Calvin, Commentary on Nahum, Part 3
(... continued from Part 2)
Lecture One Hundred and First 
    We stated yesterday what the Prophet meant by these words, that 
though the Assyrians were quiet and many, they would yet be suddenly 
cut off by the Lord. He clearly intimates, that the wicked are never 
so fortified by their own forces or by the help of others, but that 
the Lord can, without any difficulty, destroy them. 
    As to the words, some connect the particle "ken" with what he 
had said, "Though they be quiet," and give this version, "Though 
they be quiet and in like manner many," that is, though they be 
secure, thinking themselves safe from all danger, and so also trust 
in their own number, "yet they shall be removed." But the repetition 
of "ken" in Hebrew is common; and the sentence may be thus 
explained, "Though they be quiet, and how many soever they may be, 
yet thus shall they be removed." "Wechen, wechen", that is, "As they 
are many, so also the many shall be destroyed." With regard to the 
verb "guz", (but some, though not correctly, derive it from 
"gazaz",) I take it in the sense of removing from the middle, of 
destroying: it properly means in Hebrew to remove to a distance, 
though almost all interpreters render it, "They are shorn," which 
ought rather to be, "They shall be shorn:" and both the verbs, "guz" 
as well as "gazaz" mean to clip or shear: but as the other sense 
suits the form of the Prophet's discourse better, I hesitate not 
thus to render it, "They shall be taken away," or destroyed. What 
the Prophet next adds, "we'avar", and he shall pass, is applied by 
some to the angel, by whom the army of Sennacherib was destroyed. 
Others think that a temporary pestilence is meant; as though he had 
said, that it would only pass through. But the Prophet seems to 
refer to a former clause, where he said, that God would suddenly 
destroy the Assyrians as it were with a sudden and unexpected 
deluge. This, then, is the most suitable meaning, that however much 
the Assyrians excelled in number of men and in strength, they would 
yet be suddenly destroyed; for the Lord would pass through, that is, 
the Lord would by one onset reduce them to nothing.' 
    Then it follows, "Though" (and, literally) "I have afflicted 
thee, yet afflict thee will I no more". But this sentence must be 
thus rendered, 'Though thee have I afflicted, I will not afflict 
thee any more.' The Prophet meets a doubt, which might have laid 
hold on the perplexed minds of the faithful; for they saw that God 
had been hitherto angry with them. They might then have succumbed 
under their griefs had it not been added, that they had indeed been 
afflicted for a time, but that God would now put an end to his 
severity, for he would no longer afflict them. It is indeed certain, 
that they were often afflicted afterwards; but this ought to be 
confined to what the Assyrians had done; for we know that our 
Prophet directed his predictions chiefly against that monarchy: and 
then the monarchy of Babylon succeeded; but it was necessary that 
Nineveh should be first subverted, and that the government should be 
transferred to the Chaldeans, that the Israelites as well as the 
Jews might know, that that monarchy had been overthrown, because it 
rebelled against God himself by distressing his own people. 
    We now then perceive the intention of the Prophet: after having 
threatened the Assyrians, he now turns his discourse to the 
Israelites, "Though I have afflicted thee, I will no more afflict 
thee; that is, There is no reason for the faithful to despond, 
because they have been hitherto severely treated by God; let them on 
the contrary remembers that these scourges are temporary, and that 
God's displeasure with his elect people and his Church is such that 
he observes moderation; for this must ever be fulfilled, - 'In the 
moment of mine indignation I smote thee; but I will show thee 
perpetual mercies,' (Isa. 54: 8.) This promise has been once given 
to the Church; and it is now in force, and will be in force to the 
end of the world. Thus we see that the Prophet obviated a doubt, 
lest the faithful should think that there was no hope for them, 
because they had found God so severe towards them; for he says that 
God was satisfied with the punishment which he had inflicted and 
that he would no longer afflict his people. It follows - 
Nahum 1:13 
For now will I break his yoke from off thee, and will burst thy 
bonds in sunder. 
    He confirms what the former verse contains, - that God would 
now cease from his rigor; for he says, that the deliverance of this 
chosen people was nigh, when God would break down and reduce to 
nothing the tyranny of that empire. This verse clearly shows, that a 
clause in the preceding verse ought not to be so restricted as it is 
by some interpreters, who regard it as having been said of the 
slaughter of the army of Sennacherib. But the Prophet addresses here 
in common both the Israelites and the Jews, as it is evident from 
the context; and this verse also sufficiently proves, the Prophet 
does not speak of the Jews only; for they had not been so subdued by 
the Assyrians as the Israelites had been. I indeed allow that they 
became tributaries; for when they had broken their covenant, the 
Assyrian, after having conquered the kingdom of Israel and the 
kingdom of Syria, extended his arms at length to Judea. It is then 
certain, that they had been in some measure under the yoke; but it 
was not so hard a servitude that the words of the Prophet could be 
applied to it. I therefore take the expression generally, that God 
would free from the tyranny of Nineveh his own people, both the 
Israelites and the Jews. If any one objects and says, that the 
Israelites were never delivered. This indeed is true; but as to 
Nineveh, they were delivered when the empire was transferred to the 
Chaldeans, and Babylon became the seat of the empire. 
    We now then see, that the meaning of our Prophet is simply 
this, - that though God by the Assyrians chastised his people, he 
yet did not forget his covenant, for the Assyrians were punished. It 
was then sufficient for his purpose to say that the Jews as well as 
the Israelites were no longer under the yoke of Nineveh, how much 
soever they might have afterwards suffered under other tyrants. And 
what is said about the yoke being broken, belongs also in some 
measure to the Jews; for when we extend this to both, the Israelites 
and also the Jews, it would not be unsuitable to say, that they were 
both under the yoke and bound with chains. For though the servitude 
of Israel was hard, yet the Jews had also been deprived of their 
liberty. It is then right that this which is said should be taken 
generally, "I will now break his yoke from thee, and thy bonds will 
I burst". 
    Now this verse teaches us, that the people were not so subdued 
by the tyranny of their enemies, but that their deliverance was 
always in the hand and power of God. For how came it, that the 
Assyrians prevailed against the Israelites, and then subjugated the 
Jews, except that they were as a rod in the hand of God? So Isaiah 
teaches us in the tenth chapter. Though they armed themselves, they 
were yet but as the weapons and arms of God, for they could not have 
made any movement, except the Lord had turned their course, wherever 
he pleased, as when one throws a javelin or a dart with his hand. It 
follows - 
Nahum 1:14 
And the LORD hath given a commandment concerning thee, [that] no 
more of thy name be sown: out of the house of thy gods will I cut 
off the graven image and the molten image: I will make thy grave; 
for thou art vile. 
    Nahum explains more clearly, and without a figure, what he had 
previously said of darkness, - that the kingdom of Nineveh would be 
so overturned, that it could never recruit its strength and return 
again to its pristine state. He indeed addresses the king himself, 
but under his person he includes no doubt the whole kingdom. 
    "Commanded then has Jehovah, he says, respecting thee, let 
there not be sown of thy name"; that is, God has so decreed, that 
the memory of thy name shall not survive: for to sow from the name 
of one, is to extend his fame. When, therefore, God entirely 
exterminates a race from the world, or when he obliterates a nation, 
he is said to command that there should not be sown of such a name; 
that is, that there should be no propagation of that name. In short, 
our Prophet denounces on the Assyrians a ruin, from which they were 
never to rise again. And when such a command is ascribed to God, it 
means, that by the sole bidding of God both nations and kingdoms are 
propagated, and are also abolished and destroyed: for what is said 
of individuals ought to be extended to all nations, 'Seed, or the 
fruit of the womb,' as it is said in the Psalms, 'is the peculiar 
gift of God,' (Ps. 127.) For how comes it, that many are without 
children, while others have a large and a numerous family, except 
that God blesses some, and makes others barren? The same is to be 
thought of nations; the Lord propagates them and preserves their 
memory; but when it seems good to him, he reduces them to nothing, 
so that no seed remains. And when the Prophet testifies, that this 
is the command of Jehovah, he confirms the faith of the Israelites 
and of the Jews, that they might not doubt, but that the Assyrians 
would perish without any hope of restoration; for it was so decreed 
by Heaven. 
    He afterwards adds, "From the house", or from the temple, "of 
thy gods will I cut off graven images". It is probable, and it is 
the commonly received opinion, that the Prophet alludes here to 
Sennacherib, who was slain in the temple of his idol by his own 
sons, shortly after his return from Judea, when the siege of the 
holy city was miraculously raised through the instrumentality of an 
angel. As then he was slain in the temple, and it was by his murder 
profaned, I am inclined to receive what almost all others maintain, 
that there is here a reference to his person: but, at the same time, 
the Prophet no doubt describes, under the person of one king, the 
destruction and ruin of the whole kingdom. Gods indeed, did at that 
time make known what he had determined respecting the empire of 
Nineveh and all the Assyrians; for from this event followed also the 
change, that Nebuchodonosor transferred the empire to Babylon, and 
that the whole race, and every one who assumed power, became 
detestable. When, therefore, the Assyrians were torn by intestine 
discords, it was an easy matter for the Chaldeans to conquer them. 
Hence the Prophet does not here predict respecting one king only; 
but as his murder was, as it were, a prelude of the common ruin, the 
Prophet relates this history as being worthy of being remembered, - 
that the temple would be profaned by the murder of Sennacherib, and 
that then the monarchy would be soon transferred to the Chaldeans. 
    When he says, "I will appoint thy sepulchre", he connects this 
clause with the former; for how was it that idols were cut off from 
that temple, except that that tragic deed rendered the place 
detestable? For there is no one who feels not a horror at such a 
base crime as that of children killing their father with their own 
hands. We know when a proud woman at Rome ordered her chariot to be 
drawn over the dead body of her father, the road was counted 
polluted. So also the temple was no doubt viewed as polluted by the 
murder of the king. Then these two clauses ought to be read 
together, that God would cut off idols and graven images from the 
temple, - and then, that the sepulchre of Sennacherib would be 
    He adds, "For thou art execrable." I have rendered "kalota" a 
thing to be abominated. It may indeed be referred to that history; 
but I take it by itself as meaning, that Sennacherib was to be 
abominable, and not he alone, but also the whole royal family, and 
the monarchy of Nineveh. For it is not consistent, as we have said 
already, to say, that all these things refer to the person of 
Sennacherib; for the Prophet speaks of the destruction of the city 
and nation, and that generally; at the same time, this does not 
prevent him from referring, as it were, in passing, to the person of 
    It must, at the same time, be noticed, that the vain 
confidence, which the Assyrian kings placed in their idols and 
graven images, is here indirectly reproved; for we know that 
idolaters not only confide in their own strength, but that a part of 
their hope is also founded on their superstitions. Hence the Prophet 
says, that their temple was to be profaned by God, so that no aid 
would remain to the Assyrians, to the kings themselves any more than 
to the whole people. Let us proceed - 
Nahum 1:15 
Behold upon the mountains the feet of him that bringeth good 
tidings, that publisheth peace! O Judah, keep thy solemn feasts, 
perform thy vows: for the wicked shall no more pass through thee; he 
is utterly cut off. 
    The Prophet again teaches us, that whatever he prophesied 
respecting the destruction of the city Nineveh, was for this end, - 
that God, by this remarkable evidence, might show that he had a care 
for his people, and that he was not unmindful of the covenant he had 
made with the children of Abraham. This prophecy would have 
otherwise produced no salutary effect on the Israelites; they might 
have thought that it was by chance, or by some fatal revolution, or 
through some other cause, that Nineveh had been overthrown. Hence 
the Prophet shows, that the ruin of the city, and of the monarchy of 
Nineveh, would be a proof of the paternal love of God towards his 
chosen people, and that such a change was to be made for the sake of 
one people, because God, though he had for a time punished the 
Israelites, yet purposed that some seed should remain, for it would 
have been inconsistent, that the covenant, which was to be 
inviolate, should be entirely abolished. We now then understand the 
Prophet's object, and how this verse is to be connected with the 
rest of the context. 
    "Behold, he says, on the mountains the feet of him who 
announces peace." Some think that the Prophet alludes to the 
situation of Jerusalem. We indeed know that mountains were around 
it: but the Prophet speaks more generally, - that heralds of peace 
shall ascend to the tops of mountains, that their voice might be 
more extensively heard: Behold, he says, on the mountains the feet 
of him who announces peace; for all the roads had been before closed 
up, and hardly any one dared to whisper. If any one inquired either 
respecting peace or war, there was immediate danger lest he should 
fall under suspicion. As then the Assyrians, by their tyrannical 
rule, had deprived the Israelites of the freedom of speech, the 
Prophet says now, that the feet of those who should announce peace 
would be on the mountains; that is, that there would be now free 
liberty to proclaim peace on the highest places. By feet, he means, 
as we have explained, coming; and Isaiah speaks a similar language, 
'How beautiful are the feet of those who announce peace, who 
announce good things!' (Isa. 52: 7.) Arise, then, he says, shall 
heralds of peace everywhere: and the repetition in other words seems 
to express this still more clearly; for he says, "of him who 
announces and causes to hear". He might have simply said "mevaser", 
but he adds "mashmiya'"; not only, he says, he will announce peace, 
but also with a clear and loud voice, so that his preaching may be 
heard from the remotest places. We now perceive what the Prophet had 
in view, and what his words import. 
    Now he adds, "Celebrate, Judah, thy festal days". It is indeed 
a repetition of the same word, as if we were to say in Latin, 
Festiva festivitates, feast festivities; but this has nothing to do 
with the meaning of the passage. I am disposed to subscribe to the 
opinion of those who think, that there is here an intimation of the 
interruption of festal days; for so disordered were all things at 
Jerusalem and in the country around, that sacrifices had ceased, and 
festal days were also intermitted; for sacred history tells us, that 
the Passover was celebrated anew under Hezekiah, and also under 
Josiah. This omission no doubt happened, owing to the wars by which 
the country had been laid waste. Hence the Prophet now intimates, 
that there would be quietness and peace for the chosen people, so 
that they might all without any fear ascend to Jerusalem, and 
celebrate their festal days, and give thanks to the Lord, and 
rejoice before him, according to the language often used by Moses. 
At the same time, the Prophet no doubt reminds the Jews for what end 
the Lord would break off the enemy's yoke, and exempt them from 
servile fear, and that was, that they might sacrifice to God and 
worship him, while enjoying their quiet condition. And that he 
addresses Judah is not done without reason; for though the kingdom 
of Israel was not as yet so rejected, that God did not regard them 
as his people, yet there were no legitimate sacrifices among them, 
and no festal days which God approved: we indeed know that the 
worship which prevailed there was corrupt and degenerated. Inasmuch 
then as God repudiated the sacrifices which were offered in Israel, 
Nahum addresses here his discourse to Judah only; but yet he 
intimates, that God had been thus bountiful to the Israelites, that 
they, remembering their deliverance, might give him thanks. 
    Let us then know, that when the Lord grants us tranquillity and 
preserves us in a quiet state, this end ought ever to be kept in 
view, - that it is his will, that we should truly serve him. But if 
we abuse the public peace given us, and if pleasures occasion a 
forgetfulness of God, this ingratitude will by no means be endured. 
We ought, indeed, in extreme necessities to sacrifice to God, as we 
have need then especially of fleeing to his mercy; but as we cannot 
so composedly worship him in a disturbed state of mind, he is 
pleased to allow us peaceable times. Now, if we misapply this 
leisure, and indulge in sloth, yea, if we become so heedless as to 
neglect God, this as I have said will be an intolerable evil. Let us 
then take notice of the Prophet's words in setting forth the design 
of God, - that he would free his people from the power of the 
Assyrians, that they might celebrate their festal days. 
    He adds, "Pay thy vows". He not only speaks here of the 
ordinary sacrifices and of the worship which had been prescribed; 
but he also requires a special proof of gratitude for having been 
then delivered by the hand of God; for we know what paying of vows 
meant among the Hebrews: they were wont to offer peace-offerings, 
when they returned victorious from war, or when they were delivered 
from any danger, or when they were relieved from some calamity. The 
Prophet therefore now shows, that it was right to pay vows to God, 
inasmuch as he had dealt so bountifully with his people; as it is 
said in Ps. 116, 'What shall I return to the Lord for all his 
benefits which he has bestowed on me? The cup of salvation will I 
take, and on the name of the Lord will I call.' We also find it thus 
written in Hosea, 'The calves of thy lips to me shalt thou render,' 
(Hoses 14: 13.) We now perceive what Nahum substantially meant, - 
that when peace was restored, the people were not to bury so great 
and so remarkable a kindness of God, but to pay their vows; that is, 
that the people were to testify that God was the author of their 
deliverance, and that the redemption which they had obtained was the 
peculiar work of God. 
    It follows, "Add no more to pass through thee shall Belial, for 
utterly is he cut off". This passage must not be explained in a 
general sense; for we know that the Chaldeans became more grievous 
to the Jews than the Assyrians had been; but the Prophet here refers 
especially to the Ninevites, that is, to the Assyrians, whose 
metropolis, as it has been said, was Nineveh. "That wicked one then 
shall not add any more to pass through thee". - Why? for he is 
entirely cut off. This reason given by the Prophet clearly proves, 
that he speaks not of the wicked generally, but that he especially 
points out the Assyrians. Now follows - 
Chapter 2. 
Micah 2:1,2 
Woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds! 
when the morning is light, they practise it, because it is in the 
power of their hand. 
And they covet fields, and take [them] by violence; and houses, and 
take [them] away: so they oppress a man and his house, even a man 
and his heritage. 
    The waster spoken of here by the Prophet, some consider him to 
have been Sennacherib, and others, Nebuchodonosor. The verb "'alah" 
is also variously explained: it is often taken metaphorically in 
Hebrew for vanishing, as we say in French, Il s'en va en fumee; for 
smoke ascends, and this is the reason for the metaphor. They then 
elicit this meaning, - that a destroyer had ascended before the face 
of the chosen people, that is, openly; so that it was evidently the 
work of God, that the Assyrians vanished, who had come to lay waste 
the whole land: Vanished then has the destroyer; and then before thy 
face, that is, manifestly, and before thine eyes. "Natzor metzurah", 
guard the fortress; that is let every one return to his own city, 
and keep watch, as it is usually done; for the country shall be left 
without men; and watch the way, that is, look out which way 
Sennacherib took in coming to assail the holy city; that way shall 
be now free from enemies; and then, keep firm or strengthen the 
loins, for "chazak" sometimes means to keep firm, - keep firm then 
or strengthen the loins, that thou mayest not relax as before, but 
stand courageously, for there is no one who can terrify thee; and, 
lastly, "fortify strength greatly", that is, doubt not but thou 
shalt be hereafter strong enough to retain thy position; for cut off 
shall be that monarchy, which has been an oppression to thee. But 
others take a different view and say, - that the destroyer had 
ascended, that is, that Sennacherib had come; and what follows, they 
think, was intended to strike terror, as though the Prophet said 
"Now while ye are besieged keep watch, and be careful to preserve 
your fortresses and strengthen all your strongholds; but all this 
will avail nothing. - Why? Because God has taken away the pride of 
Jacob as he has the pride of Israel." This is the second 
explanation. Others again think, that the Prophet addresses here the 
Assyrians, and that Nebuchodonosor is here called a waster, by whom 
the empire was removed, and Nineveh, as it has often been stated, 
was destroyed. According to these interpreters, the Prophet here 
denounces ruin on the Assyrians in this manner, - "The destroyer now 
ascends before thy face." The Assyrians might indeed have regarded 
such threatening with disdain, when they were surrounded by many 
provinces and had cities well fortified: - "It will not be," he 
says, "according to your expectation; the waster will yet come 
before thy face; and how much soever thou mayest now guard thy 
fortresses, watch thy ways, and carefully look around to close up 
every avenue against thy enemies, thou wilt yet effect nothing; 
strengthen the loins as much as thou pleasest and increase thy 
power, yet this shall be useless and vain." If this view be 
approved, it will be in confirmation of what has been previously 
said, - that God had now determined to destroy the city Nineveh and 
the empire possessed by the Assyrians. This meaning then is not 
unsuitable; but if we receive this view, something additional must 
also be stated, and that is, - that God now designed to destroy 
Nineveh and its monarchy, because it had humbled more than necessary 
his people, the kingdom of Judah, as well as the ten tribes. I 
cannot proceed farther now. 
Grant Almighty God, that since we are daily chastised by thy 
scourges, we may know that we are justly punished by thee, and so 
examine our whole life, that with true and sincere confession we may 
humbly flee to thy mercy, which is offered to us by thy gospel in 
Christ our Lord; and since thou dost also show us so many favors, 
may we not be ungrateful, and may no forgetfulness of thy grace 
creep over us, but may we especially exercise ourselves through our 
whole life in the worship of thy name and in giving thanks to thee, 
and so offer to thee, with our tongues, the sacrifices of praise, 
that our whole life may be consistent, and thus glorify thy name on 
earth, that at length we may be gathered into thy celestial kingdom 
through the same Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen. 

Calvin's Commentary on Nahum, Part 3

(Continued in Part 4...)

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-06: cvnhm-03.txt