Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Woe to the bloody city! it is all full of lies and robbery; the prey departeth not;
Na 3:1-19. Repetition of Nineveh's Doom, with New Features; the Cause Is Her Tyranny, Rapine, and Cruelty: No-ammon's Fortifications Did Not Save Her; It Is Vain, Therefore, for Nineveh to Think Her Defenses Will Secure Her against God's Sentence.
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 [Grotius].
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.
The noise of a whip, and the noise of the rattling of the wheels, and of the pransing horses, and of the jumping chariots.
2. The reader is transported into the midst of the fight (compare Jer 47:3). 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.
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:
3. horseman—distinct from "the horses" (in the chariots, Na 3:2).
lifteth up—denoting readiness for fight [Ewald]. Gesenius translates, "lifteth up (literally, 'makes to ascend') his horse." Similarly Maurer, "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.
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.
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, 2Ki 16:7-10), and other nations, were tempted by the plausible professions of Assyria, and by the lure of commerce (Re 18:2, 3), to trust her.
witchcrafts—(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.
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.
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 (Jer 13:22; Eze 16:37-41). 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 prides herself.
And I will cast abominable filth upon thee, and make thee vile, and will set thee as a gazingstock.
6. cast abominable filth upon thee—as infamous harlots used to be treated.
gazing stock—exposed to public ignominy as a warning to others (Eze 28:17).
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?
7. all … that look upon thee—when thou hast been made "a gazing stock" (Na 3:6).
shall flee from thee—as a thing horrible to look upon. Compare "standing afar off," Re 18:10.
whence shall I seek comforters for thee?—Compare Isa 51:19, which Nahum had before his mind.
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?
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 (Jer 46:25; Eze 30:14-16). The blow inflicted on No-ammon, described in Na 3:10, was probably by the Assyrian Sargon (see on Isa 18:1; Isa 20:1). 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 Isa 19:6-8). 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 (1Ki 14:25; 2Ch 12:2-9).
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 (Isa 19:5).
Ethiopia and Egypt were her strength, and it was infinite; Put and Lubim were thy helpers.
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.
Put—or Phut (Ge 10:6); descended from Ham (Eze 27:10). 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 Mauritania (compare Jer 46:9, Margin; Eze 38:5).
Lubim—the Libyans, whose capital was Cyrene; extending along the Mediterranean west of Egypt (2Ch 12:3; 16:8; Ac 2:10). 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.
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.
10. Notwithstanding all her might, she was overcome.
cast lots for her honourable men—They divided them among themselves by lot, as slaves (Joe 3:3).
Thou also shalt be drunken: thou shalt be hid, thou also shalt seek strength because of the enemy.
11. drunken—made to drink of the cup of Jehovah's wrath (Isa 51:17, 21; Jer 25:15).
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 (Na 3:9), shalt have recourse to other nations for help against thy Medo-Babylonian enemy.
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.
12. thy strongholds—on the borders of Assyria, protecting the approaches to Nineveh: "the gates of thy land" (Na 3:13).
fig trees with the first ripe figs—expressing the rapidity and ease of the capture of Nineveh (compare Isa 28:4; Re 6:13).
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.
13. thy people—thy soldiers.
women—unable to fight for thee (Isa 19:16; Jer 50:37; 51:30).
gates on thy land—the fortified passes or entrances to the region of Nineveh (compare Jer 15:7). 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].
Draw thee waters for the siege, fortify thy strong holds: go into clay, and tread the morter, make strong the brickkiln.
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.
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.
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" [Henderson].
make thyself many as the locusts—"the swarming locusts" [Henderson]; 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.
Thou hast multiplied thy merchants above the stars of heaven: the cankerworm spoileth, and flieth away.
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 Ph�nicians carried its wares everywhere. Hence its merchandise is so much spoken of.
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" (Na 2:9; compare Joe 1:4). The Hebrew has ten different names for the locust, so destructive was it.
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.
17. Thy crowned—Thy princes (Re 9:7). 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 Jer 51:27, meaning satraps [Michaelis]; or rather, "military leaders" [Maurer]. The last syllable, sar means a "prince," and is found in Belshaz-zar, Nabopolas-sar, Nebuchadnez-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).
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.
18. Thy shepherds—that is, Thy leaders.
slumber—are carelessly secure [Maurer]. Rather, "lie in death's sleep, having been slain" [Jerome] (Ex 15:16; Ps 76:6).
shall dwell in the dust—(Ps 7:5; 94:17).
thy people is scattered—the necessary consequence of their leaders being laid low (1Ki 22:17).
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?
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.