Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 28: Jonah, Micah, Nahum, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
1.. The burden of Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite.
1. Onus Nineveh: Liber visionis Nahum Helkosi:
Though a part of what is here delivered belongs to the Israelites and to the Jews, he yet calls his Book by what it principally contains; he calls its the burden of Nineveh Of this word משא, mesha, we have spoken elsewhere. Thus the Prophets call their prediction, whenever they denounce any grievous and dreadful vengeance of God: and as they often threatened the Jews, it hence happened, that they called, by way of ridicule, all prophecies by this name משא, mesha, a burden. 206 But yet the import of the word is suitable. It is the same thing as though Nahum had said that he was sent by God as a herald, to proclaim war on the Ninevites for the sake of the chosen people. The Israelites may have hence learnt how true and unchangeable God was in his covenant; for he still manifested his care for them, though they had by their vices alienated themselves from him.
He afterwards adds, ספר חזון, sapher chezun, the book of the vision This clause signifies, that he did not in vain denounce destruction on the Ninevites, because he faithfully delivered what he had received from God. For if he had simply prefaced, that he threatened ruin to the Assyrian,, some doubt might have been entertained as to the event. But here he seeks to gain to himself authority by referring to God’s name; for he openly affirms that he brought nothing of his own, but that this burden had been made known to him by a celestial oracle: for חזה, cheze, means properly to see, and hence in Hebrew a vision is called חזון, chezun,. But the Prophets, when they speak of a vision, do not mean any fantasy or imagination, but that kind of revelation which is mentioned in Nu 14, where God says, that he speaks to his Prophets either by vision or by dream. We hence see why this was added — that the burden of Nineveh was a vision; it was, that the Israelites might know that this testimony respecting God’s vengeance on their enemies was not brought by a mortal man, and that there might be no doubt but that God was the author of this prophecy.
Nahum calls himself an Elkoshite. Some think that it was the name of his family. The Jews, after their manner, say, that it was the name of his father; and then they add this their common gloss, that Elkos himself was a Prophet: for when the name of a Prophet’s father is mentioned, they hold that he whose name is given was also a Prophet. But these are mere trifles: and we have often seen how great is their readiness to invent fables. Then the termination of the word leads us to think that it was, on the contrary, the proper name of a place; and Jerome tells us that there was in his time a small village of this name in the tribe of Simon. We must therefore understand, that Nahum arose from that town, and was therefore called “the Elkoshite.” 207 Let us now proceed —
2. God is jealous, and the Lord revengeth; the Lord revengeth, and is furious; the Lord will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies.
2. Deus aemulator (sic vertunt,) et ulciscens Jehova; ulciscens Jehova, et Dominus irae (vel, possidens iram;) ulciscens Jehova hostes suos, et servans (vel, responens) idem (vel, ipse) inimicis suis.
Nahum begins with the nature of God, that what he afterwards subjoins respecting the destruction of Nineveh might be more weighty, and produce a greater impression on the hearers. The preface is general, but the Prophet afterwards applies it to a special purpose. If he had only spoken of what God is, it would have been frigid at least it would have been less efficacious; but when he connects both together, then his doctrine carries its own force and power. We now apprehend the design of the Prophet. He might indeed have spoken of the fall of the city Nineveh: but if he had referred to this abruptly, profane men might have regarded him with disdain; and even the Israelites would have been perhaps less affected. This is the reason why he shows, in a general way, what sort of Being God is. And he takes his words from Moses; and the Prophets are wont to borrow from him their doctrine: 208 and it is from that most memorable vision, when God appeared to Moses after the breaking of the tables. I have therefore no doubt but that Nahum had taken from Ex 34 what we read here: he does not, indeed, give literally what is found there; but it is sufficiently evident that he paints, as it were, to the life, the image of God, by which his nature may be seen.
He says first, that God is jealous; (amulus — emulous); for the verb קנא, kona, means to irritate, and also to emulate, and to envy. When God is said to be קנוא, konua, the Greeks render it jealous, ζηλωτην, and the Latins, emulous, (amulatorem) But it properly signifies, that God cannot bear injuries or wrongs. Though God then for a time connives at the wickedness of men? he will yet be the defender of his own glory. He calls him afterwards the avenger, and he repeats this three times, Jehovah avengeth, Jehovah avengeth and possesseth wrath, he will avenge. When he says that God keeps for his enemies, he means that vengeance is reserved for the unbelieving and the despisers of God. There is the same mode of speaking in use among us, Je lui garde, et il la garde a ses ennemis. This phrase, in our language, shows what the Prophet means here by saying, that God keeps for his enemies. And this awful description of God is to be applied to the present case, for he says that he proclaims war against the Ninevites, because they had unjustly distressed the Church of God: it is for this reason that he says, that God is jealous, that God is an avenger; and he confirms this three times, that the Israelites might feel assured that this calamity was seriously announced; for had not this representation been set before them, they might have thus reasoned with themselves, — “We are indeed cruelly harassed by our enemies; but who can think that God cares any thing for our miseries, since he allows them so long to be unavenged?” It was therefore necessary that the Prophet should obviate such thoughts, as he does here. We now more fully understand why he begins in a language so vehement, and calls God a jealous God, and an avenger.
He afterwards adds, that God possesses wrath I do not take חמה, cheme, simply for wrath, but the passion or he it of wrath. We ought not indeed to suppose, as it has been often observed, that our passions belong to God; for he remains ever like himself. But yet God is said to be for a time angry, and for ever towards the reprobate, for he is our and their Judge. Here, then, when the Prophet says, that God is the Lord of wrath, or that he possesses wrath, he means that he is armed with vengeance and that, though he connives at the sins of men, he is not yet indifferent, nor even delays because he is without power, or because he is idle and careless, but that he retains wraths as he afterwards repeats the same thing, He keeps for his enemies 209 In short, by these forms of speaking the Prophet intimates that God is not to be rashly judged of on account of his delay, when he does not immediately execute His judgments; for he waits for the seasonable opportunity. But, in the meantime there is no reason for us to think that he forgets his office when he suspends punishment, or for a season spares the ungodly. When, therefore, God does not hasten so very quickly, there is no ground for us to think that he is indifferent, because he delays his wrath, or retains it, as we have already said; for it is the same thing to retain wrath, as to be the Lord of wrath, and to possess it. It follows —
3. The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked: the Lord hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.
3. Jehova tardus iris (ad verbum, sed, tardus ad iram) et magnus robore; et purgando non purgabit; Jehova in turbine et tempestate via ejus, et nubes pulvis pedum ejus.
The Prophet goes on with the same subject; and still longer is the preface respecting the nature of God, which however is to be applied, as I have said, to the special objects which hereafter he will state. He says here that God is slow to wrath Though this saying is taken also from Moses yet the Prophet speaks here for the purpose of anticipating an objection; for he obviates the audacity of the ungodly who daringly derided God, when any evil was denounced on them, — Where is the mercy of God? Can God divest himself of his kindness? He cannot deny himself. Thus profane men, under the pretense of honoring God, cast on him the most atrocious slander, for they deprive him of his own power and office: and there is no doubt but that this was commonly done by many of the ungodly in the age of our Prophet. Hence he anticipates this objection, and concedes that God is slow to wrath. There is then a concession here; but at the same time he says that God is great in strength, and this he says, that the ungodly may not flatter and deceive themselves, when they hear these high attributes given to God, that he is patient, slow to wrath, merciful, full of kindness. “Let them,” he says, “at the same time remember the greatness of God’s power, that they may not think that they have to do with a child.”
We now then see the design of the Prophet: for this declaration — that God hastens not suddenly to wrath, but patiently defers and suspends the punishment which the ungodly deserve. This declaration would not have harmonized with the present argument, had not the Prophet introduced it by way of concession; as though he said, — “I see that the world everywhere trifle with God, and that the ungodly delude themselves with such Sophistries, that they reject all threatening. I indeed allow that God is ready to pardon, and that he descends not to wrath, except when he is constrained by extreme necessity: all this is indeed true; but yet know, that God is armed with his own power: escape then shall none of those who allow themselves the liberty of abusing his patience, notwithstanding the insolence they manifest towards him.”
He now adds, By clearing he will not clear. Some translate, “The innocent, he will not render innocent.” But the real meaning of this sentence is the same with that in Ex 34; and what Moses meant was, that God is irreconcilable to the impenitent. It has another meaning at the end of Joe 3, where it is said, ‘I will cleanse the blood which I have not cleansed.’ On that text interpreters differ; because they regard not the change in the tense of the verb; for God means, that he would cleanse the filth and defilements of his Church, which he had not previously cleansed. But Moses means, that God deals strictly with sinners, so as to remit no punishment. By clearing then I will not clear; that is, God will rigidly demand an account of all the actions of men; and as there is nothing hid from him, so everything done wickedly by men must come forth, when God ascends his tribunal; he will not clear by clearing, but will rigidly execute his judgment.
There seems to be some inconsistency in saying, — that God is reconcilable and ready to pardon, — and yet that by clearing he will not clear. But the aspect of things is different. We have already stated what the Prophet had in view: for inasmuch as the ungodly ever promise impunity to themselves, and in this confidence petulantly deride God himself, the Prophet answers them, and declares, that there was no reason why they thus abused God’s forbearance, for he says, By clearing he will not clear, that is, the reprobate: for our salvation consists in a free remission of sins; and whence comes our righteousness, but from the imputation of God, and from this — that our sins are buried in oblivion? yea, our whole clearing depends on the mercy of God. But God then exercises also his judgment, and by clearing he clears, when he remits to the faithful their sins; for the faithful by repentance anticipate his judgment; and he searches their hearts, that he may clear them. For what is repentance but condemnation, which yet turns out to be the means of salvation? As then God absolves none except the condemned, our Prophet here rightly declares, that by clearing he will not clears that is, he will not remit their sins, except he tries them and discharges the office of a judge; in short, that no sin is remitted by God which he does not first condemn. But with regard to the reprobate, who are wholly obstinate in their wickedness, the Prophet justly declares this to them, — that they have no hope of pardon, as they perversely adhere to their own devices, and think that they can escape the hand of God: the Prophet tells them that they are deceived, for God passes by nothing, and will not blot out one sin, until all be brought to mind.
He afterwards says, that the way of God is in the whirlwind and the tempest; that is, that God, as soon as he shows himself, disturbs the whole atmosphere, and excites storms and tempests: and this must be applied to the subject in hand; for the appearance of God is in other places described as lovely and gracious: nay, what else but the sight of God exhilarated the faithful? As soon as God turns away his face, they must necessarily be immersed in dreadful darkness, and be surrounded with horrible terrors. Why then does the Prophet say here, that the way of God is in the whirlwind and storms? Even because his discourse is addressed to the ungodly, or to the despisers of God himself, as in Ps 18; where we see him described as being very terrible, — that clouds and darkness are around him, that he moves the whole earth, that he thunders on every side, that he emits smoke frown his nostrils, and that he fills the whole world with fire and burning. For what purpose was this done? Because David’s object was to set forth the judgments of God, which he had executed on the ungodly. So it is in this place; for Nahum speaks of the future vengeance, which was then nigh the Assyrians; hence he says, The way of God is in the whirlwind and tempest; that is, when God goes forth, whirlwinds and tempests are excited by his presence, and the whole world is put in confusion.
He adds, that the clouds are the dust of his feet When any one with his feet only moves the dust within a small space, some dread is produced: but God moves the dust, not only in one place, — what then? he obscures, and thus covers the whole heaven, The clouds then are the dust of his feet 210 We now apprehend the whole meaning of the Prophet, and the purpose for which this description is given. Of the same import is what follows —
4. He rebuketh the sea, and maketh it dry, and drieth up all the rivers: Bashan languisheth, and Carmel, and the flower of Lebanon languisheth.
4. Increpat mare et arefaciet illud (hoc est, simulac mare increpuerit, arefaciet;) et omnia flumina exiccat, infirmatur (vel aboletur) Basan et Carmelus, et germen Libani aboletur (vel, infirmatur, est idem verbum.)
Nahum continues his discourse, — that God, in giving proof of his displeasure, would disturb the sea or make it dry. There may be here an allusion to the history, described by Moses; for the Prophets, in promising God’s assistance to his people, often remind them how God in a miraculous manner brought up their fathers from Egypt. As then the passage through the Red Sea was in high repute among the Jews, it may be that the Prophet alluded to that event, (Ex 14:22.) But another view seems to me more probable. We indeed know how impetuous an element is that of the sea; and hence in Jer 5:22, God, intending to set forth his own power, says, that it is in his power to calm the raging of the sea, than which nothing is more impetuous or more violent. In the same manner also is the majesty of God described in Job 28. The meaning of this place, I think, is the same, — that God by his chiding makes the sea dry, 211 and that he can dry up the rivers That the prophet connects rivers with the sea, confirms what I have just said, — that the passage through the Red Sea is not here referred to; but that the object is to show in general how great is God’s power in governing the whole world.
To the same purpose is what he adds, Bashan shall be weakened, and Carmel, and the branch of Lebanon shall be weakened, or destroyed. By these words he intimates, that there is nothing so magnificent in the world, which God changes not, when he gives proofs of his displeasure; as it is said in Psalm 104,
‘Send forth thy Spirit, and they shall be renewed;’
and again, ‘Take away thy Spirit,’ or remove it, ‘and all things will return to the dust;’ yea, into nothing. So also Nahum says in this place, “As soon as God shows his wrath, the rivers will dry up, the sea itself will become dry, and then the flowers will fade and the grass will wither;” that is, though the earth be wonderfully ornamented and replenished, yet all things will be reduced to solitude and desolation whenever God is angry. And he afterwards adds —
5. The mountains quake at him, and the hills melt, and the earth is burned at his presence, yea, the world, and all that dwell therein.
5. Montes concutientur ab eo (vel, contremiscent, quanquam notat continuum actum; sensus est igitur, montes contremiscere ad nutum ejus,) et colles dissolvent se (hoc est, solvuntur, vel, liquefiunt,) et ardet terra a facie ejus, et orbis et omnes qui habitant in eo.
Nahum continues still on the same subject, — that when God ascended his tribunal and appeared as the Judge of the world, he would not only shake all the elements, but would also constrain them to change their nature. For what can be less consonant to nature than for mountains to tremble, and for hills to be dissolved or to melt? This is more strange than what we can comprehend. But the Prophet intimates that the mountains cannot continue in their own strength, but as far as they are sustained by the favor of God. As soon, then, as God is angry, the mountains melt like snow, and flow away like water. And all these things are to be applied to this purpose, and are designed for this end, — that the wicked might not daringly despise the threatening of God, nor think that they could, through his forbearance, escape the punishment which they deserved: for he will be their Judge, however he may spare them; and though God is ready to pardon, whenever men hate themselves on account of their sins, and seriously repent; he will be yet irreconcilable to all the reprobate and the perverse. The mountains, then, before him tremble, and the hills dissolve or melt.
This useful instruction may be gathered from these words, that the world cannot for a moment stand, except as it is sustained by the favor and goodness of God; for we see what would immediately be, as soon as God manifests the signals of his judgment. Since the very solidity of mountains would be as snow or wax, what would become of miserable men, who are like a shadow or an apparition? They would then vanish away as soon as God manifested his wrath against them, as it is so in Ps 39, that men pass away like a shadow. This comparison ought ever to be remembered by us whenever a forgetfulness of God begins to creep over us, that we may not excite his wrath by self-complacencies, than which there is nothing more pernicious. Burned, 212 then shall be the earth, and the world, and all who dwell on it
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou settest before us here as in a mirror how dreadful thy wrath is, we may be humbled before thee, and of our ownselves cast ourselves down, that we may not be laid prostrate by thy awful power, — O grant, that we may by this instruction be really prepared for repentance, and so suppliantly deprecate that punishment which we daily deserve through our transgressions, that in the meantime we may be also transformed into the image of thy Son, and put off all our depraved lusts, and be cleansed from our vices, until we shall at length appear in confidence before thee, and be gathered among thy children, that we may enjoy the eternal inheritance of thy heavenly kingdom, which has been obtained for us by the blood of thy Son. Amen.
Lecture One Hundredth
6. Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? his fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him.
6. Coram indignatione ejus quis stabit? Et quis consistet in furore irae ejus? Furor ejus effunditur tanquam ignis, et rupes solvuntur ab eo.
The Prophet shows here why he gave in the part noticed in the last lecture, such an awful description of God; it was that men might know, that when they shall come before his tribunal, no one will be able to stand unless supported by his favor. Of the Prophet’s main object we have sufficiently spoken, nor is it necessary to repeat here what has been stated. It is enough to bear this in mind, — that as the enemies of the Church relied on their power; and daringly and immoderately raged against it, the judgment of God is here set before them, that they might understand that an account was to be rendered to him whose presence they were not able to bear. But the question has more force than if the Prophet had simply said, that the whole world could not stand before God: for he assumes the character of one adjuring. After having shown how terrible God is, he exclaims, Who shall stand before his indignation? and who shall be able to bear his wrath? 213 for his indignation, he says, is poured forth as fire. The Hebrew interpreters have here toiled in vain: as the verb נתך, nutae, means to pour forth it seems to them an inconsistent expression, that the wrath of God should be poured forth as fire; for this would be more suitably said of some metal than of fire. But to be poured forth here is nothing else than to be scattered far and wide. Poured forth then is thy wrath as fire; that is, it advances every moment, as when a fire seizes a whole forest; and when it grows strong, we know how great is its violence, and how suddenly it spreads here and there. But if a different meaning be preferred, I do not much object to it, “His wrath, which is like fire, is poured out.”
Some think that the Prophet alludes to lightnings, which, as it were, melt through the air, at least as they appear to us. But as the meaning of the Prophet is sufficiently evident, there is no need of anxiously inquiring how fire is poured out: for I have already mentioned, that the Prophet means no other thing than the wrath of God spreads itself, so that it immediately takes hold, not only of one city but also of the widest regions and of the whole world, and is therefore like fire, for it passes through here and there, and that suddenly.
He then says, that rocks are also broken or dissolved before him We must be aware how great our brittleness is. Since there is no hardness which melts not before God, how can men, who flow away of themselves like water, be so daring as to set themselves up against him? We hence see that the madness of men is here rebuked, who, trusting in their own strength, dare to contend even with God, because they forget their own frailty. This is the import of the whole. It now follows —
7. The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.
7. Bonus Jehova ad fortitudinem in die angustiae, et cognoscens sperantes in se.
The Prophet expresses more clearly here what we referred to in our last lecture, — that God is hard and severe toward refractory men, and that he is merciful and kind to the teachable and the obedient, — not that God changes his nature, or that like Proteus he puts on various forms; but because he treats men according to their disposition. 214 As then the Prophet has hitherto taught us, that God’s wrath cannot be sustained by mortals; so now, that no one might complain of extreme rigor, he, on the other hand, shows that God favors what is right and just, that he is gentle and mild to the meek, and therefore ready to bring help to the faithful, and that he leaves none of those who trust in him destitute of his aid.
First, by saying that God is good, he turns aside whatever might be objected on the ground of extreme severity. There is indeed nothing more peculiar to God than goodness. Now when he is so severe, that the very mention of his name terrifies the whole world, he seems to be in a manner different from himself. Hence the Prophet now shows that whatever he had hitherto said of the dreadful judgment of God, is not inconsistent with his goodness. Though God then is armed with vengeance against his enemies he yet ceases not to be like himself, nor does he forget his goodness. But the Prophet does here also more fully confirm the Israelites and the Jews in the belief, that God is not only terrible to the ungodly, but that, as he has promised to be the guardian of his Church, he would also succor the faithful, and in time alleviate their miseries. Good then is Jehovah; and it is added for help The intention of the Prophet may be hence more clearly understood, when he says that he is for strength in the day of distress; as though he said, — “God is ever ready to bring help to his people:” 215 And he adds, in the day of distress, that the faithful may not think that they are rejected, when God tries their patience by adversities. How much soever then God may subject his people to the cross and to troubles, he still succors them in their distress.
He lastly adds, He knows them who hope in him. This to know, is no other thing than not to neglect them. Hence God is said to know them who hope in him, because he always watches over them, and takes care of their safety: in short, this knowledge is nothing else but the care of God, or his providence in preserving the faithful. The Prophet, at the same time, distinguishes the godly and sincere worshipers of God from hypocrites: when God leaves many destitute who profess to believe in him, he justly withholds from them his favor, for they do not from the heart call on him or seek him.
We now then understand the Prophet’s meaning. He shows, on the one hand, that God is armed with power to avenge his enemies; And, on the other, he shows that God, as he has promised, is a faithful guardian of his Church. How is this proved? He sets before us what God is, that he is good; and then adds, that he is prepared to bring help. But he does not in vain mention this particular, — that he takes care of the faithful, who truly, and from the heart, hope in him; it is done, that they may understand that they are not neglected by God, and also that hypocrites may know that they are not assisted, because their profession is nothing else but dissimulation, for they hope not sincerely in God, however they may falsely boast of his name. It now follows —
8. But with an overrunning flood he will make an utter end of the place thereof, and darkness shall pursue his enemies.
8. Et cum inundatione (vel, per inundationem) transiens consumptionem faciet locoejus; et inimicos ejus persequentur tenebrae (vel, persequi faciet inimicos suos a tenebris.)
The Prophet goes on with the same subject, — that God can easily preserve his people, for he is armed with power sufficient to overcome the whole world. But the Prophet now includes the two things which have been mentioned: Having spoken in general of God’s wrath, and of his goodness towards the faithful, he now applies his doctrine to the consolation of his chosen people. It is then a special application of his doctrine, when he says, By inundation, he, passing through, will make a consummation in her place There is a twofold interpretation of this verse.
Some make this distinction, — that God, as it were, in passing through, would consume the land of Israel and Judah, but that perpetual darkness would rest on his enemies. Hence they think, that the distress of the chosen people is distinguished from the overthrow of the kingdom of Asshur, for God would only for a time punish his own people, while he would give up profane and reprobate men to endless destruction. Then, by passing through, must be understood, according to these interpreters, a temporary distress or punishment; and by darkness, eternal ruin, or, so to speak, irreparable calamities. But the Prophet, I doubt not, in one connected sentence, denounces ultimate ruin on the Assyrians. By inundation, then, he, in passing, will make a consummation in her place; that is, God will suddenly overwhelm the Assyrian, as though a deluge should rise to cover the whole earth. He intimates, that God would not punish the Assyrians by degrees, as men sometimes do, who proceed step by step to avenge themselves, but suddenly. God, he says, will of a sudden thunder against the Assyrians, as when a deluge comes over a land. Hence this passing of God is opposed to long or slow progress; as though he said — “As soon as God’s wrath shall break forth or come upon the Assyrians, it will be all over, for a consummation will immediately follow: by inundation, he, passing through, will make a consummation in her place.” 216 By place he means the ground; as though he had said that God would not only destroy the face of the land, but would also destroy the very grounds and utterly demolish it. A feminine pronoun is here added, because he speaks of the kingdom or nation, as it is usual in Hebrew. But it ought especially to be noticed that the Prophet threatens the Assyrians, that God would entirely subvert them, that he would not only demolish the surface, as, when fire or waters destroy houses, but that the Lord would reduce to nothing the land itself, even the very ground.
He adds, And pursue his enemies shall darkness He has designated the Assyrians only by a pronoun, as the Hebrews are wont to do; for they set down a pronoun relative or demonstrative, and it is uncertain of whom they speak; but they afterwards explain themselves. So does the Prophet in this place; for he directs his discourse to the Israelites and the Jews, and he begins by announcing God’s vengeance on Nineveh and its monarchy; but now he speaks as of a thing sufficiently known and adds, Pursue shall darkness the enemies of God By this second clause he intimates that the ruin of that kingdom would be perpetual. As then he had said that its destruction would be sudden, as God would, as it were, in a moment destroy the whole land; so now he cuts off from them every hope, that they might not think that they could within a while gather strength and rise again as it is the case with the wicked, who ever contend against God. The Prophet then shows that evil which God would bring on them would be without remedy. Some render the verb יררף, iredaph, transitively in this form, “He will pursue his enemies by darkness:” but as to the meaning of the Prophet there is but little or no difference; I therefore leave the point undecided. On the subject itself there is nothing ambiguous; the import of what is said is, — that God would, by a sudden inundation, destroy his enemies, — and that he would destroy them without affording any hope of restoration, for perpetual darkness would follow that sudden deluge. He afterwards adds —
9. What do ye imagine against the Lord? he will make an utter end: affliction shall not rise up the second time.
9. Quid cogitatis contra Jehovam? Consumptionem ipse facit; non consurget iterum afflictio.
Some interpreters so consider this verse also, as though the Prophet had said, that the calamity of the chosen people would not be a destruction, as God would observe some moderation and keep within certain limits. The unbelieving, we know, immediately exult, whenever the children of God are oppressed by adverse things, as though it were all over with the Church. Hence the Prophet here, according to these interpreters, meets and checks this sort of petulance, What imagine ye against God? He will indeed afflict his Church, but he will not repeat her troubles, for he will be satisfied with one affliction. They also think that the kingdom of Judah is here compared with the kingdom of Israel: for the kingdom of Israel had been twice afflicted: for, first, four tribes had been led away, and then the whole kingdom had been overturned. As then one calamity had been inflicted by Shalmanezar, and another by Tiglathpilezar, they suppose that there is here an implied comparison, as though the Prophet said, “God will spare the kingdom of Judah, and will not repeat his vengeance, as it happened to the kingdom of Israel.” But this meaning is forced and too far-fetched. The Prophet then, I doubt not, continues here his discourse, and denounces perpetual ruin on the enemies of the Church. He says first, What imagine ye against Jehovah? He exults over the Assyrians, because they thought that they had to do only with mortals, and also with a mean people, and now worn out by many misfortunes. For we know that the kingdom of Judah had been weakened by many wars before the Assyrians made an irruption into the land: they had suffered two severe and grievous attacks from their neighbors, the king of Israel and the king of Syria; for then it was that they made the Assyrians their confederates. When therefore the Assyrians came against Judea, they thought that they would have no trouble in obtaining victory, as they engaged in war with an insignificant people, and as we have said, worn out by evils. But the Prophet shows here that the war was with the living God, and not with men, as they falsely thought. What then imagine ye against Jehovah? as though he said, “Know ye not that this people are under the care and protection of God? Ye cannot then attack the kingdom of Judah without having God as your opponent. As it is certain that this people are defended by a divine power, there is no reason for you to think that you will be victorious.” At the same time, I know not why the Prophet’s words should be confined to the tribe of Judah, since the purpose was to comfort the Israelites as well as the Jews.
Now this is a very useful doctrine; for the Prophet teaches us in general, that the ungodly, whenever they harass the Church, not only do wrong to men, but also fight with God himself; for he so connects us with himself, that all who hurt us touch the apple of his eye, as he declares in another place, (Zec 2:8.) We may then gather invaluable comfort from these words; for we can fully and boldly set up this shield against our enemies, — that they devise their counsels, and make efforts against God, and assail him; for he takes us under his protection for this end, that whenever we are injured, he may stand in the middle as our defender. This is one thing.
Now in the second clause he adds, that he will make a complete end, Rise up again shall not distress; that is, God is able to reduce you to nothing, so that there will be no need to assail you the second time. This passage, we know, has been turned to this meaning, — that God does not punish men twice nor exceed moderation in his wrath: but this is wholly foreign to the mind of the Prophet. I have also said already that I do not approve of what others have said, who apply this passage to the Church and especially to the kingdom of Judah. For I thus simply interpret the words of the Prophet, — that God can with one onset, when it seems good to him, so destroy his enemies, that there will be no need of striving with them the second time: Il n’y faudra plus retourner, as we say in our language. God then will make a full end; that is, he will be able in one moment to demolish his enemies and the ruin will be complete, that is, the wasting will be entire. There will be no distress again or the second time; for it will be all over with the enemies of God; not that God observes always the same rule when he punishes his enemies, nor does Nahum here prescribe any general rule; but he simply means, that God, whenever it pleases him, instantly destroys his enemies. He afterwards adds —
10. For while they be folden together as thorns, and while they are drunken as drunkards, they shall be devoured as stubble fully dry.
10. Qui ad spinas perplexas et tanquam potatione sua ebrios (vel, et ebrios ubi inebriati fuerint; potest enim duplex sensus; postea) devorabuntur tanquam stipulae ariditatis planae (vel, quasi stipula ariditatis in plenitudine, vel, arida in plenitudine.)
He goes on with this same subject, — that Gods when he pleases to exercise his power, can, with no difficulty, consume his enemies: for the similitude, which is here added, means this, — that nothing is safe from God’s vengeance; for by perplexed thorns he understands things difficult to be handled. When thorns are entangled, we dare not, with the ends of our fingers, to touch their extreme parts; for wherever we put our hands, thorns meet and prick us. As then pricking from entangled thorns make us afraid, so none of us dare to come nigh them. Hence the Prophet says, they who are as entangled thorns; that is “However thorny ye may be, however full of poison, full of fury, full of wickedness, full of frauds, full of cruelty, ye may be, still the Lord can with one fire consume you, and consume you without any difficulty.” They were then as entangled thorns.
And then, as drunken by their own drinking. If we read so, the meaning is, — God or God’s wrath will come upon you as on drunker men; who, though they exult in their own intemperance, are yet enervated, and are not fit for fighting, for they have weakened their strength by extreme drinking. There seems indeed to be much vigor in a drunken man, for he swaggers immoderately and foams out much rage; but yet he may be cast down by a finger; and even a child can easily overcome a drunken person. It is therefore an apt similitude, — that God would manage the Assyrians as the drunken are wont to be managed; for the more audacity there is in drunken men, the easier they are brought under; for as they perceive no danger, and are, as it were, stupefied, so they run headlong with greater impetuosity. “In like manners” he says, “extreme satiety will be the cause of your ruin, when I shall attack you. Ye are indeed very violent; but all this your fury is altogether drunkenness: Come, he says, to you shall the vengeance of God as to those drunken with their own drinking 217
Some render the last words, “To the drunken according to their drinking;” and this sense also is admissible; but as the Prophet’s meaning is still the same, I do not contend about words. Others indeed give to the Prophet’s words a different sense: but I doubt not but that he derides here that haughtiness by which the Assyrians were swollen, and compares it to drunkenness; as though he said, “Ye are indeed more than enough inflated and hence all tremble at your strength; but this your excess rather debilitates and weakens your powers. When God then shall undertake to destroy you as drunken men, your insolence will avail you nothing; but, on the contrary, it will be the cause of your ruin as ye offer yourselves of your own accord; and the Lord will easily cast you down, as when one, by pushing a drunken man, immediately throws him on the ground.”
And these comparisons ought to be carefully observed by us: for when there seems to be no probability of our enemies being destroyed, God can with one spark easily consume them. How so? for as fire consumes thorns entangled together, which no man dares to touch, so God can with one spark destroy all the wicked, however united together they may be. And the other comparison affords us also no small consolation; for when our enemies are insolent, and throw out high swelling words, and seem to frighten and to shake the whole world with their threatening, their excess is like drunkenness; there is no strength within; they are frantic but not strong, as is the case with all drunken men.
And he says, They shall be devoured as stubble of full dryness מלא, mela, means not only to be full, but also to be perfect or complete. Others render the words, “As stubble full of dryness,” but the sense is the same. He therefore intimates, that there would be nothing to prevent God from consuming the enemies of his Church; for he would make dry their whole vigor, so that they would differ nothing from stubble, and that very dry, which is in such a state, that it will easily take fire. It follows —
11. There is one come out of thee, that imagineth evil against the Lord, a wicked counsellor.
11. Ex te egressus est cogitans (vel, consultans) contra Jehovam malum, consultor Beliiaal (hoc est, impius, vel, perversus; alii vertunt, Nihili.)
The Prophet now shows why God was so exceedingly displeased with the Assyrians, and that was, because he would, as a protector of his Church, defend the distressed against those who unjustly oppressed them. The Prophet then designed here to give the Jews a firm hope, so that they might know that God had a care for their safety; for if he had only threatened the Assyrians without expressing the reason, of what avail could this have been to the Jews? It is indeed gratifying and pleasing when we see our enemies destroyed; but this would be a cold and barren comfort, except we were persuaded that it is done by God’s judgment, because he loves us, because he would defend us, having embraced us with paternal love; but when we know this, we then triumph even when in extreme evils. We are indeed certain of our salvation, when God testifies, and really proves also, that he is not only propitious to us, but that our salvation is an object of his care. This is the Prophet’s design when he thus addresses Nineveh.
From thee has gone forth a devisor of evil against Jehovah, an impious adviser The manner of speaking is much more emphatical, when he says, that the Assyrians consulted against God, than if he had said, that they had consulted against the Jews, or consulted against the chosen people of God.
But though this was said of the Jews, let us yet remember that it belongs also to us. The Prophet confirms the doctrine which I lately alluded to, that whenever the ungodly cause trouble to us, they carry on war with God himself, that whenever they devise any evil against us, they run headlong against him. For God sets up himself as a shield, and declares, that he will protect under the shadow of his wings all those who commit themselves to his protection. If we then lie hid under the guardianship of God, and flee to him in all our adversities, and while patiently enduring all wrongs, implore his protection and help, whosoever then will rise up against us will have God as his enemy. Why so? because he consults against him. And this reason shows, that whatever the Prophet has hitherto said against the Assyrians ought to be extended indiscriminately to all the enemies of the Church. For why did God threaten the Assyrians with a sudden inundation and with perpetual darkness? The reason is here subjoined, — because they consulted against him and his Church. The same thing then will also happen to our enemies, provided we remain quiet, as it has been said, under the protection of God.
But when he says that he had gone forth from that city who contrived evil against Jehovah, — this ought not to be confined to Sennacherib, but must rather be viewed as common to all the Assyrians; as though he said, “Thou produces the fruit which thou shalt eat; for from thee will arise the cause of thy ruin. There is no reason for thee to expostulate with God, as though he cruelly raged against thee; for from thee has gone forth he who devised evil against Jehovah: thou reapest now the reward worthy of thy bringing forth; for where have originated counsels against the Church of God, except in thine own bosom, and in thine own bowels? The evil then which has proceeded from thee shall return on thine own head.”
He then adds, An impious consulter, or counselor, בליעל יועף, ivots beliol. Respecting the word בליעל, beliol, the Hebrews themselves are not agreed. There are those who suppose it to be a compound word, בל יעל, It profits not; and they think that it is applied to designate things of nought as well as men of nought. 218 There are others who, like Jerome, render it, Without a yoke, but without reason. Then Beliol, is properly a vain thing, which is wholly unsubstantial; and so it designates a man in whom there is no integrity. It is also applied to all the wicked, and to their crimes: hence a thing or work of Belial is said to be any heinous sin or a detestable crime; and the man who acts perversely and wickedly is called Belial. And Paul takes Belial simply for the very gravity of Satan, and of all the wicked; for he opposes Belial to Christ, (2Co 6:15.) We now then understand the meaning of the Prophet to be this, — that God denounces war on the Assyrians, because they made war unjustly on his people, and consulted not only against the Jews, but also against God, who had taken them, as it has been stated, under his own keeping and protection. It follows —
12. Thus saith the Lord; Though they be quiet, and likewise many, yet thus shall they be cut down, when he shall pass through. Though I have afflicted thee, I will afflict thee no more.
12. Sic dixit Jehovah, Si tranquilli fuerint, utcunque fuerint multi (vel, potentes;) sic etiam tollentur et transibit: et si afflixerim te, non affligam te amplius.
The Prophet pursues here the same subject; but expresses more clearly what might have been doubtful, — that whatever strength there might be in the Assyrians, it could not resist the coming of God’s vengeance. For thus saith Jehovah, Though they be quiet and also strong, etc. I cannot now finish this subject, but will only say this, — The Prophet intimates that though Nineveh promised to itself a tranquil state, because it was well fortified, and had a wide and large extent of empire, yet this thy peace, he says, or this thy confidence and security, shall not be an impediment, that the hand of God should not be extended to thee. Though, then, they be many or strong etc.; for we can render רבים, rebim, strong as well as many; but either would suit this place; for we understand the Prophet’s meaning to be, that all God’s enemies would be cut off, however secure they might be, while depending on their own strength and fortresses. The rest to-morrow.
Grant, Almighty God, that inasmuch as thou sees thy enemies at this day raging with cruel, yea, with diabolic fury against thy Church, we may find thee to be the same as the faithful in all former ages had found thee, even a defender of the safety of those who truly, and with a sincere heart, called on thee, and sought thee in extreme necessity; and do thou, at this day, stretch forth thine hand, and so restrain the fury which thou sees is against all thy servants and thy children, that the wicked may at length really find, even to their ruin, that they fight not with miserable mortals, disheartened and without defense, but with thine ineffable power, that they may be confounded, though not ashamed, and that, however they may glamour against thee and thine invincible hand, they may yet become an example and a manifest evidence, that thou art not only faithful in thy promises, but also armed with power, by which thou canst execute whatsoever thou hast promised respecting the preservation of thy Church, until thou at length gatherest us into that blessed rest, which has been provided for us by the blood of thy Son. Amen.
Lecture One Hundred and First
We stated yesterday what the Prophet meant by these words, that though the Assyrians were quiet and many, they would yet be suddenly cut off by the Lord. He clearly intimates, that the wicked are never so fortified by their own forces or by the help of others, but that the Lord can, without any difficulty, destroy them.
As to the words, some connect the particle כן, can with what he had said, “Though they be quiet,” and give this version, “Though they be quiet and in like manner many, that is, though they be secure, thinking themselves safe from all danger, and so also trust in their own number, yet they shall be removed.” But the repetition of כן in Hebrew is common; and the sentence may be thus explained, Though they be quiet, and how many soever they may be, yet thus shall they be removed. וכן וכן, ucan ucan, that is, “As they are many, so also the many shall be destroyed.” With regard to the verb גוזguz, (but some, though not correctly, derive it from גזז, gezaz,) I take it in the sense of removing from the middle, of destroying: it properly means in Hebrew to remove to a distance, though almost all interpreters render it, “They are shorn,” which ought rather to be, “They shall be shorn:” and both the verbs, גוז, guz as well as גזז, gizaz, mean to clip or shear: but as the other sense suits the form of the Prophet’s discourse better, I hesitate not thus to render it, “They shall be taken away,” or destroyed. What the Prophet next adds, ועבר, uober, and he shall pass, is applied by some to the angel, by whom the army of Sennacherib was destroyed. Others think that a temporary pestilence is meant; as though he had said, that it would only pass through. But the Prophet seems to refer to a former clause, where he said, that God would suddenly destroy the Assyrians as it were with a sudden and unexpected deluge. This, then, is the most suitable meaning, that however much the Assyrians excelled in number of men and in strength, they would yet be suddenly destroyed; for the Lord would pass through, that is, the Lord would by one onset reduce them to nothing. 219
Then it follows, Though (and, literally) I have afflicted thee, yet afflict thee will I no more. But this sentence must be thus rendered, ‘Though thee have I afflicted, I will not afflict thee any more.’ The Prophet meets a doubt, which might have laid hold on the perplexed minds of the faithful; for they saw that God had been hitherto angry with them. They might then have succumbed under their griefs had it not been added, that they had indeed been afflicted for a time, but that God would now put an end to his severity, for he would no longer afflict them. It is indeed certain, that they were often afflicted afterwards; but this ought to be confined to what the Assyrians had done; for we know that our Prophet directed his predictions chiefly against that monarchy: and then the monarchy of Babylon succeeded; but it was necessary that Nineveh should be first subverted, and that the government should be transferred to the Chaldeans, that the Israelites as well as the Jews might know, that that monarchy had been overthrown, because it rebelled against God himself by distressing his own people.
We now then perceive the intention of the Prophet: after having threatened the Assyrians, he now turns his discourse to the Israelites, Though I have afflicted thee, I will no more afflict thee; that is, There is no reason for the faithful to despond, because they have been hitherto severely treated by God; let them on the contrary remembers that these scourges are temporary, and that God’s displeasure with his elect people and his Church is such that he observes moderation; for this must ever be fulfilled, —
‘In the moment of mine indignation I smote thee;
but I will show thee perpetual mercies,’ (Isa 54:8.)
This promise has been once given to the Church; and it is now in force, and will be in force to the end of the world. Thus we see that the Prophet obviated a doubt, lest the faithful should think that there was no hope for them, because they had found God so severe towards them; for he says that God was satisfied with the punishment which he had inflicted and that he would no longer afflict his people. It follows —
13. For now will I break his yoke from off thee, and will burst thy bonds in sunder.
13. Et nunc conteram (vel, confringam) jugum ejus ab te, et vincula tua disrumpam.
He confirms what the former verse contains, — that God would now cease from his rigor; for he says, that the deliverance of this chosen people was nigh, when God would break down and reduce to nothing the tyranny of that empire. This verse clearly shows, that a clause in the preceding verse ought not to be so restricted as it is by some interpreters, who regard it as having been said of the slaughter of the army of Sennacherib. But the Prophet addresses here in common both the Israelites and the Jews, as it is evident from the context; and this verse also sufficiently proves, the Prophet does not speak of the Jews only; for they had not been so subdued by the Assyrians as the Israelites had been. I indeed allow that they became tributaries; for when they had broken their covenant, the Assyrian, after having conquered the kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Syria, extended his arms at length to Judea. It is then certain, that they had been in some measure under the yoke; but it was not so hard a servitude that the words of the Prophet could be applied to it. I therefore take the expression generally, that God would free from the tyranny of Nineveh his own people, both the Israelites and the Jews. If any one objects and says, that the Israelites were never delivered. This indeed is true; but as to Nineveh, they were delivered when the empire was transferred to the Chaldeans, and Babylon became the seat of the empire.
We now then see, that the meaning of our Prophet is simply this, — that though God by the Assyrians chastised his people, he yet did not forget his covenant, for the Assyrians were punished. It was then sufficient for his purpose to say that the Jews as well as the Israelites were no longer under the yoke of Nineveh, how much soever they might have afterwards suffered under other tyrants. And what is said about the yoke being broken, belongs also in some measure to the Jews; for when we extend this to both, the Israelites and also the Jews, it would not be unsuitable to say, that they were both under the yoke and bound with chains. For though the servitude of Israel was hard, yet the Jews had also been deprived of their liberty. It is then right that this which is said should be taken generally, I will now break his yoke from thee, and thy bonds will I burst
Now this verse teaches us, that the people were not so subdued by the tyranny of their enemies, but that their deliverance was always in the hand and power of God. For how came it, that the Assyrians prevailed against the Israelites, and then subjugated the Jews, except that they were as a rod in the hand of God? So Isaiah teaches us in the tenth chapter. Though they armed themselves, they were yet but as the weapons and arms of God, for they could not have made any movement, except the Lord had turned their course, wherever he pleased, as when one throws a javelin or a dart with his hand. It follows —
14. And the LORD hath given a commandment concerning thee, that no more of thy name be sown: out of the house of thy gods will I cut off the graven image and the molten image: I will make thy grave; for thou art vile.
14. Et mandavit super te Jehova, Ne seminetur ex nomine tuo posthac; e domo (vel, e templo) deorum tuorum excidam sculptile et conflatile; ponam sepulchrum tuum, quia execrabilis es (aut, vilis factus es.)
Nahum explains more clearly, and without a figure, what he had previously said of darkness, — that the kingdom of Nineveh would be so overturned, that it could never recruit its strength and return again to its pristine state. He indeed addresses the king himself, but under his person he includes no doubt the whole kingdom.
Commanded then has Jehovah, he says, respecting thee, let there not be sown of thy name; that is, God has so decreed, that the memory of thy name shall not survive: for to sow from the name of one, is to extend his fame. When, therefore, God entirely exterminates a race from the world, or when he obliterates a nation, he is said to command that there should not be sown of such a name; that is, that there should be no propagation of that name. In short, our Prophet denounces on the Assyrians a ruin, from which they were never to rise again. And when such a command is ascribed to God, it means, that by the sole bidding of God both nations and kingdoms are propagated, and are also abolished and destroyed: for what is said of individuals ought to be extended to all nations, ‘Seed, or the fruit of the womb,’ as it is said in the Psalms, ‘is the peculiar gift of God,’ (Ps 127.) For how comes it, that many are without children, while others have a large and a numerous family, except that God blesses some, and makes others barren? The same is to be thought of nations; the Lord propagates them and preserves their memory; but when it seems good to him, he reduces them to nothing, so that no seed remains. And when the Prophet testifies, that this is the command of Jehovah, he confirms the faith of the Israelites and of the Jews, that they might not doubt, but that the Assyrians would perish without any hope of restoration; for it was so decreed by Heaven.
He afterwards adds, From the house, or from the temple, of thy gods will I cut off graven images. It is probable, and it is the commonly received opinion, that the Prophet alludes here to Sennacherib, who was slain in the temple of his idol by his own sons, shortly after his return from Judea, when the siege of the holy city was miraculously raised through the instrumentality of an angel. As then he was slain in the temple, and it was by his murder profaned, I am inclined to receive what almost all others maintain, that there is here a reference to his person: but, at the same time, the Prophet no doubt describes, under the person of one king, the destruction and ruin of the whole kingdom. Gods indeed, did at that time make known what he had determined respecting the empire of Nineveh and all the Assyrians; for from this event followed also the change, that Nebuchodonosor transferred the empire to Babylon, and that the whole race, and every one who assumed power, became detestable. When, therefore, the Assyrians were torn by intestine discords, it was an easy matter for the Chaldeans to conquer them. Hence the Prophet does not here predict respecting one king only; but as his murder was, as it were, a prelude of the common ruin, the Prophet relates this history as being worthy of being remembered, — that the temple would be profaned by the murder of Sennacherib, and that then the monarchy would be soon transferred to the Chaldeans.
When he says, I will appoint thy sepulcher, he connects this clause with the former; for how was it that idols were cut off from that temple, except that that tragic deed rendered the place detestable? For there is no one who feels not a horror at such a base crime as that of children killing their father with their own hands. We know when a proud woman at Rome ordered her chariot to be drawn over the dead body of her father, the road was counted polluted. So also the temple was no doubt viewed as polluted by the murder of the king. Then these two clauses ought to be read together, that God would cut off idols and graven images from the temple, — and then, that the sepulcher of Sennacherib would be there.
He adds, For thou art execrable 220 I have rendered קלות, kolut, a thing to be abominated. It may indeed be referred to that history; but I take it by itself as meaning, that Sennacherib was to be abominable, and not he alone, but also the whole royal family, and the monarchy of Nineveh. For it is not consistent, as we have said already, to say, that all these things refer to the person of Sennacherib; for the Prophet speaks of the destruction of the city and nation, and that generally; at the same time, this does not prevent him from referring, as it were, in passing, to the person of Sennacherib.
It must, at the same time, be noticed, that the vain confidence, which the Assyrian kings placed in their idols and graven images, is here indirectly reproved; for we know that idolaters not only confide in their own strength, but that a part of their hope is also founded on their superstitions. Hence the Prophet says, that their temple was to be profaned by God, so that no aid would remain to the Assyrians, to the kings themselves any more than to the whole people. Let us proceed —
15. 221 Behold upon the mountains the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace! O Judah, keep thy solemn feasts, perform thy vows: for the wicked shall no more pass through thee; he is utterly cut off.
15. Ecce super montes pedes annunciantis, promulgantis pacem: celebra Jehudah solennitates tuas, redde vota tua; quia non adjiciet posthac ad transeundum in te, impius (Beliiaal) in totum excisus est.
The Prophet again teaches us, that whatever he prophesied respecting the destruction of the city Nineveh, was for this end, — that God, by this remarkable evidence, might show that he had a care for his people, and that he was not unmindful of the covenant he had made with the children of Abraham. This prophecy would have otherwise produced no salutary effect on the Israelites; they might have thought that it was by chance, or by some fatal revolution, or through some other cause, that Nineveh had been overthrown. Hence the Prophet shows, that the ruin of the city, and of the monarchy of Nineveh, would be a proof of the paternal love of God towards his chosen people, and that such a change was to be made for the sake of one people, because God, though he had for a time punished the Israelites, yet purposed that some seed should remain, for it would have been inconsistent, that the covenant, which was to be inviolate, should be entirely abolished. We now then understand the Prophet’s object, and how this verse is to be connected with the rest of the context.
Behold, he says, on the mountains the feet of him who announces peace 222 Some think that the Prophet alludes to the situation of Jerusalem. We indeed know that mountains were around it: but the Prophet speaks more generally, — that heralds of peace shall ascend to the tops of mountains, that their voice might be more extensively heard: Behold, he says, on the mountains the feet of him who announces peace; for all the roads had been before closed up, and hardly any one dared to whisper. If any one inquired either respecting peace or war, there was immediate danger lest he should fall under suspicion. As then the Assyrians, by their tyrannical rule, had deprived the Israelites of the freedom of speech, the Prophet says now, that the feet of those who should announce peace would be on the mountains; that is, that there would be now free liberty to proclaim peace on the highest places. By feet, he means, as we have explained, coming; and Isaiah speaks a similar language,
‘How beautiful are the feet of those who announce peace,
who announce good things!’ (Isa 52:7.)
Arise, then, he says, shall heralds of peace everywhere: and the repetition in other words seems to express this still more clearly; for he says, of him who announces and causes to hear He might have simply said מבשר, mebesher, but he adds משמיע, meshemio; not only, he says, he will announce peace, but also with a clear and loud voice, so that his preaching may be heard from the remotest places. We now perceive what the Prophet had in view, and what his words import.
Now he adds, Celebrate, Judah, thy festal days. It is indeed a repetition of the same word, as if we were to say in Latin, Festiva festivitates, feast festivities; but this has nothing to do with the meaning of the passage. I am disposed to subscribe to the opinion of those who think, that there is here an intimation of the interruption of festal days; for so disordered were all things at Jerusalem and in the country around, that sacrifices had ceased, and festal days were also intermitted; for sacred history tells us, that the Passover was celebrated anew under Hezekiah, and also under Josiah. This omission no doubt happened, owing to the wars by which the country had been laid waste. Hence the Prophet now intimates, that there would be quietness and peace for the chosen people, so that they might all without any fear ascend to Jerusalem, and celebrate their festal days, and give thanks to the Lord, and rejoice before him, according to the language often used by Moses. At the same time, the Prophet no doubt reminds the Jews for what end the Lord would break off the enemy’s yoke, and exempt them from servile fear, and that was, that they might sacrifice to God and worship him, while enjoying their quiet condition. And that he addresses Judah is not done without reason; for though the kingdom of Israel was not as yet so rejected, that God did not regard them as his people, yet there were no legitimate sacrifices among them, and no festal days which God approved: we indeed know that the worship which prevailed there was corrupt and degenerated. Inasmuch then as God repudiated the sacrifices which were offered in Israel, Nahum addresses here his discourse to Judah only; but yet he intimates, that God had been thus bountiful to the Israelites, that they, remembering their deliverance, might give him thanks.
Let us then know, that when the Lord grants us tranquillity and preserves us in a quiet state, this end ought ever to be kept in view, — that it is his will, that we should truly serve him. But if we abuse the public peace given us, and if pleasures occasion a forgetfulness of God, this ingratitude will by no means be endured. We ought, indeed, in extreme necessities to sacrifice to God, as we have need then especially of fleeing to his mercy; but as we cannot so composedly worship him in a disturbed state of mind, he is pleased to allow us peaceable times. Now, if we misapply this leisure, and indulge in sloth, yea, if we become so heedless as to neglect God, this as I have said will be an intolerable evil. Let us then take notice of the Prophet’s words in setting forth the design of God, — that he would free his people from the power of the Assyrians, that they might celebrate their festal days.
He adds, Pay thy vows He not only speaks here of the ordinary sacrifices and of the worship which had been prescribed; but he also requires a special proof of gratitude for having been then delivered by the hand of God; for we know what paying of vows meant among the Hebrews: they were wont to offer peace-offerings, when they returned victorious from war, or when they were delivered from any danger, or when they were relieved from some calamity. The Prophet therefore now shows, that it was right to pay vows to God, inasmuch as he had dealt so bountifully with his people; as it is said in Psalm 116, ‘What shall I return to the Lord for all his benefits which he has bestowed on me? The cup of salvation will I take, and on the name of the Lord will I call.’ We also find it thus written in Hosea,
‘The calves of thy lips to me shalt thou render,’
We now perceive what Nahum substantially meant, — that when peace was restored, the people were not to bury so great and so remarkable a kindness of God, but to pay their vows; that is, that the people were to testify that God was the author of their deliverance, and that the redemption which they had obtained was the peculiar work of God.
It follows, “Add no more to pass through thee shall Belial, for utterly is he cut off.” This passage must not be explained in a general sense; for we know that the Chaldeans became more grievous to the Jews than the Assyrians had been; but the Prophet here refers especially to the Ninevites, that is, to the Assyrians, whose metropolis, as it has been said, was Nineveh. That wicked one then shall not add any more to pass through thee. — Why? for he is entirely cut off. This reason given by the Prophet clearly proves, that he speaks not of the wicked generally, but that he especially points out the Assyrians. Now follows —
The word comes from נשא, to bear, to carry. Some regard it as the message carried or borne by the Prophets from God to the people, and hence the same as Prophecy. Others consider it to be the judgment to be borne by the people respecting whom it was announced. The latter seems to be its meaning here, where it is said, “the burden of Nineveh.” It was the judgment laid on them, and which that city was to bear, endure, and undergo. — Ed.
“It has been thought, and not without reason, by some, that Capernaum, Heb. כפד נחום, most properly rendered, the village of Nahum, derived its name from our Prophet having resided in it.” — Henderson.
How far this language is right, may be questioned. The Prophets, under the immediate direction of the Divine Spirit, can hardly be said to borrow from a previous writer. They have no doubt announced the same sentiments, and in some instances, used the same words, as those found in the writings of Moses; but they derived them not from those writings, but from Divine inspiration: and, as Calvin has often observed, they adduced nothing but what they received from God. But this language is not peculiar to Calvin: he adopted it from the fathers. — Ed.
The following may be proposed as the literal rendering of this verse, —
A God jealous and an avenger is Jehovah;
Avenger is Jehovah, and one who has indignation:
Avenger is Jehovah on his adversaries,
And watch does he for his enemies.
God is said to be jealous in the second commandment, being one who will not allow his own honor to be given to another. Avenger, נקם, is a vindicator of his own rights; and he is said to have indignation, or hot wrath, or great displeasure; בעל חמה, possessor, holder, or keeper of indignation. His adversaries, צריו, rather, his oppressors; the oppressors of his people were his own oppressors. נוטר means to watch, rather than to keep. Its meaning here is to watch the opportunity to take than to keep. Its meaning here is to watch the opportunity to take vengeance on his enemies. The description here is remarkable, and exactly adapted to the oppressive state of the Jews. The dishonor done to God’s people was done to him. He is jealous, a defender of his own rights, full of indignation, and watches and waits for a suitable time to execute vengeance, to vindicate his own honor. — Ed.
I offer the following translation of this verse, —
Jehovah is slow to wrath, though great in power;
Absolving, Jehovah will not absolve:
In the whirlwind and in the storm is his way;
And the cloud is the dust of his feet.
The second line presents some difficulty. It is evidently an imperfect sentence; most supply the word, guilty; but rather the “enemies” mentioned before are to be understood. The meaning appears to be this, — Jehovah is slow to wrath, that is, to execute his vengeance, though he is great in power, capable of doing so; but though he delays, he will not eventually clear or absolve his enemies. With the Septuagint I connect “Jehovah” with the second and not with the third line, and agreeably with the idiom of the Hebrew; the verb generally precedes its nominative. The order of the words in Welsh would be exactly the same, —
Gan ddieuogi ni ddiuoga Jehova.
Literally, “chiding the sea, he even made it dry.” The ו here, though conversive, must be rendered, “even,” for the first verb is a participle. By taking the words in their poetical order, the whole verse may be thus rendered, —
Chiding the sea, he even made it dry;
And all the rivers he dried up:
Wither did Bashan and Carmel,
And the bud of Lebanon withered.
The verbs in this, and in the following verse, are in the past tense; reference is made to the past works of God, and in some instances to those performed in the wilderness. — Ed.
This sense has been given to the verb by the Rabbins, which is inconsistent with it as found here without any variations, and with the Greek versions. תשא is either from נשא, to lift up, or from שאה, to be laid waste, or to be confounded, the final ה being dropped; and this is what Newcome adopts. Marckius and Henderson take the former meaning in the sense of being raised up or heaving. “Ανεσταλη, was removed,” Sept.; “Εκινηθη, was moved,” Symmachus; “Εφριξεν, trembled,” Aquila. The idea of being confounded or laid waste harmonizes best with all parts of the sentence; for the idea of having does not apply well to the inhabitants. We see here that all the Greek versions have the verb in the past tense; and so are the previous verbs in the verse as given in the Septuagint, and agreeably with the Hebrew.
Mountains have shaken through him,
And hills have melted away;
And confounded has been the earth at his presence,
Yea, the world and all its inhabitants.
And who shall rise up against his hot anger? — Newcome.
And who can subsist in the heat of his anger? — Henderson.
Neither of these versions convey the meaning. The verb קום, with a ב after it, signifies to rise up against or resist. Τις αντιστησεται — Who shall resist? — Sept. So the line should be thus rendered, —
And who can resist the burning of his wrath?
This line conveys the same idea as the former, only in stronger terms. For displeasure or anger we have here the burning of his wrath, and for standing we have resisting. Can is better than will; the Hebrew future ought often to be thus rendered. With the view of giving the words here used their distinctive character, I offer the following version of the whole verse, —
Before his anger who can stand?
And who can resist the burning of his wrath?
His indignation has been poured forth like fire;
And rocks have been broken in pieces by him.
The two last verbs are in the past tense, and are more expressive when so rendered. — Ed.
“This glorious description of the Sovereign of the world, like the pillar of cloud and fire, has a bright side towards Israel, and a dark side towards the Egyptians.” — Henry.
This is no doubt the right view. The object here is not to assert generally that God is good, but that he is good for aid and help in the day of distress. The versions then both of Newcome and Henderson are faulty; for they divide into two clauses what is one in the original, —
Good is Jehovah for protection in the day of distress;
And he knoweth them who trust in him.
The word מעיז is from עז, strength, and having the formative מ, it attains a causative sense, and means that which affords or gives strength, — a fortress, a stronghold, or protection. — Ed.
The first words in this line are better rendered in our version, “With an overrunning flood,” or, as by Newcome, “With an overflowing torrent,” or as by Henderson, “With an overflowing inundation.” The remaining part has occasioned a variety. The text as it is, and there are no different readings, is this, “A full end he will make of her place;” or, as Henderson renders it, “He will effect a consummation of her place.” The only difficulty is, that “her” has no near antecedent; but it is not unusual with the Prophets to allow the general context to supply this. As the vision is the “burden of Nineveh,” that city is no doubt referred to. Newcome, following the Greek versions, excepting that of Symmachus, translates thus, — “He will make a full end of those who rise up against him.” But it is better to follow the Hebrew text; for the many evident instances of mistake which are to be found in those versions forbid us to put any great confidence in them. The following may be viewed as a literal version: —
And with inundation overflowing
A full end he will make her place;
And darkness shall his enemies pursue.
How completely has this prophecy been fulfilled! Lucian, a Greek heathen author of the second century, has these remarkable words, — Νινος μεν απολωλεν ηδη, και ουδεν ιχνος ετι λοιπον αυτης, ουδ αν ειπης οπου ποτ ην — “Nineveh has already been destroyed, and there is no vestige of it remaining, nor can you say where formerly it was.” Bochart enumerates different conjectures which various authors have made as to its situation, most of them differing from one another. — Ed.
Newcome, on the sole authority of the Syriac and the Targum, changes “thorns” into “princes,” and thus wholly destroys the propriety of the simile of dry stubble at the end of the verse. Henderson says justly, that this change is on no account to be adopted.
Though like thorns, entwined,
And as with their drinking drunken,
They shall be consumed as stubble fully dry.
The particle עד, before “thorns,” is to be here taken as in 1Ch 4:27, as designating likeness. — Ed.
“From בל, not, and יעל, profit: — As an abstract noun, unprofitableness, worthlessness, wickedness: — As an adjective, worthless, wicked, good for nothing.” — Parkhurst. “It alludes to Baal, the common idol of the natives bordering upon the Jews, whom the penmen of Scripture changing some letters by way of scorn called Belial: to express a further hatred to this idol, they applied this name to the devil, 2Co 6:15; which word is derived either from a root that signifieth not to profit, or not to mount upward, because he seeks the fall of mankind, and to keep those that are fallen into his snares, 2Ti 2:26 Jerome fetcheth it from a root, which, with another word, signifieth without a yoke, or, lawless; therefore the Septuagint commonly translate it, παρανομος.” — Leigh.
The best and the most literal version of these two lines, with the exception of the last word, is that of Dr. Wheeler, as given by Newcome, —
Though they are at peace, and also mighty,
Still shall they be cut off and pass away.
The last verb is in the singular number, ועבד, “and he shall pass through” or away, that is, the wicked counselor mentioned in the preceding verse. Newcome’s own version is that of new text, which he has himself formed, from a mere hint derived from the Septuagint. Henderson’s version is the following, —
Though they are complete and so very numerous,
Yet in this state they shall be cut off,
And he shall pass away.
The word שלמים means, no doubt, entire, complete, perfect, as well as to be at peace, secure, quiet; and may be referred, as the author says, to the complete condition of the Assyrian army: but what seems to be intended is the character of the nation. — Ed.
For thou art become vile. — Newcome.
Because thou art worthless. — Henderson.
Execrable, or accursed, which the word sometimes means, seems more suitable to the context. — Ed.
This forms the first verse of the second chapter in Hebrew. Most versions have followed the division of the Septuagint. — Ed.
Calvin gives to מבשר only the sense of announcing or declaring. To spread or to bring news or tidings is its meaning; for it is used to designate bad as well as good tidings. See 1Sa 4:17; 2Sa 1:20; and 2Sa 4:10; Isa 3:7. It is commonly rendered ευαγγελιζεσθαι by the Septuagint. It may be regarded here as a participle in the same predicament with the participle which follows. The same mode of construction we find in Isa 52:7; where it evidently appears that the word means strictly to bring or to declare tidings, for good is added to it. That passage is as follows: —
How beautiful on the mountains
Are the feet of him who announceth,
Who proclaimeth peace, —
Of him who announceth good, (בוט רשבמ)
Who proclaimeth salvation!
Saying to Zion, Reign doth thy God.