Nahum 3:1
Woe to the bloody city! it is all full of lies and robbery; the prey departs not;
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(1) Woe to the bloody city!—Better, O bloody city! She is altogether deceit, filled with crime: she ceases not from plunder.

Nahum 3:1. Wo to the bloody city — Here God shows the cause of his bringing destruction on Nineveh, and overthrowing the Assyrian empire. And first, it is declared, that Nineveh was a city in which acts of cruelty abounded, and innocent blood was frequently shed; that it was also full of deceit, falsehood, and rapine; unjustly and continually increasing its riches by the plunder of the neighbouring countries, which had done them no injury.3:1-7 When proud sinners are brought down, others should learn not to lift themselves up. The fall of this great city should be a lesson to private persons, who increase wealth by fraud and oppression. They are preparing enemies for themselves; and if the Lord sees good to punish them in this world, they will have none to pity them. Every man who seeks his own prosperity, safety, and peace, should not only act in an upright, honourable manner, but with kindness to all.Woe to the bloody city - Literally, "city of bloods" , i. e., of manifold bloodshedding, built and founded in blood Habakkuk 2:12; Jeremiah 22:13, as the prosperity of the world ever is. Murder, oppression, wresting of judgment, war out of covetousness, grinding or neglect of the poor, make it "a city of bloods." Nineveh, or the world, is a city of the devil, as opposed to the "city of God." : "Two sorts of love have made two sorts of cities; the earthly, love of self even to contempt of God; the heavenly, love of God even to contempt of self. The one glorieth in itself, the other in the Lord." : "Amid the manifold differences of the human race, in languages, habits, rites, arms, dress, there are but two kinds of human society, which, according to our Scriptures, we may call two cities. One is of such as wish to live according to the flesh; the other of such as will according to the Spirit." "Of these, one is predestined to live forever with God; the other, to undergo everlasting torment with the devil." Of this city, or evil world, Nineveh, the city of bloods, is the type.

It is all full of lies and robbery - Better, "it is all lie; it is full of robbery" (rapine). "Lie" includes all falsehood, in word or act, denial of God, hypocrisy; toward man, it speaks of treachery, treacherous dealing, in contrast with open violence or rapine . The whole being of the wicked is one lie, toward God and man; deceiving and deceived; leaving no place for God who is the Truth; seeking through falsehood things which fail. Man "loveth vanity and seeketh after leasing" Psalm 4:2. All were gone out of the way. Alb.: "There were none in so great a multitude, for whose sake the mercy of God might spare so great a city." It is full, not so much of booty as of rapine and violence. The sin remains, when the profit is gone. Yet it ceases not, but perseveres to the end; "the prey departs not;" they will neither leave the sin, nor the sin them; they neither repent, nor are weary of sinning. Avarice especially gains vigor in old age, and grows by being fed. "The prey departeth not," but continues as a witness against it, as a lion's lair is defiled by the fragments of his prey.


Na 3:1-19. Repetition of Nineveh's Doom, with New Features; the Cause Is Her Tyranny, Rapine, and Cruelty: No-ammon's Fortifications Did Not Save Her; It Is Vain, Therefore, for Nineveh to Think Her Defenses Will Secure Her against God's Sentence.

1. the bloody city!—literally, "city of blood," namely, shed by Nineveh; just so now her own blood is to be shed.

robbery—violence [Maurer]. Extortion [Grotius].

the prey departeth not—Nineveh never ceases to live by rapine. Or, the Hebrew verb is transitive, "she (Nineveh) does not make the prey depart"; she ceases not to plunder.The miserable ruin of Nineveh.

Woe! a comprehensive threat of many and great calamities coming.

To the bloody city; Nineveh, the chief city of the Assyrian kingdom: see Nahum 1:1.

It is all; every part, officers and rulers, traders, both buyers and sellers, shops, houses, judicatories, all filled with falsehood and lies.

Lies; cheating in their trades, and false witnesses before the judges.

Robbery; their gain, though they count it honest, is no better in God’s account than robbery or rapine, as is that the lion taketh, teareth, and devoureth, as the word in the Hebrew implies.

The prey; unjust acquists by fraud and force; extortions and violent taking away what was not theirs.

Departeth not; as they did so long since, they continue still so to do, no change from injustice to justice.

Woe to the bloody city,.... Nineveh, in which many murders were daily committed; innocent blood shed; the lives of men taken away, under the colour of justice, by false witnesses, and other unlawful methods; and which was continually making war with neighbouring nations, and shedding their blood, which it stuck not at, to enlarge its wealth and dominions; and therefore "woe" is denounced against it; and it is threatened with the righteous judgments of God, with all sorts of calamity and distress: or, "O bloody city", as the Septuagint; for the word used is vocative, and expressive of calling, as Aben Ezra and Kimchi observe:

it is all full of lies and robbery; the palace and court; the houses of noblemen and common persons were full of flattery and deceit; men of high degree were a lie, and men of low degree vanity; no man could trust another, or believe what he said; there were no truth, honesty, and faithfulness, in conversation or commerce; their warehouses were full of goods, got by rapine and violence; and their streets full of robbers and robberies:

the prey departeth not; they go on in making a prey of their neighbours, in pillaging and plundering their substance; they repent not of such evil practices, nor desist from them; or because of the above sins they shall fall a prey to the enemy, who will not cease plundering them till he has utterly stripped them of all they have; and who is represented in the next verse Nahum 3:2 as just at hand.

Woe to the bloody city! it is all full of lies and robbery; {a} the prey departeth not;

(a) It never ceases to spoil and rob.

1. bloody city] Ezekiel 24:9. In ancient states the capital was virtually the kingdom, and to Nineveh are here ascribed all the characteristics of the Assyrian monarchy. The cruelties perpetrated by the Assyrians were shocking. Captive princes who had offered resistance in defence of their country were shut up in cages and exposed to the gaze of the populace; the heads of those already executed were hung round the necks of those still living; and others were flayed alive. The Assyrians appear to have been the most ruthless people of antiquity. See cut representing impaled captives, Layard, Nineveh, II. 369, and Tiele’s chap. on the revolt of Shamas-sum-ukin; comp. also Sayce, Assyria; its princes &c. p. 127 ff. On the other hand they were not incapable of acts of magnanimity, an example of which was Assurbanipal’s pardon of the rebellious Egyptian princes whom his father Esarhaddon had raised to the throne. See his own words, Winckler, Altorient. Untersuch., I. pp. 104, 105.

full of lies and robbery] Robbery means “rending” or tearing in pieces (Psalm 7:2), the figure of the lion (ch. Nahum 2:11) being perhaps still retained, while “lies” rather deserts the figure, and refers to the false and overreaching state-craft of Nineveh (ch. Nahum 3:4), though possibly the subtlety of the wild beast might be alluded to.

The prey departeth not] “Prey” may be less the thing caught than the act or habit of catching—this prey taking is unceasing; cf. Jeremiah 17:8 last clause.Verses 1-19. - Part III. THE CAUSE OF THE JUDGMENT - SINS OF THE CITY, WHICH BRING INEVITABLE PUNISHMENT. Verses 1-7. - § 1. The prophet specifies the crimes which have brought this ruin upon Nineveh. Verse 1. - The bloody city; literally, city of bloods, where Mood is shed without scruple (comp. Ezekiel 24:6, 9; Habakkuk 2:12). The cruelty of the Assyrians is attested by the monuments, in which we see or read how prisoners were impaled alive, flayed, beheaded, dragged to death with ropes passed through rings in their lips, blinded by the king's own hand, hung up by hands or feet to die in slow torture (see Bonomi, pp. 168, etc., 190, etc., 225). Others have their brains beaten out, or their tongues torn out by the roots, while the bleeding heads of the slain are tied round the necks of the living, who are reserved for further torture (Layard, 'Nineveh and Babylon,' p. 456; Rawlinson, 'Ancient Monarchies,' 2:503, etc., edit. 1864). The royal inscriptions recount with exultation the number of the enemies slain and of captives carried away, cities levelled with the ground, plundered, and burnt, lands devastated, fruit trees destroyed, etc. It is all full of lies; ὅλη ψευδής, "all lie" (Septuagint). The Assyrians used treachery in furthering their conquests, made promises which they never kept, to induce nations to submit to their yoke. Such, doubtless, were those of Rabshakeh (Isaiah 36:16). Rawlinson, "Falsehood and treachery... are often employed by the strong, as furnishing short cuts to success, and even, where the moral standard is low, as being in themselves creditable (see Thucyd., 3:83). It certainly was not necessity which made the Assyrians covenant breakers; it seems to have been in part the wantonness of power - because they 'despised the cities, and regarded no man' (Isaiah 33:8); perhaps it was in part also their imperfect moral perception, which may have failed to draw the proper distinction between craft and cleverness" ('Ancient Monarchies,' 1:305). Robbery; rather, rapine, or rending in pieces. The figure applies to the way in which a wild beast kills its prey by tearing it to pieces. So the three crimes of Nineveh here enumerated are bloodshed, deceit, and violence. In the uncertainty concerning the word (pereq). rendered "robbery," which only occurs m Obadiah 1:14, where it means "crossway," the LXX. translates, ἀδικίας πλήρης, "full of unrighteousness." The Vulgate is correct, dilaceratione plena. The prey departeth not. They go on in the same way, gathering spoil into the city, never ceasing from this crime. The monuments continually record the booty that was brought to Nineveh (see, for instance, the 'Annals of Assurbanipal,' passim; 'Records of the Past,' vol. 9; Schrader, 'Keilinschr.,' 195, etc., 216, 233, etc.; comp. Isaiah 33:1). Septuagint, Οὐ ψηλαφηθήσεται θήρα, which gives a sense contradictory to the text, "Prey shall not be handled." 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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