The Word Made Fresh
1The city that sheds blood is utterly dishonest.
It is filled with endless plunder.
2There is the constant sound of whips cracking and wheels rumbling,
horses galloping and chariots charging furiously.
3Horsemen charge through the city flashing their swords and spears,
They stumble over endless heaps of dead bodies
4because of the countless sinful acts of the prostitute,
that elegant and alluring mistress of sorcery
who uses her charm to send nations into slavery.
5“I am against you,” says the LORD.
“I will strip you naked and allow other nations to stare at you
and other kingdoms to see your shame.
6I will shower you with filth and treat you with contempt.
I will turn you into a public spectacle.
7Everyone who sees you will turn away, saying,
‘Nineveh is nothing but rubble. Who cares?’
No one is going to offer her any comfort.
8Do you think you’re better than Thebes on the Nile,
surrounded with water, walled in by the sea?”
9Ethiopia and Egypt provided her with plenty of strength and
Put and Libya also were her allies.
10Even so, she was exiled and went into captivity.
Her babies were slaughtered in her streets.
Lots were cast for her leaders
and her important government officers were bound in shackles.
11You will become disoriented and go into hiding,
trying to find some safety from your enemies.
12Your strongholds are like fig trees bearing ripe fruit –
when shaken they fall into the mouth of their enemies.
13Look at your soldiers: they are like women to you.
Fire has consumed your gates,
which are now wide open to your enemies.
14So, go ahead and draw water for the siege.
Make your fortress strong.
Trample the clay and tread the mortar.
Grab onto the bricks to repair your damage.
15For you will be devoured by the fire
and cut to pieces with the sword.
You will be like crops eaten up by locusts.
So, multiply yourselves like locusts and grasshoppers!
16Your merchants numbered more than the stars in the sky,
but locusts always shed their skin and fly away.
17The guards you have posted will be like locusts
settling on the fences on a cold day,
but when the sun rises they fly away
and no one can tell where they have gone.
18Your shepherds sleep on the job,
and you should know, O king of Assyria,
that your leaders are asleep on the job.
Your people are scattered in the mountains
with no one to lead them.
19Nothing can soothe your pain, for your wounds are terminal.
Everyone who hears the news about you will applaud,
for whom has ever escaped your constant cruelty?
1-7: Nahum pictures the ruin of Nineveh in vivid language that brings out sight and sound for the reader. In verse 4 Nineveh is likened to a prostitute, though the text is not clear in exactly how Nineveh’s actions would draw one to that simile, but God’s punishment of Nineveh is pictured as the public defilement of a prostitute by exposing her nakedness in broad daylight and showering her with “filth,” which probably means animal and/or human waste.
8-11: Thebes, a prominent Egyptian city on the Nile about 500 miles from the Mediterranean, was ransacked by the Assyrians in 633 B.C. Nahum is drawing a comparison between Nineveh and Thebes, and prophesying that Nineveh will suffer the same fate.
12-13: Nahum points to a weakened empire that is ready to fall at the next attack of the Babylonians and Medes.
14-17: The deteriorating condition of the empire is described as a fence on which a swarm of locusts has settled and then moved on. The locusts are the merchants which up to now have been cultivated by a greed-ridden society, but when the collapse of Assyria comes the merchants will move on to other markets and will be of no help to the city.
18-19: The oracle ends. A corrupt nation comes to an end because its leaders, its shepherds, were corrupt. The wound is mortal. Nineveh will suffer the same fate as the nations that have ceased to exist because of Assyrian cruelty.
No matter how desperate Israel’s situation became, God always sent a prophet to let them know that God was still for them and would take action to restore them. God allows our foolishness to result in our shame, but never lets go of us permanently. Patience is an important virtue for the believer.