Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
The burden - Jerome: "The word משׂא mas's'â', 'burden' is never placed in the title, except when the vision is heavy and full of burden and toil."
Of Nineveh - The prophecy of Nahum again is very stern and awful. Nineveh, after having "repented at the preaching of Jonah," again fell back into the sins whereof it had repented, and added this, that, being employed by God to chasten Israel, it set itself, not to inflict the measure of God's displeasure, but to uproot the chosen people, in whom was promised the birth of Christ . It was then an antichrist, and a type of him yet to come. Jonah's mission was a call to repentance, a type and forerunner of all God's messages to the world, while the day of grace and the world's probation lasts. Nahum, "the full of exceeding comfort," as his name means, or "the comforter" is sent to Joh 16:6, Joh 16:8. "reprove the world of judgment." He is sent, prominently, to pronounce on Nineveh its doom when its day of grace should be over, and in it, on the world, when it and "all the works therein shall be burned up" Pe2 3:10.
With few words he directly comforts the people of God Nah 1:15; elsewhere the comfort even to her is indirect, in the destruction of her oppressor. Besides this, there is nothing of mercy or call to repentance, or sorrow for their desolation (as in Jer 3:12; Jer 8:18, Jer 8:21), but rather the pouring out of the vials of the wrath of God upon her and on the evil world, which resists to the end all God's calls and persecutes His people. The Book of Jonah proclaims God, "a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness, who repents Him of the evil." Nahum speaks of the same attributes, yet closes with, "and will not at all acquit the wicked." : "The Merciful Himself, who is by Nature Merciful, the Holy Spirit, seemeth, speaking in the prophet, to laugh at their calamity." All is desolation, and death. The aggression against God is retorted upon the aggressor; one reeling strife for life or death; then the silence of the graveyard. And so, in its further meaning , "the prophecy belongs to the close of the world and the comfort of the saints therein, so that whatsoever they see in the world, they may hold cheap, as passing away and perishing and prepare themselves for the Day of Judgment, when the Lord shall he the Avenger of the true Assyrian."
So our Lord sets forth the end of the world as the comfort of the elect. "When these things begin to come to pass, then look up and lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh" Luk 21:28. This is the highest fulfillment of the prophecy, for "then will the wrath of God against the wicked be fully seen, who now patiently waiteth for them for mercy."
The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite - o "He first defines the object of the prophecy, whereto it looks; then states who spake it and whence it was;" the human instrument which God employed. The fuller title, "The book of the vision of Nahum" (which stands alone) probably expresses that it was not, like most prophecies, first delivered orally, and then collected by the prophet, but was always (as it is so remarkably) one whole. "The weight and pressure of this 'burden.' may be felt from the very commencement of the book."
God is jealous and the Lord revengeth - Rather (as the English margin) God "very jealous and avenging is the Lord." The Name of God, יהוה (YHVH), "He who Is," the Unchangeable, is thrice repeated, and thrice it is said of Him that He is an Avenger. It shows both the certainty and greatness of the vengeance, and that He who inflicts it, is the All-Holy Trinity, who have a care for the elect. God's jealousy is twofold. It is an intense love, not bearing imperfections or unfaithfulness in that which It loves, and so chastening it; or not bearing the ill-dealings of those who would injure what It loves, and so destroying them. To Israel He had revealed Himself as "a Exo 20:5-6 jealous God, visiting iniquity but shewing mercy;" here, as jealous for His people against those who were purely His enemies and the enemies of His people (see Zac 1:14), and so His jealousy burns to their destruction, in that there is in them no good to be refined, but only evil to be consumed.
The titles of God rise in awe; first, "intensely jealous" and "an Avenger;" then, "an Avenger and a Lord of wrath;" One who hath it laid up with Him, at His Command, and the more terrible, because it is so; the Master of it, (not, as man, mastered by it; having it, to withhold or to discharge; yet so discharging it, at last, the more irrevocably on the finally impenitent. And this He says at the last, "an Avenger to His adversaries," (literally, "those who hem and narrow Him in"). The word "avenged" is almost appropriated to God in the Old Testament, as to punishment which He inflicts, or at least causes to be inflicted , whether on individuals Gen 4:15, Gen 4:24; Sa1 24:12; Sa2 4:8; Kg2 9:7; Jer 11:20; Jer 15:15; Jer 20:12, or upon a people, (His own Lev 26:25; Psa 99:8; Eze 24:8 or their enemies Deu 32:41, Deu 32:43; Psa 18:48; Isa 34:8; Isa 35:4; Isa 47:3; Isa 59:17; Isa 61:2; Isa 63:4; Mic 5:14; Jer 46:10; Jer 50:15, Jer 50:28; Jer 51:6, Jer 51:11, Jer 51:36; Eze 25:14, Eze 25:17, for their misdeeds. In the main it is a defect . Personal vengeance is mentioned only in characters, directly or indirectly censured, as Samson Jdg 15:7; Jdg 16:20 or Saul . It is forbidden to man, punished in him, claimed by God as His own inalienable right. "Vengeance is Mine and requital" (Deu 32:35, compare Psa 94:1). "Thou shalt not avenge nor keep up against the children of My people" Lev 19:18. Yet it is spoken of, not as a mere act of God, but as the expression of His Being. "Shall not My soul be avenged of such a nation as this?" Jer 5:9, Jer 5:29; Jer 9:9.
And a Reserver of wrath for His enemies - The hardened and unbelieving who hate God, and at last, when they had finally rejected God and were rejected by Him, the object of His aversion. It is spoken after the manner of men, yet therefore is the more terrible. There is that in God, to which the passions of man correspond; they are a false imitation of something which in Him is good, a distortion of the true likeness of God, in which God created us and whisk man by sin defaced. : "Pride doth imitate exaltedness: whereas Thou Alone art God exalted over all. Ambition, what seeks it, but honors and glory? Whereas Thou alone art to be honored above all and glorious for evermore. The cruelty of the great would fain be feared; but who is to be feared but God alone, out of whose power what can be wrested or withdrawn, when, or where, or whither, or by whom? The tendernesses of the wanton would fain be counted love: yet is nothing more tender than Thy charity; nor is aught loved more healthfully than that Thy truth, bright and beautiful above all. Curiosity makes semblance of a desire of knowledge; whereas Thou supremely knowest all. Yea, ignorance and foolishness itself is cloaked under the name of simplicity and uninjuriousness: because nothing is found more single than Thee; and what less injurious, since they are his own works which injure the sinner?
Yea, sloth would fain be at rest; but what stable rest beside the Lord? Luxury affects to be called plenty and abundance; but Thou art the fullness and never-failing plenteousness of incorruptible pleasures. Prodigality presents a shadow of liberality: but Thou art the most overflowing Giver of all good. Covetousness would possess many things; and Thou possessest all things. Envy disputes for excellency: what more excellent than Thou? Anger seeks revenge: who revenges more justly than Thou? Fear startles at things unaccustomed or sudden, which endanger things beloved, and takes forethought for their safety; but to Thee what unaccustomed or sudden, or who separats from Thee what Thou lovest? Or where but with Thee is unshaken safety? Grief pines away for things lost, the delight of its desires; because it would have nothing taken from it, as nothing can from Thee. Thus doth the soul seek without Thee what she finds not pure and untainted, until she returns to Thee. Thus, all pervertedly imitate Thee, who remove far from Thee, and lift themselves up against Thee. But even by thus imitating Thee, they imply Thee to be the Creator of all nature; whence there is no place, whither altogether to retire from Thee." And so, in man, the same qualities are good or bad, as they have God or self for their end. : "The joy of the world is a passion. Joy in the Holy Spirit or to joy in the Lord is a virtue. The sorrow of the world is a passion. The sorrow according to God which works salvation is a virtue. The fear of the world which hath torment, from which a man is called fearful, is a passion. The holy tear of the Lord, which abides forever, from which a man is called reverential, is a virtue. The hope of the world, when one's hope is in the world or the princes of the world, is a passion. Hope in God is a virtue, as well as faith and charity. Though these four human passions are not in God, there are four virtues, having the same names, which no one can have, save from God, from the Spirit of God." in man they are "passions," because man is so far "passive" and suffers under them, and, through original sin, cannot hinder having them, though by God's grace he may hold them in.
God, without passion and in perfect holiness, has qualities, which in man were jealousy, wrath, vengeance, unforgivingness, a "rigor of perfect justice toward the impenitent, which punishes so severely, as though God had fury;" only, in Him it is righteous to punish man's unrighteousness. Elsewhere it is said, "God keepeth not for ever" Psa 103:9, or it is asked, "will He keep forever?" Jer 3:5, and He answers, "Return, and I will not cause Mine anger to fall upon you, for I am merciful, saith the Lord, I will not keep for ever" Jer 3:12. Man's misdeeds and God's displeasure remain with God, to be effaced on man's repentance, or "by his hardness and impenitent heart man treasureth up unto himself wrath in the day of wrath and of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will reward each according to his works" Rom 2:5-6.
The Lord is slow to anger - Nahum takes up the words of Jonah Jon 4:2 as he spoke of God's attributes toward Nineveh, but only to show the opposite side of them. Jonah declares how God is "slow to anger," giving men time of repentance, and if they do repent, "repenting Him also of the evil;" Nahum, that the long-suffering of God is not "slackness," that "He is long-suffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."
And strong in power - Divine long-suffering gees along with Divine power. God can be long-suffering, because He can, whenever He sees good, punish. His long-suffering is a token, not of weakness, but of power. He can allow persons the whole extent of trial, because, when they are past cure, He can end it at once. "God is a righteous judge, strong and patient, and God wraths every day" Psa 7:11. The wrath comes only at the last, but it is ever present with God. He cannot but be displeased with the sin; and so the Psalmist describes in the manner of men the gradual approximation to its discharge. "If he (the sinner) will not return (from evil or to God), He will whet His sword; He hath trodden His bow and directed it: He hath prepared for him instruments of death; He hath made his arrows burning" Psa 7:12-13. We see the arrow with unextinguishable fire, ready to be discharged, waiting for the final decision of the wicked, whether he will repent or not, but that still "the Day of the Lord will come" Pe2 3:9-10. "He will not at all acquit."
The words occur originally in the great declaration of God's attributes of mercy by Moses, as a necessary limitation of them ; they are continued to God's people, yet with the side of mercy predominant Jer 30:11; Jer 46:28; they are pleaded to Himself Num 14:18; they are the sanction of the third commandment Exo 20:7; Deu 5:11. He "will not acquit" of His own will, apart from His justice. So He saith, "I can of Mine own self do nothing" Joh 5:30, i. e., (in part), not as unjust judges, who "call good evil and evil good," following their own will, not the merits of the case; but, "as I hear, I judge, and My judgment is just." He cannot even have mercy and spare unjustly, nor without the lowliness of penitence. Even if it is Jerusalem, over which He wept, or His "companion, His own familiar friend" Psa 55:14, He, who is no "accepter of persons," cannot of mere favor forgive the impenitent.
The Lord hath His way in the whirlwind and in the storm - The vengeance of God comes at last swiftly, vehemently, fearfully, irresistibly. "When they say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them" Th1 5:3, and all creation stands at the command of the Creator against His enemies. "He shall take to Him His jealousy for complete armor, and make the creature His weapon, for the revenge of His enemies" (Wisd. 5:17).
And the clouds are the dust of His feet - Perhaps the imagery is from the light dust raised by an earthly army, of which Nahum's word is used Eze 26:10. The powers of heaven are arrayed against the might of earth. On earth a little dust, soon to subside; in heaven, the whirlwind and the storm, which sweep away what does not bow before them. The vapors, slight on outward seeming, but formed of countless multitudes of mist-drops, are yet dark and lowering, as they burst, and resistless. "The Feet of God are that power whereby He trampleth upon the ungodly." So it is said to the Son, "Sit Thou on My Right Hand until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool." Tempests have also, without figure, been used to overthrow God's enemies (Exo 14:27; Jos 10:11; Jdg 5:20; Sa1 2:10; and Sa1 7:10; Sa2 22:15).
He rebuketh the sea and maketh it dry - Delivering His people, as He did from Pharaoh Psa 106:9, the type of all later oppressors, and of antichrist. "His word is with power; to destroy them at once with one rough word (Wisd. 12:9). The restlessness of the barren and troubled sea is an image of the wicked. "And drieth up all the rivers" Isa 57:20, as He did Jordan. His coming shall be far more terrible than when all the hearts of the inhabitants of the land did melt. "Bashan languisheth and Carmel; and the flower of Lebanon languisheth" Jos 2:11. Bashan was richest in pastures; Carmel, according to its name, in gardens and vineyards; Lebanon, in vines also and fragrant flowers Hos 14:7; Sol 4:11, but chiefly in the cedar and cypress; it had its name from the whiteness of the snow, which rests on its summit. These mountains then together are emblems of richness, lasting beauty, fruitfulness, loftiness; yet all, even that which by nature is not, in the variety of seasons, wont to fade, dries up and withers before the rebuke of God. But if these thing are "done in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?" All freshness, beauty, comeliness, show of outward nature, shall fade as grass; all ornament of men's outward graces or gifts, all mere show of goodness, shall fall off like a leaf and perish. If the glory of nature perishes before God, how much more the pride of man! Bashan also was the dwelling-place of the race of giants, and near Libanus was Damascus; yet their inhabitants became as dead men and their power shrank to nothing at the word of God.
The mountains quaked at Him, and the hills melted - As of their own accord. The words are a renewal of those of Amos Amo 9:13. Inanimate nature is pictured as endowed with the terror, which guilt feels at the presence of God. All power; whether greater or less, whatsoever lifteth itself up, shall give way in that Day, which shall be "upon all the cedars of Lebanon that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan, and upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills that are lifted up" Isa 2:13-14. "And the earth is burned" (rather lifteth itself up; as an an earthquake it seems, as it were, to rise and sink down, lifting itself as if to meet its God or to flee. What is strongest, shaketh; what is hardest, melteth; yea, the whole world trembles and is removed. : "If," said even Jews of old, "when God made Himself known in mercy, to give the law to His people, the world was so moved at His presence, how much more, when He shall reveal Himself in wrath!" The words are so great that they bear the soul on to the time, when the heaven and earth shall flee away from the Face of Him "Who sitteth on the throne, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat" Rev 20:11; Pe2 3:10. And since all judgments are images of the Last, and the awe at tokens of God's presence is a shadow of the terror of that coming, he adds,
Who can stand before His indignation? - This question appeals to our own consciences, that we cannot . It anticipates the self-conviction at every day of God's visitation, the forerunners of the lust. The word rendered "indignation" is reserved almost exclusively to denote the wrath of God. : "Who can trust in his own righteousness, and, for the abundance of his works or consciousness of his virtues, not be in need of mercy? 'Enter not into judgment with Thy servant, O Lord, for in Thy sight shall no man living be justified;' and in Job it is said truly, 'Behold He put no trust in His servants, and His Angels He charged with folly. How much less in them that dwell in houses of' clay, whose foundation is in the dust, which ewe crushed before the moth?' Job 4:18-19. It were needless now to prove, that man's own deserts suffice to no one, and that we are not saved but by the grace of God, 'for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God' Rom 3:23. Wherefore he saith, 'before His indignation,' standing face to Face before Him in wrath."
Literally, "in the Face of:" guilt cannot look in the face of man, how much less, of God. The bliss of the righteous is the punishment of the wicked, to behold God face to Face. For "whoever trusts in his own works deserves His indignation. and thinking he stands, righteously does he fall."
His fury is poured out - נתך is used of the pouring out of God's wrath, Jer 7:20; Jer 42:18; Ch2 12:7 (as more commonly שׁפך here its native meaning is brought out the more, by adding כאש.
Like fire - , sweeping away, like a torrent of molten fire, him who presumes that be can stand before His Face, as He did the cities of the plain Gen. 19, the image of the everlasting fire, which shall burn up His enemies on every side. "And rocks are thrown down" Psa 97:3; Psa 50:3; Psa 68:3; Psa 18:8. The rocks are like so many towers of nature, broken down and crushed "by Him" literally, "from Him." It needs not any act of God's. He wills and it is done. Those who harden themselves, are crushed and broken to pieces, the whole fabric they had built for themselves and their defenses, crumbling and shivered. If then they, whose hearts are hard as rocks, and bold against all peril, and even Satan himself, whose "heart is as firm as a stone, yea, as hard as a piece of the nether millstone" Job 41:24, shall be crushed then, who shall abide?
The Lord is good: a stronghold in the day of trouble - "Good and doing good," and full of sweetness; alike good and mighty; good in giving Himself and imparting His goodness to His own; yea "none is good, save God" Luk 18:19; Himself the stronghold wherein His own amy take refuge; both in the troubles of this life, in which "He will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able" Co1 10:13, and in that Day, which shall hem them in on every side, and leave no place of escape except Himself.
And He knoweth them that tuust in Him - So as to save them; as Rahab was saved when Jericho perished, and Lot out of the midst of the overthrow and Hezekiah from the host of Sennacherib. He knows them with an individual, ever-present, knowledge. He says not only, "He shall own them," but He ever "knoweth them." So it is said; "The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous" Psa 1:6; "The Lord knoweth the, days of the upright" Psa 37:18; and our Lord says, "I know My sheep" Joh 10:14, Joh 10:27; and Paul, "The Lord knoweth them that are His" Ti2 2:19. God speaks of this knowledge also in the past, of His knowledge, when things as yet were not, "I have known thee by name;" or of loving kindness in the past, "I knew thee in the wilderness" Hos 13:5, "you alone have I known of all the families of the earth" Amo 3:2, its contrariwise our Lord says, that He shall say to the wicked in the Great Day, "I never knew you" Mat 7:23. That God, being what He is, should take knowledge of us, being what we are, is such wondrous condescension, that it involves a purpose of love, yea, His love toward us, as the Psalmist says admiringly, "Lord, what is man that Thou takest knowledge of him?" Psa 144:3.
Them that trust in Him - It is a habit, which has this reward; "the trusters in Him," "the takers of refuge in Him." It is a continued unvarying trust, to which is shown this everpresent love and knowledge.
Yet this gleam of comfort only discloses the darkness of the wicked. Since those who trust God are they whom God knows, it follows that the rest He knows not. On this opening, which sets forth the attributes of God toward those who defy Him and those who trust in Him, follows the special application to Nineveh.
But with an overrunning flood He will make an utter end of the place thereof - that is, of Nineveh, although not as yet named, except in the title of the prophecy, yet present to the prophet's mind and his hearers, and that the more solemnly, as being the object of the wrath of God, so that, although unnamed, it would be known so to be. Image and reality, the first destruction and the last which it pictures, meet in the same words. Nineveh itself was overthrown through the swelling of the rivers which flowed around it and seemed to be its defense (see the note at Nah 2:6). Then also, the flood is the tide of the armies, gathered from all quarters, Babylonians , Medes, Persians, Arabians, Bactrians, which like a flood should sweep over Nineveh and leave nothing standing. It is also the flood of the wrath of God, in whose Hands they were and who, by them, should "make a full end of it," literally, "make the place thereof a thing consumed," a thing which has ceased to be. For a while, some ruins existed, whose name and history ceased to be known; soon after, the ruins themselves were effaced and buried . Such was the close of a city, almost coeval with the flood, which had now stood almost as many years as have passed since Christ came, but which now defied God. Marvelous image of the evil world itself, which shall flee away from the face of Him who sat on the throne, "and there was found no place for it" Rev 20:11.
And darkness shall pursue His enemies - Better, "He shall pursue His enemies into darkness" Darkness is, in the Old Testament, the condition, or state in which a person is, or lives; it is not an agent, which pursues. Isaiah speaks of the "inhabitants of darkness" Isa 42:7, "entering unto darkness" Isa 47:5; "those who are in darkness" Isa 49:9. "The grave is all darkness" Psa 88:12; Job 17:13, "darkness, and the shadow of death" Job 10:21. Hence, even Jews rendered , "He shall deliver them to hell." Into this darkness it is said, God shall pursue them, as other prophets speak of being "driven forth into darkness" . The darkness, the motionless drear abode, to which they are driven, anticipates the being cast into "the outer darkness, where shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Rup.: "The vengeance of God on" these who remain "His enemies" to the last, "ends not with the death of the body; but evil spirits, who are darkness and not light, pursue their souls, and seize them." They would not hear Christ calling to them, "Walk, while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you" Joh 12:35. "They are of those that rebel against the light; they know not the ways thereof, nor abide in the paths thereof" Job 24:13. "They loved darkness rather than light" Joh 3:19. And so they were driven into the darkness which they chose and loved.
The prophet had in few words summed up the close of Nineveh; he now upbraids them with the sin, which should bring it upon them, and foretells the destruction of Sennacherib. Nineveh had, before this, been the instrument of chastising Israel and Judah. Now, the capture of Samaria, which had cast off God, deceived and emboldened it. Its king thought that this was the might of his own arm; and likened the Lord of heaven and earth to the idols of the pagan, and said, "Who are they among all the gods of the countries, that have delivered their country out of mine hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of mine hand?" Kg2 18:35. He sent "to reproach the living God" Kg2 19:16 and "defied the Holy One of Israel" (see 2 Kings 19:15-34). His blasphemy was his destruction. It was a war, not simply of ambition, or covetousness, but directly against the power and worship of God.
"What will ye so mightily devise" , "imagine against the Lord?" He Himself, by Himself, is already "making an utter end." It is in store; the Angel is ready to smite. Idle are man's devices, when the Lord doeth. "Take counsel together, and it shall come to nought; speak the word, and it shall not stand: for God is with us" Isa 8:10. While the rich man was speaking comfort to his soul as to future years, God was making an utter end. "Thou fool, this night shall thy soul be required of thee."
Affliction shall not rise up the second time - Others have understood this, "affliction shall not rise up the second time," but shall destroy at once, utterly and finally (compare Sa1 26:8; Sa2 20:10): but:
(1) the idiom there, "he did not repeat to him," as we say, "he did not repeat the blow" is quite different;
(2) it is said "affliction shall not rise up," itself, as if it could not. The causative of the idiom occurs in Sa2 12:11, "lo, I will cause evil to rise up against thee;" as he says afterward, "Though I have afflicted thee, I will afflict thee no more" Nah 1:12. "God," He had said, "is good for a refuge in the day of affliction;" now, personifying that affliction, he says, that it should be so utterly broken, that it should rise up no more to vex them, as when a serpent's head is, not wounded only but, crushed and trampled underfoot, so that it cannot again lift itself up. The promises of God are conditioned by our not falling back into sin. He saith to Nineveh, "God will not deliver Judah to thee, as He delivered the ten tribes and Samaria." Judah repented under Hezekiah, and He not only delivered it from Sennacherib, but never afflicted them again through Assyria. Renewal of sin brings renewal or deepening of punishment. The new and more grievous sins under Manasseh were punished, not through Assyria but through the Chaldeans.
The words have passed into a maxim, "God will not punish the same thing twice," not in this world and the world to come, i. e., not if repented of. For of the impenitent it is said, "destroy them with a double destruction" Jer 17:18. Chastisement here is a token of God's mercy; the absence of it, or prosperous sin, of perdition; but if any refuse to be corrected, the chastisement of this life is but the beginning of unending torments.
For while they be leiden together as thorns - that is, as confused, intertwined, sharp, piercing, hard to be touched, rending and tearing whosoever would interfere with its tangled ways, and seemingly compact together and strong; "and while they are drunken as their drink" , not "drinkers" only but literally, "drunken," swallowed up, as it were, by their drink which they had swallowed, mastered, overcome, powerless, "they shall be derogated as stubble fully dry" , rapidly, in an instant, with an empty crackling sound, unresisting, as having nothing in them which can resist. Historically, the great defeat of the Assyrians, before the capture of Nineveh, took place while its king, flushed with success, was giving himself to listlessness; and having distributed to his soldiers victims, and abundance of wine, and other necessaries for banqueting, the whole army was negligent and drunken."
In like way Babylon was taken amid the feasting of Belshazzar Dan. 5:1-30; Benhadad was smitten, while "drinking himself drunk in the pavilions, he and the kings, the thirty and two kings that helped him" Kg1 20:16. And so it may well be meant here too, that Sennacherib's army, secure of their prey, were sunk in revelry, already swallowed up by wine, before they were swallowed up by the pestilence, on the night when the Angel of the Lord went out to smite them, and, from the sleep of revelry, they slept the sleep from which they shall not awake until the Judgment Day. God chooses the last moment of the triumph of the wicked, when he is flushed by his success, the last of the helplessness of the righteous, when his hope can be in the Lord alone, to exchange their lots. "The righteous is delivered out of trouble, and the wicked comes in his stead" Pro 11:8. Spiritually , "the false fullness of the rich of this world, is real leanness; the greenness of such grass (for all flesh is grass) is real dryness. Marvelous words, "fully dry." For what is dryness but emptiness?" They are perfected, but in dryness, and so perfectly prepared to be burned up. "The thorns had, as far as in them lay, choked the good seed, and hated the Seed-corn, and now are found, like stubble, void of all seed, fitted only to be burned with fire. For those who feast themselves "without fear is reserved the blackness of darkness forever" Jde 1:12-13.
There is one come out of thee - that is, Nineveh, "that imagineth" deviseth, , "evil, Lord, Sennacherib, against the the rod of God's anger" Isa 10:5-7, yet who "meant not so," as God meant. "And this was his counsel," as is every counsel of Satan, "that they could not resist him, and so should withdraw themselves from the land of God, "into a land like their own" Isa 36:16-17, but whose joy and sweetness, its vines and its fig-trees, should not be from God, but from the Assyrian, i. e., from Satan.
Though they be quiet and likewise many, yet thus shall they be cut down - Literally, "If they be entire," i. e., sound unharmed, unimpaired in their numbers, unbroken in their strength, undiminished, perfect in all which belongs to war; "and thus many even thus shall they be mown down (or shorn), and he passeth away" . With might outwardly unscathed, "without hand" Dan 2:34, and "thus many," i. e., many, accordingly, as being unweakened; as many as they shall be, "so shall they be mown down, and he," their head and king, "shall pass away and perish" (compare Psa 48:4). Their numbers shall be, as their condition before, perfect; their destruction as their numbers, complete. It is wonderful how much God says in few words; and how it is here foretold that, with no previous loss, a mighty host secure and at ease, in consequence of their prosperity, all are at one blow mown down, like the dry grass before the scythe, are cut off and perish; and one, their king, "passeth away," first by flight, and then by destruction. As they had shorn the glory of others Isa 7:20, so should they be shorn and cut down themselves.
Though I have afflicted thee, I will afflict thee no more - o. Unless by new guilt thou compel Me. God always relieves us from trouble, as it were with the words, "sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee" Joh 5:14. In the end, afflictions shall be turned into joy, and "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be anymore paid" Rev 21:4.
For now will I break his yoke from off thee - God, lest His own should despair, does not put them off altogether to a distant day, but saith, now. Historically, the beginning of the fall is the earnest of the end. By the destruction of Sennacherib, God declared His displeasure against Assyria; the rest was matter of time only. Thus, Haman's wise men say to him, "If Mordecai be of the seed of the Jews, before whom thou hast begun to fall, thou shalt not prevail against him, but shalt surely fall before him" Est 6:13; as He saith in Isaiah, "I will break the Assyrian in My land, and upon My mountains tread him underfoot; then shall his yoke depart from off them, and his burden depart from off their shoulders" Isa 14:25. : "In that He saith, not 'I will loose,' 'will undo,' but 'I will break,' 'will burst,' He sheweth that He will in such wise free Jerusalem, as to pour out displeasure on the enemy. The very mode of speaking shows the greatness of His displeasure against those who, when for the secret purpose of His judgments they have power given them against the servants of God, feed themselves on their punishments, and moreover dare to boast against God, as did the Assyrian, 'By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom' Isa 10:13."
And the Lord hath given a commandment concerning thee, O Assyrian - In the word "I have afflicted thee," the land of Israel is addressed, as usual in Hebrew, in the feminine; here, a change of gender in Hebrew shows the person addressed to be different. : "By His command alone, and the word of His power, He cut off the race of the Assyrian, as he says in Wisdom, of Egypt, "Thine Almighty word leaped down from heaven, out of Thy royal throne; as a fierce man of war into the midst of a land of destruction, and brought Thine unfeigned commandment as a sharp sword, and standing up filled all things with death," (Wisd. 18:15, 16), or else it may be, He gave command to the Angels His Ministers. God commands beforehand, that, when it comes to pass, it may be known "that not by chance," nor by the will of man, "nor without His judgment but by the sentence of God" the blow came.
No move of thy name be sown - As Isaiah saith, "the seed of evildoers shall never be renowned" Isa 14:20. He prophesies, not the immediate but the absolute cessation of the Assyrian line. If the prophecy was uttered at the time of Sennacherib's invasion, seventeen years before his death, not Esarhaddon only, but his son Asshurbanipal also, whose career of personal conquest, the last glory of the house of the Sargonides and of the empire, began immediately upon his father's reign of thirteen years, was probably already born. Asshurbanipal in this case would only have been thirty-one, at the beginning of his energetic reign, and would have died in his fifty-second year. After him followed only an inglorious twenty-two years. The prophet says, "the Lord hath commanded." The decree as to Ahab's house was fulfilled in the person of his second son, as to Jeroboam and Baasha in their sons. It waited its appointed time, but was fulfilled in the complete excision of the doomed race.
Out of the house of thy gods will I cut off graven image and molten image - As thou hast done to others Isa 37:19, it shall be done to thee. : "And when even the common objects of worship of the Assyrian and Chaldean were not spared, what would be the ruin of the whole city!" So little shall thy gods help thee, that "there shalt thou be punished, where thou hopest for aid. 'Graven and molten image' shall be thy grave; amid altar and oblations, as thou worshipest idols," thanking them for thy deliverance, "shall thy unholy blood be shed," as it was by his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer. Isa 37:38. "I will make it thy grave" ; , what God makes remains immovable, cannot be changed. But He "maketh thy grave" in hell, where not only that rich man in the Gospel hath his grave; but all who are or have been like him, and especially thou, O Asshur, of whom it is written, "Asshur is there and all her company; his graves are about him: all of them slain, fallen by the sword. Whose graves are set in the sides of the pit and her company is round about her grave: all of them slain, fallen by the sword, which caused terror in the land of the living" Eze 32:22-23. "Graven and molten image," the idols which men adore, the images of their vanity, the created things which they worship instead of the true God (as they whose god is their belly), in which they busy themselves in this life, shall be their destruction in the Day of Judgment.
For thou art vile - Thou honoredst thyself and dishonoredst God, so shalt thou be dishonored , as He saith, "Them that honor Me I will honor, and they that despise Me shall be lightly esteemed" Sa1 2:30. So when he had said to Edom, "thou art greatly despised" Oba 1:2, he adds the ground of it, "The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee. For thou art vile" Oba 1:3. Great, honored, glorious as Assyria or its ruler were in the eyes of men, the prophet tells him, what he was in himself, being such in the eyes of God, light, empty, as Daniel said to Belshazzar, "Thou art weighed in the balances, and found wanting" Dan 5:27, of no account, vile .
Behold upon the mountains, the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace - From mountain-top to mountain-top by beacon-fires they spread the glad tidings. Suddenly the deliverance comes, sudden its announcement. "Behold!" Judah, before hindered by armies from going up to Jerusalem, its cities taken Kg2 18:13, may now again "keep the feasts" there, and "pay the vows," which "in trouble she promised;" "for the wicked one," the ungodly Sennacherib, "is utterly cut off, he shall no more pass through thee;" "the army and king and empire of the Assyrians have perished." But the words of prophecy cannot be bound down to this. These large promises, which, as to this world, were forfeited in the next reign, when Manasseh was taken captive to Babylon, and still more in the seventy years' captivity, and more yet in that until now, look for a fulfillment, as they stand.
They sound so absolute. "I will afflict thee no more," "the wicked shall no more pass through thee," "he is utterly (literally, the whole of him) cut off." Nahum joins on this signal complete deliverance from a temporal enemy, to the final deliverance of the people of God. The invasion of Sennacherib was an avowed conflict with God Himself. It was a defiance of God. He would make God's people, his; he would "cut it off that it be no more a people, and that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance" Psa 83:4. There was a more "evil counselor" behind, whose agent was Sennacherib. He, as he is the author of all murders and strife, so has he a special hatred for the Church, whether before or since Christ's Coming. Before, that he right cut off that Line from whom "the Seed of the woman" should be born, which should destroy his empire and crush himself, and that he might devour the Child who was to be born Rev 12:4.
Since, because her members are his freed captives, and she makes inroads on his kingdom, and he hates them because he hates God and Christ who dwells in them. As the time of the birth of our Lord neared, his hate became more concentrated. God overruled the hatred of Edom or Moab, or the pride of Assyria, to His own ends, to preserve Israel by chastising it. Their hatred was from the evil one, because it was God's people, the seed of Abraham, the tribe of Judah, the line of David. If they could be cut off, they of whom Christ was to be born according to the flesh, and so, in all seeming, the hope of the world, were gone. Sennacherib then was not a picture only, he was the agent of Satan, who used his hands, feet, tongue, to blaspheme God and war against His people. As then we have respect not to the mere agent, but to the principal, and should address him through those he employed (as Elisha said of the messenger who came to slay him, "is not the sound of his master's feet behind him?" Kg2 6:32), so the prophet's words chiefly and most fully go to the instigator of Sennacherib, whose very name he names, Belial. It is the deliverance of the Church and the people of God which he foretells, and thanks God for.
To the Church he says in the Same of God, "Though I have afflicted thee, I will afflict thee no more" Nah 1:12. The yoke which He will burst is the yoke of the oppressor, of which Isaiah speaks, and which the Son, to be born of a Virgin, "the Mighty God, the Prince of Peace," was to break Isa 9:4, Isa 9:6; the yoke of sin and the bands of fleshly pleasure and evil habits, wherewith we were held captive, so that henceforth we should walk upright, unbowed, look up to heaven our home, and "run the way of Thy commandments when Thou hast set my heart at liberty." Behold, then, "upon the mountains," i. e., above all the height of this world, "the feet of him that bringeth good tidings," i. e., of remission of sins and sanctification by the Spirit and the freedom and adoption as sons, and the casting out of the Prince of this world, "that publisheth peace." "O Judah," thou, the true people of God, "keep thy solemn feasts," the substance of the figures of the law. : "He who is ever engaged on the words, deeds and thoughts of Him, who is by nature Lord, the Word of God, ever lives in His days, ever keeps Lord's days. Yea he who ever prepares himself for the true life and abstains from the sweets of this life which deceive the many, and who cherishes not the mind of the flesh but chastens the body and enslaves it, is ever keeping the days of preparation. He too who thinks that Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us, and that we must keep festival, eating the flesh of the Word, there is no time when he keeps not the Passover, ever passing over in thought and every word and deed from the affairs of this life to God, and hasting to His city. Moreover whoso can say truthfully, we have risen together with Christ, yea and also, He hath together raised us and together seated us in the heavenly places in Christ, ever lives in the days of Pentecost; and chiefly, when, going up into the upper room as the Apostles of Jesus, he gives himself to supplication and prayer, that he may become meet for the rushing mighty wind from heaven, which mightily effaces the evil in men and its fruits, meet too for some portion of the fiery tongue froth God." : "Such an one will keep the feast excellently, having the faith in Christ fixed, hallowed by the Spirit, glorious with the grace of adoption. And he will offer to God spiritual sacrifice, consecrating himself for an odor of sweetness, cultivating also every kind of virtue, temperance, continence, fortitude, endurance, charity, hope, love of the poor, goodness, longsuffering: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. Every power of the enemy, which before had dominion over him, shall pass through no more, since Christ commanded the unclean spirits to depart into the abyss and giveth to those who love Him power to resist the enemy, and subdue the passions, and destroy sin and tread on serpents and scorpions and every power of the enemy."
And these feasts were to he kept "in the spirit not in the letter. For what avails it to keep any feast wilhout, unless there be the feast of contmplation in the soul?" . Wherefore he adds, "and pay thy vows," i. e., thyself, whom in Baptism thou hast vowed: for the Wicked One shall no more pass through thee. : "For from what time, O Judah, Christ, by dying and rising again, hallowed thy feasts, he can no longer pass through thee. Thenceforth he perished wholly. Not that he has, in substance, ceased to be, but that the death of the human race, which through his envy came into this world, the two-fold death of body trod soul, wholly perisheth. Where and when did this Belial perish? When died the death which he brought in, whence himself also is called Death? When Christ died, then died the death of our souls; and when Christ rose again, then perished the death of our bodies. When then, O Judah thou keepest thy feast, remember that thy very feast is He, of whom thou savest that by dying He conquered death and by rising He restored life. Hence it is said, Belial shall no more pass through thee.
For if thou look to that alone, that Sennacherib departed, to return no more, and perished, it would not be true to say, Belial hath wholly perished! For after him many a Belial, such as he was, passed through time, and hurt thee far more. Perchance thou sayest, 'so long as Nineveh standest, how savest thou, that Belial has wholly perisited? So long as the world standeth, how shall I be comforted, that death hath perished? For lo! persecutors tamed with death have stormed, and besides them, many sons of Belial, of whom antichrist will be the worst. How then sayest thou, that Belial has wholly perished?' It follows, "the Scatterer hath gone up before thee." To Judah in the flesh, Nebuchadnezzar who went up against Nineveh, was worse than Sennacherib. Who then is He who went up before thee, and dispersed the world, that great Nineveh, that thou shouldest have full consolation? Christ who descended, Himself ascended; and as He ascended, so shall He come to disperse Nineveh, i. e., to judge the world. What any persecutor doth meanwhile, yea or the Devil himself or antichrist, takes nothing from the truth, that Belial hath "wholly perished." "The prince of this world is cast out." For nothing which they do, or can do, hinders, that both deaths of body and soul are swallowed up in His victory, who hath ascended to heaven? Belial cannot in the members kill the soul, which hath been made alive by the death of the Head, i. e., Christ; and as to the death of the body, so certain is it that it will perish, that thou mayest say fearlessly that it hath perished, since Christ the Head hath risen."
Each fall of an enemy of the Church, each recovery of a sinful soul being a part of this victory, the words may be applied to each. The Church or the soul are bidden to keep the feast and pay their vows, whatever in their trouble they promised to God. Jerome: "It is said to souls, which confess the Lord, that the devil who, before, wasted thee and bowed thee with that most heavy yoke hath, in and with the idols which thou madest for thyself, perished; keep thy feasts and pay to God thy vows, singing with the angels continually, for no more shall Belial pass through thee, of whom the apostle too saith, What concord hath Christ with Belial? The words too, Behold upon the mountains the feet of him that brings good tidings, that publishes peace" belong, in a degree, to all preachers of the Gospel. : "No one can preach peace, who is himself below and cleaves to earthly things. For warn are for the good things of earth. If thou wouldest preach peace to thyself and thy neighbor, be raised above the earth and its goods, riches and glory. Ascend to the heavenly mountains, whence David also, lifting up his eyes, hoped that his help would come."