3 Woe to the city of blood,
full of lies,
full of plunder,
never without victims!
2 The crack of whips,
the clatter of wheels,
and jolting chariots!
3 Charging cavalry,
and glittering spears!
piles of dead,
bodies without number,
people stumbling over the corpses—
4 all because of the wanton lust of a prostitute,
alluring, the mistress of sorceries,
who enslaved nations by her prostitution
and peoples by her witchcraft.
5 “I am against you,” declares the Lord Almighty.
“I will lift your skirts over your face.
I will show the nations your nakedness
and the kingdoms your shame.
6 I will pelt you with filth,
I will treat you with contempt
and make you a spectacle.
7 All who see you will flee from you and say,
‘Nineveh is in ruins—who will mourn for her?’
Where can I find anyone to comfort you?”
(Nahum 3:1-7 NIV)
As we worked our way through Chapter 2, we saw Nineveh captured, then plundered. Assyria, the seemingly invincible lion of the Middle East, and its impenetrable lion’s den, its capital city of Nineveh, is now in ruins and stripped of all its glory.
As we begin Chapter 3, we see the Lord pronounce His judgment of woe upon Nineveh. The city is known for its brutality (blood), its deception (lies), its wealth (gained by plundering other nations), and its diversity of people (gained by victimizing the people of conquered nations, dragging them to Nineveh, where they were treated inhumanely as slaves or worse) (v. 1).
Nahum follows the Lord’s pronouncement of woes by painting short vignettes of the sights and sounds of war in Nineveh:
- the crack of whips
- the clatter of wheels
- galloping horses
- jolting chariots
- charging cavalry
- flashing swords
- glittering spears
- many casualties
- piles of dead
- bodies without number
- people stumbling over the corpses
Assyria the victimizer is now Nineveh the victim. The people of Nineveh are being treated the same way that they treated the other nations (vv. 2-3).
Verse 4 gives us the reason for the Lord’s judgment against and devastation of Nineveh – its sin. Nahum’s language is quite graphic here – he essentially calls Nineveh the “whore of whores” because of her evil desires. She did not just make a profit from her evil ways; she entrapped and enslaved those whom she lured into her bedchamber. Her intent was evil from the beginning.
In verse 5, the Lord repeats His pronouncement against Nineveh: “I am against you.” The Lord had said this the first time in 2:13, and pronounced judgment by destroying their instruments of war, their military leaders, and their political leaders.
This time, the Lord makes His pronouncement against Nineveh by exposing her sin and showing the world her shameful ways. The Lord continues the theme of verse 4 and reveals her evil prostitute’s heart. Nineveh danced about as a majestic maiden, with colorful skirts and petticoats; now her skirts are pulled up over her head and she is a humiliated harlot, covered in filth (verses 5 – 6).
Verse 7 captures the shock and reaction to the neighboring nations as they see Nineveh humiliated and her sin exposed. No one will come to Ninveh’s aid – they will all run away, leaving her exposed and alone. Nineveh had no compassion on those nations whom she ravaged and left behind; there is a sense of justice having been served to the evil one of Assyria. Even the Lord asks, “Where can I find anyone to comfort you?”
As we have said before, Nahum’s portrayal of these events is a prophecy, pronounced decades before they actually happened.
May we know that God’s judgment may be long in coming (according to our calendars), but when it does come, it is swift and sure, and will take our breath away.
Nahum’s pronouncement at the beginning stands true:
The Lord is slow to anger but great in power;
the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished.
His way is in the whirlwind and the storm,
and clouds are the dust of his feet.
(Nahum 1:3 NIV)