The Pulpit Commentary

Nahum 1:1-15 (Nahum 1:1-15)

Part I. THE JUDGMENT UPON NINEVEH DECREED BY GOD .

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Nahum 1:7-11 (Nahum 1:7-11)

§ 3. The prophet prepares the way for proclaiming the punishment of Nineveh lay deriding that the wrath of God falls not on those who trust in him, but is reserved for his enemies.

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Nahum 1:9 (Nahum 1:9)

The prophet suddenly addresses both Jews and Assyrians, encouraging the former by the thought that God can perform what he promises, and warning the latter that their boasting (comp. Isaiah 10:9 , etc.; Isaiah 36:20 ) was vain. What do ye imagine against the Lord? Quid cogitatis contra Dominum? (Vulgate). This rendering regards the question as addressed to the Assyrians, demanding of them what it is that they dare to plot against God; do they presume to fight against him, or to fancy that his threats will not be accomplished? But the sentence is best translated, What think ye of the Lord? τί λογίζεσθε ἐπὶ τὸν κύριον ; "What devise ye against the Lord?". This is addressed not only to the Jews in the sense, "Do ye think that he will not accomplish his threat against Nineveh?" but to the Assyrians also. He will make an utter end. This denunciation is repeated from Nahum 1:8 to denote the absolute certainty of the doom. Affliction shall not rise up the second time. The Assyrians shall never again have the power of oppressing Judah as they have ruined Israel there shall be no repetition of Sennacherib's invasion. Septuagint, οὐκ ἐκδικήσει δὶς ἐπιτοαυτὸ ἐν θλίψει : Non vindicabit bis in idipsura (Jerome). From this text the Fathers take occasion to discuss the question how it is that God does not punish twice for the same sin.

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Nahum 1:9-14 (Nahum 1:9-14)

A wicked counsellor.

I. HIS PERSON .

1 . The Assyrian power. Represented in Hezekiah's reign by Sennacherib; in Manasseh's (Nahum's time) by Esar-haddon or Assurbanipal; in each successive reign by the ruling sovereign.

2 . The unbelieving world. Of this Assyria was now the symbol, as in former times Egypt had been, as in later days Rome was ( John 15:18 ; James 4:4 ).

3 . The unrenewed heart. The curtal mind is enmity against God ( Romans 8:7 ).

II. HIS CHARACTER .

1 . Powerful. The Assyrian in Nahum's age was "in full strength" (verse 12), a well organized and firmly knit confederacy like "tangled thorns" (verse 10), which were dangerous to touch, and a multitudinous people (verse 12) in comparison with which Judah was but a handful. The same elements of power coexist in the unbelieving world force ( Ephesians 2:2 ), order ( Ephesians 6:12 ), numbers ( 1 John 5:19 )—in comparison with which the Church of God is weak, disunited, and small. The individual transgressor also not unfrequently exhibits an energy, a determination, and a capacity to enlist others upon his side which are wanting in the followers of God and Christ.

2 . Self-reliant. Like drunkards drenched in drink (verse 10), the Assyrians were foolishly confident, and believed themselves to be invincible. In like manner, the unbelieving world in general and the individual sinner in particular, are of opinion that they are more than sufficient to cope with any form of calamity that may assail them, and to ensure their own safety against any foe, bodily or ghostly, earthly or unearthly, human or Divine.

3 . Vile.

III. HIS DESIGNS .

1 . Evil. "He counselleth wickedness" (verse 11)—in particular oppression of the people of Jehovah (verse 13). Such was the aim of Assyria towards Judah; such is the aim of the world towards the Church; and of the unbeliever towards the believer.

2 . Impious. His wicked counsels are also directed "against the Lord" (verses 9, 11). This was the spirit of Assyria as represented by Rabshakeh in the time of Hezekiah ( 2 Kings 18:28-35 ; 2 Chronicles 32:11-17 ; Isaiah 36:7 , Isaiah 36:14 , Isaiah 36:15 , Isaiah 36:18-20 ; Isaiah 37:10-13 ); and of Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Gentile world, and the unbelieving Jews in the days of Christ ( Psalms 2:1 ; Acts 4:25-28 ); and is the spirit still of the unrenewed heart ( Romans 8:7 ).

3 . Vain. The fruits of a corrupt "imagination" (verses 9, 11), they will prove idle and worthless. Assyria's schemes for the subjugation of Judah came to nought; so resulted in defeat those of Herod and of Pilate, of the Jews and of the Gentiles against the holy Child Jesus; and so will terminate in shame those of wicked men generally against the truth.

IV. HIS DOOM .

1 . Certain. The decree had gone forth against Assyria when Nahum spoke. "The Lord hath given commandment concerning thee, that no more of thy seed be sown" (verse 14). A similar decree has gone forth against the ungodly world ( 2 Peter 3:7 ; 1 John 2:15-17 ), and against unbelievers as individuals ( Philippians 3:19 ; 1 Thessalonians 1:9 ).

2 . Complete. Of Nineveh Jehovah was to make "a full end," so that no second affliction should be required to destroy them (Calvin, Hitzig), or should be able to proceed from them (Keil, Fausset) against Judah (verse 9); the Assyrians were to be "destroyed utterly as dry stubble" (verse 10), "to be cut down and pass away," so that Jehovah should no more (at least by their hand) afflict his people (verse 12); the royal house was to come to an end, no more of that name being sown (verse 14); the very divinities of Assyria and Nineveh were to be exterminated (verse 14). More complete ruin was inconceivable; so will all the enemies of God and Christ be utterly destroyed ( Jeremiah 12:17 ; Psalms 37:38 ; Matthew 21:41 ; 2 Peter 2:12 ).

LESSONS .

1 . The danger of forming designs against either God or his people.

2 . The wisdom of taking warning in time before it is too late.

3 . The certainty that, when God begins the work of judgment, he will also make an end.

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Nahum 1:8-15 (Nahum 1:8-15)

Antagonism to God and his rule.

Nahum doubtless prophesied during the reign of Hezekiah, and shortly after the defeat of Sennacherib by the destroying angel of the Lord ( Isaiah 37:36 ). That memorable event, it would appear, was present to his mind and is referred to in these verses, although his thoughts were also carried on to the future and to the complete and final overthrow of the Assyrian power in the destruction of the capital, and which forms the theme of the succeeding chapters. The latter part of this first chapter may be regarded as introductory to the description to be given of the ruin of Nineveh; and in the mind of the seer, as he wrote these verses, the events which had recently transpired and darker events yet to come were associated together. The significance of the conflicts waged by Sennacherib against Hezekiah lies very materially in the fact that his enterprises were designedly antagonistic to the God of the Hebrews. It is not simply an ambitious sovereign seeking to extend his dominions and to spread his conquests that is presented to us here, but a mortal man, invested with regal honour, resolved upon measuring his strength with that of the Supreme Ruler. The historical records we possess bearing upon the career of this Assyrian king present him to us as one who thought he could "outwit Divine wisdom, and conquer omnipotence itself" ( 2 Kings 19:10-13 ; Isaiah 36:13-20 ); and viewed thus they become suggestive to us of important teachings bearing upon that moral antagonism to God and his authority which unhappily prevails in every age. Concerning this opposition to the Most High and his rule, note—

I. ANTAGONISM TO GOD HAS ITS ORIGIN IN A DEPRAVED HEART . Evil thoughts and vain imaginings, self-sufficiency and self-conceit, revellings and drunkenness, all betoken an evil heart, and these are here associated with the action of Assyria. "For thou art vile" (verse 14); "a wicked counsellor" (verse 11), etc. So in every age. Men with hearts alienated from all that is true and right desire not the knowledge of his ways, and say unto him, "Depart from us;" and "they set themselves against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and let us cast away their cords from us" ( Psalms 2:2 , Psalms 2:3 ).

II. ANTAGONISM TO GOD REVEALS ITSELF OPENLY IN THE ACTIVE OPERATIONS OF EVIL MEN . As here:

1 . Unprincipled leaders are forthcoming (verse 11).

2 . Combinations are formed. "Though they be entire, and likewise many" (verse 12); "While they be folden together" (verse 10).

3 . Plots are conceived. "They imagine evil against the Lord" (verse 11).

4 . Mischief is wrought. "The yoke" of Assyria was upon Judah, and because of the threatened invasion the hearts of the good Hezekiah and his subjects failed, and were in sore distress. The Assyrians were as "thorns" to Judah (verse 10). And so evil men, antagonistic to God and to the principles of his rule, are ever a blight and a curse.

III. ANTAGONISM TO GOD CAN ONLY END IN DEFEAT AND DISHONOUR . In the case of Assyria this discomfiture was:

1 . Divinely inflicted. "I will make thy grave" (verse 14).

2 . Sudden— so far as the proud, vaunting Sennacherib and his hosts were concerned ( Isaiah 37:36 ).

3 . Complete. "He will make an utter end" (verse 9).

4 . Permanent. "The Lord hath given a commandment concerning thee, that no more of thy name be sown" (verse 14). "So let all thine enemies perish, O Lord; but let them that love him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might" ( 5:31 ).—S.D.H.

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Nahum 1:8-15 (Nahum 1:8-15)

Spiritual redemption symbolized.

The expression in Nahum 1:11 , "a wicked counsellor," is rendered in the margin "counsellor of Belial." "Belial" is used in the Old Testament to indicate sensual profligacy ( 19:1-30 : 22:13; 1 Samuel 2:12 ); and in the New Testament as a synonym for Satan ( 2 Corinthians 6:15 ). The term was here ( Nahum 1:11 ) applied to Sennacherib; and the deliverance of Judah from the vauntings and oppressions of this mighty and evil Assyrian monarch described in these verses (8-15) may be taken as serving to illustrate the spiritual deliverance of men. There is thus suggested—

I. DELIVERANCE FROM SERVITUDE . Assyria had been a bitter scourge to Judah. Through the action of his predecessors, Hezekiah found himself the vassal of this heathen power, and his. attempts to free himself from the yoke had only resulted in his fetters being fastened the more securely; until now, by Divine interposition, the power of the oppressor was broken ( Nahum 1:13 ). So sin yielded to becomes a tyranny, It gains an ever-increasing power over its subjects. The fetters of habit become forged about them that they cannot release themselves. There is no slavery like that of sin—only the grace of God can sunder the fetters and free us from the galling yoke; but "made free" thus, we become "free indeed" ( John 8:34-36 ).

II. DELIVERANCE . FROM SORROW . "Affliction shall not rise up the second time" ( Nahum 1:9 ); "Though I have afflicted thee, I will afflict thee no more" ( Nahum 1:12 ). The promise was conditional. The people humbled themselves before God in penitence, and it was implied that they should not be afflicted again if they continued in God's ways. In this they failed—the reformation proved but partial; still, God never afflicted them again through Assyria. So suffering is disciplinary, and "made free from sin" there accompanies this deliverance from sorrow. The character of life's trials become changed to the good; they are not looked upon as harsh inflictions, but as lovingly designed by the All-wise and All-gracious.

III. DELIVERANCE RESULTING IN PRIVILEGE . "O Judah, keep thy solemn feasts, perform thy vows"( Nahum 1:15 ). Whilst under the yoke of Assyria, there had been the restriction of their religious privileges, but now these could be renewed and enjoyed without restraint, and the ransomed of the Lord could return to Zion with songs, and pay their vows unto the Lord, and keep the sacred festivals. Spiritual freedom is with a view to holy and joyous service. The Emancipator becomes enthroned in the hearts of the enfranchised; they love him supremely; his service is their delight; they become bound to him in loving loyalty and devotion forever.

IV. DELIVERANCE PROCLAIMED IN THE SPIRIT OF HOLY GLADNESS . ( Nahum 1:15 .) Let the countenance be lighted up with joy as the announcement of the "good tidings" is made. With a glad heart let the proclamation be published that, through the abounding mercy and grace of God, it is possible for sinful men to become delivered from condemnation and freed from the slavery of sinful habit, and to soar to that higher and holier realm where God is, and to exchange the miserable chains of evil for those golden fetters which only bind to the holy and the heavenly. There can be no more exalted or joyous service than that engaged in by the man who stands upon the mountains ringing this great bell, that, guided by its sum,d, the imperilled traveller may make his way across the snowy wastes, to find in Christ a sure and safe retreat from the storm and tempest. "Behold upon the mountains," etc. ( Nahum 1:15 ; Isaiah 40:9 ).—S.D.H.

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Nahum 1:9-10 (Nahum 1:9-10)

Sin.

"What do ye imagine against the Lord? He will make an utter end: affliction shall not rise up the second time. For while they be folden together as thorns, and while they are drunken as drunkards, they shall be devoured as stubble fully dry." These words suggest a few thoughts concerning sin.

I. THE ESSENCE OF SIN IS SUGGESTED ; IT IS HOSTILITY TO GOD . It is something directed against the Lord: it is opposition to the laws, purposes, spirit of God. "The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" ( Romans 8:7 ). It involves:

1 . The basest ingratitude; for to him we owe everything.

2 . The greatest injustice; for he has supreme claims to our devotion and obedience.

3 . Impious presumption. Frail worms raising their heads against the Infinite!

II. THE SEAT OF SIN IS SUGGESTED : IT IS IN THE MIND . "What do ye imagine against the Lord?" Sin is not language, however bad; not actions, however apparently wicked. Words and deeds are no more sin than branches are the sap of the tree. They are the mere effects and expression of sin. Sin is in the mind—in the deep secret, mute thoughts of the heart. God's legislation extends to thought, reaches it in the profoundest abyss. "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he" ( Proverbs 23:7 ). Christ, in his sermon on the mount, taught this. Adultery, robbery, murder, are all perpetrated on the arena of the heart. How necessary the prayer, "Create within us clean hearts, O God"!

III. THE FOLLY OF SIN IS SUGGESTED : IT IS OPPOSITION TO OMNIPOTENCE . "What do ye imagine against the Lord? He will make an utter end: affliction shall not rise up a second time." "How mad is your attempt, O Assyrians, to resist so powerful a God! What can ye do against such an Adversary, successful though ye have been against all other adversaries? Ye imagine ye have to do merely with mortals, and with a weak people, and that so you will gain an easy victory; but you have to encounter God, the Protector of his people" (Fausset). In opposing him:

1 . He will completely ruin you. "He will make an utter end: affliction shall not rise up the second time." The literal meaning of this is that the overthrow of Sennacherib's host was so complete that Judah's affliction caused by this invasion would never be repeated. The man who opposes God will be utterly ruined.

2 . He will completely ruin you, whatever the kind of resistance you may offer. "For while they be folden together as thorns, and while they are drunken as drunkards, they shall be devoured as stubble fully dry." You may be combined like a bundle of thorns, offering resistance; you may have all the daring and temerity of drunkards, albeit you "shall be devoured as stubble fully dry." All this was realized in the destruction of his enemy. Oh the folly of sin! Fighting against God is a mad fight. "What do ye imagine against the Lord," then? Sinners, submit.—D.T.

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