Nahum 2:10
She is empty, and void, and waste: and the heart melts, and the knees smite together, and much pain is in all loins, and the faces of them all gather blackness.
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(10) And the faces of them all gather blackness.—Better, perhaps, and all faces withdraw their brightness. (See Note on Joel 2:6, where the same expression occurs.)

2:1-10 Nineveh shall not put aside this judgment; there is no counsel or strength against the Lord. God looks upon proud cities, and brings them down. Particular account is given of the terrors wherein the invading enemy shall appear against Nineveh. The empire of Assyria is represented as a queen, about to be led captive to Babylon. Guilt in the conscience fills men with terror in an evil day; and what will treasures or glory do for us in times of distress, or in the day of wrath? Yet for such things how many lose their souls!She is empty and void and waste - The completeness of her judgment is declared first under that solemn number, Three, and the three words in Hebrew are nearly the same , with the same meaning, only each word fuller than the former, as picturing a growing desolation; and then under four heads (in all seven) also a growing fear. First the heart, the seat of courage and resolve and high purpose, melteth; then the knees smite together, tremble, shake, under the frame; then, much pain is in all loins, literally, "strong pains as of a woman in travail," writhing and doubling the whole body, and making it wholly powerless and unable to stand upright, shall bow the very loins, the seat of strength Proverbs 31:17, and, lastly, the faces of them all gather blackness (see the note at Joel 2:6), the fruit of extreme pain, and the token of approaching dissolution. 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 [1159]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.

She, Nineveh, taken, and under the proud insultings of the barbarous soldiers,

is empty though once full of all store, yet now she is empty enough, many hands have been employed to spoil her, and void, citizens are either slipped away, or carried captives, and waste, desolate, and shall continue so. Here is a threefold expression, to ascertain the thing, and to intimate the greatness of Nineveh’s desolation.

The heart melteth; this devastation hath broken the hearts of the Ninevites.

The knees smite together; not able to go steadily, ready to fall through weakness and faintness of spirits.

Much pain, acute pains and griefs, caused by their troubles, losses, dangers, and frights,

is in all loins; which, in those that are well, are their strength, and which, to diseased and broken bodies, are the seat of pains and griefs.

The faces, which were wont to be haughty and scornful, and as it were sparkle with briskness of spirit,

all gather blackness; now are clouded, sorrowful, and dejected, every one may see their desperate state in this symptom. She is empty, and void, and waste,.... The city of Nineveh, empty of inhabitants, being killed, or having fled; and stripped of all its treasures and riches by the enemies; its walls and houses demolished and pulled down, and laid in ruins, and become a heap of rubbish; See Gill on Nahum 1:8. Various words are here used to ascertain and confirm the thing; and there is an elegant play on words or likeness of sounds, which our language will not express:

and the heart melteth; the heart of every inhabitant of Nineveh melted with fear at the approach of their enemies, their entrance into the city, and plunder of it; flowed like water, or melted like wax; see Psalm 22:14,

and the knees smite together; like people in a fright, and when a panic has seized them; and as it was with Belshazzar, Daniel 5:6,

and much pain is in all loins; like that of women in travail; or of persons in a sudden fright, which gives them a pain in their backs at once:

and the faces of them all gather blackness; like a pot, as the Targum adds; being in great distress and disconsolation, which make men appear in a dismal hue, and their countenances look very dark and gloomy; see Joel 2:6.

{i} 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 {k} of them all gather blackness.

(i) That is, Nineveh, and the men of it will be after this manner.

(k) Read Geneva Joe 2:6

10. In a series of exclamations the prophet depicts the desolation of the city and the paralysis and helplessness of those remaining in it; Isaiah 13:7; Isaiah 21:3; Joshua 7:5. The paronomasia in the first words, emptiness and voidness and waste! cannot be reproduced. Isaiah 24:1; Isaiah 29:2; Ezekiel 33:29; Zephaniah 1:15.

faces … gather blackness] are waxed pale, lit. have withdrawn their colour; Joel 2:6. Comp. the phrase of Jeremiah 30:6, are turned to greenness (blanched).Verse 10. - She is empty, and void, and waste. Bukahum bukah, um bulakah. The three words are of very similar meaning and sound, and express most forcibly the utter ruin of the city. A Latin commentator has endeavoured to imitate the Hebrew paronomasia by rendering them, "vacuitas, evacuatio, evanidatio" - a translation more ingenious than classical. The paronomasia is better rendered by "vastitas, vastitia, vacuitas," and the German, "leer und ausgeleert und verheert." "Sack and sacking and ransacking" (Gandell). An analogous combination of words is found in Isaiah 24:3, 4; Isaiah 29:2, 3; Ezekiel 33:29; Zephaniah 1:15. Septuagint, ἐκτιναγμὸς, καὶ ἀνατιναγμὸς καὶ ἐκβρασμός, "thrusting forth and spurning and tumult." The heart melteth. A common expression for fear and despondency (Joshua 7:5; Isaiah 13:7; Ezekiel 21:7). The knees smite together (Daniel 5:6). So in Homer continually, λύτο γούνατα. Much pain is in all loins. The anguish as of childbirth. Septuagint, ὠδῖνες, "labour pains," in contrast with the injunction in ver. 1 (comp. Isaiah 13:8; Isaiah 21:3; Jeremiah 30:6). Gather blackness (Joel 2:6); or, Withdraw their colour; i.e. wax pale. But the Hebrew rather implies that the faces assume a livid hue, like that of coming death. Hence the LXX. renders, ὡς πρόσκαυμα χύτρας, as the burning of an earthen vessel, which is blackened by the fire; and Jerome, sicut nigredo ollae (comp. Jeremiah 30:6). The word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, to go to Nineveh and proclaim to that city what Jehovah would say to him. קריאה: that which is called out, the proclamation, τὸ κήρυγμα (lxx). Jonah now obeyed the word of Jehovah. But Nineveh was a great city to God (lē'lōhı̄m), i.e., it was regarded by God as a great city. This remark points to the motive for sparing it (cf. Jonah 4:11), in case its inhabitants hearkened to the word of God. Its greatness amounted to "a three days' walk." This is usually supposed to refer to the circumference of the city, by which the size of a city is generally determined. But the statement in Jonah 3:4, that "Jonah began to enter into the city the walk of a day," i.e., a day's journey, is apparently at variance with this. Hence Hitzig has come to the conclusion that the diameter or length of the city is intended, and that, as the walk of a day in Jonah 3:4 evidently points to the walk of three days in Jonah 3:3, the latter must also be understood as referring to the length of Nineveh. But according to Diod. ii. 3 the length of the city was 150 stadia, and Herodotus (v. 53) gives just this number of stadia as a day's journey. Hence Jonah would not have commenced his preaching till he had reached the opposite end of the city. This line of argument, the intention of which is to prove the absurdity of the narrative, is based upon the perfectly arbitrary assumption that Jonah went through the entire length of the city in a straight line, which is neither probable in itself, nor implied in בּוא בעיר. This simply means to enter, or go into the city, and says nothing about the direction of the course he took within the city. But in a city, the diameter of which was 150 stadia, and the circumference 480 stadia, one might easily walk for a whole day without reaching the other end, by winding about from one street into another. And Jonah would have to do this to find a suitable place for his preaching, since we are not warranted in assuming that it lay exactly in the geographical centre, or at the end of the street which led from the gate into the city. But if Jonah wandered about in different directions, as Theodoret says, "not going straight through the city, but strolling through market-places, streets, etc.," the distance of a day's journey over which he travelled must not be understood as relating to the diameter or length of the city; so that the objection to the general opinion, that the three days' journey given as the size of the city refers to the circumference, entirely falls to the ground. Moreover, Hitzig has quite overlooked the word ויּחל in his argument. The text does not affirm that Jonah went a day's journey into the city, but that he "began to go into the city a day's journey, and cried out." These words do not affirm that he did not begin to preach till after he had gone a whole day's journey, but simply that he had commenced his day's journey in the city when he found a suitable place and a fitting opportunity for his proclamation. They leave the distance that he had really gone, when he began his preaching, quite indefinite; and by no means necessitate the assumption that he only began to preach in the evening, after his day's journey was ended. All that they distinctly affirm is, that he did not preach directly he entered the city, but only after he had commenced a day's journey, that is to say, had gone some distance into the city. And this is in perfect harmony with all that we know about the size of Nineveh at that time. The circumference of the great city Nineveh, or the length of the boundaries of the city of Nineveh in the broadest sense, was, as Niebuhr says (p. 277), "nearly ninety English miles, not reckoning the smaller windings of the boundary; and this would be just three days' travelling for a good walker on a long journey." "Jonah," he continues, "begins to go a day's journey into the city, then preaches, and the preaching reaches the ears of the king (cf. Jonah 3:6). He therefore came very near to the citadel as he went along on his first day's journey. At that time the citadel was probably in Nimrud (Calah). Jonah, who would hardly have travelled through the desert, went by what is now the ordinary caravan road past Amida, and therefore entered the city at Nineveh. And it was on the road from Nineveh to Calah, not far off the city, possibly in the city itself, that he preached. Now the distance between Calah and Nineveh (not reckoning either city), measured in a straight line upon the map, is 18 1/2 English miles." If, then, we add to this, (1) that the road from Nineveh to Calah or Nimrud hardly ran in a perfectly straight line, and therefore would be really longer than the exact distance between the two parts of the city according to the map, and (2) that Jonah had first of all to go through Nineveh, and possibly into Calah, he may very well have walked twenty English miles, or a short day's journey, before he preached. The main point of his preaching is all that is given, viz., the threat that Nineveh would be destroyed, which was the point of chief importance, so far as the object of the book was concerned, and which Jonah of course explained by denouncing the sins and vices of the city. The threat ran thus: "Yet forty days, and Nineveh will be destroyed." נהפּך, lit., overturned, i.e., destroyed from the very foundations, is the word applied to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The respite granted is fixed at forty days, according to the number which, even as early as the flood, was taken as the measure for determining the delaying of visitations of God.

(Note: The lxx, however, τρεῖς ἡμέρας, probably from a peculiar and arbitrary combination, and not merely from an early error of the pen. The other Greek translators (Aquil., Symm., and Theodot.) had, according to Theodoret, the number forty; and so also had the Syriac.)

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