Nahum 1:3
The LORD is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked: the LORD has his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.
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(3) And great in power.—Better, but great in power. Jehovah’s forbearance is not attributable to weakness. To vindicate His power, Nahum, after the manner of other Hebrew poets and prophets, reverts to the wonders of the Exodus (Nahum 1:4-5). The pillars of cloud and fire in the desert march; the quaking cliffs of Sinai; the Red Sea and Jordan divided at His word; Canaan succumbing at every point, upwards to mighty Lebanon in the north, and across from Eastern Bashan to Western Carmel—these are the testimonies to Jehovah’s might. (Comp. Habakkuk 3:6-10.)

1:1-8 About a hundred years before, at Jonah's preaching, the Ninevites repented, and were spared, yet, soon after, they became worse than ever. Nineveh knows not that God who contends with her, but is told what a God he is. It is good for all to mix faith with what is here said concerning Him, which speaks great terror to the wicked, and comfort to believers. Let each take his portion from it: let sinners read it and tremble; and let saints read it and triumph. The anger of the Lord is contrasted with his goodness to his people. Perhaps they are obscure and little regarded in the world, but the Lord knows them. The Scripture character of Jehovah agrees not with the views of proud reasoners. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is slow to wrath and ready to forgive, but he will by no means acquit the wicked; and there is tribulation and anguish for every soul that doeth evil: but who duly regards the power of his wrath?The Lord is slow to anger - Nahum takes up the words of Jonah Jon 4:2 as he spoke of God's attributes toward Nineveh, but only to show the opposite side of them. Jonah declares how God is "slow to anger," giving men time of repentance, and if they do repent, "repenting Him also of the evil;" Nahum, that the long-suffering of God is not "slackness," that "He is long-suffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."

And strong in power - Divine long-suffering gees along with Divine power. God can be long-suffering, because He can, whenever He sees good, punish. His long-suffering is a token, not of weakness, but of power. He can allow persons the whole extent of trial, because, when they are past cure, He can end it at once. "God is a righteous judge, strong and patient, and God wraths every day" Psalm 7:11. The wrath comes only at the last, but it is ever present with God. He cannot but be displeased with the sin; and so the Psalmist describes in the manner of men the gradual approximation to its discharge. "If he (the sinner) will not return (from evil or to God), He will whet His sword; He hath trodden His bow and directed it: He hath prepared for him instruments of death; He hath made his arrows burning" Psalm 7:12-13. We see the arrow with unextinguishable fire, ready to be discharged, waiting for the final decision of the wicked, whether he will repent or not, but that still "the Day of the Lord will come" 2 Peter 3:9-10. "He will not at all acquit."

The words occur originally in the great declaration of God's attributes of mercy by Moses, as a necessary limitation of them ; they are continued to God's people, yet with the side of mercy predominant Jeremiah 30:11; Jeremiah 46:28; they are pleaded to Himself Numbers 14:18; they are the sanction of the third commandment Exodus 20:7; Deuteronomy 5:11. He "will not acquit" of His own will, apart from His justice. So He saith, "I can of Mine own self do nothing" John 5:30, i. e., (in part), not as unjust judges, who "call good evil and evil good," following their own will, not the merits of the case; but, "as I hear, I judge, and My judgment is just." He cannot even have mercy and spare unjustly, nor without the lowliness of penitence. Even if it is Jerusalem, over which He wept, or His "companion, His own familiar friend" Psalm 55:14, He, who is no "accepter of persons," cannot of mere favor forgive the impenitent.

The Lord hath His way in the whirlwind and in the storm - The vengeance of God comes at last swiftly, vehemently, fearfully, irresistibly. "When they say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them" 1 Thessalonians 5:3, and all creation stands at the command of the Creator against His enemies. "He shall take to Him His jealousy for complete armor, and make the creature His weapon, for the revenge of His enemies" (Wisd. 5:17).

And the clouds are the dust of His feet - Perhaps the imagery is from the light dust raised by an earthly army, of which Nahum's word is used Ezekiel 26:10. The powers of heaven are arrayed against the might of earth. On earth a little dust, soon to subside; in heaven, the whirlwind and the storm, which sweep away what does not bow before them. The vapors, slight on outward seeming, but formed of countless multitudes of mist-drops, are yet dark and lowering, as they burst, and resistless. "The Feet of God are that power whereby He trampleth upon the ungodly." So it is said to the Son, "Sit Thou on My Right Hand until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool." Tempests have also, without figure, been used to overthrow God's enemies (Exodus 14:27; Joshua 10:11; Judges 5:20; 1 Samuel 2:10; and 1 Samuel 7:10; 2 Samuel 22:15).

3. slow to anger, and great in power—that is, but great in power, so as to be able in a moment, if He pleases, to destroy the wicked. His long-suffering is not from want of power to punish (Ex 34:6, 7).

not at all acquit—literally, "will not acquitting acquit," or treat as innocent.

Lord hath his way in the whirlwind—From this to Na 1:5, inclusive, is a description of His power exhibited in the phenomena of nature, especially when He is wroth. His vengeance shall sweep away the Assyrian foe like a whirlwind (Pr 10:25).

clouds are the dust of his feet—Large as they are, He treads on them, as a man would on the small dust; He is Lord of the clouds, and uses them as He pleases.

The Lord is slow to anger; not slack, as some count slackness, 2 Peter 3:9, either in performing promise, or executing threats; but very wisely patient and long-suffering, which is ever tempered with great mercy, and both are joined together in his providence and in his word: see Exodus 34:6 Numbers 14:18 Nehemiah 9:17 Psalm 103:8 145:8 Joel 2:13 Jonah 4:2.

Anger; just displeasure conceived and expressed: the Lord doth not presently entertain resentments of displeasure, nor make sinners feel them; he doth now, as he long hath, forborne you, O sinful Ninevites, O cruel Assyrians! but consider it, his slow anger will be the heavier when it falls on you.

Great in power; most mighty in power, which restrains the rage of enemies, defends and supports his oppressed ones, and in a moment can destroy those that have deserved, yet fear not his anger: that the Assyrians are not yet destroyed is the effect of patience, not of impotence, in the God of Israel.

And will. This is spoken to awaken the secure kingdom, in which many, it is like, were as the scoffers, 2 Peter 3:4, ready to say, All things do continue as they were, there will be no change, no judgment against the wicked. But our prophet assures such, that as there is great power with God, he can, so there is exact justice and stedfast resolution, he will judge.

Not at all acquit; neither pronounce them innocent by sentence of judgment, nor let them escape as if innocent by a perpetuated forbearance in the course of his providence; but, sooner or later, in due season the wickedness or righteousness of them shall be upon them.

The wicked; the incorrigible, hardened, and persisting sinner.

The Lord hath his way; either the methods of his providence, his usual path; or else his way, intimating the unerring steadiness of providence, the straight and known path; however to us it may seem, yet certainly God knows and keeps the right way.

In the whirlwind; which riseth suddenly, and with violence beareth before it all things that stand in its way; which none can prevent, which no man can calm, which is attended with terror and amazement, Job 27:20 Isaiah 17:13 29:6 Amos 1:14: so will destruction from the mighty and just displeasure of God come upon his adversaries, and on you Ninevites and Assyrians, when you shall fall before his whirlwind and tempest; so all impenitent sinners perish, Proverbs 1:27.

In the storm; the Hebrew speaks a dreadful tempest, which makes men full of horror; it is an elegant ingemination of the same thing, to affect hearers the more.

The clouds are the dust of his feet; though he be surrounded with darkness, yet as an army afar off is discovered by the dust that their feet raise, so will God at last appear as an enemy with great power marching against his enemies, and from above, as well as from the darkness of clouds, destroy them. This is spoken after the manner of man, and must be applied as beseems God. The Lord is slow to anger,.... He is not in haste to execute it; he takes time for it, and gives men space for repentance. Nineveh had had a proof of this when it repented at the preaching of Jonah, upon which the Lord deferred the execution of his wrath; but lest they should presume upon this, and conclude the Lord would always bear with them, though they had returned to their former impieties; they are let to know, that this his forbearance was not owing to want of power or will in him to punish: since he is

great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked; he is able to execute the wrath he threatens, and will by no means clear the guilty, or let them go free and unpunished; though he moves slowly, as he may seem in the execution of his judgments, yet they shall surely be brought on his enemies, and be fully accomplished:

the Lord hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet; he spoke to Job out of the whirlwind; he descended on Mount Sinai in a storm and tempest; and the clouds are his chariots; in which he rides swiftly; and which, for their appearance and number, are like the dust raised by a multitude of horsemen riding full speed, The wrath of God may be compared to a whirlwind, and a storm, which is sometimes hastily and suddenly executed upon men: respect seems to be had to the armies of the Medes and Chaldeans against the Assyrians; who, as the Babylonians against the Jews, came up as clouds, and their chariots as the whirlwind, Jeremiah 4:13; and the figures beautifully describe the numbers of them, the force with which they came; and in an elegant manner represent the vast quantity of dust raised by an army in full march; at the head of which was the Lord himself, ordering, directing, and succeeding, before whom none can stand.

The {f} LORD is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked: the LORD hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.

(f) Thus the wicked would make God's mercy an occasion to sin, but the Prophet wishes them to consider his power and justice.

3. Nahum 1:3 continues the description of the relation of Jehovah to His enemies: He is longsuffering, delays chastisement long, but eventually takes vengeance. The meaning of the phrase “great in power” is not clear. If employed in the usual objective sense as Job 9:4, the verse would read, The Lord is slow to anger, but great in strength and will by no means leave unpunished (Romans 9:22). If “great in power” had a sense parallel to Job 36:5, “Lo God is great and despises not, great in strength of heart” (mind), that is, if “strength” referred to attributes of the divine mind, magnanimity and longsuffering, the clause would be connected rather with the first, and the verse would read, “The Lord is slow to anger and great in strength, but he will &c.”; see Numbers 14:17-18, to which the verse has great resemblance. The phrase “will not acquit,” or leave unpunished, is used here absolutely, as Exodus 34:7, it being readily understood who it is that He will not let go unpunished; cf. Exodus 20:7; Joel 3:21; Jeremiah 25:29. For “great in power” some would read the usual “great in mercy.”

With Nahum 1:3 b the prophet passes to the manifestation of these attributes of Jehovah or of Jehovah in these attributes in the tempest. The passage does not seem to possess unity as a description of a single Theophany, but rather accumulates features from various manifestations of the Lord, all illustrating His power and its terrible effects in nature and on men.

hath his way in the whirlwind] i.e. He moves and passes in the whirlwind, which is not the mere wind but also all its accompaniments of cloud and darkness. (The Heb. word for “Storm” is spelled exceptionally here, as Job 9:17.) The meaning is not so much that Jehovah uses the whirlwind and storm as the vehicles of His movement as that these commotions and terrors in nature are created by His presence, of which to men they are the tokens. The splendid words “the clouds are the dust of his feet,” like the others “the earth is his footstool” need to be conceived, not explained.Verse 3. - Slow to anger (Exodus 34:6, 7). Nahum seems to take up the words of Jonah (Jonah 4:2) or Joel (Joel 2:13). God is long suffering, not from weakness, but because he is great in power, and can punish when he will. Will not at all acquit the wicked; literally, holding pure will not hold pure; i.e. he will not treat the guilty as innocent. Ἀθωῶν [Alex., ἀθῶον] οὐκ ἀθωώσει (Septuagint); Mundans non faciet innocentem (comp. Exodus 20:7; Exodus 34:7). The Lord hath his way, etc. The prophet grounds his description of the majesty and might of God upon the revelation at the Exodus and at Sinai. (see Exodus 19:16-18; Psalm 18; Psalm 97.). The clouds are the dust of his feet, Large and grand as the clouds look to us, they are to God but as the dust raised by the feet in walking. As an illustration of this statement (though, of course, the fact was utterly unknown to Nahum), it has been remarked that recent scientific discovery asserts that clouds owe their beauty, and even their very existence, to the presence of dust particles in the atmosphere. The aqueous vapour, it is said, condenses on these particles, and thus becomes visible. When the danger was at its height, the upper-steersman, or ship's captain (rabh hachōbhēl, the chief of the ship's governors; chōbhēl with the article is a collective noun, and a denom. from chebhel, a ship's cable, hence the one who manages, steers, or guides the ship), wakes him with the words, "How canst thou sleep soundly? Arise, and call upon thy God; perhaps God (hâ'ĕlōhı̄m with the article, 'the true God') will think of us, that we may not perish." The meaning of יתעשּׁת is disputed. As עשׁת is used in Jeremiah 5:28 in the sense of shining (viz., of fat), Calvin and others (last of all, Hitzig) have maintained that the hithpael has the meaning, shown himself shining, i.e., bright (propitious); whilst others, including Jerome, prefer the meaning think again, which is apparently better supported than the former, not only by the Chaldee, but also by the nouns עשׁתּוּת (Job 12:5) and עשׁתּון (Psalm 146:4). God's thinking of a person involves the idea of active assistance. For the thought itself, compare Psalm 40:18. The fact that Jonah obeyed this awakening call is passed over as self-evident; and in Jonah 1:7 the narrative proceeds to relate, that as the storm had not abated in the meantime, the sailors, firmly believing that some one in the ship had committed a crime which had excited the anger of God that was manifesting itself in the storm, had recourse to the lot to find out the culprit. בּשׁלּמי equals בּאשׁר למי (Jonah 1:8), as שׁ is the vulgar, and in conversation the usual contraction for אשׁר: "on account of whom" (בּאשׁר, in this that equals because, or followed by ל, on account of). הרעה, the misfortune (as in Amos 3:6), - namely, the storm which is threatening destruction. The lot fell upon Jonah. "The fugitive is taken by lot, not from any virtue in lots themselves, least of all the lots of heathen, but by the will of Him who governs uncertain lots" (Jerome).

When Jonah had been singled out by the lot as the culprit, the sailors called upon him to confess his guilt, asking him at the same time about his country, his occupation, and his parentage. The repetition of the question, on whose account this calamity had befallen them, which is omitted in the lxx (Vatic.), the Socin. prophets, and Cod. 195 of Kennicott, is found in the margin in Cod. 384, and is regarded by Grimm and Hitzig as a marginal gloss that has crept into the text. It is not superfluous, however; still less does it occasion any confusion; on the contrary, it is quite in order. The sailors wanted thereby to induce Jonah to confess with his own mouth that he was guilty, now that the lot had fallen upon him, and to disclose his crime (Ros. and others). As an indirect appeal to confess his crime, it prepares the way for the further inquiries as to his occupation, etc. They inquired about this occupation, because it might be a disreputable one, and one which excited the wrath of the gods; also about his parentage, and especially about the land and people from which he sprang, that they might be able to pronounce a safe sentence upon his crime.

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