Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
The burden of Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite.Analysis and Annotations
CHAPTER 1 The Purpose of God in Dealing with the Assyrian Oppressor
The Purpose of God in Dealing with the Assyrian Oppressor
1. The superscription (Nahum 1:1)
2. Jehovah’s majesty in judgment (Nahum 1:2-6)
3. His people comforted and assured (Nahum 1:7-13)
4. The judgment of Assyria and the result (Nahum 1:14-15)
Nahum 1:1. The burden of Nineveh; it means that there is to follow a weighty prophetic oracle concerning the great world city of Nineveh whose dimensions are given by Jonah, which have been confirmed by excavations. The next sentence gives us the definite information that what follows in the book is the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite.
Nahum 1:2-6. It is a sublime description. God is a jealous God. The jealousy of God has for its source the love of His elect people. (See Zechariah 1:1-21.) “For thou shalt worship no other god; for the Lord, whose name is jealous, is a jealous God” Exodus 34:14. He is jealous over His people lest they serve other gods. And because He is a jealous God, a holy, a sin-hating God, He must be an avenger of what is against His character. He will take vengeance on His adversaries and reserveth wrath for His enemies. Destructive criticism has invented an infidel theory as if the God of wrath and vengeance were the product of the mind of man, and that Jehovah is some tribal deity, corresponding to the tribal gods of the surrounding heathen nations. Thus criticism rejects the Jehovah of the Bible and invents its own god, rejecting the threatenings of coming wrath and judgment as taught in the Old Testament and in the New in connection with the coming of the Lord, branding these revelations the result of the false apocalyptic teachings of the Jews. God is the God of Love, as much as He is the God of Wrath. He must be that or He would not be the God of Light and Holiness. He cannot afford to let evil go on forever. He is the Lord slow to anger. His patience is great, but He will not acquit the guilty, who continue to sin and do evil. Nahum 1:2 and Nahum 1:3 describe His righteous government. Then follows a beautiful poetic description of His majesty, a description suited to the finite mind of man.
In whirlwind and storm is His way, And clouds are the dust of His feet. He rebuketh the sea and drieth it up And empties all the rivers. Carmel, Bashan, and Lebanon are thinned out, And the Flower of Lebanon languisheth. Mountains quake before Him And all the hills melt away; And the earth is consumed in His presence, The world and all that dwell therein. Before His indignation who can stand? And who can abide His fierce anger? His fury is poured out like fire. And the rocks are thrown down by Him.
What to the mind of man is more imposing than the towering storm-clouds, and what more terrifying than the onrushing whirlwind, which lays low the forest? Man, the creature of the dust, steps upon the dust of the earth, to which man returns in the hour of death. But Jehovah has the clouds as the dust of His feet. If He arises in His righteous wrath all will be swept before Him, and the mountains, symbolical of the kingdoms of the earth, will quake before Him, and the pride of man will be humbled in the dust. Isaiah 2:1-22.
Nahum 1:7-13. While in the foregoing section God speaks of His own character in dealing with evil, He now gives comfort and assurance to those who trust in Him, that is, to His people. He knoweth them, the comfort all His people have at all times, the Lord knoweth them that are His, and as our Lord said, “I know my sheep.” For such the Lord is good and a stronghold in the day of trouble. But His enemies will feel His wrath. “But with an overrunning flood He will make an utter end of the place thereof (Nineveh) and darkness will pursue His enemies.”
In the prophetic application we must look beyond the horizon of Nahum’s time and the judgment of Nineveh. The day of the Lord brings the final overthrow of the proud world powers, and the remnant of His people will have in the Lord a refuge, while the judgment floods sweep over the earth (see Psalm 46:1-11) .
On the ninth verse many expositors have erred in their interpretation. It is also addressed to Israel. “What do ye imagine against the LORD?” Do you imagine that the Lord is not going to do it? Will He repent of His judgment purpose? No! He who has spoken “will make an utter end,” and to His people it is spoken “affliction shall not rise up the second time.”
Then a description of the Assyrian in Nahum 1:10. They are entangled like thorns, so that they will find no escape when the judgment overtakes them, while they are drunk with wine in their carousings. Like the dry stubble are they to be devoured. Rab-shakeh, as mentioned in our introduction, is the one who came out of Assyria against Jerusalem with evil imaginations. The better translation of Nahum 1:12 is, “Though they be strong, and likewise many, even so shall they be cut down, and he (the Assyrian) shall pass away.”
The second half of the twelfth verse concerns His people. “Though I have afflicted thee, I will afflict thee no more.” One can see at once that the “no more” demands a future fulfillment. For, while it is true, the Assyrian did no longer afflict Israel, yet affliction upon affliction has been their lot. But there comes the day when all afflictions will cease. “For now I will break his yoke (the yoke of the Assyrian) from off thee (Israel) and I will burst thy bonds asunder.”
Nahum 1:14-15. The fourteenth verse gives the judgment commandment as to Assyria and Nineveh. They are vile, and the God who declared His character in the beginning of this message, is going to act accordingly.
The result is stated in the last verse of this chapter. “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.” The prophet beholds how the messengers rush over the mountains with the good news. Judah and Jerusalem are delivered. Peace has come. Praise and thanksgiving are heard in Zion.
We must not overlook the similar passage in Isaiah 52:7. “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace, that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation, that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth! ... Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem; for the LORD hath comforted His people, He hath redeemed Jerusalem. The LORD hath made bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” This was spoken in connection with Babylon’s overthrow, but its wider application and meaning is future. The overthrow of Babylon and Nineveh did not result in the glorious things spoken of by Isaiah and Nahum. Not then did the ends of the earth see the salvation of God, nor was Jerusalem redeemed, nor God as King enthroned in Zion. It is all yet to come. When that day comes, the messengers will go forth from Jerusalem and declare the good tidings to the nations of the world. The good news of the kingdom will be heralded far and wide, in the beginning of the millennium, and then the abiding, abundant peace will come, so that all the nations see the salvation of the God of Israel. The wicked, opposing powers of the world will then be no more.