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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary

Nahum 1

Verse 8

CRITICAL NOTES.] Burden] (Vulg. onus), from a word to lift up, a threatening utterance; some, heavy and full.

Nahum 1:2. Jealous], (words from the decalogue), to be warm. Burns against those who hate him (Deuteronomy 6:15). The term indicates feeling of injured right, and strong inclination for justice. Furious] Lit. a lord or master of fury: a master of dreams, i.e. a dreamer, &c. Reserveth] Applied to God, sig. to keep or bear wrath (Leviticus 19:18; Psalms 103:9).

Nahum 1:3. Acquit] Clear the guilty (Exodus 20:7; Exodus 34:7). Dust] Light dust easily raised.

Nahum 1:4. Rebuketh] (Matthew 8:26).

Nahum 1:5.] Fruitful districts fade under his wrath. Burned] Lit. lifts itself as in an earthquake (Psalms 89:10), hence to burn as a flame.

Nahum 1:6. Abide] Stand up before wrath poured out like fire from a volcano, which rends rocks to pieces (1 Kings 19:11; Jeremiah 23:29).

Nahum 1:7. Strong] A fortress. Knoweth] Stands emphatically for the knowledge with which God fosters and provides for his elect, and which is experienced by them (Hosea 13:5) [Lange].

Nahum 1:8. Over.] Judgment by invading armies, sweeps through the land like overwhelming floods (cf. Psalms 42:7; Isaiah 8:7-8; Habakkuk 3:10).



In this verse we have the substance and object, the form and author, of the whole prophecy.

I. The nature of the burden. A burden is something heavy and important.

1. The commission from God was a burden. An awful responsibility, a solemn duty imposed upon the messenger. Who is sufficient for these things?

2. The commission was a burden upon the mind of the prophet. He was not reluctant to obey, but its solemnity weighed heavily upon him. He had to threaten judgment upon his fellow-creatures, to be faithful in his threatening, and declare the whole message from God. His duty was a burden. He was deeply sensible of its import, of his own unworthiness and weakness. This is the spirit of all true servants. “A dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.”

II. The form of the burden. “The book of the vision.”

1. It was first a vision to the prophet. He saw what he uttered. He had a commission from God, and spoke in God’s authority. We should always testify what we have seen, and declare what we have been taught. Some speak a vision of their own heart (Jeremiah 23:16); but God’s servants see the vision of the Almighty.

2. Then the vision was recorded in a book. Reason teaches us to write laws and record events in a book. God’s prophets were taught to pen their thoughts in a permanent form for the benefit of future ages. “Many a man lives a burden to the earth; but a good book is the precious life-blood of a master-spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life.”

III. The object of the burden. “The burden of Nineveh. Nineveh repented once, but returned to its wicked ways again. The first was a message of mercy, the second one of judgment. If men despise warnings they must expect rebukes. Employed by God to chastise, Nineveh sought to destroy the chosen people. Now God will punish the city, and its last state will be worse than the first. If men return to their former sins because judgment is not executed, if they cease to do the good they once begin, then God will withdraw his promised favour. “If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.”


wGod’s judgments are traced to God’s jealousy as the cause of them. His honour is injured. His tender feeling for his people is wounded, and though punishment is suspended for a time, eventually it is certain and severe.

I. God’s jealousy is connected with God’s long-suffering. “The Lord is slow to anger.” Towards enemies even God is long-suffering. For one hundred years he had endured the wickedness of the Assyrians. Judgments are often delayed.

1. This delay is not through weakness. “Great in power.” Men cannot execute their vengeance because they lack power. But God has all power, and can accomplish his will at all times.

2. This delay is not remission of punishment. He “will not at all acquit the wicked.” There is a limitation of mercy. He will not clear the guilty, nor leave them unpunished. He is not insensible to violations of his law, nor dilatory to vindicate his justice. Sinners have a respite in love, but not a reprieve in weakness. All who abuse his long-suffering will smart at last. “For the Lord thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.”

II. God’s jealousy is often provoked to vengeance. “And the Lord revengeth.” Vengeance is a defect, and censured in man. Here it is predicated of God three times.

1. Vengeance is associated with provocation. Slow to anger, he can be provoked. His jealousy has the warmth of love and the fire of wrath. “The coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame.”

2. Vengeance is associated with mastery. “And is furious,” a master of fury, one who has anger under control. He is Lord of vengeance. “One who, if he pleases,” says Grotius, “can most readily give effect to his fury.”

3. Vengeance is associated with execution. He reserves wrath for his enemies, not because he is angry, but because he is slow to anger. He allows it to accumulate, before execution. But he “will take vengeance on his adversaries.” (a) This execution is swift. He comes in the storm and the whirlwind (Nahum 1:3). He sweeps men away swift as the wind. “As the whirlwind passeth, so is the wicked no more.” (b) This execution is easy. The clouds are the mere dust of his feet. As man walks upon the dust, so Jehovah tramples upon the clouds, as the light dust of his feet. (c) This execution is mysterious. “Clouds and darkness are round about Him.” His purpose and his agents are often concealed, until they break upon the guilty like a lightning flash. (d) This execution is often terrible. The heavens above and the earth beneath feel the shock of his wrath. The sea is rebuked by his power, and the fertility of the land is consumed by his presence. The mountains quake and the hills melt; all nature trembles beneath his anger. No one can stand before fury like this. The strongest will quail, the hardest will melt. “Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.”


Nahum 1:1. The Burden. The Bearer. The Destination. “He first defines the object of the prophecy, whereto it looks; then states who spake it, and whence it was” [Pusey].

Nahum 1:2. The titles of God rise in awe; first, intensely jealous and Avenger; then an Avenger and a Lord of wrath; the master of it (not as man, mastered by it); having it to withhold or discharge; yet so discharging it, at last, the more irrevocably on the finally impenitent [Ibid.].

The justice and severity of God should be contemplated.

1. As a warning to his enemies to deter them from evil.
2. As a consolation to his people to help them in trouble.

Nahum 1:3. Mercy, omnipotence, and justice.

1. The first attribute of God. “Slow to anger.” Because he never smites without first threatening. He is very slow to threaten. When God threatens, how slow he is to sentence the criminal! And when the sentence is signed and sealed, how slow to carry it out! Trace the attribute to its source. Why is God slow to anger? Because he is infinitely good. Because he is great.

2. The connecting link. A great reason why he is slow, because he is great in power. He that is great in power can restrain himself, and is greater than he that takes a city. When God’s power restrains himself, then it is power indeed. If he were less of a God than he is, he would long ere this have sent forth thunders and emptied the magazines of heaven. Bless God that the greatness of his power is our protection.

3. The last and most terrible attribute; He will not at all acquit the wicked. Unfold this first of all, then trace it to its source. God will not acquit the wicked. Never once has he blotted out sin without punishment. Calvary proves the truth of that. The wonders of vengeance in the Old Testament and hell itself are proofs of the text. Trace this terrible attribute to its source. Why is this? God will not acquit the wicked, because he is good. Goodness itself demands the punishment of the sinner. The justice of God demands it. If in Christ, never be afraid of God’s power. If not fled for refuge, then God will not acquit, but punish. Reprieved but not pardoned art thou. Reprieve will soon run out, haste to the refuge [Spurgeon].

Way in the whirlwind. The vengeance of God comes at last swiftly, vehemently, fearfully, irresistibly [Pusey].

Clouds the dust.

1. God hidden in his ways. Clouds are round about him. Deep and unsearchable in his counsels.

1. God powerful in his ways. Treading on the clouds, and making them as dust to his feet.

2. God terrible in his ways (Nahum 1:4; Nahum 1:6). Not difficult to put the elements in motion to destroy Nineveh or impenitent sinners. Great things to us are small with him. All nature subject to his control.

Nahum 1:4-5. The quaking of all things in the presence of an angry God. Celestial and terrestrial agencies subservient to the purpose of God, (a) in punishing the wicked, (b) in protecting his people. “The huge roots of the towering mountains are torn up when the Lord bestirs himself in anger to smite the enemies of his people. How shall puny man be able to face it out with God when the very mountains quake with fear? Let not the boaster dream that his present false confidence will support him in the dread day of wrath.”



Note two things in these words.

I. Jehovah’s anger.

1. It is real. Human theories of it are not always true. They are got up to persuade the sinner that he has no need to be alarmed for guilt. But God’s words are true—not exaggerations.

2. It is righteous. Not the rage of selfishness nor personal offence; but the anger of a righteous judge against sin, dishonoured right and insulted law. There is nothing in it unjust or arbitrary.

3. It is terrible. Though calm, it is awful and overwhelming. No power or numbers can withstand it. Expulsion from Paradise, the flood, the ruin of Sodom, and the destruction of the ungodly, are specimens.

4. It is inexorable. Nothing can turn it aside or quench it when kindled.

II. Jehovah’s goodness. He is good, and doeth good; kind to the unthankful and unholy.

1. His goodness is sincere. He does not utter words and feelings which are not in him. His words mean what they say, his deeds what they indicate. “God is not man that he should lie.”

2. His goodness is powerful. Almighty goodness. He is able to deliver those whom he loves. Their interests are safe in his hands.

3. His goodness is watchful. His eyes are upon us at all times, expecially in trouble. An unsleeping eye, an untiring hand, never weary of blessing, ever delighting to love and help us.

4. His goodness is unchanging. Without variableness like himself, ever flowing and not ebbing. Not like the tides and the seasons, his heart changes not. But the great day of his wrath will come. Judgment lingers not. He spares in pity, not willing that any should perish. Turn unto him, &c. [Dr. H. Bonar.]


Here we have a beautiful description of the security and comfort of those who trust in God in the day of distress.
I. God a Protection. Not armies, fleets, and fortresses. All other refuges are refuges of lies. He is the only accessible, impregnable, delightful shelter. II. God a Comfort. “The Lord is good.” Good in himself and to others. His goodness is spontaneous, undeserved, and boundless; consistent with the perfections of his character, and adapted to the wants of our nature. III. God a Friend. “He knoweth.” He not merely perceives and understands; but approves, acknowledges, and takes delight in us. He “takes pleasure in them that fear him, in them that hope in his mercy.” God is our friend. His attitude to us is like that to Abraham: “I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee.”


Nahum 1:7. The Lord is Good. He is essentially—immutably good—infinitely good. The good of all creation is derived from him. “He is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works.” But goodness does not appear in its highest forms here. These creatures never forfeited care and kindness. We have rebelled, and as children of disobedience deserve wrath. Yet he spares us, and provides for us—fitted up the world with sights, sounds, and relishes to our appetites. But if the bounties of nature and providence were stopped, we could say, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that God loved us,” &c. This ensures every other blessing. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him freely give us all things?” This involves every other. He is “all in all.” By him and in him we are “blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places” [Jay].

The Lord a Stronghold. From whence does this trouble arise? From danger? He is our strength for protection. “The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?” “We are more than conquerors.” From duty? He is the strength to assist. If oppressed with a sense of our inability, “our sufficiency is of God.” From affliction? He is our strength to support and deliver. If ho does not release, he sustains and comforts. “My grace is sufficient for thee.” Whatever the nature and degree of affliction, in God we find a “very present help in the day of trouble” [Jay].

Nahum 1:7-8. God a refuge to his people, who are safe, happy, and cared for in his protection. God a terror to their enemies, who are overwhelmed with calamities (flood), pursued with darkness, and completely destroyed. God’s people only afflicted for a short time, but of the wicked he will make “an utter end.”


Nahum 1:1. Burden. He who possesses the virtues required in the care of souls, should not take upon him the priestly office, unless constrained to it; and he who knows he has them not, should not take it upon him, even though he were compelled to it [Gregory].

Nahum 1:2. Vengeance. When God sees it necessary to vindicate the honour of his justice to the world, he doth it with that severity which may make us apprehend his displeasure; and yet with that mercy which may encourage us to repent and return unto the Lord [Stillingfleet].

Nahum 1:3. Slow. God delays the punishment of wickedness, and does not strike presently, for a glorious manifestation of his holy attribute of patience. His two great attributes of justice and mercy, the full season of their manifestation upon the vessels of wrath and mercy, is at an end at the great day of reckoning [Bp. Browning].

Nahum 1:3-4. This passage is so sublime, says one, that it would be difficult to find its equal. May the reader’s heart adore the God before whom the unconscious earth and sky act as if they recognized their Maker, and were moved with a tremor of reverence. “Vain are the attempts of men to conceal anything from him whose word unbars the deep, and lifts the doors of earth from their hinges! Vain are all hopes of resistance, for a whisper of his voice makes the whole earth quail in abject terror” [Spurgeon].

Nahum 1:7. He who avails himself of a refuge is one who is forced to fly. It is a quiet retreat from a pursuing enemy. And there are trials, and temptations, and enemies, from which the Christian does best to fly. He cannot resist them. They are too strong for him. His wisdom is to fly into the refuge of the secret place of his God, to rest under the shadow of the Almighty. His strength is to sit still there (Isaiah 30:7) [B. M. Duncan].

Nahum 1:8-12. When God shakes men as dust from under the summer thrashing-floor, the right hand of a man’s strength is as powerless as the left hand of a man’s weakness, and his wisdom is as folly. What avails the wisdom of the apple to make it cling to the bough when it is ripe in autumn time? or the wisdom of the leaf to hold it fast to the stem when the tempest calls? or the wisdom of the tree to make it stand secure when a rock from the cliff comes crashing down through its puny branches? When God sends storms upon men, they must imitate the humble grass, which saves itself by lying down. Therefore it is said, “Humble yourselves before the mighty hand of God, that in due season he may raise you up” [H. W. Beecher].

Verses 9-11


Nahum 1:9.] The city must be destroyed and its inhabitants perish. Imagine] By means of defence to ward off danger. Second] time from Assyria (cf. Isaiah 51:17-23; 2 Samuel 20:10).

Nahum 1:10. Thorns] twisted together, to appear inseparable, and present a bristling front (2 Samuel 23:6-7). Drunken] Assyrian kings proverbial for intemperance and revelry.

Nahum 1:11. One] Sennacherib. Thee] From Nineveh itself arises its own ruin. Counsellor] Lit. a counsellor of Belial, worthless and bad; designs to overthrow the kingdom of God (Isaiah 36:14-20).



Nahum now turns to the invaders, boldly challenges them for their opposition to Jehovah, again describes their ruin, and for the encouragement of the Jews, adds that they should not be annoyed any more.

I. Resistance to God in its nature. “What do ye imagine against the Lord?”

1. Resistance in thought. “Imagine.” They thought that they had to do with a weak people, and would gain an easy victory. But they had to encounter God. It is vain presumption to plot against him. “There is no wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel against the Lord.”

2. Resistance in word. Many imagined evil, but one leader was specially prominent in counsel. Sennacherib in the mouth of Rabshakeh advised worthless and wicked plans (cf. Isaiah 36:14-20). Crafty counsellors are most mischievous, and often bring ruin upon themselves and their country.

3. Resistance in act. Plots ripen into enterprises. Wicked thoughts lead to denial of God’s power and providence; to contempt of God’s people, and opposition to God’s purpose. He sent “to reproach the loving God” (2 Kings 19:16), and blasphemed “against the Holy One of Israel” (2 Kings 19:22).

II. Resistance in its method. The metaphors of Nahum 1:10 may be taken in many senses. Briars and thorns denote hostile armies (Isaiah 10:17; Isaiah 27:4).

1. Resistance combined. “Closely interwoven as thorns.” They strengthen one another, and are inveterate towards God. Like the military phalanxes of antiquity, they were armed and arranged to present a bold front. Thorns, “because they cannot be taken with hands” (2 Samuel 23:6).

2. Resistance audacious. Flushed with success, the Assyrians regarded themselves as invincible, and gave themselves to wine and revelry. Benhadad was smitten while drinking in his pavilions (1 Kings 20:16); Belshazzar was feasting when Babylon was taken (Daniel 5:1-30). Yet in this condition men have the audacity to resist God. Intoxicated with pride they are prepared for their fall.

III. Resistance in its end. Men’s devices are idle when God works.

1. The people were prepared for ruin. “They shall be devoured as stubble fully dry.” Dry stubble easily takes fire, and thorns folded together are ready for the flames. Wicked men are often compared to stubble, and God’s judgments to devouring fire. Those who defy God’s will only fit themselves for the fire that is never quenched.

2. Ruin was certain. “He makes an utter end.” The destruction is absolutely fixed and sure. No second attempt will be made. One stroke of the Angel destroyed the Assyrian armies. One blast from heaven levelled Nineveh in the dust. Now Nineveh—great Nineveh—the pride of its inhabitants, the terror of its neighbours, and the envy of the world, has fallen. Its celebrity ceased, and its site for ages remained unknown—

“Behold the pride of pomp,
The throne of nations fallen, obscured in dust,
Even yet majestical—the silent soene
Elates the soul” [Dyer].


Nahum 1:8-12. When God shakes men as dust from under the summer thrashing-floor, the right hand of a man’s strength is as powerless as the left hand of a man’s weakness, and his wisdom is as folly. What avails the wisdom of the apple to make it cling to the bough when it is ripe in autumn time? or the wisdom of the leaf to hold it fast to the stem when the tempest calls? or the wisdom of the tree to make it stand secure when a rock from the cliff comes crashing down through its puny branches? When God sends storms upon men, they must imitate the humble grass, which saves itself by lying down. Therefore it is said, “Humble yourselves before the mighty hand of God, that in due season he may raise you up” [H. W. Beecher].

Nahum 1:14. Name. Thou mayest choose whether thou wilt be remembered to thy praise or to thy shame [Bishop Pilkington].

“He left a name, at which the world grew pale,
To point a moral, or adorn a tale.” [Samuel Johnson.]

Verses 12-15


Nahum 1:12-14.] Repeat the truths of Nahum 1:9-11. Good to Judah, and evil to Assyria, predicted. Quiet] In tranquil security; or complete with unbroken ranks and number, with everything necessary for a successful siege. “The word may also be designed to convey the idea of mental completeness, i.e. in this connexion, security, martial courage” [Hend.]. Cut] Mown down like the harvest (2 Kings 19:35; Isaiah 37:36-37). Give historical facts.

Nahum 1:13. Yoke] The tribute to Assyria (cf. Isaiah 10:27; Jeremiah 2:20).

Nahum 1:14.] The name and power of Assyria to become extinct. Sown] The seed or race to be for ever destroyed, at destruction of Nineveh the dynasty would not be perpetuated. Gods] Every kind of images (Deuteronomy 27:15). (See Layard’s Nineveh and its Remains, on Idol, of Assyria.) House] The palace considered sacred. Make] i.e. the house of thy gods, thy grave. Sennacherib slain during worship (2 Kings 19:37). Vile] Because when weighed according to moral standards worthless (Job 31:6), found light (Daniel 5:27).

Nahum 1:15.] This verse joined to ch. 2 in Heb. text, and nearly like (Isaiah 52:7). Here deliverance from Assyria, not Babylon. Tidings] Overthrow of Sennacherib. Mountains] No longer covered with hostile camps to prevent keeping feasts. Peace] and deliverance, i.e. great yearly feasts of thanksgiving. Wicked] Lit. Belial (Nahum 1:11), marg. = Sennacherib. This is a wonderful type of Gospel events; salvation through Christ, victory over sin, death, and hell.


Here good is predicted to Judah, and evil to the enemy. One shall be purified and restored, the other utterly annihilated.

I. The destruction of the enemy. The Prophet notices their present condition, and contrasts it with future ruin.

1. They are unbroken in strength. “Though they be quiet.” If they be entire, sound and unharmed, perfect in warlike preparations, that will not avail them.

2. They are undiminished in number. “And likewise many.” Their numbers were unimpaired and great. Hezekiah thus exhorted the people: “Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the King of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him” (2 Chronicles 32:7).

3. They are secure in tranquillity. “Quiet,” that is, without fear, and perfectly safe. They were free from attacks, and securely fortified, but not against God. They pictured an easy march and a splendid victory in the land, “When he shall pass through;” but the vast host was swept away in a single night. Notice their future.

1. Idolatry will be destroyed. “Out of the house of thy gods will I cut off the graven image.” Their gods in the temple, graven and molten, would not help them, nor be spared by the enemy. God has a controversy with all kinds of idols. The fate of a nation is often bound up with the fate of its God.

2. The dynasty would be extinguished. “No more of thy name be sown.” If not immediately, yet eventually the Assyrian line would cease. God commanded this, and it was certain to happen. Their splendid renown would fade away and their name be cut off. The race would be cut down without chance of springing again. “The face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.”

3. The palace would be turned into a grave. “I will make (the house of thy gods) thy grave.” The temple was polluted by slaughter, and converted into a sepulchre (Isaiah 37:38; 2 Kings 19:37). Men perish in the things in which they seek refuge. The Assyrian power was destroyed. God made a grave for its idols and its people. All were vile and light; found wanting when weighed in the balance (Daniel 5:27). Whatever honour man set upon them, they were lightly esteemed by God. Wickedness in religious and political life brings contempt and ruin upon a nation. “The seed of evil-doers shall never be renowned.”

“God needs no indirect nor lawless course
To cut off those who have offended Him” [Shakespeare].

II. The redemption of God’s people. Deliverance from the enemy would be followed by restoration of worship and peace. All sorrow would end, and every cause of fear be overcome.

1. Deliverance would be enjoyed. The news would be proclaimed and welcomed throughout the kingdom. If to Sophocles the hands and feet of any one who went on errands of mercy were beautiful, how much more should the heralds of the gospel be received by all who hear them.

(1) Deliverance from affliction. “Though I have afflicted thee, I will afflict thee no more.” The bitter potion will not be repeated, unless there be real necessity. God doth not afflict willingly, and former trials should not hinder faith in present good.

(2) Deliverance from the enemy. Servitude no longer. (a) From the yoke of the enemy. A victorious army shall no longer tax and oppress. “Now will I break his yoke from off thee.” (b) From the fear of the enemy. He shall be completely subdued, and no trace of his steps left behind. He will be cut off in spirit, number, and existence. “The wicked shall no more pass through thee.”

2. Worship would be restored. Solemn feasts would be kept. The free use and thorough enjoyment of religious ordinances would be restored. Vows would be performed, and gratitude continually abound. The ransomed of the Lord would return to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads. It is our privilege to behold the feet of those who publish peace with God and salvation through Christ. If we believe we may keep our feasts in gladness, and anticipate the glory of that temple into which the wicked never enter.


Nahum 1:12. Cut down like grass in a field. The completeness of the destruction, and the ease with which it is done. Greatness and number nothing with God.

Nahum 1:13. The affliction of the Church. “Yoke.” The method of deliverance. “Break his yoke.” The agent who works it. “I will break.” “By the strength of my hand I have done it” (Isaiah 10:13). The time in which it is done. “God, lest his own should despair, does not put them off altogether to a distant day, but saith now” [Pusey].

Nahum 1:14. It is sufficient ground of assurance for the coming to pass of greatest things, that the Lord hath determined they should be; for, this is given as a sure ground of Assyria’s ruin, that the Lord hath given a commandment, or purposed their destruction, his purpose concluding as effectually the concurring of all means to bring it about, as if they were especially commanded. Name. “The Lord doth justly root out the memory of such persons or states, as make it their only work to get a name on earth, and to be eminent and terrible; for such is Assyria’s doom: no more of thy name shall be sown” [Hutcheson].


Nahum 1:15. Peace, newly granted by the grace of God, was to be celebrated by a new consecration of the people. This has special reference to the king of Nineveh and Assyria, and the promise must have been very precious to contemporaries oppressed by Assyria. But to us the fundamental truth is far more important, that to the people of God a perfect deliverance is near at hand, and has already appeared in Christ, by which the Belial, from whom every wicked spirit proceeds, is for ever cast out [Lange].

“Come, and begin Thy reign
Of everlasting peace;

Come, take the kingdom to Thyself,

Great King of Righteousness” [Bonar]

Copyright Statement
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Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Nahum 1". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.