Nahum 3:1-15, 19 (NIV) 1 Woe to the city of blood, full of lies, full of plunder, never without victims! 2 The crack of whips, the clatter of wheels, galloping horses and jolting chariots! 3 Charging cavalry, flashing swords and glittering spears! Many casualties, piles of dead, bodies without number, people stumbling over the corpses– 4 all because of the wanton lust of a harlot, alluring, the mistress of sorceries, who enslaved nations by her prostitution and peoples by her witchcraft. 5 “I am against you,” declares the LORD Almighty. “I will lift your skirts over your face. I will show the nations your nakedness and the kingdoms your shame. 6 I will pelt you with filth, I will treat you with contempt and make you a spectacle. 7 All who see you will flee from you and say, ‘Nineveh is in ruins–who will mourn for her?’ Where can I find anyone to comfort you?” 8 Are you better than Thebes, situated on the Nile, with water around her? The river was her defense, the waters her wall. 9 Cush and Egypt were her boundless strength; Put and Libya were among her allies. 10 Yet she was taken captive and went into exile. Her infants were dashed to pieces at the head of every street. Lots were cast for her nobles, and all her great men were put in chains. 11 You too will become drunk; you will go into hiding and seek refuge from the enemy. 12 All your fortresses are like fig trees with their first ripe fruit; when they are shaken, the figs fall into the mouth of the eater. 13 Look at your troops– they are all women! The gates of your land are wide open to your enemies; fire has consumed their bars. 14 Draw water for the siege, strengthen your defenses! Work the clay, tread the mortar, repair the brickwork! 15 There the fire will devour you; the sword will cut you down and, like grasshoppers, consume you. Multiply like grasshoppers, multiply like locusts!
19 Nothing can heal your wound; your injury is fatal. Everyone who hears the news about you claps his hands at your fall, for who has not felt your endless cruelty?
On verses 1-15, 19: Here in these verses Nahum describes with vivid imagery the destruction that Nineveh would experience. In verses 8-10 Nahum compares Nineveh to Thebes of ancient Egypt and how despite all of its power and prosperity, the city still fell.
You might be asking, “How could God be so cruel to Nineveh?” Keep these things in mind:
God had already shown mercy to Nineveh before, having warned the people of Nineveh in the past. After initially repenting, the Ninevites eventually returned to being a centre for great wickedness and “endless cruelty” (v19), refusing to take seriously God’s warnings and God’s mercy.
Nahum’s message here is itself a warning. About 100 years before this, God sent the prophet Jonah to Nineveh to proclaim, “40 more days and Nineveh will be overturned.” In response to this warning, the Ninevites repented and God relented. Who is to say that God would not respond with similar mercy if the Ninevites repented in response to Nahum’s message? Unfortunately, based on the fact that Nineveh was indeed destroyed and never built up again, it appears that the Ninevites did not heed Nahum’s message or humble themselves before God. As a result, the destruction that Nahum warned about came to pass eventually.
What can we learn from this? God is just and is committed to avenging evil. Still, as powerful, just and sovereign as God is, as much as God hates evil and is committed to punishing evil, God is also merciful. In His mercy God will usually not allow great destruction to take place without warning. In His mercy God will watch how people respond to Him – whether in humility or with pride – and He responds to them in kind. In His mercy, God even sacrificed His own Son Jesus Christ on the cross for our sins so that we would not have to experience God’s tremendous wrath against sin. Were it not for Jesus, the destruction and shame that Nahum describes the Ninevites experiencing would be our fate as well. So let’s stand in awe of God’s power and justice, and thank God for His great mercy toward us expressed through His Son Jesus Christ.
Nahum 3:16-18 (NIV) 16 You have increased the number of your merchants till they are more than the stars of the sky, but like locusts they strip the land and then fly away. 17 Your guards are like locusts, your officials like swarms of locusts that settle in the walls on a cold day– but when the sun appears they fly away, and no one knows where. 18 O king of Assyria, your shepherds slumber; your nobles lie down to rest. Your people are scattered on the mountains with no one to gather them.
On verses 16-18: Here Nahum takes aim specifically at the leaders of Nineveh:
In verse 16 Nahum compares the business leaders of Nineveh to locusts who just “strip the land bare and fly away”.
In verse 17 Nahum compares Nineveh’s military leaders and political officials also to locusts in that they settle in the city for their own comfort but are nowhere to be found when you look for them (“they fly away, and no one knows where”).
In verse 18, Nahum takes aim at all the slumbering leaders of Assyria (Nineveh being the capital city of Assyria). Nahum especially goes after the Assyrian king, suggesting that the people of Assyria are like sheep without a shepherd, “scattered on the mountains with no one to gather them” (v18).
What can we learn from this? The health of a city or nation – or any family or organization for that matter – depends so much on the quality of its leaders. No city, nation, family or organization can prosper or be healthy without great leadership. About 100 years before Nahum wrote this prophetic warning to Nineveh, God sent Jonah to declare a similar message, and it was the king of Nineveh who led the people in repenting, and this in turn led to a spiritual awakening in Nineveh and a turning away of God’s wrath. Unfortunately, in Nahum’s time 100 years later, Nineveh was without such a king. Let’s pray that both now and for every generation coming after us, that our families, church, city and nation would be led by great, God-fearing, God-honouring leaders.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the incredible mercy You show us by warning us often before You discipline us and by not treating us as our sins deserve because Your Son Jesus paid the price for us. I pray for our families, our church, our cities and our nations, that for now and for every subsequent generation there would be strong, wise, God-fearing, God-honouring leadership that would heed Your warnings and obey Your Word so that we would live in Your full blessing. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!
This brings our look at the book of Nahum to a close. What important lessons did you learn from this book? I encourage you to record them in a place near the book of Nahum in your Bible so that whenever you go back to this book you’ll be reminded of the lessons you learned.