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by Matthew Poole
THE prophet Nahum is one of those prophets whose family and country are concealed, and it would be more labour than profit to spend time on the inquiry after the one or other. He is styled the Elkoshite, and possibly born and bred in Elkosh, a town of Galilee, an obscure place, of which perhaps we had heard no more, had it not been written that this man was born there, to allude to that of the psalmist, Psalms 87:5. The time of his appearing in public to discharge his prophetic office is much more material, being a key to the whole prophecy. Now it is certain that Nahum was a prophet in office whilst the kingdom of Assyria was not only standing, but whilst it was standing in its glory and entire strength, whilst it was dangerous and terrible to its neighbours. It is to me evident that Nahum prophesied before the destruction of Sennacherib's army, for he foretelleth the death of Sennacherib, Nahum 1:14. It is certain also he appeared after Hoshea and the ten tribes were carried captives by Shalmaneser. This was either in A.M. 3229, as Helvicus, or 3283, as Archbishop Usher and Doctor Lightfoot, in the ninth year of Hoshea, which was the sixth of Hezekiah, 2 Kings 18:10, and some few years before the death of Shalmaneser, whose son Sennacherib succeeded, and invaded Egypt and Judah in the fourteenth year of Hezekiah, eight years after Samaria was taken and the ten tribes were captivated; within which time, and probably toward the fifth of those eight, Nahum is sent a prophet to quiet, support, and encourage Hezekiah and his subjects against all the threats and power of the Assyrian tyrant, who threatened to destroy Judah and Jerusalem, from accomplishing whereof the tyrant shall be so far that God will turn it to his ruin; and here, as a very fit season, the prophet declareth the final and utter ruin of the Assyrian empire and its capital city Nineveh, as a just revenge for all their oppressions of their neighbours, but especially in revenge of their reiterated violence against Israel and Judah: on account of which good tidings the prophet hath his name Nahum, which in the Hebrew is from a word signifying to comfort; and also to repent; indeed repentance is preparatory to comfort; and though his preaching against Nineveh be the comfort of Jerusalem, no doubt he called Jerusalem to repent, which is probably collected from Nahum 1:15, O Judah, keep thy solemn feasts, perform thy vows. This whole prophecy, except the 15th verse of this chapter, is directed against Nineveh, head city of the Assyrian kingdom, and against the whole kingdom; which, with all sorts of men and women in it, are threatened with very sore and heavy judgments, with final desolation, or captivity, for their sins; all which was fulfilled by the Lord, using the Babylonian and Median power to overthrow this power of Assyria, and particularly by the joint forces of Nabopollassar and Astyages, as is by the most learned Archbishop Usher observed, in A. M, 3378. Yet others tell us the final ruin of the Assyrian kingdom, foretold by Nahum, came much sooner, and that in the death of Esarhaddon, or Assaradinus, the Assyrian monarchs did expire. But though I determine not the number of years during which this threatened monarchy did stand, yet, be they fewer or more, Nahum's prophecy was fulfilled in the destruction of Nineveh and the subversion of the Assyrian monarchy, and the Jews were no more infested by the Assyrian though they were by the Babylonian kingdom. The things then spoken of by Nahum do in the letter and historical part of them concern the times between the twelfth or fourteenth of Hezekiah and the end of the Assyrian monarchy. And a skilful observer of the histories of those times would be best able to interpret this prophet, nor shall any do it tolerably well without recourse to those histories, which, though not cited here at large, (which brief annotations admit not,) yet have not been quite neglected; and what errors in applying the histories and computation of times are here committed, all will candidly excuse who know the obscurity and uncertainty of those times.
the Seventh Sunday after Easter