Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
Introduction to Nahum
The prophecy of Nahum is both the complement and the counterpart of the Book of Jonah. When Moses had asked God to show him His glory, and God had promised to let him see the outskirts of that glory, and to proclaim the Name of the Lord before him, "the Lord," we are told, "passed by before him and proclaimed, "The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty" Exo 34:6-7. God proclaimed at once His mercy and His justice. Those wondrous words echo along the whole patch of the Old Testament. Moses himself Num 14:17-18, David Psa 86:15; Psa 103:8; Psa 145:8, other Psalmists Psa 111:4; Psa 112:4; Psa 116:5, Jeremiah Jer 32:18-19, Daniel Dan 9:4, Nehemiah Neh 9:17 all pled to God or recounted some words in thanksgiving. Joel repeated such words as a motive for repentance Joe 2:13. Upon the repentance of Nineveh, Jonah had recited to God the bright side of His declaration of Himself, "I knew that Thou art a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and of great goodness" Jon 4:2, repeating to God His words to Moses, and adding a change of heart concerning the harm. Nineveh, as appears from Nahum, had fallen back into the violence of which it had repented. Nahum then, in reference to that declaration of Jonah, begins by setting forth the awful side of the attributes of God. First, in a stately rhythm, which, in the original, reminds us of the gradual Psalms, he enunciates the solemn threefold declaration of the severity of God to those who will be His enemies.
A jealous God and Avenger is the Lord:
An Avenger is the Lord, and lord of wrath;
An Avenger is the Lord to His adversaries:
And a Reserver of wrath to His enemies.
Then, Naham too recites that character of mercy recorded by Moses, "The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power" Nah 1:3. But anger, although slow, comes, he adds, not the less certainly on the guilty; "and will not at all clear the guilty" Nah 1:3. The iniquity is full. As a whole, there is no more room for repentance. Nineveh had had its prophet, and had been spared, and had sunk back into its old sins. The office of Nahum is to pronounce its sentence. That sentence is fixed. "There is no healing of thy bruise" Nah 3:19. Nothing is said of its ulterior conversion or restoration. On the contrary, Nahum says, "He will make the place thereof an utter desolation" Nah 1:8.
The sins of Nineveh spoken of by Nahum are the same as those from which they had turned at the preaching of Jonah. In Jonah, it is, "the violence of their hands" Jon 3:8. Nahum describes Nineveh as "a dwelling of lions, filled with prey and with ravin, the feeding-place of young lions, where the lion tore enough for his whelps" Nah 2:11-12; "a city of bloods, full of lies and robbery, from which the prey departeth not" Nah 3:1.
But, amid this mass of evil, one thing was eminent, in direct antagonism to God. The character is very special. It is not simply of rebellion against God, or neglect of Him. It is a direct disputation of His Sovereignty. Twice the prophet repeats the characteristic expression, "What will ye devise against the Lord?" "devising evil against the Lord;" and adds, "counselor of evil" Nah 1:11. This was exactly the character of Sennacherib, whose wars, like those of his forefathers, (as appears from the cuneiform inscriptions . There were religious wars, and Sennacherib blasphemously compared God to the local deities of the countries, which his forefathers or himself had destroyed Isa 36:18-20; Isa 37:10-13. Of this enemy Nahum speaks, as having "gone forth;" out of thee (Nineveh) hath gone forth Nah 1:11 one, devising evil against the Lord, a counselor of Belial. This was past.
Their purpose was inchoate, yet incomplete. God challenges them, "What will ye devise so vehemently against the Lord?" Nah 1:9. The destruction too is proximate. The prophet answers for God, "He Himself, by Himself is already making an utter end" Nah 1:9. To Jerusalem he turns, "And now I will break his yoke from off thee, and will break his bonds asunder" Nah 1:13. Twice the prophet mentions the device against God; each time he answers it by the prediction of the sudden utter destruction of the enemy, while in the most perfect security. "While they are intertwined as thorns, and swallowed up as their drink, they are devoured as stubble fully dry" Nah 1:10; and, "If they are perfect" Nah 1:12, unimpaired in their strength, "and thus many, even thus shall they be mown down." Their destruction was to be, their numbers, complete. With no previous loss, secure and at ease, a mighty host, in consequence of their prosperity, all were, at one blow, mown down; "and he (their king, who counseled against the Lord) shall pass away and perish."
"The abundance of the wool in the fleece is no hindrance to the shears," nor of the grass to the sythe, nor of the Assyrian host to the will of the Lord, After he, the chief, had thus passed away, Nahum foretells that remarkable death, in connection with the house of his gods; "Out of the house of thy gods I will cut off the graven image and the molten image: I will make thy grave" Nah 1:14. There is no natural construction of these words, except, "I will make it thy grave" . Judah too was, by the presence of the Assyrian, hindered from going up to worship at Jerusalem. The prophet bids to proclaim peace to Jerusalem; "keep thy feasts - for the wicked shall no more pass through thee." It was then by the presence of the wicked, that they were now hindered from keeping their feasts, which could be kept only at Jerusalem.
The prophecy of Nahum coincides then with that of Isaiah, when Hezekiah prayed against Sennacherib. In the history Kg2 19:4, Kg2 19:22-28, and in the prophecy of Isaiah, the reproach and blasphemy and rage against God are prominent, as an evil design against God is in Nahum. In Isaiah we have the messengers sent to blaspheme Isa 37:4, Isa 37:23-29; in Nahum, the promise, that "the voice of thy messengers shall no more be heard." Isaiah prophesies the fruitlessness of his attempt against Jerusalem Isa 37:33-34; his disgraced return; his violent death in his own land Isa 37:7; Nahum prophesies the entire destruction of his army, his own passing away, his grave. Isaiah, in Jerusalem, foretells how the spontaneous fruits of the earth shall be restored to them Kg2 19:29; Isa 37:30, and so, that they shall have possession of the open corn-country; Nahum, living probably in the country, foretells the free access to Jerusalem, and bids them to (Nah 1:15; Nah 2:1 (Nah 2:2 in Hebrew)) keep their feasts, and perform the vows, which, in their trouble, they had promised to God. He does not only foretell that they may, but he enjoins them to do it.
The words (Nah 2:2 (verse 3 in Hebrew)), "the emptiers have emptied them out and marred their vine branches," may relate to the first expedition of Sennacherib, when, Holy Scripture says, he "came up against all the fenced cities of Judah and took them," and Hezekiah gave him "thirty talents of gold and 300 talents of silver" Kg2 18:13-14; Isa 36:1. Sennacherib himself says , "Hezekiah, king of Judah, who had not submitted to my authority, forty-six of his principal cities, and fortresses and villages depending upon them of which I took no account, I captured, and carried away their spoil. And from these places I captured and carried off as spoil 200, 150 people," etc. This must relate to the first expedition, on account of the exact correspondence of the tribute in gold, with a variation in the number of the talents of silver, easily accounted for .
In the first invasion Sennacherib relates that he besieged Jerusalem. : "Hezekiah himself I shut up in Jerusalem his capital city, like a bird in a cage, building towers round the city to fence him in, and raising banks of earth against the gates, so as to prevent escape." It is perhaps in reference to this, that, in the second invasion, God promises by Isaiah; "He shall not come into this city, and shall not shoot an arrow there; and shall not present shield before it, and shall not cast up bank against it" Isa 37:33. Still, in this second invasion also, Holy Scripture relates, that "the king of Assyria sent Rabshakeh from Lachish to Jerusalem unto king Hezekiah with a great army" Isa 36:2; Kg2 18:17. Perhaps it is in regard to this second expedition, that God says, "Though I have afflicted thee, I will affict thee no more" Nah 1:12; i. e., this second invasion should not desolate her, like that first. Not that God absolutely would not again afflict her, but not now. The yoke of the Assyrian was then broken, until the fresh sins of Manasseh drew down their own punishment.
Nahum then was a prophet for Judah, or for that remnant of Israel, which, after the ten tribes were carried captive, became one with Judah, not in temporal sovereignty, but in the one worship of God. His mention of Basan, Carmel and Lebanon alone, as places lying under the rebuke of God, perhaps implies a special interest in Northern Palestine. Judah may have already become the name for the whole people of God who were left in their own land, since those of the ten tribes who remained had now no separate religious or political existence. The idol-center of their worship was gone into captivity.
The old tradition agrees with this as to the name of the birthplace of Nahum, "the Elkoshite." "Some think," says Jerome , "that Elcesaeus was the father of Nahum, and, according to the Hebrew tradition, was also a prophet; whereas Elcesi is even to this day a little village in Galilee, small indeed, and scarcely indicating by its ruins the traces of ancient buildings, yet known to the Jews, and pointed out to me too by my guide." The name is a genuine Hebrew name, the "El," with which it begins, being the name of God, which appears in the names of other towns also as El'ale, Eltolad, Elteke Eltolem. The author of the short-lived Gnostic heresy of the Elcesaites, called Elkesai, elkasai, elxai, elxaios, Elkasaios , probably had his name from that same village. Eusebius mentions Elkese, as the place "whence was Nahum the Elkesaean." Cyril of Alexandria says, that Elkese was a village somewhere in Judaea.
On the other hand "Alcush," a town in Mosul, is probably a name of Arabic origin, and is not connected with Nahum by any extant or known writer, earlier than Masius toward the end of the 16th century , and an Arabic scribe in 1713 . Neither of these mention the tomb. "The tomb," says Layard , "is a simple plaster box, covered with green cloth, and standing at the upper end of a large chamber. The house containing the tomb is a modern building. There are no inscriptions, nor fragments of any antiquity near the place." The place is now reverenced by the Jews, but in the 12th century Benjamin of Tudela supposed his tomb to be at Ain Japhata, South of Babylon. Were anything needed to invalidate statements more than 2000 years after the time of Nahum, it might suffice that the Jews, who are the authors of this story, maintain that not Jonah only but Obadiah and Jephthah the Gileadite are also buried at Mosul .
Nor were the ten tribes placed there, but "in the cities of the Medes" Kg2 17:6. The name Capernaum, "the village of Nahum," is probably an indication of his residence in Galilee. There is nothing in his language unique to the Northern tribes. One very poetic word Nah 3:2; Jdg 5:22, common to him with the song of Deborah, is not therefore a "provincialism," because it only happens to occur in the rich, varied, language of two prophets of North Palestine. Nor does the occurrence of a foreign title interfere with "purity of diction" . It rather belongs to the vividness of his description.
The conquest of No-Ammon or Thebes and the captivity of its inhabitants, of which Nahum speaks, must have been by Assyria itself. Certainly it was not from domestic disturbances ; for Nahum says, that the people were carried away captive Nah 3:10. Nor was it from the Ethiopians ; for Nahum speaks of them, as her allies Nah 3:9. Nor from the Carthaginians ; for the account of Ammianus , that "when first Carthage was beginning to expand itself far and wide, the Punic generals, by an unexpected inroad, subdued the hundred-gated Thebes," is merely a mistaken gloss on a statement of Diodorus, that "Hanno took Hekatompylos by siege;" a city, according to Diodorus himself , "in the desert of Libya." Nor was it from the Scythians ; for Herodotus, who alone speaks of their maraudings and who manifestly exaggerates them, expressly says, that Psammetichus induced the Scythians by presents not to enter Egypt ; and a wandering predatory horde does not besiege or take strongly-fortified towns.
There remain then only the Assyrians. Four successive Assyrian Monarchs Sargon, his son, grandson and great grandson, Sennacherib, Esarhaddon, Asshur-bani-pal, from 718 b.c. to about 657 b.c., conquered in Egypt . The hostility was first provoked by the encouragement given by Sabacho the Ethiopian (Sab'e in the cuneiform inscriptions, S b k, in Egyptian), the So of Holy Scripture , to Hoshea to rebel against Shalmaneser Kg2 17:4. Sargon, who, according to his own statement, was the king who actually took Samaria , led three expeditions of his own against Egypt. In the first, Sargon defeated the Egyptian king in the battle of Raphia ; in the second, in his seventh year, he boasts that Pharaoh became his tributary ; in a third, which is placed three years later, Ethiopia submitted to him .
A seal of Sabaco has been found at Koyunjik, which, as has been conjectured , was probably annexed to a treaty. The capture of Ashdod by the Tartan of Sargon, recorded by Isaiah Isa 20:1, was probably in the second expedition, when Sargon deposed its king Azuri, substituting his brother Akhimit : the rebellion of Ashdod probably occasioned the third expedition, in which as it seems, Isaiah's prophecy was fulfilled, that Egyptians and Ethiopians, young and old, should be carried captive by the king of Assyria. The king of Ashdod, Yaman, is related to have fled to Egypt, which was subject to Merukha or Meroe; and to have been delivered up by the king of Meroe who himself fled to some unnamed desert afar, a march of (it is conjectured) months . The king of Meroe, first, from times the most distant, became tributary. : "His forefathers had not" in all that period "sent to the kings my ancestors to ask for peace and to acknowledge the power of Merodach." The fact, that his magnificent palace, "one of the few remains of external decoration," Layard says , "with which we are acquainted in Assyrian architecture," "seems" according to Mr. Fergusson, , "at first sight almost purely Egyptian," implies some lengthened residence in Egypt or some capture of Egyptian artists.
Of Sennacherib, the son of Sargon, Josephus writes , "Berosus, the historian of the Chaldee affairs, mentions the king Sennacherib, and that he reigned over the Assyrians, and that he warred against all Asia and Egypt, saying as follows." The passage of Berosus itself is missing, witether Josephus neglected to fill it in, or whether it has been subsequently lost; but neither Chaldee nor Egyptian writers record expeditions which were reverses; and although Beresus was a Babylonian, not an Assyrian, yet the document, which he used, must have been Assyrian. In the second expedition of Sennacherib, Rabshakeh, in his message to Hezekiah, says, "Behold thou trustest upon the staff of this bruised reed, upon Egypt" Kg2 18:21. The expression is remarkable. He does not speak of Egypt, as a power, weak, frail, failing, but, passively, as crushed by another. It is the same word and image which he uses in his prophecy of our Lord, "a bruised reed (רצץ קנה qâneh râtsats) shall He not break," i. e., He shall not break that which is already bruised. The word implies, then, that the king of Egypt had already received some decided blow before the second expedition of Sennacherib. The annals of Sennacherib's reign, still preserved in his inscriptions, break off in the eighth of his twenty-two years , and do not extend to the time of this second expedition against Hezekiah . Nor does Holy Scripture say, in what year this second expedition took place. In this he defeated "the kings of Egypt and the king of Meroe at Altakou (Elteke) and Tamna (Timnatha)."
Sennacherib's son Esarhaddon appears for the time to have subdued Egypt and Ethiopia, and to have held them as kingdoms dependent on himself. "He acquired Egypt and the inner parts of Asia," is the brief statement of Abydenus (i. e., of Berosus): "He established" (his son relates) "twenty kings, satraps, governors in Egypt" , among which can be recognized Necho, (the father of Psammetichus) king of Memphis and Sais; a king of Tanis, or Zoan (now San); Natho (or, according to another copy, Sept), Hanes, Sebennytus, Mendes, Bubastis, Siyout or Lycopolis, Chemmis, Tinis, and No. These were all subordinate kings, for so he entitles each separately in the list, although he sums up the whole , "These are the names of the Kings, Pechahs, Satraps who in Egypt obeyed my father who begat me." Tearcho or Taracho himself, "king of Egypt and Ethiopia" , was in like way subject to Esarhaddon. The account of the revolt, which his son Asshur-bani-pal quelled, implies also a fixed settlement in Egypt. The 20 kings were involved in the rebellion through fear of Taracho, but there is notice of other servants of Esarhaddon who remained faithful and were maltreated by Taraoho .
Asshur-bani-pal says also, that he strengthened his former garrisons . One expedition of Esarhaddon (probably toward the close of his reign, since he does not mention it in his own annals which extend over eight years) is related by his son Asshur-bani-pal . "He defeated Tirhakah in the lower country, after which, proceeding Southward, he took the city, where the Ethiopian held his court," and assumed the title , "king of the kings of Egypt and conqueror of Ethiopia." On another inscription in a palace built for his son, at Tarbisi, now Sherif-khan, he entitles himself "king of the kings of Egypt, Pathros, Ethiopia." We do not, however, find the addition, which appears to recur upon every conquest of a people not before conquered by Assyria, "which the kings, my fathers, had not subdued." This addition is so regular, that the absence of it, in itself, involves a strong probability of a previous conquest of the country.
The subdual apparently was complete. They revolted at the close of the reign of Esarhaddon (as his son Asshur-bani-pal relates) from fear of Taracho rather than from any wish of their own to regain independence. Asshur-bani-pal accordingly, after the defeat of Taracho, forgave and restored them . Even the second treacherous revolt was out of fear, lest Taracho shall return , upon the withdrawal of the Assyrian armies. This second revolt and perhaps a subsequent revolt of Urdamanie a stepson of Taracho, who succeeded him, Asshur-bani-pal seems to have subdued by his lieutenants , without any necessity of marching in person against them. Thebes was taken and retaken; but does not appear to have offered any resistance. Taracho, upon his defeat at Memphis, fled to it, and again abandoned it as he had Memphis, and the army of Asshur-bani-pal made a massacre in it . Once more it was taken, when it had been recovered by Urdamanie , and then, if the inscriptions are rightly deciphered, strange as it is, the carrying off of men and women from it is mentioned in the midst of that of "great horses and apes." "Silver, gold, metals, stones, treasures of his palace, dyed garments, berom and linen, great horses, men, male and female, immense apes - they drew from the midst of the city, and brought as spoils to Nineveh the city of my dominion, and kissed my feet."
All of those kings having been conquerors of Egypt, the captivity of No might equally hav, e taken place under any of them. All of them employed the policy, which Sargon apparently began, of transporting to a distance those whom they had conquered . Yet it is, in itself, more probable, that it was at the earlier than at the later date. It is most in harmony with the relation of Nahum to Isaiah that, in regard to the conquest of Thebes also, Nahum refers to the victory over Egypt and Ethiopia foretold by Isaiah, when Sargon's general, the Tartan, was besieging Ashdod. The object of Isaiah's prophecy was to undeceive Judah in regard to its reliance on Egypt and Ethiopia against Assyria, which was their continual bane, morally, religiously, nationally. But the prophecy goes beyond any mere defeat in battle, or capture of prisoners. It relates to conquest within Egypt itself. For Isaiah says, "the king of Assyria shall lead into captivity Egyptians and Ethiopians, young and old" Isa 20:4. They are not their choice young men, the flower of their army, but those of advanced age and those in their first youth, such as are taken captive, only when a population itself is taken captive, either in a marauding expedition, or in the capture of a city. The account of the captivity of No exactly corresponds with this. Nahum says nothing of its permanent subdual, only of the captivity of its inhabitants. But Esarhaddon apparently did not carry the Egyptians captive at all . Every fact given in the Inscriptions looks like a permanent settlement. The establishment of the 20 subordinate kings, in the whole length and breadth of Egypt, implies the continuance of the previous state of things, with the exception of that subordination. No itself appears as one of the cities settled apparently under its native though tributary king .
In regard to the fulfillment of prophecy, they who assume as an axiom, or petitio principii, that there can be no prophecy of distant events, have overlooked, that while they think that, by assuming the later date, they bring Nahum's prophecy of the capture of Nineveh nearer to its accomplishment, they remove in the same degree Isaiah's prophecy of the captivity of Egyptians and Ethiopians, young and old, from its accomplishment. "Young and old" are not the prisoners of a field of battle; young and old of the Ethiopians would not be in a city of lower Egypt. If Isaiah's prophecy was not fulfilled under Sargon or Sennacherib, it must probably have waited for its fulfillment until this last subdual by Asshurbanipal. For the policy of Esarhaddon and also of Asshurbanipal, until repeated rebellions wore his patience, was of settlement, not of deportation. If too the prophecy of Nahum were brought down to the reign of Asshurbanipal, it would be the more stupendous.
For the empire was more consolidated. Nahum tells the conqueror, flushed with his own successes and those of his father, that he had himself no more inherent power than the city whose people he had carried captive. Thebes too, like Nineveh, dwelt securely, conquering all, unreached by any ill, sea-girt, as it were, by the mighty river on which she rested. She too was strengthened with countless hosts of her own and of allied people. Yet she fell. Nineveh, the prophet tells her, was no mightier, in herself. Her river was no stronger defense than that sea of fresh water, the Nile; her tributaries would disperse or become her enemies. The prophet holds up to her the vicissitudes of No-amon, as a mirror to herself. As each death is a renewed witness to man's mortality, so each marvelous reverse of temporal greatness is a witness to the precariousness of other human might. No then was an ensample to Nineveh, although its capture was by the armies of Nineveh. They had been, for centuries, two rivals for power. But the contrast bad far more force, when the victory over Egypt was fresh, than after 61 years of alternate conquest and rebellion.
But, anyhow, the state of Nineveh and its empire, as pictured by Nahum, is inconsistent with any times of supposed weakness in the reign of its last king: the state of Judah, with reference to Assyria, corresponds with that under Sennacherib but with none below. They are these. Assyria was in its full unimpaired strength Nah 1:12; Nah 2:12. She still blended those two characters so rarely combined, but actually united in her and subsequently in Babylon, of a great merchant and military people. She had, at once, the prosperity of peace and of war. Lying on a great line of ancient traffic, which bound together East and West, India with Phoenicia, and with Europe through Phoenicia, both East and West poured their treasures into the great capital, which lay as a center between them, and stretched out its arms, alike to the Indian sea and the Mediterranean. Nahum can compare its merchants only to that which is countless by man, the locusts or the stars of heaven Nah 3:16.
But amid this prosperity of peace, war also was enriching her. Nineveh was still sending out its messengers (such as was Rabshakeh), the leviers of its tribute, the demanders of submission. It was still one vast lion-lair, its lions still gathering in prey from the whole earth Nah 2:12-13, still desolating, continually, unceasingly, in all directions Nah 3:19, and now, especially, devising evil against God and His people Nah 1:9, Nah 1:11. Upon that people its yoke already pressed, for God promises to break it off from them Nah 1:13; the people was already afflicted, for God says to it, "Though I have afflicted thee, I will afflict thee no more" Nah 1:12, namely, by this invader. The solemn feasts of Judah were hindered through the presence of ungodly invaders; Belial, the counselor of evil spoken of under that name, already passing through her. War was around her, for he promises that one should publish peace upon her mountains Nah 1:15. This was the foreground of the picture. This was the exact condition of things at Hezekiah's second invasion, just before the miraculous destruction of his army. Sennacherib's yoke was heavy, for he had exacted from Hezekiah "three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold" Kg2 18:14; Hezekiah had not "two thousand horsemen" Kg2 18:23; the "great host" Kg2 18:17 of the Assyrians encircled Jerusalem. They summoned it to surrender on the terms, that they should pay a new tribute, and that Sennacherib, whenever it pleased him, should remove them to Assyria Kg2 18:31-32.
At no subsequent period were there any events corresponding to this description. Manasseh was carried captive to Babylon by Esarhaddon; but probably this was no formidable or resisted invasion, since the book of Kings passes it over altogether, the Chronicles mention only that the Assyrian generals took Manasseh prisoner in a thicket (Ch2 33:11, accordingly not in Jerusalem, and carried him to Babylon. Probably, this took place, in the expedition of Esarhaddon to the West, when he settled in the cities of Samaria people of different nations, his captives Ezr 4:2, Ezr 4:9-10. The capture of Manasseh was then, probably, a mere incident in the history. Since he was taken among the thickets, he had probably fled, as Zedekiah did afterward, and was taken in his place of concealment. This was simply personal. No taking of towns is mentioned, no siege, no terror, no exaction of tribute, no carrying away into captivity, except of the single Manasseh. The grounds of his restoration are not mentioned.
The Chronicles mention only the religious aspect of his captivity and his restoration, his sin and his repentance. But it seems probable that he was restored by Esarhaddon, upon the same system of policy, on which he planted subjects of his own in Samaria and the country around Zidon, built a new town to take the place of Zidon, and joined in the throne of Edom one, brought up in his own palace. For, when restored, Manasseh was set at full liberty to fortify Jerusalem Ch2 33:14, as Hezekiah had done, and to put "captains of war in all the cities of Judah" Ch2 33:14. This looks as if he was sent back as a trusted tributary of Esarhaddon, and as a frontier-power against Egypt. At least, 60 years afterward, we find Josiah, in the like relation of trust to Nebuchadnezzar, resisting the passage of Pharaoh-Necho. However, the human cause of his restoration must remain uncertain. Yet clearly, in their whole history, there is nothing to correspond to the state of Judaea, as described by Nahum.
A recent critic writes , "Nahum's prophecy must have been occasioned by an expedition of mighty enemies against Nineveh. The whole prophecy is grounded on the certain danger, to which Nineveh was given over; only the way in which this visible danger is conceived of, in connection with the eternal truths, is here the properly prophetic." Ewald does not explain how the danger, to which "Nineveh was given over" was certain, when it did not happen. The explanation must come to this. Nahum described a siege of Nineveh and its issue, as certain. The description in itself might be either of an actual siege, before the prophet's eyes, or of one beheld in the prophet's mind. But obviously no mere man, endowed with mere human knowledge, would have ventured to predict so certainly the fall of such a city as Nineveh, unless it was "given over to certain danger." But according to the axiom received in Ewald's school, Nahum, equally with all other men, could have had only human prescience.
Therefore, Nahum, prophesying the issue so confidently, must have prophesied when Nineveh was so "given over." The a priori axiom of the school rules its criticism. Meanwhile the admission is incidentally made, that a prophecy so certain, had it related to distant events, was what no man, with mere human knowledge, would venture upon. Ewald accordingly thinks that the prophecy was occasioned by a siege of Phraortes; which siege Nahum expected to be successful; which however failed, so that Nahum was mistaken, although the overthrow which he foretold came to pass afterward! The siege, however, of Nineveh by Phraortes is a mere romance. Herodotus, who alone attributes to Phraortes a war with Assyria, has no hint, that he even approached to Nineveh. He simply relates that Phraortes "subdued Asia, going from one nation to another, until, leading an army against the Assyrians, he perished himself, in the second year of his reign, and the greater part of his army."
It is not necessary to consider the non-natural expositions, by which the simple descriptions of Nahum were distorted into conformity with this theory, which has no one fact to support it. Herodotus even dwells on the good condition of the Assyrian affairs, although isolated from their revolted allies, and seemingly represents the victory as an easy one. And, according to Herodotus, whose account is the only one we have, Phraortes (even if he ever fought with the Ninevites, and Herodotus' account is not merely the recasting of the history of another Median Frawartish who, according to the Behistun Inscription, claimed the throne of Media against Darius, and perished in battle with him ) had only an unorganized army. Herodotus says of Cyaxares, his son , "He is said to have been more warlike far than his forefathers, and he first distributed Asiatics into distinct bands, and separated the spearmen and archers and horsemen from one another, whereas, before, everything had alike mixed into one confused mass." Such an undisciplined horde could have been no formidable enemy for a nation, whom the monuments and their history exhibit as so warlike and so skilled in war as the Assyrians.
Another critic, , then, seeing the untenableness of this theory, ventures (as he never hesitated at any paradox) to place the prophet Nahum, as an eye-witness of the first siege of Cyaxares.
Herodotus states that Cyaxares, the son of Phraortes, twice besieged Nineveh. First, immediately after his father's death, to avenge it ; the second, after the end of the Scythian troubles, when he took it . The capture of Nineveh was in the first year of Nabopolassor 625 b.c. The accession of Cyaxares, according to Herodotus, was 633 b.c. Eight years then only elapsed between his first siege and its capture, and, if it be true, that the siege lasted two years, there was an interval of six years only. But, at this time, the destruction of Nineveh was no longer a subject of joy to Judah. Since the captivity of Manasseh, Judah had had nothing to fear from Assyria; nor do we know of any oppression from it. Holy Scripture mentions none. The Assyrian monuments speak of expeditions against Egypt; but there was no temptation to harass Judah, which stood in the relation of a faithful tributary and an outwork against Egypt, and which, when Nineveh fell, remained in the same relation to its conquerors, into whose suzerainty it passed, together with the other dependencies of Assyria. The relation of Josiah to Babylon was the continuation of that of Manasseh to Esarhaddon.
The motive of this theory is explained by the words, "With a confidence, which leaves room for no doubt, Nahum expects a siege and an ultimate destruction of Nineveh. The security of his tone, nay that he ventures at all to trope so enormous a revolution of the existing state of things, must find its explanation in the circumstances of the time, out of the then condition of the world; but not until Cyaxares reigned in Media, did things assume an aspect, corresponding to this confidence." It is well that this writer doffs the courteous language, as to the "hopes," "expectations," "inferences from God's justice," and brings the question to the issue, "there is such absolute certainty of tone," that Nahum must have had either a divine or a human knowledge. He acknowledges the untenableness of any theory width would account for the prophecy of Nahum on any human knowledge, before Cyaxares was marching against the gates of Nineveh. Would human knowledge have sufficed then? Certainly, from such accounts as we have, Nineveh might still have stood against Cyaxares and its own rebel and traitorous general, but for an unforeseen event which man could not bring about, the swelling of its river.
But, as usual, unbelief fixes itself upon that which is minutest, ignores what is greatest. There are, in Nahum, three remarkable predictions.
(1) The sudden destruction of Sennacherib's army and his own remarkable death in the house of his god.
(2) The certain, inevitable, capture of Nineveh, and that, not by capitulation or famine, not even by the siege or assault, which is painted so vividly, but the river, which was its protection, becoming the cause of its destruction.
(3) Its utter desolation, when captured. The first, people assume to have been the description of events past; the second, the siege, they assume to have been present; and that, when truman wisdom could foresee its issue; the third, they generalize. The first is beyond the reach of proof now. It was a witness of the Providence and just judgment of God, to those days, not to our's. A brief survey of the history of the Assyrian Empire will show, that the second and third predictions were beyond human knowledge.
The Assyrian Empire dated probably from the ninth century before Christ. Such, it has been pointed out, is the concurrent result of the statements of Berosus and Herodotus. Moses, according to the simplest meaning of his words, spake of the foundation of Nineveh as contemporary with that of Babylon. "The beginning of the kingdom of Nimrod," he relates, "was Babel and Erech, and Accad and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. Out of that land went forth Asshur, and builded Nineveh" Gen 10:10-11. Oppressed probably and driven forth by Nimrod, Asshur and his Semitic descendants went forth from the plain of Shinar, the Babylonia of after-ages. Had Moses intended to express (what some have thought), that Nimrod "went forth out of that land to Assyria," he would doubtless have used the ordinary style of connected narrative; "And he went forth thence." He would probably also have avoided ambiguity, by expressing that Nimrod "went forth to Asshur" Gen 25:18 using a form, which he employs a little later. As it is, Moses has used a mode of speech, by which, in Hebrew, a parenthetical statement would be made, and he has not used the form, which occurs in every line of Hebrew narrative to express a continued history. No one indeed would have doubted that such was the meaning, but that they did not see, how the mention of Asshur, a son of Shem, came to be anticipated in this account of the children of Ham. This is no ground for abandoning the simple construction of the Hebrew. It is but the history, so often repeated in the changes of the world, that the kingdom of Nimrod was founded on the expulsion of the former inhabitants. Nimrod began his kingdom; "Asshur went forth."
It is most probable, from this same brief notice, that Nineveh was, from the first, that aggregate of cities, which it afterward was. Moses says, "And he builded Nineveh and Rehoboth-Ir and Calach and Resen, between Nineveh and Calach; this is that great city" Gen 10:11-12. This cannot be understood as said exclusively of Nineveh; since Nineveh was mentioned first in the list, of cities, and the mention of the three others had intervened; and, in the second place where it is named, it is only spoken of indirectly and subordinately; it is hardly likely to be said of Resen, of whose unusual size nothing is elsewhere related. It seems more probable, that it is said of the aggregate of cities, that they formed together one great city, the very characteristic of Nineveh, as spoken of in Jonah.
Nineveh itself lay on the Eastern side of the Tigris, opposite to the present Mosul. In later times, among the Syrian writers, As shur becomes the name for the country, distinct from Mesopotamia and Babylonia , front which it was separated by the Tigris, and bounded on the North by Mount Niphates.
This distinction, however, does not occur until after the extinction of the Assyrian empire. On the contrary, in Genesis, Asshur, in one place, is spoken of as West of the Hiddekel or Tigris, so that it must at that time have comprised Mesopotamia, if not all on this side of the Tigris, i. e., Babylonia. In another place, it is the great border-state of Arabia on the one side, as was Egypt on the other. The sons of Ishmael, Moses relates, Gen 25:18, dwell from Havilah unto Shur that is before Egypt, as thou goest to Assyria; i. e., they dwelt on the great caraven-route across the Arabian desert from Egypt to Babylonia. Yet Moses mentions, not Babylon, but Asshur. In Balaam's prophecy Num 24:22, Asshur stands for the great Empire, whose seat was at one time at Nineveh, at another at Babylon, which should, centuries afterward, carry Israel captive.
Without entering into the intricacies of Assyrian or Babylonian history further than is necessary for the immediate object, it seems probable, that the one or other of the sovereigns of these nations had an ascendency over the others, according to his personal character and military energy. Thus, in the time of Abraham, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, in his expedition against the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah, took with him, as subordinate allies, the kings of Shinar, (or Babylon) and Ellasar, as well as Tidal king of nations, a king probably of Nomadic tribes. The expedition was to avenge the rebellion of the petty kings in the valley of Siddim against Chedorlaomer, after they had been for twelve years tributary. But, although the expedition closed with the attack on the live kings of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboim, and Zoar, its extent on the East side of the Jordan from Ashteroth Karnaim in Basan to Elparan (perhaps Elath on the Red Sea), and the defeat of the giant tribes, the Rephaim, Zuzim, Emim, Horites, the Amalekites and the Amorites in their several abodes, seems to imply one of those larger combinations against the aggressions of the East, which we meet with in later times .
It was no insulated conflict which spread over nearly three degrees of latitude. But it was the king of Elam, not the king of Babylon or of Asshur, who led this expedition; and those other kings, according to the analogy of the expeditions of Eastern monarchs, were probably dependent on him. It has been observed that the inscriptions of a monarch whose name partly coincides with that of Chedorlaomer, namely, Kudurmabuk, or Kudurmapula, show traces of a Persian influence on the Chaldee characters; but cuneiform decipherers having desponded of identifying those monarchs , Chedorlaomer appears as yet only so far cOnnected with Babylon, that its king was a tributary sovereign to him or a vice-king like those of later times, of whom Sennacherib boasts, "Are not my princes altogether kings?"
Assyria, at this time, is not mentioned, and so, since we know of its existence at an earlier period, it probably was independent. Lying far to the North of any of the nations here mentioned, it, from whatever cause or however it may have been engaged, took no share in the war. Subsequently also, down to a date almost contemporary with the Exodus, it has been observed that the name of Asshur does not appear on the Babylonian inscriptions, nor does it swell the titles of the king of Babylon . A little later than the Exodus, however, in the beginning of the 14th century b.c., Asshur and Egypt were already disputing the country which lay between them. The account is Egyptian, and so, of course, only relates the successes of Egypt. Thothmes III, in his fortieth year, according to Mr. Birch, received tribute from a king of Nineveh . In another monument of the same monarch, where the line, following on the name Nineveh, is lost, Thothmes says that he "erected his tablet in Naharaina (Mesopotamia) for the extension of the frontiers of Kami" (Egypt). Amenophis III, in the same century, represented Asiatic captives , with the names of Patens (Padan-Aram), Asuria, Karukamishi (Carchemish"). "On another column are Saenkar (Shiner), Naharaina, and the Khita (Hittites)." The mention of these contiguous nations strengthens the impression that the details of the interpretation are accurate. All these inscriptions imply that Assyria was independent of Babylon. In one, it is a co ordinate power; in the two others, it is a state which had measured its strength with Egypt, under one of its greatest conquerors, though, according to the Egyptian account, it had been worsted.
Another account, which has been thought to be the first instance of the extension of Babylonian authority so far northward, seems to me rather to imply the ancient self-government of Assyria. : "A record of Tiglath-pileser I. declares him to have rebuilt a temple in the city of Asshur, which had been taken down 60 years previously, after it had lasted for 641 years frp, the date of its first foundation by Shamas-Iva, son of Ismi-Dagon." Sir H. Rawlinson thinks that it is probable (although only probable) , that this Ismi-Dagon is a king, whose name occurs in the brick-legends of Lower Babylonia. Yet the Ismi-Dagon of the bricks does not bear the title of king of Babylon, but of king of Niffer only ; "his son," it is noticed, "does not take the title of king; but of governor of Hur ."
The name Shamas-Iva nowhere occurs in connection with Babylonia, but it docks recur, at a later period, as the name of an Assyrian Monarch . Since the names of the Eastern kings so often continue on in the same kingdom the recurrence of that name, at a later period, makes it even probable, that Shamas-Iva was a native king. There is absolutely nothing to connect his father Ismi-Dagon with the Ismi-Dagon king of Niffer, beyond the name itself, which, being Semitic, may just as well have belonged to a native king of Nineveh as to a king of Lower Babylonia. Nay, there is nothing to show that Ismi-Dagon was not an Assyrian Monarch who reigned at Niffer, for the name of his father is still unknown; there is no evidence that his father was ever a king, or, if a king, where he reigned. It seems to me in the last degree precarious to assume, without further evidence, the identity of the two kings. It has, further, yet to be shown that Lower Babylonia had, at that time, an empire, as distinct from its own local sovereignty. We know from Holy Scripture of Nimrod's kingdom in Shinar, a province distinct from Elymais, Mesopotamia, Assyria, and probably Chaldaea. In Abraham's time, 1900 b.c., we find again a king of Shinar. Shinar again, it is supposed, appears in Egyptian inscriptions, in the 14th century, b.c. ; and, if so, still distinct from Mesopotamia and Assyria. But all this implies a distinct kingdom, not an empire.
Again, were it ever so true, that Shamas-Iva was a son of a king in Lower Babylonia, that be built a temple in Kileh-Shergat, as being its king, and that he was king, as placed there by Ismi-Dagon, this would be no proof of the continual dependence of Assyria upon Babylonia. England did not continue a dependency of France, because conquered by William of Normandy. How was Alexander's empire broken at once! Spain under Charles the V was under one sovereignty with Austria; Spain with France had, even of late, alike Bourbon kings. A name would, at most, show an accidental, not a permanent, connection.
But there is, at present, no evidence implying a continued dependence of Assyria upon Babylon. Two facts only have been alleged;
1) that the cuneiform writing of inscriptions at Kileh-Shergat, 40 miles South of Nineveh, has a Babylonian character;
2) that, on those bricks, four names have been found of inferior Satraps.
But 1) the Babylonian character of the inscriptions would show a dependence of civilization, not of empire. Arts flourished early at Babylon, and so the graven character of the Inscriptions too may have been curried to the rougher and warlike North. The garment, worked at Babylon, was, in the 15th century b.c., exported as far as Palestine, and was, for its beauty, the object of Achan's covetousness Jos 7:21.
2) In regard to the satraps whose names are found on the bricks of Kileh-Shergat, it does not appear, that they were tributary to Babylon at all; they may, as far as it appears, have been simply inferior officers of the Assyrian empire. Anyhow, the utmost which such a relation to Babylon would evince, if ever so well established, would be a temporary dependence of Kileh-Shergat itself, not of Nineveh or the Assyrian kingdom. Further, the evidence of the duration of the dependency would, be as limited at its extent. Four satraps would be no evidence as to this period of 700 years, only a century less than has elapsed since the Norman conquest. The early existence of an Assyrian kingdom has been confirmed by recent cuneiform discoveries, which give the names of 8 Assyrian kings, the earliest of whom is supposed to have reigned about 3 12 centuries before the Commencement of the Assyrian Empire .
The "empire," Herodotus says , "Assyria held in Upper Asia for 520 years;" Berosus , "for 526 years." The Cuneiform Inscriptions give much the same result. Tiglath-pileser , who gives five years' annals of his own victories, mentions his grandfather's grandfather, the 4th king before him, as the king who "first organized the country of Assyria," who "established the troops of Assyria in authority." The expression, "established in authority," if it may be pressed, relates to foreign conquest. If this Tiglath-pileser be the same whom Sennacherib, in the 10th year of his own reign, mentions as having lost his gods to Merodach-ad-akhi, king of Mesopotamia, 418 years before , then, since Sennacherib ascended the throne about 703 b.c. , we should have 1112 b.c. for the latter part of the reign of Tiglath-pileser I, and counting tills and the six preceding reigns at 20 years each , should have about 1252 b.c. for the beginning of the Assyrian empire. It has been calculated that if the 526 years, assigned by Berosus to his 45 Assyrian kings, are (as Polyhistor states Berosus to have meant) to be dated back from the accession of Pul who took tribute from Menahem, and so from between 770 b.c. and 760 b.c., they carry back the beginning of the dynasty to about 1290 b.c. If they be counted, (as is perhaps more probable) from the end of the reign of Pul Kg2 15:19, i. e., probably 747 b.c., "the era of Nabonassar," the Empire would commence about 1273 b.c. Herodotus, it has been shown , had much the same date in his mind, when he assigned 520 years to the Assyrian empire in upper Asia, dating back from the revolt of the Medes. For he supposed this revolt to be 179 years anterior to the death of Cyrus 529 b.c. (and so, 708 b.c.) plus a period of anarchy before the accession of Deioces. Allowing 30 years for this period of anarchy, we have 738 b.c. plus 520, i. e., 1258 b.c., for the date of the commencement of Assyrian empire according to Herodotus. Thus, the three testimonies would coincide in placing the beginning of that Empire anyhow between 1258 and 1273 b.c.
But this Empire started up full-grown. It was the concentration of energy and power, which had before existed. Herodotus' expression is "rulers of Upper Asia." Tiglath-pileser attributes to his forefather, that he "organized the country," and "established the armies of Assyria in authority." The second king of that list takes the title of "ruler over the people of Bel" , i. e., Babylonia. The 4th boasts to have reduced "all the lands of the Magian world." Tiglath-pileser I claims to have conquered large parts of Cappadocia, Syria from Tsukha to Carchemish, Media and Muzr. According to the inscription at Bavian , he sustained a reverse, and lost his gods to a king of Mesopotamia, which gods were recovered by Sennacherib from Babylon. Yet this exception the more proves that conquest was the rule. For, had there been subsequent successful invasions of Assyria by Babylonia, the spoils of the 5th century backward would not have been alone recovered or recorded. If the deciphering of the Inscriptions is to be trusted, Nineveh was the capital, even in the days el Tiglath-pileser I. For Sennacherib brought the gods back, it is said, and put them in their places, i. e., probably where he himself reigned, at Nineveh. Thence then they were taken in the reign of Tiglath-pileser. Nineveh then was his capital also.
Of an earlier portion we have as yet but incidental notices; yet the might of Assyria is attested by the presence of Assyrian names in the Egyptian dynastic lists, whether the dynasties were themselves Assyrian, or whether the names came in through matrimonial alliances between two great nations .
With few exceptions, as far as appears from their own annals (and these are in the later times confirmed by Holy Scripture), the Assyrian Empire was, almost whenever we hear of it, one long series of victory and rapine. It is an exception, if any monarch is peaceful, and content to "repair the buildings" in his residence, "leaving no evidence of conquest or greatness." Tiglathi-Nin, father of the warlike Asshur-i-danipal or Sardanapalus, is mentioned only in his son's monument , "among his warlike ancestors, who had carried their arms into the Armenian mountains, and there set up stelae to commemorate their conquests."
Civil wars there were, and revolutions. Conquerors and dynasties came to an untimely end; there was parricide, fratricide; but the tide of war and conquest rolled on. The restless warriors gave no rest. Sardanapalus terms himself , "the conqueror from the upper passage of the Tigris to Lebanon and the great sea, who all countries, from the rising of the sun to the going down thereof, has reduced under his authority." His son, Shalmanubar or Shalmaneser, in his thirty-five years of reign led, in person twenty-three military expeditions. 20,000, 16,000, are the numbers of his enemies left dead upon a field of battle with Benhadad and Hazael . Cappadocia, Pontus, Armenia, Media, Babylonia, Syria, Phoenicia , 15 degrees of longitude and 10 of latitude, save where the desert or the sea gave him nothing to conquer, were the range of his repeated expeditions.
He circled round Judaea. He thrice defeated Benhadad with his allies (on several occasions, twelve kings of the Hittites). His own army exceeded on occasions 100,000 fighting men. Twice he defeated Hazael. Israel trader Jehu, Tyre, Sidon, 24 kings in Pontus, kings of the Hittites, of Chaldaea, 27 kings of Persia are among his tributaries ; "the shooting of his arrows struck terror," he says, "as far as the sea" (Indian Ocean); "he put up his arrows in their quiver at the sea of the setting sun." His son Shamesiva apparently subdued Babylonia, and in the West conquered tribes near Mount Taurus, on the North the countries bordering on Armenia to the South and East, the Medes beyond Mount Zagros, and "the Zimri Jer 25:25 in upper Luristan." His son Ivalush III or IV received undisturbed tribute from the kingdoms which his fathers conquered, and ascribes to his god Asshur the grant of "the kingdom of Babylon to his son."
Thus "Assyria with one hand grasped Babylonia; with the other Philistia and Edom; she held Media Proper, S. Armenia, possessed all Upper Syria, including Commagene and Amanus, bore sway over all the whole Syrian coast from Issus to Gaza, and from the coast to the desert." Tiglath-pileser II and Shalmaneser are known to us as conquerors from Holy Scripture . Tiglath-pileser, we are told from the inscriptions, warred and conquered in Upper Mesopotamia, Armenia, Media, Babylonia, drove into exile a Babyionian prince, destroyed Damascus, took tribute from a Hiram king of Tyre, and from a Queen of the Arabs . And so it continued, until nearly the close of the Monarchy.
The new dynasty which began with Sargon were even greater conquerors than their predecessors. Sargon, in a reign of seventeen or nineteen years, defeated the king of Elam, conquered in Iatbour beyond Elam, reigned from Ras, a dependency on Elam, over Poukoud (Pekod), Phoenicia, Syria, etc. to the river of Egypt, in the far Media to the rising sun, in Scythia, Albania, Parthia, Van, Armenia, Colchis, Tubal to the Moschi: he placed his lieutenants as governors over these countries, and imposed tribute upon them, as upon Assyrians; he, probably, placed Merodach-Baladan on the throne of Babylon, and after 12 years displaced him; he reduced all Chaldaea under his rule; he defeated "Sebech (i. e., probably, So), Sultan of Egypt, so that he was heard of no more;" he received tribute from the Pharaoh of Egypt, from a Queen of Arabia and from Himyar the Sabaean. To him first the king of Meroe paid tribute. He finally captured Samaria: he took Gaza, Kharkar, Arpad and Damascus, Ashdod (which it cost Psammetichus 29 years to reconquer), and Tyre, (which resisted Nebuchadnezzar for 13 years). He added to the Satrapy of Parthia, placed a Satrap or Lieutenant over Commagene and Sentaria, Kharkar, Tel-Garimmi, Gamgoum, Ashdod, and a king of his own choice over Albania. lie seized 55 walled cities in Armenia, 11, which were held to be "inaccessible fortresses;" and 62 great cities in Commagene; 34 in Media; he laid tribute on the "king of the country of rivers."
He removed whole populations at his will; from Samaria, he carried captive its inhabitants, 27,800, and placed them in "cities of the Medes" Kg2 17:6; Kg2 18:11; he removed those of Commagene to Elam; all the great men of the Tibareni, and the inhabitants of unknown cities, to Assyria; Cammanians, whom he had conquered, to Tel-Garimmi, a capital which he rebuilt; others whom he had vanquished in the East he placed in Ashdod: again he placed "Assyrians devoted to his empire" among the Tibareni; inhabitants of cities unknown to us, in Damascus; Chaldaeans in Commagene , extracted from the Annales de Philosophie Chretienne T. vi. (5e sêrie). Oppert p. 8, gives as the meaning of his name, "actual king," "roi de fait." (שׁר־כן shar-kēn) Sargon himself, if Oppert has translated him rightly, gives as its meaning, "righteous prince," p. 38). : "The Comukha were removed from the extreme North to Susiana, and Chaldaeans were brought from the extreme South to supply their place." "Seven kings of Iatnan, seven days voyage off in the Western seas, whose names were unknown to the kings" his "fathers; hearing of" his "deeds, came before" him to Babylon with "presents:" as did the king of Asmoun, who dwelt in the midst of the Eastern sea (the Persian gulf). He placed his statue, "writing on it the glory of Asshur his master," in the capital of Van, in Kikisim (Circesium) as also in Cyprus, which he does not name, but where it has been discovered in this century . The Moschian king, with his 3000 towns, who had never submitted to the kings his predecessors, sent his submission and tribute to him.
Sennacherib, the son of Sargon, says of himself, "Assour, the great Lord, has conferred on me sovereignty over the peoples; he has extended my dominion over all those who dwell in the world. From the upper Ocean of the setting sun to the lower Ocean of the rising sun, I reduced under my power all who carried aloft their head."
He defeated Merodach Baladan and the king of Elam together ; took in one expedition , "79 great strong cities of the Chaldaeans anti 820 small towns;" he took prisoners by hundreds of thousands; 200, 150 in his first expedition against Hezekiah, from 44 great walled cities which he took and little villages innumerable ; 208,000 from the Nabathseans anti Hagarenes : he employed on his great buildings 360,000 men, gathered from Chaldea and Aramaea, from Cilicia and Armenia ; he conquered populations in the North, which "had of old not submitted to the kings my brothers ," annexed them to the prefecture of Arrapachitis and set up his image ; he received tribute from the governor of Khararat , wasted the 2 residence cities, 34 smaller cities of Ispahara king of Albania, joining a part of the territory to Assyria, and calling its city, Ilhinzas, the city of Sennacherib ;
He reduced countries of "Media, whose names the kings his brothers had not heard ; he set a king, Toubaal, over the great and little Sidon, Sarepta, Achzib, Acco, Betzitti, Mahalliba; the kings of Moab, Edom, Bet-Amman, Avvad, Ashdod, submitted to him ; he deteated an "innumerable host" of Egyptians at Altakou (Elteke); sons of the king of Egypt fell into his hands; he captured Ascalon, Bene-Barak, Joppa, Hazor ; put back at Amgarron (Migron) the expelled king Padi, who had been surrendered to Hezekiah ; gave portions of the territory of Hezekiah to the kings of Ashdod, Migron, Gaza ; he drove Merodach-baladan again to Elam, captured his brothers, wasted his cities, and placed his own oldest son, Assurnadin, on the throne of Babylon took seven impregnable cities of the Toukharri, placed like birds' nests on the mountains of Nipour ; conquered the king of Oukkou in Dayi, among mountains which none of his ancestors had penetrated; look Oukkou and 33 other cities ; attached Elam, "crossing" the Persian gulf "in Syrian vessels" ; capturing the men, and destroying the cities ; in another campaign, he garrisoned, with prisoner-warriors of his own, cities in Elam which his father had lost ; destroyed 34 large cities and others innumerable of Elam .
His account of his reign closes with a great defeat of Elam, whom the escaped Souzoub had hired with the treasures of the temples of Babylon, and of 17 rebel tribes or cities, at Khalouli, and their entire subdual . He repelled some Greeks in Cilicia, set up his image there, with a record of his deeds, and built Tarsus, on the model of Babylon . It has been noticed, what a "keen appreciation of the merits of a locality" his selection of its site evinced. The destruction of his army of 185,000 men, at the word of God, might well deter him from again challenging the Almighty; but we have seen, in the wars of Napoleon I, that such losses do not break the power of an empire. It was no vain boast of Sennacherib, that he had "gathered all the earth, and carried captive the gods of the nations." The boast was true; the application alone was impious. God owned in him the instrument which He had formed, "the rod of His anger." He condenmed him, only because "the axe boasted itself against Him Who hewed therewith." Victorious, except when he fought against God, and employed by God "to tread down the people as the mire of the streets" Isa 10:5-15; Isa 36:18-20, Sennacherib was cut off as God foretold, but left his kingdom to a victorious son.
His son, Esarhaddon, takes titles, yet more lofty titan those of Sennacherib. He calls himself , "King of Assyria, Vicar of Babylon, King of the Sumirs and Accads, King of Egypt, Meroe and Cush, who reigned from sunrising to sun-set, unequalled in the imposition of tributes." In Armenia, he killed Adrammelech , his half-brother, one of his father's murderers, who fled to Armenia, probably to dispute thence his father's crown. In every direction he carried his conquests further than his powerful father . He speaks of conquests in the far Media , "where none of the kings, our fathers," had conquered, whose kings bore well-known Persian names .
They and their subjects were carried off to Assyria. Others, who "had not conspired against the kings my fathers and the land of Assyria, and whose territories my fathers had not conquered," submitted voluntarily in terror, paid tribute and received Assyrian governors. In the West, he pursued by sea a king of Sidon who rebelled, divided the Syrians in strange countries, and placed mountaineers, whom his bow had subdued in the East, with a governor, in a castle of Esarhaddon which he built in Syria. He warred successfully in Cilicia, Khoubousna, and destroyed 10 large cities of the Tibareni and carried their people captive; trod down the country of Masnaki, transported rebels of Van; he established on the Southern shore that son of Merodach-baladan who submitted to him, removing the brother who trusted in Elam, himself reigned in Babylon , where he carried Manasseh Ch2 33:11.
He reconquered "the city of Adoumou (Edom), (the city of the power of the Arabs,) which Sennacherib had conquered, and carried off its people to Assyria;" he named as Queen of the Arabs, Tabouya, born in his palace; put the son of Hazael on his father's throne. An expedition to "a far country to the bounds of the earth beyond the desert," Bazi (Buz), reached by traversing 140 farsakhs (?) of sandy desert, then 20 farsakhs (?) of fertile land and a stony region, Khazi (Uz), looks like an expedition across Arabia, and, if so, was unparalleled except by Nushirvan. Some of the other names are Arabic. Anyhow, it was a country, where none of his predecessors had gone; he killed 8 kings, carried off their subjects and spoils. He conquered the Gomboulou in their marshes. twelve kings on the coast of Syria whom he recounts by name, (Ba'lou king of Tyre, Manasseh king of Judah, and those of Edom, Maan, Gaza, Ascalon, Amgarron, Byblos, Aradus, Ousimouroun, Bet-Ammon, Ashdod) and 10 kings of Yatnan in the sea (Cyprus) - Aegisthus (Ikistonsi), King of Idalion (Idial), Pythagoras (Pitagoura) K. of Citium (Kitthim), Ki ..., K. of Salamis (Silhimmi), Ittodagon ("Dagon is with him," Itoudagon), K. of Paphos (Pappa), Euryalus (lrieli), K. of Soil (Sillou), Damasou, K. of Curium (Kuri,) Ounagonsou, K. of Limenion (Limini), Roumizu, K. of Tamassus (Tamizzi,) Damutsi of Amti-Khadasti, Puhali of Aphrodisium (Oupridissa) , held their rule from him.
The names of the countries, from which he brought those whom he settled in Samaria, attest alike his strength and the then weakness of two of the nations, which afterward concurred to overthrow his empire. The colonists, according to their own letters to Artaxerxes Ezr 4:9, comprehended, among others, Babylonians; Archevites i. e., inhabitants of Erech, mentioned in Genesis Gen 10:10, as, together with Babel, part of the beginning of the kingdom of Nimrod; Susanchites, i. e., inhabitants of Susiana or Chusistan; Dehavites, Daans in Herodotus , one of the wandering Persian tribes, whose name (Taia) still exists; Elamite's Isa 21:2; Isa 22:6 or the dwellers on the Persian gulf, bordering on Susiana; Apharsites or the Persians in their original abode in Paraca, Paraic, now Farsistan. It seems also probable that the Apharsachites are those more known to us as Sacae or Scythians, whom Esarhaddon says that he conquered ; and that the Apharsachthites (with the same word Aphar prefixed) are the Sittaceni on the Caspian. The Dinaites and the Tarphelites are as yet unidentified, unless the Tarpetes of the Palus Maeotis near the Sittaceni, or the Tapiri in Media be a corruption of the name.
The Samaritan settlers add, "And the rest of the nations, whom the great and noble Asnapper carried captive, and settled in the cities of Samaria and the rest on this side the river." Under this general term, they include the Mesopotamian settlers brought from Avvah and Sepharvaim, and those from Hamath Kg2 17:24, probably wishing to insist to the Persian Monarch on their Persian, Median, or Babylonian descent. They attest at the same time that their forefathers were not willingly removed but "transported, carried into exile" Ezr 4:10, and accordingly that Esarhaddon, in whose reign they were removed, had power in all these countries. The condensation also of settlers from twelve nations in so small a space as the cities of Samaria (analogous as it is to the dispersion of the Jews over so many provinces of their captors) illustrates the policy of these transportations, and the strength which they gave to the empire. Nations were blended together among those foreign to them, with no common bond except their relation to their conqueror. A check on those around them, and themselves held in check by them, they had no common home to which to return, no interest to serve by rebelling. Esarhaddon built 36 temples in Assyria by the labor of foreign slaves, his captives, who worshiped his gods .
This collection of people of twelve nations in the cities of Samaria represents moreover one portion only of the conquests of Esarhaddon, and, for the most part, that furthest from Judaea. For the principle of the policy was to remove them far from their own land. Ethiopian and Egyptian captives would be placed, not here from where they could easily return, but, like Israel in the cities of the Medes, from where they could find no escape.
The son of Esarhaddon, Asshurbanipal II. , yet further enlarged and consolidated the conquests of his conquering father. His expeditions into Egypt have been already dwelt upon; his victories were easy, complete. Tirhaka, himself a great conqueror, fled into unknown deserts beyond reach of pursuits. His step-son Urdaminie attempted to recover his kingdom, was defeated at once, fled and his capital was taken. In Asia, he took away tim king of Tyre, who offended him; made conquests beyond Mt. Taurus, where his fathers had never been ; received an embassy from Gyges; attached to Assyria a tract of Minni or Persarmenia, took the capital of Minni; took Shushan and Badaca; killed their kings, united Susiana to Babylonia; subdued anew Edom, Moab, Kedar, the Nabathaeans; received the submission of the king of Urarda, Ararat .
While Assyria was extended wider than before, its old enemies were more incorporated with it, or, at least, more subdued; it was more at one within itself. Egypt, the great rival Empire, had tried to shake off the yoke, but was subdued; no people in Syria or the valley of the Euphrates stirred itself; the whole tract within the Taurus, once so rife with enemies, lay hushed under his rule: hushed were the Hittites, Hamathites, the Syrians of Damascus, the Tibareni who had once held their own against his father; war was only at the very extremities, in Minni or Edom, and that, rather chastisement than war; Babylon was a tranquil portion of his empire, except during the temporary rebellion of the brother, whom he had placed over it, and whom he pardoned. His death, amid the tranquil promotion of literature , when he had no more enemies to conquer or rebels to chasten, left his empire at the zenith of its power, some 22 years before its destruction. "Culno" had become, as Sennacherib boasted Isa 10:9, "like Carehemish; Hamath like Arpad; Samaria as Damascus." He "had removed the bounds of the people and gathered all the earth, as one gathereth eggs, left" Isa 10:13-14 by the parent bird, undefended even by its impotent love. There was not a cloud on the horizon, not a token from where the whirlwind would come. The bas-reliefs attest, that neither the energy nor the cruelty of the Assyrians were diminished .
Of those twenty-two years, we have nothing reliable except their close. There was probably nothing to relate. There would not be anything, if Asshurbanipal had consolidated his empire, as he seems to have done, and if his son and successor inherited his father's later tastes, and was free from the thirst of boundless conquest, which had characterized the earlier rulers of Assyria. Anyhow, we know nothing authentic. The invasion of Assyria by Phraortes, which Herodotus relates, is held, on good grounds, to be a later history of a rebellion against Darius Hystaspes, adapted to times before the Medes became one nation . There was no reason why it should not have been recorded, had it taken place, since it is admitted to have been a total defeat, in which Phraortes lost his life . The invasion of the Scythians, which is to have stopped the siege of Nineveh under Cyaxares, was reported in a manifestly exaggerated form to Herodotus. The 28 years, during which Herodotus relates the Scythian rule to have lasted , is longer than the whole of the reign of the last king of Assyria; and yet, according to Herodotus, is to have been interposed between the two sieges of Cyaxares. And as its empire gave no sign of decay, so far as we can trace its history within 22 years before its destruction, so, with the like rapidity, did the empire rise, which was to destroy it.
The account which Herodotus received, that the Medians had thrown off the yoke of Assyria before Deioces , is in direct contradiction to the Assyrian inscriptions. This was, they state, the time, not of the revolt, but of the conquest of Media. They are confirmed by Holy Scripture, which says that the Assyrian king (Sargon) placed "in the cities of the Medes" Kg2 17:6 his Israelitish captives. The utmost, which Herodotus ascribes to Deioces however, is, that he consolidated the six Median tribes and built a capital, Agbatana . It is an union of wild hordes into one people, held together for the time by the will of one man and by their weariness of mutual oppressions. Even according to their accounts, Cyaxares (about 633 b.c., i. e., 8 years before the fall of Nineveh) first organized the Median army; the Greeks, in the time of Aeschylus, believed Cvaxares to have been the first of the Median kings ; rebels in Media and Sagartia claimed the Median throne against Darius, as descended from Cyaxares, as the founder of the Monarchy .
Further, the subsequent history supports the account of Abydenus against Herodotus, that not the Medes, but the rebel general of the last Monarch of Nineveh was, with his Babylonian troops, the chief author of the destruction of Nineveh. The chief share of the spoil, where no motives of refined policy intervene, falls to the strongest, who had chief portion in the victory. "The Medes," says Herodotus, "took Nineveh, and conquered all Assyria, except the Babylonian portion" . But Babylon was no spared province, escaping with its independence as a gain. Babylonia, not Media, succeeded to the Southern and Western dominions of the Assyrian empire, and the place, where Nineveh had stood, Cyaxares retaining the North. This was a friendly arrangement, since subsequently too we find a Babylonian prince in the expedition of Cyaxares against Asia Minor, and Medians assisting Nebuchadnezzar against the king of Egypt . Abydenus represents the Babylonians and Medes, as equal , but exhibits the rebel general, as the author of the attack . "After him (Sardanapal), Sarac held the empire of Assyria, who, being informed of a horde of mingled troops which were coming against him from the sea, sent Busalossor (Nebopalassar) general of his army, to Babylon. But he, having determined to revolt, betrothed to his son, Nebucbodrossor, Amuhea, daughter of Asdahag, prince of the Medes, and soon made a rapid attack on Nineveh. King Sarac, when he knew the whole, set the palace Evorita on fire. Then Nehuchodrossor, attaining to the empire, encircled Babylon with strong walls."
The "horde of mingled troops" "from the sea" were probably those same Susians and Elymaeans, whom the Assyrians had, in successive reigns, defeated. If the account of Herodotus were true, the father of the Median Monarch had perished in conflict with Assyria. The grandfather of the Assyrian Monarch had himself reigned in Babylon. Assyria ruled Babylon by viceroys to the end. It has been noticed that Nahum mentions no one enemy who should destroy Nineveh. True, for no one enemy did destroy her.
Even now its fall is unexplained. The conquests of its Monarchs had not been the victories of talented individuals. They were a race of world-wide conquerors. In the whole history, of which we have the annals, they are always on the aggressive. They exacted tribute where they willed. The tide of time bore them on in their conquests. Their latest conquests were the most distant. Egypt, her early rival, had been subdued by her. The powers, which did destroy her, had no common bond of interest. They were united, for one reign, not by natural interests, but, as far as we see, by the ambition of two individuals. These crushed, at once and for ever, the empire which for so many centuries had been the ravager of the world. But who could have foreseen such a combination and such results, save God, in Whose hands are human wills and the fate of empires?
The fiery empire of conquerors sank like a tropic sun. Its wrath had burned, unassuaged, "from" (in their own words) "the rising to the setting sun." No gathering cloud had tempered its heat or allayed its violence. Just ere it set, in those last hours of its course, it seemed, as if in its meridian. Its bloodstained disk cast its last glowing rays on that field of carnage in Susiana; then, without a twilight, it sank beneath those stormy waves, so strangely raised, at once and for ever. All, at once, was night. It knew no morrow.
Its fall is inexplicable still. It may have accelerated its own destruction by concentrating the fierce Chaldees at Babylon. It was weakened by the revolt of its own general, and with him the defection of an army. Still, in those days, the city of 1200 towers, each 200 feet high, its ordinary wall 100 feet high and of such breadth, that three chariots could drive on it abreast , could not be taken by mounds, except by some most gigantic army with patience inexhaustible. Famine could not reduce a city, which, in its 60 miles in circumference, enclosed, like Babylon, space for much cattle, and which could, within its walls, grow enough grain for its population of 600,000 Jon 4:11. With its perennial supply of provision, it might have laughed to scorn a more formidable foe than the Medes, Elamites and Babylonians, unaccustomed to sieges, except in as far as any had fought in its armies, while the Ninevites possessed the hereditary skill of centuries.
Babylon, smaller than Nineveh , was at rest amidst the siege of the more powerful grandson of Cyaxares. Cyrus could only take it by stratagem; Darius Hystaspes, by treachery. Then, every Ninevite was a warrior. Their descendants, the Curds, are still among the fiercest and most warlike people of Asia. The bas-reliefs, which bear internal evidence of truth, exhibit a wonderful blending of indomitable strength of will, recklessness of suffering, inherent physical energy, unimpaired by self-indulgence. A German writer on art says , "You recognize a strong thick-set race, of very powerful frame, yet inclined to corpulence, a very special blending of energy and luxury. The general impression of the figures, whether men, women or eunuchs, has uniformly something earnest and imposing." An English writer says still more vividly ; "All the figures indicate great physical development, animal propensities very strongly marked, a calm, settled ferocity, a perfect nonchalance amidst the most terrible scenes; no change of feature takes place, whether the individual is inflicting or experiencing horrid sufferings. The pictures are very remarkable as indicating the entire absence of higher mental and moral qualities: and the exuberance of brutal parts of man's nature. At the same time, there is not lacking a certain consciousness of dignity and of inherent power. There is a tranquil energy and fixed determination, which will not allow the beholder to feel any contempt of those stern warriors."
How then could it fall? The prophecy of Nahum describes, with terrible vividness, a siege; the rousing of its king from a torpor of indolence; "he remembereth his nobles" (Nah 2:5 (6)); the orderly advance, the confused preparations for defense; and then, when expectation is strung, and we see besiegers and besieged prepared for the last decisive strife, there is a sudden pause. No human strength overthrows the city "The gates of the rivers shall be opened, and the palace shall be dissolved. And it is decreed, she shall be led away captive" (Nah 2:6-7 (7, 8)). Her captivity follows on the opening of "the gates of the rivers." The "rivers," ordinarily her strength, were also her weakness. The annals of Sennacherib relate, how he repaired a palace which had been undermined by the Tigris. : "The small palace, which was become very ruinous in every part, because the river Tigris, during 16 years, had undermined and ravaged it, (I repaired.)" Dionysius, the Jacobite patriarch, relates how in his own time, 763 a.d. : "the Tigris, overflowing, laid waste all the towns around it, and especially Mosul" (opposite to Nineveh). Barhebraeus, in four different years, mentions the destruction of houses in Bagdad through the overflow of the Tigris .
He mentions also a city-wall, overthrown by an inundation, so that 3,000 men were drowned in their houses . Ives relates : "The Bishop (of Babylon) remembers that" about 1733 "the Euphrates and Tigris were so overflown, that the whole country between them appeared as one large sea. Over all the plain between Bagdad and Hilla, people could pass only in boats. The water flowed quite up to the glacis, the ditch was full, the city also overflown, and the foundation of most of the buildings hurt; 300 houses were entirely destroyed. To prevent as much as possible" the recurrence of such a calamity, "the Turks now face the foundation-wall of their houses with a composition of charcoal, ashes, and Demar (bitumen)." "The river Khosar," also, which would be swollen by the same causes as the Tigris, "entered the city," says Ainsworth , "by an aperture in the walls on the East side, which appears to have formed part of the original plan and to have been protected by a gateway and walls, vestiges of which still remain." "The Khausser," says Mr. Rich , "is generally drawn off for irrigating the cotton-plantations in the alluvial ground of the river; when it is much overflowed, it discharges itself into the Tigris above the bridge." : "The Khausser now (Dec. 1. after "very heavy tropical rain,") discharges itself direct into the Tigris, and brings an immense body of water." : "After rain, it becomes an impetuous torrent, overflowing its banks and carrying all before it." : "The stone-bridge was carried away one night by the violence of the Khausser, on a sudden inundation." On a lesser swelling of the river - "the water-wheels were removed" in precaution "and the bridge of boats opened." Cazwini, the Arabic geographer, speaks of "the rivers of Nineveh."
Ctesias, being a writer of suspected authority, cannot safely be alleged in proof of the fulfillment of prophecy. Yet in this case his account, as it is in exact conformity with the obvious meaning of the prophecy of Nahum, so it solves a real difficulty, how Nineveh, so defended, could have fallen. It seems certain that the account of the siege taken from him by Diodorus, is that of the last siege. It bas been remarked that the only event of the siege, known from any other source, namely, that the last Assyrian king; when be had learned the combination of the Medes and Babylonians against him, set fire to his palace, is related also by Ctesias. Ctesias has also the same fact, that the Babylonian revolt was recent; the name of the revolted general in Ctesias, Belisis, is the latter half of that given to him by Abydenus, , Nebopalassar, omitting only the name of the god, Nebo. The rest of the history is in itself probable.
The success of the Assyrian monarch at first against the combined armies, and the consequent revelry, are that same blending of fierceness and sensuality which is stamped on all the Assyrian sculptures, continned to the end. The rest of his relation, which, on account of the filets of nature, which we know, but which, since they are gathered from sources so various, Ctesias probably did not know, is, in itself, probable, accounts for what is unaccounted for, and corresponds with the words of Nahum. It is , "Sardanapalus, seeing the whole kingdom in the greatest danger, sent his three sons and two daughters with much wealth to Paphlagonia to Cotta the Governor, being the best-disposed of his subjects. He himself sent by messengers to all his subjects for forces, and prepared what was needed for the siege. He had an oracle handed down from his forefathers, that no one should take Nineveh, unless the river first became an enemy to the city.
Conceiving that this never would be, he held to his hopes, purposing to abide the siege and awaited the armies to be sent by his subjects." "The rebels, elated by their successes, set themselves to the siege, but on account of the strength of the walls, could in no wise injure those in the city." "But these had great abundance of all necessaries through the foresight of the king. The siege then being prolonged for two years, they pressed upon it; assaulting the walls and cutting off those therein from any exit into the country." "In the 3rd year, the river, swollen by continuous and violent rains, inundated a part of the city and overthrew 20 stadia of the wall. Then the king, thinking that the oracle was fulfilled, and that the river was plainly an enemy to the city, despaired of safety. And, not to fall into the enemy's hands, he made an exceeding great pile in the palace, heaped up there all the gold and silver and the royal apparel, and having shut up his concubines and eunuchs in the house formed in the midst of the pile, consumed himself and all the royalties with them all. The rebels, hearing that Sardanapalus had perished, possessed themselves of the city, entering by the broken part of the wall."
Yet Nahum had also prophesied, "the fire shall devour thy bars;" "fortify thy strong holds, there shall the fire devour thee;" "I will burn her chariots in the smoke" Nah 3:13, Nah 3:15; Nah 2:13, and all the ruins of Nineveh still speak from beneath the earth where they lie interred, that, overthrown as they have been by some gigantic power, fire consumed them within. : "The palaces of Khorsabad (Dur Sarjina) and Nimrud shew equal traces of fire with those of Koyunjik." : "The recent excavations have strewn that fire was a great instrument in the destruction of the Nineveh palaces. Calcined alabaster, masses of charred wood and charcoal, colossal statues split through with the heat, are met with in parts of the Ninerite mounds, and attest the veracity of prophecy." . "It is evident from the ruins that Khorsabad and Nimroud were sacked; and set on fire."
Yet this does not exhaust the fullness of the prophecy. Nahum not only foretold the destruction of Nineveh, that it should "be empty, void, waste, there is no healing of thy bruise," but in emphatic words, that its site also should be a desolation. "With an overrunning flood He shall make the place thereof (mekomah) a desolation" Nah 1:8. This was then new in the history of the world. Cities have remained, while empires passed away. Rome, Constantinople, Athens, Damascus, Alexandria, Venice, abide, although their political might is extinct. No or Thebes itself survived its capture by Sargon and a yet later loss of its inhabitants nearly two centuries, when the more fatal conquest of Cambyses, anti perhaps the rise of Memphis perpetuated its destruction. Nahum foretells emphatically as to Nineveh, "He will make the place thereof an utter consumption." Not only would God destroy the then Nineveh; but the very place or site thereof should be an utter desolation.
There was, then, no instance of so great a city passing away. Such had not been Babylonian, Assyrian, Egyptian policy. It had become an established policy in Sennacherib's time to remove populations, not to destroy cities. And these two policies were incompatible. For a conqueror who would remove populations must have, whither to remove them. Nineveh itself had conquered Babylon and Shushun, and the cities of the Medes; but had placed her own lieutenants in them. The mere destruction of such a city as Nineveh was "contrary to experience." Even later than this, Babylon, notwithstanding its rebellions, was spared by its first conqueror, and survived to be the grave of its second, Alexander. Xenophon describes Nineveh under the name of Mespila (of which Mosul has been supposed to be a corruption) "a wall, void, large, lying against the city - the basement was of polished stone, full of shells, its width 50 feet, its height 50 feet. Thereon was built a wall of brick, its breadth 50 feet, the height 100; the circuit was six farsangs," i. e., 22 12 miles.
The shell remained; the tumult of life was gone. Its protecting bulwarks remained; all, which they protected, had disappeared. They had forgotten already on the spot what it had been or by whom it had perished. : "The Medes inhabited it formerly. It was said that Media, a kings wife, had fled thither, when the Medes were losing their power through the Persians. The Persian king, besieging this city, could not take it, either by time or force; but Zeus made the inhabitants senseless, and so it was taken." A little later, Alexander marched over its site to gain the world, not knowing that a world-empire, like that which he gave his life to found, was buried under his feet . Gaugamela, near which Darius lost his empire, must have been close to its site. Yet three centuries, and history, not its mere neighbors only, had forgotten when it had perished. Strabo says , "It was effaced immediately after the destruction of the Syrians." Nearly two centuries later is Lucian's saying , "Nineveh has perished, and there is no trace left where it once was." Yet before this time, in the reign of Claudius, the Romans had built a new Nineveh which they called by his name "Ninive Claudiopolis." In the 6th century, it is mentioned as a Christian see . Its episcopate was taken away, probably on account of its decline, early in the 9th century; and it was united to Mosul . It was still in being at the beginning of the 14th century . Yet, in the 12th century, as a whole, "it was desolate, but there were there many villages and castles." This was not the Nineveh of prophecy; but it too was swept away, and a few coins alone attest the existence of the Roman city. "The city, and even the ruins of the city," relates Gibbon of the last victory of Heraclius, "had long since disappeared; the vacant space afforded a spacious field for the operation of the two armies." A line of lofty mounds, on the East of Tigris, long drew but a momentary gaze from the passers-by; a few cottages surmounted the heaps, which entombed the palaces of kings, who were the terror of the East; the plow turned up, unheeded, the bricks, which recorded their deeds; the tide of war swept over it anew; the summer's sands again filled up "the stupendous mass of brick-work, occasionally laid bare by the winter rains." The eyes rested on nothing but "the stern shapeless mound, rising like a hill from the scorched plain." : "The traveler is at a loss to give any form to the rude heaps, upon which he is gazing. Those of whose works they are the remains, unlike the Roman and the Greek, have left no visible traces of their civilization or of their arts; their influence has long since passed away. The scene around him is worthy of the ruin he is contemplating; desolation meets desolation; a feeling of awe succeeds to wonder, for there is nothing to relieve the mind, to lead to hope, or to tell of what has gone by. Those huge mounds of Assyria made a deeper impression upon me, gave rise to more serious thoughts and more earnest reflection, than the temples of Baalbee and the theaters of Ionia."
In 1827, Buckingham still wrote : "we came in about an hour to the principal mounds which are thought to mark the site of the ancient Nineveh. There are four of these mounds, disposed in the form of a square; and these, as they shew neither bricks, stones, nor other materials of building, but are in many places overgrown with grass, resemble the mounds left by entrenchments and fortifications of ancient Roman camps. The longest of these mounds runs nearly N. and S. and consists of several ridges of unequal height, the whole appearing to extend for four or five miles in length. There are three other distinct mounds, which are all near to the river, and in the direction of East and West - there are appearances of mounds and ruins extending for several miles to the southward; and still more distinctly seen to the Northward of this, though both are less marked than the mounds of the center.
The space between these is a level plain, over every part of the face of which, broken pottery, and the other usual debris of ruined cities are seen scattered about." "Mounds and smaller heaps of ruins were scattered widely over the plain, sufficient to prove, that the site of the original city occupied a vast extent." Niebuhr had ridden through Nineveh unknowingly. : "I did not learn that I was at so remarkable a spot, until near the river. Then they showed me a village on a great hill, which they call Nunia, and a mosque, in which the prophet Jonah was buried. Another hill in this district is called Kalla Nunia, or the Castle of Nineveh. On that lies a village Koindsjug. At Mosul, where I dwelt close by the Tigris, they strawed me in addition the walls of Nineveh, which in my journey through I had not observed, but supposed to be a set of hills." "It is well-known," begins an account of the recent discoveries , "that in the neighborhood of Mosul, travelers had observed some remarkable mounds, resembling small bills, and that Mr. Rich had, thirty years ago, called attention to one called Koyunjik, in which fragments of sculpture and pottery had been frequently discovered."
And yet, humanly speaking, even if destroyed, it was probable before hand, that it would not altogether perish. For a town near its site was needed for purposes of commerce. Of the two routes of commerce from the Persian gulf to the North by the Euphrates or by the Tigris, the Tigris-route was free from the perils of the arid wilderness, through which the line by the Euphrates passed. If, for the downward course, the Euphrates itself was navigable, yet the desert presented a difficulty for caravans returning upward from the Persian gulf. Arrian, who mentions the two lines of travel, says that Alexander , having crossed the Euphrates at Thapsacus, chose the less direct line by the Tigris, as having a better supply of all things, food for his cavalry, and a less scorching heat.
The mention of Haran (afterward Carrhae) Canneh, and Asshur in Ezekiel, (in one verse ) seems to indicate the continuation of the same line of commerce with Tyre, which must have existed from praehistoric times (i. e., from times of which we have no definite historic account), since there is no ground to question the statement of the Phoenicians themselves in Herodotus, that they had come from the Erythraean sea , i. e., the Persian gulf. The later hindrances to the navigation of the Tigris by the great dams (probably for irrigation), were of Persian date; but they could have had no great effect on the actual commerce; since for the greater part of the upward course on the Tigris line, this also must, on account of the rapidity of the river, have been by caravans.
The route was still used in the middle ages . : "The ancient road and the modern one on the upper Tigris follow, pretty nearly throughout, the same line, it being determined by the physical necessities of the soil." In the 16th century , "from the head of the Persian gulf two commercial lines existed: by one of them goods were carried some way up the Euphrates, and then by land to Bir, Aleppo, Iskonderun. By the other they followed the Tigris to Baghdad and were carried by Diyar-Bekr and Sires to Terabuzum." (But Mosul was necessarily on the way from Baghdad to Diyar Bekr). Mosul still lies on the line of commerce, from the Persian gulf, Basrah, Baghdad, Mosul, Mardin, Diyar-Bekr to Iskenderun, the port of Aleppo , or Trebizond (Tarabuzum ).
It still carries on some commerce with Kurdistan and other provinces (beside Diyar-Bekr and Baghdad). Col. Chesney, in 1850, advocated the advantages of extending the line of commerce by British stations at Diyar-Bekr and Mardin, in addition to and connection with those already existing at Baghdad and Mosul . There is, in fact, a consent as to this. Layard writes : "The only impediment between the Syrian coast and the Tigris and Euphrates in any part of their course, arises from the want of proper security. The navigation of the Persian gulf is, at all times, open and safe; and a glance at the map will shew that a line through the Mediterranean, the port of Suedia, Aleppo, Mosul, Baghdad, Busrah, and the Indian Ocean to Bombay is as direct as can well be desired.
With those prospects, and with the incalculable advantages, which a flourishing commerce and a safe and speedy transit through, perhaps, the richest portions of its dominions would confer upon the Turkish empire, it would seem that more than Eastern apathy is shown in not taking some steps, tending to restore security to the country watered by the Tigris and Euphrates." Ainsworth suggests a still wider commerce, of which Mosul might be the center. : "With a tranquil state of the surrounding country, Mosul presents mercantile advantages of no common order. There are several roads open to Persia, across the mountains; a transit from five to seven days, and by which, considering the short distance and good roads from Mosul to Iskenderun, British manufactures might be distributed into the heart of Persia, in a time and at an expense, which the line of Trebizond Erzrum and Tabriz, that of Bushire and Baghdad, or the Russian line of Astrakhan Bakhu and Mazenderan can never rival."
But although marked out by these advantages for continuance, even when its power was gone, Nineveh was to perish and it perished. Nor ought it to be alleged, that in other cases too, "if the position of the old capital was deemed, from political or commercial reasons more advantageous than any other, the population was settled in its neighborhood, as at Delhi, not amidst its ruins." For
1) there was, at the time of Nahum, no experience of the destruction of any such great city as Nineveh;
2) In the case of conquest, the capitol of the conquering empire became, ipso facto, the capital of the whole; but this did not, in itself, involve the destruction of the former.
Babylon, from having been the winter residence of Cyrus, became the chief residence of the Persian Emperor at the time of Alexander, and continued to exist for many centuries, oiler the foundation of Seleucia, although it ceased to be a great city . And this, notwithstanding its two rebellions under Darius , and that under Xerxes . There was no ground of human policy against Nineveh's continuing, such as Mosul became, anymore than Mosul itself. It existed for some time, as a Christian See.
The grandeur, energy, power, vividness of Nahum, naturally can be fully felt only in his own language. The force of his brief prophecy is much increased by its unity. Nahum had one sentence to pronounce, the judgments of God upon the power of this world, which had sought to annihilate the kingdom of God. God, in His then kingdom in Judah, and the world, were come face to face. What was to be the issue? The entire final utter overthrow of whatever opposed God. Nahum opens then with the calm majestic declaration of the majesty of God; Who God is, against whom they rebelled; the madness of their rebellion, and the extinction of its chief Nah 1:1-15; then in detail, what was to come long after that first overthrow, the siege and capture of Nineveh itself Nah 2:1-13; then, in wider compass, the overthrow of the whole power Nahum 3. It was to be the first instance, in the history of mankind, of a power so great, perishing and forever. Nahum's office was not, as Jonah's, to the people itself. There is then no call to repentance, no gleam of God's mercy toward them in this life. Nineveh was to perish wholly, as the habitable world had perished in the time of Noah. The only relief is in the cessation of so much violence. There is no human joy expressed at this destruction of the enemy of God and of His people; no sorrow, save that there can be no sorrow; "who will bemoan her? whence shall I find comforters for her?" Nah 3:7.
In conformity with this concentration of Nahum's subject, there is little in outward style or language to connect him with the other prophets. His opening (as already observed ) bears upon God's declarations of mercy and judgment; but, Nineveh having filled up the measure of its iniquites, he had to exhibit the dark side of those declarations; how much lay in those words, "that will by no means clear the guilty." : "Jonah and Nahum form connected parts of one moral history, the remission of God's judgment being illustrated in the one, the execution of it in the other: the clemency and the just severity of the divine government being contained in the mixed delineation of the two books." His evangelic character just gleams through, in the eight tender words, in which he seems to take breath, as it were; "Tob Yhvh lemaoz beyomtsarah, veyodeah chose bo," "Good is God (Yhvh), refuge in day of trouble, and knowing trusters in Him" Nah 1:7; then again, in the few words, which I think Isaiah expanded, "Lo on the mountains the feet of a good-tidings-bearer, peace-proclaimer" Nah 2:1. Else there is only the mingled tenderness and austereness of truth, which would sympathize with the human being, but that that object had, by putting off all humanity, alienated all which is man. "Who will bemoan her? Whence shall I seek comforters for thee?" Who? and Whence? None had escaped evil from her. "Upon whom hath not thy wickedness passed continually?"
It is difficult for us, who have to gather up our knowledge of the sacred language from the fragments which remain, in which also the number of words forms and idioms, which stand out singly here and there, seem but so many specimens of lest treasure, to judge with any certainty, whether any approximation of idiom, which we may observe, implies any connection between the writers in whom it occurs. Nahum has, especially in his picture of the capture of Nineveh, so many of those hapax legomena, consisting often of slight modifications, his language is so rich and so original, that one the more doubts whether in those idioms, in which he seems to approximate to other prophets, the expressions in common do not belong to the common stock of the language; and that the more, since mostly part of the idiom only coincides, the rest is different. As for the so-called Aramaisms or other peculiarities of language which Hitzig would have to be evidences of a later date, and from some of which others would infer that Nahum lived at Nineveh itself, "the wish has been father to the thought."
One only solid ground there would be why Nahum should not have written his prophecy, when, according to all history, it could alone have any interest for Judah, long before the event itself, namely, if He to whom all, past and future, are present, could not or did not declare beforehand things to come . If there be prophecy, the siege of Nineveh might be as vividly presented to the prophet's mind, as if he saw it with his bodily eyes .