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THE STRENGTH OF NINEVEH
‘The defence shall be prepared.’
In chapters 2 and 3 of Nahum, we have his whole prophecy proper. In them we are presented with a vivid and striking picture of Nineveh; the siege, the assault, the fighting in the streets, the heaped-up bodies of the slain, the wail of women, the final shriek of despair, and the last awful silence when all is over, are depicted with vigorous terseness.
I. We know a great deal about the position, fortifications, and architectural features of Nineveh.—Thanks to those who, led by Sir Henry Layard, have laboured long and faithfully, the structure and strength of Nineveh have been made clear; and those whose studies in the great works of the explorers and in the countless and precious Ninevite monuments which have been collected in museums and galleries have enabled them to make a fairly accurate picture of ancient Nineveh, tell us that to them the prophet’s words became instinct with life and meaning. Students such as these recognise that the prophet spoke with the graphic truthfulness of one who was familiar with the general features of the great city whose downfall he foretold.
It will be remembered that Nineveh was situated in the middle of a triangular territory lying between the Rivers Tigris and the Greater Zab, and bounded by mountains on the north. The region is, generally speaking, flat; it is a low plain broken by small hills. The district was well fortified. In the north was a strong fortress which not only covered the roads against an enemy, but protected also the water supply of the great city Nineveh. A broken circle of small hills partially sheltered the city on the north, and these swept away to the eastward and bent in again towards the south and west. Walls of protection were built not only around the city, but also outlying and sheltering walls were built as lines of first defence. But perhaps even more welcomed and valued than the shelter of hills and walls were the protecting waters of the great River Tigris which shielded it on the west, and little less welcome was the River Choser, which bisected the city and gave a copious water supply. To strengthen the natural defences canals were cut, and the defending moats could be emptied or filled by means of sluice gates, which had been constructed for the purposes of defence. The city formed an irregular oblong, whose enclosing walls measured seven and a half miles. It was the largest fortified place in Western Asia. The defensive walls were lofty, varying from ten feet to as much as sixty feet in height. Turrets at intervals added to the defensive value of the walls, and a moat one hundred and fifty feet in breadth ran round the whole circuit of the city on all sides except on the west, which was protected by the River Tigris.
II. We thus can form a picture of a city, vast in extent and strongly fortified both by nature and by art.—The neighbouring hills and the adjacent rivers gave to the city a choice situation, and supplied it with defences which military experience could use with good effect. Walls of a strength which was deemed sufficient to resist the arms of the period were rendered more formidable by their variety of height and by the skill with which they were arranged. Judged from the military standpoint Nineveh was a great city strongly and almost impregnably fortified, defended by many outlying fortresses and protected by troops who had won reputation in war, and by that vague but real terror which her name had spread among neighbouring and even distant nations.
It is against this city, formidable in arms, defences, and prestige, that the prophet launches his denunciations.
Bishop Boyd Carpenter.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Nahum 2". Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Seventh Sunday after Easter