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The announcement of God as the executioner of his wrath upon Assyria is made in Nahum 1:1-6. His wrath will not fall upon his own people, but upon their enemies (Nahum 1:7-11). He will break the yoke of Asshur from off the neck of his people, and destroy the Assyrians (Nahum 1:12-14). This prophecy is so certain of fulfillment that a proleptic announcement of the good news, with Messianic overtones, concludes the chapter (Nahum 1:15).
"The burden of Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite."
"The burden of Nineveh ..." As used in the Holy Scriptures, this expression means "the prophecy of the doom of Nineveh." The word "burden" carries with it the idea of a heavy load; and the imagery is that Nineveh's sins have at last become such a heavy load that God will no longer permit the city to stand. Their destruction had long before been prophesied by Jonah; but the repentance of the people led to the delay of the penalty. In the meanwhile, the sins of the people have returned overwhelmingly, plunging the whole nation into the utmost savagery of greed, violence, and treachery. This time, there,would be no repentance and no commutation of the sentence of death upon them.
"Nineveh ..." (For a discussion of the nature, size, and fortifications of Nineveh see in my commentary on the minor prophets, Vol. 1, pp. 280-282.) One of the greatest cities of antiquity, it was situated upon the Tigris River at its junction with two lesser streams, and for an extended period was the most powerful city on earth. Any prophecy of the doom of such a city must have appeared to be sheer madness at the time of Nahum's prophecy.
"The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite ..." By the book's designation here as "the vision of Nahum," the origin of his message is indicated as being God Himself. Nahum did not write merely his political and social judgments; and it must be thought that his message appeared just as impossible of fulfillment in Nahum's eyes as it must have appeared to others. (For notes on Elkosh, see the Introduction to the Book of Nahum.)
This first verse has the utility of identifying the object of God's wrath so forcefully mentioned. Without the expression, "the burden of Nineveh," we should not have known until Nahum 2:8 the identity of the object of God's wrath.
"Jehovah is a jealous God and avengeth and is full of wrath; Jehovah taketh vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies."
For a generation of men who have largely rejected the idea that God is in any sense wrathful, these words seem to have a harsh and unwelcome sound. Even some commentators boldly criticize what they call "the religious inadequacy of his teachings." Graham said, "Nahum provides an outstanding example of arrested religious development!"
THE WRATH OF GOD
A search of current sermonic literature reveals no single sermon devoted to "The Wrath of God"; and in sermon topics in preachers' manuals and even the most extensive commentaries, it is mentioned, if at all, in the most casual and incidental manner. The usual run of titles that touch upon the question scale it down or minimize it, as in, "God's Wrath Tempered by Mercy, God's Wrath Averted, etc." There is also a noticeable opinion to the effect that any preaching on such a subject derives from a mean and vicious spirit on the part of the preacher.
I. However, the greatest and best men of both the Old Testament and the New Testament were the ones who most emphatically and sternly stressed God's wrath. Isaiah, Paul, John, and our Lord Jesus Christ were among those who most clearly and vigorously emphasized it; and they were precisely the ones in whom love was most appealingly manifested. Therefore, preaching on the wrath of God is fully compatible with the most gentle and loving attributes of the Christian life.
A. Isaiah, the great Messianic prophet, whose knowledge of God's love equals that of any other in the Old Testament, said:
"Behold the day of the Lord cometh cruel, both with wrath and fierce anger to lay the land desolate. And he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it ... Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall move out of her place in the wrath of the Lord of hosts and in the day of his fierce anger" (Isaiah 13:9,13).
B. Hosea has been hailed as the greatest preacher of God's love in the Old Testament, but read Hosea 9 for as terrible a denunciation as any to be found in the Bible.
C. Paul's love knew no boundaries or limits; and he could say, "I could wish myself anathema from Christ for my brethren according to the flesh" (Romans 9:3); but he, more than any other apostle, thundered the message of the wrath of God.
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who hold the truth in unrighteousness" (Romans 1:18). "But after thy hardness and impenitent heart, thou treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God who will render to every man according to his deeds" (Romans 2:5,6). "Because of these things (the works of the flesh) the wrath of God cometh upon the children of disobedience" (Ephesians 5:6).
D. John, whose writings abound with such admonitions as "love one another," and who identified God Himself as love, also spoke most eloquently of God's wrath:
"And the kings of the earth, and the great men and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth upon the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of his wrath has come; and who shall be able to stand?" (Revelation 6:16,17).
E. When we come to the words of Jesus, we must remember that he made love perfect; he gave his life for all men; he loved us before we loved him. Yet he said:
"He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth upon him. To the hypocrites he said, O generation of vipers who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" (Matthew 23:7).
Thus, from the lives and messages of the great disciples of love in both testaments, as well as from those of Life and Love incarnated, we have the solemn and eloquent assurance that God's wrath will certainly and eventually break forth against the wicked.
II. The object of God's wrath is sin. All sin is against God. When Joseph was tempted to sin with the wife of Potiphar, he said, "How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?" (Genesis 39:9). When the prodigal son came to himself, he said, "I will arise and go to my father and say, I have sinned against heaven and in thy sight" (Luke 15:18). This profound truth should temper the indignation of men against the wrath of God. The righteousness of the universe, the very justice that underlies creation and undergirds all things is the basic reason for the wrath of God. God's holiness is utterly and eternally opposed to sin. God and sin are as irreconcilable as light and darkness, truth and falsehood, good and evil; and this is the basis of strong confidence on the part of men. All men of good will rejoice that the time will come when God shall rise in righteous wrath and cast evil out of his universe.
People become objects of God's wrath only when they reject the benign and peaceful government of the Creator and choose to become servants of the Devil. That man is capable of making such a choice derives from the inherent gift of God, the freedom of the will; and it is in man's highest self-interest that he should face up to the fact that, free as he is to choose, he cannot escape the ultimate consequences of whatever choice he makes.
People should read again, and again, Matthew 25 in which Christ divided all mankind into just two classes, those on the left who make the wrong choice, and those on the right who chose wisely. No more terrible words were ever written; and yet they were spoken by the loving Saviour himself.
III. All people are, by nature, the children of wrath. Such an indictment was made by Paul when he said:
"We all had lived in times past in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath even as others" (Ephesians 2:3).
This does not teach total hereditary depravity, but it surely fingers something that resembles it. A striking fact of man's religious history reveals his invariable tendency to evil. Adam did not sin gradually, but all at once. Noah had scarcely left the ark until he was drunk and dishonored by a grandson. Israel had hardly escaped Egypt before they murmured against God and joined themselves to the Baalim at Baal-Peor. After God gave the Decalogue, the first recorded event thereafter was the breaking of the tablets of stone on which the Law was written. The redeemed of all ages have had sin very much with them. Only through constant love and adoration of the saving Christ is it possible for men to find the strength to overcome temptation.
Satan is the primary cause of sin; but he has strong allies in the pride, lusts, appetites and ambitions of men; and to the extent that men do not avail themselves of the redemption "in Christ" they become easy prey to the destructive influences of the evil one. When one thinks of all the sorrow, frustrations, defeats, violence, bloodshed, and savage wickedness engulfing mankind because of their service of "the god of this world" it should become understandable enough that God's wrath should abide upon the Cause of all mankind's wretched unhappiness and misery. It should always be remembered that God's wrath is ever against sin, evil, and Satan, and not against men. Hell itself was not prepared for men, but for Satan and those who choose to serve the evil one (Matthew 25:41).
These solemn considerations show the disparity between practical and theoretical religion and the utter impossibility of any man's ever deserving salvation. The great and indescribable mystery is the manner in which God through Christ has achieved salvation for fallen humanity; and despite all human failings and shortcomings, God is able to do so in full harmony with the principles of eternal justice. The Divine wrath is indeed tempered with mercy, enshrined as the central truth of the Word of God; but that is incapable of excusing any man who persists in the service of Satan and will most certainly share in the evil one's ultimate destruction.
True righteousness is now available unto all men through "the faith of Christ"; but what shall be thought of that person who neglects or rejects heaven's proffered mercy? Is there anything that should be expected except the fullness of Divine wrath? The answer is negative.
ILLUSTRATION: Today, all people are in the same position as that of queen Esther who went unbidden before the king, and who would have been summarily destroyed if the king had not extended to her his golden scepter. Who could describe such a folly as hers would have been if she had refused to touch? In a similar way, all men are sold under sins, condemned to eternal death, but God, through Christ, holds down to us the golden scepter of his love and righteousness; and men, through the gospel may touch and LIVE! And what of him who will not?
"For if we sin willfully, after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more a sacrifice for sins; but a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation that shall devour the adversaries" (Hebrews 10:26,27).
IV. The time of God's wrath is "the day of the Lord," the final Judgment of the great day when all men shall be judged simultaneously (Matthew 25). However, there are, throughout history, many tokens of that day evident in the summary judgments executed upon wicked men and nations, as recorded in the Bible. These are of two kinds: (1) great natural disasters such as the great Deluge, and many lesser things recurring at frequent intervals throughout time, and (2) overwhelming destruction executed upon wicked cities, nations, or cultures by divine commandment, such as Sodom, Gomorrah, Tyre, Sidon, Assyria, Nineveh, Babylon, Jerusalem, Rome, etc. Even the minor catastrophes such as floods, earthquakes, etc., are part of God's plan, and are to be identified with God's cursing the ground for Adam's sake, having the benign purpose of making it easier for men to repent. The minor prophets frequently, and Nahum in this very chapter, make bold and unequivocal reference to such things.
This study of the wrath of God reveals that Nahum was not a case of "arrested" spiritual growth, as alleged by some, but that he was in line with the teachings of the most perfectly developed spiritual giants of the ages.
Another criticism of Nahum was written by Graham to the effect that, "He failed to apply to himself and to his people the standards by which he measured others!" That of course, was based upon the fact that Nahum made no mention of Judah's sins during the warning to Nineveh; and this is a classical example of the unfairness of Biblical critics. It will be remembered that in our studies of Amos, the occasional pointed and stern warnings addressed by Amos to Judah were edited out of the sacred text on the basis that "they did not fit." Well, Nahum left them out of his prophecy; but they faulted him anyway! Such handling of the Sacred Scriptures is its own refutation.
"Jehovah is slow to anger, and great in power, and will by no means clear the guilty: Jehovah hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet."
No matter how strong men may feel, nor how abundant their power and resources, God is able to put down the mighty from their seats.
"He who divides the storm-darkened skies with spears of lightning and cracks the rocks is an awful adversary. No matter how strong men may be or how many helpers they have, God will inflict upon them a death-blow."
The purpose of this and following verses is to identify God as the real adversary of Nineveh, and thus the Lord used the most superlative terminology that men knew in order to demonstrate the impossibility of escape by the enemy.
"He will by no means clear the guilty ..." It was not an indiscriminate judgment that God pronounced against Nineveh, This prophecy cites exactly the instances and dimensions of Nineveh's guilt:
"The guilty" (Nahum 1:3) are the ones God knows to be guilty.
"God's enemies" (Nahum 1:8) are those who have revolted from him.
"Plotters of evil" (Nahum 1:9,11) are those who plan and execute evil.
"The vile" (Nahum 1:14) are they who have sunken into bestiality.
"The wicked" (Nahum 1:15) are the vicious and reprobate.
"The plunderers" (Nahum 2:2) are the cruel, heartless spoilers.
"The dishonest" (Nahum 3:1) are the covenant breakers and thieves.
"The rapacious" (Nahum 3:1) are destroyers and exploiters of the innocent.
"The insatiable seekers of gain" (Nahum 3:1) are grabbers and graspers.
"The harlots" (Nahum 3:4) are the pagans, the sensualists, those who will prostitute anything for wicked purposes.
"The betrayers of weaker nations" (Nahum 3:4) are the traitors, double-crossers, and deceitful liars.
"The despicable" (Nahum 3:5ff) are all of those mentioned above, plus any others of similar character.
"The presumptuous" (Nahum 3:8) are they who revel in the conceit that God will not punish them.
"The disseminators of evil" (Nahum 3:19) are all of those who form a part of the cancer of wickedness eating at the vitals of the human race.
God's justice required that such evil be punished; and it still does! The above list of "the double sevens" of Nineveh's reprobacy indicates forcefully the fullness of their sins, They had indeed filled up the full measure of their iniquity.
"Slow to anger ..." Dreadful and overwhelming as the removal of Nineveh from the earth was here revealed to be it was not a hasty decision on God's part. Jonah had preached to them; and, for awhile, the king himself led the people in repentance; but they had returned without restraint to their pursuit of shame.
"He rebuketh the sea, and maketh it dry, and drieth up all the rivers: Bashan languisheth, and Carmel; and the flower of Lebanon languisheth."
"He rebuketh the sea ... maketh it dry ..." Many great cities of the earth are today built where once the waters of the ocean rolled; and this is especially true of Houston, Texas, where a few miles farther inland, near Hempstead, one may still discern "The Old Ocean Shore Line." God who did such things in the past still has the power to do such things now. Valleys that are now arid deserts once supported civilizations; and in Arizona one may see the "Petrified Forest!" Who but God could have been responsible for such changes?
"Bashan ... Carmel ... Lebanon ..." These names are associated with the richest and most-favored dwelling places of antiquity; and they were mentioned here to show that no place on earth is beyond the judgment of God when the sins of its inhabitants require their punishment. The Tigris valley, where Nineveh lay, was another of the garden spots of the earth; but there is nothing there now!
Barnes pointed out that God's making the sea dry "was exactly what he had done in delivering his people from Pharaoh, a type of all subsequent oppressors"; and that fact was well known to all the nations of antiquity. The harlot on the walls of Jericho stated forty years after the event that, "The fear of God had fallen upon all of them" because of it.
"The mountains quake at him, and the hills melt; and the earth is upheaved at his presence, yea, the world, and all that dwell therein."
This is a continued reference to the physical disturbances of the earth's environment. "The great physical changes and convulsions in the world are tokens of God's wrath on sinful nations." Deane is undoubtedly correct in this, for so all the prophets of God understood them. (See more of this in my commentary on the minor prophets, vol. 1, pp. 10,11.) Some have difficulty in appreciating this, because of the obvious fact that many physical disturbances are predictable, and all of them apparently derive from the operation of definite and orderly laws of physics; but it must be remembered that God is the author of such laws, and that upon the occasion of the primeval sin of Adam and Eve, "he cursed the ground for Adam's sake" (Genesis 3:17), that being exactly the occasion when the great Lawgiver structured the laws of man's physical dwelling place in such a manner as to produce throughout the current dispensation the very type of disasters indicated in this paragraph. It should also be remembered that God's purpose in all of this was benign. "He cursed the ground for Adam's sake," therein providing endless reminders of human sin and promptings for men to repent and turn to God. The subject is one of very great interest, making up the principal theme of the trumpet judgments of Revelation 8ff. (See my commentary on the Book of Revelation, p. 184ff.) The very environment of the sin-cursed earth is inhospitable and antagonistic to rebellious and sinful humanity. Earthquakes and volcanoes are prominent in this verse.
"Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? his wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken asunder by him."
"Storm, tempest, cloud, drought, earthquake, and fire are the word-colors which Nahum uses to paint his picture of the day of God's wrath (against Nineveh) ... the nature of the calamity is to be, not political, but cosmical, due to miraculous, divine intervention, and not by armed forces."
While only partly correct, Graham's comment is interesting, because the implication of Nahum's prophecy certainly does indicate that a great natural disturbance would be the ruin of Nineveh, but still did not rule out the element of military defeat. In the fulfillment, the calamity indeed was primarily the physical disturbance of the environment. Without the great and totally unexpected flood that demolished the city wall and opened it up to the invader, it was exceedingly unlikely that the siege of Nineveh would have been successful. Melting snows sent the Tigris and its tributaries into an extraordinarily high flood stage; that was the real ruin of Nineveh, and it was totally of God.
"Jehovah is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that take refuge in him."
It is a characteristic of all God's prophets that, in the very midst of the most terrible announcements of doom and punishment, there always appears the word of hope, encouragement, solace, or reassurance for God's true people. He never forgets them. Whatever disasters may overwhelm humanity, God will look after those who love him and see to it that they will be spared from any type of disaster that could remove them from the earth; but that appears to be a policy regarding particularly the whole body of the redeemed, and not necessarily applicable to each instance of righteousness and service to God. When Herod Agrippa II threatened to exterminate the infant church, God struck him to death at Caesarea; when Jerusalem fell to the Romans, not a Christian lost his life. Forewarned by Christ himself, they fled to Pella. Christ promised to be with his church "always, even unto the end of the world" (Matthew 28:20), echoing exactly the same sentiment expressed here.
Three profound affirmations of the character of God appear in this single verse:
"First, he is inately and inherently good, and can never be associated with the opposite attributes. Secondly, he is the incomparable refuge for his own in times of their distress, "A Bulwark Never Failing," as Luther put it; and third, he knows, in the sense of loving, covenant care, all who have reposed their faith in him."
"But with an over-running flood he will make a full end of her place, and will pursue his enemies into darkness."
"With an over-running flood ..." It is not necessary at all to designate this as "a metaphor" for military conquest. The background for Nineveh's destruction by some providential interference over and beyond the ordinary course of nature had already been abundantly provided by the paragraph immediately preceding, where, as already indicated, Graham accurately discerned the prophet's expectation, not of a mere military defeat, but of a providential overthrow. Therefore, the scholars who move quickly to dismiss this as a mere metaphor are wrong. It was literally by an overrunning flood that Nineveh fell.
THE FALL OF NINEVEH
"The Assyrian and Babylonian records are silent with regard to the fall of the city," a very instructive fact in its own right. Why should their records have stressed the God-ordered ruin of the great pagan city that, at the time, had been standing nearly as many centuries as have now elapsed since the birth of Christ? In a similar way, those records also omitted any reference to the repentance of Nineveh under the preaching of Jonah.
Despite the reluctance of those chiefly concerned in it to give any account whatever of it, others have supplied many of the most impressive details of the final end of Nineveh. "Alexander Polyhistor, Abydenus, and Syncellus all speak of it." Diodorus Sicullus is credited with the best account. The siege had been in progress for over two years, the third assault against the city having been repulsed with great jubilation by the king of Assyria who supposed that victory belonged to him. He ordered a great feast which became a drunken orgy. That night, the Kohsr (a Tigris tributary), swollen by phenomenal rains and melting snows "carried away a huge section of the great rampart surrounding the city," The best that evil men can do is to dismiss such historical references as "mere tradition"; but such are the only records of it that pagan history affords! Furthermore, if those very same "traditions," as they are called, contradicted in any manner the prophetic announcement of Nineveh's doom as given through Nahum, they would be trumpeted as gospel truth! Nahum's prophecy proves that the "traditions" in this case are indeed true.
"A full end of her place ..." It is unusual that God's enemy here should be addressed as "her." Watts thought that the feminine was used to indicate not only Nineveh; "But it may also point to her patron goddess, Ishtar." There will be other uses of the feminine in this manner, as in Nahum 2:5-7.
"Pursue his enemies into darkness ..." Watts thought the "darkness" here to be, "the darkness of the underworld, the world of death and demons where they belong." We believe it stands for the removal of Nineveh from any historical continuity upon the earth, the darkness of the grave, and of oblivion.
"What do ye devise against Jehovah? he will make a full end; affliction shall not rise up the second time."
"Shall not rise up the second time ..." It will not be necessary for God to destroy his enemies twice; once will be far more than sufficient! Assyria, and all of the great military powers, were engaged in nothing else except strengthening themselves; and, in all such preparations, the essential hostility of those powers against God and against God's people upon earth was abundantly evident. The word here, is that no preparation, of a physical and military nature, against the execution of the wrath of God could be effective. The only adequate response to that eventuality must ever be a penitent and contrite heart, turning to God for forgiveness. Nineveh had done that once before, in the days of Jonah; but they had, in Nahum's time, decided to "do it their way." "There is a close connection between these verses and those that precede." Indeed, this entire first chapter, and all of the prophecy, is a skillfully written treatise remarkable for unity, logic, and dramatic clarity of the meaning.
The warning of this passage should not be restricted to Assyria, nor should it be denied to them on the basis of its being addressed to Judah. As Hailey said, "In all probability it is addressed to both." As a matter of fact, it is addressed to all humanity intent upon forgetting God and building their civilizations without regard to his divine will. "God's great war on cosmic and supernatural evil," is the conflict in view.
"For entangled like thorns, and drunken as with their drink, they are consumed utterly as dry stubble."
"Entangled like thorns ..." Formidable as a hedge of thorns might appear, when the Lord is ready to remove it, it shall prove to be no obstacle, but itself shall provide the fuel of its own consuming fire.
"Drunken as with their drink ..." most commentators understand this as a metaphor of nations being drunk upon their own power and intoxicated with their own boasting. Certainly the expression is so used by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 13:9,13-14) and by Habakkuk (Habakkuk 2:5, margin ASV); but it ought not to be overlooked that both literal drunkenness and literal fire entered into the fall of Nineveh. The king had ordered a celebration of what was supposed to be the victory; and it became a drunken orgy. In the midst of it, the flood came; the enemies repulsed previously, entered to destroy, to loot, and to burn the city. The king, recognizing that all was lost and that Nahum's prophecy was indeed fulfilled before his eyes, burned the palaces and his wives, and servants, and concubines, along with himself. Truly God spoke his own words by the mouth of Nahum.
"There is one gone forth out of thee, that deviseth evil against Jehovah, that counselleth wickedness."
Some would apply this to Sennacherib, whom it fits well enough; but it is better to understand this as a personification of the whole spirit of Nineveh:
"Nineveh is addressed; and we need not refer the words entirely to Sennacherib and his impious threats, but may take them generally as expressing the arrogant impiety of the Assyrians and their attitude toward Jehovah."
"That counselleth wickedness ...." often rendered, "a wicked counsellor," is literally, "A counsellor of Belial." Belial was sometimes used by the sacred writers as a synonym for "Satan"; and this shows that Satan was completely in charge of the affairs of the city of Nineveh. These verses state the reasons for God's execution of his wrath upon them.
"Thus saith Jehovah: Though they be in full strength, and likewise many, even so shall they be cut down, and he shall pass away. Though I have afflicted thee, I will afflict thee no more."
"They" and "he" are used here to include the population of the city as well as the personification of the Devil that guides them, in this case, their arrogant and confident king. Note that the fall of Nineveh was not to be at the end of their strength, but in the midst of it. How often has the judgment of God fallen upon wicked cities and nations, not after their "decline," but at the zenith of their power and wickedness. So it was with Nineveh.
"Though I have afflicted thee ..." Hailey pointed out that the same thought of Nahum 1:9, "affliction shall not rise up the second time," is repeated here. "I will afflict thee no more," carries the meaning that, "Judah will never again experience affliction from that source."
"And now will I break his yoke from off thee, and will burst thy bonds in sunder."
This is a continuation of the promise of deliverance to Judah promised in Nahum 1:9, and again in Nahum 1:12. Graham's criticism that Nahum possessed an inferior attitude in all this is groundless.
"Nationalistic prejudice has led him to assume in Jehovah a special, unmoral interest in his own people. Sympathy with his people had led him to conclude that Assyria's downfall meant Judah's happiness."
Apparently Graham failed to appreciate the fierce denunciation of specific acts of wickedness which were enumerated under Nahum 1:3, above, and which recur continually throughout the prophecy, nor is there any indication whatever that Nahum did not apply those denunciations to similar sins of Israel and Judah. That he did not specifically state that fact in Nahum is no proof of the contrary. Nahum had announced his subject in the first line of the prophecy, "The Burden of Nineveh"; and it was altogether proper and appropriate that he should have stayed with his subject throughout.
"And Jehovah hath given 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."
"I will cut off the graven image and the molten image ..." Assyria had repeatedly robbed the gods of other nations from temples and carried them as booty to Nineveh; but the promise here was that Assyria's gods would suffer a like fate. Hailey listed the gods of Assyria as: "Ashur, Nabu, Anu, Adad, the goddess, Ishtar, and others." 'Jamieson added Nisroch to the list, translating the passage here as, "I will make the house of thy gods thy grave!" Sennacherib was slain in the house of his god; and when the whole city fell, the pagan temples became the hecatomb of the people, literally fulfilling the prophecy.
"For thou art vile ..." See under Nahum 1:3, above for summary of similar teachings in Nahum.
"Behold, upon the mountains the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace! Keep thy feasts, O Judah, perform thy vows; for the wicked one shall no more pass through thee; he is utterly cut off."
This verse is similar to Isaiah 52:7 and is definitely Messianic, as indicated by "The wicked one shall no more pass through thee." "This is a reference to the "holy Jerusalem" of Joel 3:17 (See in my commentary on the minor prophets, Vol. 1, p. 64). The whole passage looks forward to the "spiritual Israel" yet in the future, in which the good tidings of peace should be proclaimed to all men.
Any good news of the fall of Nineveh would have been loudly proclaimed by those coming over the mountains and approaching Jerusalem; and it is probable that the immediate fulfillment of this prophecy occurred in just such a manner. However, the passage has overtones of something far more wonderful.
"It would serve as a type of the far more glorious spiritual deliverance of God's people from Satan by the Messiah, heralded by ministers of the gospel, Paul himself applying these words thus, "How beautiful are the feet of them that bring glad tidings of the good things!" (Romans 10:15)."
"Keep thy feasts, perform thy vows ..." The cultivation of God's holy and righteous religion was indicated by these commandments. If Israel would really participate in the ultimate deliverance that God will give to his people, let them not seek to do so apart from the sacred commandments God has given. It is the utmost blindness not to see these commandments given here as a form of a synecdoche for "ALL" that God had commanded his people to perform, both of ceremonial and ethical and moral qualities. To receive these words as an intimation that Nahum had no regard for anything other than the outward ceremonies of the law of Moses is no more than blindness to what is said. Fidelity to the law of God in its most comprehensive and detailed particulars is the thing Nahum commanded. The holy prophets referred to that Law sometimes as "doing righteously," and at other times as "keeping the feasts and performing the vows"; but it is the whole law that is meant in all such abbreviated references to it. One must therefore constantly guard against being misled by critical destroyers of the Word who, in the instance of Amos' stressing moral values, affirm that he repudiated the idea of sacrifice, and, in the instance of Nahum's mentioning the ceremonial requirements, accuse of him of caring nothing for the moral values. Such views are in no sense "exegesis" of the sacred text, but they are an amazing blindness to what it says and what it clearly means.
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Nahum 1". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany