2 An attacker advances against you, Nineveh.
Guard the fortress,
watch the road,
marshal all your strength!
2 The Lord will restore the splendor of Jacob
like the splendor of Israel,
though destroyers have laid them waste
and have ruined their vines.
3 The shields of the soldiers are red;
the warriors are clad in scarlet.
The metal on the chariots flashes
on the day they are made ready;
the spears of juniper are brandished.
4 The chariots storm through the streets,
rushing back and forth through the squares.
They look like flaming torches;
they dart about like lightning.
5 Nineveh summons her picked troops,
yet they stumble on their way.
They dash to the city wall;
the protective shield is put in place.
6 The river gates are thrown open
and the palace collapses.
7 It is decreed that Nineveh
be exiled and carried away.
Her female slaves moan like doves
and beat on their breasts.
(Nahum 2:1-7 NIV)
As we ended chapter 1, we heard the Lord declare the end of Nineveh ( v. 14) and promise the end of the Assyrian tyranny on Judah (v. 15). The prophet Nahum was speaking on behalf of the Lord, talking about events yet to come.
As we begin chapter 2, Nahum seems to jump ahead to Nineveh’s capture, as if he was present when the soldiers invaded the city. We hear the warning come in, that the enemy is on their way.
Listen as the army commander barks out orders to the troops: (v. 1)
Guard the fortress!
Watch the road!
Marshal all your strength!
In verse 2, the Lord offers comfort and hope to Judah, whom the Assyrians have brutally attacked and destroyed. God promises restoration of the splendor of Judah, despite the devastation that the Assyrians have brought to God’s land and people.
Verses 3 – 4 depict the enemy’s taking of the city. Soldiers, chariots, spears – it’s all a blur, it’s all happening so fast, all at once, like lightning. The red and scarlet called out in verse 3 are not colors on the soldiers’ uniforms – those colors are the blood stains from the battle.
Verse 5 portrays the army commanders in Nineveh summoning the elite troops, the honor guard, to come and fight. The troops initially falter, but then make their way to the city wall and raise the shield against the oppressors.
While the wall shield is effective in stopping the enemy from coming over the wall or shooting arrows over the wall, the enemy takes a completely different approach to breach the city – via the river that runs through the heart of the city.
Nineveh had a large moat that ran around the city, and was fed by the Khosar River. The Khosar River then fed into the Tigris River. Through a series of water gates, the enemy could turn off the water supply to the city, and also open up the water supply to the city, essentially flooding it. Some secular historians believe that the attackers waited until the rainy season, cut off the water supply to Nineveh, let it build up in the tributaries, then released all the water at once to flood the city and collapse part of the wall surrounding the city, providing easy entry for the troops.
Finally, in verse 7, the verdict is in – Nineveh is conquered. The slave women mourn their loss of safety and security, the deaths of family members, and their masters. These slave women are all that is left of the city’s population.
God’s Word is coming true – Nineveh will be sacked and overrun by their enemy, the same way that they conquered God’s people in Israel and Judah.
The amazing part of this story is that all this vivid imagery is still a prophecy! From the time that Nahum wrote this prophetic account of Nineveh’s downfall, it would be many years until it actually happened.
And so the Lord brings justice to the unjust, and hope to the oppressed. Not on Judah’s timeline, but on God’s. Not on our calendars, but His.
May we take comfort and find hope in His ways – that even when we are disobedient to Him (like Judah), His heart is to reconcile us to Himself and to restore us to fellowship with Him and with each other.