Nahum Chapter 2: Destruction of Nineveh (Papacy)

Nov 6th, 2009 | By | Category: Nahum, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Nahum Chapter 2: Destruction of Nineveh (Papacy)

(1980 & 1992)

Nahum 2:1 He that dasheth in pieces is come up before thy face: keep the munition, watch the way, make thy loins strong, fortify thy power mightily.

“He that dasheth in pieces is come up before thy [Nineveh’s] face.” The pronoun “he” is the “disperser” and the “hammer” in the King James margin, and it is the “shatterer” in the Revised Standard. Babylon was likened to a “hammer” in Jeremiah 50:23, “How is the hammer of the whole earth cut asunder and broken! how is Babylon become a desolation among the nations!” God used Babylon as the instrument for visiting judgment on Israel and taking Israelites into captivity. Assyria was called the “rod” of God’s anger and His (battle) “axe” and “saw.” “O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation” (Isa. 10:5). “Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? as if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were no wood” (Isa. 10:15). God sometimes used a heathen power to visit judgment on His people, but here in the Book of Nahum, the judgment was being visited upon an enemy of God’s people—Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. The prophet was saying to Nineveh, “You are going to be dashed to pieces. The ones instrumental in visiting this judgment on you are before your face—they are outside the wall ready to do the damage.”

Comment: About 40 years earlier Jonah delivered a judgment message to Nineveh and was disappointed when the city was not destroyed.

Reply: Jonah was commissioned of the Lord to pronounce a prophecy against Nineveh, which was almost like Sodom and Gomorrah. As the enemy of God’s people, “Nineveh” was used as a byword by the Israelites. When the gourd (or vine) that grew up and sheltered Jonah withered, God drew a lesson, for upon the repentance of the king and the people of Nineveh, the city was spared the judgment that was to take place at that time.

Q: Who, then, does the pronoun “he” refer to in verse 1?

A: In the type, the pronoun refers to Babylon, who came up against Nineveh’s “face” to destroy it.

“Keep the munition, watch the way, make thy loins strong, fortify thy power mightily.” This portion of verse 1 is directed sarcastically to Nineveh. A similar statement was made with regard to the coming universal situation: “Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong” (Joel 3:10). Those in Nineveh tried to hold off the enemy—but to no avail. The siege lasted almost three years, but Nineveh was taken in the final analysis.

Comment: Nahum was sarcastically saying to Nineveh, “Do all you want, but your efforts will come to naught.”

Nahum 2:2 For the LORD hath turned away the excellency of Jacob, as the excellency of Israel: for the emptiers have emptied them out, and marred their vine branches.

For this verse, the Revised Standard has a parenthetical statement: “(For the LORD is restoring the majesty of Jacob as the majesty of Israel, for plunderers have stripped them and ruined their branches.)” That is the correct slant, but it can be expressed another way. The reason Assyria was previously successful in invading Israel and taking the ten tribes captive was that God felt Israel needed this lesson, this punishment. Therefore, God had allowed the northern kingdom to be taken into captivity, the land to be emptied of its inhabitants, and considerable spoil to go into the hands of Assyria, the invader. By inferential reasoning, the account is saying, “Now that the judgment has been satisfied by the ten tribes’ being taken captive, the yoke on their shoulders will be broken.” However, the ten tribes were not restored back to their homeland because of the judgment. The thought is that the oppressive yoke would be broken to give them some respite from their experience.

In the first chapter is a reference, among other things, to when King Sennacherib came down and threatened Jerusalem. As an agent of the king, Rab-shakeh warned the two tribes to submit. Eventually God said He would defend the inhabitants of the two tribes so that they would not even have to shoot an arrow. The matter was taken care of through an angel. In the morning, 185,000 Assyrians were found dead, and the king fled back to his homeland. From a natural standpoint, that picture is primarily a type of Gog and Magog’s coming down in Jacob’s Trouble and how God will defend Israel.

Chapters 2 and 3 focus on the judgment of Nineveh not as a picture of a flagrant enemy of God but as a picture of Christendom, the supposed Church of God. Thus these two chapters are a completely different perspective. The destruction of antitypical Babylon, Christendom, will be much like the destruction of Nineveh. As we proceed, we will see similar analogies with regard to the fall of Nineveh (or Assyria) and mystic Babylon. Just as Rome is the center of Christendom, so Nineveh was the capital of Assyria.

Nahum 2:3 The shield of his mighty men is made red, the valiant men are in scarlet: the chariots shall be with flaming torches in the day of his preparation, and the fir trees shall be terribly shaken.

Nahum 2:4 The chariots shall rage in the streets, they shall justle one against another in the broad ways: they shall seem like torches, they shall run like the lightnings.

“The shield of his [Assyria’s, Nineveh’s] mighty men is made red, the valiant men [soldiers— see RSV] are [clothed] in scarlet.” What is the significance of the shield being “red”? This is a battle scene, and an Assyrian custom was to color their shields with red dye as a psychological ploy. When a person was wounded, blood came through the shield, but if the shield was already red, the wound was not as apparent. In other words, with a red shield, the opponent, or enemy, was less apt to discern the wound.

In verse 1, the Lord said sarcastically to the Assyrians, “Make your loins strong; fortify your power mightily”; that is, “Gird yourselves for this battle.” The Assyrians’ preparation for war was awesome. Making their shields red was just one of many aspects. The Lord had predetermined that the Assyrians would be defeated in this battle.

Why was the attire “scarlet”? In different periods of Assyrian history, the people liked scarlet and purple dyes for their clothing.

Comment: Verses 3 and 4 are much more powerful than the usual explanation that is given about trains and locomotives. The Revised Standard reads, “The shield of his mighty men is red, his soldiers are clothed in scarlet. The chariots flash like flame when mustered in array; the  chargers prance. The chariots rage in the streets; they rush to and fro through the squares; they gleam like torches, they dart like lightning.”

Reply: Yes, the Pastor spoke about the jostling of the individual cars of a train. With every little movement, the cars squeaked and bumped. At night, passengers could see the locomotives being stoked, for they ran on wood and coal. The King James Version gives the proper thought, but it could be lost because of the term “the day of his preparation,” which was said to have begun in 1799. The Pastor used this term to refer to the increase of knowledge, and one of the first evidences of that increase, with regard to land travel, was the train. However, when verses 3 and 4 are considered in context, we see that chariots are being described, rather than a train.

Why did the chariots “seem like [flaming] torches”? In warfare in Old Testament times, an army tried to set the enemy’s chariots on fire, burning everything that was combustible.

Burning pitch and tar were flung into wood and cloth to increase the terror and make the chariots look like flaming torches.

When the metal-rimmed chariot wheels struck cobblestones in a street, sparks were created that were very visible at night. Also, daggers, scimitars, or scythes were sometimes inserted into the hub of the chariot wheels. As the chariot moved, the knives reflected light, thus adding to the element of terror. In other words, from the standpoint of the inhabitants of Nineveh, who were being besieged, the enemy chariots struck terror into their hearts, just as the Assyrians had previously struck terror into the hearts of others.

“The fir trees shall be terribly shaken.” Battering rams were made from the trees. Nahum was describing a battle scene with great activity—with fervency and zeal on the part of the attacking host.

“The chariots shall rage in the streets, they shall justle [jostle] one against another in the broad ways.” A charging enemy who was determined to be victorious could not steer a straight  course on cobblestones, so the chariots jostled and scraped one another. In this confused picture, a multitude of chariots were coming, bumping one another as they raced toward the Ninevites. The description is given from the standpoint of the disheartened Ninevites who were on the city wall, observing the activity of the approaching enemy.

“They shall seem like torches, they shall run like the lightnings.” The wording indicates speed and violence. What appeared to be disorganization spelled trouble for Nineveh.

What an awesome battle scene! The account is describing a melee of chariots running over dead bodies, confusion, casualties, etc., but in a subsequent verse, a sudden, dramatic change took place that favored the opponent. That sudden change was of divine providence.

Nahum 2:5 He shall recount his worthies: they shall stumble in their walk; they shall make haste to the wall thereof, and the defence shall be prepared.

“He [those of Nineveh] shall recount his worthies.” The Revised Standard has, “The officers are summoned.” Nineveh would regroup its forces to try to stave off what seemed to be impending defeat. In this endeavor to regroup, the Ninevites would find the situation was out of hand. Being frustrated in their purpose, they would “make haste to the wall thereof.” Earlier the Ninevites fought outside the city wall, confronting the enemy there, but in that melee, the tide of the forces was changing to favor the besiegers. Thus the Ninevites would hasten to get inside the wall to regroup, and they would try to man the wall to keep the enemy from penetrating the city itself.

Nahum 2:6 The gates of the rivers shall be opened, and the palace shall be dissolved.

“The gates of the rivers shall be opened.” Nineveh had 1,500 towers about 200 feet high and many gates, but how were the gates opened? During the siege that lasted for almost three years, there was a continuous heavy rain that caused the Tigris River to rise and overflow.

(Babylon was on the Euphrates; Nineveh was on the Tigris.) The flooding undercut a large segment of the fortification wall, causing it to collapse. The material in the base foundation was made to withstand a siege, but the water softened the material. Thus the Lord opened the gates, as it were, so that the enemy could enter the city. Instead of the river being contained in its channels and normal bed, it overflowed. The Ninevites had tried to control the Tigris for several purposes such as defense and irrigation, but the flooding removed the restraints.

“The palace shall be dissolved.” When the king saw the wall collapse and the city being invaded, he knew Nineveh’s cause was hopeless, so he went to his palace, and there with his concubines, etc., set fire to the wood portion of the structure and committed suicide.

Comment: For “dissolved,” the King James margin has “molten.”

Reply: Yes, a fire was involved.

Nahum 2:7 And Huzzab shall be led away captive, she shall be brought up, and her maids shall lead her as with the voice of doves, tabering upon their breasts.

According to Taylor, Huzzab was the queen of Nineveh, and a Jewish Bible has “queen” instead of Huzzab. Huzzab can mean “one standing by,” and a queen figuratively stands beside the king. The queen of Nineveh survived and was led away captive. In other words, she did not commit suicide like her husband. “Her maids” were the handmaidens assigned to her personally. These handmaidens mourned like doves. As doves put their beaks down on their breasts, they make a sound of mourning, which figuratively portrayed going into captivity in mourning. For “tabering upon their breasts,” the RSV has “beating their breasts.”

With regard to the antitype of Christendom, Huzzab, the queen of Nineveh who would be led away captive, represents Catholicism, and her “maid[en]s” picture the Protestant daughter systems, who will lament, mourn like doves, and beat their breasts in deep grief.

Chapter 17 of the Book of Revelation shows the judgment of the woman, the harlot, and of the beast that carries her. In the eighth head, or condition, which is a repeat of the fifth head, the beast arises out of the bottomless pit, and in the near future, ten kings, corresponding to the ten horns, will come together in a coalition to support Catholicism for one hour. Later the same ten powers who first support that religious system will, with different occupants in control, become disenchanted and make the woman naked, destroy her, and burn her with fire as a condemned harlot. Thus ten kings, or powers, will support the woman, and ten kings, or powers, will lead to her destruction.

Moreover, the ten kings will give their power and strength unto the beast for one hour. The beast is Papacy, a religious government. When the hour of power ends, the ten powers will withdraw their support from Papacy, and the beast will go into perdition. The destruction of the harlot will quickly follow. In other words, the beast will cease when the ten powers withdraw their support. Then the European nations under new leadership will be involved with the harlot’s destruction. The account here in Nahum simply states that Huzzab, the queen, “will be led away captive.” Revelation chapter 17 is needed to show the woman’s destruction. In the past, the beast, Papacy, was recognized by the nations of Europe in the fifth-head condition, but it was not recognized during the sixth and seventh heads. In the eighth, or final, condition, Papacy experiences a revival. The point is that in the sixth and seventh conditions, Papacy did not exist as a temporal religious government, but the Roman Catholic Church did (Rev. 17:8). Hence that church has boasted, “I sit [as] a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow” (Rev. 18:7). But in the near future, after the beast is destroyed the second time, the harlot will also be destroyed shortly thereafter. It is logical that Papacy will fall first, ahead of the harlot, because it will be the most outspoken proponent in the hour of power. In the future, as a repercussion of the stand the feet members will take, the thrust of anger and disapproval will be focused, first, upon the papal leadership and then, second, upon the Catholic religion.

The harlot survived the first time the beast was destroyed, but following the second time the beast is destroyed, she will be destroyed as well.

In the history of the fall of Nineveh, the king of Assyria died by committing suicide inside a burning palace with some of his entourage, and the queen was led away captive. Thus the literal king of Assyria and the queen, Huzzab, fit the antitype of the beast and the harlot.

Nahum 2:8 But Nineveh is of old like a pool of water: yet they shall flee away. Stand, stand, shall they cry; but none shall look back.

For verse 8, the Revised Standard reads, “Nineveh is like a pool whose waters run away. ‘Halt! Halt!’ they cry; but none turns back.” The leadership of Nineveh’s defense force was speaking, trying to stop the disaffection of the inhabitants who had no heart for battle. Amidst utter panic, the commanders were saying, “Halt! Stop! Come back and defend your posts.” But the inhabitants would not listen.

It is customary for soldiers to be rewarded with medals, ribbons, and words of commendation by those of high rank. Today, however, some realize the commendations are a meaningless piece of metal, and they have little or no motivation to be dedicated to a patriotic cause.

Accordingly, when the great Time of Trouble comes on the earth, there will be no loyalty to one’s country or government. The seeds of this attitude can be seen today.

In antitype, Nineveh’s (Catholicism’s) sympathizers, will cry, “Halt! Halt!” when the people no longer support the system. To repeat: “Nineveh is like a pool whose waters run [flee] away.”

The city was similar to Babylon, whose revenue and wealth were based upon its position astride the river Euphrates, but Babylon’s “waters” were dried up. In the antitype, those who formerly support that religious system will divert their revenues into other channels. Hence, just as the way was prepared for Cyrus to enter through the dry riverbed and capture the city of Babylon, so it will be with antitypical Nineveh. Those who are in sympathy with the “Nineveh” system will see the trend where the people panic and start to leave the system. They will cry, “Halt Halt! Come back and help,” but the people—and even the kings of the earth—will be interested in self-preservation. The kings will “stand afar off” when their own lives would be jeopardized by continuing to help Papacy (Rev. 18:9,10). Thus, from afar, kings and merchants will witness Papacy’s destruction.

Nahum 2:9 Take ye the spoil of silver, take the spoil of gold: for there is none end of the store and glory out of all the pleasant furniture.

Now the picture switches to the enemy. The Babylonians and the Medes both took spoils of gold and silver. It was as though God were saying to the besiegers, “Here are your wages— take all you want. The mighty city of Nineveh has collapsed. Have your fill of the goodies.” So abundant were the spoil and “store”—the riches—that they seemed to be endless. The implication is that Assyria had taken these treasures from the nations they had defeated. In storage were all kinds of “pleasant furniture,” not just Assyrian treasures but relics, tapestries, and items from Egypt and other lands. In the overthrow of the ecclesiastical systems in the near future, the destroyers will capitalize on the “treasures,” looting what they want and destroying the rest.

Nahum 2:10 She is empty, and void, and waste: and the heart melteth, and the knees smite together, and much pain is in all loins, and the faces of them all gather blackness.

Nineveh would be made “empty, and void, and waste”—a threefold emphasis of the ascending climax of the utter ruin of the city. It was like saying, “Nineveh is void, is more void, and is utterly void.” In fact, the city was left in such a state of ruin that its exact location has been debated, yet formerly it was so large that three days were required for Jonah to go from one side of Nineveh to the other. As he went along, he kept preaching that the city would be destroyed.

Verse 10 describes the experience of the people of Nineveh. Hearts melted and knees knocked together in fear. We are reminded of the time King Belshazzar’s seeing the fingers of a man’s hand writing on the wall caused “the joints of his loins … [to be] loosed, and his knees smote one against another” (Dan. 5:6).

“Much pain is in all loins.” In a time of great emotion through fear or sorrow, the loins, the stomach, and muscles can all be adversely affected.

“The faces of them all gather blackness.” Faces turned gray or black from fear and starvation during a famine that was caused by a siege. Especially in that area, the darkening of the skin was more noticeable.

The RSV reads, “Desolate! Desolation and ruin! Hearts faint and knees tremble, anguish is on all loins, all faces grow pale!” In the antitype, faces will grow pale with fear or black with starvation. The nominal Church system will fall apart; it will be wasted. Anyone confederate or identified with it will experience a melting heart and knocking knees out of fright. As support dries up, particularly the leaders will experience this fright as they consider the oncoming enemy. Under conditions of extreme fright, people’s nervous systems can cause their knees to bang together uncontrollably, or one may run in panic, having no control. For example, in a bad fire, people have temporarily lost all rationality and run right into walls. They know they must get away, but they cannot see because of fear.

Nahum 2:11 Where is the dwelling of the lions, and the feedingplace of the young lions, where the lion, even the old lion, walked, and the lion’s whelp, and none made them afraid?

Nahum 2:12 The lion did tear in pieces enough for his whelps, and strangled for his lionesses, and filled his holes with prey, and his dens with ravin.

The prophet now used a picture from nature to emphasize the taking of spoils. The RSV reads, “Where is the lions’ den, the cave of the young lions, where the lion brought his prey, where his cubs were, with none to disturb? The lion tore enough for his whelps and strangled prey for his lionesses; he filled his caves with prey and his dens with torn flesh.” The older, more mature lionesses go out and get prey and bring it back to the den for the young whelps.

However, unlike the adult lions, the whelps cannot masticate and digest large quantities. Therefore, the lioness tears the prey into pieces for her young lions to consume. And the male lion personally feeds his lionesses, his harem, from the prey that he hunts. The analogy is that Assyria’s generals went into other countries and captured treasures and spoils and brought them back home—food, garments, furniture, etc.

Lions also pack their dens with excess food. In other words, if a male lion returns with a large animal he has killed, the “ravin” (the dead flesh) is eaten over a period of several days. Hence the excess is stored for future use. Similarly, Assyria’s generals brought spoils back to their homeland.

The allegory about lions pertains to Christendom. Nineveh was pictured as an old lion, an established power, whose den was gone. Previously, none made either the lion or its cubs afraid, for they had their own secure den. In fact, they struck fear in the hearts of others, particularly in the lions’ own territory. The young lions devoured the prey brought back to the den by the old lion. Hence Papacy had awesome power in its heyday.

The male lion goes out to get food and bring it back for the lionesses and the cubs. What could not be devoured at one time was stuffed into convenient recesses in the cave as carrion for future use. And so Papacy has accumulated all the wealth and blood of the world, as it were.

The system just kept appropriating more and more treasures for its own use.

Nahum 2:13 Behold, I am against thee, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will burn her chariots in the smoke, and the sword shall devour thy young lions: and I will cut off thy prey from the earth, and the voice of thy messengers shall no more be heard.

“I [the LORD of hosts] will burn her chariots in the smoke.” Both Assyria and the besieger had chariots.

Incidentally, Pul, Tiglath-pileser, Shalmaneser, and Sennacherib were successive kings of Assyria, and we are reading about the last of the Assyrian Empire. But there was an older Assyrian Empire based on Nimrod, who established various cities (Gen. 10:8-10). Apparently, Mount Nimrut in Turkey was originally established by Nimrod, and on the mount are crude statues of lions. The lion was a favorite symbol of the Assyrian Empire because it reminded the people of their forebear, the “mighty hunter” Nimrod, who hunted with a cheetah.

Therefore, this reference to lions here in Nahum is sarcasm. Formerly, Assyria was like a lion that went out and got spoils, but now the empire would be utterly waste. All that Assyria had collected would be given as wages to the attackers, to those who would defeat and destroy her.

“The voice of thy messengers shall no more be heard.” Assyria’s former practice was to send messengers to speak at the wall of a city it wanted to conquer. Now these messengers would no longer be able to go out to other nations (as Rab-shakeh had gone to Israel) to make grandiose claims and to tell the people to submit without a struggle. Many powers did accede to the demands, for they knew that if they tried to withstand Assyria, they would be utterly annihilated.

Jehovah is against antitypical Nineveh. The voice of her “messengers [the false preachers] shall no more be heard” because the beast and the false prophet will be permanently destroyed. The deception at the end of the Millennium will not be religious but will be a civil insurrection. Mystic Babylon’s chariots will be burned “in the smoke.” Revelation 18:18 mentions the crying that will occur when the “smoke of her burning” is seen.

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