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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

Nahum 2

Verses 1-2

Nahum 2:1-2

He that dasheth in pieces is come up before thy face

God the Vindicator of the oppressed


I.

The oppression of the chosen people by the Assyrians.

1. This is expressed figuratively. “The emptiers have emptied them out” (ver. 2), had exhausted their resources, as the contents of a vessel poured out until every drain had been withdrawn, so had both Israel and Judah been impoverished by the Assyrians. “And marred their vine branches.” Ancient Israel was often described as God’s vineyard (Isaiah 5:1; Psalms 80:9). This vineyard the foe had ruthlessly invaded, casting down and injuring its fruit-bearing trees.

2. These figurative representations are sustained by historical fact. The more familiar we become with Assyrian history the more do we trace in that vast heathen power the prevalence of the haughty, overbearing spirit. Its rulers and people vainly supposed that national greatness consisted in the possession of might to be used in oppressing other nations and peoples. To be able to depict upon the walls of the palaces of Ninus battle scenes indicative of military triumph, accompanied by great spoil and cruel chastisement inflicted upon their adversaries, seems to have been their highest ambition. Their whole relationship to Israel and Judah was based upon this principle. The favoured of heaven, having forsaken their God, and hence lost His protecting care, turned in their exigencies to Assyria for aid, but only to find, in this supposed helper against their foes, a more powerful enemy. In this way the kingdom of Israel was first made tributary to Assyria by Paul (2 Kings 15:17-20), and, soon after, its tribes were carried away into captivity by Shalmaneser (2 Kings 17:3-23), whilst the kingdom of Judah in like manner became compelled to acknowledge the lordship of Tilgath-Pilneser (2 Chronicles 28:16-21). Hezekiah sought to cast off the Assyrian yoke, but this only resulted in the nation, in Nahum’s time, being brought into circumstances of extreme peril (2 Kings 18:13-17), and from which eventually supernatural help alone was able to deliver it (Isaiah 37:36).


II.
Divine interposition promised on behalf of the oppressed. (Ver. 2.) Such interposition had in a measure but recently taken place (Isaiah 37:36). “The angel of death” had “breathed in the face of the foe,” and had caused “the might of the Gentile” to “melt like snow,” and the oppressor to return humbled to his capital (Isaiah 37:37). The time, however, for the complete and final interposition of heaven had not yet arrived. Still, it should come. The seer in rapt vision beheld it as though it had been then in operation, and for the encouragement of the oppressed he declared that the Divine eye observed all that was being endured, that the Lord Almighty still regarded them with favour (ver. 2), and would yet make them “an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations “ (Isaiah 60:15).


III.
This Divine interposition eventually to be experienced viewed as carrying with it the entire overthrow of the oppressor. (Ver. 1.) Asshur should in due course be brought low, and the yoke of bondage should fall from off the necks of the captives In “the day of visitation.

1. Agents should not be wanting to carry out the Divine behests. The defection of the Assyrian general, the forces of the King of Media, and the overflowing of the Tigris, should all combine to bring about the accomplishment of the Divine purpose; and these forces are here personified as “ the dasher in pieces” (ver. 1).

2. Resistance should be in vain. They might “keep the munition, watch the ways,” etc. (ver. 1), but all to no purpose. The proud power must inevitably fall, and in its overthrow proclamation be made that it is not by means of tyranny and oppression and wrong-doing that any nation can become truly great and lastingly established, but by the prevalence in its midst of liberty, virtue, and righteousness, Nineveh in her downfall

“ . . . seems to cry aloud

To warn the mighty and instruct the proud
That of the great, neglecting to be just,

Heaven in a moment makes a heap of dust.”

(S. D. Hillman, B. A.)

Verses 3-13

Nahum 2:3-13

The shield of His mighty men is made red.

The downfall of Nineveh, as illustrative of the Divine and the human dements in revelation

There are two elements in the Bible, the Divine and the human. God speaks to us in every page, nor does He speak the less emphatically, but all the more so, in that He addresses us through men possessing throbbing hearts, and who were passing through experiences like our own. The account given in these verses of the predicted ruin of Nineveh must be taken as a whole, and in the graphic picture here presented to us we have strikingly illustrated this twofold character of the Scriptures of eternal truth.


I.
The account contained here of the predicted overthrow of Nineveh serves to illustrate the Divine element in revelation. Nahum flourished in the feign of Hezekiah (b.c. 725-696), and Nineveh was destroyed between b.c. 609 and 606. He lived and prophesied thus say a hundred years before the occurrence of the events he so vividly described, and when the Assyrian power was in the zenith of its prosperity. His announcements were very distinct and definite, and by placing these and the records of secular historians given at a subsequent period side by side, we see how minutely the predictions of this seer have been fulfilled, and that hence, in making these, he must have been God’s messenger, uttering, not his own thoughts, but those which had been communicated to him by “visions and revelations of the Lord.” In Nahum 2:6 we read, “For while they be folden together as thorns, and while they are drunken as drunkards, they shall be devoured as stubble, fully dry.” The secular historian write: “While all the Assyrian army were feasting for their former victories, those about Arbuces, being informed by some deserters of the negligence and drunkennes in the camp of the enemies, assaulted them unexpectedly by night, and falling orderly on them disorderly, and prepared on them unprepared, became masters of the camp, and slew many of the soldiers and drove the rest into the city.” (Diodrus Siculus, bk. 2, p. 80.) In Nahum 2:6 we read, “The gates of the rivers shall be opened, and the place shall be dissolved.” The secular historian writes: “There was an oracle among the Assyrians that Nineveh should not be taken till the river became an enemy to the city; and in the third year of the siege the river, being swollen with continual rains, overflowed part of the city, and broke down the wall for twenty furlongs. Then the king, thinking that the oracle was fulfilled, and the river had become an enemy to the city, built a large funeral pile in the palace, and, collecting together all his wealth and his concubines and eunuchs, burnt himself and the palace with them all, and the enemy entered at the breach that the waters had made, and took the city” (Diodorus Siculus, bk. 2. p. 80). In Nahum 2:9 the prophet, as though addressing the adversaries of Nineveh, said, Take ye the spoil of silver, take the spoil of gold: for there is none end of the store and glory out of all the pleasant furniture”; and the same secular historian already quoted informs us that the conquerors carried many talents of gold and silver to Ecbatana, the royal city of the Medes. No language could be more explicit than that in which Nahum predicted the total destruction of the city (Nahum 2:10-13; Nahum 3:7; Nahum 3:15-17). The prophet Zephaniah used words equally plain (Nahum 2:13). Their utterances would have appeared very strange to the Ninevites at the time they were spoken; as strange, indeed, as similar utterances would appear if addressed at the present time to the inhabitants of our own metropolis; but they were true, nevertheless, and the facts of history furnish abundant confirmations. For upwards of two thousand years after its overthrow Nineveh lay buried in the earth.


II.
The account contained here of the predicted overthrow of Nineveh serves to illustrate the human element in revelation. Holy Scripture is remarkable in its variety--not variety in purpose, for this is single throughout, but variety in expression. History, prophecy, poetry, parable, proverb, miracle, biography, vision, epistle, are all laid under tribute. As there is a Divine element in the Bible, so also there is a human element therein. Biblical critics,, are agreed in recognising “the classic” beauty and the finished elegance of the style of Nahum, and in assigning to this writer a place in the first rank of Hebrew literature. “The variety in his method of presenting ideas discovers much poetic talent in the prophet. The reader of taste and sensibility will be affected by the entire structure of the poem, by the agreeable manner in which the ideas are brought forward, by the flexibility of the expression’s, in the roundness of his turns, the delicate outlines of his figures, by the strength and delicacy, and the expression of sympathy and greatness, which diffuse themselves over the whole subject.” (De Wette’s Introduction.)

His description of the siege and fall of Ninevah, contained in this chapter (vers. 3-13), is wonderfully vivid. As we read the account, even at this distant date, the stirring scenes seem to live again, and to pass in review before us. We see the attacking warriors in their scarlet attire and with their chariots armed with sharp instruments of steel (ver. 3), and the defenders of the city, suddenly startled, hastening their preparations, their chariots in the hurry jostling against each other in the streets, and the gallants summoned by the king hastening to the ramparts, which the foe is seeking with battering-rams to cast down (vers. 4, 5). We behold the overflowing of the river, facilitating the advance of the enemy and paralysing the people by reason of the popular tradition now seemingly being fulfilled (ver. 6). We witness the inhabitants brought low in shame and dishonour, moaning like a captive woman (ver. 7), or fleeing for their very life in hopelessness and despair, conscious that resistance is vain (ver. 8). We view the spoiling of the city--the conqueror carrying away the gold and the silver to the Median capital, trophies of victory (ver. 9). Finally, we picture to ourselves the prophets of the Lord gazing, upon the waste and desolation, reflecting upon the proud being abased, their offspring cut off, their gains confiscated, their boastful messengers silenced, and ascribing all the terrible reverses thus experienced to the righteous retribution of the Lord of hosts (vers. 10-13); and we feel, as we linger upon the scene thus graphically portrayed, that whilst rejoicing in this volume of revelation as having been given by inspiration of God, and as containing Divine lessons abounding both in encouragement and warning, we may well prize it also even on the lower ground of its literary merit, and heartily rejoice in the infinite variety of human powers and endowments here consecrated to the presentation of the loftiest and grandest spiritual teaching. (De Wette’s Introduction.)

Verse 13

Nahum 2:13

Behold, I am against thee, saith the Lord of hosts

Man incurring the Divine displeasure

This attitude of God towards man--


I.

Implies wrong-doing on man’s part. God is not thus adverse to man for naught. “His delights are with the sons of men” (Proverbs 8:31). Sin alienates man from God, and causes God to be righteously displeased with man.


II.
Involves man in present distress. Man cannot be at ease whilst under the ban of Jehovah. “In His favour is life” (Psalms 30:5). Separation from Him through sin means disquietude and unrest. “The worst troubler in the world is a wilful heart.” “Conscience makes cowards of us all! The heart melteth, the knees smite together” (ver. 10).


III.
Resulting in ultimate ruin to such as wilfully persist in sin. God is “the Lord of hosts.” All power is His. “Who shall stand when He is angry?” (Psalms 76:7). All have sinned, and hence have incurred the displeasure of Him who “is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity,” but in Christ, whose day the seers saw afar off, God is reconciled to man; so that the distress and ruin indicated can alone result from man refusing to be reconciled unto God. (De Wette’s Introduction.)

And the voice of thy messengers shall no more be heard (with chap. 1:15).

The messengers of Nineveh and the messengers of Zion a comparison

“And the voice of thy messengers shall no more be heard” (ver. 13); “Behold upon the mountains the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace!” (chap 1:15) The messengers of Nineveh and the messengers of Zion are alluded to in these passages. A comparison of these respective messengers may prove suggestive and useful in its application to certain developments in these modern times. From the Second Book of Kings and the Sccond Book of Chronicles we learn that the heralds or messengers of Nineveh cherished the spirit of blasphemy with reference to the God of heaven. The faith of the pious Hebrews consisted in the recognition of the one living and true God, and of His providential care over all His creatures; and it was against this bulwark that the emissaries of Assyria constantly directed their assaults in words foul and filthy (see Rabshakeh’s appeal to the Jews, 2 Kings 18:33-35; and his letter, 2 Chronicles 32:17). The great and dis tinguishing characteristic of the messengers of Zion was loyalty to the God of heaven. Their feet stood upon the mountains, and their voice proclaimed to the people, “Behold your God!” (Isaiah 40:9); “Thy God reigneth!” (Isaiah 52:7). In the present age there are messengers who boldly declare their none acceptance of the teaching that recognises the Divine Being and His working, and who seek to disseminate their views, and in doing so are not particular if they blaspheme the God of heaven. And whilst there are such messengers in the world doing their injurious work, there are also those who are thoroughly loyal to the King of kings, who delight to show forth His praise, to tell the story of His love in the gift and work of Christ, and to seek to draw men in loving obedience to His authority and will. Note certain contrasts, then, suggested; thus--


I.
Captivity in contrast with freedom. The messengers of Nineveh approached Jerusalem, to which Sennacherib was laying siege, but they bore no tidings of liberty. They claimed full submission, and declared that even this must be followed by captivity in a strange land (2 Kings 18:31-32). The assurance of ultimate deliverance came from the messengers of the Lord (chap. 1:12, 13). Sin is bondage. Transgressors are slaves. And scepticism has nothing to offer such by way of helping them to escape. Lo! the messengers of Zion come. They tell him of the great Father’s unwearying love, the Saviour’s obedience unto the death of the Cross, the energising and sanctifying Spirit ready to gird him with all-sufficient strength.


II.
Strife in contrast to peace. The messengers of Nineveh to Judah had nothing conciliatory to convey; they told only of contention and strife. The assurance that peace should ultimately be enjoyed came to the anxious King of Judah from God’s messengers, who published peace. The messengers of scepticism have no proclamation of peace to make. It is the privilege, however, of the messengers of Zion to proclaim those spiritual and eternal verities in which the heart may securely and tranquilly repose, and to point to him who can quell every storm and give rest unto the soul


III.
Gloom in contrast to gladness. Hezekiah and his people were in extremity; it was to them a time of “trouble”; but not a ray of hope came to them through the messengers of Nineveh. Their worst fears were confirmed; the foe was unrelenting. Their hope was in God, and in the words spoken by His holy prophets. So in the extremities of life--in sickness and sorrow, and especially at life’s close, hope springs not from unbelief, but from the words God has addressed to us through His servants. The Gospel has no rival in such seasons. Scepticism has no voice then, or, if it speaks, it but deepens the prevailing gloom; but the good tidings God has revealed dispels our sadness and fills the soul with immortal hopes. Happy messengers who are thus enabled to “comfort all that mourn,” etc. (Isaiah 61:2).


IV.
Shame in contrast to honour. The voice of all messengers who blaspheme the holy name of God “shall be no more heard,” for God will put them to silence; but voices publishing His love and grace shall go sounding on through the ages,--the bright succession of proclaimers shall not cease. Growing numbers shall be raised up who shall find their way to all nations and kindreds and tribes, until the glad tidings shall reach every shore, and the knowledge of the Lord shall fill the earth (Isaiah 11:9). (De Wette’s Introduction.)



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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Nahum 2". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tbi/nahum-2.html. 1905-1909. New York.