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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Nahum 3

 

 

Verses 1-19

CHAPTER3

[The Prophet resumes the Description of the Siege of Nineveh ( Nahum 3:1—3); traces it to her Idolatry as its cause ( Nahum 3:4); repeats the Divine Denunciations introduced Nahum 2:13 ( Nahum 3:5-7); points her to the once celebrated, but now desolate Thebes ( Nahum 3:8-10), declaring that such should likewise be herFate; calls upon her ironically to make every Preparation for her Defense, assuring her that it would be of no avail ( Nahum 3:14-15); and concludes by contrasting her former prosperous with her latter remediless State.—C. E.]

12 Where is the den of the lions?

And the feeding-place of the young lions?

Where the lion and the lioness walked,

The lion’s whelp, and no one frightened [them].

13 The lion tore for the supply of his whelps,

And strangled for his lionesses:

He filled his dens with prey,

And his dwelling-places with rapine.

14 Behold! I am against thee, saith Jehovah of hosts,

And I cause her chariots to burn in smoke;

And thy young lions the sword shall devour;

And I cut off thy prey from the earth;

And the voice of thy messengers shall be heard no more.

Nah 3:1 Woe, city of blood!

She is all full of deceit and violence:

The prey departs not.

2 The cracking of the whip;

And the noise of the rattling of the wheels;

And the horses prancing;

And the chariots bounding.

3 Horseman mounting;

And the gleaming of the sword;

And the lightning of the spear;

And the multitude of slain;

And the mass of corpses;

And there is no end of dead bodies:

They stumble over their carcasses.

4 Because of the multitude of the whoredoms of the harlot,

The very[FN1] graceful one, the mistress of enchantments,

Who sells nations with her whoredoms,

And families with her witchcrafts.

5 Behold! I am against thee, saith Jehovah of hosts;

And uncover thy skirts over thy face;

And show the nations thy nakedness,

And kingdoms thy shame.

6 And I cast abominable things upon thee,

And disgrace thee,

And make thee a gazing-stock.

7 And it comes to pass, that every one that sees thee shall flee from thee,

And shall say, Nineveh is destroyed:

Who will pity her?

Whence shall I seek comforters for thee?

8 Art thou better than No[FN2]—Amon,

That dwelt by the rivers?

Waters were round about her;

Her bulwark was the sea:

Her wall was[FN3] of the sea.

9 Ethiopia was her strength, and Egypt;

And there was no end:

Phut and Libyans were among thy help.

10 She also has gone into exile:

Into captivity [has she gone].

Her young children also were dashed in pieces,

At the corners[FN4] of all the streets;

And for her nobles they cast the lot,

And all her great men were bound with chains.

11 Thou also shalt be drunken:

Thou shalt be hidden:

Thou also shalt seek a refuge from the enemy.

12 All thy fortresses are fig-trees with early figs:

If they are shaken, they fall into the mouth of the eater.

13 Behold! thy people are women in the midst of thee;

To thy enemies the gates of thy land are thrown wide open:

Fire consumes thy bolts.

14 Draw for thyself water for the siege:

Make thy fortifications strong:

Enter the clay and tread the mortar;

Make the brick-kiln strong.

15 There will the fire devour thee:

The sword will cut thee off:

It shall consume thee like the licking-locust:

Be thou numerous as the licking locust:

Be thou numerous as the swarming locust.

16 Thou hast multiplied thy merchants more than the stars of heaven:

The licking-locusts spread[FN5] [themselves out] and fly away.

17 Thy princes are as the swarming-locust;

And thy satraps like the locust of locusts,

Which encamp in the hedges[FN6] in a cold day:

The sun arises, and they flee:

And the place where they are is not known.

18 King of Assyria! thy shepherds slumber:

Thy nobles have lain down:

Thy people are dispersed upon the mountains.

And no one gathers [them].

19 There is no healing of thy bruise:

Thy wound is grievous:

All that hear report of thee clap the hand over thee;

For over whom has not thy wickedness passed continually?

EXEGETICAL

Without apparent pause [Einschnitt], a fuller exposition, which rises over the ruins, like a shout of triumph, and at the same time of wondering, almost of sympathizing astonishment, is connected with the description of the catastrophe. Henceforth the reality of the catastrophe does not appear so much on the foreground as its internal and external cause.

The strophe, Nahum 2:12-13, is added, externally viewed, as a concluding strophe to chap2, just in the same way that Nahum 1:12-14 is joined to chap1. However, it belongs to what follows, not merely by its rhetorical character and connection (comp. on Nahum 3:1), but it is also united to it by certain external clasps: compare the refrain, Nahum 2:14 a and Nahum 3:5 a; and the contrast, Nahum 2:12 d and Nahum 3:18 e; Nahum 2:14 f and Nahum 3:19 c. It contains the ground idea of the following: Nineveh, the robber, has vanished before God and by his agency; and it is characterized at the close, Nahum 3:14, as a divine judgment. Where is … the lion’s brood? Lions appear so frequently on the Assyrian monuments, that we see how the people were fond of comparing themselves and their great ones to this powerful animal, and how they considered it, in a certain manner, their escutcheon and ensign. This gives to the sarcasm of the divine power a beautiful point of connection. And no one alarmed them. They were safe from disturbance by means of their strength.

Nahum 3:13. The lion tore in pieces as much as his young ones wanted (on בְּדֵי comp. Obadiah 1:5), he strangled for his lionesses (comp. Judges 5:28 ff.), and he filled his dens with prey, and his lurking-holes with spoil. The Assurakbal cylinder, which Talbot has deciphered (Assyrian Texts Translated, p20 ff.), gives an idea of the manner in which the kings of Nineveh amassed [their treasures]: On the 22 d of the month I set out from Calah. I passed over the river Tigris. From the right bank of the Tigris I received a rich tribute. I stopped in the city Tabiti. On the 6 th day of the month I left the city Tabiti. I marched along the river Karmesch. I stopped in the city Magarisi … I stopped in the city Schadikanni. The tribute of this city was gold, silver, brass, oxen, sheep … I stopped in the city Katni. I received tribute from the Sunaeern … And so forth, two pages long. Compare the similar accounts of the black Obelisk of Salmanassar II. and of Sennacherib in Spiegel20:222, 224.

Now all that passes away, for, Nahum 3:14, behold, I come against thee (comp. Nahum 3:5; Jeremiah 51:25), says Jehovah of hosts, who is able to raise up against Assyria very different hosts from the Medes and Babylonians (comp. Doct. and Eth, below); and I burn in smoke, so that it passes into smoke (Tarn.) her, Nineveh’s, chariots. The prophet again and again turns himself, in spirit, from Nineveh to Judah ( Nahum 2:1), so that the suffixes are constantly changing.

And I destroy thy plunder from the earth, so that the insolent voice of thy messengers will no more be heard (comp. 2 Kings 19:10 ff.). Hieron.: “Nequaquam terras ultra vastabis, nec tributa exiges, nec audientur per provincias emissarii tui.” For the form מַלְאָכֵכֵה (varr. כֵכֶה—and כֶכֶה) comp. Ols, sec94, 2.

[Keil: The prophet, beholding the destruction in spirit as having already taken place, looks round for the site on which the mighty city once stood, and sees it no more. This is the meaning of the question in Nahum 3:11. He describes it as the dwelling-place of lions. The point of comparison is the predatory lust of its rulers and their warriors, who crushed the nations like lions, plundering their treasures, and bringing them together in Nineveh. To fill up the picture, the epithets applied to the lions are grouped together according to the difference of sex and age. אַרְיֵה, is the full-grown male lion; לָבִיא, the lioness; כְּפִיר, the young lion, though old enough to go in search of prey; אַרְיֵה גּוּרcatulus leonis, the lion’s whelp, which cannot yet seek prey for itself …

The last clause expresses the complete destruction of the imperial might of Assyria. The messengers of Nineveh are partly heralds, as the carriers of the king’s command; partly halberdiers, or delegates who fulfilled the ruler’s commands (cf. 1 Kings 19:2; 2 Kings 19:23). The suffix in מַלְאָכֵכֵה is in a lengthened form, on account of the tone at the end of the section, analogous to אֹתָכָה in Exodus 29:35, and is not to be regarded as an Aramæism or a dialectical variation (Ewald, sec258, a). The tsere of the last syllable is occasioned by the previous tsere. Jerome has summed up the meaning very well as follows: “Thou wilt never lay countries waste any more, nor exact tribute, nor will thy messengers be heard throughout thy provinces.” (On the last clause, see Ezekiel 19:9.)—C. E.]

A more extended statement of the Cause of the Destruction follows ( Nahum 3:1-7), whilst both the ground-ideas expressed in Nahum 2:12 ff, are further carried out: (a) the rapine of Nineveh ( Nahum 3:1-4); (b) the “behold I come against thee” ( Nahum 3:5-7).

O city of blood! הוי, is originally a pure vocative interjection, yet the threatening signification (vae!) is so evidently required by the connection in passages like the present ( Isaiah 10:1), and Habakkuk 2:15 ff, that it cannot very well (with Hupfeld) be denied.

She is altogether deceit; filled with crime. To the blood-guiltiness (דּמים; comp. טרף Nahum 2:12 f.) of Nineveh is added as a further cause of her fall, her universally acknowledged craftiness, which Ahaz once experienced. Abarb.: “Quia vanis pollicitationibus auæilü et protectionis gentes decipiebat” (comp. Habakkuk 2:15). פרק denotes the violent breaking of an existing barrier ( Genesis 27:40).

She ceases not from plunder; טרף, nomen actionis pro inf., as in [Keil and Delitzsch: “לאֹ יָמִישׁ, the prey does not depart, never fails. Mush, in the hiphil here, used intransitively, “to depart,” as in Exodus 13:22; Psalm 55:12, and not in a transitive sense, “to cause to depart,” to let go; for if ‘it (the city) were the subject, we should have tâmish. The rule, however, that verbs, adjectives, and pronouns agree in gender and number with the noun to which they relate, is subject to exceptions. See Nordheimer’s Heb. Gram., vol. i. sec755, 2; and Green’s, sec275, 1, a, b, c. Henderson renders לאֹ יָמִישׁ, “the prey is not removed,” and refers it to the fact that the Assyrians had not restored the ten tribes. Others translate it, with Kleinert, non desinit rapere. See Gesenius’ Thesaurus, s. v.—C. E.] Therefore judgment must certainly come upon her, and the prophet graphically presents it again, first to the ear, then distinctly to the eye; then he breaks out, in Nahum 3:2, with the exclamation,—

Hark! קוֹל, as frequently in an absolute sentence expressing, at the same time, interjection, verb, and object ( Isaiah 13:4). [קוֹל is here a noun in the construct state: it cannot very well be two or three things at once.—C. E.] The crack of the whip, and noise of the rattling of wheels, and the horse galloping, and chariots bounding.

Nahum 3:3. Horsemen rearing, properly causing to rear, the riders making the horses rear on high with the bridle, and flaming of the sword, and flashing of the lance, and a multitude of wounded, and a wall of corpses. Many of the nouns are assonant by means of the vowel o.There is no end of dead. Ctesias, in Diodor, says: The waves of the river flowed red a long distance, so great was the number of the slain. And they stumble over their dead. And why all this?

Nahum 3:4. On account of the multitude (מִן, as in Obadiah 1:10) of the whoredoms (comp. on Micah 1:7) of the whore; on account of the charming sweetness (טוֹבַת is a subs.) of the sorceress. Idolatry and witchcraft are marks of the specifically heathen character, the ultimate cause of all God’s judgments upon the heathen and heathendom (comp. Nahum 1:15; Micah 1:7; Micah 5:11). The restriction of her fornications to her commercial intercourse has a plausible support in Isaiah 23:5, but it has in the connection no real force, and must also be more distinctly marked. The idolatry of the heathen is called adultery, not in the special sense in which it is applied to Israel, but in the established prophetical usage ( Revelation 17:1). Compare Luther in the Horn, suggestions, בעלה comp. Genesis 37:19.

She sold the nations … with her witchcrafts. She was successful in everything, therefore she always became more secure and obstinate in her confidence in her gods. The structure of the passage is an intercalary and connected parallelism: abba; Nahum 3:1; Nahum 3:4 and Nahum 3:2-3 belong together. Just as we had already above, Nahum 1:11-14 (11,14; 12and13); Nahum 2:6-9; comp. also below the articulation of the sentence15 b, ff.

But this must certainly have an end. Nahum 3:5. Behold, I come against thee [אֵל, when the motion or direction is hostile, may be rendered against—C. E.], saith Jehovah of hosts, and uncover thy skirts, throw them so high that they reach over thy face, and cause the nations to see.… thy shame. Nineveh is represented as a virgin not on account of any virtue, but as one not yet subdued (comp. above Nahum 2:8); and her subjection under the figure of that which is most disgraceful to a woman. Comp. Isaiah 47:3, and the similar connection [of ideas], Habakkuk 2:10.

Nahum 3:6. And I cast abominable things upon thee: idols, according to the usual mode of expression; also, I bury thee under thy idols ( Nahum 1:14) Mich. (Others: I pelt thee with filth. But the passage, 2 Kings 19:27, cited by Hitzig in support of this, does not prove it.) And I make thee despised, yea, make thee a gazing-stock.

Nahum 3:7. And every one who sees thee flees from thee and says: Nineveh is laid waste! שׁדדה, Pual with Kametz, like מְאָדָּם1:4, Ges. sec52, Rem4. Who will comfort her? ( Jeremiah 15:5). ינוּד is voluntative. She has injured all (comp. Nahum 3:19). When all forsooth speak in this way, whence shall I then, says the prophet, seek a comforter for thee? Isaiah 51:19.

Nahum 3:8-11. The Certainty of the Destruction. [Keil and Delitzsch: “Nineveh will not be able to protect herself from destruction even by her great power. The prophet wrests this vain hope away from her by pointing in Nahum 3:8 ff. to the fall of the mighty Thebes in Egypt.”—C. E.]. Even the powerful Thebes was not able to withstand destruction. Art thou to me (dativus ethicus, compare on Jonah 3:3) any better, standing nearer, more important, more worth (for the form תֵיטְבִי instead of תִּיטְבִי compare Olsh. sec242 a, Remark), than No Amon,i.e., Thebes, the renowned capital of Upper Egypt. Compare Jeremiah 46:25, and Ezekiel 30:14 ff. In the last passage it is merely called No; but here it is more exactly defined by the addition of Amon, which refers to the great temple of Amon there. Compare Herod1:182; 2:42 (LXX. Ez. l. c. Διὸς πόλις comp. Diod1:45: Γπο μὲν Αἰγυπτίων καλουμένην Διὸς πόλιν τὴν μεγάλην ὑπὸ δὲ τῶν ΕλλήνωνΘήβας [It is necessary to compare the Hebrew text of Jeremiah 46:25 and Ezekiel 30:14 ff. in order to verify Kleinert’s statement that in the latter passage Thebes is merely called No; for in the English version the former passage reads only No, Amon being rendered by “multitude.”—C. E). Which [was destroyed—C. E.] notwithstanding, like thee she was situated by the water, namely, on the river Nile, on both banks of it (Strabo, xvii. p816), and also like thee, yea, more than thou, was protected by the water on every side of her, by canals (hence the plural יארים), so that one could justly say of her: her rampart was the sea—a rampart consisting of the sea, a rampart which is the sea; as it is similarly further said: her wall was of sea. (אשׁר יםחילה must mean, whose rampart the sea was). ים sometimes even denotes the Nile ( Isaiah 19:5).

Nahum 3:9. And how many allies she had! Cush, the strong, properly, that which is strong (3fem. præt. from עצם) in an elliptical relative clause (Ges. sec123, 3). The metheg, with the first Kametz, is doubtless complemental (comp. the reverse, Micah 3:6); if one does not with the versions prefer to insert Mappik in the final ה. Cush was her (Thebes’) strength (from עֹצם). The reading in question, the simple feminine substantive ossmah (Cush is strength) is feeble and clumsy;) and Egypt and so forth, if I would enumerate further, without end, Phut and Lubin were for thy help. Nahum, in keeping with his vivacious style, now addresses the absent person, of whom he speaks. The closing predicate היו בעזרהך (the ב predicative, as in Job 23:13; Proverbs 3:26) refers to all that have been named. Cush and Mizraim; Ethiopia, Upper and Lower Egypt; Phut and Lubim; Libya and Nubia (comp. Hitzig on Isaiah 66:19). Both these appear also elsewhere as confederates of and of the same origin with the powers of the Upper Nile ( Jeremiah 46:9; Ezekiel 30:5). And notwithstanding all this she could not preserve herself.

Nahum 3:10 : She also was given up to exile ( Ezra 6:21), she went into captivity ( Deuteronomy 18:1); also her children were dashed to pieces in all street corners, as was customary in conquests ( 2 Kings 8:12), and hence the final doom of the savage conquerors on the Euphrates and Tigris was announced from the talio point of view ( Isaiah 13:16 : Psalm 137:9); and over her nobles ( Isaiah 23:8) they cast lots (comp. Obadiah 1:11); and her great men were bound in chains. That the event of which the prophet speaks is not a future one (Hier, Theod, Cocc, Strauss), is proved in the first place externally by the tenses employed: the absolutely perfect action of Nahum 3:8-10 stands in manifestly designed antithesis to the concluding future, Nahum 3:11; and in the second place it is proved by sound logic, inasmuch as the prophet would scarcely, for the purpose of confirming a future event by an argumentum ad hominem, borrow from the future another example still much more remote and much more improbable [auch mehr ausser der Berechnung stehendes]. We must, therefore, seek for the capture (not destruction, for of that the text says nothing) of No Ammon, to which allusion has been made, in a time which lay back of this prophecy; and if it cannot be found in that time, then we would certainly be compelled, with Hitzig, to cut the knot, and consider this verse a gloss from post-exile times, and—an expedient which has fallen into disuse—refer it to the capture of No by Nebuchadnezzar, which, even historically, is by no means fully and clearly established. But consider (1) that Isaiah 20 would not have been admitted into the collection of the writings of Isaiah ( Deuteronomy 18:22), had not the fulfillment, i.e., the conquest of Egypt by Sargon, been known as a historical event in the time designated by Isaiah; (2) that Sargon, who, in the year of the conquest of Samaria, succeeded, on the Assyrian throne, Salmanassar IV, who died about that time, mentions expressly, according to his inscription in the palace founded by him at Khorsabad, the boundaries of Egypt as the scene of his deeds (Spiegel, xx224;) (3) that Rawlinson (Monarchies, ii416, f.) and Oppert (Sargonides, p22, 26 f.) have extracted, from a quite mutilated passage of an inscription found there, an account, in conformity with the statement above, of the overthrow of Sebek (= Song of Solomon,, 2 Kings 17) king of Egypt. (Comp. also Journ. Asiat., xii 462 ff, concerning the battle of Rabek, i.e. Heliopolis) [compare Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, article “So”—C. E.]; that finally (4) the successors of Sargon ascribe to themselves the standing title “King of Cush and Mizraim” (Oppert, Chronological Table; Rodiger, viii673).In view of these facts we must accord to this passage [that portion of the text under consideration—C. E.] the significance of a joint testimony, which, with the others, furnishes a mutual [solidarische] warrant of their truth, and accept, as a historical fact, a capture of Thebes by Sargon, or by his commander-in-chief Tartan ( Isaiah 20:3). This Delitzsch (Is., p238) and Keil do. Hitzig’s objection to this that the prophet could not very well remind the Assyrians of one of their own conquests, without in any way expressly indicating that it was even their Acts, since otherwise every one must think of the act of another people, has no force. Rather the reverse is the case; if that capture did not proceed from Assyria herself, it (1) asks too much from Nineveh to draw conclusions from an event which was far separated from her, and which occurred in the other end of the inhabited world; and how (2) should Hitzig’s subsequent glossarist come to remind the still existing Nineveh of the destruction of a city, which must have followed after that of Nineveh at least twenty-five years. The first of these two reasons is opposed to the reference by Ewald to a very apocryphal and isolated statement of Ammianus Marcellinus concerning a capture of Thebes by the Carthaginians. But Nahum himself intimates plainly enough why he expressly mentioned Thebes among the Assyrian conquests: by its situation on the river, defenses, and allies, it had a striking resemblance to Nineveh.

[I have been decided in referring it to a conquest by Sargon, because this can he confirmed by arguments from the Bible, and it is sufficient for the understanding [of the passage]. There Isaiah, however, to me another still more probable [ground for the] reference which I have made, in the agreement of the results of investigations among the monuments. Assarhaddon is called, on a lion dugout by the Turks at Nebi Yunus, not merely king, but conqueror of Cush and Mizraim (Röd, viii673. Comp. also Abyd. in Euseb. in the Chron. Arm.). On his Cylinder (in Talbot, Ass.C. t, p13), Egyptian deities are delineated and military expeditions against the countries on the Mediterranean; he appears even to have conquered Arabia (Spiegel, xx225). During his sickness the Egyptico-Ethiopian king Tirhaka (692–664; Lepsius, Köningsb. d. alt. Eg., i96), succeeded in reconquering Memphis, Thebes, and other cities, so that his [the Assyrian conqueror’s] son Assurbani-pal must have carried the war anew into those countries. If the decipherings pertaining to the point on hand have been settled with certainty, we must refer the passage [ Nahum 3:10] either to a conquest by Assarhaddon himself, or still rather to that by Tirhaka, which, it is easy to see, must have grieved the Assyrians, which as an admonitory example must have given them a double sting, and which, if we place the time of Nahum’s prophecy under Assarhaddon (Introd2), was still quite fresh in their memory. It would also furnish another effective argument for this date. But in any case there is not the least necessity of thinking of the capture by Nebuchadnezzar as the only one possible.]

[Thebes was long the capital of Upper Egypt and the seat of the Diospolitan dynasties, that ruled over all Egypt at the era of its highest splendor. Upon the monuments this city bears three distinct names—that of the Nome, a sacred name, and the name by which it is commonly known in profane history. Of the twenty Nomes or districts into which Upper Egypt was divided, the fourth in order, proceeding northward from Nubia, was designated in the hieroglyphics as Za’m—the Phathyrite of the Greeks—and Thebes appears as the “Za’m-city,” the principal city or metropolis of the Za’m Nome. In later times the name Za’m was applied in common speech to a particular locality on the western side of Thebes.

In Hebrew the name of Thebes is No-Amon (from כא, probably dwelling, and אמוֹן; but the Egyptian name is P-Amen, i.e., house of the god Amun, who had a celebrated temple there (Herod, 1:182; 2:42; see Brugsch, Geogr. Inschr., i. p177). The Greeks called it Διὸς πόλις generally with the predicate μεγάλη (Diod. Sic, i45) the Great, or Οήβη, from the profane name of the city, which was Apet. This name, with the feminine article prefixed, became Tapet, or Tape, or Tepe, Οήβη, generally used in the plural Οήβη, It was described by Homer (II., 9:383) as ἐκατόμπυλος; and the Pharaohs of the eighteenth to the twentieth dynasties, from Amosis to the last Rameses, resided in it, and constructed those works of architecture which were admired by Greeks and Romans, and the remains of which still fill the visitor with astonishment. It was situated on both banks of the Nile, which was1500 feet in breadth at that point, and was built upon a broad plain formed by the falling back of the Libyan and Arabian mountain wall, over which there are now scattered nine larger or smaller Fellah villages, including upon the eastern bank Karnak and Luxor, and upon the western Gurnah and Medinet Abu, with their plantations of date-palms, sugar-canes, corn, etc.

Though we have no express historical account of the capture of Thebes by the Assyrians, yet a struggle between Assyria and Egypt for supremacy in Hither Asia may be inferred from brief notices in the Old Testament ( 2 Kings 17:4). See Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, article “Thebes”; Keil and Delitzsch on Nahum 3:10.—C. E.]

Like No-Amon, Nineveh also shall have no protection in its rivers.

Nahum 3:11. Thou also shalt be drunken (comp. Habakkuk 2:16), receive the cup of God’s fury in judgment; Thou shalt perish in darkness, literally, shalt be hidden: “Abscondi Hebrœis sœpe est in nihilum redigi.” Calvin. Thou also shalt seek for help against the enemy, for protection against the advancing enemy, as No engaged the nations to help her: מן is used as in Isaiah 25:4. Keil. (One could also translate מן by from, from among: thou shalt desire help from the enemy, and think of the fact that the King of Assyria himself sent Nabopolassar to maintain Babylon against the Scythians. This, however, is more remote.

[“According to Abydenus, who probably drew his information from Berosus, Nabopolassar was appointed to the government of Babylon by the last Assyrian king, at the moment when the Medes were about to make their final attack; whereupon, betraying the trust reposed in him, he went over to the enemy, arranged a marriage between his son Nebuchadnezzar and the daughter of the Median leader, and joined in the last siege of the city.” Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible.—C. E.]

[“Thou wilt seek refuge flora the enemy,” i.e., in this connection, seek it in vain, or without finding it; not, “Thou wilt surely demand salvation from the enemy by surrender” (Strauss), for מֵאוֹיֵב does not belong to תְּבַקְשִׁי, but to מָעוֹז (cf. Isaiah 25:4.” Keil and Delitzsch.—C. E.]

Immediately subjoined to this [ Nahum 3:11] is the remedilessness of the destruction, Nahum 3:12-13. All thy fortresses are fig-trees with early figs; if one shake them, they fall into the mouth of the eater, comp. Isaiah 28:4; as if they were already waiting for him. On the על Hitzig remarks: If the motion made downward to the object is at the same time an entering one, then the latter is tacitly supplied, and merely על is written.

[“The tertium compar. is the facility with which the castles will be taken and destroyed by the enemy assaulting them (cf. Isaiah 28:4).” Keil and Delitzsch.—C. E.]

Nahum 3:13. Behold thy people, once invincibly stern ( Isaiah 5:27 ff.), are women in the midst of thee; comp. Nahum 2:11), by reason of anguish and terror. Possibly the prophet thinks, at the same time, of the effeminate manners, which finally crept into Nineveh (Layard, p360). [“The point of comparison here is not the cowardliness of the warriors, but the weakness and inability to offer any successful resistance into which the nation of the Assyrians, which was at other times so warlike, would be reduced through the force of the divine judgment inflicted upon Nineveh (compare Isaiah 19:16; Jeremiah 1:3-7; Jeremiah 6:30.”) Keil and Delitzsch.—C. E.]

The gates of thy land open spontaneously and without effort to thine enemies ( Nahum 3:12; comp. on Nahum 2:7); fire consumes thy bars. The gates and bars of the land are probably the fortresses guarding the frontiers.

[Different views are possible concerning the reference of לאיביך. It can be connected with what precedes, and can be translated either: “thy people are women (through cowardice) in respect to the enemy” (J. D. Mich, Rück, Hölem.); or: “as touching thy people, the women, the lionesses ( Nahum 2:13), fall to the lot of the enemy (comp. Judges 5:30). The latter translation, which I find in no interpreter, has some probability. The Masorites leave the matter undecided. Yet on rythmical grounds I have preferred the usual construction with what follows.]

[Keil: לְאֹיְבַיִךְ belongs to what follows, and is placed first, and pointed with Zakeph Katon for the sake of emphasis.—C. E.]

This remedilessness is further described by two peculiar apodoses, which are construed adversatively (though—yet), and whose protases are expressed in the imperative. On the use of the imperative in the protasis of conditional clauses, compare Ges, sec130, 2 b, 128, 2 c, and Rupert v. Deutz in Burck, p363.

First Antithesis, [Keil: Nahum 3:14-19. In conclusion, the prophet takes away from the city so heavily laden with guilt the last prop to its hope,—namely, reliance upon its fortifications, and the numerical strength of its population.—C. E.]

Draw for thyself water of the (for the) siege water necessary for a long-continued siege—C. E.]: make strong thy bulwarks—prepare the brick-kiln, in order to burn bricks for the bulwarks: there, in the very midst of these preparations, shall the fire devour thee, the sword shall destroy thee as locusts [locusts is the nominative: as locusts destroy—C. E.] so resistless will be thy ruin.

The Second Antithesis, Nahum 3:15 b–17, is connected with this last word by similarity of sound and association of ideas. Multiply thyself, if thou wilt; literally, make thyself a weight, a multitude, a swarm (comp. Nahum 1:12), swarm abundantly. In the root כּבד, as in Nahum 2:10, Nahum 3:3, the signification of a multitude, and that of a burdensome multitude, is prominent (comp. Ecclesiastes 12:5). Multiply abundantly like the licking locusts, multiply thyself like the swarming locusts.ארבּה is a synonym of ילק (comp. Joel 1.), There follows, before the apodosis ( Nahum 3:17 c) is introduced, a parenthesis, with which it afterwards enters into construction: a parenthesis, in which the ironical summons just uttered is filled out, and its historical warrant exhibited.

Nahum 3:16. Thou hast indeed multiplied thy merchants more than the stars of heaven. Taking into view the entire connection, it is not easy to understand this of merchants in the proper sense, as in Isaiah 23:3 f, Ezekiel 27:3 f, but, according to Nahum 3:4, of the despotic manner of trafficking in men as in merchandise, which is practiced by conquering hordes.

[Keil and Delitzsch: That Nineveh was a very rich commercial city may be inferred from its position, namely, just at the point where, according to oriental nations, the east and west meet together, and where the Tigris becomes navigable, so that it was very easy to sail from thence into the Persian Gulf; just as afterwards Mosul, which was situated opposite, became great and powerful through its widely-extended trade.—C. E.]

Besides Nahum 3:17, the words which immediately follow show this: “The licking locusts enter to plunder (פשׁט used of hosts, Job 1:17; Judges 9:33 f.), and fly away:i.e., thy armies were like swarms of locusts, which alighted on a country, laid it waste, and left it desolate,—a comparison without the particle of comparison, which is frequently the case (comp. on Habakkuk 1:11)

[Keil and Delitzsch: “The meaning of this verse has been differently interpreted, according to explanation given to the verb pâshat. Many following the ὥρμησε and the expansus est of the LXX. and Jerome, give it the meaning, to spread out the wing; whilst Credner (on Joel, p295), Maurer, Ewald, and Hitzig take it in the sense of undressing one’s self, and understand it as relating to the shedding of the horny wing-sheaths of the young locusts. But neither the one nor the other of these explanations can be grammatically sustained. Pâshat never means anything else than to plunder, or to invade with plundering; not even in such passages as Hosea 7:1; 1 Chronicles 14:9; 1 Chronicles 14:13, which Gesenius and Dietrich quote in support of the meaning, “to spread;” and the meaning forced upon it by Credner, of the shedding of the wing-sheaths of locusts, is perfectly visionary, and has merely been invented by him for the purpose of establishing his false interpretation of the different names given to the locusts in Joel 1:4. In the passage before us we cannot understand by the yelek, which “plunders and flies away” (pâshat vayyâ-ôph), the innumerable multitude of the merchants of Nineveh, because they were not able to fly away in crowds out of the besieged city. Moreover, the flying away of the merchants would be quite contrary to the meaning of the whole description, which does not promise deliverance from danger by flight, but threatens destruction. The yelek is rather the innumerable army of the enemy, which plunders everything, and hurries away with its booty.”

The statement of Keil that pâshat “never means anything else than to plunder,” is not sufficiently guarded. Compare Leviticus 6:4; Leviticus 16:23; Song of Solomon 5:3; 1 Samuel 19:24; Ezekiel 26, 16; Ezekiel 46:19, and Nehemiah 4:17. A man does not plunder his clothes, when he takes them off.—C. E.]

Nahum 3:17. Thy crowned heads, the vassal princes, with whose aid he undertook war, are like locusts, thy satraps (an Assyrian word; comp. Jeremiah 51:27. Ges, Thes., and Strauss ad I.—Ols, sec198 c, considers also מִנְּזָרַיִךְ such; the dagesch forte euphonicum in the כ, though certainly unusual, is justified by the analogy of מִקּדשׁ ( Exodus 15:17), like swarms of locusts (the repetition indicates the numberless multitude, Ew. sec313; גובי is singular, Ols, sec216 d) which encamp in the walls in the time of cold, which deprives them of the power of flying, Hieron.: the sun arises, the encampment comes to an end, they fly away; and one knows not the place where they are. The catastrophe, although as an adversative apodosis it properly corresponds to Exodus 15:10, is nevertheless described in immediate connection with the parenthetical filling up of the picture: the complete vanishing of the forces of the Assyrians, which could not take wing in the cold, in the calamity assailing their country, but which assembled in Nineveh, is compared to the vanishing of a swarm of locusts, which alight in the cool of the night, in order to continue their flight in the morning. They have vanished out of sight. Compare Zechariah 1:5; Psalm 103:16. Where are they?

The Concluding Strophe, Nahum 3:18 f, answers in elegiac strain: Thy shepherds, those who were appointed chief officers of the army ( Micah 5:4 ff.) King of Assyria, have fallen asleep, the sleep of death ( Psalm 13:4 (3); Psalm 76:6 ( Psalm 76:5): thy powerful ones are lying still (comp. Nahum 2:6). Thy people (on the construction compare Ges. sec146, 1) are scattered (comp. Nahum 3:17) upon the mountains, and no one gathers them. A beautiful contrast to Nahum 2:12

Nahum 3:19. There is no healing of thy fracture, thy ruin (comp. Proverbs 16:18), thy stroke is deadly ( Jeremiah 30:12). And no one grieves for it (comp. Nahum 3:7): all who hear tidings of thee (comp. Isaiah 23:5; Habakkuk 3:2) clap their hands, (comp. Zephaniah 2:13 ff.) for over whom has not thy wickedness passed continually? Comp. Jonah 1:2. The wickedness of which the Holy Scriptures, and now also the monuments testify: the audacious boast of cruelty and of the pitiless crushing of the nations exhibited in the inscriptions: in the sculptures, the rows of the impaled, the prisoners through whose lips rings were fastened, whose eyes were put out, who were flayed alive. Consequently it would be a joy to all nations to hear the voice of the messengers of the tyrant no more ( Nahum 2:14), but to hear that of the messengers of his destruction.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL[FN7]

The prophecy of Nahum culminates in the words directly ascribed to God: Behold I come against thee. Both the contending powers, the plundering world-power and the just avenger, approach in mutual hostility. One must perish on the spot; and the place where Nineveh stood, has become void.

God is called in this contest Jehovah Sabaoth, the Lord of Hosts. This is not merely poetic diction. The name, which is not used in the Torah, is the usual one in the spiritual conflicts of Israel against heathenism, which were fought by the prophets. No doubt this points to the fact that Sabaoth is not to be interpreted in an external way as has been usual, so as to understand by it, with reference to Exodus 7:4; Exodus 12:41, the warriors of Israel, whom God led forth to battle.

The name enters more deeply into the nature of God. If that were the meaning, how does it come, that the name occurs, neither in the Pentateuch, which is acquainted with that signification of hosts, nor in the foreign battles in the time of the Judges immediately following that of the Pentateuch? The “hosts” are, according to the prevailing mode of speech, the host of heaven; the stars together with the celestial spirits gliding over them, by whom they are supposed to be in part inhabited. (Rödiger in Ges, Thes., 1140 a). [In Tomus Tertius of Ges. Thes., published in Leipzig, 1853, the reference is found in1146 a.—C. E.].

To [the worship of] this heavenly host, the most perfect form of the Hither Asiatic, namely, of the Mesopotamian heathenism, was devoted ( Deuteronomy 4:19; Deuteronomy 17:3). This highest form of the worship of Nature spread powerfully, and penetrated also into Israel, when it came in contact with the world-powers ( 2 Kings 17:16; 2 Kings 17:3). But even they [the hosts of heaven] are under the control of Jehovah ( Jeremiah 31:35), for He created them ( Genesis 2:1); the heavenly powers must at his command assist in fighting his holy battles ( Judges 5:20). It belonged to the function of the prophets to press this truth upon the conscience of the rebellious people ( Jeremiah 8:2) directly under the superior earthly power of the star-worshippers, which continued to loom up with increasing darkness. With this statement corresponds the prophetical name Jehovah Elohe Sabaoth, who is the only living One, and who is also Lord over the hosts of heaven. In harmony with this is the fact that the name seems to be preferred, where the subject treated of is the overthrow of the heathen powers. So in this passage.

God is a God of life, and grants to the nations their life. Therefore He kills him, who has made killing his business. He destroys the destroyer. The time is coming when He will destroy Anti-God, death himself, through whom the cut-throats of the earth have their power ( Isaiah 25:8). God is a long-suffering God. He had also waited in Nineveh ( Nahum 1:3, compare the book of Jonah); but it did not cease from its robbery. This is what we might expect, for the root is poisoned: blood-guiltiness springs from idolatry. In the land, where the worship of God is observed, there is always a remnant, whose intercession delays judgment ( Amos 7.); and who cannot perish with the wicked ( Ezekiel 14:14). But Nineveh, the world-power, is “all deceit”; it must, therefore, entirely Perish. Not on account of idolatry in itself would god have destroyed it, otherwise He would not have sent Jonah: his justice waited for the out break of murder. But after this has infected the whole city, after all its works have assumed the known heathen character, to put itself in the place of God, and to trample under foot the universal revelation of God, that deceit and murder are sins; after it had thus identified itself with the impious principle, its destruction must come.

For God’s judgment is revelation. In the fall the entire ignominy concealed by external glory, the rottenness of the powerful tree, the utterly forlorn condition, in which it for a long time already internally stood, whilst it was externally pressed, come to light. Then indeed the more unexpected the blow, the more certain: the nearer it advances, the more fearful and incurable.

Beck: The name Sabaoth represents God ( Deuteronomy 10:17; 1 Corinthians 8:5; 1 Timothy 6:15), who goes as a man of war, against his and his people’s enemies ( Exodus 15:3), as the ruler with all fullness of power even within the highest sphere of life. This is the ruling thought, in the first place, in the prayer of Hannah, whose subsequent song of praise proves how her heart supported itself on the might and strength of God against the insolent power of the enemy; very frequently in the mouth of David, the soldier of God; also in Solomon’s, the prince of peace; in the warlike period of the kings, when the defenseless, enervated kingdom looked around for powerful allies, etc.

Compare also Oehler in Herzog’s Real-Encyc., xviii400 ff.

HOMILETICAL

Nahum 2:12 to Nahum 3:7. Hostility against God cannot be maintained. For—

1. It hinders God’s work. It is quarrelsome and lawless, but the world was made for peace, for order, and for life. ( Nahum 2:12-13 a, 14.)

2. It accumulates guilt, but God is a judge. (13 b, Nahum 3:1 a.)

3. It does not rest until it has poisoned the whole man (and the entire community) and made him ripe for death. ( Nahum 3:1 b.)

4. It experiences no change for the better. ( Nahum 3:1 c.)

5. Its effort is to make itself equal to God, and God suffers no equal. ( Nahum 3:4-5.)

6. It estranges all from itself, and finds, therefore, neither consolation nor intercession. ( Nahum 3:7.)

Nahum 3:18-19. There is no deliverance from the judgment of God. For—

1. Even the mightiest of the earth are as locusts before Him. ( Nahum 3:8-11; comp. Isaiah 40:22)

2. The more obstinately they resist, the more irresistible is the judgment. ( Nahum 3:12 ff.)

3. The larger and more numerous they are, the more utterly will they be destroyed. (15:100 ff.)

4. The time, after all, is coming, when God shall be all in all. ( Nahum 3:18 f.)

On Nahum 2:12. God knows how to make an end of the greatest distress, in such a way as to astonish us.

Nahum 3:13. As it comes so it goes. Unrighteous possessions cannot prosper.

Nahum 3:14. Even fire and sword do not do their work without God. Where the voice of the evangelists ( Nahum 2:1) gains power, the voice of the messengers of sin becomes dumb.

Nahum 3:1. Where there is still only a spark of faith, it furnishes us with hope against despair.

Nahum 3:2 ff. Where a carcass Isaiah, there the eagles gather themselves together.

Nahum 3:5. The greatest power does not long conceal secret shame. The more powerful an infamous man is for a long time, the profounder afterwards is his contempt.

Nahum 3:6. God will make a gazing-stock, to be gazed at by all, of him who delights in vain pleasure.

Nahum 3:7. It is a deplorable state of misery, when a heartless and haughty man falls into misfortune. He has not even a soul which laments it. Make to yourselves friends of the unrighteous Mammon.

Nahum 3:8 ff. Men may not learn prudence by experience. Ninety-nine godless persons perish in their security, and the hundredth still thinks that his case is a special one, and relies on the same props, which, under others, have been irremediably broken.

Nahum 3:11. The prudent man thinks that his prudence will help him through everywhere. But when God’s hand comes upon him, even the most prudent is bewildered, so that he acts like a drunken man. The more prudent derides him, and soon after fares the same way. To him, who has not learned to use everything, that he has, in the earnest service of God, nothing is of any advantage; in the hour of decision it forsakes him. When Christianity came, the bulwarks of heathen wisdom became subservient to it, and it employed them against the heathen. This is a hint for the Church in all times. It is always important to assault directly the strongholds of the ungodly: they cannot stand. He who ventures nothing wins nothing.

Nahum 3:14. God does not need to wait for the unguarded moment of his enemy. He can crush him in the midst of his preparation. We have no occasion for anxiety, if Rome appears to be externally powerful.

Nahum 3:15 ff. Should all men come en masse to thwart the work of God, they would still be like locusts before the Lord of Sabaoth.

Nahum 3:18 f. All flesh perishes, but the Word of God endures forever. Alexander and Epicurus sleep, but Nahum -hum and Paul are living. When Jesus was in agony and his disciples slept and fled, then He bore the punishment, which was laid upon the world. But by his wounds we are made whole; the wounds of the world are incurable. A wicked man hurts no one so much as himself.

Luther: On Nahum 3:1 f. God is very long-suffering and exercises great patience with our sins, whilst they are concealed. But if we are so utterly infatuated that such sins become notorious, and we continue in them without reserve, just as if we were acting well by such a course, then He cannot look upon them, but He punishes them.

Nahum 3:4. I hold that the prophet uses here, in accordance with the usage of Scripture elsewhere, whoredom for idolatry, godless conduct, and contempt. As if he would say: Thy godless conduct is so great, and thou hast gone so far in it, that thou hast also associated many nations with thee. For this purpose also the King of Assyria had many godless teachers, whom he kept and supported, that they might increase such an ungodly way of life. He uses the word vendidit [sold] as Paul does in Romans 7:14. Nineveh enticed the nations to herself and was the cause of other heathen falling into such wicked practices and perishing.

Nahum 3:8 f. The God, who delivered Judah, is even the same, who has said: not a hair shall fall from our head without his will.

Starke: Nahum 2:12 f. The powerful should prove themselves like lions in good, but not in evil. It is a vain care, when parents are anxious only to be able to leave behind them great estates for their children.

Nahum 3:14. As one treats the children of other people, in the same way must he generally expect his own to be treated.—Chap3 Nahum 3:1. Where one does not cease from sinning, there God also cannot cease from punishing. Unpunished blood-guilt accelerates the destruction of a country.

Nahum 3:5. Because the godless very soon and easily forget the divine threatenings, they mast be often repeated. The children of the world know how to conceal artfully their knavish tricks for a long time, but God uncovers them to their very great disgrace.

Nahum 3:7. A true friend is known in trouble. Great rivers, good fields, safe harbors, gold and possessions do not insure the prosperity of a city. Legitimate alliances are allowable and useful ( Genesis 14:13; Genesis 21:27; 1 Kings 5:12), but unrighteous alliances are destructive.

Nahum 3:10. When God punishes crimes He does not regard the person. Servitude and captivity are often more bitter than death. The sins of parents are often visited upon their children.

Nahum 3:11. If a calamity is preached, one should not take refuge in fortresses, but in God, and exercise true repentance. The pious receive from the hand of God the cup of salvation and of joy ( Psalm 23:5), the ungodly the cap of wrath.

Nahum 3:12. When the best fortifications are taken with little trouble, then we ought much more, in that case, to acknowledge the finger of God.

Nahum 3:13. That which is built by the hand of Prayer of Manasseh, the hand of man can also destroy. To be of good courage in trouble is also a gift of God, and no man can give it to himself.

Pfaff: On Nahum 3:4. To sin ourselves certainly works damnation; but to lead others into it increases incomparably more the punishment.

Nahum 3:7. The godless find consolation nowhere; for God, whom they have forsaken, is the only source of all true and abiding consolation.

Nahum 3:12. When God’s judgments come, they come with power, and they cannot be prevented by any human foresight.

Rieger: On Nahum 2:12 ff. God laughs at the wicked, whilst they are still powerful. Nineveh was still in its bloom, when He asked: Where is now the dwelling-place of the lions? Now be wise, therefore, ye kings, and be instructed, ye judges of the earth.—Chap3 Nahum 3:1 ff. Before, the eye was never satisfied with objects, which, in a luxurious city, were arranged so as to prove allurements to all kinds of pleasure. But after a little while what an entirely different spectacle does it exhibit, when everything that fills the ear with terror, and the heart with the feeling of the wrath of God, displays itself.

Nahum 3:5 ff. It is here, as if king, city, and kingdom stood themselves before the judgment-seat of the Lord of hosts and were obliged to listen to the decree of wrath proceeding from it, with all the appertaining records. What artifices does one often need in civil government, in a community, in a family, to conceal the real condition, to cover internal losses, in order to maintain external show? What will it be, when the Lord shall uncover all this low dealing and exhibit everything in its nakedness? When the hand of God comes upon one, then men begin to judge and to speak in a quite different way. On the part of men there may indeed be much unauthorized, joy at the misfortunes of another, but God, in the mean time however, uses it for his punishment

Nahum 3:13 ff. How much ado is made when commerce and trade thrive, and when rich people, with great wealth, go to live in a city or country. But when the guiding principle of the fear of God is wanting, many strange sins are introduced along with them, and when those rich men should advise and help, they flee away. Also under the pretext of the common good they look out for themselves, and they are careful always to flee away with that which they aimed to procure.

Nahum 3:18 ff. How many severe means has the Lord been obliged to employ to prevail upon men to rely no longer upon earth. Who then would stiffen his neck against Him, who has in such a signal manner broken others before us!

Hieronymus: On Nahum 2:14. O Nineveh, everything which is predicted thou wilt suffer from no other than me.

Schlier: Nahum 3:4. By whoredom unfaithfulness toward Jehovah, from the nature of the case, is not intended; but the treacherous friendship of the great metropolis, by which, like a prostitute, she allured others to her and ensnared them by her witchcrafts, for the purpose of binding them with land and people to herself, and of deriving advantage from them. It is the treacherous friendship of the great metropolis, which makes herself the centre of the nations, on which all the world is dependent.

Schmieder: This characteristic recurs ( Revelation 18:3) in the description of the spiritual Babylon, which, by the fullness of the lust of the eye and the lust of the flesh and of all earthly possessions, produces the most excessive voluptuousness, and by every worldly charm and allurement turns away the hearts of men from God.

Hieronymus: Thou hast entangled all nations in thy net, I must then certainly come to destroy thee.

Footnotes:

FN#1 - Nahum 3:4.—ט֥וָבַת ח֖נ בַּֽעֲל֣ת כְּשָׁפִ֑יםִ, beautiful with grace, mistress of witchcrafts, i. e, devoted to them.

FN#2 - Nahum 3:8.—הֲתֵֽיטְבִי מִנּ֣אֹ אָמֹוֹן, Art thou better than No Amon? This was the Egyptian Thebes or Diospolis, the ancient and splendid metropolis of Upper Egypt, called by Homer ἑκατόμπυλος, Il., ix383. No according to Gesenius, signifies a measuring line, then part, portion measured: No Amon, therefore, signifies the portion of Amon, i. e. the possession of the god Amon, as the chief seat of his worship. Amon was the supreme god of the Egyptians, and worshipped at Thebes with great pomp. He is usually depicted, on Egyptian monuments, with a human body and the head of a ram; and the name is there written Amn, more fully Amn- Revelation, i. e., Amon-Sun. See Ges, Heb. Lex., s. v.

FN#3 - —מִיַּם חֽוֹמָתַֽהּ, her wall was of the sea, i. e., consisting of the sea, formed by the sea.

FN#4 - Nahum 3:10, etc.—בְּר֣אֹשׁ, at the head, literally, head of the streets. Gesenius renders it head of the streets, corner. Lamentations 2:19.

FN#5 - Nahum 3:16.—פָּשַׁט, to invade for the purpose of plundering. Keil renders it: “The licker enters to plunder, and flies away.” The LXX.: βροῦχος ὥρμησεν καὶ ἐξεπετάσθη. The Vulgate: bruchus expansus est et avolavit. Luther: aber nun werden sie sich ausbreiten wie Kafer und davon fliegen. Kleinert: die Heuschrecken brachen ein und flogen davon.

FN#6 - Nahum 3:17.—בַּגְּדֵרוֹת, in the walls, or hedges. It is used to designate the wall of a city; also that of a vineyard. It signifies also an inclosure, a. fold for flocks. See Ges, גְּדֵרָה.—C. E.]

FN#7 - Reichsgedanken, see note, Com. on Jonah, p20.—C. E.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Nahum 3:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/nahum-3.html. 1857-84.

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