Calvin, Commentary on Nahum, Part 5 (... continued from Part 4) Lecture One Hundred and Third 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. Here the Prophet, as it were, by the command and authority of God, gives up Nineveh to the will of its enemies, that they might spoil and plunder it. Some think that this address is made in the name of a general encouraging his soldiers; but we know that the Prophets assume the person of God, when they thus command any thing with authority; and it is a very emphatical mode of speaking. It is adopted, that we may know that the Prophets pour not forth an empty sound when they speak, but really testify what God here determined to do, and what he in due time will execute. As then we know, that this manner of speaking is common to the Prophets there is no reason to apply this to the person of Nebuchadnezzar or of any other. God then shows here that Nineveh was given up to ruin; and therefore he delivered it into the hands of enemies. It is indeed certain, that the Babylonians, in plundering the city, did not obey God's command; but yet it is true, that they punished the Assyrians through the secret influence of God: for it was his purpose to visit the Ninevites for the cruelty and avarice for which they had been long notorious, and especially for having exercised unexampled barbarity toward the Jews. This is the reason why God now gives them up to the Babylonians and exposes them to plunder. But as I have spoken at large elsewhere of the secret judgments of God, I shall only briefly observe here, - that God does not command the Babylonians and Chaldeans in order to render them excusable, but shows by his Prophet, that Nineveh was to be destroyed by her enemies, not by chance, but that it was his will to avenge the wrongs done to his people. At the same time, we must bear in mind what we have said elsewhere, - that the Prophets thus speak when the execution is already prepared; for God does not in vain or without reason terrify men, but he afterwards makes it manifest by the effect: as he created the world from nothing by his word, so also by his word he executes and fulfill his judgments. It is then no wonder, that the Prophet does here, as though he ruled the Chaldeans according to his will, thus address them, "Take ye away, take ye away". But this must be viewed as having a reference to the faithful; for the Babylonians, in plundering the city Nineveh, did not think that they obeyed God, nor did they give to God the praise due for the victory; but the faithful were thus reminded, that all this was done through the secret providence of God, and that it was also a clear, and, as it were, a visible evidence of God's paternal love towards his Church, when he thus deigned to undertake the cause of his distressed people. It then follows, "There is no end of preparations": Some render "techunah" treasure, or hidden wealth, and derive it from "kun", which is to prepare; but "techunah" is almost always taken for a measure. "Tachanot", from "tachon", means a sum, for "tachan" is to number or to count; and this meaning suits the passage. But there is no need of laboring much about this word; if we take it simply for place, the meaning would be, that there was no plot of ground in that city which was not as it were a gulf filled up; for it had amassed all the wealth of the nations: and this sense would harmonize well with the subject of the Prophet, - that the soldiers were to plunder until they were satiated; for the place was, as it were, a deep abyss. He afterwards adds, "There is glory from every desirable vessel". Those who think "mem", a particle of comparison in this place are much mistaken, and misapply the meaning of the Prophet; their rendering is, "In comparison with every desirable vessel;" but this, as all must see, is very frigid. The Prophet, I have no doubt, declares that the wealth of Nineveh consisted of every desirable vessel; for they had for a long time heaped together immense wealth, and that of every kind. The Hebrews call what is precious a desirable thing; and their vessels we include under the term furniture. We now then perceive what the Prophet means. Some take "chavod" as a participle, and give this version, "It is burdened," or adorned, (for it means both,) "with every desirable vessel." But the simpler mode of speaking is what we have explained, - that its glory was from every desirable vessel. And here the Prophet condemns what the Assyrians had done in heaping together so much wealth from all quarters; for they had committed indiscriminate plunder, and gathered for themselves all the riches of the nations. They had indeed plundered all their neighbors, yea, and wholly stripped them. The Prophet now shows, in order to expose them to ridicule, that other robbers would be made rich, whom the Lord would raise up against them. The same is said by Isaiah, 'O thou plunderer, shalt not thou also be exposed to plunder?' (Isa. 33: 1.) So also the Prophet shows in this passage, that men foolishly burn with so much avidity for money, and with so much anxiety heap together great wealth; for God will find out some who in their turn will plunder those who have plundered. It follows - 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. The Prophet here confirms what the last verse contains; for he shows why he had called the Chaldeans to take away the spoil, - because it was to be so. He did not indeed (as I have already said) command the Chaldeans in such a way as that their obedience to God was praiseworthy: but the Prophet speaks here only of His secret counsel. Though then the Chaldeans knew not that it was God's decree, yet the Prophet reminds the faithful that the Ninevites, when made naked, suffered punishment for their cruelty, especially for having so hostilely conducted themselves towards the Jews: and hence he declares, that Nineveh is "emptied, is emptied, and made nahed". By repeating the same word, he intimates the certainty of the event: Emptied, emptied, he says, as when one says in our language, videe et revidee. We hence see that by this repetition what the Prophet meant is more distinctly expressed that the faithful might not doubt respecting the event: and then for the same purpose he adds, she is made naked. We now then perceive the Prophet's design. As in the last verse he shows that he had power given him from above to send armies against Nineveh, and to give up the city to them to be spoiled and plundered; so he now shows that he had not so commanded the Chaldeans, as though they were the legitimate servants of God, and could pretend that they rendered service to Him. He therefore points out for what end he had commanded the Chaldeans to plunder Nineveh; and that was, because God had so decreed; and he had so decreed and commanded, because he would not bear the many wrongs done to his people whom he had taken under his protection. As then Nineveh had so cruelly treated God's chosen people, it was necessary that the reward she deserved should be repaid to her. But the repetition, which I have noticed, ought to be especially observed; for it teaches us that God's power is connected with his word, so that he declares nothing inconsiderately or in vain. He then adds, that knees smite together; and every heart is dissolved, or melted, and also, that all loins tremble. We hence learn, that there is in men no courage, except as far as God supplies them with vigor. As soon then as He withdraws his Spirit, those who were before the most valiant become faint-hearted, and those who breathed great ferocity are made soft and effeminate: for by the word heart is meant inward boldness or courage; and by the knees and loins the strength of body is to be understood. There is indeed no doubt but the Assyrians, while they ruled, were a very courageous people, as power ever generates boldness; and it is also probable that they were a warlike people, since all their neighbors had been brought under their power. But the Prophet now shows, that there would be no vigor in their hearts, and no strength in their loins, or in any part of their body. The heart, then, he says, was melted. And hence we learn how foolishly men boast of their courage, while they seem to be like lions; for God can in a moment so melt their hearts, that they entirely lose all firmness. Then as to external vigor, we see that it is in God's hand; there will be, he says, a confriction, or the knees will knock one against another, as they do when they tremble. And he says afterwards, And trembling shall be in all loins. He at last adds, "And the faces of all shall gather blackness". The word "pa'rur" some derive from "pa'ar"; and so the rendering would be, "all faces shall draw in or withdraw their beauty," and so also they explain Joel 2: 6, for the sentence there is the same. But they who disapprove of this meaning say, that "kabatz" cannot mean to draw in or to withdraw; and so they render the noun, blackness. But this is a strained explanation. "Pa'arur", [they say,] does not mean a black color but a pot: when therefore a caldron or a kettle contracts blackness from smoke, it is then called "pa'arur": but in this place these interpreters are constrained to take it metaphorically for that color; which is, as I have said, strained and far-fetched. I am therefore inclined to adopt their opinion who render the sentence, all faces shall withdraw their beauty, or their brightness: but as to the import of the passage, there is little or no difference; let then every one have his free choice. With regard to the Prophet's design, he evidently means, that the faces of all would be sad, for the Lord would fill their minds and thoughts with dread. The withdrawing then of beauty signifies an outward appearance of sorrow, or paleness, or whatever may appear in the countenance of men, when dejected with grief. In short, the Prophet means, that how much soever the Assyrians might have hitherto raised on high their crests, and breathed great swelling words, and conducted themselves insolently, they would now be dejected; for the Lord would prostrate their courage and melt their strength: he would, by casting down their high spirits, constrain them to undergo shame. This is the import of the whole. It now follows - Nahum 2:11,12 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? 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. Here the Prophet triumphs over the Assyrians, because they thought that the city Nineveh was remote from every danger: as lions, who fear nothing, when they are in their dens, draw thither their prey in their claws or in their mouths: so also was the case with the Assyrians; thinking themselves safe, while Nineveh flourished, they took the greater liberty to commit plunders everywhere. For Nineveh was not only the receptacle of robbers but was also like a den of lions. And the Prophet more fully expresses the barbarous cruelty of the Assyrians by comparing them to lions, than if he had simply called them lions. We now then see what he means, when he says, "Where is the place of lions?" And he designedly speaks thus of the Assyrians: for no one ever thought that they could be touched by even the least injury; the fear of them had indeed so seized all men, that of themselves they submitted to the Assyrians. As then no one dared to oppose them, the Prophet says, Where? as though he had said that though all thought it incredible that Nineveh could be overthrown, it would yet thus happen. But he assumes the character of one expressing his astonishment, in order to intimate, that when the Lord should execute such a judgment, it would be a work of wonder, which would fill almost all with amazement. This question then proves that those are very foolish who form a judgment of God's vengeance, of which the Prophet speaks, according to the appearance of things at the time; for the ruin of Nineveh and of that empire was to be the incomprehensible work of God, and which was to fill all minds with astonishment. He says first, Where is the place of lions? The feminine gender is indeed here used; but all agree that the Prophet speaks of male lions. He then adds, "the place of feeding for lions?" "Kefarim" mean young lions as we shall hereafter see; and "'arayot" are old lions. He afterwards adds, Where "aryah": and then comes "laviy'", which some render, lioness; but "laviy'" properly means an old lion; the Prophet, no doubt, uses it in the next verse in the feminine gender for lionesses. I therefore do not deny, but that we may fitly render the terms here, lion and lioness; afterwards, "and the whelp of lions, and none terrifying". He then adds, "Seize did the lion" (the word is "'aryah") "for his whelps to satiety", that is, sufficiently; and strangle did he for his lionesses, "leliv'otayw". Here no doubt the Prophet means lionesses; there would otherwise be no consistency in the passage. He afterwards says, "And filled has he with prey his dens and his recesses with ravin"; it is the same word with a different termination, "teref", and "trefah". Now the repetition, made here by the Prophet, of lion, young lion, and lioness, was not without its use; for he meant by this number of words to set forth the extreme ferocity of the Assyrians, while they were dominant. He no doubt compares their kings, their counselors, and their chief men, to lions: and he calls their wives lionesses, and their children he calls young lions or whelps of lions. The sum of the whole is, that Nineveh had so degenerated in its opulence, that all in power were like ferocious wild beasts, destitute of every kind feeling. And I wish that this could have only been said of one city and of one monarchy! But here, as in a mirror, the Prophet represents to us what we at this day observe, and what has always and in all ages been observed in great empires; for here great power exists, there great licentiousness prevails; and when kings and their counselors become once habituated to plunder, there is no end of it; nay, a kind of fury is kindled in their hearts, that they seek nothings else but to devour and to tear in pieces to rend and to strangle. The Prophet indeed wished here to console both the Israelites and the Jews by showing, that the injustice of their enemies would not go unpunished: but at the same time he intended to show how great, even to the end of the world, would be the cruelty of those who would rule tyrannically: and as I have said, experience proves, that there are too many like the Ninevites. It is indeed unquestionable, that the Prophet does not without reason speak so often here of lions and lionesses. Hence he says, 'Come thither did the lion, the lioness, and the whelp of the lion.' He means that when justice was sought in that city, it was found to be the den of cruel beasts; for the king had put off all humanity, as well as his counselors; their wives were also like lionesses, and their children and domestics were as young lions or the whelps of lions. And cruelty creeps in, somewhat in this manner: When a king takes to himself too much liberty, his counselors follow him; and then every one follows the common example, as though every thing received as a custom was lawful. This is the representation which the Prophet in these words sets before us; and we with our own eyes see the same things. Then he adds, 'The lion did tear what sufficed his whelps, and strangled for his lionesses; he filled with prey his dens and his recesses with plunder. He goes on with the same subject, - that the Assyrians heaped for themselves great wealth by unjust spoils, because they had no regard for what was right. The lion, he says, did tear for his whelps: as lions accustom their whelps to plunder, and when they are not grown enough, so as to be able to attack innocent animals, they provide a prey for them, and also bring some to the lionesses; so also, as the Prophet informs us, was the case at Nineveh; the habits of all men were formed for cruelty by the chief men and the magistrates. By the word "bedey", sufficiency, he means not that the Ninevites are satisfied with their prey, for they were insatiable; but it rather refers to the abundance which they had. And he says, that the lion strangled for his lionesses: I wish there were no lionesses to devour at this day; but we see that there are some who surpass their husbands in boldness and cruelty. But the Prophet says here what is natural, - that the lion strangles the prey and gives it afterwards to his lionesses. He then adds, that the Ninevites were not satisfied with daily rapines, as many robbers live for the day; but he says, that their plunder was laid up in store. Hence they filled their secret places and dens with their booty and spoils. Still further, though the Prophet speaks not here so plainly, as we shall see he does in what follows, it is yet certain, that the reason is here given, why God visited the Ninevites with so severe a vengeance, and that was, because they had ceased to be like men, and had degenerated into savage beasts. It follows - 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. To give more effect to what he says, the Prophet introduces God here as the speaker. "Behold, he says, I am against thee". He has been hitherto, as it were, the herald of God, and in this character gave an authoritative command to the Chaldeans to plunder Nineveh: but when God himself comes forward, and uses not the mouth of man, but declares himself his own decrees, it is much more impressive. This then is the reason why God now openly speaks: Behold, I am, he says, against thee. We understand the emphatical import of the demonstrative particle, Behold; for God, as if awakened from sleep, shows that it will be at length his work, to undertake the cause of his people, and also to punish the world for its wickedness, Behold, I am against thee, he says. We have elsewhere seen a similar mode of speaking; there is therefore no need of dwelling on it here. "I will burn, he says, with smoke her chariots". Here by smoke some understand a smoky fire; but the Prophet, I think, meant another thing, - that at the first onset God would consume all the chariots of Nineveh; as though he had said, that as soon as the flame burst forth, it would be all over with all the forces of Nineveh; for by chariots he no doubt means all their warlike preparations; and we know that they fought then from chariots: as at this day there are employed in wars horsemen in armour, so there were then chariots. But the Prophet, by taking a part for the whole, includes all warlike forces: I will burn then the chariots. - How? By smoke alone, that is as soon as the first flame begins to emerge; for the smoke rises before the fire appears or gathers strength: in short, the Prophet shows that Nineveh would be, as it were, in a moment, reduced to nothing, as soon as it pleased God to avenge its wickedness. He then adds in the third person, "And thy young lions shall the sword devour". He indeed changes the person here; but the discourse is more striking, when God manifests his wrath in abrupt sentences. He had said, Behold, I am against thee; then, I will burn her chariots, he now hardly deigns to direct his speech to Nineveh; but afterwards he returns to her, "and thy young lions shall the sword devour". Then God, by speaking thus in broken sentences, more fully expresses the dreadful vengeance which he had determined to execute on the Ninevites. He then says, And I will exterminate from the earth thy prey; that is, it will not now be allowed thee to go on as usual; for I will put a stop to thy inhuman cruelty. Thus prey may be taken for the act itself; or it may be fitly explained of the spoils taken from the nations, for the Ninevites, by their tyrannical ravening, had everywhere plundered; and thus it may be applied to the pillaging of the city. I will then exterminate from the land, that is from thy country, those riches which have been hitherto heaped together as though a lion had been everywhere gathering a prey. "And heard no more shall be the voice of thy messengers". They who understand "mal'achim" to be messengers, apply the word to the heralds, by whom the Assyrians were wont to proclaim wars on neighboring nations. As then they sent here and there their heralds to announce war, and as their terrible voice sounded everywhere, the words of the Prophet have this meaning given them, - that God would at length produce silence, so that they should not hereafter disturb all their neighboring countries with the clamour of war. But as this explanation is strained, I am inclined to adopt what others think, - that the grinding teeth are here intended. The word is not written, if it be taken for messengers, according to grammar; it is "mal'achecheh"; there ought not to have been the "he" at the end, and "yod" ought to have been inserted before the last letter but one: and if it be deemed as meaning the king, it ought then to have been written "malchacha". All then confess, that the word is not written according to the rule of grammar; and as the Persians call the grinders "mal'achecheh", we may give this version, which well suits the context, 'No more shall be heard the sound of grinders.' For since lions seize the prey with their teeth, and also break the bones, and thus make a great noise when they tear an animal or a man with their teeth, this rendering seems to be the most suitable, "Heard no more shall be the sound of teeth", that is, heard shall not be the noise made by thy teeth; for when thou now tearest thy prey, thy teeth make a noise. No more heard then shall the noise from that breaking, or the clashing or the crashing of the teeth. But as to the chief point, this is no matter of importance. The Prophet simply teaches us here that it could not be, but that God would at length restrain tyrants; for though he hides himself for a time, he yet never forgets the groans of those whom he sees to be unjustly afflicted: and particularly when tyrants molest the Church, it is proved here by the Prophet that God will at length be a defender; and hence we ought to consider well these words, Behold, I am against thee. For though God addresses these words only to the Assyrians, yet as he points out the reasons why he rises up with so much displeasure against them, they ought to be extended to all tyrants, and to all who exercise cruelty towards distressed and innocent men. But this is more clearly expressed in the following verse. Chapter 3 Nahum 3:1 Woe to the bloody city! it [is] all full of lies [and] robbery; the prey departeth not; The Prophet, as I have said, more clearly expresses here the reason why the vengeance of God would be so severe on the Ninevites, - because they had wholly given themselves up to barbarous cruelty; and hence he calls it the bloody city. Bloody city! he says. The exclamation is emphatical. Though "hoy" sometimes means Woe; yet it is put here as though the Prophet would have constrained Nineveh to undergo its punishment, O sanguinary city, then, the whole of it is full of "kachash": the word signifies leanness and the Prophet no doubt joins here together two words, which seem to differ widely, and yet they signify the same thing. For "parak" means to lay by; and "kachash" is taken for a lie or vanity, when there is nothing solid in what is said: but the Prophet, I doubt not, means by both words the spoils of the city Nineveh. It was then full of leanness for it had consumed all others; it was also full of spoils, for it had filled itself. But the meaning of the Prophet is in no way dubious; for at length he adds, "Depart shall not the prey"; that is as some think, it shall not be withdrawn from the hands of conquerors; but others more correctly think that a continued liberty in plundering is intended, that the Assyrians were constantly employed in pillaging and kept within no bounds. We hence see that the Prophet now shows why God says, that he would be an adversary to the Ninevites, because he could not endure its unjust cruelty. He bore with it indeed for a time; for he did not immediately execute his judgment; but yet he never forgot his own people. As, then, God has once declared by the mouth of his Prophet that he would be the avenger of the cruelty which the Assyrians had exercised, let us know that he retains still his own nature; and whatever liberty he may for a time grant to tyrants and savage wild beasts, he yet continues to be a just avenger. It is our duty calmly to bear injuries, and to groan to him; and as he promises to be at length our helper, it behaves us to flee to him, and to ask him to succour us, so that seeing his Church oppressed, and tyrants exercising licentiously their power, he may hasten the time to restrain them. If then we were at all times to continue thus resigned under God's protection, there is no doubt but that he would be ready even at this day to execute a similar judgment to that which the city Nineveh and its people had to endure. Prayer. Grant, Almighty God. that as we have now heard of punishments so dreadful denounced on all tyrants and plunderers, this warning may keep us within the limits of justice, so that none of us may abuse our power to oppress the innocent, but, on the contrary, strive to benefit one another, and wholly regulate ourselves according to the rule of equity: and may we hence also receive comfort whenever the ungodly molest and trouble us, and doubt not but that we are under thy protection, and that thou art armed with power sufficient to defend us, so that we may patiently bear injuries, until at length the ripened time shall come for thee to help us, and to put forth thy power for our preservation; nor let us cease to bear our evils with patience, as long as it may be thy will to exercise us in our present warfare, until having gone through all one troubles, we come to that blessed rest which has been provided for us in heaven by Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen. Calvin's Commentary on Nahum, Part 5 (Continued in Part 6...) --------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-06/cvnhm-05.txt .