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

2:1.  “He that dasheth in pieces is come up before thy face: keep the munition, watch the way, make thy loins strong, fortify thy power mightily.”

“He that dasheth in pieces,” is generally understood to be the king of Medo-Babylon, but ultimately, of course, Nineveh’s destroyer is God using Medo-Babylon as His instrument; and He mockingly advises Nineveh to man all their defenses against the coming attack.

Something of the might with which God would endow Nineveh’s attacker is implied in the description used, “He that dasheth in pieces,” being rendered also as, shatterer: battering-ram.  The seemingly invincible Nineveh was about to be destroyed - and by none other than the One she not only took little account of, but in fact mocked: Jehovah.  And as it was with Nineveh, so is it with every man who declares his defiance of God by rejecting His warning relative to the need of salvation.  He too must eventually meet that same God as the Destroyer.

2:2.  “For the Lord hath turned away the excellency of Jacob, as the excellency of Israel: for the emptiers have emptied them out, and marred their vine branches.”

The “hath turned away” of the KJ version is misleading, for the statement is that the Lord is about to restore the majesty or excellency of His people Israel.  He has had to chastise them for a little while because of their sin, but they are His children, and His anger against them is corrective and for their blessing, not destructive as it is about to be against Nineveh.

The enemy had been permitted to come against them, but he had been harshly vindictive and cruel, for he had stripped them of everything, seeking to destroy them; and now God was about to recompense that cruelty.  The would-be destroyer is himself about to be destroyed.

The vine is one of the biblical symbols of Israel, so that the marring of the vine branches is the metaphoric description of Assyria’s destruction of Israel (the ten northern tribes), and his purposed destruction of the two southern tribes, Judah and Benjamin.

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.”

This is the description of the Medo-Babylonian forces, and it speaks of the might and power with which God would invest them on the day He sent them as His agents of destruction against Nineveh. 

The Babylonian military color was red, and that of the Medes scarlet.

“... the chariots shall be with flaming torches” is better translated “the chariots flash with steel,” the reference being to the glinting of the sun off the sharp blades usually attached to the wheels of war chariots; and the shaken fir trees are understood to refer to the brandished spears of the attackers.

2:4.  “The chariots shall rage in the streets, they shall jostle one against another in the broad ways: they shall seem like torches, they shall run like the lightnings.”

It seems that this is the description of the confusion that will reign in Nineveh during the attack.  Their war chariots would race through the streets, jostling one another, and accomplishing nothing.  Their being like torches and flashes of lightning may be simply another way of saying that they would be like the brief flicker of a torch or the momentary flash of lightning in the darkness: worthless as far as dispelling that darkness is concerned.

2:5.  “He shall recount his worthies: they shall stumble in their walk; they shall make haste to the wall thereof, and the defense (mantelet) shall be prepared.”

The king of Nineveh would have his best soldiers rush to the defense of the walls, but the fact that they are said to stumble indicates that they would be drunk, as in fact history records, many of them were.  They would go through all the motions of defense, but to no avail: the attacker is the omnipotent Jehovah against Whom there is no defense.

“... the defense” was literally a mantelet, a portable shelter used, not to protect the defenders, but the invaders using battering rams to breach the city walls, so while the first part of the verse refers to the defenders, this latter clause applies to the invaders.

2:6.  “The gates of the rivers shall be opened, and the palace shall be dissolved.”

History confirms the fulfillment of this prophecy.  Heavy rains had caused the Tigris and its tributary stream the Khosr to rise rapidly, and this, together with the collapse of the controlling sluice gates, resulted in the rampaging flood waters washing away the foundations of the palace, together with an extensive section of the wall of the city, the flooding effectively destroying any defense of the city, and making it easy prey for the attackers.

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 (drumming, beating) upon their breasts.”

Huzzab is understood by some to have been the queen, who  would be brought out naked, and led off as a slave, her maids being led off with her, beating their breasts, wailing and mourning like doves.  Others, however, point out that there is no known queen of this name, and that, in fact, the word means literally “It is decreed...” i.e., Nineveh’s destruction was decreed.  Strong’s Concordance also notes that it has been used “by mistake for a proper name.”

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.”

“... of old” may refer to God’s foreknowledge of her fate, known to Him from eternity past, as is the ultimate end of every man.  His foreknowledge, however, is not to be confused with predestination.  They are two very different things.  He has, for example, predestinated that every believer will ultimately be conformed to Christ’s image, but He has not predestinated either the salvation or damnation of any man.  That choice He leaves with each man, His foreknowledge of the choice in no way influencing it.

This, however, may not be taken to mean that He doesn’t predestinate.  He does, and once a man crosses the boundary of that invisible line which separates the time allotted by God for freedom of choice, the freedom ends - for ever.  Thereafter, the man becomes the object of God’s directive, rather than His permissive will.  And this applies to believer and unbeliever alike.  Once a man has trusted Christ as Savior he is predestinated to dwell for ever in heaven; and once the unbeliever has crossed the invisible line marking the boundary of the area of permitted free will choice, he is predestinated to exist for ever in the torment of the lake of fire.

In the days of Jonah, Nineveh had been given the opportunity to choose her fate, and that generation, by genuine repentance, had wisely chosen to save itself, God’s response to that foreknown repentance, angering Jonah.  But the generation of which we are now reading, had sealed its doom by ignoring the lesson of that earlier generation.  It, as it were, had hardened its heart, and must therefore perish, and God, foreknowing that foolish choice, had predestinated the details of its ruin.

“... like a pool of water” may refer to the city’s flooded condition.

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.”

This is God’s invitation to the invaders.  What Nineveh had rapaciously taken from her helpless victims, God was now giving to those He had made the instruments of Nineveh’s destruction.  And how fitting the recompense.  What Nineveh in the days of her power had seized from her hapless victims, was now to be taken from her in the same fashion.  This is just another example of God’s fitting the punishment to the crime.

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.”

How perfect was God’s knowledge of Nineveh’s end: and how could it be otherwise? He Himself had arranged every detail, as He has done for every man.  He knows every detail of the eternal glory awaiting the believer, as He does also every detail of the eternal anguish awaiting every unbeliever. 

He knew how empty, desolate, and waste the great city would become; as He did also the fear and dread and pain that would grip every one of its citizens.

The reference to all the faces gathering blackness means simply that fear and dread would drain the color from every countenance.

2:11.  “Where is the dwelling of the lions, and feeding place of the young lions, where the lion, even the old lion walked, and the lion’s whelp, and none made them afraid?”

The lion was a favorite motif of Assyrian artists and sculptors.

This is God’s sarcastic reference to the coming departure of  Nineveh’s greatness.  The city was as a dwelling place of people who were as lions in the sight of the nations who lived in fear of them because of their brutal fierceness.  It was like a place where lions fed, for as the lion seizes its prey by sheer brute strength so did the Ninevites also seize anything they wanted from their victims.  Such was the dread of them that one would no more dare to offend either an old citizen or a Ninevite child than he would an old lion or a cub in the midst of the pride.  They in the arrogant confidence of superior might and power conducted themselves like lions in the midst of weaker animals.  The nations lived in dread of them.

2:12.  “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 ravin.”

God continues His vivid verbal caricature of the Ninevites.  As lions tear prey into pieces for their whelps so did these cruel people metaphorically tear their victims into pieces to provide for all the wants and whims of their own children.  They likewise gratified every whim of their wives by simply taking the desired thing by force from its rightful owner. 

“Prey” is used here in the sense of something plucked off as, e.g., a leaf.  They took what they wanted just as casually as they would have plucked a leaf.  Their houses were filled with such booty. 

“Ravin” refers to what is taken as prey or plunder.

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.”

But Nineveh’s days were numbered.  She herself was about to become the prey of the omnipotent Lord of hosts or armies, and He was going to burn her chariots, and give her choicest young men to the sword of the enemy.  The wicked city would no more plunder helpless victims, for she herself was about to become the victim of Jehovah.

The silencing of the voice of her messengers is simply another way of saying that no more would her agents convey her insolent arrogant demands to the other nations.

We are reading this portion of Scripture wrongly, however, if we fail to see in the downfall of Nineveh a foreshadowing of the destruction of our present civilization in the impending terrible Tribulation judgments, for today’s world is as arrogantly defiant of God as was Nineveh.

[Nahum 3]


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