The fire will devour your gates
In Nahum Chapter 2 it was foretold that the gates of the rivers would be opened and dissolve the palace. This was confirmed through independent historical writing such as Diodorus Siculus and archaeological excavation. In Chapter 3 there is further onslaught and fire would devour the bars of the gates and them. Excavations at Nineveh have uncovered wood, charcoal and ashes and a layer of ash roughly two inches thick lay clearly defined on the southeast side about the level of Sargon’s pavement.[i] The evidence of the fire damage can be seen in Room 9 of the British Museum since there are fire scorched stone wall reliefs from Sennacherib’s palace.[ii]
Draw your water for the siege!
The mocking warning given by Nahum in Chapter 2:1 concerning strengthening the defences in preparation for the siege is picked up again in Chapter 3:14. On this occasion the command is given to draw water for the siege and to fortify the strongholds and to go into the clay and tread the mortar. The commentary in the Stone Edition Tanakh states “A city under siege must produce brick and mortar to repair breaches in its defenses.”[iii]Similarly Rashi writes, “When a city is about to be besieged, the people of the city gather much water into its midst in barrels (so that they will have water) to drink during the days of the siege, when there are no cisterns within it (the city).”All these efforts are of no avail and are only delaying the inevitable.
Make yourselves like the locusts!
Towards the end of Chapter 2, Nahum likens the Ninevites to lions and explains how the predator will become prey. Near the close of chapter 3, Nahum commands the Ninevites to increase their number like the locust, compares them with locusts and then predicts the downfall and inevitable inability of the locusts to defend themselves.
Though the Ninevites were numerous like a swarm of locusts they would not be able to defend themselves and when the sun rose they would flee away. They were famous for their merchants who with the help of their army would strip people’s resources in the fields and like a locust swarm, left devastation in their wake.[iv]Nineveh was situated upon a great caravan route and the Tigris afforded access to the sea so the wealth flowed in since she was the capital of the world’s trade.[v]All of that was about to come to an abrupt halt.
Neither the nobility nor the military would be able to offset the coming attack. The inclusion of the merchants, commanders and generals uncovers the systematic nature of the culture since everyone is complicit and involved.[vi]They are described as camping in the hedges on a cold day and fleeing away when the sun rises. When panic arose even the guards on the walls would appear to vanish.
Your shepherds are sleeping
The shepherds are the last line of defence for the sheep. If the shepherds are sleeping, what hope is there for the sheep? Clive Anderson explains that a title of many Assyrians members of royalty was “Great Shepherd of the people” and that they boasted of their ability to protect them.[vii]In confirmation and with great irony, Anderson adds that a section of one of the ruins of Nineveh is called, “Tel Kuyunjik”, meaning “the mound of many sheep”.[viii] Inevitably when the people are scattered in the mountains there would be no shepherd to gather them.
Consequently Nineveh’s wound had no healing since their wound was severe and those oppressed by her would rejoice at her demise. As we have seen throughout this study on the book of Nahum, archaeology has proven that to be the case. However, Believers should not be vitriolic over the plight of their foes but be grateful for God’s righteous judgements coming to their aid. Who and what we believe in now will have repercussions for eternity. Nahum’s message to Nineveh is a message to the apostasizing world of today.[ix]God’s wrath will eventually fall on those who refuse Him, yet those who turn to Him have comfort, peace and a lasting hope.
The great shepherd of our souls
We should not put our trust in chariots or horses, (leaders, nobles, military might or defences), but in the Lord (Psalm 20:7). Some today trust in formidable military defences, but ultimately biblical history attests that we must trust first and foremost in the Lord. God has given us these examples that we might learn from them and turn to Him.
In contrast to the false shepherds of Nineveh the Scriptures speak of that great shepherd of our souls (Hebrews 13:20). Psalm 23 is a well- known and favourite psalm to many and speaks of the provision and care of the Lord as our shepherd. In John 10, Jesus the Messiah speaks of Himself as the good shepherd and describes Himself as “the door of the sheep”. “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9). He is the good shepherd who did not flee away but gave His life for the sheep through His atoning sacrifice. He knows the sheep and is known by His own. Do you know the good shepherd and are you trusting in Him?
[i] (R. Campbell Thomson & R.W. Hutchinson A Century of Excavation at Nineveh (London, 1929; Luzac), pp 45, 77, cited in John F. Walvoord & Roy B. Zuck The Bible Knowledge Commentary An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Theological Seminary Old Testament (Victor, 1989; USA), p1495
[ii] Clive Anderson Opening up Nahum (Day One, 2005; Leominster), p94-95
[iii] The Stone Edition Tanakh The Torah/Prophets/Writings/ The Twenty-Four Books of the Bible Newly Translated and Annotated (Mesorah, 2000; New York), p1388
[iv] Anderson, p95
[v] John Philipps The John Philipps Commentary Series Exploring the Minor Prophets An Expository Commentary (Kregel, 1998; Grand Rapids), p198
[vi] James Brickner The NIV Application Commentary Jonah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah (Zondervan, 2004; Grand Rapids), p187
[vii] Anderson, p96
[viii] Ibid, p96
[ix] Phillips, p199