|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
3:8-19 Strong-holds, even the strongest, are no defence against the judgments of God. They shall be unable to do any thing for themselves. The Chaldeans and Medes would devour the land like canker-worms. The Assyrians also would be eaten up by their own numerous hired troops, which seem to be meant by the word rendered merchants. Those that have done evil to their neighbours, will find it come home to them. Nineveh, and many other cities, states, and empires, have been ruined, and should be a warning to us. Are we better, except as there are some true Christians amongst us, who are a greater security, and a stronger defence, than all the advantages of situation or strength? When the Lord shows himself against a people, every thing they trust in must fail, or prove a disadvantage; but he continues good to Israel. He is a strong-hold for every believer in time of trouble, that cannot be stormed or taken; and he knoweth those that trust in Him.
Verse 15. - There. In the very place where thou hast taken all these precautions. Shall the fire devour thee. That fire played a great part in the destruction of Nineveh is asserted by historians and proved by the remains of the city discovered in modern times (see note on ver. 13: also Herod., 1:106; Diod. Sic., 2:25-28; Athen., 12:529). The fate of the last king, who burnt himself and his palace, is a well known story (see Justin, 'Hist.,' 1:3; Eusebius, 'Chronicles,' 1:9; 14:3; 15:7; Syncell., 'Chronicles,' 1:396, edit. Dind.) (Kuabenbauer). The sword shall cut thee off. While fire destroys the buildings, the sword shall devour the inhabitants of the city. The cankerworm; literally, the licker (Joel 1:4). The locust in its earlier stage is thus described (see ver. 16). The figure implies that the destruction of Nineveh should be sudden and complete, as that wrought on vegetation by an inroad of locusts. Make thyself many. Collect thine armies, gather hosts as innumerable as the locusts, it will be all in vain. The "cankerworm" represented the enemy; the "locusts" represent the Assyrians themselves.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
There shall the fire devour thee,.... In the strong holds, made ever so firm and secure; either the fire of divine wrath; or the fire of the enemy they should put into them; or the enemy himself, as Kimchi; and so the Targum,
"thither shall come upon thee people who are as strong as fire:''
the sword shall cut thee off; it shall eat thee up as the cankerworm: that is, the sword of the Medes and Chaldeans shall utterly destroy thee, as the cankerworm is destroyed by rain or fire; or rather, as that creature destroys all herbs, plants, and trees it falls upon, and makes clear riddance of them, so should it be with Nineveh:
make thyself many as the cankerworm; make thyself many as the locust; which go in swarms, innumerable, and make the air "heavy" in which they fly, and the earth on which they fall, as the word (y) signifies. The locust has one of its names, "arbah", in Hebrew, from the large numbers of them; so a multitude of men, and large armies, are often signified in Scripture to be like grasshoppers or locusts, for their numbers; see Judges 6:5. So Sithalces king of Thrace is represented (z) as swearing, while he was sacrificing, that he would assist the Athenians, having an army that would come like locusts, that is, in such numbers; for so the Greek scholiast on the place says the word used signifies a sort of locusts: the sense is, gather together as many soldiers, and as large an army, as can be obtained to meet the enemy, or cause him to break up the siege: and so we find (a) the king of Assyria did; for, perceiving his kingdom in great danger, he sent into all his provinces to raise soldiers, and prepare everything for the siege; but all to no purpose, which is here ironically suggested. The word in the Misnic language, as Kimchi observes, has the signification of sweeping; and some render it, "sweep as the locust" (b); which sweeps away and consumes the fruits of the earth; so sweep with the besom of destruction, as Jarchi, either their enemies, sarcastically spoken, or be thou swept by them.
(y) "aggravate", Montanus; "onerate", Tigurine version; "gravem effice te", Burkius. (z) Aristophan. in Acharnens. Acts 1. Scen. 1.((a) Diodor. Sicul. l. 2. p. 113. (b) So R. Sol. Urbin. Ohel Moed, fol. 39. 1.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
15. There—in the very scene of thy great preparations for defense; and where thou now art so secure.
fire—even as at the former destruction; Sardanapalus (Pul?) perished with all his household in the conflagration of his palace, having in despair set it on fire, the traces of which are still remaining.
cankerworm—"the licking locust" [Henderson].
make thyself many as the locusts—"the swarming locusts" [Henderson]; that is, however "many" be thy forces, like those of "the swarming locusts," or the "licking locusts," yet the foe shall consume thee as the "licking locust" licks up all before it.
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