Nahum 3:1. Wo to the bloody city — Here God shows the cause of his bringing destruction on Nineveh, and overthrowing the Assyrian empire. And first, it is declared, that Nineveh was a city in which acts of cruelty abounded, and innocent blood was frequently shed; that it was also full of deceit, falsehood, and rapine; unjustly and continually increasing its riches by the plunder of the neighbouring countries, which had done them no injury.
Nahum 3:2-3. The noise of a whip, &c. — These verses are highly poetical; the prophet tells them, that he already hears the sound of the whips driving on the horses, and the rattling of the chariot wheels, &c., of their enemies coming against them. The horseman lifteth up both the bright sword, &c. — In the Hebrew it is, The horseman lifteth up the flame of the sword, and the lightning of the spear, which is more poetical than our rendering. The style of the whole passage is extremely fine; scarce any thing can be more picturesque, or strongly descriptive of a victorious army.
Nahum 3:4. Because of the multitude, &c. — That is, this judgment is executed upon Nineveh because of the multitude of her whoredoms, by which idolatrous rites seem to be meant, for they are generally called whoredoms in the Scripture. Nineveh is called a well-favoured harlot, because, by her example and influence, she drew in other places to practise the same idolatries and other vices of which she was guilty. That selleth nations through her whoredoms — That makes whole nations a prey to their enemies, by encouraging them to worship idols, and thereby exposing themselves to the wrath of God: or by teaching them the arts of softness and effeminacy, and so rendering them weak and defenceless. As the violence and injustice of the Ninevites had been represented under the emblem of a lion, the prophet here paints their irregularities, their idolatry, and corruption, under the idea of a prostitute enticing men to commit lewdness.
Nahum 3:5-7. Behold, I will discover thy skirts, &c., upon thy face — Nineveh, as a harlot, had been proud, and appeared beautiful and gay in the gifts of her lovers, but now God would deal with her according to her ways, would send her into captivity naked and bare, exposed to the greatest infamy, or would deal with her as inhuman soldiers deal with captive women. And I will show, &c. — I will expose thy shame to the world, a punishment often inflicted upon harlots: see note on Ezekiel 16:37. I will cast abominable filth upon thee — I will deprive thee of all thine ornaments, and cover thee with shame and reproach. And will set thee as a gazing-stock — I will make a public example of thee. All they that look upon thee shall flee from thee — As being affrighted at the sight of thy dismal condition, and not willing to lend thee any assistance. Who will bemoan her? &c. — Thou didst so offend all people in thy prosperity, that all will rejoice at thy fall, and none will be found to lament or condole with thee.
Nahum 3:8-10. Art thou better than populous No — Art thou in a better or safer condition; or hast thou more merit than the famous populous city of No? The Hebrew reads, No-ammon, the same city which is spoken of Jeremiah 46:25; and Ezekiel 30:15; where see the notes; and where our version reads, the multitude of No, as here, populous No. It is thought by some, that the place took its rise from Ham, by whose posterity Egypt was peopled, (thence called the land of Ham, Psalms 106:22,) and who was worshipped under the name of Jupiter-ammon. Accordingly the LXX. render it Diospolis, that is, the city of Jupiter. That was situate among the rivers — Which was defended by the river Nile on the one side, and the Red sea on the other, as by so many walls and ramparts. Ethiopia and Egypt were her strength — Their forces defended this city. And it was infinite — Houbigant renders the verse, The Ethiopians and Egyptians, who are innumerable, were her strength; the Africans and Libyans were her helpers. Yet was she carried away — It is evident that Nahum does not here foretel the destruction of No-ammon as an event yet to come, but speaks of it as a transaction past, although but lately. It therefore cannot be attributed to Nebuchadnezzar, for that would suppose it to have happened after the destruction of Nineveh, instead of before it. Dr. Prideaux, with more reason, believes that it was effected by Sennacherib, about three years before he besieged Jerusalem, in the time of Hezekiah. At that time Sevechus, the son of Sabaccon, or So, mentioned 2 Kings 17:4, was king both of Egypt and Ethiopia; so they are mentioned here as confederates, and Isaiah foretels that they should be vanquished by Sargon, or Sennacherib. They cast lots for her honourable men — Conquerors used to cast lots what captives should come to each man’s share: see note on Obadiah 1:11.
Nahum 3:11-13. Thou also shalt be drunken — Thou shalt drink deep of the bitter cup of God’s displeasure. Thou shalt be hid, &c. — Thou shalt not dare to appear in the open field. Thou shalt seek strength because of the enemy — Thou shalt retire into thy strong holds, or fortified places, for fear of the enemy. All thy strong holds shall be like fig-trees — As figs when quite ripe drop off from the trees by the least shaking, so shall thy strong holds fall into the enemies’ hands upon the first assault. The gates of thy land shall be set wide open, &c. — The several passages, by which the enemy may invade thee, shall be open to them, either through fear or treachery, or shall be easily forced. The fire shall devour thy bars — With which the gates were shut and strengthened.
Nahum 3:14-15. Draw thee waters for the siege — Fill all thy cisterns, and draw the waters into the ditches. Go into the clay, &c. — Set thy brickmakers on work to prepare store of materials for thy fortifications. There shall the fire devour thee — After all that thou canst do, the fire of the enemy shall reach even thy inmost works, and their darts shall drive off the defenders of them. The sword shall cut thee off — The Hebrew word, which we render here sword, properly signifies any kind of dart; and this seems to be spoken of the fire, and missile weapons which the enemy should throw, in order to burn their inner works, or drive them from off them. It shall eat thee up like the canker-worm — The sword of the enemy shall destroy thee, as the canker-worm eats up the fruits of the earth. Or, as some interpret the expression, Thou shalt be devoured as the cankerworm is eaten up; because the Assyrians were wont to eat these kinds of worms, which were a species of locusts, which are still eaten in the eastern countries. Make thyself many as the canker-worm — Though thou multiply thine armies like locusts, or caterpillars, yet the enemy shall destroy them.
Nahum 3:16-17. Thou hast multiplied thy merchants above the stars —
Thou hast drawn more merchants to thee than there are stars in the heavens. This is a hyperbolical expression, to signify the great number of them. The canker-worm spoileth, and fleeth away — As the locusts destroy the fruits of the earth, and then fly away to another place; so shall thy soldiers pillage all the wealth thou hast gained by traffic, and then leave thee. Thy crowded (or, thy princes) are as the locusts, &c. — For as they fly away when the heat comes on, so thy princes and captains will fly away from the heat of battle, or danger.
Nahum 3:18-19. Thy shepherds slumber, O king of Assyria — Thy rulers and counsellors are remiss, heartless, or dead. Thy nobles — Or valiant ones, shall dwell in the dust — These words are not in the Hebrew, but are supplied by our translators. The strict rendering of the Hebrew would rather be, Have lain down, as Grotius renders it; that is, have indulged themselves in ease, and not concerned themselves about the public affairs. The Vulgate, however, renders this former part of the verse, Thy shepherds have slept, thy princes shall be buried: understanding it, probably, of their being slain in battle, or having died through famine or pestilence during the siege. Thy people is scattered upon the mountains — Thy people, or common soldiers, for want of commanders, are scattered about, and there is no chief officer, or head commander, to collect them together. There is no healing of thy bruise — Or binding up of thy wound. Thy destruction is inevitable. The state of thy affairs is so bad, that there is no hope of recovering them. All that hear the bruit of thee — That is, the report of thee; (as the obsolete word bruit signifies;) all to whom the account of thy fall shall come; shall clap the hands over thee — Namely, for joy. For upon whom hath not thy wickedness, &c. — To whom hast thou not been injurious?
Thus it is evident, upon the whole of this prophecy of Nahum, that the entire desolation and complete destruction of Nineveh were most expressly and particularly foretold therein: yet one can hardly imagine any event more improbable than this was, at the time when Nahum predicted it. Surely there was no probability that the capital of a great kingdom, a city which was sixty miles in compass, a city which contained so many myriads of inhabitants, which had walls one hundred feet high, and so thick that three chariots could go abreast upon them, and which had one thousand five hundred towers of two hundred feet in height; surely there was no probability that such a city should ever be totally destroyed; and yet so totally was it destroyed, that authors are not agreed about its situation. From the general suffrage, indeed, of ancient historians and geographers, it seems to have been situated upon the Tigris; but yet no less authors than Ctesias and Diodorus Siculus represent it as situated upon the river Euphrates. Nay, authors differ, not only from one another, but also from themselves. For the learned Bochart hath shown, that Herodotus, Diodorus Siculus, and Ammianus Marcellinus, all three speak differently of it, sometimes as if it was situated upon the river Tigris, and sometimes as if upon the river Euphrates. So that, to reconcile these authors with themselves and with others, it is supposed by Bochart that there were two Ninevehs, and by Sir John Marshman that there were three; the Syrian, upon the river Euphrates; the Assyrian, upon the river Tigris; and a third, built afterward upon the Tigris by the Persians, who succeeded the Parthians in the empire of the East in the third century, and were subdued by the Saracens in the seventh century after Christ: but whether this latter Nineveh was built in the same place as old Nineveh is a question that cannot be decided. Lucian, who flourished in the second century after Christ, affirms, that Nineveh was utterly perished, and there was no footstep of it remaining, nor could one tell where once it was situated. And the greater regard is to be paid to his testimony, as he was a native of Samosata, a city upon the river Euphrates; and, coming from a neighbouring country, he must have known whether there had been any remains of Nineveh or not. “Even the ruins,” says Bishop Newton, “of old Nineveh have been, as I may say, ruined and destroyed; such an utter end hath been made of it, and such is the truth of the divine predictions! This, perhaps, may strike us the more strongly, by supposing only a parallel instance: let us, then, suppose that a person should come in the name of a prophet preaching repentance to the people of this kingdom, or otherwise denouncing the destruction of the capital city within a few years. I presume we should look upon such a prophet as a madman, and show no further attention to his message than to deride and despise it: and yet such an event would not be more strange and incredible than the destruction and devastation of Nineveh. For Nineveh was much the larger, and much the stronger and older city of the two; and the Assyrian empire had subsisted and flourished more ages than any form of government in this country; so that we cannot object the instability of the eastern monarchies in this case. Let us, then, since this event would not be more improbable and extraordinary than the other, suppose again, that things should succeed according to the prediction, the floods should arise, and the enemy should come, the city should be overflowed and broken down, be taken and pillaged, and destroyed so totally, that even the learned could not agree about the place where it was situated. What would be said or thought in such a case? Whoever of posterity should read and compare the prophecy and event together, must they not, by such an illustrious instance, be thoroughly convinced of the providence of God, and of the truth of this prophet, and be ready to acknowledge, Verily this is the word that the Lord hath spoken! Verily there is a God who judgeth in the earth!”
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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Nahum 3". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week after Epiphany