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Bible Commentaries

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary

- Nahum

by Joseph Benson



NAHUM was a native of Elkoshai, or Elkosh, a little village of Galilee, the ruins of which remained in the time of St. Jerome. It appears, from Nahum 2:2, that he prophesied after the captivity of the ten tribes, which took place in the ninth year of Hezekiah, and after the war of Sennacherib in Egypt, because he speaks of the taking of No-ammon in that country as of an event past, Nahum 3:8. But it is probable that the first chapter at least of this prophecy was delivered before the invasion of Judah by Sennacherib, as in the latter part of it, namely, from Micah 7:8-15, he seems to predict that attempt, and the defeat thereof. “And probably,” says Henry, “it was delivered a little before it, for the encouragement of God’s people in that time of treading down and perplexity.” The other two chapters are thought by some to have been delivered some years after, perhaps in the reign of Manasseh; in which reign the Jewish chronologers generally place this prophet, somewhat nearer the time when Nineveh was conquered. He must have prophesied, however, before the captivity of the two tribes, as he supposes them to be still in their own country, and there celebrating their festivals as usual.

The subject of this prophecy is, the destruction of Nineveh, and the overthrow of the Assyrian empire, which Nahum describes in a manner so pathetic and picturesque, and yet so plain, as is not to be exceeded by the greatest masters of oratory. And all his predictions were exactly verified in the siege and taking of that city, by Nabopolassar and Astyages, in the year of the world 3378, about 100 years after they were uttered. “The conduct and imagery of this prophetical poem,” says Archbishop Newcome, “are truly admirable. The exordium grandly sets forth the justice and power of God, tempered by lenity and goodness, Nahum 1:2-8. A sudden address to the Assyrians follows; and a prediction of their perplexity and overthrow, as devisers of evil against the true God, Micah 7:9-11. Jehovah himself then proclaims freedom to his people from the Assyrian yoke, and the destruction of the Assyrian idols; upon which the prophet, in a most lively manner, turns the attention of Judah to the approach of the messenger who brings such glad tidings; and bids her celebrate her festivals, and offer her thank-offerings, without fear of so powerful an adversary, Micah 7:12-15. In the next place, Nineveh is called on to prepare for the approach of her enemies, as instruments in the hand of Jehovah; and the military array and muster of the Medes and Babylonians, their rapid approach to the city, the process of the siege, the capture of the place, the captivity, lamentation, and flight of the inhabitants, the sacking of the wealthy city, and the consequent desolation and terror, are described in the true spirit of eastern poetry, and with many pathetic, vivid, and sublime images, Nahum 2:1-10. A grand and animated allegory succeeds this description, and is explained and applied to the city of Nineveh, Micah 7:11-13. The prophet then denounces a wo against Nineveh for her perfidy and violence; and strongly places before our eyes the number of her chariots and cavalry, her burnished arms, and the great and unrelenting slaughter which she spread around her, assigning her idolatries as one cause of her ignominious and unpitied fall, Nahum 3:1-7.” To overthrow her false confidence in her forces and alliances, he reminds her of the destruction of No-ammon, her rival in populousness, confederacies, and situation, which had shared a fate like that which awaited her; beautifully illustrating the ease with which her strong holds should be taken, and her pusillanimity during the siege, Micah 7:8-13. “He pronounces that all her preparations, her numbers, her opulence, her multitude of chief men, would be of no avail, and that her tributaries would all desert her, Micah 7:14-18. He concludes with a proper epiphonema; the topics of which are, the greatness and incurableness of her wound, and the just triumph of others over her, on account of her extensive oppressions, Micah 7:19.” To sum up all with the decisive judgment of an eminent critic: “None of the minor prophets seem to equal Nahum, in boldness, ardour, and sublimity. His prophecy too forms a regular and perfect poem; the exordium is not merely magnificent, it is truly majestic; the preparation for the destruction of Nineveh, and the description of its downfall and desolation, are expressed in the most glowing colours, and are bold and luminous in the highest degree.” Præl. Hebr. 21. p. 282.

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