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Part III. THE CAUSE OF THE JUDGMENT—SINS OF THE CITY, WHICH BRING INEVITABLE PUNISHMENT.
§ 1. The prophet specifies the crimes which have brought this ruin upon Nineveh.
The bloody city; literally, city of bloods, where Mood is shed without scruple (comp. Ezekiel 24:6, Ezekiel 24:9; Habakkuk 2:12). The cruelty of the Assyrians is attested by the monuments, in which we see or read how prisoners were impaled alive, flayed, beheaded, dragged to death with ropes passed through rings in their lips, blinded by the king's own hand, hung up by hands or feet to die in slow torture. Others have their brains beaten out, or their tongues torn out by the roots, while the bleeding heads of the slain are tied round the necks of the living, who are reserved for further torture. The royal inscriptions recount with exultation the number of the enemies slain and of captives carried away, cities levelled with the ground, plundered, and burnt, lands devastated, fruit trees destroyed, etc. It is all full of lies; ὅλη ψευδής, "all lie". The Assyrians used treachery in furthering their conquests, made promises which they never kept, to induce nations to submit to their yoke. Such, doubtless, were those of Rabshakeh (Isaiah 36:16). Rawlinson, "Falsehood and treachery … are often employed by the strong, as furnishing short cuts to success, and even, where the moral standard is low, as being in themselves creditable (see Thucyd; 3.83). It certainly was not necessity which made the Assyrians covenant breakers; it seems to have been in part the wantonness of power—because they 'despised the cities, and regarded no man' (Isaiah 33:8); perhaps it was in part also their imperfect moral perception, which may have failed to draw the proper distinction between craft and cleverness" ('Ancient Monarchies,' 1.305). Robbery; rather, rapine, or rending in pieces. The figure applies to the way in which a wild beast kills its prey by tearing it to pieces. So the three crimes of Nineveh here enumerated are bloodshed, deceit, and violence. In the uncertainty concerning the word (pereq). rendered "robbery," which only occurs m Obadiah 1:14, where it means "crossway," the LXX. translates, ἀδικίας πλήρης, "full of unrighteousness." The Vulgate is correct, dilaceratione plena. The prey departeth not. They go on in the same way, gathering spoil into the city, never ceasing from this crime. The monuments continually record the booty that was brought to Nineveh. Septuagint, Οὐ ψηλαφηθήσεται θήρα, which gives a sense contradictory to the text, "Prey shall not be handled."
The noise of a whip. The prophet describes the advance of the investing army. He hears the cracking of the whips of the charioteers, and the rattling of the wheels of the chariots, and the galloping horses, and the chariots bounding over the plain. Probably all the expressions in this verso refer to chariots and to horses yoked to them, which varied in number from one to three. The whip was a simple thong attached to a short handle. Comp. Virg; 'Georg.,' 3:106, etc.—
"... illi instant verbere torto
Et proni dant lora, volat vi fervidus axis;
Jamque humiles, jamque elati sublime videntur
Aera per vacuum ferri, atque adsurgere in auras."
The horseman lifteth up. The Hebrew is more vivid, the words standing in pairs, as if describing the successive onsets of the enemy. So Pusey. It is best to render, "horsemen making to rear;" or as Septuagint. ἱππέως ἀναβαίνοντος, "horseman mounting;" so the Vulgate; Henderson. Horsemen are seen in the most ancient sculptures of Nimroud, and in the bas-reliefs of Kouyunjik (comp. Judith 2:15; Ezekiel 23:6; Layard, ' Nineveh,' 2.356). Both the bright sword; better, and the flaming sword (Genesis 3:24); literally, the flame of the sword. And the glittering spear; literally, the lightning flash of the spear (Habakkuk 3:11). These are the arms of the foot soldiers. A multitude of slain. The effect of the assault is described. So numerous are the corpses that one cannot help stumbling over them; the invaders themselves are impeded by the heaps of dead bodies which they have to mount. The LXX. connects this verse with the following, thus. "They shall grow weak in their bodies by reason of the multitude of their fornications."
The cause is given that has brought this punishment. Because of the multitude of the whoredoms. This term is commonly applied to idolatry, the swerving from the true God and turning to false deities; and it is thought that it cannot be used in that sense here, as Assyria had always worshipped idols, and could not be said to have forsaken or proved false to the Lord. Hence Hitzig, Keil, and others refer the term to the treacherous friendship and crafty politics by which Nineveh ensnared other states, seeking really only her own interests (comp. Isaiah 23:17). But this habit of treachery has been already mentioned in Nahum 3:1 (where see note); and, as Knabenbauer remarks, the Assyrians used no meretricious blandishments to effect their conquests, but the cruel arts of war and the stern ordeal of the sword. It is scarcely probable that the prophet would omit idolatry among the crimes of the Assyrians that called for vengeance, as all their wars were carried on in the name of their gods, and the monarchs professed to be under Divine protection and influence. The term "whoredom" is applied to the idolatry, not only of the Israelites, but to that of Jezebel (2 Kings 9:22), who was always a heathen. The idolatry of the Assyrians may very well be so called, because it was a wilful ignoring of the light of nature and natural religion (see Wis. 13:1; Romans 1:19, etc.). They were careful, too, wherever they carried their arms, to erect there symbols of their deities, and to compel conquered nations to receive them and pay them Divine honour. With this idolatrous worship was associated that gross immorality which even Herodotus (1.199) termed utterly disgraceful (comp. Baruch 6:43). Rightly is Nineveh called the well favoured harlot; for her splendour and magnificence were unsurpassed, dazzling all beholders and hiding the rottenness that lay below the surface. The mistress of witchcrafts. She was skilful in employing every art to seduce nations to her side. We hear much of magic in connection with Babylon and the Chaldeans, but not in reference especially to Assyria. The expression here is metaphorical, alluding to the secret practices which she employed to gain her ends and to make her rule attractive (comp. Revelation 18:2, Revelation 18:3). That selleth nations. Depriving them of freedom and making them tributary, or, in some cases, actually selling the inhabitants as slaves (comp. Deuteronomy 32:30; Judges 2:14; Joel 3:3; Amos 1:6, Amos 1:7). Families. Not only nations in the aggregate, but smaller bodies, individuals, so that none escape. Septuagint, λαούς, "peoples."
I am against thee (see note on Nahum 2:13). The Lord will punish Nineveh with the utmost ignominy, treating her ("the whore," Nahum 3:4) like a harlot or adulteress. Thy skirts. The borders of the long flowing dress which added to her pomp (comp. Isaiah 47:2, etc.; Jeremiah 13:26; Lamentations 1:8). Upon (before) thy face. So that thou mayst know thine own shame. I will show the nations. All men shall see what thou really art, like an adulteress haled before the congregation.
The metaphor is continued. Nineveh shall be like a vile woman exposed to the insults and ill treatment of the rabble (comp. Ezekiel 16:37, etc.). A gazing-stock. That all may see thee and take warning. LXX; εἰς παράδειγμα, "for a public example," which recalls Matthew 1:19.
Shall flee from thee. As an object of disgust, or fearing to be involved in thy ruin (Revelation 18:10, Revelation 18:15). Who will bemoan her? No one will pity her for her well deserved chastisement (Jeremiah 15:5). Whence shall I seek, etc.? Truly, nowhere in all the world (comp. Isaiah 51:19).
§ 2. The ruin of Nineveh can be averted no more than was that of No-Amon.
Art thou better than populous No? "Better" probably means here more prosperous. "Populous No" ought to be rendered, No-Amon, i.e. No of the solar god Amon. This is the celebrated Thebes, in Upper Egypt, called in Egyptian Pa-Amun, "the House of Amun," and in the inscriptions Ni, which is the same word as No. The name Amon is attached because that god was particularly worshipped there. The LXX. has μερίδα Ἀμμών ("a portion of or for Ammon"), translating the word "No." St. Jerome, misled by his Hebrew teacher, renders, "Alexandria populorum," as if Thebes stood on the site of the much later city of Alexandria; whereas we see from Assurbanipal's annals that he was forty days marching from Memphis, where he defeated Rudammon, to Thebes. On the grandeur and magnificence of this city, Denon (quoted by Rawlinson, 'Ancient Monarchies,' 1.309, note 7), writes, "On est fatigue d'ecrire, on est fatigue de lire, on est epouvante de la pensee d'une telle conception; on ne peut croire, meme apres l'avoir vu, a la realite de l'existence de tant de constructions reunies sur un meme point, a leurs dimensions, a la constance obstinee qu'a exigee leur fabrication, aux depenses incalculables de taut de somptuosite" ('Egypte,' 2.226). "In the long and rich valley of the Lower Nile, which extends above five hundred miles from Syene to Memphis, almost any situation might furnish a site for a great city, since, except at Silsilis and at the Gebelein, the valley is never less than two miles wide, the soil is always fertile, good quarries are always at hand, and lavish Nature is so bounteous with her gifts that abundant sustenance can at any point be obtained for a large population. But in this wealth of eligible sites, there are still degrees of eligibility—spots which Nature has distinguished by special favour, and, as it were, marked out for greatness and celebrity. Such a position is that which the traveller reaches when, passing through the gorge of the Gebelein, he emerges upon the magnificent plain, at least ten miles in width, through which the river flows with a course from southwest to northeast for a distance of some forty miles between Erment and Qobt. Here, for the first time since quitting the Nubian desert, does the Nile enter upon a wide and ample space. On either side the hills recede, and a broad green plain, an alluvium of the richest description, spreads itself out on both banks of the stream, dotted with dom and date palms, sometimes growing singly, sometimes collected into clumps or groves. Here, too, there open out on either side, to the east and to the west, lines of route offering great advantages for trade, on the one hand with the Lesser Oasis and so with the tribes of the African interior, on the other with the western coast of the Red Sea and the spice region of the opposite shore. In the valley of Hammamat, down which passed the ancient route to the coast, are abundant supplies of breccia verde and of other valuable and rare kinds of stone, while at no great distance to the right and left of the route lie mines of gold, silver, and lead, anciently prolific, though exhausted now for many ages. Somewhat more remote, yet readily accessible by a frequented route, was the emerald region of Gebel Zabara, where the mines are still worked" (Rawlinson, 'Ancient Egypt,' 2.124, etc.). Thebes was situated on both banks of the Nile, the principal portion lying on the east; the Necropolis and Memnonia were on the west. It seems never to have been surrounded with a wall (notwithstanding its "hundred gates"), the river and canals forming a sufficient defence. At the present time the ruins are some twenty-seven miles in circuit, including Luxor and the remains of the great temple at Karnak. The sea. The Nile formed its rampart. Great rivers are called seas in the poetical books. Thus Isaiah 19:5; Isaiah 27:1; Jeremiah 51:36. Her wall was from the sea; or, of the sea. The sea was her wall. Septuagint, ὅδωρ τὰ τείχη αὐτῆς, "water her walls."
Ethiopia and Egypt were her strength. Urdamaneh, or Rudammon, in whose time this capture of No-Amon took place, was son and successor of Tirhalrah, who is called expressly King of Ethiopia (2 Kings 19:9; Isaiah 37:9). Egypt. The Egyptians proper, combined with the Ethiopians, formed the kingdom of Egypt under the twenty-fifth, the Ethiopian, dynasty. And it was infinite. The power of Egypt was boundless, its forces in numerable (see 2 Chronicles 12:3). Pusey notes a remark of Cato (in Steph. Byzant. ap. Boch; 4.27) that the Egyptians connected with Thebes amounted to seven millions. In Isaiah 18-20. Ethiopia and Egypt are represented as combined against Assyria, and conquered by it (Wordsworth). Septuagint, Οὐκ ἔστῃ τέρας τῆς φυγῆς, "There was no limit of the flight." This is thought by Jerome to be connected with the previous verses, and to refer to Nineveh. Put and Lubim were thy helpers. No-Amon is here suddenly addressed. Put, or Punt, designates either a part of Arabia or that part of the coast of Egypt opposite to it. Luhim are the Lybians, dwelling on the west of the Canopic mouth of the Nile. Thus the enumeration of the forces of Thebes is regularly arranged, beginning with the south, Ethiopia, then through Egypt proper to the north, and then to the provinces on the east and west (Knabenbauer). The Vulgate translates the two terms, Africa et Libya. The LXX. combines them in one, Λίβυες. These peoples are named together elsewhere: e.g. Jeremiah 46:9; Ezekiel 27:10; Ezekiel 30:5; Ezekiel 38:5.
Yet was she carried away. In spite of her strong position and infinite resources, Thebes was captured and despoiled; and shall Nineveh fare better? Surely not. This capture of Thebes took place B.C. 664, and must have been in men's minds when Nahum wrote his prophecy. The Assyrians twice took Thebes in the days of Assurbanipal. The first time it is merely recorded that the soldiers, under the commander of the satraps, made a slaughter in the city. The second capture is thus described in the monarch's own tablet (Brugsch, 'Egypt,' 1.272-275, Eng. transl.): "Urdamaneh fled alone, and entered Thebes, the city of his kingdom … I directed my march in pursuit of him. I came to Thebes. He saw the strength of my army, and left Thebes, and fled to the city of Kipkip. Of that whole city (Thebes), with thanksgiving to Asur and Istar, my hands took the complete possession. Silver, gold, metals, stones, all the treasures of its palace whatsoever, dyed garments of before and linen, great horses [elephants?] men and women, great and small, works of zakah [basalt?] and marble, their kelal and manzas, the gates of their palace … I tare away and carried to Assyria. I made spoil of the animals of the land without number, and carried them forth in the midst out of Thebes I caused a catalogue to be made of the spoil. I returned in safety to Nineveh". Were dashed in pieces. The prophet describes the usual treatment of captured cities. At the top of all the streets. In the most public places, where many streets converge (Lamentations 2:19). Cast lots. The victors divided the nobles among themselves by lot (see note on Obadiah 1:11). Were bound in chains. We find in the Assyrian monuments delineations of captives with their arms bound together by a rope held by a soldier, sometimes men, sometimes women and children; the women are tearing their hair in despair. In a bas-relief at Khorsabad captives were led by a rope fastened to a ring in the lip.
Thou also shalt be drunken. Nahum makes the application: The fate of Thebes shall be thine, O Nineveh. Thou shalt drink to the full the cup of God's wrath (see note on Obadiah 1:16; and comp. Jeremiah 25:15, Jeremiah 25:17, Jeremiah 25:27). The metaphor indicates the effect of some overwhelming calamity that makes men reel with terror or stupefies them with amazement. Thou shalt be hid; thou shalt be powerless, or reduced to nothing; Εσῃ ὑπερεωραμένη,"Thou shalt be despised"; Eris despecta (Vulgate). Nineveh, which was taken and destroyed between B.C. 626 and 608, was so effectually "hidden" that its very site was discovered only in late years, and its monuments have only been partially disinterred after immense labour. Thou also shalt seek strength because of the enemy; or, thou also shalt seek a stronghold from the enemy. As the Egyptians fled for refuge from one place to another (see note on verse 10), so shall the Assyrians attempt in vain to escape the enemy. History records that they endeavoured to effect a retreat from Nineveh during the siege (see Introduction, § I.).
Shall be like (are) fig trees with the first ripe figs. The Assyrians' fortresses are as ready for destruction and as easy to destroy as ripe figs are ready to fall from the tree at the least shake of the eater (Isaiah 28:1-29. S).
The reason why the fortresses are so readily taken is now given. Are women. The Assyrians were essentially a brave nation, but they should be now no more able to resist the enemy than if they were women (comp. Isaiah 19:16; Jer 1:1-19 :37; Jeremiah 51:30). The gates of thy land. The various approaches and passes which lead into Assyria (comp. Jeremiah 15:7; Micah 5:6). So Strabo (11.12. 13) speaks of certain mountain passes as "the Caspian gates" and Xenophon ('Anab.' 1.4. 4) mentions "the gates of Cilicia and Syria." The famous defile that led into Greece was called Thermopylae The fire shall devour thy bars. Hitzig, Keil, and others take the "bars" metaphorically, meaning the forts and castles which defend the passes; but the literal sense is the most natural, as in the parallel passage, Jeremiah 51:30 (see note on Amos 1:5). It was the Assyrians' custom to set fire to the gates of any city that they attacked. "It is incontestable," says Bonomi, in another place, "that, during the excavations, a considerable quantity of charcoal, and even pieces of wood either half burnt or in a perfect state of preservation, were found in many places. The lining of the chambers also bears certain marks of the action of fire. All these things can be explained only by supposing the fall of a burning roof, which calcined the slabs of gypsum, and converted them into dust .... It must have been a violent and prolonged fire to be able to calcine not only a few places, but every part of these slabs, which were ten feet high and several inches thick. So complete a decomposition can be attributed but to intense heat".
§ 3. In spite of all its efforts and all its resources, Nineveh shall meet with a terrible end.
Nahum ironically bids the Ninevites prepare for the siege they were about to sustain. Draw thee waters for the siege. The drinking water necessary for a long siege is meant. This injunction is not particularly applicable to Nineveh, which from its situation was abundantly supplied with water, unless there was danger that the enemy would divert the courses of the rivers. But the warning would come home with peculiar force to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, among whom Nahum prophesied (2 Kings 20:20; Isaiah 22:11; Isaiah 30:20). Fortify thy strong holds; strengthen thy fortresses. Repair all defects in thy defences (2 Chronicles 11:11). The mode of doing this in the Assyrian fashion is then denoted. Go into clay, and tread the mortar. The soil round Nineveh was of a tenacious quality; and when moistened with water and kneaded either with feet or hands, with the addition usually of a little chopped straw, was easily formed into bricks. These, even without the aid of fire, became dry and hard in the course of a few days. But it is plain from the investigations of ruins that the Assyrians used both kiln-baked and sun-dried bricks, though the mass of the walls was usually composed of the latter, the more durable material being employed merely as an accessory. Xenophon, 'Anab.,' 3.4. 11, speaks of the brick wall (πλίνθινον τεῖχος) of a town he calls Mespila. Make strong the brick kiln. There is an uncertainty about the meaning of the last word (malben), which occurs only in two other places (2 Samuel 12:31 and Jeremiah 43:9). In the latter passage it may possibly mean "a square" or "open quadrangle." Jerome has, tene laterem; the LXX; κατακράτησον ὑπερ πλίνθον "make them strong above (equivalent to 'stronger than') brick," connecting it with the following verse. Some translate it, "brick mould." If the Anglican Version is correct, the prophet bids them repair their kilns, unused in the days of prosperity, when they had no need to look to the security of their walls. Virtually the same sense is elicited by rendering, "lay hold of the brick mould."
There. In the very place where thou hast taken all these precautions. Shall the fire devour thee. That fire played a great part in the destruction of Nineveh is asserted by historians and proved by the remains of the city discovered in modern times (see note on Nahum 3:13 : also Herod; 1.106; Diod. Sic; 2.25-28; Athen; 12.529). The fate of the last king, who burnt himself and his palace, is a well known story (see Justin, 'Hist.,' 1.3; Eusebius, 'Chronicles,' 1.9; 14.3; 15.7; Syncell; 'Chronicles,' 1.396, edit. Dind.) (Kuabenbauer). The sword shall cut thee off. While fire destroys the buildings, the sword shall devour the inhabitants of the city. The cankerworm; literally, the licker (Joel 1:4). The locust in its earlier stage is thus described (see Nahum 3:16). The figure implies that the destruction of Nineveh should be sudden and complete, as that wrought on vegetation by an inroad of locusts. Make thyself many. Collect thine armies, gather hosts as innumerable as the locusts, it will be all in vain. The "cankerworm" represented the enemy; the "locusts" represent the Assyrians themselves.
Its extensive commercial relations shall not save it. Thou hast multiplied thy merchants. Nineveh was most favourably situated for carrying on commerce with other countries. The roads from Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt, and Phoenicia, that led into Media, Persia, and the interior of Asia, converged at Nineveh, and brought thither merchandise from all lands; and the Assyrians themselves exported their own produce and manufactures to the far West. Among these are enumerated textile fabrics, carpets, dyed attire, and embroidered work, carvings in ivory, gems, spices (see Rawlinson, 'Anc. Mon.,' 2.179, etc.; Layard, 'Nineveh,' 2.414, etc.). The cankerworm spoileth; or, spreadeth itself for plunder; Vulgate, expansus est; Septuagint, ὥρμησεν, "attacked." The cankerworm (see note on Nahum 3:15) are the enemy,who spread themselves over the rich produce of Nineveh, and then flee away laden with spoil. Pusey makes the cankerworm represent Nineveh. She spread herself everywhere wasting and plundering, and now she is gone, has disappeared. But the former explanation better suits the comparison in Nahum 3:15, where "the licker" is the enemy; and it is most natural that the prophet should allude to the fate of that commercial wealth which he has just mentioned, as in previous verses he contrasts the riches and power of Nineveh with the ruin that awaits them.
Thy crowned. The word minnezar is found only here, and, as its derivation is uncertain, it has received various interpretations. The Anglican Version derives the word from nezer, "a diadem," and "the crowned" are the officials of upper rank. "High officers of state in Assyria were adorned with diadems, closely resembling the lower baud of the royal mitre, separated from the cap itself. Very commonly the head was encircled with a simple fillet or hoop, probably of gold, without any adornment". Others derive it from nazar. "to separate," in the signification of "those separated or selected for war." Septuagint, ὁ συμμικτός: i.e. the band of mixed mercenary troops—a rendering in which Wordsworth acquiesces. Knabenbauer (referring to Strassmaier's Assyrian vocabulary) considers the word to be a transliteration (ss being resolved into ne) of the Assyrian ma-as-sa-ru, which means "guardian," or some inferior officer. With this agrees the Vulgate custodes. As the locusts; i.e. in multitude. That the number of captains and superior officers would be very great may be conjectured from the inscriptions which sometimes enumerate the captives carried off from conquered countries. Thus in the account of the capture of some insignificant nation, the then king boasts that he took away 13,000 fighting men, 1121 captains, and 460 superior officers (Strauss, in loc.). The prophet's meaning is that if the officers, etc; are so numerous, the multitude of soldiers and civilians must be truly immense. Thy captains. Taphsar is an Assyrian word, occurring only in Jeremiah 51:27. It is probably the same as dupsarru or dipsarru of the inscriptions, and is taken to signify "a scribe" Such officials are often represented on the monuments (see Layard, 2.184), and seem sometimes to have been of high or priestly rank. Jerome translates, parvuli tui, though in Jeremiah, loc. cit; he retains the Assyrian word. The Septuagint omits it. Great grasshoppers; swarms of locusts (Amos 7:1). Which camp in the hedges in the cold day. Locusts become torpid in cold weather; so the captains and princes of Nineveh are paralyzed and useless in the day of calamity. They flee away. Thus the Assyrian army perishes and leaves no trace behind. The LXX. adds, "Woe unto them!"
Thy shepherds. The princes and counsellors, on whom the safety of the state depends. Slumber. Sleep the sleep of death—slain in the war (Psalms 76:6). O King of Assyria. The power and evil of Nineveh personified, not any particular king. Shall dwell in the dust; are lying, or are at rest, in death; Septuagint, Ἐκοίμισε τουστας σου, "Put to sleep thy mighty men": Vulgate, sepelientur. Is scattered upon the mountains. Their shepherds being dead, the flock, the herd of common people, is scattered abroad and perishes, because no man gathereth them—there is no one to collect them. "The mountains" referred to are those which shut in Assyria on the north.
There is no healing of thy bruise; there is no assuaging of thy hurt (Revised Version; Jeremiah 10:19). The ruin is irretrievable; no one shall restore the destroyed kingdom (see Zephaniah 2:13, Zephaniah 2:14). Thy wound is grievous; Pessima est plaga tua (Vulgate); Ἐφλέγμανεν ἡ πληγή σου, "Thy wound is inflamed." The "wound" is the stroke or plague inflicted by God (Leviticus 26:21). Shall clap the hands over thee. All who hear of thy destruction will rejoice over it (Psalms 47:1; Lamentations 2:15). Thy wickedness. The cruelty and oppression of Nineveh have been universally felt. If Edom is the type of insidious foes of the Church's own household, Nineveh is the emblem of open, blaspheming infidelity, arrayed in powerful opposition against God's people. In the overthrow of this kingdom there is a prophecy of the destruction of all anti-Christian powers, which shall be utterly crushed in the latter days.
Woe to Nineveh.
I. THREATENED. (Nahum 3:1.)
1. By the prophet. Jonah (Jonah 3:4) had once before announced the destruction of the Assyrian capital, which threatening, however, was averted by the repentance of its inhabitants; Nahum's prediction was literally fulfilled, because Nineveh in due time filled up the measure of its iniquities.
2. In the name of God. Had Nineveh's doom been pronounced only by Nahum's lips, it had been harmless; but Nahum was the mouthpiece of Jehovah, who already had declared himself against the great and wicked city (Nahum 2:13), and a second time repeats the fact, "Behold, I am against thee, saith the Lord of hosts" (verse 5). There is a wide difference between God's threatenings and man's.
II. DEPICTED. (Verses 2, 3.)
1. The advance of a hostile force. "The noise of the whip [of charioteers urging on their steeds], and the noise of the rattling of wheels [of war chariots in motion], and prancing horses [i.e. horses leaping up and starting forward as they feel the spurs dug into their sides], and jumping chariots [i.e. springing up as they dash along the rugged ground]."
2. The attack upon the city. "The horseman mounting [or, 'charging,' i.e. causing his steed to leap up and advance against the city]; and the flashing sword and the glittering spear; "rather than" the horseman lifteth up the bright sword and the glittering spear" (Authorized Version).
3. The appearance after battle. "A multitude of slain, and a great heap of carcases." So numerous, indeed, are the fallen, that "there is none end of the corpses, and they," the Medo-Babylonian invaders, "stumble upon their corpses," i.e. the dead bodies of the Assyrians.
III. JUSTIFIED. (Verses 1, 4.) By the character of Nineveh.
1. A city of blood; literally," of bloods," i.e. of bloodshed or murder, alluding to the barbarous and inhuman character of her warfare.
2. A city of deceit. Referring to the vain promises of protection with which she beguiled the nations to put their trust in her—promises which she never kept any more than did Egypt.
3. A city of oppression. "The prey departeth not." She is never done rending in pieces and tearing some nation or people.
4. A city of seductions. A city of witchcrafts, the prophet comparing her brilliance and prosperity by which she fascinated surrounding powers and secretly drew them to seek her favour, to the grace and beauty with which a harlot attracts and bewitches passers by.
IV. EMPHASIZED. (Verses 5, 6.) By Jehovah, who declares that her doom will be:
1. Certain; since he, Jehovah, is against her: "Behold, I am against thee, saith the Lord of hosts."
2. Shameful; since he will treat her, not as a chaste matron, but as a polluted harlot, whose skirts are thrown above her head, that her person may be exposed (Isaiah 47:3; Jeremiah 13:22; Ezekiel 16:37-41; Hosea 2:3).
3. Visible; since he will cause the nations to see her nakedness, and the kingdoms to behold her shame.
V. ATTESTED. (Verse 7.) By two things.
1. The horror of the nations. "It shall come to pass that all they that look upon thee shall flee from thee." Not so much in disgust (KeiI) as in terror (Ezekiel 31:16); of. the effect produced by the fall of Tyre (Ezekiel 26:21; Ezekiel 27:35), and of the mystical Babylon (Revelation 18:10).
2. The absence of helpers. Her fate was so richly deserved that no one interposed to ward off the stroke. In her hour of sorrow no one bewailed her; in her moment of weakness no one assisted her (Isaiah 51:19).
1. That greater woes have been pronounced against sinners in general than were uttered against Nineveh—read the woes of Christ in the Gospels (Matthew 23:13, Matthew 23:14, Matthew 23:15, etc.; Matthew 26:24; Luke 6:24, Luke 6:25, Luke 6:26; Luke 11:42, Luke 11:46).
2. That these woes will no more fail in their fulfilment than did those directed against Nineveh. God's word never returns to him void (Isaiah 55:11).
3. That God's judgments upon the wicked will eventually vindicate themselves in all men's eyes as just. "Salvation and honour and power," etc. (Revelation 19:1, Revelation 19:2).
The story of No-Amon.
I. THE BRILLIANT CITY.
1. Its sacred name. No-Amon, in Egyptian, Nu-Amun, or "Dwelling of Amun;" in Greek, Θῆβαι, or Thebes, with which corresponded the Egyptian Ta-ape, or "City of Thrones." Originally the capital of a home, it subsequently rose to be a royal city. It became the residence of the Theban dynasty of Pharaohs. Homer describes it as having had a hundred gates ('Iliad,' 9:383).
2. Its impregnable situation. "Among the rivers [or, 'canals']." "In all the long course of the Nile there is no site that can compare with that of Thebes," writes Stanley Leathes. At Thebes "the mountains (Libyan and Arabian) open out a great ampbitheatre, such as a king would choose to build his capital therein." "Nothing more lovely than this great amphitheatre, with its border of yellow sand and rampart of cliffs, can be seen in all the land of Egypt" ('Picturesque Palestine,' etc; 4:190,191). With the Nile running through, and canals formed round it, the city enjoyed a strong natural position.
3. Its military strength.
(1) Its native forces, those of Egypt and Ethiopia, were practically numberless.
(2) Its foreign auxiliaries, Put and Lubim, or the Libyans in the north of Africa and those contiguous to Egypt, were reliable.
II. THE DISASTROUS OVERTHROW.
1. Its unexpected occurrence. "Yet was she carried away." Notwithstanding her regal magnificence and boasted strength, she was captured and destroyed. Of this humiliation of Egypt's proud capital the monuments afford express information. Rudammon, the nephew (son of his sister) and successor of Tirhakah of Egypt, sat upon the throne. In an expedition against Egypt and Ethiopia, Assurbanipal of Assyria marched his forces first against Memphis, which Rudammon incontinently left, and then against Thebes, into which the alarmed fugitive had fled to save his life. The Assyrian king thus relates the issue of his campaign:" After Rudammon the road I took; I went to Thebes, the strong city; the approach of my powerful army he saw, and Thebes he abandoned, and fled to Kipkip. That city (Thebes), the whole of it, in the service of Assur and Ishtar, my hands took; silver, gold, precious stones, the furniture of his palace, all there was; garments costly and beautiful, great horses, people male and female, two lofty obelisks covered with beautiful carvings.; a hundred talents their weight, set up before the gate of a temple; with them I removed and brought to Assyria. Its spoils unnumbered I carried off. From the midst of Thebes, over Egypt and Ethiopia, my servants I caused to march, and I acquired glory. With the tributes peacefully I returned to Nineveh, the city of my dominion".
2. Its frightful severity. In addition to the information supplied by the Assyrian conqueror, the sacred narrative declares that it was accompanied by heart-rending excesses.
(1) The population of the gay capital were exiled. "She went into captivity." The deportation of conquered peoples into strange lands was then a customary practice, and seemed the only means that sovereigns like Shalmaneser, Tiglath-Pileser, Assurbauipal, and Nebuchadnezzar had for keeping them in subjection (2 Kings 17:6).
(2) The young children were ruthlessly massacred—they were "dashed in pieces at the top of all the streets." These were probably butchered to avoid trouble and inconvenience upon the march. This inhuman practice was likewise frequent in ancient warfare (2 Kings 8:12; Isaiah 13:16; Hosea 13:16).
(3) The princes and nobility were degraded. They were parted among their conquerors by "lot" and "bound in chains;" after which they were borne off into slavery.
III. THE PROPHETIC WARNING. The fate of No-Amon will one day overtake Nineveh.
1. Righteously. "Thou also shalt be drunken." Nineveh will be made to drink of the cup of Jehovah's wrath on account of her sins (Isaiah 51:17, Isaiah 51:21; Obadiah 1:16). As Jehovah dealt with the Egyptian capital, so will he deal with the Assyrian. "The particle 'also' is here emphatical; it was introduced that the Ninevites might know that they could not possibly escape the punishment which they deserved; for God continues ever like himself" (Calvin).
2. Resistlessly. "Thou also shalt seek a stronghold because of [or, 'a defence against'] the enemy." Nineveh would call in vain for allies to help her against the terrible Medo-Babylonian power, as No-Amon had fruitlessly looked to surrounding peoples for aid against Nineveh.
3. Easily. "All thy fortresses shall be like fig trees with the first ripe figs; if they be shaken, they fall into the mouth of the eater." The ramparts of Nineveh will go down at the first touch of the foe. "Hence a useful doctrine may be deduced: whatever strength men may seek for themselves from different quarters, it will wholly vanish away; for neither forts, nor towers, nor ramparts, nor troops of men, nor any kind of contrivances will avail anything; and were there no one to rise against them, they would yet fall of themselves" (Calvin).
4. Surprisingly. "Behold, thy people in the midst of thee are women: the gates of thy land are set wide open to thine enemies." The very last thing Nineveh would ever dream of would be that her warriors, hitherto invincible, would become faint-hearted as women, and that her fortresses would be as easily passed through as opened gates. Yet exactly these two things were what should happen to Nineveh.
5. Utterly. "The fire hath devoured thy bars," and "thou shalt be hid." Nineveh should perish in flames and pass away as if she had never been, her very site for centuries remaining unknown.
1. The worthlessness, for nations and cities, as for individuals, of purely material glory.
2. The certain ruin of nations, cities, and individuals who do not build on the only permanent foundation of righteousness.
3. The frequency with which, in the history of nations, no less than of private persons, coming events cast their shadows before.
The fall of Nineveh.
I. PREPARATIONS FOR A SIEGE. (Nahum 3:14.) In anticipation of the impending attack upon their capital, the inhabitants of Nineveh are exhorted by Nahum (ironically) to provide for their safety.
1. For their sustenance. This they should do by laying up within their city a plentiful supply of water for drinking, so as to enable them to withstand a prolonged siege. "Draw thee water for the siege." This, in a land like Assyria, would be likely to give way earlier than bread. It is only in seasons of exceptional scarcity arising from long continued drought, or from such calamities as occur in war, that men come to estimate correctly the value of water.
2. For their defence. This, on the other hand, they should do by strengthening their fortresses; for which again they would need an abundant store of bricks. Hence the prophet's exhortation, still satirical in its tone, "Strengthen thy fortresses; go into the clay, and tread the mortar, make strong the brick kiln." The Assyrians, like the Egyptians, as the monuments attest, prepared their bricks with clay, which they mixed with straw, and sometimes burnt, at other times merely drying them in the sun (Layard, 'Nineveh,' 2:252); and quantities of these would be required, when the evil day arrived, to repair the breaches that might be made in the walls, or to construct an inner line of defence when the outer should be taken.
II. RESULTS OF THE SIEGE. (Verse 15.)
1. The burning of the city. "There," in the midst of thy fortifications, "the fire shall devour thee." That Nineveh perished by fire is attested equally by ancient writers and by the state of the ruins.
2. The slaughter of its inhabitants. "The sword shall cut thee off, it shall devour thee like the cankerworm." The thought is that, even should the people of Nineveh be as numerous as a swarm of locusts, yet should they be swept away as completely as every green blade is swept away by the "cankerworm," or "licker," i.e. by the locust (Joel 1:4; Joel 2:3).
3. The plundering of its treasures. "Thou hast multiplied thy merchants above the stars of heaven: the cankerworm or ['licker,' i.e. the army of the enemy] spoileth, and fleeth away." "As soon as the soldiers entered a captured city they began to plunder, and then hurried away the spoil. They led off the horses, carried forth on their shoulders furniture, and vessels of gold, silver, and other metals; and made prisoners of the inhabitants, who probably became the property of those who seized them" (Layard's 'Nineveh,' 2:377). That Nineveh was a rich city may be inferred from the spoils She had taken from surrounding nations during her career of conquest, as well as from her favourable position for commerce. The costly produce of India was conveyed through Nineveh and Babylon towards the West (Layard, 'Nineveh,' 2:414). That Nineveh, who had so often despoiled others, should be herself despoiled was an instance of just retribution.
4. The annihilation of its army. "Thy crowned are as the locusts, and thy marshals [or, 'scribes '] as the swarms of grasshoppers which camp in the hedges in the cold day," etc. (verse 17). Whether the "crowned" ones should be understood as signifying the princes of Nineveh (Calvin, Gesenius, Fausset), or the warriors in general, whom it represents as "levied," "selected," "picked" (Keil); and whether the "marshals" here spoken of should be regarded as "military leaders," and thus as practically, synonymous with the "crowned" ones, or as common soldiers, though of a special excellence (Keil);—it is probable that the destruction of the army of Assyria is that which the language is designed to set forth. Though the war force of Nineveh should be as numerous as the locusts, or as swarms of grasshoppers, which pitch their camps in the walls at nights and in cold weather, yet they would as completely vanish as do these insects when the sun ariseth.
5. The destruction of its nobility. "Thy shepherds slumber, O King of Assyria: thy worthies are at rest." Assyria's princes and great men, her "royal counsellors, deputies, and generals" (Keil), should be slain and lie in still death. With grim satire the prophet represents them as having sunk into peaceful slumber after the labours of a long and busy day. Perhaps he intended to recall the scene which had once been witnessed before Jerusalem, when the stout-hearted (of Sennacherib's army) were spoiled, when they "slept their sleep," and "none of the men of might found their hands," when at the rebuke of Jacob's God" both the chariot and horse were cast into a deep sleep" (Psalms 76:5, Psalms 76:6).
6. The dispersion of its people; i.e. of such of them as had escaped the sword. "Thy people are scattered upon the mountains, and there is none to gather them" (verse 18). Compare the language of Micaiah to Ahab with reference to the result of the battle of Ramoth-Gilead (1 Kings 22:17).
7. The exultation of the nations. "All that hear the bruit of thee clap the hands over thee" (verse 19). Wherever the report of Nineveh's overthrow should penetrate, it would awaken no compassion. As all nations had suffered from her wickedness, so would they rejoice in her humiliation. None would seek to help her or raise her up. Hence her downfall would be final; there would be no assuaging of her hurt; her wound would be grievous, would be dangerously bad, would be incurable.
1. That the day of doom can be averted as little by ungodly men as by wicked nations.
2. That the resources of civilization—commerce and gun powder—are powerless defences against Heaven's artillery.
3. That nothing and no one can upraise what God has overthrown.
4. That God's righteousness in judging the wicked—whether individuals or nations—will ultimately vindicate itself in the eyes of all.
HOMILIES BY S.D. HILMAN
The guilt and ruin of Nineveh.
We have here—
I. A MOURNFUL REVELATION OF NATIONAL GUILT AND DEPRAVITY. (Nahum 3:1, Nahum 3:4.) The Assyrians are here charged with:
1. Unrighteous war. (Nahum 3:1.) There may be times in a nation's history when war becomes a dire necessity; but all war prompted, not by the desire to defend against unworthy aggression, but by unholy ambition, aggrandizement, lust of conquest and glory, deserves the severest reprobation. And such were the wars of the Assyrians, and which secured to their capital the unenviable appellation here used, "the bloody city," i.e. "city of bloods," founded and built up by strife and bloodshed.
2. Cunning craftiness. "It is all full of lies" (Nahum 3:1). It gained its unrighteous ends by deceit. Like "the strange woman" (Nahum 3:4), who bedecks herself in showy attire, puts on winsome manners, and resorts to bewitching arts, in order to attract, and then conducts her victim to the very "chambers of death," so Assyria, under show of friendship, brought other powers under her yoke, and effected their overthrow. With cunning craftiness she lay in wait to deceive, so as to enrich herself at the expense of others.
3. Continuous spoliation. "It is full of robbery" (Nahum 3:1); "The prey departeth not" (Nahum 3:1). Nineveh was great in barbaric splendour, and abounded in costly treasures; but this was secured by spoils taken in war and by tribute extorted from feebler nations unable to resist her encroachments; by robbery she thus continually made additions to her stores. This iniquity was perpetrated despite professed penitence and reformation resulting from the ministry of Jonah; and now the cup was full. Hence we have—
II. A SOLEMN DECLARATION OF IMPENDING DIVINE JUDGMENT RESULTING IN NATIONAL RUIN AND SHAME. Observe:
1. The intimate connection, between the sin and the shame. "Because of," etc. (verse 4). The war so graphically described (verses 2, 3) was declared by the prophet as the outcome of the national guilt.
2. The marked retributive nature of the Divine judgment.
(1) Assyria had delighted in war: by war she should fall (verses 2, 3).
(2) She had practised deceit: her real character should be exposed to her confusion and disgrace (verse 5).
(3) She had triumphed over other nations, and in her victory had shown no consideration towards the vanquished: she should herself now be humiliated, and be made a gazing stock (verse 6).
(4) She had blasphemed the God of Israel: now he would be against her, and would bring all this ruin upon her (verses 5, 6).
3. The entire absence of sympathy towards her in her reverses. (Verse 7.) No regret should be felt at her fall. No sympathy should be expressed. From her shades men should flee (verse 7). She should be thought of only as a beacon and a warning—"to point a moral!" She should be utterly, "desolate"—"cut off" and "laid waste" (verse 7). This is the end of evil doing (Job 18:17; Job 27:23; Proverbs 10:7; Ecclesiastes 8:10; Jeremiah 17:13).—S.D.H.
No-Amon, a sign.
There are certain great principles regulating the Divine government, and these are abiding. The seer spoke in harmony with these when he declared beforehand the ruin of Nineveh. Men, through unbelief, are slow to accept these principles and to acknowledge the inevitable results of their working. They are deceived by present appearances. They reason from things as they are, and conclude that, where there is material prosperity, this will of necessity continue Such was the difficulty with which Nahum had to contend. Assyria m his day was the dominant power, acknowledged and, on account of its tyranny and ambition, dreaded by all How, then, could the Hebrews credit the announcements of this prophet? Nahum felt their difficulty, and hence, in enforcing his teaching, he wisely turned from the future to the past, and, by referring to what God had done, he indicated what might yet be expected, lie appealed to No-Amon as a sign. Consider—
I. NO-AMON A SIGN TO THE PEOPLE OF JUDAH CONCERNING NINEVEH. By "No" (verse 8) is intended the renowned city of Thebes, the capital of Upper Egypt, called No-Amon, from the idol Ammon enshrined there and represented in the Egyptian monuments by a ram or by a man seated on a chair and with a ram's head. The sign thus chosen by the prophet by way of enforcing his teaching was singularly appropriate. Could Nineveh boast of remarkable natural advantages? So could No-Amon (verse 8). "It was situate among the rivers," etc. It was surrounded by the Nile and its canals (rhetorically here called "the sea," and actually so called still by the Bedouins), and which served as a natural fortification or bulwark. Could Nineveh pride herself in the multitude of her hosts ready to do her bidding? So could No-Amon. In this respect "her strength was infinite" (verse 9). Cato computed the number of Egyptians connected with Thebes at seven millions. Could Nineveh glory in her foreign alliances? So could No-Amon (verse 9). Yet despite all these advantages, No-Amon suffered defeat, and experienced the cruelties attendant thereon (verse 10). The reference is not to the complete destruction of No-Amon, but to the expedition of Sargon against Egypt (Isaiah 20:3, Isaiah 20:4), B.C. 714. Profane history gives no record of this; but the inscriptions on the monuments found in the palace at Khorsabad, built by Sargon, mention Egypt in connection with the wars of that king, and, when clearly deciphered, appear likely to strikingly confirm the scriptural representations (see Spiegel's 'Nineveh and Assyria' in Herzog's 'Cyclopaedia'). And as No-Amon, despite her resources, suffered at the hands of Assyria, so in the time to come should Assyria, notwithstanding her present glory, suffer through the foes who should rise up against her. Complete destruction should overtake her, and the records of her past triumphs and glories lie hidden under the mounds (verse 11). No power enabling her to withstand the enemy should be available (verse 11). Her strongholds when assailed should prove like fig trees with the first ripe figs, which fall without effort on his part into the eater's mouth (verse 12). Her proud warriors should be in her midst as weak and timid women, their hearts failing them for terror. Her gates should be thrown wide open, and their belts consumed by fire (verse 13).
II. NO-AMON AND NINEVAH A SIGN TO MODERN NATIONS. No-Amon, which in Nahum's day. had only been partially subjugated by the Assyrians, subsequently fell beneath the power of the conqueror, and so "proud Thebes," "the world's great empress on the Egyptian plains," came to nought. Nineveh, too, which in his time was great indeed in worldly glory, has likewise passed away, and is no more seen. Solemn impressions must be excited within the minds of reflecting men when they are privileged to visit the sites of these ancient despotisms, and to gaze upon the relics of departed greatness
2. National stability is not secured merely by
(1) Strong natural defends;
(2) influential foreign alliances;
(3) vast accumulated treasure;
(4) great military prowess and success.
3. Permanent influence, whether for individuals or for nations, has its foundation laid in righteousness and in the fear and love of God. (Psalms 144:15; Psalms 67:1-7.)—S.D.H.
Nahum 3:14, Nahum 3:15
Human efforts as directed against the Divine purpose.
We have furnished us in these verses an illustration of human effort as directed against the accomplishment of the purpose of God. Sometimes this course is taken by men unconsciously, but it was scarcely so in this instance. We know that the Assyrian power in the time of Sennacherib boldly defied the God of heaven, and it seems with the lapse of time to have gone from bad to worse. It was the Divine will that at length the arm of Assyria should be broken, and that its haughty and oppressive rule should cease; and the prophet here set forth how that, in the day of trial, human strength should do its best in order to avert the destruction divinely intended to be wrought. Some regard Nahum 3:14 as simply indicating the fact that the Assyrian power would maintain a prolonged defence; whilst others view the prophet as speaking ironically, and as mocking the vain endeavours of the defenders of Nineveh, just as Isaiah ridiculed the makers of idols (Isaiah 44:9-20). Be this as it may, he certainly declared here prophetically that human effort should be enlisted, against the overthrow divinely purposed, and that this should utterly fail; the fire should devour, and the sword should cut them off; yea, as destructive as the locusts should the instruments of the Divine vengeance prove (verse 15). We may find all this suggestive as applied to man's hostile action in relation to the Divine working in the spiritual realm.
I. IT IS AN UNDOUBTED FACT THAT HUMAN EFFORT IS DIRECTED AGAINST THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THE DIVINE PURPOSE IN GRACE. That purpose is the entire subjugation of evil—the recovery of a lapsed world to allegiance to Heaven, and hence its restoration to holiness and happiness. This benevolent purpose of our God is repeatedly expressed in his Word (Psalms 2:6; Isaiah 52:10; John 12:32; Revelation 11:15). The redemptive plan rests upon it, the unfailing consciousness that he was fulfilling the Divine counsels sustained the Christ as he pressed on with his glorious toil (Hebrews 12:2), and the mighty hope supports his followers in all holy service. Yet such is the aversion of the hearts of men by nature, that against this glorious and loving will of our God human effort has from age to age been directed. The antagonism has taken various forms—persecution, idolatry, scepticism, worldliness; all these forces have been employed in order to bring the counsel of God to nought. Note—
II. THE WEAKNESS OF HUMAN EFFORT AS THUS DIRECTED. So weak, indeed, are such endeavours, that in spite of them the Supreme Ruler sits on the throne of his majesty in perfect repose. He views with calm composure and without even a momentary apprehension and with scornful Contempt, this plotting and working of evil doers (Psalms 2:4, Psalms 2:5).
III. THE VANITY OF ALL SUCH ENDEAVOURS. They must inevitably prove ineffectual. So has it been, and so shall it be. Monumental pillars were raised to the memory of Diocletian, in that "he had everywhere abolished the superstition of Christ, and had extended the worship of the gods;" yet today this "superstition of Christ," as they called it, is everywhere spreading. The crescent shall wane before the cross; and despite the baneful influences of scepticism and worldliness, the Christ shall become enthroned in every heart. "The burial place of Christianity cannot be pointed out; it is not; for the living have no tomb." Its adversaries may "draw waters for the siege, fortify their strongholds," etc. (verse 14), but they shall surely be defeated (verse 15), for "the Lord God omnipotent reigneth."—S.D.H.
The instability of material greatness.
We have vividly described here—
I. MATERIAL GREATNESS. This consisting in:
1. Extensive commercial relations. "Thou hast multiplied thy merchants" etc. (Nahum 3:16). "The point at which Nineveh was situated was certainly the culminating point of the three quarters of the globe—Europe, Asia, and Africa; and from the very earliest times it was just at the crossing of the Tigris by Nineveh that the great military and commercial roads met which led into the heart of all the leading known lands". "The lists of plunder or of tribute carried off during the world empire of Egypt, before it was displaced by Assyria, attest the extensive imports or manufactures of Nineveh; the titles of 'Assyrian nard, Assyrian amomum, Assyrian odours, myrrh, frankincense, involve its trade with the spice countries; domestic manufactures of hers apparently were purple and dark-blue cloaks, embroidery, brocades, and these conveyed in chests of cedar; her metallurgy was on principles recognized now; in one practical point of combining beauty with strength she has ever been copied".
2. Vast military resources. (Nahum 3:17.) "Thy crowned are as the locusts, and thy captains as the great grasshoppers." By the term here rendered "crowned'' some have understood subordinate princes (see Sennacherib's boast, Isaiah 10:8), and by "captains" military officers; but it has been urged with force that such interpretations hardly agree with the comparison to locusts, the number of vassal princes and military officers being comparatively small; and that probably the terms are technical for certain classes of the soldiery (Keil and Delitzsch, in loc.). The comparison of these to the locusts and grasshoppers indicates the vast hosts of warriors Assyria could command in her expeditions.
3. Influential counsellors and commanders. (Nahum 3:18.) The "shepherds" and "nobles" were the king's counsellors, and the commanders of his armies, the government of the kingdom devolving upon the former, and its defence upon the latter. In all that constitutes the material strength of a people Assyria was great. Notice—
II. THE INSTABILITY OF MATERIAL GREATNESS. The prophet, looking on to the future, declared that these material tokens of greatness would all fail in the day of trial which was inevitably before them. All these outward indications of prosperity and power would then fade away. The merchants: like the cankerworms in the fields, would remain whilst they could secure any gains, but would seek some safe retreat in the lime of national calamity (Nahum 3:16). Their military forces should then perish and be no more, even as the locusts with the shining of the sun depart, leaving no trace behind (Nahum 3:17). Their counsellors, too, should sleep the sleep of death (Nahum 3:18), and their commanders lie beneath the dust of the earth (Nahum 3:18). And even so everything that is connected with material glory is unenduring. Seneca related how that one known to him was raised above the inordinate love of the world by the sight of a Roman triumphal procession. When the scene ended he said, "I have seen all this pomp and magnificence put in such order and passing slowly along; yet it is all gone: why should I esteem that which is so momentary?'
" For all that in this world is great and gay
Doth as a vapour vanish and decay."
III. THE HOPELESSNESS OF THOSE WHO HAVE THIS AS THEIR SOLE DEPENDENCE. "Thy people is scattered upon the mountains, and no man gathereth them." Nothing remains in such a case but irretrievable ruin. They only are safe whose repose m placed in the higher and heavenly Source of help. "Pat not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man," etc. (Psalms 146:3-6).—S.D.H.
"There is no healing of thy bruise; thy wound is grievous." Nothing can be more distressing than the consciousness of powerlessness in the presence of the deepest human need; to witness from the seashore the wreck, and to be utterly unable to save the shipwrecked mariners; to be sure that some one is in the burning edifice, and yet for it to be impossible to reach him and to bring him out; to stand before an audience alarmed by some needless cry, and to see the rush towards the doors, and to be unequal to checking it; or even to be by the bedside of one in life's youth or manhood's prime, and to hear that disease has, humanly speaking, prematurely seized its victim, and that medical help cannot cure, but only, and that for a time, alleviate. This position is occupied by many an earnest-hearted worker for God and the good of souls, in relation to the moral salvation of men. Nahum sustained it in reference to the Ninevites. He saw in them a people wrecked through the adverse winds and tempests of evil, consumed by the fires of unholy passion, on the mad rush to ruin and death, diseased through and through so that recovery was impossible; and hence, unable to heal, he cried in the sadness of his heart, "There is no healing of thy bruise; thy wound is grievous" (verse 19). So Isaiah said, "Ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick," etc. (Isaiah 50:5, Isaiah 50:6). So still. Note—
I. THIS STATE OF MORAL HOPELESSNESS IS NOT REACHED ALL AT ONCE, BUT IS BROUGHT ABOUT BY DEGREES.
II. IT IS NOT BROUGHT TO PASS THROUGH DIVINE HELP AND STRENGTH BEING UNAVAILABLE.
III. IT CANNOT BE EXCUSED ON THE GROUND OF THERE BEING A LACK OF WARNINGS AND EXPOSTULATIONS.
IV. IT IS ENTIRELY SELF-CAUSED; THE TRANSGRESSOR BRINGS HIMSELF INTO THIS STATE OF HOPELESSNESS; THE SINNER IS HIS OWN DESTROYER. "Take heed lest ye be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin" (Hebrews 3:12, Hebrews 3:13).—S.D.H.
The overthrow of evil doers a source of thankful joy.
"All that hear the bruit of thee shall clap the hands over thee: for upon whom hath not thy wickedness passed continually? '' These last words in the Book of Nahum are truly impressive. The messenger closes his brief prophecy in the same tone in which he commenced it, the vengeance of God being still his theme. At the outset he declared the solemn fact; at the end he applies the truth thus announced to the particular case in hand. "The magnificent dirge" forming this third chapter "is one sustained shout of wild exultation that the oppressor has fallen at last. The naked discrowned corpse of the glorious city is cast out to the scorn and disgust of the World. No spark of pity mingles with the prophet's delight. In this storm of indignation and vengeance the spirit of prophecy in the northern kingdom Breathes its last. Under this doom Nineveh vanishes from view, to be no more seen till in our day the discovery of her buried remains has given new life to the whole of this portion of sacred history". The theme suggested by this final utterance of Nahum is the overthrow of evil doers a source of thankful joy. Wherever the report of the fall of Nineveh should reach it should occasion a sense of relief and should excite rapturous delight. "All that hear the bruit of thee shall clap the hands," etc. (verse 19). This satisfaction, providing it does not arise from revenge, may be amply justified. See this in that—
I. THE FALL OF WRONG DOERS MEANS A DIMINUTION OF SUFFERING. It is to this that the prophet specially alludes when he says, "For upon whom hath not thy wickedness passed continually?" meaning that through her guilt she had proved a bitter scourge to all who had come under her influence, and that hence there would be general thanksgiving at her fall in that the tyranny would cease.
II. THE FALL OF WRONG DOERS MEANS THE TRIUMPH OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. The true hearted, as they witness the prevalence of iniquity, and as they see on every hand hollowness and insincerity, treachery and malice, envy and jealousy, slander and calumny, tyranny and oppression, are led ardently to long for the time when sin shall be completely vanquished, and when right shall be victorious; and since the discomfiture of wrong doers brings on the final triumph, they rejoice in this, though with a chastened joy, thankfulness for the victory of the right being blended with pity for transgressors.
III. THE FALL OF WRONG DOERS VINDICATES THE DIVINE RECTITUDE. The honour of their God is very precious to the hearts of the faithful and true. This is often impugned when manifest injustice and wrong seems to pass unpunished. The sceptical appeal to such inequalities, and ask tauntingly, "Where is now thy God?" "Is there a God that judges in the earth?" And when, in the history of men and of nations, God interposes in judgments and vindicates his rectitude, his servants cannot but praise and give thanks.
1. From the discomfiture and defeat which must eventually be the outcome of evil doing, God would save men. "He willeth not the death of the sinner."
2. How benevolent the ministry of those who seek men's deliverance from evil!
3. How great the folly of not heeding the call to righteousness given through them!
4. How intense will be the joy of the redeemed Church of God when our poor sin-stricken humanity shall be completely healed, and the full conquest over sin be gained by "the Lord and his Christ"!—S.D.H.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Nahum 3". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Seventh Sunday after Easter