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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
Nahum 2

 

 

Verse 1

CRITICAL NOTES. Dasheth] Lit. disperser. Keep] in Judah peace, in Nineveh tumult. Watch] for the enemy. Loins] Prepare for conflict (Job ). Every means of defence will be necessary.

HOMILETICS

THE CAUSE AND PREPARATIONS OF WAR.—Nah

Whether these words be applied to the Jews defending Jerusalem, or to the Ninevites defending their city against the Medo-Babylonian army, their meaning is the same. They begin a lively description of the siege.

I. The cause of the war. "For the emptiers have emptied them out."

1. The Assyrians had oppressed God's people. They had abused their power in the chastisement of Israel, plundered the people, and outrageously destroyed their vines. Now the emptiers must be emptied, and those who chastised others must be chastised themselves. "Power abused brings a curse upon its possessors. Power gives temptation, which in turn sets aside honour, social duty, law, and right; creates abuse; and abuse, strife, confusion, retribution, bloodshed, sin" [Bailey].

2. God's purpose concerning his people was accomplished. The enemy falls, but God will restore his people. He will re-establish the glory of Israel which Asshur had destroyed. Its eminence, by virtue of its election, will no longer be tarnished. God sees an excellency in his people which the world does not, and eventually will make them "an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations."

II. The approach of the enemy. "He that dasheth in pieces is come up." Notice,

1. The nature of the enemy. "The dasher in pieces," not a hammer of war, but one whom God employed to scatter other nations. The feeblest people, in God's hands, may be a terror to others The mightiest nations, intoxicated with success, and abusive of their privileges, may be broken in pieces like a potter's vessel.

2. The nearness of the enemy. "Before thy face." Direct against her, face to face. Men are not sensible of their danger, put the evil day far off, when it is nigh at hand. "Serious things to-morrow," said the ancient prince, who gave himself to revelry, and was ruined with his kingdom.

III. The defence of the city. Some take the words ironically, and equivalent to a prediction. Thou shalt defend thyself, but all in vain. The most powerful and courageous preparations are matters of derision before God.

1. Keep the fortress. "Keep the munition." Strong walls, though unassailable by human skill, would not be secure.

2. Guard the avenues. "Watch the way" by which the foe may come and repel him. Prevent entrance into the city.

3. Encourage one another. "Make thy loins strong." Gather up courage, and let nothing be unemployed. Stand, having your loins girt about like men (Eph ; Job 40:7).

4. Resist mightily. "Fortify thy power mightily." It is a desperate affair, no careless, timid defence will avail. Nor will the utmost the wicked can do prevail against God. Impotent are all efforts of defence when God has departed from a place. "The Lord hath opened his armoury, and hath brought forth the weapons of his indignation: for this is the work of the Lord God of hosts in the land of the Chaldeans."

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 2

Nah . Dasher in pieces. Demetrius was surnamed Poliorcestes, the destroyer of cities; Attilas called himself Orbis flagellum, the scourge of the world. Julius Csar was Fulmen belli, the thunderbolt of war; he had taken in his time a thousand towns, conquered three hundred nations, took prisoners one million of men, and slain as many. These were dissipatores indeed, and dashers in pieces, rods of God's wrath; and this they took to be a main piece of their glory [Trapp].

Nah . Chariots were objects of great interest. "Their charioteers had an air of perfect fearlessness; they dashed along as if caring for nothing, but resolved upon crushing everything. These declarations are perfectly accurate, and cannot be more evident than the sculptures and bas-reliefs of Nineveh have shown them to be. Their chariots are represented, covered with costly decorations and Sabean symbols; and their horses are exhibited in almost every variety of attitude—rearing, running and rushing—exactly as we should have supposed them to be, after reading that which is said of them in the prophecies."

The siege was no easy task. History declares that the king, at the approach of the enemy, collected all his active forces—that the besieging army was three times severely defeated, and that the Medes could only be held with great difficulty to the work. The Assyrians abandoned themselves to negligent rejoicing in the camps before the gates on account of victory, but were attacked in the night and driven back to the walls. Salæmenes, brother-in-law to the king, who had resigned the command to him, was driven into the Tigris (cf. ch. Nah ); but the city was still uninjured, and the enemy encamped in vain before the gates. In the spring of the third year other powers interfered. The river became "an enemy to the city" (cf. Nah 2:7; Nah 1:8-10). The inundation occurred suddenly, and violently broke down in one night the walls on the river. The king despaired of his life, and having sent his family to the north, shut himself up with all his treasures, and burned himself in the royal citadel. Immense booty was carried away. The city was plundered, sacked, and set on fire [Lange, Introduction to Nahum].


Verses 3-7

CRITICAL NOTES.

Nah .] The Lord hath chastised Judah and Israel, and permitted the enemy to triumph; now the excellency of Israel, the former independence, shall be restored. Emptied] Devastations, taken from vine-pruning and cutting young twigs (Psa 80:9).

Nah . Red] with blood or paint, or overlaid with copper. Scarlet] Crimson, the fighting dress of the nations. Torches] Chariot-wheels like flaming torches in rapidity and motion (Isa 5:28). Day] of equipment; to prepare, to equip for battle (Jer 46:14; Eze 7:14). Fir trees] Shields and lances made of fir, brandished and thrown with destructive power.

Nah . Rage] The chariots, driven in fury, jostle one against another, and run as lightning (Luk 10:18), in the market-place of the city.

Nah . He] King of Nineveh, shall muster choicest troops. Worthies] Heroes or brave men (Jud 5:13; Neh 3:5). Stumble] through fear and haste. Defence] The covering used by besiegers.

Nah .] From the siege the prophet passes rapidly to the capture of the city. Gates] The rivers round the city break their sluices and overflood it.

Nah . Huzzab] Probably Nineveh; some, the queen of Nineveh. Like a queen she shall be dethroned and dishonoured; her maids mourn like doves over her fate (Isa 38:14). Tabering] Beating their breasts, a mournful attitude (Luk 18:23).

THE GREAT SIEGE AND THE VAIN DEFENCE.—Nah

The assailing army is now described in its might and compactness, its warlike appearance and design. Notice,

I. The besieging force. The order and equipment are graphically pictured.

1. The army is formidable. Many are spoken of as one. The soldiers are valiant and accustomed to victory, Divinely collected, and deterred by no foe.

2. The army is terrific. Blood-red in uniform. Chariots like flames of fire, and spears like waving forests. No quarter given. Like flames they intend to set all on fire.

3. The army is invincible. Its career has been triumphant, and its success is sure. Against such generals as Cyrus the Younger and Alexander the Great, numbers avail not. They appeared in the joyous splendour of Divine warriors (cf. 2Ki ), and in the colour of those who execute Divine judgments (Zec 1:8; Rev 6:4). The heroes are God's heroes, and the bewilderment in the city is from the power of God.

II. The vain defence. The inhabitants are summoned together, and no means of defence are neglected.

1. Brave men are summoned to their post. "He shall recount his worthies." All is at stake. The leaders especially must set an example of courage. But they are struck with terror, run in perplexity, and through fear or lack of strength fall, "stumble in their walk." They rush to the walls, but the enemies are already attacking under cover. It is too late.

2. The river became an enemy to the city. The enemy had been three times defeated. The city was intact, and the hosts were encamped before its gates in vain. But a sudden inundation, more violent than usual, burst the sluices and the mighty flood broke down the walls.

3. The royal citadel was destroyed. "The palace shall be dissolved." The king utterly despaired, shut himself up with his slaves and concubines in his residence, kindled the whole and perished in the flames. One ground of confidence after another failed. The mighty men, the river and the temple, were no protection. Neither the palace of the princes nor the temple of the gods can shelter those whom God will punish. "Of old the funeral pile was erected; yea, for the king it was prepared deep and large: it was prepared with fire and much wood, and the breath of God, like a stream of brimstone, kindles it."

4. The inhabitants mourned. The people of the city, under the figure of a captive woman; and her maids, the lesser cities, as female attendants on the royal city, were brought to shame and distress. (a) They were destroyed by the flood, or (b) They were led captives, and (c) They grieved at their fate. As a queen Nineveh was dethroned and dishonoured. In helplessness and grief she mourned as a dove. If we do not repent in time no "worthies" or "defence" will turn away eternal lamentation and despair.

HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS

The overthrow of the enemy of God is not the work of men, but his work. A disperser comes up; men would be satisfied with the capture (cf. Obadiah) [Lange].

Neither equipment, nor the appearance of assembled power (Nah ), nor capacity of hasty movement and vehement and varied activity (Nah 2:5) achieves victory in the battles of the kingdom of God: where God stands, there victory comes [Lange].

Thus Nah describes the attack; Nah 2:4 the defence; the two first clauses of Nah 2:5 the defence, the two last the attack [Pusey].

Nah . If kings rely more upon their heroes and armies than upon God, they must become discouraged and flee before their enemies [Lange].

Nah . The palace dissolved. The prophet unites the beginning and the end. The river gates were opened; what had been the fence against the enemy became an entrance for them: with the river there poured in also the tide of the people of the enemy. The palace, then the imperial abode, the centre of the empire, embellished with the history of its triumphs, sank, was dissolved, and ceased to be. It is not a physical loosening of the sun-dried bricks by the stream which would usually flow harmless by; but the dissolution of the empire itself [Pusey].

Nahum predicted the destruction of the city in its grandeur and prosperity. Hence learn:

1. To adore the providence of God in giving an exact and particular account of the siege.

2. To fear the power of God in collecting and employing such terrible forces to execute his will.

3. To forsake sin, lest we should be humbled and destroyed by the judgments of God.

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 2

Nah . Dasher in pieces. Demetrius was surnamed Poliorcestes, the destroyer of cities; Attilas called himself Orbis flagellum, the scourge of the world. Julius Csar was Fulmen belli, the thunderbolt of war; he had taken in his time a thousand towns, conquered three hundred nations, took prisoners one million of men, and slain as many. These were dissipatores indeed, and dashers in pieces, rods of God's wrath; and this they took to be a main piece of their glory [Trapp].

Nah . Chariots were objects of great interest. "Their charioteers had an air of perfect fearlessness; they dashed along as if caring for nothing, but resolved upon crushing everything. These declarations are perfectly accurate, and cannot be more evident than the sculptures and bas-reliefs of Nineveh have shown them to be. Their chariots are represented, covered with costly decorations and Sabean symbols; and their horses are exhibited in almost every variety of attitude—rearing, running and rushing—exactly as we should have supposed them to be, after reading that which is said of them in the prophecies."

The siege was no easy task. History declares that the king, at the approach of the enemy, collected all his active forces—that the besieging army was three times severely defeated, and that the Medes could only be held with great difficulty to the work. The Assyrians abandoned themselves to negligent rejoicing in the camps before the gates on account of victory, but were attacked in the night and driven back to the walls. Salæmenes, brother-in-law to the king, who had resigned the command to him, was driven into the Tigris (cf. ch. Nah ); but the city was still uninjured, and the enemy encamped in vain before the gates. In the spring of the third year other powers interfered. The river became "an enemy to the city" (cf. Nah 2:7; Nah 1:8-10). The inundation occurred suddenly, and violently broke down in one night the walls on the river. The king despaired of his life, and having sent his family to the north, shut himself up with all his treasures, and burned himself in the royal citadel. Immense booty was carried away. The city was plundered, sacked, and set on fire [Lange, Introduction to Nahum].


Verses 8-10

CRITICAL NOTES.

Nah . Old] From antiquity hath been like a pool of water; the confluence of people from all parts, like countless drops; an unbroken empire for 600 years. Stand] Stand is the cry, but all flee away.

Nah . Take] God bids the conquerors to plunder. "This does not happen by chance, but because God determines to avenge the injuries inflicted upon his people" [Calvin].

Nah . Empty] Lit. emptiness, and emptiedness and waste. The city is left, without its wealth and monuments, a complete ruin. The vanquished are horrified at the destruction, despond, can hardly keep on their feet, and turn pale. "The completeness of her judgment is declared first under that solemn number, Three, and the three words in Hebrew are nearly the same, with the same meaning, only each word fuller than the former, as picturing a growing desolation; and then under four heads (in all seven); also a growing fear" [Pusey].

HOMILETICS

THE FLIGHT OF THE INHABITANTS AND THE PLUNDER OF THE CITY.—Nah

Nineveh was a wealthy and populous city. Like a pool of water in multitude of men, but nothing could defend it.

I. The disgraceful flight. "Yet they shall flee away."

1. The people lost courage. Effeminacy and lust beget weakness. God can dishearten the strongest and most courageous. Patriotism and confidence flee apace, and men are helpless as the reed when he pursues.

2. The people fled away. Panic seized them. Deaf to the call of a few leaders, none looked back, took a stand, or stopped in the flight. At Waterloo, Napoleon, observing the recoil of his columns and the confusion of all around him, cried out, "All is lost, save who can." In Nineveh the discomfiture and flight were complete. In the day of judgment none can save themselves by flight. "The flight shall perish from the swift."

II. The extensive plunder. Enormous wealth was treasured up in the city. Its reputation as a commercial city rivalled Tyre (Eze ). Immense riches were acquired also by predatory war and taxes levied to the utmost degree.

1. Its gold and silver were taken. "Take ye the spoil of silver, take the spoil of gold." Riches cannot deliver in the day of wrath. They rather tempt and entice the spoiler. Small articles of value have been found in the ruins of Nineveh, but no gold nor silver. "When thou shalt cease to spoil, thou shalt be spoiled."

2. Its pleasant furniture was taken. "Glory out of all the pleasant furniture." Everything considered costly, vessels of desire, treasures and utensils that yielded glory and reputation, were carried away. "The wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just."

3. Its desolation was complete. "She is empty, and void, and waste." (a) The city itself was destroyed. Worldly wealth is vain, emptiness and poverty are the end of worldly greatness. Those who heap up silver as dust, and prepare raiment as clay, only provide for another's booty (Job ). (b) The inhabitants were terror-struck. Their hearts melted like wax before the fire, and their knees trembled in weakness. Pain seized their loins, and paleness covered their faces. A guilty conscience turns the most hardy into cowards. Nineveh's strength failed her in the day of need. The terror she had caused to Israel fell in just retribution upon herself, and this storehouse of plunder was utterly laid waste and destroyed.

HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS

Nah . Wealth may be treasured up for ages, and increase in value and abundance, yet not be secure. Of old, yet flee away. Because God spares a people, and permits them to prosper in wickedness for a long time, it is no proof of security from coming judgment. Punishment is often sure and decreed; she shall be laid bare; they shall flee away.

Nah . Learn the folly of depending upon worldly resources.

1. Wealth may be taken away.

2. Numbers may fail and flee away.

3. The greatest defences may be levelled to the dust. "The greatest kingdoms finally come to nothing when the Lord inflicts upon them his penal judgments, and all their power is unable to quench and stop the fire of his wrath" [Lange].

Nah . The horrors of a guilty conscience.

1. Desponding minds.

2. Extreme pain.

3. Visible tokens of approaching ruin. The state of mind manifested in the attitudes of the body. Natural men despair in adversity, sink in courage when robbed of their earthly goods. "It is certainly a great loss when one loses money and goods, but not so great as when the heart falls into despair [Lange]. First, the heart, the seat of courage, and resolve, and high purpose, melteth; then the knees smite together, tremble, shake under their frame; then much pain is in all loins, lit. "strong pains as of a woman in travail," writhing and doubling the whole body, and making it wholly powerless and unable to stand upright, shall bow the very loins, the seat of strength (Pro ); and lastly, the faces of them all gather blackness (cf. Joe 2:6), the fruit of extreme pain, and the token of approaching dissolution [Pusey]. Joy and sorrow will show themselves in the face as in a glass. Now if for a temporal mischief there is so great a consternation in wicked men, what shall we think there is in hell? [Trapp].


Verses 11-13

CRITICAL NOTES.

Nah . Where] is the site on which the mighty city once stood? Its warriors crushed the nations like lions in their lust and power. "To fill up the picture, the epithets applied to the lions are grouped together according to the difference of sex and age" [Keil].

Nah .] Description of tyranny and predatory lust of Assyrian kings.

Nah .] The destruction is certain I against thee; God has proclaimed, and will fulfil it. Her war-chariots, i.e. the whole apparatus of war [Calvin], will be consumed like smoke; imperial might shall no longer prey upon the nations, and emissaries, with the king's commands or exacting tribute, shall be seen no more (Eze 19:9).

HOMILETICS

NINEVEH EFFACED.—Nah

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 Nah . 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 [Keil].

I. Its site was obliterated. "Where is the dwelling of the lions," &c. Great must be the desolation to call forth such an expression. Where indeed is the proud city? Its place was unknown for ages, and is only just discovered by the ruins which have been dug up. It was secure, the dwelling of the lions; spacious walked; and wealthy, the feeding-place of the young lions; but its battlements were destroyed and its glory departed. The dust of Nineveh is a witness for the truth of God, and a warning to the nations of the earth. "Assyria lies buried there with all its people; round about are their graves, all of them are slain and fallen by the sword; they have made their graves deep there below."

II. Its rulers were overcome. Over 500 years this great city of God (cf. Jon ; Jon 3:2) was, under its powerful rulers, the terror of Western Asia. Dynasty after dynasty had transmitted its dreaded name to age after age.

1. Its rulers were strong. Like lions in power and purpose, bent on plunder and mischief. They were greedy, ravenous beasts, which could never be satisfied (Isa ).

2. Its rulers were a terror to others. They tore others, and were not touched themselves. Exempt from fear, they were a dread to surrounding peoples, "and none made them afraid." But the Lord of hosts was against them, and raised up one stronger than they. "The lion is come up from his thicket, and the destroyer of the Gentiles is on his way; he is gone forth from his place to make thy land desolate; and thy cities shall be laid waste, without an inhabitant."

III. Its resources were destroyed. Nah expresses her complete destruction.

1. Its military defences were destroyed. "I will burn her chariots in the smoke." Their chariots remarkable for speed and lightness, their horses noted for fierceness and power, were fuel for the fire. All their warlike preparations vanished into smoke, and not a brand was plucked from the burning.

2. Their offspring were cut off. "The sword shall devour thy young lions." The flower of youth, their hope for the future, was cut down. The whole race of oppressors was taken away. God in justice may cut off those whom we seek to enrich, and for whom we are so anxious to provide.

3. Their wealth was taken away. "I will cut off thy prey from the earth." The immense booty they had gathered by fraud and violence was robbed by the enemy.

4. Their agents were no longer seen. "The voice of thy messengers shall no more be heard." Emissaries exacting tribute or conveying the edicts of the king; heralds and delegates travelling the provinces; messengers, uttering blasphemy and publishing victory, "should no more be heard upon the mountains of Israel." God had hushed them to silence, and the stillness of death prevailed.

IV. Its destiny was sealed. "Behold, I come," are words which seal and confirm the threat. God had endured long, but came at last. The city was captured and destroyed. Its ruins have never been revived, and Moslem tribes rear their hamlets on its barren stones. "Desolation meets desolation," says Layard; "a feeling of awe succeeds to wonder, for there is nothing to relieve the mind; to lead to hope, or to tell of what has gone by. These high mounds of Assyria made a deeper impression upon me, gave rise to more serious thought and more earnest reflection, than either the temples of Baalbec or the theatres of Ionia."

Conquerors proud, to seal her doom,

Swept her to ruin's all-engulfing tomb.

Long ages past, and turf o'ergrew the walls,

And silence reigned in Ninus' buried halls.

HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS

Nah . The lions. Oppression is brutish conduct. It turns palaces into dens, and princes into lions. "As a roaring lion and a raging bear; so is a wicked ruler over the poor people." Unrighteous gain is a risky bargain. "The robbery of the wicked shall destroy them."

Nah . God against the sinner.

1. God is declared to be against him. "Behold," &c.

2. God has power to fulfil his threats. "The Lord of Hosts."

3. The results will be unmistakeable if the opposition continues. Seek to be reconciled to God. From the whole chapter we may learn—

1. God' s hand in destructive warfare. The wealth and haughty bearing of Nineveh drew forth the conquering army. The passions and efforts of men were concerned, but they only performed the pleasure of the Most High.

2. The vanity of human greatness. Heaps of gold and silver are not real possessions. A royal palace and an imperial throne will crumble into dust. "Empty and void and waste," may be inscribed on every earthly glory.

"They are but beggars that can count their wealth" [Shakespeare].

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Nahum 2:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/nahum-2.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, July 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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