Nahum 2:13
Behold, I am against you, said the LORD of hosts, and I will burn her chariots in the smoke, and the sword shall devour your young lions: and I will cut off your prey from the earth, and the voice of your messengers shall no more be heard.
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2:11-13 The kings of Assyria had long been terrible and cruel to their neighbours, but the Lord would destroy their power. Many plead as an excuse for rapine and fraud, that they have families to provide for; but what is thus obtained will never do them any good. Those that fear the Lord, and get honestly what they have, shall not want for themselves and theirs. It is just with God to deprive those of children, or of comfort in them, who take sinful courses to enrich them. Those are not worthy to be heard again, that have spoken reproachfully of God. Let us then come to God upon his mercy-seat, that having peace with him through our Lord Jesus Christ, we may know that he is for us, and that all things shall work together for our everlasting good.Behold I, Myself, am against thee - (Literally, "toward thee"). God, in His long-suffering, had, as it were, looked away from him; now He looked toward (as in Psalm 37:20) him, and in His sight what wicked one should stand? "Saith the Lord of hosts," whose power is infinite and He changes not, and all the armies of heaven, the truly angels and evil spirits and men are in His Hand, whereto He directs or overrules them. "And I will burn her chariots in the smoke." The Assyrian sculptures attest how greatly their pride and strength lay in their chariots. They exhibit the minute embellishment of the chariots and horses . Almost inconceivably light for speed, they are pictured as whirled onward by the two or, more often, three powerful steeds with eye of fire , the bodies of the slain (or, in peace, the lion ) under their feet, the mailed warriors, with bows stretched to the utmost, shooting at the more distant foe.

Sennacherib gives a terrific picture of the fierceness of their onslaught. "The armor, the arms, taken in my attacks, swam in the blood of my enemies as in a river; the war-chariots, which destroy man and beast, had, in their course, crushed the bloody bodies and limbs" . All this their warlike pride should be but fuel for fire, and vanish in smoke, an emblem of pride, swelling, mounting like a column toward heaven, disappearing. Not a brand shall then be saved out of the burning; nothing half-consumed; but the fire shall burn, until there be nothing left to consume, as, in Sodom and Gomorrah, "the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace. And the sword of the vengeance of God shall devour the young lions" Genesis 19:28, his hope for the time to come, the flower of his youth; "and I will cut off thy prey," what thou hast robbed, and so that thou shouldest rob no more, but that thy spoil should utterly cease from "the earth, and the voice of thy messengers shall be no more heard," such as Rabshakeh, whereby they insulted and terrified the nations and blasphemed God.

In the spiritual sense, Nineveh being an image of the world, the prophecy speaks of the inroad made upon it through the Gospel, its resistance, capture, desolation, destruction. First, He that "ruleth with a rod of iron," came and denounced "woe to it because of offenses;" then His mighty ones in His Name. Their shield is red, "the shield of faith," kindled and glowing with love. Their raiment too is red, because they wash it in the Blood of the Lamb, and conquer through the Blood of the Lamb, and many shed their own blood "for a witness to them." "The day of His preparation" is the whole period, until the end of the world, in which the Gospel is preached, of which the prophets and apostles speak, as the day of salvation Isaiah 49:8; 2 Corinthians 6:2; to the believing world a day of salvation; to the unbelieving, of preparation for judgment. All which is done, judgments, mercy, preaching, miracles, patience of the saints, martyrdom, all which is spoken, done, suffered, is part of the one preparation for the final judgment. The chariots, flashing with light as they pass, are "the chariots of salvation" Habakkuk 3:8, bearing the brightness of the doctrine of Christ and the glory of His truth throughout the world, enlightening while they wound; the "spears" are the word of God, slaying to make alive.

On the other hand, in resisting, the world clashes with itself. It would oppose the Gospel, yet knows not how; is "maddened with rage, and gnashes its teeth, that it can prevail nothing" . On the broad ways which lead to death, where "Wisdom uttereth her voice" and is not heard, it is hemmed in, and cannot find a straight path; its chariots dash one against another, and yet they breathe their ancient fury, and run to and fro like lightning, as the Lord saith, "I beheld Satan, as lightning, fall from heaven" Luke 10:18. Then shall they "remember their mighty ones," all the might of this world which they ascribed to their gods, their manifold triumphs, whereby in pagan times their empire was established; they shall gather strength against strength, but it shall be powerless and real weakness. While they prepare for a long siege, without hand their gates give way; the kingdom falls, the world is taken captive by a blessed captivity, suddenly, unawares, as one says in the second century ; "Men cry out that the state is beset, that the Christians are in their fields, in their forts, in their islands!" These mourn over their past sins, and beat their breasts, in token of their sorrow; yet sweeter shall be the plaint of their sorrow, than any past joy.

Sit they shall mourn as doves, and their mourning is as melody and the voice of praise in the ear of the Most High. One part of the inhabitants of the world being thus blessedly taken, the rest are fled. So in all nearness of God's judgments, those who are net brought nearer, flee further. "They flee, and look not back, and none heareth the Lord speaking, "Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings" Jeremiah 3:22. So then, hearing not His Voice, stand, stand, they flee away from His presence in mercy, into darkness for ever. Such is the lot of the inhabitants of the world; and what is the world itself? The prophet answers what it has been. A pool of water, into which all things, the riches and glory, and wisdom, and pleasures of this world, have flowed in on all sides, and which gave back nothing. All ended in itself. The water came from above, and became stagnant in the lowest part of the earth. "For all the wisdom of this world, apart from the sealed fountain of the Church, and of which it cannot be said, the streams thereof make glad the city of God nor are of those waters which, above the heavens, praise the Name of the Lord, however large they may seem, yet are little, and are enclosed in a narrow bound" Luke 10:18.

These either are hallowed to God, like the spoils of Egypt, as when the eloquence of Cyprian was won through the fishermen , or the gold and silver are offered to Him, or they are left to be wasted and burned up. "All which is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, all under the sun," remain here. : "If they are thine, take them with thee. When be dieth, he shall carry nothing away, his glory shall not descend after him" Psalm 49:17. True riches are, not wealth, but virtues, which the conscience carries with it, that it may be rich forever." The seven-fold terrors Nahum 2:10, singly, may have a good sense , that the stony heart shall be melted, and the stiff knees, which before were not bent to God, be bowed in the Name of Jesus. Yet more fully are they the deepening horrors of the wicked in the Day of Judgment, when "men's hearts shall fail them for fear and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth" Luke 21:26, closing with the everlasting confusion of face, "the shame and everlasting contempt," to which the wicked shall rise.

As the vessel over the fire is not cleansed, but blackened, so through the judgments of God, whereby the righteous are cleansed, the wicked gather but fresh defilement and hate. Lastly, the prophet asks, "Where is the dwelling of those who had made the world a den of ravin, where the lion," even the devil who is "a roaring lion," and all antichrists 1 John 2:18, destroyed at will; where Satan made his dwelling in the hearts of the worldly, and "tore in pieces for his whelps," i. e., killed souls of men and gave them over to inferior evil spirits to be tormented, and "filled his holes with prey," the pit of hell with the souls which he deceived? . The question implies that they shall not be. "They which have seen him shall say, Where is he?" Job 20:7. God Himself answers, that He Himself will come against it to judgment, and destroy all might arrayed against God; and Christ shall "smite the Wicked one with the rod of His Mouth" Isaiah 11:4, and the "sharp two-edged sword out of His mouth shall smite all nations" Revelation 1:16; Revelation 19:15, Revelation 19:21, "and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever" Revelation 14:11; and it should no more oppress, nor "any messenger of Satan" go forth to harass the saints of God.

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.

Behold: this calls for our attention.

I, the God of Israel, whom thou hast despised and blasphemed, am against thee, Assyrian kingdom, and Nineveh,

saith the Lord of hosts, whose command all must obey.

I will burn her, Nineveh’s,

chariots in the smoke; in wrath, or suddenly; or what if, when the city, first plundered, then burnt, these chariots were burnt in that smoke.

The sword, of the conquering enemy,

shall devour thy young lions; young princes, that either are found in arms, or else are cut off in the places of their retirements for safety.

I will cut off thy prey; cause thee to cease from making a prey any more, or destroy all thou hast gotten by thy prey.

Thy messengers; either ambassadors sent forth, or tribute-gatherers, or muster-masters to enlist soldiers, or heralds to proclaim edicts.

Shall no more be heard; none shall concern themselves with one or other of them. None obey or fear thee. Behold, I am against thee, saith the Lord of hosts,.... Against Nineveh, and the whole Assyrian empire, for such rapine, violence, and oppression, their kings had been guilty of; and if he, who is the Lord of hosts, of all the armies of heaven and earth, was against them, nothing but ruin must inevitably ensue: or, "I come unto thee" (s); or will shortly come unto thee, and reckon with thee for all this; will visit thee in a way of wrath and vengeance. The Targum is,

"behold, I will send my fury upon thee:''

and I will burn her chariots in the smoke; either those in which the inhabitants of Nineveh rode in great splendour about the city; or those which were used in war with their enemies; and this he would do "in the smoke"; or, "unto smoke", as the Vulgate Latin version; or, "into smoke", as the Syriac (t); easily, quickly, at once, suddenly, so that they should evaporate into smoke, and be no more; or, with fire, as the Targum; that is, as Kimchi interprets it, with a great fire, whose smoke is seen afar off; and may be figuratively understood of the smoke of divine wrath, as Aben Ezra explains it:

and the sword shall devour thy young lions; the swords of the Medes and Chaldeans shall destroy the princes, the sons of their king. The Targum interprets this of towns or villages destroyed thereby:

and I will cut thy prey from the earth; cut them off that they should no more prey upon their neighbours; and what they had got should be taken away from them, and be of no use to them:

and the voice of thy messengers shall no more be heard; in foreign courts, demanding homage and subjection; exacting and collecting tribute; blaspheming the God of heaven, and menacing his people, as Rabshakeh, a messenger of one of these kings, did; and which is mentioned by most of the Jewish commentators as being then a recent thing. Some render it, "the voice", or "noise of thy jaw teeth" (u); alluding to the lion's breaking the bones of its prey, which is done with a great noise; signifying that such cruelty and oppression the Assyrians had been guilty of should be used no more; or rather, as R. Judah ben Balaam observes, as it signifies the noise of the teeth devouring the prey, it is as if it was said, I will cut off thy prey from the earth; and Ben Melech says that, in the Persian language, grinding stones are expressed by this word, and teeth are called grinders; see Ecclesiastes 12:3.

(s) "ad te venturus sum", Vatablus; "ego ad te venio", Drusius. (t) "in fumum", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator. (u) "vox dentium molarium", Calvin.

Behold, I am against thee, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will burn her chariots in the {m} smoke, and the sword shall devour thy young lions: and I will cut off thy prey from the earth, and the voice of thy {n} messengers shall no more be heard.

(m) That is, as soon as my wrath begins to burn.

(n) Signifying the heralds, who were accustomed to proclaim war. Some read, of you gum teeth, with which Nineveh was accustomed to bruise the bones of the poor.

13. her chariots in the smoke] in smoke, i.e. so that they go up in smoke. For “her chariots” Sept., Syr. read thy multitude or abundance (rubka for rikba). One might even suggest “thy lair” (ribçka). The pronoun “thy” is more natural than “her,” though changes in person are very common.

voice of thy messengers] i.e. emissaries, exacting tribute or compelling submission, 2 Kings 18:17; 2 Kings 18:19; 2 Kings 19:9; 2 Kings 19:23. The form of the word is anomalous; the anomaly would disappear if the pronouns were read in the masc.Verse 13. - I am against thee. The destruction shall be surely accomplished, because God himself directs it. Literally, I to thee (Nahum 3:5; Jeremiah 51:25; Ezekiel 38:3). The Lord of hosts (sabaoth), Lord of the forces of heaven and earth, and therefore omnipotent. Κύριος παντοκράτωρ (Septuagint): I will burn her chariots in the smoke. "Chariots" stand for the whole apparatus of war and military power. Sop-tuagint for "chariots" gives πλῆθος, "multitudes." Thy young lions. Thy fighting men, the metaphor being continued. Cut off thy prey. Thou shalt no more be able to pillage other countries. Thy messengers. These are the heralds who carried the king's commands to his lieutenants, or those, like the imperious Rabshakeh (2 Kings 18:17, etc.; 2 Kings 19:23), who summoned nations to surrender, and imposed tributes. "O Nineveh," writes St. Jerome, "thou shalt suffer all that has been spoken. I the Lord will burn to ashes thy chariots, and will cause thy nobles and satraps to be devoured by the sword; never again shalt thou lay countries waste, nor exact tribute, nor will thy emissaries' voice be heard throughout thy provinces."

The Ninevites believed in God, since they hearkened to the preaching of the prophet sent to them by God, and humbled themselves before God with repentance. They proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth (penitential garments: see at Joel 1:13-14; 1 Kings 21:27, etc.), "from their great one even to their small one," i.e., both old and young, all without exception. Even the king, when the matter (had-dâbhâr) came to his knowledge, i.e., when he was informed of Jonah's coming, and of his threatening prediction, descended from his throne, laid aside his royal robe ('addereth, see at Joshua 7:21), wrapt himself in a sackcloth, and sat down in ashes, as a sign of the deepest mourning (compare Job 2:8), and by a royal edict appointed a general fast for man and beast. ויּזעק, he caused to be proclaimed. ויּאמר, and said, viz., through his heralds. מפּעם הם, ex decreto, by command of the king and his great men, i.e., his ministers (פעם equals פעם, Daniel 3:10, Daniel 3:29, a technical term for the edicts of the Assyrian and Babylonian kings). "Man and beast (viz., oxen and sheep) are to taste nothing; they are not to pasture (the cattle are not to be driven to the pasture), and are to drink no water." אל, for which we should expect לא, may be explained from the fact that the command is communicated directly. Moreover, man and beast are to be covered with mourning clothes, and cry to God bechozqâh, i.e., strongly, mightily, and to turn every one from his evil ways: so "will God perhaps (מי יודע) turn and repent (yâshūbh venicham, as in Joel 2:14), and desist from the fierceness of His anger (cf. Exodus 32:12), that we perish not." This verse (Jonah 3:9) also belongs to the king's edict. The powerful impression made upon the Ninevites by Jonah's preaching, so that the whole city repented in sackcloth and ashes, is quite intelligible, if we simply bear in mind the great susceptibility of Oriental races to emotion, the awe of one Supreme Being which is peculiar to all the heathen religions of Asia, and the great esteem in which soothsaying and oracles were held in Assyria from the very earliest times (vid., Cicero, de divinat. i. 1); and if we also take into calculation the circumstance that the appearance of a foreigner, who, without any conceivable personal interest, and with the most fearless boldness, disclosed to the great royal city its godless ways, and announced its destruction within a very short period with the confidence so characteristic of the God-sent prophets, could not fail to make a powerful impression upon the minds of the people, which would be all the stronger if the report of the miraculous working of the prophets of Israel had penetrated to Nineveh. There is just as little to surprise us in the circumstance that the signs of mourning among the Ninevites resemble in most respects the forms of penitential mourning current among the Israelites, since these outward signs of mourning are for the most part the common human expressions of deep sorrow of heart, and are found in the same or similar forms among all the nations of antiquity (see the numerous proofs of this which are collected in Winer's Real-wrterbuch, art. Trauer; and in Herzog's Cyclopaedia). Ezekiel (Ezekiel 26:16) depicts the mourning of the Tyrian princes over the ruin of their capital in just the same manner in which that of the king of Nineveh is described here in Jonah 3:6, except that, instead of sackcloth, he mentions trembling as that with which they wrap themselves round. The garment of haircloth (saq) worn as mourning costume reaches as far back as the patriarchal age (cf. Genesis 37:34; Job 16:15). Even the one feature which is peculiar to the mourning of Nineveh - namely, that the cattle also have to take part in the mourning - is attested by Herodotus (9:24) as an Asiatic custom.

(Note: Herodotus relates that the Persians, when mourning for their general, Masistios, who had fallen in the battle at Platea, shaved off the hair from their horses, and adds, "Thus did the barbarians, in their way, mourn for the deceased Masistios." Plutarch relates the same thing (Aristid. 14 fin. Compare Brissonius, de regno Pers. princip. ii. p. 206; and Periz. ad Aeliani Var. hist. vii. 8). The objection made to this by Hitzig - namely, that the mourning of the cattle in our book is not analogous to the case recorded by Herodotus, because the former was an expression of repentance - has no force whatever, for the simple reason that in all nations the outward signs of penitential mourning are the same as those of mourning for the dead.)

This custom originated in the idea that there is a biotic rapport between man and the larger domestic animals, such as oxen, sheep, and goats, which are his living property. It is only to these animals that there is any reference here, and not to "horses, asses, and camels, which were decorated at other times with costly coverings," as Marck, Rosenmller, and others erroneously assume. Moreover, this was not done "with the intention of impelling the men to shed hotter tears through the lowing and groaning of the cattle" (Theodoret); or "to set before them as in a mirror, through the sufferings of the innocent brutes, their own great guilt" (Chald.); but it was a manifestation of the thought, that just as the animals which live with man are drawn into fellowship with his sin, so their sufferings might also help to appease the wrath of God. And although this thought might not be free from superstition, there lay at the foundation of it this deep truth, that the irrational creature is made subject to vanity on account of man's sins, and sighs along with man for liberation from the bondage of corruption (Romans 8:19.). We cannot therefore take the words "cry mightily unto God" as referring only to the men, as many commentators have done, in opposition to the context; but must regard "man and beast" as the subject of this clause also, since the thought that even the beasts cry to or call upon God in distress has its scriptural warrant in Joel 1:20.

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