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Bible Commentaries

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

Nahum 1

Verse 1

(1) The burden of Ninevehi.e., the sentence against Nineveh (see Isaiah 13:1, Note). On the names Nahum and Elkoshite see Introduction.

Verse 2

(2) God . . . furious.—Better, A jealous and vengeful God is Jehovah, an avenger is Jehovah, aye, wrathful. This verse lays the groundwork for the declaration of God’s sentence against the offending city. There are, of course, several passages in the Law which attribute the same character to Jehovah, e.g., Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 4:24. Nahum’s model, however, is a passage of opposite purport, the well-known proclamation of Jehovah’s attribute of mercy (Exodus 34:6-7). To that passage the present is a kind of counterpoise, Êl kannô vnôkêm here being the pendant to Êl rachoom vchannoon there.

Verses 2-8

(2-8) God’s character a pledge that the oppressor of His servants shall be destroyed.

Verse 3

(3) And great in power.—Better, but great in power. Jehovah’s forbearance is not attributable to weakness. To vindicate His power, Nahum, after the manner of other Hebrew poets and prophets, reverts to the wonders of the Exodus (Nahum 1:4-5). The pillars of cloud and fire in the desert march; the quaking cliffs of Sinai; the Red Sea and Jordan divided at His word; Canaan succumbing at every point, upwards to mighty Lebanon in the north, and across from Eastern Bashan to Western Carmel—these are the testimonies to Jehovah’s might. (Comp. Habakkuk 3:6-10.)

Verse 5

(5) Is burned.—Better, heaves.

Verse 8

(8) But.—Better, and. Jehovah protects His afflicted servants, and therefore He exterminates their oppressor.

Overrunning flood.—On the propriety of this figure see Nahum 2:6, Note.

The place thereofi.e., that of Nineveh. The verse ends, “and he shall drive his enemies into darkness.

Verse 9

(9) Afflictioni.e., Nineveh’s affliction of Israel, the same Hebrew word being used in Nahum 1:7 to denote Israel’s “trouble” or “affliction” proceeding from Nineveh. (See also Nahum 1:12.) Nineveh shall not afflict Israel a second time. Applying the whole passage to the destruction of Sennacherib’s host, we necessarily prefer this to the other possible interpretation—God will not have occasion to send affliction on Nineveh a second time, i.e., this visitation will be so exhaustive that there will be no need to repeat it. For the judgment on Sennacherib was not God’s final visitation.

Verses 9-15

(9-15) The first revelation of God’s judgment, by the awful overthrow of Sennacherib’s invading army in the reign of Hezekiah.

Verse 10

(10) For while.—Better, For they shall be even as bundles of thorn fagots, and even while steeped in their drink they shall be burnt up like stubble fully dry. Dry thorn cuttings were commonly used as fuel. (See Psalms 58:9; Psalms 118:12; Ecclesiastes 7:6.) The verse compares the victims of Jehovah’s wrath, first, to a compact bundle of thorn fagots; secondly, to a material equally combustible, the dry straw and stubble of the threshing-floor. With regard to the words “while steeped in their drink,” it may be remarked that in the final siege of Nineveh a great defeat of its forces was effected by a surprise while the king and his captains were sunk in revelry (Diod. Sic. ii. 26). Benhadad, king of Syria, and Belshazzar, king of Babylon, were overcome under similar circumstances (1 Kings 1:16; Daniel 5:1-30). Feasting and revelry may have gone on in Sennacherib’s camp at the moment when the sudden visitation of the “angel of the Lord” was impending; but on this point we have no information. The introduction of this detail adds to the metaphor a certain grim humour. Soaked in wine though the enemy be, he shall surely burn like driest fuel in the day of Jehovah’s fiery wrath. The opening clause of the verse is beset with difficulties, both grammatical and lexical. Kleinert renders “For in thorns they shall be entangled,” &c.; Ewald and Hitzig, “For even though they be compact as a wickerwork of thorns,” &c.

Verse 11

(11) Come out of thee.—Another possible rendering is, He has retired from thee [i.e., Jerusalem], who imagineth . . . We prefer the rendering of the Authorised Version, and regard the verse as addressed to Nineveh. The reference in the verses following is sufficiently plain for us to identify this enemy of God with Sennacherib. (Comp. the language used by his envoy Rabsbakeh in 2 Kings 18:19)

Verse 12

(12) Thus saith the Lord.—Better, Thus saith Jehovah, Though they be of unimpaired strength and ever so numerous, yet just in that state shall they be cut down, and he [viz., the evil counsellor of Nahum 1:11] shall pass away. Though I have afflicted thee [Jerusalem], I will afflict thee no more. Destruction comes upon the Assyrian army in the very hour of prosperity, while unscathed and complete in numbers (2 Kings 19:32-33). Pass away: so in Psalms 48:0 (a composition generally thought to refer to this very catastrophe), “For lo, the kings were assembled: they passed away together.”

Verse 13

(13) Now will I break.—Similarly Isaiah, “I will break the Assyrian in my land, and upon my mountain tread him under foot: then shall his yoke depart from off them, and his burden depart from off their shoulders” (Isaiah 14:25; comp. Jeremiah 30:8).

Verse 14

(14) And the Lord hath given.—Sudden changes of person are a common feature in Hebrew poetry. The denunciation of the Assyrian here passes from the third to the second person. Sennacherib is told that the royal line of Nineveh is to be suddenly exterminated—a prediction accomplished when his great-grandson Saracus, the last king of Nineveh, destroyed himself in despair. He is also told that the Assyrian idols are destined to destruction, and that their very temple is to witness his own death; the prophet’s expression being, I will make it thy grave: for thou art found worthless (lit. “light in the balance “—comp. Daniel 5:27). “And it came to pass as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword” (Isaiah 37:33). The allusion to Sennacherib’s death in the temple of Nisroch appears to us unassailable. That it was admitted in the earliest times is shown by the accentuation and the translation given by the Targum. Keil’s explanation that the “Assyrian power personified “is addressed, and that “I am preparing thy grave” is the true rendering, simply emasculates this vigorous passage. If, as is probable, Sennacherib’s death had already occurred, it would be strange indeed that Nahum should make no mention of this memorable instance of Divine retribution, while at the same time using words so capable of bearing the allusion.

Verse 15

(15) Behold upon the mountains.—It is not plain why this verse has been made the first of Nahum 3:0 in the Hebrew. It is evidently the finale of the proclamation against the Assyrian invader, and rightly stands in the LXX. as the last verse of Nahum 2:0. It portrays the announcement of Sennacherib’s fate to the towns and villages of Judah. “From mountain-top to mountain-top by beacon fires they spread the glad tidings. Suddenly the deliverance comes, sudden its announcement. Behold, Judah, before hindered by armies from going up to Jerusalem, its cities taken, may now again keep the feasts there, and pay the vows which in trouble she promised; for the wicked one, the ungodly Sennacherib, is utterly cut off; he shall no more pass through thee” (Pusey). The opening clause necessarily reminds one of the description of deliverance in Isaiah 52:7. The one author probably borrows the language of the other; but which passage we regard as the original must depend on the view taken of the Book of Isaiah.

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Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Nahum 1". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ebc/nahum-1.html. 1905.