|<< Nahum 1 >>|
Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament
Person of the Prophet. - All that we know of Nahum (Nachūm, i.e., consolation or comforter, consolator, Gr. Ναούμ) is, that he sprang from the place called Elkosh; since the epithet hâ'elqōshı̄, in the heading to his book, is not a patronymic, but the place of his birth. Elkosh is not to be sought for in Assyria, however, viz., in the Christian village of Alkush, which is situated on the eastern side of the Tigris, to the north-west of Khorsabad, two days' journey from Mosul, where the tomb of the prophet Nahum is shown in the form of a simple plaster box of modern style, and which is held in great reverence, as a holy place, by the Christians and Mohammedans of that neighbourhood (see Layard, Nineveh and its Remains, i. 233), as Michaelis, Eichhorn, Ewald, and others suppose. For this village, with its pretended tomb of the prophet, has not the smallest trace of antiquity about it, and is mentioned for the first time by a monk of the sixteenth century, in a letter to Assemani (Biblioth. or. i. 525, iii. 1, p. 352). Now, as a tomb of the prophet Jonah is also shown in the neighbourhood of Nineveh, the assumption is a very natural one, that the name Elkush did not come from the village into the book, but passed from the book to the village (Hitzig). The statement of Jerome is older, and much more credible, - namely, that "Elkosh was situated in Galilee, since there is to the present day a village in Galilee called Helcesaei (others Helcesei, Elcesi), a very small one indeed, and containing in its ruins hardly any traces of ancient buildings, but one which is well known to the Jews, and was also pointed out to me by my guide," - inasmuch as he does not simply base his statement upon the word of his guide, but describes the place as well known to the Jews. This Jewish tradition of the birth of Nahum in the Galilaean Elkosh, or Ἐλκεσέ, is also supported by Cyril of Alex., Ps. Epiphanius, and Ps. Dorotheus, although the more precise accounts of the situation of the place are confused and erroneous in the two last named. We have indeed no further evidence that Nahum sprang out of Galilee. The name of the Elkesaites furnishes just as little proof of the existence of a place called Elkosh, as the name Capernaum, i.e., village of Nahum, of the fact that our prophet lived there. Whether the sect of the Elkesaites really derived their name from a founder named Elxai or Elkesai, is just as questionable as the connection between this Elxai and the place called Elkosh; and the conjecture that Capernaum received its name from our prophet is altogether visionary. But Jerome's statement is quite sufficient, since it is confirmed by the contents of Nahum's prophecy. Ewald indeed imagines that he can see very clearly, from the general colouring of the little book, that Nahum did not live in Palestine, by in Assyria, and must have seen with his own eyes the danger which threatened Nineveh, from an invasion by powerful foes, as being one of the descendants of the Israelites who had formerly been transported to Assyria. "It moves," he says, "for example, round about Nineveh only, and that with a fulness such as we do not find in any other prophecy relating to a foreign nation; and it is quite in a casual manner that it glances at Judah in Nahum 1:13-2:3. There is not a single trace of its having been written by Nahum in Judah; on the contrary, it follows most decidedly, from the form given to the words in Nahum 2:1 (Nahum 1:15), compared with Isaiah 52:7, that he was prophesying at a great distance from Jerusalem and Judah." But why should not an earlier prophet, who lived in the kingdom of Israel or that of Judah, have been able to utter a special prophecy concerning Nineveh, in consequence of a special commission from God? Moreover, it is not merely in a casual manner that Nahum glances at Judah; on the contrary, his whole prophecy is meant for Judah; and his glance at Judah, notwithstanding its brevity, assumes, as Umbreit has correctly observed, a very important and central position. And the assertion, that there is not a single trace in the whole prophecy of Nahum's having been in Judah, has been contested with good reason by Maurer, Hitzig, and others, who appeal to Nahum 1:4 and Nahum 1:13-2:3, where such traces are to be found.
On the other hand, if the book had been written by a prophet living in exile, there would surely be some allusions to the situation and circumstances of the exiles; whereas we look in vain for any such allusions in Nahum. Again, the acquaintance with Assyrian affairs, to which Ewald still further appeals, is not greater than that which might have been possessed by any prophet, or even by any inhabitant of Judah in the time of Hezekiah, after the repeated invasions of Israel and Judah by the Assyrians. "The liveliness of the description runs through the whole book. Ch. Nahum 1:2-14 is not less lively than Nahum 2:1-13; and yet no one would infer from the former that Nahum must have seen with his own eyes all that he sets before our eyes in so magnificent a picture in Nahum 1:2." (Ngelsbach; Herzog's Cycl.) It is not more a fact that "Nah 2:6 contains such special acquaintance with the locality of Nineveh, as could only be derived from actual inspection," than that "Nah 2:7 contains the name of the Assyrian queen (Huzzab)." Moreover, of the words that are peculiar to our prophet, taphsar (Nahum 3:17) is the only one that is even probably Assyrian; and this is a military term, which the Judaeans in Palestine may have heard from Assyrians living there. The rest of the supposed Aramaeisms, such as the suffixes in גּבּוריהוּ (Nahum 2:4) and מלאככה (Nahum 2:13), and the words גהג, to sigh equals הגה (Nahum 2:8), דּהר (Nahum 3:2), and פּלדות (Nahum 2:4), may be accounted for from the Galilaean origin of the prophet. Consequently there is no tenable ground whatever for the assumption that Nahum 54ed in exile, and uttered his prophecy in the neighbourhood of Nineveh. There is much greater reason for inferring, from the many points of coincidence between Nahum and Isaiah, that he was born in Galilee during the Assyrian invasions, and that he emigrated to Judaea, where he lived and prophesied. Nothing whatever is known of the circumstances of his life. The notices in Ps. Epiphan. concerning his miracles and his death (see O. Strauss, Nahumi de Nino vaticin. expl. p. xii.f.) can lay no claim to truth. Even the period of his life is so much a matter of dispute, that some suppose him to have prophesied under Jehu and Jehoahaz, whilst others believe that he did not prophesy till the time of Zedekiah; at the same time it is possible to decide this with tolerable certainty from the contents of the book.
2. The Book of Nahum contains one extended prophecy concerning Nineveh, in which the ruin of that city and of the Assyrian world-power is predicted in three strophes, answering to the division into chapters; viz., in Nahum 1:1-15 the divine purpose to inflict judgment upon this oppressor of Israel; in Nahum 2:1-13 the joyful news of the conquest, plundering, and destruction of Nineveh; and in ch. 3 its guilt and its inevitable ruin. These are all depicted with pictorial liveliness and perspicuity. Now, although this prophecy neither closes with a Messianic prospect, nor enters more minutely into the circumstances of the Israelitish kingdom of God in general, it is rounded off within itself, and stands in such close relation to Judah, that it may be called a prophecy of consolation for that kingdom. The fall of the mighty capital of the Assyrian empire, that representative of the godless and God-opposing power of the world, which sought to destroy the Israelitish kingdom of God, was not only closely connected with the continuance and development of the kingdom of God in Judah, but the connection is very obvious in Nahum's prophecy. Even in the introduction (Nahum 1:2.) the destruction of Nineveh is announced as a judgment, which Jehovah, the zealous God and avenger of evil, executes, and in which He proves Himself a refuge to those who trust in Him (Nahum 1:7). But "those who trust in Him" are not godly Gentiles here; they are rather the citizens of His kingdom, viz., the Judaeans, upon whom Asshur had laid the yoke of bondage, which Jehovah would break (Nahum 1:13), so that Judah could keep feasts and pay its vows to Him (Nahum 1:15). On the destruction of Nineveh the Lord returns to the eminence of Israel, which the Assyrians have overthrown (Nahum 2:2). Consequently Nineveh is to fall, and an end is to be put to the rule and tyranny of Asshur, that the glory of Israel may be restored.
The unity and integrity of the prophecy are not open to any well-founded objection. It is true that Eichhorn, Ewald, and De Wette, have questioned the genuineness of the first part of the heading (the Massâ' of Nineveh), but without sufficient reason, as even Hitzig observes. For there is nothing that can possibly astonish us in the fact that the object of the prophecy is mentioned first, and then the author. Moreover, the words משּׂא נינוה cannot possibly have been added at a later period, because the whole of the first half of the prophecy would be unintelligible without them; since Nineveh is not mentioned by name till Nahum 2:8, and yet the suffix attached to מקומהּ in Nahum 1:8 refers to Nineveh, and requires the introduction of the name of that city in the heading. There is just as little force in the arguments with which Hitzig seeks to prove that the allusion to the conquest of No-amon in Nahum 3:8-10 is a later addition. For the assertion that, if an Assyrian army had penetrated to Upper Egypt and taken that city, Nahum, when addressing Nineveh, could not have related to the Assyrians what had emanated from themselves, without at least intimating this, would obviously be well founded only on the supposition that the words "Art thou better than No-amon," etc., could be taken quite prosaically as news told to the city of Nineveh, and loses all its force, when we see that this address is simply a practical turn, with which Nahum describes the fate of No-amon not to the Ninevites, but to the Judaeans, as a practical proof that even the mightiest and most strongly fortified city could be conquered and fall, when God had decreed its ruin. From the lively description of this occurrence, we may also explain the change from the third person to the second in Nahum 3:9, at which Hitzig still takes offence. His other arguments are so subjective and unimportant, that they require no special refutation.
With regard to the date of the composition of our prophecy, it is evident from the contents that it was not written before, but after, the defeat of Sennacherib in front of Jerusalem in the reign of Hezekiah, since that event is not only clearly assumed, but no doubt furnished the occasion for the prophecy. Asshur had overrun Judah (Nahum 1:15), and had severely afflicted it (Nahum 1:9, Nahum 1:12), yea plundered and almost destroyed it (Nahum 2:2). Now, even if neither the words in Nahum 1:11, "There is one come out of thee, who imagined evil against Jehovah," etc., nor those of Nahum 1:12, according to the correct interpretation, contain any special allusion to Sennacherib and his defeat, and if it is still less likely that Nahum 1:14 contains an allusion to his death or murder (Isaiah 37:38), yet the affliction (tsârâh) which Assyria had brought upon Judah (Nahum 1:9), and the invasion of Judah mentioned in Nahum 1:15 and Nahum 2:2, can only refer to Sennacherib's expedition, since he was the only one of all the kings of Assyria who so severely oppressed Judah as to bring it to the very verge of ruin. Moreover, Nahum 2:13, "The voice of thy messengers shall no more be heard," is peculiarly applicable to the messengers whom Sennacherib sent to Hezekiah, according to Isaiah 36:13. and Isaiah 37:9., to compel the surrender of Jerusalem and get Judah completely into his power. But if this is established, it cannot have been a long time after the defeat of Sennacherib before Jerusalem, when Nahum prophesied; not only because that event was thoroughly adapted to furnish the occasion for such a prophecy as the one contained in our prophet's book, and because it was an omen of the future and final judgment upon Asshur, but still more, because the allusions to the affliction brought upon Judah by Sennacherib are of such a kind that it must have still continued in the most vivid recollection of the prophet and the men of his time. We cannot do anything else, therefore, than subscribe to the view expressed by Vitringa, viz., that "the date of Nahum must be fixed a very short time after Isaiah and Micah, and therefore in the reign of Hezekiah, not only after the carrying away of the ten tribes, but also after the overthrow of Sennacherib (Nahum 1:11, Nahum 1:13), from which the argument of the prophecy is taken, and the occasion for preaching the complete destruction of Nineveh and the kingdom of Assyria" (Typ. doctr. prophet. p. 37). The date of the composition of our book cannot be more exactly determined. The assumption that it was composed before the murder of Sennacherib, in the temple of his god Nisroch (Isaiah 37:38; 2 Kings 19:37), has no support in Nahum 1:14. And it is equally impossible to infer from Nahum 1:13 and Nahum 1:15 that our prophecy was uttered in the reign of Manasseh, and occasioned by the carrying away of the king to Babylon (2 Chronicles 33:11).
The relation which exists between this prophecy and those of Isaiah is in the most perfect harmony with the composition of the former in the second half of the reign of Hezekiah. The resemblances which we find between Nahum 3:5 and Isaiah 47:2-3; Isaiah 3:7, Isaiah 3:10 and Isaiah 51:19-20, Nahum 1:15 and Isaiah 52:1 and Isaiah 52:7, are of such a nature that Isaiah could just as well have alluded to Nahum as Nahum to Isaiah. If Nahum composed his prophecy not long after the overthrow of Sennacherib, we must assume that the former was the case. The fact that in Nahum 1:8, Nahum 1:13 and Nahum 3:10 there are resemblances to Isaiah 10:23, Isaiah 10:27 and Isaiah 13:16, where our prophet is evidently the borrower, furnishes no decisive proof to the contrary. For the relation in which prophets who lived and laboured at the same time stood to one another was one of mutual giving and receiving; so that it cannot be immediately inferred from the fact that our prophet made use of a prophecy of his predecessor for his own purposes, that he must have been dependent upon him in all his kindred utterances. When, on the other hand, Ewald and Hitzig remove our prophecy to a much later period, and place it in the time of the later Median wars with Assyria, either the time of Phraortes (Herod. i. 102), or that of Cyaxares and his first siege of Nineveh (Herod. i. 103), they found this opinion upon the unscriptural assumption that it was nothing more than a production of human sagacity and political conjecture, which could only have been uttered "when a threatening expedition against Nineveh was already in full operation" (Ewald), and when the danger which threatened Nineveh was before his eyes-a view which has its roots in the denial of the supernatural character of the prophecy, and is altogether destitute of any solid foundation.
The style of our prophet is not inferior to the classical style of Isaiah and Micah, either in power and originality of thought, or in clearness and purity of form; so that, as R. Lowth (De sacr. posi Hebr. 281) has aptly observed, ex omnibus minoribus prophetis nemo videtur aequare sublimitatem, ardorem et audaces spiritus Nahumi; whereas Ewald, according to his preconceived opinion as to the prophet's age, "no longer finds in this prophet, who already formed one of the later prophets, so much inward strength, or purity and fulness of thought." For the exegetical writings on the book of Nahum, see my Lehrbuch der Einleitung, 299, 300.
Judgment upon Nineveh Decreed by God - Nahum 1:1-15
Jehovah, the jealous God and avenger of evil, before whose manifestation of wrath the globe trembles (Nahum 1:2-6), will prove Himself a strong tower to His own people by destroying Nineveh (Nahum 1:7-11), since He has determined to break the yoke which Asshur has laid upon Judah, and to destroy this enemy of His people (Nahum 1:12-14).
1The burden of Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite.
The heading runs thus: "Burden concerning Nineveh; book of the prophecy of Nahum of Elkosh." The first sentence gives the substance and object, the second the form and author, of the proclamation which follows. משּׂא signifies a burden, from נשׂא, to lift up, to carry, to heave. This meaning has very properly been retained by Jonathan, Aquila, Jerome, Luther, and others, in the headings to the prophetic oracle. Jerome observes on Habakkuk 1:1 : "Massa never occurs in the title, except when it is evidently grave and full of weight and labour." On the other hand, the lxx have generally rendered it λῆμμα in the headings to the oracles, or even ὅρασις, ὅραμα, ῥῆμα (Isaiah 13ff., Isaiah 30:6); and most of the modern commentators since Cocceius and Vitringa, following this example, have attributed to the word the meaning of "utterance," and derived it from נשׂא, effari. But נשׂא has no more this meaning than נשׂא קול can mean to utter the voice, either in Exodus 20:7 and Exodus 23:1, to which Hupfeld appeals in support of it, or in 2 Kings 9:25, to which others appeal. The same may be said of משּׂא, which never means effatum, utterance, and is never placed before simple announcements of salvation, but only before oracles of a threatening nature. Zechariah 9:1 and Zechariah 12:1 form no exception to this rule. Delitzsch (on Isaiah 13:1) observes, with regard to the latter passage, that the promise has at least a dark foil, and in Nahum 9:1ff. the heathen nations of the Persian and Macedonian world-monarchy are threatened with a divine judgment which will break in pieces their imperial glory, and through which they are to be brought to conversion to Jehovah; "and it is just in this that the burden consists, which the word of God lays upon these nations, that they may be brought to conversion through such a judgment from God" (Kliefoth). Even in Proverbs 30:1 and Proverbs 31:1 Massâ' does not mean utterance. The words of Agur in Proverbs 30:1 are a heavy burden, which is rolled upon the natural and conceited reason; they are punitive in their character, reproving human forwardness in the strongest terms; and in Proverbs 31:1 Massâ' is the discourse with which king Lemuel reproved his mother. For the thorough vindication of this meaning of Massâ', by an exposition of all the passages which have been adduced in support of the rendering "utterance," see Hengstenberg, Christology, on Zechariah 9:1, and O. Strauss on this passage. For Nineveh, see the comm. on Jonah 1:2. The burden, i.e., the threatening words, concerning Nineveh are defined in the second clause as sēpher châzōn, book of the seeing (or of the seen) of Nahum, i.e., of that which Nahum saw in spirit and prophesied concerning Nineveh. The unusual combination of sēpher and châzōn, which only occurs here, is probably intended to show that Nahum simply committed his prophecy concerning Nineveh to writing, and did not first of all announce it orally before the people. On hâ'elqōshı̄ (the Elkoshite), see the Introduction.
2God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies.
The description of the divine justice, and its judicial manifestation on the earth, with which Nahum introduces his prophecy concerning Nineveh, has this double object: first of all, to indicate the connection between the destruction of the capital of the Assyrian empire, which is about to be predicted, and the divine purpose of salvation; and secondly, to cut off at the very outset all doubt as to the realization of this judgment. Nahum 1:2. "A God jealous and taking vengeance is Jehovah; an avenger is Jehovah, and Lord of wrathful fury; an avenger is Jehovah to His adversaries, and He is One keeping wrath to His enemies. Nahum 1:3. Jehovah is long-suffering and of great strength, and He does not acquit of guilt. Jehovah, His way is in the storm and in the tempest, and clouds are the dust of His feet." The prophecy commences with the words with which God expresses the energetic character of His holiness in the decalogue (Exodus 20:5, cf. Exodus 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24; Deuteronomy 5:9; and Joshua 24:19), where we find the form קנּוא for קנּא. Jehovah is a jealous God, who turns the burning zeal of His wrath against them that hate Him (Deuteronomy 6:15). His side of the energy of the divine zeal predominates here, as the following predicate, the three-times repeated נקם, clearly shows. The strengthening of the idea of nōqēm involved in the repetition of it three times (cf. Jeremiah 7:4; Jeremiah 22:29), is increased still further by the apposition ba'al chēmâh, possessor of the wrathful heat, equivalent to the wrathful God (cf. Proverbs 29:22; Proverbs 22:24). The vengeance applies to His adversaries, towards whom He bears ill-will. Nâtar, when predicated of God, as in Leviticus 19:18 and Psalm 103:9, signifies to keep or bear wrath. God does not indeed punish immediately; He is long-suffering (ארך אפּים, Exodus 34:6; Numbers 14:18, etc.). His long-suffering is not weak indulgence, however, but an emanation from His love and mercy; for He is gedōl-kōăch, great in strength (Numbers 14:17), and does not leave unpunished (נקּה וגו after Exodus 34:7 and Numbers 14:18; see at Exodus 20:7). His great might to punish sinners, He has preserved from of old; His way is in the storm and tempest. With these words Nahum passes over to a description of the manifestations of divine wrath upon sinners in great national judgments which shake the world (שׂערה as in Job 9:17 equals סערה, which is connected with סוּפה in Isaiah 29:6 and Psalm 83:16). These and similar descriptions are founded upon the revelations of God, when bringing Israel out of Egypt, and at the conclusion of the covenant at Sinai, when the Lord came down upon the mountain in clouds, fire, and vapour of smoke (Exodus 19:16-18). Clouds are the dust of His feet. The Lord comes down from heaven in the clouds. As man goes upon the dust, so Jehovah goes upon the clouds.
3The LORD is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked: the LORD hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.
4He rebuketh the sea, and maketh it dry, and drieth up all the rivers: Bashan languisheth, and Carmel, and the flower of Lebanon languisheth.
"He threateneth the sea, and drieth it up, and maketh all the rivers dry up. Bashan and Carmel fade, and the blossom of Lebanon fadeth. Nahum 1:5. Mountains shake before Him, and the hills melt away; the earth heaveth before Him, and the globe, and all the inhabitants thereon. Nahum 1:6. Before His fury who may stand? and who rise up at the burning of His wrath? His burning heat poureth itself out like fire, and the rocks are rent in pieces by Him." In the rebuking of the sea there is an allusion to the drying up of the Red Sea for the Israelites to pass through (cf. Psalm 106:9); but it is generalized here, and extended to every sea and river, which the Almighty can smite in His wrath, and cause to dry up. ויּבּשׁהוּ for וייבּשׁהוּ, the vowelless י of the third pers. being fused into one with the first radical sound, as in ויּדּוּ in Lamentations 3:53 (cf. Ges. 69, Anm. 6, and Ewald 232-3). Bashan, Carmel, and Lebanon are mentioned as very fruitful districts, abounding in a vigorous growth of vegetation and large forests, the productions of which God could suddenly cause to fade and wither in His wrath. Yea more: the mountains tremble and the hills melt away (compare the similar description in Micah 1:4, and the explanation given there). The earth lifts itself, i.e., starts up from its place (cf. Isaiah 13:13), with everything that dwells upon the surface of the globe. תּשּׂא from נשׂא, used intransitively, "to rise," as in Psalm 89:10 and Hosea 13:1; not conclamat s. tollit vocem (J. H. Michaelis, Burk, Strauss). תּבל, lit., the fertile globe, always signifies the whole of the habitable earth, ἡ οἰκουμένη; and יושׁבי בהּ, not merely the men (Ewald), but all living creatures (cf. Joel 1:18, Joel 1:20). No one can stand before such divine wrath, which pours out like consuming fire (Deuteronomy 4:24), and rends rocks in pieces (1 Kings 19:11; Jeremiah 23:29; cf. Jeremiah 10:10; Malachi 3:2).
5The mountains quake at him, and the hills melt, and the earth is burned at his presence, yea, the world, and all that dwell therein.
6Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? his fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him.
7The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.
But the wrath of God does not fall upon those who trust in the Lord; it only falls upon His enemies. With this turn Nahum prepares the way in Nahum 1:7. for proclaiming the judgment of wrath upon Nineveh. Nahum 1:7. "Good is Jehovah, a refuge in the day of trouble; and He knoweth those who trust in Him. Nahum 1:8. And with an overwhelming flood will He make an end of her place, and pursue His enemies into darkness." Even in the manifestation of His wrath God proves His goodness; for the judgment, by exterminating the wicked, brings deliverance to the righteous who trust in the Lord, out of the affliction prepared for them by the wickedness of the world. The predicate טוב is more precisely defined by the apposition למעוז וגו, for a refuge equals a refuge in time of trouble. The goodness of the Lord is seen in the fact that He is a refuge in distress. The last clause says to whom: viz., to those who trust in Him. They are known by Him. "To know is just the same as not to neglect; or, expressed in a positive form, the care or providence of God in the preservation of the faithful" (Calvin). For the fact, compare Psalm 34:9; Psalm 46:2; Jeremiah 16:19. And because the Lord is a refuge to His people, He will put an end to the oppressor of His people, viz., Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian empire, and that with an overwhelming flood. Sheteph, overwhelming, is a figure denoting the judgment sweeping over a land or kingdom, through the invasion of hostile armies (cf. Isaiah 8:7; Daniel 11:26, Daniel 11:40). עבר, overflowed by a river (cf. Isaiah 8:8; Habakkuk 3:10; Daniel 11:40). עשׂה כלה, to put an end to anything, as in Isaiah 10:23. מקומהּ is the accusative of the object: make her place a vanishing one. כּלה, the fem. of כּלה, an adjective in a neuter sense, that which is vanishing away. The suffix in מקומהּ refers to Nineveh in the heading (Nahum 1:1): either Nineveh personified as a queen (Nahum 2:7; Nahum 3:4), is distinguished from her seat (Hitzig); or what is much more simple, the city itself is meant, and "her place" is to be understood in this sense, that with the destruction of the city even the place where it stood would cease to be the site of a city, with which March aptly compares the phrase, "its place knoweth man no more" (Job 7:10; Job 8:18; Job 20:9). איביו are the inhabitants of Nineveh, or the Assyrians generally, as the enemies of Israel. ירדּף־חשׁך, not darkness will pursue its enemies; for this view is irreconcilable with the makkeph: but to pursue with darkness, chōshekh being an accusative either of place or of more precise definition, used in an instrumental sense. The former is the simpler view, and answers better to the parallelism of the clauses. As the city is to vanish and leave no trace behind, so shall its inhabitants perish in darkness.
8But with an overrunning flood he will make an utter end of the place thereof, and darkness shall pursue his enemies.
9What do ye imagine against the LORD? he will make an utter end: affliction shall not rise up the second time.
The reason for all this is assigned in Nahum 1:9. Nahum 1:9. "What think ye of Jehovah? He makes an end; the affliction will not arise twice. Nahum 1:10. For though they be twisted together like thorns, and as if intoxicated with their wine, they shall be devoured like dry stubble. Nahum 1:11. From thee has one come out, who meditated evil against Jehovah, who advised worthlessness." The question in Nahum 1:9 is not addressed to the enemy, viz., the Assyrians, as very many commentators suppose: "What do ye meditate against Jehovah?" For although châshabh 'el is used in Hosea 7:15 for a hostile device with regard to Jehovah, the supposition that 'el is used here for ‛al, according to a later usage of the language, is precluded by the fact that חשׁב על is actually used in this sense in Nahum 1:11. Moreover, the last clause does not suit this view of the question. The word, "the affliction will not stand up, or not rise up a second time," cannot refer to the Assyrians, or mean that the infliction of a second judgment upon Nineveh will be unnecessary, because the city will utterly fall to the ground in the first judgment, and completely vanish from the earth (Hitzig). For צרה points back to בּיום צרה, and therefore must be the calamity which has fallen upon Judah, or upon those who trust in the Lord, on the part of Nineveh or Asshur (Marck, Maurer, and Strauss). This is confirmed by Nahum 1:11 and Nahum 1:15, where this thought is definitely expressed. Consequently the question, "What think ye with regard to Jehovah?" can only be addressed to the Judaeans, and must mean, "Do ye think that Jehovah cannot or will not fulfil His threat upon Nineveh?" (Cyr., Marck, Strauss). The prophet addresses these words to the anxious minds, which were afraid of fresh invasions on the part of the Assyrians. To strengthen their confidence, he answers the question proposed, by repeating the thought expressed in Nahum 1:8. He (Jehovah) is making an end, sc. of the enemy of His people; and he gives a further reason for this in Nahum 1:10. The participial clauses עד סירים to סבוּאים are to be taken conditionally: are (or were) they even twisted like thorns. עד סירים, to thorns equals as thorns (עד is given correctly by J. H. Michaelis: eo usque ut spinas perplexitate aequent; compare Ewald, 219). The comparison of the enemy to thorns expresses "firmatum callidumque nocendi studium" (Marck), and has been well explained by Ewald thus: "crisp, crafty, and cunning; so that one would rather not go near them, or have anything to do with them" (cf. 2 Samuel 23:6 and Micah 7:4). כּסבאם סבוּאים, not "wetted like their wet" (Hitzig), nor "as it were drowned in wine, so that fire can do no more harm to them than to anything else that is wet" (Ewald); for סבא neither means to wet nor to drown, but to drink, to carouse; and סבוּא means drunken, intoxicated. סבא is strong unmixed wine (see Delitzsch on Isaiah 1:22). "Their wine" is the wine which they are accustomed to drink. The simile expresses the audacity and hardiness with which the Assyrians regarded themselves as invincible, and applies very well to the gluttony and revelry which prevailed at the Assyrian court; even if the account given by Diod. Sic. (ii. 26), that when Sardanapalus had three times defeated the enemy besieging Nineveh, in his great confidence in his own good fortune, he ordered a drinking carousal, in the midst of which the enemy, who had been made acquainted with the fact, made a fresh attack, and conquered Nineveh, rests upon a legendary dressing up of the facts. אכּלוּ, devoured by fire, is a figure signifying utter destruction; and the perfect is prophetic, denoting what will certainly take place. Like dry stubble: cf. Isaiah 5:24; Isaiah 47:14, and Joel 2:5. מלא is not to be taken, as Ewald supposes (279, a), as strengthening יבשׁ, "fully dry," but is to be connected with the verb adverbially, and is simply placed at the end of the sentence for the sake of emphasis (Ges., Maurer, and Strauss). This will be the end of the Assyrians, because he who meditates evil against Jehovah has come forth out of Nineveh. In ממּך Nineveh is addressed, the representative of the imperial power of Assyria, which set itself to destroy the Israelitish kingdom of God. It might indeed be objected to this explanation of the verse, that the words in Nahum 1:12 and Nahum 1:13 are addressed to Zion or Judah, whereas Nineveh or Asshur is spoken of both in what precedes (Nahum 1:8 and Nahum 1:10) and in what follows (Nahum 1:12) in the third person. On this ground Hoelem. and Strauss refer ממּך also to Judah, and adopt this explanation: "from thee (Judah) will the enemy who has hitherto oppressed thee have gone away" (taking יצא as fut. exact., and יצא מן as in Isaiah 49:17). But this view does not suit the context. After the utter destruction of the enemy has been predicted in Nahum 1:10, we do not expect to find the statement that it will have gone away from Judah, especially as there is nothing said in what precedes about any invasion of Judah. The meditation of evil against Jehovah refers to the design of the Assyrian conquerors to destroy the kingdom of God in Israel, as the Assyrian himself declares in the blasphemous words which Isaiah puts into the mouth of Rabshakeh (Isaiah 36:14-20), to show the wicked pride of the enemy. This address merely expresses the feeling cherished at all times by the power of the world towards the kingdom of God. It is in the plans devised for carrying this feeling into action that the יעץ בּליּעל, the advising of worthlessness, consists. This is the only meaning that בּליּעל has, not that of destruction.
10For while they be folden together as thorns, and while they are drunken as drunkards, they shall be devoured as stubble fully dry.
11There is one come out of thee, that imagineth evil against the LORD, a wicked counseller.
12Thus saith the LORD; Though they be quiet, and likewise many, yet thus shall they be cut down, when he shall pass through. Though I have afflicted thee, I will afflict thee no more.
The power of Nineveh will be destroyed, to break the yoke laid upon Judah. Nahum 1:12. "Thus saith Jehovah, Though they be unconsumed, and therefore numerous, yet are they thus mowed down, and have passed away. I have bowed thee down, I will bow thee down no more. Nahum 1:13. And now shall I break his yoke from off thee, and break thy fetters in pieces. Nahum 1:14. And Jehovah hath given commandment concerning thee, no more of thy name will be sown: from the house of thy God I cut off graven image and molten work: I prepare thy grave; for thou art found light." To confirm the threat expressed in Nahum 1:8-11, Nahum explains the divine purpose more fully. Jehovah hath spoken: the completeness and strength of her army will be of no help to Nineveh. It is mowed down, because Judah is to be delivered from its oppressor. The words שׁלמים to ועבר refer to the enemy, the warlike hosts of Nineveh, which are to be destroyed notwithstanding their great and full number. Shâlēm, integer, with strength undiminished, both outwardly and inwardly, i.e., both numerous and strong. וכן רבּים, and so, i.e., of such a nature, just because they are of full number, or numerous. וכן נגוזּוּ, and so, i.e., although of such a nature, they will nevertheless be mowed down. גּזז, taken from the mowing of the meadows, is a figure denoting complete destruction. ועבר is not impersonal, actum est, sc. de iis, but signifies it is away, or has vanished. The singular is used with special emphasis, the numerous army being all embraced in the unity of one man: "he paints the whole people as vanishing away, just as if one little man were carried off" (Strauss). With וענּתך the address turns to Judah. The words are not applicable to the Assyrians, to whom Abarbanel, Grotius, Ewald, and Hitzig refer this clause; for Asshur is not only bowed down or chastened, but utterly destroyed. ענּתך refers to the oppression which Judah had suffered from the Assyrians in the time of Ahaz and Hezekiah. This shall not be repeated, as has already been promised in Nahum 1:9. For now will the Lord break the yoke which this enemy has laid upon Judah. ועתּה, but now, is attached adversatively to ענּתך. The suffix to מטהוּ refers to the enemy, which has its seat in Nineveh. For the figure of the yoke, cf. Leviticus 26:13; Jeremiah 27:2; Jeremiah 28:10; Ezekiel 34:27, etc.; and for the fact itself, Isaiah 10:27. The words do not refer to the people of the ten tribes, who were pining like slaves in exile (Hitzig); for Nahum makes no allusion to them at all, but to Judah (cf. Nahum 1:15), upon whom the Assyrians had laid the yoke of tribute from the time of Ahaz. This was first of all shaken off in the reign of Hezekiah, through the overthrow of Sennacherib; but it was not yet completely broken, so long as there was a possibility that Assyria might rise again with new power, as in fact it did in the reign of Manasseh, when Assyrian generals invaded Judah and carried off this king to Babylon (2 Chronicles 33:11). It was only broken when the Assyrian power was overthrown through the conquest and destruction of Nineveh. This view, which is required by the futures 'eshbōr and 'ănattēq, is confirmed by Nahum 1:14, for there the utter extermination of Assyria is clearly expressed. Vetsivvâh is not a perfect with Vav rel.; but the Vav is a simple copula: "and ( equals for) Jehovah has commanded." The perfect refers to the divine purpose, which has already been formed, even though its execution is still in the future. This purpose runs thus: "Of thy seed shall no more be sown, i.e., thou wilt have no more descendants" ("the people and name are to become extinct," Strauss; cf. Isaiah 14:20). It is not the king of Assyria who is here addressed, but the Assyrian power personified as a single man, as we may see from what follows, according to which the idols are to be rooted out along with the seed from the house of God, i.e., out of the idol temples (cf. Isaiah 37:38; Isaiah 44:13). Pesel and massēkhâh are combined, as in Deuteronomy 27:15, to denote every kind of idolatrous image. For the idolatry of Assyria, see Layard's Nineveh and its Remains, ii. p. 439ff. אשׂים קברך cannot mean, "I make the temple of thy god into a grave," although this meaning has already been expressed in the Chaldee and Syriac; and the Masoretic accentuation, which connects the words with what precedes, is also founded upon this view. If an object had to be supplied to אשׂים from the context, it must be pesel ūmassēkhâh; but there would be no sense in "I make thine idol into a grave." There is no other course left, therefore, than to take קברך as the nearest and only object to אשׂים, "I lay, i.e., prepare thy grave," כּי קלּות, because, when weighed according to thy moral worth (Job 31:6), thou hast been found light (cf. Daniel 5:27). Hence the widespread opinion, that the murder of Sennacherib (Isaiah 37:38; 2 Kings 19:37) is predicted here, must be rejected as erroneous and irreconcilable with the words, and not even so far correct as that Nahum makes any allusion to that event. He simply announces the utter destruction of the Assyrian power, together with its idolatry, upon which that power rested. Jehovah has prepared a grave for the people and their idols, because they have been found light when weighed in the balances of righteousness.
13For now will I break his yoke from off thee, and will burst thy bonds in sunder.
14And the LORD hath given a commandment concerning thee, that no more of thy name be sown: out of the house of thy gods will I cut off the graven image and the molten image: I will make thy grave; for thou art vile.
15Behold upon the mountains the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace! O Judah, keep thy solemn feasts, perform thy vows: for the wicked shall no more pass through thee; he is utterly cut off.
Judah hears the glad tidings, that its oppressor is utterly destroyed. A warlike army marches against Nineveh, which that city cannot resist, because the Lord will put an end to the oppression of His people. Nahum 1:15. "Behold, upon the mountains the feet of the messengers of joy, proclaiming salvation! Keep thy feasts, O Judah; pay thy vows: for the worthless one will no more go through thee; he is utterly cut off." The destruction of the Assyrian, announced in Nahum 1:14, is so certain, that Nahum commences the description of its realization with an appeal to Judah, to keep joyful feasts, as the miscreant is utterly cut off. The form in which he utters this appeal is to point to messengers upon the mountains, who are bringing the tidings of peace to the kingdom of Judah. The first clause is applied in Isaiah 52:7 to the description of the Messianic salvation. The messengers of joy appear upon the mountains, because their voice can be heard far and wide from thence. The mountains are those of the kingdom of Judah, and the allusion to the feet of the messengers paints as it were for the eye the manner in which they hasten on the mountains with the joyful news. מבשּׂר is collective, every one who brings the glad tidings. Shâlōm, peace and salvation: here both in one. The summons, to keep feasts, etc., proceeds from the prophet himself, and is, as Ursinus says, "partim gratulatoria, partim exhortatoria." The former, because the feasts could not be properly kept during the oppression by the enemy, or at any rate could not be visited by those who lived at a distance from the temple; the latter, because the chaggı̄m, i.e., the great yearly feasts, were feasts of thanksgiving for the blessings of salvation, which Israel owed to the Lord, so that the summons to celebrate these feasts involved the admonition to thank the Lord for His mercy in destroying the hostile power of the world. This is expressed still more clearly in the summons to pay their vows. בּליּעל, abstract for concrete equals אישׁ בל, as in 2 Samuel 23:6 and Job 34:18. נכרת is not a participle, but a perfect in pause.