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The Destruction Of Nineveh
It is important, in reading the Prophets, to distinguish between those parts which relate primarily to events long since fulfilled, and those which have to do entirely with what is still future. Fulfilled prophecy is a clinching proof of the divine inspiration of the Scriptures. That which tells of what is yet to come is “a light shining in a dark place,” enabling the devout reader to put a proper value on all he sees around him.
On the other hand, all prophecy is one connected whole and must be read in view of that to which it all points-the coming day of the Lord. But for many peoples and nations that day has already come. Their course has been run. Their manifold iniquities have been judged; and their civilizations have passed out of existence.
The glory of Nineveh has been for over two and a half millenniums but a memory. That it should be so was predicted by Nahum a century at least ere his words had their awful fulfilment in the Babylonian conquest. This is given in detail in chaps. 2 and 3, a portion of Scripture (and of literature in general) unsurpassed for graphic delineation and poetic fervor.
“He that dasheth in pieces,” the leader of the Chaldean hosts, is seen, in vision, coming up against Nineveh, proudly resting in her glory on the banks of the Tigris. Founded by Nimrod, as was also the rival Euphratean city Babylon, the one sets forth the world in its grandeur and independence of God; the other, the religious world, the home of superstition and traditionary ritual. Necessarily the former must fall before the rising power of the latter, even as, centuries later, paganism had to succumb to an unholy, pseudo-Christianity, which seemed more fully to meet the need of man in his hopeless depravity. Yet it often becomes a question to the thoughtful student, Which was worse, the world without God, or the world with a perverted idea of God, wrapped in the darkness of medieval superstition and ignorance of the Scriptures of truth?
Let Nineveh attempt to defend herself as she may, no power can avail to avert the richly-deserved judgment (ver. 1). She had herself been the instrument used to punish the excellency of Jacob; but now, since they had been punished, the heathen should not escape. It is the principle enunciated in 1 Peter 4:17, 1 Peter 4:18 - judgment begins at the house of God. What then of those who know Him not? If He will pass over nothing because committed by His own, how solemn the day when the wicked have to answer for all their lawlessness! If the powers of evil are permitted to mar the branches of the vine of Jehovah’s planting, who shall prevent the destruction of the wild trees of the wood? (ver. 2).
The terrific character of the final assault on Nineveh is vividly described in vers. 3 to 5. As this passage has often been applied most fancifully, I quote it in full, in order that it may stand out clearly in its true connection. “The shield of his mighty men is made red, the valiant men are in scarlet; the chariots shall be with flaming torches in the day of his preparation, and the fir trees shall be terribly shaken. The chariots shall rage in the streets, they shall jostle one against another in the broad ways; they shall seem like torches, they shall run like the lightnings.”
It is a striking portrayal of the wild disorder that necessarily prevailed when the Babylonian hordes and their Median allies poured into the doomed city. What is there here to suggest the strange and forced interpretation often put upon so plain a passage? Were it not so common a view, who could believe that sober men would attempt to see in words like these references to railroads, electric cars, and automobiles! Yet sermons have been preached and books written in which such mechanical devices are declared td be the fulfilment of this portion of Nahum’s prophecy.24 It is an instance of the careless way in which men read Scripture; for, clearly, “the day of his preparation” was the day of Nineveh’s destruction; and the “chariots with flaming torches,” running “like the lightnings,” were the war-carriages of the victorious Babylonians.
Against such a terrific onslaught the king of Nineveh tried in vain to rally his worthies. Drunken, as a result of their unholy feasts, they stumbled in their walk as they hastened to the wall, only to find it was too late now to attempt a defence (ver. 5). The rise of the river opened the already weakened sluice-gates; the floods crumbled the foundations of the palace, and made hope of resistance vain (ver. 6).
Diodorus Siculus describes the end of the siege in the following language: “There was an old prophecy that Nineveh should not be taken till the river became an enemy to the city. And in the third year of the siege, the river being swollen with continual rains, overflowed every part of the city, and broke down the wall for twenty furlongs; then the king, thinking that the oracle was fulfilled, and the river become an enemy to the city, built a large funeral pile in the palace, and collecting together all his wealth and his concubines and eunuchs, burnt himself and the palace with them all; and the enemy entered at the breach that the waters had made and took the city.”
Thus with violence was Nineveh’s pride abased and “Huzzab” (“the established”) led away captive. She had proudly thought herself established to abide forever, but her end had come because she exalted herself against the Lord (ver. 7).
Vers. 8 to 13 are too plain to require comment. In language unmistakable they describe the desolation following the complete overthrow of what had been the world’s most glorious city. So exactly were the words fulnlled, that for ages the very site of Nineveh was lost, till, in the last century, Layard and Rawlinson made excavations and discoveries that brought to light the ruins of a metropolis so vast that none could longer doubt the declarations of Jonah and Nahum in regard to its splendor and magnificence, and its destruction when in the very zenith of its glory.
It may be well to remark that the lion of vers. 11, 12 is the king; and the lions and lionesses his household who perished with him amid the flames of his palace.
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Nahum 2". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19