For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2002 James Melough

1:1.  “The burden of Nineveh.  The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite.”

“... burden” as used here means specifically doom.  What God had revealed to Nahum in a vision was the coming doom of Assyria of which Nineveh, meaning offspring of ease, was then the capital.

Nahum, as already noted, means comforted; and Elkoshite, of the gathered of God.  The message of comfort given God’s servant is the same as is given to all the gathered of God, i.e., believers, in every age, and in every circumstance: it is the comforting assurance that ultimately every foe will be destroyed.  This is what sustains God’s people in the midst of every trial: the day is coming when the night of weeping will give place to the morning of joy and laughter, when we shall stand with Christ, vindicated, with every foe vanquished and made to bow at our feet, see Re 3:9, ”Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.”  (This is not to be understood as meaning that they will worship us, but rather, that as we stand with Christ when they are compelled to bow before Him, it will be the equivalent of their bowing also at our feet).  For further comments on Re 3:9, please see the author’s book on Revelation, also available on this web site.

To Judah, seemingly about to be delivered into the cruel hand of the Assyrian, as Israel, the ten northern tribes, had been, it must have seemed impossible that the grip of the foe would ever be broken, but that was the assurance the prophet was commanded to bring them.

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.”

God is jealous (zealous for the well-being of those He loves), viewing what is done to them as having been done to Him, see Zec 2:8, “For thus saith the Lord of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple (pupil) of his eye,” and Mt 25:40 where Christ declares, “... Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

Like His peace “which passeth all understanding,” Php 4:7, i.e., it is beyond the ability of finite minds to understand, so also is His anger.  Calvary affords us a glimpse of His love, which also transcends human understanding; but it presents us also with a glimpse of His anger, that display being presented in what the Lord Jesus Christ had to suffer there when He bore the judgment due to our sins; but a further view of His anger is set before us in what follows the judgment of the great white throne: those who despised His mercy will be cast into the eternal torment of the unquenchable flame of the lake of fire.  Those who babble about a God Who is too merciful to cast unrepentant sinners into that dreadful lake, know nothing of the God with Whom all men must ultimately deal.  He is a fool who ignores the warning, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” Heb 10:31.

An Assyria that had been shown mercy in response to repentance following the preaching of Jonah, had quickly reverted to its evil ways, and now, having exhausted God’s patience, and having crossed the invisible line that separates His mercy from His wrath, it was about to be destroyed, as will every man who trifles with that same righteous God.

Those whose refusal to admit that they are sinners, makes God a liar, and themselves His adversaries, His enemies, who will endure His wrath eternally in the lake of fire, they themselves being revealed as the liars, and He as the righteous Judge.

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 Lord’s being slow to anger means that He is of very great patience, not anxious to execute judgment.  He is also omnipotent, having both the power to kill, but also to make alive, and His great desire is that men would avail themselves of His power to save them rather than to destroy them.  In spite of that desire, however, He will not acquit (declare guiltless) the wicked, i.e., He will not permit the unrepentant to go unpunished, nor should men wonder at this in view of what it has cost Him to make possible His just remission of their sin: it has cost His only Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, the terrible agony and death of Calvary’s cross.

It is instructive to note His description of those He will not acquit: He calls them not sinners (because He will forgive sinners), but the wicked.  They are the sinners who either refuse to admit their guilt, or who refuse to avail themselves of pardon on His terms.  They include the self-righteous, moral, religious, church-goers, who reject God’s indictment that they are utterly sinful, and who insist on being justified by their good living instead of by faith.  Such God will never acquit.  They will remain guilty eternally, excluded from heaven, confined in torment in the lake of fire.

That He has the power to execute the threatened punishment is declared in its being said that He has His way in the whirlwind and the storm.  He is the Source and Controller of these natural phenomena which strike terror into men’s hearts.  The thunder or nimbus clouds - for that is the meaning of the word used here - are as dust under His feet.  The poet, inspired perhaps by this very verse, has written:

He plants His footsteps on the sea,

And rides upon the storm.

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 languisheth.”

“...rebuketh” is literally chide or scold, meaning to control or compel obedience by scolding.  Such is God’s control over the sea.  It is compelled to obey His word.  And we may be missing part of the lesson if we forget that the sea is a biblical symbol of earth’s rebellious human masses, see Isa 57:20.  They too, though they know it not, are also subject to His control.

An example of His power to make the sea dry was His dividing the Red Sea to enable His redeemed people to leave Egypt.

The rivers also flow under His control, He having the power to dry them up as He pleases, or to hold their waters pent up as He did with flooding Jordan when He divided them to enable Israel to cross over into Canaan.  And the reference to the withering of the vegetation of Bashan and Carmel (renowned for their lush pastures), is the reminder that the rain and dew also fall only by His command.

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.”

“... quake” is literally to undulate as a field of waving grain, to tremble as in an earthquake.  Who can begin to even imagine the tremendous force needed to make the mighty mountains move!  Yet with God it is no more difficult than to make a field of grain wave gently in the wind.

The hills also at His command melt away like water; and relative to the earth’s being burned at His presence, we are  being reminded that “Our God is a consuming fire,” Heb 12:29, and that ultimately this present world will melt with fervent heat, 2 Pe 3:10,12, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.... Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat.”

All of these things declare the omnipotence of God, and warn against the folly of attempting to resist His will.  All things must obey Him, or perish.

“... the day of God” incidentally, in the present context, refers to the eternal state that will follow the Millennium.

1:6.  “Who can stand before his indignation (fury)?  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.”

Today’s evil world has a polite euphemism for every sin, and has reduced God to a benign entity in whose sight there is no wrong, so that man need have no fear of Him.  What a terrible awakening awaits that world!  What terror will grip the hearts of those same sinners when they suddenly find themselves in the presence of Him Who is ... of purer eyes than to behold evil, and (who) canst not look on iniquity,” Hab 1:13.

1:7.  “The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.”

Having described the terrible God before Whom every unrepentant sinner must eventually stand for judgment and consignment to the eternal torment of the lake of fire, the prophet now describes that same One as the God of every repentant sinner, and how different the portrait!  The word translated here as “good” has many shades of meaning, e.g., beautiful, bountiful, fair, fine, gracious, joyful, kindly, loving, pleasant, precious.

“... a strong hold in the day of trouble.”  The terrible power that will be unleashed against every unbeliever for his destruction in the day of judgment, is always available for the protection of every believer.  And whereas here on earth it is sometimes difficult for us to distinguish between true and false professors, God has no such difficulty, “he knoweth them that trust in him,” or as it is written in the NT, “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his,” 2 Tim 2:19.  The further assurance of the believer’s eternal security is also given by the Lord Himself, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.  My Father, which give them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.  I and my Father are one,” Jn 10:27-30.

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

Here the prophet reverts to his description of what God will do to all His enemies, i.e., all those who refuse to repent and trust in Christ as Savior.  The overwhelming flood is clearly a metaphoric description of the complete destruction of those on whose guilty heads the storm of God’s wrath ultimately breaks.  Like a raging sea sweeping everything before it, His righteous anger will banish every unbeliever into hell following His judgment of the nations at the end of the coming Tribulation.  Not one of them will remain.  There will be no place for them on the millennial earth.  Banished from the presence of Him Who is Light, His enemies will be engulfed in eternal darkness.

Relative to waters as being symbolic of God’s overwhelming judgment, see the references in Ps 69 and 88, which declare under the same symbol the terrible sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ when He became our Substitute and endured the terrible outpouring of God’s wrath against sin at Calvary.

The reference to the overrunning flood, however, was literal as well as figurative, for history has recorded that an important contributing factor in Nineveh’s fall was a sudden rise in the level of the Tigris which ran through the city, and the collapse of sluice gates used to control the level of the river, with the result that the foundations of the palace were swept away together with a large section of the city wall, many of the defenders being drowned, and the efforts of the others nullified by the rising water.  The invading Babylonians and Medes therefore had little difficulty entering the city and setting it on fire; and relative to that fire it is instructive to note that in verse 10 the Ninevites are likened to bundles of dried thorns ready for burning - and thorns are one of the biblical symbols of sin.

1:9.  “What do ye imagine against the Lord?  he will make an utter end: affliction shall not rise up the second time.”

The question propounded here implies the madness of any attempt to oppose God.  What power is available to puny man that could possibly be effective against such a God as is described in the preceding verses?  The very thought is ridiculous.  When His patience has been exhausted, and the fire of His wrath engulfs His enemies, there will be nothing left requiring a second stroke.  Those who have been guilty of afflicting His people, will never afflict them again, every enemy being doomed to suffer the affliction of God eternally in the lake of fire.

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.”

The Amplified translation of this verse reads, “[The Ninevites] are as bundles of thorn branches [for fuel], and even while drowned in their drunken [carousing] they shall be consumed like stubble fully dry [in the day of the Lord’s wrath].”

Another factor contributing to the fall of the city is related to the fact that the king in a desperate attempt to boost the morale of the defending soldiers had doled out liberal quantities of food and liquor, but the only result was that many of them became so drunk as to be useless for defense, and simply became easy prey for the invaders.

The ease with which the Babylonian and Median coalition took Nineveh is the more remarkable in view of the city’s supposed impregnability, its defense consisting of a hundred-foot high wall, with 1,200 towers, and a width that accommodated a chariot.  But, as already noted, what were these against the might of the God of heaven!

Relative to the burning of the city, some attribute it to the invaders; others believe it to have been an act of final desperation on the part of the defenders.

1:11.  “There is one come out of thee, that imagineth evil against the Lord, a wicked counsellor.”

Again, the Amplified translation clarifies the meaning of this verse: “There is one gone forth out of you [O Nineveh] who plots evil against the Lord, a villainous counselor [Sennacherib?] - who counsels for wickedness and worthlessness.”

Many agree that the evil one spoken of here was Sennacherib, who is believed by some to be also a type of the evil Tribulation age beast emperor, and that the destruction of Nineveh is but a foreshadowing of the destruction of all the evil forces that will be arrayed against Christ at the conclusion of the Tribulation.  Still others believe that in the “one come out of thee” the reference is to Satan who is the mastermind behind all rebellion against God, and the instigator of all persecution of His people.

1:12.  “Thus saith the Lord; Though they be quiet (without fear, strong, equipped), 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 KJ translation quiet is misleading.  In the original it means strong: equipped, so that what is being expressed is the Lord’s assurance that no matter how strong or numerous the enemy might be he will be cut down, destroyed.

“... when he shall pass through” is ambiguous, and capable of many translations, but many understand the reference to be to the passing, i.e., the death of Sennacherib.  Some, however, take the reference to be to the passing of Jehovah through Nineveh destroying it.

The assurance of no further affliction is clearly that given by God to Judah; but since there have been other afflictions, e.g., the Babylonian captivity in 586 BC, and the Diaspora of AD 70, the reference here can only be to the end of the Tribulation, further confirmation that ultimately this prophecy relates to that same time, the application to intervening events being only partial.

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

This guarantee related only to deliverance from the Assyrian yoke, but as noted above, Judah’s continued disobedience brought her into captivity to Babylon.  God expects His people to learn from the experiences they undergo, but as is evident in Judah’s case, and in our own lives, we are very slow learners, our failure causing us many an unnecessary sorrow.

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.”

The Lord’s command concerned Assyria.  There would be no descendants to perpetuate their name.  His destruction of them would be utter.  Relative to this prophecy The Wycliffe Bible Commentary states that, “The dynasty of Sennacherib was to become extinct, a prophecy fulfilled in the suicide of Sennacherib’s great-grandson, Saracus, in the last days of the Assyrian Empire.”

And as for the gods they had worshiped while despising Him, He would likewise destroy every representation of them, their annihilation being as complete as that of their former devotees.

The latter part of the verse has been translated, “I will make your grave a mockery” -NAB; “I will bury you!  For how you stink with sin!” - Taylor.  Sennacherib, while worshiping in the temple of his gods, was assassinated by his sons, 2 Ki 19:37.

The last word of the verse “vile” is literally light.  He was like Belshazzar of Dan 5, of whom it is written, “Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting,” verse 27.

Nineveh was utterly destroyed, and unlike some other vanquished cities, was never rebuilt, it being recorded that Xenophone, seeing the mounds 200 years later, thought they were of some other ruined city; and later Alexander also failed to recognize them as the remains of the once great Nineveh.

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.”

In the Hebrew text this verse begins chapter 2.

God declares the certainty of His promise by speaking of it here as already accomplished, and He invites Judah to lift up her eyes and look for the messenger announcing the glad tidings from the tops of the mountains.  However, it is clear that the ultimate fulfillment is still future, but near.  The complete destruction of every enemy will come at the end of the Tribulation, and will be celebrated in the Millennium, for it will not be until that glorious day that Judah will be able to keep the command given here.  Only then will her worship be pure, her obedience complete, and every foe be banished from her land.

Undoubtedly Paul had this verse in mind when he wrote in Ro 10:15, “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

[Nahum 2]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough