Lament Over A Doomed City
No nation is immune to God’s judgement if it lives by the power of the sword and follows a policy of ruthlessness toward other nations. Assyria’s history was one of uninterrupted ruthlessness from beginning to end. Nahum’s satisfaction over the fall of such a cruel and wicked nation was shared by other prophets. Zephaniah wrote: “And he will stretch out his hand against the north, and destroy Assyria; and he will make Nineveh a desolation and dry like a wilderness. This is the rejoicing city that dwelt carelessly, that said in her heart, I am, and there is none besides me: how is she become a desolation, a place for beasts to lie down in! every one that passeth by her shall hiss, and wag his hand.” Zeph. 2: 13; 15.
1) Down-right Wickness of Nineveh. (v.1-4)
Woe! Nineveh is called “the bloody city” or “the city of bloods.” When “bloods” occurs in its plural form, it denotes blood that has been shed through acts of murder and violence. Violence in Nineveh is linked to lies and deceit. Nineveh’s wealth has been gained through lies and deceit.
Only those who have known the horrors of war can fully appreciate a passage like this. It seems obvious that the prophet himself had witnessed the sights and sounds of war and was writing out of his own experience.
2) Nineveh – A Harlot in Distress (v4-7).
” Nineveh is to be punished very severely. “I will discover thy skirts upon thy face and I will show the nations thy nakedness.”
” God himself entered the fray (fight, conflict) against Nineveh. He punished her for the harlot she was.
” Nineveh dropped out of history to no one’s regret because her cruelties had separated her from all other nations.
3) Nineveh is Compared to Thebes (v8 – 11)
The prophet demanded of Nineveh if she thought she were better than Thebes. The real point of the question is whether the defenses of Nineveh were better than those of Thebes. The comparison was appropriate, for the two cities were alike in many ways. Both were capital cities. Thebes, the capital of upper Egypt, lay about four hundred miles of Cairo. Both were located on rivers. Nineveh on the Tigris and Thebes on the East bank of the river Nile. Both considered themselves to be impregnable.
And yet Thebes was conquered about 661 BC by an Assyrian ruler! Although Thebes was situated by the river Nile, and although it was allied with Ethopia and the Libyans, it still did not escape the sword.
Therefore, why should Nineveh escape doom? Her defenses were not as strong as Thebes. She had no staunch allies. The prophet described the city’s fate as that of a person in a drunken stupor, too dazed to defend himself and concerned only with finding a way of escape (v.11).
4) Nineveh – Futile Efforts at Defense (v. 12-18)
Nineveh’s protecting fortresses were like ripe figs ready to fall into a mouth of anyone who shook the fig tree (v12). Her defenders were no better than woman, lacking in courage and unable to defend themselves (v13). To accuse soldiers of being like women was about the worst insult that could be hurled at them in Old Testament times. Modern preachers would be wise to choose a different metaphor! Nahum speaks of the gates of Nineveh as being wide open to her enemies, and fire set to her bars (v13).
The prophet was calling upon the city to prepare herself for defense (v14-17). There is no city so well prepared to provide lasting security for its people, if the city has forfeited its moral right to exist. (No family also) Nineveh could not trust in her large population to save her. Actually, the fate of Nineveh’s ruling classes, her shepherds and nobles, would be far worse. They would sleep the sleep of death with no one to arouse them. Having no shepherd to tend them, the people of the city would be scattered like lost sheep along the mountains, with none to gather them. (v18)
Conclusion: There will be no healing for those that choose to disobey God. Read v. 19.
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