Nahum 3:14
Draw thee waters for the siege, fortify thy strong holds: go into clay, and tread the morter, make strong the brickkiln.
Jump to: BarnesBensonBICalvinCambridgeClarkeDarbyEllicottExpositor'sExp DctGaebeleinGSBGillGrayGuzikHaydockHastingsHomileticsJFBKDKingLangeMacLarenMHCMHCWParkerPoolePulpitSermonSCOTTBWESTSK
(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." Nahum 3:14In conclusion, the prophet takes away from the city so heavily laden with guilt the last prop to its hope, - namely, reliance upon its fortifications, and the numerical strength of its population. - Nahum 3:14. "Draw thyself water for the siege! Make thy castles strong! tread in the mire, and stamp in the clay! prepare the brick-kiln! Nahum 3:15. There will the fire devour thee, the sword destroy thee, devour thee like the lickers. Be in great multitude like the lickers, be in great multitude like the locusts? Nahum 3:16. Thou hast made thy merchants more than the star so heaven; the licker enters to plunder, and flies away. Nahum 3:17. Thy levied ones are like the locusts, and thy men like an army of grasshoppers which encamp in the hedges in the day of frost; if the sun rises, they are off, and men know not their place: where are they?" Water of the siege is the drinking water necessary for a long-continued siege. Nineveh is to provide itself with this, because the siege will last a long while. It is also to improve the fortifications (chizzēq as in 2 Kings 12:8, 2 Kings 12:13). This is then depicted still more fully. Tı̄t and chōmer are used synonymously here, as in Isaiah 41:25. Tı̄t, lit., dirt, slime, then clay and potter's clay (Isaiah l.c.). Chōmer, clay or mortar (Genesis 11:3), also dirt of the streets (Isaiah 10:6, compared with Micah 7:10). החזיק, to make firm, or strong, applied to the restoration of buildings in Nehemiah 5:16 and Ezekiel 27:9, Ezekiel 27:27; here to restore, or to put in order, the brick-kiln (malbēn, a denom. from lebhēnâh, a brick), for the purpose of burning bricks. The Assyrians built with bricks sometimes burnt, sometimes unburnt, and merely dried in the sun. Both kinds are met with on the Assyrian monuments (see Layard, vol. ii. p. 36ff.). This appeal, however, is simply a rhetorical turn for the thought that a severe and tedious siege is awaiting Nineveh. This siege will end in the destruction of the great and populous city. שׁם, there, sc. in these fortifications of thine, will fire consume thee; fire will destroy the city with its buildings, and the sword destroy the inhabitants. The destruction of Nineveh by fire is related by ancient writers (Herod. 1:106, 185; Diod. Sic. 2:25-28; Athen. xii. p. 529), and also confirmed by the ruins (cf. Str. ad h. l.). It devours thee like the locust. The subject is not fire or sword, either one or the other, but rather both embraced in one. כּיּלק, like the licker; yeleq, a poetical epithet applied to the locust (see at Joel 1:4), is the nominative, no the accusative, as Calvin, Grotius, Ewald, and Hitzig suppose. For the locusts are not devoured by the fire or the sword, but it is they who devour the vegetables and green of the fields, so that they are everywhere used as a symbol of devastation and destruction. It is true that in the following sentences the locusts are used figuratively for the Assyrians, or the inhabitants of Nineveh; but it is also by no means a rare thing for prophets to give a new turn and application to a figure or simile. The thought is this: fire and sword will devour Nineveh and its inhabitants like the all-consuming locusts, even though the city itself, with its mass of houses and people, should resemble an enormous swarm of locusts. התכּבּד may be either an inf. abs. used instead of the imperative, or the imperative itself. The latter seems the more simple; and the use of the masculine may be explained on the assumption that the prophet had the people floating before his mind, whereas in התכּבּדי he was thinking of the city. Hithkahbbēd, to show itself heavy by virtue of the large multitude; similar to כּבד in Nahum 2:10 (cf. כּבד in Genesis 13:2; Exodus 8:20, etc.).

The comparison to a swarm of locusts is carried still further in Nahum 3:16 and Nahum 3:17, and that so that Nahum 3:16 explains the תּאכלך כּיּלק in Nahum 3:15. Nineveh has multiplied its traders or merchants, even more than the stars of heaven, i.e., to an innumerable multitude. The yeleq, i.e., the army of the enemy, bursts in and plunders. That Nineveh was a very rich commercial city may be inferred from its position, - namely, just at the point where, according to oriental notions, the east and west meet together, and where the Tigris becomes navigable, so that it was very easy to sail from thence into the Persian Gulf; just as afterwards Mosul, which was situated opposite, became great and powerful through its widely-extended trade (see Tuch, l.c. p. 31ff., and Strauss, in loc.).

(Note: "The point," says O. Strauss (Nineveh and the Word of God, Berl 1855, p. 19), "at which Nineveh was situated was certainly the culminating point of the three quarters of the globe - Europe, Asia, and Africa; and from the very earliest times it was just at the crossing of the Tigris by Nineveh that the great military and commercial roads met, which led into the heart of all the leading known lands.")

The meaning of this verse has been differently interpreted, according to the explanation given to the verb pâshat. Many, following the ὥρμησε and expansus est of the lxx and Jerome, give it the meaning, to spread out the wing; whilst Credner (on Joel, p. 295), Maurer, Ewald, and Hitzig take it in the sense of undressing one's self, and understand it as relating to the shedding of the horny wing-sheaths of the young locusts. But neither the one nor the other of these explanations can be grammatically sustained. Pâshat never means anything else then to plunder, or to invade with plundering; not even in such passages as Hosea 7:1; 1 Chronicles 14:9 and 1 Chronicles 14:13, which Gesenius and Dietrich quote in support of the meaning, to spread; and the meaning forced upon it by Credner, of the shedding of the wing-sheaths by locusts, is perfectly visionary, and has merely been invented by him for the purpose of establishing his false interpretation of the different names given to the locusts in Joel 1:4. In the passage before us we cannot understand by the yeleq, which "plunders and flies away" (pâshat vayyâ‛ōph), the innumerable multitude of the merchants of Nineveh, because they were not able to fly away in crowds out of the besieged city. Moreover, the flying away of the merchants would be quite contrary to the meaning of the whole description, which does not promise deliverance from danger by flight, but threatens destruction. The yeleq is rather the innumerable army of the enemy, which plunders everything, and hurries away with its booty. In Nahum 3:17 the last two clauses of Nahum 3:15 are explained, and the warriors of Nineveh compared to an army of locusts. There is some difficulty caused by the two words מנּזריך and טפסריך, the first of which only occurs here, and the second only once more, viz., in Jeremiah 51:27, where we meet with it in the singular. That they both denote warlike companies appears to be tolerably certain; but the real meaning cannot be exactly determined. מנּזרים with dagesh dir., as for example in מקּדשׁ in Exodus 15:17, is probably derived from nâzar, to separate, and not directly from nezer, a diadem, or nâzı̄r, the crowned person, from which the lexicons, following Kimchi's example, have derived the meaning princes, or persons ornamented with crowns; whereas the true meaning is those levied, selected (for war), analogous to bâchūr, the picked or selected one, applied to the soldiery. The meaning princes or captains is at variance with the comparison to 'arbeh, the multitude of locusts, since the number of the commanders in an army, or of the war-staff, is always a comparatively small one. And the same objection may be offered to the rendering war-chiefs or captains, which has been given to taphsar, and which derives only an extremely weak support from the Neo-Persian tâwsr, although the word might be applied to a commander-in-chief in Jeremiah 51:27, and does signify an angel in the Targum-Jonathan on Deuteronomy 28:12. The different derivations are all untenable (see Ges. Thes. p. 554); and the attempt of Bttcher (N. Krit. Aehrenl. ii. pp. 209-10) to trace it to the Aramaean verb טפס, obedivit, with the inflection ־ר for ־ן, in the sense of clientes, vassals, is precluded by the fact that ar does not occur as a syllable of inflection. The word is probably Assyrian, and a technical term for soldiers of a special kind, though hitherto it has not been explained. גּוב גּובי, locusts upon locusts, i.e., an innumerable swarm of locusts. On גּובי, see at Amos 7:1; and on the repetition of the same word to express the idea of the superlative, see the comm. on 2 Kings 19:23 (and Ges. 108, 4). Yōm qârâh, day (or time) of cold, is either the night, which is generally very cold in the East, or the winter-time. To the latter explanation it may be objected, that locusts do not take refuge in walls or hedges during the winter; whilst the expression yōm, day, for night, may be pleaded against the former. We must therefore take the word as relating to certain cold days, on which the sky is covered with clouds, so that the sun cannot break through, and zârach as denoting not the rising of the sun, but its shining or breaking through. The wings of locusts become stiffened in the cold; but as soon as the warm rays of the sun break through the clouds, they recover their animation and fly away. Nōdad, (poal), has flown away, viz., the Assyrian army, which is compared to a swarm of locusts, so that its place is known no more (cf. Psalm 103:16), i.e., has perished without leaving a trace behind. איּם contracted from איּה הם. These words depict in the most striking manner the complete annihilation of the army on which Nineveh relied.

Nahum 3:14 Interlinear
Nahum 3:14 Parallel Texts

Nahum 3:14 NIV
Nahum 3:14 NLT
Nahum 3:14 ESV
Nahum 3:14 NASB
Nahum 3:14 KJV

Nahum 3:14 Bible Apps
Nahum 3:14 Parallel
Nahum 3:14 Biblia Paralela
Nahum 3:14 Chinese Bible
Nahum 3:14 French Bible
Nahum 3:14 German Bible

Bible Hub

Nahum 3:13
Top of Page
Top of Page