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Bible Commentaries
Nahum 3

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

Woe to the bloody city! it is all full of lies and robbery; the prey departeth not;

Woe to the bloody city! - literally, city of blood-namely, shed by Nineveh; just so now her own blood is to be shed.

It is all full of lies and robbery - violence (Maurer). Extortion (Grotius).

The prey departeth not - Nineveh never ceases to live by rapine. Or, better (as the ether translation would require, 'departeth not from her'), the Hebrew verb [ yaamiysh (H4185)] is transitive, 'she (Nineveh) does not make the prey depart:' she ceases not to plunder.

Verse 2

The noise of a whip, and the noise of the rattling of the wheels, and of the pransing horses, and of the jumping chariots.

The noise of a whip, and the noise of the rattling of the wheels, and of the prancing horses, and of the jumping chariots. The reader is transported into the midst of the fight (cf. Jeremiah 47:3). The "noise of the whips" urging on the horses (in the chariots) is heard, and of the "rattling of the wheels" of war-chariots, and the "horses" are seen "prancing," and the "chariots jumping," etc.

Verse 3

The horseman lifteth up both the bright sword and the glittering spear: and there is a multitude of slain, and a great number of carcases; and there is none end of their corpses; they stumble upon their corpses:

The horseman - distinct from "the horses" (in the chariots, Nahum 3:2).

Lifteth up - denoting readiness for fight (Ewald). Gesenius translates, 'lifteth up (literally, makes to ascend) his horse.' Similarly Maurer, 'makes his horse to rise up on his hind feet.' The Vulgate translates, 'ascending' - i:e., making his horse to advance up to the assault. This last is perhaps better than the English version.

The bright sword and the glittering spear - literally, 'the glitter of the sword and the flash of the spear!' This, as well as the translation, 'the horseman advancing up,' more graphically presents the battle scene to the eye.

They stumble upon their corpses - the Medo-Babylonian enemy stumble upon the Assyrian corpses.

Verse 4

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.

Because of the multitude of the whoredoms. This assigns the reason for Nineveh's destruction.

Whoredoms of the well-favoured harlot. Since Assyria was not a worshipper of the true God, "whoredoms" cannot mean, as in the case of Israel, apostasy to the worship of false gods; but her harlot-like artifices, whereby she allured neighbouring states so as to subject them to herself. As the unwary are allured by the "well-favoured harlot's" looks, so Israel, Judah (e.g., under Ahaz, who, calling to his aid Tiglath-pileser against Syria, was made tributary by him, 2 Kings 16:7-10), and other nations, were tempted by the plausible professions of Assyria, and by the lure of commerce (Revelation 18:2-3), to trust her. "All nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication (Babylon, the successor of Nineveh), and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies."

The mistress of witchcrafts - (Isaiah 47:9; Isaiah 47:12). Alluding to the love incantations whereby harlots tried to dement and ensnare youths; answering to the subtle machinations whereby Assyria attracted nations to her.

That selleth nations - deprives nations of their liberty, as slaves used to be sold; and in other property also sale was a usual mode of transfer. Maurer understands it of depriving nations of their freedom, and literally selling them as slaves to distant peoples (Joel 3:2-3; Joel 3:6-8). But elsewhere there is no evidence that the Assyrians did this.

And families - peoples.

Verse 5

Behold, 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.

I will discover thy skirts upon thy face - i:e., discover thy nakedness by throwing up thy skirts upon thy face (the greatest possible insult), pulling them up as high as thy head (Jer. 13:72; Ezekiel 16:37-41). I will treat thee not as a matron, but as a harlot, whose shame is exposed, her gaudy finery being lifted up off her (Isaiah 47:2-3). So Nineveh shall be stripped of all her glory and defenses on which she prides herself.

Verse 6

And I will cast abominable filth upon thee, and make thee vile, and will set thee as a gazingstock.

And I will cast abominable filth upon thee - as infamous harlots used to be treated.

And will set thee as a gazingstock - exposed to public ignominy, as a warning to others (Ezekiel 28:17).

Verse 7

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? whence shall I seek comforters for thee?

All they that look upon thee - when thou hast been made "a gazingstock" (Nahum 3:6).

Shall flee from thee - as a thing horrible to look upon (cf. "standing afar off," Revelation 18:10).

Whence shall I seek comforters for thee? - (cf. Isaiah 51:19, which Nahum had before his mind.)

Verse 8

Art thou better than populous No, that was situate among the rivers, that had the waters round about it, whose rampart was the sea, and her wall was from the sea?

Art thou better than populous No - rather, as the Hebrew. 'No Amon,' the Egyptian name for Thebes in Upper Egypt; meaning the portion or possession of Amon, the Egyptian Jupiter (whence the Greeks called the city Diospolis), who was especially worshipped there. The Egyptian inscriptions call the god Amon-re - i:e., Amon the Sun; he is represented as a human figure with a ram's head, seated on a chair (Jeremiah 46:25; Ezekiel 30:14-16). The blow inflicted on No Amon, described in Nahum 3:10, was probably by the Assyrian Sargon, who, being provoked by the alliance of So or Sabacho II with Hoshea, the Israelite king, who had revolted from Assyria, proceeded, after having destroyed Samaria, and having led the ten tribes captive, to attack Egypt and Ethiopia, to which latter at this time belonged No Amon of Upper Egypt. The Assyrian inscriptions tell us of his receiving tribute from a Pharaoh of Egypt, and of his destroying in part No Amon: thereby they confirm Nahum and Isaiah 20:1-6. Sargon reigned 722 BC - 715 BC, (cf. notes on Isaiah 18:1-7 and Isaiah 20:1-6.) As Thebes, with all her resources, was overcome by Assyria, so Assyrian Nineveh, notwithstanding all her might, in her turn, shall be overcome by Babylon. The English version, "populous," if correct, implies that No's large population did not save her from destruction.

Situate among the rivers - probably the channels into which the Nile here divides (cf. Isaiah 19:6-8). Thebes lay on both sides of the river. It was famed in Homer's time for its hundred gates ('Iliad,' 9: 381). Its ruins still describe a circuit of twenty-seven miles. Of them the temples of Luxor and Karnak, east of the river, are most famous. The colonnade of the former, and the grand hall of the latter, are of stupendous dimensions. One wall still represents the expedition of Shishak against Jerusalem under Rehoboam (1 Kings 14:25; 2 Chronicles 12:2-9).

Whose rampart was the sea, and her wall was from the sea? - i:e., rose up "from the sea." Maurer translates, 'whose wall consisted of the sea.' But this would be a mere repetition of the former clause. The Nile is called a sea, from its appearance in the annual flood (Isaiah 19:5, "The waters shall fail from the sea" - i:e., from the Nile).

Verse 9

Ethiopia and Egypt were her strength, and it was infinite; Put and Lubim were thy helpers.

Ethiopia - Hebrew, Cush.

And Egypt - Lower Egypt. Ethiopia is thought at this time to have been mistress of Upper Egypt, which latter, therefore, is included under the name "Ethiopia."

Were her strength - her safeguard as an ally.

It was infinite - the resources of these, her allies, were endless.

Put - or Phut (Genesis 10:6). Descended from Ham (Ezekiel 27:10 mentions Phut as serving in the mercenary armies of Tyre). From an Egyptian root, Fit or Pit, meaning a bow, as they were famed as archers (Gesenius). Probably west of Lower Egypt, and conterminous with Libya Proper. Josephus ('Antiquities,' 1: 6, 2) identifies it with Mauritania (cf. margin, Jeremiah 46:9, 'The Ethiopians (Cush) and the Libyans (Put) that handle the shield;' Ezekiel 38:5).

Lubim - the Libyans, whose capital was Cyrene; extending along the Mediterranean west of Egypt (2 Chronicles 12:3; 2 Chronicles 14:9-11; 2 Chronicles 16:8, "The Ethiopians and the Lubims, a huge host, with very many chariots and horsemen" - all of whom, under Zerah, "with a thousand thousand and three hundred chariots," God overthrew when Asa, king of Judah, went against the invaders, resting on the Lord, and in His name; Acts 2:10, "the parts of Libya about Cyrene"). Since, however, the Lubims are always connected with the Egyptians and Ethiopians, they are perhaps distinct from the Libyans. The Lubims were probably at first wandering tribes who afterward were settled under Carthage in the region of Cyrene, under the name Libyans.

Were thy - No's.

Helpers - literally, in thy help - i:e., among thy auxiliaries (cf. Deuteronomy 33:26, "The God of Jeshurun rideth upon the heaven in thy help").

Verse 10

Yet was she carried away, she went into captivity: her young children also were dashed in pieces at the top of all the streets: and they cast lots for her honourable men, and all her great men were bound in chains.

Yet was she carried away, she went into captivity - notwithstanding all her might, she was overcome.

Cast lots for her honourable men - they divided them among themselves by lot, as slaves (Joel 3:3, "They have cast lots for my people").

Verse 11

Thou also shalt be drunken: thou shalt be hid, thou also shalt seek strength because of the enemy.

Thou also shalt be drunken - made to drink of the cup of Yahweh's wrath (Isaiah 51:17; Isaiah 51:21; Jeremiah 25:15).

Thou shalt be hid - covered out of sight: a prediction remarkably verified in the state in which the ruins of Nineveh have been found (G.V. Smith). Since "hid" precedes "thou also shalt seek strength," etc., Calvin in one place refers to Nineveh's state when attacked by her foe: 'Thou who now vauntest thyself shalt be compelled to seek a hiding- place from the foe.' But Maurer objects that, if it meant 'thou shalt hide thyself,' the Hithpael conjugation would be used. Therefore he translates, 'Thou shall be neglected and slighted by all, who wast once so celebrated.' I much prefer the English version, which is Calvin's view elsewhere, "Thou shall be hid" - i:e., according to the Hebrew idiom [ na`ªlaamaah (H5956)], Thou shalt so vanish out of sight as though thou hadst not been. Referring to the double fact of Nineveh being as it were hidden out of sight of the foe, not daring to present herself to confront him, and also to her subsequent utter extinction, so that her very site was for ages unknown, until lately.

Thou also shall seek strength because of the enemy - thou too, like Thebes (Nahum 3:9), shalt have recourse to other nations for help against thy Medo-Babylonian enemy.

Verse 12

All thy strong holds shall be like fig trees with the firstripe figs: if they be shaken, they shall even fall into the mouth of the eater.

All thy strong holds - on the borders of Assyria, protecting the approaches to Nineveh: "the gates of thy land" (Nahum 3:13).

Shall be like fig trees with the first-ripe figs - expressing the rapidity and ease of the capture of Nineveh (cf. Isaiah 28:4, "The glorious beauty which is on the head of the fat valley (of Samaria, or Ephraim) shall be ... as the hasty (early ripe) fruit before the summer; which when he that looketh upon it seeth, while it is yet in his hand, he eateth it up;" Revelation 6:13).

Verse 13

Behold, thy people in the midst of thee are women: the gates of thy land shall be set wide open unto thine enemies: the fire shall devour thy bars.

Behold, thy people - thy soldiers.

In the midst of thee are women - unable to fight for thee (Isaiah 19:16, "In that day shall Egypt be like unto women;" Jeremiah 50:37; Jeremiah 51:30).

The gates of thy land - the fortified passes or entrances to the region of Nineveh (cf. Jeremiah 15:7). Northeast of Nineveh there were hills, affording a natural barrier against an invader; the guarded passes through these are probably "the gates of the land" meant.

The fire shall devour thy bars - the "bars" of the fortresses at the passes into Assyria. So in Assyrian remains the Assyrians themselves are represented as setting fire to the gates of a city (Bonomi 'Nineveh,' pp. 194, 197).

Verse 14

Draw thee waters for the siege, fortify thy strong holds: go into clay, and tread the morter, make strong the brickkiln.

Draw thee waters for the siege, fortify thy strong holds - ironical exhortation to Nineveh to defend herself.

Draw thee waters - so as not to be without water for drinking, in the event of being cut off by the besiegers from thy fountains.

Go into clay, and tread the mortar, make strong the brick-kiln - "make strong," or 'repair' (Maurer); so as to have a supply of bricks formed of kiln-burned clay, to repair breaches in the ramparts, or to build new fortifications inside when the outer ones are taken by the foe.

Verse 15

There shall the fire devour thee; the sword shall cut thee off, it shall eat thee up like the cankerworm: make thyself many as the cankerworm, make thyself many as the locusts.

There - in the very scene of thy great preparations for defense; and where thou now art so secure.

Shall the fire devour thee - "the fire," even as at the former destruction; Sardanapalus (Pul?) perished with all his Shall the fire devour thee - "the fire," even as at the former destruction; Sardanapalus (Pul?) perished with all his household in the conflagration of his palace, having in despair set it on fire, the traces of which are still remaining.

The sword shall ... eat thee up like the canker-worm - `the licking locust' [ yeleq (H3218)] (Henderson).

Make thyself many as the locusts - `the swarming locusts' [ 'arbeh (H697)] (Henderson); i:e., however "many" be thy forces, like those of 'the swarming locusts,' or the 'licking locusts,' yet the foe shall consume thee as the 'licking locust' licks up all before it. See on the various kinds of locust, note, Joel 1:4, and Amos 7:1.

Verse 16

Thou hast multiplied thy merchants above the stars of heaven: the cankerworm spoileth, and flieth away.

Thou hast multiplied thy merchants - (Ezekiel 27:23-24, concerning Tyre, "Haran, and Canneh, and Eden, the merchants of Sheba, Asshur, and Chilmad, were thy merchants. These were thy merchants in all sorts of things"). Nineveh, by large canals, had easy access to Babylon; and was one of the great routes for the people of the west and northwest to that city: lying on the Tigris, it had access to the sea. The Phoenicians carried its wares everywhere. Hence, its merchandise is so much spoken of.

The canker-worm spoileth, and fleeth away - i:e., spoileth thy merchants. The "canker-worm," or licking locust [ yeleq (H3218)], corresponds to the Medo-Babylonian invaders of Nineveh (Ludovicus de Dieu). Calvin explains, less probably, 'Thy merchants spoiled many regions; and but the same shall befall them as befalls locusts, they in a moment shall be scattered and flee away.' Maurer, somewhat similarly, 'The licking locust puts off (the envelope in which his wings had been folded), and fleeth away, so shall thy merchants be dispersed' (Nahum 2:9, "Take ye the spoil of silver, take the spoil of gold;" cf. Joel 1:4). I prefer the first view-namely, As the canker-worm spoileth, and fleeth away with the spoil, so the enemy spoils (i:e., shall spoil) thy merchants, and flees away. [PaashaT is properly to put off, so to strip or spoil]. However, Nahum 3:17 favours the view that by the canker-worm fleeing away are meant the Assyrians, not the enemy that was to spoil them: "Thy crowned as the locusts ... flee away, and their place is not known where they are." The Hebrew has ten different names for the locust, so destructive was it.

Verse 17

Thy crowned are as the locusts, and thy captains as the great grasshoppers, which camp in the hedges in the cold day, but when the sun ariseth they flee away, and their place is not known where they are.

Thy crowned - thy princes (Revelation 9:7, "On their (the locusts') heads were as it were crowns like gold"). The king's nobles and officers wore the tiara, as well as the king; hence, they are called here "thy crowned ones." [ minªzaarayik (H4502), a word found nowhere else: the mem (m) is the formative letter. The body of the word is from naazar (H5144), to consecrate, whence comes naaziyr (H5139), a prince, and nezer (H5145) a crown].

As the locusts - as many as the swarming locusts.

Thy captains - [ Tapcªrayik (H2951)], Tiphsar, an Assyrian word; found also in Jeremiah 51:27, meaning satraps (Michaelis); or, rather, 'military leaders' (Maurer). Rosenmuller makes the first syllable from [ Tap (H2945)] a family. Others, from [ Taapap (H2952)] the marching tramp of soldiers. Lee, from the Chaldaic [Tab], pre-eminent. Among the more modern Jews the term was applied to a superior angel (Jonathan on Deuteronomy 28:12). The last syllable, sar (H8269), means a prince, and is found in Belshaz-zar, Nabopolas-sar, Nebuchadnez-zar.

As the great grasshoppers, [ kªgowb (H1462) gobaay (H1462)] - literally, as the locust of locusts - i:e., the largest locust. Maurer translates, 'as many as locusts upon locusts' - i:e., swarms of locusts. The Hebrew idiom favours the English version.

Which camp in the hedges in the cold day - cold deprives the locust of the power of flight; so they alight in cold weather and at night, but when warmed by the sun soon "flee away." So shall the Assyrian multitudes suddenly disappear, not leaving a trace behind (cf. Pliny, 'Histora Natura,' 11: 29).

Verse 18

Thy shepherds slumber, O king of Assyria: thy nobles shall dwell in the dust: thy people is scattered upon the mountains, and no man gathereth them.

Thy shepherds - i:e., thy leaders.

Slumber - are carelessly secure (Maurer). Rather, 'lie in death's sleep, having been slain' (Jerome). (Ezek. 15:16; Psalms 76:6.)

Thy nobles shall dwell in the dust - (Psalms 7:5, "Let him (the enemy) lay mine honour in the dust;" Psalms 94:17).

Thy people is scattered - the necessary consequence of their leaders being laid low (1 Kings 22:17).

Verse 19

There is no healing of thy bruise; thy wound is grievous: all that hear the bruit of thee shall clap the hands over thee: for upon whom hath not thy There is no healing of thy bruise. According to Herodotus, the Median attack on Nineveh took place in 633 BC The final siege was about 625 BC Saracus, probably grandson of Esar-haddon, was its last king. Finding resistance vain, he collected his wives and treasures in his palace, and with his own hand fire to it, and perished in the flames (Abydenus, whom George Rawlinson follows). In strict fulfillment, Assyria never after rose to a national existence. In the troubles that followed the accession of Darius Hystaspes, Assyria, with Armenia and Media, attempted a revolt against Persia, but utterly failed.

All that hear the bruit of thee - the report.

Shall clap the hands over thee - with joy at thy fall. The sole descendants of the ancient Assyrians and Babylonians in the whole country are the Nestorian Christians, who speak a Chaldean language (Layard).

For upon whom hath not thy wickedness passed continually? - implying God's long forbearance, and the consequent enormity of Assyria's guilt, rendering her case one that admitted no hope of restoration.


(1) God visits transgressors with judgment in kind. Nineveh, the "city of blood," was doomed to be given bloodshed to satiety. The blood of her choicest citizens was to flow in torrents: and there was to be "none end of their corpses" (Nahum 3:3). She who never ceased to make a prey of the weak was in her turn to become a prey to the stronger. All whosoever acquire wealth by fraud are preparing enemies for themselves, and laying in store an awful retribution.

(2) The love of gain acts on multitudes as it were with the fascination of "witchcraft" (Nahum 3:4), luring them to spiritual "whoredom" against God. This was the spell wherewith Nineveh enticed the "nations" to partake in her idolatries, and ultimately to become her slaves. And this was the chief reason why "the Lord of hosts" declared, "Behold, I am against thee (Nahum 3:5); and I will show the nations thy nakedness, and the kingdoms thy shame." How we, who are called after the holy name of Christ, should be on our guard continually against the enticements and pollutions of the world and Antichrist, which are the spiritual antitypes to Nineveh and Bablylon!

(3) Nineveh, once the admiration of the world, was doomed for her sin to become its "gazingstock" (Nahum 3:6). Unwept and unlamented, she perished without a "comforter" (Nahum 3:7). Such is the final portion of all who live for self, and not for the glory of God and the good of their fellow-men. They who might have the Holy Spirit as their Comforter now, and the Lord as their eternal portion, shall be stripped of all the meretricious adornments (Nahum 3:5) in which once they gloried, and for which they were admired, and shall have wailing and gnashing of teeth, without any to comfort them forever.

(4) How vain are all the defenses of sinners when the Lord is against them! No-amon or Thebes was one of the grandest and most magnificent cities of the earliest ages. Yet her rampart and sea wall, with her seemingly "infinite strength," were of no avail to save her "young children" from being "dashed in pieces," and "all her great men" from being "bound in chains" (Nahum 3:8-10). Such was to be the doom of Nineveh likewise. God acts on the same unchanging principle in all ages, and in the case of all nations. Unrighteousness toward man, and impiety and idolatry toward God, bear the same bitter fruits everywhere, however for a time transgressors may seem to prosper. Let us as a nation remember that our safety consists not in our fleets and armies, nor even in the "multiplication of our merchants above the stars of heaven" (Nahum 3:16), "Riches," like the "canker-worm" (Nahum 3:16), or the "great grasshoppers" (Nahum 3:17), "certainly make themselves wings; they fly away" (Proverbs 23:5). The "strong-holds" (Nahum 3:12) on which we rely would fall before the invader as easily as the ripe fruit "into the mouth of the eater," if God were against us (Nahum 3:12). The "nobles" and "captains," who are the glory of England, would soon be abased in the dust (Nahum 3:17-18). Our security, therefore, depends upon our godliness. "Wickedness" persevered in "continually" (Nahum 3:19) would bring on us a "grievous wound," not to be "healed:" and the very nations now in alliance with us would "clap the hands over" us, exulting in the tidings of our fall. Let us therefore repent of our sins as a nation, as families, and as individuals, and bring forth worthy fruits of repentance.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Nahum 3". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/nahum-3.html. 1871-8.
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