The gates of the rivers shall be opened, and the palace shall be dissolved.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)The gates of the rivers.—This verse is one of great importance. The account of Ctesias, preserved by Diodorus Siculus, tells us that for over two years the immense thickness of the walls of Nineveh baffled the engineering skill of the besiegers; but that “in the third year it happened that by reason of a continual discharge of great storms, the Euphrates (sic) being swollen, both inundated a part of the city and overthrew the wall to the extent of twenty stadia.” The king saw in this the fulfilment of an oracle, which had declared that the city should fall when “the river became an enemy to the city.” Determined not to fall into the hands of his foes, he shut himself up with all his treasures in the royal citadel, which he then set on fire. We believe that this account, though inaccurate in detail, may be regarded as based on a substratum of historical fact. So gigantic were the fortifications of Nineveh, that of those on the east, where the city was most open to attack, Mr. Layard writes: “The remains still existing . . . almost confirm the statements of Diodorus Siculus that the walls were a hundred feet high, and that three chariots could drive upon them abreast” (Nineveh and Babylon, p. 660). Against ramparts such as these the most elaborate testudo of ancient times may well have been comparatively powerless. On the other hand, the force of a swollen river has often proved suddenly fatal to the strongest modern masonry. It would be specially destructive where, as in the case of Nineveh, the walls inundated were of sun-dried brick or “clay-bat.” Thus the fate of the city may well have been precipitated in accordance with the terse prediction of this verse. The “gates of the rivers” (i.e., the dams which fenced the Khausser, which ran through Nineveh, and the Tigris, which was outside it) are forced open by the swelling torrents, and lo, the fate of the city is sealed! ramparts against which the battering-ram might have plied in vain are sapped at the very foundation; palace walls are undermined, and literally “dissolve;” the besieger hastens to avail himself of the disaster, and (in the single word of Nahum 2:7) it-is-decided. It is unnecessary to identify the “palace” which thus succumbs. Neither is it a reasonable objection that the palaces of Khorsabad and Kouyunjik, lying near the Khausser, bear the marks of fire, not water. If Nahum must have in mind some particular palace, it may be fairly argued that water is not such a demonstrative agency as the sister element; and that nothing would so effectively conceal the damage done by the inundation as the subsequent conflagrations effected by the victorious besieger. The verb nâmôg, “dissolved,” we thus take in its literal signification of the dissolution of a solid substance by the action of water; not as Dr. Pusey, figuratively, of the “dissolution of the empire itself.
Nahum speaks nothing of the wall, but simply of the opening of "the gates of the river," obviously the gates, by which the inhabitants could have access to the rivers , which otherwise would be useless to them except as a wall. These "rivers" correspond to the "rivers," the artificial divisions of the Nile, by which No or Thebes was defended, or "the rivers of Babylon" Psalm 137:1 which yet was washed by the one stream, the Euphrates. But Nineveh was surrounded and guarded by actual rivers, the Tigris and the Khausser, and, (assuming those larger dimensions of Nineveh, which are supported by evidences so various ) the greater Zab, which was "called the frantic Zab on account of the violence of its current." "The Zab contained (says Ainsworth ), when we saw it, a larger body of water than the Tigris, whose tributaries are not supplied by so many snow-mountains as those of the Zab." Of these, if the Tigris be now on a level lower than the rains of Nineveh, it may not have been so formerly.
The Khausser, in its natural direction, ran through Nineveh where, now as of old, it turns a mill, and must, of necessity, have been fenced by gates; else any invader might enter at will: as, in modern times, Mosul has its "gate of the bridge." A break in these would obviously let in an enemy, and might the more paralyze the inhabitants, if they had any tradition, that the river alone could or would be their enemy, as Nahum himself prophesied. Subsequently inaccuracy or exaggeration might easily represent this to be an overthrow of the walls themselves. It was all one, in which way the breach was made.
The palace shall be dissolved - The prophet unites the beginning and the end. The river-gates were opened; what had been the fence against the enemy became an entrance for them: with the river, there poured in also the tide of the people of the enemy. The palace, then, the imperial abode, the center of the empire, embellished with the history of its triumphs, sank, was disolved , and ceased to be. It is not a physical loosening of the sun-dried bricks by the stream which would usually flow harmless by; but the dissolution of the empire itself. : "The temple, that is, his kingdom was destroyed." The palaces both of Khorsabad and Kouyunjik lay near the Khausser and both bear the marks of fire .
dissolved—by the inundation [Henderson]. Or, those in the palace shall melt with fear, namely, the king and his nobles [Grotius].The gates of the rivers; of the city toward the river. Rivers, for river, or because of the greatness of Tigris, upon which Nineveh stood.
Shall be opened: it is reported by Diodorus Siculus, Biblioth. 1. 3. c. 7, that when the Chaldeans besieged Nineveh, a mighty deluge of waters overthrew the walls of Nineveh, by the space of twenty furlongs, or two miles and half, through which breach the besiegers made their entrance, so Nahum 1:8. Usher Annal. ad A.M. 3257. The overrunning flood may be literally understood: here the prophet expressly declares how Nineveh shall be ruined.
The palace; either the royal stately palace of the Assyrian monarch; or the more stately temple of Nisroch, or Jupiter Belus, or some mighty bulwark raised there for defence.
Shall be dissolved, as if melted; it shall drop to pieces, and they that were in, whether servants of the court, or votaries to the idol, or soldiers for defence of the fort, shall in haste, with fear of the danger, flee away. Nahum 1:8,
and the palace shall be dissolved; by the inundation, or destroyed by the enemy; meaning the palace of the king, which might be situated near the river; or the temple of Nisroch the Assyrian deity, or Jupiter Belus; for the same word (k) signifies a temple as well as palace.The gates of the rivers shall be opened, and the palace shall be dissolved.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)6. The gates … shall be opened] are opened. The city of Nineveh lay on the left or E. side of the Tigris. The city proper was of the form of an irregular parallelogram, stretching from N.W. to S.E., the broader end being on the N. This city proper was enclosed by walls protected by moats. It was only at the N.W. point that the city touched the Tigris, from which it gradually retreated to the S.E., leaving between it and the river a considerable space of territory, though an arm of the river again approached the city at the S.W. corner of the parallelogram. Billerbeck computes the length of the north wall at 2000 mètres (6561 feet), that of the south wall at 800 m., and the length of the east wall N. to S. at 5000 m., and conjectures that there was room in the city for 300,000 inhabitants. Through the city ran a mountain stream, the Choser, cutting the city into two parts and falling into the Tigris, and from this stream and other streams and canals from the hills on the N.E. was drawn the water that filled the moats as well as the water supply of the city, the Tigris being unsuited for drinking. Besides the walls of the city proper with their moats there were extensive outer defences. A wall ran along the east bank of the Tigris, and an immense rampart protected the city on the east side, between which and the city walls rose various kinds of fortifications. These outer walls were also protected by moats. The moats did not wash the walls, but were trenches at some distance from them, and the walls could only be approached by drying the moats or throwing dams across them. The “gates of the rivers” are not city gates situated on the rivers, but rather the points in the wall where the rivers or canals enter the city. Reference to a bab nari (river gate) occurs in an inscription of Sennacherib (Billerb. p. 126, note), which it is conjectured might be the point where a canal entered the city on the north-east, the course of which is now the road to Khorsabad. Such “gates” would be structures provided with sluices regulating the supply of water, and if these were opened the walls would be undermined or the city inundated. Others suggest that the “river-gates” may be the sluices of the moats. If these were opened, however, for the purpose of running the moats dry, this step should have come earlier in the prophet’s description. Whatever the opening of the river-gates means, it threw the palace into a panic and shewed that all was over. The precise conception of the prophet must remain somewhat uncertain. The attack on the city would not be made from the west nor from the Tigris, but from the north or north-east, the side of the hills.
palace shall be dissolved] is dissolved, i.e. the inmates are overwhelmed with terror and despair. Possibly the word “dissolved,” though not used literally was suggested by the previous words, “the river gates are opened.”Verse 6. - All defence is vain. The prophet describes the last scene. The gates of the rivers shall be (are) opened. The simplest explanation of this much disputed clause is, according to Strauss and others, the following: The gates intended are those adjacent to the streams which encircled the city, and which were therefore the best defended and the hardest to capture. When these were carried, there was no way of escape for the besieged. But, as Rosenmuller remarks, it would have been an act of folly in the enemy to attack just that part of the city which was most strongly defended by nature and art. We are, therefore, induced to take "the gates of the rivers," not literally, but as a metaphorical expression (like "the windows of heaven," Genesis 7:1 l; Isaiah 24:18) for an overwhelming flood, and to see in this a reference to the fact mentioned by Diod. Sic. (2:27), that the capture of Nineveh was owing to a great and unprecedented inundation, which destroyed a large portion of the fortifications, and laid the city open to the enemy. "At the northwest angle of Nineveh," says Professor Rawlinson, "there was a sluice or flood gate, intended mainly to keep the water of the Khosr-su, which ordinarily filled the city moat, from flowing off too rapidly into the Tigris, but probably intended also to keep back the water of the Tigris, when that stream rose above its common level. A sudden and great rise in the Tigris would necessarily endanger this gate, and if it gave way beneath the pressure, a vast torrent of water would rush up the moat along and against the northern wall, which may have been undermined by its force, and have fallen in" (Rawlinson, 'Ancient Monarchies,' 2. p. 397, edit. 1871). The suggestion that the course of its rivers was diverted, and that the enemy entered the town through the dried channels, has no historical basis. Dr. Pusey explains the term to mean the gates by which the inhabitants had access to the rivers. But these would be well guarded, and the open. ing of them would not involve the capture of the city, which the expression in the text seems to imply. The LXX. gives, πόλεων διηνοίχθησαν, "The gates of the cities were opened." The palace shall be (is) dissolved; or, melteth away. Some take this to signify that the hearts of the in. habitants melt with fear, or the royal power vanishes in terror. That the clause is to be taken literally, to denote the destruction of the royal palace by the action of the waters, seems to be negatived by the fact that the Assyrian palaces were built on artificial mounds of some thirty or forty feet in elevation, composed of sun-dried bricks united into a solid mass, and were thus secured from the effects of an inundation (see Bosoms, 'Nineveh and its Discoveries,' p. 129, etc.). There is evidence, too, that fire played a great part in the destruction of the temples and palaces (see note on Nahum 3:13).
Forsake their own mercy.
9 But I will sacrifice to Thee with the call of thanksgiving.
I will pay what I have vowed.
Salvation is with Jehovah.
In order to express the thought emphatically, that salvation and deliverance are only to be hoped for from Jehovah the living God, Jonah points to the idolaters, who forfeit their mercy. משׁמּרים הבלי־שׁוא is a reminiscence of Psalm 31:7. הבלי־שׁוא, worthless vanities, are all things which man makes into idols or objects of trust. הבלים are, according to Deuteronomy 32:21, false gods or idols. Shâmar, to keep, or, when applied to false gods, to keep to them or reverence them; in Hosea 4:10 it is also applied to Jehovah. חסדּם signifies neither pietatem suam nor gratiam a Deo ipsis exhibitam, nor "all the grace and love which they might receive" (Hitzig); but refers to God Himself, as He whose government is pure grace (vid., Genesis 24:27), and might become the grace even of the idolatrous. Jonah, on the contrary, like all the righteous, would sacrifice to the Lord beqōl tōdâh, "with the voice or cry, of thanksgiving," i.e., would offer his sacrifices with a prayer of sincere thanksgiving (cf. Psalm 42:5), and pay the vow which he had made in his distress (cf. Psalm 50:14, Psalm 50:23). These utterances are founded upon the hope that his deliverance will be effected (Hitzig); and this hope is based upon the fact that "salvation is Jehovah's," i.e., is in His power, so that He only can grant salvation.
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