Nahum 2 – The Siege of Nineveh & Nineveh

Four Hands1 The devil kicked out of heavenThere are many, many places in the Bible (Ex 34:6; Num 14:18; Ps 36:15, etc.) that say it takes a long time for someone to make You real mad, but boy, when You are finally fed up, watch out!

The devil himself can vouch for that and he knows what a horrible eternity he is going to have.  He has seen You in action; You booted him and his cronies out of heaven and sentenced them to the Lake of Fire.

The most foolish thing anyone can do is to go against You, we can all learn from what Satan did and I bet he’s quite surprised that his plans didn’t work out (Isa 14:12-17).  He’s probably still asking “Why aren’t I God?”  Like Hillary Clinton, “Why aren’t I president?”

“…Woe to the inhibiters of the earth and of the sea!  For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time” (Rev 12:12).

The Assyrians were around for a long time, way before they took over Nineveh, so let’s look at…

Nahum 2
The Siege of Nineveh

1 He that dasheth in pieces is come up before thy face: keep the munition, watch the way, make thy loins strong, fortify thy power mightily.

2 The Flood Tablet The Gilgamesh Tablet excavated from the Library of Ashurbanipa.
The Flood Tablet / The Gilgamesh Tablet excavated from the Library of Ashurbanipa.

“He that dasheth” – refers to the alliance of the Babylonians, the Medes and the Scythians – particularly the Medes under Cyaxares and the Babylonians under Nabopolassar.

“Fortify thy power mightily” – probably irony, touched with sarcasm.

2 For the LORD hath turned away the excellency of Jacob, as the excellency of Israel: for the emptiers have emptied them out, and marred their vine branches.

“LORD hath turned away the excellency of Jacob…Israel” – the whole nation will be restored and united again.

3 The shield of his mighty men is made red; the valiant men are in scarlet: the chariots shall be with flaming torches in the day of his preparation, and the fir trees shall be terribly shaken.

“His mighty men” – those of the attacker (v. 1), or perhaps those of Nineveh itself.

“Red” – either (1) the color of the shields, or (2) a reference to blood on them, or (3) the result of the reflection of the sun shining on them.

“Shall be terribly shaken” – the probable idea is that the branches are ready to be used as weapons such as spears.

4 The chariots shall rage in the streets, they shall jostle one against another in the broad ways: they shall seem like torches, they shall run like the lightnings.

“Chariots…jostle” – refers to either (1) the Assyrian war chariots and their unprecedented speed as the Assyrians take frantic but vain steps to defend themselves or (2) the chariots of Nineveh’s invaders.

3 The Scythians The Scythians
The Scythians were a collection of related nomadic tribes who inhabited the vast steppes (prairies) of Central Asia.

They were distinguished by very strong tribal ties, the fierce independence of their females and a nature-like religion. A warrior race, the Scythians have been mis-characterized through the course of history.

They have been demonized in European History as savage barbarians who would have laid Europe to waste if they had been afforded an opportunity.

5 He shall recount his worthies: they shall stumble in their walk; they shall make haste to the wall thereof, and the defense shall be prepared.

“He” – perhaps the king of Assyria, though Nabopolassar is equally possible.

“Wall” – a moat 150 feet wide had to be filled in before reaching Nineveh’s wall, which was almost 8 miles long with 15 gates.  Then battering rams were moved up.

6 The gates of the rivers shall be opened, and the palace shall be dissolved.

“Gates of the rivers” – perhaps the dams on the Khoser River, which ran through the city to the Tigris River.  They were either already in place, or quickly built, to back up the river water, then suddenly released so the flood would damage the walls.

“Palace shall be dissolved” – one ancient historian (the author of the Babylonian Chronicles) speaks of a flood that washed away some of the wall, making it easier for the invaders to enter the city.

7 And Huzzab shall be led away captive, she shall be brought up, and her maids shall lead her as with the voice of doves, tabering upon their breasts.

“Her maids” – possibly temple prostitutes, whose places of business and idols were being destroyed.

8 But Nineveh is of old like a pool of water: yet they shall flee away. Stand, stand, shall they cry; but none shall look back.

4 The only narrative
The only narrative about the reign of Cyaxares can be found in the first book of the Histories by the Greek researcher Herodotus (c.480-c.429).
Cyaxares
Cyaxares Empire at the time of its maximum expansion.
He was born in the Median capital of Ecbatana, his father Phraortes was killed in a battle against the Assyrians, led by Ashurbanipal, the king of Neo-Assyria. After his fall the Scythians took over. In his early age Cyaxares was seeking for revenge. He killed the Scythian leaders and proclaimed himself as King of Medes.

“Like a pool…flee away” – some think this refers to the Tigris and the smaller rivers encircling and running through parts of the city, and to a system of dams to make the city more impenetrable.  Others take the language less literally as a reference to Nineveh’s people fleeing, like water draining from a pool.

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.

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.

“She is empty…void, and waste” – the Babylonian Chronicle confirms the fact that a great quantity of plunder was carried off by the invaders.

“The heart melteth” – the powerful, insolent Ninevites become helpless with fear.

11 Where is the dwelling of the lions, and the feeding place of the young lions, where the lion, even the old lion, walked, and the lion’s whelp, and none made them afraid?

2:11-13 – Nahum ironically contrasts the devastated and desolate city of Nineveh with its former glory and power, expressed in figurative terms.

“The lion…the old lion’ – the lion is an appropriate image to apply to Assyria because of the rapacious ways of the Assyrian monarchs and because Nineveh contained numerous lion sculptures.

12 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.

5 Cuneiform tablet with a description of the fall of Nineveh.
Cuneiform tablet with a description of the fall of Nineveh.

 “Filled his holes with prey” – Nineveh was filled with the spoils of war from many conquered nations.

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.

“I will burn” – Nineveh’s fall will not be caused by merely natural forces or the superior power of her attackers; it will be an act of God.  Nineveh had been put on trial, found guilty and sentenced to destruction.

Nineveh

Located at Mosul, Iraq, Nineveh was an ancient city first inhabited as early as the seventh millennium B.C. The prominence of this city in the Bible, however, is due to its distinction as one of the capital cities of the Assyrian Empire, which dominated the ancient Near East for most of the period from 900 to 612 B.C.

Nineveh was at the height of its power under the Assyrian kings Sennacherib, Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal. Numerous important archaeological finds at Nineveh come from the period during which these kings reigned:

The walls of the city, nearly 8 miles long, enclosed an area covering approximately 1,700-acres.

Portions of the palace, covering three large city blocks, have been excavated. Painted, sculptured reliefs depicting Sennacherib’s exploits, including his defeat of Lachish in 701 B.C. (2 Kgs 18:14, 17) lined the walls.

The city boasted an enormous number of parks and water gardens, which may account for the focus on waters in Nah 2:8.

6 Nineveh the capital of Assyria
Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, the second world power of Bible history, the queen city of the earth at the time.

Assyria was like a pack of lions on the hunt, as they were feared by all in the then known earth. Viciousness and inhumanity held sway in the supreme. It is by warfare that Nineveh enriched itself, becoming the greatest and most feared city of the day.

Sennacherib’s account of his conquest of Judah in 701 B.C. (2 Kgs 18:13-19:36) was found here. Hezekiah is mentioned by name in Sennacherib’s version.

Other records mention Manasseh, king of Judah, who supplied building materials for Esarhaddon’s palace at Nineveh and troops for Ashurbanipal’s invasion of Egypt.

One of the most significant finds was Ashurbanipal’s library. It contained about 1,500 different texts, some with multiple copies, including archival, literary, magical, medical, divinatory and ritual tablets.

7 Tigris River and bridge
Tigris River and bridge in Monul, a city in northern Iraq and the capital of the Nineveh Province, some 400 km (250 mi) northwest of Baghdad.

The book of Nahum, as well as Zeph 2:13-15, predicts the defeat and destruction of Nineveh. These prophecies were fulfilled when a coalition of Babylonians, Medes and Scythians overthrew the city in 612 B.C., as described in the Babylonian Chronicle.

…Assyria through the Middle Assyrian Period.

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