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Bible Commentaries

Trapp's Complete Commentary

Nahum 3

Verse 1

Nah 3:1 Woe to the bloody city! it [is] all full of lies [and] robbery; the prey departeth not;

Ver. 1. Woe to the bloody city ] Nineveh, that delighteth in war, which one well calleth the slaughter house of mankind and hell of this present world, Isaiah 9:5 : the Greek word πολεβμος , war, signifieth much blood ( πολυ αιμα ). besides that, many murders were committed in her, and connived at, if not countenanced, by a pretence of justice. Such a sanguinary city is Rome; not only drunk with the blood of saints, but also of her own children. Brazutus, set on by Hildebrand, was the death of six popes successively within the time of thirteen years. Pope John XXII (who sat A.D. 1316) flayed a bishop, who had some way offended him, and afterwards burned him. Pope Paul III poisoned two cardinals Fulgosus and Contarenus, a bishop also, and Johannes Baptists Vergerus, because he suspected them of Lutheranism. The Italians generally, as they blaspheme oftener than they swear, so they murder more than they revile or slander. Such another city of bloods is Paris, in France; witness that barbarous massacre, wherein they poisoned the Queen of Navarre, murdered the most part of the peerless nobility of France, with their wives and children, with a great sort of the common people, 100,000 in one year, in various parts of the realm, besides 6000 gentlemen, slain there in private quarrels, within the time of ten years, as it appears by the king’s pardons. Now if the blood of one Abel had so many tongues as drops Genesis 4:10 , "the voice of thy brother’s blood’s crieth unto me," what shall we think will be the woe of such bloody cities and states? Luther rendereth this text, Woe to the murderous state! Austin interpreteth it of all heinous offences wherewith Nineveh was polluted. But surely if other sins have a woe hanging at their heels, according to that of Job 10:15 , "If I be wicked, woe unto me," bloody men shall have a woe with a witness, as those that walk in the way of Cain, Judges 1:11 : see Eze 24:6 Habakkuk 3:12 , and remember that it was the ruin of that great city Nineveh.

It is all full of lies ] Oλη ψευδης , so the Seventy render it ( universa mendacium ), she is wholly made up of fraud and falsehood, mendaciorum loquacissima; no truth in her private contracts, no trust in her public transactions and capitulations with other nations; be they never so strongly concluded or never so solemnly confirmed, yet had they no longer force with them than stood with their own profit. This was fides Ninevetica, as it was afterwards Punica, and is now Turcica; which will at length prove their downfal; as it befell Nineveh and Carthage.

And robbery ] Or ravage ( laceratio ); such as lions exercise, Psalms 7:2 . Liars are commonly thieves; fraudulence is no better than robbery. If I have beguiled any man, saith Zaccheus, I restore him fourfold, Luke 19:8 , as having wronged him no less than if I had robbed him. Hence they go here coupled. Violence is seldom sundered from cunning contrivance; in those especially that hunt after monarchy, as Nimrod, Julius Caesar, Lysander (whose counsel and practice was to eke out the lion’s hide with the fox’s skin, if need were, pellem vulpinam leoninae assuere ), Jeroboam, Jehu, Herod, that fox, Julian, Caesar Borgia, whom Machiavel propounds for a pattern to princes; telling them that justice itself should not be sought after, but only the appearance; because the credit is a help, the use a cumber. That great elixir, called reason of state (though falsely so called, unless it be seasoned with justice and truth), hath so transmutative a faculty as to make copper seem gold, right wrong, and wrong right; yea, when all pleas fail, it will stand for good while there are forces to support it.

The prey departeth not ] They fetch in booty continually, they spoil and prey upon others without end or measure. Once they seemed to repent of their luxury and cruelty at the preaching of Jonah; but now they are as bad again, or worse than ever. They tear in pieces (our English seems to be made of the Hebrew here), and greedily feed upon those murdering morsels of sin which they must digest in hell, without better repentance than they were ever yet acquainted with.

Verse 2

Nah 3:2 The noise of a whip, and the noise of the rattling of the wheels, and of the pransing horses, and of the jumping chariots.

Ver. 2. The noise of a whip, and the noise of the rattling of the wheels ] A most elegant and lively hypotyposis, or description, of the Chaldeans coming to take Nineveh; Tam pulchra, saith Jerome, et picturae similis, ut omnis meus sermo sit vilior; So gallant and picture like a representation of an advancing army, that no words of mine can come near it. Virgil is commended for his excellent expressions suitable to the matter he treateth of; as when he sets forth the cutting down of trees, by - Sonat icta securibus ilex; the ferryman’s trade, by - fremit ictibus aerea puppis; the gliding of his boat, by - Labitur uncta vadis abies, &c. But all this is but dull stuff to the divine rhetoric here to be read. Let those that refuse to hear God’s sweet words fear lest they be forced to hear the noise of the whip, the rattling of the wheels, &c., Psa 7:12-13 Luke 19:42 ; Luke 19:44 Proverbs 1:24 . The enemy is sent to revenge the quarrel of God’s covenant; the red horse is at the heels of the white, Revelation 6:4 .

Verse 3

Nah 3:3 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:

Ver. 3. The horseman lifteth up both the bright sword ] Heb. The flame of the sword, brandished against the sun, which maketh it seem flaming. Such a sword is man’s tongue, thin, broad, long, and of a red fiery colour. See Psalms 42:10 ; Psalms 44:3 Proverbs 12:18 . David cries out of this murdering weapon in his bones, whereby they killed him alive, as with a tuck, or rapier, and buried him in their throats, those gaping graves, open sepulchres.

And the glittering spear ] Heb. The lightning of the spear, because of its bright and swift motion. Thus the prophet, perpetuis metaphoris et periphrasibus luxuriat (as one saith of Apuleius), aboundeth with rhetorical expressions and continued metaphors. Bajazet, the Great Turk, for his valour and skill in handling his arms was surnamed Gilderum, or lightning.

And there is a multitude of slain ] So that it is not fulgur ex vitro, an empty terror, a bare fright only, as a fool’s dagger, that rattleth and snappeth, but without an edge. Vide bis effectum. See here the sad effect, lo, the tragedy represented, behold a multitude of slain, and a great number of caresses. This the prophet spake, not with any delight, further than made for the glory of God and the Church’s deliverance; but that he may set forth by this example what they must look for that imitate Ninevites in their practices; for sin ever ends tragically; and God is still the same, as he is set forth Nahum 1:2 . I wonder, saith Cicero to Verres, that thou shunnest not their vices whose fearful ends thou art much afraid of: Miror te quorum mores imitaris eorum exitus non perhorrescere (Cic.). And St Ambrose, closing up the sad story of Ahab and Jezebel, whom God destroyed for their wickedness, Fuge ergo dives eiusmodi exitum, saith he, Tremble at such dismal ends, and be careful to avoid them. Such ends ye shall avoid if ye carefully flee from such flagitious practices.

And a great number of caresses ] Heb. The heaviness of dead caresses, which lie so thick that the earth seemeth to groan under the burden of them.

There is none end of their corpses ] That lie on heaps like so many mountains; as they did after the fight between Amarath, King of Turks, and Lazarus, Despot of Servia, which, while Amurath took a view of, he was suddenly stabbed to death by a half-dead soldier, starting up from among the carcases.

They stumble upon their corpses ] And afterwards, perhaps, use them instead of stools and tables, as the Swissers did the Thuricenses, their adversaries, A.D. 1443, banqueting in the place where they won the victory.

Verse 4

Nah 3:4 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.

Ver. 4. Because of the multitude of the whoredoms of the wellfavoured harlot ] Specious, and therefore gracious with her paramours; of a fair countenance, but foul condition; like Aurelia Orestilla, that had beauty, but no good property, Cuius prater formam nihil unquam bonus laudavit (Sallust.). Chrysippus called beauty the flower of virtue; but that is not generally true. Diogenes saw cause to say to some fair women in his time, O quam bona domus, sed malus hospes, Here is a fair house, but an ill inhabitant. Nineveh is the well favoured harlot here spoken of; her very name signifieth a fair habitation. Jerome and others interpret it, she was indeed urbs formosa et famosa, fair and famous, but foolish and filthy. Meretrix meretricissima; she multiplied her whoredoms, both corporal and spiritual; for these are seldom sundered; as we see in that once well favoured, but now withered, whore of Rome, Revelation 17:1 . Roma inverted is amor ; preposterous love, unnatural filthiness, is there as commonly practised as idolatry. And as a common harlot paints and decks herseff to please her lovers, so did Nineveh, so doth Rome in her pompous and men-pleasing worships. I have read of a lady in Paris, that when she saw the bravery of a procession to a saint she cried out, Oh, how fine is our religion beyond that of the Huguenots! And Sir Walter Raleigh was wont to say, that were he to choose a religion for fleshly liberty and lasciviousness, he would choose Popery, which is indeed an alluring, tempting, bewitching religion, none like it.

The mistress of witchcrafts ] Harlots are many of them enchantresses; and have their philtra, their love potions, wherewith to ensnare men, and to draw them on to lewdness, and to take away their hearts, Hosea 4:11 . Athenaeus brings in Plato bewailing himself, that he was taken so much with a filthy harlot. And Aelian tells of a whore that boasted to Socrates that she could easily get followers from him, not he from her. Of Samson and Hercules (whom some think to have been the same) those two verses verified,

Nam potuit lenam, potuit superare leaenam:

Quem fera non potuit vincere; vicit hera. ”

Think the same of idolatry also, and of those sorceries, whereby the purple whore hath deceived all nations, as St John (in allusion to this place) saith of her, Revelation 18:23 ; for in that book of the Revelation the Holy Ghost borrows all the elegance and flowers in the story of the Old Testament, thereby to set out the story of the New in succeeding ages.

That selleth nations through her whoredoms ] Maketh prize of them, as those impostors did, 2 Timothy 3:6 , and then make sale of them as her slaves, 2 Peter 2:3 , or otherwise use them at her pleasure, as homely as the whore of Babylon now doth those her slaves and souls of men, Revelation 18:13 , whom she sits upon, even upon peoples, nations, multitudes, and tongues, Revelation 17:15 , tyrannizing over their consciences, and appointing them to very mean offices, as that posture of hers, in sitting upon them, seemeth to import.

Verse 5

Nah 3:5 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.

Ver. 5. Behold, I am against thee, saith the Lord ] And I need say no more, wert thou but sensible of thy misery herein. Be not thou a terror to me, O Lord, saith Jeremiah, and then let what will else befall me, I shall the better bear it. Do not you fall upon me yourselves, said Samson to his countrymen that came to bind him; and then for the Philistines I shall order them well enough, Judges 15:12 : so saith the good soul, Let not God set against me. Tyrants and oppressors shall be sure to have him their enemy; and this he tells them here again and again, to beat down their vain confidence in their greatness, whereby they think to bear down all before them.

And I will discover thy skirts upon thy face ] i.e. I will turn up thy clothes about thy ears, and so show to all thine utter disgrace, a fit punishment for so filthy a harlot, Isa 47:3 Jeremiah 13:22 Ezekiel 16:37 .

And I will show the nations thy nakedness ] Which nature teacheth to cover; therefore when a man hath committed a sin he blusheth, the blood, as it were, would cover the sin, that mother of shame: Revelation 3:18 , that the shame of thy nakedness may not appear. The whore of Babylon is, and more and more shall be, served on this sort, Revelation 17:16 . Before God ye are all bare souled, said Mr Philpot, martyr, to the Popish synod, before whom he was convented. The kings of the earth shall make Rome desolate and naked. Luther and many other Protestant writers have done it already by laying her open in her colours to the world, taking the same boldness and liberty to discover her lewdness that she did to commit it.

And the kingdoms thy shame ] Who shall therehence slight thee and hate thee, together with all thy policies and superstitions, whereby thou hast enslaved them.

Verse 6

Nah 3:6 And I will cast abominable filth upon thee, and make thee vile, and will set thee as a gazingstock.

Ver. 6. And I will cast abominable filth upon thee ] As they do chamber pots and worse upon harlots that are carted. I have read of a heathen people that put the adulterers’ and adulteresses’ heads into the paunch of a beast, where all the filth lieth, and so stifled them to death.

And make thee vile ] Conspurcabo, deturpabo te, I will bespattle thee and make thee stink above ground, as loathsome carrion doth: so the word signifieth. It was long since complained of by one of her own sons, that the stench of the Church of Rome was gone up to heaven. And by another, that of gold she was become silver, of silver iron, of iron earth, superesse ut in stercus abiret, and now there remained no more, but that she should be looked upon as dung. Accordingly it followeth:

And I will set thee as a gazingstock ] The Septuagint render it, for an example ( εις παραδειγμα ), others, a lookingglass, but Calvin (after R. Salomon and Aben Ezra), ponam te quasi stercus, I will set thee as dung, which men gladly look beside. Luther rendereth it Ponam te in terriculamentum, I will make thee a bugbear. All this was done to Nineveh, that great city, and all was done by God, not by fate or fortune, or any necessity of nature, that states and kingdoms must have their times and their turns, their rise and their ruin, as politicians dote.

Verse 7

Nah 3:7 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?

Ver. 7. And it shall come to pass that all they that look upon thee shall flee from thee ] Thou shalt be a very Magormissabib, a terror to all that are round about thee, so that they shall decline thee and stand aloof off. Resilient a te, they shall leap back from thee (saith the Vulgate translation), as if they had trod upon a snake. Ubi simul hominum mores exprimit, saith Gualther. This is the manner of most people: they measure friendship by profit, and shamefully forsake those in adversity whom they were wont to follow and fawn upon in prosperity. David complains of such dealing, and Ovid, and many others, Tempora si fuerint nubila solus eris. Cum fortuna petit nullus amicus erit.

And say, Nineveh is laid waste ] Which most men held impossible, and never looked to have seen such a day. So Rome was called Aurea golden and Aeterna eternal, and the Romans once thought (as it is said Dionysius did) that the monarchy of the world had been tied unto them with chains of adamant. But God confuted their golden dreams by breaking their empire, and giving up their city six different times in one hundred and thirty-nine years into the hands of the barbarians, who exercised therein all kinds of cruelty. Besides that, it is observed that Rome since it became Papal was never besieged by any enemy, but it was taken. The final ruin of it is daily expected, according to that prophecy of St John, "Babylon is fallen, is fallen," Revelation 18:2 , and that other of Sibylla before recited,

Tota eris in cineres; quasi nunquam Roma fuisses.

Who will bemoan her? ] Heb. Who will move (his lips) for her. Some perhaps will shake his head or shoot his bolt at her; but none open his mouth to bemoan her. It was the just hand of God to set off all hearts and shut up all mouths from her, that had been so unreasonably merciless and hard hearted, Lamentations 2:13 .

Whence shall I seek comforters for thee? ] q.d. So odious thou art that none will do thee that good office; or if they would, so calamitous thou art that no comfort will fasten. For as to sore eyes the gentlest medicine is troublesome, so is comfort ministered to such as are in a hopeless condition. The ear that tasteth words as the mouth doth meat is at such a time embittered and out of taste.

Verse 8

Nah 3:8 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?

Ver. 8. Art thou better than populous No ] Heb. No Amon, a great grain country, and therefore populous; for where victual and good trading is to be had thither people will repair apace. No (that is Alexandria) was the nursing mother of Egypt (Amon, i.e. Nutritia Alma mater ), and Egypt was called the world’s barn or storehouse, horreum unde hauriatur, Genesis 42:1 . It is called, Jeremiah 46:25 , Amon de No; Ezekiel 30:13 , Hamon No; and Ezekiel 30:14 ; Ezekiel 30:16 , No, without any addition. This was the old name of this city before it was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, to whom God had given Egypt as his pay for his pains in taking Tyre. It was rebuilt by Alexander the Great, and he called it, after his own name, Alexandria. Amon it was called for the reasons above given. Though there be those who fetch that name of it from Ham, the son of Noah, Theodoret will have it so called from Jupiter Hammon, whose son Alexander desired to be held, and from whom the Egyptian husbandmen were called Ammonii, and their arable Ammonia, as Herodotus writes. Plutarch also telleth us that the Africans worship an unknown God by the name of Amon, that is (in their language) Heus, tu quis es? This city, therefore, is called No Amon, probably to distinguish it from other cities of the same name, as Alexandria of Egypt, Caesarea of Philippi, Augusta Vindclicorum, &c. Josephus saith that it abounded in people and wealth; being little less than Jerusalem in size (Lib. 2, de Bell. Jud., cap. 16). Thinkest thou now, O Nineveh (saith God here), that thou art in a better or safer condition than this city once was? but

Iam magnum infelix nil nisi nomen habet.

Let Nineveh go to Jerusalem, to Shiloh, Jeremiah 7:12 , and do as Scipio did when, beholding the downfall of Carthage, he foresaw and bewailed the like future destiny of Rome, his own country, Succurrat illud, mutato nomine de to fabula narratur.

That was situate among the rivers ] Which is held the best situation for profit, pleasure, and strength.

That had the waters round about it ] The river Nile surrounded it (saith Strabo), but could not mote it up from God’s fire. See Psa 33:17 Proverbs 21:30 . See Trapp on " Psa 33:17 " See Trapp on " Pro 21:30 "

Whose rampart was the sea, and her wall was from the sea? ] She had the Egyptian sea on one side and the lake of Mareotis on the other, which the Hebrews called the sea.

Verse 9

Nah 3:9 Ethiopia and Egypt [were] her strength, and [it was] infinite; Put and Lubim were thy helpers.

Ver. 9. Ethiopia and Egypt were her strength ] No was the metropolis of Egypt, and knew no end of her power, as bearing rule over Ethiopia the strong and Egypt the infinite, Chus valida et Egyptii infiniti (some read this text), and as having all the rest of the peoples inhabiting Africa and Libya for her confederates. See Jeremiah 46:9 , where the prophet speaketh of such people as brought aid to Egypt against the Chaldees, but were foiled and worsted. Of the huge armies that Ethiopia was able to raise see 2 Chronicles 14:9 ; 2 Chronicles 16:8 . Egypt for her strength was called Rahab, Psalms 87:4 ; Psa 89:10 that is, mighty and proud.

Put and Lubim were thy helpers ] By Put Jerome understandeth Africa (which was over beside Alexandria, the sea between), a waste continent, thrice as big as Europe; and by Lubim Libya, a considerable part of that continent sometimes put for the whole. These would have been helpers to No, but could not; because overpowered by Nebuchadnezzar, sent against them by God. Leagues entered into with wicked men profit not those whom God will punish. The Grecian Churches, A.D. 1438, being afraid of the Turks, sent and subjected themselves to the Bishop of Rome, that they might have the help of the Latin Churches; but shortly after they were destroyed, and their empire subdued, and swallowed up in the Turkish greatness. It is gathered by some out of Revelation 16:14-16 , that the Pope and his adherents shall, towards the end of the world, for the restoring of his decayed authority, call in the help not only of Popish princes, but of foreign states, out of Asia, Africa, and America, to suppress the heretics (as they call us) and to root out religion; but with evil success, for they shall associate themselves only to be broken in pieces, Isaiah 8:9 ; these auxiliaries, shall, speed no better than those subsidiary Syrians did, 2 Samuel 10:18-19 ; they shall receive a famous foil at Armageddon, such as Sisera did at the waters of Megiddo, Judges 5:19 , and a voice from the throne shall say, "It is done," Nahum 3:16-17 .

Verse 10

Nah 3:10 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.

Ver. 10. Yet was she carried away, she went into captivity ] Whereof though there be no other record, yet we ought not to doubt the truth, since it is here alleged by the Holy Ghost, as a thing either done before or shortly after to be done, as may be probably gathered from Jer 46:25 Ezekiel 30:19 ; Eze 30:21 cf. Jeremiah 20:5 ; Jeremiah 44:28 . To God (by reason of the vastness of his being) all things are present. As he that stands on a high mountain, and looks down, though to the passenger that goes by some are before some behind, yet to him they are all present; so here.

Her young children also were dashed in pieces at the top of all the streets ] A terrible spectacle to those that passed by; who were to look for little mercy, when children, in whom there is so little guile or gall, and who are usually favoured for their innocence and ignoscence, met with such hard measure. See Trapp on " Hos 13:16 " War is an evil, Isaiah 45:7 , such as no words (how wide soever) can sufficiently set forth. Bellum a belluis.

And they cast lots for her honourable men ] Whether so for age or authority; the dice were cast on them for slaves, as Obadiah 1:11 . A great alteration on the sudden. Tamerlane’s coach horses were conquered kings; Adonibezek’s dogs, seventy kings, gathering crumbs under his table; Sapores used the Emperor Valerian for a footstool; Croesus, carried captive by Cyrus, cries out, "O Solon, O Solon"; Gelimer: led in triumph by Belisarius, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity," and calls to him for a crust to relieve him, a cittern to solace him, and sponge to dry his eyes with (Procop. lib. ii de Belle Vandal.).

Omnia sunt hominum tenui pendentia file:

Et subito casu, quae valuere, ruunt. ”

Henry IV, Emperor of Germany, after 10 years’ reign was deposed; and by his enemies, driven to that exigent, that he desired only a clerkship in a house at Spire, of his own founding; which was barbarously, by the bishop of that place, denied him. Our Henry VI, that had been the most potent monarch for dominions that ever England had, was, when deposed, not the master of a molehill nor of his own liberty, but beaten and wounded, &c., to show that mortality is but the stage of mutability, when "they that were brought up in scarlet embrace dunghills," Lamentations 4:5 .

Bound in chains ] Not of gold, as Zenobia was; but of iron, as the word signifieth.

Verse 11

Nah 3:11 Thou also shalt be drunken: thou shalt be hid, thou also shalt seek strength because of the enemy.

Ver. 11. Thou also shalt be drunken ] sc. with the cup of the wine of God’s wrath; Jer 25:27 thou shalt "drink, and be drunken, and spue and fall, and rise no more, because of the sword which I will send among you." This is that κοινος μεθη , dry drunkenness of them that are "drunk, but not with wine," Isaiah 51:21 ; of them that remember their affliction and their misery, the wormwood and the gall, Lamentations 3:19 . If the saints sip sometimes of the top of God’s cap, the wicked shall drink deep of it; yea, though it be eternity to the bottom.

Thou shalt be hid ] Or, thou shalt lurk, either for fear of the enemy (who wast once above fear, and thine enemies below hope), or for shame of thine undone condition. See Rev 6:16 Luk 23:30 Hosea 10:8 . Or, thou shalt vanish, and be brought to nothing; as if there never had been any such. Confer Obadiah 1:16 . Nineveh nothing else now, saith one who had been there, but a sepulchre of herself, a little town of small trade, where the patriarch of the Nestorians keeps his seat at the devotion of the Turk.

Thou shalt also seek strength because of the enemy ] Or, from the enemy; beg help of them, to whom thou wouldest once have scorned to be beholden; or of them against whom thou hast professed and practised open hostility.

Verse 12

Nah 3:12 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.

Ver. 12. All thy strong holds shall be like fig trees ] i.e. Tam infirma ac si ficulnea essent. Look how the fig tree casteth her untimely (or green) figs when she is shaken of a mighty wind, Revelation 6:13 ; yea, though it be but of a gentle wind, if the figs be ripe, as here, they fall with little ado; so shall thy munitions, wherein thou trustest.

They shall even fall into the mouth of the eater ] That is, of the Chaldean, who gape for thy destruction, and desires nothing more than to revel in thy ruins. They shall take thy fortresses as easily as Timotheus did towns, which were said to come into his toils while he slept, Aemuli ipsius dormientem pinxerant, &c. (Plut. in Sulla). Or, as Charles V, who in twenty-eight battles in America, waged by his Generals Cortez and Pizarro, won twenty-eight kingdoms.

Verse 13

Nah 3:13 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.

Ver. 13. Behold, thy people in the midst of thee are women ] i.e. Fearful and faint hearted; ‘ Aχηιδες ουκετ Aχαιοι . See Isa 3:12 Jeremiah 51:30 ; Jeremiah 48:41 . And this in the midst of thee, where they should be most valiant, like cocks on their own dunghills, as they say. Lo, those that formerly faced the heavens, and, by a cyclopical kind of impiety, slighted God, and dared the devil to a duel, how crestfallen they are and courageless when the enemy is upon them; the noise of a driven leaf frightens them, Leviticus 26:36 ; a panic terror seizes upon them, as it did once upon the Syrians, 2 Kings 7:15 , and upon the Imperialists, in the war against the Hussites, so that they could not strike a stroke; and upon the Burgundians, who, expecting a battle, thought long thistles were lances, and turned their backs, with those Ephraimites, Psalms 78:9 . It is God that puts mettle into men, that strengthens or weakens the arm of either party, Ezekiel 30:24 . These lions, as they are called Nahum 2:12 , that formerly rushing out of Nineveh, their den, filled it with ravine, tearing and spoiling all they met with, are now become harts and stags; that have great horns, but do nothing with them, quia deest animus, because they lack courage; or as those Eretrians, of whom Themistocles said, that they were like the sword fish, that had a sword indeed, but not a heart to make use of it (Plutarch).

The gates of thy land shall be set wide open ] Thy frontier towns and five ports, those keys of the kingdom, aperiendo aperientur, shall open to give the enemy entrance; as at the siege of Jerusalem the iron gate opened of its own accord.

The fire shall devour thy barns ] Because God, who is a consuming fire, shall remove out of the enemies’ way all obstacles and impediments; so that all shall be pervious and patent to them. Fire God had threatened once before, Nahum 2:13 , and it may very well be that the gates were fired without a metaphor. See Nahum 3:15 .

Verse 14

Nah 3:14 Draw thee waters for the siege, fortify thy strong holds: go into clay, and tread the morter, make strong the brickkiln.

Ver. 14. Draw thee waters for the siege, &c. ] A most bitter and biting taunt, or mock ( sarcasmus ), whereby the prophet laugheth to scorn the fortifications of the Ninevites and their diligence and providence in defending themselves, which shall nothing avail them, because God will curse their enterprises, Psalms 127:1-2 : see the like sarcasm Nahum 2:1 . In those eastern countries there was a great scarcity of water. Draw thee good store, for the better holding out the siege; for if water fail thee thou must needs yield.

Fortify thy strong holds ] But they shall soon fail thee, Nahum 3:12 , as the tower of Shechem did those that fled to it, and as the strong hold of Zion did the braving Jebusites, 2 Samuel 5:7 . If God be against us no other help can relieve us. Brass and iron can fence a man against a sword, but not against fire.

Go into clay, and tread the morter ] viz. To make brick of. For in maritime and moorish places, where stones are not to be had, they used to wall their cities and make their munitions with brick. This proud Nineveh is commanded here to do, by an irony, as Theophylact noteth; but she shall but labour in the very fire, take pains to no purpose; for God will destroy the works of her hands, Ecclesiastes 5:6 .

Make strong the brickkiln ] Or repair it, that all may be ready. And these things they did, no doubt, very diligently; neither were they for that to be blamed. But this was their fault, as it was also the fault of the Jews in like case, Isaiah 22:8-11 , that "they looked not to the Maker of all, neither had respect unto him that fashioned it long ago." This, if they had done seriously, though they had made less preparation, the enemy might have been daunted and dismayed as much as that Duke of Saxony was, who, having proclaimed war against the Bishop of Magdeburg, and understanding by his intelligencers that the bishop levied no army, made no preparation, but only gave out that he would commit his cause to God, who would not fail to take up arms for him. Insaniat alius, said the duke, It were a mad prank for me to make war upon such a one that trusteth in God to right and revenge him. Let who will meddle with such a man: I will not (Bucholcer, Chronol.).

Verse 15

Nah 3:15 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.

Ver. 15. There shall the fire devour thee ] There, that is, in thy strongholds, where thou thinkest thyself most safe. These shall be to thee pro carcere et pistrino, for a prison, or little ease; when the fire of God’s wrath shall kindle upon thee the fire of war shall consume thee. See Amo 1:4 Joel 1:19 ; Joel 2:3 ; Joe 2:30 Amos 7:4 . See Trapp on " Amo 1:4 " See Trapp on " Joe 1:19 " See Trapp on " Joe 2:3 " See Trapp on " Joe 2:30 " See Trapp on " Amo 7:4 " Evil shall hunt the violent man to destroy him, Psalms 140:11 , neither must he think to be safe anywhere from Divine vengeance, Amo 9:2-3 Psa 139:7-10 Obadiah 1:4 ; which will not suffer them to live, as those Barbarians could tell, Acts 28:4 . The heathens called Nemesis, or Vengeance, Aδραστεια , to show that no guilty person could shun it. Shuffle he may for a season from side to side, as Balaam’s ass did, to avoid the angel’s sword, Numbers 22:27 , but at length lay down under it, and so condemned her master’s madness, 2 Peter 2:16 . Running into God is the only best way to escape him; as to close and get in with him that would strike you doth avoid the blow.

The sword shall cut thee off ] Est haec vehemens plane comminatio, saith Gualther. This is truly a very vehement threat. See how thick it falls, like hail shot upon them, that they can hardly take breath; and all too little to work upon their hard hearts, which could not repent. These uncounselable Ninevites were like the smith’s dog; whom neither the hammers above him nor the sparks of fire falling round about him can awake. Like leviathan, they esteemed iron as straw, and brass as rotten wood. Darts were counted by them as stubble, they laughed at the shaking of the spear, Job 41:27 ; Job 41:29 . It is proper to God’s people to tremble at his word, to stand in awe of his judgments, while they yet hang in the threatenings. Wicked men laugh when they should fear; and say in their hearts when God threateneth them, as Frederick II, Emperor of Germany, was wont to say openly, in the greatest threatening of his enemies, Minarum strepitus, Asinorum crepitus. The noise of theatenings, the rustlings of asses.

It shall eat thee up as the cankerworm ] Which useth to make quick despatch and clean work, see Joel 1:1-20 ; Joel 2:1-32 , to shear all before it.

Make thyself many ] Heb. weighty with multitude; so that the axletree of the earth may seem to groan under thy grandeur and massiness. Do this thou, O King of Nineveh (for the Hebrew verb here is masculine). Do the like thou, O city of Nineveh.

Make thyself many as the locusts ] Which hath its name in Hebrew from multitude; because, as that legion in the Gospel, they are many: and here the Hebrew verb is feminine. Ministers must lay about them on all hands; and be ready to turn themselves, as it were, into all shapes and fashions, both of speech and spirit, to bring people to the knowledge of God and his will, of themselves and their duties.

Verse 16

Nah 3:16 Thou hast multiplied thy merchants above the stars of heaven: the cankerworm spoileth, and flieth away.

Ver. 16. Thou hast multiplied thy merchants above the stars of heaven ] And so thinkest to have a stake in store howsoever the dice chance to turn. For these merchants were very rich, and could furnish her with money, which is the sinews of war. Besides, they traded far and near; and so could give intelligence, and if need were, waylay and intercept the enemies’ contributions, that it came not to them. But would you know, saith the prophet, how these merchants will serve you at your greatest need?

The cankerworm spoileth and fleeth away ] q.d. They will serve themselves upon you and then leave you in the lurch, to make as good shift as you can. They are mere cankerworms, which first eat up all, and then haste away. These false friends, well, they may be the causes, but companions they will not be, of your calamity; like crows that flock to a dead carcass, not to defend it, but to devour it; and no sooner have they bared the bones but they are gone. Such false merchants as these hath this land been much pestered with from Rome in former ages. Matthew Paris telleth us of one Florentinus, the Pope’s delegate here, in King John’s reign, Ferentinus the wiser sort called him, for bearing away so much money; and of another named Otto, one of the Pope’s merchants, or rather mice catchers ( Muscipulatores ), as he calleth them, who after three years’ raking together of money, by most detestable arts, at last departing hence, to avoid a storm, he left not so much money in the whole kingdom as he either carried with him or sent to Rome before him. In the year 1235 there were spread through England certain Roman cankerworms, called Caursim (quasi capientes ursi, devouring bears, quoth Paris), who had entangled the king, nobles, and all others that had to deal with the court of Rome, in their cunning snares and usurious practices, under colour of supplying with money such as wanted present pay to the Pope. These were called the Pope’s merchants, saith Speed.

Verse 17

Nah 3:17 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].

Ver. 17. Thy crowned are as the locusts ] i.e. Thy barons (saith Diodati) and great lords, wearing diadems and wreaths, in token of dignity; such a Nazarite (that is the Hebrew word here) was Joseph, Genesis 49:26 , because separate and exempt from other men, as a chieftain. Calvin likewise rendereth it, thy princes; the Vulgate Latin, thy keepers; some others, thy Nazarites, or thy religious persons, set apart from the common sort to pray for the city’s safety. Such were those chemarims, or chimney chaplains, among the Jews, Hos 10:5 Zephaniah 1:4 ; such are the mailers among the Turks, who call them the religious brothers of love; and the shaveling mendicants among the Papists. These locusts are, Revelation 9:7 , said to have on their heads as it were crowns like gold.

And thy captains as the great grasshoppers ] Heb. as the grasshoppers of grasshoppers, by a Hebraism, like that King of kings, Song of songs, &c. The word rendered captains is foreign; R. David and others render it, Imperator, Dux, Princeps. It seemeth to be a name of dignity among the Assyrians, as Zaphnathpaaneah was among the Egyptians, Genesis 41:45 . These are called grasshoppers and locusts, for their uselessness and fearfulness.

Which camp in the hedges ] sc. Of the gardens or vineyards, and they are said to camp, in regard of their multitudes, as if they were an army of them. See Joel ii. The prophet taxeth here Nineveh’s vain confidence in her confederates and such other hangers on, as might truly say,

Nos numeri sumus, fruges consumere nati. , ”

We are men of no great moment, such as Aristophanes in Plutarch prettily played upon, when he said, ταμιαι λαμιαι , i.e. quaestores bubones. treasurers of eagles.

But when the sun ariseth they flee away ] So these trencher flies, when they have served their own turns upon thee, and now see the tempest of war growing on amain, they worship the rising sun, keep themselves on the warm side of the hedge, leave thee to shift as thou canst, and seek out for themselves a better fortune.

Verse 18

Nah 3:18 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].

Ver. 18. Thy shepherds slumber, O king of Assyria ] This apostrophe to the king is emphatic. He is given to know that his nobles and officers, Micah 5:4-6 ; Micah 7:14 , his councillors of state, and greatest politicians, should be benighted, and not know what counsel to give or course to take. Or, they slumber, that is, they are dead, as Psalms 77:6 . And this is more agreeable to that which followeth:

Thy nobles shall dwell in the dust ] The Vulgate hath it sepelientur, shall be buried. Others, iacebunt, shall lie on the ground, like beasts, through fear and consternation of mind: 1 Samuel 28:20 , "Then Saul fell straightway all along on the earth, and was sore afraid."

Thy people is scattered upon the mountains ] Diffused and dispersed abundantly; as sheep without a shepherd, whereof none being wiser than other, no man gathereth them into the sheep cotes of better order.

Verse 19

Nahum 3:19 [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 wickedness passed continually?

Ver. 19. There is no healing of thy bruise ] Clades et strages tua irreparabilis est. Thy disease is desperate, thy condition comfortless; thou art utterly to be destroyed. When God smiteth his own people it may well be asked, as Isaiah 27:7 , "Hath he smitten him as he smote those that smote him? or is he slain according to the slaughter of them that are slain by him?" Surely no; there is a manifest difference. "He hath torn," saith the Church, "and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up," Hosea 6:1 . Hence that distinction of punishment, or pain, in condemnantem, et corrigentem, in poenam vindictae, et poenam medelae. Afflictions and temporal evils are in the nature, to the wicked of a curse, to the godly of a cure; to the former mortal, to the latter medicinal. "When the wicked spring as grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish," it is not for any goodwill that God beareth to them; but "it is that they shall be destroyed for ever," Psalms 92:7 . see Trapp on " Nah 1:9 "

Thy wound is grievous ] Not only incurable, but full of anguish intolerable. Thus, "many sorrows shall be to the wicked," Psalms 32:10 , and yet all that they suffer here is but as drops of wrath, forerunning the great storm in hell; or as a crack, preceding the fall of the whole house upon them: the leaves only fall on them here; there, the whole tree.

All that hear the bruit of thee shall clap the hands, &c. ] As rejoicing at thy ruin, and subscribing to God’s just judgment upon thee; they shall take up this taunting speech against thee, and say, "How hath the oppressor ceased! the golden city ceased! The Lord hath broken the staff of the wicked, and the sceptre of the rulers," &c. Isaiah 14:4-7 .

For upon whom hath not thy wickedness passed continually? ] "Thy wickedness," that is, thy wicked counsels, edicts, enterprises, have they not extended far and near for mischief to many nations? and this not for a little while, but jugiter, continually? It hath been thy constant trade from thy youth up ( neque enim nova est aut nupera haec tua crudelitas ) to waste and weary out other nations with thine inroads and hostilities. The destruction therefore is of thyself, O Nineveh; the insultations, and complosions of others at thy misery, is no more than thou hast merited. Os quod in sorte tua ceciderit, illud rodas, as the Arabian proverb hath it. Bear the reward of thy wickedness, which is now come home to thee; thy wickedness is the root of thy wretchedness: this the prophet here repeateth and inculcateth in the perclose; that he may leave it as a sting in the minds of his hearers, as Gualther well observeth.

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Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Nahum 3". Trapp's Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.