It is one thing to predict the fall of Nineveh and the destruction of the palace, but it is another matter to predict the unusual means by which that would happen. Nahum 2:6 explains that the gates of the rivers are opened and the palace is dissolved. This event is so well attested that the argument concerns not that these events happened but the proximate cause of the water damage causing the palace to dissolve. It is as if loss adjusters are arguing amongst themselves whether the water damage was caused by natural flooding, carelessness by the Assyrians, or ingenuity on behalf of the Medes and Babylonians.
Open the Gates
The Ninevites used dams to minimise the seasonal flood damage to walls.[i] Clive Anderson quotes the ancient historian Diodorus Siculus, “that due to heavy rainfall and the rise of the Tigris and Khosr, the floodgates were overrun and a section of the city wall dissolved, enabling the Babylonians and Medes to open the city.”[ii] Unger believes that the “sluices” used to control the water of the Khoser River which flowed through Nineveh and into the River Tigris were captured and used not only to take the city but even aid in its destruction after capture.[iii]Interestingly and additionally he notes that Cyrus used the same method in conquering Babylon.[iv]
Of course it may well have been a combination of factors. Walvoord and Zuck examine several of the mentioned possibilities and add that perhaps at the commencement of the siege the Assyrians closed the floodgates but when the reservoirs were completely full, they opened the gates and the palace collapsed.[v]It seems likely that there was intense flooding and that the Medes and Babylonians capitalised on that. We might consider this an ingenious move on behalf of the Medes and Babylonians, since otherwise they may have struggled to complete a successful siege against a city with watery defences and impregnable walls. Wiersbe helpfully summarises that, “the invaders were but God’s instruments to execute His will.”[vi]
It had been a few millennia since the great flood, though those from the East had accounts of worldwide flooding and that should have been a warning. Although the Lord promised to never flood the whole earth, the first chapter of Nahum tells us that God will take vengeance and reserves wrath for His enemies. Maybe in your life you have suffered a great injustice, been falsely accused or mistreated. If you are trusting in the Lord you can rest in Him and know that the Lord will deal with that person or situation and in His timing.
The Palace is Dissolved
Great sections of Sennacherib’s palace can be seen today amongst the world’s museums including the British Museum. There are walls containing detailed battle drawings and conquests such as the siege of Lachish. There are lion depictions everywhere since the Assyrians were obsessed with hunting them and appearing to be lion-like. At present there is a combined effort between an Iraq-US archaeological team at the ancient site of Nineveh near Mosul and the findings are impressive though have not been reported on in detail.[vii] Not only has prophecy been foretold as history written in advance, but history has been preserved so we have the privileged benefit of seeing the fulfilment of prophecy.
It is Decreed
In verse seven the exact meaning of “Huzzah” with reference to “decreed” has been debated. We must never lose sight that the Lord has made the decree and the whole of Nahum’s prophecy demonstrates the sovereignty of God. The Stone Edition of the Tanakh translates “Huzzah” as “The Queen.” The Targum Jonathan translates it as “The Queen”, as does Rashi, Aben Ezra and others.[viii]However, no extrabiblical record provides a record of that name.[ix]Jamieson, Fausset and Brown think this relates to Nineveh personified as a queen as it fits with the flow of the text.[x] MacArthur thinks it refers to the goddess of Nineveh, Ishtar and equates the temple prostitutes with maidservants who mourned the fate of their goddess. Lastly, Unger again notes that there is no reference to a name of a queen of Nineveh known as “Huzzah” and maintains that “It is decreed” fits with the whole of Nahum’s prophecy.[xi]
Though Nineveh of old was once like a pool of water, now they flee away. It helps to understand this old pool of water in contrast with the water gates that had been opened causing devastation. We sometimes describe something or someone’s calmness and stability as like a millpond and that may be partly in view in its use as a metaphor, but Nineveh had extensive watery defences that had now been used against them. The reservoirs were probably something pleasant to look out at and may have had a calming effect but that is about to change.
Nineveh was then plundered of silver, gold and endless treasure. There was no end of treasure since much of their wealth had been obtained by oppressing other nations and exacting tribute from them. In 2 Kings 18:14, King Hezekiah was forced to pay King Sennacherib three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold.
Nineveh would be empty, desolate and waste. The hearts of the inhabitants would melt and their knees would shake and their faces would be drained of colour. Remember when Belshazzar’s colour changed, his limbs gave way and his knees knocked together as the writing was on the wall in Babylon (Daniel 5:6). Similarly God had numbered the days of Assyria, weighed them in the balances and found them wanting and their kingdom would be divided. The cruelty the Assyrians had shown to Israel and the nations would return upon them.
We are reminded again of Nahum’s encouragement and warning in chapter 1:7-8. “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him. But with an overflowing flood He will make an utter end of its place and darkness will pursue His enemies.” We have a choice either to trust and depend on the Lord in this life with the certain promise of eternal life in the next life or we can refuse God and try to live independently without God. For those rejecting the Lord, that pool of water will one day turn into an overflowing flood.
[i] John MacArthur MacArthur’s The MacArthur Bible Commentary (Thomas Nelson, 2005; Nashville), p1025
[ii] Clive Anderson Opening up Nahum (Day One, 2005; Leominster), p64 cited in Homer Hailey A Commentary on the Minor Prophets Religious Supply Inc., p261
[iii] Merrill F. Unger Unger’s’ Commentary on the Old Testament (AMG, 2002; Chattanooga), p1887
[iv] Ibid, p1887
[v] John F. Walvoord Roy B. Zuck The Bible Knowledge Commentary An Exposition of the Scriptures by the Dallas Seminary Faculty Old Testament (Victor, 1989; USA), P1501
[vi] Warren W. Wiersbe The Wiersbe Bible Commentary Old Testament (David C. Cook, 2005; Colorado Springs), p1465
[vii] Kristin Romey Stunning ancient artwork found at site attacked by ISIS October 31st 2002 https://www.nationalgeographic.co.uk/history-and-civilisation/2022/10/stunning-ancient-artwork-found-at-site-attacked-by-isis
[ix] Walvoord & Zuck, p1501
[x] Jamieson, Fausset & Brown’s Commentary (Zondervan, 1961; Grand Rapids), p824
[xi] Unger, p1887