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Bible Commentaries

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Nahum 1

Introduction

NAHUM CHAPTER 1

The majesty of God in goodness to his people, and severity against his enemies.

Verse 1

The burden: when the prophets were sent to denounce future judgments against a nation or city, the word was usually called the burden of that nation or city; as, the burden of Moab, Isaiah 15:1; of Egypt, Isaiah 19:1; of Babylon, Isaiah 13:1; of Damascus, Isaiah 17:1. So here the calamities foretold are called the burden of Nineveh. Nineveh was the mother city of the Assyrian kingdom, and so, by a synecdoche, is here to be interpreted as including the whole kingdom, which is threatened with destruction in the destruction of Nineveh. It was a city very ancient, built by Asshur, son of Nimrod; repaired and enlarged by Ninus, giving name to the city he repaired, Nineveh, A.M. 1905, or 1908.

The book; either because written and sent to Nineveh, or else because written and left to be read by posterity. The vision, or prophecy, for prophets were of old called seers, 1 Samuel 9:9, and their prophecies were called visions; or it may include the manner in which Nahum was informed what was coming upon Nineveh, God revealed, and the prophet foresaw the things.

Nahum; his name speaks a comforter, but it is to God's people, to whom he gives notice of the destruction of their oppressors. His family, place of birth, and time of prophesying, are somewhat uncertain; perhaps he might prophesy in the time of Hezekiah, when the ten tribes were carried captive by Shalmaneser.

The Elkoshite: whether this speaks Nahum's family, or town where born or his country in general, is not certain, but probably it is the village Elkosh in Galilee, by which he is here called.

Verse 2

God; the mighty God, so the French version, and the Hebrew אל implieth it.

Is jealous; his love is fervent for his people, his displeasure hot against his and their enemies, whose idolatries he will not long bear against himself, nor their cruelties and rage against his people; but, as jealous for his people’s good, and for his own glory, he will appear and act: so Isaiah 42:13; Ezekiel 39:25; Zechariah 1:14; Zechariah 8:2.

The Lord; Jehovah, the everlasting and unchangeable God, the same always towards his people. Revengeth; as supreme Governor, who by office is, and accounts himself, bound to right the oppressed, and to punish the oppressor; so vengeance is the Lord’s, and he will repay.

The Lord revengeth; it is repeated for confirming the truth, and to affect the wicked with terror, and to awaken them to a timely repentance; to affect God’s own people with joy and hope, that they may wait on him till they see the vengeance from God, mighty, judge, zealous, unchangeable, and eternal.

Is furious, Heb. is Lord or Master of fury; not like furious men, who cannot command or govern their anger, but grow suddenly furious, and as suddenly pour it forth, whether seasonably or unseasonably they regard not; but God, who here threatens enemies, and comforts his friends, is as much Lord of his anger, as he is Lord of power and wisdom to execute his displeasure in fittest time.

Will take vengeance; when it is most seasonable he should do it he most certainly will do it.

He reserveth wrath: this explains the former phrase,

Lord of fury; God restrains and keeps in his own anger, which grows greater by the sufferings of his people and sins of his enemies.

Verse 3

The Lord is slow to anger; not slack, as some count slackness, 2 Peter 3:9, either in performing promise, or executing threats; but very wisely patient and long-suffering, which is ever tempered with great mercy, and both are joined together in his providence and in his word: see Exodus 34:6; Numbers 14:18; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalms 103:8 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2.

Anger; just displeasure conceived and expressed: the Lord doth not presently entertain resentments of displeasure, nor make sinners feel them; he doth now, as he long hath, forborne you, O sinful Ninevites, O cruel Assyrians! but consider it, his slow anger will be the heavier when it falls on you.

Great in power; most mighty in power, which restrains the rage of enemies, defends and supports his oppressed ones, and in a moment can destroy those that have deserved, yet fear not his anger: that the Assyrians are not yet destroyed is the effect of patience, not of impotence, in the God of Israel.

And will. This is spoken to awaken the secure kingdom, in which many, it is like, were as the scoffers, 2 Peter 3:4, ready to say, All things do continue as they were, there will be no change, no judgment against the wicked. But our prophet assures such, that as there is great power with God, he can, so there is exact justice and stedfast resolution, he will judge.

Not at all acquit; neither pronounce them innocent by sentence of judgment, nor let them escape as if innocent by a perpetuated forbearance in the course of his providence; but, sooner or later, in due season the wickedness or righteousness of them shall be upon them.

The wicked; the incorrigible, hardened, and persisting sinner.

The Lord hath his way; either the methods of his providence, his usual path; or else his way, intimating the unerring steadiness of providence, the straight and known path; however to us it may seem, yet certainly God knows and keeps the right way.

In the whirlwind; which riseth suddenly, and with violence beareth before it all things that stand in its way; which none can prevent, which no man can calm, which is attended with terror and amazement, Job 27:20; Isaiah 17:13; Isaiah 29:6; Amos 1:14; so will destruction from the mighty and just displeasure of God come upon his adversaries, and on you Ninevites and Assyrians, when you shall fall before his whirlwind and tempest; so all impenitent sinners perish, Proverbs 1:27.

In the storm; the Hebrew speaks a dreadful tempest, which makes men full of horror; it is an elegant ingemination of the same thing, to affect hearers the more.

The clouds are the dust of his feet; though he be surrounded with darkness, yet as an army afar off is discovered by the dust that their feet raise, so will God at last appear as an enemy with great power marching against his enemies, and from above, as well as from the darkness of clouds, destroy them. This is spoken after the manner of man, and must be applied as beseems God.

Verse 4

He rebuketh: he once did rebuke, as Exodus 14:21; he still can, as a lord rebuketh his servant, or a general rebukes his soldier, by word or look, Isaiah 1:0; Isaiah 2:0.

The sea; literally understood, or figuratively, it imports still that he can deliver his people, and destroy his adversaries, as of old he did.

And maketh it dry; his word or will doth as speedily do this thing, as it doth proceed from God; he commands, and it is done.

And drieth up all the rivers: so Jordan saw or heard the rebuke of our God, and fled, or was driven back, Joshua 3:15,Joshua 3:16; Psalms 114:3; and what he once did upon Jordan, that he can do on all other rivers: and so are we to understand the words.

Bashan; it lay eastward of Jordan, was the kingdom of Og; it was famous for oaks, Ezekiel 27:6; for cattle also, as bulls, Psalms 22:12, and rains, Deuteronomy 32:14; and was given to the half tribe of Manasseh.

Languisheth; grows barren, as if under a consumptive languishing, is not longer sufficient to feed the cattle that were wont to feed and grow fat upon it.

Carmel; a very fruitful mountain, either in the confines of Zebulun and Asher northward, Joshua 12:22, where Elijah by fire from heaven contended with and convicted the Baalites; or else this Carmel might be that where Nabal dwelt, 1 Samuel 25:2, famous for its rich pastures; this was more southward than the other, and not far from Hebron.

The flower; whatever flourished and was beautiful, trees, their blossoms, and the flowers which were wont to be the glory of it.

Lebanon; a mountain that runs from the coast of the Phoenician Sea westward, for one hundred and twenty-five miles more or less eastward; and verging toward Arabia, it is the north boundary of Judea, and divides it front Syria; famous for its fruitfulness, as for its height.

Languisheth; loseth its strength and virtue; both the product, and the very soil that produceth too, soon fall into a consumption.

Verse 5

The mountains; the more known mountains of that country were mentioned Nahum 1:4, now the prophet doth extend his speech to all mountains, how great soever, and how fast soever their foundations are laid.

Quake; tremble at his rebuke; not only are shaken by earthquakes from natural causes, disposed by God’s power and wisdom, but are shaken and tremble under the effects of his extraordinary presence, Judges 5:4; Job 9:5; Psalms 29:6; Jeremiah 10:10.

At him; by his power, or at his displeasure, or indeed at his presence, Psalms 68:8, and so the Chaldee paraphrast.

The hills; the lesser hills, distinguished from mountains, or else it is a confirming ingemination of what he had said.

Melt: God’s rebuke is as fire; mountains and hills, like wax, melt down before it, Psalms 114:6-8.

The earth, which seems to be secure against the fury of the fire, yet proves combustible under the fire of God’s wrath.

Is burnt; or else, is taken away, withdraws itself, lifts up itself, as sometimes in earthquakes; or, as the Gallic version, mounteth up in fire; the Hebrew imports all these.

The world; the habitable world.

All that dwell therein; whether they be far off or near to Israel; both men, and all the rest of the creatures, whose abode is on earth, are wonderfully shaken, affrighted, and overwhelmed at the tokens of God’s rebuke.

Verse 6

Who can stand before his indignation? since God can do all this, who among the Assyrians, who among the Ninevites, what kingdom or monarchy, is mighty enough to resist or defeat the counsel and power of this God, who will ere long rebuke, and pour out his indignation upon them.

Who can abide; be able to endure, or continue in flourishing, peaceful, safe, or joyful state? It is much the same with standing, before mentioned.

The fierceness of his anger; this explains the former; the heat of his anger is his indignation, and no creature can bear it.

His fury: fury in man speaks somewhat culpable and blameworthy, but in God it cannot be so, it is the intenseness of his just and wise displeasure.

Is poured out, with most righteous and wise direction by God himself who is as Nahum 1:2, which see.

Like fire; not in the unsteadiness and unruliness, but in the vehemency, spreading nature, and irresistible force of it; as in Sodom’s overthrow.

The rocks are thrown down by him; though foundations do support other things, yet they cannot support themselves against their God when once angry.

Verse 7

The Lord is good; though so terrible to his enemies, to obstinate sinners, yet he is as gentle, kind, and good to his people, to Israel; so the Chaldee paraphrast.

Is good; in his just severity he continueth to be good. None of that consuming anger comes from any want of goodness in God; yea, it is as much an effect of his goodness, as just punishments on incorrigible malefactors are the effects of goodness in a judge or magistrate. But here the prophet intends rather the kindness and grace of God towards his people, to whom he doth good, and will do more. Psalms 73:1; Psalms 119:68.

A strong hold; it might have been rendered, good to be a strong hold, as the Hebrew affix imports, and is sometimes rendered. Though Israel seems to be exposed to the violence of enemies, and to be without any munition or fortress, yet verily the Lord their God is for a defence and fortress to them, Psalms 31:3; Psalms 61:3; Proverbs 18:10, and is their strength also in that fortress.

In the day of trouble; at all times of affliction and danger, when outward pressures fill us with anguish and fears.

Knoweth; discerneth, approveth, owneth, and will make it appear that he doth preserve, that he may deliver his peculiar ones. He knows the wicked, and will restrain, rebuke, and destroy them; he knows the good, and will protect, rescue, and save them.

Them; whether you consider them in a body and community, or by themselves apart, or singly.

That trust; believe, depend, and wait on God, they that depend by faith, and wait with hope.

In him; on God, or on Christ, or on the word and promise of God. So God was to those that trusted in his word of promise in Hezekiah’s time.

Verse 8

But, or And, or Therefore, since God is so good to Israel oppressed by Assyria, and so terrible, just, and mighty to punish oppressors.

With an overrunning flood; his judgments, like a mighty flood that overfloweth all banks, and scorns all that might check it, shall swallow up Assyria and Nineveh. which was in part effected by Phraortes about A.M. 3312, and in part by his son Cyaxares, who broke the Assyrian kingdom, and took Nineveh.

He, the Lord, by the Medes, will make an utter end, will destroy, so that it shall never recover or be rebuilt,

of the place thereof; of Nineveh, that is, Nineveh itself. So in Scripture sometimes the place is said to perish when the thing itself doth, as Daniel 2:35; Revelation 12:8; Revelation 20:11.

Darkness: troubles, desolating afflictions, extreme evils. in Scripture style, are called darkness, Job 15:22; Job 17:12; Psalms 35:6; Psalms 55:5; Ecclesiastes 5:17; Isaiah 42:7; Isaiah 59:9, &c.; Joel 2:2.

Shall pursue; not a single calamity, which is soon at an end, but indeed a succession of calamities, a continued course of them, shall pursue: so Phraortes began, Cyaxares continued, Scythians helped on, and Astyages finally, with four hundred thousand men, finished the pursuit in the sack and ruin of Nineveh after two years’ siege.

His enemies; the Ninevites and Assyrians.

Verse 9

Having declared the dreadfulness of God’s power and anger against the wicked, his goodness towards his people, and denounced future destruction against the Ninevites and Assyrians, he doth now expostulate with them, would know what it is they think of God, what it is they design against him, and on what ground they flatter themselves into such an attempt.

Against the Lord, the God of Israel; for however you, O Ninevites and Assyrians, will look only upon a poor, afflicted people, (weakened by many wars,) and design to swallow them up, yet they are the people of the Lord, and you design against him what you design against them.

He will make an utter end; he will make your utter desolation to be the issue of your projects, and the punishment of your sins: see Nahum 1:8.

Affliction shall not rise up the second time; when that storm which shall overthrow you is past, no other shall arise, because you shall be no more; as if the prophet had said, God will at once and for ever destroy your empire and city.

Verse 10

This gives us account how this desolation shall be effected.

While they be folded together as thorns; they should be like thorns easily burnt, and like thorns folden together, which burn together, and help to destroy each other, or are all together cast into the fire.

While they are drunken as drunkards; as men drunken, and unable to help themselves, are easily destroyed, so shall the Assyrians be; or, drunk with pleasures and pride, they shall be surprised, and ruined, and easily overthrown.

They shall be devoured as stubble fully dry: this fully expresseth the speedy, irresistible, and total destruction that the anger of God will bring upon them; as the fire burns up all the dried stubble, so shall the wrath of God destroy the enemies of Israel and of Israel’s God.

Verse 11

There is one: this is a very usual dialect to express an uncertain number; several are contained in such one; though if you will determine it to one single person, it is very like it may be Sennacherib or Rabshakeh. Come out: from Nineveh he set forth on that expedition against Judea in the days of Hezekiah.

Of thee; Nineveh. That imagineth evil against the Lord; consulteth, hath formed, and resolved upon it. So it is evident by his blasphemies against the Lord, Isaiah 36:7,Isaiah 36:18,Isaiah 36:20; Isaiah 37:10,Isaiah 37:24,Isaiah 37:29; 2 Chronicles 32:14,2 Chronicles 32:15,2 Chronicles 32:17,2 Chronicles 32:19. And he imagined evil against the people of the Lord, 2 Chronicles 32:1.

A wicked counsellor; one whose counsels and projects are without any regard to right and equity, who by injustice and oppressions, who by frauds and deceits, by blood and slaughter, designs his own greatness, and the ruin of his neighbours.

Verse 12

Thus saith the Lord: this addeth weight to his prediction, it comes under the great seal of Heaven.

Though they be quiet, and likewise many; or, If they would have been quiet and peaceable towards my people, Israel, they, i.e. the Assyrians, should have been many, &c.; but I think it is nearer to the intent of the place to retain our version. Though they, citizens of Nineveh, and people of Assyria, be quiet, be secure, and fear no danger, because of their strength and victories, and likewise many; as appears by the mighty army with which they besieged Jerusalem, in which one hundred and eighty-five thousand were cut off in one night.

Yet thus, irresistibly, suddenly, and universally, as is foretold Nahum 1:10,

shall they be cut down: the prophet varieth his phrase, for, Nahum 1:10, he speaks of it as done by fire, here he speaks of cutting down, intimating that it was the sword which should cut them off.

When he shall pass through; either God, the mighty and terrible One, passing over as a flood, as it is Nahum 1:8; or else the angel of the Lord, as 2 Kings 19:35.

Though I, the Lord, who am good to my people,

have afflicted thee, O Israel,

I will afflict thee no more; chastised by the Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, hast thou been, O my people, but I will no more use that rod; for they should soon cease to be a nation that ruleth, and be conquered and oppressed by others.

Verse 13

The Lord confirms the prediction, by declaring how it should be done.

Now; ere long; and in few years after this was done, though we cannot precisely determine how soon it was.

I will break, as that which is broken into pieces,

his yoke, Sennacherib’s, or rather the tyranny and oppression of the Assyrian kingdom,

from off thee, O Israel, and Jerusalem.

And will burst thy bonds; those unjust impositions and edicts, which, as strong bonds, fastened his heavy yoke upon thy neck. They are the bonds of Assyria, as laid upon Israel; they are Israel’s bonds, as borne by Israel.

Verse 14

The Lord, God of Israel, against whom thou imaginest evil, hath given a commandment; determined with himself, and given charge to the Medes, which in due season they will observe, and, with assistance of the Chaldeans, will fitly execute.

Concerning thee, or against thee, Sennacherib; thy royal family, and the whole kingdom of Assyria. That no more of thy name be sown: though Esar-haddon, son to this Sennacherib, did succeed his father, yet may it be rather said he was never sown. he never took root, but was like seed that, falling on the surface of the earth, there withers and dies; or else, none shall bear thy name and title, but hereafter thy kingdom shall be swallowed up by the power, and silenced in the name, of the Babylonian or Chaldean monarchy.

The house of thy gods; temples built for their heathenish worship.

Gods; idols, intimating the number of them, and the chiefest of them.

I will cut off; destroy and abolish; so idolatrous conquerors were God’s servants to cut off idolatrous worship and idols of the conquered nations: so did this Sennacherib destroy the idols of the conquered, 2 Kings 18:33,2 Kings 18:34; Isaiah 37:19; so should they do against the Assyrian idols, who were appointed of God to waste Nineveh.

Cut off the graven image: either it respecteth the universal destruction of the idols, all cut off, not one left; or rather some one more noted, depended on, worshipped, called Nisroch, Isaiah 37:38, by some thought to be the sun; but nothing in particular is elsewhere recorded of this idol, or its worship.

And the molten image: added either to intimate that all idols should fall in the future ruin of the kingdom, or to let us know that neither the worth of the metal of which the image was made, and the curiosity of the work, nor yet the pretext of sacred as a god, should be any safeguard to it.

I will make thy grave; thou shalt not have a royal, magnificent tomb made by thy successor, or such as honour thee, but thou shalt be either buried in obscurity, or else thy tomb shall relate thy vileness, as it is reported it did by this inscription under Sennacherib’s statue in an Egyptian temple, Eις εμε ορων ευσεβης εστω, Learn to fear God who lookest on me.

For thou art vile; despised since thy defeat before Jerusalem; or rather hast been a vile, profane despiser of God, whom thou hast blasphemed and reproached, and an oppressor of men, whom thou hast slain or enslaved, unworthy of life, and unworthy of a grave when dead.

Verse 15

Behold: as this speaks some unexpected thing, so it calls for our heeding and minding of it.

Upon the mountains; over which he must needs come that either came from the Assyrian camp, where the miraculous slaughter was made, or from Nineveh, where the fugitive defeated tyrant was slain; many mountains environing Jerusalem, and lying dispersed in Judea, over which the messengers came, who brought news of Sennacherib’s death, or downfall of the Assyrian kingdom.

Good tidings; good news indeed to an oppressed and weakened people, at which they might well rejoice indeed, if it be considered what this tyrant intended, see Isaiah 10:5-31 now he is dead who designed the mischief.

Publisheth; proclaimeth, and tells to every one he meets.

Peace; not by league or friendship with the Assyrian, but as the consequent of his death, and overthrow of his kingdom.

Keep thy solemn feasts; be careful to serve God and worship him, ye that are his people. Perform thy vows, made in thy deep distress, when all seemed lost and forlorn. The wicked; that wicked counsellor, Nahum 1:11, the violent oppressor, proud Sennacherib, who shall fall by the sword, or rather is fallen by it, in his own land, when this messenger of glad tidings came, Isaiah 37:7,Isaiah 37:37,Isaiah 37:38.

Shall no more pass through thee; neither as a conqueror who beareth all down before him, nor as a triumpher glorifying in his acquists which in progress he takes view of.

He is utterly cut off; murdered by his sons, his kingdom shaken by intestine troubles arising on the slaughter of his army, and an anarchy, or interregnum, whilst the two brethren parricides warred with the third for the crown, and all three were in that juncture, as in an opportune season, invaded, subdued, and destroyed by Merodach-baladan king of Babylon: see Isaiah 10:0.

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Nahum 1". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mpc/nahum-1.html. 1685.