Part I. THE JUDGMENT UPON NINEVEH DECREED BY GOD.
§ 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 (Habakkuk 1:1)—a term generally used of a weighty, threatening prophecy (Isaiah 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 Zechariah 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 Jonah 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 Nahum 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. Isaiah 1:1). The Elkoshite; i.e. native of Elkosh, for which, see Introduction, § II.
§ 2. The prophet describes the inflexible justice of God, and illustrates his irresistible power by the control which he exercises over the material world.
God is jealous, and the Lord revengeth; better, Jehovah is a jealous and avenging God, as Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 4:24; Joshua 24:19. The threefold repetition of the name of Jehovah and the attribute "avenging" gives a wonderful force to this sublime description of the Divine character. God is here called jealous anthropopothically, as ready to defend his honour against all who oppose him, as One who loves his people and punishes their oppressors. Is furious; literally, master of fury, as Genesis 37:19, "master of dreams." The Lord is full of wrath (comp. Proverbs 10:12 :24; Proverbs 29:22). The word used implies a permanent feeling, Hire the Greek μῆνις. He reserveth wrath. The Hebrew is simply "watching," "observing" for punishment. Septuagint, ἐξαίρων αὐτὸς τοὺς ἐχθροὺς αὐτοῦ, "himself cutting off his enemies;" Vulgate, irascens ipse inimicis ejus. God withholds his hand for a time, but does not forget. All this description of God's attributes is intended to show that the destruction of Assyria is his doing, and that its accomplishment is certain.
Slow to anger (Exodus 34:6, Exodus 34:7). Nahum seems to take up the words of Jonah (Jonah 4:2) or Joel (Joel 2:13). God is long suffering, not from weakness, but because he is great in power, and can punish when he will. Will not at all acquit the wicked; literally, holding pure will not hold pure; i.e. he will not treat the guilty as innocent. ἀθωῶν [Alex; ἀθῶον] οὐκ ἀθωώσει; Mundans non faciet innocentem (comp. Exodus 20:7; Exodus 34:7). The Lord hath his way, etc. The prophet grounds his description of the majesty and might of God upon the revelation at the Exodus and at Sinai. (see Exodus 19:16-18; Psalms 18:1-50.; 97.). The clouds are the dust of his feet, Large and grand as the clouds look to us, they are to God but as the dust raised by the feet in walking. As an illustration of this statement (though, of course, the fact was utterly unknown to Nahum), it has been remarked that recent scientific discovery asserts that clouds owe their beauty, and even their very existence, to the presence of dust particles in the atmosphere. The aqueous vapour, it is said, condenses on these particles, and thus becomes visible.
The great physical changes and convulsions in the world are tokens of God's wrath on sinful nations. He rebuketh the sea, as at the passage of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21; Psalms 106:9). This is a sign of omnipotence (comp. Luke 8:24). All the rivers. A generalization from the miracle at the Jordan (Joshua 3:1-17.; comp. Psalms 107:33; Isaiah 1:2). Septuagint, ποταμοὺς ἐξερημῶν, "making rivers desolate;" Vulgate, flumina ad desertum deducens. Bashan (see note on Amos 4:1). Carmel (see on Amos 1:2). Flower of Lebanon. This district was famous, not only for its cedars, but also for its vines and flowers (comp. Hosea 14:7; So Hosea 4:11). These three regions are mentioned as remarkable for their fertility, and they occur most naturally to the mind of a native of Galilee, as was Nahum. They also geographically are the eastern, western, and northern boundaries of the land. They are used here proverbially to express the truth that God can cause the most luxuriant regions to wither at his word.
The mountains quake. The mountains, the very emblems of stability, tremble before him (Adios 8:8). The hills melt; οἱ βουνοὶ ἐσαλεύθησαν, "The hills were shaken". The hills dissolve like wax or anew at his presence (see Amos 4:13; Micah 1:4). Burned; Septuagint, ἀνεστάλη, "recoils," "is upheaved," as by an earthquake. This rendering has the greatest authority. The world; i.e. the habitable world, and all living creatures therein (Joel 1:18-20). Nature animate and inanimate is represented as actuated by the terror of conscious guilt.
Who can stand? (Psalms 76:7; Joel 2:11; Malachi 3:2; comp. Revelation 6:17). His fury is poured out like fire (Deuteronomy 4:24); like the brimstone and fire that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24), or like the molten lava that issues from a volcano (Jeremiah 7:20). Septuagint (reading differently), ὁ θυμὸς αὐτοῦ τήκει ἀρχάς: consumit principatus (Jerome). Are thrown down; rather, are rent asunder. If such is tile power of God, how shall Assyria resist it?
§ 3. The prophet prepares the way for proclaiming the punishment of Nineveh lay deriding that the wrath of God falls not on those who trust in him, but is reserved for his enemies.
The Lord is good. The Targum adds unnecessarily, "for Israel" (Psalms 25:8). He is "good," in that he is a stronghold in the day of trouble, as in the perilous time when the Assyrians attacked Judaea (comp. Psalms 27:1; Jeremiah 16:19). He knoweth; loves and cares for.
With an overrunning flood. This may be merely a metaphor to express the utter devastation which should overwhelm Nineveh, as the invasion of a hostile army is often thus depicted (comp. Isaiah 8:7; Daniel 11:26, Daniel 11:40); or it may be an allusion to the inundation which aided the capture of the city (see note on Nahum 2:6). Of the place thereof; i.e. of Nineveh, not named, but present to the prophet's mind, and understood from the heading (Nahum 1:1). (For the utter destruction of Nineveh, comp. Zephaniah 2:13, etc.) The LXX. has, τουνειρομένους ("those that rise up"). The Chaldee has a similar reading, with the meaning that God would exterminate those who rise up against him. Darkness shall pursue his enemies. So the Septuagint and Vulgate. But it is better rendered, He shall pursue his enemies into darkness, so that they disappear from the earth. If this is the meaning of the clause, it resembles the termination of many Assyrian inscriptions which record the defeat of a hostile chieftain: "and no one has seen any trace of him since."
The prophet suddenly addresses both Jews and Assyrians, encouraging the former by the thought that God can perform what he promises, and warning the latter that their boasting (comp. Isaiah 10:9, etc.; Isaiah 36:20) was vain. What do ye imagine against the Lord? Quid cogitatis contra Dominum? (Vulgate). This rendering regards the question as addressed to the Assyrians, demanding of them what it is that they dare to plot against God; do they presume to fight against him, or to fancy that his threats will not be accomplished? But the sentence is best translated, What think ye of the Lord? τί λογίζεσθε ἐπὶ τὸν κύριον; "What devise ye against the Lord?". This is addressed not only to the Jews in the sense, "Do ye think that he will not accomplish his threat against Nineveh?" but to the Assyrians also. He will make an utter end. This denunciation is repeated from Nahum 1:8 to denote the absolute certainty of the doom. Affliction shall not rise up the second time. The Assyrians shall never again have the power of oppressing Judah as they have ruined Israel there shall be no repetition of Sennacherib's invasion. Septuagint, οὐκ ἐκδικήσει δὶς ἐπιτοαυτὸ ἐν θλίψει: Non vindicabit bis in idipsura (Jerome). From this text the Fathers take occasion to discuss the question how it is that God does not punish twice for the same sin.
While they be folden together as thorns. The clause is conditional: "Though they be interwined as thorns." Though the Assyrians present an impenetrable front, which seems to defy attack. (For the comparison of a hostile army to briers and thorns, see Isaiah 10:17; Isaiah 27:4; Henderson.) And while they are drunken as drunkards; and though they be drunken with their drink, regarding themselves as invincible, and drenched with wine, and given up to luxury and excess. There may be an allusion to the legend current concerning the destruction of Nineveh. Diodorus (2.26) relates that, after the enemy had been thrice repulsed, the King of Nineveh was so elated that he gave himself up to festivity, and allowed all his army to indulge in the utmost licence, and that it was while they were occupied in drunkenness and feasting they were surprised by the Medes under Cyaxares, and their city taken. An account of such a feast, accompanied with sketehes from the monuments, is given in Bonomi, 'Nineveh and its Discoveries,' p. 187, etc. We may compare the fate of Belshazzar (Daniel 5:1, etc.). They shall be devoured as stubble fully dry; like worthless refuse, fit only for burning (Exodus 15:7; Isaiah 5:24; Joel 2:5; Obadiah 1:18). The LXX. renders this verse differently, "Because to its foundation it shall be dried up ( χερσωθήσεται: redigentur in vepres, Jerome), and as bind weed ( σμῖλαξ) intertwined it shall be devoured, and as stubble fully dry."
The reason of the destruction and of the punishment is told. There is one come out of thee. Nineveh is addressed; and we need not refer the words entirely to Sennacherib and his impious threats, but may take them generally as expressing the arrogant impiety of the Assyrians and their attitude towards Jehovah. A wicked counseller; literally, a councilor of Belial; i.e. of worthlessness. The expression, perhaps primarily applied to Sennacherib, also regards the plans prepared by the Assyrians for destroying the people of God, a type of the world arrayed against piety.
§ 4. The destruction of Nineveh is emphatically announced, and Zion is depicted as rejoicing at the news of its ruin, and celebrating her feasts in safety.
Thus saith the lord. An expression used to introduce a solemn declaration. Though they (the Assyrians) be quiet. Shalem has this meaning elsewhere, as Genesis 34:21; but this is unsuitable here, where it must be translated, "in full strength," "unimpaired," "complete," like the thorn hedge in Genesis 34:10. Vulgate, Si perfecti fuerint. Though they be unbroken in strength, and likewise (on that account) many in number. Septuagint, τάδε λέγει κύριος κατάρχων ὑδάτων πολλῶν, "Thus saith the Lord, ruling over many waters." So the Syriac and Arabic. Jerome interprets "the waters" to mean the heavenly powers (Psalms 148:4). Yet thus (though such is their state) shall they be cut down. The verb is used of the mowing of a fold or the shearing of sheep, and implies complete destruction. When he shall pass through; better, and he shall pass away. The number is changed, but the same persons are meant, spoken of as one to show their insignificance and complete annihilation. Septuagint "Thus shall they be dispersed [ διασταλήσουται: dividentur, Jerome], and the report of thee shall no more be heard therein." The following clause is not translated. Though I have afflicted thee. The Lord addresses Judah, referring to the oppression of Judaea by the Assyriaus in the times of Ahaz and Hezekiah (2 Kings 16:18; 2 Chronicles 28:20, etc.; 32.). I will afflict thee no more; according to the promise in Genesis 34:9. This is further confirmed in what follows.
His yoke. The yoke of Assyria, probably referring to the vassalage of Judah (2 Kings 18:14; 2 Chronicles 33:11). (For the metaphor of "yoke" denoting subjugation, setup. Le 26:13; Jeremiah 27:2; Ezekiel 34:27.) Jeremiah (Jeremiah 30:8) seems to use these words of Nahum to announce the deliverance of Israel from captivity. Burst thy bonds in sunder; by the final overthrow of the Assyrian power (Psalms 2:3; Jeremiah 2:20).
Concerning thee. The prophet addresses the Assyrian, and announces God's purpose concerning him. That no more of thy name be sown. There is no special reference to Sennacherib in this or the next clause, but the prophet means that the Assyrian people and name shall become extinct. Out of the house of thy gods (Isaiah 37:38, whore the murder of Sennacherib in the temple of Nisroch is mentioned). An account of the religion of the Assyrians will be found in Layard, 'Nineveh and its Remains,' vol. 2 ch. 7. Graven image; carved out of wood or stone. Molten; cast in metal. The two terms comprise every kind of idol, as in Deuteronomy 27:15; 17:3. The Assyrians used to destroy the images of the gods worshipped by conquered nations (2 Kings 19:18). Bonomi gives a picture of soldiers cutting up the image of some foreign deity, and carrying away the pieces. So should it now be done unto their gods. I will make thy grave. I will consign thee, O Assyrian, and thy idols to oblivion (Ezekiel 32:22, etc.). It is not, "I will make it, the temple, thy grave," as those who see a reference to the death of Sennacherib (2 Kings 19:37) render it; but, "I prepare thy grave"—I doom thee to destruction. The reason is given: For thou art vile; quia inhonoratus es (Vulgate): ὅτι ταχεῖς, "for they are swift". The word is also translated "light," weighed in the balances, and found wanting, as Daniel 5:27.
The second chapter commences here in the Hebrew and Syriac; the Anglican follows the Septuagint, Vulgate, and Chaldee Versions. This seems most agreeable to the method of the prophecy, wherein threat is succeeded by promise, denunciation of the enemy by declaration of comfort to Judah (comp. Nahum 1:6, Nahum 1:7, Nahum 1:12, and Nahum 1:13; so here Nahum 1:14 and Nahum 1:15). The prophet announces the joy with which Judah receives the news of the overthrow of Nineveh. Behold upon the mountains, etc. Isaiah (Isaiah 52:7) uses these words to proclaim the coming of Messiah (comp. Isaiah 40:9; Romans 10:15). The messengers come from the East across the mountains of Palestine, announcing the fall of Nineveh and the consequent peace and security of Judah—a type of the overthrow of God's enemies and the safety of his Church. There may be an allusion to the custom of spreading tidings by beacon fires. Keep thy solemn feasts. Judah is exhorted to resume the observation of her solemnities, which were interrupted during the enemy's occupation of the country, or which could not be properly attended by the distant inhabitants. Judah must offer her praises and thanksgivings for deliverance, and perform the vows which she made unto the Lord in the time of peril. The wicked (Hebrew, Belial) shall no more pass through thee. Belial is here the adversary, the opposing army (see verse 11).
A vision and a burden.
I. THE VISION OF NAHUM.
1. The person of the prophet.
II. THE BURDEN OF NINEVEH.
1. The city. Nineveh; in Assyrian Ninua, or Nina, equivalent to "Station," "Dwelling," if the word be of Semitic origin; equivalent to "Fish house" if derived from the Accadian (Delitzsch). A city remarkable for:
2. The burden. This, which refers to Nahum's oracle concerning Nineveh, appropriately describes:
1. The argument from prophecy for the inspiration of the Scriptures.
2. The superiority of the Christian dispensation, whose messenger was not a prophet of Jehovah, but the Son of God (Hebrews 1:1).
3. The excellence of the gospel, which contains a burden, not of wrath, but of mercy.
The wrath of God-a warning.
I. NECESSARY AS TO ITS EXISTENCE Based upon the character of God as a jealous God. Jealous:
1. For his own glory, and therefore admitting of no rival claimant to man's worship and homage (Exodus 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24).
2. For his holy Law, and therefore shut up to punish iniquity (Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 5:9; Deuteronomy 29:20; Joshua 24:19).
3. For his own people, and therefore impelled to take vengeance on their adversaries.
II. RIGHTEOUS AS TO ITS CHARACTER. Directed only and always:
1. Against his adversaries; i.e. against those who decline to do him homage, and show this by worshipping idols.
2. Against those who dishonour his holy Law by their disobedience and unrighteousness.
3. Against those who oppress and tyrannize over his people, as the Assyrians had done and were doing.
III. FURIOUS AS TO OPERATION. The wrath of Jehovah is not a trifle. Nahum speaks of it as something that has fury in it (verses 2, 6). The prophets generally represented it as terrible in its forth flashing against sin and sinners (Deuteronomy 29:28; 2 Chronicles 28:13; Isaiah 13:9; Jeremiah 21:5; Zephaniah 1:18; Zechariah 7:12). Christ did not view it as of small moment (Luke 21:23; Luke 22:22). Reason does not warrant the idea that it will be slight and easy to bear, it being the anger of a great and holy God.
IV. SLOW AS TO MANIFESTATION. It does not spring forth readily. Scripture distinctly testifies that God is slow to anger (verse 3).
1. Jehovah himself claimed that such was his character,
2. The Bible throughout concedes to him this character. Moses (Numbers 14:18), David (Psalms 86:15), Jonah (Jonah 4:2), Micah (Micah 7:18), Nehemiah (Nehemiah 9:17), alike proclaim it. In the New Testament, Paul (Romans 9:22) and Peter (2 Peter 3:9, 2 Peter 3:15) entertain the same idea.
3. Experience sufficiently confirms the Divine claim and the Scripture representation. The providential treatment of the world, of the antediluvian race, of Israel and Judah, of Nineveh and Babylon, of unbelievers in Christendom and of idolaters in heathendom,—the best evidence that God is not willing that any should perish.
V. CERTAIN AS TO INCIDENCE.
1. His character such as to demand this. "He will by no means clear the guilty." If he did he would contradict the representations of his character, falsify his word, and endanger his government. Hence his long suffering cannot arise from any secret sympathy which he has with sin, but must spring solely from his own inherent mercifulness.
2. His power sufficient to secure this. If Jehovah is slow to anger, this proceeds not from any defect in his ability to execute wrath upon his adversaries. He is of great power—a truth explicitly set forth in Scripture (Genesis 18:14; Exodus 15:11; Deuteronomy 7:21; Job 9:4; Psalms 89:8, etc.), and amplified and illustrated by Nahum, who depicts that power in a threefold way.
APPLICATION. "Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger?" (verse 6).
Nahum 1:7, Nahum 1:8
Consolation in God.
I. IN HIS LOVE. "The Lord is good."
1. Revealed in his Word.
2. Attested by his works.
3. Experienced by his saints. From the beginning of time downwards, good men have been partakers of, and delighted to bear testimony to, the goodness of God, saying, like David, "The Lord is my Shepherd," etc. (Psalms 23:1); "He hath dealt bountifully with me" (Psalms 13:6); confessing, like Solomon, "There hath not failed one word of all his good promise" (1 Kings 8:56); acknowledging, like Jacob, "He hath fed me all my life long unto this day" (Genesis 48:15).
4. Illustrated by his Son. The highest, clearest, and fullest evidence that God is good was furnished by Jesus Christ, who was good in himself (John 10:11), and went about continually doing good (Acts 10:38).
II. IN HIS POWER. "He is a Stronghold in the day of trouble."
2. Impregnable. This inevitable, considering what kind of a fortress it is—Divine, and by what munitions it is guarded, the royal battalion of the Divine attributes, by Jehovah's omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, faithfulness, wisdom, holiness, love, Against this manifestly no weapon can prevail. "Mine omnipotency shall be your guard. I am God Almighty, your Almighty Protector, your Almighty Benefactor. What though your enemies are many? More are they that are with you than they that are against you; for I am with you. What though they are mighty? they are not almighty," etc..
3. Sufficient. Every succour the soul needs in its day of trouble is found in God, and found oomph rely—for the soul's guilt, pardon (Isaiah 1:16; Isaiah 43:25); for its pollution, cleansing (Ezekiel 36:25); for its anxiety, peace (Isaiah 26:3; Matthew 11:28); for its weakness, strength (Isaiah 45:24); for its darkness, light (Psalms 118:27; 1 Peter 2:9; 1 John 1:5); for its death, life (Isaiah 25:8; Romans 4:17).
III. IN HIS KNOWLEDGE. "He knoweth them that put their trust in him." He knoweth them:
1. Collectively. All that belong to the body of his believing people he exactly and always knows, so that he can think and speak of them as his people (Isaiah 32:18; 2 Timothy 2:19), as Christ does of those who are his (John 10:14).
2. Individually. Not in the mass merely, but separately and singly, he knows them (2 Samuel 7:20; Psalms 139:1; 1 Corinthians 8:3, Hebrews 4:13), as Christ also calls his own sheep by name (John 10:3).
4. Efficiently. Different from the wicked, whom he knows afar off (Psalms 138:6), i.e. as persons estranged from and hostile to him elf, them that put their trust in him he knows appreciatively and helpfully, so as to love, cherish, protect, and assist them. "Though the Lord be-high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly"—to their persons to love them, to their characters to admire them, to their wants to supply them, to their souls to save them.
1. The characters of those for whom this consolation exists—they put their trust in God. Remark upon the simplicity and efficacy of faith.
2. The evil fate of them who, being destitute of faith, are his enemies—they shall be destroyed by an overrunning flood, their habitations swept away, their persons engulfed, their hopes disappointed, their projects defeated, their ambitions scattered to the winds; they shall be pursued by (or into) darkness (see next homily).
Pursued by (Authorized Version), into (Revised Version), darkness.
I. A WOEFUL FATE.
1. The picture. That of a defeated enemy pursued by a victorious general who comes up behind his foes like the shades of night upon a wearied and dispirited traveller stumbling forward upon an uncertain and perilous way, as Abraham fell upon the kings by night and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah (Genesis 14:15); or, who drives them on before him into the gloom of night, where they encounter unforeseen dangers and perish, as the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah did when chased by Chedorlaomer's troops (Genesis 14:10).
2. The interpretation. The defeated enemy is the sinner; the pursuing conqueror is either darkness, meaning those calamities which God has ordained to follow sin, or God himself, by whom the sinner shall be chased into such disastrous overthrow. In either case, with darkness behind or darkness before—and, in reality, it is both behind and before—the condition of God's enemy is pitiful indeed.
II. A CERTAIN DOOM. Pursued by or into darkness. There is no "peradventure" about the lot of the ungodly. What is here predicted is not contingent, but absolute; not what ought to be merely, or what may be only, but what shall be.
1. God's Word hath declared it. "The wicked shall be silent in darkness," etc. (1 Samuel 2:9); "The eyes of the wicked shall fail," etc. (Job 11:20); "He shall be driven from light into darkness" (Job 18:18); "Let their way be darkness and slippery places" (Psalms 35:6); "The candle of the wicked shall be put out" (Proverbs 24:20); "The children of the kingdom [who have become God's enemies] will be cast into outer darkness," etc. (Matthew 8:12)—"And the Scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35).
2. God's character requires it. If his love and mercy make it sure that none who return to him will be rejected (Isaiah 55:7; Jeremiah 3:22; Hosea 14:4), his holiness and justice render it equally imperative that the impenitent and unbelieving, the rebellious and disobedient, should be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of God and from the glory of his power (Romans 1:18; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Peter 3:12).
3. Sin itself ensures it. Every action that a man performs carries in its own bosom its reward or punishment. "The wages of sin is death," just as certainly as "the fruit of holiness" is "everlasting life" (Romans 6:21-23).
III. A JUST RETRIBUTION. To be pursued by or into darkness is a fitting lot for those who in their lifetime have loved the darkness rather than the light.
1. The law of moral retribution demands that this shall be so. "Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap" (Galatians 6:7). He that walks in darkness here cannot hope to walk in light yonder; he who does the deeds of darkness on earth will not likely begin to do deeds of light in heaven.
2. The character of the wicked makes it certain that this shall be so. No being can act otherwise than in accordance with its nature. Mere change of place suffices not to alter one's nature. No reason to think that passing from one form of existence to another will effect any radical transmutation of one's being. Hence they who have died in darkness will (in all probability) continue to dwell in darkness.
1. Forsake sin. "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness."
2. Follow holiness. "Walk as children of the light."
A wicked counsellor.
I. HIS PERSON.
1. The Assyrian power. Represented in Hezekiah's reign by Sennacherib; in Manasseh's (Nahum's time) by Esar-haddon or Assurbanipal; in each successive reign by the ruling sovereign.
2. The unbelieving world. Of this Assyria was now the symbol, as in former times Egypt had been, as in later days Rome was (John 15:18; James 4:4).
3. The unrenewed heart. The curtal mind is enmity against God (Romans 8:7).
II. HIS CHARACTER.
1. Powerful. The Assyrian in Nahum's age was "in full strength" (verse 12), a well organized and firmly knit confederacy like "tangled thorns" (verse 10), which were dangerous to touch, and a multitudinous people (verse 12) in comparison with which Judah was but a handful. The same elements of power coexist in the unbelieving world force (Ephesians 2:2), order (Ephesians 6:12), numbers (1 John 5:19)—in comparison with which the Church of God is weak, disunited, and small. The individual transgressor also not unfrequently exhibits an energy, a determination, and a capacity to enlist others upon his side which are wanting in the followers of God and Christ.
2. Self-reliant. Like drunkards drenched in drink (verse 10), the Assyrians were foolishly confident, and believed themselves to be invincible. In like manner, the unbelieving world in general and the individual sinner in particular, are of opinion that they are more than sufficient to cope with any form of calamity that may assail them, and to ensure their own safety against any foe, bodily or ghostly, earthly or unearthly, human or Divine.
III. HIS DESIGNS.
1. Evil. "He counselleth wickedness" (verse 11)—in particular oppression of the people of Jehovah (verse 13). Such was the aim of Assyria towards Judah; such is the aim of the world towards the Church; and of the unbeliever towards the believer.
2. Impious. His wicked counsels are also directed "against the Lord" (verses 9, 11). This was the spirit of Assyria as represented by Rabshakeh in the time of Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:28-35; 2 Chronicles 32:11-17; Isaiah 36:7, Isaiah 36:14, Isaiah 36:15, Isaiah 36:18-20; Isaiah 37:10-13); and of Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Gentile world, and the unbelieving Jews in the days of Christ (Psalms 2:1; Acts 4:25-28); and is the spirit still of the unrenewed heart (Romans 8:7).
3. Vain. The fruits of a corrupt "imagination" (verses 9, 11), they will prove idle and worthless. Assyria's schemes for the subjugation of Judah came to nought; so resulted in defeat those of Herod and of Pilate, of the Jews and of the Gentiles against the holy Child Jesus; and so will terminate in shame those of wicked men generally against the truth.
IV. HIS DOOM.
1. Certain. The decree had gone forth against Assyria when Nahum spoke. "The Lord hath given commandment concerning thee, that no more of thy seed be sown" (verse 14). A similar decree has gone forth against the ungodly world (2 Peter 3:7; 1 John 2:15-17), and against unbelievers as individuals (Philippians 3:19; 1 Thessalonians 1:9).
2. Complete. Of Nineveh Jehovah was to make "a full end," so that no second affliction should be required to destroy them (Calvin, Hitzig), or should be able to proceed from them (Keil, Fausset) against Judah (verse 9); the Assyrians were to be "destroyed utterly as dry stubble" (verse 10), "to be cut down and pass away," so that Jehovah should no more (at least by their hand) afflict his people (verse 12); the royal house was to come to an end, no more of that name being sown (verse 14); the very divinities of Assyria and Nineveh were to be exterminated (verse 14). More complete ruin was inconceivable; so will all the enemies of God and Christ be utterly destroyed (Jeremiah 12:17; Psalms 37:38; Matthew 21:41; 2 Peter 2:12).
1. The danger of forming designs against either God or his people.
2. The wisdom of taking warning in time before it is too late.
3. The certainty that, when God begins the work of judgment, he will also make an end.
Glad tidings for God's people.
I. THE DESTRUCTION OF A POWERFUL FOE.
1. The historical allusion. The "wicked one" whom Nahum represents as "utterly cut off" was the power of Assyria, whose certain and complete annihilation he has just predicted (verse 14), and now depicts as accomplished.
2. The spiritual application. Capable of being applied to every deliverance wrought by Jehovah for Judah, in particular to her deliverance from Babylonian captivity, it is specially true of that emancipation which was wrought for mankind sinners by the destruction of the Church's greatest foe, the prince of the power of the air, over whom Christ triumphed through his cross. This the first note of the gospel message that Christ hath destroyed death, and him that hath the power of death, the devil (Hebrews 2:14).
II. THE PROCLAMATION OF A BLESSED PEACE.
1. The scene depicted. The prophet represents heralds as appearing on the mountains encircling Jerusalem with the joyous announcement that the ancient and terrible enemy she feared was overthrown, and could no more invade her land or oppress her people, and that henceforth she might dismiss all anxiety and be at peace.
2. The sense intended. The prophet wished to convey the thought that when once the power of Assyria was broken there would be no cause of alarm—that Judah might rest at ease, and prosecute her national career without fear of being disturbed by hostile invasion.
3. The symbol interpreted. As the destruction of Nineveh meant peace for Judah, so the overthrow of Satan and the powers of darkness means peace for God's believing people. This the second note of the gospel message. After the work of redemption the publication of peace (Acts 10:36; Ephesians 2:14-17). As Judah's duty was to behold the peace messengers upon the mountains of Judah, and to believe their message, so the duty of the New Testament Church is to recognize him whom God hath sent, and to receive his gospel of peace.
III. AN INVITATION TO A JOYOUS FEAST.
1. The feasts referred to. These were the three principal feasts enjoined upon the Hebrew Church by Moses—the Feast of the Passover, commemorative of the nation's deliverance from Egypt; the Feast of Harvest, in which the firstfruits of the field were presented to the Lord; and the Feast of Ingathering, when the labours of the year were happily concluded by the safe storing of the well filled sheaves. In addition were other toasts which need not now be mentioned. The above named three were pre-eminently gladsome in their causes and their forms. They gave expression to the nation's thankful joy in thinking of the Divine mercifulness, the Divine faithfulness, and the Divine goodness—first, in sparing them and making them a nation; next, in faithfully keeping with them his covenant of seed time and harvest; and, thirdly, in making such abundant provision for their wants, of all which they had been made partakers. Hence they tidy stood as types of the great feast of salvation to which God's believing people are invited in consequence of Christ's atoning and redeeming work, and in which God's mercy, faithfulness, and goodness are expressed—that feast of fat things full of marrow, and of wines on the lees well refined, of which Isaiah speaks (Isaiah 25:6), that feast to which Christ alluded in his parables of the wedding banquet (Matthew 22:2) and of the great supper (Luke 14:16), and that feast which is symbolized in the Lord's Supper (1 Corinthians 5:8).
2. The invitation given.
IV. A SUMMONS TO A PLEASANT DUTY.
1. A becoming duty. The payment of Judah's vows meant her performance of the engagements she had come under to be faithful and obedient to Jehovah, observing his worship, and keeping his commandments. To do this had been her duty from the first, though she had often failed in it; to return to it now after experiencing Jehovah's mercy was in the highest degree proper.
2. A necessary duty. Without this Judah would not be truly grateful for her deliverance, her outward observance would be insincere and hypocritical, and her inner life would be practically unchanged. So the highest evidence a soul can give of its thankfulness for Divine mercy, of its own heartfelt sincerity, and of its genuine conversion and regeneration, is obedience.
3. An agreeable duty. What should be easier or more delightful than service which springs from love? So to gracious souls God's commandments are not grievous, and hearts constrained by the love of Christ find that his yoke is easy and his burden is light.
1. The possibility of extracting gospel truths from Old Testament Scriptures.
2. The clearer light which shines in the Christian records concerning God's gracious work of redemption.
3. The larger responsibilities that rest upon such as have experienced the salvation of Christ.
HOMILIES BY S.D. HILMAN
The messenger of judgment.
Notice here -
I. THE MESSENGER: HIS PERSONALITY. "Nahum the Elkoshite."
1. His na