“This chapter is a masterpiece of ancient literature, unsurpassed for its graphic portrayal of a military assault.” (James Montgomery Boice)
A. The battle of Nineveh.
1. (1-2) A call to battle.
He who scatters has come up before your face.
Man the fort!
Watch the road!
Strengthen your flanks!
Fortify your power mightily.
For the LORD will restore the excellence of Jacob
Like the excellence of Israel,
For the emptiers have emptied them out
And ruined their vine branches.
a. He who scatters: Nahum spoke from a vision he saw (Nahum 1:1). Now he saw a mighty army coming against the city of Nineveh.
b. For the LORD will restore the excellence of Jacob: In this case, part of God’s restoration for His people was connected to judgment and destruction on their enemies, those who have emptied them out and ruined their vine branches. They would now face destruction from he who scatters.
2. (3-7) The battle decided.
The shields of his mighty men are made red,
The valiant men are in scarlet.
The chariots come with flaming torches
In the day of his preparation,
And the spears are brandished.
The chariots rage in the streets,
They jostle one another in the broad roads;
They seem like torches,
They run like lightning.
He remembers his nobles;
They stumble in their walk;
They make haste to her walls,
And the defense is prepared.
The gates of the rivers are opened,
And the palace is dissolved.
It is decreed:
She shall be led away captive,
She shall be brought up;
And her maidservants shall lead her as with the voice of doves,
Beating their breasts.
a. The chariots come with flaming torches: Nahum could see it all in his vision. The battle for Nineveh was fierce and bloody, and though the defense is prepared they would be conquered.
b. The chariots rage in the streets, they jostle one another in the broad roads; they seem like torches, they run like lightning: Chuck Smith noted that some have taken this – erroneously – as a prophecy of the automobile and traffic congestion.
c. She shall be led away captive: The prophet not only saw the battle, but he also saw the outcome – Nineveh would fall before this mighty army, and she would be humbled and led away captive even as the Assyrians led other nations in captivity.
B. Nineveh in defeat.
1. (8-12) Nineveh brought low and spoiled.
Though Nineveh of old was like a pool of water,
Now they flee away.
“Halt! Halt!” they cry;
But no one turns back.
Take spoil of silver!
Take spoil of gold!
There is no end of treasure,
Or wealth of every desirable prize.
She is empty, desolate, and waste!
The heart melts, and the knees shake;
Much pain is in every side,
And all their faces are drained of color.
Where is the dwelling of the lions,
And the feeding place of the young lions,
Where the lion walked, the lioness and lion’s cub,
And no one made them afraid?
The lion tore in pieces enough for his cubs,
Killed for his lionesses,
Filled his caves with prey,
And his dens with flesh.
a. Nineveh of old was like a pool of water: Nahum said the troops defending Nineveh would be like a pool of water that drains away to no use. They would be useless in defending the city.
i. Take spoil of silver! Take spoil of gold! “An impressive confirmation of this prophecy is that nothing of all this gold and silver has been discovered in the ruins of Nineveh by archaeologists. Nineveh was indeed stripped bare.” (Boice)
b. Where is the dwelling of the lions: The lion was one of the national emblems of the Assyrian Empire, and they crushed and plundered other nations like lions destroying prey. Nahum now asked, “Where is the dwelling of the lions?” God would bring them low, who once were so mighty.
2. (13) The LORD vows to conquer Nineveh.
“Behold, I am against you,” says the LORD of hosts, “I will burn your chariots in smoke, and the sword shall devour your young lions; I will cut off your prey from the earth, and the voice of your messengers shall be heard no more.”
a. Behold, I am against you: What a terrible thing to hear from God! The principle of Romans 8:31 is true for the believer: If God is for us, who can be against us? Accordingly, the opposite is also true – if God is against you, then who can be for you?
b. Says the LORD of hosts: It is bad when God is against you; it is even worse when the LORD of hosts is against you. This title refers to God’s place as commander in chief over all the armies of heaven.
c. The voice of your messengers shall be heard no more: Nineveh enjoyed its status as a power center of the world and gloried in the fact that the voice of her messengers commanded attention in palaces all over the world. That day would come to an end under the judgment of God.