The last chapter spoke of the decimation of King Sennacherib’s army in the days of Judah’s King Hezekiah (about 700 BC). But in this chapter, Nahum prophetically announces an alarm of war against Nineveh, in which she would be defeated as a nation about 100 years after that event (verse 1). The prophet speaks of the destruction as being just at hand, for it was neither doubtful nor far distant. “He that dashes in pieces is come up before thy face,” he says. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon is noted in the history books for dashing nations in pieces, and he began that career with crushing the city of Nineveh and the Assyrian Empire. His attack upon Nineveh was public, bold, and daring. “He has come up before thy face” – that is, avowing his intention to ruin her. Therefore, the Ninevites are to prepare their defenses, secure their towers and magazines, set guards upon all the avenues to the city, and fortify their power mightily. But this is spoken ironically; for although they might do the utmost that they possibly could, yet they would not be able to avoid the stroke of the Lord’s righteous judgment. There is no counsel or strength that can stand against Him.
The second verse of the chapter contains a manifesto that is published in order to show the causes of the Lord’s judgment upon Nineveh. The Assyrians had been abusive to His people. Not only had they humbled and mortified them, as they did to the Southern Kingdom of Judah during the reign of Hezekiah; but they also “emptied them out, and marred their vine branches,” as they did to the Northern Kingdom of Israel when they led them away into captivity. For this evil treatment of His people, God promises to reckon with them. The reason for His quarrel with them was the violence that they had done to His people.
A particular account is then given of the terrors wherein the invading Babylonians would appear against Nineveh; every detail contributed to make the enemy soldiers formidable. The shields of Babylon’s mighty men were red, as if they were already tinctured with the blood they had shed; or perhaps they were painted red, in order to signify that they would put all to the sword and show no mercy. Their chariots carried flaming torches; and when they were making their approaches, they flew as swiftly as lightning. The chariot drivers drove them furiously, with a flaming indignation – so fast, indeed, that the wheels struck sparks of fire upon the stones! The prophet says that the enemy soldiers would carry on the siege with so much vigor that at length, the gates of the rivers would be opened (verse 6) – that is, the city-gates of Nineveh which opened upon the Tigris River – and through those gates, the Babylonians would enter. The palace of Nineveh’s royal family would be dissolved; for when the God of heaven goes forth to contend with a people, neither the palaces of their kings nor the temples of their gods can protect and shelter them. Queen Huzzab herself would be led away captive in greater disgrace than that of common prisoners, for she would be taken away in a mock-state of honor with all her mourning and moaning maids. As for the inhabitants of the city, they were very numerous; but nevertheless, they would not be able to make headway against the invaders or even have a spark of courage to stand their ground (verse 8). None of them would so much as even look back to listen to their commanders telling them to stand still and stay where they were. The wealth of the city would fall into the hands of the victorious Babylonians, who would animate and excite each other to plunder. All the riches which the Ninevites had gloried in would now become a prey and a pride to their conquerors. And thus this rich city was made empty, void, and waste (verse 10). See the vanity of worldly wealth? Instead of defending its owners, it only exposes them to the envy of their enemies.
Nineveh’s fall was triumphed in by its neighbors, who recalled to mind all the oppressions and abuses of power which it had been guilty of during its times of pomp and prosperity (verses 11-12). The princes of Nineveh had been like lions and beasts of prey. These cruel tyrants stood in the shape of men, but they had the cruelty of lions; everyone stood in awe of them, and they were under no apprehensions of danger from any. It is true that nobody loved them; but everybody did fear them, and that was all they desired.
But what does the righteous Judge of heaven and earth say to these vicious oppressors? “Behold, I am against thee!” (verse 13) And what good can her hosts of soldiers do for her defense, when the Lord of hosts is against her for her destruction? The oppressors in Nineveh thought they only contended with their neighbors, who were not a match for them, and whom they could easily overpower; but in reality, they were in battle with the Lord – Who is and will be the asserter of right and the avenger of wrong! And so their military preparations could do nothing to help them. Their chariots would be consumed by the smoke of God’s indignation, and their drivers would be smothered and stifled. The sword would devour their children and families, and cut them off; and the wealth which they had heaped up by fraud and violence would neither be enjoyed by them nor employed for their benefit.
As we read this prophecy of the fall and ruin of the enemies of God’s people, let us remember that when we see the Church afflicted and persecuted in our present day, the Lord speaks in these decisive words against the adversaries: “Behold, I am against thee!” And if our blessed Lord Jesus is on our side, then what does it matter who or what is against us?
Lord, we beseech You to arise so that the wicked may not prevail over Your people, and so that all nations may know that they are mere men! (Ps. 9:19-20) Amen.
If you prefer to listen, today’s Family Bible guide is available in audio format on both SermonAudio and YouTube.
Join other families all around the globe and receive the full-color, freely downloadable format of these thoughts in your email every day! It’s my prayer that you and your family will be equipped to receive abundant blessings from the hand of the Lord as you study His Word and worship in His presence together.
illustration created with canva.com