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Bible Commentaries

The Church Pulpit Commentary

Nahum 3

Verse 1


‘Woe to the bloody city!’

Nahum 3:1

I. We now come to stanzas of triumph over the great city’s fall.—For convenience and clearness we may take the closing verses of chapter 2 (i.e., Nahum 3:11-13) separately, as they contain a kind of dirge which fitly closes the vivid description of the siege and capture. The dirge opens with the old question which is also ever new—the question, ‘What has become of the glory and strength which once seemed so formidable and even invincible?’ Nineveh, the stronghold and metropolis of a mighty empire, is described by the prophet as a lion’s den. ‘Where is the den of lions, and the feeding place of the young lions, where the lion and lioness walked, the lion’s whelp, and none made them afraid?’ ‘The lion did tear in pieces enough for his whelps, and strangled for his lionesses, and filled his caves with prey, and his dens with ravin.’

It is a strong picture of might ruthlessly used. As to the beast of prey the only aim is to gather enough for his mate and his young, so was Nineveh, like a ravening beast, heedless of all interests but his own. But empire ruled on such principles must fall, for it is built on false estimates of things. Strong though it may be, it has placed itself against the might which never fails, viz., the might of God. Such in brief is the picture of Nineveh’s iniquity. Blood, falsehood, and an incurable habit of spoliation—the prey-taking never ceases. But she who preyed on others becomes a prey, and the prophet quickly plunges again into description of her overthrow. He hears the warlike sounds echoing everywhere. ‘The noise of a whip, and the noise of the rattling of wheels, and prancing horses and jumping chariots; the horsemen mounting, and the flashing sword and the glittering spear.’

And then all these sounds of war are followed by an awful vision of carnage. ‘A multitude of slain and a great heap of corpses; they stumble upon the corpses.’

II. And this terrible doom is a simple consequence of violated moral order.—The whole system of empire has been wrong. Instead of using power for good, it has been used for evil. Instead of being a nursing-mother to other people, she has been a seducer and a degrader of them. She has been like a harlot living in splendid ease as the fruit of her unlawful traffic. Her doom of death follows upon her nefarious life. ‘Because of the multitude of the whoredoms of the wellfavoured harlot, the mistress of witchcrafts, that selleth nations through her whoredoms, and families through her witchcrafts.’

The stanzas of woe close with the refrain which reminds us of the invincible but forgotten might which the city, in her proud insolence, has forgotten: ‘Lo, I am against thee, saith the Lord of hosts; and I will discover thy skirts upon thy face, and I will shew the nations thy nakedness and the kingdoms thy shame. And I will cast abominable filth upon thee, and make thee vile, and will set thee as a gazingstock. And it shall come to pass, that all they that look upon thee shall flee from thee, and say, Nineveh is laid waste: who will bemoan her? when shall I seek comforters for thee?’

—Bishop Boyd Carpenter.


(1) ‘We need to look to ourselves that no such fate should overtake our British people, for ours also is the lion-empire. Has God forgiven the iniquity of the opium traffic, or forgotten it? Does He not take note of the methods by which we have extended our empire since the days of Clive? Do not the impurity and drunkenness of our streets weigh with Him? Let true patriots confess these things before Him, and plead with Him to spare us that we may yet spread His Gospel to the world.’

(2) ‘Not on account of idolatry in itself would God have destroyed Nineveh, otherwise He would not have sent Jonah: His justice waited for the outbreak of murder. But after this has infected the whole city, after all its works have assumed the known heathen character, to put itself in the place of God, and to trample under foot the universal revelation of God, that deceit and murder are sins; after it had thus identified itself with the impious principle, its destruction must come. For God’s judgment is revelation. In the fall the entire ignominy concealed by external glory, the rottenness of the powerful tree, the utterly forlorn condition, in which it for a long time already internally stood, whilst it was externally pressed, come to light. Then indeed the more unexpected the blow, the more certain: the nearer it advances, the more fearful and incurable.’

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Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Nahum 3". The Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.