Nahum 3:18
Your shepherds slumber, O king of Assyria: your nobles shall dwell in the dust: your people is scattered on the mountains, and no man gathers them.
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(18) Shepherdsi.e., chief officers, as in Micah 5:2 and passim. Their sheep are “scattered upon the mountains and none attempts to gather them.” So Micaiah announces to Ahab, “I saw all Israel scattered upon the hills as sheep that have not a shepherd” (1Kings 22:17).

Thy nobles shall dwell.—Better, thy mighty men are lying still.

Nahum 3:18-19. Thy shepherds slumber, O king of Assyria — Thy rulers and counsellors are remiss, heartless, or dead. Thy nobles — Or valiant ones, shall dwell in the dust — These words are not in the Hebrew, but are supplied by our translators. The strict rendering of the Hebrew would rather be, Have lain down, as Grotius renders it; that is, have indulged themselves in ease, and not concerned themselves about the public affairs. The Vulgate, however, renders this former part of the verse, Thy shepherds have slept, thy princes shall be buried: understanding it, probably, of their being slain in battle, or having died through famine or pestilence during the siege. Thy people is scattered upon the mountains — Thy people, or common soldiers, for want of commanders, are scattered about, and there is no chief officer, or head commander, to collect them together. There is no healing of thy bruise — Or binding up of thy wound. Thy destruction is inevitable. The state of thy affairs is so bad, that there is no hope of recovering them. All that hear the bruit of thee — That is, the report of thee; (as the obsolete word bruit signifies;) all to whom the account of thy fall shall come; shall clap the hands over thee — Namely, for joy. For upon whom hath not thy wickedness, &c. — To whom hast thou not been injurious?

Thus it is evident, upon the whole of this prophecy of Nahum, that the entire desolation and complete destruction of Nineveh were most expressly and particularly foretold therein: yet one can hardly imagine any event more improbable than this was, at the time when Nahum predicted it. Surely there was no probability that the capital of a great kingdom, a city which was sixty miles in compass, a city which contained so many myriads of inhabitants, which had walls one hundred feet high, and so thick that three chariots could go abreast upon them, and which had one thousand five hundred towers of two hundred feet in height; surely there was no probability that such a city should ever be totally destroyed; and yet so totally was it destroyed, that authors are not agreed about its situation. From the general suffrage, indeed, of ancient historians and geographers, it seems to have been situated upon the Tigris; but yet no less authors than Ctesias and Diodorus Siculus represent it as situated upon the river Euphrates. Nay, authors differ, not only from one another, but also from themselves. For the learned Bochart hath shown, that Herodotus, Diodorus Siculus, and Ammianus Marcellinus, all three speak differently of it, sometimes as if it was situated upon the river Tigris, and sometimes as if upon the river Euphrates. So that, to reconcile these authors with themselves and with others, it is supposed by Bochart that there were two Ninevehs, and by Sir John Marshman that there were three; the Syrian, upon the river Euphrates; the Assyrian, upon the river Tigris; and a third, built afterward upon the Tigris by the Persians, who succeeded the Parthians in the empire of the East in the third century, and were subdued by the Saracens in the seventh century after Christ: but whether this latter Nineveh was built in the same place as old Nineveh is a question that cannot be decided. Lucian, who flourished in the second century after Christ, affirms, that Nineveh was utterly perished, and there was no footstep of it remaining, nor could one tell where once it was situated. And the greater regard is to be paid to his testimony, as he was a native of Samosata, a city upon the river Euphrates; and, coming from a neighbouring country, he must have known whether there had been any remains of Nineveh or not. “Even the ruins,” says Bishop Newton, “of old Nineveh have been, as I may say, ruined and destroyed; such an utter end hath been made of it, and such is the truth of the divine predictions! This, perhaps, may strike us the more strongly, by supposing only a parallel instance: let us, then, suppose that a person should come in the name of a prophet preaching repentance to the people of this kingdom, or otherwise denouncing the destruction of the capital city within a few years. I presume we should look upon such a prophet as a madman, and show no further attention to his message than to deride and despise it: and yet such an event would not be more strange and incredible than the destruction and devastation of Nineveh. For Nineveh was much the larger, and much the stronger and older city of the two; and the Assyrian empire had subsisted and flourished more ages than any form of government in this country; so that we cannot object the instability of the eastern monarchies in this case. Let us, then, since this event would not be more improbable and extraordinary than the other, suppose again, that things should succeed according to the prediction, the floods should arise, and the enemy should come, the city should be overflowed and broken down, be taken and pillaged, and destroyed so totally, that even the learned could not agree about the place where it was situated. What would be said or thought in such a case? Whoever of posterity should read and compare the prophecy and event together, must they not, by such an illustrious instance, be thoroughly convinced of the providence of God, and of the truth of this prophet, and be ready to acknowledge, Verily this is the word that the Lord hath spoken! Verily there is a God who judgeth in the earth!” 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.Thy shepherds - that is, they who should counsel for the people's good and feed it, and "keep watch over their flocks by night," but are now like their master, the "King of Assyria," are his shepherds not the shepherds of the people whom they care not for; these slumber, at once through listlessness and excess, and now have fallen asleep in death, as the Psalmist says, "They have slept their sleep" Psalm 76:6. The prophet speaks of the future, as already past in effect, as it was in the will of God. All "the shepherds of the people" , all who could shepherd them, or hold them to together, themselves sleep "the sleep of death;" their mighty men dwelt in that abiding-place, where they shall not move or rise, the grave; and so as Micaiah, in the vision predictive of Ahab's death, "saw all Israel scattered on the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd" 1 Kings 22:17, so the people of the Assyrian monarch shall be "scattered on the mountains," shepherdless, and that irretrievably; no man gathers them. 18. Thy shepherds—that is, Thy leaders.

slumber—are carelessly secure [Maurer]. Rather, "lie in death's sleep, having been slain" [Jerome] (Ex 15:16; Ps 76:6).

shall dwell in the dust—(Ps 7:5; 94:17).

thy people is scattered—the necessary consequence of their leaders being laid low (1Ki 22:17).

Thy shepherds, subordinate magistrates, rulers, and counsellors, or officers set over the kingdom, slumber; are remiss, or mistake, or are heartless or dead, they cannot or will not mind the public concerns.

O king of Assyria; his name I meet not with; Asaradinus, or, as the Scripture calls him, Esarhaddon, may possibly be the name and man intended.

Thy nobles, the brave, valiant, and famous men,

shall dwell in the dust; either be buried as dead, or lie in the dust as faint and weary, or be trampled on as worthless and useless.

Thy people, thy citizens and subjects in their great numbers, is scattered, partly through fear, shame, and astonishment, partly by violence of the invading enemy, upon the mountains, where is neither safety, nor provision against danger and want.

No man gathereth them; no one that will concern himself to preserve thy dispersed ones; so thou and they are left hopeless and ruined, for the shepherds are some dead and cannot, the rest slumber and will not, lay to heart their condition. Thy shepherds slumber, O king of Assyria,.... Who this king of Assyria was is not easy to say; some think Esarhaddon, who is the last of the kings of Assyria the Scriptures speak of; according to Diodorus Siculus (n), Sardanapalus was the last of these kings, and in him the Assyrian monarchy ended; though, according to Alexander Polyhistor (o), Saracus, perhaps the Chyniladanus of Ptolemy, was king when Nineveh was destroyed: it is very likely that Sardanapalus and Saracus design the same person, though set at a great distance by historians; since the same things are said of the one as of the other; particularly that, when they saw their danger, they burnt themselves and theirs in the royal palace at Nineveh; nor is it probable that the same city with the empire should be destroyed and subverted twice by the same people, the Medes and Babylonians, uniting together; and it is remarkable that the double destruction of this city and empire is related by different historians; and those that speak of the one say nothing of the other: but this king, be he who he will, his case was very bad, his "shepherds slumbered"; his ministers of state, his counsellors, subordinate magistrates in provinces and cities, and particularly in Nineveh; his generals and officers in his army were careless and negligent of their duty, and gave themselves up to sloth and ease; and which also was his own character, as historians agree in; or they were dead, slumbering in their graves, and so could be of no service to him:

thy nobles shall dwell in the dust; be brought very low, into a very mean and abject condition; their honour shall be laid in the dust, and they be trampled upon by everyone: or, "they shall sleep" (p); that is, die, and be buried, as the Vulgate Latin renders it: or, "shall dwell in silence", as others (q); have their habitation in the silent grave, being cut off by the enemy; so that this prince would have none of his mighty men to trust in, but see himself stripped of all his vain confidences:

thy people is scattered upon the mountains, and no man gathereth them; like sheep without a shepherd, which being frightened by beasts of prey, run here and there, and there is none to get them together, and bring them back again; so the subjects of this king, being terrified at the approach of the Medes and Babylonians, forsook their cities, and fled to the mountains; where they were scattered about, having no leader and commander to gather them together, and put them in regular order to face and oppose the enemy. So the Targum interprets it

"the people of thine armies.''

(n) Bibliothec. l. 2. p. 109, 115. (o) Apud Syncell. p. 210. (p) "dormiunt", Piscator; so Ben Melech interprets it, "the rest of death." (q) "Habitarunt in silentio", Buxtorf, Drusius.

Thy {f} shepherds slumber, O king of Assyria: thy nobles shall dwell in the dust: thy people is scattered upon the mountains, and no man gathereth them.

(f) Your princes and counsellors.

18. Thy shepherds slumber] i.e. the leaders and rulers. It is most suitable to the connexion to take slumber (which is the ordinary word for sleep) to mean, are sunk in death—Psalm 13:3, “Lest I sleep the sleep of death.” Psalm 76:5; Jeremiah 51:39; Jeremiah 51:57.

shall dwell in the dust] dwell, R.V. are at rest. The text reads dwell, but change of one letter gives lie down, i.e. sleep; 1 Kings 1:21; Isaiah 14:18. So Sept., followed by Wellhausen. The leaders are fallen, and the people scattered upon the mountains. This is more natural than to suppose that “slumber” and “sleep” refer to slothful inactivity on the part of the Assyrian leaders. Nineveh was defended for two years against the Medes.Verse 18. - Thy shepherds. The princes and counsellors, on whom the safety of the state depends. Slumber. Sleep the sleep of death - slain in the war (Psalm 76:6). O King of Assyria. The power and evil of Nineveh personified, not any particular king. Shall dwell in the dust; are lying, or are at rest, in death; Septuagint, Ἐκοίμισε τοὺς δυνάστας σου, "Put to sleep thy mighty men" (comp. Euripides, 'Hec.,' 473, where κοιμίζειν is used in the sense of "to slay"): Vulgate, sepelientur. Is scattered upon the mountains. Their shepherds being dead, the flock, the herd of common people, is scattered abroad and perishes, because no man gathereth them - there is no one to collect them. "The mountains" referred to are those which shut in Assyria on the north. The heading in Micah 1:1 has been explained in the introduction. Micah 1:2-4 form the introduction to the prophet's address. Micah 1:2. "Hear, all ye nations: observe, O earth, and that which fills it: and let the Lord Jehovah be a witness against you, the Lord out of His holy palace. Micah 1:3. For, behold, Jehovah cometh forth from His place, and cometh down, and marcheth over the high places of the earth. Micah 1:4. And the mountains will melt under Him, and the valleys split, like wax before the fire, like water poured out upon a slope." The introductory words, "Hear, ye nations all," are taken by Micah from his earlier namesake the son of Imlah (1 Kings 22:28). As the latter, in his attack upon the false prophets, called all nations as witnesses to confirm the truth of his prophecy, so does Micah the Morashite commence his prophetic testimony with the same appeal, so as to announce his labours at the very outset as a continuation of the activity of his predecessor who had been so zealous for the Lord. As the son of Imlah had to contend against the false prophets as seducers of the nation, so has also the Morashtite (compare Micah 2:6, Micah 2:11; Micah 3:5, Micah 3:11); and as the former had to announce to both kingdoms the judgment that would come upon them on account of their sins, so has also the latter; and he does it by frequently referring to the prophecy of the elder Micah, not only by designating the false prophets as those who walk after the rūăch and lie, sheqer (Micah 2:11), which recals to mind the rūăch sheqer of the prophets of Ahab (1 Kings 22:22-23), but also in his use of the figures of the horn of iron in Micah 4:13 (compare the horns of iron of the false prophet Zedekiah in 1 Kings 22:11), and of the smiting upon the cheek in Micah 5:1 (compare 1 Kings 22:14). ‛Ammı̄m kullâm does not mean all the tribes of Israel; still less does it mean warlike nations. ‛Ammı̄m never has the second meaning, and the first it has only in the primitive language of the Pentateuch. But here both these meanings are precluded by the parallel ארץ וּמלאהּ; for this expression invariably signifies the whole earth, with that which fills it, except in such a case as Jeremiah 8:16, where 'erets is restricted to the land of Israel by the preceding hâ'ârets, or Ezekiel 12:19, where it is so restricted by the suffix 'artsâh. The appeal to the earth and its fulness is similar to the appeals to the heaven and the earth in Isaiah 1:2 and Deuteronomy 32:1. All nations, yea the whole earth, and all creatures upon it, are to hear, because the judgment which the prophet has to announce to Israel affects the whole earth (Micah 1:3, Micah 1:4), the judgment upon Israel being connected with the judgment upon all nations, or forming a portion of that judgment. In the second clause of the verse, "the Lord Jehovah be witness against you," it is doubtful who is addressed in the expression "against you." The words cannot well be addressed to all nations and to the earth, because the Lord only rises up as a witness against the man who has despised His word and transgressed His commandments. For being a witness is not equivalent to witnessing or giving testimony by words, - say, for example, by the admonitory and corrective address of the prophet which follows, as C. B. Michaelis supposes, - but refers to the practical testimony given by the Lord in the judgment (Micah 1:3 ff), as in Malachi 3:5 and Jeremiah 42:5. Now, although the Lord is described as the Judge of the world in Micah 1:3 and Micah 1:4, yet, according to Micah 1:5., He only comes to execute judgment upon Israel. Consequently we must refer the words "to you" to Israel, or rather to the capitals Samaria and Jerusalem mentioned in Micah 1:1, just as in Nahum 1:8 the suffix simply refers to the Nineveh mentioned in the heading, to which there has been no further allusion in Nahum 1:2-7. This view is also favoured by the fact that Micah summons all nations to hear his word, in the same sense as his earlier namesake in 1 Kings 22:28. What the prophet announces in word, the Lord will confirm by deed, - namely, by executing the predicted judgment, - and indeed "the Lord out of His holy temple," i.e., the heaven where He is enthroned (Psalm 11:4); for (1 Kings 22:3) the Lord will rise up from thence, and striding over the high places of the earth, i.e., as unbounded Ruler of the world (cf. Amos 4:13 and Deuteronomy 32:13), will come down in fire, so that the mountains melt before Him, that is to say, as Judge of the world. The description of this theophany is founded upon the idea of a terrible storm and earthquake, as in Psalm 18:8. The mountains melt (Judges 5:4 and Psalm 68:9) with the streams of water, which discharge themselves from heaven (Judges 5:4), and the valleys split with the deep channels cut out by the torrents of water. The similes, "like wax," etc. (as in Psalm 68:3), and "like water," etc., are intended to express the complete dissolution of mountains and valleys. The actual facts answering to this description are the destructive influences exerted upon nature by great national judgments.
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