Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
He that dasheth in pieces is come up before thy face: keep the munition, watch the way, make thy loins strong, fortify thy power mightily.
Na 2:1-13. The Advance of the Destroying Forces against Nineveh, after It Was Used as God's Rod for a Time to Chastise His People: The Capture of That Lion's Dwelling, According to the Sure Word of Jehovah.
1. He that dasheth in pieces—God's "battle axe," wherewith He "breaks in pieces" His enemies. Jer 51:20 applies the same Hebrew term to Nebuchadnezzar (compare Pr 25:18; Jer 50:23, "the hammer of the whole earth"). Here the Medo-Babylonian army under Cyaxares and Nabopolassar, that destroyed Nineveh, is prophetically meant.
before thy face—before Nineveh. Openly, so that the work of God may be manifest.
watch the way—by which the foe will attack, so as to be ready to meet him. Ironical advice; equivalent to a prophecy, Thou shalt have need to use all possible means of defense; but use what thou wilt, all will be in vain.
make thy loins strong—The loins are the seat of strength; to gird them up is to prepare all one's strength for conflict (Job 40:7). Also gird on thy sword (2Sa 20:8; 2Ki 4:29).
For the LORD hath turned away the excellency of Jacob, as the excellency of Israel: for the emptiers have emptied them out, and marred their vine branches.
2. For the Lord hath turned away the excellency of Jacob—that is, the time for Nineveh's overthrow is ripe, because Jacob (Judah) and Israel (the ten tribes) have been sufficiently chastised. The Assyrian rod of chastisement, having done its work, is to be thrown into the fire. If God chastised Jacob and Israel with all their "excellency" (Jerusalem and the temple, which was their pre-eminent excellency above all nations in God's eyes, Ps 47:4; 87:2; Eze 24:21; see on Am 6:8), how much more will He punish fatally Nineveh, an alien to Him, and idolatrous? Maurer, not so well, translates, "restores," or "will restore the excellency of Jacob."
emptiers—the Assyrian spoilers.
have emptied them out—have spoiled the Israelites and Jews (Ho 10:1). Compare Ps 80:8-16, on "vine branches," as applied to Israel.
The shield of his mighty men is made red, the valiant men are in scarlet: the chariots shall be with flaming torches in the day of his preparation, and the fir trees shall be terribly shaken.
3. his mighty men—the Medo-Babylonian general's mighty men attacking Nineveh.
made red—The ancients dyed their bull's-hide shields red, partly to strike terror into the enemy, chiefly lest the blood from wounds which they might receive should be perceived and give confidence to the foe [Calvin]. G. V. Smith conjectures that the reference is to the red reflection of the sun's rays from shields of bronze or copper, such as are found among the Assyrian remains.
in scarlet—or crimson military tunics (compare Mt 27:28). Xenophon mentions that the Medes were fond of this color. The Lydians and Tyrians extracted the dye from a particular worm.
chariots … with flaming torches—that is, the chariots shall be like flaming torches, their wheels in lightning-like rapidity of rotation flashing light and striking sparks from the stones over which they pass (compare Isa 5:28). English Version supposes a transposition of the Hebrew letters. It is better to translate the Hebrew as it is, "the chariots (shall be furnished) with fire-flashing scythes" (literally, "with the fire," or glitter, of iron weapons). Iron scythes were fixed at right angles to the axles and turned down, or parallel to it, inserted into the felly of the wheel. The Medes, perhaps, had such chariots, though no traces of them are found in Assyrian remains. On account of the latter fact, it may be better to translate, "the chariots (shall come) with the glitter of steel weapons" [Maurer and G. V. Smith].
in the day of his preparation—Jehovah's (Isa 13:3). Or, "Medo-Babylonian commander's day of preparation for the attack" (Na 2:1). "He" confirms this, and "his" in this verse.
the fir trees—their fir-tree lances.
terribly shaken—branded so as to strike terror. Or, "shall be tremulous with being brandished" [Maurer].
The chariots shall rage in the streets, they shall justle one against another in the broad ways: they shall seem like torches, they shall run like the lightnings.
4. rage—are driven in furious haste (Jer 46:9).
justle one against another—run to and fro [Maurer].
in the broad ways—(2Ch 32:6). Large open spaces in the suburbs of Nineveh.
they shall seem like torches—literally, "their (feminine in Hebrew) appearance (is)": namely, the appearance of the broad places is like that of torches, through the numbers of chariots in them flashing in the sun (Pr 8:26, Margin).
run like the lightnings—with rapid violence (Mt 24:27; Lu 10:18).
He shall recount his worthies: they shall stumble in their walk; they shall make haste to the wall thereof, and the defence shall be prepared.
5. The Assyrian preparations for defense.
He—the Assyrian king.
shall recount his worthies—(Na 3:18). Review, or count over in his mind, his nobles, choosing out the bravest to hasten to the walls and repel the attack. But in vain; for
they shall stumble in their walk—"they shall stumble in their advance" through fear and hurry.
the defence shall be prepared—rather, the covering machine used by besiegers to protect themselves in advancing to the wall. Such sudden transitions, as here from the besieged to the besiegers, are frequent (compare Eze 4:2), [Maurer]. Or, used by the besieged Assyrians [Calvin].
The gates of the rivers shall be opened, and the palace shall be dissolved.
6. The gates of the rivers … opened—The river wall on the Tigris (the west defense of Nineveh) was 4,530 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 (Na 2:8). 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 waters into a different channel: as Cyrus did in the siege of Babylon [Maurer]. In the earlier capture of Nineveh by Arbaces the Mede, and Belesis the Babylonian, Diodorus Siculus, [1.2.80], 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. Fire and water were doubtless the means of the second destruction here foretold, as of the first.
dissolved—by the inundation [Henderson]. Or, those in the palace shall melt with fear, namely, the king and his nobles [Grotius].
And Huzzab shall be led away captive, she shall be brought up, and her maids shall lead her as with the voice of doves, tabering upon their breasts.
7. Huzzab—the name of the queen of Nineveh, from a Hebrew root implying that she stood by the king (Ps 45:9), [Vatablus]. Rather, Nineveh personified as a queen. She who had long stood in the most supreme prosperity. Similarly Calvin. Maurer makes it not a proper name, and translates, "It is established," or "determined" (compare Ge 41:32). English Version is more supported by the parallelism.
led away captive—The Hebrew requires rather, "she is laid bare"; brought forth from the apartments where Eastern women remained secluded, and is stripped of her ornamental attire. Compare Isa 47:2, 3, where the same image of a woman with face and legs exposed is used of a city captive and dismantled (compare Na 3:5), [Maurer].
brought up—Her people shall be made to go up to Babylon. Compare the use of "go up" for moving from a place in Jer 21:2.
her maids … as … doves—As Nineveh is compared to a queen dethroned and dishonored, so she has here assigned to her in the image handmaids attending her with dove-like plaints (Isa 38:14; 59:11. The image implies helplessness and grief suppressed, but at times breaking out). The minor cities and dependencies of Nineveh may be meant, or her captive women [Jerome]. Grotius and Maurer translate, for "lead her," "moan," or "sigh."
tabering—beating on their breasts as on a tambourine.
But Nineveh is of old like a pool of water: yet they shall flee away. Stand, stand, shall they cry; but none shall look back.
8. But—rather, "Though" [G. V. Smith].
of old—rather, "from the days that she hath been"; from the earliest period of her existence. Alluding to Nineveh's antiquity (Ge 10:11). "Though Nineveh has been of old defended by water surrounding her, yet her inhabitants shall flee away." Grotius, less probably (compare Na 3:8-12), interprets, the "waters" of her numerous population (Isa 8:7; Jer 51:13; Re 17:15).
Stand, stand, shall they cry—that is, the few patriotic citizens shall cry to their fleeing countrymen; "but none looketh back," much less stops in flight, so panic-stricken are they.
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.
9. silver … gold—The conquerors are summoned to plunder the city. Nineveh's riches arose from the annual tribute paid by so many subject states, as well as from its extensive merchandise (Na 3:16; Eze 27:23, 24).
store—accumulated by the plunder of subject nations. It is remarkable, that while small articles of value (bronze inlaid with gold, gems, seals, and alabaster vases) are found in the ruins of Nineveh, there are is none of gold and silver. These, as here foretold, were "taken for spoil" before the palaces were set on fire.
glory out of all the pleasant furniture—or, "there is abundance of precious vessels of every kind" [Maurer].
She is empty, and void, and waste: and the heart melteth, and the knees smite together, and much pain is in all loins, and the faces of them all gather blackness.
10. Literally, "emptiness, and emptiedness, and devastation." The accumulation of substantives without a verb (as in Na 3:2), the two first of the three being derivatives of the same root, and like in sound, and the number of syllables in them increasing in a kind of climax, intensify the gloomy effectiveness of the expression. Hebrew, Bukah, Mebukah, Mebullakah (compare Isa 24:1, 3, 4; Zep 1:15).
faces of all gather blackness—(See on Joe 2:6). Calvin translates, "withdraw (literally, 'gather up') their glow," or flush, that is, grow pale. This is probably the better rendering. So Maurer.
Where is the dwelling of the lions, and the feedingplace of the young lions, where the lion, even the old lion, walked, and the lion's whelp, and none made them afraid?
11. dwelling of … lions—Nineveh, the seat of empire of the rapacious and destructive warriors of various ranks, typified by the "lions," "young lions," "old lion" (or lioness [Maurer]), "the lion's whelp." The image is peculiarly appropriate, as lions of every form, winged, and sometimes with the head of a man, are frequent in the Assyrian sepulchres. It was as full of spoils of all nations as a lion's den is of remains of its prey. The question, "Where," &c., implies that Jehovah "would make an utter end of the place," so that its very site could not be found (Na 1:8). It is a question expressing wonder, so incredible did it then seem.
The lion did tear in pieces enough for his whelps, and strangled for his lionesses, and filled his holes with prey, and his dens with ravin.
12. prey … ravin—different kinds of prey. Compare Isa 3:1, "the stay and the staff."
Behold, I am against thee, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will burn her chariots in the smoke, and the sword shall devour thy young lions: and I will cut off thy prey from the earth, and the voice of thy messengers shall no more be heard.
13. burn … in the smoke—or (so as to pass) "into smoke," that is, "entirely" [Maurer], (Ps 37:20; 46:9). Calvin, like English Version, explains, As soon as the flame catches, and the fire smokes, by the mere smoke I will burn her chariots.
cut off thy prey from the earth—Thou shalt no more carry off prey from the nations of the earth.
the voice of thy messengers … no more … heard—No more shall thy emissaries be heard throughout thy provinces conveying thy king's commands, and exacting tribute of subject nations.