Nahum 3
Nahum 3 Kingcomments Bible Studies


Nahum again mentions the reason for the verdict on Nineveh. The verdict comes because of the many sins of the city (Nah 3:1-7). She cannot avert that judgment any more than No-amon could have done (Nah 3:8-13). The judgment will strike her full of horror in spite of all the resources (Nah 3:14-19).

Woe to the Bloody City

The city is full of violence and lies. Violence and lies are the two manifestations of sin that include all sins (cf. Gen 6:11). They are, as it were, a summary of it. Nineveh seems to have been hatched by the spirit of her founder Nimrod, who was a mighty hunter before the LORD and who built his kingdom on blood (Gen 10:8-9).

Nineveh is “the bloody city” and “completely full of lies” because all the spoils in the city were obtained through bloodshed and deceit. None of it is destined for others. It serves everything to satisfy one’s own desires. And the looting is still going on because the greed is insatiable. It is never enough. It is thus a description of the unbridled greed that characterizes mankind today.

The Battlefield

The situation of the previous verse comes to a dramatic end. The prophet vividly describes, as if he were an eye- and ear witness, the attack on and storming of the city of Nineveh (cf. Nah 2:3-5). It begins with “the noise of the whip”, indicating that the horses are being driven to ever greater speed. The “rattling of the wheel” audibly announce the arrival of the enemy. The “galloping horses” are unstoppable in their run to Nineveh. They run so fast that the wagons they pull are bouncing and bumping up and down over the bumpy ground.

Besides manned chariots with horses before them, there are also ridden horses. The riders are also ready for battle. They ride their horses, they strike with their flaming swords and throw their spears at the speed of lightning.

How great the slaughter is, is said in Nah 3:3. Four times the corpses – for which three different words are used in Hebrew – are mentioned that are left as a trail by the invaded army. There are so many corpses that the victors stumble over them in their advance. Just as it has been said of the wealth that there is no end to it (Nah 2:9), so it is said here of the dead bodies that they are countless.

The Reason for the Judgment

Nahum mentions the reason for the judgment, “because”. Nineveh is compared to a seductive, handsome harlot, who has caught many peoples in her nets. In this she resembles “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS” (Rev 17:1-6). Nineveh is handsome, she has great attraction to other peoples who also want that opulence. The judgment comes on her because she has attracted people like a harlot by what she has to offer. She has offered occult practices, sexual depravity, false religion, political favors, impudent prosperity and immeasurable pleasure in a poor sinking world. With these temptations, she has even approached God’s people to persuade them to surrender to her (2Kgs 18:31-32).

Three times in this verse her harlotry is mentioned, which clearly marks her disgusting activities. Harlotry means betrayal, unfaithfulness, depravity, and lustful lust. She dresses herself in the garment of love and, under the appearance of it, she satisfies her lust for power and wealth.

In her harlotry she makes use of sorcery. She is a harlot and a witch. Her harlotry is not idolatry as with Israel, which is connected to the living God. She applies herself to sorcery. It is her way of doing politics, making a deceptive friendship and suspicious politics, with which she has embraced other states and got them in her power. Sorcery is the enchantment of someone in order to bind him to herself. Both sorcery and harlotry presuppose a control exercised by hidden, secret means that are lethal in their effect. Jezebel was a woman of harlotry and sorcery (2Kgs 9:22; cf. Rev 21:8; Rev 22:15).

‘Selling nations’ means depriving them of their freedom and enslaving them through harlotry. Families represent smaller tribes.

The Appropriate Punishment

The treatment she gets suits a harlot. In the area where she sins, there is also her punishment (Isa 47:3; Eze 16:37-41; Jer 13:26). The LORD Himself will work so that the admiration of all those who have meddled with her will turn into abhorrence. It is the picture of a disgraced harlot who has become old and unattractive. Her nakedness, her true form, will be revealed. She is now treated with disgust and contempt. If we tempt people to commit sin, in the end they will not thank us for it, but rather they will despise us.

It does not mean that those who have meddled with her are better. They are just as bad. But this is about the judgment on Nineveh. She will bear the hallmark of the greatest contempt. Throwing dirt on someone is a picture of the most defamatory treatment and contempt. She will be set up as a spectacle, which means that she will be an object of public defamation.

Nineveh Is Without Someone Who Comforts

Nations will look at Nineveh with amazement. But there will not be a nation that feels sorry for her because she has deserved her downfall. She who has not been the friend of anyone, has no one who will grieve for her. He who rejects God has no comforter (cf. Lam 1:2; 9). There is no hope for Nineveh.

The expression “grieve for her” is literally “to shake the head”. Shaking the head is an expression of compassion when someone is in great sorrow, saying, as it were: ‘I can’t understand why this sorrow has affected you.’

Nineveh No Better Than No-amon

Nineveh will not be able to save herself from destruction by her power. The prophet deprives her of this vain hope by pointing out the fall of the mighty No-amon in Egypt in these verses (Jer 46:25; Eze 30:14-16). No-amon or Thebes was the capital of Upper Egypt. The city was taken and plundered by the Assyrians in 663 BC, about fifty years before the downfall of Nineveh. Despite the size of the city, protected by water, strong walls and a powerful army, the Assyrians managed to conquer it.

In addition to its natural location, which offered protection, it had, to its strength the armies of various peoples under its command (Nah 3:9). But also the strong allies, from which the city derived extra strength and help, were powerless to save the city from destruction. In spite of all its advantages, the city had fallen and was horribly, without pity, dealt with by the Assyrians (Nah 3:10).

Nineveh could have learned from No-amon. What she had done to No-amon will be done to her. Why would she be different? With God there is no respect for persons. As she has treated others, she will now be treated herself.

Nineveh Becomes Equal to No-amon.

Now that the fall of No-amon has been described, Nineveh’s own fate can be seen even more emphatically in what she herself has done with No-amon. Being drunk refers here to the consequence of God’s actions, to the cup of God’s wrath she has to drink. The great city of Nineveh will become hidden and untraceable. That has happened to Nineveh. She is hidden under the desert sand. Later she is excavated again. The Ninevites will not be able to find the hiding place they will seek against the enemy and no one will offer it to them.

Nineveh, an Illustration of Weakness

Nahum uses two pictures to indicate the ease with which the enemy will overcome her. The fortifications are fig trees that are shaken with ease so that the figs fall off and are eaten immediately. This is how easily the fortifications fall into the hands of the enemy.

Their soldiers are women, so weak is the resistance that is given (cf. Isa 19:16; Jer 50:37; Jer 51:30). There is nothing left of their ‘lion appearance’ (Nah 2:11-12). There is no resistance when entering the city that is burned by them with fire. All this happens to the once strong city. It has become a city without strength and without a future.

Ironic Call to Defense

Finally, the prophet deprives the guilty city of the last support for its hope: the confidence in its fortifications and its numerous population. The following description is again intended to be ironic. In view of the long siege, the prophet advises them to take every precaution to keep the enemy out of the gate. The first need is water. Furthermore, she must strengthen the city wherever possible. To this end she has to work with clay and turn it into stones. A supply has to be made to close the gaps that the enemy makes.

Nineveh Completely Destroyed

Despite all measures, the enemy will burn the city with fire. Also the sword of the enemy will do its devastating work. The result will be that it will look as if a plague of locusts has hit the city. Where locusts have been rooting around, everything has been eaten away and there is nothing green left.

The call to multiply like the locusts is again ironic. The Assyrians have constantly expanded. Now that this expansion has come to a definitive end, this call sounds like a mockery.

All Trade Is Gone

The increase in the number of traders is like the multiplication of the locusts of the previous verse. Nineveh is famous for its economic growth. She has even compared it with the stars in the sky. Because of the Tigris, Nineveh has a connection with the sea and therefore a great trading opportunity. Also because of this, the city has come to great prosperity. But everything the traders have gathered will be robbed. Those same locusts that serve as a symbol of their multiplication will disappear as soon as their prosperity is over. They will turn out to be ‘good-weather friends’.

Nineveh Disappeared From the Face of the Earth

Princes and the whole civil service, as numerous as the traders (Nah 3:16), will disappear without leaving a trace.

The way in which Nahum describes the judgment on Nineveh in Nah 3:15-17 shows that he is a word artist. The Assyrians built their empire by multiplying power, wealth and people in crowds like locusts, all for their own satisfaction. Now their empire is sinking as a victim of the self-interest they have pursued. Nothing is left of it, there is not even a trace of it. It is definitively lost.

Wealth is relative. It can just get wings and fly away (Pro 23:4-5). That is why we must look at it in the right way and deal with it in the right way. We use our earthly possessions in the right way if we use them with an eye to the future. What we give away for God’s kingdom is not lost, but is an investment that will pay off when Christ comes to establish His kingdom.

The Leaders Killed, the People Scattered

Nah 3:18-19 are addressed directly to the “king of Assyria”. He is the soul of the evil of Nineveh. In him all evil is concentrated and he is the executor of it. It is said to him that also the cohesion of the noble class – the “shepherds” or rulers and the “nobles” – collapses. Their fate is described with ironic ambiguity by Nahum. “Lying down” has the meaning of lying down dead (cf. Psa 76:6; Isa 56:10; Jer 51:39).

The shepherds of the king of Assyria only pastured themselves. They led the flock, the Assyrian people, into evil and scattered them. The mountains of northern Assyria will be filled with scattered inhabitants (cf. Num 27:17; 1Kgs 22:17; Zec 13:7). “He will come to his end, and no one will help him” (Dan 11:45).

Nineveh Is Irreparably Destroyed

The book ends (cf. Nah 1:15) with the reaction of those who hear of these events. About half a century after Nahum’s prophecy his prophecy was fulfilled. The city fell in 612 BC and was destroyed by the alliance of Medes and Babylonians. There will be joy over the destruction of Nineveh among all those who have suffered from her. And who did not suffer from her? But it will never happen again, because the “evil” that has “continually” passed on everyone has come to an end.

© 2023 Author G. de Koning

All rights reserved. No part of the publications may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.

Bible Hub

Nahum 2
Top of Page
Top of Page