Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1. the bloody city!--literally, "city of blood," namely, shed by
Nineveh; just so now her own blood is to be shed.
robbery--violence [MAURER]. Extortion
the prey departeth not--Nineveh never ceases to live by rapine. Or,
the Hebrew verb is transitive, "she (Nineveh) does not make the prey
depart"; she ceases not to plunder.
2. The reader is transported into the midst of the fight
The "noise of the whips" urging on the horses (in the chariots) is
heard, and of "the rattling of the wheels" of war chariots, and the
"horses" are seen "prancing," and the "chariots jumping," &c.
3. horseman--distinct from "the horses" (in the chariots,
lifteth up--denoting readiness for fight [EWALD].
"lifteth up (literally, 'makes to ascend') his horse." Similarly
"makes his horse to rise up on his hind feet." Vulgate translates,
"ascending," that is, making his horse to advance up to the assault.
This last is perhaps better than English Version.
the bright sword and the glittering spear--literally, "the glitter of
the sword and the flash of the spear!" This, as well as the translation,
"the horseman advancing up," more graphically presents the battle scene
to the eye.
they stumble upon their corpses--The Medo-Babylonian enemy stumble
upon the Assyrian corpses.
4. Because of the multitude of the whoredoms--This assigns the reason
for Nineveh's destruction.
of the well-favoured harlot--As Assyria was not a worshipper of the
true God, "whoredoms" cannot mean, as in the case of Israel, apostasy to
the worship of false gods; but, her harlot-like artifices whereby
she allured neighboring states so as to subject them to herself. As the
unwary are allured by the "well-favored harlot's" looks, so Israel,
Judah (for example, under Ahaz, who, calling to his aid Tiglath-pileser,
was made tributary by him,
and other nations, were tempted by the plausible professions of
Assyria, and by the lure of commerce
(Re 18:2, 3),
to trust her.
(Isa 47:9, 12).
Alluding to the love incantations whereby harlots tried to dement and
ensnare youths; answering to the subtle machinations whereby Assyria
attracted nations to her.
selleth--deprives of their liberty; as slaves used to be
sold: and in other property also sale was a usual mode of
transfer. MAURER understands it of depriving
nations of their freedom, and literally selling them as slaves
to distant peoples
(Joe 3:2, 3, 6-8).
But elsewhere there is no evidence that the Assyrians did this.
5. I will discover thy skirts upon thy face--that is, discover thy
nakedness by throwing up thy skirts upon thy face (the greatest
possible insult), pulling them up as as high as thy head
I will treat thee not as a matron, but as a harlot whose shame is
exposed; her gaudy finery being lifted up off her
(Isa 47:2, 3).
So Nineveh shall be stripped of all her glory and defenses on which she
6. cast abominable filth upon thee--as infamous harlots used to be
gazing stock--exposed to public ignominy as a warning to others
7. all . . . that look upon thee--when thou hast been made "a gazing
shall flee from thee--as a thing horrible to look upon. Compare
"standing afar off,"
whence shall I seek comforters for thee?--Compare
which Nahum had before his mind.
8. populous No--rather, as Hebrew, "No-ammon," the Egyptian name
for Thebes in Upper Egypt; meaning the portion or
possession of Ammon, the Egyptian Jupiter (whence the Greeks called
the city Diospolis), who was especially worshipped there. The Egyptian
inscriptions call the god Amon-re, that is, Amon the Sun; he is
represented as a human figure with a ram's head, seated on a chair
The blow inflicted on No-ammon, described in
was probably by the Assyrian Sargon (see on
As Thebes, with all her resources, was overcome by Assyria, so Assyrian
Nineveh, notwithstanding all her might, in her turn, shall be overcome
by Babylon. English Version, "populous," if correct, implies
that No's large population did not save her from destruction.
situate among the rivers--probably the channels into which the
Nile here divides (compare
Thebes lay on both sides of the river. It was famed in HOMER'S time for its hundred gates [Iliad, 9.381].
Its ruins still describe a circumference of twenty-seven miles. Of them
the temples of Luxor and Karnak, east of the river, are most famous.
The colonnade of the former, and the grand hall of the latter, are of
stupendous dimensions. One wall still represents the expedition of
Shishak against Jerusalem under Rehoboam
whose . . . wall was from the sea--that is, rose up "from the sea."
MAURER translates, "whose wall consisted of the sea." But this would
be a mere repetition of the former clause. The Nile is called a sea, from its appearance in the annual flood
9. Ethiopia--Hebrew, Cush. Ethiopia is thought at this time to
have been mistress of Upper Egypt.
her strength--her safeguard as an ally.
it was infinite--The resources of these, her allies, were endless.
descended from Ham
From a root meaning a bow; as they were famed as archers [GESENIUS]. Probably west of Lower Egypt. JOSEPHUS [Antiquities, 1:6.2] identifies it with
Lubim--the Libyans, whose capital was Cyrene; extending along the
Mediterranean west of Egypt
(2Ch 12:3; 16:8;
As, however, the Lubim are always connected with the Egyptians
and Ethiopians, they are perhaps distinct from the Libyans. The
Lubim were probably at first wandering tribes, who afterwards were
settled under Carthage in the region of Cyrene, under the name Libyans.
helpers--literally, "in thy help," that is, among thy auxiliaries.
10. Notwithstanding all her might, she was overcome.
cast lots for her honourable men--They divided them among themselves
by lot, as slaves
11. drunken--made to drink of the cup of Jehovah's wrath
(Isa 51:17, 21;
hid--covered out of sight: a prediction remarkably verified in the
state in which the ruins of Nineveh have been found
[G. V. SMITH]. But
as "hid" precedes "seek strength," &c., it rather refers to Nineveh's
state when attacked by her foe: "Thou who now so vauntest thyself, shalt
be compelled to seek a hiding-place from the foe"
[CALVIN]; or, shalt be
neglected and slighted by all [MAURER].
seek strength because of the enemy--Thou too, like Thebes
shalt have recourse to other nations for help against thy
12. thy strongholds--on the borders of Assyria, protecting the
approaches to Nineveh: "the gates of thy land"
fig trees with the first ripe figs--expressing the rapidity and ease
of the capture of Nineveh (compare
13. thy people--thy soldiers.
women--unable to fight for thee
Jer 50:37; 51:30).
gates on thy land--the fortified passes or entrances to the
region of Nineveh (compare
Northeast of Nineveh there were hills affording a natural barrier
against an invader; the guarded passes through these are probably "the
gates of the land" meant.
fire shall devour thy bars--the "bars" of the fortresses at the passes
into Assyria. So in Assyrian remains the Assyrians themselves are
represented as setting fire to the gates of a city
[BONOMI, Nineveh, pp. 194, 197].
14. Ironical exhortation to Nineveh to defend herself.
Draw . . . waters--so as not to be without water for drinking, in the
event of being cut off by the besiegers from the fountains.
make strong the brick-kiln--or "repair" [MAURER];
so as to have a supply of bricks formed of kiln-burnt clay, to repair
breaches in the ramparts, or to build new fortifications inside when
the outer ones are taken by the foe.
15. There--in the very scene of thy great preparations for defense;
and where thou now art so secure.
fire--even as at the former destruction; Sardanapalus (Pul?) perished
with all his household in the conflagration of his palace, having in
despair set it on fire, the traces of which are still remaining.
cankerworm--"the licking locust"
make thyself many as the locusts--"the swarming locusts"
that is, however "many" be thy forces, like those of "the swarming
locusts," or the "licking locusts," yet the foe shall consume thee as
the "licking locust" licks up all before it.
16. multiplied thy merchants--
(Eze 27:23, 24).
Nineveh, by large canals, had easy access to Babylon; and it was one of
the great routes for the people of the west and northwest to that city;
lying on the Tigris it had access to the sea. The Phœnicians
carried its wares everywhere. Hence its merchandise is so much spoken
the cankerworm spoileth, and fleeth away--that is, spoiled
thy merchants. The "cankerworm," or licking locust, answers to the
Medo-Babylonian invaders of Nineveh [G. V. SMITH].
CALVIN explains less
probably, "Thy merchants spoiled many regions; but the same shall befall
them as befalls locusts, they in a moment shall be scattered and flee
away." MAURER, somewhat similarly, "The licking locust
puts off (the envelope in which his wings had been folded),
and teeth away"
The Hebrew has ten different names for the locust, so
destructive was it.
17. Thy crowned--Thy princes
The king's nobles and officers wore the tiara, as well as the king;
hence they are called here "thy crowned ones."
as the locusts--as many as the swarming locusts.
thy captains--Tiphsar, an Assyrian word; found also in
meaning satraps [MICHAELIS]; or rather,
"military leaders" [MAURER]. The last syllable,
sar means a "prince," and is found in Belshaz-zar,
as the great grasshoppers--literally, "as the locust of locusts," that
is, the largest locust. MAURER translates, "as many as
locusts upon locusts," that is, swarms of locusts. Hebrew idiom
favors English Version.
in the hedges in the cold--Cold deprives the locust of the power of
flight; so they alight in cold weather and at night, but when warmed by
the sun soon "flee away." So shall the Assyrian multitudes suddenly
disappear, not leaving a trace behind (compare PLINY,
Natural History, 11.29).
18. Thy shepherds--that is, Thy leaders.
slumber--are carelessly secure [MAURER]. Rather, "lie in death's sleep,
having been slain" [JEROME]
shall dwell in the dust--
(Ps 7:5; 94:17).
thy people is scattered--the necessary consequence of their leaders
being laid low
19. bruit--the report.
clap the hands--with joy at thy fall. The sole descendants of the
ancient Assyrians and Babylonians in the whole country are the Nestorian
Christians, who speak a Chaldean language [LAYARD].
upon whom hath not thy wickedness passed continually?--implying God's
long forbearance, and the consequent enormity of Assyria's guilt,
rendering her case one that admitted no hope of restoration.