Fausset Bible Dictionary
“consolation” and “vengeance”, to Israel and Israel’s foe respectively. The two themes alternate in Nahum 1; as the prophecy advances, vengeance on Assyria predominates.
Country. “The Elkoshite” (Nah_1:1), from Elkosh or Elkesi a village of Galilee pointed out to Jerome (Preface in Nahum). Capernaum, “village of Nahum,” seemingly takes its name from Nahum having resided in the neighbourhood, though born in Elkosh. The allusions in Nahum indicate local acquaintance with Palestine (Nah_1:4; Nah_1:15; Nah_2:2) and only general knowledge of Nineveh (Nah_2:4-6; Nah_3:2-3). This confutes the notion that the Alkush (resembling the name Elkosh), E. of the Tigris and N. of Mosul, is Nahum’s place of birth and of burial, though Jewish pilgrims visit it as such.
DATE. Hezekiah’s time was that in which trust in Jehovah and the observance of the temple feasts prevailed as they did not before or after. So in Nah_1:7; Nah_1:15, “Jehovah is a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knoweth (with approval) them that trust in Him … O Judah, keep thy solemn feasts.” Moreover Nahum has none of the reproofs for national apostasy which abound in the other prophets. Nahum in Elkosh of Galilee was probably among those of northern Israel, after the deportation of the ten tribes, who accepted Hezekiah’s earnest invitation to keep the Passover at Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 30). His graphic description of Sennacherib and his army (2Ch_1:9-12) makes it likely he was near or in Jerusalem at the time.
Hence, the number of phrases corresponding to those of Isaiah (Nah_1:8-9, compare Isa_8:8; Isa_10:23; Nah_2:10 with Isa_24:1; Isa_21:3; Nah_1:15 with Isa_52:7). The prophecy in Nah_1:14, “I will make it (namely, ‘the house of thy gods,’ i.e. Nisroch) thy grave,” foretells Sennacherib’s murder 20 years after his return from Palestine, “as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god” (Isa_37:38). He writes while Assyria’s power was yet unbroken (Nah_1:12; Nah_2:11-13; Nah_3:1, “the bloody city, full of lies … the prey departeth not”: Nah_3:15-17). The correspondence of sentiments in Nahum with those of Isaiah and Hezekiah implies he wrote when Sennacherib was still besieging and demanding the surrender of Jerusalem (Nah_1:2 ff, with 2Ki_19:14-15; Nah_1:7 with 2Ki_18:22; 2Ki_19:19; 2Ki_19:31; 2Ch_32:7-8; Nah_1:9; Nah_1:11 with 2Ki_19:22; 2Ki_19:27-28; Nah_1:14 with 2Ki_19:6-7; Nah_1:15 and Nah_2:1-2 with 2Ki_19:32-33; Nah_2:13, “the voice of thy messengers shall no more be heard,” namely, Rabshakeh the bearer of Sennacherib’s haughty message, with 2Ki_19:22-23).
The historical facts presupposed in Nahum are Judah’s and Israel’s humiliation by Assyria (Nah_2:2); the invasion of Judah (Nah_1:9-11); the conquest of No-Amon or Thebes in Upper Egypt, probably by Sargon (Isaiah 20) who, fearing lest Egypt should join Palestine against him, undertook an expedition against it, 717-715 B.C. (Nah_3:8-10). Tiglath Pileser and Shalmaneser had carried away Israel. Judah was harassed by Syria, and oppressed by Ahaz’s payments to Tiglath Pileser (2 Chronicles 28; Isaiah 8-9). As Nahum refers in part prophetically to Sennacherib’s (Sargon’s successor) last attempt on Judah ending in his host’s destruction, in part as matter of history (Nah_1:9-13; Nah_2:13), he must have prophesied about 713-710 B.C., 100 years before the event foretold, namely, the overthrow of Nineveh by the joint forces of Cyaxares and Nabopolassar in the reign of Chyniladanus, 625 or else 603 B.C.
The name “Huzzab” (Nah_2:7) answers to Adiabene, from the Zab or Diab river on which that region lay; a personification of Assyria, and seems to be an Assyrian word. So the original words, minzaraik, taphsarika, for “crowned” or “princes” (Nah_3:17) and “captains” or “satraps” (also in Jer_51:27); contact with Assyria brought in these words. Nah_2:18, “the faces gather blackness,” corresponds to Isa_13:8; Joe_2:6; Joel is probably the original. Nah_1:6 with Joe_2:7; Amo_2:14; Nah_1:3 with Joe_2:13; the mourning dove, Nah_2:7, with Isa_38:14; the first ripe figs, Nah_3:12, with Isa_28:4; Nah_3:13 with Isa_19:16; Nah_3:4 with Isa_23:15; Nah_2:4-5; Nah_2:14 with Isa_22:7; Isa_36:9; Mic_1:13; Mic_5:10.
The Assyrians, by just retribution, in turn should experience themselves what they caused to Israel and Judah (compare also Nah_1:3 with Jon_4:2; Nah_1:13 with Isa_10:26-27; Nah_1:8 with Isa_10:21-22; Isa_8:8; Nah_1:9; Nah_1:11 with Isa_37:23; Nah_3:10 with Isa_13:16; Nah_2:2 with Isa_24:1; Nah_3:5 with Isa_47:2-3; Nah_3:7 with Isa_51:19). Plainly, Nahum is the last of the prophets of the Assyrian period. Jeremiah borrows from, and so stamps with inspiration, Nahum (Jer_10:19 compare Nah_3:19; Jer_13:26 compare Nah_3:5; Jer_50:37; Jer_51:30, compare Nah_3:13). Nahum is seventh in position in the canon, and seventh in date.
Subject matter. “The burden of Nineveh.” The three chapters form one consecutive whole, remarkable for unity of aim. Nahum encourages his countrymen with the assurance that, alarming as their position seemed, assailed by the mighty foe which had already carried captive the ten tribes, yet that not only should the Assyrian fail against Jerusalem, but Nineveh and his own empire should fall; and this not by chance, but by Jehovah’s judgment for their iniquities.
STYLE. Clear and forcible. Several phases of an idea are presented in the briefest sentences; as in the sublime description of God in the beginning, the overthrow of Nineveh, and that of No Amon. Melting softness and delicacy alternate with rhythmical, sonorous, and majestic diction, according as the subject requires; the very sound of the words conveys to the ear the sense (Nah_2:4; Nah_3:3). Paronomasia or verbal assonance is another feature of likeness to Isaiah, besides those already mentioned (Nah_1:3; Nah_1:6; Nah_1:10; Nah_2:2-3; Nah_2:11; Nah_3:2).
§ 1. The heading of the book. The book has a double title, the first giving the object of the prophecy, which otherwise would not be evident; the second, its author, added to give confidence in its contents. The burden; massa (Hab_1:1)—a term generally used of a weighty, threatening prophecy (Isa_13:1), though translated by the LXX. λῆμμα here, and elsewhere ὄρασις, and ῥῆμα. Some prefer to render it “utterance,” or “oracle.” The word is capable of either meaning. It almost always (except, perhaps, in Zec_12:1) introduces a threat of judgment. Of Nineveh. The denunciation of this city is the object of the prophecy. The effect of Jonah’s preaching had been only temporary; the reformation was partial and superficial; and now God’s long suffering was wearied out, and the time of punishment was to come. (For an account of Nineveh, see note on Jon_1:2.) Some critics have deemed one part of the title an interpolation; but the connection of the two portions is obvious, and without the former we should not know the object of the prophet’s denunciation till Nah_2:8. The book of the vision. This is the second title, in apposition with the former, and defining it more closely as the Book in which was written the prophecy of Nahum. It is called a “vision,” because what the prophet foretold was presented to his mental sight, and stood plainly before him (comp. Isa_1:1). The Elkoshite; i.e. native of Elkosh, for which, see Introduction, § II.
God is jealous and the Lord revengeth – Rather (as the English margin) God “very jealous and avenging is the Lord.” The Name of God, יהוה (YHVH), “He who Is,” the Unchangeable, is thrice repeated, and thrice it is said of Him that He is an Avenger. It shows both the certainty and greatness of the vengeance, and that He who inflicts it, is the All-Holy Trinity, who have a care for the elect. God’s jealousy is twofold. It is an intense love, not bearing imperfections or unfaithfulness in that which It loves, and so chastening it; or not bearing the ill-dealings of those who would injure what It loves, and so destroying them. To Israel He had revealed Himself as “a Exo_20:5-6 jealous God, visiting iniquity but shewing mercy;” here, as jealous for His people against those who were purely His enemies and the enemies of His people (see Zec_1:14), and so His jealousy burns to their destruction, in that there is in them no good to be refined, but only evil to be consumed.
The titles of God rise in awe; first, “intensely jealous” and “an Avenger;” then, “an Avenger and a Lord of wrath;” One who hath it laid up with Him, at His Command, and the more terrible, because it is so; the Master of it, (not, as man, mastered by it; having it, to withhold or to discharge; yet so discharging it, at last, the more irrevocably on the finally impenitent. And this He says at the last, “an Avenger to His adversaries,” (literally, “those who hem and narrow Him in”). The word “avenged” is almost appropriated to God in the Old Testament, as to punishment which He inflicts, or at least causes to be inflicted , whether on individuals Gen_4:15, Gen_4:24; 1Sa_24:12; 2Sa_4:8; 2Ki_9:7; Jer_11:20; Jer_15:15; Jer_20:12, or upon a people, (His own Lev_26:25; Psa_99:8; Eze_24:8 or their enemies Deu_32:41, Deu_32:43; Psa_18:48; Isa_34:8; Isa_35:4; Isa_47:3; Isa_59:17; Isa_61:2; Isa_63:4; Mic_5:14; Jer_46:10; Jer_50:15, Jer_50:28; Jer_51:6, Jer_51:11, Jer_51:36; Eze_25:14, Eze_25:17, for their misdeeds. In the main it is a defect . Personal vengeance is mentioned only in characters, directly or indirectly censured, as Samson Jdg_15:7; Jdg_16:20 or Saul . It is forbidden to man, punished in him, claimed by God as His own inalienable right. “Vengeance is Mine and requital” (Deu_32:35, compare Psa_94:1). “Thou shalt not avenge nor keep up against the children of My people” Lev_19:18. Yet it is spoken of, not as a mere act of God, but as the expression of His Being. “Shall not My soul be avenged of such a nation as this?” Jer_5:9, Jer_5:29; Jer_9:9.
And a Reserver of wrath for His enemies – The hardened and unbelieving who hate God, and at last, when they had finally rejected God and were rejected by Him, the object of His aversion. It is spoken after the manner of men, yet therefore is the more terrible. There is that in God, to which the passions of man correspond; they are a false imitation of something which in Him is good, a distortion of the true likeness of God, in which God created us and whisk man by sin defaced. : “Pride doth imitate exaltedness: whereas Thou Alone art God exalted over all. Ambition, what seeks it, but honors and glory? Whereas Thou alone art to be honored above all and glorious for evermore. The cruelty of the great would fain be feared; but who is to be feared but God alone, out of whose power what can be wrested or withdrawn, when, or where, or whither, or by whom? The tendernesses of the wanton would fain be counted love: yet is nothing more tender than Thy charity; nor is aught loved more healthfully than that Thy truth, bright and beautiful above all. Curiosity makes semblance of a desire of knowledge; whereas Thou supremely knowest all. Yea, ignorance and foolishness itself is cloaked under the name of simplicity and uninjuriousness: because nothing is found more single than Thee; and what less injurious, since they are his own works which injure the sinner?
Yea, sloth would fain be at rest; but what stable rest beside the Lord? Luxury affects to be called plenty and abundance; but Thou art the fullness and never-failing plenteousness of incorruptible pleasures. Prodigality presents a shadow of liberality: but Thou art the most overflowing Giver of all good. Covetousness would possess many things; and Thou possessest all things. Envy disputes for excellency: what more excellent than Thou? Anger seeks revenge: who revenges more justly than Thou? Fear startles at things unaccustomed or sudden, which endanger things beloved, and takes forethought for their safety; but to Thee what unaccustomed or sudden, or who separats from Thee what Thou lovest? Or where but with Thee is unshaken safety? Grief pines away for things lost, the delight of its desires; because it would have nothing taken from it, as nothing can from Thee. Thus doth the soul seek without Thee what she finds not pure and untainted, until she returns to Thee. Thus, all pervertedly imitate Thee, who remove far from Thee, and lift themselves up against Thee. But even by thus imitating Thee, they imply Thee to be the Creator of all nature; whence there is no place, whither altogether to retire from Thee.” And so, in man, the same qualities are good or bad, as they have God or self for their end. : “The joy of the world is a passion. Joy in the Holy Spirit or to joy in the Lord is a virtue. The sorrow of the world is a passion. The sorrow according to God which works salvation is a virtue. The fear of the world which hath torment, from which a man is called fearful, is a passion. The holy tear of the Lord, which abides forever, from which a man is called reverential, is a virtue. The hope of the world, when one’s hope is in the world or the princes of the world, is a passion. Hope in God is a virtue, as well as faith and charity. Though these four human passions are not in God, there are four virtues, having the same names, which no one can have, save from God, from the Spirit of God.” in man they are “passions,” because man is so far “passive” and suffers under them, and, through original sin, cannot hinder having them, though by God’s grace he may hold them in.
God, without passion and in perfect holiness, has qualities, which in man were jealousy, wrath, vengeance, unforgivingness, a “rigor of perfect justice toward the impenitent, which punishes so severely, as though God had fury;” only, in Him it is righteous to punish man’s unrighteousness. Elsewhere it is said, “God keepeth not for ever” Psa_103:9, or it is asked, “will He keep forever?” Jer_3:5, and He answers, “Return, and I will not cause Mine anger to fall upon you, for I am merciful, saith the Lord, I will not keep for ever” Jer_3:12. Man’s misdeeds and God’s displeasure remain with God, to be effaced on man’s repentance, or “by his hardness and impenitent heart man treasureth up unto himself wrath in the day of wrath and of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will reward each according to his works” Rom_2:5-6.
The Prophet goes on with the same subject; and still longer is the preface respecting the nature of God, which however is to be applied, as I have said, to the special objects which hereafter he will state. He says here that God is slow to wrath Though this saying is taken also from Moses yet the Prophet speaks here for the purpose of anticipating an objection; for he obviates the audacity of the ungodly who daringly derided God, when any evil was denounced on them, — Where is the mercy of God? Can God divest himself of his kindness? He cannot deny himself. Thus profane men, under the pretense of honoring God, cast on him the most atrocious slander, for they deprive him of his own power and office: and there is no doubt but that this was commonly done by many of the ungodly in the age of our Prophet. Hence he anticipates this objection, and concedes that God is slow to wrath. There is then a concession here; but at the same time he says that God is great in strength, and this he says, that the ungodly may not flatter and deceive themselves, when they hear these high attributes given to God, that he is patient, slow to wrath, merciful, full of kindness. “Let them,” he says, “at the same time remember the greatness of God’s power, that they may not think that they have to do with a child.”
We now then see the design of the Prophet: for this declaration — that God hastens not suddenly to wrath, but patiently defers and suspends the punishment which the ungodly deserve. This declaration would not have harmonized with the present argument, had not the Prophet introduced it by way of concession; as though he said, — “I see that the world everywhere trifle with God, and that the ungodly delude themselves with such Sophistries, that they reject all threatening. I indeed allow that God is ready to pardon, and that he descends not to wrath, except when he is constrained by extreme necessity: all this is indeed true; but yet know, that God is armed with his own power: escape then shall none of those who allow themselves the liberty of abusing his patience, notwithstanding the insolence they manifest towards him.”
He now adds, By clearing he will not clear. Some translate, “The innocent, he will not render innocent.” But the real meaning of this sentence is the same with that in Exo_34:0; and what Moses meant was, that God is irreconcilable to the impenitent. It has another meaning at the end of Joe_3:0, where it is said, ‘I will cleanse the blood which I have not cleansed.’ On that text interpreters differ; because they regard not the change in the tense of the verb; for God means, that he would cleanse the filth and defilements of his Church, which he had not previously cleansed. But Moses means, that God deals strictly with sinners, so as to remit no punishment. By clearing then I will not clear; that is, God will rigidly demand an account of all the actions of men; and as there is nothing hid from him, so everything done wickedly by men must come forth, when God ascends his tribunal; he will not clear by clearing, but will rigidly execute his judgment.
There seems to be some inconsistency in saying, — that God is reconcilable and ready to pardon, — and yet that by clearing he will not clear. But the aspect of things is different. We have already stated what the Prophet had in view: for inasmuch as the ungodly ever promise impunity to themselves, and in this confidence petulantly deride God himself, the Prophet answers them, and declares, that there was no reason why they thus abused God’s forbearance, for he says, By clearing he will not clear, that is, the reprobate: for our salvation consists in a free remission of sins; and whence comes our righteousness, but from the imputation of God, and from this — that our sins are buried in oblivion? yea, our whole clearing depends on the mercy of God. But God then exercises also his judgment, and by clearing he clears, when he remits to the faithful their sins; for the faithful by repentance anticipate his judgment; and he searches their hearts, that he may clear them. For what is repentance but condemnation, which yet turns out to be the means of salvation? As then God absolves none except the condemned, our Prophet here rightly declares, that by clearing he will not clears that is, he will not remit their sins, except he tries them and discharges the office of a judge; in short, that no sin is remitted by God which he does not first condemn. But with regard to the reprobate, who are wholly obstinate in their wickedness, the Prophet justly declares this to them, — that they have no hope of pardon, as they perversely adhere to their own devices, and think that they can escape the hand of God: the Prophet tells them that they are deceived, for God passes by nothing, and will not blot out one sin, until all be brought to mind.
He afterwards says, that the way of God is in the whirlwind and the tempest; that is, that God, as soon as he shows himself, disturbs the whole atmosphere, and excites storms and tempests: and this must be applied to the subject in hand; for the appearance of God is in other places described as lovely and gracious: nay, what else but the sight of God exhilarated the faithful? As soon as God turns away his face, they must necessarily be immersed in dreadful darkness, and be surrounded with horrible terrors. Why then does the Prophet say here, that the way of God is in the whirlwind and storms? Even because his discourse is addressed to the ungodly, or to the despisers of God himself, as in Psa_18:0; where we see him described as being very terrible, — that clouds and darkness are around him, that he moves the whole earth, that he thunders on every side, that he emits smoke frown his nostrils, and that he fills the whole world with fire and burning. For what purpose was this done? Because David’s object was to set forth the judgments of God, which he had executed on the ungodly. So it is in this place; for Nahum speaks of the future vengeance, which was then nigh the Assyrians; hence he says, The way of God is in the whirlwind and tempest; that is, when God goes forth, whirlwinds and tempests are excited by his presence, and the whole world is put in confusion.
He adds, that the clouds are the dust of his feet When any one with his feet only moves the dust within a small space, some dread is produced: but God moves the dust, not only in one place, — what then? he obscures, and thus covers the whole heaven, The clouds then are the dust of his feet We now apprehend the whole meaning of the Prophet, and the purpose for which this description is given. Of the same import is what follows —
He rebuketh the sea and maketh it dry – Delivering His people, as He did from Pharaoh Psa_106:9, the type of all later oppressors, and of antichrist. “His word is with power; to destroy them at once with one rough word (Wisd. 12:9). The restlessness of the barren and troubled sea is an image of the wicked. “And drieth up all the rivers” Isa_57:20, as He did Jordan. His coming shall be far more terrible than when all the hearts of the inhabitants of the land did melt. “Bashan languisheth and Carmel; and the flower of Lebanon languisheth” Jos_2:11. Bashan was richest in pastures; Carmel, according to its name, in gardens and vineyards; Lebanon, in vines also and fragrant flowers Hos_14:7; Son_4:11, but chiefly in the cedar and cypress; it had its name from the whiteness of the snow, which rests on its summit. These mountains then together are emblems of richness, lasting beauty, fruitfulness, loftiness; yet all, even that which by nature is not, in the variety of seasons, wont to fade, dries up and withers before the rebuke of God. But if these thing are “done in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?” All freshness, beauty, comeliness, show of outward nature, shall fade as grass; all ornament of men’s outward graces or gifts, all mere show of goodness, shall fall off like a leaf and perish. If the glory of nature perishes before God, how much more the pride of man! Bashan also was the dwelling-place of the race of giants, and near Libanus was Damascus; yet their inhabitants became as dead men and their power shrank to nothing at the word of God.
Nahum continues still on the same subject, — that when God ascended his tribunal and appeared as the Judge of the world, he would not only shake all the elements, but would also constrain them to change their nature. For what can be less consonant to nature than for mountains to tremble, and for hills to be dissolved or to melt? This is more strange than what we can comprehend. But the Prophet intimates that the mountains cannot continue in their own strength, but as far as they are sustained by the favor of God. As soon, then, as God is angry, the mountains melt like snow, and flow away like water. And all these things are to be applied to this purpose, and are designed for this end, — that the wicked might not daringly despise the threatening of God, nor think that they could, through his forbearance, escape the punishment which they deserved: for he will be their Judge, however he may spare them; and though God is ready to pardon, whenever men hate themselves on account of their sins, and seriously repent; he will be yet irreconcilable to all the reprobate and the perverse. The mountains, then, before him tremble, and the hills dissolve or melt.
This useful instruction may be gathered from these words, that the world cannot for a moment stand, except as it is sustained by the favor and goodness of God; for we see what would immediately be, as soon as God manifests the signals of his judgment. Since the very solidity of mountains would be as snow or wax, what would become of miserable men, who are like a shadow or an apparition? They would then vanish away as soon as God manifested his wrath against them, as it is so in Psa_39:0, that men pass away like a shadow. This comparison ought ever to be remembered by us whenever a forgetfulness of God begins to creep over us, that we may not excite his wrath by self-complacencies, than which there is nothing more pernicious. Burned, then shall be the earth, and the world, and all who dwell on it
The Prophet shows here why he gave in the part noticed in the last lecture, such an awful description of God; it was that men might know, that when they shall come before his tribunal, no one will be able to stand unless supported by his favor. Of the Prophet’s main object we have sufficiently spoken, nor is it necessary to repeat here what has been stated. It is enough to bear this in mind, — that as the enemies of the Church relied on their power; and daringly and immoderately raged against it, the judgment of God is here set before them, that they might understand that an account was to be rendered to him whose presence they were not able to bear. But the question has more force than if the Prophet had simply said, that the whole world could not stand before God: for he assumes the character of one adjuring. After having shown how terrible God is, he exclaims, Who shall stand before his indignation? and who shall be able to bear his wrath? for his indignation, he says, is poured forth as fire. The Hebrew interpreters have here toiled in vain: as the verb נתך, nutae, means to pour forth it seems to them an inconsistent expression, that the wrath of God should be poured forth as fire; for this would be more suitably said of some metal than of fire. But to be poured forth here is nothing else than to be scattered far and wide. Poured forth then is thy wrath as fire; that is, it advances every moment, as when a fire seizes a whole forest; and when it grows strong, we know how great is its violence, and how suddenly it spreads here and there. But if a different meaning be preferred, I do not much object to it, “His wrath, which is like fire, is poured out.”
Some think that the Prophet alludes to lightnings, which, as it were, melt through the air, at least as they appear to us. But as the meaning of the Prophet is sufficiently evident, there is no need of anxiously inquiring how fire is poured out: for I have already mentioned, that the Prophet means no other thing than the wrath of God spreads itself, so that it immediately takes hold, not only of one city but also of the widest regions and of the whole world, and is therefore like fire, for it passes through here and there, and that suddenly.
He then says, that rocks are also broken or dissolved before him We must be aware how great our brittleness is. Since there is no hardness which melts not before God, how can men, who flow away of themselves like water, be so daring as to set themselves up against him? We hence see that the madness of men is here rebuked, who, trusting in their own strength, dare to contend even with God, because they forget their own frailty. This is the import of the whole. It now follows —
The Lord is good: a stronghold in the day of trouble – “Good and doing good,” and full of sweetness; alike good and mighty; good in giving Himself and imparting His goodness to His own; yea “none is good, save God” Luk_18:19; Himself the stronghold wherein His own amy take refuge; both in the troubles of this life, in which “He will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able” 1Co_10:13, and in that Day, which shall hem them in on every side, and leave no place of escape except Himself.
And He knoweth them that tuust in Him – So as to save them; as Rahab was saved when Jericho perished, and Lot out of the midst of the overthrow and Hezekiah from the host of Sennacherib. He knows them with an individual, ever-present, knowledge. He says not only, “He shall own them,” but He ever “knoweth them.” So it is said; “The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous” Psa_1:6; “The Lord knoweth the, days of the upright” Psa_37:18; and our Lord says, “I know My sheep” Joh_10:14, Joh_10:27; and Paul, “The Lord knoweth them that are His” 2Ti_2:19. God speaks of this knowledge also in the past, of His knowledge, when things as yet were not, “I have known thee by name;” or of loving kindness in the past, “I knew thee in the wilderness” Hos_13:5, “you alone have I known of all the families of the earth” Amo_3:2, its contrariwise our Lord says, that He shall say to the wicked in the Great Day, “I never knew you” Mat_7:23. That God, being what He is, should take knowledge of us, being what we are, is such wondrous condescension, that it involves a purpose of love, yea, His love toward us, as the Psalmist says admiringly, “Lord, what is man that Thou takest knowledge of him?” Psa_144:3.
Them that trust in Him – It is a habit, which has this reward; “the trusters in Him,” “the takers of refuge in Him.” It is a continued unvarying trust, to which is shown this everpresent love and knowledge.
Yet this gleam of comfort only discloses the darkness of the wicked. Since those who trust God are they whom God knows, it follows that the rest He knows not. On this opening, which sets forth the attributes of God toward those who defy Him and those who trust in Him, follows the special application to Nineveh.
The Prophet goes on with the same subject, — that God can easily preserve his people, for he is armed with power sufficient to overcome the whole world. But the Prophet now includes the two things which have been mentioned: Having spoken in general of God’s wrath, and of his goodness towards the faithful, he now applies his doctrine to the consolation of his chosen people. It is then a special application of his doctrine, when he says, By inundation, he, passing through, will make a consummation in her place There is a twofold interpretation of this verse.
Some make this distinction, — that God, as it were, in passing through, would consume the land of Israel and Judah, but that perpetual darkness would rest on his enemies. Hence they think, that the distress of the chosen people is distinguished from the overthrow of the kingdom of Asshur, for God would only for a time punish his own people, while he would give up profane and reprobate men to endless destruction. Then, by passing through, must be understood, according to these interpreters, a temporary distress or punishment; and by darkness, eternal ruin, or, so to speak, irreparable calamities. But the Prophet, I doubt not, in one connected sentence, denounces ultimate ruin on the Assyrians. By inundation, then, he, in passing, will make a consummation in her place; that is, God will suddenly overwhelm the Assyrian, as though a deluge should rise to cover the whole earth. He intimates, that God would not punish the Assyrians by degrees, as men sometimes do, who proceed step by step to avenge themselves, but suddenly. God, he says, will of a sudden thunder against the Assyrians, as when a deluge comes over a land. Hence this passing of God is opposed to long or slow progress; as though he said — “As soon as God’s wrath shall break forth or come upon the Assyrians, it will be all over, for a consummation will immediately follow: by inundation, he, passing through, will make a consummation in her place.” (216) By place he means the ground; as though he had said that God would not only destroy the face of the land, but would also destroy the very grounds and utterly demolish it. A feminine pronoun is here added, because he speaks of the kingdom or nation, as it is usual in Hebrew. But it ought especially to be noticed that the Prophet threatens the Assyrians, that God would entirely subvert them, that he would not only demolish the surface, as, when fire or waters destroy houses, but that the Lord would reduce to nothing the land itself, even the very ground.
He adds, And pursue his enemies shall darkness He has designated the Assyrians only by a pronoun, as the Hebrews are wont to do; for they set down a pronoun relative or demonstrative, and it is uncertain of whom they speak; but they afterwards explain themselves. So does the Prophet in this place; for he directs his discourse to the Israelites and the Jews, and he begins by announcing God’s vengeance on Nineveh and its monarchy; but now he speaks as of a thing sufficiently known and adds, Pursue shall darkness the enemies of God By this second clause he intimates that the ruin of that kingdom would be perpetual. As then he had said that its destruction would be sudden, as God would, as it were, in a moment destroy the whole land; so now he cuts off from them every hope, that they might not think that they could within a while gather strength and rise again as it is the case with the wicked, who ever contend against God. The Prophet then shows that evil which God would bring on them would be without remedy. Some render the verb יררף, iredaph, transitively in this form, “He will pursue his enemies by darkness:” but as to the meaning of the Prophet there is but little or no difference; I therefore leave the point undecided. On the subject itself there is nothing ambiguous; the import of what is said is, — that God would, by a sudden inundation, destroy his enemies, — and that he would destroy them without affording any hope of restoration, for perpetual darkness would follow that sudden deluge.
Fausset Bible Dictionary
Nimrod builded Nineveh (Gen_10:11); Herodotus (i. 7) makes Ninus founder of Nineveh. and grandson of Belus founder of Babylon; which implies that it was from Babylon, as Scripture says, that Nineveh’s founder came. Nin is the Assyrian Hercules. Their mythology also makes Ninus son of Nimrod. Jonah is the next Scripture after Genesis 10 that mentions Nineveh. Sennacherib after his host’s destruction “went and dwelt at Nineveh” (2Ki_19:36). Jonah (Jon_3:3) describes it as an “exceeding great city of three days’ journey” round (i.e. 60 miles, at 20 miles per day) with 120,000 children “who knew not their right hand from their left” (Jon_4:11), which would make a population in all of 600,000 or even one million. Diodorus Siculus (ii. 3), agreeing with Jonah’s “three days’ journey,” makes the circumference 55 miles, pastures and pleasure grounds being included within, from whence Jonah appositely (Jon_4:11) mentions “much cattle.” G. Smith thinks that the ridges enclosing Nebi Yunus and Koyunjik (the mounds called “tels” opposite Mosul) were only the walls of inner Nineveh, the city itself extending beyond to the mound Yarenijah.
The parallelogram in Assyria covered with remains has Khorsabad N.E.; Koyunjik and Nebi Yunus (Nineveh in the narrow sense) near the Tigris N.W.; Nimrud and Athur between the Tigris and Zab, N.W.; and Karamles at a distance inward from the Zab S.E. From Koyunjik to Nimrud is 18 miles; from Khorsabad to Karamles 18; from Koyunjik to Khorsabad 13 or 14; from Nimrud to Karamles 14. The length was greater than the breadth; so Jon_3:4 “entered into the city a day’s journey.” The longer sides were 150 furlongs each, the shorter 90 furlongs, the whole circuit 480 or 460 miles. Babylon had a circuit of only 385 miles (Clitarchus in Diod. ii. 7, Strabo xvi. 737). The walls were 100 ft. high, with 1,500 towers, and broad enough for three chariots abreast. Shereef Khan is the northern extremity of the collection of mounds on the eastern bank of the Tigris, and is five and a half miles N. of Koyunjik. There is also an enclosure, 5,000 yards in circuit, once enclosed by a moat at Selamivah three miles N. of Nimrud. Nimrud in inscriptions is called Kalkhu or Calah in Gen_10:11; Khorsabad is called Sargina from Sargon. At Kileh Sherghat is the presumed original capital,” Asshur,” 60 miles S. of Mosul, on the right or western bank of the Tigris.
Sennacherib first made Nineveh the capital. Nineveh was at first only a fort to keep the Babylonian conquests around. It subsequently, with Rehoboth, Ir, Calah, and Resen, formed one great city, “Nineveh” in the larger sense. Thothmes III of Egypt is mentioned in inscriptions as capturing Nineveh. Phraortes the Mede perished in attempting to do so (Herodotus i. 102). Cyaxares his successor, after at first raising the siege owing to a Scythic invasion (Herodotus i. 103, 106) 625 B.C., finally succeeded in concert with the Babylonian Nabopolassar, 606 B.C., Saracus the last king, Esarhaddon’s grandson, set fire to the palace and perished in the flames, as Ctesias states, and as the marks of fire on the walls still confirm. So Nah_3:13; Nah_3:15, “fire shall devour thy bars.” Charred wood, calcined alabaster, and heat splintered figures abound. Nahum (Nahum 2) and Zephaniah (Zep_2:13-15) foretold its doom; and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 31) shortly after attests the completeness of its overthrow, as a warning of the fatal issue of pride, Isa_10:7-14; Diodorus (ii. 27) says there was a prophecy that Nineveh should not fall until the river became its enemy.
The immediate cause of capture was the city walls destruction by a sudden rise in the river. So Nahum (Nah_1:8; Nah_2:6; Nah_2:8) foretold “with an over running flood He will make an utter end of the place;” “the gates of the rivers shall be opened and the palace shall be dissolved,” namely, by the inundation; “Nineveh is of old like a pool of water (though of old defended by water around), yet (its inhabitants) shall flee.” There was a floodgate at the N.W. angle of the city, which was swept away; and the water pouring into the city “dissolved” the palace foundation platform, of sundried bricks. Nineveh then totally disappears from history; it never rose again. Nahum (Nah_1:10; Nah_3:11) accords with Diodorus Siculus that the final assault was made during a drinking bout of king and courtiers: “while they are drunken as drunkards, they shall be devoured as stubble fully dry … Thou shalt be drunken,” etc. The treasures accumulated by many kings were rifled, as Nahum foretells; “take ye the spoil of silver … gold, for there is none end of the store;” the people were “scattered upon the mountains” (Nah_3:18).
He calls it “the city of bloods,” truly (Nah_3:1); the wall carvings represent the king in the act of putting out his captives’ eyes, and dragging others by a hook through the lips and a cord. Other cities have revived, but Nahum foretells “there is no healing of thy bruise” (Nah_3:19). Lucian of Samosara near the Euphrates asserts none in his day even knew where Nineveh stood. Its former luxury is embodied in the statue of Sardanapalus as a dancer, which he directed (Plutarch says) to be erected after his death, with the motto “eat, drink, enjoy lust … the rest is nothing!” The language of its inscriptions is Semitic, for the main population was a colony of Asshur, son of Shem; and besides the prevalent Semitic a Turanian dialect has been found on tablets at Koyunjik, derived from its original Cushite founder Nimrod of Babylon and his band. At Nimrud the oldest palaces are in the N.W. grainer, the most recent at the S.E. The table of Karnak in Egypt (1490 B.C.) connects Niniu (Nineveh) with Naharaima or Naharaim or Mesopotamia. Sir H. Rawlinson published 1862 an Assyrian canon from the monuments.
The first kings reigned when the early Chaldee empire had its seat in lower Mesopotamia. Asshur-bil-nisis, Buzur Ashur, and Asshur Vatila from 1653 to 1550 B.C., when Purnapuriyas and Durri-galazu were the last of the early Chaldaean monarchy. Then Bel Sumill Kapi founds a dynasty after a chasm of two centuries. “Bellush, Pudil, and Ivalush” are inscribed on bricks at Kileh Sherghat, 1350-1270 B.C. Shalmaneser I, son of Ivalush I, is mentioned on a genealogical slab as founder of Nimrud. Tiglath-i-nin his son inscribes himself” conqueror of Babylon”; Sargon finally conquered it. Tiglath-inin’s successor Ivalush II (1250 B.C.) enlarged the empire and closes the dynasty. By a revolution Nin pala Zira ascends the throne, “the king of the commencement” as the Tiglath Pileser cylinder calls him. Then Asshurdahil, Mutaggil Nebo, Asshur-ris-ilim (conqueror of a Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon), Tiglath Pileser I (subdued Meshech), Asshur-belkala; a blank of two centuries follows when David’s and Solomon’s extensive dominion has place. Asshur-iddin-akhi begins the next dynasty (950-930 B.C.).
Asshur-danin-il and Iralush III follow; then Tiglath-i-nin; Asshur-idanni-pal next after ten victorious campaigns built a palace at Calah, 360 ft. long by 300 broad, with man lions at the gateways, and by a canal brought the Zab waters to Calah; he was “lord from the upper Tigris to Lebanon and the great sea.” His son Shalmaneser II took tribute from Tyre and Sidon and fought Benhadad and Hazael. A picture represents him receiving from Jewish captives tribute of Jehu king of Israel, gold, pearl, and oil. He built the central palace of Nimrud, opened by Layard. The black marble obelisk (in the British Museum) records his exploits and Jehu’s name. Then Shamas-Iva, Iralush IV and his wife Semiramis, a Babylonian princess, Shalmaneser III, Asshur-danin-il II, Asshur-lush. Then Tiglath Pileser II, probably Pul, usurps the throne by revolution, for he does not mention his father as others do, 744 B.C. Under him “Menahem” appears in inscriptions, and “tribute from the house of Omri” i.e. Samaria (2Ki_15:19; 2Ki_15:29).
Ahaz enlisted him as ally against Samaria and Damascus; Tiglath Pileser conquered them and received tribute from Jahu-khazi or Ahaz. An inscription in the British Museum records Rezin’s death (Rawlinson’s Monarchies, 2:398,399). Tiglath Pileser built a new palace at Nimrud. Then Shalmaneser IV (not in the canon) (2Ki_17:3-4) assailed Samaria, upon Hoshea’s leaguing with So of Egypt, and withholding tribute. In a chamber at Koyunjik was found among other seals now in British Museum the seal of So or Sabacho and that of Sennacherib affixed to a treaty between them, of which the parchment has perished. Sargon (“king de facto”) usurped the throne and took Samaria (he says in inscriptions) in his first year; he built the palace at Khorsabad. Sennacherib his son succeeded 704 B.C. and reigned 24 years. He built the palace at the S.W. corner of Koyunjik, covering 100 acres almost, excavated by Layard. (See SENNACHERIB.) Of it 60 courts, halls (some 150 ft. square), and passages (one 200 ft. long) have been discovered. The human headed lions and bulls at its many portals are some 20 ft. high. Esarhaddon succeeded, as he styles himself “king of Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, Meroe, and Ethiopia;” or Asnapper; he imprisoned Manasseh.
He built a temple at the S.W. corner of Nimrud, and a palace at Nebi Yunus. Asshurbani-pal succeeded, a hunter and warrior; his library of clay tablets, religious, legal, historical, and scientific, is in British Museum. He built a palace at Koyunjik, near Sennacherib’s. His son, the last king, Asshuremid-ilin or Asshur-izzir-pal (Saracus or Sardanapalus), built the S.E. edifice at Nimrud. The palace walls were from five to fifteen feet thick, erected on an artificial platform 30 to 50 ft. above the surrounding level, and paneled with slabs of coarse alabaster sculptured and inscribed. The plaster above the alabaster wainscoting was ornamented with figures; the pavement was of alabaster or flat kiln-burnt bricks resting on bitumen and fine sand. The Nimrud grand hall is only 35 ft. broad (though 160 ft. long), to admit of roofing with the short beams to be had. The ceilings were gaily colored.
The portals were guarded by colossal human headed bulls; thence was an ascent to a higher platform, and on the top a gateway, sometimes 90 ft. wide, guarded also by winged bulls; inside was the great door, opening into a sculpture adorned passage; then the inner court, then the state apartments. There may have been an upper story of sun-dried bricks and wood, for there are no stone or marble columns or burnt brick remains. The large halls may have been roofless, a ledge projecting round the four sides and supporting an awning as shelter against rain and sun. However Zep_2:14 mentions “the cedar work,” cedars from Lebanon may have reached from wall to wall with openings for light.
The chambers were built round the central hall. In Nah_2:3 translated “the chariots (shall be furnished) with fire flashing scythes,” literally, “with the fire of scythes” or “iron weapons.” No traces of such scythe-armed chariots are found in Assyria; either then it applies to the besiegers, or “the chariots shall come with the glitter of steel weapons.” The “red shield” (Nah_2:3) accords with the red painting of the shields and dresses in the sculptures. The king, with beardless eunuch behind holding an umbrella and the winged symbol of Deity above, appears in various carvings; he was despotic. Kitchen operations, husbandry and irrigation implements are represented also.
Religion. The man bull and man lion answer to Nin and Nergal, the gods of war and the chase. Nisroch the eagle-headed god and Dagon the fishheaded god often appear in the sculptures. The sacred tree answers to Asheerah, “the grove” (2Ki_21:7). The chief gods were Asshur, Bel, Beltis or Myletta, Sin the moon, Shamash (Hebrew shemesh) the sun, Vul or Iva the thunder wielder, Nin, etc. “Witchcrafts” and “whoredoms” in connection with Nineveh’s worship are denounced by Nah_3:4. The immense palaces, the depositories of the national records, were at once the gods’ temple and the king’s abode, for he was the religious head of the nation and the favorite of the gods.
Language and writing. Clay cylinders pierced through so as to turn round and present their sides to the reader, bricks, and slabs are the materials inscribed on. The wedge (cuneus from whence “cuneiform”) in various forms and directions, upright, horizontal, and diagonal, is the main element of the 250 distinct alphabetical characters. This mode of writing prevailed for 2000 years B.C. in Assyria, Babylonia, and eastern Persia. The alphabet is syllabic. Determinatives are prefixed to some words, as
↓ – prefixed marks the word as a man’s name;
↓↓ – marks the plural;
↓← – marks the dual.
It is related to Hebrew, thus, u “and” is the Hebrew ve; ki is in both “if”; anaku or Hebrew ‘anoki “I”; ‘atta’ in both is “thou”; ‘abu or’ab (Hebrew), “father”; nahar in both is a “river.” Feminine nouns end in -it or -at; Hebrew end with -ith. Sh is the shortened relative pronoun “who, which,” as in later Hebrew; mah in both asks a question. The verb as in Hebrew is conjugated by pronominal suffixes. The roots are biliteral, the Hebrew both biliteral and triliteral. Mit, “to die”; Hebrew muth. Sib, “to dwell”; Hebrew yashab. Tiglath means “adoration.” Pal, “son,” the Aramaic bar; sat “king”; ris, Hebrew rosh, “head.”
The northwestern palace of Nineveh has the longest inscription; it records concerning Sardanapalus II. Sennacherib’s inscription concerning Hezekiah, on two man-headed bulls from Koyunjik, is the most interesting. Bas-reliefs of the siege of Lachish accompany it. (See LACHISH.) By a tentative process recurring proper names were first deciphered by Grotefend, Rawlinson, Hincks, Fox Talbot, Oppert, etc., as in Darius’ inscription at Behistun. Parallel parts of the same inscription in snorter language (as the hieroglyphics and Greek on the Rosetta stone enabled Champollion to discover the former) verified the results, and duplicate phrases brought, out the meaning of words.
Tombs. Chaldaea is as full of tombs as Assyria is void of them. Probably Chaldaea was the burial place of the Assyrian kings; Arrian (Exped. Alex. 7:22) states that their tombs were in the marshes S. of Babylon.
Art, Commerce. Egyptian art is characterized by calm repose, Assyrian art by energy and action. Egyptian architecture is derived from a stone prototype, Assyrian from a wooden one, in agreement with the physical features of the respective countries. Solomon’s temple and palace, with grand hall and chambers, paneled with slabs sculptured with trees, the upper part of the walls painted in various colors, the winged cherubim carved all round, the flowers and pomegranates, correspond to the Nineveh palaces in a great measure. Silk, blue clothes, and embroidered work were traded in by Nineveh’s merchants (Eze_27:23-24; Nah_3:16). The Chaldaean Nestorians in the Kurdistan mountains and the villages near Mosul are the sole representatives of the ancient Assyrians and Babylonians.