Nineveh’s Certain Fall

Part 2 of 2


We continue with our study of Nahum chapter 3, which deals with the certain fall of Nineveh. The third part of this chapter from verses 14-19 contains a picture of the fall of Nineveh despite her strength.

A Picture of the Fall of Nineveh 
Despite her Strength (vv. 14-19)

Now remember that when Nahum prophesied these things, the Assyrians were near the height of its glory and power under Ashurbanipal, who reigned from 669-627 BC. Never had the Assyrian empire and power looked so strong and invincible. But the LORD makes it clear to them that despite all their strength and might, they will utterly fall.

Verse 14, “Draw thee waters for the siege, fortify thy strong holds: go into clay, and tread the mortar, make strong the brickkiln.”

The LORD gives the Assyrians five commands in preparation for the coming attack. First, draw water for the siege and do so before the enemy comes and cuts off your supply leaving you desperate for water.

Then second, fortify or strengthen your strongholds for they are not strong enough to withstand the pounding of the enemy.

The third, fourth and fifth commands have to do with making bricks. The people were to pour or immerse themselves in this very crucial task. Without strong bricks, they would not be able to strengthen their fortifications.

Bricks were made by the people going into the clay and trampling or treading out the mortar and then holding firmly to the brick-mould in order to ensure that the bricks are of the right size and shape. Then when the bricks are dried, they would be ready for repairing the weakened portions of the wall.

The point is that the Assyrians would have to work very hard, almost like slaves, in order to prepare for the coming battle. And even then, all their efforts would be in vain.

Verse 15, “There shall the fire devour thee; the sword shall cut thee off, it shall eat thee up like the cankerworm:”

The word “there” may be translated “just at that point” referring to the most recently fortified defences of their city. It is just at that very place where they had strengthened that the fall will take place. The fire shall devour them, the sword shall cut them off and the locust will consume the entire city.

The second part of verse 15 to verse 16 says, “make thyself many as the cankerworm, make thyself many as the locusts. Thou hast multiplied thy merchants above the stars of heaven: the cankerworm spoileth, and flieth away.”

It’s important to see that the imagery of innumerable locust is used both to describe the inhabitants of the city as well as the enemy that is coming to devour the city. The defenders of the city are called upon to multiply themselves greatly like locust and thus to increase their strength. They have already multiplied their merchants like the stars of heaven, which resulted in enormous wealth flowing into the city.

But all that multiplication on the part of Nineveh is futile. Just as they can multiply their military and economic strength, so God can multiply their enemies beyond what they are able to do.  And so the end of verse 16 speaks of the enemy as locusts stripping everything in the city and then flying away leaving nothing behind. All the energy poured into defending and building it up is gone in an instant.

Verse 17, “Thy crowned are as the locusts, and thy captains as the great grasshoppers, which camp in the hedges in the cold day, but when the sun ariseth they flee away, and their place is not known where they are.”

The crowned ones and the captains refer to the leadership of the Assyrians. Just as the people are numerous, so their leadership is great in number. But this great number of leaders will do them no good in the day of adversity. Rather than remaining behind to help, these leading persons will flee away at the first appearance of the enemy. In fact, their flight will be so swift and complete that they will leave not a trace of their previous presence. When the heat of battle is on, these crowned ones and captains are nowhere to be found and their followers are left to experience the merciless slaughter of the enemy.  

Verse 18, “Thy shepherds slumber, O king of Assyria: thy nobles shall dwell in the dust: thy people is scattered upon the mountains, and no man gathereth them.”

The Lord now addresses the King of Assyria himself. He tells him that his shepherds slumber and his nobles lie down, meaning that his leaders are negligent and lax and thus incompetent. As a result, the people are scattered upon the mountains like sheep without a shepherd, and no man gathers them. This is a picture of utter defeat and hopelessness and aimless wandering.

The king of Assyria himself is ultimately responsible for this total dispersion and final dissolution of his people. He has failed in his task as the shepherd of his people and he will have no ability to re-gather the lost sheep. But in contrast to the Assyrian king stands the King of kings and Lord of lords who, as the good shepherd, will never fail His people but will gather them into one flock and be their one shepherd forever. 

The book of Nahum concludes with these words in verse 19, “There is no healing of thy bruise; thy wound is grievous: all that hear the bruit of thee shall clap the hands over thee: for upon whom hath not thy wickedness passed continually?”

This is a fitting end to a book that is entirely devoted to the fall and destruction of Nineveh, the wicked and arrogant capital of the Assyrian Empire.

The bruise or injury inflicted upon Nineveh will never be healed, and the wound she suffers is grievous and ultimately fatal. All who hear the story or report of her tragic fall will clap their hands over her. People everywhere will rejoice and shout for joy at the news. The sound of their applause will be heard to the ends of the earth. 

Why such jubilant and uninhibited celebration? The reason is given right at the end of the verse, “for upon whom has not your wickedness been inflicted continually?” In other words no people or nation in the Ancient Near East has been spared the continual wickedness and cruelty of the Assyrians. And so they all celebrate when the Assyrians are defeated. And it is because of the wickedness of the Assyrians that the vengeance and judgment of God must eventually fall on Nineveh and their whole empire.

There is something interesting and unique about the way that Nahum ends. It ends with a question. None of the other 66 books of the Bible end this way except one. And that book is the book of Jonah. These are the only two in the whole Bible that conclude with a question.

The closing verse of Jonah reads, “And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?” The closing words of Nahum read, “for upon whom hath not thy wickedness passed continually?”

So each book ends with a question but what contrasting questions they are. One is a note of pity and compassion for Nineveh while the other is a note of condemnation and judgment on that same city.

Conclusion

And so in the previous article and this one, we’ve considered the three parts of the concluding chapter of Nahum, namely, the sins and humiliation of Nineveh, the comparison between Nineveh and Thebes, and the fall of Nineveh despite its strength.

Although various portions of this book read like an eye witness account of what happened at Nineveh, remember that Nahum wrote this book several decades before the fall actually took place in 612 BC. Whether Nahum lived long enough to see its eventual fall, we do not know. But Nahum’s prophecy did come to pass exactly as he had predicted.

Unlikely as the defeat and destruction of Nineveh may have seemed to man at the time of its writing, everything was fulfilled within a few decades because God’s word never fails.

The lesson to all unbelieving people, including kings and those in high places, is clear – take heed to the word of God. What happened to Nineveh in the book of Nahum may have taken place over 2600 years ago, but the principle remains the same. God will unleash His just and fearsome fury upon you if you remain in unbelief and rebellion against Him. If the scenes of judgment depicted in this book are frightening and even disturbing at times, understand that the final judgment at the end of time would be much worse.   

Repent while there is still time. Receive the Lord Jesus as Saviour and Lord. Do as the Nineveh of Jonah did and do not follow in the path of the Nineveh of Nahum.

But finally a word to those who do believe and trust and rest in the Lord. The book of Nahum was written in the middle of the 7th century BC primarily to comfort the hearts of the godly in the face of the Assyrian threat hanging over them like a dark cloud. The very name of the prophet “Nahum” means comfort.

Nahum still brings comfort to us in the 21st century AD. The present day enemies of God’s word and God’s people shall not be able to stand against God any more than did Nineveh of old.

The charging horsemen and bounding chariot, the devouring fire, and the innumerable locust horde sent from God will overcome any enemy, whatever size they may be or shape they may take. Men may multiply their strength and resources but God’s multiplication will always prevail.

Let us not be discouraged whatever the situation may be whether on the political or economic scene, or on the ecclesiastical or church scene, or in your workplace or school or home or personal life. Look to the LORD. Lift up your head for your redemption draws nigh.

I close with the most encouraging and positive verse of the book of Nahum found in chapter 1 verse 7, “The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.” Amen.  

—Linus Chua