Nahum 3:15
There shall the fire devour thee; the sword shall cut thee off, it shall eat thee up like the cankerworm: make thyself many as the cankerworm, make thyself many as the locusts.
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(15, 16) The diversion of metaphor here is somewhat repugnant to modern taste. The sword, like the locust, shall devour Nineveh. Yet Nineveh is immediately afterwards compared in its numbers, destructive influence, and sudden disappearance to the locust. It is a transition like St. Paul’s “going off at a word.” The comparison of the locust suggests the thought that Nineveh herself has been a locust-pest to the world, and the direction of the metaphor is thereupon suddenly changed. A paraphrase will best bring out the meaning. (15) “Hostile swords devour thee, as a locust swarm devours. Vainly clusters together thy dense population, itself another locust-swarm. (16) Yea, as the stars of heaven for number have been thy merchants, as a pest of locusts which plunders one day and is gone the next.”

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.There - where thou didst fence thyself, and madest such manifold and toilsome preparation,

Shall the fire devour thee. - All is toil within. The fire of God's wrath falls and consumes at once. Mankind still, with mire and clay, build themselves Babels. "They go into clay," and become themselves earthly like the mire they steep themselves in. They make themselves strong, as though they thought "that their houses shall continue forever" Psalm 49:11, and say, "So, take thine ease eat, drink and be merry" Luke 12:19-20. God's wrath descends. "Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee. It shall eat thee up like the canker-worm." What in thee is strongest, shall be devoured with as much ease as the locust devours the tender grass. The judgments of God, not only overwhelm as a whole, but find cut each tender part, as the locust devours each single blade.

Make thyself many as the cankerworm - As though thou wouldest equal thyself in oppressive number to those instruments of the vengeance of God, gathering from all quarters armies to help thee; yea, though thou make thy whole self one oppressive multitude, yet it shall not avail thee. Nay, He saith, thou hast essayed to do it.

15. There—in the very scene of thy great preparations for defense; and where thou now art so secure.

fire—even as at the former destruction; Sardanapalus (Pul?) perished with all his household in the conflagration of his palace, having in despair set it on fire, the traces of which are still remaining.

cankerworm—"the licking locust" [Henderson].

make thyself many as the locusts—"the swarming locusts" [Henderson]; that is, however "many" be thy forces, like those of "the swarming locusts," or the "licking locusts," yet the foe shall consume thee as the "licking locust" licks up all before it.

There; in the very fortresses.

The fire; either literally, or figuratively, the wrath of the enemy hot as fire, or the pestilence, or all together.

The sword of the Chaldeans, their wars, (after all that the Scythians have done against thee,) these shall utterly destroy thee.

It shall eat thee up: this tells us the manner how the Ninevites shall be destroyed, they shall be eaten up.

Like the canker-worm; either the enemy shall as easily eat thee up as the cankerworm eats the green herb, or thou shalt as soon be devoured as canker-worms are destroyed by storms, rain, fire, or change of weather.

Make thyself many as the cankerworm; they are innumerable, be thou so if thou canst be, all will be to no purpose.

Make thyself many as the locusts: the same irony repeated: when Ninevites have done all they can, they shall as fully and suddenly be destroyed as these vermin are.

There shall the fire devour thee,.... In the strong holds, made ever so firm and secure; either the fire of divine wrath; or the fire of the enemy they should put into them; or the enemy himself, as Kimchi; and so the Targum,

"thither shall come upon thee people who are as strong as fire:''

the sword shall cut thee off; it shall eat thee up as the cankerworm: that is, the sword of the Medes and Chaldeans shall utterly destroy thee, as the cankerworm is destroyed by rain or fire; or rather, as that creature destroys all herbs, plants, and trees it falls upon, and makes clear riddance of them, so should it be with Nineveh:

make thyself many as the cankerworm; make thyself many as the locust; which go in swarms, innumerable, and make the air "heavy" in which they fly, and the earth on which they fall, as the word (y) signifies. The locust has one of its names, "arbah", in Hebrew, from the large numbers of them; so a multitude of men, and large armies, are often signified in Scripture to be like grasshoppers or locusts, for their numbers; see Judges 6:5. So Sithalces king of Thrace is represented (z) as swearing, while he was sacrificing, that he would assist the Athenians, having an army that would come like locusts, that is, in such numbers; for so the Greek scholiast on the place says the word used signifies a sort of locusts: the sense is, gather together as many soldiers, and as large an army, as can be obtained to meet the enemy, or cause him to break up the siege: and so we find (a) the king of Assyria did; for, perceiving his kingdom in great danger, he sent into all his provinces to raise soldiers, and prepare everything for the siege; but all to no purpose, which is here ironically suggested. The word in the Misnic language, as Kimchi observes, has the signification of sweeping; and some render it, "sweep as the locust" (b); which sweeps away and consumes the fruits of the earth; so sweep with the besom of destruction, as Jarchi, either their enemies, sarcastically spoken, or be thou swept by them.

(y) "aggravate", Montanus; "onerate", Tigurine version; "gravem effice te", Burkius. (z) Aristophan. in Acharnens. Acts 1. Scen. 1.((a) Diodor. Sicul. l. 2. p. 113. (b) So R. Sol. Urbin. Ohel Moed, fol. 39. 1.

There shall the fire devour thee; the sword shall cut thee off, it shall eat thee up like the {e} cankerworm: make thyself many as the cankerworm, make thyself many as the locusts.

(c) Signifying that God's judgments would suddenly destroy the Assyrians, as these vermin do with rain or change of weather.

15. There] amidst her brick moulds, shall the fire devour her, the sword cut her off. The “fire” is said of the city, the sword of the inhabitants. The remains of Nineveh shew that the city was destroyed by fire.

like the cankerworm] Perhaps: young locust, before it attains ability to fly (Nahum 3:16), as distinguished from “locust” in the end of the verse. In any case the word is a name for locust, whatever “cankerworm” may mean, Joel 1:4; Psalm 105:34. The phrase: the sword shall consume thee as the young locust, can only mean, in numbers as great as young locusts (Jeremiah 51:14)—many as the young locust though thou art. The comparison is peculiar, though the idea is amplified in the next clause. The text is possibly in disorder.

Make thyself many] The imperatives can only be concessive—many as the young locusts shouldst thou make thyself. The first “make thyself many” is masc. and the second fem., which is scarcely possible in grammar. Sept. read the last part of the verse in a shorter form, though the last clause of Nahum 3:16 seems to require it in some shape. The words are connected with Nahum 3:16.

Verse 15. - There. In the very place where thou hast taken all these precautions. Shall the fire devour thee. That fire played a great part in the destruction of Nineveh is asserted by historians and proved by the remains of the city discovered in modern times (see note on ver. 13: also Herod., 1:106; Diod. Sic., 2:25-28; Athen., 12:529). The fate of the last king, who burnt himself and his palace, is a well known story (see Justin, 'Hist.,' 1:3; Eusebius, 'Chronicles,' 1:9; 14:3; 15:7; Syncell., 'Chronicles,' 1:396, edit. Dind.) (Kuabenbauer). The sword shall cut thee off. While fire destroys the buildings, the sword shall devour the inhabitants of the city. The cankerworm; literally, the licker (Joel 1:4). The locust in its earlier stage is thus described (see ver. 16). The figure implies that the destruction of Nineveh should be sudden and complete, as that wrought on vegetation by an inroad of locusts. Make thyself many. Collect thine armies, gather hosts as innumerable as the locusts, it will be all in vain. The "cankerworm" represented the enemy; the "locusts" represent the Assyrians themselves. Nahum 3:15In 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.

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