Multiply like grasshoppers,
multiply like locusts!
16 You have increased the number of your merchants
till they are more numerous than the stars in the sky,
but like locusts they strip the land
and then fly away.
17 Your guards are like locusts,
your officials like swarms of locusts
that settle in the walls on a cold day—
but when the sun appears they fly away,
and no one knows where.
18 King of Assyria, your shepherds slumber;
your nobles lie down to rest.
Your people are scattered on the mountains
with no one to gather them.
19 Nothing can heal you;
your wound is fatal.
All who hear the news about you
clap their hands at your fall,
for who has not felt
your endless cruelty?
(Nahum 3:15b-19 NIV)
In our last time together, we saw the Lord compare Nineveh to Thebes, a city in Egypt that the Assyrians had conquered. Just as the Assyrians ruthlessly and inhumanely treated their captors, so would they experience the same brutality – a taste of their own medicine, so to speak.
Today we wrap up the book of Nahum and see what the Lord has to say to the Assyrians, especially the residents of Nineveh. As we ended our last time together in the middle of verse 15, Nahum was encouraging the Ninevites to do everything they could to prepare for battle. The encouragement was a mockery and taunt, of course – nothing could prepare them to stand against the Lord.
In the second half of verse 15, Nahum continues his taunt, encouraging the Ninevites (and Assyrians) to multiply like locusts and grasshoppers, enough people to swarm whatever land they choose to occupy.
In fact, the Assyrians had done just that – and Nahum says that the Assyrian traders and merchants had become too many to count (more numerous than the stars in the sky – v. 16).
While that might seem like the Assyrians had economic domination as well as military domination over much of the known world at that time, there was a huge problem.
The Assyrian people had gotten greedy and started living for themselves. Verse 16 gives us the first hint of this problem… the merchants who were “more numerous than the stars in the sky” were now locusts that strip the land, then fly away. The loyalty to the Assyrian kingdom and to the king was gone – they were living for themselves.
Verse 17 continues this theme – the military and political leaders were loyal to their country and to the king as long as they were dependent on them. Once they were able to be independent of them, they disappeared like the locusts.
In verse 18, we see the problem was not isolated to the military and political rulers in Assyria. The local officials (signified by shepherds) and the extended royal family (the nobles) also were not paying attention to what was happening – they were caught up in their own pursuits of pleasure. Last but not least, the king of Assyria had no idea that his kingdom was about to collapse.
Even with Nahum’s warning, it was too late to do anything about it. There was no one to gather the sheep (ordinary citizens, military, political rulers, everyone) back again.
Verse 19 is the end note, the summary of Nahum’s commentary. Assyria’s dominant power and reign of evil are over, never to be resurrected or restarted again.
In fact, there is no one that will come to the Assyrians’ rescue – people will rejoice and clap their hands in joy, not mourn the loss of Assyria because all (even nations that were friendly to the Assyrians) have felt the horror and inhumanity of their evil ways.
As we learned in the introduction to the book of Nahum, there are many parallels between this book and the book of Jonah. One similarity, in particular, is that the book of Jonah and the book of Nahum both end with a question.
In the book of Jonah, God questions Jonah’s hatred of the Ninevites and wonders why Jonah was not rejoicing when God withheld His judgment when the Ninevites repented. Here we see God’s grace and mercy and love being demonstrated when people turn to Him.
In the book of Nahum, we see God ask who had been exempt from the Assyrians’ endless cruelty and injustices and inhumane treatment? The implied answer is no one. And for these heinous acts, the Lord would bring justice and judgment. Here we see God’s righteousness and wrath against sin revealed.
In both the books of Jonah and Nahum, we see the character and attributes of God revealed. God is kind, loving, and merciful, and He is also all-powerful and just and righteous and holy and takes action against sin.
May we remember that God is sovereign, even in the midst of injustice and rampant sin.
May we choose to live our lives to honor, obey, and glorify Him and Him alone, and not for ourselves and our own selfish motives.