John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible
INTRODUCTION TO NAHUM 3
In this chapter is contained the prophecy of the destruction of Nineveh, and with it the whole Assyrian empire; the causes of which, besides those before mentioned, were the murders, lies, and robberies it was full of, Nahum 3:1 for which it should be swiftly and cruelly destroyed, Nahum 3:2 as also its whoredoms and witchcrafts, or idolatry, by which nations and families were seduced, Nahum 3:4 and hence she should be treated as a harlot, her nakedness exposed, and she cast out with contempt, and mocked at by all, Nahum 3:5 and all those things she placed her confidence in are shown to be of no avail; as her situation and fortresses, as she might learn from the case of No Amon, Nahum 3:8 nor the number of her inhabitants, which were weak as women; nor even her merchants, captains, nobles, and king himself, Nahum 3:13 nor the people she was in alliance with, who would now mock at her, her case being irrecoverable and incurable, Nahum 3:19.
Woe to the bloody city,.... Nineveh, in which many murders were daily committed; innocent blood shed; the lives of men taken away, under the colour of justice, by false witnesses, and other unlawful methods; and which was continually making war with neighbouring nations, and shedding their blood, which it stuck not at, to enlarge its wealth and dominions; and therefore "woe" is denounced against it; and it is threatened with the righteous judgments of God, with all sorts of calamity and distress: or, "O bloody city", as the Septuagint; for the word used is vocative, and expressive of calling, as Aben Ezra and Kimchi observe:
it is all full of lies and robbery; the palace and court; the houses of noblemen and common persons were full of flattery and deceit; men of high degree were a lie, and men of low degree vanity; no man could trust another, or believe what he said; there were no truth, honesty, and faithfulness, in conversation or commerce; their warehouses were full of goods, got by rapine and violence; and their streets full of robbers and robberies:
the prey departeth not; they go on in making a prey of their neighbours, in pillaging and plundering their substance; they repent not of such evil practices, nor desist from them; or because of the above sins they shall fall a prey to the enemy, who will not cease plundering them till he has utterly stripped them of all they have; and who is represented in the next verse Nahum 3:2 as just at hand.
The noise of a whip,.... Of a horseman or chariot driver whipping his horses to make speed to Nineveh, and enter into it, so near as to be heard by the inhabitants of it; and is thus represented in order to strike terror into them:
and the noise of the rattling of the wheels; that is, of the chariots upon the stones, whose drivers drove Jehu like, making the utmost haste they could to get in first, and seize the prey:
and of the pransing horses; or bounding steeds, upon a full gallop; either with horsemen on them riding full speed to partake of the booty; or in chariots, in which they caper and prance, and shake the ground as they go; hence it follows:
and of the jumping chariots; which, through the swiftness of the motion, seem to leap and dance as they run along.
The horseman lifteth up both the bright sword and the glittering spear,.... Or, "the flame of the sword and the glittering spear"
and there is a multitude of slain, and a great number of carcasses; of dead men lying in the streets, pierced and slain with the bright sword and glittering spear of the Medes and Chaldeans:
and there is none end of their corpses; the number of them could not be told; they lay so thick in all parts of the city, that there was no telling them:
they stumble upon their corpses; the Ninevites in fleeing, and endeavouring to make their escape, and the Medes and Chaldeans pursuing them.
Because of the multitudes of the whoredoms of the wellfavoured harlot,.... Meaning Nineveh; which, as it was an ancient city, was a well built one; full of stately and beautiful buildings, the seat of the kings of Assyria, and the metropolis of the nation, and abounded with wealth and riches; perhaps here may be an allusion to the name of the city, and to the signification of it; for Nineveh may have its name from the beauty of it, and be read, in Hebrew, נאי נוה or נוי, and may signify a beautiful or pleasant habitation; so Hillerus
the mistress of witchcrafts: thoroughly versed in such wicked and devilish practices, literally understood; see Isaiah 47:9 for the Assyrians, as well as the Babylonians and Chaldeans, were addicted to such diabolical arts, as appears from a passage in Theocritus
that selleth nations through her whoredoms, and families through her witchcrafts; enslaved whole kingdoms, and brought them under her power and dominion, to be her vassals; and was the instrument, not only of corporeal servitude, but of their selling themselves to work wickedness, by committing spiritual fornication or idolatry; into which multitudes were led by her influence and example, and particularly the kingdoms and families of Israel and Judah; see 2 Kings 16:10. In these whoredoms and witchcrafts, as well as in her bloodthirstiness, lies, and oppression, Nineveh was a type of the whore of Rome; see Revelation 17:1.
Behold, I am against thee, saith the Lord of hosts,.... Because her doings were against him; See Gill on Nahum 2:13,
and I will discover thy skirts upon thy face; turn up the skirts of her garments over her head, and thereby discover what should be concealed, than which nothing is more disagreeable and abominable to modest persons; it is here threatened she should be used in character as a harlot, or as women oftentimes are by rude soldiers, when a city is taken by them:
and I will show the nations thy nakedness, and the kingdoms thy shame; all her charms shall be taken away, and she become odious as a harlot to her former lovers; all her impostures, arts, and tricks, and shameful actions, will be discovered; and her aims and views at universal monarchy will be seen and her weakness to effect it made to appear; and, upon the whole, will become the object of the scorn and derision of kingdoms and nations.
And I will cast abominable filth upon thee,.... As dirt and dung, or any or everything that is abominable and filthy; and which is thrown at harlots publicly disgraced, and as used to be at persons when carted. The meaning is, that this city and its inhabitants should be stripped of everything that was great and glorious in them, and should be reduced to the utmost shame and ignominy:
and make thee vile: mean, abject, contemptible, the offscouring of all things; rejected and disesteemed of all; had in no manner of repute or account, but in the utmost abhorrence:
and I will set thee as a gazingstock; to be looked and laughed at: or, "for an example"
And it shall come to pass, that all they that look upon thee shall flee from thee,.... As something loathsome and abominable, not fit to be come near unto, or touched; and as astonished and amazed at an object so forlorn and miserable, and lest they should partake of the same punishment:
and say, Nineveh is laid waste; utterly destroyed; its walls broke down, its houses demolished, its substance plundered, and its inhabitants killed, or carried captive; who could have thought it, when it was once so stately, rich, and powerful? but so it is indeed!
who will bemoan her? there are none left in her to do it; and as for others, her neighbours, whom she has oppressed and cruelly used, these will laugh and rejoice, instead of lamenting her case:
whence shall I seek comforters for thee? none from among her inhabitants, being destroyed, or carried into a foreign land; and none from among the nations round about, who will rather deride and insult than pity and comfort; so wretched and miserable would her case be!
Art thou better than populous No,.... Or No Amon, a city in Egypt so called, not because the kings of Egypt were nursed and brought up there, as Jarchi and Abarbinel; see Proverbs 8:30 but from Ham the son of Noah, whose land Egypt was; or from Jupiter Ammon, worshipped there. No Amon signifies the mansion or palace of Ham, or Hamon; the Egyptians, as Herodotus says
that was situate among the rivers; the canals of the river Nile:
that had the waters round about it: a moat on every side, either naturally or artificially:
whose rampart was the sea, and her wall was from the sea? which agrees with Alexandria, according to the description of it by Strabo
Ethiopia and Egypt were her strength,.... That is, the strength, support, protection, and defence of No, whether Alexandria, or Thebes, or Memphis: Egypt was, for these cities were in it, and subject to it; or, if this was a free city, as some think, yet in alliance with Egypt, and under its protection; and in like connection it was with Ethiopia, that is, Arabia, a country that lay near to it; and yet, though it was strengthened by such powerful neighbours and allies, it was not secure from the devastation of the enemy:
and it was infinite; or there was "no end"
Put and Lubim, were thy helpers; Put, or the Putim, were the people of the Moors, that dwelt in Mauritania; and Lubim were the Lybians that bordered on Egypt, and whose country is sometimes reckoned a part of it. The Jews
Yet was she carried away, she went into captivity,.... Not by Nebuchadnezzar; though this city was afterwards taken, and its inhabitants carried captive, by that monarch, as was foretold, Jeremiah 46:25 but the prophet here does not predict an event to be accomplished, and instance in that, and argue from it, which could have no effect on Nineveh and its inhabitants, or be an example or terror to them; but refers to what had been done, a recent fact, and which they were well acquainted with. Aben Ezra says, this city No was a city of the land of Egypt, which the king of the Chaldeans took as he went to Nineveh; but when, and by whom it was taken, is nowhere said. According to Bishop Usher
her young children also were dashed in pieces at the top of all the streets: against the walls of the houses, or upon the stones and pavements of the streets; which cruelties were often used by conquerors upon innocent babes at the sacking of cities, Psalm 137:9,
and they cast lots for her honourable men; the soldiers did, who should have them, and sell them for slaves; which was done without any regard to their birth and breeding, Joel 3:3,
and all her great men were bound in chains; as nobles may be meant by "honourable men", by "great men" may be designed the gentry, merchants, and others; these were taken, and bound in iron chains, handcuffed, and pinioned, and so led captive into a foreign land; and Nineveh might expect the same treatment.
Thou also shalt be drunken,.... This is said to Nineveh, whose turn would be next to drink of the cup of the wrath of God, and be inebriated with it, so that they should not know where they were, or what they did; and be as unable to guide and help themselves as a drunken man. So the Targum,
"thou also shalt be like to a drunken man;'
this was literally true of Nineveh when taken; see Nahum 1:10,
thou shalt be hid; or, "thou shall be", as if thou wast not; as Nineveh is at this day, "hid" from the sight of men, not to be seen any more. So the Targum,
"thou shall be swallowed up or destroyed.'
The Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, and Arabic versions, render it "despised"; or the meaning is, she should "hide herself"
thou also shall seek strength because of the enemy; seek to others to help them against the enemy, not being able with their own strength to face them: or, seek strength "of the enemy"
All thy strong holds shall be like fig trees with the first ripe figs,.... Upon them, or like them: "and the first ripe figs"; which are easily shook and gathered; and so easily should the fortresses and towers of Nineveh, in which they trusted for safety, be taken by the enemy, not only one, but all of them:
if they be shaken, they shall even fall into the mouth of the eater; as such ripe fruit is very desirable, and the mouth of a man is open and ready for them; so if he gives the tree but the least shake, they will fall into his mouth, or about him in great plenty: in like manner, as the fortresses of Nineveh, being of importance, were desirable by the Chaldeans and Medes, and for which they were gaping; so upon the least assault they would fall into their hands; see Revelation 6:13.
Behold, thy people in the midst of thee are women,.... Or like women, weak and feeble, fearful and timorous; frightened at the first approach of the enemy; run away, and run up and down in the utmost consternation and distress, having neither skill nor courage to oppose them; some regard may be had to the effeminacy of their king; see Nahum 2:7. The sense is, they should be at once dispirited, and lose all strength of mind and body, and have neither heads nor hearts to form schemes, and execute them in their own defence; and thus should they be, even in the midst of the city, upon their own ground, where, any where, it might be thought they would exert themselves, and play the man, since their all lay at stake: this was another thing they trusted in, the multitude of their people, even of their soldiers; but these would be of no avail, since they would lose all their military skill and bravery:
the gates of thy land shall be set wide open to thine enemies: instead of guarding the passes and avenues, they would abandon them to the enemy; and, instead of securing the gates and passages, they would run away from them; and the enemy would find as easy access as if they were thrown open on purpose for them; perhaps this may respect the gates of the rivers being opened by the inundation, which threw down the wall, and made a way into the city; see Nahum 2:6,
the fire shall devour thy bars; with which their gates had been shut, but now opened, and in the enemies' hands; who would set fire to them, that the way to go in and out might be open and free.
Draw thee waters for the siege,.... Before the siege is begun, fetch water from the river, wells, or fountains without the city, and fill cisterns, and such like receptacles of water, with them; that there may be sufficiency of it to hold out, which is often wanting in long sieges; the want of which gives great distress to the besieged: this is put for all necessary provisions, which should be made when a city is in danger of being blocked up: this, and what follows, are said ironically; signifying, let them do what they would or could for their support and security, it would be all in vain:
fortify thy strong holds; repair the old fortifications, and add new ones to them; fill them with soldiers, arms, and ammunition:
go into clay, and tread the mortar; make strong the brick kiln; repair the brick kilns, keep them in good order; employ men in digging clay, and treading it, and making it into bricks, and burning them in the kiln, that there be no want of bricks to repair the fortifications, or such breaches as might be made by the enemy. Bricks were much used instead of stone in those countries; but when they had done their utmost, they would not be able to secure themselves, and keep out the enemy.
There shall the fire devour thee,.... In the strong holds, made ever so firm and secure; either the fire of divine wrath; or the fire of the enemy they should put into them; or the enemy himself, as Kimchi; and so the Targum,
"thither shall come upon thee people who are as strong as fire:'
the sword shall cut thee off; it shall eat thee up as the cankerworm: that is, the sword of the Medes and Chaldeans shall utterly destroy thee, as the cankerworm is destroyed by rain or fire; or rather, as that creature destroys all herbs, plants, and trees it falls upon, and makes clear riddance of them, so should it be with Nineveh:
make thyself many as the cankerworm; make thyself many as the locust; which go in swarms, innumerable, and make the air "heavy" in which they fly, and the earth on which they fall, as the word
Thou hast multiplied thy merchants above the stars of heaven,.... A hyperbolical expression, setting forth the great number of merchants that were in Nineveh, and in the land of Assyria; who either were the natives of the place, or came thither for the sake of merchandise, which serve to enrich a nation, and therefore are encouraged to settle; and from whom, in a time of war, much benefit might be expected; being able to furnish with money, which is the sinews of war, as well as to give intelligence of the designs of foreign princes, they trading abroad:
the cankerworm spoileth, and flieth away; or "puts off"
Thy crowned men are as the locusts,.... Tributary kings, and hired officers, as some think, who might be distinguished by what they wore on their heads; or their own princes and nobles, who wore coronets or diadems; unless their religious persons are meant, their Nazarites and devotees, their priests; these were like locusts for their number, fear, and flight in time of danger, and for their spoil of the poor; and some locusts have been seen with little crowns on their heads, as those in Revelation 9:7 "which had on their heads as it were crowns like gold". In the year 1542 came locusts out of Turkish Satmatia into Austria, Silesia, Lusatia, and Misnia, which had on their heads little crowns
and thy captains as the great grasshoppers; or "locusts of locusts"
which camp in the hedges in the cold day; in the cold part of the day, the night; when they get into the hedges of fields, gardens, and vineyards, in great numbers, like an army, and therefore said to encamp like one:
but when the sun ariseth they flee away, and their place is not known where they are; whither they are fled, as the Targum; so these captains, or half pay officers, swarmed in great numbers about the city, and in the provinces, while it was a time of peace, and they were indulged in sloth, and enjoyed much ease and prosperity; but when war broke out, and the heat of it began to be felt, these disappeared, and went into their own countries, from whence they came, with the auxiliaries and hired troops; nor could they be found where they were, or be called upon to do their duty: this is true of locusts in a literal sense, who flee away when the sun rises; hence the Arabs, as Bochart says
Thy shepherds slumber, O king of Assyria,.... Who this king of Assyria was is not easy to say; some think Esarhaddon, who is the last of the kings of Assyria the Scriptures speak of; according to Diodorus Siculus
thy nobles shall dwell in the dust; be brought very low, into a very mean and abject condition; their honour shall be laid in the dust, and they be trampled upon by everyone: or, "they shall sleep"
thy people is scattered upon the mountains, and no man gathereth them; like sheep without a shepherd, which being frightened by beasts of prey, run here and there, and there is none to get them together, and bring them back again; so the subjects of this king, being terrified at the approach of the Medes and Babylonians, forsook their cities, and fled to the mountains; where they were scattered about, having no leader and commander to gather them together, and put them in regular order to face and oppose the enemy. So the Targum interprets it
"the people of thine armies.'
There is no healing of thy bruise,.... Made by the fatal blow given to the empire by the taking of Nineveh; the ruin of it was irreparable and irrecoverable; the city of Nineveh was no more, and the Assyrian empire sunk, and never rose again: or, "there is no contraction of thy bruise"
"there is none that grieves at thy breach;'
so the Syriac version; so far from it, that they rejoiced at it, as in a following clause:
thy wound is grievous; to be borne; the pain of it intolerable; an old obstinate one, inveterate and incurable: or, is "weak", or "sickly"
all that hear the bruit of thee; the fame, the report of the destruction of Nineveh, and of the ruin of the Assyrian empire, and the king of it:
shall clap the hands over thee; for joy; so far were they from lending a helping hand in the time of distress, that they clapped both hands together, to express the gladness of their hearts at hearing such news:
for upon whom hath not thy wickedness passed continually? to which of thy neighbours hast thou not been troublesome and injurious? which of them hast thou not oppressed, and used with violence and cruelty? what province or city but have felt the weight of thine hand, have been harassed with wars, and distressed with tributes and exactions? and therefore it is no wonder they rejoice at thy fall. The destruction of this city, and so of the whole empire, is placed by Dr. Prideaux in the twenty ninth year of Josiah's reign, and in the year 612 B.C.; and by what Josephus says
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