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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Nahum 1

 

 

Verses 1-15

Nahum 1:1. The burden of Nineveh—Nahum the Elkoshite. This refers to a village of Galilee, the native place of Nahum, who in point of talent was among the first of the Hebrew prophets. Yet nothing of his work is preserved, except these grand predictions against Nineveh. After Jonah’s mission, this city became more prosperous and wicked than before. It obtained a sort of sovereignty over Babylon, became the grand seat of empire in the east, and at the time when Nebuchadnezzar in the first year of his reign joined the Medes, and blotted it out from under heaven, it can hardly be thought to contain less than a million of souls. The Tigris washed and defended its western shore for seventeen miles. The present city of Mosul now stands on the opposite side of the river, northwest of its ruins. It communicates with a bridge; and some say, it was the suburbs of ancient Nineveh, whose early history has already been stated in the Reflections on Jonah 1, 2.

This once great city not only perished, but it is destitute of a historian to recite its glory, and lament its fall. Herodotus says it was taken by the Medes and the Babylonians, and he promised to write a history of the empire, but probably for want of materials he never performed his purpose. Velleius Paterculus writes, that the Assyrians maintained the sovereignty of Asia for seventeen hundred years. Ctesias says, thirteen hundred and sixty; and Justin, thirteen hundred. Sardanapalus was the last of the Assyrian kings, and the thirtieth, or the thirty third monarch who had swayed the sceptre in Nineveh. This man was more effeminate than any woman, and secluded himself in his palace and pleasure gardens with his concubines. Arbaces, lieutenant of the Medes, having gained admission into the imperial presence with much ado, found him spinning with the ladies, and assigning them their tasks. The noble Mede, thinking it a disgrace that so many nations should be subject to so mean a man, threw off the yoke. His example was followed by the Persians and the Babylonians. He was defeated however, in three successive battles. The last of the three was near the city. And while the army of Nineveh were feasting and rejoicing for the victory, the allied armies came upon them unawares by night, routed them while in disorder, and drove them into the city. I think however that Nebuchadnezzar was but a prince when Nineveh fell. Tobit 14:15.

The siege, which it appears was once raised, continued till the third year. The king of Nineveh sent to the principal nations of his empire to support him with armies; but they, being all animated with the love of liberty, joined the revolt. And what more signally marks the hand of heaven in the overthrow of the city is, that in the third year there happened an unusual flood, which washed away the walls for the space of two miles and a half. This enabled the assailants to enter the breach, and burn this proud and impenitent city. The credulous king, relying on an old adage, or prophecy, that the city could not be taken till the river became its enemy, deemed all lost; and making a huge funeral pile in his palace, perished with his eunuchs, his wives, and his wealth in the flames. Thus great Nineveh, the rival of Babylon, fell to rise no more. It sunk into neglect and decay, and was ultimately altogether forsaken. Some remains of the modern Nineveh may yet be seen; but Lucien affirms that old Nineveh was so utterly overthrown, that no traces of it remained, and that no one can exactly say where it stood.

The burden of Nineveh; that is, the prophecy, the proverb, or song concerning the fall of Nineveh. The word may properly be rendered “burden,” because it was a curse. It signifies also to take up a proverb or speech against any person or place. It farther means, to bear or carry a message; and in that sense it agrees with the Hebrew word Sebel to bear, whence the word Sibyl is obviously derived.

Nahum 1:3. The Lord is slow to anger, having borne with Nineveh for thirteen hundred years.

Nahum 1:8. With an overrunning flood he will make an utter end of the place. The Tigris actually washed away the walls of Nineveh, as above stated, and thus opened the way for the assailants to enter the city, and make an utter end of the place.

Nahum 1:9. Affliction shall not rise up the second time. When the Lord shall punish Nineveh, he will do it once for all, by a final overthrow of the city and empire.

REFLECTIONS.

The fall of the Assyrian monarchy, called by Isaiah the bloody Assyrians, was an event of great moment to the jews, and highly instructive to all nations in regard to the retributions of providence. Hence, the Lord by Isaiah, chap. 10., and by Zephaniah, chap. 2., and here at large by Nahum, invites the church to contemplate the terrible characters of his justice, when an impious nation had wantoned in the abuse of mercy. Besides, prophecy exhibits a thousand instances of the divine care over the church, and enables the faithful to rejoice in the prospect of salvation.

This prophecy is an epitome of a regular epic poem, often sublime, always glowing and coloured in thought, and conducted with great force and beauty in the expression. Addressing a guilty nation, the exordium opens with a grand display of the perfections of God, who approached the Ninevites with vengeance. He is jealous, revengeful, and furious: yet he is slow to anger, having indulged Nineveh with a vast lapse of years between her early crimes, and her protracted punishment. However, as the repentance occasioned by Jonah’s mission was but a breathing from the course of crimes, God will by no means acquit the wicked at his bar. His slumbering justice is collecting clouds to approach in the whirlwind of destruction. He who had dried up Carmel in the days of Elijah, and kindled the forest in drought, now came to Nineveh with a torrent of invasion, and literally with a torrent of the Tigris which washed away the wall. How just and striking are the visitations of providence. Nineveh which had invaded so many nations must now be invaded. Nineveh which had oppressed the helpless must now be destitute of help. Nineveh which had removed so many captives must now be removed in turn.

Her fall was aggravated with the severest strokes of irony and satire, in planning the expedition of Sennacherib against Jerusalem and its God. What do ye imagine against the Lord? What, you form plans against heaven! Behold, while your princes are perplexed, and while your army is drunk, the enemy shall rush upon your camp, and your city and your palace shall be as a pile of thorns ready for the torch.

When the Lord speaks terribly to the wicked, he speaks comfortably to the righteous. So verse the twelfth, as Newcome reads, “Thus saith the Lord: though the ruler of many waters have thus ravaged and thus passed through, and I have afflicted thee, I will afflict thee no more. Now I will break his yoke from off thee.” Yea, already behold on the mountains the messenger running with tidings of the fall of Nineveh. Therefore, oh Judah, keep the feasts. Thy worship shall no more be disturbed by the Assyrian; he shall no more blaspheme thy God, and boast of having licked up rivers with his feet. And then, oh Judah, making a pleasing transition from temporal to spiritual deliverance, the feet of thy Messiah will soon appear on the mountains with the glad tidings of his kingdom and his love. Yea, and in the glory of the latter day he will come to convert, or to destroy all thy foes. Then thou shalt keep thy feast; for he will make thee an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations.

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Nahum 1:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/nahum-1.html. 1835.

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