Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Study of the Prophets: Nahum (Conclusion)
This week we begin with Chapter 3:8 and conclude the book of Nahum. The beginning verses tell of the destruction of the great city of No, eerily similar to the United States; “Are you better than N0-amon, which sits by the rivers, with water surrounding it, whose rampart was the sea, and whose wall of the sea?
Nahum admonishes the people of Nineveh for relying on the perceived impregnability of their city, since No-amon shared physical similarities with Nineveh yet was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar when he destroyed Egypt (Rashi: Radak). No was the city where the Egyptian kings were trained and anointed. The reference to the rivers was the numerous canals that branched off the Nile. The rampart was the small inner wall that surrounded the city, while there was a larger wall surrounding the outer perimeter of the city (Rashi, Lamentations 2:8).
Powerful Cush and endless Egypt, Put and Lubim were your helpers. Yet each of them too went into exile in captivity, its babies were also smashed at the head of every street; they cast lots over her noblemen, and all her great men were bound in chains.”
Scripture continues to list the nations that offered assistance to No-amon, but to no avail. The Cushites were the strength of No-amon. They came to her aid along with Egypt. Cush is usually identified with Ethiopia. The identity of Put and Lubim are sometimes associated with Libya. The name Put (or Phut) who was the third son of Ham, is also used in the Bible for the people or nation said to be descended from him, usually placed in Ancient Libya, but connections are sometimes proposed with the Land of Punt known from Ancient Egyptian annals. The Lubim were a people mentioned in the Old Testament (2 Chron. 12:3; 16:8; Dan. 11:43). In all these cases the word is translated in the King James Version “Libyans”; in the Revised Version (British and American) only in Daniel 11:43. The people so named had their seat in North Africa, West of Egypt (compare Acts 2:10, “the parts of Libya about Cyrene”). So it seems as if both the people of Put and Lubim were from the area of Libya. These nations combined forces to help N-amon, but to no avail. All of these forces were sent into exile. Each of these nations went into exile under captivity. Sadly, the babies were killed, the Hebrew words used in the scripture translate as split or dash into pieces. (see Isaiah 13:18 (Metzudos). All the great men were bound in chains.
You too, will become drunk; you will become unknown; you will also seek refuge from the enemy.”
Nahum is speaking to Nineveh that she too will become drunk from the cup of G-d’s fury as did the great city of No. Nineveh will vanish and will become unknown, for her destruction will be so complete that it will seem as if she had never existed (Rashi; Radak). Note that one of the hot topics in this election year is the argument between the parties on “exceptionalism.” The argument is whether the term refers to an attitude of exceptionalism or superiority of America’s people, or if the term refers to the exceptional opportunities that America offers for a “better life.” Interestingly, the paradigm of modern secular humanistic (progressive) education teaches that no one is exceptional or that everyone is exceptional. In either case we are all “the same.” This is the position held by our current president and Hillary Clinton. In Florida, recent rulings regarding a case where children were held back because their parents refused to have their children take a standardized test, the ruling was that the children cannot be held back for not taking the test. Perhaps there is an inherent fear that the results may infer some children are better educated or more exceptional than others, or that the test does not reflect the exceptional talents or education of a child. In the larger arena, prizes and awards are both discouraged and/or awarded to everyone, lest some feel they are inferior or superior to others. The agenda is to promote “sameness;” that either no one is smarter, more talented than another, or that everybody is exceptional. This change of educational and social paradigm is consistent with what we read about Nineveh; a city who thought itself indestructible and superior/ “exceptional,” yet destroyed and plunged into anonymity. G-d will put an end to this nonsense in His time. Unfortunately, those who subscribe to this paradigm will also suffer the consequences of a socialistic agenda devoid of G-d and His Torah.
All your fortresses will be [like]fig trees with newly ripened fruit, when they are shaken, they fall into the mouth of the eater.
Just as ripened figs are easily shaken into the mouth of one who wants to eat them, all of Assyria’s fortresses will be easily conquered and plundered.
Behold, your nation is [like] women in your midst.
The nation is considered weak like women who do not have the strength to wage war (Radak; Mahari Kara).
The gates of your land have been opened wide to your enemies; fire has consumed your bolts. Draw water for the siege, bolster your fortresses.
It will appear as if the gates to the city have opened themselves and as if the bolts have been burned, for the enemy will quickly smash through the gates (Radak). The bolts spoken of were wooden bars that bolted the gates of the city (Metzudos). Cities that do not have cisterns to store water must fill numerous barrels to last through a siege. Nahum advises the people to prepare themselves by gathering drinking water because they are about to be attacked by the Babylonians (Rashi). Ibn Ezra sees this suggestion as mocking the Ninevites.
Come into the clay and trample the mortar; grasp the brick mold. There fire will consume you; a sword will cut you down. It will consume you like the chewing-locust- you will be swept away as[by] the shewing-locust; you will be swept away as [by] the abundant-locust.
Make bricks to strengthen sections of the wall that need repair (Rashi). Malbim sees this as a mockery of Nineveh also, for he renders come into the clay and trample as if it were mortar. Bricks that are formed from the word used for the material in this scripture will turn to dust. Their preparations will be of no benefit because the fire of the enemy will consume them in their fortresses and strongholds. As the chewing-locust devours the field and destroys its vegetation, so will Nineveh will be destroyed by the enemy (Metzudos).
You had more merchants than the stars in the sky, [like] the chewing-locust that spreads out and then flies away. Your princes are like abundant-locusts and your captains are like a swarm of great locusts which settle on the fences on a cold day; when the sun shines they move away, and their place is unknown -Where are they?
Of what value are the merchants who were as numerous as the stars in the sky; for just as the locust spreads out over the earth and then quickly flies away, so too, will they quickly be destroyed and their wealth will not save them (Radak). Nahum continues the imagery of the locusts. During the old hours of the day, locusts generally attach themselves to a wall or fence and wat for the temperature to rise. AS the sun begins to shine and the temperature gets warmer, they fly away, leaving no trace that they had been there. Nahum declares that similarly will the entire nation (Rashi), even the princes will be exiled or killed (Radak) and no one will ever realize they were in this place (Rashi) or that they were princes (Radak).
Your shepherds are asleep, O king of Assyria, your mighty men are at rest. Your nation is scattered upon the mountains with no one to gather them. There is no one in pain over your fracture [though] your wound is grievous. All who hear the report about you clap their hands over you; for over whom has your wickedness not passed constantly?”
The officers are powerless against the enemy; as if they are asleep (Radak). It is as if their mighty men have died, for nothing will help them against their enemies (Radak). Since Nahum compared the officers to shepherds, it compares the nation to sheep that are scattered upon the mountains for they have no shepherd to lead them (Radak). There is no one that can heal the grievous wound; there is no cure. All who hear the report of their defeat applaud and rejoice. IN the context of the United States, it is not difficult to compare this to the nations of the world that despise the United States and wish nothing more than for the country to be destroyed. In this prophecy, since Assyria acted wickedly toward all other nations, now that she is defeated, all the nations rejoice (Mahari Kara).
This seems a sad note on which to end this book. Unlike many of our studies that end on an encouraging note of G-d’s comfort and restoration, Nineveh suffered total destruction as will other nations in the future, perhaps the United States among them. Perhaps G-d intended this book to end on a somber note that those who read it will contemplate its meaning and take action to make corrections in their personal relationship to G-d and their interactions with others. May it be so.
This concludes our study on Nahum. The next book will be announced. I invite your suggestions on which minor prophet you would next like to study.
Rabbi Tamah Davis