Today: [Nahum 3] Nineveh’s Destruction: Chapter 3 of Nahum describes the ultimate and total destruction of Assyria, the empire that preceded Babylon. Assyria besieged Jerusalem more than once, and totally annihilated the northern kingdom of Samaria, yet their empire was brought to a complete end by the sovereign hand of God. Thus we learn that God uses even those in enmity against Him to accomplish His sovereign purposes.
[Nah 3:1-19 KJV] 1 Woe to the bloody city! it [is] all full of lies [and] robbery; the prey departeth not; 2 The noise of a whip, and the noise of the rattling of the wheels, and of the pransing horses, and of the jumping chariots. 3 The horseman lifteth up both the bright sword and the glittering spear: and [there is] a multitude of slain, and a great number of carcases; and [there is] none end of [their] corpses; they stumble upon their corpses: 4 Because of the multitude of the whoredoms of the wellfavoured harlot, the mistress of witchcrafts, that selleth nations through her whoredoms, and families through her witchcrafts. 5 Behold, I [am] against thee, saith the LORD of hosts; and I will discover thy skirts upon thy face, and I will shew the nations thy nakedness, and the kingdoms thy shame. 6 And I will cast abominable filth upon thee, and make thee vile, and will set thee as a gazingstock. 7 And it shall come to pass, [that] all they that look upon thee shall flee from thee, and say, Nineveh is laid waste: who will bemoan her? whence shall I seek comforters for thee? 8 Art thou better than populous No, that was situate among the rivers, [that had] the waters round about it, whose rampart [was] the sea, [and] her wall [was] from the sea? 9 Ethiopia and Egypt [were] her strength, and [it was] infinite; Put and Lubim were thy helpers. 10 Yet [was] she carried away, she went into captivity: her young children also were dashed in pieces at the top of all the streets: and they cast lots for her honourable men, and all her great men were bound in chains. 11 Thou also shalt be drunken: thou shalt be hid, thou also shalt seek strength because of the enemy. 12 All thy strong holds [shall be like] fig trees with the firstripe figs: if they be shaken, they shall even fall into the mouth of the eater. 13 Behold, thy people in the midst of thee [are] women: the gates of thy land shall be set wide open unto thine enemies: the fire shall devour thy bars. 14 Draw thee waters for the siege, fortify thy strong holds: go into clay, and tread the morter, make strong the brickkiln. 15 There shall the fire devour thee; the sword shall cut thee off, it shall eat thee up like the cankerworm: make thyself many as the cankerworm, make thyself many as the locusts. 16 Thou hast multiplied thy merchants above the stars of heaven: the cankerworm spoileth, and flieth away. 17 Thy crowned [are] as the locusts, and thy captains as the great grasshoppers, which camp in the hedges in the cold day, [but] when the sun ariseth they flee away, and their place is not known where they [are]. 18 Thy shepherds slumber, O king of Assyria: thy nobles shall dwell [in the dust]: thy people is scattered upon the mountains, and no man gathereth [them]. 19 [There is] no healing of thy bruise; thy wound is grievous: all that hear the bruit of thee shall clap the hands over thee: for upon whom hath not thy wickedness passed continually?
The concluding chapter of Nahum begins by addressing Nineveh as “the bloody city”. Nineveh’s blood lust against conquered peoples is a fact of history. The Assyrian empire was brutal and atrocious in regard to treatment of captives and defeated enemies. When verse 3 describes a multitutde of slain and “no end” of carcasses piled high, it is no exaggeration. In spite of this reputation for cruelty, Nineveh as one of the most prosperous cities in the known world, still attracted thousands to her streets in search of wealth and success. For this reason God speaking through Nahum compares the city to a well favored harlot, seducing the peoples of the earth with her status and her riches. In spite of all her strength and wealth, the Father declares in v. 5 that He is against Nineveh and will expose her nakedness, her vulnerability to the nations and bring the once great empire to total shame. This took place when the Babylonian empire defeated Assyria and dismantled her greatness, folding it into her own. In this regard Babylon is referred to as the servant doing God’s bidding in the book of Jeremiah.
Verses 8-10 compares the coming fall of Nineveh with the ancient city of “No”, or Thebes that the Assyrians destroyed. The city was a great port city, very prosperous and populous but was destroyed totally by the very people that are now being told by God through the prophet Nahum that the same will happen to them. This shows us that the law of reciprocity, sowing and reaping not only applies on the individual plane but between nations as well. Verse 11 declares that the Assyrians will be drunk with fear and will fall to their doom like over ripe figs falling from the branch that is shaken in the wind. Her gates will be let open (v. 13) and the coming siege against her will be successful in breaching her walls and putting Nineveh to the torch.
Verse 16 again reiterates that the strength of Assyria’s economy will not be a defense against her destruction. Her multiplied merchants and royal families will flee away and the people are said to be unable to find them. The shepherds (watchmen or armies) appointed to defend the city of Nineveh are described as sleeping sentries, whose failure to sound the alarm of coming enemies will cause their people to be scattered in the wilderness, seeking refuge from the invading Babylonians. The final pronouncement in verse 19 is that the wound of Nineveh will be fatal and the city will become a byword of a people, a city and a nation falling from dizzying heights of glory to total and complete destruction. Why? Because of her cruelties and her arrogance.
The contrast we can draw from this is that Assyria though an ungodly people and a very wicked nation, was nonetheless allowed to come against the northern kingdom of Samaria and to Jerusalem itself, because of the cruelties of the Israelites against the poor in their own midst and for the idolatries that they practiced all the while diligently following the outward protocols of worship in the temple. As we read of the failures of God’s people from Moses’ day to the final king of Judah, king Zedekiah, the constant drum beat of the prophets decried the idolatries of the people and their abuse of the impoverished. Over time, the idols that were worshipped in secret in the high places, were erected in the Holy Place alongside the table of showbread and the golden lampstand. Every street in Jerusalem at the time of her fall, was said to be dedicated to a different pagan deity. At the same time, throughout her history from Joshua onward (David notwithstanding) the people were never recorded to have observed allowing the land to lay fallow, or to all servants to go free at the appointed time, or to implement the right of return of inherited property in the Jubilee. As a result, the cruelties inflict by the leadership of Samaria and Judah were amplified back upon them by conquerors that God allowed to breach their own borders and conquer them, beginning with the Assyrians and ultimately finished off by the Babylonians.
The lesson for us can seem very difficult to grasp, even frustrating when we ask ourselves what is God saying to us? We know from 1 Cor. 10:11 that this is more than historical record. God allowed this narrative to come down to us that we might (as Rom. 11:21 exhorts) “take heed” lest we as a people suffer the same fate. What that tells us is, that just as the Judaism of the sixth century before Jesus was not (in God’s eyes) too big to fail, likewise Christianity in the 21st century is not so intrinsic to the plan of God that the glaring inconsistencies of the character of our culture compared to kingdom values will go unanswered from heaven. What Judaism suffered for idolatry and cruelty, likewise could be the fate of our own faith, under the encroachments of the anti-Christ, represented (hauntingly) in Micah and Nahum as “the Assyrian).
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