Click here to get started today!
by Johann Peter Lange
BOOK OF NAHUM
pastor at st. gertraud, and professor of old testament theology in the university of berlin
TRANSLATED AND ENLARGED
CHARLES ELLIOTT, D. D.,
professor of biblical literature in the presbyterian theological seminary at chicago, ill.
I. Contents and Form
The prophecy of Nahum announces the destruction of Nineveh, beheld in vision (חָזוֹן Nahum 1:1), in strains of a lofty, impetuous epinicion. This triumphal song is addressed partly, so far as it is consolatory and animating, to his countrymen; but chiefly, in its menacing character, to the powerful enemy. That Nineveh is the enemy is expressly declared in the course of the prophecy, Nahum 2:9 (8) compared with Nahum 3:18. In Nahum 1:8, where it is first referred to, the allusion is intelligible, only as a retrospect to the statement in the title, Nahum 1:1, which, consequently, must be considered as an integrant part of the whole.
Nineveh was to be destroyed, plundered, and entirely laid waste by a hostile army, and by the unfettering of the elements; and all those that were oppressed by her were to have rest from that time forth.
The whole book is one connected prophecy. The transitions from one train of thought to another are interwoven into one another; they are often so joined by close antithesis, or verbal correspondence, that the conclusion of that which precedes is inseparably connected with the beginning of that which follows. The prophetic effusion flows on continually from beginning to end, without distinct sections, pauses, or divisions into strophes. Yet there is no defect in the internal arrangement. In the exordium (Nahum 1:1-6), the prophet sets out, not from a present historical event, nor even from the event seen by him in vision; but with a lemma borrowed from the Torah: “God is a jealous God and an avenger;” which he works into a grand description of God’s glory as a judge (comp. Nahum 1:4). Connected with this by the immediately annexed intermediate thought (Nahum 1:7), that the avenging Jehovah is good to them that trust in Him, is the announcement, by way of inference, of the destruction of Nineveh, (Nahum 1:8-15), which finally ends in a sentence of judgment, delivered prophetically in the stricter sense (Nahum 1:12-14). With this is connected, passing over another intermediate thought (Nahum 2:1), relating to Israel, the description of the catastrophe (Nahum 2:2-11); differing from the announcement by the fact that while the latter is expressed throughout in the future (אשׂיס אשׁבר יעשׂת), now the whole scene, viewed as real and present before the eyes of the prophet, is described by preterits and participles (־בּצוּ נשׂיס צלה). He sees the besieging army before the city, the armor glittering in the light of the sun (Nahum 2:2-4); in the city he beholds wild confusion (Nahum 2:5-6); he sees the flood break in with its overflowing waters (Nahum 2:7-9 a), the city abandoned and laid waste (Nahum 2:9-11).
To the description is directly added, as it were, an elegy over the ruins, lamenting, of course, less in sympathy with Nineveh, than over the wickedness which caused such ruin. An alternating surge of motives, and of further descriptions of the catastrophe and its con sequences follows from Nahum 2:12 to Nahum 3:19. Nahum 2:12-13 gives mainly the fundamental thoughts of this epilogue: (a.) Nineveh was a robber; (b.) She is destroyed by God from the earth. Both these thoughts are thereupon farther carried out: (a.) in Nahum 3:1-4; (b.) in Nahum 3:5-7; (c.) Nahum 3:8-12 presents a new motive; its destruction is certain, and resistance hopeless; even the powerful No Amon fell. And as it is hopeless, so also (d.), it is helpless, Nahum 3:12-13 This thought is carried out in a two-fold form, Nahum 3:14-15 a, b; let Nineveh arm herself as she may, still she must be destroyed, Nahum 3:15-17; however unnumbered her troops may be, yet they must vanish away. To this is joined the epilogue, Nahum 3:18-19, which comprises the fundamental thoughts of the whole: Nineveh, the oppressor, is irrecoverably destroyed; and the oppressed do not mourn, but are comforted.
Even from the summary of the contents we might arrive at the conclusion that the diction would be stirring and vivacious. Indeed, Nahum of all the prophets has the most impassioned style; and in none is found the change of numbers, of persons addressed, and of suffix-relations, with such frequency and immediateness as in him. At the same time his language has wonderful energy and picturesque beauty. The painting does not embrace merely single rhythms (Nahum 2:5) and groups of words (Nahum 2:11), but whole series (Nahum 3:2-3; Nahum 2:10, and a number of other places); and in connecting his thoughts he shows, with all his vehemence, great and varied skill. Consider the beautiful double parallelisms (comp. Nahum 3:4); the rhythmical prominence of a single definitive word, or of a quite small group of words, Nahum 1:10 (אֻכְּלוּ), 14 (כִּי קַלּוֹתָ) Nahum 2:1; Nahum 3:17 (אַיָּם); the fuller statement of two fundamental thoughts briefly premised (Nahum 1:7-8; שׁטף צרה, carried out, Nahum 1:9-10; Nahum 1:12-14 : הככי טרף, carried out, Nahum 3:1 ff., Exomnibus minoribus prophetis nemo videtur œquare sublimitatem ardorum et audaces spiritus Nahumi. Adde quod ejus vaticinium integrum ac justum est poëma. Exordium magnificum est et plane augustum; apparatus ad excidium Ninivœ ejusque excidii descriptio el amplificatio ardentissimis coloribus exprimitur et mirabilem habet evidentiam et pondus.” It has been here and there the custom, from a somewhat docetic view of the Scriptures, to esteem lightly the attention bestowed upon the form adopted by the sacred writers as something superfluous, relatively useless. We are not to reason about an opinion that is based upon a natural defect, and whoever has in general a sense of method, will not allow himself to be robbed of the enjoyment he finds in contemplating the forms of God’s Word. (Comp. Proverbs 25:11.) However, he who would like to copy after a good exemplar, can refer, not merely to the beauty of Luther’s translation of the Bible, but also to the express model of the Reformer, whom certainly no one will accuse of humanizing the Scriptures. Compare, for example, his remark on Habakkuk 1:8 : “Here we see how elegantly and accurately the prophets can speak, how briefly and yet amply they express a thing. For what another would have said in bare words, thus: The Babylonians will come and destroy Jerusalem: Habakkuk says with many words, and beautifies everything, and adorns it with similes,” etc.
2. Author and Date
The title, of whose genuineness, as we have seen, there can be no doubt, designates Nahum the Elkoshite, as the author of this prophecy (נַחוּם is an intensive form like חכוז רתוּם, and signifies compassionate, benevolent; also consolatory). Of this prophet, apart from the title, we have no trustworthy accounts. The traditions concerning his birth and ministry, which O. Strauss has compiled from Pseudo-Dorotheus, Pseudo-Epiphanius, and Isodorus Hispalensis, show, by their many contradictions, and, in part, by their fantastic character, that their inventors had no more certain sources of information than ourselves, i. e., the title with the name and place of birth, and the prophecy itself; and that they were not even in a condition to turn the latter to good account.
If we first seek to establish from the prophecy the situation (time and place) of the composition, it is evident:—
1. From the address to Judah, Nahum 2:1, that Samaria was already destroyed, and that, when he speaks of the injury to the Holy Land, only Judah appears exposed to danger. Indeed, Samaria had been destroyed long ago: it had already passed from memory. We will consequently take no notice of the statement of the Chronicon Paschale (Olymp. Nahum 3:2-4), according to which Nahum prophesied in the 8–10 year of Jotham, one hundred and forty-four years before the destruction; in the same way we will treat that of Josephus, according to which his prophecy falls in the last year of Jotham (one hundred and fifteen years, according to the reckoning of Josephus, before the catastrophe; Ant., ix. 11, 3; comp. Niebuhr, p. 117); in the same way, that of Eusebius (in Chron.), which places it in the sixth year of Hezekiah. We are shut up to a period, when Samaria had been for a long time destroyed, and Judah had already been exhausted and disheartened by the keen blows of Assyria.
2. The same statement also compels us to go beyond the time of Sennacherib, in which Vitringa, Nägelsbach, Keil, and many others, misplace the prophecy. For the oppressor has already passed once, or several times, over the land, Nahum 2:1; Nahum 1:12 (comp. Nahum 1:9 with this passage); and just now he is not there, not even approaching; but new humiliations impend (Nahum 1:12), if Nineveh continues to be spared, on account of which Judah shrinks from solemnizing her feasts (Nahum 2:1). Moreover the strain of the prophecy is such as supposes a continual happy success to Assyria, but not a catastrophe like that of Sennacherib. Had it originated at the approach of that monarch, the remote destruction of Nineveh would have furnished no special consolation for the existing generation of the Jews.
3. But at the same time it is manifest, in reference to the terminus ad quem, that Nahum does not see the end of Nineveh as immediately imminent. The city is still strong and powerful, full of people (Nahum 1:12), and its subjects are widely spread (Nahum 3:17). The Egyptian Necho is not yet in the plan; for it was only about four years before the destruction of Nineveh, that he began to overrun and plunder Western Asia, and annihilated the power of Josiah. Had he been arming, or on the way, then Nahum 2:1 would be without complete sense. Neither is it a detailed description of the present reality that Nahum gives; he does not speak of two armies, which are approaching (see below, 4), but of a disperser (Nahum 2:2). He does not start from the fact, but derives the necessity of it from the certainty of God’s Word contained in the Law (Nahum 1:1 ff.; comp. Psalms 94:0); and thus the tenor of the whole description is such as it was opened to the eye of the prophet, according to its ideally necessary course, to which also the divine intervention belongs (Nahum 2:7 ff.; comp. Judges 5:20). Hence we are directed to the times before the oppression of Assyria by the Medes and Scythians; and the fixing of the date under Jehoiakim (Cocceius) and Zedekiah (Clemens Alex), comes to nothing.
4. On the other hand it is evident from the intuitive [anschaulichen] manner, in which the prophet speaks of the city, that his prophecy was written in Assyria (Tuch, Ewald).
His language is like that of one who addresses Israel from a distance, and his messages to the people of his native country (Nahum 2:1 ff.) have accordingly a very striking similarity to the related passages, Isaiah 52:1; Isaiah 52:7-8 (compare also Nahum 3:5, with Isaiah 47:2-3; Isaiah 3:7, with Isaiah 51:19), where the prophet likewise, from a state of captivity, comforts Jerusalem already forsaken, and promises to her messengers of joy. Nowhere is there found a reproof of the sins of Israel, a thing which a prophet present among the people would have scarcely omitted. The language too, as Ewald observes, has some specific Assyrian expressions, of which at least in the instance of טפסרים Nahum 3:17, the assertion of Ewald cannot be disputed. (Concerning מכזרים Nahum 3:17, and תצב Nahum 2:8, compare the passages.)
5. But at the same time it is evident that he cannot be one of the exiles of the ten tribes. For in respect to them it is neither altogether certain (with the exception of those carried away from the east of Jordan by Tiglath-Pileser) whether they generally settled in Assyria (comp. however, besides the statements of the book of Tobias, Wichelhaus, the Journal of the German-Oriental Society, v. 367 ff.], Zeitschr. der deutsch-morgenl. Ges., 5:367 ff], and Keil on 2 Kings 17:6); nor would the perfect silence of the prophet concerning Samaria be intelligible in this state of things. The prophet clings with his heart to Judah.
Taking into consideration all these facts, the author is indicated by the prophecy, as a man who was carried out of Judah to Assyria, was there in the time of a powerful military king, from whom Judah had cause to dread evil, and prophesied between the year 686 (that of Sennacherib’s death) and 656 (the beginning of the reign of Phraortes the Mede) or 634 (the beginning of the Scythian devastating invasion). And if we seek, in this period, a juncture into which this prophecy naturally fits, it is the reign of Assarhaddon, son of Sennacherib, king of Assyria and Babylon, 680–667 (comp. Brandis in Pauly). That this king undertook several predatory excursions in the direction of the Mediterranean, pushed as far as Edom, and also extended over the land of Judæa, he himself boasts (Talbot, Ass. t. t., p. 13); compare also Ezra 4:2, from which passage likewise it is clear that the Jewish territories did not lie beyond the sphere of his spoliation; and the Chronicles expressly assert that an army sent by him carried away prisoner Manasseh, king of Judah (2 Chronicles 33:11). (If the Chronicles mention Babylon as the place of deportation, it rests upon the frequent interchange of the names אשׁוּר and בּבל Comp. Gesen., Thes., i.164. Evidently the writer of the Chronicles would merely indicate that the king was carried by them to the residence of Assarhaddon, as this was the custom among kings. 2Ki 24:15; 2 Kings 15:27 f. But Assarhaddon had his palace of residence in Nineveh; see below, 4). It is no valid reason to reply to this by saying, that Nahum was among those carried away on this occasion; that relying on the justice of God, the Avenger, he announced destruction to Nineveh, at that time in a highly flourishing condition under Assarhaddon. Upon the point of more firmly establishing this date from Nahum 3:8 ff. by a more exact determination of the purport of the monuments, see the passage thereon. [Strauss has fixed on a similar date, with a reason it must be admitted, resting upon Nahum 1:13, which Nägelsbach and Keil properly designate as untenable.]
It is doubtful, whether in this posture of the matter anything has been gained for the obscure [patrial] Elkoshite (Nahum 1:1). That it is not a patronymic, but like מֹרַשְׁתִּי, Micah 1:1, and other instances, specifies the place of birth, must be admitted with the majority of expositors. But where is Elkosh situated? The formation of such a name for a city is not un-Hebraic, or rather not un-Palestinian. Comp. &אֶלְתְקֵא אֶלעלֶה, and others, Gesen., Thes., i.102. Eusebius and Cyr. Alex. assume a city ’Ελκεσέ in Palestine as the birth place of Nahum, without saying anything of its situation. Hieronymus, on the other hand, is acquainted with a place Elcesi (var. Elcesæi), usque hodie viculum in Galilœa. The tradition in Pseudo-Doroth. and Pseudo-Epiph. places it beyond the Jordan. At least this place is of course doubtful; and the adjective form of the name in Hieronymus is strange (Ges.). The case with it, at best, would be as with Morasthi (see com. on Micah, p. 5), which designated not the original Moresheth, but the sepulchral sanctuary consecrated to Micah. Knobel (Prophetismus, ii:210) and Hitzig (edit. 1 and 3) appeal to the New Testament Capernaum; but that this place, though named after one Nahum (Cphar-Nahum, Midrash Coheleth f. 89 c. 2 = village of Nahum) is identical with Elkosh, cannot be proved. To bring in the name of the sect of the Elcesaites, which is traced back to the founder Elxai (Delitzsch, Hävernick, Strauss), is to no purpose. It is more than probable that Elxai was not the founder, but the Greek form of writing אֵל חַי (Hosea 2:1), from which they derived their name. (Comp. Geiger, Journal of the German-Oriental Society, xviii. 824 [Zeitschr. der deutsch-morgenl. Gesellsch.] and moreover the mode of writing the name: Elci in Augustine, ’Ελκήςς in John Damascenus.) Furthermore not much is gained by placing Elkosh in Galilee, since Nahum did not belong to the kingdom of the ten tribes. Consequently it will at least be nearer the truth to consider the Elkosh mentioned in the title, the place situated two days’ journey from Mosul (= Nineveh), (Gesen., Hall. Lit. Jour. [Hall. Literaturzeitg.] 1841, N.2; Ritter’s Geography, ix. 743 ff.), where Nahum’s grave is shown to this day. This, then, corresponding well with the position of things mentioned above, might be Nahum’s place of exile, and the place where he began to prophesy. If it be objected that such descriptive epithets added to names designate, according to the usage of the Old Testament language, not the place of residence, but the place of birth, we may refer, in reply, to Judges 17:7; Judges 19:1, where the Levites, who are spoken of, are designated according to their place of residence for the time being. The other consideration (Strauss and others), that the Assyrian Elkosh is first mentioned in the 16th century (Assemani bibl. or., i. 525; iii. 1, 532), weighs still more against our supposition. We are consequently inclined to the conjecture, that the place, like other sacred monuments of those countries, owes its origin and name to the piety of later generations. Even Jonah’s, Obadiah’s, and Jephthah’s graves are pointed out in those countries. But the form of the name will always retain a preference for the Elkesi of Hieron., which carries with it this origin much more clearly; and it should indeed be considered that all those tombs bear the names of the men, but not the reconstructed names of localities with which they were connected; and that precisely in the preservation of old names of places tradition is very tenacious. (Comp. Spiegel at the place cited, x. 362.)
[The prophecy of Nahum was delivered at a time when the Assyrians ruled over the nations with uncontrolled power (Nahum 1:12; Nahum 2:12 ff; Nahum 3:1-2), and had not only destroyed the kingdom of Israel, but also deeply humbled Judah. Hence—
1. De Wette, Vitring., Rosenm., Berth., Maur., Knob., Häv., Keil, and others, place it in the second half of the reign of Hezekiah, or soon after the overthrow of Sennacherib before Jerusalem (2 Kings 19:35 ff.).
2. Hitzig, Ewald, in the time of the wars of the Medes with the Assyrians.
3. Hieron., Calov., Jäger, and others, in the time of Sennacherib’s invasion.
4. Clem. Alex., in the time of the Babylonian exile, between Ezekiel and Daniel.
5. Meyer, Jarchi, Abarb., Grot., Jahn, Grimm, Strauss, Klein., in the time of Manasseh.
6. Junius and others, in the last times of Josiah.
“The arguments in favor of an Assyrian locality for the prophet are supported by the occurrence of what are presumed to be Assyrian words: הֻצַּב, Nahum 2:8; טַפִסְרַיְךְ מִנְּזָרַיְךְ, Nahum 3:17; and the strange form מלִאָכֵכֵה in Nahum 2:14, which is supposed to indicate a foreign influence. In addition to this, is the internal evidence supplied by the vivid description of Nineveh, of whose splendors it is contended Nahum must have been an eye-witness; but Hitzig justly observes that these descriptions display merely a lively imagination, and such knowledge of a renowned city as might be possessed by any one in Anterior Asia. The Assyrian warriors were no strangers in Palestine, and that there was sufficient intercourse between the two countries is rendered probable by the history of the prophet Jonah. There is nothing in the prophecy of Nahum to indicate that it was written in the immediate neighborhood of Nineveh, and in full view of the scenes which are depicted, nor is the language that of an exile in an enemy’s country. No allusion is made to the captivity; while, on the other hand, the imagery is such as would be natural to an inhabitant of Palestine (Nahum 1:4), to whom the rich pastures of Bashan, the vineyards of Carmel, and the blossom of Lebanon, were emblems of all that was luxuriant and fertile. The language employed in Nahum 1:15; Nahum 2:2, is appropriate to one who wrote for his countrymen in their native land. In fact, the sole origin of the theory that Nahum flourished in Assyria is the name of the village Alkush, which contains his supposed tomb, and from its similarity to Elkosh was apparently selected by mediæval tradition as a shrine for pilgrims, with as little probability to recommend it as exists in the case of Obadiah and Jephthah, whose burial-places are still shown in the same neighborhood. This supposition is more reasonable than another which has been adopted in order to account for the existence of Nahum’s tomb at a place, the name of which so closely resembles that of his native town. Alkush, it is suggested was founded by the Israelitish exiles, and so named by them in memory of Elkosh in their own country. Tradition, as usual, has usurped the province of history. According to Pseudo-Epiphanius (De Vitis Proph., Opp., ii. p. 247), Nahum was of the tribe of Simeon, ‘from Elcesei beyond the Jordan at Begabar (Βηγαβάρ; Chron. Pasch. 150 B. Βηταβαή),’ or Bethabara, where he died in peace and was buried.” Smith’s Dict. Bib., art. “Nahum.”
Layard thinks that the tomb shown as Nahum’s, at Nineveh, is of modern origin. Nin. and its Rem., vol. i. p. 197.—C. E.]
3. Position in the Organism of Scripture
Nahum is quite an original prophet. He has very little direct connection with his predecessors: only Joel rings out in some passages: with Joel 2:11 compare Joel 2:6; with Joel 2:1 compare Joel 4:17; with Nahum 3:15 ff. compare Joel 1:0. [His coincidences with Isaiah relate collectively, in a remarkable manner, to passages from that prophet, whose authorship by him is disputed: with Isaiah 2:1 compare Isaiah 52:1; Isaiah 52:7; Isaiah 24:1; with Isaiah 2:3 compare Isaiah 52:8; with Isaiah 3:5 compare Is. 67:2; with Isaiah 3:7 compare Isaiah 51:19; with Isaiah 3:10 compare Isaiah 13:16; Isaiah 1:13 compared with Isaiah 10:27 (Strauss), is only an accidental external similarity of sound; so that it becomes necessary to decide as to those parallel passages found in Isaiah.
[See Alexander’s Introduction to Isaiah, and Keil’s Introduction to the O. T., vol. i. p. 281.—C. E.]
But the Psalms have exercised throughout an essential influence upon his language: compare the exegetical exposition. On the other hand, he has been to his successors a mine, with whose rich treasures their prophecy connects itself and moulds itself into larger proportions. Jeremiah particularly has him frequently before his eyes: compare with Nahum 1:13 Jeremiah 30:8; with Nahum 3:5; Nahum 3:13; Nahum 3:17; Nahum 3:19 compare Jeremiah 13:22 ff; Jeremiah 50:37; Jeremiah 51:30; Jeremiah 51:27; Jeremiah 10:19; Jeremiah 51:12.
In the organism of Scripture Nahum occupies an important position, not so much on account of the theological as of the historical significance of his prophecy. Its theological importance culminates in the representation of God, Jehovah Sabaoth (comp. Nahum 2:14), as the actual Judge—a representation accurately adapted to the situation of the world; and this description is not essentially different from that in the earliest public writings and those of the preceding prophets.
God is described as the Holy One, who annihilates pride, despotism, and violence with burning zeal, and for that purpose sets the elements of heaven and earth in motion; but who employs his majesty to protect his own in trouble, and to cause judgment upon the enemy to work for the deliverance of his people. When the enemy are buried under their own gods, upon which they relied, as under a heap of rubbish, then the heralds of peace appear upon the mountains to proclaim good tidings to Israel (Nahum 1:14; Nahum 2:1, Staudt). The historical significance, on the other hand, is this: that Nahum concludes the second, Assyrian period of prophecy (comp. Com. on Obadiah, p. 14). The cycle of development of prophecy, whose determining points are Hosea, Isaiah, Micah, here comes to a close; and Nineveh, the great city (comp. Com. on chapter 1.) perishes before God, in order that Babylon, rising over its ruins, as the last Semitic world-power, may bring to completion the fratricide begun by Edom (compare Obadiah), and make room for the Aryan nations, of a different ethnical stock, which, at the fall of Nineveh, came first into contact with the kingdom of God, to show themselves friendly towards Israel and to make peace with Jehovah.
[The book of Nahum will be best understood, by being read as a continuation, or supplement to the book of Jonah. The prophecy of both is directed against Nineveh. But that of Jonah was followed by the preservation of that city; that of Nahum, which is more detailed in its circumstances, indicating the actual doom, was followed by its capture and destruction. They form connected parts of one moral history; the remission of God’s judgments being illustrated in the one, the execution of it in the other. The attentive reader will perceive them to be contrasted in some of their contents, as well as in their general object; the repentance of the Ninevites and their wickedness, the clemency and the just severity of the divine government, being combined together in the mixed delineation of the two books (compare Nahum 1:2 with Jonah 4:2, and Nahum 3:1 with Jonah 3:8). But of pure Christian prophecy, either direct or typical, perhaps the book of Nahum must be set down as affording no instance. Davison, On Prophecy, p. 202.
“In its essence, the tendency of the call of Nahum was, that he might be a witness of the divine righteousness (Nahum 1:2-3), in which sense he was to interpret the mighty deeds of God in the times immediately preceding; and then to prophecy the future of judgment, and in connection with this to proclaim a strongly consolatory message to the sorely humbled covenant people.” Häv., p. 378.
Keil, Introd. to O. T., vol. i. p. 409.—C. E.]
4. Fall of Nineveh
Comp. Herodotus, Historian, ed. C. Müller, Paris, 1844 (lib. i. passim).
Berosus, Fragmenta, ed. Richter, Lips., 1825.
Diodorus Siculus, Bibl. Historica (with the Notices of Ctesias), ed. L. Dindorf, Lips., 1828, (2:23–28).
Alexander Polyhistor, Nicolaus Damascenus, Abydenus, Fragmenta in: Fragmenta Historicorum Grœcorum, ed. C. Müller, Paris, 1841 ff., 4to, t. iii. 206 ff., 342 ff., iv. 278 ff.
Flavius Josephus, Opera, edidit Sigb. Havercamp, Amst., 1726, folio (Antt., l. x. c. Ap. i. 19).
Eusebius, Chronicon Armenicum, ed. Bapt. Aucher, Ven., 1818 (i. p. 54).
Georg. Syncellus, Chronographia, ed. G. Dindorf, Bonn, 1829 (p. 396).
Seder Olam, Rabba s. Chronicon Hebræorum Majus et Minus, ed. J. Meyer, Amst., 1649, 4 (c. xxiv.).
Clinton, Fasti Hellenici, ed. ii. Oxf., 1827.
G. Hupfeld, Exercitationum Herodotearum, spec. i. s. De Rebus Assyriorum, Marb., 1837.
F. Tuch, De Nino Urbe Animadversiones Tres., Lips., 1845.
Botta and Flandin, Monumens de Nineveh, Paris, 1847 ff. (5 vols.).
A. H. Layard, Nineveh and its Remains, London, 1849; Deutsch von Meissner, Nineveh und seine Ueberreste, Leipz., 1850; 2 Ausg. mit einem chronolog. Anhang v. Seyffarth, Lipz., 1854.
Ders., Discoveries in the Ruins of Nineveh and Babylon, London, 1853; Deutsch von Zenker, Leipz., 1855.
H. Rawlinson, A Commentary on the Cuneiform Inscr. of Babylonia and Assyria, London, 1850; Outlines of Assyr. History from the Inscr. of Nin., London, 1852; A Selection from the Historical Inscriptions of Chaldœa, Assyria, and Babylonia, London, 1861.
J. P. Fletcher, Notes from Nineveh, London, 1850.
Blackburn, Nineveh, its Rise and Ruin, London, 1850.
W. Vaux, Nineveh and Persepolis, London, 1850; Deutsch von Zenker, Leipz., 1852.
G. F. Grotefend, Über Anlage und Zerstörung der Gebäde zu Nimrud, Gött., 1851.
J. Fergusson, The Palaces of Nineveh and Persepolis restored, London, 1851; Nineveh and its Ruins, London, 1854.
F. Jones, Topography of Nineveh, Journ. of the Roy. Asiat. Soc., t. xv. p. 297 ff.
E. Hincks, On the Assyrio-Bab. Phonetic Characters. Transact. of the Irish R. Acad., Dublin, 1851 (xii.), 273 ff. Comp. 1856, 165 ff., and Layard’s Discoveries, p. 613 ff.
J. Bonomi, The Palaces of Nineveh, London, 1852, 2d edit., 1858.
C. H. Gosse, Assyria, Her Manners and Customs, London, 1852.
G. Pote, Nineveh, A Review of its Ancient History and Modern Explorers, 1854.
J. Brandis, Rerum Assyr. Tempora Emendata, Berol., 1853; Über den Hist. Gewinn aus der Entzifferung der Ass. Inschriften, Berlin, 1856; artikel “Assyria” in Pauly’s Ency-klopädie der class. Alterthumwissenschaft, 2 Aufl., Stuttg., 1866, i. 2, 1884 ff.
J. V. Sumpach, Abriss der Babylonisch-Assyr. Geschichte, Mannh., 1854.
H. F. Talbot, Assyrian Texts translated, London, 1856.
Ch. Walz, Turibuli Assyrii Descriptio, Tub., 1856.
M. V. Niebuhr, Gesch. Assurs und Babels, Berlin, 1857.
J. B. Bosanquet, The Fall of Nineveh, London, 1858.
W. K. Loftus, Travels and Researches in Chaldœa and Susiana, London, 1858.
F. Fresnel, Expedition Scientifique en Mesopotamie, publiée p. J. Oppert, Paris, 1858.
J. Oppert, Chronologie des Assyriens et Babyloniens, Paris (Tableau ohne Datum); Deutsch-Morgenl. Zeitschr. xi. 308; Reponse à un Article Critique de M. E. Rénan, Paris, 1859; Etat Actuel de Dechiffrement des Inscriptions Cuneiformes, Paris, 1861; Les Inscriptions Assyriennes des Sargonides et les Fastes de Nineve, Versailles, 1862; Éléments de la Grammaire Assyrienne, Paris, 1860; Expedition Scientifique en Mesopotamie, t. ii. Nahum 1863: Histoire des Empires de Chaldée et d’Assyrie, Paris, 1866.
H. Ewald, Uber die Biblischen Beschreibungen Ninevehs, Jahrb. x. (1860), p. 50 ff.; Geschichte des Volks Israel, 3 Aufl. Bd. iii. p. 777 ff.
J. Ménant, Les Ecritures Cunéiformes, Paris, 1860; Les Noms Propres Assyriens, Paris, 1860; Éléments d’Epigraphie Assyrienne, Paris, 1864.
G. Rawlinson, The Five Great Monarchies of the Ancient Eastern World, London, 1862, ff. 4 Bd. (i. p. 225 ff. und ii.).
J. Oppert et J. Ménant, Les Fastes de Sargon, Paris, 1863; Grandes Inscriptions du Palais de Khersabad, Paris, 1864.
M. Duncker, Geschichte des Alterthums, 3 Aufl., Berlin, 1863, Bd. 1, p. 793 ff.
J. Olshausen, Prüfung des Charakters der in den Assyr. Inschriften enthaltenen Semit. Sprache, Berlin, 1865.
E. Rödiger, Zeitschrift der Deutsch-Morgenl. Gesellschaft, v. 445 ff.; vii. 673 ff.; ix. 331 ff.; x.725 ff.; R. Gosche, ebendas, xvii. 96 ff.; xxi. Suppl. s. 156 ff.
F. Spiegel, in Herzog’s Real-encyklopädie, x. 362 ff.; xx. 219 ff.
P. Glaize, Les Inscriptions Cunéiformes et les Traéaux de M. Oppert, Paris, 1867.
Over 500 years, Nineveh, the great city of God (comp. Jonah 1:3; Jonah 3:2), was, under its powerful rulers, the terror of Western Asia. Through successive generations it had been built into an immense city: dynasty after dynasty had transmitted its dreaded name, by magnificent colossal edifices, to after ages. Upon an artificial terrace by the Tigris towered, not far from the tower of Ninus, the great northwest palace founded by Sardanapalus, (Assur-idanni-pal; according to Rawlinson, Assur-izir-pal); in the southwest corner, in still fresh magnificence, stood the residence, which Assarhaddon, the son of Sennacherib, had built from the ruins of the central palace formerly erected by Salmanassar I., son of Sardanapalus and conqueror of Benhadad and Jehu. Farther to the northeast, on the Khosr-Su, which flows with a swift current from the Maklub mountains into the Tigris, and frequently with sudden floods overflows the plains, were the great structures of Khorsabad, the monuments of Sargon, who, during the conquest of Samaria, succeeded Salmanassar IV.; finally, near the mouth of the Khosr-Su stood the edifices of Sennacherib and Assurbanipalus, the son of Assarhaddon, at Kouyunjik. The wide plain of the city, covered with masses of houses, streets, and pasture-grounds, was strongly fortified. On the west and south the Tigris and the Zab (Lycus) inclosed it: on the east and north moats were dug, which almost equaled the rivers in width. A surrounding wall protected the main part of the city; the sluices of the canals were defended by well guarded gates and citadels. Withinsurged an immense traffic; Nineveh’s reputation as a commercial city rivaled that of Tyre (Ezekiel 27:23), and immense riches were hoarded up in it, acquired, to be sure, not by commerce alone, but also by the system of predatory war and contributions [levied in time of war] carried to the highest degree (comp. Nahum 2:13).
But even this height of human grandeur must be brought low by the will of God. In the midst of it and during its full bloom, the threatening of Nahum was denounced against [war Nahums Wort der Stadt in, s Angesicht geschleudert] the city, and it did not wait long for its fulfillment. East of Assyria, at the same time that the Aryan Romans were laying the foundation of their city and of universal dominion, on the banks of the Tiber, in the extreme west, the Aryan tribes, the Medes and Persians, who were about to wrest the reins of Asiatic dominion from the hands of the enervated Semites of the east, aspired to power.
After these nations had served the Assyrians a long time,—and still in the time of Salma nassar they were the vassals of that power (2 Kings 17:6)—occurred, as it appears, the catastrophe of Sennacherib before Jerusalem, which furnished the final occasion for Deioces (Ajis-dahaka=Astyages, devouring serpent), the King of the Medes, one year after that catastrophe, to shake off the oppressive yoke. Sennacherib may nevertheless, as the monuments (against Tob 1:21) prove, have reigned after that disaster seventeen years, and undertaken numerous expeditions; and even after him Assarhaddon, who maintained the city in a highly flourishing condition, may still have been a powerful king. The statement of Josephus, according to which the decline of the Assyrian power dates from the annihilation of its army before Jerusalem, still maintains its accuracy; for the “disperser” had become free; and though Assarhaddon continued to call himself the King of Media, it was an empty pretension. The Assyrians were no longer successful in subjecting the Medes. Already Deioces, the successor of Phraortes (Frawartish), began to tear away large fragments from the kingdom, and he ventured even an attack upon the central province, which was, however, repelled. In the south the Egyptians, whose country the Assyrian kings, since the time of Sargon, were fond of designating as their province, asserted with energy their independence under Tirhaka, and Assurbanipal, son of Assarhaddon, had only trifling success against them. Yea, under Psammetichus they began to enter Asia victoriously. Savage bands of entirely foreign hordes (the Scythians), passed through burning and laying waste the hither Asiatic countries (comp. Introd. to Zeph. 4); and although their invasion was at first productive of advantage to Assyria, inasmuch as Phraortes, the successor of Cyaxares, was obliged to turn away his forces from Nineveh against them, yea to enter into a kind of alliance with the chief Khan of the Scythians for twenty-eight years, still the country of Assyria suffered harm from them, and its power was more and more weakened. A still more dangerous enemy, in their own land and of their own race, arose under the encouragement of Media. Babylon, which before Nineveh, had maintained the ascendency in Hither Asia, made efforts from time to time to regain its ancient glory; but it had always again (and a short time before by Sennacherib and Assarhaddon) been defeated.
Now the time for independence appeared to have arrived. Whilst Cyaxares, by the wars which he prosecuted, surrounded Nineveh on the north, in a crescent, with his conquests, Nabopolassar (in Abyd., Eus., “Busalossor”; in Ktes., Diod. “Belesys”), whom the Assyrian king, in the days of the Assyrian oppression, had sent to hold Babylon, had taken advantage of the rebellious disposition of the people, drawn them into his plans, and made preparations to revolt. The complete overthrow of the Assyrian authority was an essential condition of the kingdom which he intended to found. For this there was need of Media. Cyaxares was still involved in war with Lydia; but an eclipse of the sun in broad daylight, which terrified the combatants, contributed to the success of Nabopolassar’s plans of mediation. Cyaxares made peace with the Lydians and an alliance with the Babylonians against the Assyrians, which was sealed by the marriage of his daughter, Amunia, with Nebuchadnezzar (in Herod. “Labynetus”), the son of Nabopolassar. Nebuchadnezzar appears from this time forward as the colleague of his father. [Whether, as from the notices of Ktesias in Diodorus and from Nicolaus Dam. it seems to follow, and as Niebuhr assumes, the Babylonian [king] entered into a feudal relation to Media, cannot from the evidently unreliable character of these sources be determined. Duncker doubts it. However, on this supposition, it would be easily explained how, on the one hand, Herodotus ascribes to Cyaxares alone the conquest, and how Berosus also mentions only Babylonian auxiliaries, whilst, on the other hand, besides Ezekiel 32:0. Abydenus also, Alexander Polyhistor and the Jewish sources external to the Bible assign the conquest to the Babylonians.]
The assault was made. In Nineveh reigned Assuridilil III., the indolent son of Assurbani-palus (Oppert; Spiegel according to H. Rawlinson I860: “Assur-emed-ilin;” Brandis according to H. Rawlinson, Nahum 1864: “Assur-irik-ili-kin;” Syncellus according to Berosus, Abyd., Alex. Polyh.: “Sarakos=Assarak.”) Notwithstanding the siege was no easy task. The king had, at the approach of the enemy, collected all his active forces into the wide plain of the city. When Ktesias relates that they continued to be collected for three years, his statement is not incredible, in view of the great strength of the city. The silence of Herodotus is no reason to the contrary, since in our text of Herodotus, it is proved from Aristotel., Hist. Anim., ed. Becker, 601, that there is a hiatus just at the determinative passage. Niebuhr thinks that, judging from the remains of the fortifications, it was impossible for the siege-engines of the ancients to effect a capture. Three times was severe defeat brought upon the besieging army by the Assyrians sallying forth; and with difficulty did Nabopolassar, whose crown was at stake, succeed in holding the Medes to the siege. Soon the Assyrians abandoned themselves, in their camp pitched before the gates, to negligent rejoicing on account of their victory (comp. Nahum 1:10); then they were attacked in the night by the besiegers and driven back to the walls. The king gave, in his despondency, the chief command to his brother-in-law, Salaemenes; but fortune had changed. Salaemenes with his troops was routed and driven into the Tigris (comp. at Nahum 3:3). But the city itself was still uninjured, and in vain did the enemy encamp before the gates. Then it came to pass, in the spring of the third year, that other powers interfered. The river became “an enemy to the city” (Ktes.); comp. at Nahum 2:7; Nahum 1:8; Nahum 1:10. The inundation occurring suddenly, was more violent than it had ever been: the mighty flood broke down in one night the walls on the river to a great extent. The king despaired of saving his life. Already had he sent his family to the north; now he shut himself up with all his treasures in the royal citadel and burned himself with them. “Of old the funeral pile was erected; yea, for the king it was prepared deep and large: it was prepared with fire and much wood, and the breath of God, like a stream of brimstone, kindles it.” (Isaiah 30:33.) An immense booty of gold and silver was carried from the city to Ecbatana and Babylon. The princes of the Medes caused the battlements of the inner walls around their castles to be covered with gold and silver plates made from it. The princes of Babylon adorned the temple of Belus with it. (Comp. at Nahum 2:10.) The plundered city was abandoned to the flames. It is evident from the ruins that both Khorsabad and Nimrud were sacked and then set on fire. (Bonomi.)
Thus was Nineveh overthrown. “Assyria lies buried there with all its people; round about are their graves, all of them are slain and fallen by the sword; they have made their graves deep there below.” (Ezekiel 32:22 f.) Panic fear kept the people of the vicinity a long time far from the ruins. Xenophon found still in their mouths gloomy traditions of the destruction of the great city, whose ruins he saw: the interposition of the Deity, whether by an eclipse, or by a fearful thunderstorm, was fully believed by them. Anab. III 4:8–12. It seems that even the eclipse, which, to the ruin of Nineveh, had put an end to the Lydian war, was laid hold of by the popular belief, as it was by the prophets, in this import of it. In later times the Parthians erected castles over the ruins. Tacitus is acquainted with Ninus as an existing fortification. (Ann., xii. 13, comp. also Ammian. Marc. xxiii. 16.) But if this fortress ever had any importance, Lucian could not have written: ‘Η μὲν Νῖνος , καὶ οὐδὲν ἲχνο; ἒτι λοιπὸν αὐτῆς, οὐδ̓ ἂν εἴπης ὃπου ποτ̓ ῆ̓ν. (’Επισκοποῦντες, ι. 292.) Compare Nahum 3:17.
The emperor Heraclius gained, a. d. 627, the great victory over Rhazates on the field of its ruins. (Gibbon, Decline and Fall, Nahum 46.) Benjamin of Tudela found again, a. d. 1170, on its site, many villages and castles. But about a. d. 1300 it is again asserted that Nineveh is entirely destroyed. Thus it remained long forgotten. Bochart (Phaleg., vi. 20, p. 284) states that the learned endeavor in vain to determine its situation. “Immensa urbs ac fere insuperabilis per multa secula diruta jacet; imperii olim amplissimi munimenta, splendoris regiique apparatus domicilia hodierno die diffudit aratrum, aut seduli accolœ, qui vias per medias ruinas sequuntur, conculcant. Verno tempore nunc aggeres graminibus se vestiunt omniaque collium ab ipsa natura perfectorum jugo tam similia sunt, ut Niebuhrius quœ munimenta trans-gressus esset, Mossulœ demum acceperit.” (Tuch, p. 55 f.) The spirit of inquiry, during the last decades, has reanimated the dust of the past for a witness of the truth of God’s Word. “Qui viderit ruinas Nineves el positam eam omnibus in exemplum, expavescet et mirabitur. Hieronymus, Ad Nah. iii. 7.
That the siege and conquest described above are predicted by Nahum cannot be doubted. The strange hypothesis of Kalinsky that Nahum foretells two conquests: the one, chap, 2, related by Ktesias-Diodorus; the other, Nahum 3:0, by Herodotus, scarcely requires mention.
More difficult, however, is the fixing of the time when the conquest took place. It was for a time considered settled that it should be placed in the year 606. (Clinton, Fasti Hellenici, i. 269; Layard, Nineveh and its Remains, 273; O. Strauss, p. lxxv.; Duncker, p. 803.) We consider this date the most probable, even after the antagonistic opinion of Keil.
In favor of this first of all is the synchronism of the Biblical statements. If in the time of Josiah a king of Assyria is still mentioned (2 Kings 23:29), it follows that Nineveh could not have been destroyed before Josiah’s death in 609. If Jeremiah (Nahum 25) enumerates, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, the kingdoms of the world which were still to be destroyed, and does not mention Assyria among them, then its destruction cannot fall after 605.
Further, the more authentic sources of Jewish literature are in favor of this date. Tobias becomes blind in the year 710 (Clinton), and lives still after this one hundred years (Nahum 14 gr.); and yet Nineveh was not destroyed until after his death. The Seder Olam Rabba states (Nahum 24 comp. the parallels from other Rabbinical writings in Meyer’s Observations on the Seder, p. 1131), that Nebuchadnezzar in his first year [consequently (comp. Jeremiah 25:1), immediately before the date of the passage from Jeremiah mentioned above] destroyed Nineveh.
Finally, the chronology of profane writers also favors this date. “According to Herodotus the conquest falls after the Lydian war of Cyaxares (i. 106). This war was terminated after the tenth of September, 610, by a treaty of peace. The armies of the allies, therefore, could not appear before Nineveh before the spring of 609. In the third year of the siege the city was taken (Diodorus, 2:27); the capture was facilitated by the overflowing of the river, and must consequently have taken place in the spring. When the capture took place, Nabopolassar was still living, and took possession of the Assyrian territory situated on this side of the Tigris (Alex. Polyh. in Syncellus, p. 396 ed. Dind.). But Nabopolassar died in January 604, according to the Astronomical Canon. It can, therefore, be only a matter of doubt whether the capture occurred in 606 or 605. Since, however, Nebuchadnezzar, in the year 605, defeated Necho at Carchemish and pursued him as far as Syria, where he was informed, first that his father was sick, and then that he was dead (Jos., Ant., x. 11, 1), the capture of the city must have already taken place in 606.” (Duncker.)
This last reason Keil has attacked. Both his arguments against it, which he has drawn from the state of affairs, are unimportant. That Cyaxares, soon after the termination of the Lydian war, set out against Nineveh, has, according to our representation of circumstances given above, nothing surprising; but on the contrary it was quite natural. Nabopolassar had brought about a peace, in order to bring the Mede into the field against Nineveh as soon as possible; for to him delay was dangerous. Nor is it at all improbable, that soon after the fall of Nineveh, the son of Nabopolassar, eager for war, led his troops elated with victory against the Egyptian Necho, vanquished him and pursued him a great distance. The third objection is of greater importance. An eclipse of the sun, which, according to the statement of Herodotus, was the occasion of terminating the Lydian war, cannot be established on the 30th of September, 610, but only on the 8th of May, 622, or on the 28th of May, 585. The last date cannot come into consideration; therefore that treaty of peace may be transferred to the year 622, and the capture of Nineveh may fall nearer to this date than to 605. However the eclipse of the sun of September 30, 610, according to Oltmanus for those countries concerned, was not quite total, yet nearly so: only a fiftieth part of the disk of the sun remained uneclipsed. (Ideler, Chronol., i. 209 ff.) And even if the computation of certain English astronomers should be correct, that the eclipse of the sun of that date did not touch Hither Asia, but went further to the east (Nieb, p. 48), it would only compel us to seek the battle field eastward from Asia Minor. And considering the ambiguity of the expression of Herodotus (“the day was turned to night,”) the possibility is not at all excluded, that instead of an eclipse of the sun, the reference is to one of those sudden obscurations of the atmosphere, which often occur in those countries. (Dio Cass., 66:22 ff.; Plin., Ep., vi. 20. Also in Matthew 27:45, the statement does not refer to an eclipse of the sun; for the Passover fell at the time of the full moon.) At all events the argument, which would put in the place of an accord of so many consistencies, a sum of as many difficulties and contradictions, is neither evident enough nor at all adequate to overthrow the synchronism of Biblical and profane writers given above. The date computed by Seyffarth for 626 (in the appendix to the German translation of Layard’s Nineveh and its Remains, p. 476), entirely fails.
[Texts from Nahum quoted by Rawlinson, and illustrated, by profane history and recent discoveries:—
Nahum 1:8, Rawlinson’s Herodotus, vol. i. p. 391
Nahum 2:5-6, Rawlinson’s Herodotus, vol. i. p. 391
Nahum 2:6, Rawlinson’s Herodotus, vol. i. p. 328
Nahum 2:5, Rawlinson’s Herodotus, vol. i. p. 462
Nahum 3:3, Rawlinson’s Herodotus, vol. ii. p. 25
Nahum 3:8, Rawlinson’s Herodotus, vol. ii. p. 150
Nahum 3:8, Rawlinson’s Herodotus, vol. iii. p. 33
Nahum 3:13, Rawlinson’s Herodotus, vol. i. p. 328
Nahum 3:13, Rawlinson’s Herodotus, vol. i. p. 391
Nahum 3:18-19 Rawlinson’s Herodotus, vol. i. p. 392
Nahum 3:18-19 Rawlinson’s Herodotus, vol. i. p. 409.
Much illustrative matter on the arts, costume, military system, private life, and religion of the Assyrians, is found in Layard’s Nineveh and its Remains, to which the reader is referred. C. E.]
Separate Commentaries.—Th. Bibliander, Propheta Nahum Juxta Veritatem Hebraicam, Tig., 1534, 12mo.
Lud. Crocii, Comm. in Nah. Proph., Brem., 1620, 12mo.
I. H. Ursinus, Hypomnemata in Obadjam et Nahum, Francf., 1652.
Abarbanel, Comm. in Nah. Rabb. et Lat., ed. Sprecher, Helmst., 1703.
I. G. Kalinski, Vaticinia (Habacuci et) Nahumi, itemque nonnulla Jesajœ, etc., illustrata, Vratisl., 1748, 4to.
Lessing, Observatt. in Vatt. (Jonœ et) Nahumi, Chemn., 1780.
C. F. Stäudlin, (Hosea) Nahum (et Hab.), neu übersetzt und erläutert [newly translated and explained], Stuttg., 1786.
E. J. Greve, Vatt. Nah. et Hab., ed. metrica, Amst., 1793, 4to.
Eb. Kreenen, Nah. Vaticinium Philologice et Critice Expositum, Hardervici, 1808, 4to.
C. W. Justi, Nah. neu übersetz und erläutert [Nah. newly translated and explained], Lips., 1820.
H. Middeldorpff, Nahum, aus dem Hebr. übersetzt, mit Vorwort und Anm. v. Gurlitt [Nahum translated from the Hebrew, with preface and annotations by Gurlitt], Hamb., 1808.
A. G. Hoelemann, Nahumi Oraculum, etc., illustravit, Lips., 1842.
O. Strauss, Nahumi de Nino Vaticinium, Berol., 1853.
Separate Treatises.—Ch. M. Fraehn, Curarum Exegetico-criticarum in Nah. Prophetam Specimen, Rostock, 1806.
O. Strauss, Nineveh und das Wort Gottes [Nineveh and the Word of God], Berl., 1855.
Vance Smith, The Prophecies relating to Nineveh and the Assyrians, London, 1857.
Mich. Breiteneicher, Nineveh und Nahum, München, 1861.
L. Reinke, Kritik der ältern Versionen des Proph. Nah. [Critique of the Older Versions of the Prophet Nahum], Münster, 1867.
Devotional.—J. Quistorp, Kriegspredigten oder Erklärung des Propheten Nahum [War Sermons, or Elucidation of the Prophet Nahum], Rost., 1628, 4to.
D. Heinrici, Nahumus Pacificus, h. e. de Pace (2, 1), Lips., 1650. The Literature on Nineveh, see above, Introd. pp. 8, 9.
[Matt. Haffenrefferi, Comm. in Nahum et Habacuc, Stutgardiæ, 1663, 4to.
Vat. Nahumi Observatt. Phil. illustratum; Diss. præs. M. C. M. Agrell, resp. N. S. Colliander, Upsalæ, 1788, 4to.
Translations with expositions by S. F. Günth. Wahl, in his Mag. 1790; H. A. Grimm, 1790; Moses Neumann, Breslau, 1808.—C. E.]
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18