John Calvin, Commentary on Nahum

Commentaries on the Twelve Minor Prophets by John Calvin.

Now first translated from the original Latin, by the Rev. John Owen,
vicar of Thrussington, Leicestershire.

Volume Third. Jonah, Micah, Nahum

WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, 1950, Michigan.
Printed in the United States of America.

Printed in the United States of America

The Commentaries of John Calvin on the Prophet Nahum

Calvin's Preface to Nahum
    The time in which Nahum prophesied cannot with certainty be
known. The Hebrews, ever bold in conjectures, say that he discharged
his office of teaching under Manasseh, and that the name of that
king was suppressed, because he was unworthy of such an honor, or,
because his reign was unfortunate, as he had been led into
captivity. When any one asks the Jews a reason, they only say, that
it appears so to them. As then there is no reason for this
conjecture, we must come to what seems probable.
    They who think that he prophesied under Jotham are no doubt
mistaken, and can easily be disproved; for he here threatens ruin to
the city Nineveh because the Assyrians had cruelly laid waste the
kingdom of Israel; and it is for these wrongs that he denounces
vengeance: but under Jotham the kingdom of Israel had not been laid
waste. We indeed know that the Assyrians were suborned by Ahab, when
he found himself unequal to resist the attacks of two neighboring
kings, the king of Syria, and the king of Israel. It was then that
the Assyrians penetrated into the land of Israel, and in course of
time, they desolated the whole kingdom. At this period it was that
Nahum prophesied; for it was his object to show, that God had a care
for that kingdom, on account of his adoption or covenant; though the
Israelites had perfidiously separated themselves from the people of
God, yet God's covenant remained in force. His design then was to
show, that God was the father and protector of that kingdom. As this
was the Prophet's object, it is certain that he taught either after
the death of Ahab under Hezekiah, or about that time.
    He followed Jonah at some distance, as we may easily learn.
Jonah, as we have already seen, pronounced a threatening on the city
Nineveh; but the punishment was remitted, because the Ninevites
humbled themselves, and suppliantly deprecated the punishment which
had been announced. They afterwards returned to their old ways, as
it is usually the case. Hence it was, that God became less disposed
to spare them. Though indeed they were aliens, yet God was pleased
to show them favor by teaching them through the ministry and labors
of Jonah: and their repentance was not altogether feigned. Since
then they were already endued with some knowledge of the true God,
the less excusable was their cruelty, when they sought to oppress
the kingdom of Israel. They indeed knew, that that nation was sacred
to God: what they did then was in a manner an outrage against God
    We now understand at what time it is probable that Nahum
performed his office as a teacher; though nothing certain, as I have
said at the beginning, can be known: hence it was, that I condemned
the Rabbis for rashness on the subject; for they are bold enough to
bring any thing forward as a truth, respecting which there is no
    I have already in part stated the design of the Prophet. The
sum of the whole is this: When the Assyrians had for some time
disturbed the kingdom of Israel, the Prophet arose and exhorted the
Israelites to patience, that is, those who continued to be the
servants of God; because God had not wholly forsaken them, but would
undertake their cause, for they were under his protection. This is
the substance of the whole.
    With regard to Nineveh, we have already stated that it was the
capital of the empire, as long as the Assyrians did bear rule: for
Babylon was a province; that is, Chaldea, whose metropolis was
Babylon, was one of the provinces of the empire. The kingdom was
afterwards taken away from Meroc-baladan. Some think that
Nabuchodonosor was the first monarch of Chaldea. But I bestow no
great pains on this subject. It may be, that Meroc-baladan had two
names, and this was very common; as we know that the kings of Egypt
were called Pharaohs; so the Assyrians and Chaldeans, though
otherwise called at first, might have taken a common royal name. Now
Nineveh was so celebrated, that another kingdom could not have been
established by the Babylonians without demolishing that city. We
indeed know that it was very large, as we have stated in explaining
Jonah. It was, as profane writers have recorded, nearly three days'
journey in circumference. Then its walls were one hundred feet high,
and so wide, that chariots could pass one another without coming in
contact: there were one thousand and five hundred towers. We hence
see that it was not without reason that this city was formerly so
    They say that Ninus was its founder, but this is proved to be a
mistake by the testimony of Moses in Gen. 10. They also imagine that
Semiramis was the first queen of Babylon, and that the city was
built by her: but this is a fable. It may have been that she
enlarged the city; but it was Babylon many ages before she was born.
So also Ninus may have increased and adorned Nineveh; but the city
was founded before his birth. Profane authors call it Ninus, not
Nineveh; probably the Hebrew name was corrupted by them, as it is
often the case. However this may be, it is evident, that when
Meroc-baladan, or his son, who succeeded him, wished to fix the seat
of the empire at Babylon, he was under the necessity of destroying
Nineveh to prevent rivalry. It thus happened, that the city was
entirely demolished. Of this destruction, as we shall see, Nahum

Commentaries on the Prophet Nahum

Lecture Ninety-ninth

Chapter 1

Nahum 1:1
The burden of Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the
    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 "masa'", 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 "masa'", a burden. 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, "sefer chazon", 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 "chazah" means properly to see, and hence
in Hebrew a vision is called "chazon". 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 Num. 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. Let us now proceed -

Nahum 1:2
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.
    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: 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 Exod. 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 jealousy; for the verb "kana'" means
to irritate, and also to emulate, and to envy. When God is said to
be "nako'", the Greeks render it jealous, "dzeloten", and the
Latins, emulous, 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
"chemah" 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." 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 -

Nahum 1:3
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.
    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
pretence 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 Exod. 34; and what Moses
meant was, that God is irreconcilable to the impenitent. It has
another meaning at the end of the third chapter of Joel, 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 every thing 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." 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 -

Nahum 1:4
He rebuketh the sea, and maketh it dry, and drieth up all the
rivers: Bashan languisheth, and Carmel, and the flower of Lebanon
    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,
(Exod. 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, 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",
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 Ps. 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 -

Nahum 1:5
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.
    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 favour 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, 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

Nahum 1:6
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.
    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 favour. 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?" for his
indignation, he says, is poured forth as fire. The Hebrew
interpreters have here toiled in vain: as the verb "natach" 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 -

Nahum 1:7
The LORD [is] good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he
knoweth them that trust in him.
    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. 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:" 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
favour, 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 -

Nahum 1:8
But with an overrunning flood he will make an utter end of the place
thereof, and darkness shall pursue his enemies.
    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." 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 "yeradef" 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 -

Nahum 1:9
What do ye imagine against the LORD? he will make an utter end:
affliction shall not rise up the second time.
    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, (Zech. 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
    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 -

Nahum 1:10
For while [they be] folden together [as] thorns, and while they are
drunken [as] drunkards, they shall be devoured as stubble fully dry.
    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."
    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." "Mala'" 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 -

Nahum 1:11
There is [one] come out of thee, that imagineth evil against the
LORD, a wicked counselor.
    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, "yo'etz
beliya'al". Respecting the word "beliya'al", the Hebrews themselves
are not agreed. There are those who suppose it to be a compound
word, "bal ya'al", "It profits not"; and they think that it is
applied to designate things of nought as well as men of nought.
There are others who, like Jerome, render it, "Without a yoke", but
without reason. Then beliya'al 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, (2 Cor. 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 -

Nahum 1:12
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.

    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", &c. 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 &c.; for we can render "rabim" 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 "ken" 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 "ken" 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." "Wechen, wechen", that is, "As they
are many, so also the many shall be destroyed." With regard to the
verb "guz", (but some, though not correctly, derive it from
"gazaz",) 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, "guz"
as well as "gazaz" 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, "we'avar", 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.'
    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 -

Nahum 1:13
For now will I break his yoke from off thee, and will burst thy
bonds in sunder.
    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 -

Nahum 1:14
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.
    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 sepulchre", 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 sepulchre of Sennacherib would be
    He adds, "For thou art execrable." I have rendered "kalota" 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
    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 -

Nahum 1:15
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.
    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." 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 "mevaser",
but he adds "mashmiya'"; 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 Ps. 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,'
(Hoses 14: 13.) 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 -
Chapter 2.

Micah 2:1,2
Woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds!
when the morning is light, they practise it, because it is in the
power of their hand.
And they covet fields, and take [them] by violence; and houses, and
take [them] away: so they oppress a man and his house, even a man
and his heritage.
    The waster spoken of here by the Prophet, some consider him to
have been Sennacherib, and others, Nebuchodonosor. The verb "'alah"
is also variously explained: it is often taken metaphorically in
Hebrew for vanishing, as we say in French, Il s'en va en fumee; for
smoke ascends, and this is the reason for the metaphor. They then
elicit this meaning, - that a destroyer had ascended before the face
of the chosen people, that is, openly; so that it was evidently the
work of God, that the Assyrians vanished, who had come to lay waste
the whole land: Vanished then has the destroyer; and then before thy
face, that is, manifestly, and before thine eyes. "Natzor metzurah",
guard the fortress; that is let every one return to his own city,
and keep watch, as it is usually done; for the country shall be left
without men; and watch the way, that is, look out which way
Sennacherib took in coming to assail the holy city; that way shall
be now free from enemies; and then, keep firm or strengthen the
loins, for "chazak" sometimes means to keep firm, - keep firm then
or strengthen the loins, that thou mayest not relax as before, but
stand courageously, for there is no one who can terrify thee; and,
lastly, "fortify strength greatly", that is, doubt not but thou
shalt be hereafter strong enough to retain thy position; for cut off
shall be that monarchy, which has been an oppression to thee. But
others take a different view and say, - that the destroyer had
ascended, that is, that Sennacherib had come; and what follows, they
think, was intended to strike terror, as though the Prophet said
"Now while ye are besieged keep watch, and be careful to preserve
your fortresses and strengthen all your strongholds; but all this
will avail nothing. - Why? Because God has taken away the pride of
Jacob as he has the pride of Israel." This is the second
explanation. Others again think, that the Prophet addresses here the
Assyrians, and that Nebuchodonosor is here called a waster, by whom
the empire was removed, and Nineveh, as it has often been stated,
was destroyed. According to these interpreters, the Prophet here
denounces ruin on the Assyrians in this manner, - "The destroyer now
ascends before thy face." The Assyrians might indeed have regarded
such threatening with disdain, when they were surrounded by many
provinces and had cities well fortified: - "It will not be," he
says, "according to your expectation; the waster will yet come
before thy face; and how much soever thou mayest now guard thy
fortresses, watch thy ways, and carefully look around to close up
every avenue against thy enemies, thou wilt yet effect nothing;
strengthen the loins as much as thou pleasest and increase thy
power, yet this shall be useless and vain." If this view be
approved, it will be in confirmation of what has been previously
said, - that God had now determined to destroy the city Nineveh and
the empire possessed by the Assyrians. This meaning then is not
unsuitable; but if we receive this view, something additional must
also be stated, and that is, - that God now designed to destroy
Nineveh and its monarchy, because it had humbled more than necessary
his people, the kingdom of Judah, as well as the ten tribes. I
cannot proceed farther now.
Grant Almighty God, that since we are daily chastised by thy
scourges, we may know that we are justly punished by thee, and so
examine our whole life, that with true and sincere confession we may
humbly flee to thy mercy, which is offered to us by thy gospel in
Christ our Lord; and since thou dost also show us so many favors,
may we not be ungrateful, and may no forgetfulness of thy grace
creep over us, but may we especially exercise ourselves through our
whole life in the worship of thy name and in giving thanks to thee,
and so offer to thee, with our tongues, the sacrifices of praise,
that our whole life may be consistent, and thus glorify thy name on
earth, that at length we may be gathered into thy celestial kingdom
through the same Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Lecture One Hundred and Second

    We said yesterday that some interpreters regard these words of
the Prophet, "Ascended has the destroyer before it face, guard the
fortress", as having a reference to Sennacherib; that is, that God
had taken him away and made him like mist to disappear. We also
said, that some elicit this meaning, - that Sennacherib ascended
into Judea and filled the whole country with terror, and that he had
at length laid it wholly waste. But I am disposed to take their
view, who think that this is said of Nebuchodonosor, the waster of
Nineveh: as he had been raised up by God to overturn the tyranny of
that city, the Prophet ridicules all the efforts and preparations
made by the Ninevites (as it is usual when a country is invaded) to
oppose him. He therefore says, guard the fortress, "watch the way,
confirm the loins, and strengthen thy courage greatly." But these
are ironical expressions; as though he said, "Whatever the Ninevites
may contrive to defend themselves against the assault of their
enemies will be all in vain."
    What is now subjoined has been added, in my view, in reference
to what had already taken place, that is that God "had taken away
the pride of Jacob, as the pride of Israel". Some give this
rendering, "God has made to returns or to rest;" and they take
"ge'on" in a good sense, as meaning courage or glory. The sense,
according to these, would be, - that God, having routed the army of
Sennacherib, or destroyed the Assyrians, would make the ancient
glory of his people to return; for both kingdoms had fallen. They
then understand this to have been said respecting the restoration of
the whole people; and they who translate, "he will make to rest,"
think that continual peace is here promised to the Israelites, as
well as to the Jews. But, on the contrary, it appears to me, that
the Prophet shows, that it was the ripened time for the destruction
of the city Nineveh, for God had now humbled his people. He had then
taken away the pride of Jacob, as the pride of Israel; that is, God,
having first corrected the pride of Israel, had also applied the
same remedy to Judah: thus the whole people were humbled, and had
left off their extreme height; for "ga'on", for the most part, is
taken in a bad sense, for haughtiness or pride. This then is the
reason why God now declares, that the ruin of Nineveh was nigh at
hand; it was so, because the Jews and the Israelites had been
sufficiently brought down. This sense is the most suitable.
    And then for the same purpose is the next clause, - that "the
emptiers had emptied", that is that robbers had pillaged them, and
left nothing to remain for them. There is a passage in Isaiah which
corresponds with this, where it is said, - that when the Lord had
completed his work on mount Zion and in Jerusalem, he would then
turn his vengeance against the Assyrians, (Isa. 10: 12:) but why
were they not sooner destroyed? Because the Lord designed to employ
them for the purpose of chastising the Jews. Until then the whole
work of God was completed, that is, until he had so corrected their
pride, as wholly to cast it down, it was not his purpose to destroy
the Ninevites; but they were at length visited with destruction. The
same thing does our Prophet now teach us here, - that Nebuchodonosor
would come to demolish Nineveh, when the Lord had taken away the
haughtiness of his people.
    What follows, "And they have destroyed their shoots", or their
branches, I take metaphorically, because the Israelites, as to
outward appearances had been pulled up by the roots; for before the
eyes of their enemies they were reduced to nothing, and their very
roots were torn ups so that they perceived nothing left. The Lord
indeed always preserved a hidden remnant; but this was done beyond
the perceptions of men. But what the Prophet says metaphorically of
the ruined branches, is to be understood of what was apparent.

Nahum 2:3
The shield of his mighty men is made red, the valiant men [are] in
scarlet: the chariots [shall be] with flaming torches in the day of
his preparation, and the fir trees shall be terribly shaken.

    The Prophet describes here how dreadful the Chaldeans would be
when prepared against the Assyrians. He says, "The shield of his
brave men is made red". Some think that their shields were painted
red, that blood might not appear; and that the soldiers had on red
garments, that they might not be frightened in case they were
wounded; and this is what history records of the Lacedemonians. But
as the habits of these nations are not much known to us, it is
enough for us to know, that their warlike appearance is here
described; as though he had said, that the Chaldeans would come
against Nineveh with violent and terrible power. Hence he says, that
"the men of his strength would be clad in scarlet"; he refers no
doubt to the color of their dress. Some expound this of the
Assyrians, and say that their shame is here designated; but this is
too strained. The Prophet, I have no doubt, describes here the
Chaldeans, and shows that they would be so armed that even their
very appearance would put to flight their enemies, that is, the
    For the same purpose he afterwards adds, "With fire of
torches", or lamps, "is the chariot in the day of his expedition".
The word "peladot" occurs nowhere else; and the Jews think that the
letters are inverted, and that it should be "lafiydot", as this word
is afterwards used by the Prophet in the next verse, and in the same
sense. It is certainly evident from the context that either torches
or lamps are meant by the Prophet. His chariot then is with the fire
of lamps, that is, his chariots drive so impetuously that they
appear as flames of fire, when wheels roll with such velocity.
    And "the fir-trees, he says, are terrible shaken". Some
translate, "are inebriated" or, "stunned;" and they apply this to
the Assyrians, - that their great men (whom they think are here
compared to fir-trees, or are metaphorically designated by them)
were stunned through amazement. Astonished then shall be the
principal men among the Assyrians; for the very sight of their
enemies would render them, as it were, lifeless; for the verb
"ra'al" is taken by some in the sense of infecting with poison, or
of stupefying. But their opinion is more correct who think that
fir-trees are to be taken for lances, though they do not
sufficiently express the meaning of the Prophet; for he means, I
have no doubt, that such would be the concussion among the lances,
that it would be like that of fir-trees, tossed here and there in
the forest. For lances, we know, are made of fir-trees, because it
is a light wood and flexible, as when any one says in our language,
les lances branslent. The lances then trembled, or shook in the
hands of the soldiers, as fir-trees shake. Thus we see that the
Prophet here continues to describe the terrible appearance of the
Chaldeans. Let us go on -

Nahum 2:4
The chariots shall rage in the streets, they shall justle one
against another in the broad ways: they shall seem like torches,
they shall run like the lightnings.
    He still goes on with the same subject, - that they shall be
furious in the streets that is, that they shall he so turbulent, as
though they were out of their minds: as furious men are wont to be
who are impetuously carried away beyond all reason and moderation,
so shall they also become mad in their tumult. He then says, "They
shall hasten". The verb is derived from the hips; for he who hastens
shakes the hips, and moves them with a quick motion; and if it be
lawful to coin a word, it is, they shall hip; Ils remueront les
hanches. This is what the Prophet meant. And then, "Their appearance
shall be as lamps". He refers here to the chariots. They shall then
be like lamps; that is they shall dazzle the eyes of beholders with
their brightness. All these things are intended to set forth what is
terrific. He says also, "as lightning they shall run here and there.
    In short, he intimates, that the impetuosity of the Chaldeans
would be so violent as to surpass what is commonly witnessed among
men, that it would be, as it were, a species of fury and madness
sent down from above. Thus, then, they were to be like lightning and
flames of fire, that they might exceed every thing human. But these
forms of speech, though they are hyperbolical, were not yet used
without reason; for we may easily conjecture how great was then the
security of the city Nineveh, and how incredible was the event of
its ruin. That monarchy was then preeminent over every other in the
whole world, and no one could have thought that it could ever be
assailed. Since then it was difficult to persuade the Jews that ruin
was nigh the Assyrians, it was necessary for the Prophet to
accumulate these various forms of expressions, by which he sets
forth the power of God in the destruction of the Assyrians. It
afterwards follows -

Nahum 2:5
He shall recount his worthies: they shall stumble in their walk;
they shall make haste to the wall thereof, and the defense shall be
    Some interpreters explain this also of the Chaldeans: The king
of Babylon then shall remember his mighty men; that is, shall
recount his forces and whatever strength he will have under his
power; all this he will collect to make war with Nineveh and the
Assyrians. Others think that there is here a transposition in the
words, (which is too strained,) "Mighty men shall remember," as
though it were a change of number. But I take the words of the
Prophet simply as they are, - that he will remember mighty men: but
this, as I think, refers to the Assyrians. He then, that is, either
the king of Nineveh, or the people, will remember the mighty men;
that is, he will gather from every quarter his forces and will omit
nothing which may avail for defense; as it is usually done in great
danger and in extremities: for they were noted then as warlike men;
and every one who had any skill, every one who was endued with
courage, every one who was trained up in arms, all these were
mustered, that they might give help. So then the Prophet says, that
such would be the dread in the land of Assyria, that they would
collect together whatever force they had, to defend themselves
against their enemies. The king then shall remember his mighty men,
that is, he will muster all the subsidies within his reach.
    Then he says, "They shall stumble in their march"; that is, the
mighty men, when gathered, shall tremble and stumble like the blind:
and this will be occasioned by fear; so that like men astounded,
they will move to and fro, and have no certain footing. The Prophet
then declares here two things, that the Assyrians would be diligent
in gathering forces to repel the assault of their enemies, - but
that yet they would effect nothing, for trembling would seize the
minds of all, so that mighty men would stumble in their marches.
They shall stumble, and then it is said, they shall hasten to its
wall, that is, they shall ascend the wall; and it is added, Prepared
shall be the covering, as it is usual in defending cities. Some
apply this to the Chaldeans; prepared shall be the covering, that
is, when they shall come to the wall. It was indeed usual, as it is
well known from histories, for those who approached a wall to defend
themselves either with turrets or hurdles. But the Prophet, I doubt
not, intimates, that the Assyrians would come with great trembling
to meet their enemies, but without any success. However then they
might defend themselves, their enemies would yet prevail. He
therefore subjoins -

Nahum 2:6
The gates of the rivers shall be opened, and the palace shall be
    By the gates of the rivers the Prophet means that part of the
city which was most fortified by the river Tigris; for the Tigris
flowed close by the city. As then the Tigris was like the strongest
defense, (for we know it to have been a most rapid river,) the
Prophet ridicules the confidence of the Ninevites, who thought that
the access of enemies could be wholly prevented in that part where
the Tigris flowed. The gates then of the rivers are opened; that is,
your river shall not prevent your enemies from breaking through and
penetrating into your city.
    We hence see, that the Prophet removes all the hindrances which
might have seemed available to keep off enemies; and he did so, not
so much for the sake of Nineveh as for the sake of his chosen
people, that the Israelites and Jews might know, that that city was
no less in the power of God than any other; for God can no less
easily pass through rivers than go along the plain, where there is
no obstacle. We now see why the Prophet says, that the gates of the
rivers were opened: and then he adds, The palace is dissolved; that
is, there will be no impediment to prevent the approach of enemies;
for all the fortresses will melt away, and that of themselves, as
though they were walls of paper, and the stones, as though they were
water. He afterwards adds -

Nahum 2:7
And Huzzab shall be led away captive, she shall be brought up, and
her maids shall lead [her] as with the voice of doves, tabering upon
their breasts.

    There is some ambiguity in these words, and many interpreters
think that "hutzav" to be the name of the queen. The queen then they
say, of the name of Hutzav, is drawn away into exile; she is bidden
to ascend, that she might migrate to a hostile land. But this view
is too strained; nor was there any reason to suppose the word to be
a proper name, except that there was a wish to say something, and
that there was no other conjecture more probable. But I regard their
opinion more correct, who refer this to the state of the kingdom;
and there is here, I have no doubt, a personification, which is
evident if we attend to the meaning. If any one prefers to regard
the queen as intended, it would yet be better to take "hotzav" in
its proper and real meaning, - that the queen, previously hid in her
palace, and hardly able, through being so delicate, to move a step,
- that she was brought forth to the light; for "galah" means to
uncover, and also to cast out. If we render it, "was made manifest,"
the Prophet alludes to hiding-places, and means that the queen did
not go forth to the light, but was like delicate women who keep
themselves within their chambers: but if we render it, "Who is drawn
forth into exile," it would be more suitable to one who was
previously fixed in her dwelling. The word comes from "yatzav", to
stand; but it is here in Hophal, "hutzav": it then signifies one who
was before fixed and firmly settled, that is, in her concealment;
she is drawn, he says, into exile. If then any one chooses to refer
this to the person of the queen, the most suitable meaning would be,
- that the queen, who before sat in the midst of her pleasures,
shall be violently drawn into exile, and carried away to another
country. And it is probable that the Prophet speaks of the queen,
because it immediately follows, "Her handmaids lead her as with the
voice of doves, and smite on their breasts"; that is, her maids, who
before flattered her, shall laments and with sighing and tears, and
mourning, shall lead away, as a captive, their own mistress. Thus
the context would harmonize.
    But, as I have said, their opinion seems right, who think that
under the person of a woman the state of the kingdom is here
described. She then, who before stood, or remained fixed, shall be
drawn into captivity; or she, who before sat at leisure, shall be
discovered; that is, she shall no more lie hid as hitherto in her
retirement, but shall be forced to come abroad. And then, "she shall
ascend"; that is, vanish away, for the verb is to be here taken
metaphorically; she shall then vanish away, or be reduced to
nothing. And as the Prophet sets a woman here before us, what
follows agrees with this idea, - Her handmaids shall weep and
imitate the doves in their moaning; that is, the whole people shall
bewail the fate of the kingdom, when things shall be so changed, as
when handmaids lead forth their own mistress, who had been before
nourished in the greatest delicacies.
    Now this accumulation of words was by no means in vain; for it
was necessary to confirm, by many words, the faith of the Israelites
and of the Jews respecting the near approach of the destruction of
the city Nineveh, which would have been otherwise incredible; and of
this we can easily form a judgment by our own experience. If any one
at this day were to speak of mighty kings, whose splendor amazes the
whole world, - if any one were to announce the ruin of the kingdom
of one of them, it would appear like a fable. This then is the
reason why the Prophet, by so many figures, sets forth an event
which might have been expressed in few words, and confirms it by so
many forms of speech, and even by such as are hyperbolical. He at
length subjoins -

Nahum 2:8
But Nineveh [is] of old like a pool of water: yet they shall flee
away. Stand, stand, [shall they cry]; but none shall look back.
    The prophet here anticipates a doubt which might have weakened
confidence in his words; for Nineveh not only flourished in power,
but it had also confirmed its strength during a long course of time;
and antiquity not only adds to the strength of kingdoms, but secures
authority to them. As then the imperial power of the city Nineveh
was ancient, it might seem to have been perpetual: "Why! Nineveh has
ever ruled and possessed the sovereign power in all the east; can it
be now shaken, or can its strength be now suddenly subverted? For
where there is no beginning, we cannot believe that there will be
any end." And a beginning it had not, according to the common
opinion; for we know how the Egyptians also fabled respecting their
antiquity; they imagined that their kingdom was five thousand years
before the world was made; that is, in numbering their ages they
went back nearly five thousand years before the creation. The
Ninevites, no doubt, boasted that they had ever been; and as they
were fixed in this conceit respecting their antiquity, no one
thought that they could ever fail. This is the reason why the
Prophet expressly declares, that "Nineveh had been like a pool of
waters from ancient days;" that is, Nineveh had been, as it were,
separated from the rest of the world; for where there is a pool, it
seems well fortified by its own banks, no one comes into it; when
one walks on the land he does not enter into the waters. Thus, then,
had Nineveh been in a quiet state not only for a short time, but for
many ages. This circumstance shall not, however, prevent God from
overturning now its dominion. How much soever, then, Nineveh took
pride in the notion of its ancientness, it was yet God's purpose to
destroy it.
    He says then, "They flee": by fleeing, he means, that, though
not beaten by their enemies, they would yet be overcome by their own
fear. He then intimates, that Nineveh would not only be destroyed by
slaughter, but that all the Assyrians would flee away, and despair
would deliver them up to their enemies. Hence the Chaldeans would
not only be victorious through their courage and the sword, but the
Assyrians, distrusting their own forces, would flee away.
    It afterwards follows, "Stand ye, stand ye, and no one
regards". Here the Prophet places, as it were, before our eyes, the
effect of the dread of which he speaks. He might have given a single
narrative, - that though one called them back they would not dare to
look behind; and that, thinking that safety alone was in flight,
they would pursue their course. The Prophet might have formed this
sort of narrative: this he has not done; but he assumes the person
of one calling back the fugitives, as though he saw them fleeing
away, and tried to bring them back: No one, he says, regards. We now
see what the Prophet meant.
    But from this passage we ought to learn that no trust is to be
put in the number of men, nor in the defenses and strongholds of
cities, nor in ancientness; for when men excel in power, God will
hence take occasion to destroy them, inasmuch as pride is almost
ever connected with strength. It can hardly be but that men arrogate
too much to themselves when they think that they excel in any thing.
Thus it happens, that on account of their strength they run headlong
into ruin; not that God has any delight, as profane men imagine,
when he turns upside down the face of the earth, but because men
cannot bear their own success, nor keep themselves within moderate
bounds, but many triumph against God: hence it is that human power
recoils on the head of those who possess it. The same things must
also be said of ancientness: for they who boast of their antiquity,
know not for how long a time they have been provoking the wrath of
God; for it cannot be otherwise but that abundance of itself
generates licentiousness, or that it at least leads to excess; and
further, they who are the most powerful are the most daring in
corrupting others. Hence the increase at putridity; for men are like
the dead when not ruled by the fear of God. A dead body becomes more
and more fetid the longer it continues putrifying; and so it is with
men. When they have been for a long time sinning, and still continue
to sin, the fetidness of their sins increases, and the wrath of God
is more and more provoked. There is then no reason why ancientness
should deceive us. And if, at any time, we are tempted to think that
men are sufficiently fortified by their own strength, or by numerous
auxiliaries, or that they are, as it were sacred through their own
ancientness, let what is said here come to our minds, - that Nineveh
had been like a pool of waters from the ancient days; but that, when
it was given up to destruction, it fled away; and that, when their
enemies did not rout them, they yet, being driven by their own fear,
ran away and would not stop, though one called them to return.
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou constantly remindest us, in thy
word, and teachest us by so many examples, that there is nothing
permanent in this world, but that the things which seem the firmest
tend to ruin, and instantly fall and of themselves vanish away, when
by thy breath thou shakest that strength in which men trust, - O
grant, that we being really subdued and humbled, may not rely on
earthly things, but raise up our hearts and our thoughts to heaven,
and there fix the anchor of our hope; and may all our thoughts abide
there, and at length, when thou hast led us through our course on
earth we shall be gathered into that celestial kingdom, which has
been obtained for us by the blood of thy only-begotten Son. Amen

Lecture One Hundred and Third

Nahum 2:9
Take ye the spoil of silver, take the spoil of gold: for [there is]
none end of the store [and] glory out of all the pleasant furniture.
    Here the Prophet, as it were, by the command and authority of
God, gives up Nineveh to the will of its enemies, that they might
spoil and plunder it. Some think that this address is made in the
name of a general encouraging his soldiers; but we know that the
Prophets assume the person of God, when they thus command any thing
with authority; and it is a very emphatical mode of speaking. It is
adopted, that we may know that the Prophets pour not forth an empty
sound when they speak, but really testify what God here determined
to do, and what he in due time will execute. As then we know, that
this manner of speaking is common to the Prophets there is no reason
to apply this to the person of Nebuchadnezzar or of any other. God
then shows here that Nineveh was given up to ruin; and therefore he
delivered it into the hands of enemies.
    It is indeed certain, that the Babylonians, in plundering the
city, did not obey God's command; but yet it is true, that they
punished the Assyrians through the secret influence of God: for it
was his purpose to visit the Ninevites for the cruelty and avarice
for which they had been long notorious, and especially for having
exercised unexampled barbarity toward the Jews. This is the reason
why God now gives them up to the Babylonians and exposes them to
plunder. But as I have spoken at large elsewhere of the secret
judgments of God, I shall only briefly observe here, - that God does
not command the Babylonians and Chaldeans in order to render them
excusable, but shows by his Prophet, that Nineveh was to be
destroyed by her enemies, not by chance, but that it was his will to
avenge the wrongs done to his people. At the same time, we must bear
in mind what we have said elsewhere, - that the Prophets thus speak
when the execution is already prepared; for God does not in vain or
without reason terrify men, but he afterwards makes it manifest by
the effect: as he created the world from nothing by his word, so
also by his word he executes and fulfill his judgments. It is then
no wonder, that the Prophet does here, as though he ruled the
Chaldeans according to his will, thus address them, "Take ye away,
take ye away". But this must be viewed as having a reference to the
faithful; for the Babylonians, in plundering the city Nineveh, did
not think that they obeyed God, nor did they give to God the praise
due for the victory; but the faithful were thus reminded, that all
this was done through the secret providence of God, and that it was
also a clear, and, as it were, a visible evidence of God's paternal
love towards his Church, when he thus deigned to undertake the cause
of his distressed people.
    It then follows, "There is no end of preparations": Some render
"techunah" treasure, or hidden wealth, and derive it from "kun",
which is to prepare; but "techunah" is almost always taken for a
measure. "Tachanot", from "tachon", means a sum, for "tachan" is to
number or to count; and this meaning suits the passage. But there is
no need of laboring much about this word; if we take it simply for
place, the meaning would be, that there was no plot of ground in
that city which was not as it were a gulf filled up; for it had
amassed all the wealth of the nations: and this sense would
harmonize well with the subject of the Prophet, - that the soldiers
were to plunder until they were satiated; for the place was, as it
were, a deep abyss.
    He afterwards adds, "There is glory from every desirable
vessel". Those who think "mem", a particle of comparison in this
place are much mistaken, and misapply the meaning of the Prophet;
their rendering is, "In comparison with every desirable vessel;" but
this, as all must see, is very frigid. The Prophet, I have no doubt,
declares that the wealth of Nineveh consisted of every desirable
vessel; for they had for a long time heaped together immense wealth,
and that of every kind. The Hebrews call what is precious a
desirable thing; and their vessels we include under the term
furniture. We now then perceive what the Prophet means. Some take
"chavod" as a participle, and give this version, "It is burdened,"
or adorned, (for it means both,) "with every desirable vessel." But
the simpler mode of speaking is what we have explained, - that its
glory was from every desirable vessel.
    And here the Prophet condemns what the Assyrians had done in
heaping together so much wealth from all quarters; for they had
committed indiscriminate plunder, and gathered for themselves all
the riches of the nations. They had indeed plundered all their
neighbors, yea, and wholly stripped them. The Prophet now shows, in
order to expose them to ridicule, that other robbers would be made
rich, whom the Lord would raise up against them. The same is said by
Isaiah, 'O thou plunderer, shalt not thou also be exposed to
plunder?' (Isa. 33: 1.) So also the Prophet shows in this passage,
that men foolishly burn with so much avidity for money, and with so
much anxiety heap together great wealth; for God will find out some
who in their turn will plunder those who have plundered. It follows

Nahum 2:10
She is empty, and void, and waste: and the heart melteth, and the
knees smite together, and much pain [is] in all loins, and the faces
of them all gather blackness.
    The Prophet here confirms what the last verse contains; for he
shows why he had called the Chaldeans to take away the spoil, -
because it was to be so. He did not indeed (as I have already said)
command the Chaldeans in such a way as that their obedience to God
was praiseworthy: but the Prophet speaks here only of His secret
counsel. Though then the Chaldeans knew not that it was God's
decree, yet the Prophet reminds the faithful that the Ninevites,
when made naked, suffered punishment for their cruelty, especially
for having so hostilely conducted themselves towards the Jews: and
hence he declares, that Nineveh is "emptied, is emptied, and made
nahed". By repeating the same word, he intimates the certainty of
the event: Emptied, emptied, he says, as when one says in our
language, videe et revidee. We hence see that by this repetition
what the Prophet meant is more distinctly expressed that the
faithful might not doubt respecting the event: and then for the same
purpose he adds, she is made naked.
    We now then perceive the Prophet's design. As in the last verse
he shows that he had power given him from above to send armies
against Nineveh, and to give up the city to them to be spoiled and
plundered; so he now shows that he had not so commanded the
Chaldeans, as though they were the legitimate servants of God, and
could pretend that they rendered service to Him. He therefore points
out for what end he had commanded the Chaldeans to plunder Nineveh;
and that was, because God had so decreed; and he had so decreed and
commanded, because he would not bear the many wrongs done to his
people whom he had taken under his protection. As then Nineveh had
so cruelly treated God's chosen people, it was necessary that the
reward she deserved should be repaid to her. But the repetition,
which I have noticed, ought to be especially observed; for it
teaches us that God's power is connected with his word, so that he
declares nothing inconsiderately or in vain.
    He then adds, that knees smite together; and every heart is
dissolved, or melted, and also, that all loins tremble. We hence
learn, that there is in men no courage, except as far as God
supplies them with vigor. As soon then as He withdraws his Spirit,
those who were before the most valiant become faint-hearted, and
those who breathed great ferocity are made soft and effeminate: for
by the word heart is meant inward boldness or courage; and by the
knees and loins the strength of body is to be understood. There is
indeed no doubt but the Assyrians, while they ruled, were a very
courageous people, as power ever generates boldness; and it is also
probable that they were a warlike people, since all their neighbors
had been brought under their power. But the Prophet now shows, that
there would be no vigor in their hearts, and no strength in their
loins, or in any part of their body. The heart, then, he says, was
melted. And hence we learn how foolishly men boast of their courage,
while they seem to be like lions; for God can in a moment so melt
their hearts, that they entirely lose all firmness. Then as to
external vigor, we see that it is in God's hand; there will be, he
says, a confriction, or the knees will knock one against another, as
they do when they tremble. And he says afterwards, And trembling
shall be in all loins.
    He at last adds, "And the faces of all shall gather blackness".
The word "pa'rur" some derive from "pa'ar"; and so the rendering
would be, "all faces shall draw in or withdraw their beauty," and so
also they explain Joel 2: 6, for the sentence there is the same. But
they who disapprove of this meaning say, that "kabatz" cannot mean
to draw in or to withdraw; and so they render the noun, blackness.
But this is a strained explanation. "Pa'arur", [they say,] does not
mean a black color but a pot: when therefore a caldron or a kettle
contracts blackness from smoke, it is then called "pa'arur": but in
this place these interpreters are constrained to take it
metaphorically for that color; which is, as I have said, strained
and far-fetched. I am therefore inclined to adopt their opinion who
render the sentence, all faces shall withdraw their beauty, or their
brightness: but as to the import of the passage, there is little or
no difference; let then every one have his free choice. With regard
to the Prophet's design, he evidently means, that the faces of all
would be sad, for the Lord would fill their minds and thoughts with
dread. The withdrawing then of beauty signifies an outward
appearance of sorrow, or paleness, or whatever may appear in the
countenance of men, when dejected with grief. In short, the Prophet
means, that how much soever the Assyrians might have hitherto raised
on high their crests, and breathed great swelling words, and
conducted themselves insolently, they would now be dejected; for the
Lord would prostrate their courage and melt their strength: he
would, by casting down their high spirits, constrain them to undergo
shame. This is the import of the whole. It now follows -

Nahum 2:11,12
Where [is] the dwelling of the lions, and the feedingplace of the
young lions, where the lion, [even] the old lion, walked, [and] the
lion's whelp, and none made [them] afraid?
The lion did tear in pieces enough for his whelps, and strangled for
his lionesses, and filled his holes with prey, and his dens with
    Here the Prophet triumphs over the Assyrians, because they
thought that the city Nineveh was remote from every danger: as
lions, who fear nothing, when they are in their dens, draw thither
their prey in their claws or in their mouths: so also was the case
with the Assyrians; thinking themselves safe, while Nineveh
flourished, they took the greater liberty to commit plunders
everywhere. For Nineveh was not only the receptacle of robbers but
was also like a den of lions. And the Prophet more fully expresses
the barbarous cruelty of the Assyrians by comparing them to lions,
than if he had simply called them lions. We now then see what he
means, when he says, "Where is the place of lions?" And he
designedly speaks thus of the Assyrians: for no one ever thought
that they could be touched by even the least injury; the fear of
them had indeed so seized all men, that of themselves they submitted
to the Assyrians. As then no one dared to oppose them, the Prophet
says, Where? as though he had said that though all thought it
incredible that Nineveh could be overthrown, it would yet thus
happen. But he assumes the character of one expressing his
astonishment, in order to intimate, that when the Lord should
execute such a judgment, it would be a work of wonder, which would
fill almost all with amazement. This question then proves that those
are very foolish who form a judgment of God's vengeance, of which
the Prophet speaks, according to the appearance of things at the
time; for the ruin of Nineveh and of that empire was to be the
incomprehensible work of God, and which was to fill all minds with
    He says first, Where is the place of lions? The feminine gender
is indeed here used; but all agree that the Prophet speaks of male
lions. He then adds, "the place of feeding for lions?" "Kefarim"
mean young lions as we shall hereafter see; and "'arayot" are old
lions. He afterwards adds, Where "aryah": and then comes "laviy'",
which some render, lioness; but "laviy'" properly means an old lion;
the Prophet, no doubt, uses it in the next verse in the feminine
gender for lionesses. I therefore do not deny, but that we may fitly
render the terms here, lion and lioness; afterwards, "and the whelp
of lions, and none terrifying". He then adds, "Seize did the lion"
(the word is "'aryah") "for his whelps to satiety", that is,
sufficiently; and strangle did he for his lionesses, "leliv'otayw".
Here no doubt the Prophet means lionesses; there would otherwise be
no consistency in the passage. He afterwards says, "And filled has
he with prey his dens and his recesses with ravin"; it is the same
word with a different termination, "teref", and "trefah".
    Now the repetition, made here by the Prophet, of lion, young
lion, and lioness, was not without its use; for he meant by this
number of words to set forth the extreme ferocity of the Assyrians,
while they were dominant. He no doubt compares their kings, their
counselors, and their chief men, to lions: and he calls their wives
lionesses, and their children he calls young lions or whelps of
lions. The sum of the whole is, that Nineveh had so degenerated in
its opulence, that all in power were like ferocious wild beasts,
destitute of every kind feeling. And I wish that this could have
only been said of one city and of one monarchy! But here, as in a
mirror, the Prophet represents to us what we at this day observe,
and what has always and in all ages been observed in great empires;
for here great power exists, there great licentiousness prevails;
and when kings and their counselors become once habituated to
plunder, there is no end of it; nay, a kind of fury is kindled in
their hearts, that they seek nothings else but to devour and to tear
in pieces to rend and to strangle. The Prophet indeed wished here to
console both the Israelites and the Jews by showing, that the
injustice of their enemies would not go unpunished: but at the same
time he intended to show how great, even to the end of the world,
would be the cruelty of those who would rule tyrannically: and as I
have said, experience proves, that there are too many like the
Ninevites. It is indeed unquestionable, that the Prophet does not
without reason speak so often here of lions and lionesses.
    Hence he says, 'Come thither did the lion, the lioness, and the
whelp of the lion.' He means that when justice was sought in that
city, it was found to be the den of cruel beasts; for the king had
put off all humanity, as well as his counselors; their wives were
also like lionesses, and their children and domestics were as young
lions or the whelps of lions. And cruelty creeps in, somewhat in
this manner: When a king takes to himself too much liberty, his
counselors follow him; and then every one follows the common
example, as though every thing received as a custom was lawful. This
is the representation which the Prophet in these words sets before
us; and we with our own eyes see the same things. Then he adds, 'The
lion did tear what sufficed his whelps, and strangled for his
lionesses; he filled with prey his dens and his recesses with
plunder. He goes on with the same subject, - that the Assyrians
heaped for themselves great wealth by unjust spoils, because they
had no regard for what was right. The lion, he says, did tear for
his whelps: as lions accustom their whelps to plunder, and when they
are not grown enough, so as to be able to attack innocent animals,
they provide a prey for them, and also bring some to the lionesses;
so also, as the Prophet informs us, was the case at Nineveh; the
habits of all men were formed for cruelty by the chief men and the
magistrates. By the word "bedey", sufficiency, he means not that the
Ninevites are satisfied with their prey, for they were insatiable;
but it rather refers to the abundance which they had. And he says,
that the lion strangled for his lionesses: I wish there were no
lionesses to devour at this day; but we see that there are some who
surpass their husbands in boldness and cruelty. But the Prophet says
here what is natural, - that the lion strangles the prey and gives
it afterwards to his lionesses. He then adds, that the Ninevites
were not satisfied with daily rapines, as many robbers live for the
day; but he says, that their plunder was laid up in store. Hence
they filled their secret places and dens with their booty and
spoils. Still further, though the Prophet speaks not here so
plainly, as we shall see he does in what follows, it is yet certain,
that the reason is here given, why God visited the Ninevites with so
severe a vengeance, and that was, because they had ceased to be like
men, and had degenerated into savage beasts. It follows -

Nahum 2:13
Behold, I [am] against thee, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will
burn her chariots in the smoke, and the sword shall devour thy young
lions: and I will cut off thy prey from the earth, and the voice of
thy messengers shall no more be heard.
    To give more effect to what he says, the Prophet introduces God
here as the speaker. "Behold, he says, I am against thee". He has
been hitherto, as it were, the herald of God, and in this character
gave an authoritative command to the Chaldeans to plunder Nineveh:
but when God himself comes forward, and uses not the mouth of man,
but declares himself his own decrees, it is much more impressive.
This then is the reason why God now openly speaks: Behold, I am, he
says, against thee. We understand the emphatical import of the
demonstrative particle, Behold; for God, as if awakened from sleep,
shows that it will be at length his work, to undertake the cause of
his people, and also to punish the world for its wickedness, Behold,
I am against thee, he says. We have elsewhere seen a similar mode of
speaking; there is therefore no need of dwelling on it here.
    "I will burn, he says, with smoke her chariots". Here by smoke
some understand a smoky fire; but the Prophet, I think, meant
another thing, - that at the first onset God would consume all the
chariots of Nineveh; as though he had said, that as soon as the
flame burst forth, it would be all over with all the forces of
Nineveh; for by chariots he no doubt means all their warlike
preparations; and we know that they fought then from chariots: as at
this day there are employed in wars horsemen in armour, so there
were then chariots. But the Prophet, by taking a part for the whole,
includes all warlike forces: I will burn then the chariots. - How?
By smoke alone, that is as soon as the first flame begins to emerge;
for the smoke rises before the fire appears or gathers strength: in
short, the Prophet shows that Nineveh would be, as it were, in a
moment, reduced to nothing, as soon as it pleased God to avenge its
    He then adds in the third person, "And thy young lions shall
the sword devour". He indeed changes the person here; but the
discourse is more striking, when God manifests his wrath in abrupt
sentences. He had said, Behold, I am against thee; then, I will burn
her chariots, he now hardly deigns to direct his speech to Nineveh;
but afterwards he returns to her, "and thy young lions shall the
sword devour". Then God, by speaking thus in broken sentences, more
fully expresses the dreadful vengeance which he had determined to
execute on the Ninevites. He then says, And I will exterminate from
the earth thy prey; that is, it will not now be allowed thee to go
on as usual; for I will put a stop to thy inhuman cruelty. Thus prey
may be taken for the act itself; or it may be fitly explained of the
spoils taken from the nations, for the Ninevites, by their
tyrannical ravening, had everywhere plundered; and thus it may be
applied to the pillaging of the city. I will then exterminate from
the land, that is from thy country, those riches which have been
hitherto heaped together as though a lion had been everywhere
gathering a prey.
    "And heard no more shall be the voice of thy messengers". They
who understand "mal'achim" to be messengers, apply the word to the
heralds, by whom the Assyrians were wont to proclaim wars on
neighboring nations. As then they sent here and there their heralds
to announce war, and as their terrible voice sounded everywhere, the
words of the Prophet have this meaning given them, - that God would
at length produce silence, so that they should not hereafter disturb
all their neighboring countries with the clamour of war. But as this
explanation is strained, I am inclined to adopt what others think, -
that the grinding teeth are here intended. The word is not written,
if it be taken for messengers, according to grammar; it is
"mal'achecheh"; there ought not to have been the "he" at the end,
and "yod" ought to have been inserted before the last letter but
one: and if it be deemed as meaning the king, it ought then to have
been written "malchacha". All then confess, that the word is not
written according to the rule of grammar; and as the Persians call
the grinders "mal'achecheh", we may give this version, which well
suits the context, 'No more shall be heard the sound of grinders.'
For since lions seize the prey with their teeth, and also break the
bones, and thus make a great noise when they tear an animal or a man
with their teeth, this rendering seems to be the most suitable,
"Heard no more shall be the sound of teeth", that is, heard shall
not be the noise made by thy teeth; for when thou now tearest thy
prey, thy teeth make a noise. No more heard then shall the noise
from that breaking, or the clashing or the crashing of the teeth.
But as to the chief point, this is no matter of importance.
    The Prophet simply teaches us here that it could not be, but
that God would at length restrain tyrants; for though he hides
himself for a time, he yet never forgets the groans of those whom he
sees to be unjustly afflicted: and particularly when tyrants molest
the Church, it is proved here by the Prophet that God will at length
be a defender; and hence we ought to consider well these words,
Behold, I am against thee. For though God addresses these words only
to the Assyrians, yet as he points out the reasons why he rises up
with so much displeasure against them, they ought to be extended to
all tyrants, and to all who exercise cruelty towards distressed and
innocent men. But this is more clearly expressed in the following

Chapter 3

Nahum 3:1
Woe to the bloody city! it [is] all full of lies [and] robbery; the
prey departeth not;
    The Prophet, as I have said, more clearly expresses here the
reason why the vengeance of God would be so severe on the Ninevites,
- because they had wholly given themselves up to barbarous cruelty;
and hence he calls it the bloody city. Bloody city! he says. The
exclamation is emphatical. Though "hoy" sometimes means Woe; yet it
is put here as though the Prophet would have constrained Nineveh to
undergo its punishment, O sanguinary city, then, the whole of it is
full of "kachash": the word signifies leanness and the Prophet no
doubt joins here together two words, which seem to differ widely,
and yet they signify the same thing. For "parak" means to lay by;
and "kachash" is taken for a lie or vanity, when there is nothing
solid in what is said: but the Prophet, I doubt not, means by both
words the spoils of the city Nineveh. It was then full of leanness
for it had consumed all others; it was also full of spoils, for it
had filled itself. But the meaning of the Prophet is in no way
dubious; for at length he adds, "Depart shall not the prey"; that is
as some think, it shall not be withdrawn from the hands of
conquerors; but others more correctly think that a continued liberty
in plundering is intended, that the Assyrians were constantly
employed in pillaging and kept within no bounds.
    We hence see that the Prophet now shows why God says, that he
would be an adversary to the Ninevites, because he could not endure
its unjust cruelty. He bore with it indeed for a time; for he did
not immediately execute his judgment; but yet he never forgot his
own people.
    As, then, God has once declared by the mouth of his Prophet
that he would be the avenger of the cruelty which the Assyrians had
exercised, let us know that he retains still his own nature; and
whatever liberty he may for a time grant to tyrants and savage wild
beasts, he yet continues to be a just avenger. It is our duty calmly
to bear injuries, and to groan to him; and as he promises to be at
length our helper, it behaves us to flee to him, and to ask him to
succour us, so that seeing his Church oppressed, and tyrants
exercising licentiously their power, he may hasten the time to
restrain them. If then we were at all times to continue thus
resigned under God's protection, there is no doubt but that he would
be ready even at this day to execute a similar judgment to that
which the city Nineveh and its people had to endure.


Grant, Almighty God. that as we have now heard of punishments so
dreadful denounced on all tyrants and plunderers, this warning may
keep us within the limits of justice, so that none of us may abuse
our power to oppress the innocent, but, on the contrary, strive to
benefit one another, and wholly regulate ourselves according to the
rule of equity: and may we hence also receive comfort whenever the
ungodly molest and trouble us, and doubt not but that we are under
thy protection, and that thou art armed with power sufficient to
defend us, so that we may patiently bear injuries, until at length
the ripened time shall come for thee to help us, and to put forth
thy power for our preservation; nor let us cease to bear our evils
with patience, as long as it may be thy will to exercise us in our
present warfare, until having gone through all one troubles, we come
to that blessed rest which has been provided for us in heaven by
Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Lecture One Hundred and Fourth

Nahum 3:2,3
The noise of a whip, and the noise of the rattling of the wheels,
and of the pransing horses, and of the jumping chariots.
The horseman lifteth up both the bright sword and the glittering
spear: and [there is] a multitude of slain, and a great number of
carcases; and [there is] none end of [their] corpses; they stumble
upon their corpses:
    The Prophet represents here as in a lively picture, what was
nigh the Assyrians; for he sets forth the Chaldeans their enemies,
with all their preparations and in their quick movements. "The sound
of the whip", he says; the whips, made a noise in exciting the
horses: the sound of the rattling of the wheel; that is, great shall
be the haste and celerity, when the horses shall be forced on by the
whip; the horse also shaking the earth, and the chariot bounding;
the horseman making it to ascend; and then, the same of the sword
and the lightning of the spear. He then says, that there would be
such a slaughter, that the whole place would be full of dead bodies.
    We now then understand what the Prophet means: for as Nineveh
might have then appeared impregnable the Prophet confirms at large
what he had said of its approaching ruin, and thus sets before the
eyes of the Israelites what was then incredible.
    As to the words, some interpreters connect what we have
rendered, the horseman makes to ascend, with what follows, that is,
he makes to ascend the flame of the sword and the lightning of the
spear. But as a copulative comes between, it seems rather to be an
imperfect sentence, meaning, that the horseman makes to ascend or
mount, that is, his horses, by urging them on. With regard to the
word "lahav", it means I have no doubt, a flame. By this word, I
know, is also understood metaphorically the brightness of swords,
which appears like a flame: but the Prophet immediately adds
lightning. As then he says that spears lighten, I doubt not but that
for the same reason he meant to say that swords flame. All these
things were intended for the purpose of fully convincing the
Israelites that Nineveh, however much it was supplied with wealth
and power, was yet approaching its ruin, for its enemies would
prevail against it: and therefore he adds, that all the roads would
be full of dead bodies, that the enemies could not enter without
treading on them everywhere. It follows -

Nahum 3:4
Because of the multitude of the whoredoms of the wellfavoured
harlot, the mistress of witchcrafts, that selleth nations through
her whoredoms, and families through her witchcrafts.
    The Prophet mentions again the cause why God would execute so
dreadful a vengeance on that city, which yet procured by its
splendor so much glory and respect among all people: and God seems
in a manner to have but little regard for the order of the world
when he thus overturns great cities. For since he is the Creator of
the whole world, it seems to be his proper office to protect its
various parts, especially those which excel in beauty, for they seem
to deserve a higher regard. When therefore any splendid city is
demolished, such thoughts as these occur to us, - That God is either
delighted with the ruin of the world, or is asleep in heaven, and
that thus all things revolve by chance and contingency. Therefore
the Prophet shows, that God had just reasons for decreeing the ruin
of Nineveh, and for deforming that beauty, that it might not deceive
the eyes of men. Hence he compares Nineveh to a harlot. The
similitude seems not to be very suitable: but yet if we take a
nearer view of things, the Prophet could not have more fitly nor
more strikingly set forth the condition of that city. He had before
mentioned its barbarous cruelty, and said, that it was the den of
lions, and that savage and bloody wild beasts dwelt there. He now
begins to speak of the frauds and crafty artifices by which the
kings of this world attain for themselves both wealth and power. The
Prophet then makes the city Nineveh to be like a harlot for this
reason, - because it had not only brought under its power
neighboring nations by threats and terrors, and also by cruelty, but
because it had ensnared many by oblique arts and fraudulent means,
by captious dealings and allurements. This is the reason why it is
now called a harlot by the Prophet.
    The Prophets of God seem indeed to speak but with little
reverence of great cities and empires: but we know that it rightly
belongs to the Spirit of God, that in exercising his own
jurisdiction, he should uncover the base deeds of the whole world,
which otherwise would lie concealed and even under the appearance of
virtues deceive the eyes and senses of the simple: and as men so
much flatter themselves, and are inebriated with their own
delusions, it is necessary that those who are too self-indulgent and
delicate should be roughly handled. As then kings ever set up their
own splendor that they may dazzle the eyes of the simple, and seem
to have their own greatness as a beautiful covering, the Spirit of
God divests them of these masks. This then is the reason why the
Prophet speaks here, in no very respectful terms, of that great
monarchy which had attracted the admiration of all nations. For when
the Spirit of God adopts a humble and common mode of speaking, men,
blinded by their vices, will not acknowledge their own baseness;
nay, they will even dare to set up in opposition those things which
cover their disgraceful deeds: but the Spirit of God breaks through
all these things, and dissipates those delusions by which men impose
on themselves.
    Such is the reason for this similitude; On account of the
multitude, he says, of the whoredoms of the harlot, who excels in
favor. It is said by way of concession that Nineveh was in great
favor, that is, that by her beauty she had allured to herself many
nations, like a harlot who attains many lovers: and thus the Prophet
allows that Nineveh was beautiful. But he adds that she was the
mistress of sorceries. "Kashaf" means sorcery, and also juggling: we
may then render "keshafim", used here, juggleries. But the Prophet
seems to allude to filters or amatory potions, by which harlots
dementate youths. As then harlots not only attract notice by their
beauty and bland manners and other usual ways; but they also in a
manner fascinate unhappy youths, and use various arts and delusions;
so the Prophet under this word comprehends all the deceits practiced
by harlots; as though he said, "This harlot was not only beautiful,
but also an enchantress, who by her charms deceived unhappy nations
like a strumpets who dementates unhappy youths, who do not take care
of themselves.
    He afterwards adds, "Who sells nations by her whoredoms, and
tribes by her sorceries". Though Nahum still carries on the same
metaphor, he yet shows more clearly what he meant by whoredoms and
sorceries, - even the crafts of princes, by which they allure their
neighbors, and then reduce them to bondage. Then all the counsels of
kings (which they call policies) are here, by the Spirit of God,
called sorceries or juggleries, and also meretricious arts. This
reproof, as I have already said, many deem to have been too severe;
for so much majesty shone forth then in the Assyrians, that they
ought, as they think, to have been more respectfully treated. But it
behaved the Spirit of God to speak in this forcible language: for
there is no one who does not applaud such crafty proceedings. Where
any one, without mentioning princes, to ask, Is it right to deceive,
and then by lies, deceptions, perjuries, cavils, and other arts, to
make a cover for things? - were this question asked, the prompt
answer would be, that all these things are as remote as possible
from virtue, as nothing becomes men more than ingenuous sincerity.
But when princes appear in public, and make this pretence, that the
world must be ruled with great prudence, that except secret counsels
be taken, all kingdoms would immediately fall into ruin, - this veil
covers all their shameful transactions, so that it becomes lawful
for them, and even praiseworthy, to deceive one party, to circumvent
another, and a third to oppress by means of deception. Since then
princes are praised for their craftiness, this is the reason why the
Prophet here takes away, as it were by force, the mask, under which
they hide their base proceedings; "They are," he says, "meretricious
arts, and they are sorceries and juggleries."
    It is of one city, it is true, that he speaks here; but the
Prophet no doubt describes in this striking representation how
kingdoms increase and by what crafty means, - first, by robberies, -
and then by artful dealings, such as would by no means become honest
men in the middle class of life. But princes could never succeed,
except they practiced such artifices. We yet see how they are
described here by the Spirit of God, - that they are like strumpets
given to juggleries, and to other base and filthy arts, which he
calls whoredoms. But I have said, that the meaning of the Prophet
can be more clearly elicited from the second clause of the verse,
when he says that the Ninevites made a merchandise of the nations.
We see indeed even at this day that princes disturb the whole world
at their pleasure; for they deliver up innocent people to one
another, and shamefully sell them, while each hunts after his own
advantage, without any shame; that he may increase his own power, he
will deliver others into the hand of an enemy. Since then there are
crafty proceedings of this kind carried on too much at this day,
there is no need that I should attempt to explain at any length the
meaning of the Prophet. I wish that examples were to be sought at a
distance. Let us proceed -

Nahum 3:5,6
Behold, I [am] against thee, saith the LORD of hosts; and I will
discover thy skirts upon thy face, and I will shew the nations thy
nakedness, and the kingdoms thy shame.
And I will cast abominable filth upon thee, and make thee vile, and
will set thee as a gazingstock.
    The Prophet confirms here what he has said of the fall of
Nineveh; but, as it was stated yesterday, he introduces God as the
speaker, that his address might be more powerful. God then testifies
here to the Assyrians, that they should have no strife or contention
with any mortal being, but with their own judgment; as though he
said, "There is no reason for thee to compare thy forces with those
of the Chaldeans; but think of this - that I am the punisher of thy
crimes. The Chaldeans indeed shall come; chariots shall make a noise
and horses shall leap, and horsemen shall shake the earth; they
shall brandish the flaming swords, and their spears shall be like
lightning; but there is no reason for thee to think that the
Chaldeans will, of themselves, break in upon thee: for I guide them
by my hidden providence, as it is my purpose to destroy thee; and
now the time is come when I shall execute on thee my judgment."
    I am, he says, Jehovah of hosts. The epithet "tzva'ot" must be
referred to the circumstance of this passage; for God declares here
his own power, that the Assyrians might not think that they could by
any means escape. He then adds, I will disclose thy extremities on
thy face. He alludes to the similitude which we have lately
observed; for harlots appear very fine, and affect neatness and
elegance in their dress; they not only put on costly apparel, but
also add disguises. Though then this fine dress conceals the
baseness of strumpets, yet, were any to take the clothes of a harlot
and throw them over her head, all her beauty would disappear, and
all men would abhor the sight: to see her concealed parts disclosed
would be a base and filthy spectacle. So God declares that he would
strip Nineveh of its magnificent dress, that she might be a
detestable sight, only exhibiting her own reproach. We now then
apprehend the Prophet's meaning; as though he said, "Nineveh thinks
not that she is to perish. - How so? Because her own splendor blinds
her: and she has willfully deceived herself, and, by her deceits,
has dazzled the eyes of all nations. As then this splendor seems to
be a defense to the city Nineveh, I the Lord, he says, will disclose
her hidden parts; I will deprive the Assyrians of all this splendor
in which they now glory, and which is in high esteem and admiration
among other nations."
    And this passage ought to be especially noticed; for, as I have
said, true dignity is not to be found in the highest princes.
Princes ought, indeed, to seek respect for themselves by justice,
integrity, mercy, and a magnanimous spirit: but they only excel in
mean artifices; then they shamelessly deceive, lie, and swear
falsely; they also flatter, even meanly, when circumstances require;
they insinuate themselves by various crafty means, and by large
promises decoy the simple. Since then their true dignity is not
commonly regarded by princes, this passage ought to be observed, so
that we may know that their elevation, which captivates the minds of
men, is an abomination before God; for they do not discern things,
but are blind, being dazzled by empty splendor.
    Disclose, then, he says, will I thy shame. He says first,
Disclose will I thy fringes on thy face; and then I will show to the
nations thy nakedness. And the nakedness of great kings is shown to
the nations when the Lord executes his vengeance: for then even the
lowest of the low will dare to pass judgment, - "He deserved to
perish with shame, for he exercised tyranny on his own subjects, and
spared not his own neighbors; he never was a good prince; nay, he
only employed deceits and perjuries." When, therefore princes are
cast down, every one, however low, becomes a judge, and ascends as
it were, the tribunal to burden and load them with reproaches. And
hence the Prophet says, in the person of God, "Disclose will I thy
fringes on thy face, and will show to the nations thy nakedness, and
to kingdoms thy filthiness.
    He afterwards adds, "I will besprinkle thee with filth", or
defilements. The Prophet still alludes to the similitude of a
harlot, who is well and sumptuously adorned, and by her charms
captivates the eyes of all: but when any one takes mire and filth
from the middle of the road, and bespatters her with it, there is
then no one who will not turn away his eyes from so filthy an
object. But we have already explained the import of this. God is
indeed said to besprinkle kingdoms with defilements, when he casts
them down; for they all begin freely to express their opinion: and
those who before pretended great admiration, now rise up and bring
forth many reproachful things. Then it is, that the Lord is said to
besprinkle great kingdoms with filth and defilements.
    He then adds, I will disgrace thee. "Naval" is to fall, and it
is applied to dead bodies; but it means also to disgrace, as it is
to be taken here. I will make thee as the dung. Some think "ro'iy"
to be dung, or something fetid: but as it comes from "ra'ah", to
see, and is in many parts of Scripture taken for vision or view,
they are more correct, in my judgment, who render it thus, I will
make thee an example; so Jerome renders it; as though he said, "Thou
shalt be a spectacle to all nations." "And Nineveh is said to be
made an example, because its ruin was more memorable than that of
any other which had previously happened. Thou shalt then be a
spectacle; that is, the calamity which I now denounce shall attract
the observation of all. It afterwards follows -

Nahum 3:7
And it shall come to pass, [that] all they that look upon thee shall
flee from thee, and say, Nineveh is laid waste: who will bemoan her?
whence shall I seek comforters for thee?
    When he says, "kol-ro'ayich", 'whosoever sees thee,' we hence
learn again that "ro'iy" at the end of the last verse, is to be
taken for example or spectacle; for the Prophet proceeds with the
same subject: I will make thee, he says, an example, or a spectacle.
- For what purpose? that whosoever sees thee may depart from thee.
And it was an evidence of horror, though some think it to have been
a reward for her cruelty, that no one came to Nineveh, but that she
was forsaken by all friends in her desolation. And they take in the
same sense what follows, "Who will condole with her? and whence
shall I seek comforters for thee?" For they think that the Ninevites
are here reproached for their cruelty, because they made themselves
so hated by all that they were unworthy of sympathy; for they spared
none, they allowed themselves full liberty in injuring others, they
had gained the hatred of all the world. Hence some think that what
is here intimated is, that the Ninevites were justly detested by and
so that no one condoled with them in so great a calamity, inasmuch
as they had been injurious to all: "It shall then happen, that
whosoever sees thee shall go far away from thee and shall say,
Wasted is Nineveh; who will condole with her? Whence shall I call
comforters to her?"
    But I know not whether this refined meaning came into the
Prophet's mind. We may explain the words more simply, that all would
flee far away as a proof of their horrors and that the calamity
would be such, that no lamentation would correspond with it. Who
will be able to console with her? that is, were the greatness of her
calamity duly weighed, though all were to weep and utter their
meanings, it would not yet be sufficient: all lamentations would be
far unequal to so great a calamity. The Prophet seems rather to mean
this. Who then shall condole with her? and whence shall I seek
comforters, as though he said, "The ruin of so splendid a city will
not be of an ordinary kind, but what cannot be equaled by any
lamentations." It then follows -

Nahum 3:8-10
8 Art thou better than populous No, that was situate among the
rivers, [that had] the waters round about it, whose rampart [was]
the sea, [and] her wall [was] from the sea?
9 Ethiopia and Egypt [were] her strength, and [it was] infinite; Put
and Lubim were thy helpers.
10 Yet [was] she carried away, she went into captivity: her young
children also were dashed in pieces at the top of all the streets:
and they cast lots for her honourable men, and all her great men
were bound in chains.

    The Prophet, in order to gain credit to his prophecy, produces
here the ensample of Alexandria. It is indeed certain, from many
testimonies of Scripture, that Alexandria is called No, which was a
very ancient city, situated on the confines of Africa, and yet in
Egypt. It might, at the same time, be, that the Alexandrians
formerly had their own government, at least their own kings: and
this is probable; for the Prophet says here, that Egypt and
Ethiopia, as well as Africa and the Libyan nations, were the
confederates of this city. It may hence then be concluded, that
Alexandria was not then a part of Egypt, but had its own government,
and was in alliance with the Egyptians, as with the other nations.
But as Egypt, after the death of our Prophet, was in part overthrown
by the Assyrians, and in part by the Chaldeans, some interpreters
think, that the Prophet speaks of a ruin which had not yet taken
place. But this would not harmonize with his design; for the Prophet
shows here, as in a mirror, that the chief empires fall according to
the will of God, and that cities, the richest and the best
fortified, come to nothing, whenever it pleases God. Unless, then,
the destruction of Alexandria was notorious and everywhere known,
the Prophet could not have suitably adduced this example: I
therefore doubt not but that Alexandria had been then demolished. It
is no matter of wonder that it afterwards returned to its former
state and became rich; for the situation of the city was most
commodious, not so much on account of the fertility of the land, as
on account of its traffic; for ships from the Mediterranean sailed
up near to it. It had, indeed, on one side, the lake Marcotis, which
is not very healthy; and then the sea fortified it; and Pharos was a
neighboring island: but yet the city was inhabited by many, and
adorned with splendid buildings; for the advantage of traffic drew
together inhabitants from all quarters. It was afterwards built
again by Alexander of Macedon. But it is evident enough that it had
been already an opulent city: for Alexander did not build a new city
but enlarged it. Let us now come to the words of the Prophet.
    "Shall it be better to thee than to Alexandria?" The word
"'amon", some render populous; and I am inclined to adopt this
meaning, which has been received nearly by the consent of all.
Others have supposed it to be the name of a king; but as proof fails
them, I leave to themselves their own conjecture. Shall it then be
better to thee than to Alexandria? For "it stood, he says, between
the rivers". Alexandria had the Nile, as it were, under its own
power; for it was then divided into many parts, so that it
intersected the city in various places. So then he says, that
Alexandria dwelt between the rivers; for it divided the Nile, as it
suited its convenience, into several streams.
    Then he says, "The sea was around her": for it was surrounded
on one side by the sea, and protected by the island Pharos, which
had a tower, not only for the sake of defense, but that ships coming
in from the Mediterranean, might have a signal, by which they might
direct their course straight to the harbor. The sea then was around
her; for the sea encircled more than half of the city; and then the
lake Mareotis was on the other side to the south. He afterwards
adds, "And its wall or moat was the sea". The word is written with
"yod", "cheyl"; but it means a wall or a moat, though Latins render
antemurale - a front-work: for they were wont formerly to fortify
their cities with a double wall, as old buildings still show.
According to these interpreters "cheyl" is the inner wall, and so
they render its front-work: and there was also an outer wall towards
the sea. But we may take "cheyl" for a moat or a trench; and it is
easy to find from other passages that it was a trench rather than a
front-work. It is said that the body of Jezebel was torn by dogs in
the trench, and the word there is "cheyl". As to the object of the
Prophet, he evidently intended to show, that Alexandria was so well
fortified, that Nineveh had no reason to think herself to be in a
safer state; for its fortress was from the sea, and also from
Ethiopia, on account of the munitions which he has mentioned. Then
he speaks of Africa and Egypt, and the Libyan nations, and says in
short, that there was no end of her strength; that is, that she
could seek the help of many friends and confederates: many were
ready to bring aid, even Africa, Ethiopia, and the Lybians.
    "Yet, he says, she departed into captivity a captive"; that is,
the inhabitants of Alexandria have been banished, and the city
become as it were captive, for its inhabitants were driven here and
there. Dashed, he says, have been their little ones at the head of
every street. The Prophet means, that so great a power as that of
Alexandria did not prevent the conquerors to exercise towards her
the most barbarous cruelty; for it was a savage act to dash little
children against stones, who ought on account of their tender age,
to have been spared. There was indeed no reason for raging against
them, for they could not have been deemed enemies. But yet the
Prophet says that Alexandria had been thus treated; and he said
this, that Nineveh might not trust in her strength, and thus
perversely despise God's judgment, which he now denounced on it. He
adds, "They cast lots on her princess and bound were her great men
with fetters". In saying that lots were cast, he refers to an
ancient custom; for when there was any dispute respecting a captive,
the lot was cast: as for instance, when two had taken one man, to
prevent contention, it was by lot determined who was to be his
master. So then he says that lots were cast on their princes. This
usually happened to the common people and to the lowest slaves; but
the Prophet says that the conquerors spared not even the princes.
They were therefore treated as the lowest class; and though they
were great princes, they were led into captivity and bound with
chains, in the same manner with the meanest and the lowest of the
people. They were not treated according to their rank; and there was
no differences between the chief men and the most degraded of the
humbler classes; for even the very princes were so brought down,
that their lot differed not from that of the wretched; for as common
people are usually treated with contempt, so were the chiefs of
Alexandria treated by their enemies.
Grant, Almighty God, that since by thy awful judgments thou dost
show thy displeasure at the pride of this world, we may be ruled by
the spirit of meekness, and in such a manner humble ourselves
willingly under thy hand, that we may not experience thy dreadful
power in our destruction, but being, on the contrary, supported by
thy strength, we may keep ourselves in our own proper station and in
true simplicity, and, at the same time, relying on thy protection,
we may never doubt, but thou wilt sustain us against all the
assaults of our enemies, however violent they may be, and thus
persevere in the warfare of the cross which thou hast appointed for
us, until we be at length gathered into that celestial kingdom,
where we shall triumph together with thy Son, when his glory shall
shine in us, and all the wicked shall be destroyed. Amen.

Lecture One Hundred and Fifth

Nahum 3:11
Thou also shalt be drunken: thou shalt be hid, thou also shalt seek
strength because of the enemy.
    Nahum, after having adduced the example of Alexandria, now
shows that nothing would be able to resist God, so that he should
not deal with Nineveh in the same manner; and he declares that this
would be the case, "Thou also, he says, shalt be inebriated". Well
known is this metaphor, which often occurs in Scripture: for the
Prophets are wont frequently to call punishment a cup, which God
administers. But when God executes a heavy punishment, he is said to
inebriate the wicked with his cup. The Prophet says now, that the
chastisement of Nineveh would make her like a drunken man, who,
being overcome with wine, lies down, as it were, stupefied. Hence by
this metaphor he intended to set forth a most severe punishment:
Thou then shalt be also inebriated. The particle "gam" is here
emphatical; it was introduced, that the Ninevites might know, that
they could not possibly escape the punishment which they deserved;
for God continues ever like himself. Thou then shalt be also
inebriated. This would not be consistent, were not God the judge of
the world to the end. There is then a common reason for this
proceeding; hence it necessarily follows, - since God punished the
Alexandrians, the Assyrians cannot escape his hand, and be exempt
from punishment.
    He adds, "Thou shalt be hidden". Some refer this to shame, as
though the Prophet had said, - "Thou indeed showest thyself now to
be very proud, but calamity will force thee to seek hiding-places,
in which to conceal thyself." But I am more inclined to this
meaning, - that Nineveh would vanish away, as though it never had
been; for to be hidden is often taken in Hebrew in the sense of
being reduced to nothing.
    He afterwards says, "Thou shalt also seek strength, or
supplies, from the enemy". The words "ma'oz me'oyev" may admit of
two meanings, - either that she will humbly solicit her enemies, -
or that on account of her enemies she will flee to some foreign aid;
for the preposition "mem" may be taken in both senses. If we adopt
the first meaning, then I think that the Prophet speaks not of the
Babylonians, but of the other nations who had been before harassed
by the Assyrians. Thou shalt now then humbly pray for the aid of
those who have been hitherto thine enemies, - not because they had
provoked thee, but because thou hast as an enemy treated them. Now
it is an extreme misery, when we are constrained to seek the help of
those by whom we are hated, and hated, because we have by wrongs
provoked them. But the other sense is more approved, for it is less
strained: "Thou shalt also seek aids on account of the enemy"; that
is, as strength to resist will fail thee, thou wilt seek assistance
from thy neighbours. It follows -

Nahum 3:12
All thy strong holds [shall be like] fig trees with the firstripe
figs: if they be shaken, they shall even fall into the mouth of the
    The Prophet here declares that the strongholds of the Assyrians
would avail them nothing; whether they trusted in the number of
their men, or in their walls, or in other defenses, they would be
disappointed; for all things, he says, will of themselves fall, even
without being much assailed. And he employs a very apposite
similitude, "Thy fortifications," he says, "which thou thinkest to
be very strong, shall be like figs; for when the fruit is ripe, and
any comes to the tree, as soon as he touches it or any of the
branches, the figs will fall off themselves." We indeed know that
there is not much firmness in that fruit; when it is ripe, it
immediately falls to the ground, or if it hangs on the branches, a
very little shaking will bring it down. We now see the design of the
    And hence an useful doctrine may be deduced: whatever strength
men may seek for themselves from different quarters, it will wholly
vanish away; for neither forts, nor towers, nor ramparts, nor troops
of men, nor any kind of contrivances, will avail any thing; and were
there no one to rise against them, they would yet fall of
themselves. It afterwards follows -

Nahum 3:13
Behold, thy people in the midst of thee [are] women: the gates of
thy land shall be set wide open unto thine enemies: the fire shall
devour thy bars.
    The Prophet declares here, that the hearts of them all would
become soft and effeminate when God would proceed to destroy
Nineveh. We have said before that the hearts of men are so in the
hand of God, that he melts whatever courage there may be in them,
whenever he pleases: and God prepares men for ruin, when he
debilitates their hearts, that they cannot bear the sight of their
enemies. God indeed can leave in men their perverseness, so that
they may ever run furiously into ruin, and not be able, with a
courageous heart, to repel the attacks of their enemies; but he
often softens their hearts and deprives them of power, that he may
make more evident his judgment: God does not, however, always work
in the same way; for variety in his judgments is calculated to do us
good, for thereby our minds are more powerfully awakened. Were his
proceedings uniformly the same, we could not so well distinguish the
hand of God, as when he acts now in this way, and then in another.
But, as I have already said, it is what is well known, that God
enervates men and strips them of all courage, when he gives them
over to destruction.
    So now the Prophet speaks of the Ninevites, "Behold, he says,
thy people are women". The demonstrative particle, Behold, is here
emphatical: for the Assyrians, no doubt, ridiculed, as a fable, the
prediction of the Prophet; and it was what the Israelites found it
difficult to believe. This is the reason why the Prophet pointed
out, as by the finger, what surpassed the comprehensions of men. By
saying, in the midst of thee, he intimates, that though they should
be separated from their enemies and dwell in a fortified city, they
should yet be filled with trembling. This amplification deserves to
be noticed: for it is nothing wonderful, when an onset frightens us,
when enemies join battle with us, and when many things present
themselves before our eyes, which are calculated to deprive us of
courage; but when we are frightened by report only concerning our
enemies, and we become fainthearted, though walls be between us, it
then appears evident, that we are smitten by the hand of God; for
when we see walls of stone, and yet our hearts become brittle like
glass, is it not evident, that we are inwardly terrified by the
Lord, as it were, through some hidden influence, rather than through
intervening and natural causes? We now then perceive the Prophet's
meaning, when he says, that the people would become women, or
effeminate, in the midst of the city, in its very bowels; as though
he had said, that they would not cease to tremble, even while they
were dwelling in a safe place.
    "By opening, opened shall be thy gates, he says, to thy
enemies". He shows again, that though the Assyrians were fortified,
every access would be made open to their enemies, as though there
was no fortress. By saying, the gates of thy land, it is probable
that he speaks not only of the city, but of all their strongholds.
The Assyrians, no doubt, fortified many cities, in order to keep
afar off the enemy, and to preserve the chief seat of the empire
free from danger and fear. I therefore understand the Prophet as
referring here to many cities, when he says, "By opening, opened
shall be the gates of thy land to thine enemies and fire shall
consume thy bars". He means, that though they had before carefully
fortified the whole land around, so that they thought themselves
secure from all hostile invasion, yet all this would be useless; for
the fire would consume all their bars. By fire, the Prophet
understands metaphorically the judgment of God. For as we see that
so great is the vehemence of fire, that it melts iron and brass, so
the Prophet means, that there would be no strength which could
defend Nineveh and its empire against the hand of God. It follows -

Nahum 3:14,15
Draw thee waters for the siege, fortify thy strong holds: go into
clay, and tread the morter, make strong the brickkiln.
There shall the fire devour thee; the sword shall cut thee off, it
shall eat thee up like the cankerworm: make thyself many as the
cankerworm, make thyself many as the locusts.
    The Prophet goes on with the same subject, - that the Ninevites
would labour in vain, while striving anxiously and with every effort
to defend themselves against their enemies. The meaning then is,
"That though thou remittest no diligence, yet thou shalt lose all
thy labour; for thou wilt not be able to resist the vengeance of
God; and thou deceives thyself if thou thinkest that by the usual
means thou canst aid thyself; for it is God who attacks thee by the
Babylonians. How much soever then thou mayest accumulate of those
things which are usually employed to fortify cities, all this will
be useless." Draw for thyself, he says, waters for the siege; that
is, lay up provisions for thyself, as it is usually done, and have
water laid up in cisterns; strengthen thy fortresses, that is, renew
them; enter into the clay for the sake of treading the mortar:
fortify, or cement, or join together; the brick-kiln (for what some
think that "chazak" means, here is to hold, or to lay hold, is
wholly foreign to the Prophet's meaning:) to fortify then the brick-
kiln, that is, the bricks which come forth from the kiln, nothing
else than to construct and join them together, that there might be a
solid building: for we know that buildings often fall, or are
overturned, because they are not well joined together: and he refers
to the mode of building which historians say was in use among the
Assyrians. For as that country had no abundance of stones, they
supplied the defect by bricks. We now then understand the intention
of the Prophet.
    But he adds, "There shall the fire consume thee". There is much
importance in the adverb of place, "there", which he uses: there
also, he says, shall the fire eat thee up: for he expresses more
than before, when he said, that the Assyrians would weary themselves
in vain in fortifying their city and their empire; for he says now,
that the Lord would turn to their destruction those things in which
they trusted as their defenses; There then shall the fire consume
thee. We now then see what the Prophet means.
    We must at the same time observe, that he mentions water; as
though he said, "However sparingly and frugally thy soldiers may
live, being content with water as their drink, (for it is necessary,
when we would firmly resist enemies, to undergo all indulgences, and
if needs be to endure want, at least the want of delicate meat and
drink,) - though thy soldiers be content with water, and seek not
water fresh from the spring or the river, but drink it from
cisterns, and though thy fortresses be repaired, and thy walls
carefully joined together in a solid structure, by bricks well
fitted and fastened, yet there shall the fire consume thee; that is,
thy frugality, exertion, and care, not only will avail thee nothing,
but will also turn out to thy ruin; for the Lord pronounces accursed
the arrogance of men, when they trust in their own resources."
    He afterwards adds, "Exterminate thee shall the sword; that is,
the Lord will find out various means by which he will consume thee.
By the fire, then, and by the sword, will he waste and destroy thee.
He then says, "He will consume thee as the chafer". we may read the
last word in the nominative as well as in the objective case - He as
a chafer will consume thee. If we approve of this rendering, then
the meaning would be, - "As chafers in a short time devour a meadow
or standing corn, so thy enemies shall soon devour thee as with one
mouthful." We indeed know, that these little animals are so hurtful,
that they will very soon eat up and consume all the fruit; and there
is in these insects an astonishing voracity. But as the Prophet
afterwards compares the Assyrians to chafers and locusts, another
sense would be more suitable, and that is, - that God's judgment
would consume the Assyrians, as when rain, or a storm, or a change
of season, consumes the chafers; for as these insects are very
hurtful, so the Lord also exterminates them whenever he pleases. He
afterwards adds, "to be multiplied"; which is, as I have said, a
verb in the infinitive mood. But the sentence of the Prophet is
this, by multiplying as the chafer, to multiply as the locusts": but
why he speaks thus, may be better understood from the context; the
two following verses must be therefore added -

Nahum 3:16,17
Thou hast multiplied thy merchants above the stars of heaven: the
cankerworm spoileth, and flieth away.
Thy crowned [are] as the locusts, and thy captains as the great
grasshoppers, which camp in the hedges in the cold day, [but] when
the sun ariseth they flee away, and their place is not known where
they [are].
    From these words we may learn what the Prophet before meant,
when he said that the Assyrians were like locusts or chafers; as
though he said, - "I know that you trust in your great number; for
ye are like a swarm of chafers or locusts; ye excel greatly in
number; inasmuch as you have assembled your merchants and traders as
the stars of heaven." Here he shows how numerous they were. But when
he says, "The chafer has spoiled, and flies away", he points out
another reason for the comparison; for it is not enough to lay hold
on one clause of the verse, but the two clauses must be connected;
and they mean this, - that the Assyrians, while they were almost
innumerable, gloried in their great number, - and also, that this
vast multitude would vanish away. He then makes an admission here
and says, by multiplying thy merchants, thou hast multiplied them;
but when he says, as chafers and as locusts, he shows that this
multitude would not continue, for the Lord would scatter them here
and there. As then the scattering was nigh, the Prophet says that
they were chafers and locusts.
    We now understand the design of the Prophet: He first ridicules
the foolish confidence with which the Assyrians were inflated. They
thought, that as they ruled over many nations, they could raise
great armies, and set them in any quarter to oppose any one who
might attack them: the Prophet concedes this to them, that is, that
they were very numerous, "by multiplying thou hast multiplied"; but
what will this avail them? They shall be locusts, they shall be
chafers. - How so? A fuller explanation follows, "Thou hast
multiplied thy merchants as the stars of heaven": but this shall be
temporary; for thou shalt see them vanishing away very soon; they
shall be like the chafers, who, being in a moment scattered here and
there, quit the naked field or the meadow. But by merchants or
traders some understand confederates; and this comparison also, as
we have before seen, frequently occurs in the Prophets: and princes
at this day differ nothing from traders, for they outbid one
another, and excel in similar artifices, as we have elsewhere seen,
by which they carry on a system of mutual deception. This comparison
then may be suitable, "Thou hast multiplied thy traders", - tes
practiciens. But the meaning of the Prophet may be viewed as still
wider; we may apply this to the citizens of Nineveh; for the
principal men no doubt were merchants: as the Venetian of the
present day are all merchants, so were the Syrians, and the
Ninevites, and also the Babylonians. It is then nothing strange,
that the Prophet, by taking a part for the whole should include
under this term all the rich, "Thou hast then multiplied thy
    He has hitherto allowed them to be very numerous; but he now
adds, "The chafer has spoiled, and flies away". The verb means
sometimes to spoil, and it means also to devour: The chafer then has
devoured, and flies away; that is, "Thy princes, (as he afterwards
calls them,) or thy principal men, have indeed devoured; they have
wasted many regions by their plunders, and consumed all things on
every side, like the chafers, who destroy the standing corn and all
fruits: thou hast then been as a swarm of chafers." For as chafers
in great numbers attack a field, so Nineveh was wont to send
everywhere her merchants to spoil and to denude the whole land.
"Well," he says "the chafer has devoured, but he flies away, he is
scattered; so it shall happen," says the Prophet, "to the citizens
of Nineveh." And hence he afterwards adds, "And thy princes are as
locusts": this refers to the wicked doings, by which they laid waste
almost the whole earth. As then the locusts and chafers, wherever
they come, consume every kind of food, devour all the fields, leave
nothing, and the whole land becomes a waste; so also have been thy
princes; they have been as locusts and thy leaders as the locusts of
locusts, that is, as very great locusts; for this form, we know,
expresses the superlative degree in Hebrew. Their leaders were then
like the most voracious locusts for the whole land was made barren
by them, as nothing was capable of satisfying their avarice and
    The Prophet then adds, They are locusts, who "dwell in the
mounds during the time of cold; but when the sun rises, not known
any more is their place". He now shows, that it would not be
perpetual, that the Ninevites would thus devour the whole earth, and
that all countries would be exposed to their voracity; "for as the
locusts," he says, "hide themselves in caverns, and afterwards fly
away, so it shall happen to thy princes." But this passage may be
taken to mean, - that the Ninevites concealed themselves in their
hiding-places during the winter, and that when the suitable time for
plundering came, they retook themselves in different directions, and
took possession of various regions, and brought home plunder from
the remotest parts. This meaning may be elicited from the words of
the Prophet; and the different clauses would thus fitly coalesce
together, that when the Ninevites left their nests, they dispersed
and migrated in all directions. I do not at the same time disapprove
of the former meaning: they are then like locusts, who lodge in
mounds during the time of cold; but when the sun rises, - that is,
when the season invites them, (for he speaks not of the winter sun,)
but when the heat of the sun prevails and temperate the air, - then,
he says, the locusts go forth and fly away, and known no more is
their place. He means, in short, that the Ninevites plundered, and
that they did so after the manner of locusts; and that a similar end
also was nigh them; for the Lord would destroy them, yea, suddenly
consume them, so that no trace of them could be found. It follows -

Nahum 3:18
Thy shepherds slumber, O king of Assyria: thy nobles shall dwell [in
the dust]: thy people is scattered upon the mountains, and no man
gathereth [them].
    He confirms the preceding verse, and says that there would be
no counsel nor wisdom in the leading men: for the shepherds of the
king of Assyria were his counselors, in whose wisdom he trusted, as
we know that kings usually depend on their counselors: for they
think that there is in them prudence enough, and therefore they
commit to them the care of the whole people. But the Prophet
ridicules the confidence of the king of Assyria, because the
shepherds would not have so much vigilance as to take care of
themselves, and of the people, and of the whole kingdom. He speaks
in the past tense, either to show the certainty of the prediction,
or because the change of tenses is common in Hebrew. "Lie still, he
says, shall thy mighty men"; that is, they shall remain idle; they
shall not be able to sally out against their enemies, to stop their
progress. They shall then lie still: and then he says, "Scattered
are thy people". "Push" is not to scatter; hence I doubt not, but
that there is a change of letter, that "shin" is put for "tzade":
and I am surprised that some derive the verb from "push", when, on
the contrary, it is from "putz", and the change of these two letters
is common in Hebrew. "Thy people then are dispersed on the mountains
and there is no one to assemble them".
    By these words the Prophet means, that such would be the
scattering of the whole kingdom, that there would be no hope of
restoration; There will then be none to assemble them. He had said
before that the chiefs or mighty men would be still. Though it would
be needful to go forth to check the progress of their enemies; yet
he says, They shall idly lie down: He refers here to their sloth.
But the people who ought to be quiet at home, as being weak and
feeble, shall be dispersed on the mountains, and no one will be
there to gather them. It follows -

Nahum 3:19
[There is] no healing of thy bruise; thy wound is grievous: all that
hear the bruit of thee shall clap the hands over thee: for upon whom
hath not thy wickedness passed continually?
    The Prophet shows here more clearly, that when the empire of
Nineveh should be scattered, it would be an incurable evil, that
every hope of a remedy would be taken away. Though the wicked cannot
escape calamity, yet they harbor false expectations, and think that
they can in a short time gather new strength. Hence, in order to
take from them this hope, the Prophet says, that there would be "no
contraction of the fracture". And this is a striking similitude; for
he compares the ruin of Nineveh to a wound which cannot be seamed
and healed. There is then no contraction; some render it, a wrinkle,
but improperly. There is then no contraction: and he adds, "Thy
stroke is full of pain"; that is, the pain of thy stroke cannot be
allayed. This is one thing, - that the ruin of Nineveh would be
    Then he says, "Whosoever shall hear the report, shall strike
the hand on thy account". Many give this rendering, They shall clap
the hand over thee, or with the hands; and they think that the
singular is put for the plural number. But as in Hebrew to strike
the hand is a token of consent, it would not be unsuitable to say,
that the Prophet means, that wherever the report of this calamity
would be heard, all would express their approbation, "See, God has
at length proved himself to be the just avenger of so much
wickedness." To strike the hand is said to be done by those who make
an agreements or when any one pledges himself for another. As then
in giving pledges, and in other compacts, men are said to strike the
hand; so also all shall thus give their assent to God's judgment in
this case, "O how rightly is this done! O how justly has God
punished these tyrants, these plunderers." They will then strike the
hand on thy account; that is, "This thy ruin will be approved;" as
though he said, "Not only before God art thou, Nineveh, accursed,
but also according to the consent of all nations." And thus he
intimates, that Nineveh would perish in the greatest dishonor and
disgrace. It sometimes happens that an empire falls, and all bewail
the event: but God here declares, that he would not be satisfied
with the simple destruction of the city Nineveh without adding to it
a public infamy, so that all might acknowledge that it happened
through his righteous judgment.
    He afterwards adds, "For upon whom has not thy wickedness
passed continually?" This is a confirmation of the last clause; and
this reason will suit both the views which have been given. If we
take the striking of the hand for approbation, this reason will be
suitable. - How? For all nations will rejoice at thy destruction,
because there is no nation which thou hast not in many ways injured.
So also, in token of their joy, all will congratulate themselves, as
though they were made free; or they will clap their hands, that is,
acknowledge that thou hast been destroyed by the judgment of God,
because all had experienced how unjustly and tyrannically thou hast
ruled. As then thy wickedness has been like a deluge, and hast
nearly consumed all the earth, all will clap or shake their hands at
thy ruin.
    And he says, "continually", to show that God's forbearance had
been long exercised. Hence, also, it appears, that the Assyrians
were inexcusable, because, when God indulgently spared them, they
did not repent, but pursued their wicked ways for a long course of
time. As then to their sinful licentiousness they added
perverseness, every excuse was removed. But the Prophet does, at the
same time, remind the Israelites, that there was no reason for them
to be cast down in their minds, because God did not immediately
execute punishment; for by the word "tamid", he insinuates, that God
would so suspend for a time his judgment as to Nineveh, that his
forbearance and delay might be an evidence of his goodness and
mercy. We hence see that the Prophet here opposes the ardor of men,
for they immediately grow angry or complain when God delays to
execute vengeance on their enemies.
    He shows that God has a just reason for not visiting the wicked
with immediate punishment; but yet the time will come when it shall
appear that they are altogether past recovery, - the time, I say,
will come, when the Lord shall at length put forth his hand and
execute his judgment.
Grant, Almighty God, that as we are not able to keep a firm footing
in the way of justice and uprightness, - O grant, that, being
governed by thy Spirit, we may restrain ourselves from doing any
harm, and thus abstain from all evil deeds, and that we may labour
to do good to all, so that we may, by experience, find that all are
protected by thee, who so conform themselves to the rule of thy Law,
that they take no advantage of the simple, either for the purpose of
ruining or of injuring them, but who, being content with their own
small portion, know that there is nothing better than to be wholly
subject to thee, and to thy guidance: and may we thus live in
forbearance and justice towards our neighbors, that we may, at the
same time, rely on thy mercy, by which alone we can be defended, and
made safe against so many assaults of Satan and of the wicked,
until, having at length completed the course of our warfare, we
shall come into that blessed rest which has been prepared for us in
heaven by Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

End of the Commentaries on Nahum.