Nineveh's destruction foretold. (1-10) The true cause, their sinning against God, and his appearing against them. (11-13)
Verses 1-10 Nineveh shall not put aside this judgment; there is no counsel or strength against the Lord. God looks upon proud cities, and brings them down. Particular account is given of the terrors wherein the invading enemy shall appear against Nineveh. The empire of Assyria is represented as a queen, about to be led captive to Babylon. Guilt in the conscience fills men with terror in an evil day; and what will treasures or glory do for us in times of distress, or in the day of wrath? Yet for such things how many lose their souls!
Verses 11-13 The kings of Assyria had long been terrible and cruel to their neighbours, but the Lord would destroy their power. Many plead as an excuse for rapine and fraud, that they have families to provide for; but what is thus obtained will never do them any good. Those that fear the Lord, and get honestly what they have, shall not want for themselves and theirs. It is just with God to deprive those of children, or of comfort in them, who take sinful courses to enrich them. Those are not worthy to be heard again, that have spoken reproachfully of God. Let us then come to God upon his mercy-seat, that having peace with him through our Lord Jesus Christ, we may know that he is for us, and that all things shall work together for our everlasting good.
Nahum 2:1-13 . THE ADVANCE OF THE DESTROYING FORCES AGAINST NINEVEH, AFTER IT WAS USED AS GOD'S ROD FOR A TIME TO CHASTISE HIS PEOPLE: THE CAPTURE OF THAT LION'S DWELLING, ACCORDING TO THE SURE WORD OF JEHOVAH.
1. He that dasheth in pieces--God's "battle axe," wherewith He "breaks in pieces" His enemies. Jeremiah 51:20 applies the same Hebrew term to Nebuchadnezzar (compare Proverbs 25:18 , Jeremiah 50:23 , "the hammer of the whole earth"). Here the Medo-Babylonian army under Cyaxares and Nabopolassar, that destroyed Nineveh, is prophetically meant.
before thy face--before Nineveh. Openly, so that the work of God may be manifest.
watch the way--by which the foe will attack, so as to be ready to meet him. Ironical advice; equivalent to a prophecy, Thou shalt have need to use all possible means of defense; but use what thou wilt, all will be in vain.
make thy loins strong--The loins are the seat of strength; to gird them up is to prepare all one's strength for conflict ( Job 40:7 ). Also gird on thy sword ( 2 Samuel 20:8 , 2 Kings 4:29 ).
2. For the Lord hath turned away the excellency of Jacob--that is, the time for Nineveh's overthrow is ripe, because Jacob (Judah) and Israel (the ten tribes) have been sufficiently chastised. The Assyrian rod of chastisement, having done its work, is to be thrown into the fire. If God chastised Jacob and Israel with all their "excellency" (Jerusalem and the temple, which was their pre-eminent excellency above all nations in God's eyes, Psalms 47:4 , 87:2 , Ezekiel 24:21 ; an alien to Him, and idolatrous? MAURER, not so well, translates, "restores," or "will restore the excellency of Jacob."
emptiers--the Assyrian spoilers.
have emptied them out--have spoiled the Israelites and Jews ( Hosea 10:1 ). Compare Psalms 80:8-16 , on "vine branches," as applied to Israel.
3. his mighty men--the Medo-Babylonian generals mighty men attacking Nineveh.
made red--The ancients dyed their bull's-hide shields red, partly to strike terror into the enemy, chiefly lest the blood from wounds which they might receive should be perceived and give confidence to the foe [CALVIN]. G. V. SMITH conjectures that the reference is to the red reflection of the sun's rays from shields of bronze or copper, such as are found among the Assyrian remains.
in scarlet--or crimson military tunics (compare Matthew 27:28 ). XENOPHON mentions that the Medes were fond of this color. The Lydians and Tyrians extracted the dye from a particular worm.
chariots . . . with flaming torches--that is, the chariots shall be like flaming torches, their wheels in lightning-like rapidity of rotation flashing light and striking sparks from the stones over which they pass (compare Isaiah 5:28 ). English Version supposes a transposition of the Hebrew letters. It is better to translate the Hebrew as it is, "the chariots (shall be furnished) with fire-flashing scythes" (literally, "with the fire," or glitter, of iron weapons). Iron scythes were fixed at right angles to the axles and turned down, or parallel to it, inserted into the felly of the wheel. The Medes, perhaps, had such chariots, though no traces of them are found in Assyrian remains. On account of the latter fact, it may be better to translate, "the chariots (shall come) with the glitter of steel weapons" [MAURER and G. V. SMITH].
in the day of his preparation--JEHOVAH'S ( Isaiah 13:3 ). Or, "Medo-Babylonian commander's day of preparation for the attack" ( Nahum 2:1 ). "He" confirms this, and "his" in this verse.
the fir trees--their fir-tree lances.
terribly shaken--branded so as to strike terror. Or, "shall be tremulous with being brandished" [MAURER].
4. rage--are driven in furious haste ( Jeremiah 46:9 ).
justle one against another--run to and fro [MAURER].
in the broad ways--( 2 Chronicles 32:6 ). Large open spaces in the suburbs of Nineveh.
they shall seem like torches--literally, "their (feminine in Hebrew) appearance (is)": namely, the appearance of the broad places is like that of torches, through the numbers of chariots in them flashing in the sun ( Proverbs 8:26 , Margin).
run like the lightnings--with rapid violence ( Matthew 24:27 , Luke 10:18 ).
5. The Assyrian king. The Assyrian preparations for defense.
shall recount his worthies--( Nahum 3:18 ). Review, or count over in his mind, his nobles, choosing out the bravest to hasten to the walls and repel the attack. But in vain; for
they shall stumble in their walk--"they shall stumble in their advance" through fear and hurry.
the defence shall be prepared--rather, the covering machine used by besiegers to protect themselves in advancing to the wall. Such sudden transitions, as here from the besieged to the besiegers, are frequent (compare Ezekiel 4:2 ), [MAURER]. Or, used by the besieged Assyrians [CALVIN].
6. The gates of the rivers . . . opened--The river wall on the Tigris (the west defense of Nineveh) was 4,530 yards long. On the north, south, and east sides, there were large moats, capable of being easily filled with water from the Khosru. Traces of dams ("gates," or sluices) for regulating the supply are still visible, so that the whole city could be surrounded with a water barrier ( Nahum 2:8 ). Besides, on the east, the weakest side, it was further protected by a lofty double rampart with a moat two hundred feet wide between its two parts, cut in the rocky ground. The moats or canals, flooded by the Ninevites before the siege to repel the foe, were made a dry bed to march into the city, by the foe turning the waters into a different channel: as Cyrus did in the siege of Babylon [MAURER]. In the earlier capture of Nineveh by Arbaces the Mede, and Belesis the Babylonian, DIODORUS SICULUS, [1.2.80], states that there was an old prophecy that it should not be taken till the river became its enemy; so in the third year of the siege, the river by a flood broke down the walls twenty furlongs, and the king thereupon burnt himself and his palace and all his concubines and wealth together, and the enemy entered by the breach in the wall. Fire and water were doubtless the means of the second destruction here foretold, as of the first.
dissolved--by the inundation [HENDERSON]. Or, those in the palace shall melt with fear, namely, the king and his nobles [GROTIUS].
7. Huzzab--the name of the queen of Nineveh, from a Hebrew root implying that she stood by the king ( Psalms 45:9 ), [VATABLUS]. Rather, Nineveh personified as a queen. She who had long stood in the most supreme prosperity. Similarly CALVIN. MAURER makes it not a proper name, and translates, "It is established," or "determined" (compare Genesis 41:32 ). English Version is more supported by the parallelism.
led away captive--The Hebrew requires rather, "she is laid bare"; brought forth from the apartments where Eastern women remained secluded, and is stripped of her ornamental attire. Compare Isaiah 47:2 Isaiah 47:3 , where the same image of a woman with face and legs exposed is used of a city captive and dismantled (compare Nahum 3:5 ), [MAURER].
brought up--Her people shall be made to go up to Babylon. Compare the use of "go up" for moving from a place in Jeremiah 21:2 .
her maids . . . as . . . doves--As Nineveh is compared to a queen dethroned and dishonored, so she has here assigned to her in the image handmaids attending her with dove-like plaints ( Isaiah 38:14 , 59:11 . The image implies helplessness and grief suppressed, but at times breaking out). The minor cities and dependencies of Nineveh may be meant, or her captive women [JEROME]. GROTIUS and MAURER translate, for "lead her," "moan," or "sigh."
tabering--beating on their breasts as on a tambourine.
8. But--rather, "Though" [G. V. SMITH].
of old--rather, "from the days that she hath been"; from the earliest period of her existence. Alluding to Nineveh's antiquity ( Genesis 10:11 ). "Though Nineveh has been of old defended by water surrounding her, yet her inhabitants shall flee away." GROTIUS, less probably (compare Nahum 3:8-12 ), interprets, the "waters" of her numerous population ( Isaiah 8:7 , Jeremiah 51:13 , Revelation 17:15 ).
Stand, stand, shall they cry--that is, the few patriotic citizens shall cry to their fleeing countrymen; "but none looketh back," much less stops in flight, so panic-stricken are they.
9. silver . . . gold--The conquerors are summoned to plunder the city. Nineveh's riches arose from the annual tribute paid by so many subject states, as well as from its extensive merchandise ( Nahum 3:16 , Ezekiel 27:23 Ezekiel 27:24 ).
store--accumulated by the plunder of subject nations. It is remarkable, that while small articles of value (bronze inlaid with gold, gems, seals, and alabaster vases) are found in the ruins of Nineveh, there are is none of gold and silver. These, as here foretold, were "taken for spoil" before the palaces were set on fire.
glory out of all the pleasant furniture--or, "there is abundance of precious vessels of every kind" [MAURER].
10. Literally, "emptiness, and emptiedness, and devastation." The accumulation of substantives without a verb (as in Nahum 3:2 ), the two first of the three being derivatives of the same root, and like in sound, and the number of syllables in them increasing in a kind of climax, intensify the gloomy effectiveness of the expression. Hebrew, Bukah, Mebukah, Mebullakah (compare Isaiah 24:1 Isaiah 24:3 Isaiah 24:4 , Zephaniah 1:15 ). CALVIN translates, "withdraw (literally, 'gather up') their glow," or flush, that is grow pale. This is probably the better rendering. So MAURER.
11. dwelling of . . . lions--Nineveh, the seat of empire of the rapacious and destructive warriors of various ranks, typified by the "lions," "young lions," "old lion" (or lioness [MAURER]), "the lion's whelp." The image is peculiarly appropriate, as lions of every form, winged, and sometimes with the head of a man, are frequent in the Assyrian sepulchres. It was as full of spoils of all nations as a lion's den is of remains of its prey. The question, "Where," &c. implies that Jehovah "would make an utter end of the place," so that its very site could not be found ( Nahum 1:8 ). It is a question expressing wonder, so incredible did it then seem.
12. prey . . . ravin--different kinds of prey. Compare Isaiah 3:1 , "the stay and the staff."
13. burn . . . in the smoke--or (so as to pass) "into smoke," that is, "entirely" [MAURER], ( Psalms 37:20 , 46:9 ). CALVIN, like English Version, explains, As soon as the flame catches, and the fire smokes, by the mere smoke I will burn her chariots.
cut off thy prey from the earth--Thou shalt no more carry off prey from the nations of the earth.
the voice of thy messengers . . . no more . . . heard--No more shall thy emissaries be heard throughout thy provinces conveying thy king's commands, and exacting tribute of subject nations.