Nahum 3 - Outline of Nahum (Book Notes menu page)
This chapter presents the cause and certainty of Nineveh's doom.
IV. The LORD's Judgment Vindicated, Nahum 3:1-19
1. Her merciless Cruelties 3:1-3
2. Her multiplied Harlotries 3:4-7
3. Her mutual Fate, with a conquered Foe 3:8-17
4. Her immutable Ruin 3:18-19
1. Woe to the bloody city!
it [is] all full of lies [and] robbery; the prey departeth not;
2 The noise of a whip, and the noise of the rattling of the wheels,
and of the pransing horses, and of the jumping chariots.
3 The horseman lifteth up both the bright sword and the glittering spear:
and [there is] a multitude of slain, and a great number of carcases;
and [there is] none end of [their] corpses; they stumble upon their corpses:
Woe to the bloody city!
From Nineveh the Assyrian forces had gone out in brutal conquest of other nations.
"She earned this title by her 'atrocious practice of cutting off hands and feet, ears and noses, gouging out eyes, lopping off heads, and then binding them to vines or heaping them up before city gates [and by] the utter fiendishness by which captives could be impaled or flayed alive through a process in which their skin was gradually and completely removed.' " [Walter A. Maier, The Book of Nahum: A Commentary, p. 292, as quoted by TBKC] To avoid torture at the hands of the Assyrians, some villages, in the path of their advancing army, were known to commit mass suicide.
...full of lies and robbery...
Their alliances with other nations and their promises to conquered peoples were made to be broken (eg., 2Kin 18:31,32). The city was full of plunder (Nah 2:9). Whatever and whoever they captured would not get away from their grip.
The noise of the whip... rattling of wheels... a multitude of slain... they stumble upon their corpses.
The nation which had made its living through the confusion and carnage of war, would go down to its grave in the same way. Nah 2:4,12
4 Because of the multitude of the whoredoms
of the wellfavoured harlot, the mistress of witchcrafts,
that selleth nations through her whoredoms,
and families through her witchcrafts.
5 Behold, I [am] against thee, saith the LORD of hosts;
and I will discover thy skirts upon thy face,
and I will shew the nations thy nakedness, and the kingdoms thy shame.
6 And I will cast abominable filth upon thee, and make thee vile,
and will set thee as a gazingstock.
...the wellfavoured harlot...
Nineveh had been enriched by nations which courted her favor.
...because of the multitude of the whoredoms... selleth nations through whoredoms... families through her witchcrafts...
Assyria was given over to the idolatry, which involved sexual perversions and temple prostitution. Of course, their idols were 'vanities,' for there was no spiritual power inherent in them. However, their false religion was steeped in occult practices and powerful demonic deception.
     Nineveh had exported her spiritual and moral corruption to the nations that courted her. To their shame, Israel and Judah, willingly participated in this error, though they possessed the Word of Truth (eg., Eze 22:2-4; Hos 4:12; Zech 10:2).
     But Nineveh also had received the Truth (through Jonah) and turned from it. Having known the mercies of God, her turning away was spiritual adultery. Therefore, the LORD would uncover and reveal her fornication to all of her partners in shame. Verses 5-6 describe the public shaming (appropriate in that culture) of a woman caught in adultery. Apostate christendom is described in similar terms in Rev 17:1,2; 18:2,3.
     The surrounding nations would see Nineveh's 'foolishness' {'vile' is HB=nabel} as the LORD hurled upon her the 'detestable things' {'abominable filth'} which she had chosen for herself.
      The word translated 'abominable filth' is used elsewhere of idols. For example, Jerusalem had been admonished to cast away her 'abominations' (Eze 20:7-8). Because they did not heed His warning, the LORD dealt harshly with Israel for her spiritual adultery (Eze 16:37-42). Yet, in time, the LORD would honor His covenant and restore Jerusalem (Eze 16:60-63). But Nineveh would be forever buried (Nah 1:14; 2:11-13).
Behold, I am against thee, saith the LORD of hosts...
7 And it shall come to pass,
[that] all they that look upon thee shall flee from thee,
and say, Nineveh is laid waste: who will bemoan her?
whence shall I seek comforters for thee?
Niveveh is laid waste...
How unlikely this prophecy must have seemed! The Assyrians considered Nineveh to be unconquerable. The central city of Nineveh was protected by an immense wall. The walled area was an irregular shape approximately one and a half miles by two and a half miles (1.5 x 2.5 miles). The walls were 100 feet high in places, and wide enough for four chariots to ride side by side around the eight mile circumference. The city's suburbs lay outside the walls, increasing the circumference of the greater city to about 60 miles. Jonah estimated that it would take three days to walk through the length of the greater city. ('A day's journey {lit., walk}' was about 12 miles.) Jonah 3:3
...who will bemoan her?...
There would be no mourners when the bloody city of Nineveh was laid in the grave.
The destruction of Nineveh would be a comfort for Israel.
No other nations would sorrow for the loss of Nineveh.
8. Art thou better than populous No,
that was situate among the rivers, [that had] the waters round about it,
whose rampart [was] the sea, [and] her wall [was] from the sea?
9 Ethiopia and Egypt [were] her strength, and [it was] infinite;
Put and Lubim were thy helpers.
10 Yet [was] she carried away, she went into captivity:
her young children also were dashed in pieces at the top of all the streets:
and they cast lots for her honourable men,
and all her great men were bound in chains.
...populous {HB='amown, multitude} No... -
The word 'No' is of Egyptian origin, meaning 'city.' The word translated 'populous' (in the KJV) was probably intended as a transliteration of the name of one of Egypt's chief gods, 'Amon.' 'The City of Amon' (No-Amon), also known as 'No' ('the City') and Thebes, was located on the Nile River, about 400 miles south of the Mediterranean Sea. In ancient times, this was the capital of Egypt, and an important religious center, with many temples. (The modern city of Thebes is located in the Nile delta region.)
     [No-Amon is also mentioned in Jer 46:25 (where 'Amon' is rendered 'multitude') and Eze 30:14-16 (where it is identified as 'No'). These two passages foretold a later destruction of this city at the hands of the Babylonians, some time after the fall of Jerusalem (in 586 BC).]
     This city, like Nineveh, was considered impregnable, because it was surrounded by a great mote, consisting of the great river (which was like a sea for its width) and several sloughs and canals. Furthermore, Thebes was populated with a multitude of able men. The city was allied with several nearby nations. Their combined military power seemed almost limitless.
     Thebes was one of several prominent Egyptian cities, which were spread along the northern portion of the Nile. Ethiopia (Cush, modern Sudan) occupied the upper Nile. Lubim (Libya) lay immediately to the west of Egypt. 'Put' is sometimes used as an alternate name for Libya, but, here, probably refers to a region on the west shore of the southern portion of the Red Sea.
...yet was she carried away... into captivity...
The Assyrians themselves accomplished this 'impossible' conquest in 663 BC... with their customary cruelty (v.10). Therefore, they should not think themselves to be any more invincible... or any less worthy of judgment than No.
Art thou better than populous No...?
The word 'better' {HB=yatab} means 'good' or 'well pleasing' (see Gen 4:7, where it is twice rendered 'do well').
Of course, the answer was 'No,' for the LORD had delineated the cause for their judgment, and declared that He Himself was against them (v.1-5). No one can stand against Him (Nah 1:6-8).
11 Thou also shalt be drunken:
thou shalt be hid, thou also shalt seek strength because of the enemy.
12 All thy strong holds [shall be like] fig trees with the firstripe figs:
if they be shaken, they shall even fall into the mouth of the eater.
13 Behold, thy people in the midst of thee [are] women:
the gates of thy land shall be set wide open unto thine enemies:
the fire shall devour thy bars.
thou also... - as it was with No, so it would be with Nineveh.
  • thou shalt be drunken...- not with wine, but with staggering confusion
    from drinking the wrath of God (Nah 1:10; Psa 75:8; Isa 29:9; Jer 25:15-17).
  • thou shalt be hid...- They would seek to hide themselves from God's wrath
    (Isa 2:19; Rev 6:15-17).
  • thou shalt seek strength...- They would bolster their defenses
    and request the aid of other nations (Nah 2:1; Isa 8:9).
  • thy firstripe figs... if... shaken... fall...-
    Their fortified city was ripe for judgment and ready to fall. (cf. Rev 6:12,13).
  • thy people... are women...- Their soldiers would faint,
    rather than standing as battle hardened men (Nah 2:8).
  • the gates... shall be set wide open unto thine enemies...-
    God did this, by means of the flooding river, to provide easy access for their enemies (Nah 2:6). The enemy would burn the wooden bars which secured the gates, when they burned the city.
14 Draw thee waters for the siege, fortify thy strong holds:
go into clay, and tread the morter, make strong the brickkiln.
15 There shall the fire devour thee; the sword shall cut thee off,
it shall eat thee up like the cankerworm:
make thyself many as the cankerworm, make thyself many as the locusts.
Their preparations prior to the siege of the city, would prove futile.
  • no matter how much water they stored (for drinking), it would not quench the fires of destruction.
  • no matter how many bricks they manufactured to strengthen the wall, they would not be sufficient even to fortify the kiln where they were made.
  • no matter how greatly they multiplied the number of their soldiers {like 'locusts' HB='arbeh, multitude}, the enemy, like so many cankerworms {HB=yekeq, devouring}, would consume them with fire and sword. (See the Book Notes at Joel 1:4)
16 Thou hast multiplied thy merchants above the stars of heaven:
the cankerworm spoileth, and flieth away.
17 Thy crowned [are] as the locusts,
and thy captains as the great grasshoppers,
which camp in the hedges in the cold day,
[but] when the sun ariseth they flee away,
and their place is not known where they [are].
...thy merchants {'traffickers'}...-
Nineveh had obtained great wealth through her violent trade in the lives and property of others (v.1) and through the export of her corruption (v.4). But her wealth would be stripped from her, take wing and fly away. (The future fall of Babylon the Great, the apostate gentile harlot, is described with similar language. Rev 18:7-19).
...thy crowned... as the locusts... as the great grasshoppers {HB=gowb, root diggers}... flee away...
Assyria's political and military leaders had occupied their positions when the climate was comfortable. But when the heat of God's wrath arose upon them, they would abandon their offices and attempt to escape.
18 Thy shepherds slumber, O king of Assyria: thy nobles shall dwell [in the dust]:
thy people is scattered upon the mountains, and no man gathereth [them].
thy shepherds slumber...- The leaders of Nineveh would sleep in the dust of death.
thy people is scattered...- The leaderless citizens would be lost among the nations, never to be regathered.
19 [There is] no healing of thy bruise; thy wound is grievous:
all that hear the bruit of thee shall clap the hands over thee:
for upon whom hath not thy wickedness passed continually?
there is no healing of thy bruise {ie., breaking, fracture}...
The Egyptian city of No would be rebuilt. But Nineveh would never again rise. Zeph 2:13-15
There would be rejoicing at the 'bruit' {ie., widely reported news} of her fall,
for her wickedness oppressed the world.
Likewise, the whole world will rejoice at the final end of Satan, and of the man of sin (the Antichrist, 'the Assyrian') whom he empowers (Isa 14:7-17,24-27), and of the corrupt world system over which he presides (Rev 17:1-2; Rev 18:2-3,20-21; 19:11-21).

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