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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Nahum 1

Verse 1

The burden of Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite.

The burden of Nineveh - the prophetic doom [ masaa' (H4853)] of Nineveh. Nahum prophesied against that city 150 years after Jonah.

The vision. There are three Hebrew titles of a prophet-

(1) Naabiy' (H5030), the prophet, strictly so called;

(2) Ro'eh (H7203), the seer;

(3) Chowzeh, those chosen for a specific purpose, to announce to his people a revelation conveyed in vision, even though such might not be officially prophets or naabiy' (H5030).

The Elkoshite - see on this the Introduction.

Verse 2

God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies.

Jealous. In this there is sternness, yet tender affection. We are jealous only of those we love: a husband of a wife; a king of his subjects' loyalty. God is jealous of men because he loves them. God will not bear a rival in His claims on them. His burning jealousy for His own wounded honour and for their love, as much as His justice, accounts for all His fearful judgments-the flood, the destruction of Jerusalem, and that of Nineveh. His jealousy will not admit of His friends being oppressed and their enemies flourishing (cf. Exodus 20:5; 1 Corinthians 16:22; 2 Corinthians 11:2). Burning zeal enters into the idea in "jealous" here (cf. Numbers 25:11; Numbers 25:13; 1 Kings 19:10). The promise of God, in Joel 2:18, was, that when His people should earnestly pray to Him, "Give not thine heritage to reproach, that the pagan should rule over them (and) say, Where is their God? ... then the Lord would be JEALOUS for His land." Hezekiah, upon Sennacherib's invasion, did so pray. He pleaded, "Hear the words of Sennacherib, which hath sent Him to reproach the living God." Then God was jealous for His land, saying, by Isaiah, concerning the Assyrian invader, "Whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed? ... the Holy One of Israel" (2 Kings 19:16; 2 Kings 19:22); and 185,000 Assyrian invaders perished by the stroke of the Lord's angel in one night; and Sennacherib's own death at the hands of his sons in his idol-temple followed. Nahum probably prophesies here God's jealousy in behalf of His loved people, to whom He was "married" (Jeremiah 3:14): Judah, against the pagan Sennacherib.

The Lord revengeth; the Lord revengeth. The repetitions of the incommunicable name Yahweh (H3068), and of His revenging, gives an awful solemnity to the introduction.

And is furious, [ ba`al (H1167) cheemaah (H2534)] - literally, a master of fury. So a master of the tongue -

i.e., eloquent. 'One who, if He pleases, can most readily give effect to His fury' (Grotius). Nahum has in view the provocation to fury given to God by the Assyrians, who, after having carried away the ten tribes, were now proceeding to invade Judea under Hezekiah.

And he reserveth wrath for his enemies - reserves it against His own appointed time (2 Peter 2:9). After long waiting for their repentance in vain, at length punishing them. A wrong estimate of Yahweh is formed from His suspending punishment: it is not that He is insensible or dilatory, but He reserves wrath for His own fit time. In the case of the penitent He does not reserve or retain His anger (Psalms 103:9; Jeremiah 3:5; Jeremiah 3:12; Micah 7:18).

Verse 3

The LORD is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked: the LORD hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.

The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power - i:e., He is slow indeed to anger, but great in power, so as to be able in a moment, if He pleases, to destroy the wicked. His long-suffering is not from want of power to punish (Exodus 34:6-7, "The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering ... forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty." To this last clause Nahum's next clause alludes).

And will not at all acquit the wicked - literally, will not acquitting acquit, or treat as innocent.

The Lord hath his way in the whirlwind. From this to Nahum 1:5 inclusive is a description of His power exhibited in the phenomena of nature, especially when He is wroth. His vengeance shall sweep away the Assyrian foe like a whirlwind (Proverbs 10:25).

And the clouds are the dust of his feet - large as they are, He treads on them, as a man would on the small dust; He is Lord of the clouds, and uses them as He pleases.

Verse 4

He rebuketh the sea, and maketh it dry, and drieth up all the rivers: Bashan languisheth, and Carmel, and the flower of Lebanon languisheth.

He rebuketh the sea - as Jesus did (Matthew 8:26, "Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there He rebuketh the sea - as Jesus did (Matthew 8:26, "Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm"), proving Himself God (cf. Isaiah 50:2).

Bashan languisheth - through drought; ordinarily it was a region famed for its rich pasturage (cf. Joel 1:10, "the oil languisheth").

And the flower of Lebanon - its bloom; all that blooms so luxuriantly on Lebanon (Hosea 14:7, "the scent ... as the wine of Lebanon"). As Bashan was famed for its pastures, Carmel for its grain-fields and vineyards, so Lebanon for its forests (Isaiah 33:9). There is nothing in the world so blooming that God cannot change it when He is wroth.

Verse 5

The mountains quake at him, and the hills melt, and the earth is burned at his presence, yea, the world, and all that dwell therein.

The earth is burned - so Grotius. Rather, 'lifts itself,' i:e., heaveth (Maurer), [ watisaa' (H5375), from naasa', to lift up one's self], as the Hebrew is translated in Psalms 89:9; Hosea 13:1; Hebrew Bible, Nah. 12:15 , 'Ephraim exalted himself;' cf. margin (took them away), 2 Samuel 5:21, "burned them." Buxtorf says it sometimes is used for to burn up, to desolate [whence comes mas'at (H4864), a flame, namely, because it lifts itself up, and sª'eet (H7613), inflammation]; the English version therefore is possible. But lifts itself up is the root meaning.

Verse 6

Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? his fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him.

His fury is poured out like fire - like the liquid fire poured out of volcanoes in all directions (see Jeremiah 7:20).

And the rocks are thrown down by him - or, 'are burnt asunder;' the usual effect of volcanic fire (Jeremiah 51:25-26). As Hannibal burst asunder the Alpine rocks by fire to make a passage for his army (Grotius).

Verse 7

The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him. The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble. Here Nahum enters on his special subject, for which the previous verses have prepared the way-namely, to assure his people of safety in Yahweh under the impending attack of Sennacherib (Nahum 1:7), and to announce the doom of Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian foe (Nahum 1:8). The contrast of Nahum 1:7-8 ("But with an overrunning flood he will make an utter end of the place," Nineveh) heightens the force.

And he knoweth them that trust in him - "knoweth," recognizes as His own (Hosea 13:5, "I did know thee in the wilderness;" Amos 3:2, "You only have I known of all the families of the earth"); and so cares for and guards those that trust in Him, as Hezekiah did when attacked by Sennacherib (Psalms 1:6, "The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous;" 2 Timothy 2:19, "The Lord knoweth them that are His"). In illustration of Hezekiah's trust, we read, "He spake comfortably to the people, Be strong and courageous; be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him; because there be more with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles: and the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah king of Judah."

Verse 8

But with an overrunning flood he will make an utter end of the place thereof, and darkness shall pursue his enemies.

But - contrasting the safety of those, like Hezekiah, who "trust" in God (Nahum 1:7), with the "utter end" to which the ungodly foe, like Sennacherib, is doomed.

With an overrunning flood - i:e., with irresistible might, which overruns every barrier like a flood. This image is often applied to overwhelming armies of invaders. Also of calamity in general (Psalms 32:6, "For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee ... surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him;" Psalms 42:7; Psalms 90:5). There is perhaps a special allusion to the mode of Nineveh's capture by the Medo-Babylonian army-namely, through a flood in the river, which broke down the wall twenty furlongs (see note, Nahum 2:6; Isaiah 8:8; Daniel 9:26, "The end thereof (of Jerusalem) shall be with a flood;" Daniel 11:10; Daniel 11:22; Daniel 11:40).

He will make an utter end of the place thereof. Nineveh is personified as a queen; 'and her place' [ mªqowmaah (H4725)] of residence (the Hebrew for 'thereof' is feminine) is the city itself (Nahum 2:8). (Maurer.) Or, He shall so utterly destroy Nineveh that its place cannot be found; Nahum 3:17 ("As the locusts ... when the sun ariseth, their place is not known where they are") confirms this (cf. Psalms 37:36, "Yet he passed away, and lo! he was not; yea, I sought him, but he could not be found;" Daniel 2:35, "No place was found for them;" Revelation 12:8; Revelation 20:11).

Darkness shall pursue his enemies - "darkness," the severest calamities.

Verse 9

What do ye imagine against the LORD? he will make an utter end: affliction shall not rise up the second time.

What do ye imagine against the Lord? Abrupt address to the Assyrians. How mad is your attempt, O Assyrians, to resist so powerful a God! What can ye do against such an adversary, successful though ye have been against all other adversaries? Ye imagine ye have to do merely with mortals, and with a weak people, and that so you will gain an easy victory; but you have to encounter God, the protector of His people. Parallel to Isaiah 37:23-29: cf. Psalms 2:1.

He will make an utter end - the utter overthrow of Sennacherib's host, soon about to take place, is an earnest of the "utter end" of Nineveh itself.

Affliction shall not rise up the second time - Judah's "affliction" caused by this invasion shall never rise again. So Nahum 1:12, "Though I have afflicted thee, I will afflict thee no more." Not that no affliction was afterward to befall Judah; but no affliction from Assyria again. And in the ulterior sense, after the last great foes of Judah, Antichrist and his hosts, of whom Sennacherib and his Assyrian armies were the type, shall have fallen, there shall be no further affliction of the people of God. Compare Isaiah 51:17-23, "Hear now this, thou afflicted ... thus saith thy Lord the Lord, and thy God that pleadeth the cause of His people, Behold, I have taken out of thy hand the cup of trembling, even the dregs of the cup of my fury; thou shalt no more drink it again. But I will put it into the hand of them that afflict thee." But Calvin takes the "affliction" to be that of Assyria; 'There will be no need of His inflicting on you a second blow: He will make an utter end of you once for all' (1 Samuel 3:12, "When I begin, I will also make an end;" 2 Sam. 26:8 , "Let me smite him at once, and I will not smite him the second time;" 2 Samuel 20:10). If so, this verse, in contrast to Nahum 1:12, will express, Affliction shall visit the Assyrian no more, in a sense very different from that in which God will afflict Judah no more. In the Assyrian's case, because the blow will be fatally final; the latter, because God will make lasting blessedness, in Judah's case, succeed to temporary chastisement. But it seems simpler to refer "affliction" here, as in Nahum 1:12, to Judah; indeed destruction, rather than affliction, applies to the Assyrian.

Verse 10

For while they be folden together as thorns, and while they are drunken as drunkards, they shall be devoured as stubble fully dry.

For while they be folden together as thorns, [ `ad (H5704)] - literally, 'to the same degree as thorns' (cf. margin, 1 Chronicles 4:27). As thorns, so folded together and entangled that they cannot be without trouble loosed asunder, are thrown by the farmers all in a mass into the fire, so the Assyrians shall all be given together to destruction. Compare 2 Samuel 23:6-7, "The sons of Belial shall be all of them as thorns thrust away, and they shall be utterly burned with fire in the same place," where also "thorns" are the image of the wicked. As this image represents the speediness of their destruction in a mass, so that of "drunkards" --

While they are drunken as drunkards - represents their rushing as it were of their own accord into it; because While they are drunken as drunkards - represents their rushing as it were of their own accord into it; because drunkards fall down without anyone pushing them (Kimchi). Calvin explains, Although ye be dangerous to touch as thorns (i:e., full of rage and violent), yet the Lord can easily consume you. But 'although' will hardly apply to the next clause; the English version and Kimchi, therefore, are to be preferred. The comparison to drunkards is appropriate. For drunkards, though exulting and bold, are weak and easily thrown down by even a finger touching them. So the insolent self-confidence of the Assyrians shall precipitate their overthrow by God. The Hebrew is 'soaked,' or, 'drunken as with their own wine." Their drunken revelries are perhaps alluded to, during which the foe (according to Diodorus Siculus, 2) broke into their city, and Sardanapalus burned his palace; though the main and ultimate destruction of Nineveh referred to by Nahum was long subsequent to that under Sardanapalus.

Verse 11

There is one come out of thee, that imagineth evil against the LORD, a wicked counsellor.

There is one come out of thee, that imagineth evil against the Lord - the cause of Nineveh's overthrow; Sennacherib's plots against Judah.

Out of thee - O Nineveh. From thyself shall arise the source of thy own ruin. Thou shalt have only thyself to blame for it.

Imagineth evil. Sennacherib carried out the imaginations of his countrymen against the Lord and His people (Nahum 1:9, "What do ye imagine against the Lord?" 2 Kings 19:22-23).

A wicked counselor - literally, 'a counselor of Belial.' Belial means without profit [compounded of bªliy (H1097), without, and yaa`al (H3276), profit], worthless, and so bad (1 Samuel 25:25; 2 Corinthians 6:15).

Verses 12-14

Thus saith the LORD; Though they be quiet, and likewise many, yet thus shall they be cut down, when he shall pass through. Though I have afflicted thee, I will afflict thee no more.

Thus saith the Lord. The same truths repeated as in Nahum 1:9-11, Yahweh here being the speaker. He addresses Judah, prophesying good to it and evil to the Assyrian.

Though they be quiet, [ shªleemiym (H8003)] - i:e., without fear, and tranquilly secure. So Chaldee and Calvin. Or, entire, complete; 'though their power be unbroken' (Maurer).

And likewise many - (cf. 2 Chronicles 32:7, Hezekiah's words to the people, "Be not afraid ... for all the multitude that is with him") and though they be so many.

Yet thus shall they be cut down - yet even so "they shall be cut down" [ naagozuw (H1494)] - (literally, shorn; as hair shaved off closely by a razor, Isaiah 7:20. As the Assyrian was a razor shaving others, so shall he be shaven himself. Retribution in kind). In the height of their pride and power, they shall be clean cut off. The same Hebrew [ wªkeen (H3651)] stands for "and likewise" and "yet thus." So many as they are, so many shall they perish.

When he shall pass through - or, 'and he shall pass away'-namely, "the wicked counselor" (Nahum 1:11), Sennacherib. The change of number to the singular distinguishes him from his host. They shall be cut down, he shall pass away home (2 Kings 19:35-36). (Henderson.) The English version is better, "They shall be cut down, when He (Yahweh) shall pass through," destroying by one stroke the Assyrian host. This gives the reason why they, with all their numbers and power, are to be so utterly cut off. Compare "pass through" - i:e., in destroying power (Exodus 12:12; Exodus 12:23; Isaiah 8:8; Daniel 11:10).

Though I have afflicted thee - Judah.

I will afflict thee no more - (Isaiah 40:1-2; Isaiah 52:1-2). The contrast is between "they," the Assyrians, and "thee," Judah. Their punishment is fatal and final; Judah's was temporary and corrective.

Verse 13. For now will I break his yoke - the Assyrian's yoke-namely, the tribute imposed by Sennacherib on Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:14).

From off thee - O Judah (Isaiah 10:27, "In that day ... his burden shall be taken away from off thy shoulder, and his yoke from off thy neck, and the yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing").

Verse 14. The Lord hath given a commandment concerning thee, that no more of thy name be sown - that no more of thy seed, bearing thy name, as kings of Nineveh, be propagated; that thy dynasty become extinct-namely, on the destruction of Nineveh here foretold. "Thee" means the King of Assyria.

Out of the house of thy gods will I cut off the graven image. The Medes under Cyaxares, the joint destroyers of Nineveh with the Babylonians, hated idolatry, and would delight in destroying its idols. As the Assyrians had treated the gods of other nations, so their own should be treated (2 Kings 19:18). The Assyrian palaces partook of sacred character (Layard); so that "the house of thy gods" may refer to the palace. At Khorsabad there is remaining a representation of a man cutting an idol to pieces.

I will make thy grave - rather, 'I will make it (namely, "the house of thy gods" - i:e., Nisroch) thy grave' (2 Kings 19:37, "As he (Sennacherib) was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god ... Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword;" Isaiah 37:38). Thus, by Sennacherib's being slain in it, Nisroch's house should be defiled. Neither thy gods nor thy temple shall save thee; but the latter shall be thy grave.

For thou art vile - or, thou art lighter than due weight (Daniel 5:27: cf. Job 31:6) (Maurer).

15. This verse is joined in the Hebrew text to Nahum 2:1-13. It is nearly the same as Isaiah 52:7. But Micah refers to the deliverance from Assyria, Isaiah refers to the similar deliverance from Babylon. Isaiah, moreover, seems to me to express the same prophecy in a more developed stage than Micah, bringing out, at the later period when he wrote Isaiah 52:7, the Gospel ulterior references of the prophecy more clearly, which in Micah were less unfolded: "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!"

Him that bringeth good tidings - announcing the overthrow of Sennacherib and deliverance of Jerusalem.

O Judah, keep thy solemn feasts. The "mountains" are those round Jerusalem, on which Sennacherib's host had so lately encamped preventing Judah from keeping her "feasts," but on which messengers now speed to Jerusalem, publishing his overthrow with a loud voice where lately they durst not have opened their mouths. A type of the far more glorious spiritual deliverance of God's people from Satan by Messiah, heralded by ministers of the Gospel (Romans 10:15).

Perform thy vows - which thou didst promise, if God would deliver thee from the Assyrian.

For the wicked - literally, Belial; the same as the 'counselor of Belial' (margin, Nahum 1:11) - namely, Sennacherib.

Remarks:

(1) The repentance of Nineveh which ensued upon the preaching of Jonah was the means of averting its destruction at that time. But soon, as in the case of most sinners, because judgment was not executed speedily, the people of Nineveh returned to their former sins. And now, after 150 years, they proceeded so far in iniquity as to presume to threaten an invasion of the Lord's own land-the same land from which had come the prophet whose ministry had been of old blessed to their repentance and consequent deliverance from judgment. Therefore, justly, God was now "jealous" for His people, and jealous against their adversaries. The jealousy of God in behalf of His elect implies the exceeding intensity of His love. It is at once the consideration which may well strike terror into the adversaries of God and of His people, and inspire with confidence and assurance His trusting and praying children.

(2) Though God be "slow to anger" (Nahum 1:3), "He will not at all acquit the wicked." Men vainly and perversely turn God's very long-suffering into an occasion for wickedly misrepresenting His character, as though He were insensible to violations of His own holy law, or dilatory and indifferent as to vindicating His own justice and majesty. But Micah, with awful emphasis, repeats, "The Lord revengeth; the Lord revengeth ... the Lord will take vengeance on his adversaries" (Nahum 1:2). He has given to the transgressor a respite in love, not a reprieve in weakness."He reserveth wrath for his enemies" against His own fit time. When that time shall come, "Who can stand before his indignation? and who" - of the ungodly - "can abide in the fierceness of His anger?"

(3) How delightful it is to pass from the terrible aspect of God toward the ungodly to the gracious aspect of God in relation to His people! "The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him" (Nahum 1:7). As they know Him as their reconciled God and Father, so He knoweth them with approval. He recognizes them as His own children. His name is a strong tower to them in the time of danger, such as that which threatened Hezekiah from Sennacherib: they run into it, and are safe (Proverbs 18:10).

(4) Whereas God suffers His people to be afflicted but for a time, He "makes an utter end" of their enemies (Nahum 1:8-9), so that "the place" that knew them shall know them no more. So overwhelming is the "flood" wherewith God "overruns" them, in just retribution for their overrunning His land, that "affliction shall not rise up the second time" from them to the people of God (Nahum 1:9): the flood of God's wrath shall do its work completely at the first tide. (5) The ungodly "imagine" (Nahum 1:9) that they can gain an easy victory over the people of God. As the Assyrians imagined that, because they had conquered other nations, and carried away their false gods, they could similarly conquer Judah, in spite of the guardianship of Yahweh, the true God. "A counselor of Belial" (Nahum 1:11) is never wanting to suggest evil imaginations to haughty sinners. Thus it was "out of" Nineveh itself there "came" the "wicked counselor," Sennacherib, whose plot "against the Lord" brought ruin from the Lord upon thousands of his countrymen, and ultimately upon himself. Like prickly "thorns" entangled "together," and therefore thrown in one mass into the fire-like drunkards bereft by drink of reason and power to stand-and like "stubble fully dry" (Nahum 1:10), so all the plotters against the Lord's people, and all who join with Antichrist, the antitype to Sennacherib, shall perish in one indiscriminate mass together, powerless and helpless, and fit fuel for the flame that never is quenched.

(6) However seemingly tranquil and "quiet," however "many" in numbers, the transgressors be, yet, "when Yahweh shall pass through, they shall be cut down." The razor wherewith Judah was 'shorn' (margin, Nahum 1:12) shall be turned against Judah's foes. Her affliction shall be "no more;" "Yahweh will break the enemy's yoke from off her, and "burst her bonds asunder" (Nahum 1:13). While the affliction of the elect nation is temporary, the destruction of her enemies is to be final.

(7) How remarkable the prescience of the prophet, by the Spirit, wherewith he foresaw the doom which awaited Sennacherib's "graven images," as well as Sennacherib himself! The Medes hated idolatry, and were destined to destroy Nineveh's idols. But who except God could have foreseen that Assyria, then in the height of its transcendent might and glory, would so soon be prostrate? The very scene of Sennacherib's assassination is plainly hinted at. The "house of his gods," Nisroch and other idols, in which he so vainly trusted, was to be his sepulchre (Nahum 1:14).

(8) If the "good tidings" of Sennacherib's overthrow, announced by messengers "upon the mountains," which had been so lately occupied by his hosts encamped against Israel, gave such Joy to her inhabitants, how much more cause have we to rejoice who live in Gospel times! It is our privilege to "behold" by faith the Divine Messenger of the covenant, who "publisheth peace" through Himself to all who were once without hope, and threatened by the hosts of Satan, the great enemy. Well may we keep our spiritual "feast" with gladness of heart (Nahum 1:15; 1 Corinthians 5:8). The day is before long coming when, in the city of our God, "the wicked," who now harass the saints, "shall no more pass through;" when "the unclean shall not pass over" the highway to it; and when "the ransomed of the Lord shall come to Zion with songs, and everlasting joy upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away" (Isaiah 35:8; Isaiah 35:10).

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Nahum 1". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/nahum-1.html. 1871-8.