Study of the Prophets: Nahum (Cont.) August 26, 2016

Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue

Study of the Prophets: Nahum (Cont.) August 26, 1016

This week we begin at Chapter 2 verses 7-9; a continuation of the prophecy declaring Judah’s salvation that goes into a description of how the evil flee Nineveh. Keep in mind that Judah is the southern kingdom at which Jerusalem is located. “The gates of the rivers have been opened and the palace is melting. The queen has been exposed and carried off [into captivity]; her handmaids moan, like the sounding of doves, beating upon their hearts. Nineveh had been like a pool of [still] water, from her [earliest] days- but now they flee! ‘Halt! Halt!’ but no one pays attention.”

The gates of the city that re near the rivers have been breached by the enemy (Rashi), leaving the city vulnerable to invasive forces (Radak). The bridges of the rivers had been severed or otherwise destroyed. The kingdom is trembling and shaking from the missiles that have battered its walls.  No doubt the king must have been so afraid it would seem as if the palace was melting (Targum Yonasan).

The queen is a reference to the queen who would stand at the right side of the king. The queen would normally reside in her chambers but will be taken publicly captive and removed from the city (Rashi). As the queen is taken, her handmaids moan similar to the sound of mourning doves. There are many references in Torah that connect mourning or lamenting with doves (Isaiah 38:14; 59:11; Jeremiah 48:28). Birds are often used metaphorically to represent a fugitive existence fraught with danger and defenselessness. Interestingly, R. Hirsch (Lev. 1:17) speculates that only birds are offered as a sacrifice in conditions that involve bodily injury or sickness for this reason.  The handmaids beat upon their hearts in anguish.

Nineveh had always existed in tranquility like a calm pool of water; its people wealthy and prosperous. This description is now contrasted with the assault of their enemies and how quickly they flee, leaving their wealth behind. When the citizens are told to stop fleeing long enough to defend the city, no one pays attention. They ignore all orders to stop.

Verse 10-11: “Plunder silver, plunder gold; the amount is limitless! Sweep [it] clean of every precious vessel!’ She is emptied, emptied and breached; with melted heart, buckled knees, pain in all the loins, and faces [there], and all their faces have gathered blackness.”

Nahum addresses the Babylonians who are going to rob the treasury. Nahum instructs the Babylonians to sweep Nineveh clean of all its precious objects. Nineveh’s enemies will sweep through Nineveh and empty her of all her wealth, breaking open her walls as one would a piñata. Scripture describes the fear and terror of Nineveh’s people. They will be so terrified that their knees will buckle (See Daniel 5:6 for another example). Their faces withdraw their beauty due to their fear of the invading forces. This can also mean to become as a ghost; with no life/expression.

Verse 12-13: “Where is the lions’ den, which was the feeding place of the young lions, where the lion, the awesome lion, and lion whelp wound go, with none to make them afraid? The lion would tear prey to provide for his cubs, choking [prey] for his lionesses. He would fill up his lairs with prey and his dens with torn carcasses.”

Nahum “laments” the downfall of Nineveh and recites a dirge for the once great and powerful city. The city once had fierce kings, who were once as powerful as lions; where are they now? Alternatively, Radak and Ibn Ezra explains that is is the nations of the world who are expressing their amazement at Nineveh’s destruction. In previous times, warriors who were as powerful as lions would go from Nineveh to destroy and plunder other nations and bring back their prey, as a lion brings prey to its den (Radak). The lion came and went from its cave without fear of injury. This refers once again to the kings and officers of Nineveh who fearlessly went into battle, leaving their families behind (Targum Yonasan; Rashi; Metzudos).  They would bring back t eh spoils of war to their families as a lion brings back prey to its cubs and lionesses. They would fill the treasuries with their plunder. One must surely at least think about the comparison of Nineveh to the United States who was once considered invincible; a country with whom every other country wanted to conduct commerce and adopt a similar lifestyle. This is now in the past for the most part, with the United States more appropriately fitting the description in Revelation of spiritual Babylon. We must be careful as we form our opinions on this subject because there is much yet to happen before the Tribulation that may have application and relevance to more than one place such as the United States verses the global village in general. However, Nahum’s description of the destruction of Nineveh should give us cause to ponder the importance to end world events and the role of the United States in end -time prophecy.

Verse 14: “Behold, I am against you- the word of HaShem, Master of Legions- I will burn your chariots in smoke, and the sword will devour your cubs. I will eliminate your prey from the earth, and the voice of your messengers will be heard no more!”

G-d is addressing Nineveh; He is going to destroy it. The term HaShem, Master of Legions expresses the idea that G-d takes the infinite number of forces and conditions of the universe and synchs them to perform His will. The scripture continues to describe just how G-d will use the forces of nature to destroy Nineveh. The chariots will be destroyed in great fire with smoke and the cubs refer to the destruction of the king’s forces (Radak) or his children (Metzudos).  HaShem will never allow them to war with other nations or take the wealth of other nations. Prior to invading a country, the Assyrian kings sent their officers to instill fear and terror into the inhabitants of other nations. Scripture is referring to these types of intimidating messages (Radak).

By now it should be obvious even to the casual reader that G-d means what He says. There is a price to be paid for disobedience to G-d and persecution of His people (all true believers). One day the casual dance through life that the majority of mankind chooses to take will be over and we will be required to give an accounting for our lives before the One True G-d; the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. May we be prepared for our meeting with the King of Kings.

Next week we will continue with Chapter 3, the final chapter in this book.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Tamah Davis