Nahum Chapter Two

 

Read Nahum 2:1-13 – God’s Armies Come Against Nineveh

 

v.1He that dasheth in pieces is come up before thy face: keep the munition, watch the way, make thy loins strong, fortify thy power mightily.”

 

            Nineveh is being given fair warning.  Nineveh will be destroyed by Babylon but in turn Babylon will be destroyed also.  So we’ll compare the prophecies of Nahum and Jeremiah.  God, the one who has the power to dash them “IN PIECES”; is coming before their faces.  Jeremiah tells Babylon in his warning:

 

Jeremiah 50:23How is the hammer of the whole earth cut asunder and broken! how is Babylon become a desolation among the nations!”

 

In Jeremiah God is the “HAMMER OF THE WHOLE EARTH”.  They would be broken, destroyed.  It is thought by some that Nahum is mocking them in many ways.  He tells them “KEEP THE MUNITION”, we would say keep your powder dry; Jeremiah uses similar language against Babylon:

 

Jeremiah 51:11Make bright the arrows; gather the shields: the LORD hath raised up the spirit of the kings of the Medes: for his device is against Babylon, to destroy it; because it is the vengeance of the LORD, the vengeance of his temple.”

 

Nineveh is being told to gather up her weapons, stock up on her munitions, Jeremiah says arrows and shields, because war is coming to them.  They are to girt up their loins, strengthen their city walls, keep watch in the way so they would not be surprised.  Again the similarity between Nahum and Jeremiah:

 

Jeremiah 51:12Set up the standard upon the walls of Babylon, make the watch strong, set up the watchmen, prepare the ambushes: for the LORD hath both devised and done that which he spake against the inhabitants of Babylon.”

 

v.2For the LORD hath turned away the excellency of Jacob, as the excellency of Israel: for the emptiers have emptied them out, and marred their vine branches.”

 

            The ASV reads that “JEHOVAH RESTORETH THE EXCELLENTY OF JACOB” and is probably the more accurate of the translations of this verse.  God has temporarily restored Judah as the representative of all Israel and will restore her fully after her captivity.  The “EMPTIERS” had emptied them out, especially Israel of the northern kingdom as she has been destroyed.  In the words of Hosea as he foretold their punishment:

 

Hosea 10:1Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself: according to the multitude of his fruit he hath increased the altars; according to the goodness of his land they have made goodly images.”

 

God used Assyria for the purpose of destroying Israel and reminding Judah that He has all power over them.  Now God will avenge himself upon Assyria because of her wickedness.

 

v.33The shield of his mighty men is made red, the valiant men are in scarlet: the chariots shall be with flaming torches in the day of his preparation, and the fir trees shall be terribly shaken.”

 

            Here we have prophetic analogy describing the terrors that will be brought against Nineveh.  Commentators differ regarding the details of what each symbol means but not their purpose.  One reports that the red shields represent the blood that the Babylonians would shed in Nineveh, another that their shields were painted red.  One contends that the scarlet apparel presents the bloody work that the Babylonians would do; another that the Babylonians wore scarlet into battle.  Either way it will be a bad day for Nineveh when the chariots of Nebuchadnezzar come against the city.  The mighty men of Assyria, who have subdued kingdoms and nations will tremble like trees in a wind storm.

 

v.4The chariots shall rage in the streets, they shall justle one against another in the broad ways: they shall seem like torches, they shall run like the lightnings.”

 

            As we remember from our study of Jonah Nineveh was a huge city in it’s time.

 

Jonah 3:3So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days’ journey.”

 

No doubt, being an old city, a rich city and the capital of a nation as powerful as Assyria it had broad ways or boulevards that ran through it.  If we have seen the classic movies where chariots are shown raging through city streets this would give us some idea of the havoc that would be raised in Nineveh.  We can picture horses running wild, perhaps in fear, perhaps as the result of the smell of blood, soldiers slashing with swords and other weapons as they pass by, turning to charge again when they have reached some obstacle or turning point.

 

v.5He shall recount his worthies: they shall stumble in their walk; they shall make haste to the wall thereof, and the defence shall be prepared.”

 

            The king of Assyria will make a valiant defense.  He will muster his armies, they will man the walls of Nineveh and all that has been prepared to defend her against her enemies will be called into their places.  But the enemy will be prepared also.  The battering rams and the towers from which archers fought will be put into place.  The walls will be breached, the city will be opened to the onslaught of Babylon and it will be devastated.  No one can stand against Almighty God and his judgment.

 

v.6The gates of the rivers shall be opened, and the palace shall be dissolved.”

 

            One of the sets of gates at Nineveh faced the Tigris River and this is the location that the prophet is making reference to.  They shall be opened, either through being breached by the attacking armies or by betrayal.  The word translated palace can be used to indicate either the palace of a king or the temple of a god.  Either way this most important building will be “DISSOLVED” like a lump of sugar, leveled to the point of being unrecognizable.  In fact, the devastation was so great that in secular history it is said that Alexander the Great stood on the site of Nineveh and did not know that he was at the location of that great city.

 

v.7And Huzzab shall be led away captive, she shall be brought up, and her maids shall lead her as with the voice of doves, tabering upon their breasts.”

 

            Nineveh’s shame will be complete.  Huzzab, is a name that is in contention among commentators.  Some think it represents the queen of Assyria, others a region around the city.  Either way the prophet’s message is that the people of Nineveh will be humiliated and led away captive like any other conquered people.  The principle sound in the city will be that of the voice of doves, mourning, like the sound of the mourning doves that we hear when they are nearby here.  Similar language is found in other prophecies concerning the fate of Israel.

 

Ezekiel 7:16But they that escape of them shall escape, and shall be on the mountains like doves of the valleys, all of them mourning, every one for his iniquity.”

 

As in Ezekiel’s prophecy, those that escape death in the city will spend their days mourning both their end and that of their families, friends and neighbors.

 

v.88But Nineveh is of old like a pool of water: yet they shall flee away. Stand, stand, shall they cry; but none shall look back.”

 

            For many years Nineveh had stood as a great gathering place for people from all over the region and from other parts of the world.  Her population was so great that God described it to Jonah this way:

 

Jonah 4:11And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?”

 

God says that at the time of Jonah, approximately 150 years before her destruction the city numbered “MORE THAN SIXSCORE THOUSAND PERSONS THAT CANNOT DISCERN BETWEEN THEIR RIGHT HAND AND THEIR LEFT HAND…”  This number of more than 120,000 indicates the children of the city that were still too young to know right from left, one indicator of a very large population.  During the intervening years she had grown even more with people moving into her like water running into a pool making it ever larger.  It reminds me of St. Louis and St. Charles counties in Missouri and the tremendous population growth that has occurred there over the past 30 years.  Quiet country lanes are now four lane highways, fields once filled with corn, wheat and other crops grow sub-divisions.  Places that were out in the country where we went to pick strawberries and buy other produce have either disappeared entirely or are now surrounded by cities.

            These thousands upon thousands of people that came to Nineveh that are not killed or captured will flee.  Many were not Assyrians with no allegiance to their rulers, others were captives from other lands brought to the city and they will run away, not looking back.

 

v.9Take ye the spoil of silver, take the spoil of gold: for there is none end of the store and glory out of all the pleasant furniture.

 

            Assyria had conquered and ruled other people for almost 1000 years.  She had amassed great wealth from the spoils of war and the tribute such as Israel and Judah paid.  One example is King Menahem of Israel:

 

II Kings 15:19And Pul the king of Assyria came against the land: and Menahem gave Pul a thousand talents of silver, that his hand might be with him to confirm the kingdom in his hand.”

 

Assyria had also amassed great wealth from the spoils of war, gold, sliver, precious metals, jewels, furniture and many other things from the peoples and cities that she had conquered.  All of that would vanish into the coffers of Babylon, into the possession of the soldiers of Nebuchadnezzar, or be destroyed by war.

 

v.10She is empty, and void, and waste: and the heart melteth, and the knees smite together, and much pain is in all loins, and the faces of them all gather blackness.”

 

            Nineveh will suffer the same fate that Isaiah prophesied that Babylon who conquered her would suffer:

 

Isaiah 13:6-8Howl ye; for the day of the LORD is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty. 7Therefore shall all hands be faint, and every man’s heart shall melt: 8And they shall be afraid: pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them; they shall be in pain as a woman that travaileth: they shall be amazed one at another; their faces shall be as flames.”

 

In their fear they would tremble until their knees would knock together, their spirits and their courage would melt away, their faces would turn as black with the effects of this pain and sorrow as a pot that is used to cook over a fire every day.

 

 

v.11Where is the dwelling of the lions, and the feedingplace of the young lions, where the lion, even the old lion, walked, and the lion’s whelp, and none made them afraid?”

 

            In the latter part of this chapter the prophet turns to another analogy; a symbol of Assyrian might and the icon of their principle god Ishtar, the lion.  The Assyrians considered themselves as fierce as lions in war and we need to consider these last few verse in that context.  So Nineveh was symbolically the dwelling place of lions, the feeding place of young lions where even the old lion and his offspring walked without fear of any man or nation.  They had been like those described by Isaiah:

 

Isaiah 5:29Their roaring shall be like a lion, they shall roar like young lions: yea, they shall roar, and lay hold of the prey, and shall carry it away safe, and none shall deliver it.”

 

            They had “roared” against other peoples for hundreds of years, they had used them for prey, carried away their substance and their people as slaves and no one could do anything about it.  But in Nineveh that will change just as Jerusalem would be changed by the wrath of God:

 

Jeremiah 4:7The lion is come up from his thicket, and the destroyer of the Gentiles is on his way; he is gone forth from his place to make thy land desolate; and thy cities shall be laid waste, without an inhabitant.”

 

v.12The lion did tear in pieces enough for his whelps, and strangled for his lionesses, and filled his holes with prey, and his dens with ravin.”

 

            The “lion” of Assyria had indeed torn in pieces enough for his people to become prosperous, he had fed his “lionesses” and their “whelps”, their women and children from the spoils of war.  He had filled his hiding places and vaults with gold and silver from his conquests and his cities with the “ravin”.  Who can tell me what “ravin” is?  In a common dictionary it means plunder, the spoils of war.

 

v.13Behold, I am against thee, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will burn her chariots in the smoke, and the sword shall devour thy young lions: and I will cut off thy prey from the earth, and the voice of thy messengers shall no more be heard.”

 

            The prophet closes this section with a warning from the source of his condemnation.  God is against them.  They will be like the Canaanites who came against Joshua:

 

Joshua 11:6And the LORD said unto Joshua, Be not afraid because of them: for to morrow about this time will I deliver them up all slain before Israel: thou shalt hough their horses, and burn their chariots with fire.”

 

Assyria’s means of making war will be destroyed, her “young lions”, her soldiers will be killed, she will no longer be allowed to prey upon others on the earth and the messengers that she sent to various kingdoms to extract tribute will no longer be heard.  She will be destroyed totally, utterly removed from the earth.  It is one more reminder of those things which “WERE WRITTEN AFORETIME FOR OUR LEARNING,” (Romans 15:4).

 

Hebrews 10:30-31 “For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people.  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

 

William L. Schwegler; Sunset church of Christ, Shreveport, Louisiana; April 26, 2009