THE subject of this prophecy is God’s sentence against Nineveh, the head and metropolis of the Assyrian empire: a city famous for its strength, and thickness of its walls, and the multitude of its towers for defence against an enemy. The forces of this empire did God use as a scourge against the Israelites, and by their hands ruined Samaria, the chief city of the ten tribes, and transplanted them as captives into another country (2 Kings 17:5, 6), about six years after Hezekiah came to the crown of Judah (2 Kings 18 compared with chap. 17:6), in whose time, or, as some think, later, Nahum uttered this prophecy. The name, Nahum, signifies Comforter; though the matter of his prophecy be dreadful to Nineveh, it was comfortable to the people of God: for a promise is made, (ver. 7), “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.” And an encouragement to Judah, to keep their solemn feasts, (ver. 15: and also in chap. 2:3), with a declaration of the misery of Nineveh, and the destruction of it. Observe,
1. In all the fears of God’s people, God will have a Comforter for them. Judah might well be dejected with the calamity of their brethren, not knowing but it might be their own turn shortly after. They knew not where the ambition of the Assyrian would stop; but God by his prophets calms their fears of their furious neighbor, by predicting to them the ruin of their feared adversary.
2. The destruction of the church’s enemies is the comfort of the church. By that God is glorified in his justice, and the church secured in its worship.
3. The victories of persecutors secure them not from being the triumphs of others. The Assyrians that conquered and captived Israel, were themselves to be conquered and captived by the Medes. The whole oppressing empire is threatened with destruction in the ruin of their chief city; accordingly it was accomplished, and the empire extinguished by a greater power. God burns the rod when it hath done the work he appointed it for; and the wisp of straw wherewith the vessels are scoured, is flung into the fire, or upon the dunghill.
Nahum begins his prophecy majestically, with a description of the wrath and fury of God. (ver. 2), “God is jealous, and the Lord revengeth; the Lord revengeth, and is furious: the Lord will take vengeance on his adversaries, and reserveth wrath for his enemies.” And therefore the whole of it is called (ver. 1), “The burden of Nineveh,” as those prophecies are, which are composed of threatenings of judgments, which he as a mighty weight upon the heads and backs of sinners.
God is jealous—jealous of his glory and worship, and jealous for his people, and their security. He cannot long bear the oppressions of his people, and the boasts of his enemies. He is jealous for himself, and is jealous for you of Judah, who retain his worship. He is not forgetful of those that remember him, nor of the danger of those that are desirous to maintain his honor in the world. In this first expression, the prophet uses the covenant name, God; the covenant runs, “I am your God,” or “the Lord your God;” mostly God without Lord, never Lord without God: and, therefore, his jealousy here is meant of the care of his people, and the relation that his actions against his enemies have to his servants. He is a lover of his own, and a revenger on his enemies.
The Lord revengeth, and is furious.—He now describes God by a name of sovereignty and power, when he describes him in his wrath and fury, and is furious. Heb. חמה בעל, Lord of hot anger. God will vindicate his own glory, and have his right on his enemies in a way of punishment, if they will not give it him in a way of obedience. It is three times repeated, to show the certainty of the judgment; and the name of “Lord” added to every one, to intimate the power wherewith the judgment should be executed. It is not a fatherly correction of children in a way of mercy, but an offended Sovereign a destruction of his enemies in a way of vengeance. There is an anger of God with his own people, which hath more of mercy than wrath; in this his rod is guided by his bowels. There is a fury of God against his enemies, where there is sole wrath without any tincture of mercy; when his sword is all edge, without any balsam drops upon it. Such a fury as David deprecates (Psalm 6:1): “O Lord, rebuke me not in thy anger, nor chasten me in thy sore displeasure,” with a fury untempered with grace, and insupportable wrath.