John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible
INTRODUCTION TO NAHUM 1
This chapter begins with the title of the book, showing the subject matter of it; and describing the penman of it by his name and country, Nahum 1:1; which is followed with a preface to the whole book; setting forth the majesty of a jealous and revenging God; the power of his wrath and fury; of which instances are given in exciting tempests; drying up the sea and the rivers; making the most fruitful mountains barren, which tremble before him; yea, even the whole world, and the inhabitants thereof, his indignation being intolerable; and yet he is slow to anger, good to them that trust in him, whom he knows, and whose protection he is in a time of trouble, Nahum 1:2. Next the destruction of the Assyrian empire, and of the city of Nineveh, is prophesied of; and is represented as an utter and an entire destruction, and which would come upon them suddenly and unawares, while they were in their cups, Nahum 1:8. A particular person among them is spoken of, described as a designing wicked man, an enemy to the Lord and his people, thought to be Sennacherib king of Assyria, Nahum 1:11; from whose evil designs, yoke and bondage, the Jews should be delivered; and he and his posterity be cut off, because of his vileness, Nahum 1:12; and the chapter is concluded with tidings of joy to Judah, who are exhorted to keep their feasts and perform their vows on this occasion, Nahum 1:15.
The burden of Nineveh,.... Of the city of Nineveh, and the greatness of it; see Gill on Jonah 1:2; See Gill on Jonah 3:3; Jonah was sent to this city to threaten it with ruin for its sins; at that time the king and all his people humbled themselves and repented, and the threatened destruction was averted; but they relapsing to their former iniquities, this prophet foretells what would be their certain fate; very rightly therefore the Targum, and some other Jewish writings
the book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite; no other prophecy is called, a book but this, as Abarbinel observes; and gives this reason for it, because the other prophets immediately declared their prophecies, as Jonah; but Nahum never went to the Ninevites, but wrote his prophecy in a book, and sent it to them. It is called "the book of the vision"; what it contains being made known to him by the Lord in a vision, as was common; hence the prophets are called seers; and the prophet is described by the place of his birth, an Elkoshite; though some think he is so called from his father, whose name was Helkesi, and said to be a prophet too, as Jerom relates; and with this agrees the Targum, which calls him Nahum of the house or family of Koshi; but Jarchi says that Elkosh was the name of his city; Aben Ezra and Kimchi are in doubt which to refer it to, whether to his city, or to his ancestors; but there seems no reason to doubt but that he is so called from his native place; since Jerom
God is jealous, and the Lord revengeth,.... He is jealous of his own honour and glory, and for his own worship and ordinances; and will not give his glory to another, nor his praise to graven images; and therefore will punish all idolaters, and particularly the idolatrous Assyrians: he is jealous for his people, and cannot bear to see them injured; and will avenge the affronts that are offered, and the indignities done unto them:
the Lord revengeth, and is furious; or, is "master of wrath"
the Lord will take vengeance on his adversaries; on all his adversaries; particularly the Assyrians are here meant, who were both the enemies of him and of his people. The Targum explains it,
"that hate his people:'
vengeance belongs to the Lord, and he will repay it sooner or later; if not immediately, he will hereafter; for it follows:
and he reserveth wrath for his enemies: and them for that; if not in this world, yet in the world to come; he lays it up among his treasures, and brings it forth at his pleasure. The word "wrath" is not in the text; it is not said what he reserves for the enemies of himself and church; it is inconceivable and inexpressible.
The Lord is slow to anger,.... He is not in haste to execute it; he takes time for it, and gives men space for repentance. Nineveh had had a proof of this when it repented at the preaching of Jonah, upon which the Lord deferred the execution of his wrath; but lest they should presume upon this, and conclude the Lord would always bear with them, though they had returned to their former impieties; they are let to know, that this his forbearance was not owing to want of power or will in him to punish: since he is
great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked; he is able to execute the wrath he threatens, and will by no means clear the guilty, or let them go free and unpunished; though he moves slowly, as he may seem in the execution of his judgments, yet they shall surely be brought on his enemies, and be fully accomplished:
the Lord hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet; he spoke to Job out of the whirlwind; he descended on Mount Sinai in a storm and tempest; and the clouds are his chariots; in which he rides swiftly; and which, for their appearance and number, are like the dust raised by a multitude of horsemen riding full speed, The wrath of God may be compared to a whirlwind, and a storm, which is sometimes hastily and suddenly executed upon men: respect seems to be had to the armies of the Medes and Chaldeans against the Assyrians; who, as the Babylonians against the Jews, came up as clouds, and their chariots as the whirlwind, Jeremiah 4:13; and the figures beautifully describe the numbers of them, the force with which they came; and in an elegant manner represent the vast quantity of dust raised by an army in full march; at the head of which was the Lord himself, ordering, directing, and succeeding, before whom none can stand.
He rebuketh the sea, and maketh it dry,.... As he did the Red sea, when the children of Israel passed through it as on dry land; which shows his power and sovereignty over it; that it is at his command, as a servant at his master's; and since the wind and sea obey him, what is it he cannot do? see Isaiah 50:2;
and drieth up all the rivers; that is, he can do it if he will; he divided the waters of Jordan, through the midst of which the Israelites passed on dry ground; and will dry up the river Euphrates, to make way for the kings of the east; and as for Tigris, on the banks of which the city of Nineveh stood, of which the inhabitants boasted, and in which they trusted for their security, he could dry up, and make way for the enemy to enter in; or make that their enemy, and overflow them with it, as he did; see Nahum 1:8. By the "sea" and "rivers" may be meant the whole Assyrian empire, and many nations and people, as Jarchi and Abarbinel interpret it, of whom it consisted; see Jeremiah 51:36;
Bashan languisheth, and Carmel, and the flower of Lebanon languisheth; when the Lord restrains the heavens from giving rain, then Bashan, famous for its fat pastures and fruitful meadows, and Carmel for its rich grain fields, and Lebanon for its tall shadowy cedars, these, and the glory of all, wither and fade away, being parched and dried up for want of moisture. These were places in the land of Israel, but may be put for like flourishing and fruitful hills and countries in the land of Assyria, which should become desolate; see Psalm 107:33.
The mountains quake at him, and the hills melt,.... As Sinai of old did, when the Lord descended on it, Exodus 19:18. Mountains figuratively signify kings and princes; and hills large countries, as Jarchi and Abarbinel observe, and the inhabitants of them; particularly the kingdoms and nations belonging to the Assyrian empire, which would tremble and quake, and their hearts melt with fear, when they should hear of the destruction of Nineveh their chief city; and of the devastation made by the enemy there and in other parts, under the direction of the Lord of hosts; his power and providence succeeding him:
and the earth is burnt at his presence; either when he withholds rain from it, and so it be comes parched and burnt up with the heat of the sun; or when he rains fire and brimstone on it, as he did on Sodom and Gomorrah; or consumes any part of it with thunder and lightning, as he sometimes does; nay, if he but touch the mountains, they smoke; see Psalm 104:32;
yea, the world, and all that dwell therein; as in the last day, at the general conflagration, when the world, and all the wicked inhabitants of it, will be burnt up; see 2 Peter 3:10.
Who can stand before his indignation?.... No creature whatever; no man nor body of men; not Nineveh, and the inhabitants of it; nor the whole Assyrian empire:
and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? not the great men of the earth; not kings or generals of armies; not kingdoms and nations, ever so numerous and powerful; but all must be consumed by him, who is a consuming fire; see Jeremiah 10:10;
his fury is poured out like fire; or like metal that is melted by fire, and poured out by the force of it; or like fire of lightning poured out of the heavens, which is quick, powerful, and penetrating, and there is no resisting it:
and the rocks are thrown down by him; by the Lord, by his wrath and fury; kingdoms that seemed as strong and immovable as rocks and mountains are thrown down; as such have been by the force of fire bursting from the midst of them, as Etna, Vesuvius, and others.
The Lord is good,.... To Israel, as the Targum adds; to Hezekiah and his, people, that betook themselves to him, and put their trust in him; whom he defended and preserved from the king of Assyria, to whom he was dreadful and terrible, destroying his army in one night by an angel; and so delivered the king of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from that terror that had seized them, and that danger they were exposed unto; and so the Lord is good in himself, in the perfections of his nature, in the works of his hands, in all his persons to his people, that fear him, trust in him, and seek him, and wait for him, and on him:
a strong hold in the day of trouble; or, he is "good for a strong hold"
and he knoweth them that trust in him; in his word, as the Targum; and they are such that know him, and are sensible of the vanity of all other objects of trust; who betake themselves to him for shelter and protection; lean and stay themselves upon him, and commit all unto him, and expect all from him: these he knows, loves, and has the strongest affection for; he approves of them, and commends their faith and confidence; he takes notice of them, visits them, and makes himself known unto them, even in their adversity; he owns and acknowledges them as his own, claims his right in them now, and will confess them hereafter; and he takes care of them that they perish not, whoever else do; see Psalm 1:6; he knows the necessities of those that trust in him, as Jarchi; he knows them for their good, takes care of them, provides for, them, and watches over them, as Kimchi. The ancients formerly had their γνωστηρας and μυνητας, "notores"
But with an overrunning flood he will make an utter end of the place thereof,.... Of Nineveh, against whom this prophecy was, and upon whom it lay as a burden, Nahum 1:1; and now though the Lord was good to them that trust in him, and a strong hold to them in a time of trouble; yet he was determined to destroy their enemies the Assyrians, and Nineveh their chief city; and that by the means of a powerful army, which, like a flood or inundation of water breaking in, overruns and carries all before it; and very fitly may the Medes and Babylonians, who joined together in an expedition against Nineveh, be compared to such a flood for their number and force; since, as the historian tells
"there was an oracle received by the Ninevites from their ancestors, that Nineveh could never be taken by any, unless the river (on which it stood) first became an enemy to it; and so it was, that, in the third year of the siege, the river, being swelled with continual rains, overflowed part of the city, and broke down the wall for the space of two and half miles; hence the king concluded the oracle was fulfilled, and gave up all hopes of safety; and through the breach of the wall the enemy entered, and took the city;'
and an "utter end" was made of it, and of the place of it, insomuch that historians and geographers disagree about it; some say it was situated upon the river Euphrates, others upon the river Tigris, which is the most correct; some say on the east of that river, others on the west; some will have it to be above the river Lycus, and others below it; so true is that of Lucian
"this city (Nineveh) at present is wholly destroyed; but, by what yet appears in it, it may be firmly believed that it was one of the greatest cities in the world.'
"on the other side of the river (Tigris from that on which Mosul stands) at the end of the bridge begins the place, where, in ancient times, stood the famous city of Nineveh. --There is nothing of it, (adds he) now to be seen, but some hillocks, which (they say) are its foundations, the houses being underneath; and these reach a good way below the city of Mosul:'
and darkness shall pursue his enemies; the enemies of God and his people, who would make such a devastation of Nineveh; even he would cause all manner of calamities, often signified in Scripture by darkness, to follow and overtake them; so that they should be brought into the most uncomfortable and distressed condition imaginable.
What do ye imagine against the Lord?.... O ye Ninevites or Assyrians; do you think you can frustrate the designs of the Lord, resist his power, and hinder him from executing what he has threatened and has determined to do? or what mischief is it you devise against his people, which is the same as against himself? can you believe that you shall prosper and succeed, and your schemes be carried into execution, when he, the all wise and all powerful Being, opposes you?
he will make an utter end; of you, as before declared, and will save his people; which may be depended on will certainly be the case:
affliction shall not rise up the second time; either this should be the last effort the Assyrians would make upon the Jews, which they made under Sennacherib, and this the last time they would afflict them; or rather their own destruction should be so complete that there would be no need to repeat the stroke, or give another blow; the business would be done at once. This seems to contradict a notion of some historians and chronologers, who suppose that Nineveh was destroyed at two different times, and by different persons of the same nations; and so the whole Assyrian empire was twice ruined, which is not likely in itself, and seems contrary to this passage; for though some ascribe it to Arbaces the Mede, and Belesis the Babylonian as Diodorus Siculus
For while they be folden together as thorns,.... Like them, useless and unprofitable, harmful and pernicious, fit only for burning, and, being bundled together, are prepared for it; and which is not only expressive of the bad qualities of the Ninevites, and of the danger they were in, and what they deserved; but of the certainty of their ruin, no more being able to save themselves from it, than a bundle of thorns from the devouring fire:
and while they are drunken as drunkards; dead drunk, no more able to help themselves than a drunken man that is fallen; or who were as easily thrown down as a drunken man is with the least touch; though there is no need to have recourse to a figurative sense, since the Ninevites were actually drunk when they were attacked by their enemy, as the historian relates
they shall be devoured as stubble fully dry; as easily, and as inevitably and irrecoverably.
There is one come out of thee,.... That is, out of Nineveh, as the Targum explains it; meaning Sennacherib, who had his royal seat and palace there; or Rabshakeh that was sent from hence by him with a railing and blaspheming letter to the king of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. This is said to be at the present time of writing this prophecy, though it was after it, because of the certainty of it, as is usual in prophetic language; unless it can be thought that this prophecy was delivered out exactly at the time when Sennacherib had entered Judea, and was before the walls of Jerusalem; but not yet discomfited, as after predicted:
that imagineth evil against the Lord; against the people of the Lord, as the Targum; formed a scheme to invade the land of Judea, take the fenced cities thereof, and seize upon Jerusalem the metropolis of the nation, and carry the king, princes, and all the people captive as Shalmaneser his father had carried away the ten tribes:
a wicked counsellor; or "a counsellor of Belial"
Thus saith the Lord, though they be quiet, and likewise many,.... The Assyrian army under Sennacherib before Jerusalem, though they were quiet and secure and thought themselves out of all danger; not at all fearing that the besieged would sally out against them they being so numerous, and therefore betook themselves to sleep and rest:
yet thus shall they be cut down; or "shorn"
"after thou art a servant, dost thou let thy hair grow?'
upon which it is observed
"and there shall be captivity, by reason of the head of nakedness of the enemy;'
that is, there should be captives whose heads should be made bare, or shaved by the enemy the conqueror
when he shall pass through; when the angel should pass through the camp of the Assyrians, then were they cut down by him in great numbers, a hundred and fourscore and five thousand slain at once, 2 Kings 19:35;
though I have afflicted thee, I will afflict thee no more: or "any longer"
For now will I break his yoke from off thee,.... The Assyrian yoke from off the Jews, who had been obliged to pay tribute, or send presents to the king of Assyria, from the times of Ahaz; and were in bondage, while shut up and besieged by his army, and the country all around laid under contribution; from all which they were delivered when his army was in that dreadful manner destroyed:
and will burst thy bonds in sunder; and set thee entirely free from the bondage of the enemy, and all fear of it; a type of that freedom from the yoke of sin, Satan, and the law, which the people of God have by Jesus Christ.
And the Lord hath given a commandment concerning thee,.... This is directed to Sennacherib king of Assyria, as the Targum expresses it; and so Jarchi and Kimchi; and signifies the decree of God concerning him, what he had determined to do with him, and how things would be ordered in Providence towards him, agreeably to his design and resolution:
that no more of thy name be sown; which is not to be understood that he should have no son and heir to succeed him; for Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead, 2 Kings 19:37; and after him, according to Ptolemy's canon, Saosduchinus and Chyniladanus but the memory of his name should no be spread in the earth; or the fame of it, with any marks of honour and glory, but of shame and disgrace. So the Targum,
"neither shall be any memory of thy name any more:'
out of the house of thy gods will I cut of the graven image and the molten image; called "the house of Nisroch his god", 2 Kings 19:37; where he was slain; and some say that after that it ceased to be a place of worship, being polluted with his blood. Josephus
I will make thy grave, for thou art vile: the Targum is,
"there will I put thy grave;'
that is, in the house of thy god, as Aben Ezra, Jarchi, Kimchi, and Ben Melech, interpret it; where he was slain by two of his sons, as before observed; and this judgment came upon him by the will of God, because he was a loose vile creature; because he had vilified the true God, and reproached him, as unable to deliver Hezekiah and his people out of his hands. The Targum paraphrases it,
"because this is easy before me;'
what the Lord could easily do, make his idol temple his grave; or, however, take away his life, and lay his honour in the dust: or it may be rendered, "I will put upon thy grave that thou art vile"
"here lies a vile, wicked, and contemptible man;'
so Abarbinel. There was a statue of this king in an Egyptian temple, as Herodotus
"whosoever looks on me, let him be religious;'
though I rather think it was a statue of Sethon the priest of Vulcan, and last king of Egypt. Here ends the first chapter in some Hebrew copies, and in the Syriac and Arabic versions, and in Aben Ezra.
Behold upon the mountains,.... Of the land of Israel, as the Targum; or those about Jerusalem:
the feet of him that bringeth good tidings; see how they come one after another with the news of the havoc and slaughter made in the army of Sennacherib by an angel in one night; of his flight, and of the dealt, of him by the hands of his two sons; and, after that, of the destruction of Nineveh, and of the whole Assyrian empire; all which were good tidings to the Jews, to whom the Assyrians were implacable enemies, and whose power the Jews dreaded; and therefore it must be good news to them to hear of their defeat and ruin, and the messengers that brought it must be welcome to them:
that publisheth peace; to the Jewish nation, who might from hence hope for peaceable and prosperous times: like expressions with these are used in Isaiah 52:7 on account of the return of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity; and are applied by the apostle to Gospel times and Gospel preachers, Romans 10:15 as these may also, and express the good tidings of victory obtained by Christ over sin, Satan, the world, hell and death; and of salvation wrought out, and peace made by him; it being usual for the prophets abruptly and at once to rise from temporal to spiritual and eternal things, particularly to what concern the Messiah, and the Gospel dispensation; See Gill on Isaiah 52:7,
O Judah, keep thy solemn feasts; of the passover, pentecost, and tabernacles; which had been interrupted or omitted through the invasion of the land, and the siege of Jerusalem, by the enemy; but now, he being gone and slain, they had full liberty, and were at leisure to attend these solemnities:
perform thy vows; which they had made when in distress, when the enemy was in their land, and before their city; promising what they would do, if it pleased God to deliver them out of his hands, and now they were delivered; and therefore it was incumbent on them to make good their promises, and especially to offer up their thanksgivings to God for such a mercy; see Psalm 50:14,
for the wicked shall no more pass through thee; he is utterly cut off; or Belial, the counsellor of Belial, as in Nahum 1:11 the king of Assyria; who, though he had passed through their land, had invaded it, and made devastation in it, should do so no more; being dead, cut off in a judicial way, through the just judgment of God, suffering his sons to take away his life while in the midst of his idolatrous worship; and this may reach, not only to him, and his seed after him, being wholly cut off, but to the whole Assyrian empire, who should none of them ever give any further trouble to Judah.
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