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The waster spoken of here by the Prophet, some consider him to have been Sennacherib, and others, Nebuchodonosor. The verb עלה, ole, is also variously explained: it is often taken metaphorically in Hebrew for vanishing, as we say in French, Il s’en va en fumee ; for smoke ascends, and this is the reason for the metaphor. They then elicit this meaning, — that a destroyer had ascended before the face of the chosen people, that is, openly; so that it was evidently the work of God, that the Assyrians vanished, who had come to lay waste the whole land: Vanished then has the destroyer; and then before thy face, that is, manifestly, and before thine eyes. מצורה נצור, nutsur metsure, guard the fortress; that is let every one return to his own city, and keep watch, as it is usually done; for the country shall be left without men; and watch the way, that is, look out which way Sennacherib took in coming to assail the holy city; that way shall be now free from enemies; and then, keep firm or strengthen the loins, for חזק, chesek, sometimes means to keep firm, — keep firm then or strengthen the loins, that thou mayest not relax as before, but stand courageously, for there is no one who can terrify thee; and, lastly, fortify strength greatly, that is, doubt not but thou shalt be hereafter strong enough to retain thy position; for cut off shall be that monarchy, which has been an oppression to thee. But others take a different view and say, — that the destroyer had ascended, that is, that Sennacherib had come; and what follows, they think, was intended to strike terror, as though the Prophet said “Now while ye are besieged keep watch, and be careful to preserve your fortresses and strengthen all your strongholds; but all this will avail nothing. — Why? Because God has taken away the pride of Jacob as he has the pride of Israel.” This is the second explanation. Others again think, that the Prophet addresses here the Assyrians, and that Nebuchodonosor is here called a waster, by whom the empire was removed, and Nineveh, as it has often been stated, was destroyed. According to these interpreters, the Prophet here denounces ruin on the Assyrians in this manner, — “The destroyer now ascends before thy face.” The Assyrians might indeed have regarded such threatening with disdain, when they were surrounded by many provinces and had cities well fortified: — “It will not be,” he says, “according to your expectation; the waster will yet come” before thy face; and how much soever thou mayest now guard thy fortresses, watch thy ways, and carefully look around to close up every avenue against thy enemies, thou wilt yet effect nothing; strengthen the loins as much as thou pleasest and increase thy power, yet this shall be useless and vain.” If this view be approved, it will be in confirmation of what has been previously said, — that God had now determined to destroy the city Nineveh and the empire possessed by the Assyrians. This meaning then is not unsuitable; but if we receive this view, something additional must also be stated, and that is, — that God now designed to destroy Nineveh and its monarchy, because it had humbled more than necessary his people, the kingdom of Judah, as well as the ten tribes. I cannot proceed farther now.
What is now subjoined has been added, in my view, in reference to what had already taken place, that is that God had taken away the pride of Jacob, as the pride of Israel Some give this rendering, “God has made to returns or to rest;” and they take גאון, gaun, in a good sense, as meaning courage or glory. The sense, according to these, would be, — that God, having routed the army of Sennacherib, or destroyed the Assyrians, would make the ancient glory of his people to return; for both kingdoms had fallen. They then understand this to have been said respecting the restoration of the whole people; and they who translate, “he will make to rest,” think that continual peace is here promised to the Israelites, as well as to the Jews. But, on the contrary, it appears to me, that the Prophet shows, that it was the ripened time for the destruction of the city Nineveh, for God had now humbled his people. He had then taken away the pride of Jacob, as the pride of Israel; that is, God, having first corrected the pride of Israel, had also applied the same remedy to Judah: thus the whole people were humbled, and had left off their extreme height; for גאון, gaun, for the most part, is taken in a bad sense, for haughtiness or pride. This then is the reason why God now declares, that the ruin of Nineveh was nigh at hand; it was so, because the Jews and the Israelites had been sufficiently brought down. This sense is the most suitable.
And then for the same purpose is the next clause, — that the emptiers had emptied, that is that robbers had pillaged them, and left nothing to remain for them. There is a passage in Isaiah which corresponds with this, where it is said, — that when the Lord had completed his work on mount Zion and in Jerusalem, he would then turn his vengeance against the Assyrians, (Isaiah 10:12 :) but why were they not sooner destroyed? Because the Lord designed to employ them for the purpose of chastising the Jews. Until then the whole work of God was completed, that is, until he had so corrected their pride, as wholly to cast it down, it was not his purpose to destroy the Ninevites; but they were at length visited with destruction. The same thing does our Prophet now teach us here, — that Nebuchodonosor would come to demolish Nineveh, when the Lord had taken away the haughtiness of his people. (224)
What follows, Ανδ τηεψ ηαςε δεστροψεδ τηειρ σηοοτσ , or their branches, I take metaphorically, because the Israelites, as to outward appearances had been pulled up by the roots; for before the eyes of their enemies they were reduced to nothing, and their very roots were torn ups so that they perceived nothing left. The Lord indeed always preserved a hidden remnant; but this was done beyond the perceptions of men. But what the Prophet says metaphorically of the ruined branches, is to be understood of what was apparent.
(224) Drusius confessed that he did not understand this verse. The view given of it by Calvin seems plain, and Marckius has taken the same view of it: but Newcome, as well as Henderson, differ widely, and give a rendering which seems not to comport with the context. It is like that of Drusius, which no doubt made him to say that he did not understand the passage.
For Jehovah restoreth the excellency of Jacob As the excellency of Israel.
In this connection, this can have no meaning. The version of Henderson is the same, only he puts the verb in the future tense. The verb שב has the meaning of turning away, as well as of restoring, and Marckius renders it avertit , he turned away. Then גאון, rising, swelling, elatio , is more commonly taken in a bad than in a good sense, as meaning pride, haughtiness. The latter part of the verse sets before us distinctly the means which had been adopted to take away this pride. The passage is evidently parenthetic. — Ed.
The Prophet describes here how dreadful the Chaldeans would be when prepared against the Assyrians. He says, The shield of his brave men (225) is made red Some think that their shields were painted red, that blood might not appear; and that the soldiers had on red garments, that they might not be frightened in case they were wounded; and this is what history records of the Lacedemonians. But as the habits of these nations are not much known to us, it is enough for us to know, that their warlike appearance is here described; as though he had said, that the Chaldeans would come against Nineveh with violent and terrible power. Hence he says, that the men of his strength (226) would be clad in scarlet; he refers no doubt to the color of their dress. Some expound this of the Assyrians, and say that their shame is here designated; but this is too strained. The Prophet, I have no doubt, describes here the Chaldeans, and shows that they would be so armed that even their very appearance would put to flight their enemies, that is, the Assyrians.
For the same purpose he afterwards adds, With fire of torches, (227) or lamps, is the chariot in the day of his expedition. The word פלדות, peladut, occurs nowhere else; and the Jews think that the letters are inverted, and that it should be לפידות, as this word is afterwards used by the Prophet in the next verse, and in the same sense. It is certainly evident from the context that either torches or lamps are meant by the Prophet. His chariot then is with the fire of lamps, that is, his chariots drive so impetuously that they appear as flames of fire, when wheels roll with such velocity.
And the fir-trees, he says, are terrible shaken Some translate, “are inebriated” or, “stunned;” and they apply this to the Assyrians, — that their great men (whom they think are here compared to fir-trees, or are metaphorically designated by them) were stunned through amazement. Astonished then shall be the principal men among the Assyrians; for the very sight of their enemies would render them, as it were, lifeless; for the verb רעל, rol, is taken by some in the sense of infecting with poison, or of stupefying. But their opinion is more correct who think that fir-trees are to be taken for lances, though they do not sufficiently express the meaning of the Prophet; for he means, I have no doubt, that such would be the concussion among the lances, that it would be like that of fir-trees, tossed here and there in the forest. For lances, we know, are made of fir-trees, because it is a light wood and flexible, as when any one says in our language, les lances branslent. The lances then trembled, or shook in the hands of the soldiers, as fir-trees shake. Thus we see that the Prophet here continues to describe the terrible appearance of the Chaldeans. Let us go on —
(225) גבוריהו, of his heroes, — “ heroum.” — Dathius.
(226) אנשי חיל, men of war, — “warriors,” Henderson; “the valiant men.” — Newcome.
(227) The most satisfactory explanation of this word is what is offered by Parkhurst, and adopted by Henderson. He says that פלד, in Arabic, is to cut, or cut in pieces, and that פלדות may have been the scythes or cutting instruments with which the chariots were armed. Then in eight or nine MSS. The ב, beth, before אש, is כ, caph. If this reading be adopted, and the poetical singular number be retained as to the word chariot, the clause may be thus translated: —
Like fire are the scythes of the chariot, In the day of his preparation.
To which shall be added the line which follows, —
And the fir-trees (spears) tremulously shake.
Fir-trees are rendered “cypresses” by Henderson; and Newcome, following the Septuagint, changes to the word into what signifies “horsemen.” The figure is bold, but it is no unusual thing in poetry to call an instrument by the name of the material of which it is made. — Ed.
He still goes on with the same subject, — that they shall be furious in the streets that is, that they shall he so turbulent, as though they were out of their minds: as furious men are wont to be who are impetuously carried away beyond all reason and moderation, so shall they also become mad in their tumult. He then says, They shall hasten. The verb is derived from the hips; for he who hastens shakes the hips, and moves them with a quick motion; and if it be lawful to coin a word, it is, they shall hip; Ils remueront les hanches. This is what the Prophet meant. And then, Their appearance (228) shall be as lamps. He refers here to the chariots. They shall then be like lamps; that is they shall dazzle the eyes of beholders with their brightness. All these things are intended to set forth what is terrific. He says also, as lightning they shall run here and there.
In short, he intimates, that the impetuosity of the Chaldeans would be so violent as to surpass what is commonly witnessed among men, that it would be, as it were, a species of fury and madness sent down from above. Thus, then, they were to be like lightning and flames of fire, that they might exceed every thing human. But these forms of speech, though they are hyperbolical, were not yet used without reason; for we may easily conjecture how great was then the security of the city Nineveh, and how incredible was the event of its ruin. That monarchy was then preeminent over every other in the whole world, and no one could have thought that it could ever be assailed. Since then it was difficult to persuade the Jews that ruin was nigh the Assyrians, it was necessary for the Prophet to accumulate these various forms of expressions, by which he sets forth the power of God in the destruction of the Assyrians. It afterwards follows —
(228) מראיהן, three MSS. Have the masculine suffix הם — Ed.
Some interpreters explain this also of the Chaldeans: The king of Babylon then shall remember his mighty men; that is, shall recount his forces and whatever strength he will have under his power; all this he will collect to make war with Nineveh and the Assyrians. Others think that there is here a transposition in the words, (which is too strained,) “Mighty men shall remember,” as though it were a change of number. But I take the words of the Prophet simply as they are, — that he will remember mighty men: but this, as I think, refers to the Assyrians. He then, that is, either the king of Nineveh, or the people, will remember the mighty men; that is, he will gather from every quarter his forces and will omit nothing which may avail for defense; as it is usually done in great danger and in extremities: for they were noted then as warlike men; and every one who had any skill, every one who was endued with courage, every one who was trained up in arms, all these were mustered, that they might give help. So then the Prophet says, that such would be the dread in the land of Assyria, that they would collect together whatever force they had, to defend themselves against their enemies. The king then shall remember his mighty men, that is, he will muster all the subsidies within his reach.
Then he says, They shall stumble in their march; that is, the mighty men, when gathered, shall tremble and stumble like the blind: and this will be occasioned by fear; so that like men astounded, they will move to and fro, and have no certain footing. The Prophet then declares here two things, that the Assyrians would be diligent in gathering forces to repel the assault of their enemies, — but that yet they would effect nothing, for trembling would seize the minds of all, so that mighty men would stumble in their marches. They shall stumble, and then it is said, they shall hasten to its wall, that is, they shall ascend the wall; and it is added, Prepared shall be the covering, as it is usual in defending cities. Some apply this to the Chaldeans; prepared shall be the covering, that is, when they shall come to the wall. It was indeed usual, as it is well known from histories, for those who approached a wall to defend themselves either with turrets or hurdles. But the Prophet, I doubt not, intimates, that the Assyrians would come with great trembling to meet their enemies, but without any success. However then they might defend themselves, their enemies would yet prevail. (229) He therefore subjoins —
(229) This verse is applied by Grotius and Newcome to the Babylonian and not to the Assyrian king. The last clause seems to favor this opinion, but the second, the other. To render יכשלו as a Hiphil, “They cast down,” without an objective case, cannot be approved; but they may have been said to “stumble,” as the word means, from their great haste, afterwards mentioned. Piscator, Marckius, and Henderson, agree in the view given here. — Ed.
By the gates of the rivers the Prophet means that part of the city which was most fortified by the river Tigris; for the Tigris flowed close by the city. As then the Tigris was like the strongest defense, (for we know it to have been a most rapid river,) the Prophet ridicules the confidence of the Ninevites, who thought that the access of enemies could be wholly prevented in that part where the Tigris flowed. The gates then of the rivers are opened; that is, your river shall not prevent your enemies from breaking through and penetrating into your city.
We hence see, that the Prophet removes all the hindrances which might have seemed available to keep off enemies; and he did so, not so much for the sake of Nineveh as for the sake of his chosen people, that the Israelites and Jews might know, that that city was no less in the power of God than any other; for God can no less easily pass through rivers than go along the plain, where there is no obstacle. We now see why the Prophet says, that the gates of the rivers were opened: and then he adds, The palace is dissolved; that is, there will be no impediment to prevent the approach of enemies; for all the fortresses will melt away, and that of themselves, as though they were walls of paper, and the stones, as though they were water. He afterwards adds —
There is some ambiguity in these words, and many interpreters think that הצב, estab, to be the name of the queen. The queen then they say, of the name of הצב, estab, is drawn away into exile; she is bidden to ascend, that she might migrate to a hostile land. But this view is too strained; nor was there any reason to suppose the word to be a proper name, except that there was a wish to say something, and that there was no other conjecture more probable. But I regard their opinion more correct, who refer this to the state of the kingdom; and there is here, I have no doubt, a personification, which is evident if we attend to the meaning. If any one prefers to regard the queen as intended, it would yet be better to take הצב, estab, in its proper and real meaning, — that the queen, previously hid in her palace, and hardly able, through being so delicate, to move a step, — that she was brought forth to the light; for גלה, gele, means to uncover, and also to cast out. If we render it, was made manifest, the Prophet alludes to hiding-places, and means that the queen did not go forth to the light, but was like delicate women who keep themselves within their chambers: but if we render it, Who is drawn forth into exile, it would be more suitable to one who was previously fixed in her dwelling. The word comes from יצב, itsab, to stand; but it is here in Hophal, הוצב, eustab,: it then signifies one who was before fixed and firmly settled, that is, in her concealment; she is drawn, he says, into exile. If then any one chooses to refer this to the person of the queen, the most suitable meaning would be, — that the queen, who before sat in the midst of her pleasures, shall be violently drawn into exile, and carried away to another country. And it is probable that the Prophet speaks of the queen, because it immediately follows, Her handmaids lead her as with the voice of doves, and smite on their breasts; that is, her maids, who before flattered her, shall laments and with sighing and tears, and mourning, shall lead away, as a captive, their own mistress. Thus the context would harmonize.
But, as I have said, their opinion seems right, who think that under the person of a woman the state of the kingdom is here described. She then, who before stood, or remained fixed, shall be drawn into captivity; or she, who before sat at leisure, shall be discovered; that is, she shall no more lie hid as hitherto in her retirement, but shall be forced to come abroad. And then, she shall ascend; that is, vanish away, for the verb is to be here taken metaphorically; she shall then vanish away, or be reduced to nothing. And as the Prophet sets a woman here before us, what follows agrees with this idea, — Her handmaids shall weep and imitate the doves in their moaning; that is, the whole people shall bewail the fate of the kingdom, when things shall be so changed, as when handmaids lead forth their own mistress, who had been before nourished in the greatest delicacies. (230)
Now this accumulation of words was by no means in vain; for it was necessary to confirm, by many words, the faith of the Israelites and of the Jews respecting the near approach of the destruction of the city Nineveh, which would have been otherwise incredible; and of this we can easily form a judgment by our own experience. If any one at this day were to speak of mighty kings, whose splendor amazes the whole world, — if any one were to announce the ruin of the kingdom of one of them, it would appear like a fable. This then is the reason why the Prophet, by so many figures, sets forth an event which might have been expressed in few words, and confirms it by so many forms of speech, and even by such as are hyperbolical. He at length subjoins —
(230) Various have been the opinions respecting the construction of this verse. The Rabbins have generally considered the first word as the name of the queen of Nineveh: but this opinion has been adopted but by a few. Newcome joins the word with the last verse, and changes it into מצב, on no authority but that of conjecture, and renders it “fortress.” What Henderson has adopted seems the best: he also joins it to the last verse, but makes no change in it, only he gives the ו an adversative meaning, which it often has. The evident gender, as he rightly says, of הצב proves its connection with the former verse, it being masculine, while the verbs in this verse are feminines. His version of the two verses is the following, —
7. The floodgates are opened, And the palace is dissolved, Though firmly established.
8. She is made bare, she is carried up, While her handmaids moan like doves, And smite upon their hearts.
With the exception of the word הצב, this version is liable to several objections. The verb גלה is often used in Kal intransitively, “is removed;” and this meaning enables us better to understand that of the next verb, “she is made to ascend,” that is, into captivity, even into Babylon, the seat of empire, being ever considered as the highest place. מנהגות is a word which in some form or another often occurs in Hebrew, and has never the meaning here given to it. Here it is a participle in Hophal, and “carried away” is its evident meaning, and is rendered ηγοντο, led away, by the Septuagint. “Like,” or, as “the voice of doves,” are literally the words which follow this verb. However connected, they must be considered as elliptical — “as with the voice, or, with a voice as that of doves.” They might then be construed with the next line. The whole verse would then be this, —
She is removed, she is made to ascend; Yea, her handmaids are led away, Who with a voice as that of doves, tabor on their breasts.
They were accompanying the tabering with a voice like that of doves. “Tabor” is literally the original, and “on their breasts” is an English idiom, as “on their hearts” is a Hebrew idiom. — Ed.
The prophet here anticipates a doubt which might have weakened confidence in his words; for Nineveh not only flourished in power, but it had also confirmed its strength during a long course of time; and antiquity not only adds to the strength of kingdoms, but secures authority to them. As then the imperial power of the city Nineveh was ancient, it might seem to have been perpetual: “Why! Nineveh has ever ruled and possessed the sovereign power in all the east; can it be now shaken, or can its strength be now suddenly subverted? For where there is no beginning, we cannot believe that there will be any end.” And a beginning it had not, according to the common opinion; for we know how the Egyptians also fabled respecting their antiquity; they imagined that their kingdom was five thousand years before the world was made; that is, in numbering their ages they went back nearly five thousand years before the creation. The Ninevites, no doubt, boasted that they had ever been; and as they were fixed in this conceit respecting their antiquity, no one thought that they could ever fail. This is the reason why the Prophet expressly declares, that Nineveh had been like a pool of waters from ancient days; (231) that is, Nineveh had been, as it were, separated from the rest of the world; for where there is a pool, it seems well fortified by its own banks, no one comes into it; when one walks on the land he does not enter into the waters. Thus, then, had Nineveh been in a quiet state not only for a short time, but for many ages. This circumstance shall not, however, prevent God from overturning now its dominion. How much soever, then, Nineveh took pride in the notion of its ancientness, it was yet God’s purpose to destroy it.
He says then, They flee: by fleeing, he means, that, though not beaten by their enemies, they would yet be overcome by their own fear. He then intimates, that Nineveh would not only be destroyed by slaughter, but that all the Assyrians would flee away, and despair would deliver them up to their enemies. Hence the Chaldeans would not only be victorious through their courage and the sword, but the Assyrians, distrusting their own forces, would flee away.
It afterwards follows, Stand ye, stand ye, and no one regards. Here the Prophet places, as it were, before our eyes, the effect of the dread of which he speaks. He might have given a single narrative, — that though one called them back they would not dare to look behind; and that, thinking that safety alone was in flight, they would pursue their course. The Prophet might have formed this sort of narrative: this he has not done; but he assumes the person of one calling back the fugitives, as though he saw them fleeing away, and tried to bring them back: No one, he says, regards We now see what the Prophet meant.
But from this passage we ought to learn that no trust is to be put in the number of men, nor in the defenses and strongholds of cities, nor in ancientness; for when men excel in power, God will hence take occasion to destroy them, inasmuch as pride is almost ever connected with strength. It can hardly be but that men arrogate too much to themselves when they think that they excel in any thing. Thus it happens, that on account of their strength they run headlong into ruin; not that God has any delight, as profane men imagine, when he turns upside down the face of the earth, but because men cannot bear their own success, nor keep themselves within moderate bounds, but many triumph against God: hence it is that human power recoils on the head of those who possess it. The same things must also be said of ancientness: for they who boast of their antiquity, know not for how long a time they have been provoking the wrath of God; for it cannot be otherwise but that abundance of itself generates licentiousness, or that it at least leads to excess; and further, they who are the most powerful are the most daring in corrupting others. Hence the increase at putridity; for men are like the dead when not ruled by the fear of God. A dead body becomes more and more fetid the longer it continues putrifying; and so it is with men. When they have been for a long time sinning, and still continue to sin, the fetidness of their sins increases, and the wrath of God is more and more provoked. There is then no reason why ancientness should deceive us. And if, at any time, we are tempted to think that men are sufficiently fortified by their own strength, or by numerous auxiliaries, or that they are, as it were sacred through their own ancientness, let what is said here come to our minds, — that Nineveh had been like a pool of waters from the ancient days; but that, when it was given up to destruction, it fled away; and that, when their enemies did not rout them, they yet, being driven by their own fear, ran away and would not stop, though one called them to return.
(231) The original is in a singular form, מימי היא, “from the days of it,” or, of her. Henderson says, that “it is an antiquated mode of expressing the feminine pronominal affix — the absolute form of the pronoun being retained instead of the fragmental ה.” The verse may be thus rendered: —
Though Nineveh has been like a pool of water during her days, Yet they flee; — — “Stand, stand;” But none is looking back.
Newcome’s version of the first line is as follows, —
And the waters of Nineveh are as a pool of water:
And he says, that the pronoun sometimes is at the end of a clause: but it cannot be so considered here, because היא is in regimine with מימי It is to be noticed, that the Prophet throughout represents the whole transaction as an eye-witness, as it had been shown to him in a vision. — Ed.
Here the Prophet, as it were, by the command and authority of God, gives up Nineveh to the will of its enemies, that they might spoil and plunder it. Some think that this address is made in the name of a general encouraging his soldiers; but we know that the Prophets assume the person of God, when they thus command any thing with authority; and it is a very emphatical mode of speaking. It is adopted, that we may know that the Prophets pour not forth an empty sound when they speak, but really testify what God here determined to do, and what he in due time will execute. As then we know, that this manner of speaking is common to the Prophets there is no reason to apply this to the person of Nebuchadnezzar or of any other. God then shows here that Nineveh was given up to ruin; and therefore he delivered it into the hands of enemies.
It is indeed certain, that the Babylonians, in plundering the city, did not obey God’s command; but yet it is true, that they punished the Assyrians through the secret influence of God: for it was his purpose to visit the Ninevites for the cruelty and avarice for which they had been long notorious, and especially for having exercised unexampled barbarity toward the Jews. This is the reason why God now gives them up to the Babylonians and exposes them to plunder. But as I have spoken at large elsewhere of the secret judgments of God, I shall only briefly observe here, — that God does not command the Babylonians and Chaldeans in order to render them excusable, but shows by his Prophet, that Nineveh was to be destroyed by her enemies, not by chance, but that it was his will to avenge the wrongs done to his people. At the same time, we must bear in mind what we have said elsewhere, — that the Prophets thus speak when the execution is already prepared; for God does not in vain or without reason terrify men, but he afterwards makes it manifest by the effect: as he created the world from nothing by his word, so also by his word he executes and fulfill his judgments. It is then no wonder, that the Prophet does here, as though he ruled the Chaldeans according to his will, thus address them, Take ye away, take ye away But this must be viewed as having a reference to the faithful; for the Babylonians, in plundering the city Nineveh, did not think that they obeyed God, nor did they give to God the praise due for the victory; but the faithful were thus reminded, that all this was done through the secret providence of God, and that it was also a clear, and, as it were, a visible evidence of God’s paternal love towards his Church, when he thus deigned to undertake the cause of his distressed people.
It then follows, There is no end of preparations: Some render תכונה, techune, treasure, or hidden wealth, and derive it from כון, cun, which is to prepare; but תכונה, tacune, is almost always taken for a measure. תכנות, tacanut, from תכון, tacun means a sum, for תכש, tacan, is to number or to count; and this meaning suits the passage. (232) But there is no need of laboring much about this word; if we take it simply for place, the meaning would be, that there was no plot of ground in that city which was not as it were a gulf filled up; for it had amassed all the wealth of the nations: and this sense would harmonize well with the subject of the Prophet, — that the soldiers were to plunder until they were satiated; for the place was, as it were, a deep abyss.
He afterwards adds, There is glory from every desirable vessel. Those who think מ, mem, a particle of comparison in this place are much mistaken, and misapply the meaning of the Prophet; their rendering is, In comparison with every desirable vessel; but this, as all must see, is very frigid. The Prophet, I have no doubt, declares that the wealth of Nineveh consisted of every desirable vessel; for they had for a long time heaped together immense wealth, and that of every kind. The Hebrews call what is precious a desirable thing; and their vessels we include under the term furniture. We now then perceive what the Prophet means. Some take כבד, cabed, as a participle, and give this version, It is burdened, or adorned, (for it means both,) with every desirable vessel. But the simpler mode of speaking is what we have explained, — that its glory was from every desirable vessel.
And here the Prophet condemns what the Assyrians had done in heaping together so much wealth from all quarters; for they had committed indiscriminate plunder, and gathered for themselves all the riches of the nations. They had indeed plundered all their neighbors, yea, and wholly stripped them. The Prophet now shows, in order to expose them to ridicule, that other robbers would be made rich, whom the Lord would raise up against them. The same is said by Isaiah,‘
O thou plunderer, shalt not thou also be exposed to plunder?’ (Isaiah 33:0.)
So also the Prophet shows in this passage, that men foolishly burn with so much avidity for money, and with so much anxiety heap together great wealth; for God will find out some who in their turn will plunder those who have plundered. It follows—
(232) Buxtorf derives the word from כון, to prepare, and Parkhurst from תכן, to regulate, to measure. It is rendered “store” by Newcome and Henderson. What is meant is evidently the vast treasure amassed by the Assyrians. The next words are more variously rendered. Newcome connects the word כבד with “store,” and renders the two lines thus, —
And there is no end of the glorious store, Because of all kinds of pleasant vessels.
But more consistent with the character of the language, and agreeably to what Dr. Wheeler suggests, is this, —
And there is no end to her store, It is more precious than all desirable vessels.
The preposition מ, after כבד, may be viewed as the comparative degree. — Ed.
The Prophet here confirms what the last verse contains; for he shows why he had called the Chaldeans to take away the spoil, — because it was to be so. He did not indeed (as I have already said) command the Chaldeans in such a way as that their obedience to God was praiseworthy: but the Prophet speaks here only of His secret counsel. Though then the Chaldeans knew not that it was God’s decree, yet the Prophet reminds the faithful that the Ninevites, when made naked, suffered punishment for their cruelty, especially for having so hostilely conducted themselves towards the Jews: and hence he declares, that Nineveh is emptied, is emptied, and made naked. (233) By repeating the same word, he intimates the certainty of the event: Emptied, emptied, he says, as when one says in our language, videe et revidee We hence see that by this repetition what the Prophet meant is more distinctly expressed that the faithful might not doubt respecting the event: and then for the same purpose he adds, she is made naked.
We now then perceive the Prophet’s design. As in the last verse he shows that he had power given him from above to send armies against Nineveh, and to give up the city to them to be spoiled and plundered; so he now shows that he had not so commanded the Chaldeans, as though they were the legitimate servants of God, and could pretend that they rendered service to Him. He therefore points out for what end he had commanded the Chaldeans to plunder Nineveh; and that was, because God had so decreed; and he had so decreed and commanded, because he would not bear the many wrongs done to his people whom he had taken under his protection. As then Nineveh had so cruelly treated God’s chosen people, it was necessary that the reward she deserved should be repaid to her. But the repetition, which I have noticed, ought to be especially observed; for it teaches us that God’s power is connected with his word, so that he declares nothing inconsiderately or in vain.
He then adds, that knees smite together; and every heart is dissolved, or melted, and also, that all loins tremble We hence learn, that there is in men no courage, except as far as God supplies them with vigor. As soon then as He withdraws his Spirit, those who were before the most valiant become faint-hearted, and those who breathed great ferocity are made soft and effeminate: for by the word heart is meant inward boldness or courage; and by the knees and loins the strength of body is to be understood. There is indeed no doubt but the Assyrians, while they ruled, were a very courageous people, as power ever generates boldness; and it is also probable that they were a warlike people, since all their neighbors had been brought under their power. But the Prophet now shows, that there would be no vigor in their hearts, and no strength in their loins, or in any part of their body. The heart, then, he says, is melted And hence we learn how foolishly men boast of their courage, while they seem to be like lions; for God can in a moment so melt their hearts, that they entirely lose all firmness. Then as to external vigor, we see that it is in God’s hand; there will be, he says, a confriction, or the knees will knock one against another, as they do when they tremble. And he says afterwards, And trembling shall be in all loins (234) He at last adds, And the faces of all shall gather blackness The word פארור, parur, some derive from פאר, par; and so the rendering would be, “all faces shall draw in or withdraw their beauty,” and so also they explain Joel 2:6, for the sentence there is the same. But they who disapprove of this meaning say, that קבף, kobets, cannot mean to draw in or to withdraw; and so they render the noun, blackness. But this is a strained explanation. פארור, parur, [they say,] does not mean a black color but a pot: when therefore a caldron or a kettle contracts blackness from smoke, it is then called פארור, parur: but in this place these interpreters are constrained to take it metaphorically for that color; which is, as I have said, strained and far-fetched. I am therefore inclined to adopt their opinion who render the sentence, all faces shall withdraw their beauty, or their brightness: but as to the import of the passage, there is little or no difference; let then every one have his free choice. (235) With regard to the Prophet’s design, he evidently means, that the faces of all would be sad, for the Lord would fill their minds and thoughts with dread. The withdrawing then of beauty signifies an outward appearance of sorrow, or paleness, or whatever may appear in the countenance of men, when dejected with grief. In short, the Prophet means, that how much soever the Assyrians might have hitherto raised on high their crests, and breathed great swelling words, and conducted themselves insolently, they would now be dejected; for the Lord would prostrate their courage and melt their strength: he would, by casting down their high spirits, constrain them to undergo shame. This is the import of the whole. It now follows —
(233) The three words in Hebrew form a very striking alliteration; and they present another peculiarity, — they increase in length or in syllables, somewhat similar to what follows, —
She is made void, and empty, and desolate:
She is empty, and emptied, and desolated.
bwqh wmbwqh wmblqh
Buke, umebuke, umebelake.
Some consider the words as nouns, but they are evidently participles. — Ed.
(234) These three lines are literally as follows, —
And the heart is melted, And there is tottering of the knees, And anguish in all loins.
The word חלחלה is not trembling, but violent pain, pang, or anguish as that of a woman in travail. — Ed.
(235) Parkhurst and others agree with Calvin, as to the construction of this line. The idea adopted seems to have been first suggested by Aben-Ezra, as it appears from Marckius, but was strongly opposed by Kimchi, and on apparently a good ground — the meaning of the verb here used. קבף, as a verb and as a noun, in all its variations, has invariably the idea of collecting or gathering, and in no instance that of withdrawing, except as it is said, in this sentence, and in Joel. Dathius, Marckius, and Newcome, retain the idea contained in our version; and consistent with this is the paraphrase of the clause given by the Septuagint, “ και το προσωπον ( τα προσωπα, comp.) παντων ως προσκαυμα χυτρας — and the face (or, the faces) of all as the burning on the pot.” This idea is much more expressive and striking than the other. — Ed.
Here the Prophet triumphs over the Assyrians, because they thought that the city Nineveh was remote from every danger: as lions, who fear nothing, when they are in their dens, draw thither their prey in their claws or in their mouths: so also was the case with the Assyrians; thinking themselves safe, while Nineveh flourished, they took the greater liberty to commit plunders everywhere. For Nineveh was not only the receptacle of robbers but was also like a den of lions. And the Prophet more fully expresses the barbarous cruelty of the Assyrians by comparing them to lions, than if he had simply called them lions. We now then see what he means, when he says, Where is the place of lions? And he designedly speaks thus of the Assyrians: for no one ever thought that they could be touched by even the least injury; the fear of them had indeed so seized all men, that of themselves they submitted to the Assyrians. As then no one dared to oppose them, the Prophet says, Where? as though he had said that though all thought it incredible that Nineveh could be overthrown, it would yet thus happen. But he assumes the character of one expressing his astonishment, in order to intimate, that when the Lord should execute such a judgment, it would be a work of wonder, which would fill almost all with amazement. This question then proves that those are very foolish who form a judgment of God’s vengeance, of which the Prophet speaks, according to the appearance of things at the time; for the ruin of Nineveh and of that empire was to be the incomprehensible work of God, and which was to fill all minds with astonishment.
He says first, Where is the place of lions? The feminine gender is indeed here used; but all agree that the Prophet speaks of male lions. (236) He then adds, the place of feeding for lions? כפרים, caphrim, mean young lions as we shall hereafter see; and אריות, ariut, are old lions. He afterwards adds, Where אריה, arie came: and then comes לביא, labia, which some render, lioness; but לביא, labia, properly means an old lion; the Prophet, no doubt, uses it in the next verse in the feminine gender for lionesses. I therefore do not deny, but that we may fitly render the terms here, lion and lioness; afterwards, and the whelp of lions, and none terrifying. He then adds, Seize did the lion (the word is אריה, arie) for his whelps to satiety, that is, sufficiently; and strangle did he for his lionesses, ללבאתיו, lalabatiu. Here no doubt the Prophet means lionesses; there would otherwise be no consistency in the passage. He afterwards says,
(236) It is better to retain the gender as it is in Hebrew: and this makes the passage more consistent, and corresponds better with the “feeding-place” in the next line. The recesses of the lionesses and the whelps are here mentioned, and in the next verse is stated what the lions did for them: —
11. Where is the haunt of the lionesses, And the feeding-place, even that for the whelps, Where did go the lion, the lioness, the cub of the lion, And none made them afraid?
12. The lion ravined for the supply of his cubs, And strangled for his lionesses, And filled with ravin his dens, And his haunts by ravining.“
The allegory,” says Newcome, “is beyond measure beautiful. Where are the inhabitants of Nineveh, who were strong and rapacious like lions?” — Ed.
And filled has he with prey his dens and his recesses with ravin; it is the same word with a different termination, טרף, thereph, and טרפה, therephe
Now the repetition, made here by the Prophet, of lion, young lion, and lioness, was not without its use; for he meant by this number of words to set forth the extreme ferocity of the Assyrians, while they were dominant. He no doubt compares their kings, their counselors, and their chief men, to lions: and he calls their wives lionesses, and their children he calls young lions or whelps of lions. The sum of the whole is, that Nineveh had so degenerated in its opulence, that all in power were like ferocious wild beasts, destitute of every kind feeling. And I wish that this could have only been said of one city and of one monarchy! But here, as in a mirror, the Prophet represents to us what we at this day observe, and what has always and in all ages been observed in great empires; for here great power exists, there great licentiousness prevails; and when kings and their counselors become once habituated to plunder, there is no end of it; nay, a kind of fury is kindled in their hearts, that they seek nothings else but to devour and to tear in pieces to rend and to strangle. The Prophet indeed wished here to console both the Israelites and the Jews by showing, that the injustice of their enemies would not go unpunished: but at the same time he intended to show how great, even to the end of the world, would be the cruelty of those who would rule tyrannically: and as I have said, experience proves, that there are too many like the Ninevites. It is indeed unquestionable, that the Prophet does not without reason speak so often here of lions and lionesses.
Hence he says, “Come thither did the lion, the lioness, and the whelp of the lion.” He means that when justice was sought in that city, it was found to be the den of cruel beasts; for the king had put off all humanity, as well as his counselors; their wives were also like lionesses, and their children and domestics were as young lions or the whelps of lions. And cruelty creeps in, somewhat in this manner: When a king takes to himself too much liberty, his counselors follow him; and then every one follows the common example, as though every thing received as a custom was lawful. This is the representation which the Prophet in these words sets before us; and we with our own eyes see the same things. Then he adds, ‘The lion did tear what sufficed his whelps, and strangled for his lionesses; he filled with prey his dens and his recesses with plunder. He goes on with the same subject, — that the Assyrians heaped for themselves great wealth by unjust spoils, because they had no regard for what was right. The lion, he says, did tear for his whelps: as lions accustom their whelps to plunder, and when they are not grown enough, so as to be able to attack innocent animals, they provide a prey for them, and also bring some to the lionesses; so also, as the Prophet informs us, was the case at Nineveh; the habits of all men were formed for cruelty by the chief men and the magistrates. By the word בדי, bedi, sufficiency, he means not that the Ninevites are satisfied with their prey, for they were insatiable; but it rather refers to the abundance which they had. And he says, that the lion strangled for his lionesses: I wish there were no lionesses to devour at this day; but we see that there are some who surpass their husbands in boldness and cruelty. But the Prophet says here what is natural, — that the lion strangles the prey and gives it afterwards to his lionesses. He then adds, that the Ninevites were not satisfied with daily rapines, as many robbers live for the day; but he says, that their plunder was laid up in store. Hence they filled their secret places and dens with their booty and spoils. Still further, though the Prophet speaks not here so plainly, as we shall see he does in what follows, it is yet certain, that the reason is here given, why God visited the Ninevites with so severe a vengeance, and that was, because they had ceased to be like men, and had degenerated into savage beasts. It follows —
To give more effect to what he says, the Prophet introduces God here as the speaker. Behold, he says, I am against thee He has been hitherto, as it were, the herald of God, and in this character gave an authoritative command to the Chaldeans to plunder Nineveh: but when God himself comes forward, and uses not the mouth of man, but declares himself his own decrees, it is much more impressive. This then is the reason why God now openly speaks: Behold, I am, he says, against thee. We understand the emphatical import of the demonstrative particle, Behold; for God, as if awakened from sleep, shows that it will be at length his work, to undertake the cause of his people, and also to punish the world for its wickedness, Behold, I am against thee, he says. We have elsewhere seen a similar mode of speaking; there is therefore no need of dwelling on it here.
I will burn, he says, with smoke her chariots Here by smoke some understand a smoky fire; but the Prophet, I think, meant another thing, — that at the first onset God would consume all the chariots of Nineveh; as though he had said, that as soon as the flame burst forth, it would be all over with all the forces of Nineveh; for by chariots he no doubt means all their warlike preparations; and we know that they fought then from chariots: as at this day there are employed in wars horsemen in armor, so there were then chariots. But the Prophet, by taking a part for the whole, includes all warlike forces: I will burn then the chariots (237) — How? By smoke alone, that is as soon as the first flame begins to emerge; for the smoke rises before the fire appears or gathers strength: in short, the Prophet shows that Nineveh would be, as it were, in a moment, reduced to nothing, as soon as it pleased God to avenge its wickedness.
He then adds in the third person, And thy young lions shall the sword devour He indeed changes the person here; but the discourse is more striking, when God manifests his wrath in abrupt sentences. He had said, Behold, I am against thee; then, I will burn her chariots, he now hardly deigns to direct his speech to Nineveh; but afterwards he returns to her, and thy young lions shall the sword devour Then God, by speaking thus in broken sentences, more fully expresses the dreadful vengeance which he had determined to execute on the Ninevites. He then says, And I will exterminate from the earth thy prey; that is, it will not now be allowed thee to go on as usual; for I will put a stop to thy inhuman cruelty. Thus prey may be taken for the act itself; or it may be fitly explained of the spoils taken from the nations, for the Ninevites, by their tyrannical ravening, had everywhere plundered; and thus it may be applied to the pillaging of the city. I will then exterminate from the land, that is from thy country, those riches which have been hitherto heaped together as though a lion had been everywhere gathering a prey.
And heard no more shall be the voice of thy messengers They who understand מלאכים, melakim, to be messengers, apply the word to the heralds, by whom the Assyrians were wont to proclaim wars on neighboring nations. As then they sent here and there their heralds to announce war, and as their terrible voice sounded everywhere, the words of the Prophet have this meaning given them, — that God would at length produce silence, so that they should not hereafter disturb all their neighboring countries with the clamor of war. But as this explanation is strained, I am inclined to adopt what others think, — that the grinding teeth are here intended. The word is not written, if it be taken for messengers, according to grammar; it is מלאככה, melakke; there ought not to have been the ה, he at the end, and י, jod, ought to have been inserted before the last letter but one: and if it be deemed as meaning the king, it ought then to have been written מלכך, melkak. All then confess, that the word is not written according to the rule of grammar; and as the Persians call the grinders מלאככה, melakke, we may give this version, which well suits the context, ‘No more shall be heard the sound of grinders.’ For since lions seize the prey with their teeth, (238) and also break the bones, and thus make a great noise when they tear an animal or a man with their teeth, this rendering seems to be the most suitable, Heard no more shall be the sound of teeth, that is, heard shall not be the noise made by thy teeth; for when thou now tearest thy prey, thy teeth make a noise. No more heard then shall the noise from that breaking, or the clashing or the crashing of the teeth. But as to the chief point, this is no matter of importance.
The Prophet simply teaches us here that it could not be, but that God would at length restrain tyrants; for though he hides himself for a time, he yet never forgets the groans of those whom he sees to be unjustly afflicted: and particularly when tyrants molest the Church, it is proved here by the Prophet that God will at length be a defender; and hence we ought to consider well these words, Behold, I am against thee For though God addresses these words only to the Assyrians, yet as he points out the reasons why he rises up with so much displeasure against them, they ought to be extended to all tyrants, and to all who exercise cruelty towards distressed and innocent men. But this is more clearly expressed in the following verse.
(237) Jerome renders the clause, “ Succendam usque ad fumum — I will burn to smoke” the chariots: and the version of Henderson is the same. But the most natural supposition is, that smoke here is mentioned instead of fire. And so Dathius renders it — “ igni — with fire.” — Ed.
(238) The context undoubtedly favors this rendering. The Septuagint has “ τα εργα σοι — thy works,” which cannot consist with the word, “voice,” which precedes, though Newcome, following the Septuagint, renders it, “the fame of thy deeds.” There is but one different reading, except as to points, and that is, מלאככם, “their messenger,” in two copies, and this comes nearest to the received text of any that has been conjectured: and to render “messenger” in the singular number comports better with the usual style of the Prophets, than in the plural. Perhaps the ה may be deemed redundant at the end of the sentence; and then it would be literally, “thy messenger,” taken in a collective sense. — Ed.
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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Nahum 2". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
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