John Calvin, Commentary on Nahum 
Commentaries on the Twelve Minor Prophets by John Calvin. 
Now first translated from the original Latin, by the Rev. John Owen, 
vicar of Thrussington, Leicestershire. 
Volume Third. Jonah, Micah, Nahum 
WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, 1950, Michigan. 
Printed in the United States of America. 
The Commentaries of John Calvin on the Prophet Nahum 
Calvin's Preface to Nahum 
    The time in which Nahum prophesied cannot with certainty be 
known. The Hebrews, ever bold in conjectures, say that he discharged 
his office of teaching under Manasseh, and that the name of that 
king was suppressed, because he was unworthy of such an honor, or, 
because his reign was unfortunate, as he had been led into 
captivity. When any one asks the Jews a reason, they only say, that 
it appears so to them. As then there is no reason for this 
conjecture, we must come to what seems probable. 
    They who think that he prophesied under Jotham are no doubt 
mistaken, and can easily be disproved; for he here threatens ruin to 
the city Nineveh because the Assyrians had cruelly laid waste the 
kingdom of Israel; and it is for these wrongs that he denounces 
vengeance: but under Jotham the kingdom of Israel had not been laid 
waste. We indeed know that the Assyrians were suborned by Ahab, when 
he found himself unequal to resist the attacks of two neighboring 
kings, the king of Syria, and the king of Israel. It was then that 
the Assyrians penetrated into the land of Israel, and in course of 
time, they desolated the whole kingdom. At this period it was that 
Nahum prophesied; for it was his object to show, that God had a care 
for that kingdom, on account of his adoption or covenant; though the 
Israelites had perfidiously separated themselves from the people of 
God, yet God's covenant remained in force. His design then was to 
show, that God was the father and protector of that kingdom. As this 
was the Prophet's object, it is certain that he taught either after 
the death of Ahab under Hezekiah, or about that time. 
    He followed Jonah at some distance, as we may easily learn. 
Jonah, as we have already seen, pronounced a threatening on the city 
Nineveh; but the punishment was remitted, because the Ninevites 
humbled themselves, and suppliantly deprecated the punishment which 
had been announced. They afterwards returned to their old ways, as 
it is usually the case. Hence it was, that God became less disposed 
to spare them. Though indeed they were aliens, yet God was pleased 
to show them favor by teaching them through the ministry and labors 
of Jonah: and their repentance was not altogether feigned. Since 
then they were already endued with some knowledge of the true God, 
the less excusable was their cruelty, when they sought to oppress 
the kingdom of Israel. They indeed knew, that that nation was sacred 
to God: what they did then was in a manner an outrage against God 
    We now understand at what time it is probable that Nahum 
performed his office as a teacher; though nothing certain, as I have 
said at the beginning, can be known: hence it was, that I condemned 
the Rabbis for rashness on the subject; for they are bold enough to 
bring any thing forward as a truth, respecting which there is no 
    I have already in part stated the design of the Prophet. The 
sum of the whole is this: When the Assyrians had for some time 
disturbed the kingdom of Israel, the Prophet arose and exhorted the 
Israelites to patience, that is, those who continued to be the 
servants of God; because God had not wholly forsaken them, but would 
undertake their cause, for they were under his protection. This is 
the substance of the whole. 
    With regard to Nineveh, we have already stated that it was the 
capital of the empire, as long as the Assyrians did bear rule: for 
Babylon was a province; that is, Chaldea, whose metropolis was 
Babylon, was one of the provinces of the empire. The kingdom was 
afterwards taken away from Meroc-baladan. Some think that 
Nabuchodonosor was the first monarch of Chaldea. But I bestow no 
great pains on this subject. It may be, that Meroc-baladan had two 
names, and this was very common; as we know that the kings of Egypt 
were called Pharaohs; so the Assyrians and Chaldeans, though 
otherwise called at first, might have taken a common royal name. Now 
Nineveh was so celebrated, that another kingdom could not have been 
established by the Babylonians without demolishing that city. We 
indeed know that it was very large, as we have stated in explaining 
Jonah. It was, as profane writers have recorded, nearly three days' 
journey in circumference. Then its walls were one hundred feet high, 
and so wide, that chariots could pass one another without coming in 
contact: there were one thousand and five hundred towers. We hence 
see that it was not without reason that this city was formerly so 
    They say that Ninus was its founder, but this is proved to be a 
mistake by the testimony of Moses in Gen. 10. They also imagine that 
Semiramis was the first queen of Babylon, and that the city was 
built by her: but this is a fable. It may have been that she 
enlarged the city; but it was Babylon many ages before she was born. 
So also Ninus may have increased and adorned Nineveh; but the city 
was founded before his birth. Profane authors call it Ninus, not 
Nineveh; probably the Hebrew name was corrupted by them, as it is 
often the case. However this may be, it is evident, that when 
Meroc-baladan, or his son, who succeeded him, wished to fix the seat 
of the empire at Babylon, he was under the necessity of destroying 
Nineveh to prevent rivalry. It thus happened, that the city was 
entirely demolished. Of this destruction, as we shall see, Nahum 

Calvin's Commentary on Nahum, Part A

(Continued in Part 1...)

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