Nahum 3


The prophet denounces a wo against Nineveh for her perfidy and

violence. He musters up before our eyes the number of her

chariots and cavalry; points to her burnished arms, and to the

great and unrelenting slaughter which she spreads around her,


Because Nineveh is a city wholly given up to the grossest

superstition, and is an instructress of other nations in

her abominable rites, therefore she shall come to a most

ignominious and unpitied end, 3-7.

Her final ruin shall be similar to that of No, a famous city

of Egypt, 8-11.

The prophet then beautifully describes the great ease with

which the strong holds of Nineveh should be taken, 12,

and her judicial pusillanimity during the siege, 13;

declares that all her preparation, her numbers, opulence, and

chieftains, would be of no avail in the day of the Lord's

vengeance, 14-17;

and that her tributaries would desert her, 18.

The whole concludes with stating the incurableness of her

malady, and the dreadful destruction consequently awaiting her;

and with introducing the nations which she had oppressed as

exulting at her fall, 19.


Verse 1. Wo to the bloody city!] Nineveh: the threatenings

against which are continued in a strain of invective, astonishing

for its richness, variety, and energy. One may hear and see the

whip crack, the horses prancing, the wheels rumbling, the

chariots bounding after the galloping steeds; the reflection

from the drawn and highly polished swords; and the hurled spears,

like flashes of lightning, dazzling the eyes; the slain lying in

heaps, and horses and chariots stumbling over them! O what a

picture, and a true representation of a battle, when one side is

broken, and all the cavalry of the conqueror fall in upon them,

hewing them down with their swords, and trampling them to pieces

under the hoofs of their horses! O! infernal war! Yet sometimes

thou art the scourge of the Lord.

Verse 4. Because of the multitude of the whoredoms] Above, the

Ninevites were represented under the emblem of a lion tearing all

to pieces; here they are represented under the emblem of a

beautiful harlot or public prostitute, enticing all men to her,

inducing the nations to become idolatrous, and, by thus perverting

them, rendering them also objects of the Divine wrath.

Mistress of witchcrafts, that selleth nations through her

whoredoms] Using every means to excite to idolatry; and being, by

menace or wiles, successful in all.

Verse 5. I will discover thy skirts upon thy face] It was an

ancient, though not a laudable custom, to strip prostitutes naked,

or throw their clothes over their heads, and expose them to public

view, and public execration. This verse alludes to such a custom.

Verse 6. I will cast abominable filth upon thee] I will set thee

as a gazing-stock. This was a punishment precisely like our

pillory. They put such women in the pillory as a gazing-stock;

and then, children and others threw mud, dirt, and filth of

all kinds at them.

Verse 7. Who will bemoan her?] In such cases, who pities the

delinquent? She has been the occasion of ruin to multitudes, and

now she is deservedly exposed and punished. And so it should be

thought concerning Nineveh.

Verse 8. Art thou better than populous No] No-Ammon, or

Diospolis, in the Delta, on one branch of the Nile. This is

supposed to be the city mentioned by Nahum; and which had been

lately destroyed, probably by the Chaldeans.

The waters round about it] Being situated in the Delta, it had

the fork of two branches of the Nile to defend it by land; and its

barrier or wall was the sea, the Mediterranean, into which these

branches emptied themselves: so that this city, and the place it

stood on, were wholly surrounded by the waters.

Verse 9. Ethiopia and Egypt were her strength] The land of Cush,

not far from Diospolis; for it was in Arabia, on the Red Sea.

Put and Lubim] A part of Africa and Libya, which were all within

reach of forming alliances with No-Ammon or Diospolis.

Verse 10. They cast lots for her honourable men] This refers

still to the city called populous No. And the custom of casting

lots among the commanders, for the prisoners which they had taken,

is here referred to.

Great men were bound in chains] These were reserved to grace the

triumph of the victor.

Verse 12. Thy strong holds] The effects of the consternation

into which the Ninevites were cast by the assault on their city

are here pointed out by a very expressive metaphor; the first-ripe

figs, when at full maturity, fell from the tree with the least

shake; and so, at the first shake or consternation, all the

fortresses of Nineveh were abandoned; and the king, in despair,

burnt himself and household in his own palace.

Verse 13. Thy people-are women] They lost all courage, and made

no resistance. O vere Phrygiae, neque enim Phryges: "Verily, ye

are Phrygian women, not Phrygian men." So said Numanus to the

Trojans. Virg., AEn. ix.

Verse 14. Draw thee waters for the siege] The Tigris ran near to

Nineveh, and here they are exhorted to lay in plenty of fresh

water, lest the siege should last long, and lest the enemy should

cut off this supply.

Go into clay, and tread the mortar] This refers to the manner of

forming bricks anciently in those countries; they digged up the

clay, kneaded it properly by treading, mixed it with straw or

coarse grass, moulded the bricks, and dried them in the sun. I

have now some of the identical bricks, that were brought from this

country, lying before me, and they show all these appearances.

They are compact and very hard, but wholly soluble in water. There

were however others without straw, that seem to have been burnt in

a kiln as ours are. I have also some fragments or bats of these

from Babylon.

Verse 15. Make thyself many as the cankerworm] On the locusts,

and their operations in their various states, see the notes on

Joe 2:2. The multitudes, successive swarms, and devastation

occasioned by locusts, is one of the most expressive similes that

could be used to point out the successive armies and

all-destroying influences of the enemies of Nineveh. The account

of these destroyers from Dr. Shaw, inserted Joe 2:2-11, 20, will

fully illustrate the verses where allusion is made to locusts.

Verse 16. Thou hast multiplied thy merchants] Like Tyre, this

city was a famous resort for merchants; but the multitudes which

were there previously to the siege, like the locusts, took the

alarm, and fled away.

Verse 17. Thy crowned are as the locusts] Thou hast numerous

princes and numerous commanders.

Which camp in the hedges in the cold day] The locusts are said

to lie in shelter about the hedges of fertile spots when the

weather is cold, or during the night; but as soon as the sun

shines out and is hot, they come out to their forage, or take to

their wings.

Verse 18. Thy shepherds slumber] That is, the rulers and

tributary princes, who, as Herodotus informs us, deserted Nineveh

in the day of her distress, and came not forward to her succour.

Diodorus Siculus says, lib. ii., when the enemy shut up the king

in the city, many nations revolted, each going over to the

besiegers, for the sake of their liberty; that the king despatched

messengers to all his subjects, requiring power from them to

succour him; and that he thought himself able to endure the siege,

and remained in expectation of armies which were to be raised

throughout his empire, relying on the oracle that the city would

not be taken till the river became its enemy.

See Clarke on Na 2:6.

Verse 19. There is no healing of thy bruise] Thou shalt never be


All that hear the bruit of thee] The report or account.

Shall clap the hands] Shall exult in thy downfall.

For upon whom hath not thy wickedness passed] Thou hast been a

universal oppressor, and therefore all nations rejoice at thy

fall and utter desolation.

Bp. Newton makes some good remarks on the fall and total ruin of


"What probability was there that the capital city of a great

kingdom, a city which was sixty miles in compass, a city which

contained so many thousand inhabitants, a city which had walls a

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; what probability was there that

such a city should ever be totally destroyed? And yet so totally

was it destroyed that the place is hardly known where it was

situated. What we may suppose helped to complete its ruin and

devastation, was Nebuchadnezzar's enlarging and beautifying

Babylon, soon after Nineveh was taken. From that time no mention

is made of Nineveh by any of the sacred writers; and the most

ancient of the heathen authors, who have occasion to say any thing

about it, speak of it as a city that was once great and

flourishing, but now destroyed and desolate. Great as it was

formerly, so little of it is remaining, that authors are not

agreed even about its situation. From the general suffrage of

ancient historians and geographers, it appears to have been

situated upon the Tigris, though others represent it as placed

upon the Euphrates. Bochart has shown that Herodotus, Diodorus

Siculus, and Ammianus Marcellinus, all three speak differently of

it; sometimes as if situated on the Euphrates, sometimes as if on

the Tigris; to reconcile whom he supposes that there were two

Ninevehs; and Sir John Marsham, that there were three; the Syrian

upon the Euphrates, the Assyrian on the Tigris, and a third built

afterwards 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 was built in the same place as the old

Nineveh, is a question that cannot be decided.

"There is a city at this time called Mosul, situate upon the

western side of the Tigris; and on the opposite eastern shore are

ruins of great extent, which are said to be those of Nineveh.

"Dr. Prideaux, following Thevenot, observes that Mosul is

situated on the west side of the Tigris, where was anciently only

a suburb of the old Nineveh; for the city itself stood on the east

side of the river, where are to be seen some of its ruins of great

extent even to this day. Even the ruins of old Nineveh, as we may

say, have been long ago ruined and destroyed; such an utter end

hath been made of it, and such is the truth of the Divine


"These extraordinary circumstances may strike the reader 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.

'With an overflowing flood will God make an utter end of the place

thereof; he will make an utter end: its place may be sought, but

it shall never be found.' I presume we should look upon such a

prophet as a madman, and show no farther 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, 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 there is no objecting the instability of 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; that the floods

should arise, and the enemies should come; the city should be

overthrown 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 his prophet, and be ready to acknowledge, 'Verily,

this IS the word which the Lord hath spoken; verily, there IS a

God who judgeth the earth?"'-See Bp. Newton, vol. i., dissert. 9.

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