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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Nahum 2

Verse 1

He that dasheth in pieces is come up before thy face: keep the munition, watch the way, make thy loins strong, fortify thy power mightily.

He that dasheth in pieces - God's "battleax" wherewith He "breaks in pieces" His enemies. Jeremiah 51:20 ("thou art my battle-ax") applies a similar Hebrew term [ meepiyts (H6327), from puwts (H6327), to dash or scatter in pieces (the participle) here; mapeets (H4661), in Jeremiah 51:20, from the cognate naapats (H5310), to scatter or shiver to pieces] to Nebuchadnezzar (cf. Proverbs 25:18, "a maul;" Jeremiah 50:23, "the hammer of the whole earth"). Here the Medo-Babylonian army, under Cyaxares and Nabopolassar, that destroyed Nineveh is prophetically meant.

Is come up before thy face - before Nineveh. Openly, so that the work of God may be manifest.

Watch the way - by which the foe will attack, so as to be ready to meet him. Ironical advice; equivalent to a prophecy, Thou shalt have need to use all possible means of defense; but, use what thou wilt, all will be in vain.

Make thy loins strong - the loins are the seat of strength; to gird them up is to prepare all one's strength for conflict (Job 40:7). Also gird on thy sword (2 Samuel 20:8; 2 Kings 4:29).

Verse 2

For the LORD hath turned away the excellency of Jacob, as the excellency of Israel: for the emptiers have emptied them out, and marred their vine branches.

For the Lord hath turned away the excellency of Jacob - i:e., the time for Nineveh's overthrow is ripe, because Jacob (Judah) and Israel (the ten tribes) have been sufficiently chastised. "Jacob" means here Judah. The Assyrian rod of chastisement, having done its work, is to be thrown into the fire. If God chastised Jacob and Israel with all their "excellency" (Jerusalem and the temple, which was their pre-eminent excellency above all nations in God's eyes, Psalms 47:4; Psalms 87:2; Ezekiel 24:21; note, Amos 6:8), how much more will He punish fatally Nineveh, an alien to Him, and idolatrous! Nahum speaks of the overthrow of Jerusalem and the temple, though then still future, in the prophetic past: so certain are the words of God that they are regarded as though they were already accomplished: "The Lord hath turned away the excellency of Jacob." Drusius and Tarnovius translate [shab being thus taken for the Hiphil, as in Deuteronomy 30:3, wªshab, "The Lord thy God will turn thy captivity], 'restores,' or 'will restore the excellency of Jacob,' etc. Munster, Piscator, and the Septuagint support the English version, which gives good sense, explained as above.

For the emptiers - the Assyrian spoilers.

Have emptied them out, and marred their vine branches - have spoiled the Israelites and Jews (Hosea 10:1, "Israel is an empty vine: he bringeth forth fruit unto himself"). Compare Psalms 80:8; Psalms 80:16 on "vine branches," as applied to Israel, "Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt; thou hast cast out the pagan, and planted it ... the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars. She sent out her boughs unto the sea, and her branches unto the river ... Return, we beseech thee, O God of hosts (answering to Drusius' translation here, The Lord will restore, or make to return, the excellency of Jacob); look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine."

Verse 3

The shield of his mighty men is made red, the valiant men are in scarlet: the chariots shall be with 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 shield of his mighty men - the Medo-Babylonian general's mighty men, attacking Nineveh.

Is made red - the ancients dyed their bull's-hide shields red, partly to strike terror into the enemy, chiefly lest the blood from wounds which they might receive should be perceived and give confidence to him (Calvin). G. V. Smith conjectures that the reference is to the red reflection of the sun's rays from shields of bronze or copper, such as are found among the Assyrian remains.

The valiant men are in scarlet - or crimson military tunics (cf. Matthew 27:28, "They stripped him (Jesus), and put on him a scarlet robe"). Xenophon mentions that the Medes were fond of this colour. The Lydians and Tyrians extracted the dye from a particular worm.

The chariots shall be with flaming torches - i:e., the chariots shall be like flaming torches, their wheels, in lightning-like rapidity of rotation, flashing light and striking sparks from the stones over which they pass (cf. Isaiah 5:28). The English version supposes a transposition of the Hebrew letters [put for lapidot; but the plural would be in the masculine form, lapiydiym, not feminine]. It is better to translate the Hebrew [ bª'eesh (H888) pªlaadot] as it is, 'the chariots (shall be furnished) with fire-flashing scythes' (literally, with the fire or glitter of scythes or iron weapons). Iron scythes were fixed at right angles to the axles, and turned down, or parallel to it, inserted into the felly of the wheel. The Medes, perhaps, had such chariots, though no traces of them are found in Assyrian remains. On account of the latter fact, it may be better to translate, 'the chariots (shall come) with the glitter of steel weapons' (Maurer and G.V. Smith).

In the day of his preparation - Yahweh's (Isaiah 13:3, "In the day that the Lord shall give thee (Jacob and Israel) rest from thy sorrow, and from thy fear, and from the hard bondage wherein thou wast made to serve"). Or, 'the Medo-Babylonian commander's day of preparation for the attack.' "He" (Nahum 2:1) confirms this, and "his" in this verse.

The fir trees - their fir tree lances.

Shall be terribly shaken - branded, so as to strike terror. Or, 'shall be tremulous with being brandished' (Maurer).

Verse 4

The chariots shall rage in the streets, they shall justle one against another in the broad ways: they shall seem like torches, they shall run like the lightnings.

The chariots shall rage in the streets - shall be driven in furious haste (Jeremiah 46:9, "Come up, ye horses, and rage, ye chariots").

They shall justle one against another - run to and fro (Maurer). They shall justle one against another - run to and fro (Maurer).

In the broad ways - (2 Chronicles 32:6, "in the street of the gate of the city"). Large open spaces in the suburbs of Nineveh.

They shall seem like torches - literally, 'their (feminine in Hebrew) appearance' (is) - namely, the appearance of the broad places-is like that of torches, through the numbers of chariots in them flashing in the sun (margin, Proverbs 8:26, 'open places').

They shall run like the lightnings - with rapid violence (Matthew 24:27, "As the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be;" Luke 10:18).

Verse 5

He shall recount his worthies: they shall stumble in their walk; they shall make haste to the wall thereof, and the defence shall be prepared.

The Assyrian preparations for defense.

He - the Assyrian king.

Shall recount his worthies - (Nahum 3:18, "Thy shepherds slumber, O king of Assyria; thy nobles shall dwell in the dust"). He shall review or count over in his mind his nobles, choosing out the bravest to hasten to the walls and repel the attack, but in vain.

For they shall stumble in their walk - `they shall stumble in their advance' through fear and hurry.

They shall make haste to the wall thereof, and the defense shall be prepared - the covering machine used by besiegers to protect themselves in advancing to the wall. Such sudden transitions, as here from the besieged to the besiegers, are frequent (cf. Ezekiel 4:2). (Maurer.) Or that used by the besieged Assyrians (Calvin). I prefer the latter, with the English version. For the context evidently refers to the besieged, not to the besiegers. A breastwork of interwoven boughs between the trees is probably intended by the Hebrew [ hacokeek (H5526) - literally, protector or protection].

Verse 6

The gates of the rivers shall be opened, and the palace shall be dissolved. The gates of the rivers shall be opened. The river wall on the Tigris (the west defense of Nineveh) was 4,530 yards long. On the north, south, and east sides there were large moats, capable of being easily filled with water from the Khosrsu. Traces of dams ("gates," or sluices) for regulating the supply are still visible, so that the whole city could be surrounded with a water barrier (Nahum 2:8, "Nineveh of old is like a pool of water"). Besides, on the east, the weakest side, it was further protected by a lofty double rampart, with a moat 200 feet wide between its two parts, cut in the rocky ground. The moats or canals, flooded by the Ninevites before the siege, to repel the foe, were made a dry bed to march into the city, by the foe turning the waters into a different channel, as Cyrus did in the siege of Babylon (Maurer). In the earlier capture of Nineveh by Arbaces the Mede, and Belesis the Babylonian, Diodorus Siculus, 50: 2,80, states that there was an old prophecy that it should not be taken until the river became its enemy; so, in the third year of the siege, the river, by a flood, broke down the walls twenty furlongs, and the king thereupon burnt himself and his palace, and all his concubines and wealth together, and the enemy entered by the breach in the wall. Fire and water were doubtless the means of the second destruction here foretold, as of the first.

And the palace shall be dissolved - by the inundation (Henderson). Or, those in the palace shall melt with fear-namely, the king and his nobles (Grotius).

Verse 7

And Huzzab shall be led away captive, she shall be brought up, and her maids shall lead her as with the voice of doves, tabering upon their breasts.

Huzzab - the name of the Queen of Nineveh, from a Hebrew root [hutsab, from naatsab (H5324), to settle or fix], implying that she stood by the king (Psalms 45:9, "Upon thy right hand did stand the queen"). (Vatablus.) Rather, Nineveh personified as a queen. She who had long stood in the most supreme prosperity. Similarly Calvin. George Rawlinson conjectures that the name Huzzab may answer to the region Adiabene of the geographers, derived from the Zab or Diab rivers on which it lay. Maurer makes it not a proper name, and translates, 'It is established,' or 'determined' (cf. Genesis 41:32, "The thing is established by God;" Daniel 6:12, "The thing is true"). Gesenius takes the Hebrew from a root [tsaabab] akin to the Arabic, flowed away; and connects it with the previous verse, "And the palace shall be dissolved, and shall flow away." Henderson thinks that the gender requires the Hebrew term to be connected with the preceding verse, but takes it from the Hebrew root, to settle or establish: 'The palace is dissolved, though firmly established.' However, the Hebrew feminine termination is not required to be appended to an Assyrian proper name, Huzzab the queen. Thus, Nisibis was written by the Assyrians Natzab, according to Stephanus. Moreover, the English version is more supported by the parallelism.

Shall be led away captive - the Hebrew [ gulªtaah (H1540)] in the English version sense more usually is in the Kab and Hiphil conjugations, and perhaps ought to be rendered, 'she is laid bare, brought forth from the female apartments, where Eastern women remain secluded, and is stripped of her ornamental attire. Compare Isaiah 47:2-3, "Uncover thy locks, make bare the leg, uncover the thigh ... Thy nakedness shall be uncovered, yea, thy shame shall be seen" - where the same image of a female, with face and legs exposed, is used of city captive and dismantles (cf. Nahum 3:5). (Maurer.)

She shall be brought up - her people shall be made to go up to Babylon. Compare the use of 'go up' for being She shall be brought up - her people shall be made to go up to Babylon. Compare the use of 'go up' for being forced to move from a place (Jeremiah 21:2, "that he (Nebuchadnezzar) may go up from us").

And her maids shall lead her as with the voice of doves. As Nineveh is compared to a queen dethroned and dishonoured, so she has here assigned to her, in the image, handmaids attending her with dove-like plaints (Isaiah 38:14, "I did mourn as a dove;" Isaiah 59:11). The image implies helplessness and grief suppressed, but at times breaking out. The minor cities and dependencies of Nineveh may he meant, or her captive women (Jerome). Henderson and Maurer translate [ naahag (H5090), from a kindred Arabic form], for 'lead her,' 'moon,' or 'sigh.' But the English version is the sense of the Hebrew elsewhere continually.

Tabering upon their breasts - beating on their breasts as on a tamkourine.

Verse 8

But Nineveh is of old like a pool of water: yet they shall flee away. Stand, stand, shall they cry; but none shall look back.

But - rather, 'though' (G.V. Smith).

Is of old - rather, from the days that she hath been, from the earliest period of her existence. Alluding to Nineveh's antiquity (Genesis 10:11).

Yet they shall flee away. 'Though Nineveh has been of old defended by water surrounding her, yet her inhabitants shall flee away.' Grotius, less probably (cf. Nahum 3:8-12), interprets, the 'waters' of her numerous population (Isaiah 8:7; Jeremiah 51:13; Revelation 17:15).

Stand, stand, shall they cry; but none shall look back - i:e., the few patriotic citizens shall cry to their fleeing countrymen; 'but none looketh back,' much less stops in flight, so panic-stricken are they.

Verse 9

Take ye the spoil of silver, take the spoil of gold: for there is none end of the store and glory out of all the pleasant furniture.

Take ye the spoil of silver, take the spoil of gold. The conquerors are summoned to plunder the city. Nineveh's riches arose from the annual tribute paid by so many subject states, as well as from its extensive merchandise (Nahum 3:16; Ezekiel 27:23-24, speaks similarly of Tyre's wealth, derived from merchants of many states). For there is none end of the store - accumulated by the plunder of subject nations. It is remarkable that while small articles of value (bronze inlaid with gold, gems, seals, and alabaster vases) are found in the ruins of Nineveh, there is none of gold and silver. These, as here foretold, were 'taken for spoil' before the palaces were set on fire.

And glory out of all the pleasant furniture - or 'there are riches of precious vessels of every kind' (Maurer). Nineveh's sole 'glory' [ kaabod (H3519)] consisted in her riches or treasures of every kind.

Verse 10

She is empty, and void, and waste: and the heart melteth, and the knees smite together, and much pain is in all loins, and the faces of them all gather blackness.

She is empty, and void, and waste - literally, emptiness, and emptiedness, and devastation. The accumulation of substantives without a verb (as in Nahum 3:2), the two first of the three being derivatives of the same root, and like in sound, and the number of syllables in them, increasing in a kind of climax, intensify the gloomy effectiveness of the expression. Hebrew, Bukah Mebukah, Mebullakah (cf. Isaiah 24:1; Isaiah 24:3-4; Zephaniah 1:15).

Faces of them all gather blackness - (note, Joel 2:6, "Before their face the people shall be much pained: all faces shall gather blackness"). It is a just retribution that the Assyrians should be made to feel in their turn the same terror which they had caused to Israel. Calvin translates, 'withdraw (literally, gather up) their glow,' or flush - i:e., grow pale [ qibªtsuw (H6908) paa'ruwr (H6289): the latter is from paa'ar (H6286), to glow, to adorn; the former from qaabats (H6908), to gather together; so, to gather up so, as to withdraw. So Maurer and Mercator. But the verb is almost always used in the sense to gather, or contract; and the noun may be derived from paaraar a pot, whence the blackness of a pot]. Compare Lamentations 5:10, "Our skin was black like an oven;" and Lamentations 4:8, "Their visage is blacker than a coal." I therefore prefer the English version.

Verse 11

Where is the dwelling of the lions, and the feedingplace of the young lions, where the lion, even the old lion, walked, and the lion's whelp, and none made them afraid?

Where is the dwelling of the lions, and the feeding place of the young lions, where the lion, even the old lion, walked, and the lion's whelp - Nineveh, the seat of empire of the rapacious and destructive warriors of various ranks, typified by the "lions," "young lions," "old lion" (or lioness, Maurer), and "the lion's whelp." The image is peculiarly appropriate, as lions of every form, winged, and sometimes with the head of a man, are frequent in the Assyrian sculptures. It was as full of spoils of all nations as a lion's den is of remains of its prey. The question, "where," etc., implies that Yahweh "would make an utter end of the place," so that its very site could not be found (Nahum 1:8). It is a question expressing wonder, so incredible did it then seem.

Verse 12

The lion did tear in pieces enough for his whelps, and strangled for his lionesses, and filled his holes with prey, and his dens with ravin.

The lion ... filled his holes with prey, and his dens with ravin - different kinds of prey. Compare Isaiah 3:1, "the stay and the staff," etc.

Verse 13

Behold, I am against thee, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will burn her chariots in the smoke, and the sword shall devour thy young lions: and I will cut off thy prey from the earth, and the voice of thy messengers shall no more be heard.

Behold ... I will burn her chariots in the smoke - or, (so as to pass) 'into smoke' - i:e., entirely (Maurer). (Psalms 37:20; Psalms 46:9.) Calvin, like the English version, explains, 'As soon as the flame catches, and the fire smokes, by the mere smoke I will burn her chariots.' If the English version be retained, "smoke" must be put for she fire emitting smoke. For smoke cannot with any propriety be said to burn Nineveh's chariots.

And I will cut off thy prey from the earth - thou shalt no more carry off prey from the nations of the earth.

And the voice of thy messengers shall no more be heard - no more shall thy emissaries be heard throughout thy provinces, conveying thy king's commands, and exacting tribute of subject nations. There is also probably a special allusion to the messengers (Rabshakeh, etc.) sent with haughty messages to Jerusalem and Hezekiah by Sennacherib, (cf. 2 Kings 19:23, "By thy messengers thou hast reproached the Lord, and hast said, with the multitude of my chariots I am come up to the height of the mountains," etc.)

Remarks:

(1) The destroying nations which from time to time appear on the stage of the world's history are God's battle-axe wherewith He executes judgment on the guilty (Nahum 2:1). After He hath employed these nations, as Nineveh and Babylon, for a time to fulfill His purpose, He lays them aside. But in the case of His elect people, as Jacob and Israel, after having inflicted the chastisements in full which were needed for their discipline and correction, He restores them to His favour again (Nahum 2:2).

(2) God sees in His own people, because of His own sovereign grace to them, an "excellency" which He sees in no other people. Let us take care that we be among "the excellent, in whom is all God's delight" (Psalms 16:3). So shall He make us, with the true Israel, "an eternal excellency" (Isaiah 60:15).

(3) How unavailing are all men's efforts, if the Lord, the only true "defense" (Nahum 2:5), is departed from them! In vain proud sinners count over their "worthies." They alone are accounted "worthy to escape all those things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man" (Luke 21:36), who have sought the Lord with an unfeigned repentance and living faith.

(4) If Nineveh had mourned with the dove-like spirit of penitence, and had smitten on her breast, like the self-condemning publican, in time, she would not too late have mourned with bitter self-reproach and despair, led by her "maids with the voice of doves, tabering upon their breasts" (Nahum 2:7). Her very means of-defense, the waters which almost surrounded the city, were turned against her (Nahum 2:8). Her silver, gold, vessels of desire (Nahum 2:9, margin), and store, were of no profit to her in the day of wrath. So shall it be with all transgressors. If they would mourn for sin now, they would not have to mourn on account of punishment hereafter. If they would make to themselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness now, when they die, the latter would receive them into everlasting habitations (Luke 16:9). If they would seek the dove-like Spirit, the Holy Spirit, whom the Son sends from the Father to all who truly pray, they would at last, through the merits of the Saviour, and through sanctification by the Spirit, be made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.

(5) Emptiness and desolation are the ultimate end of all mere worldly greatness (Nahum 2:10). A. guilty conscience makes cowards of the most hardy (Nahum 2:8-10). "The wicked flee when no man pursueth" (Proverbs 28:1). The lion-like nature and brute courage of Nineveh (Nahum 2:11-12) failed her in the hour of her need; and her den of iniquity, the storehouse of rapine, was utterly laid waste, because "the Lord of hosts" was "against" her (Nahum 2:13). And then the voice of her imperious "messengers" was hushed in the stillness of death forever. Let us remember all the pomp and glory of the world are similarly soon coming to an end, that so we may learn not to be dazzled by the tinsel glare; but to act on the principle, "He that doeth the will of God abideth forever" (1 John 2:17).

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Nahum 2". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/nahum-2.html. 1871-8.