms 37:36 , Daniel 2:35 , Revelation 12:8 , 20:11 ).
darkness--the severest calamities.
9. What do ye imagine against the Lord?--abrupt address to the Assyrians. How mad is your attempt, O Assyrians, to resist so powerful a God! What can ye do against such an adversary, successful though ye have been against all other adversaries? Ye imagine ye have to do merely with mortals and with a weak people, and that so you will gain an easy victory; but you have to encounter God, the protector of His people. Parallel to Isaiah 37:23-29 ; compare Psalms 1:1 .
he will make an utter end--The utter overthrow of Sennacherib's host, soon about to take place, is an earnest of the "utter end" of Nineveh itself.
affliction shall not rise up the second time--Judah's "affliction" caused by the invasion shall never rise again. So Nahum 1:12 . But CALVIN takes the "affliction" to be that of Assyria: "There will be no need of His inflicting on you a second blow: He will make an utter end of you once for all" ( 1 Samuel 3:12 , 26:8 , 2 Samuel 20:10 ). If so, this verse, in contrast to Nahum 1:12 , will express, Affliction shall visit the Assyrian no more, in a sense very different from that in which God will afflict Judah no more. In the Assyrian's case, because the blow will be fatally final; the latter, because God will make lasting blessedness in Judah's case succeed temporary chastisement. But it seems simpler to refer "affliction" here, as in Nahum 1:12 , to Judah; indeed destruction, rather than affliction, applies to the Assyrian.
10. while they are folden together as thorns--literally, "to the same degree as thorns" (compare 1 Chronicles 4:27 , Margin). As thorns, so folded together and entangled that they cannot be loosed asunder without trouble, are thrown by the husbandmen all in a mass into the fire, so the Assyrians shall all be given together to destruction. Compare 2 Samuel 23:6 2 Samuel 23:7 , where also "thorns" are the image of the wicked. As this image represents the speediness of their destruction in a mass, so that of "drunkards," their rushing as it were of their own accord into it; for drunkards fall down without any one pushing them [KIMCHI]. CALVIN explains, Although ye be dangerous to touch as thorns (that is, full of rage and violence), yet the Lord can easily consume you. But "although" will hardly apply to the next clause. English Version and KIMCHI, therefore, are to be preferred. The comparison to drunkards is appropriate. For drunkards, though exulting and bold, are weak and easily thrown down by even a finger touching them. So the insolent self-confidence of the Assyrians shall precipitate their overthrow by God. The Hebrew is "soaked," or "drunken as with their own wine." Their drunken revelries are perhaps alluded to, during which the foe (according to DIODORUS SICULUS ) broke into their city, and Sardanapalus burned his palace; though the main and ultimate destruction of Nineveh referred to by Nahum was long subsequent to that under Sardanapalus.
11. The cause of Nineveh's overthrow: Sennacherib's plots against Judah.
come out of thee--O Nineveh. From thyself shall arise the source of thy own ruin. Thou shalt have only thyself to blame for it.
imagineth evil--Sennacherib carried out the imaginations of his countrymen ( Nahum 1:9 ) against the Lord and His people ( 2 Kings 19:22 2 Kings 19:23 ).
a wicked counsellor--literally, "a counsellor of Belial." Belial means "without profit," worthless, and so bad ( 1 Samuel 25:25 , 2 Corinthians 6:15 ).
12-14. The same truths repeated as in Nahum 1:9-11 , Jehovah here being the speaker. He addresses Judah, prophesying good to it, and evil to the Assyrian.
Though they be quiet--that is, without fear, and tranquilly secure. So Chaldee and CALVIN. Or, "entire," "complete"; "Though their power be unbroken [MAURER], and though they be so many, yet even so they shall be cut down" (literally, "shorn"; as hair shaved off closely by a razor, Isaiah 7:20 ). As the Assyrian was a razor shaving others, so shall he be shaven himself. Retribution in kind. In the height of their pride and power, they shall be clean cut off. The same Hebrew stands for "likewise" and "yet thus." So many as they are, so many shall they perish.
when he shall pass through--or, "and he shall pass away," namely, "the wicked counsellor" ( Nahum 1:11 ), Sennacherib. The change of number to the singular distinguishes him from his host. They shall be cut down, he shall pass away home ( 2 Kings 19:35 2 Kings 19:36 ) [HENDERSON]. English Version is better, "they shall be cut down, "when" He (Jehovah) shall pass through," destroying by one stroke the Assyrian host. This gives the reason why they with all their numbers and power are to be so utterly cut off. Compare "pass through," that is, in destroying power ( Ezekiel 12:12 Ezekiel 12:23 , Isaiah 8:8 , Daniel 11:10 ).
Though I have afflicted thee--Judah, "I will afflict thee no more" ( Isaiah 40:1 Isaiah 40:2 , Isaiah 52:1 Isaiah 52:2 ). The contrast is between "they," the Assyrians, and "thee," Judah. Their punishment is fatal and final. Judah's was temporary and corrective.
13. will I break his yoke--the Assyrian's yoke, namely, the tribute imposed by Sennacherib on Hezekiah ( 2 Kings 18:14 ).
from off thee--O Judah ( Isaiah 10:27 ).
14. that no more of thy name be sown--that no more of thy seed, bearing thy name, as kings of Nineveh, be propagated; that thy dynasty become extinct, namely, on the destruction of Nineveh here foretold; "thee" means the king of Assyria.
will I cut off . . . graven image--The Medes under Cyaxares, the joint destroyers of Nineveh with the Babylonians, hated idolatry, and would delight in destroying its idols. As the Assyrians had treated the gods of other nations, so their own should be treated ( 2 Kings 19:18 ). The Assyrian palaces partook of a sacred character [LAYARD]; so that "house of thy gods" may refer to the palace. At Khorsabad there is remaining a representation of a man cutting an idol to pieces.
I will make thy grave--rather, "I will make it (namely, 'the house of thy gods,' that is, 'Nisroch') thy grave" ( 2 Kings 19:37 , Isaiah 37:38 ). Thus, by Sennacherib's being slain in it, Nisroch's house should be defiled. Neither thy gods, nor thy temple, shall save thee; but the latter shall be thy sepulchre.
thou art vile--or, thou art lighter than due weight ( Daniel 5:27 ; compare Job 31:6 ) [MAURER].
15. This verse is joined in the Hebrew text to the second chapter. It is nearly the same as Isaiah 52:7 , referring to the similar deliverance from Babylon.
him that bringeth good tidings--announcing the overthrow of Sennacherib and deliverance of Jerusalem. The "mountains" are those round Jerusalem, on which Sennacherib's host had so lately encamped, preventing Judah from keeping her "feasts," but on which messengers now speed to Jerusalem, publishing his overthrow with a loud voice where lately they durst not have opened their mouths. A type of the far more glorious spiritual deliverance of God's people from Satan by Messiah, heralded by ministers of the Gospel ( Romans 10:15 ).
perform thy vows--which thou didst promise if God would deliver thee from the Assyrian.
the wicked--literally, "Belial"; the same as the "counsellor of Belial" ( Nahum 1:11 , Margin); namely, Sennacherib.