Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Study of the Prophets: Nahum (Cont.)
This week we start with Chapter 2 that continues the change from how Nineveh will be destroyed to Judah’s salvation. We know by now this has great implication for and application to the future of Jerusalem and all true believers (Spiritual Israel). “Behold on the mountains the feet of the herald proclaiming peace! Celebrate your feasts, O Judah, fulfill your vows; for the lawless one will never pass by you again; he is completely cut off.”
Nahum tells that the news of Sennacherib’s death will soon be announced through- out Judah and that those who had been expelled from their homes should now return, for Assyria had fallen (Radak; Metzudos). Bearers (heralders) of tidings would stand upon mountains so that their words could be heard for greater distances (Judges 9:7; Isaiah 40:9). The intent of the imagery is that the nations’ salvation is imminent. Some commentators posit that this prophecy occurred after the death of Sennacherib and that this prophecy refers to Sennacherib’s son, or was addressing the past.
During the Assyrian occupation, the people were not allowed to go to the Temple in Jerusalem and celebrate the Festivals of G-d. Now they are urged to return and resume celebrating the Festivals (Mahari Kara).
The people were told that Sennacherib and his descendants will never again oppress the nation, as they have been utterly destroyed. This prophecy applies to the events in Revelation just as it did in the time of Nahum. Reading from Revelation 20:10 “The Adversary who had deceived them[nations] was hurled into the lake of fire and sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet were; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” This scripture refers to what will happen after the thousand years when the Adversary will be set free for a time to deceive the nations and gather them for battle at Jerusalem.
Throughout the years of Assyrian oppression, just as will happen during the last 3 ½ years of the Tribulation, the people had vowed to offer sacrifices if G-d would only drive the enemy away. I submit those in Jerusalem during the Tribulation will also beseech G-d to deliver them and allow them to offer sacrifices as they had during the first 3 ½ years of the Tribulation and during the Millennial reign. During the time of Nahum, he Nahum exhorts them to fulfill their vows and make the sacrifices as G-d delivered them from the Assyrians. Similarly, in the future, G-d will deliver His people through Yahshua who will return to take the throne, rule for a thousand years, and will then create a new heaven and earth after Armageddon, ultimately to live with His people and be their G-d in the new Jerusalem. However, unlike many clergy who teach that all we need do is “profess Jesus” and salvation will be granted instantaneously and forever, let’s read the exclusion criteria found in Revelation 21:8 and repeated in Revelation 22:15. Compare and contrast these verses:
Revelation 21:8 “But as for the cowardly, the untrustworthy, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those involved with the occult and with drugs, idol-worshippers, and all liars- their destiny is the lake burning with fire and sulfur, the second death.”
Revelation 22:15 “Outside [the gates of the holy city] are the homosexuals, those involved with the occult and with drugs, the sexually immoral, murderers, idol-worshippers, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.”
Back to Nahum 2:2: “The scatterer has left your presence, he is beset with a siege. Look out at the road; gird your loins and gather much strength.”
Nahum continues to address the inhabitants of Judah. The kingdom of Sennacherib, who had scattered the Ten Tribes into exile during the days of Hezekiah, is now besieged by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylonia (Rashi; Mahari Kara). Another explanation of this verse by Radak is rendered as “the scatterer that has come against you is destroyed; therefore, guard the fortresses- inhabit the fortified cities that had been captured and left by the Assyrian king; don’t abandon them. Ibn Ezra takes the position that Nahum is addressing Nineveh, and advising them to prepare for Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion.
Verses 1-8. – § 1. Nineveh shall be besieged, because G-d is about to exalt his people by taking vengeance on the enemy, whose defense, howsoever formidable, is of no avail. Verse 1. – Nahum addresses Nineveh, and forewarns her of the siege she was about to undergo. He that dasheth in pieces; the disperser; qui dispergat (Vulgate); ἐμφυσῶν, “panting” (Septuagint). The mixed army that invested Nineveh is so called from its effect on the inhabitants of the neighboring lands. Others translate it, “the maul,” or “hammer” – an appellation of Cyaxares, which reminds one of Judas Maccabaeus. Is come up before thy face. Placing his forces in thy sight, that thou mayest see his power and thine own danger. Keep the munition. The prophet urges the Ninevites to guard their fortress well. Some connect this clause with the preceding: “the disperser is come to maintain the siege;” as the Vulgate, qui custodiat obsidionem. But the other interpretation is more forcible, and suits the rest of the verse. The LXX., reading differently, gives, ἐξαιρούμενος [+ σε, Alex.] ἐκ θλίψεως, “one delivered from affliction.” Watch the way, by which the enemy approaches. Make thy loins strong. Gather up thy strength, the loins being regarded as the seat of strength (2 Chron. 10:10; Job 40:7; Ezek. 29:7; 1 Pet. 1:13). So weak, effeminate people were called in Latin elumbes, “loinless.” Fortify thy power mightily; Ανδρισαι τῇ ἰσχύι σφόδρα (Septuagint). Make yourselves as strong as possible (comp. Amos 2:14).
Strength in this context of our study and this narrative has more than a physical application. The people must assuredly have gained strength of conviction, belief in G-d, and assurance of their salvation from the Assyrians. Watching the Assyrians being conquered may have physically strengthened the Jews but I submit it was though a strengthened conviction, faith/trust in G-d and assurance of their deliverance from Assyrian oppression. The following verse supports this explanation.
Verse 3: “For HaShem has restored the pride of Jacob like the [former] pride of Israel; for plunderers have laid them bare and have destroyed their vine branches.”
The sacred nation is YHVH/Yahshua’s vine, destined to send out its tendrils all over the earth. But G-d has allowed its hedge to be broken down. “All they that go by do pluck her . . .” (Psalm 80:12-13). In the punishment of one notoriously oppressive world-power, Nahum sees a pledge that the branch of YHVH shall be again “beautiful and glorious” (Isaiah 4:2). The construction in the first part of the verse is perplexing. It appears best to attach a special emphasis to the names “Jacob” and “Israel” in connection with their original signification. “Jacob” is the birth-name—the nation regarded apart from its religious privileges, the homeless exile, the downtrodden “worm (Isaiah 41:14), the younger son among nations. But “Israel” is the chosen of G-d; he who “had power over the angel and prevailed”; the “beloved son, called out of Egypt.” The name given by YHVH is henceforth to have its full significance, as in the days of old. “Jacob,” the name which is so often used after the deportation of the ten tribes, is again to be indicated as “Israel,” the favored people of G-d. Some commentators render, “For JYHVH restores alike the glory of Jacob and the glory of Israel,” &c., making “Jacob” the designation of the southern, “Israel” that of the northern kingdom. But the term “Jacob” nowhere else has this distinctive force (Ellicott’s Commentary).
This ruin shall fall on Nineveh because G-d is mindful of his chosen people, whom Assyria has oppressed. Hath turned away. It should be rendered, returneth to, or restoreth, bringeth back; reddidit (Vulgate); Isaiah 52:8; Hos.6:11. The excellency of Jacob, as the excellency of Israel. The L-rd restores the glory and honour of Jacob, the nation in its political aspect, and the high privileges of the spiritual Israel, the chosen people of G-d (comp. Obadiah 1:18). For. Asshur is visited because Judah has had its full measure of punishment. The emptiers have emptied them out. The plunderers (the enemy) have plundered the Jews. And marred their vine branches. The heathen has cut off the members of Israel, the L-rd’s vineyard. (For the metaphor “vine,” comp. Psalm 80:8, etc.; Isaiah 5: Jeremiah 41:10). Not only from what is read in the Bible (e.g. 2 Kings 15:19; 2 Kings 16:7, etc.; 2 Kings 17:3; 18:14), but from the details in the cuneiform inscriptions, we learn that the Assyrians were a constant danger and annoyance to Israel, and harassed continually both the southern and northern provinces (Pulpit Commentary).
Verse 4-5: “The shields of his warriors are reddened; his soldiers are colored scarlet; the chariots [glisten] with the fire of torches on the day he is readied; his cypress [spears] are poisoned.” The chariots careen in the streets; they clang in the city squares; their appearance is like flames; they dash like lightning.”
Army is now confronting army; the armies, thus far, of G-d against the army of His enemy; all without is order; all within, confusion. The assailing army, from its compactness and unity, is spoken of, both as many and one. The might is of many; the order and singleness of purpose is as of one. The shield, collectively, not shields. “His mighty men;” He, who was last spoken of, was El Gibor; the Mighty G-d, as He says in Isaiah; “I have commanded My consecrated ones; I have also called My mighty ones, them that rejoice in My highness” (Isaiah 13:3).
Is reddened – Either with blood of the Assyrians, shed in some previous battle, before the siege began, or (which is the meaning of the word elsewhere), an artificial color, the color of blood being chosen, as expressive of fiery fierceness. The valiant men are in scarlet, for beauty and terror, as, again being the color of blood. It was especially the color of the dress of their nobles one chief color of the Median dress, from whom the Persians adopted their uniform/dress color. “The chariots shall be with flaming torches,” literally, “with the fire of steel, or of sharp incisive instruments. Either way the words seem to indicate that the chariots were in some way armed with steel. For steel was not an ornament, nor do the chariots appear to have been ornamented with metal. Iron would have hindered the primary object of lightness and speed. Steel, as distinct from iron, is made only for incisiveness. In either way, it is probable, that scythed chariots were already in use. Against such generals, as the younger Cyrus and Alexander, they were of no avail; but they must have been terrific instruments against undisciplined armies.
The objection that the Assyrian chariots are not represented in the monuments as armed with scythes is an oversight, since these spoken of by Nahum may have been Median, certainly were not Assyrian. “In the day of His preparation”, when He musters the hosts for the battle; “and the fir-trees shall be terribly shaken;” i. e., fir-spears (the weapon being often named from the wood of which it is made) shall be made to quiver through the force wherewith they shall be hurled. Radak and Metzudos interpret the phrase “his cypress [spears] are poisoned” as meaning the javelins, made of cypress wood, have their tips covered with poison. Cypress and Fir trees are both conifers and are often referred to by either name. Both trees are very tall and stately. Hence, Rashi; Targum Yonasan translates the reference to poisoned cypress spears as the tall and stately leaders of Nebuchadnezzar who are wrapped in special colorful garments
The chariots shall rage – (Or madden, as the driving of Jehu is said to be “furiously,” literally, in madness) “in the streets.” The city is not yet taken; so, since this takes place “in the streets and broad ways,” they are the confused preparations of the besieged. “They shall jostle one against another,” shall run rapidly to and fro, restlessly; “the appearance of this confrontation would appear as torches,” leaving streaks of fire, as they pass rapidly along. “They shall run” vehemently, “like the lightnings,” swift; but vanishing.
Verse 6: “He will [then] remember his mighty men- but they will stumble as they go. They will hasten [to defend] its wall, but the covering will have been set up.”
The Assyrian monarch will recall the former glory of his forces, and will wish that he could take them to successfully battle the Babylonians. But they will falter and stumble along the way due to the surprise and chaos with which they are attacked.
… the covering will have been set up.” Better, but [there] the storming-shed has been prepared. Here the surprise and disorder of Nineveh is more plainly portrayed. The Assyrian king thinks of himself and his troops as the stoutest and strongest warriors, but they stumble in their paths in nervous perplexity. Men ran to the city wall, but against it the besiegers have already erected their storming-shed—a proceeding which ought to have been prevented by the discharge of stones and other missiles from the walls. The storming-shed protected the battering-rams. Of the representations of these preserved in the monuments of Nineveh, Professor Rawlinson thus writes: “All of them were covered with a framework, which was of wood, felt, or skins, for the better protection of those who worked the implement…. Some appear to have been stationary, others provided with wheels . . . Again, sometimes combined with the ram and its framework was a movable tower containing soldiers, who at once fought the enemy on a level, and protected the engine from their attacks (Ancient Monarchies, i. 470). This “shelter” allowed the attackers to move forward while being protected from the projectiles of the defenders. Nineveh was unprepared for what was going to prove to be their total destruction.
Next week we will continue with Chapter 2: 7.
Shabbat Shalom v’brachas
Rabbi Tamah Davis