The burden of Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite.
The burden - Jerome: "The word משׂא mas's'â', 'burden' is never placed in the title, except when the vision is heavy and full of burden and toil."
Of Nineveh - The prophecy of Nahum again is very stern and awful. Nineveh, after having "repented at the preaching of Jonah," again fell back into the sins whereof it had repented, and added this, that, being employed by God to chasten Israel, it set itself, not to inflict the measure of God's displeasure, but to uproot the chosen people, in whom was promised the birth of Christ . It was then an antichrist, and a type of him yet to come. Jonah's mission was a call to repentance, a type and forerunner of all God's messages to the world, while the day of grace and the world's probation lasts. Nahum, "the full of exceeding comfort," as his name means, or "the comforter" is sent to John 16:6, John 16:8. "reprove the world of judgment." He is sent, prominently, to pronounce on Nineveh its doom when its day of grace should be over, and in it, on the world, when it and "all the works therein shall be burned up" 2 Peter 3:10.
With few words he directly comforts the people of God Nahum 1:15; elsewhere the comfort even to her is indirect, in the destruction of her oppressor. Besides this, there is nothing of mercy or call to repentance, or sorrow for their desolation (as in Jeremiah 3:12; Jeremiah 8:18, Jeremiah 8:21), but rather the pouring out of the vials of the wrath of God upon her and on the evil world, which resists to the end all God's calls and persecutes His people. The Book of Jonah proclaims God, "a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness, who repents Him of the evil." Nahum speaks of the same attributes, yet closes with, "and will not at all acquit the wicked." : "The Merciful Himself, who is by Nature Merciful, the Holy Spirit, seemeth, speaking in the prophet, to laugh at their calamity." All is desolation, and death. The aggression against God is retorted upon the aggressor; one reeling strife for life or death; then the silence of the graveyard. And so, in its further meaning , "the prophecy belongs to the close of the world and the comfort of the saints therein, so that whatsoever they see in the world, they may hold cheap, as passing away and perishing and prepare themselves for the Day of Judgment, when the Lord shall he the Avenger of the true Assyrian."
So our Lord sets forth the end of the world as the comfort of the elect. "When these things begin to come to pass, then look up and lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh" Luke 21:28. This is the highest fulfillment of the prophecy, for "then will the wrath of God against the wicked be fully seen, who now patiently waiteth for them for mercy."
The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite - o "He first defines the object of the prophecy, whereto it looks; then states who spake it and whence it was;" the human instrument which God employed. The fuller title, "The book of the vision of Nahum" (which stands alone) probably expresses that it was not, like most prophecies, first delivered orally, and then collected by the prophet, but was always (as it is so remarkably) one whole. "The weight and pressure of this 'burden.' may be felt from the very commencement of the book."
God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies.
Then, Naham too recites that character of mercy recorded by Moses, "The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power" Nahum 1:3. But anger, although slow, comes, he adds, not the less certainly on the guilty; "and will not at all clear the guilty" Nahum 1:3. The iniquity is full. As a whole, there is no more room for repentance. Nineveh had had its prophet, and had been spared, and had sunk back into its old sins. The office of Nahum is to pronounce its sentence. That sentence is fixed. "There is no healing of thy bruise" Nahum 3:19. Nothing is said of its ulterior conversion or restoration. On the contrary, Nahum says, "He will make the place thereof an utter desolation" Nahum 1:8.
The sins of Nineveh spoken of by Nahum are the same as those from which they had turned at the preaching of Jonah. In Jonah, it is, "the violence of their hands" Jonah 3:8. Nahum describes Nineveh as "a dwelling of lions, filled with prey and with ravin, the feeding-place of young lions, where the lion tore enough for his whelps" Nahum 2:11-12; "a city of bloods, full of lies and robbery, from which the prey departeth not" Nahum 3:1.
But, amid this mass of evil, one thing was eminent, in direct antagonism to God. The character is very special. It is not simply of rebellion against God, or neglect of Him. It is a direct disputation of His Sovereignty. Twice the prophet repeats the characteristic expression, "What will ye devise against the Lord?" "devising evil against the Lord;" and adds, "counselor of evil" Nahum 1:11. This was exactly the character of Sennacherib, whose wars, like those of his forefathers, (as appears from the cuneiform inscriptions . There were religious wars, and Sennacherib blasphemously compared God to the local deities of the countries, which his forefathers or himself had destroyed Isaiah 36:18-20; Isaiah 37:10-13. Of this enemy Nahum speaks, as having "gone forth;" out of thee (Nineveh) hath gone forth Nahum 1:11 one, devising evil against the Lord, a counselor of Belial. This was past.
Their purpose was inchoate, yet incomplete. God challenges them, "What will ye devise so vehemently against the Lord?" Nahum 1:9. The destruction too is proximate. The prophet answers for God, "He Himself, by Himself is already making an utter end" Nahum 1:9. To Jerusalem he turns, "And now I will break his yoke from off thee, and will break his bonds asunder" Nahum 1:13. Twice the prophet mentions the device against God; each time he answers it by the prediction of the sudden utter destruction of the enemy, while in the most perfect security. "While they are intertwined as thorns, and swallowed up as their drink, they are devoured as stubble fully dry" Nahum 1:10; and, "If they are perfect" Nahum 1:12, unimpaired in their strength, "and thus many, even thus shall they be mown down." Their destruction was to be, their numbers, complete. With no previous loss, secure and at ease, a mighty host, in consequence of their prosperity, all were, at one blow, mown down; "and he (their king, who counseled against the Lord) shall pass away and perish."
"The abundance of the wool in the fleece is no hindrance to the shears," nor of the grass to the sythe, nor of the Assyrian host to the will of the Lord, After he, the chief, had thus passed away, Nahum foretells that remarkable death, in connection with the house of his gods; "Out of the house of thy gods I will cut off the graven image and the molten image: I will make thy grave" Nahum 1:14. There is no natural construction of these words, except, "I will make it thy grave" . Judah too was, by the presence of the Assyrian, hindered from going up to worship at Jerusalem. The prophet bids to proclaim peace to Jerusalem; "keep thy feasts - for the wicked shall no more pass through thee." It was then by the presence of the wicked, that they were now hindered from keeping their feasts, which could be kept only at Jerusalem.
The prophecy of Nahum coincides then with that of Isaiah, when Hezekiah prayed against Sennacherib. In the history 2 Kings 19:4, 2 Kings 19:22-28, and in the prophecy of Isaiah, the reproach and blasphemy and rage against God are prominent, as an evil design against God is in Nahum. In Isaiah we have the messengers sent to blaspheme Isaiah 37:4, Isaiah 37:23-29; in Nahum, the promise, that "the voice of thy messengers shall no more be heard." Isaiah prophesies the fruitlessness of his attempt against Jerusalem Isaiah 37:33-34; his disgraced return; his violent death in his own land Isaiah 37:7; Nahum prophesies the entire destruction of his army, his own passing away, his grave. Isaiah, in Jerusalem, foretells how the spontaneous fruits of the earth shall be restored to them 2 Kings 19:29; Isaiah 37:30, and so, that they shall have possession of the open corn-country; Nahum, living probably in the country, foretells the free access to Jerusalem, and bids them to (Nahum 1:15; Nahum 2:1 (Nahum 2:2 in Hebrew)) keep their feasts, and perform the vows, which, in their trouble, they had promised to God. He does not only foretell that they may, but he enjoins them to do it.
The words (Nahum 2:2 (verse 3 in Hebrew)), "the emptiers have emptied them out and marred their vine branches," may relate to the first expedition of Sennacherib, when, Holy Scripture says, he "came up against all the fenced cities of Judah and took them," and Hezekiah gave him "thirty talents of gold and 300 talents of silver" 2 Kings 18:13-14; Isaiah 36:1. Sennacherib himself says , "Hezekiah, king of Judah, who had not submitted to my authority, forty-six of his principal cities, and fortresses and villages depending upon them of which I took no account, I captured, and carried away their spoil. And from these places I captured and carried off as spoil 200, 150 people," etc. This must relate to the first expedition, on account of the exact correspondence of the tribute in gold, with a variation in the number of the talents of silver, easily accounted for .
In the first invasion Sennacherib relates that he besieged Jerusalem. : "Hezekiah himself I shut up in Jerusalem his capital city, like a bird in a cage, building towers round the city to fence him in, and raising banks of earth against the gates, so as to prevent escape." It is perhaps in reference to this, that, in the second invasion, God promises by Isaiah; "He shall not come into this city, and shall not shoot an arrow there; and shall not present shield before it, and shall not cast up bank against it" Isaiah 37:33. Still, in this second invasion also, Holy Scripture relates, that "the king of Assyria sent Rabshakeh from Lachish to Jerusalem unto king Hezekiah with a great army" Isaiah 36:2; 2 Kings 18:17. Perhaps it is in regard to this second expedition, that God says, "Though I have afflicted thee, I will affict thee no more" Nahum 1:12; i. e., this second invasion should not desolate her, like that first. Not that God absolutely would not again afflict her, but not now. The yoke of the Assyrian was then broken, until the fresh sins of Manasseh drew down their own punishment.
Nahum then was a prophet for Judah, or for that remnant of Israel, which, after the ten tribes were carried captive, became one with Judah, not in temporal sovereignty, but in the one worship of God. His mention of Basan, Carmel and Lebanon alone, as places lying under the rebuke of God, perhaps implies a special interest in Northern Palestine. Judah may have already become the name for the whole people of God who were left in their own land, since those of the ten tribes who remained had now no separate religious or political existence. The idol-center of their worship was gone into captivity.
The old tradition agrees with this as to the name of the birthplace of Nahum, "the Elkoshite." "Some think," says Jerome , "that Elcesaeus was the father of Nahum, and, according to the Hebrew tradition, was also a prophet; whereas Elcesi is even to this day a little village in Galilee, small indeed, and scarcely indicating by its ruins the traces of ancient buildings, yet known to the Jews, and pointed out to me too by my guide." The name is a genuine Hebrew name, the "El," with which it begins, being the name of God, which appears in the names of other towns also as El'ale, Eltolad, Elteke Eltolem. The author of the short-lived Gnostic heresy of the Elcesaites, called Elkesai, elkasai, elxai, elxaios, Elkasaios , probably had his name from that same village. Eusebius mentions Elkese, as the place "whence was Nahum the Elkesaean." Cyril of Alexandria says, that Elkese was a village somewhere in Judaea.
On the other hand "Alcush," a town in Mosul, is probably a name of Arabic origin, and is not connected with Nahum by any extant or known writer, earlier than Masius toward the end of the 16th century , and an Arabic scribe in 1713 . Neither of these mention the tomb. "The tomb," says Layard , "is a simple plaster box, covered with green cloth, and standing at the upper end of a large chamber. The house containing the tomb is a modern building. There are no inscriptions, nor fragments of any antiquity near the place." The place is now reverenced by the Jews, but in the 12th century Benjamin of Tudela supposed his tomb to be at Ain Japhata, South of Babylon. Were anything needed to invalidate statements more than 2000 years after the time of Nahum, it might suffice that the Jews, who are the authors of this story, maintain that not Jonah only but Obadiah and Jephthah the Gileadite are also buried at Mosul .
Nor were the ten tribes placed there, but "in the cities of the Medes" 2 Kings 17:6. The name Capernaum, "the village of Nahum," is probably an indication of his residence in Galilee. There is nothing in his language unique to the Northern tribes. One very poetic word Nahum 3:2; Judges 5:22, common to him with the song of Deborah, is not therefore a "provincialism," because it only happens to occur in the rich, varied, language of two prophets of North Palestine. Nor does the occurrence of a foreign title interfere with "purity of diction" . It rather belongs to the vividness of his description.
The conquest of No-Ammon or Thebes and the captivity of its inhabitants, of which Nahum speaks, must have been by Assyria itself. Certainly it was not from domestic disturbances ; for Nahum says, that the people were carried away captive Nahum 3:10. Nor was it from the Ethiopians ; for Nahum speaks of them, as her allies Nahum 3:9. Nor from the Carthaginians ; for the account of Ammianus , that "when first Carthage was beginning to expand itself far and wide, the Punic generals, by an unexpected inroad, subdued the hundred-gated Thebes," is merely a mistaken gloss on a statement of Diodorus, that "Hanno took Hekatompylos by siege;" a city, according to Diodorus himself , "in the desert of Libya." Nor was it from the Scythians ; for Herodotus, who alone speaks of their maraudings and who manifestly exaggerates them, expressly says, that Psammetichus induced the Scythians by presents not to enter Egypt ; and a wandering predatory horde does not besiege or take strongly-fortified towns.
There remain then only the Assyrians. Four successive Assyrian Monarchs Sargon, his son, grandson and great grandson, Sennacherib, Esarhaddon, Asshur-bani-pal, from 718 b.c. to about 657 b.c., conquered in Egypt . The hostility was first provoked by the encouragement given by Sabacho the Ethiopian (Sab'e in the cuneiform inscriptions, S b k, in Egyptian), the So of Holy Scripture , to Hoshea to rebel against Shalmaneser 2 Kings 17:4. Sargon, who, according to his own statement, was the king who actually took Samaria , led three expeditions of his own against Egypt. In the first, Sargon defeated the Egyptian king in the battle of Raphia ; in the second, in his seventh year, he boasts that Pharaoh became his tributary ; in a third, which is placed three years later, Ethiopia submitted to him .
The LORD is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked: the LORD hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.
The Lord is slow to anger - Nahum takes up the words of Jonah Jon 4:2 as he spoke of God's attributes toward Nineveh, but only to show the opposite side of them. Jonah declares how God is "slow to anger," giving men time of repentance, and if they do repent, "repenting Him also of the evil;" Nahum, that the long-suffering of God is not "slackness," that "He is long-suffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."
And strong in power - Divine long-suffering gees along with Divine power. God can be long-suffering, because He can, whenever He sees good, punish. His long-suffering is a token, not of weakness, but of power. He can allow persons the whole extent of trial, because, when they are past cure, He can end it at once. "God is a righteous judge, strong and patient, and God wraths every day" Psalm 7:11. The wrath comes only at the last, but it is ever present with God. He cannot but be displeased with the sin; and so the Psalmist describes in the manner of men the gradual approximation to its discharge. "If he (the sinner) will not return (from evil or to God), He will whet His sword; He hath trodden His bow and directed it: He hath prepared for him instruments of death; He hath made his arrows burning" Psalm 7:12-13. We see the arrow with unextinguishable fire, ready to be discharged, waiting for the final decision of the wicked, whether he will repent or not, but that still "the Day of the Lord will come" 2 Peter 3:9-10. "He will not at all acquit."
The words occur originally in the great declaration of God's attributes of mercy by Moses, as a necessary limitation of them ; they are continued to God's people, yet with the side of mercy predominant Jeremiah 30:11; Jeremiah 46:28; they are pleaded to Himself Numbers 14:18; they are the sanction of the third commandment Exodus 20:7; Deuteronomy 5:11. He "will not acquit" of His own will, apart from His justice. So He saith, "I can of Mine own self do nothing" John 5:30, i. e., (in part), not as unjust judges, who "call good evil and evil good," following their own will, not the merits of the case; but, "as I hear, I judge, and My judgment is just." He cannot even have mercy and spare unjustly, nor without the lowliness of penitence. Even if it is Jerusalem, over which He wept, or His "companion, His own familiar friend" Psalm 55:14, He, who is no "accepter of persons," cannot of mere favor forgive the impenitent.
The Lord hath His way in the whirlwind and in the storm - The vengeance of God comes at last swiftly, vehemently, fearfully, irresistibly. "When they say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them" 1 Thessalonians 5:3, and all creation stands at the command of the Creator against His enemies. "He shall take to Him His jealousy for complete armor, and make the creature His weapon, for the revenge of His enemies" (Wisd. 5:17).
And the clouds are the dust of His feet - Perhaps the imagery is from the light dust raised by an earthly army, of which Nahum's word is used Ezekiel 26:10. The powers of heaven are arrayed against the might of earth. On earth a little dust, soon to subside; in heaven, the whirlwind and the storm, which sweep away what does not bow before them. The vapors, slight on outward seeming, but formed of countless multitudes of mist-drops, are yet dark and lowering, as they burst, and resistless. "The Feet of God are that power whereby He trampleth upon the ungodly." So it is said to the Son, "Sit Thou on My Right Hand until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool." Tempests have also, without figure, been used to overthrow God's enemies (Exodus 14:27; Joshua 10:11; Judges 5:20; 1 Samuel 2:10; and 1 Samuel 7:10; 2 Samuel 22:15).
He rebuketh the sea, and maketh it dry, and drieth up all the rivers: Bashan languisheth, and Carmel, and the flower of Lebanon languisheth.
He rebuketh the sea and maketh it dry - Delivering His people, as He did from Pharaoh Psalm 106:9, the type of all later oppressors, and of antichrist. "His word is with power; to destroy them at once with one rough word (Wisd. 12:9). The restlessness of the barren and troubled sea is an image of the wicked. "And drieth up all the rivers" Isaiah 57:20, as He did Jordan. His coming shall be far more terrible than when all the hearts of the inhabitants of the land did melt. "Bashan languisheth and Carmel; and the flower of Lebanon languisheth" Joshua 2:11. Bashan was richest in pastures; Carmel, according to its name, in gardens and vineyards; Lebanon, in vines also and fragrant flowers Hosea 14:7; Sol 4:11, but chiefly in the cedar and cypress; it had its name from the whiteness of the snow, which rests on its summit. These mountains then together are emblems of richness, lasting beauty, fruitfulness, loftiness; yet all, even that which by nature is not, in the variety of seasons, wont to fade, dries up and withers before the rebuke of God. But if these thing are "done in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?" All freshness, beauty, comeliness, show of outward nature, shall fade as grass; all ornament of men's outward graces or gifts, all mere show of goodness, shall fall off like a leaf and perish. If the glory of nature perishes before God, how much more the pride of man! Bashan also was the dwelling-place of the race of giants, and near Libanus was Damascus; yet their inhabitants became as dead men and their power shrank to nothing at the word of God.
The mountains quake at him, and the hills melt, and the earth is burned at his presence, yea, the world, and all that dwell therein.
The mountains quaked at Him, and the hills melted - As of their own accord. The words are a renewal of those of Amos Amo 9:13. Inanimate nature is pictured as endowed with the terror, which guilt feels at the presence of God. All power; whether greater or less, whatsoever lifteth itself up, shall give way in that Day, which shall be "upon all the cedars of Lebanon that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan, and upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills that are lifted up" Isaiah 2:13-14. "And the earth is burned" (rather lifteth itself up; as an an earthquake it seems, as it were, to rise and sink down, lifting itself as if to meet its God or to flee. What is strongest, shaketh; what is hardest, melteth; yea, the whole world trembles and is removed. : "If," said even Jews of old, "when God made Himself known in mercy, to give the law to His people, the world was so moved at His presence, how much more, when He shall reveal Himself in wrath!" The words are so great that they bear the soul on to the time, when the heaven and earth shall flee away from the Face of Him "Who sitteth on the throne, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat" Revelation 20:11; 2 Peter 3:10. And since all judgments are images of the Last, and the awe at tokens of God's presence is a shadow of the terror of that coming, he adds,
Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? his fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him.
Who can stand before His indignation? - This question appeals to our own consciences, that we cannot . It anticipates the self-conviction at every day of God's visitation, the forerunners of the lust. The word rendered "indignation" is reserved almost exclusively to denote the wrath of God. : "Who can trust in his own righteousness, and, for the abundance of his works or consciousness of his virtues, not be in need of mercy? 'Enter not into judgment with Thy servant, O Lord, for in Thy sight shall no man living be justified;' and in Job it is said truly, 'Behold He put no trust in His servants, and His Angels He charged with folly. How much less in them that dwell in houses of' clay, whose foundation is in the dust, which ewe crushed before the moth?' Job 4:18-19. It were needless now to prove, that man's own deserts suffice to no one, and that we are not saved but by the grace of God, 'for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God' Romans 3:23. Wherefore he saith, 'before His indignation,' standing face to Face before Him in wrath."
Literally, "in the Face of:" guilt cannot look in the face of man, how much less, of God. The bliss of the righteous is the punishment of the wicked, to behold God face to Face. For "whoever trusts in his own works deserves His indignation. and thinking he stands, righteously does he fall."
His fury is poured out - נתך is used of the pouring out of God's wrath, Jeremiah 7:20; Jeremiah 42:18; 2 Chronicles 12:7 (as more commonly שׁפך here its native meaning is brought out the more, by adding כאש.
Like fire - , sweeping away, like a torrent of molten fire, him who presumes that be can stand before His Face, as He did the cities of the plain Genesis 19, the image of the everlasting fire, which shall burn up His enemies on every side. "And rocks are thrown down" Psalm 97:3; Psalm 50:3; Psalm 68:3; Psalm 18:8. The rocks are like so many towers of nature, broken down and crushed "by Him" literally, "from Him." It needs not any act of God's. He wills and it is done. Those who harden themselves, are crushed and broken to pieces, the whole fabric they had built for themselves and their defenses, crumbling and shivered. If then they, whose hearts are hard as rocks, and bold against all peril, and even Satan himself, whose "heart is as firm as a stone, yea, as hard as a piece of the nether millstone" Job 41:24, shall be crushed then, who shall abide?
The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.
The Lord is good: a stronghold in the day of trouble - "Good and doing good," and full of sweetness; alike good and mighty; good in giving Himself and imparting His goodness to His own; yea "none is good, save God" Luke 18:19; Himself the stronghold wherein His own amy take refuge; both in the troubles of this life, in which "He will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able" 1 Corinthians 10:13, and in that Day, which shall hem them in on every side, and leave no place of escape except Himself.
And He knoweth them that tuust in Him - So as to save them; as Rahab was saved when Jericho perished, and Lot out of the midst of the overthrow and Hezekiah from the host of Sennacherib. He knows them with an individual, ever-present, knowledge. He says not only, "He shall own them," but He ever "knoweth them." So it is said; "The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous" Psalm 1:6; "The Lord knoweth the, days of the upright" Psalm 37:18; and our Lord says, "I know My sheep" John 10:14, John 10:27; and Paul, "The Lord knoweth them that are His" 2 Timothy 2:19. God speaks of this knowledge also in the past, of His knowledge, when things as yet were not, "I have known thee by name;" or of loving kindness in the past, "I knew thee in the wilderness" Hosea 13:5, "you alone have I known of all the families of the earth" Amos 3:2, its contrariwise our Lord says, that He shall say to the wicked in the Great Day, "I never knew you" Matthew 7:23. That God, being what He is, should take knowledge of us, being what we are, is such wondrous condescension, that it involves a purpose of love, yea, His love toward us, as the Psalmist says admiringly, "Lord, what is man that Thou takest knowledge of him?" Psalm 144:3.
Them that trust in Him - It is a habit, which has this reward; "the trusters in Him," "the takers of refuge in Him." It is a continued unvarying trust, to which is shown this everpresent love and knowledge.
Yet this gleam of comfort only discloses the darkness of the wicked. Since those who trust God are they whom God knows, it follows that the rest He knows not. On this opening, which sets forth the attributes of God toward those who defy Him and those who trust in Him, follows the special application to Nineveh.
But with an overrunning flood he will make an utter end of the place thereof, and darkness shall pursue his enemies.
But with an overrunning flood He will make an utter end of the place thereof - that is, of Nineveh, although not as yet named, except in the title of the prophecy, yet present to the prophet's mind and his hearers, and that the more solemnly, as being the object of the wrath of God, so that, although unnamed, it would be known so to be. Image and reality, the first destruction and the last which it pictures, meet in the same words. Nineveh itself was overthrown through the swelling of the rivers which flowed around it and seemed to be its defense (see the note at Nahum 2:6). Then also, the flood is the tide of the armies, gathered from all quarters, Babylonians , Medes, Persians, Arabians, Bactrians, which like a flood should sweep over Nineveh and leave nothing standing. It is also the flood of the wrath of God, in whose Hands they were and who, by them, should "make a full end of it," literally, "make the place thereof a thing consumed," a thing which has ceased to be. For a while, some ruins existed, whose name and history ceased to be known; soon after, the ruins themselves were effaced and buried . Such was the close of a city, almost coeval with the flood, which had now stood almost as many years as have passed since Christ came, but which now defied God. Marvelous image of the evil world itself, which shall flee away from the face of Him who sat on the throne, "and there was found no place for it" Revelation 20:11.
And darkness shall pursue His enemies - Better, "He shall pursue His enemies into darkness" Darkness is, in the Old Testament, the condition, or state in which a person is, or lives; it is not an agent, which pursues. Isaiah speaks of the "inhabitants of darkness" Isaiah 42:7, "entering unto darkness" Isaiah 47:5; "those who are in darkness" Isaiah 49:9. "The grave is all darkness" Psalm 88:12; Job 17:13, "darkness, and the shadow of death" Job 10:21. Hence, even Jews rendered , "He shall deliver them to hell." Into this darkness it is said, God shall pursue them, as other prophets speak of being "driven forth into darkness" . The darkness, the motionless drear abode, to which they are driven, anticipates the being cast into "the outer darkness, where shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Rup.: "The vengeance of God on" these who remain "His enemies" to the last, "ends not with the death of the body; but evil spirits, who are darkness and not light, pursue their souls, and seize them." They would not hear Christ calling to them, "Walk, while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you" John 12:35. "They are of those that rebel against the light; they know not the ways thereof, nor abide in the paths thereof" Job 24:13. "They loved darkness rather than light" John 3:19. And so they were driven into the darkness which they chose and loved.
What do ye imagine against the LORD? he will make an utter end: affliction shall not rise up the second time.
The prophet had in few words summed up the close of Nineveh; he now upbraids them with the sin, which should bring it upon them, and foretells the destruction of Sennacherib. Nineveh had, before this, been the instrument of chastising Israel and Judah. Now, the capture of Samaria, which had cast off God, deceived and emboldened it. Its king thought that this was the might of his own arm; and likened the Lord of heaven and earth to the idols of the pagan, and said, "Who are they among all the gods of the countries, that have delivered their country out of mine hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of mine hand?" 2 Kings 18:35. He sent "to reproach the living God" 2 Kings 19:16 and "defied the Holy One of Israel" (see 2 Kings 19:15-34). His blasphemy was his destruction. It was a war, not simply of ambition, or covetousness, but directly against the power and worship of God.
"What will ye so mightily devise" , "imagine against the Lord?" He Himself, by Himself, is already "making an utter end." It is in store; the Angel is ready to smite. Idle are man's devices, when the Lord doeth. "Take counsel together, and it shall come to nought; speak the word, and it shall not stand: for God is with us" Isaiah 8:10. While the rich man was speaking comfort to his soul as to future years, God was making an utter end. "Thou fool, this night shall thy soul be required of thee."
Affliction shall not rise up the second time - Others have understood this, "affliction shall not rise up the second time," but shall destroy at once, utterly and finally (compare 1 Samuel 26:8; 2 Samuel 20:10): but:
(1) the idiom there, "he did not repeat to him," as we say, "he did not repeat the blow" is quite different;
(2) it is said "affliction shall not rise up," itself, as if it could not. The causative of the idiom occurs in 2 Samuel 12:11, "lo, I will cause evil to rise up against thee;" as he says afterward, "Though I have afflicted thee, I will afflict thee no more" Nahum 1:12. "God," He had said, "is good for a refuge in the day of affliction;" now, personifying that affliction, he says, that it should be so utterly broken, that it should rise up no more to vex them, as when a serpent's head is, not wounded only but, crushed and trampled underfoot, so that it cannot again lift itself up. The promises of God are conditioned by our not falling back into sin. He saith to Nineveh, "God will not deliver Judah to thee, as He delivered the ten tribes and Samaria." Judah repented under Hezekiah, and He not only delivered it from Sennacherib, but never afflicted them again through Assyria. Renewal of sin brings renewal or deepening of punishment. The new and more grievous sins under Manasseh were punished, not through Assyria but through the Chaldeans.
The words have passed into a maxim, "God will not punish the same thing twice," not in this world and the world to come, i. e., not if repented of. For of the impenitent it is said, "destroy them with a double destruction" Jeremiah 17:18. Chastisement here is a token of God's mercy; the absence of it, or prosperous sin, of perdition; but if any refuse to be corrected, the chastisement of this life is but the beginning of unending torments.
For while they be folden together as thorns, and while they are drunken as drunkards, they shall be devoured as stubble fully dry.
For while they be leiden together as thorns - that is, as confused, intertwined, sharp, piercing, hard to be touched, rending and tearing whosoever would interfere with its tangled ways, and seemingly compact together and strong; "and while they are drunken as their drink" , not "drinkers" only but literally, "drunken," swallowed up, as it were, by their drink which they had swallowed, mastered, overcome, powerless, "they shall be derogated as stubble fully dry" , rapidly, in an instant, with an empty crackling sound, unresisting, as having nothing in them which can resist. Historically, the great defeat of the Assyrians, before the capture of Nineveh, took place while its king, flushed with success, was giving himself to listlessness; and having distributed to his soldiers victims, and abundance of wine, and other necessaries for banqueting, the whole army was negligent and drunken."
In like way Babylon was taken amid the feasting of Belshazzar Daniel 5:1-30; Benhadad was smitten, while "drinking himself drunk in the pavilions, he and the kings, the thirty and two kings that helped him" 1 Kings 20:16. And so it may well be meant here too, that Sennacherib's army, secure of their prey, were sunk in revelry, already swallowed up by wine, before they were swallowed up by the pestilence, on the night when the Angel of the Lord went out to smite them, and, from the sleep of revelry, they slept the sleep from which they shall not awake until the Judgment Day. God chooses the last moment of the triumph of the wicked, when he is flushed by his success, the last of the helplessness of the righteous, when his hope can be in the Lord alone, to exchange their lots. "The righteous is delivered out of trouble, and the wicked comes in his stead" Proverbs 11:8. Spiritually , "the false fullness of the rich of this world, is real leanness; the greenness of such grass (for all flesh is grass) is real dryness. Marvelous words, "fully dry." For what is dryness but emptiness?" They are perfected, but in dryness, and so perfectly prepared to be burned up. "The thorns had, as far as in them lay, choked the good seed, and hated the Seed-corn, and now are found, like stubble, void of all seed, fitted only to be burned with fire. For those who feast themselves "without fear is reserved the blackness of darkness forever" Jde 1:12-13.
There is one come out of thee, that imagineth evil against the LORD, a wicked counseller.
There is one come out of thee - that is, Nineveh, "that imagineth" deviseth, , "evil, Lord, Sennacherib, against the the rod of God's anger" Isaiah 10:5-7, yet who "meant not so," as God meant. "And this was his counsel," as is every counsel of Satan, "that they could not resist him, and so should withdraw themselves from the land of God, "into a land like their own" Isaiah 36:16-17, but whose joy and sweetness, its vines and its fig-trees, should not be from God, but from the Assyrian, i. e., from Satan.
Thus saith the LORD; Though they be quiet, and likewise many, yet thus shall they be cut down, when he shall pass through. Though I have afflicted thee, I will afflict thee no more.
Though they be quiet and likewise many, yet thus shall they be cut down - Literally, "If they be entire," i. e., sound unharmed, unimpaired in their numbers, unbroken in their strength, undiminished, perfect in all which belongs to war; "and thus many even thus shall they be mown down (or shorn), and he passeth away" . With might outwardly unscathed, "without hand" Daniel 2:34, and "thus many," i. e., many, accordingly, as being unweakened; as many as they shall be, "so shall they be mown down, and he," their head and king, "shall pass away and perish" (compare Psalm 48:4). Their numbers shall be, as their condition before, perfect; their destruction as their numbers, complete. It is wonderful how much God says in few words; and how it is here foretold that, with no previous loss, a mighty host secure and at ease, in consequence of their prosperity, all are at one blow mown down, like the dry grass before the scythe, are cut off and perish; and one, their king, "passeth away," first by flight, and then by destruction. As they had shorn the glory of others Isaiah 7:20, so should they be shorn and cut down themselves.
Though I have afflicted thee, I will afflict thee no more - o. Unless by new guilt thou compel Me. God always relieves us from trouble, as it were with the words, "sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee" John 5:14. In the end, afflictions shall be turned into joy, and "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be anymore paid" Revelation 21:4.
For now will I break his yoke from off thee, and will burst thy bonds in sunder.
For now will I break his yoke from off thee - God, lest His own should despair, does not put them off altogether to a distant day, but saith, now. Historically, the beginning of the fall is the earnest of the end. By the destruction of Sennacherib, God declared His displeasure against Assyria; the rest was matter of time only. Thus, Haman's wise men say to him, "If Mordecai be of the seed of the Jews, before whom thou hast begun to fall, thou shalt not prevail against him, but shalt surely fall before him" Esther 6:13; as He saith in Isaiah, "I will break the Assyrian in My land, and upon My mountains tread him underfoot; then shall his yoke depart from off them, and his burden depart from off their shoulders" Isaiah 14:25. : "In that He saith, not 'I will loose,' 'will undo,' but 'I will break,' 'will burst,' He sheweth that He will in such wise free Jerusalem, as to pour out displeasure on the enemy. The very mode of speaking shows the greatness of His displeasure against those who, when for the secret purpose of His judgments they have power given them against the servants of God, feed themselves on their punishments, and moreover dare to boast against God, as did the Assyrian, 'By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom' Isaiah 10:13."
And the LORD hath given a commandment concerning thee, that no more of thy name be sown: out of the house of thy gods will I cut off the graven image and the molten image: I will make thy grave; for thou art vile.
And the Lord hath given a commandment concerning thee, O Assyrian - In the word "I have afflicted thee," the land of Israel is addressed, as usual in Hebrew, in the feminine; here, a change of gender in Hebrew shows the person addressed to be different. : "By His command alone, and the word of His power, He cut off the race of the Assyrian, as he says in Wisdom, of Egypt, "Thine Almighty word leaped down from heaven, out of Thy royal throne; as a fierce man of war into the midst of a land of destruction, and brought Thine unfeigned commandment as a sharp sword, and standing up filled all things with death," (Wisd. 18:15, 16), or else it may be, He gave command to the Angels His Ministers. God commands beforehand, that, when it comes to pass, it may be known "that not by chance," nor by the will of man, "nor without His judgment but by the sentence of God" the blow came.
No move of thy name be sown - As Isaiah saith, "the seed of evildoers shall never be renowned" Isaiah 14:20. He prophesies, not the immediate but the absolute cessation of the Assyrian line. If the prophecy was uttered at the time of Sennacherib's invasion, seventeen years before his death, not Esarhaddon only, but his son Asshurbanipal also, whose career of personal conquest, the last glory of the house of the Sargonides and of the empire, began immediately upon his father's reign of thirteen years, was probably already born. Asshurbanipal in this case would only have been thirty-one, at the beginning of his energetic reign, and would have died in his fifty-second year. After him followed only an inglorious twenty-two years. The prophet says, "the Lord hath commanded." The decree as to Ahab's house was fulfilled in the person of his second son, as to Jeroboam and Baasha in their sons. It waited its appointed time, but was fulfilled in the complete excision of the doomed race.
Out of the house of thy gods will I cut off graven image and molten image - As thou hast done to others Isaiah 37:19, it shall be done to thee. : "And when even the common objects of worship of the Assyrian and Chaldean were not spared, what would be the ruin of the whole city!" So little shall thy gods help thee, that "there shalt thou be punished, where thou hopest for aid. 'Graven and molten image' shall be thy grave; amid altar and oblations, as thou worshipest idols," thanking them for thy deliverance, "shall thy unholy blood be shed," as it was by his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer. Isaiah 37:38. "I will make it thy grave" ; , what God makes remains immovable, cannot be changed. But He "maketh thy grave" in hell, where not only that rich man in the Gospel hath his grave; but all who are or have been like him, and especially thou, O Asshur, of whom it is written, "Asshur is there and all her company; his graves are about him: all of them slain, fallen by the sword. Whose graves are set in the sides of the pit and her company is round about her grave: all of them slain, fallen by the sword, which caused terror in the land of the living" Ezekiel 32:22-23. "Graven and molten image," the idols which men adore, the images of their vanity, the created things which they worship instead of the true God (as they whose god is their belly), in which they busy themselves in this life, shall be their destruction in the Day of Judgment.
For thou art vile - Thou honoredst thyself and dishonoredst God, so shalt thou be dishonored , as He saith, "Them that honor Me I will honor, and they that despise Me shall be lightly esteemed" 1 Samuel 2:30. So when he had said to Edom, "thou art greatly despised" Obadiah 1:2, he adds the ground of it, "The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee. For thou art vile" Obadiah 1:3. Great, honored, glorious as Assyria or its ruler were in the eyes of men, the prophet tells him, what he was in himself, being such in the eyes of God, light, empty, as Daniel said to Belshazzar, "Thou art weighed in the balances, and found wanting" Daniel 5:27, of no account, vile .
Behold upon the mountains the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace! O Judah, keep thy solemn feasts, perform thy vows: for the wicked shall no more pass through thee; he is utterly cut off.
That publisheth peace - This declaration is general, that the coming of such a messenger would be attended with joy. The particular and special idea here is, that it would be a joyful announcement that this captivity was ended, and that Zion was about to be restored.
That bringeth good tidings of good - He announces that which is good or which is a joyful message.
That saith unto Zion, thy God reigneth - That is, thy God has delivered the people from their captivity, and is about to reign again in Zion. This was applied at first to the return from the captivity. Paul, as has been already observed, applies it to the ministers of the gospel. That is, it is language which will well express the nature of the message which the ministers of the gospel bear to their fellow-men. The sense is here, that the coming of a messenger bringing good news is universally agreeable to people. And it the coming of a messenger announcing that peace is made, is pleasant; or if the coming of such a messenger declaring that the captivity at Babylon was ended, was delightful, how much more so should be the coming of the herald announcing that man may be at peace with his Maker?
Nahum 1:15Behold upon the mountains, the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace - From mountain-top to mountain-top by beacon-fires they spread the glad tidings. Suddenly the deliverance comes, sudden its announcement. "Behold!" Judah, before hindered by armies from going up to Jerusalem, its cities taken 2 Kings 18:13, may now again "keep the feasts" there, and "pay the vows," which "in trouble she promised;" "for the wicked one," the ungodly Sennacherib, "is utterly cut off, he shall no more pass through thee;" "the army and king and empire of the Assyrians have perished." But the words of prophecy cannot be bound down to this. These large promises, which, as to this world, were forfeited in the next reign, when Manasseh was taken captive to Babylon, and still more in the seventy years' captivity, and more yet in that until now, look for a fulfillment, as they stand.
They sound so absolute. "I will afflict thee no more," "the wicked shall no more pass through thee," "he is utterly (literally, the whole of him) cut off." Nahum joins on this signal complete deliverance from a temporal enemy, to the final deliverance of the people of God. The invasion of Sennacherib was an avowed conflict with God Himself. It was a defiance of God. He would make God's people, his; he would "cut it off that it be no more a people, and that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance" Psalm 83:4. There was a more "evil counselor" behind, whose agent was Sennacherib. He, as he is the author of all murders and strife, so has he a special hatred for the Church, whether before or since Christ's Coming. Before, that he right cut off that Line from whom "the Seed of the woman" should be born, which should destroy his empire and crush himself, and that he might devour the Child who was to be born Revelation 12:4.
Since, because her members are his freed captives, and she makes inroads on his kingdom, and he hates them because he hates God and Christ who dwells in them. As the time of the birth of our Lord neared, his hate became more concentrated. God overruled the hatred of Edom or Moab, or the pride of Assyria, to His own ends, to preserve Israel by chastising it. Their hatred was from the evil one, because it was God's people, the seed of Abraham, the tribe of Judah, the line of David. If they could be cut off, they of whom Christ was to be born according to the flesh, and so, in all seeming, the hope of the world, were gone. Sennacherib then was not a picture only, he was the agent of Satan, who used his hands, feet, tongue, to blaspheme God and war against His people. As then we have respect not to the mere agent, but to the principal, and should address him through those he employed (as Elisha said of the messenger who came to slay him, "is not the sound of his master's feet behind him?" 2 Kings 6:32), so the prophet's words chiefly and most fully go to the instigator of Sennacherib, whose very name he names, Belial. It is the deliverance of the Church and the people of God which he foretells, and thanks God for.