Nahum 3:14
Draw you waters for the siege, fortify your strong holds: go into clay, and tread the mortar, make strong the brick kiln.
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(14) Draw thee waters.—In this desperate plight Nineveh is scoffingly advised to protract her resistance. The outer walls are broken down; let her hold out in the citadel. Nay, let her begin anew her preparations for defence. Let her lay in water and provision, and build new buttresses of brick. What shall it avail her? In the midst of her preparations, fire and sword shall again surprise her. The account of this last struggle for existence is minute. Nahum goes back to the repair of the brick-kiln, just as Isaiah, in his description of idol-worship, goes back to the smith working with the tongs, and the carpenter measuring with his rule (Isaiah 44:12, seq.). In both cases the irony gains force by a minute and elaborate description of operations destined to be futile.

Nahum 3:14-15. Draw thee waters for the siege — Fill all thy cisterns, and draw the waters into the ditches. Go into the clay, &c. — Set thy brickmakers on work to prepare store of materials for thy fortifications. There shall the fire devour thee — After all that thou canst do, the fire of the enemy shall reach even thy inmost works, and their darts shall drive off the defenders of them. The sword shall cut thee off — The Hebrew word, which we render here sword, properly signifies any kind of dart; and this seems to be spoken of the fire, and missile weapons which the enemy should throw, in order to burn their inner works, or drive them from off them. It shall eat thee up like the canker-worm — The sword of the enemy shall destroy thee, as the canker-worm eats up the fruits of the earth. Or, as some interpret the expression, Thou shalt be devoured as the cankerworm is eaten up; because the Assyrians were wont to eat these kinds of worms, which were a species of locusts, which are still eaten in the eastern countries. Make thyself many as the canker-worm — Though thou multiply thine armies like locusts, or caterpillars, yet the enemy shall destroy them.3:8-19 Strong-holds, even the strongest, are no defence against the judgments of God. They shall be unable to do any thing for themselves. The Chaldeans and Medes would devour the land like canker-worms. The Assyrians also would be eaten up by their own numerous hired troops, which seem to be meant by the word rendered merchants. Those that have done evil to their neighbours, will find it come home to them. Nineveh, and many other cities, states, and empires, have been ruined, and should be a warning to us. Are we better, except as there are some true Christians amongst us, who are a greater security, and a stronger defence, than all the advantages of situation or strength? When the Lord shows himself against a people, every thing they trust in must fail, or prove a disadvantage; but he continues good to Israel. He is a strong-hold for every believer in time of trouble, that cannot be stormed or taken; and he knoweth those that trust in Him.Draw thee waters for the siege, fortify thy strongholds - This is not mere mockery at man's weakness, when he would resist God. It foretells that they shall toil, and that, heavily. Toil is added upon toil. Nineveh did undergo a two years' siege. Water stands for all provisions within. He bids them, as before Nahum 2:1, strengthen what was already strong; strongholds, which seemed to "cut off" all approach. These he bids them strengthen, not repairing decays only but making them exceeding strong 2 Chronicles 11:12. Go into clay. We seem to see all the inhabitants, like ants on their nest, all poured out, every one busy, every one making preparation for the defense. Why had there been no need of it? What needed she of towers and fortifications, whose armies were carrying war into distant lands, before whom all which was near was hushed? Now, all had to be renewed. As Isaiah in his mockery of the idol-makers begins with the forging of the axe, the planting and rearing of the trees, which were at length to become the idol (Isaiah 44:12, following), Nahum goes back to the beginning. The neglected brick-kiln, useless in their prosperity, was to be repaired; the clay, which abounded in the valley of the Tigris , was to be collected, mixed and kneaded by treading, as still represented in the Egyptian monuments. The conquering nation was to do the work of slaves, as Asiatic captives are represented, under their taskmasters , on the monuments of Egypt, a prelude of their future. Xenophon still saw the massive brick wall, on the stone foundation .

Yet, though stored within and fenced without, it shall not stand (see Isaiah 27:10-11).

14. Ironical exhortation to Nineveh to defend herself.

Draw … waters—so as not to be without water for drinking, in the event of being cut off by the besiegers from the fountains.

make strong the brick-kiln—or "repair" [Maurer]; so as to have a supply of bricks formed of kiln-burnt clay, to repair breaches in the ramparts, or to build new fortifications inside when the outer ones are taken by the foe.

Draw thee waters, fill all thy cisterns, and make more that thou want not for drink, yea, draw the waters into the ditches about every fort,

for the siege, which thine enemies will lay against thee.

Fortify; repair all decays, and strengthen all that is weak.

Go into clay, and tread the mortar; set thy brick-makers on work to prepare store of strongest bricks.

Make strong the brick-kiln, that the materials for thy fortifications may be firm and good. All this is spoken with an irony, or derision of their fruitless labour. Draw thee waters for the siege,.... Before the siege is begun, fetch water from the river, wells, or fountains without the city, and fill cisterns, and such like receptacles of water, with them; that there may be sufficiency of it to hold out, which is often wanting in long sieges; the want of which gives great distress to the besieged: this is put for all necessary provisions, which should be made when a city is in danger of being blocked up: this, and what follows, are said ironically; signifying, let them do what they would or could for their support and security, it would be all in vain:

fortify thy strong holds; repair the old fortifications, and add new ones to them; fill them with soldiers, arms, and ammunition:

go into clay, and tread the mortar; make strong the brick kiln; repair the brick kilns, keep them in good order; employ men in digging clay, and treading it, and making it into bricks, and burning them in the kiln, that there be no want of bricks to repair the fortifications, or such breaches as might be made by the enemy. Bricks were much used instead of stone in those countries; but when they had done their utmost, they would not be able to secure themselves, and keep out the enemy.

Draw thee waters for the siege, fortify thy strong holds: go into clay, and tread the morter, make strong the brickkiln.
14. All the defences of the country up to the capital are fallen before the enemy. Nineveh must prepare for the siege.

fortify thy strong holds] i.e. make strong thy defence works. The “strongholds” here are the fortified places, whether outworks or wall towers, of the city itself.

make strong the brick-kiln] Rather: take hold of the brick mould. The words explain the previous phrases “go into the clay” &c. The exhortation is to prepare bricks to strengthen the walls, make new works, or repair the breaches. The great double outer rampart on the east of the city appears to have been partly of brick and partly of earth; the walls of the city itself were formed partly at least of blocks of limestone (mussel chalk). Comp. Layard, Nineveh, II. p. 275.Verses 14-19. - § 3. In spite of all its efforts and all its resources, Nineveh shall meet with a terrible end. Verse 14. - Nahum ironically bids the Ninevites prepare for the siege they were about to sustain. Draw thee waters for the siege. The drinking water necessary for a long siege is meant. This injunction is not particularly applicable to Nineveh, which from its situation was abundantly supplied with water, unless there was danger that the enemy would divert the courses of the rivers. But the warning would come home with peculiar force to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, among whom Nahum prophesied (2 Kings 20:20; Isaiah 22:11; Isaiah 30:20). Fortify thy strong holds; strengthen thy fortresses. Repair all defects in thy defences (2 Chronicles 11:11). The mode of doing this in the Assyrian fashion is then denoted. Go into clay, and tread the mortar. The soil round Nineveh was of a tenacious quality; and when moistened with water and kneaded either with feet or hands, with the addition usually of a little chopped straw, was easily formed into bricks. These, even without the aid of fire, became dry and hard in the course of a few days. But it is plain from the investigations of ruins that the Assyrians used both kiln-baked and sun-dried bricks, though the mass of the walls was usually composed of the latter, the more durable material being employed merely as an accessory (see Bouomi, 'Nineveh and its Palaces,' p. 9; Layard, 'Nineveh,' 2:252). Xenophon, 'Anab.,' 3:4. 11, speaks of the brick wall (πλίνθινον τεῖχος) of a town he calls Mespila. Make strong the brick kiln. There is an uncertainty about the meaning of the last word (malben), which occurs only in two other places (2 Samuel 12:31 and Jeremiah 43:9). In the latter passage it may possibly mean "a square" or "open quadrangle." Jerome has, tene laterem; the LXX., κατακράτησον ὑπερ πλίνθον "make them strong above (equivalent to 'stronger than') brick," connecting it with the following verse. Some translate it, "brick mould." If the Anglican Version is correct, the prophet bids them repair their kilns, unused in the days of prosperity, when they had no need to look to the security of their walls. Virtually the same sense is elicited by rendering, "lay hold of the brick mould." On the rising of the dawn of the very next day, God appointed a worm, which punctured the miraculous tree so that it withered away; and when the sun arose He also appointed a sultry east wind, and the sun smote upon Jonah's head, so that he fainted away. Chărı̄shıth, from chârash, to be silent or quiet, is to be taken when used of the wind in the sense of sultry, as in the Chaldee (lxx συγκαίων). The meaning ventus, qualis flat tempore arandi, derived from chârish, the ploughing (Abulw.), or autumnal east wind (Hitzig), is far less suitable. When Jonah fainted away in consequence of the sun-stroke (for hith‛allēph, see at Amos 8:13), he wished himself dead, since death was better for him than life (see Jonah 4:3). ישׁאל את־נפשׁו למוּת, as in 1 Kings 19:4, "he wished that his soul might die," a kind of accusative with the infinitive (cf. Ewald, 336, b). But God answered, as in Jonah 4:4, by asking whether he was justly angry. Instead of Jehovah (Jonah 4:4) we have Elohim mentioned here, and Jehovah is not introduced as speaking till Jonah 4:9. We have here an intimation, that just as Jonah's wish to die was simply an expression of the feelings of his mind, so the admonitory word of God was simply a divine voice within him setting itself against his murmuring. It was not till he had persisted in his ill-will, even after this divine admonition within, that Jehovah pointed out to him how wrong his murmuring was. Jehovah's speaking in Jonah 4:9 is a manifestation of the divine will by supernatural inspiration. Jehovah directs Jonah's attention to the contradiction into which he has fallen, by feeling compassion for the withering of the miraculous tree, and at the same time murmuring because God has had compassion upon Nineveh with its many thousands of living beings, and has spared the city for the sake of these souls, many of whom have no idea whatever of right or wrong. Chastâ: "Thou hast pitied the Qiqayon, at which thou hast not laboured, and which thou hast not caused to grow; for (שׁבּן equals אשׁר בּן) son of a night" - i.e., in a night, or over night - "has it grown, and over night perished, and I should not pity Nineveh?" ואני is a question; but this is only indicated by the tone. If Jonah feels pity for the withering of a small shrub, which he neither planted nor tended, nor caused to grow, shall God not have pity with much greater right upon the creatures whom He has created and has hitherto sustained, and spare the great city Nineveh, in which more than 120,000 are living, who cannot distinguish their right hand from the left, and also much cattle? Not to be able to distinguish between the right hand and the left is a sign of mental infancy. This is not to be restricted, however, to the very earliest years, say the first three, but must be extended to the age of seven years, in which children first learn to distinguish with certainty between right and left, since, according to M. v. Niebuhr (p. 278), "the end of the seventh year is a very common division of age (it is met with, for example, even among the Persians), and we may regard it as certain that it would be adopted by the Hebrews, on account of the importance they attached to the number seven." A hundred and twenty thousand children under seven years of age would give a population of six hundred thousand, since, according to Niebuhr, the number of children of the age mentioned is one-fifth the whole population, and there is no ground for assuming that the proportion in the East would be essentially different. This population is quite in accordance with the size of the city.

(Note: "Nineveh, in the broader sense," says M. v. Niebuhr, "covers an area of about 400 English square miles. Hence there were about 40,000 persons to the square mile. Jones (in a paper on Nineveh) estimates the population of the chief city, according to the area, at 174,000 souls. So that we may reckon the population of the four larger walled cities at 350,000. There remain, therefore, for the smaller places and the level ground, 300,000 men on about sixteen square miles; that is to say, nearly 20,000 men upon the square mile." He then shows, from the agricultural conditions in the district of Elberfeld and the province of Naples, how thoroughly this population suits such a district. In the district of Elberfeld there are, in round numbers, 22,000 persons to the square mile, or, apart from the two large towns, 10,000. And if we take into account the difference in fertility, this is about the same density of population as that of Nineveh. The province of Naples bears a very great resemblance to Nineveh, not only in the kind of cultivation, but also in the fertility of the soil. And there, in round numbers, 46,000 are found to the square mile, or, exclusive of the capital, 22,000 souls.)

Children who cannot distinguish between right and left, cannot distinguish good from evil, and are not yet accountable. The allusion to the multitude of unaccountable children contains a fresh reason for sparing the city: God would have been obliged to destroy so many thousand innocent ones along with the guilty. Besides this, there was "much cattle" in the city. "Oxen were certainly superior to shrubs. If Jonah was right in grieving over one withered shrub, it would surely be a harder and more cruel thing for so many innocent animals to perish" (Calvin). "What could Jonah say to this? He was obliged to keep silence, defeated, as it were, by his own sentence" (Luther). The history, therefore, breaks off with these words of God, to which Jonah could make no reply, because the object of the book was now attained, - namely, to give the Israelites an insight into the true nature of the compassion of the Lord, which embracers all nations with equal love. Let us, however, give heed to the sign of the prophet Jonah, and hold fast to the confession of Him who could say of Himself, "Behold, a greater than Jonah is here!"

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