Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE OPPRESSION OF THE CHOSEN PEOPLE BY THE ASSYRIANS.
1. This is expressed figuratively. "The emptiers have emptied them out" (ver. 2), had exhausted their resources, as the contents of a vessel poured out until every drain had been withdrawn, so had both Israel and Judah been impoverished by the Assyrians, "And marred their vine branches." Ancient Israel was often described as God's vineyard (Isaiah 5:1; Psalm 80:9). This vineyard the foe had ruthlessly invaded, casting down and injuring its fruit-bearing trees,
2. These figurative representations are sustained by historical fact. The more familiar we become with Assyrian history the more do we trace in that vast heathen power the prevalence of the haughty, overbearing spirit. Its rulers and people vainly supposed that national greatness consisted in the possession of might to be used in oppressing other nations and peoples. To be able to depict upon the walls of the palaces of Ninus battlescenes indicative of military triumph, accompanied by great spoil and cruel chastisement inflicted upon their adversaries, seems to have been their highest ambition. Their whole relationship to Israel and Judah was based upon this principle. The favoured of Heaven, having forsaken their God, and hence lost his protecting care, turned in their exigencies to Assyria for aid, bur only to find, in this supposed helper against their foes, a more powerful enemy. In this way the kingdom of Israel was first made tributary to Assyria by Pul (2 Kings 15:17-20), and, soon after, its tribes were carried away into captivity by Shalmaneser (2 Kings 17:3-23), whilst the kingdom of Judah in like manner became compelled to acknowledge the lordship of Tilgath-Pilneser (2 Chronicles 28:16-21). Hezekiah sought to cast off the Assyrian yoke, but this only resulted in the nation, in Nahum's time, being brought into circumstances of extreme peril (2 Kings 18:13-17), and from which eventually supernatural help alone was able to deliver it (Isaiah 37:36).
II. DIVINE INTERPOSITION PROMISED ON BEHALF OF THE OPPRESSED. (Ver. 2.) Such interposition had in a measure but recently taken place (Isaiah 37:36). "The angel of death" had "breathed in the face of the foe," and had caused "the might of the Gentile" to "melt like snow," and the oppressor to return humbled to his capital (Isaiah 37:37). The time, however, for the complete and final interposition of Heaven had not yet arrived. Still, it should come. The seer, in rapt vision beheld it as though it had been then in operation, and for the encouragement of the oppressed he declared that the Divine eye observed all that was being endured, that the Lord Almighty still regarded them with favour (ver. 2), and would yet make them "an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations" (Isaiah 60:15).
III. THIS DIVINE INTERPOSITION EVENTUALLY TO BE EXPERIENCED VIEWED AS CARRYING WITH IT THE ENTIRE OVERTHROW OF THE OPPRESSOR. (Ver. 1.) Asshur should in due course be brought low, and the yoke of bondage should fall from off the necks of the captives. In "the day of visitation:"
1. Agents should not be wanting to carry out the Divine behests. The defection of the Assyrian general, the forces of the King of Media, and the overflowing of the Tigris, should all combine to bring about the accomplishment of the Divine purpose; and these forces are here personified as "the dasher in pieces" (ver. 1).
2. Resistance should be in vain. They might "keep the munition, watch the ways," etc. (ver. 1), but all to no purpose. The proud power must inevitably fall, and in its overthrow proclamation be made that it is not by means of tyranny and oppression and wrong doing that any nation can become truly great and lastingly established, but by the prevalence in its midst of liberty, virtue, and righteousness, Nineveh in her downfall
"... seems to cry aloud
(1) because they treat of one subject, viz. the destruction of Nineveh;
(2) because scarcely any detached verse would supply suggestions for a practical discourse; and
(3) because our purpose in these sketches is not critical, but homiletic. The critical part has been admirably done by Henderson, Keil, and others, and is found in the Exposition. We shall therefore endeavour to gather up all that is practical in these two chapters under three general headings.
1. That nations are often allowed to exist on this earth until they reach a terrible degree of wickedness.
2. That it is the decree of Heaven that, however long they exist, the time must come when they shall be utterly destroyed.
3. That Providence often employs on, wicked nation to inflict ruin upon another. We shall devote a separate sketch to each of these propositions. Our subject now is that nations are often allowed to exist on this earth until they reach a terrible degree of wickedness. Assyria, the nation referred to here, was one of the oldest kingdoms in the world; it could count its age by centuries. Generation after generation came through centuries, played their part, and passed away, whilst Assyria stood. Its beginning is so far back that it is lost in obscurity. An early reference to it in Scripture will be found in Numbers 24:22. Reference to its capital, Nineveh, and its founder, Asshur, we have also in Genesis 10:11. Our proposition suggests two questions -
I. WHAT WERE ITS LEADING CRIMES? From these chapters we can infer a few.
1. Rapacity. The city is described as the dwelling place of lions. "Where is the dwelling of the lions?" etc. (Nahum 2:11, 12). "The point of comparison is," says Keil, "the predatory lust of its rulers and warriors, who crushed the nations like lions, plundering their treasures and bringing them together in Nineveh." As lions prowl about with ravenous instincts in search of their prey, and are utterly regardless of the sufferings and agonies they inflict, so long as they gain their object, so the King of Assyria and his minions went forth to rifle and to ruin distant countries, in order to augment their wealth and promote their aggrandizement. This rapacity seems to have been their habit; the city was a dwelling place of lions. What an enormity is this! - man preying upon man like predatory beasts. The spirit of this rapacity lives too strongly in modern nations. It is seen, not only in aggressive wars, but in trade and commerce - the strong everywhere preying on the weak for the sake of gain.
2. Cruelty. The lion instinct was so prevailing in the population, that the very city is called "the bloody city" (Nahum 3:1). The golden rule, "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you," was trampled in the dust. Instead of respect being paid to the rights of men, life itself was cheaply held; their feet were "swift to shed blood." It lived by rapine. Its cruelty is handed down in its sculptures, where we have lions of every form, winged and unwinged. Cruelty is the worst stage of depravity. When all social love in the human breast gives way to malevolence, what have you but a devil? There are men in every age and country whose chief pleasure is to inflict torture. Atrocities are being perpetrated to a greater or less extent in all ages and lands. "Beasts," says our great dramatist, "are not cruel save when urged by hunger;" but men are often so, and into a cruel nature it is impossible to work the humane and generous.
"You may as well use question with the wolf, 3. Imposture. The city is represented as "full of lies and robbery" (Nahum 3:1), or, as Keil renders it, "full of deceit and murder." Falsehood and violence were rampant. The imposture or falsehood is expressed in the fourth verse, "Because of the multitude of the whoredoms of the well favoured harlot, the mistress of witchcrafts, that selleth nations through her whoredoms, and families through her witchcrafts." "The idolatrous practices of the Ninevites, and the means which they employed to seduce others to worship their gods, are here represented as the principal cause of their destruction. At the same time, the commerce, luxury, etc., which they carried to the greatest height, are not to be excluded; for in making contracts and treaties with the more powerful of their neighbours, they not only employed these as inducements, but did not scruple to deliver into their power nations and tribes that were unable to help themselves (comp. Joel 3:3, 6, 8; Amos 1:6). The metaphor of an unchaste female, and the seductive arts which she employs, is not unfrequent in the prophets" (Henderson). The cunning and deceptive policy is here called whoring or love making, because it was that selfishness which wraps itself up in the dress of love, but under the appearance of love seeks only the gratification of its own lust. It was a mistress of this art, and by it sold nations, deprived them of their independence and liberty. Such are some of the crimes here referred to, of which the Assyrians were pre-eminently guilty - rapacity, cruelty, imposture. These imply every species of moral evil, and moral evil in its most inhuman and ungodly aspects. Where these are there is no rectitude, no benevolence, no moral order, no true religion. II. WHY WAS SUCH A NATION ALLOWED TO EXIST SO LONG? It was wicked from the beginning: why did not righteous Heaven crush it at the outset? Why was such a monster of iniquity allowed to perpetrate such enormities in the world from age to age? The question is similar to that which Job asked, "Wherefore do the wicked live, Become old, yea, are mighty in power?" (Job 21:7). Without presuming to penetrate the mind of God, or give the reason, we can see some important purposes which the continuation of the existence of wicked men in this world answers. It serves to show: 1. The freedom of the human soul. The natural tendency of all the blessings and beauty of life, the spirit of grandeur and beneficence that runs through all nature, are against wickedness and in favour of virtue and holiness. Notwithstanding this, men are wicked. They have a power to resist the Divine, to pervert the good, and outrage their own natures. Here is freedom of nature. Men are not bad by necessity; they are bad by their own free determination. 2. The wonderful forbearance of God. Though wickedness is to the last degree repugnant to his holy nature, and though by a volition he could annihilate a universe of sinners, through his infinite love he forbears. "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness, but is long suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). 3. The existence of a future state of retribution. Under the righteous government of God such a state of things cannot go on forever. There must come an end, a balancing of the world's accounts, and an administration of justice to every soul. Human society is in an abnormal state; like water in a flood, it is hurrying onward to a more settled destination. "The mills of God grind slowly." - D.T.
3. Imposture. The city is represented as "full of lies and robbery" (Nahum 3:1), or, as Keil renders it, "full of deceit and murder." Falsehood and violence were rampant. The imposture or falsehood is expressed in the fourth verse, "Because of the multitude of the whoredoms of the well favoured harlot, the mistress of witchcrafts, that selleth nations through her whoredoms, and families through her witchcrafts." "The idolatrous practices of the Ninevites, and the means which they employed to seduce others to worship their gods, are here represented as the principal cause of their destruction. At the same time, the commerce, luxury, etc., which they carried to the greatest height, are not to be excluded; for in making contracts and treaties with the more powerful of their neighbours, they not only employed these as inducements, but did not scruple to deliver into their power nations and tribes that were unable to help themselves (comp. Joel 3:3, 6, 8; Amos 1:6). The metaphor of an unchaste female, and the seductive arts which she employs, is not unfrequent in the prophets" (Henderson). The cunning and deceptive policy is here called whoring or love making, because it was that selfishness which wraps itself up in the dress of love, but under the appearance of love seeks only the gratification of its own lust. It was a mistress of this art, and by it sold nations, deprived them of their independence and liberty. Such are some of the crimes here referred to, of which the Assyrians were pre-eminently guilty - rapacity, cruelty, imposture. These imply every species of moral evil, and moral evil in its most inhuman and ungodly aspects. Where these are there is no rectitude, no benevolence, no moral order, no true religion.
II. WHY WAS SUCH A NATION ALLOWED TO EXIST SO LONG? It was wicked from the beginning: why did not righteous Heaven crush it at the outset? Why was such a monster of iniquity allowed to perpetrate such enormities in the world from age to age? The question is similar to that which Job asked, "Wherefore do the wicked live, Become old, yea, are mighty in power?" (Job 21:7). Without presuming to penetrate the mind of God, or give the reason, we can see some important purposes which the continuation of the existence of wicked men in this world answers. It serves to show:
1. The freedom of the human soul. The natural tendency of all the blessings and beauty of life, the spirit of grandeur and beneficence that runs through all nature, are against wickedness and in favour of virtue and holiness. Notwithstanding this, men are wicked. They have a power to resist the Divine, to pervert the good, and outrage their own natures. Here is freedom of nature. Men are not bad by necessity; they are bad by their own free determination.
2. The wonderful forbearance of God. Though wickedness is to the last degree repugnant to his holy nature, and though by a volition he could annihilate a universe of sinners, through his infinite love he forbears. "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness, but is long suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).
3. The existence of a future state of retribution. Under the righteous government of God such a state of things cannot go on forever. There must come an end, a balancing of the world's accounts, and an administration of justice to every soul. Human society is in an abnormal state; like water in a flood, it is hurrying onward to a more settled destination. "The mills of God grind slowly." - D.T.
Genesis 15:16; 2 Kings 24:3, 4; Matthew 23:32-36). So thorough was the destruction of Nineveh, that its very site for ages was a matter of conjecture. The wonderful discoveries of Botta in 1842, followed up by Layard in 1845, not only determined its site, but disclosed the dwellings, ornaments, history, manners, of the inhabitants of the old Assyrian metropolis. Now, in the prophecy which Nahum gives, we learn that its destruction reveals several things.
I. THE FRUITLESSNESS OF THE MOST STRENUOUS EFFORTS OF RESISTANCE. "Keep the munition, watch the way, make thy loins strong, fortify thy power mightily" (Nahum 2:1). This is supposed by some to be ironical, and to mean - Do your utmost to resist, concentrate all your forces, bring them into vigorous play, it will be utterly worthless. No doubt Nineveh, in her extremities, strove to the utmost to crush the invader and to preserve her own existence. But all efforts failed; its doom was sealed, its time had come, it had filled up the measure of its iniquity. There is no resisting God's judgment when it comes. "There is no discharge in that warfare." We learn from this prophecy that its destruction reveals -
II. THAT THE SAME VIOLENCE WITH WHICH IT DESTROYED OTHERS WAS NOW EMPLOYED FOR ITS OWN DESTRUCTION. Nineveh was a city of blood, full of lies and violence, the dwelling place of ravenous lions, which had preyed upon other nations and ruined them. Now this violence is brought to bear upon them. "With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." See the description given of its conquerors (Nahum 2:3; Nahum 3:2, 3), "The shield of his mighty men is made red," the emblem of slaughter. "The chariots shall be with flaming torches," their wheels rolling with such velocity that they flash lightning from the stones. They "rage in the streets," jostle against each other, and "run like the lightnings," and there are the "noise of the whips," the "rattling of the wheels," the "prancing of the horses," the flashing of the swords and the glittering spears. Crowds are struck down, "a great number of carcases," there is "none end of their corpses; they stumble upon their corpses," etc. The Bible is full of the doctrine of retributive justice; it abounds with examples of sinners receiving back in punishment the very same evils that they have inflicted on others. "Every man shall be rewarded according to his works." How often it happens in the government of the world, that the deceiver is punished by deceit, the ambitious by ambition, the avaricious by avarice, the violent by violence "His mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down upon his own pate."
III. THE WORTHLESSNESS OF ITS CHIEF METHOD OF DEFENCE. "The gates of the rivers shall be opened, and the palace shall be dissolved" (Nahum 2:6). "The river wall on the Tigris (the west defence of Nineveh) was 4530 yards long. On the north, south, and east sides there were large moats, capable of being easily filled with water from the Khosru. Traces of dams, gates, or sluices, for regulating the supply, are still visible, so that the whole city could be surrounded with a water barrier. Besides, on the east, the weakest side, it was further protected by a lofty double rampart, with a moat two hundred feet wide between its two parts, cut in the rocky ground. The moats, or canals, flooded by the Ninevites before the siege to repel the foe, were made a dry bed to march into the city, by the foe turning the water into a different channel, as Cyrus did in the siege of Babylon" (Maurer). This, however, is not substantiated. "In the earlier capture of Nineveh by Arbaces the Mode and Belsis the Babylonian, Diodorus Siculus states that there was an old prophecy, that it should not be taken till the river became its enemy; so, in the third year of the siege, the river, by a flood, broke down the walls twenty furlongs, and the king thereupon burnt himself and his palace and all his concubines and wealth together; and the enemy entered by the breach in the wall" (Fausset). It is often thus with the sinner, that the very things on which he relies contribute to his ruin. It may be wealth, physical strength, genius, morality, etc.; but when judgment comes, these, like the Tigris, "flee away."
IV. THE INEVITABLENESS OF ITS UTTER RUIN. The reason of it was, "I am against thee, saith the Lord of hosts" (Nahum 3:5). "Art thou better than populous No?" (Nahum 3:8-10) - the Egyptian name for Thebes, the possession of Ammon. The populousness of Thebes and its wonderful natural productions did not save it from ruin. Her "strength" was "infinite," yet she was "carried away into captivity;" if she could not resist, neither canst thou. "How vain," says a modern expositor, "are all the defences of sinners when the Lord is against them! No-Ammon, or Thebes, was one of the grandest and most magnificent cities of the earliest ages. Yet her rampart and seawall, with her seemingly infinite strength, were of no avail to save her young children from being dashed in pieces and all her great men from being bound in chains. Such was to be the doom of Nineveh likewise. God acts on the same unchanging principle in all ages, and in the case of all nations. Unrighteousness towards man and impiety and idolatry towards God bear the same bitter fruits everywhere, however for a time transgressors may seem to prosper. Let us as a nation remember that our safety consists, not in our fleets and armies, nor even in the 'multiplication of our merchants above the stars of heaven' (Nahum 3:16). Riches, like the cankerworm or the grasshopper (ver. 17), certainly make themselves wings, they fly away (Proverbs 23:5). The strongholds (ver. 12) on which we rely would fall before the invader as easily as the ripe fruit into the mouth of the eater, if God were against us. The nobles and captains who are the glory of England would soon be abased in the dust (vers. 17, 18). Our security therefore depends on our godliness. Wickedness persevered in continually (ver. 19) would bring on us a grievous wound, not to be healed, and the very nations now in alliance with us would clap their hands over us, exulting in the tidings of our fall Let us therefore repent of our sins as a nation, as families, and as individuals, and 'bring forth worthy fruits of repentance.'" - D.T.
B.C. 626 and 608 - fell to rise no more. Both these powers - the Medes and the Babylonians - were pre-eminently wicked, as bad in every respect, if not worse, than the Assyrians. These were the battle axe with which God broke in pieces the Assyrian power. As a rule, in the government of the world, God employs one wicked nation to destroy another. Who destroyed Edom and Egypt, and Persia and Moab, and Greece and Rome? These were all destroyed by the hands of wicked men. Why this? Why does not the Almighty punish wicked nations by some other way? Why does he not destroy them without any instrumentality whatever, by a mere volition; or, if he employs instrumentality, why not the blind forces of nature, or wild beasts, or poisonous reptiles? Why should he employ wicked men as his instruments? The method clearly answers certain purposes.
I. IT MAKES THE PUNISHMENT APPEAR MORE TERRIBLE. Who would not sooner die by a flash of lightning, or a pestilential blast, or a predatory beast, than in deadly conflict with a man with whom he has measured his strength? In such a death passions are roused that burn in the centre of the soul, and a terrible humiliation is felt. A wicked man can have no greater tormentor than a wicked man. The greatest tormentors of fiends are fiends. In punishing wicked men in this way the Almighty declares to their consciences that they are so wicked that the wicked shall destroy them. Those of their own flesh and blood and character shall wreak vengeance on their head.
II. IT REVEALS THE ENORMITY OF SIN. Man was made to love his brother. His social instincts, his physical relationships, and the law of interdependence, as well as the laws of God, demonstrate this. But when you see him flaming with malign emotions towards his fellows, and wrestling in a deadly conflict, what a revelation of the enormity of sin! The battlefield is at once the product and the type of hell. Such a manifestation of sin is surely hideous enough to make us stand aghast with horror and hate.
III. IT SHOWS GOD'S MASTERY OVER HUMAN ACTIONS. The wicked engage in bloody wars, and thus become the instruments in administering the just penalties of sin; not to obey the Divine will, but to gratify their own avarice, ambition, malice, and greed. They do not serve Providence by their will, but against it. God is such a Master of human souls that he "maketh the wrath of man to praise him". It is not optional with man whether he shall serve God or not; serve him he must; the option is whether he shall serve him willingly or unwillingly, as an agent or as an instrument. God links the devil himself to that providential chariot which is bearing on his great purposes to their fulfilment.
CONCLUSION. Two things should be remembered in connection with this subject.
1. That the wickedness of nations does not necessarily imply wickedness in all their members. There are good men in every nation under heaven, even in the worst. There are Noahs, Lots, Daniels, Jobs, amongst the corruptest people.
2. That the ruin of nations does not necessarily imply the ruin of all their members. Nations are but assemblages of individuals - abstractions, nothing more. They have no future existence; there is no Egypt, Persia, Assyria, Babylon, Greece, Rome, Germany, Italy, England, etc., in eternity. Nor are there any Churches there, Papal or Protestant, Conformist or Nonconformist. "Public bodies and communities of men, as such, can only be rewarded and punished in this world. This world is the only season for national punishments."
"The individual culprit may sometimes
I. THE ACCOUNT CONTAINED HERE OF THE PREDICTED OVERTHROW OF NINEVEH SERVES TO ILLUSTRATE THE DIVINE ELEMENT IN REVELATION. Nahum flourished in the reign of Hezekiah (B.C. 725-696), and Nineveh was destroyed between B.C. 609 and 606). He lived and prophesied thus say a hundred years before the occurrence of the events he so vividly described, and when the Assyrian power was in the zenith of its prosperity. His announcements were very distinct and definite, and by placing these and the records of secular historians given at a subsequent period side by side, we sea how minutely the predictions of this seer have been fulfilled, and that hence, in making these, he must have been God's messenger, uttering, not his own thoughts, but those which had been communicated to him by "visions and revelations of the Lord." In Nahum 1:10 we read, "For while they be folden together as thorns, and while they are drunken as drunkards, they shall be devoured as stubble fully dry." The secular historian writes, "While all the Assyrian army were feasting for their former victories, those about Arbuces, being informed by some deserters of the negligence and drunkenness in the camp of the enemies, assaulted them unexpectedly by night, and failing orderly on them disorderly, and prepared on them unprepared, became masters of the camp, and slew many of the soldiers and drove the rest into the city" (Diodorus Siculus, bk. 2. p. 80). In Nahum 2:6 we read, "The gates of the rivers shall be opened, and the palace shall be dissolved." The secular historian writes, "There was an oracle among the Assyrians that Nineveh should not be taken till the river became an enemy to the city; and in the third year of the siege, the river, being swollen with continual rains, overflowed part of the city, and broke down the wall for twenty furlongs. Then the king, thinking that the oracle was fulfilled, and the river had become an enemy to the city, built a large funeral pile in the palace, and collecting together all his wealth and his concubines and eunuchs, burnt himself and the palace with them all, and the enemy entered at the breach that the waters had made, and took the city" (Diodorus Siculus, bk. 2. p. 80). In Nahum 2:9 the prophet, as though addressing the adversaries of Nineveh, said, "Take ye the spoil of silver, take the spoil of gold: for there is none end of the store and glory out of all the pleasant furniture;" and the same secular historian already quoted informs us that the conquerors carried many talents of gold and silver to Ecbatana, the royal city of the Medea No language could be more explicit than that in which Nahum predicted the total destruction of the city (Nahum 2:10-13; Nahum 3:7, 15-17). The Prophet Zephaniah used words equally plain (Zephaniah 2:18-15). Their utterances would have appeared very strange to the Ninevites at the time they were spoken; as strange, indeed, as similar utterances would appear if addressed at the present time to the inhabitants of our own metropolis; but they were true nevertheless, and the facts of history furnish abundant confirmations. For upwards of two thousand years after its overthrow, Nineveh lay buried in the earth. History and tradition indicated its probable site, and the mounds to be found in the supposed districts, and out of which the Turks obtained materials for building purposes, of evident antiquity, invited research; and within a very recent period such research has been carried on, the long buried palaces of the kings of Assyria have been discovered, huge sculptures have been carefully dug out of the mounds, and the national museums both of France and England are now enriched with these long lost works of art, testifying not only to the ancient splendour of the Assyrian empire and its capital, but also to the truthfulness of the prophetical records, and to the prophets as speaking and writing under the inspiration of the Almighty, and as being indeed the messengers of him who has said, "I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done" (Isaiah 46:9, 10).
II. THE ACCOUNT CONTAINED HERE OF THE PREDICTED OVERTHROW OF NINEVEH SERVES TO ILLUSTRATE THE HUMAN ELEMENT IN REVELATION. Holy Scripture is remarkable in its variety - not variety in purpose, for this is single throughout, but variety in expression. History, prophecy, poetry, parable, proverb, miracle, biography, vision, epistle, are all laid under tribute. As there is a Divine element in the Bible, so also there is a human element therein. Whilst upon the writings of each of its contributors there is unmistakably the impress of the operation of the Spirit of God, there is likewise, throughout the whale, clear indications of the preservation of those natural gifts and endowments which the respective writers possessed. There was no suspension of the powers of the men who were honoured of God in communicating to their fellow men a knowledge of his will; but rather there was the retention of their own individual peculiarities and natural qualities, whilst the Divine Spirit operated through these and turned these to the most useful account. Biblical critics are agreed in recognizing "the classic beauty and the finished elegance" of the style of Nahum, and in assigning to this writer a place in the first rank of Hebrew literature. "The variety in his method of presenting ideas discovers much poetic talent in the prophet. The reader of taste and sensibility will be affected by the entire structure of the poem, by the agreeable manner in which the ideas are brought forward, by the flexibility of the expressions, the roundness of his turns, the delicate outlines of his figures, by the strength and delicacy, and the expression of sympathy and greatness, which diffuse themselves over the whole subject" (De Wette's Introduction). "Nahum of all the prophets has the most impassioned style; and in none is found the change of numbers, of persons addressed, and of suffix relations, with such frequentness and immediateness as in him. At the same time, his language has wonder his energy and picturesque beauty. The painting does not embrace merely single rhythms and groups of words, but whole series; and in connecting his thoughts, he shows, with all his vehemence, great and varied skill" (Kleinert). His description of the siege and fall of Nineveh, contained in this chapter (vers. 3-13), is wonderfully vivid. As we read the account, even at this distant date, the stirring scenes seem to live again, and to pass in review before us. We see the attacking warriors in their scarlet attire and with their chariots armed with sharp instruments of steel (ver. 3), and the defenders of the city, suddenly startled, hastening their preparations, their chariots in the hurry jostling against each other in the streets, and the gallants summoned by the king hastening to the ramparts, which the foe is seeking with battering rams to cast down (vers. 4, 5). We behold the overflowing of the river, facilitating the advance of the enemy, and paralyzing the people by reason of the popular tradition now seemingly being fulfilled (ver. 6). We witness the inhabitants brought low in shame and dishonour, moaning like a captive woman (ver. 7), or fleeing for their very life in hopelessness and despair, conscious that resistance is vain (ver. 8). We view the spoiling of the city - the conqueror carrying away the gold and the silver to the Median capital, the trophies of victory (ver. 9). Finally, we picture to ourselves the prophets of the Lord gazing upon the waste and desolation, reflecting upon the proud being abased, their offspring cut off, their gains confiscated, their boastful messengers silenced, and ascribing all the terrible reverses thus experienced to the righteous retribution of the Lord of hosts (vers. 10-13); and we feel, as we linger upon the scene thus graphically portrayed, that whilst rejoicing in this volume of revelation as having been given by inspiration of God, and as containing Divine lessons abounding both in encouragement and warning, we may well prize it also even on the lower ground of its literary merit, and heartily rejoice in the infinite variety of human powers and endowments here consecrated to the presentation of the loftiest and grandest spiritual teaching. - S.D.H.
I. IMPLIES WRONG DOING ON MAN'S PART. God is not thus adverse to man for naught. "His delights are with the sons of men" (Proverbs 8:31). Sin alienates man from God, and causes God to be righteously displeased with man.
II. INVOLVES MAN IN PRESENT DISTRESS. Man cannot be at ease whilst under the ban of Jehovah. "In his favour is life" (Psalm 30:5). Separation from him through sin means disquietude and unrest. "The worst troubler in the world is a wilful heart." "Conscience makes cowards of us all." "The heart melteth, the knees smite together" (ver. 10).
III. RESULTING IN ULTIMATE RUIN TO SUCH AS WILFULLY PERSIST IN SIN. God is "the Lord of hosts. All power is his. Who shall stand when he is angry?" (Psalm 76:7). All have sinned, and hence have incurred the displeasure of him who "is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity;" but in Christ, whose day the seers saw afar off, God is reconciled to man; so that the distress and ruin indicated can alone result from man refusing to be reconciled unto God. - S.D.H.
Nahum 1:15). Messengers, differing very materially in their character and mission, are referred to in these words. The messengers of Nineveh and the messengers of Zion are alluded to in these passages. A comparison of these respective messengers may prove suggestive and useful in its application to certain developments in these modern times. From the Second Book of Kings and the Second Book of Chronicles we learn that the heralds or messengers of Nineveh cherished the spirit of blasphemy with reference to the God of heaven. The faith of the pious Hebrews consisted in the recognition of the one living and true God, and of his providential care over all his creatures; and it was against this bulwark that the emissaries of Assyria constantly directed their assaults in words foul and filthy (see Rabshakeh's appeal to the Jews, 2 Kings 18:33-35; and his letter, 2 Chronicles 32:17). The great and distinguishing characteristic of the messengers of Zion was loyalty to the God of heaven. Their feet stood upon the mountains, and their voice proclaimed to the people, "Behold your God!" (Isaiah 40:9); "Thy God reigneth!" (Isaiah 52:7). In the present age there are messengers who boldly declare their non-acceptance of the teaching that recognizes the Divine Being and his working, and who seek to disseminate their views, and in doing so are not particular if they blaspheme the God of heaven. And whilst there are such messengers in the world doing their injurious work, there are also those who are thoroughly loyal to the King of kings, who delight to show forth his praise, to tell the story of his love in the gift and work of Christ, and to seek to draw men in loving obedience to his authority and will. Note certain contrasts, then, suggested; thus -
I. CAPTIVITY IN CONTRAST WITH FREEDOM. The messengers of Nineveh approached Jerusalem, to which Sennacherib was laying siege, but they bore no tidings of liberty. They claimed full submission, and declared that even this must be followed by captivity in a strange land (2 Kings 18:31, 32). The assurance of ultimata deliverance came from the messengers of the Lord (Nahum 1:12, 13). Sin is bondage. Evil passions, habits, desires, are fetters; a life of alienation from the true and the right is a life of hard bondage. Transgressors are slaves. And scepticism has nothing to offer such by way of helping them to escape. The messengers may expatiate to such a one upon the nobleness of virtue, may sound in his ears some wise sayings of sages and philosophers, may remind him of the injury he is inflicting upon himself, and bid him "be a man," and "turn over a new leaf." But he is down; he is conscious of moral inability; he lacks inward strength. Lo! the messengers of Zion come. They tell him of the great Father's unwearying love, the Saviour's obedience unto the death of the cross, the energizing and sanctifying Spirit ready to gird him with all-sufficient strength, the elder Brother who has proved his trials and his tears, and who is prepared to be near him in every season of need as his "strong siding Champion." He feels the tidings to be "good;" is bowed low in penitence; his eye of faith turns to the hill called Calvary, and rises to the everlasting hills whence cometh help; the fettered soul is released, is free, for the messengers on the mountains have proclaimed deliverance to the captive, and the opening of the prison to the bound (Isaiah 61:1).
II. STRIFE IN CONTRAST TO PEACE. The messengers of Nineveh to Judah had nothing conciliatory to convey; they told only of contention and strife. The assurance that peace should ultimately be enjoyed came to the anxious King of Judah from God's messengers, who published peace. The messengers of scepticism have no proclamation of peace to make; their work is altogether destructive; contumely is their delight; to seek to unsettle the minds of men and to shake their faith is their poor mission. It is the privilege, however, of the messengers of Zion to proclaim those spiritual and eternal verities in which the heart may securely and tranquilly repose, and to point to him who can quell every storm and give rest unto the soul.
III. GLOOM IN CONTRAST TO GLADNESS. Hezekiah and his people were in extremity; it was to them a time of "trouble;" but not a ray of hope came to them through the fears were confirmed; the foe was unrelenting. messengers of Nineveh. Their worst Their hope was in God, and in the words spoken by his holy prophets. So in the extremities of life - in sickness and sorrow, and specially at life's close, hope springs not from unbelief, but from the words God has addressed to us through his servants. The gospel has no rival in such seasons. Scepticism has no voice then, or, if it speaks, it. but deepens the prevailing gloom; but the good tidings God has revealed dispels our sadness and fills the soul with immortal hopes. Happy messengers, who are thus enabled to "comfort all that mourn," etc. (Isaiah 61:2)!
IV. SHAME IN CONTRAST TO HONOUR. The voice of all messengers who blaspheme the holy Name of God "shall be no more heard," for God will put them to silence; but voices publishing his love and grace shall go sounding on through the ages - the bright succession of proclaimers shall not cease. Growing numbers shall be raised up who shall find their way to all nations and kindreds and tribes, until the glad tidings shall reach every shore, and the knowledge of the Lord shall fill the earth (Isaiah 11:9). - S.D.H.