Nahum 2:3
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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(3) His mighty men.—That is, those of the besieger of Nahum 2:1.

Made red.—That is, with blood; not with reference to the bright red copper, which was the material of the shield, for the word usually means “dyed red.”

In scarlet.—Red was the favourite colour, not only of the Medes, from whom Xenophon says the Persians obtained their purple tunics, but also of the Babylonians; compare the description in Ezekiel 23:14-15, and Layard’s Nineveh, p. 347. Both Medes and Babylonians were engaged in the present siege. The rest of the verse runs, the chariots are [equipped] with flashing steel in the day of his preparation, and the cypress lances are brandished. The “flashing steel” may refer to ornaments of this material attached to the chariot, or, as we incline to think, to scythes or sharp instruments fastened to the wheels. Some form of this weapon may well have been in use long before the present date. Xenophon relates that Cyrus was the first to introduce the scythe-chariot. Ctesias, however, speaks of it as of much earlier origin. The older Hebrew commentators render this word plâdôth, “torches,” as in the Authorised Version. With this rendering, the swiftly-moving war-chariots are likened to flashing torches, as they are in the next verse.

Nahum 2:4-5 describe the state of the city while sustaining this siege. There is a slight contrast between this portraiture and that of Nahum 2:3, which has been made the most of by Kleinert. “Without, God arranges His hosts; within is the disorder of wild terror: without, a steady approach against the city; within, a frantic rushing hither and thither: without, a joyful splendour; within, a deadly paleness, like torch-light.” The last part of Nahum 2:4 is thus made a description of the aspect of the Ninevites, not their chariots. This appears to us a fanciful interpretation. In its behalf, the description of a panic in Isaiah 13:8 has been adduced: “They shall be amazed one at another; their faces shall be as flames.” But it is obviously better to restrict the reference throughout to the chariots of the besieged city, darting hither and thither in wild undisciplined attempts to resist the invader’s onset.

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!Army is arrayed against army; the armies, thus far, of God against the army of His enemy; all without is order; all within, confusion. The assailing army, from its compactness and unity, is spoken of, both as many and one. The might is of many; the order and singleness of purpose is as of one. The shield, collectively, not shields. "His mighty men;" He, who was last spoken of, was Almighty God, as He says in Isaiah; "I have commanded My consecrated ones; I have also called My mighty ones, them that rejoice in My highness" Isaiah 13:3.

Is reddened - Either with blood of the Assyrians, shed in some previous battle, before the siege began, or (which is the meaning of the word elsewhere ), an artificial color, the color of blood being chosen, as expressive of fiery fierceness. The valiant men are in scarlet, for beauty and terror, as, again being the color of blood . It was especially the color of the dress of their nobles one chief color of the Median dress, from whom the Persians adopted their's . "The chariots shall be with flaming torches," literally, "with the fire of steels , or of sharp incisive instruments. Either way the words seem to indicate that the chariots were in some way armed with steel. For steel was not an ornament, nor do the chariots appear to have been ornamented with metal. Iron would have hindered the primary object of lightness and speed. Steel, as distinct from iron, is made only for incisiveness. In either way, it is probable, that scythed chariots were already in use. Against such generals, as the younger Cyrus and Alexander , they were of no avail; but they must have been terrific instruments against undisciplined armies.

The rush and noise of the British chariots disturbed for a time even Caesar's Roman troops . They were probably in use long before . Their use among the ancient Britons , Gauls and Belgians , as also probably among the Canaanites , evinces that they existed among very rude people.

The objection that the Assyrian chariots are not represented in the monuments as armed with scythes is an oversight, since these spoken of by Nahum may have been Median, certainly were not Assyrian. "In the day of His preparation" , when He musters the hosts for the battle; "and the fir-trees shall be terribly shaken;" i. e., fir-spears (the weapon being often named from the wood of which it is made) shall be made to quiver through the force wherewith they shall be hurled.

The chariots shall rage - (Or madden , as the driving of Jehu is said to be "furiously," literally, in madness) "in the streets." The city is not yet taken; so, since this takes place "in the streets and broad ways," they are the confused preparations of the besieged. "They shall justle one against another," shall run rapidly to and fro, restlessly; "their show (English margin) is like torches," leaving streaks of fire, as they pass rapidly along. "They shall run" vehemently, "like the lightnings," swift; but vanishing.

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 shield; one part for the whole of the armour and furniture, or harness.

Of his, Medes or Chaldeans’, mighty men; soldiers, more particularly the brave and stout ones, who were the choice men of the army.

Is made red; either coloured red by the dyer, or else dyed red with the blood of the slain.

The valiant men are in scarlet: this explains the former; they used this colour much, either to terrify the enemy, or to conceal their own wounds widen the blood on other colour would have disclosed them.

The chariots; much used in the wars of those countries, and the great men usually fought in them in those days.

Shall be with flaming torches; either because they did force fire out of the stones by their swift motion over them, or rather because there were torches always carried in them, to light them that rode in them by night, and to be in readiness to fire the houses of cities or tents in the camp they did break into.

In the day of his preparation; when he shall muster his armies, and bring together his magazines, and prepare his engines.

The fir trees shall be terribly shaken; by axes cutting them down for several uses in the war, for torches, for lances, for building forts, and many other uses. This is parallel with Isaiah 14:8. Whole forests were sometimes destroyed by great armies, which cut them down for their service. The shield of his mighty men is made red,.... The shields of the soldiers in the armies of the Babylonians and Medes, those dashers in pieces that would come up against Nineveh, should be red; either with the blood of the slain, or thus coloured on purpose to inject terror to their enemies; or this may express the lustre of them, which being gilded, or made of gold or brass, in the rays of the sun glittered, and looked of a fiery red; see the Apocrypha:

"Now when the sun shone upon the shields of gold and brass, the mountains glistered therewith, and shined like lamps of fire.'' (1 Maccabees 6:39)

the valiant men are in scarlet; the generals and other officers of the army were clothed in scarlet; partly to show their greatness and nobleness, and partly to strike their enemies with terror, and to hide their blood should they be wounded, and so keep up their own spirits, and not encourage their enemies:

the chariots shall be with flaming torches in the day of his preparation; that is, when the Medes and Chaldeans, under their respective commander or commanders, shall prepare for the siege of the city, and to make their onset and attack upon it, the chariots used by them in war, which was common in those times, would have flaming torches in them; either to guide them in the night, or to set fire to houses or tents they should meet with, or to terrify the enemy: or "the chariots shall be as flaming torches" (g); they should run with such swiftness, that the wheels, being of iron, or cased with it, should strike fire upon the stones in such quantities, that they should look like torches flaming:

and the fir trees shall be terribly shaken; with the motion of the chariots; or this may be interpreted of spears and lances, and such like instruments of war, made of fir; which should be in such great numbers, and with so much activity used against the Ninevites, that it would look like shaking a forest of fir trees. The Targum interprets these of the great men and generals of their armies glittering in dyed garments; and Kimchi's father, of the princes and great men of the city of Nineveh, who would be seized with terror, and reel about like drunken men; and so all that follows in the next verse Nahum 2:4.

(g) So is sometimes used as See Nold. Concord. Ebr. Part. p. 162. No. 728. So Piscator, and the Tigurine version.

The shield of his mighty men is made red, {d} the valiant men are in scarlet: the chariots shall be with flaming torches in the day of his preparation, and {e} the fir trees shall be terribly shaken.

(d) Both to put fear into the enemy, and also that they themselves should not so soon detect blood among one another, to discourage them.

(e) Meaning their spears would shake and crash together.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
3. Description of the hostile army “in the day of its preparation,” i.e. before engaging the Ninevites. The pronoun, “his” mighty men, refers to the destroyer of Nineveh mentioned in Nahum 2:1. From Nahum 2:3 to Nahum 2:7 all the tenses should be in the present, as R.V.

The shield … is made red] The meaning is uncertain. It is supposed that reference is made to shields covered with copper, which flashed red in the sun (1Ma 6:39). The word would more naturally suggest some practice of dyeing or anointing (Isaiah 21:5) the shields red. In Assyrian warfare the men fought in groups of two or three, one carrying the shield and the others shooting arrows or using other weapons of offence. Shields were of various kinds, sometimes of wicker work on a metal frame and covered with leather or metal plates; sometimes of more solid materials mounted with round or pointed bosses. Large standing shields set upon the ground were also in use, behind which the archers stood. Examples are given in Layard, Nineveh, II. pp. 344–348, and in Billerb.-Jerem., pp. 169, 174 seq.

valiant men are in scarlet] The reference is probably to the colour of the uniforms, which in ancient times was often red. As to the Babylonians, cf. Ezekiel 23:14, and the Assyrians, Ezekiel 23:6.

shall be with flaming torches] lit., with (or, in) fire of torches are the chariots. The word rendered torches (pldt) is of uncertain meaning and was translated torches by A.V. under the assumption that it was a form of the usual word (lpdt). Ges. conjectured “steel” after Arabic, and so R.V. The Arab. word for steel, however, is borrowed from the Persian, and too late to be found here. Others think of an Arab, verb “to cut off,” &c., and render “fire which divides itself,” coruscating or flashing fire. The Ar. word means to cut off a piece of property in order to bestow it upon another; or, to cut flesh meat or liver in pieces, but has not the general sense of cut or divide, and could not express the idea of flashes or flames of fire. Altogether to be rejected is the idea founded on the word “to cut,” that chariots armed with scythes are meant. In Biblical literature such chariots are first mentioned, 2Ma 13:2. They were not known in early antiquity, being referred to for the first time in connexion with the battle of Cunaxa (Anab. i. 7, 10, i. 8, 10). In the Cyropaedia (iv. 1, 30) Cyrus is said to have been the inventor of scythed chariots. The Assyrians did not employ them, nor, it may be assumed, the Medes. The unknown word here is probably a technical term, and the reference may be to the burnished plates of metal with which the chariots were mounted or mailed, and the glittering weapons hung on them. A figure of such an armed chariot in Billerb.-Jerem., p. 167.

the fir trees shall be terribly shaken] If “firtrees” be the true reading, long lances or spears may be intended. Sept. read horsemen, a somewhat similar word. The verb rendered “terribly shaken” (R.V. shaken terribly; perhaps bristle, horrent) does not occur again, though the word “reeling,” Zechariah 12:2, and the more usual form, Psalm 60:3; Isaiah 51:17; Isaiah 51:22, may be derived from it; also Isaiah 3:19 gauze veils? possibly from the quivering of the fine stuff? The reference would be to the shaking or vibrating of the long lances in the hands of those who brandished them. Or, reference might be to the battering rams swung against the walls. If “horsemen” be read with Sept., Syr. the wild careering of the cavalry would be referred to.

3–10. Assault and sack of the city

The verses give a graphic, though of course ideal, picture of the attack on Nineveh and its capture. (1) Description of the hostile warriors, who bear shields and are clad in purple; and of the furious charging of the chariots (Nahum 2:3-4). (2) The attack on the city walls; capture of the queen and harem, and sack of the town (Nahum 2:5-10). More particularly, Nahum 2:3 describes the hostile army as prepared for the conflict; Nahum 2:4 conflict outside the walls; Nahum 2:5 approach to the walls and assault upon them; Nahum 2:6 opening of the river-gates, and despair of the palace; Nahum 2:7 capture of the palace and its inmates; Nahum 2:8-10 sack of the city.Verse 3. - The prophet describes, as though himself an eyewitness, the army advancing against Nineveh. The shield of his mighty men is made red. "His heroes" may be either God's heroes, as sent by him to war against the evil city, or those of the "dasher in pieces" of ver. 1. The shields of the early Assyrians were usually circular or oval in shape, formed of wicker work, with a central boss of wood or metal. In the latest period they were made straight at bottom and rounded only at top (Rawlinson's 'Anc. Mon.,' 1:440). Some bronze shields have been brought to England from Nineveh; these are circular, about two feet and a half in diameter, the rim bending inwards, and forming a deep groove round the edge. The handles are of iron, and fastened by six bosses or nails, the heads of which form an ornament on the outer face of the shield (Layard, 'Discoveries,' p. 194). There were used also in sieges tall oblong shields, sufficient to protect the entire body, constructed of wicker work or the hides of animals (Bonomi, 'Nineveh and its Discoveries,' p. 320, etc.). The shields are said to be "made red," either because they were really so coloured (though the monuments have not confirmed this opinion), or else because of the polished copper with which they were sometimes covered (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 13:12. 5). Septuagint, pointing differently, ὅπλα δυναστείας αὐτῶν ἐξ ἀνθρώπων, "the arms of their power from among men." Are in scarlet. The word rendered "scarlet" is found nowhere else. Septuagint, mistaking the word, ἐμπαίζοντας ἐν πυρί, "sporting in fire:" Vulgate, in coccineis. It is derived from the term applied to the coccus, or worm which was used in dyeing to give to cloth a deep scarlet colour (Henderson). Some have seen in the colour of the soldiers' garments an emblem of the Divine wrath of which they were the appointed ministers. This colour was much affected by combatants in old times as in modern days. Professor Edwards quotes Aelian, 'Var. Hist.' 6:6, "it was necessary to enter into battle clothed in purple, that the colour might denote a certain dignity, and if drops of blood from wounds were sprinkled on it, it became terrible to the enemy" (comp. Xen., 'Cyrop.,' 1:3, 2). Red or purple seems to have been the favourite colour of the Medea and Babylonians (Ezekiel 23:14), blue or violet that of the Assyrians (Ezekiel 23:6; Ezekiel 28:23, etc.) (Orelli). The chariots shall be with flaming torches; literally, are with fire of steels; i.e. flash with steel, and so the clause should be translated, as in the Revised Version. Commentators generally refer the description to the steel bosses of the wheels; but the Assyrian chariots (and those of the Medes and Chaldeans were not dissimilar) were conspicuous for shining metal, hung round with gleaming weapons and figures of the heavenly bodies, carrying bright armed warriors, the homes covered with trappings, which flashed under the sunshine, and fastened to poles of glittering steel. There is no trace in the monuments of chariots armed with scythes, which seem to have been unknown before the time of Cyrus. They are first mentioned in 2 Macc. 13:2 (see Livy, 37:41). The word peladoth, translated "torches," is an ἅπαξ λεγόμενον. The LXX. renders it, αἱ ἡνίαι, "the reins," whence Jerome obtained his version, igneae habenae curruum; but it means, "things made of iron or steel,"and by critics uninstructed in monumental discoveries was naturally referred to the scythes with which chariots were armed in later times, instead of to the gleaming metal with which they were adorned. In the day of his preparation. When the Lord marshals the host for battle, as Isaiah 13:4. The fir trees shall be terribly shaken, i.e. the spears with their fir or cypress shafts are brandished. So Homer often calls the spear "the ash," from the material of which the handle was made (comp. 'Il.,' 16:143; 22:225, etc.). The Septuagint rendering is very far from the present text, Οἱ ἱππεῖς θορυβηθήσονται, "The horsemen shall be thrown into confusion." Nor is the Vulgate any better, Agitatores cosopiti sunt, which is explained to mean that the invaders are so carried away by their courage and fury, that they act as if intoxicated. "Sensus utique non spernedus," says a Roman Catholic commentator, "at unum desidero, ut scil. ex verbo ipso fluat" - which is certainly not the case. The text is possibly corrupt, and might be corrected from the Septuagint. Certainly there seems to be no other passage in the Hebrew Scriptures where the metaphor of "cypress" is used for "a spear." After the mention of the chariots, it is not unnatural that the writer should proceed, "and the riders are in active motion," urging their horses with hand and whip and gesture (see Knabenbauer, in loc.). 5 Waters surrounded me even to the soul: the flood encompassed me,

Sea-grass was wound round my head.

6 I went down to the foundations of the mountains;

The earth, its bolts were behind me for ever:

Then raisedst Thou my life out of the pit, O Jehovah my God.

7 When my soul fainted within me, I thought of Jehovah;

And my prayer came to Thee into Thy holy temple.

This strophe opens, like the last, with a description of the peril of death, to set forth still more perfectly the thought of miraculous deliverance which filled the prophet's mind. The first clause of the fifth verse recals to mind Psalm 18:5 and Psalm 69:2; the words "the waters pressed (בּאוּ) even to the soul" (Psalm 69:2) being simply strengthened by אפפוּני after Psalm 18:5. The waters of the sea girt him round about, reaching even to the soul, so that it appeared to be all over with his life. Tehōm, the unfathomable flood of the ocean, surrounded him. Sūph, sedge, i.e., sea-grass, which grows at the bottom of the sea, was bound about his head; so that he had sunk to the very bottom. This thought is expressed still more distinctly in Psalm 18:6. קצבי הרים, "the ends of the mountains" (from qâtsabh, to cut off, that which is cut off, then the place where anything is cut off), are their foundations and roots, which lie in the depths of the earth, reaching even to the foundation of the sea (cf. Psalm 18:16). When he sank into the deep, the earth shut its bolts behind him (הארץ is placed at the head absolutely). The figure of bolts of the earth that were shut behind Jonah, which we only meet with here (בּעד from the phrase סגר הדּלת בּעד, to shut the door behind a person: Genesis 7:16; 2 Kings 4:4-5, 2 Kings 4:33; Isaiah 26:20), has an analogy in the idea which occurs in Job 38:10, of bolts and doors of the ocean. The bolts of the sea are the walls of the sea-basin, which set bounds to the sea, that it cannot pass over. Consequently the bolts of the earth can only be such barriers as restrain the land from spreading over the sea. These barriers are the weight and force of the waves, which prevent the land from encroaching on the sea. This weight of the waves, or of the great masses of water, which pressed upon Jonah when he had sunk to the bottom of the sea, shut or bolted against him the way back to the earth (the land), just as the bolts that are drawn before the door of a house fasten up the entrance into it; so that the reference is neither to "the rocks jutting out above the water, which prevented any one from ascending from the sea to the land," nor "densissima terrae compages, qua abyssus tecta Jonam in hac constitutum occludebat" (Marck). Out of this grave the Lord "brought up his life." Shachath is rendered φθορά, corruptio, by the early translators (lxx, Chald., Syr., Vulg.); and this rendering, which many of the more modern translators entirely reject, is unquestionably the correct one in Job 17:14, where the meaning "pit" is quite unsuitable. But it is by no means warranted in the present instance. The similarity of thought to Psalm 30:4 points rather to the meaning pit equals cavern or grave, as in Psalm 30:10, where shachath is used interchangeably with בּור and שׁאול in Jonah 2:4 as being perfectly synonymous. Jonah 2:7 is formed after Psalm 142:4 or Psalm 143:4, except that נפשׁי is used instead of רוּחי, because Jonah is not speaking of the covering of the spirit with faintness, but of the plunging of the life into night and the darkness of death by drowning in the water. התעטּף, lit., to veil or cover one's self, hence to sink into night and faintness, to pine away. עלי, upon or in me, inasmuch as the I, as a person, embraces the soul or life (cf. Psalm 42:5). When his soul was about to sink into the night of death, he thought of Jehovah in prayer, and his prayer reached to God in His holy temple, where Jehovah is enthroned as God and King of His people (Psalm 18:7; Psalm 88:3).

But when prayer reaches to God, then He helps and also saves. This awakens confidence in the Lord, and impels to praise and thanksgiving. These thoughts form the last strophe, with which the Psalm of thanksgiving is appropriately closed.

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