Nahum 1 - 3
Nahum 1Nahum 1:1 An oracle concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum of Elkosh.
God’s Wrath Against Nineveh
2 The LORD is a jealous and avenging God;
the LORD is avenging and wrathful;
the LORD takes vengeance on his adversaries
and keeps wrath for his enemies.
3 The LORD is slow to anger and great in power,
and the LORD will by no means clear the guilty.
His way is in whirlwind and storm,
and the clouds are the dust of his feet.
4 He rebukes the sea and makes it dry;
he dries up all the rivers;
Bashan and Carmel wither;
the bloom of Lebanon withers.
5 The mountains quake before him;
the hills melt;
the earth heaves before him,
the world and all who dwell in it.
6 Who can stand before his indignation?
Who can endure the heat of his anger?
His wrath is poured out like fire,
and the rocks are broken into pieces by him.
7 The LORD is good,
a stronghold in the day of trouble;
he knows those who take refuge in him.
8 But with an overflowing flood
he will make a complete end of the adversaries,
and will pursue his enemies into darkness.
9 What do you plot against the LORD?
He will make a complete end;
trouble will not rise up a second time.
10 For they are like entangled thorns,
like drunkards as they drink;
they are consumed like stubble fully dried.
11 From you came one
who plotted evil against the LORD,
a worthless counselor.
12 Thus says the LORD,
“Though they are at full strength and many,
they will be cut down and pass away.
Though I have afflicted you,
I will afflict you no more.
13 And now I will break his yoke from off you
and will burst your bonds apart.”
14 The LORD has given commandment about you:
“No more shall your name be perpetuated;
from the house of your gods I will cut off
the carved image and the metal image.
I will make your grave, for you are vile.”
15 Behold, upon the mountains, the feet of him
who brings good news,
who publishes peace!
Keep your feasts, O Judah;
fulfill your vows,
for never again shall the worthless pass through you;
he is utterly cut off.
The Destruction of Nineveh
Nahum 2:1 The scatterer has come up against you.
Man the ramparts;
watch the road;
dress for battle;
collect all your strength.
2 For the LORD is restoring the majesty of Jacob
as the majesty of Israel,
for plunderers have plundered them
and ruined their branches.
3 The shield of his mighty men is red;
his soldiers are clothed in scarlet.
The chariots come with flashing metal
on the day he musters them;
the cypress spears are brandished.
4 The chariots race madly through the streets;
they rush to and fro through the squares;
they gleam like torches;
they dart like lightning.
5 He remembers his officers;
they stumble as they go,
they hasten to the wall;
the siege tower is set up.
6 The river gates are opened;
the palace melts away;
7 its mistress is stripped; she is carried off,
her slave girls lamenting,
moaning like doves
and beating their breasts.
8 Nineveh is like a pool
whose waters run away.
“Halt! Halt!” they cry,
but none turns back.
9 Plunder the silver,
plunder the gold!
There is no end of the treasure
or of the wealth of all precious things.
10 Desolate! Desolation and ruin!
Hearts melt and knees tremble;
anguish is in all loins;
all faces grow pale!
11 Where is the lions’ den,
the feeding place of the young lions,
where the lion and lioness went,
where his cubs were, with none to disturb?
12 The lion tore enough for his cubs
and strangled prey for his lionesses;
he filled his caves with prey
and his dens with torn flesh.
Woe to Nineveh
Nahum 3:1 Woe to the bloody city,
all full of lies and plunder—
no end to the prey!
2 The crack of the whip, and rumble of the wheel,
galloping horse and bounding chariot!
3 Horsemen charging,
flashing sword and glittering spear,
hosts of slain,
heaps of corpses,
dead bodies without end—
they stumble over the bodies!
4 And all for the countless whorings of the prostitute,
graceful and of deadly charms,
who betrays nations with her whorings,
and peoples with her charms.
5 Behold, I am against you,
declares the LORD of hosts,
and will lift up your skirts over your face;
and I will make nations look at your nakedness
and kingdoms at your shame.
6 I will throw filth at you
and treat you with contempt
and make you a spectacle.
7 And all who look at you will shrink from you and say,
“Wasted is Nineveh; who will grieve for her?”
Where shall I seek comforters for you?
8 Are you better than Thebes
that sat by the Nile,
with water around her,
her rampart a sea,
and water her wall?
9 Cush was her strength;
Egypt too, and that without limit;
Put and the Libyans were her helpers.
10 Yet she became an exile;
she went into captivity;
her infants were dashed in pieces
at the head of every street;
for her honored men lots were cast,
and all her great men were bound in chains.
11 You also will be drunken;
you will go into hiding;
you will seek a refuge from the enemy.
12 All your fortresses are like fig trees
with first-ripe figs—
if shaken they fall
into the mouth of the eater.
13 Behold, your troops
are women in your midst.
The gates of your land
are wide open to your enemies;
fire has devoured your bars.
14 Draw water for the siege;
strengthen your forts;
go into the clay;
tread the mortar;
take hold of the brick mold!
15 There will the fire devour you;
the sword will cut you off.
It will devour you like the locust.
Multiply yourselves like the locust;
multiply like the grasshopper!
16 You increased your merchants
more than the stars of the heavens.
The locust spreads its wings and flies away.
17 Your princes are like grasshoppers,
your scribes like clouds of locusts
settling on the fences
in a day of cold—
when the sun rises, they fly away;
no one knows where they are.
18 Your shepherds are asleep,
O king of Assyria;
your nobles slumber.
Your people are scattered on the mountains
with none to gather them.
19 There is no easing your hurt;
your wound is grievous.
All who hear the news about you
clap their hands over you.
For upon whom has not come
your unceasing evil?
What I'm Reading
Though a part of what is here delivered belongs to the Israelites and to the Jews, he yet calls his Book by what it principally contains; he calls its the burden of Nineveh Of this word משא, mesha, we have spoken elsewhere. Thus the Prophets call their prediction, whenever they denounce any grievous and dreadful vengeance of God: and as they often threatened the Jews, it hence happened, that they called, by way of ridicule, all prophecies by this name משא, mesha, a burden. But yet the import of the word is suitable. It is the same thing as though Nahum had said that he was sent by God as a herald, to proclaim war on the Ninevites for the sake of the chosen people. The Israelites may have hence learnt how true and unchangeable God was in his covenant; for he still manifested his care for them, though they had by their vices alienated themselves from him.
He afterwards adds, ספר חזון, sapher chezun, the book of the vision. This clause signifies, that he did not in vain denounce destruction on the Ninevites, because he faithfully delivered what he had received from God. For if he had simply prefaced, that he threatened ruin to the Assyrian,, some doubt might have been entertained as to the event. But here he seeks to gain to himself authority by referring to God’s name; for he openly affirms that he brought nothing of his own, but that this burden had been made known to him by a celestial oracle: for חזה, cheze, means properly to see, and hence in Hebrew a vision is called חזון, chezun,. But the Prophets, when they speak of a vision, do not mean any fantasy or imagination, but that kind of revelation which is mentioned in Numbers 14, where God says, that he speaks to his Prophets either by vision or by dream. We hence see why this was added — that the burden of Nineveh was a vision; it was, that the Israelites might know that this testimony respecting God’s vengeance on their enemies was not brought by a mortal man, and that there might be no doubt but that God was the author of this prophecy.
Nahum calls himself an Elkoshite. Some think that it was the name of his family. The Jews, after their manner, say, that it was the name of his father; and then they add this their common gloss, that Elkos himself was a Prophet: for when the name of a Prophet’s father is mentioned, they hold that he whose name is given was also a Prophet. But these are mere trifles: and we have often seen how great is their readiness to invent fables. Then the termination of the word leads us to think that it was, on the contrary, the proper name of a place; and Jerome tells us that there was in his time a small village of this name in the tribe of Simon. We must therefore understand, that Nahum arose from that town, and was therefore called “the Elkoshite.” Let us now proceed —
Nahum begins with the nature of God, that what he afterwards subjoins respecting the destruction of Nineveh might be more weighty, and produce a greater impression on the hearers. The preface is general, but the Prophet afterwards applies it to a special purpose. If he had only spoken of what God is, it would have been frigid at least it would have been less efficacious; but when he connects both together, then his doctrine carries its own force and power. We now apprehend the design of the Prophet. He might indeed have spoken of the fall of the city Nineveh: but if he had referred to this abruptly, profane men might have regarded him with disdain; and even the Israelites would have been perhaps less affected. This is the reason why he shows, in a general way, what sort of Being God is. And he takes his words from Moses; and the Prophets are wont to borrow from him their doctrine: and it is from that most memorable vision, when God appeared to Moses after the breaking of the tables. I have therefore no doubt but that Nahum had taken from Exodus 34 what we read here: he does not, indeed, give literally what is found there; but it is sufficiently evident that he paints, as it were, to the life, the image of God, by which his nature may be seen.
He says first, that God is jealous; (amulus — emulous); for the verb קנא, kona, means to irritate, and also to emulate, and to envy. When God is said to be קנוא, konua, the Greeks render it jealous, ζηλωτην, and the Latins, emulous, (amulatorem) But it properly signifies, that God cannot bear injuries or wrongs. Though God then for a time connives at the wickedness of men? he will yet be the defender of his own glory. He calls him afterwards the avenger, and he repeats this three times, Jehovah avengeth, Jehovah avengeth and possesseth wrath, he will avenge. When he says that God keeps for his enemies, he means that vengeance is reserved for the unbelieving and the despisers of God. There is the same mode of speaking in use among us, Je lui garde, et il la garde a ses ennemis. This phrase, in our language, shows what the Prophet means here by saying, that God keeps for his enemies. And this awful description of God is to be applied to the present case, for he says that he proclaims war against the Ninevites, because they had unjustly distressed the Church of God: it is for this reason that he says, that God is jealous, that God is an avenger; and he confirms this three times, that the Israelites might feel assured that this calamity was seriously announced; for had not this representation been set before them, they might have thus reasoned with themselves, — “We are indeed cruelly harassed by our enemies; but who can think that God cares any thing for our miseries, since he allows them so long to be unavenged?” It was therefore necessary that the Prophet should obviate such thoughts, as he does here. We now more fully understand why he begins in a language so vehement, and calls God a jealous God, and an avenger.
He afterwards adds, that God possesses wrath I do not take חמה, cheme, simply for wrath, but the passion or he it of wrath. We ought not indeed to suppose, as it has been often observed, that our passions belong to God; for he remains ever like himself. But yet God is said to be for a time angry, and for ever towards the reprobate, for he is our and their Judge. Here, then, when the Prophet says, that God is the Lord of wrath, or that he possesses wrath, he means that he is armed with vengeance and that, though he connives at the sins of men, he is not yet indifferent, nor even delays because he is without power, or because he is idle and careless, but that he retains wraths as he afterwards repeats the same thing, He keeps for his enemies. In short, by these forms of speaking the Prophet intimates that God is not to be rashly judged of on account of his delay, when he does not immediately execute His judgments; for he waits for the seasonable opportunity. But, in the meantime there is no reason for us to think that he forgets his office when he suspends punishment, or for a season spares the ungodly. When, therefore, God does not hasten so very quickly, there is no ground for us to think that he is indifferent, because he delays his wrath, or retains it, as we have already said; for it is the same thing to retain wrath, as to be the Lord of wrath, and to possess it. It follows —
The Prophet goes on with the same subject; and still longer is the preface respecting the nature of God, which however is to be applied, as I have said, to the special objects which hereafter he will state. He says here that God is slow to wrath Though this saying is taken also from Moses yet the Prophet speaks here for the purpose of anticipating an objection; for he obviates the audacity of the ungodly who daringly derided God, when any evil was denounced on them, — Where is the mercy of God? Can God divest himself of his kindness? He cannot deny himself. Thus profane men, under the pretense of honoring God, cast on him the most atrocious slander, for they deprive him of his own power and office: and there is no doubt but that this was commonly done by many of the ungodly in the age of our Prophet. Hence he anticipates this objection, and concedes that God is slow to wrath. There is then a concession here; but at the same time he says that God is great in strength, and this he says, that the ungodly may not flatter and deceive themselves, when they hear these high attributes given to God, that he is patient, slow to wrath, merciful, full of kindness. “Let them,” he says, “at the same time remember the greatness of God’s power, that they may not think that they have to do with a child.”
We now then see the design of the Prophet: for this declaration — that God hastens not suddenly to wrath, but patiently defers and suspends the punishment which the ungodly deserve. This declaration would not have harmonized with the present argument, had not the Prophet introduced it by way of concession; as though he said, — “I see that the world everywhere trifle with God, and that the ungodly delude themselves with such Sophistries, that they reject all threatening. I indeed allow that God is ready to pardon, and that he descends not to wrath, except when he is constrained by extreme necessity: all this is indeed true; but yet know, that God is armed with his own power: escape then shall none of those who allow themselves the liberty of abusing his patience, notwithstanding the insolence they manifest towards him.”
He now adds, By clearing he will not clear. Some translate, “The innocent, he will not render innocent.” But the real meaning of this sentence is the same with that in Exodus 34; and what Moses meant was, that God is irreconcilable to the impenitent. It has another meaning at the end of Joel 3, where it is said, ‘I will cleanse the blood which I have not cleansed.’ On that text interpreters differ; because they regard not the change in the tense of the verb; for God means, that he would cleanse the filth and defilements of his Church, which he had not previously cleansed. But Moses means, that God deals strictly with sinners, so as to remit no punishment. By clearing then I will not clear; that is, God will rigidly demand an account of all the actions of men; and as there is nothing hid from him, so everything done wickedly by men must come forth, when God ascends his tribunal; he will not clear by clearing, but will rigidly execute his judgment.
There seems to be some inconsistency in saying, — that God is reconcilable and ready to pardon, — and yet that by clearing he will not clear. But the aspect of things is different. We have already stated what the Prophet had in view: for inasmuch as the ungodly ever promise impunity to themselves, and in this confidence petulantly deride God himself, the Prophet answers them, and declares, that there was no reason why they thus abused God’s forbearance, for he says, By clearing he will not clear, that is, the reprobate: for our salvation consists in a free remission of sins; and whence comes our righteousness, but from the imputation of God, and from this — that our sins are buried in oblivion? yea, our whole clearing depends on the mercy of God. But God then exercises also his judgment, and by clearing he clears, when he remits to the faithful their sins; for the faithful by repentance anticipate his judgment; and he searches their hearts, that he may clear them. For what is repentance but condemnation, which yet turns out to be the means of salvation? As then God absolves none except the condemned, our Prophet here rightly declares, that by clearing he will not clears that is, he will not remit their sins, except he tries them and discharges the office of a judge; in short, that no sin is remitted by God which he does not first condemn. But with regard to the reprobate, who are wholly obstinate in their wickedness, the Prophet justly declares this to them, — that they have no hope of pardon, as they perversely adhere to their own devices, and think that they can escape the hand of God: the Prophet tells them that they are deceived, for God passes by nothing, and will not blot out one sin, until all be brought to mind.
He afterwards says, that the way of God is in the whirlwind and the tempest; that is, that God, as soon as he shows himself, disturbs the whole atmosphere, and excites storms and tempests: and this must be applied to the subject in hand; for the appearance of God is in other places described as lovely and gracious: nay, what else but the sight of God exhilarated the faithful? As soon as God turns away his face, they must necessarily be immersed in dreadful darkness, and be surrounded with horrible terrors. Why then does the Prophet say here, that the way of God is in the whirlwind and storms? Even because his discourse is addressed to the ungodly, or to the despisers of God himself, as in Psalm 18; where we see him described as being very terrible, — that clouds and darkness are around him, that he moves the whole earth, that he thunders on every side, that he emits smoke frown his nostrils, and that he fills the whole world with fire and burning. For what purpose was this done? Because David’s object was to set forth the judgments of God, which he had executed on the ungodly. So it is in this place; for Nahum speaks of the future vengeance, which was then nigh the Assyrians; hence he says, The way of God is in the whirlwind and tempest; that is, when God goes forth, whirlwinds and tempests are excited by his presence, and the whole world is put in confusion.
He adds, that the clouds are the dust of his feet When any one with his feet only moves the dust within a small space, some dread is produced: but God moves the dust, not only in one place, — what then? he obscures, and thus covers the whole heaven, The clouds then are the dust of his feet. We now apprehend the whole meaning of the Prophet, and the purpose for which this description is given. Of the same import is what follows —
Nahum continues his discourse, — that God, in giving proof of his displeasure, would disturb the sea or make it dry. There may be here an allusion to the history, described by Moses; for the Prophets, in promising God’s assistance to his people, often remind them how God in a miraculous manner brought up their fathers from Egypt. As then the passage through the Red Sea was in high repute among the Jews, it may be that the Prophet alluded to that event, (Exodus 14:22.) But another view seems to me more probable. We indeed know how impetuous an element is that of the sea; and hence in Jeremiah 5, God, intending to set forth his own power, says, that it is in his power to calm the raging of the sea, than which nothing is more impetuous or more violent. In the same manner also is the majesty of God described in Job 28. The meaning of this place, I think, is the same, — that God by his chiding makes the sea dry, and that he can dry up the rivers. That the prophet connects rivers with the sea, confirms what I have just said, — that the passage through the Red Sea is not here referred to; but that the object is to show in general how great is God’s power in governing the whole world.
To the same purpose is what he adds, Bashan shall be weakened, and Carmel, and the branch of Lebanon shall be weakened, or destroyed. By these words he intimates, that there is nothing so magnificent in the world, which God changes not, when he gives proofs of his displeasure; as it is said in Psalm 104,
‘Send forth thy Spirit, and they shall be renewed;’
and again, ‘Take away thy Spirit,’ or remove it, ‘and all things will return to the dust;’ yea, into nothing. So also Nahum says in this place, “As soon as God shows his wrath, the rivers will dry up, the sea itself will become dry, and then the flowers will fade and the grass will wither;” that is, though the earth be wonderfully ornamented and replenished, yet all things will be reduced to solitude and desolation whenever God is angry. And he afterwards adds —
Nahum continues still on the same subject, — that when God ascended his tribunal and appeared as the Judge of the world, he would not only shake all the elements, but would also constrain them to change their nature. For what can be less consonant to nature than for mountains to tremble, and for hills to be dissolved or to melt? This is more strange than what we can comprehend. But the Prophet intimates that the mountains cannot continue in their own strength, but as far as they are sustained by the favor of God. As soon, then, as God is angry, the mountains melt like snow, and flow away like water. And all these things are to be applied to this purpose, and are designed for this end, — that the wicked might not daringly despise the threatening of God, nor think that they could, through his forbearance, escape the punishment which they deserved: for he will be their Judge, however he may spare them; and though God is ready to pardon, whenever men hate themselves on account of their sins, and seriously repent; he will be yet irreconcilable to all the reprobate and the perverse. The mountains, then, before him tremble, and the hills dissolve or melt.
This useful instruction may be gathered from these words, that the world cannot for a moment stand, except as it is sustained by the favor and goodness of God; for we see what would immediately be, as soon as God manifests the signals of his judgment. Since the very solidity of mountains would be as snow or wax, what would become of miserable men, who are like a shadow or an apparition? They would then vanish away as soon as God manifested his wrath against them, as it is so in Psalm 39, that men pass away like a shadow. This comparison ought ever to be remembered by us whenever a forgetfulness of God begins to creep over us, that we may not excite his wrath by self-complacencies, than which there is nothing more pernicious. Burned, then shall be the earth, and the world, and all who dwell on it
The Prophet shows here why he gave in the part noticed in the last lecture, such an awful description of God; it was that men might know, that when they shall come before his tribunal, no one will be able to stand unless supported by his favor. Of the Prophet’s main object we have sufficiently spoken, nor is it necessary to repeat here what has been stated. It is enough to bear this in mind, — that as the enemies of the Church relied on their power; and daringly and immoderately raged against it, the judgment of God is here set before them, that they might understand that an account was to be rendered to him whose presence they were not able to bear. But the question has more force than if the Prophet had simply said, that the whole world could not stand before God: for he assumes the character of one adjuring. After having shown how terrible God is, he exclaims, Who shall stand before his indignation? and who shall be able to bear his wrath? for his indignation, he says, is poured forth as fire. The Hebrew interpreters have here toiled in vain: as the verb נתך, nutae, means to pour forth it seems to them an inconsistent expression, that the wrath of God should be poured forth as fire; for this would be more suitably said of some metal than of fire. But to be poured forth here is nothing else than to be scattered far and wide. Poured forth then is thy wrath as fire; that is, it advances every moment, as when a fire seizes a whole forest; and when it grows strong, we know how great is its violence, and how suddenly it spreads here and there. But if a different meaning be preferred, I do not much object to it, “His wrath, which is like fire, is poured out.”
Some think that the Prophet alludes to lightnings, which, as it were, melt through the air, at least as they appear to us. But as the meaning of the Prophet is sufficiently evident, there is no need of anxiously inquiring how fire is poured out: for I have already mentioned, that the Prophet means no other thing than the wrath of God spreads itself, so that it immediately takes hold, not only of one city but also of the widest regions and of the whole world, and is therefore like fire, for it passes through here and there, and that suddenly.
He then says, that rocks are also broken or dissolved before him. We must be aware how great our brittleness is. Since there is no hardness which melts not before God, how can men, who flow away of themselves like water, be so daring as to set themselves up against him? We hence see that the madness of men is here rebuked, who, trusting in their own strength, dare to contend even with God, because they forget their own frailty. This is the import of the whole. It now follows —
The Prophet expresses more clearly here what we referred to in our last lecture, — that God is hard and severe toward refractory men, and that he is merciful and kind to the teachable and the obedient, — not that God changes his nature, or that like Proteus he puts on various forms; but because he treats men according to their disposition. As then the Prophet has hitherto taught us, that God’s wrath cannot be sustained by mortals; so now, that no one might complain of extreme rigor, he, on the other hand, shows that God favors what is right and just, that he is gentle and mild to the meek, and therefore ready to bring help to the faithful, and that he leaves none of those who trust in him destitute of his aid.
First, by saying that God is good, he turns aside whatever might be objected on the ground of extreme severity. There is indeed nothing more peculiar to God than goodness. Now when he is so severe, that the very mention of his name terrifies the whole world, he seems to be in a manner different from himself. Hence the Prophet now shows that whatever he had hitherto said of the dreadful judgment of God, is not inconsistent with his goodness. Though God then is armed with vengeance against his enemies he yet ceases not to be like himself, nor does he forget his goodness. But the Prophet does here also more fully confirm the Israelites and the Jews in the belief, that God is not only terrible to the ungodly, but that, as he has promised to be the guardian of his Church, he would also succor the faithful, and in time alleviate their miseries. Good then is Jehovah; and it is added for help. The intention of the Prophet may be hence more clearly understood, when he says that he is for strength in the day of distress; as though he said, — “God is ever ready to bring help to his people:” And he adds, in the day of distress, that the faithful may not think that they are rejected, when God tries their patience by adversities. How much soever then God may subject his people to the cross and to troubles, he still succors them in their distress.
He lastly adds, He knows them who hope in him. This to know, is no other thing than not to neglect them. Hence God is said to know them who hope in him, because he always watches over them, and takes care of their safety: in short, this knowledge is nothing else but the care of God, or his providence in preserving the faithful. The Prophet, at the same time, distinguishes the godly and sincere worshipers of God from hypocrites: when God leaves many destitute who profess to believe in him, he justly withholds from them his favor, for they do not from the heart call on him or seek him.
We now then understand the Prophet’s meaning. He shows, on the one hand, that God is armed with power to avenge his enemies; And, on the other, he shows that God, as he has promised, is a faithful guardian of his Church. How is this proved? He sets before us what God is, that he is good; and then adds, that he is prepared to bring help. But he does not in vain mention this particular, — that he takes care of the faithful, who truly, and from the heart, hope in him; it is done, that they may understand that they are not neglected by God, and also that hypocrites may know that they are not assisted, because their profession is nothing else but dissimulation, for they hope not sincerely in God, however they may falsely boast of his name. It now follows —
The Prophet goes on with the same subject, — that God can easily preserve his people, for he is armed with power sufficient to overcome the whole world. But the Prophet now includes the two things which have been mentioned: Having spoken in general of God’s wrath, and of his goodness towards the faithful, he now applies his doctrine to the consolation of his chosen people. It is then a special application of his doctrine, when he says, By inundation, he, passing through, will make a consummation in her place There is a twofold interpretation of this verse.
Some make this distinction, — that God, as it were, in passing through, would consume the land of Israel and Judah, but that perpetual darkness would rest on his enemies. Hence they think, that the distress of the chosen people is distinguished from the overthrow of the kingdom of Asshur, for God would only for a time punish his own people, while he would give up profane and reprobate men to endless destruction. Then, by passing through, must be understood, according to these interpreters, a temporary distress or punishment; and by darkness, eternal ruin, or, so to speak, irreparable calamities. But the Prophet, I doubt not, in one connected sentence, denounces ultimate ruin on the Assyrians. By inundation, then, he, in passing, will make a consummation in her place; that is, God will suddenly overwhelm the Assyrian, as though a deluge should rise to cover the whole earth. He intimates, that God would not punish the Assyrians by degrees, as men sometimes do, who proceed step by step to avenge themselves, but suddenly. God, he says, will of a sudden thunder against the Assyrians, as when a deluge comes over a land. Hence this passing of God is opposed to long or slow progress; as though he said — “As soon as God’s wrath shall break forth or come upon the Assyrians, it will be all over, for a consummation will immediately follow: by inundation, he, passing through, will make a consummation in her place.” By place he means the ground; as though he had said that God would not only destroy the face of the land, but would also destroy the very grounds and utterly demolish it. A feminine pronoun is here added, because he speaks of the kingdom or nation, as it is usual in Hebrew. But it ought especially to be noticed that the Prophet threatens the Assyrians, that God would entirely subvert them, that he would not only demolish the surface, as, when fire or waters destroy houses, but that the Lord would reduce to nothing the land itself, even the very ground.
He adds, And pursue his enemies shall darkness He has designated the Assyrians only by a pronoun, as the Hebrews are wont to do; for they set down a pronoun relative or demonstrative, and it is uncertain of whom they speak; but they afterwards explain themselves. So does the Prophet in this place; for he directs his discourse to the Israelites and the Jews, and he begins by announcing God’s vengeance on Nineveh and its monarchy; but now he speaks as of a thing sufficiently known and adds, Pursue shall darkness the enemies of God By this second clause he intimates that the ruin of that kingdom would be perpetual. As then he had said that its destruction would be sudden, as God would, as it were, in a moment destroy the whole land; so now he cuts off from them every hope, that they might not think that they could within a while gather strength and rise again as it is the case with the wicked, who ever contend against God. The Prophet then shows that evil which God would bring on them would be without remedy. Some render the verb יררף, iredaph, transitively in this form, “He will pursue his enemies by darkness:” but as to the meaning of the Prophet there is but little or no difference; I therefore leave the point undecided. On the subject itself there is nothing ambiguous; the import of what is said is, — that God would, by a sudden inundation, destroy his enemies, — and that he would destroy them without affording any hope of restoration, for perpetual darkness would follow that sudden deluge. He afterwards adds —
Some interpreters so consider this verse also, as though the Prophet had said, that the calamity of the chosen people would not be a destruction, as God would observe some moderation and keep within certain limits. The unbelieving, we know, immediately exult, whenever the children of God are oppressed by adverse things, as though it were all over with the Church. Hence the Prophet here, according to these interpreters, meets and checks this sort of petulance, What imagine ye against God? He will indeed afflict his Church, but he will not repeat her troubles, for he will be satisfied with one affliction. They also think that the kingdom of Judah is here compared with the kingdom of Israel: for the kingdom of Israel had been twice afflicted: for, first, four tribes had been led away, and then the whole kingdom had been overturned. As then one calamity had been inflicted by Shalmanezar, and another by Tiglathpilezar, they suppose that there is here an implied comparison, as though the Prophet said, “God will spare the kingdom of Judah, and will not repeat his vengeance, as it happened to the kingdom of Israel.” But this meaning is forced and too far-fetched. The Prophet then, I doubt not, continues here his discourse, and denounces perpetual ruin on the enemies of the Church. He says first, What imagine ye against Jehovah? He exults over the Assyrians, because they thought that they had to do only with mortals, and also with a mean people, and now worn out by many misfortunes. For we know that the kingdom of Judah had been weakened by many wars before the Assyrians made an irruption into the land: they had suffered two severe and grievous attacks from their neighbors, the king of Israel and the king of Syria; for then it was that they made the Assyrians their confederates. When therefore the Assyrians came against Judea, they thought that they would have no trouble in obtaining victory, as they engaged in war with an insignificant people, and as we have said, worn out by evils. But the Prophet shows here that the war was with the living God, and not with men, as they falsely thought. What then imagine ye against Jehovah? as though he said, “Know ye not that this people are under the care and protection of God? Ye cannot then attack the kingdom of Judah without having God as your opponent. As it is certain that this people are defended by a divine power, there is no reason for you to think that you will be victorious.” At the same time, I know not why the Prophet’s words should be confined to the tribe of Judah, since the purpose was to comfort the Israelites as well as the Jews.
Now this is a very useful doctrine; for the Prophet teaches us in general, that the ungodly, whenever they harass the Church, not only do wrong to men, but also fight with God himself; for he so connects us with himself, that all who hurt us touch the apple of his eye, as he declares in another place, (Zechariah 2:8.) We may then gather invaluable comfort from these words; for we can fully and boldly set up this shield against our enemies, — that they devise their counsels, and make efforts against God, and assail him; for he takes us under his protection for this end, that whenever we are injured, he may stand in the middle as our defender. This is one thing.
Now in the second clause he adds, that he will make a complete end, Rise up again shall not distress; that is, God is able to reduce you to nothing, so that there will be no need to assail you the second time. This passage, we know, has been turned to this meaning, — that God does not punish men twice nor exceed moderation in his wrath: but this is wholly foreign to the mind of the Prophet. I have also said already that I do not approve of what others have said, who apply this passage to the Church and especially to the kingdom of Judah. For I thus simply interpret the words of the Prophet, — that God can with one onset, when it seems good to him, so destroy his enemies, that there will be no need of striving with them the second time: Il n’y faudra plus retourner, as we say in our language. God then will make a full end; that is, he will be able in one moment to demolish his enemies and the ruin will be complete, that is, the wasting will be entire. There will be no distress again or the second time; for it will be all over with the enemies of God; not that God observes always the same rule when he punishes his enemies, nor does Nahum here prescribe any general rule; but he simply means, that God, whenever it pleases him, instantly destroys his enemies. He afterwards adds —
He goes on with this same subject, — that God when he pleases to exercise his power, can, with no difficulty, consume his enemies: for the similitude, which is here added, means this, — that nothing is safe from God’s vengeance; for by perplexed thorns he understands things difficult to be handled. When thorns are entangled, we dare not, with the ends of our fingers, to touch their extreme parts; for wherever we put our hands, thorns meet and prick us. As then pricking from entangled thorns make us afraid, so none of us dare to come nigh them. Hence the Prophet says, they who are as entangled thorns; that is “However thorny ye may be, however full of poison, full of fury, full of wickedness, full of frauds, full of cruelty, ye may be, still the Lord can with one fire consume you, and consume you without any difficulty.” They were then as entangled thorns.
And then, as drunken by their own drinking. If we read so, the meaning is, — God or God’s wrath will come upon you as on drunker men; who, though they exult in their own intemperance, are yet enervated, and are not fit for fighting, for they have weakened their strength by extreme drinking. There seems indeed to be much vigor in a drunken man, for he swaggers immoderately and foams out much rage; but yet he may be cast down by a finger; and even a child can easily overcome a drunken person. It is therefore an apt similitude, — that God would manage the Assyrians as the drunken are wont to be managed; for the more audacity there is in drunken men, the easier they are brought under; for as they perceive no danger, and are, as it were, stupefied, so they run headlong with greater impetuosity. “In like manners” he says, “extreme satiety will be the cause of your ruin, when I shall attack you. Ye are indeed very violent; but all this your fury is altogether drunkenness: Come, he says, to you shall the vengeance of God as to those drunken with their own drinking.
Some render the last words, “To the drunken according to their drinking;” and this sense also is admissible; but as the Prophet’s meaning is still the same, I do not contend about words. Others indeed give to the Prophet’s words a different sense: but I doubt not but that he derides here that haughtiness by which the Assyrians were swollen, and compares it to drunkenness; as though he said, “Ye are indeed more than enough inflated and hence all tremble at your strength; but this your excess rather debilitates and weakens your powers. When God then shall undertake to destroy you as drunken men, your insolence will avail you nothing; but, on the contrary, it will be the cause of your ruin as ye offer yourselves of your own accord; and the Lord will easily cast you down, as when one, by pushing a drunken man, immediately throws him on the ground.”
And these comparisons ought to be carefully observed by us: for when there seems to be no probability of our enemies being destroyed, God can with one spark easily consume them. How so? for as fire consumes thorns entangled together, which no man dares to touch, so God can with one spark destroy all the wicked, however united together they may be. And the other comparison affords us also no small consolation; for when our enemies are insolent, and throw out high swelling words, and seem to frighten and to shake the whole world with their threatening, their excess is like drunkenness; there is no strength within; they are frantic but not strong, as is the case with all drunken men.
And he says, They shall be devoured as stubble of full dryness מלא, mela, means not only to be full, but also to be perfect or complete. Others render the words, “As stubble full of dryness,” but the sense is the same. He therefore intimates, that there would be nothing to prevent God from consuming the enemies of his Church; for he would make dry their whole vigor, so that they would differ nothing from stubble, and that very dry, which is in such a state, that it will easily take fire. It follows —
The Prophet now shows why God was so exceedingly displeased with the Assyrians, and that was, because he would, as a protector of his Church, defend the distressed against those who unjustly oppressed them. The Prophet then designed here to give the Jews a firm hope, so that they might know that God had a care for their safety; for if he had only threatened the Assyrians without expressing the reason, of what avail could this have been to the Jews? It is indeed gratifying and pleasing when we see our enemies destroyed; but this would be a cold and barren comfort, except we were persuaded that it is done by God’s judgment, because he loves us, because he would defend us, having embraced us with paternal love; but when we know this, we then triumph even when in extreme evils. We are indeed certain of our salvation, when God testifies, and really proves also, that he is not only propitious to us, but that our salvation is an object of his care. This is the Prophet’s design when he thus addresses Nineveh.
From thee has gone forth a devisor of evil against Jehovah, an impious adviser The manner of speaking is much more emphatical, when he says, that the Assyrians consulted against God, than if he had said, that they had consulted against the Jews, or consulted against the chosen people of God.
But though this was said of the Jews, let us yet remember that it belongs also to us. The Prophet confirms the doctrine which I lately alluded to, that whenever the ungodly cause trouble to us, they carry on war with God himself, that whenever they devise any evil against us, they run headlong against him. For God sets up himself as a shield, and declares, that he will protect under the shadow of his wings all those who commit themselves to his protection. If we then lie hid under the guardianship of God, and flee to him in all our adversities, and while patiently enduring all wrongs, implore his protection and help, whosoever then will rise up against us will have God as his enemy. Why so? because he consults against him. And this reason shows, that whatever the Prophet has hitherto said against the Assyrians ought to be extended indiscriminately to all the enemies of the Church. For why did God threaten the Assyrians with a sudden inundation and with perpetual darkness? The reason is here subjoined, — because they consulted against him and his Church. The same thing then will also happen to our enemies, provided we remain quiet, as it has been said, under the protection of God.
But when he says that he had gone forth from that city who contrived evil against Jehovah, — this ought not to be confined to Sennacherib, but must rather be viewed as common to all the Assyrians; as though he said, “Thou produces the fruit which thou shalt eat; for from thee will arise the cause of thy ruin. There is no reason for thee to expostulate with God, as though he cruelly raged against thee; for from thee has gone forth he who devised evil against Jehovah: thou reapest now the reward worthy of thy bringing forth; for where have originated counsels against the Church of God, except in thine own bosom, and in thine own bowels? The evil then which has proceeded from thee shall return on thine own head.”
He then adds, An impious consulter, or counselor, בליעל יועף, ivots beliol. Respecting the word בליעל, beliol, the Hebrews themselves are not agreed. There are those who suppose it to be a compound word, בל יעל, It profits not; and they think that it is applied to designate things of nought as well as men of nought. 218 There are others who, like Jerome, render it, Without a yoke, but without reason. Then Beliol, is properly a vain thing, which is wholly unsubstantial; and so it designates a man in whom there is no integrity. It is also applied to all the wicked, and to their crimes: hence a thing or work of Belial is said to be any heinous sin or a detestable crime; and the man who acts perversely and wickedly is called Belial. And Paul takes Belial simply for the very gravity of Satan, and of all the wicked; for he opposes Belial to Christ, (2 Corinthians 6:15.) We now then understand the meaning of the Prophet to be this, — that God denounces war on the Assyrians, because they made war unjustly on his people, and consulted not only against the Jews, but also against God, who had taken them, as it has been stated, under his own keeping and protection. It follows —
The Prophet pursues here the same subject; but expresses more clearly what might have been doubtful, — that whatever strength there might be in the Assyrians, it could not resist the coming of God’s vengeance. For thus saith Jehovah, Though they be quiet and also strong, etc. I cannot now finish this subject, but will only say this, — The Prophet intimates that though Nineveh promised to itself a tranquil state, because it was well fortified, and had a wide and large extent of empire, yet this thy peace, he says, or this thy confidence and security, shall not be an impediment, that the hand of God should not be extended to thee. Though, then, they be many or strong etc.; for we can render רבים, rebim, strong as well as many; but either would suit this place; for we understand the Prophet’s meaning to be, that all God’s enemies would be cut off, however secure they might be, while depending on their own strength and fortresses. The rest to-morrow.
He confirms what the former verse contains, — that God would now cease from his rigor; for he says, that the deliverance of this chosen people was nigh, when God would break down and reduce to nothing the tyranny of that empire. This verse clearly shows, that a clause in the preceding verse ought not to be so restricted as it is by some interpreters, who regard it as having been said of the slaughter of the army of Sennacherib. But the Prophet addresses here in common both the Israelites and the Jews, as it is evident from the context; and this verse also sufficiently proves, the Prophet does not speak of the Jews only; for they had not been so subdued by the Assyrians as the Israelites had been. I indeed allow that they became tributaries; for when they had broken their covenant, the Assyrian, after having conquered the kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Syria, extended his arms at length to Judea. It is then certain, that they had been in some measure under the yoke; but it was not so hard a servitude that the words of the Prophet could be applied to it. I therefore take the expression generally, that God would free from the tyranny of Nineveh his own people, both the Israelites and the Jews. If any one objects and says, that the Israelites were never delivered. This indeed is true; but as to Nineveh, they were delivered when the empire was transferred to the Chaldeans, and Babylon became the seat of the empire.
We now then see, that the meaning of our Prophet is simply this, — that though God by the Assyrians chastised his people, he yet did not forget his covenant, for the Assyrians were punished. It was then sufficient for his purpose to say that the Jews as well as the Israelites were no longer under the yoke of Nineveh, how much soever they might have afterwards suffered under other tyrants. And what is said about the yoke being broken, belongs also in some measure to the Jews; for when we extend this to both, the Israelites and also the Jews, it would not be unsuitable to say, that they were both under the yoke and bound with chains. For though the servitude of Israel was hard, yet the Jews had also been deprived of their liberty. It is then right that this which is said should be taken generally, I will now break his yoke from thee, and thy bonds will I burst
Now this verse teaches us, that the people were not so subdued by the tyranny of their enemies, but that their deliverance was always in the hand and power of God. For how came it, that the Assyrians prevailed against the Israelites, and then subjugated the Jews, except that they were as a rod in the hand of God? So Isaiah teaches us in the tenth chapter. Though they armed themselves, they were yet but as the weapons and arms of God, for they could not have made any movement, except the Lord had turned their course, wherever he pleased, as when one throws a javelin or a dart with his hand. It follows —
Nahum explains more clearly, and without a figure, what he had previously said of darkness, — that the kingdom of Nineveh would be so overturned, that it could never recruit its strength and return again to its pristine state. He indeed addresses the king himself, but under his person he includes no doubt the whole kingdom.
Commanded then has Jehovah, he says, respecting thee, let there not be sown of thy name; that is, God has so decreed, that the memory of thy name shall not survive: for to sow from the name of one, is to extend his fame. When, therefore, God entirely exterminates a race from the world, or when he obliterates a nation, he is said to command that there should not be sown of such a name; that is, that there should be no propagation of that name. In short, our Prophet denounces on the Assyrians a ruin, from which they were never to rise again. And when such a command is ascribed to God, it means, that by the sole bidding of God both nations and kingdoms are propagated, and are also abolished and destroyed: for what is said of individuals ought to be extended to all nations, ‘Seed, or the fruit of the womb,’ as it is said in the Psalms, ‘is the peculiar gift of God,’ (Psalm 127.) For how comes it, that many are without children, while others have a large and a numerous family, except that God blesses some, and makes others barren? The same is to be thought of nations; the Lord propagates them and preserves their memory; but when it seems good to him, he reduces them to nothing, so that no seed remains. And when the Prophet testifies, that this is the command of Jehovah, he confirms the faith of the Israelites and of the Jews, that they might not doubt, but that the Assyrians would perish without any hope of restoration; for it was so decreed by Heaven.
He afterwards adds, From the house, or from the temple, of thy gods will I cut off graven images. It is probable, and it is the commonly received opinion, that the Prophet alludes here to Sennacherib, who was slain in the temple of his idol by his own sons, shortly after his return from Judea, when the siege of the holy city was miraculously raised through the instrumentality of an angel. As then he was slain in the temple, and it was by his murder profaned, I am inclined to receive what almost all others maintain, that there is here a reference to his person: but, at the same time, the Prophet no doubt describes, under the person of one king, the destruction and ruin of the whole kingdom. Gods indeed, did at that time make known what he had determined respecting the empire of Nineveh and all the Assyrians; for from this event followed also the change, that Nebuchodonosor transferred the empire to Babylon, and that the whole race, and every one who assumed power, became detestable. When, therefore, the Assyrians were torn by intestine discords, it was an easy matter for the Chaldeans to conquer them. Hence the Prophet does not here predict respecting one king only; but as his murder was, as it were, a prelude of the common ruin, the Prophet relates this history as being worthy of being remembered, — that the temple would be profaned by the murder of Sennacherib, and that then the monarchy would be soon transferred to the Chaldeans.
When he says, I will appoint thy sepulcher, he connects this clause with the former; for how was it that idols were cut off from that temple, except that that tragic deed rendered the place detestable? For there is no one who feels not a horror at such a base crime as that of children killing their father with their own hands. We know when a proud woman at Rome ordered her chariot to be drawn over the dead body of her father, the road was counted polluted. So also the temple was no doubt viewed as polluted by the murder of the king. Then these two clauses ought to be read together, that God would cut off idols and graven images from the temple, — and then, that the sepulcher of Sennacherib would be there.
He adds, For thou art execrable I have rendered קלות, kolut, a thing to be abominated. It may indeed be referred to that history; but I take it by itself as meaning, that Sennacherib was to be abominable, and not he alone, but also the whole royal family, and the monarchy of Nineveh. For it is not consistent, as we have said already, to say, that all these things refer to the person of Sennacherib; for the Prophet speaks of the destruction of the city and nation, and that generally; at the same time, this does not prevent him from referring, as it were, in passing, to the person of Sennacherib.
It must, at the same time, be noticed, that the vain confidence, which the Assyrian kings placed in their idols and graven images, is here indirectly reproved; for we know that idolaters not only confide in their own strength, but that a part of their hope is also founded on their superstitions. Hence the Prophet says, that their temple was to be profaned by God, so that no aid would remain to the Assyrians, to the kings themselves any more than to the whole people. Let us proceed —
The Prophet again teaches us, that whatever he prophesied respecting the destruction of the city Nineveh, was for this end, — that God, by this remarkable evidence, might show that he had a care for his people, and that he was not unmindful of the covenant he had made with the children of Abraham. This prophecy would have otherwise produced no salutary effect on the Israelites; they might have thought that it was by chance, or by some fatal revolution, or through some other cause, that Nineveh had been overthrown. Hence the Prophet shows, that the ruin of the city, and of the monarchy of Nineveh, would be a proof of the paternal love of God towards his chosen people, and that such a change was to be made for the sake of one people, because God, though he had for a time punished the Israelites, yet purposed that some seed should remain, for it would have been inconsistent, that the covenant, which was to be inviolate, should be entirely abolished. We now then understand the Prophet’s object, and how this verse is to be connected with the rest of the context.
Behold, he says, on the mountains the feet of him who announces peace Some think that the Prophet alludes to the situation of Jerusalem. We indeed know that mountains were around it: but the Prophet speaks more generally, — that heralds of peace shall ascend to the tops of mountains, that their voice might be more extensively heard: Behold, he says, on the mountains the feet of him who announces peace; for all the roads had been before closed up, and hardly any one dared to whisper. If any one inquired either respecting peace or war, there was immediate danger lest he should fall under suspicion. As then the Assyrians, by their tyrannical rule, had deprived the Israelites of the freedom of speech, the Prophet says now, that the feet of those who should announce peace would be on the mountains; that is, that there would be now free liberty to proclaim peace on the highest places. By feet, he means, as we have explained, coming; and Isaiah speaks a similar language,
‘How beautiful are the feet of those who announce peace,
who announce good things!’ (Isaiah 52:7.)
Arise, then, he says, shall heralds of peace everywhere: and the repetition in other words seems to express this still more clearly; for he says, of him who announces and causes to hear He might have simply said מבשר, mebesher, but he adds משמיע, meshemio; not only, he says, he will announce peace, but also with a clear and loud voice, so that his preaching may be heard from the remotest places. We now perceive what the Prophet had in view, and what his words import.
Now he adds, Celebrate, Judah, thy festal days. It is indeed a repetition of the same word, as if we were to say in Latin, Festiva festivitates, feast festivities; but this has nothing to do with the meaning of the passage. I am disposed to subscribe to the opinion of those who think, that there is here an intimation of the interruption of festal days; for so disordered were all things at Jerusalem and in the country around, that sacrifices had ceased, and festal days were also intermitted; for sacred history tells us, that the Passover was celebrated anew under Hezekiah, and also under Josiah. This omission no doubt happened, owing to the wars by which the country had been laid waste. Hence the Prophet now intimates, that there would be quietness and peace for the chosen people, so that they might all without any fear ascend to Jerusalem, and celebrate their festal days, and give thanks to the Lord, and rejoice before him, according to the language often used by Moses. At the same time, the Prophet no doubt reminds the Jews for what end the Lord would break off the enemy’s yoke, and exempt them from servile fear, and that was, that they might sacrifice to God and worship him, while enjoying their quiet condition. And that he addresses Judah is not done without reason; for though the kingdom of Israel was not as yet so rejected, that God did not regard them as his people, yet there were no legitimate sacrifices among them, and no festal days which God approved: we indeed know that the worship which prevailed there was corrupt and degenerated. Inasmuch then as God repudiated the sacrifices which were offered in Israel, Nahum addresses here his discourse to Judah only; but yet he intimates, that God had been thus bountiful to the Israelites, that they, remembering their deliverance, might give him thanks.
Let us then know, that when the Lord grants us tranquillity and preserves us in a quiet state, this end ought ever to be kept in view, — that it is his will, that we should truly serve him. But if we abuse the public peace given us, and if pleasures occasion a forgetfulness of God, this ingratitude will by no means be endured. We ought, indeed, in extreme necessities to sacrifice to God, as we have need then especially of fleeing to his mercy; but as we cannot so composedly worship him in a disturbed state of mind, he is pleased to allow us peaceable times. Now, if we misapply this leisure, and indulge in sloth, yea, if we become so heedless as to neglect God, this as I have said will be an intolerable evil. Let us then take notice of the Prophet’s words in setting forth the design of God, — that he would free his people from the power of the Assyrians, that they might celebrate their festal days.
He adds, Pay thy vows He not only speaks here of the ordinary sacrifices and of the worship which had been prescribed; but he also requires a special proof of gratitude for having been then delivered by the hand of God; for we know what paying of vows meant among the Hebrews: they were wont to offer peace-offerings, when they returned victorious from war, or when they were delivered from any danger, or when they were relieved from some calamity. The Prophet therefore now shows, that it was right to pay vows to God, inasmuch as he had dealt so bountifully with his people; as it is said in Psalm 116, ‘What shall I return to the Lord for all his benefits which he has bestowed on me? The cup of salvation will I take, and on the name of the Lord will I call.’ We also find it thus written in Hosea,
‘The calves of thy lips to me shalt thou render,’
We now perceive what Nahum substantially meant, — that when peace was restored, the people were not to bury so great and so remarkable a kindness of God, but to pay their vows; that is, that the people were to testify that God was the author of their deliverance, and that the redemption which they had obtained was the peculiar work of God.
It follows, “Add no more to pass through thee shall Belial, for utterly is he cut off.” This passage must not be explained in a general sense; for we know that the Chaldeans became more grievous to the Jews than the Assyrians had been; but the Prophet here refers especially to the Ninevites, that is, to the Assyrians, whose metropolis, as it has been said, was Nineveh. That wicked one then shall not add any more to pass through thee. — Why? for he is entirely cut off. This reason given by the Prophet clearly proves, that he speaks not of the wicked generally, but that he especially points out the Assyrians. Now follows —Calvin's Bible Commentaries: Jonah, Micah, Nahum: (Forgotten Books)
The waster spoken of here by the Prophet, some consider him to have been Sennacherib, and others, Nebuchodonosor. The verb עלה, ole, is also variously explained: it is often taken metaphorically in Hebrew for vanishing, as we say in French, Il s’en va en fumee; for smoke ascends, and this is the reason for the metaphor. They then elicit this meaning, — that a destroyer had ascended before the face of the chosen people, that is, openly; so that it was evidently the work of God, that the Assyrians vanished, who had come to lay waste the whole land: Vanished then has the destroyer; and then before thy face, that is, manifestly, and before thine eyes. מצורה נצור, nutsur metsure, guard the fortress; that is let every one return to his own city, and keep watch, as it is usually done; for the country shall be left without men; and watch the way, that is, look out which way Sennacherib took in coming to assail the holy city; that way shall be now free from enemies; and then, keep firm or strengthen the loins, for חזק, chesek, sometimes means to keep firm, — keep firm then or strengthen the loins, that thou mayest not relax as before, but stand courageously, for there is no one who can terrify thee; and, lastly, fortify strength greatly, that is, doubt not but thou shalt be hereafter strong enough to retain thy position; for cut off shall be that monarchy, which has been an oppression to thee. But others take a different view and say, — that the destroyer had ascended, that is, that Sennacherib had come; and what follows, they think, was intended to strike terror, as though the Prophet said “Now while ye are besieged keep watch, and be careful to preserve your fortresses and strengthen all your strongholds; but all this will avail nothing. — Why? Because God has taken away the pride of Jacob as he has the pride of Israel.” This is the second explanation. Others again think, that the Prophet addresses here the Assyrians, and that Nebuchodonosor is here called a waster, by whom the empire was removed, and Nineveh, as it has often been stated, was destroyed. According to these interpreters, the Prophet here denounces ruin on the Assyrians in this manner, — “The destroyer now ascends before thy face.” The Assyrians might indeed have regarded such threatening with disdain, when they were surrounded by many provinces and had cities well fortified: — “It will not be,” he says, “according to your expectation; the waster will yet come” before thy face; and how much soever thou mayest now guard thy fortresses, watch thy ways, and carefully look around to close up every avenue against thy enemies, thou wilt yet effect nothing; strengthen the loins as much as thou pleasest and increase thy power, yet this shall be useless and vain.” If this view be approved, it will be in confirmation of what has been previously said, — that God had now determined to destroy the city Nineveh and the empire possessed by the Assyrians. This meaning then is not unsuitable; but if we receive this view, something additional must also be stated, and that is, — that God now designed to destroy Nineveh and its monarchy, because it had humbled more than necessary his people, the kingdom of Judah, as well as the ten tribes. I cannot proceed farther now.
What is now subjoined has been added, in my view, in reference to what had already taken place, that is that God had taken away the pride of Jacob, as the pride of Israel Some give this rendering, “God has made to returns or to rest;” and they take גאון, gaun, in a good sense, as meaning courage or glory. The sense, according to these, would be, — that God, having routed the army of Sennacherib, or destroyed the Assyrians, would make the ancient glory of his people to return; for both kingdoms had fallen. They then understand this to have been said respecting the restoration of the whole people; and they who translate, “he will make to rest,” think that continual peace is here promised to the Israelites, as well as to the Jews. But, on the contrary, it appears to me, that the Prophet shows, that it was the ripened time for the destruction of the city Nineveh, for God had now humbled his people. He had then taken away the pride of Jacob, as the pride of Israel; that is, God, having first corrected the pride of Israel, had also applied the same remedy to Judah: thus the whole people were humbled, and had left off their extreme height; for גאון, gaun, for the most part, is taken in a bad sense, for haughtiness or pride. This then is the reason why God now declares, that the ruin of Nineveh was nigh at hand; it was so, because the Jews and the Israelites had been sufficiently brought down. This sense is the most suitable.
And then for the same purpose is the next clause, — that the emptiers had emptied, that is that robbers had pillaged them, and left nothing to remain for them. There is a passage in Isaiah which corresponds with this, where it is said, — that when the Lord had completed his work on mount Zion and in Jerusalem, he would then turn his vengeance against the Assyrians, (Isaiah 10:12:) but why were they not sooner destroyed? Because the Lord designed to employ them for the purpose of chastising the Jews. Until then the whole work of God was completed, that is, until he had so corrected their pride, as wholly to cast it down, it was not his purpose to destroy the Ninevites; but they were at length visited with destruction. The same thing does our Prophet now teach us here, — that Nebuchodonosor would come to demolish Nineveh, when the Lord had taken away the haughtiness of his people.
What follows, Ανδ τηεψ ηαςε δεστροψεδ τηειρ σηοοτσ, or their branches, I take metaphorically, because the Israelites, as to outward appearances had been pulled up by the roots; for before the eyes of their enemies they were reduced to nothing, and their very roots were torn ups so that they perceived nothing left. The Lord indeed always preserved a hidden remnant; but this was done beyond the perceptions of men. But what the Prophet says metaphorically of the ruined branches, is to be understood of what was apparent.
The Prophet describes here how dreadful the Chaldeans would be when prepared against the Assyrians. He says, The shield of his brave men is made red Some think that their shields were painted red, that blood might not appear; and that the soldiers had on red garments, that they might not be frightened in case they were wounded; and this is what history records of the Lacedemonians. But as the habits of these nations are not much known to us, it is enough for us to know, that their warlike appearance is here described; as though he had said, that the Chaldeans would come against Nineveh with violent and terrible power. Hence he says, that the men of his strength would be clad in scarlet; he refers no doubt to the color of their dress. Some expound this of the Assyrians, and say that their shame is here designated; but this is too strained. The Prophet, I have no doubt, describes here the Chaldeans, and shows that they would be so armed that even their very appearance would put to flight their enemies, that is, the Assyrians.
For the same purpose he afterwards adds, With fire of torches, or lamps, is the chariot in the day of his expedition. The word פלדות, peladut, occurs nowhere else; and the Jews think that the letters are inverted, and that it should be לפידות, as this word is afterwards used by the Prophet in the next verse, and in the same sense. It is certainly evident from the context that either torches or lamps are meant by the Prophet. His chariot then is with the fire of lamps, that is, his chariots drive so impetuously that they appear as flames of fire, when wheels roll with such velocity.
And the fir-trees, he says, are terrible shaken Some translate, “are inebriated” or, “stunned;” and they apply this to the Assyrians, — that their great men (whom they think are here compared to fir-trees, or are metaphorically designated by them) were stunned through amazement. Astonished then shall be the principal men among the Assyrians; for the very sight of their enemies would render them, as it were, lifeless; for the verb רעל, rol, is taken by some in the sense of infecting with poison, or of stupefying. But their opinion is more correct who think that fir-trees are to be taken for lances, though they do not sufficiently express the meaning of the Prophet; for he means, I have no doubt, that such would be the concussion among the lances, that it would be like that of fir-trees, tossed here and there in the forest. For lances, we know, are made of fir-trees, because it is a light wood and flexible, as when any one says in our language, les lances branslent. The lances then trembled, or shook in the hands of the soldiers, as fir-trees shake. Thus we see that the Prophet here continues to describe the terrible appearance of the Chaldeans. Let us go on —
He still goes on with the same subject, — that they shall be furious in the streets that is, that they shall he so turbulent, as though they were out of their minds: as furious men are wont to be who are impetuously carried away beyond all reason and moderation, so shall they also become mad in their tumult. He then says, They shall hasten. The verb is derived from the hips; for he who hastens shakes the hips, and moves them with a quick motion; and if it be lawful to coin a word, it is, they shall hip; Ils remueront les hanches. This is what the Prophet meant. And then, Their appearance shall be as lamps. He refers here to the chariots. They shall then be like lamps; that is they shall dazzle the eyes of beholders with their brightness. All these things are intended to set forth what is terrific. He says also, as lightning they shall run here and there.
In short, he intimates, that the impetuosity of the Chaldeans would be so violent as to surpass what is commonly witnessed among men, that it would be, as it were, a species of fury and madness sent down from above. Thus, then, they were to be like lightning and flames of fire, that they might exceed every thing human. But these forms of speech, though they are hyperbolical, were not yet used without reason; for we may easily conjecture how great was then the security of the city Nineveh, and how incredible was the event of its ruin. That monarchy was then preeminent over every other in the whole world, and no one could have thought that it could ever be assailed. Since then it was difficult to persuade the Jews that ruin was nigh the Assyrians, it was necessary for the Prophet to accumulate these various forms of expressions, by which he sets forth the power of God in the destruction of the Assyrians. It afterwards follows —
Some interpreters explain this also of the Chaldeans: The king of Babylon then shall remember his mighty men; that is, shall recount his forces and whatever strength he will have under his power; all this he will collect to make war with Nineveh and the Assyrians. Others think that there is here a transposition in the words, (which is too strained,) “Mighty men shall remember,” as though it were a change of number. But I take the words of the Prophet simply as they are, — that he will remember mighty men: but this, as I think, refers to the Assyrians. He then, that is, either the king of Nineveh, or the people, will remember the mighty men; that is, he will gather from every quarter his forces and will omit nothing which may avail for defense; as it is usually done in great danger and in extremities: for they were noted then as warlike men; and every one who had any skill, every one who was endued with courage, every one who was trained up in arms, all these were mustered, that they might give help. So then the Prophet says, that such would be the dread in the land of Assyria, that they would collect together whatever force they had, to defend themselves against their enemies. The king then shall remember his mighty men, that is, he will muster all the subsidies within his reach.
Then he says, They shall stumble in their march; that is, the mighty men, when gathered, shall tremble and stumble like the blind: and this will be occasioned by fear; so that like men astounded, they will move to and fro, and have no certain footing. The Prophet then declares here two things, that the Assyrians would be diligent in gathering forces to repel the assault of their enemies, — but that yet they would effect nothing, for trembling would seize the minds of all, so that mighty men would stumble in their marches. They shall stumble, and then it is said, they shall hasten to its wall, that is, they shall ascend the wall; and it is added, Prepared shall be the covering, as it is usual in defending cities. Some apply this to the Chaldeans; prepared shall be the covering, that is, when they shall come to the wall. It was indeed usual, as it is well known from histories, for those who approached a wall to defend themselves either with turrets or hurdles. But the Prophet, I doubt not, intimates, that the Assyrians would come with great trembling to meet their enemies, but without any success. However then they might defend themselves, their enemies would yet prevail. He therefore subjoins —
By the gates of the rivers the Prophet means that part of the city which was most fortified by the river Tigris; for the Tigris flowed close by the city. As then the Tigris was like the strongest defense, (for we know it to have been a most rapid river,) the Prophet ridicules the confidence of the Ninevites, who thought that the access of enemies could be wholly prevented in that part where the Tigris flowed. The gates then of the rivers are opened; that is, your river shall not prevent your enemies from breaking through and penetrating into your city.
We hence see, that the Prophet removes all the hindrances which might have seemed available to keep off enemies; and he did so, not so much for the sake of Nineveh as for the sake of his chosen people, that the Israelites and Jews might know, that that city was no less in the power of God than any other; for God can no less easily pass through rivers than go along the plain, where there is no obstacle. We now see why the Prophet says, that the gates of the rivers were opened: and then he adds, The palace is dissolved; that is, there will be no impediment to prevent the approach of enemies; for all the fortresses will melt away, and that of themselves, as though they were walls of paper, and the stones, as though they were water. He afterwards adds —
There is some ambiguity in these words, and many interpreters think that הצב, estab, to be the name of the queen. The queen then they say, of the name of הצב, estab, is drawn away into exile; she is bidden to ascend, that she might migrate to a hostile land. But this view is too strained; nor was there any reason to suppose the word to be a proper name, except that there was a wish to say something, and that there was no other conjecture more probable. But I regard their opinion more correct, who refer this to the state of the kingdom; and there is here, I have no doubt, a personification, which is evident if we attend to the meaning. If any one prefers to regard the queen as intended, it would yet be better to take הצב, estab, in its proper and real meaning, — that the queen, previously hid in her palace, and hardly able, through being so delicate, to move a step, — that she was brought forth to the light; for גלה, gele, means to uncover, and also to cast out. If we render it, was made manifest, the Prophet alludes to hiding-places, and means that the queen did not go forth to the light, but was like delicate women who keep themselves within their chambers: but if we render it, Who is drawn forth into exile, it would be more suitable to one who was previously fixed in her dwelling. The word comes from יצב, itsab, to stand; but it is here in Hophal, הוצב, eustab,: it then signifies one who was before fixed and firmly settled, that is, in her concealment; she is drawn, he says, into exile. If then any one chooses to refer this to the person of the queen, the most suitable meaning would be, — that the queen, who before sat in the midst of her pleasures, shall be violently drawn into exile, and carried away to another country. And it is probable that the Prophet speaks of the queen, because it immediately follows, Her handmaids lead her as with the voice of doves, and smite on their breasts; that is, her maids, who before flattered her, shall laments and with sighing and tears, and mourning, shall lead away, as a captive, their own mistress. Thus the context would harmonize.
But, as I have said, their opinion seems right, who think that under the person of a woman the state of the kingdom is here described. She then, who before stood, or remained fixed, shall be drawn into captivity; or she, who before sat at leisure, shall be discovered; that is, she shall no more lie hid as hitherto in her retirement, but shall be forced to come abroad. And then, she shall ascend; that is, vanish away, for the verb is to be here taken metaphorically; she shall then vanish away, or be reduced to nothing. And as the Prophet sets a woman here before us, what follows agrees with this idea, — Her handmaids shall weep and imitate the doves in their moaning; that is, the whole people shall bewail the fate of the kingdom, when things shall be so changed, as when handmaids lead forth their own mistress, who had been before nourished in the greatest delicacies.
Now this accumulation of words was by no means in vain; for it was necessary to confirm, by many words, the faith of the Israelites and of the Jews respecting the near approach of the destruction of the city Nineveh, which would have been otherwise incredible; and of this we can easily form a judgment by our own experience. If any one at this day were to speak of mighty kings, whose splendor amazes the whole world, — if any one were to announce the ruin of the kingdom of one of them, it would appear like a fable. This then is the reason why the Prophet, by so many figures, sets forth an event which might have been expressed in few words, and confirms it by so many forms of speech, and even by such as are hyperbolical. He at length subjoins —
The prophet here anticipates a doubt which might have weakened confidence in his words; for Nineveh not only flourished in power, but it had also confirmed its strength during a long course of time; and antiquity not only adds to the strength of kingdoms, but secures authority to them. As then the imperial power of the city Nineveh was ancient, it might seem to have been perpetual: “Why! Nineveh has ever ruled and possessed the sovereign power in all the east; can it be now shaken, or can its strength be now suddenly subverted? For where there is no beginning, we cannot believe that there will be any end.” And a beginning it had not, according to the common opinion; for we know how the Egyptians also fabled respecting their antiquity; they imagined that their kingdom was five thousand years before the world was made; that is, in numbering their ages they went back nearly five thousand years before the creation. The Ninevites, no doubt, boasted that they had ever been; and as they were fixed in this conceit respecting their antiquity, no one thought that they could ever fail. This is the reason why the Prophet expressly declares, that Nineveh had been like a pool of waters from ancient days; 231 that is, Nineveh had been, as it were, separated from the rest of the world; for where there is a pool, it seems well fortified by its own banks, no one comes into it; when one walks on the land he does not enter into the waters. Thus, then, had Nineveh been in a quiet state not only for a short time, but for many ages. This circumstance shall not, however, prevent God from overturning now its dominion. How much soever, then, Nineveh took pride in the notion of its ancientness, it was yet God’s purpose to destroy it.
He says then, They flee: by fleeing, he means, that, though not beaten by their enemies, they would yet be overcome by their own fear. He then intimates, that Nineveh would not only be destroyed by slaughter, but that all the Assyrians would flee away, and despair would deliver them up to their enemies. Hence the Chaldeans would not only be victorious through their courage and the sword, but the Assyrians, distrusting their own forces, would flee away.
It afterwards follows, Stand ye, stand ye, and no one regards. Here the Prophet places, as it were, before our eyes, the effect of the dread of which he speaks. He might have given a single narrative, — that though one called them back they would not dare to look behind; and that, thinking that safety alone was in flight, they would pursue their course. The Prophet might have formed this sort of narrative: this he has not done; but he assumes the person of one calling back the fugitives, as though he saw them fleeing away, and tried to bring them back: No one, he says, regards We now see what the Prophet meant.
But from this passage we ought to learn that no trust is to be put in the number of men, nor in the defenses and strongholds of cities, nor in ancientness; for when men excel in power, God will hence take occasion to destroy them, inasmuch as pride is almost ever connected with strength. It can hardly be but that men arrogate too much to themselves when they think that they excel in any thing. Thus it happens, that on account of their strength they run headlong into ruin; not that God has any delight, as profane men imagine, when he turns upside down the face of the earth, but because men cannot bear their own success, nor keep themselves within moderate bounds, but many triumph against God: hence it is that human power recoils on the head of those who possess it. The same things must also be said of ancientness: for they who boast of their antiquity, know not for how long a time they have been provoking the wrath of God; for it cannot be otherwise but that abundance of itself generates licentiousness, or that it at least leads to excess; and further, they who are the most powerful are the most daring in corrupting others. Hence the increase at putridity; for men are like the dead when not ruled by the fear of God. A dead body becomes more and more fetid the longer it continues putrifying; and so it is with men. When they have been for a long time sinning, and still continue to sin, the fetidness of their sins increases, and the wrath of God is more and more provoked. There is then no reason why ancientness should deceive us. And if, at any time, we are tempted to think that men are sufficiently fortified by their own strength, or by numerous auxiliaries, or that they are, as it were sacred through their own ancientness, let what is said here come to our minds, — that Nineveh had been like a pool of waters from the ancient days; but that, when it was given up to destruction, it fled away; and that, when their enemies did not rout them, they yet, being driven by their own fear, ran away and would not stop, though one called them to return.
Here the Prophet, as it were, by the command and authority of God, gives up Nineveh to the will of its enemies, that they might spoil and plunder it. Some think that this address is made in the name of a general encouraging his soldiers; but we know that the Prophets assume the person of God, when they thus command any thing with authority; and it is a very emphatical mode of speaking. It is adopted, that we may know that the Prophets pour not forth an empty sound when they speak, but really testify what God here determined to do, and what he in due time will execute. As then we know, that this manner of speaking is common to the Prophets there is no reason to apply this to the person of Nebuchadnezzar or of any other. God then shows here that Nineveh was given up to ruin; and therefore he delivered it into the hands of enemies.
It is indeed certain, that the Babylonians, in plundering the city, did not obey God’s command; but yet it is true, that they punished the Assyrians through the secret influence of God: for it was his purpose to visit the Ninevites for the cruelty and avarice for which they had been long notorious, and especially for having exercised unexampled barbarity toward the Jews. This is the reason why God now gives them up to the Babylonians and exposes them to plunder. But as I have spoken at large elsewhere of the secret judgments of God, I shall only briefly observe here, — that God does not command the Babylonians and Chaldeans in order to render them excusable, but shows by his Prophet, that Nineveh was to be destroyed by her enemies, not by chance, but that it was his will to avenge the wrongs done to his people. At the same time, we must bear in mind what we have said elsewhere, — that the Prophets thus speak when the execution is already prepared; for God does not in vain or without reason terrify men, but he afterwards makes it manifest by the effect: as he created the world from nothing by his word, so also by his word he executes and fulfill his judgments. It is then no wonder, that the Prophet does here, as though he ruled the Chaldeans according to his will, thus address them, Take ye away, take ye away But this must be viewed as having a reference to the faithful; for the Babylonians, in plundering the city Nineveh, did not think that they obeyed God, nor did they give to God the praise due for the victory; but the faithful were thus reminded, that all this was done through the secret providence of God, and that it was also a clear, and, as it were, a visible evidence of God’s paternal love towards his Church, when he thus deigned to undertake the cause of his distressed people.
It then follows, There is no end of preparations: Some render תכונה, techune, treasure, or hidden wealth, and derive it from כון, cun, which is to prepare; but תכונה, tacune, is almost always taken for a measure. תכנות, tacanut, from תכון, tacun means a sum, for תכש, tacan, is to number or to count; and this meaning suits the passage. 232 But there is no need of laboring much about this word; if we take it simply for place, the meaning would be, that there was no plot of ground in that city which was not as it were a gulf filled up; for it had amassed all the wealth of the nations: and this sense would harmonize well with the subject of the Prophet, — that the soldiers were to plunder until they were satiated; for the place was, as it were, a deep abyss.
He afterwards adds, There is glory from every desirable vessel. Those who think מ, mem, a particle of comparison in this place are much mistaken, and misapply the meaning of the Prophet; their rendering is, In comparison with every desirable vessel; but this, as all must see, is very frigid. The Prophet, I have no doubt, declares that the wealth of Nineveh consisted of every desirable vessel; for they had for a long time heaped together immense wealth, and that of every kind. The Hebrews call what is precious a desirable thing; and their vessels we include under the term furniture. We now then perceive what the Prophet means. Some take כבד, cabed, as a participle, and give this version, It is burdened, or adorned, (for it means both,) with every desirable vessel. But the simpler mode of speaking is what we have explained, — that its glory was from every desirable vessel.
And here the Prophet condemns what the Assyrians had done in heaping together so much wealth from all quarters; for they had committed indiscriminate plunder, and gathered for themselves all the riches of the nations. They had indeed plundered all their neighbors, yea, and wholly stripped them. The Prophet now shows, in order to expose them to ridicule, that other robbers would be made rich, whom the Lord would raise up against them. The same is said by Isaiah,
‘O thou plunderer, shalt not thou also be exposed to plunder?’ (Isaiah 33.)
So also the Prophet shows in this passage, that men foolishly burn with so much avidity for money, and with so much anxiety heap together great wealth; for God will find out some who in their turn will plunder those who have plundered. It follows—
The Prophet here confirms what the last verse contains; for he shows why he had called the Chaldeans to take away the spoil, — because it was to be so. He did not indeed (as I have already said) command the Chaldeans in such a way as that their obedience to God was praiseworthy: but the Prophet speaks here only of His secret counsel. Though then the Chaldeans knew not that it was God’s decree, yet the Prophet reminds the faithful that the Ninevites, when made naked, suffered punishment for their cruelty, especially for having so hostilely conducted themselves towards the Jews: and hence he declares, that Nineveh is emptied, is emptied, and made naked. By repeating the same word, he intimates the certainty of the event: Emptied, emptied, he says, as when one says in our language, videe et revidee We hence see that by this repetition what the Prophet meant is more distinctly expressed that the faithful might not doubt respecting the event: and then for the same purpose he adds, she is made naked.
We now then perceive the Prophet’s design. As in the last verse he shows that he had power given him from above to send armies against Nineveh, and to give up the city to them to be spoiled and plundered; so he now shows that he had not so commanded the Chaldeans, as though they were the legitimate servants of God, and could pretend that they rendered service to Him. He therefore points out for what end he had commanded the Chaldeans to plunder Nineveh; and that was, because God had so decreed; and he had so decreed and commanded, because he would not bear the many wrongs done to his people whom he had taken under his protection. As then Nineveh had so cruelly treated God’s chosen people, it was necessary that the reward she deserved should be repaid to her. But the repetition, which I have noticed, ought to be especially observed; for it teaches us that God’s power is connected with his word, so that he declares nothing inconsiderately or in vain.
He then adds, that knees smite together; and every heart is dissolved, or melted, and also, that all loins tremble We hence learn, that there is in men no courage, except as far as God supplies them with vigor. As soon then as He withdraws his Spirit, those who were before the most valiant become faint-hearted, and those who breathed great ferocity are made soft and effeminate: for by the word heart is meant inward boldness or courage; and by the knees and loins the strength of body is to be understood. There is indeed no doubt but the Assyrians, while they ruled, were a very courageous people, as power ever generates boldness; and it is also probable that they were a warlike people, since all their neighbors had been brought under their power. But the Prophet now shows, that there would be no vigor in their hearts, and no strength in their loins, or in any part of their body. The heart, then, he says, is melted And hence we learn how foolishly men boast of their courage, while they seem to be like lions; for God can in a moment so melt their hearts, that they entirely lose all firmness. Then as to external vigor, we see that it is in God’s hand; there will be, he says, a confriction, or the knees will knock one against another, as they do when they tremble. And he says afterwards, And trembling shall be in all loins 234 He at last adds, And the faces of all shall gather blackness The word פארור, parur, some derive from פאר, par; and so the rendering would be, “all faces shall draw in or withdraw their beauty,” and so also they explain Joel 2:6, for the sentence there is the same. But they who disapprove of this meaning say, that קבף, kobets, cannot mean to draw in or to withdraw; and so they render the noun, blackness. But this is a strained explanation. פארור, parur, [they say,] does not mean a black color but a pot: when therefore a caldron or a kettle contracts blackness from smoke, it is then called פארור, parur: but in this place these interpreters are constrained to take it metaphorically for that color; which is, as I have said, strained and far-fetched. I am therefore inclined to adopt their opinion who render the sentence, all faces shall withdraw their beauty, or their brightness: but as to the import of the passage, there is little or no difference; let then every one have his free choice. With regard to the Prophet’s design, he evidently means, that the faces of all would be sad, for the Lord would fill their minds and thoughts with dread. The withdrawing then of beauty signifies an outward appearance of sorrow, or paleness, or whatever may appear in the countenance of men, when dejected with grief. In short, the Prophet means, that how much soever the Assyrians might have hitherto raised on high their crests, and breathed great swelling words, and conducted themselves insolently, they would now be dejected; for the Lord would prostrate their courage and melt their strength: he would, by casting down their high spirits, constrain them to undergo shame. This is the import of the whole. It now follows —
Here the Prophet triumphs over the Assyrians, because they thought that the city Nineveh was remote from every danger: as lions, who fear nothing, when they are in their dens, draw thither their prey in their claws or in their mouths: so also was the case with the Assyrians; thinking themselves safe, while Nineveh flourished, they took the greater liberty to commit plunders everywhere. For Nineveh was not only the receptacle of robbers but was also like a den of lions. And the Prophet more fully expresses the barbarous cruelty of the Assyrians by comparing them to lions, than if he had simply called them lions. We now then see what he means, when he says, Where is the place of lions? And he designedly speaks thus of the Assyrians: for no one ever thought that they could be touched by even the least injury; the fear of them had indeed so seized all men, that of themselves they submitted to the Assyrians. As then no one dared to oppose them, the Prophet says, Where? as though he had said that though all thought it incredible that Nineveh could be overthrown, it would yet thus happen. But he assumes the character of one expressing his astonishment, in order to intimate, that when the Lord should execute such a judgment, it would be a work of wonder, which would fill almost all with amazement. This question then proves that those are very foolish who form a judgment of God’s vengeance, of which the Prophet speaks, according to the appearance of things at the time; for the ruin of Nineveh and of that empire was to be the incomprehensible work of God, and which was to fill all minds with astonishment.
He says first, Where is the place of lions? The feminine gender is indeed here used; but all agree that the Prophet speaks of male lions. 236 He then adds, the place of feeding for lions? כפרים, caphrim, mean young lions as we shall hereafter see; and אריות, ariut, are old lions. He afterwards adds, Where אריה, arie came: and then comes לביא, labia, which some render, lioness; but לביא, labia, properly means an old lion; the Prophet, no doubt, uses it in the next verse in the feminine gender for lionesses. I therefore do not deny, but that we may fitly render the terms here, lion and lioness; afterwards, and the whelp of lions, and none terrifying. He then adds, Seize did the lion (the word is אריה, arie) for his whelps to satiety, that is, sufficiently; and strangle did he for his lionesses, ללבאתיו, lalabatiu. Here no doubt the Prophet means lionesses; there would otherwise be no consistency in the passage. He afterwards says,
And filled has he with prey his dens and his recesses with ravin; it is the same word with a different termination, טרף, thereph, and טרפה, therephe
Now the repetition, made here by the Prophet, of lion, young lion, and lioness, was not without its use; for he meant by this number of words to set forth the extreme ferocity of the Assyrians, while they were dominant. He no doubt compares their kings, their counselors, and their chief men, to lions: and he calls their wives lionesses, and their children he calls young lions or whelps of lions. The sum of the whole is, that Nineveh had so degenerated in its opulence, that all in power were like ferocious wild beasts, destitute of every kind feeling. And I wish that this could have only been said of one city and of one monarchy! But here, as in a mirror, the Prophet represents to us what we at this day observe, and what has always and in all ages been observed in great empires; for here great power exists, there great licentiousness prevails; and when kings and their counselors become once habituated to plunder, there is no end of it; nay, a kind of fury is kindled in their hearts, that they seek nothings else but to devour and to tear in pieces to rend and to strangle. The Prophet indeed wished here to console both the Israelites and the Jews by showing, that the injustice of their enemies would not go unpunished: but at the same time he intended to show how great, even to the end of the world, would be the cruelty of those who would rule tyrannically: and as I have said, experience proves, that there are too many like the Ninevites. It is indeed unquestionable, that the Prophet does not without reason speak so often here of lions and lionesses.
Hence he says, “Come thither did the lion, the lioness, and the whelp of the lion.” He means that when justice was sought in that city, it was found to be the den of cruel beasts; for the king had put off all humanity, as well as his counselors; their wives were also like lionesses, and their children and domestics were as young lions or the whelps of lions. And cruelty creeps in, somewhat in this manner: When a king takes to himself too much liberty, his counselors follow him; and then every one follows the common example, as though every thing received as a custom was lawful. This is the representation which the Prophet in these words sets before us; and we with our own eyes see the same things. Then he adds, ‘The lion did tear what sufficed his whelps, and strangled for his lionesses; he filled with prey his dens and his recesses with plunder. He goes on with the same subject, — that the Assyrians heaped for themselves great wealth by unjust spoils, because they had no regard for what was right. The lion, he says, did tear for his whelps: as lions accustom their whelps to plunder, and when they are not grown enough, so as to be able to attack innocent animals, they provide a prey for them, and also bring some to the lionesses; so also, as the Prophet informs us, was the case at Nineveh; the habits of all men were formed for cruelty by the chief men and the magistrates. By the word בדי, bedi, sufficiency, he means not that the Ninevites are satisfied with their prey, for they were insatiable; but it rather refers to the abundance which they had. And he says, that the lion strangled for his lionesses: I wish there were no lionesses to devour at this day; but we see that there are some who surpass their husbands in boldness and cruelty. But the Prophet says here what is natural, — that the lion strangles the prey and gives it afterwards to his lionesses. He then adds, that the Ninevites were not satisfied with daily rapines, as many robbers live for the day; but he says, that their plunder was laid up in store. Hence they filled their secret places and dens with their booty and spoils. Still further, though the Prophet speaks not here so plainly, as we shall see he does in what follows, it is yet certain, that the reason is here given, why God visited the Ninevites with so severe a vengeance, and that was, because they had ceased to be like men, and had degenerated into savage beasts. It follows —
To give more effect to what he says, the Prophet introduces God here as the speaker. Behold, he says, I am against thee He has been hitherto, as it were, the herald of God, and in this character gave an authoritative command to the Chaldeans to plunder Nineveh: but when God himself comes forward, and uses not the mouth of man, but declares himself his own decrees, it is much more impressive. This then is the reason why God now openly speaks: Behold, I am, he says, against thee. We understand the emphatical import of the demonstrative particle, Behold; for God, as if awakened from sleep, shows that it will be at length his work, to undertake the cause of his people, and also to punish the world for its wickedness, Behold, I am against thee, he says. We have elsewhere seen a similar mode of speaking; there is therefore no need of dwelling on it here.
I will burn, he says, with smoke her chariots Here by smoke some understand a smoky fire; but the Prophet, I think, meant another thing, — that at the first onset God would consume all the chariots of Nineveh; as though he had said, that as soon as the flame burst forth, it would be all over with all the forces of Nineveh; for by chariots he no doubt means all their warlike preparations; and we know that they fought then from chariots: as at this day there are employed in wars horsemen in armor, so there were then chariots. But the Prophet, by taking a part for the whole, includes all warlike forces: I will burn then the chariots. — How? By smoke alone, that is as soon as the first flame begins to emerge; for the smoke rises before the fire appears or gathers strength: in short, the Prophet shows that Nineveh would be, as it were, in a moment, reduced to nothing, as soon as it pleased God to avenge its wickedness.
He then adds in the third person, And thy young lions shall the sword devour He indeed changes the person here; but the discourse is more striking, when God manifests his wrath in abrupt sentences. He had said, Behold, I am against thee; then, I will burn her chariots, he now hardly deigns to direct his speech to Nineveh; but afterwards he returns to her, and thy young lions shall the sword devour Then God, by speaking thus in broken sentences, more fully expresses the dreadful vengeance which he had determined to execute on the Ninevites. He then says, And I will exterminate from the earth thy prey; that is, it will not now be allowed thee to go on as usual; for I will put a stop to thy inhuman cruelty. Thus prey may be taken for the act itself; or it may be fitly explained of the spoils taken from the nations, for the Ninevites, by their tyrannical ravening, had everywhere plundered; and thus it may be applied to the pillaging of the city. I will then exterminate from the land, that is from thy country, those riches which have been hitherto heaped together as though a lion had been everywhere gathering a prey.
And heard no more shall be the voice of thy messengers They who understand מלאכים, melakim, to be messengers, apply the word to the heralds, by whom the Assyrians were wont to proclaim wars on neighboring nations. As then they sent here and there their heralds to announce war, and as their terrible voice sounded everywhere, the words of the Prophet have this meaning given them, — that God would at length produce silence, so that they should not hereafter disturb all their neighboring countries with the clamor of war. But as this explanation is strained, I am inclined to adopt what others think, — that the grinding teeth are here intended. The word is not written, if it be taken for messengers, according to grammar; it is מלאככה, melakke; there ought not to have been the ה, he at the end, and י, jod, ought to have been inserted before the last letter but one: and if it be deemed as meaning the king, it ought then to have been written מלכך, melkak. All then confess, that the word is not written according to the rule of grammar; and as the Persians call the grinders מלאככה, melakke, we may give this version, which well suits the context, ‘No more shall be heard the sound of grinders.’ For since lions seize the prey with their teeth, 238 and also break the bones, and thus make a great noise when they tear an animal or a man with their teeth, this rendering seems to be the most suitable, Heard no more shall be the sound of teeth, that is, heard shall not be the noise made by thy teeth; for when thou now tearest thy prey, thy teeth make a noise. No more heard then shall the noise from that breaking, or the clashing or the crashing of the teeth. But as to the chief point, this is no matter of importance.
The Prophet simply teaches us here that it could not be, but that God would at length restrain tyrants; for though he hides himself for a time, he yet never forgets the groans of those whom he sees to be unjustly afflicted: and particularly when tyrants molest the Church, it is proved here by the Prophet that God will at length be a defender; and hence we ought to consider well these words, Behold, I am against thee For though God addresses these words only to the Assyrians, yet as he points out the reasons why he rises up with so much displeasure against them, they ought to be extended to all tyrants, and to all who exercise cruelty towards distressed and innocent men. But this is more clearly expressed in the following verse.Calvin's Bible Commentaries: Jonah, Micah, Nahum: (Forgotten Books)
The Prophet, as I have said, more clearly expresses here the reason why the vengeance of God would be so severe on the Ninevites, — because they had wholly given themselves up to barbarous cruelty; and hence he calls it the bloody city. Bloody city! he says. The exclamation is emphatical. Though הו, eu, sometimes means Woe; yet it is put here as though the Prophet would have constrained Nineveh to undergo its punishment, O sanguinary city, then, the whole of it is full of כחש cachesh: the word signifies leanness and the Prophet no doubt joins here together two words, which seem to differ widely, and yet they signify the same thing. For פרק, perek, means to lay by; and כחש, cachesh, is taken for a lie or vanity, when there is nothing solid in what is said: but the Prophet, I doubt not, means by both words the spoils of the city Nineveh. It was then full of leanness for it had consumed all others; it was also full of spoils, for it had filled itself. But the meaning of the Prophet is in no way dubious; for at length he adds, Depart shall not the prey; that is as some think, it shall not be withdrawn from the hands of conquerors; but others more correctly think that a continued liberty in plundering is intended, that the Assyrians were constantly employed in pillaging and kept within no bounds.
We hence see that the Prophet now shows why God says, that he would be an adversary to the Ninevites, because he could not endure its unjust cruelty. He bore with it indeed for a time; for he did not immediately execute his judgment; but yet he never forgot his own people.
As, then, God has once declared by the mouth of his Prophet that he would be the avenger of the cruelty which the Assyrians had exercised, let us know that he retains still his own nature; and whatever liberty he may for a time grant to tyrants and savage wild beasts, he yet continues to be a just avenger. It is our duty calmly to bear injuries, and to groan to him; and as he promises to be at length our helper, it behaves us to flee to him, and to ask him to succor us, so that seeing his Church oppressed, and tyrants exercising licentiously their power, he may hasten the time to restrain them. If then we were at all times to continue thus resigned under God’s protection, there is no doubt but that he would be ready even at this day to execute a similar judgment to that which the city Nineveh and its people had to endure.
The Prophet represents here as in a lively picture, what was nigh the Assyrians; for he sets forth the Chaldeans their enemies, with all their preparations and in their quick movements. The sound of the whip, he says; the whips, made a noise in exciting the horses: the sound of the rattling of the wheel; that is, great shall be the haste and celerity, when the horses shall be forced on by the whip; the horse also shaking the earth, and the chariot bounding; the horseman making it to ascend; and then, the flame of the sword and the lightning of the spear He then says, that there would be such a slaughter, that the whole place would be full of dead bodies.
We now then understand what the Prophet means: for as Nineveh might have then appeared impregnable the Prophet confirms at large what he had said of its approaching ruin, and thus sets before the eyes of the Israelites what was then incredible.
As to the words, some interpreters connect what we have rendered, the horseman makes to ascend, with what follows, that is, he makes to ascend the flame of the sword and the lightning of the spear But as a copulative comes between, it seems rather to be an imperfect sentence, meaning, that the horseman makes to ascend or mount, that is, his horses, by urging them on. With regard to the word להב, leb, it means I have no doubt, a flame. By this word, I know, is also understood metaphorically the brightness of swords, which appears like a flame: but the Prophet immediately adds lightning As then he says that spears lighten, I doubt not but that for the same reason he meant to say that swords flame. All these things were intended for the purpose of fully convincing the Israelites that Nineveh, however much it was supplied with wealth and power, was yet approaching its ruin, for its enemies would prevail against it: and therefore he adds, that all the roads would be full of dead bodies, that the enemies could not enter without treading on them everywhere. It follows —
The Prophet mentions again the cause why God would execute so dreadful a vengeance on that city, which yet procured by its splendor so much glory and respect among all people: and God seems in a manner to have but little regard for the order of the world when he thus overturns great cities. For since he is the Creator of the whole world, it seems to be his proper office to protect its various parts, especially those which excel in beauty, for they seem to deserve a higher regard. When therefore any splendid city is demolished, such thoughts as these occur to us, — That God is either delighted with the ruin of the world, or is asleep in heaven, and that thus all things revolve by chance and contingency. Therefore the Prophet shows, that God had just reasons for decreeing the ruin of Nineveh, and for deforming that beauty, that it might not deceive the eyes of men. Hence he compares Nineveh to a harlot. The similitude seems not to be very suitable: but yet if we take a nearer view of things, the Prophet could not have more fitly nor more strikingly set forth the condition of that city. He had before mentioned its barbarous cruelty, and said, that it was the den of lions, and that savage and bloody wild beasts dwelt there. He now begins to speak of the frauds and crafty artifices by which the kings of this world attain for themselves both wealth and power. The Prophet then makes the city Nineveh to be like a harlot for this reason, — because it had not only brought under its power neighboring nations by threats and terrors, and also by cruelty, but because it had ensnared many by oblique arts and fraudulent means, by captious dealings and allurements. This is the reason why it is now called a harlot by the Prophet.
The Prophets of God seem indeed to speak but with little reverence of great cities and empires: but we know that it rightly belongs to the Spirit of God, that in exercising his own jurisdiction, he should uncover the base deeds of the whole world, which otherwise would lie concealed and even under the appearance of virtues deceive the eyes and senses of the simple: and as men so much flatter themselves, and are inebriated with their own delusions, it is necessary that those who are too self-indulgent and delicate should be roughly handled. As then kings ever set up their own splendor that they may dazzle the eyes of the simple, and seem to have their own greatness as a beautiful covering, the Spirit of God divests them of these masks. This then is the reason why the Prophet speaks here, in no very respectful terms, of that great monarchy which had attracted the admiration of all nations. For when the Spirit of God adopts a humble and common mode of speaking, men, blinded by their vices, will not acknowledge their own baseness; nay, they will even dare to set up in opposition those things which cover their disgraceful deeds: but the Spirit of God breaks through all these things, and dissipates those delusions by which men impose on themselves.
Such is the reason for this similitude; On account of the multitude, he says, of the whoredoms of the harlot, who excels in favor It is said by way of concession that Nineveh was in great favor, that is, that by her beauty she had allured to herself many nations, like a harlot who attains many lovers: and thus the Prophet allows that Nineveh was beautiful. But he adds that she was the mistress of sorceries כשף, casheph, means sorcery, and also juggling: we may then render כשפים, cashaphim, used here, juggleries, (praestigias — sleights of hand.) But the Prophet seems to allude to filters or amatory potions, by which harlots dementate youths. As then harlots not only attract notice by their beauty and bland manners and other usual ways; but they also in a manner fascinate unhappy youths, and use various arts and delusions; so the Prophet under this word comprehends all the deceits practiced by harlots; as though he said, “This harlot was not only beautiful, but also an enchantress, who by her charms deceived unhappy nations like a strumpets who dementates unhappy youths, who do not take care of themselves.”
He afterwards adds, Who sells nations by her whoredoms, and tribes by her sorceries Though Nahum still carries on the same metaphor, he yet shows more clearly what he meant by whoredoms and sorceries, — even the crafts of princes, by which they allure their neighbors, and then reduce them to bondage. Then all the counsels of kings (which they call policies) are here, by the Spirit of God, called sorceries or juggleries, and also meretricious arts. This reproof, as I have already said, many deem to have been too severe; for so much majesty shone forth then in the Assyrians, that they ought, as they think, to have been more respectfully treated. But it behaved the Spirit of God to speak in this forcible language: for there is no one who does not applaud such crafty proceedings. Where any one, without mentioning princes, to ask, Is it right to deceive, and then by lies, deceptions, perjuries, cavils, and other arts, to make a cover for things? — were this question asked, the prompt answer would be, that all these things are as remote as possible from virtue, as nothing becomes men more than ingenuous sincerity. But when princes appear in public, and make this pretense, that the world must be ruled with great prudence, that except secret counsels be taken, all kingdoms would immediately fall into ruin, — this veil covers all their shameful transactions, so that it becomes lawful for them, and even praiseworthy, to deceive one party, to circumvent another, and a third to oppress by means of deception. Since then princes are praised for their craftiness, this is the reason why the Prophet here takes away, as it were by force, the mask, under which they hide their base proceedings; “They are,” he says, “meretricious arts, and they are sorceries and juggleries.”
It is of one city, it is true, that he speaks here; but the Prophet no doubt describes in this striking representation how kingdoms increase and by what crafty means, — first, by robberies, — and then by artful dealings, such as would by no means become honest men in the middle class of life. But princes could never succeed, except they practiced such artifices. We yet see how they are described here by the Spirit of God, — that they are like strumpets given to juggleries, and to other base and filthy arts, which he calls whoredoms. But I have said, that the meaning of the Prophet can be more clearly elicited from the second clause of the verse, when he says that the Ninevites made a merchandise of the nations. We see indeed even at this day that princes disturb the whole world at their pleasure; for they deliver up innocent people to one another, and shamefully sell them, while each hunts after his own advantage, without any shame; that he may increase his own power, he will deliver others into the hand of an enemy. Since then there are crafty proceedings of this kind carried on too much at this day, there is no need that I should attempt to explain at any length the meaning of the Prophet. I wish that examples were to be sought at a distance. Let us proceed —
The Prophet confirms here what he has said of the fall of Nineveh; but, as it was stated yesterday, he introduces God as the speaker, that his address might be more powerful. God then testifies here to the Assyrians, that they should have no strife or contention with any mortal being, but with their own judgment; as though he said, “There is no reason for thee to compare thy forces with those of the Chaldeans; but think of this — that I am the punisher of thy crimes. The Chaldeans indeed shall come; chariots shall make a noise and horses shall leap, and horsemen shall shake the earth; they shall brandish the flaming swords, and their spears shall be like lightning; but there is no reason for thee to think that the Chaldeans will, of themselves, break in upon thee: for I guide them by my hidden providence, as it is my purpose to destroy thee; and now the time is come when I shall execute on thee my judgment.”
I am, he says, Jehovah of hosts. The epithet צבאות tsabaut, must be referred to the circumstance of this passage; for God declares here his own power, that the Assyrians might not think that they could by any means escape. He then adds, I will disclose thy extremities on thy face He alludes to the similitude which we have lately observed; for harlots appear very fine, and affect neatness and elegance in their dress; they not only put on costly apparel, but also add disguises. Though then this fine dress conceals the baseness of strumpets, yet, were any to take the clothes of a harlot and throw them over her head, all her beauty would disappear, and all men would abhor the sight: to see her concealed parts disclosed would be a base and filthy spectacle. So God declares that he would strip Nineveh of its magnificent dress, that she might be a detestable sight, only exhibiting her own reproach. We now then apprehend the Prophet’s meaning; as though he said, “Nineveh thinks not that she is to perish. — How so? Because her own splendor blinds her: and she has willfully deceived herself, and, by her deceits, has dazzled the eyes of all nations. As then this splendor seems to be a defense to the city Nineveh, I the Lord, he says, will disclose her hidden parts; I will deprive the Assyrians of all this splendor in which they now glory, and which is in high esteem and admiration among other nations.”
And this passage ought to be especially noticed; for, as I have said, true dignity is not to be found in the highest princes. Princes ought, indeed, to seek respect for themselves by justice, integrity, mercy, and a magnanimous spirit: but they only excel in mean artifices; then they shamelessly deceive, lie, and swear falsely; they also flatter, even meanly, when circumstances require; they insinuate themselves by various crafty means, and by large promises decoy the simple. Since then their true dignity is not commonly regarded by princes, this passage ought to be observed, so that we may know that their elevation, which captivates the minds of men, is an abomination before God; for they do not discern things, but are blind, being dazzled by empty splendor.
Disclose, then, he says, will I thy shame He says first, Disclose will I thy fringes on thy face; and then I will show to the nations thy nakedness And the nakedness of great kings is shown to the nations when the Lord executes his vengeance: for then even the lowest of the low will dare to pass judgment, — “He deserved to perish with shame, for he exercised tyranny on his own subjects, and spared not his own neighbors; he never was a good prince; nay, he only employed deceits and perjuries.” When, therefore princes are cast down, every one, however low, becomes a judge, and ascends as it were, the tribunal to burden and load them with reproaches. And hence the Prophet says, in the person of God, Disclose will I thy fringes on thy face, and will show to the nations thy nakedness, and to kingdoms thy filthiness.
He afterwards adds, I will besprinkle thee with filth, or defilements. The Prophet still alludes to the similitude of a harlot, who is well and sumptuously adorned, and by her charms captivates the eyes of all: but when any one takes mire and filth from the middle of the road, and bespatters her with it, there is then no one who will not turn away his eyes from so filthy an object. But we have already explained the import of this. God is indeed said to besprinkle kingdoms with defilements, when he casts them down; for they all begin freely to express their opinion: and those who before pretended great admiration, now rise up and bring forth many reproachful things. Then it is, that the Lord is said to besprinkle great kingdoms with filth and defilements.
He then adds, I will disgrace thee נבל, nubel, is to fall, and it is applied to dead bodies; but it means also to disgrace, as it is to be taken here. I will make thee as the dung Some think רואי, ruai, to be dung, or something fetid: but as it comes from ראה, rae, to see, and is in many parts of Scripture taken for vision or view, they are more correct, in my judgment, who render it thus, I will make thee an example; so Jerome renders it; as though he said, “Thou shalt be a spectacle to all nations.” 241 And Nineveh is said to be made an example, because its ruin was more memorable than that of any other which had previously happened. Thou shalt then be a spectacle; that is, the calamity which I now denounce shall attract the observation of all. It afterwards follows —
When he says, כל-ראיך, cal-raik, ‘whosoever sees thee,’ we hence learn again that רואי, ruai, at the end of the last verse, is to be taken for example or spectacle; for the Prophet proceeds with the same subject: I will make thee, he says, an example, or a spectacle. — For what purpose? that whosoever sees thee may depart from thee 242 And it was an evidence of horror, though some think it to have been a reward for her cruelty, that no one came to Nineveh, but that she was forsaken by all friends in her desolation. And they take in the same sense what follows, Who will condole with her? and whence shall I seek comforters for thee? For they think that the Ninevites are here reproached for their cruelty, because they made themselves so hated by all that they were unworthy of sympathy; for they spared none, they allowed themselves full liberty in injuring others, they had gained the hatred of all the world. Hence some think that what is here intimated is, that the Ninevites were justly detested by and so that no one condoled with them in so great a calamity, inasmuch as they had been injurious to all: “It shall then happen, that whosoever sees thee shall go far away from thee and shall say, Wasted is Nineveh; who will condole with her? Whence shall I call comforters to her?”
But I know not whether this refined meaning came into the Prophet’s mind. We may explain the words more simply, that all would flee far away as a proof of their horrors and that the calamity would be such, that no lamentation would correspond with it. Who will be able to console with her? that is, were the greatness of her calamity duly weighed, though all were to weep and utter their meanings, it would not yet be sufficient: all lamentations would be far unequal to so great a calamity. The Prophet seems rather to mean this. Who then shall condole with her? and whence shall I seek comforters, as though he said, “The ruin of so splendid a city will not be of an ordinary kind, but what cannot be equaled by any lamentations.” It then follows —
The Prophet, in order to gain credit to his prophecy, produces here the ensample of Alexandria. It is indeed certain, from many testimonies of Scripture, that Alexandria is called No, which was a very ancient city, situated on the confines of Africa, and yet in Egypt. It might, at the same time, be, that the Alexandrians formerly had their own government, at least their own kings: and this is probable; for the Prophet says here, that Egypt and Ethiopia, as well as Africa and the Libyan nations, were the confederates of this city. It may hence then be concluded, that Alexandria was not then a part of Egypt, but had its own government, and was in alliance with the Egyptians, as with the other nations. But as Egypt, after the death of our Prophet, was in part overthrown by the Assyrians, and in part by the Chaldeans, some interpreters think, that the Prophet speaks of a ruin which had not yet taken place. 243 But this would not harmonize with his design; for the Prophet shows here, as in a mirror, that the chief empires fall according to the will of God, and that cities, the richest and the best fortified, come to nothing, whenever it pleases God. Unless, then, the destruction of Alexandria was notorious and everywhere known, the Prophet could not have suitably adduced this example: I therefore doubt not but that Alexandria had been then demolished. It is no matter of wonder that it afterwards returned to its former state and became rich; for the situation of the city was most commodious, not so much on account of the fertility of the land, as on account of its traffic; for ships from the Mediterranean sailed up near to it. It had, indeed, on one side, the lake Marcotis, which is not very healthy; and then the sea fortified it; and Pharos was a neighboring island: but yet the city was inhabited by many, and adorned with splendid buildings; for the advantage of traffic drew together inhabitants from all quarters. It was afterwards built again by Alexander of Macedon. But it is evident enough that it had been already an opulent city: for Alexander did not build a new city but enlarged it. 244 Let us now come to the words of the Prophet.
Shall it be better to thee than to Alexandria? The word אמון, amun, some render populous; and I am inclined to adopt this meaning, which has been received nearly by the consent of all. Others have supposed it to be the name of a king; but as proof fails them, I leave to themselves their own conjecture. Shall it then be better to thee than to Alexandria? For it stood, he says, between the rivers Alexandria had the Nile, as it were, under its own power; for it was then divided into many parts, so that it intersected the city in various places. So then he says, that Alexandria dwelt between the rivers; for it divided the Nile, as it suited its convenience, into several streams.
Then he says, The sea was around her: for it was surrounded on one side by the sea, and protected by the island Pharos, which had a tower, not only for the sake of defense, but that ships coming in from the Mediterranean, might have a signal, by which they might direct their course straight to the harbor. The sea then was around her; for the sea encircled more than half of the city; and then the lake Mareotis was on the other side to the south. He afterwards adds, And its wall or moat was the sea The word is written with י, iod, חיל, chil; but it means a wall or a moat, though Latins render antemurale — a front-work: for they were wont formerly to fortify their cities with a double wall, as old buildings still show. According to these interpreters חיל, chil, is the inner wall, and so they render its front-work: and there was also an outer wall towards the sea. But we may take חיל, chil, for a moat or a trench; and it is easy to find from other passages that it was a trench rather than a front-work. It is said that the body of Jezebel was torn by dogs in the trench, and the word there is חיל, chil. As to the object of the Prophet, he evidently intended to show, that Alexandria was so well fortified, that Nineveh had no reason to think herself to be in a safer state; for its fortress was from the sea, and also from Ethiopia, on account of the munitions which he has mentioned. Then he speaks of Africa and Egypt, and the Libyan nations, 245 and says in short, that there was no end of her strength; that is, that she could seek the help of many friends and confederates: many were ready to bring aid, even Africa, Ethiopia, and the Lybians.
Yet, he says, she departed into captivity a captive; that is, the inhabitants of Alexandria have been banished, and the city become as it were captive, for its inhabitants were driven here and there. Dashed, he says, have been their little ones at the head of every street The Prophet means, that so great a power as that of Alexandria did not prevent the conquerors to exercise towards her the most barbarous cruelty; for it was a savage act to dash little children against stones, who ought on account of their tender age, to have been spared. There was indeed no reason for raging against them, for they could not have been deemed enemies. But yet the Prophet says that Alexandria had been thus treated; and he said this, that Nineveh might not trust in her strength, and thus perversely despise God’s judgment, which he now denounced on it. He adds, They cast lots on her princess and bound were her great men with fetters In saying that lots were cast, he refers to an ancient custom; for when there was any dispute respecting a captive, the lot was cast: as for instance, when two had taken one man, to prevent contention, it was by lot determined who was to be his master. So then he says that lots were cast on their princes. This usually happened to the common people and to the lowest slaves; but the Prophet says that the conquerors spared not even the princes. They were therefore treated as the lowest class; and though they were great princes, they were led into captivity and bound with chains, in the same manner with the meanest and the lowest of the people. They were not treated according to their rank; and there was no differences between the chief men and the most degraded of the humbler classes; for even the very princes were so brought down, that their lot differed not from that of the wretched; for as common people are usually treated with contempt, so were the chiefs of Alexandria treated by their enemies.
Nahum, after having adduced the example of Alexandria, now shows that nothing would be able to resist God, so that he should not deal with Nineveh in the same manner; and he declares that this would be the case, Thou also, he says, shalt be inebriated. Well known is this metaphor, which often occurs in Scripture: for the Prophets are wont frequently to call punishment a cup, which God administers. But when God executes a heavy punishment, he is said to inebriate the wicked with his cup. The Prophet says now, that the chastisement of Nineveh would make her like a drunken man, who, being overcome with wine, lies down, as it were, stupefied. Hence by this metaphor he intended to set forth a most severe punishment: Thou then shalt be also inebriated The particle גם, gam, is here emphatical; it was introduced, that the Ninevites might know, that they could not possibly escape the punishment which they deserved; for God continues ever like himself. Thou then shalt be also inebriated This would not be consistent, were not God the judge of the world to the end. There is then a common reason for this proceeding; hence it necessarily follows, — since God punished the Alexandrians, the Assyrians cannot escape his hand, and be exempt from punishment.
He adds, Thou shalt be hidden Some refer this to shame, as though the Prophet had said, — “Thou indeed showest thyself now to be very proud, but calamity will force thee to seek hiding-places, in which to conceal thyself.” But I am more inclined to this meaning, — that Nineveh would vanish away, as though it never had been; for to be hidden is often taken in Hebrew in the sense of being reduced to nothing.
He afterwards says, Thou shalt also seek strength, or supplies, from the enemy. The words מעוז מאויב, meouz meavib, may admit of two meanings, — either that she will humbly solicit her enemies, — or that on account of her enemies she will flee to some foreign aid; for the preposition מ, mem, may be taken in both senses. If we adopt the first meaning, then I think that the Prophet speaks not of the Babylonians, but of the other nations who had been before harassed by the Assyrians. Thou shalt now then humbly pray for the aid of those who have been hitherto thine enemies, — not because they had provoked thee, but because thou hast as an enemy treated them. Now it is an extreme misery, when we are constrained to seek the help of those by whom we are hated, and hated, because we have by wrongs provoked them. But the other sense is more approved, for it is less strained: Thou shalt also seek aids on account of the enemy; that is, as strength to resist will fail thee, thou wilt seek assistance from thy neighbors. 246 It follows —
The Prophet here declares that the strongholds of the Assyrians would avail them nothing; whether they trusted in the number of their men, or in their walls, or in other defenses, they would be disappointed; for all things, he says, will of themselves fall, even without being much assailed. And he employs a very apposite similitude, “Thy fortifications,” he says, “which thou thinkest to be very strong, shall be like figs; for when the fruit is ripe, and any comes to the tree, as soon as he touches it or any of the branches, the figs will fall off themselves.” We indeed know that there is not much firmness in that fruit; when it is ripe, it immediately falls to the ground, or if it hangs on the branches, a very little shaking will bring it down. We now see the design of the Prophet.
And hence an useful doctrine may be deduced: whatever strength men may seek for themselves from different quarters, it will wholly vanish away; for neither forts, nor towers, nor ramparts, nor troops of men, nor any kind of contrivances, will avail any thing; and were there no one to rise against them, they would yet fall of themselves. It afterwards follows —
The Prophet declares here, that the hearts of them all would become soft and effeminate when God would proceed to destroy Nineveh. We have said before that the hearts of men are so in the hand of God, that he melts whatever courage there may be in them, whenever he pleases: and God prepares men for ruin, when he debilitates their hearts, that they cannot bear the sight of their enemies. God indeed can leave in men their perverseness, so that they may ever run furiously into ruin, and not be able, with a courageous heart, to repel the attacks of their enemies; but he often softens their hearts and deprives them of power, that he may make more evident his judgment: God does not, however, always work in the same way; for variety in his judgments is calculated to do us good, for thereby our minds are more powerfully awakened. Were his proceedings uniformly the same, we could not so well distinguish the hand of God, as when he acts now in this way, and then in another. But, as I have already said, it is what is well known, that God enervates men and strips them of all courage, when he gives them over to destruction.
So now the Prophet speaks of the Ninevites, Behold, he says, thy people are women 247 The demonstrative particle, Behold, is here emphatical: for the Assyrians, no doubt, ridiculed, as a fable, the prediction of the Prophet; and it was what the Israelites found it difficult to believe. This is the reason why the Prophet pointed out, as by the finger, what surpassed the comprehensions of men. By saying, in the midst of thee, he intimates, that though they should be separated from their enemies and dwell in a fortified city, they should yet be filled with trembling. This amplification deserves to be noticed: for it is nothing wonderful, when an onset frightens us, when enemies join battle with us, and when many things present themselves before our eyes, which are calculated to deprive us of courage; but when we are frightened by report only concerning our enemies, and we become fainthearted, though walls be between us, it then appears evident, that we are smitten by the hand of God; for when we see walls of stone, and yet our hearts become brittle like glass, is it not evident, that we are inwardly terrified by the Lord, as it were, through some hidden influence, rather than through intervening and natural causes? We now then perceive the Prophet’s meaning, when he says, that the people would become women, or effeminate, in the midst of the city, in its very bowels; as though he had said, that they would not cease to tremble, even while they were dwelling in a safe place.
By opening, opened shall be thy gates, he says, to thy enemies. He shows again, that though the Assyrians were fortified, every access would be made open to their enemies, as though there was no fortress. By saying, the gates of thy land, it is probable that he speaks not only of the city, but of all their strongholds. The Assyrians, no doubt, fortified many cities, in order to keep afar off the enemy, and to preserve the chief seat of the empire free from danger and fear. I therefore understand the Prophet as referring here to many cities, when he says, By opening, opened shall be the gates of thy land to thine enemies and fire shall consume thy bars He means, that though they had before carefully fortified the whole land around, so that they thought themselves secure from all hostile invasion, yet all this would be useless; for the fire would consume all their bars. By fire, the Prophet understands metaphorically the judgment of God. For as we see that so great is the vehemence of fire, that it melts iron and brass, so the Prophet means, that there would be no strength which could defend Nineveh and its empire against the hand of God. It follows —
The Prophet goes on with the same subject, — that the Ninevites would labor in vain, while striving anxiously and with every effort to defend themselves against their enemies. The meaning then is, “That though thou remittest no diligence, yet thou shalt lose all thy labor; for thou wilt not be able to resist the vengeance of God; and thou deceives thyself if thou thinkest that by the usual means thou canst aid thyself; for it is God who attacks thee by the Babylonians. How much soever then thou mayest accumulate of those things which are usually employed to fortify cities, all this will be useless.” Draw for thyself, he says, waters for the siege; that is, lay up provisions for thyself, as it is usually done, and have water laid up in cisterns; strengthen thy fortresses, that is, renew them; enter into the clay for the sake of treading the mortar: fortify, or cement, or join together; the brick-kiln (for what some think that חזק, chezek, means, here is to hold, or to lay hold, is wholly foreign to the Prophet’s meaning:) to fortify then the brick- kiln, that is, the bricks which come forth from the kiln, nothing else than to construct and join them together, that there might be a solid building: for we know that buildings often fall, or are overturned, because they are not well joined together: and he refers to the mode of building which historians say was in use among the Assyrians. For as that country had no abundance of stones, they supplied the defect by bricks. We now then understand the intention of the Prophet.
But he adds, There shall the fire consume thee There is much importance in the adverb of place, there, which he uses: there also, he says, shall the fire eat thee up: for he expresses more than before, when he said, that the Assyrians would weary themselves in vain in fortifying their city and their empire; for he says now, that the Lord would turn to their destruction those things in which they trusted as their defenses; There then shall the fire consume thee We now then see what the Prophet means.
We must at the same time observe, that he mentions water; as though he said, However sparingly and frugally thy soldiers may live, being content with water as their drink, (for it is necessary, when we would firmly resist enemies, to undergo all indulgences, and if needs be to endure want, at least the want of delicate meat and drink,) — though thy soldiers be content with water, and seek not water fresh from the spring or the river, but drink it from cisterns, and though thy fortresses be repaired, and thy walls carefully joined together in a solid structure, by bricks well fitted and fastened, yet there shall the fire consume thee; that is, thy frugality, exertion, and care, not only will avail thee nothing, but will also turn out to thy ruin; for the Lord pronounces accursed the arrogance of men, when they trust in their own resources.
He afterwards adds, Exterminate thee shall the sword; that is, the Lord will find out various means by which he will consume thee. By the fire, then, and by the sword, will he waste and destroy thee. He then says, He will consume thee as the chafer we may read the last word in the nominative as well as in the objective case — He as a chafer will consume thee. If we approve of this rendering, then the meaning would be, — “As chafers in a short time devour a meadow or standing corn, so thy enemies shall soon devour thee as with one mouthful.” We indeed know, that these little animals are so hurtful, that they will very soon eat up and consume all the fruit; and there is in these insects an astonishing voracity. But as the Prophet afterwards compares the Assyrians to chafers and locusts, another sense would be more suitable, and that is, — that God’s judgment would consume the Assyrians, as when rain, or a storm, or a change of season, consumes the chafers; for as these insects are very hurtful, so the Lord also exterminates them whenever he pleases. 248 He afterwards adds, to be multiplied; which is, as I have said, a verb in the infinitive mood. But the sentence of the Prophet is this, by multiplying as the chafer, to multiply as the locusts: but why he speaks thus, may be better understood from the context; the two following verses must be therefore added —
From these words we may learn what the Prophet before meant, when he said that the Assyrians were like locusts or chafers; as though he said, — “I know that you trust in your great number; for ye are like a swarm of chafers or locusts; ye excel greatly in number; inasmuch as you have assembled your merchants and traders as the stars of heaven.” Here he shows how numerous they were. But when he says, The chafer has spoiled, and flies away, he points out another reason for the comparison; for it is not enough to lay hold on one clause of the verse, but the two clauses must be connected; and they mean this, — that the Assyrians, while they were almost innumerable, gloried in their great number, — and also, that this vast multitude would vanish away. He then makes an admission here and says, by multiplying thy merchants, thou hast multiplied them; but when he says, as chafers and as locusts, he shows that this multitude would not continue, for the Lord would scatter them here and there. As then the scattering was nigh, the Prophet says that they were chafers and locusts.
We now understand the design of the Prophet: He first ridicules the foolish confidence with which the Assyrians were inflated. They thought, that as they ruled over many nations, they could raise great armies, and set them in any quarter to oppose any one who might attack them: the Prophet concedes this to them, that is, that they were very numerous, by multiplying thou hast multiplied; but what will this avail them? They shall be locusts, they shall be chafers. — How so? A fuller explanation follows, Thou hast multiplied thy merchants as the stars of heaven: but this shall be temporary; for thou shalt see them vanishing away very soon; they shall be like the chafers, who, being in a moment scattered here and there, quit the naked field or the meadow. But by merchants or traders some understand confederates; and this comparison also, as we have before seen, frequently occurs in the Prophets: and princes at this day differ nothing from traders, for they outbid one another, and excel in similar artifices, as we have elsewhere seen, by which they carry on a system of mutual deception. This comparison then may be suitable, Thou hast multiplied thy traders, — tes practiciens. But the meaning of the Prophet may be viewed as still wider; we may apply this to the citizens of Nineveh; for the principal men no doubt were merchants: as the Venetian of the present day are all merchants, so were the Syrians, and the Ninevites, and also the Babylonians. It is then nothing strange, that the Prophet, by taking a part for the whole should include under this term all the rich, Thou hast then multiplied thy merchants
He has hitherto allowed them to be very numerous; but he now adds, The chafer has spoiled, and flies away The verb means sometimes to spoil, and it means also to devour: The chafer then has devoured, and flies away; that is, “Thy princes, (as he afterwards calls them,) or thy principal men, have indeed devoured; they have wasted many regions by their plunders, and consumed all things on every side, like the chafers, who destroy the standing corn and all fruits: thou hast then been as a swarm of chafers.” For as chafers in great numbers attack a field, so Nineveh was wont to send everywhere her merchants to spoil and to denude the whole land. “Well,” he says “the chafer has devoured, but he flies away, he is scattered; so it shall happen,” says the Prophet, “to the citizens of Nineveh.” And hence he afterwards adds,
And thy princes are as locusts: this refers to the wicked doings, by which they laid waste almost the whole earth. As then the locusts and chafers, wherever they come, consume every kind of food, devour all the fields, leave nothing, and the whole land becomes a waste; so also have been thy princes; they have been as locusts and thy leaders as the locusts of locusts, that is, as very great locusts; for this form, we know, expresses the superlative degree in Hebrew. Their leaders were then like the most voracious locusts for the whole land was made barren by them, as nothing was capable of satisfying their avarice and voracity.
The Prophet then adds, They are locusts, who dwell in the mounds during the time of cold; but when the sun rises, not known any more is their place He now shows, that it would not be perpetual, that the Ninevites would thus devour the whole earth, and that all countries would be exposed to their voracity; for as the locusts, he says, hide themselves in caverns, and afterwards fly away, so it shall happen to thy princes. But this passage may be taken to mean, — that the Ninevites concealed themselves in their hiding-places during the winter, and that when the suitable time for plundering came, they retook themselves in different directions, and took possession of various regions, and brought home plunder from the remotest parts. This meaning may be elicited from the words of the Prophet; and the different clauses would thus fitly coalesce together, that when the Ninevites left their nests, they dispersed and migrated in all directions. I do not at the same time disapprove of the former meaning: they are then like locusts, who lodge in mounds during the time of cold; but when the sun rises, — that is, when the season invites them, (for he speaks not of the winter sun,) but when the heat of the sun prevails and temperate the air, — then, he says, the locusts go forth and fly away, and known no more is their place He means, in short, that the Ninevites plundered, and that they did so after the manner of locusts; and that a similar end also was nigh them; for the Lord would destroy them, yea, suddenly consume them, so that no trace of them could be found. It follows —
He confirms the preceding verse, and says that there would be no counsel nor wisdom in the leading men: for the shepherds of the king of Assyria were his counselors, in whose wisdom he trusted, as we know that kings usually depend on their counselors: for they think that there is in them prudence enough, and therefore they commit to them the care of the whole people. But the Prophet ridicules the confidence of the king of Assyria, because the shepherds would not have so much vigilance as to take care of themselves, and of the people, and of the whole kingdom. He speaks in the past tense, either to show the certainty of the prediction, or because the change of tenses is common in Hebrew. Lie still, he says, shall thy mighty men; that is, they shall remain idle; they shall not be able to sally out against their enemies, to stop their progress. They shall then lie still: and then he says, Scattered are thy people פוש, push, is not to scatter; hence I doubt not, but that there is a change of letter, that ש, schin, is put for ץ, tzaddi; and I am surprised that some derive the verb from פוש, push, when, on the contrary, it is from פוף, puts, and the change of these two letters is common in Hebrew. Thy people then are dispersed on the mountains and there is no one to assemble them.
By these words the Prophet means, that such would be the scattering of the whole kingdom, that there would be no hope of restoration; There will then be none to assemble them He had said before that the chiefs or mighty men would be still. Though it would be needful to go forth to check the progress of their enemies; yet he says, They shall idly lie down: He refers here to their sloth. But the people who ought to be quiet at home, as being weak and feeble, shall be dispersed on the mountains, and no one will be there to gather them It follows —
The Prophet shows here more clearly, that when the empire of Nineveh should be scattered, it would be an incurable evil, that every hope of a remedy would be taken away. Though the wicked cannot escape calamity, yet they harbor false expectations, and think that they can in a short time gather new strength. Hence, in order to take from them this hope, the Prophet says, that there would be no contraction of the fracture. And this is a striking similitude; for he compares the ruin of Nineveh to a wound which cannot be seamed and healed. There is then no contraction; some render it, a wrinkle, but improperly. There is then no contraction: and he adds, Thy stroke is full of pain; that is, the pain of thy stroke cannot be allayed. This is one thing, — that the ruin of Nineveh would be irreparable.
Then he says, Whosoever shall hear the report, shall strike the hand on thy account Many give this rendering, They shall clap the hand over thee, or with the hands; and they think that the singular is put for the plural number. But as in Hebrew to strike the hand is a token of consent, it would not be unsuitable to say, that the Prophet means, that wherever the report of this calamity would be heard, all would express their approbation, “See, God has at length proved himself to be the just avenger of so much wickedness.” To strike the hand is said to be done by those who make an agreements or when any one pledges himself for another. As then in giving pledges, and in other compacts, men are said to strike the hand; so also all shall thus give their assent to God’s judgment in this case, “O how rightly is this done! O how justly has God punished these tyrants, these plunderers.” They will then strike the hand on thy account; that is, “This thy ruin will be approved;” as though he said, “Not only before God art thou, Nineveh, accursed, but also according to the consent of all nations.” And thus he intimates, that Nineveh would perish in the greatest dishonor and disgrace. It sometimes happens that an empire falls, and all bewail the event: but God here declares, that he would not be satisfied with the simple destruction of the city Nineveh without adding to it a public infamy, so that all might acknowledge that it happened through his righteous judgment.
He afterwards adds, For upon whom has not thy wickedness passed continually? This is a confirmation of the last clause; and this reason will suit both the views which have been given. If we take the striking of the hand for approbation, this reason will be suitable. — How? For all nations will rejoice at thy destruction, because there is no nation which thou hast not in many ways injured. So also, in token of their joy, all will congratulate themselves, as though they were made free; or they will clap their hands, that is, acknowledge that thou hast been destroyed by the judgment of God, because all had experienced how unjustly and tyrannically thou hast ruled. As then thy wickedness has been like a deluge, and hast nearly consumed all the earth, all will clap or shake their hands at thy ruin.
And he says, continually, to show that God’s forbearance had been long exercised. Hence, also, it appears, that the Assyrians were inexcusable, because, when God indulgently spared them, they did not repent, but pursued their wicked ways for a long course of time. As then to their sinful licentiousness they added perverseness, every excuse was removed. But the Prophet does, at the same time, remind the Israelites, that there was no reason for them to be cast down in their minds, because God did not immediately execute punishment; for by the word תמיד, tamid, he insinuates, that God would so suspend for a time his judgment as to Nineveh, that his forbearance and delay might be an evidence of his goodness and mercy. We hence see that the Prophet here opposes the ardor of men, for they immediately grow angry or complain when God delays to execute vengeance on their enemies.
He shows that God has a just reason for not visiting the wicked with immediate punishment; but yet the time will come when it shall appear that they are altogether past recovery, — the time, I say, will come, when the Lord shall at length put forth his hand and execute his judgment.Calvin's Bible Commentaries: Jonah, Micah, Nahum: (Forgotten Books)
The Reformation Isn’t Over
By James White 3/01/2014
“You do not want to end up on the wrong side of history.” This platitude has been granted prognostic status in our day, though one could properly question its fundamental truthfulness. It reflects, however, the prevailing attitude of Western culture, a pragmatism that enshrines in the judgment of “history” (whatever that means in this context) the final arbiter of morality, goodness, and worth. Often this phrase is being urged upon the church to “move on” from opposing homosexuality or the redefinition of marriage.
But this adage also captures the general attitude of a large portion of the population on both sides of the Tiber River to the Reformation and the continuing battle over the issues that gave it birth. Isn’t it time to just move on? Can’t we lay aside our differences for a greater good? Aren’t we a small enough minority now in the midst of a tsunami of secularism and the rising tide of Islam? Shouldn’t we be looking for unity, not for more reasons to remain separate? That was what I heard in seminary.
We dare not dismiss the weight that these rhetorical questions carry with many within our congregations, and even among the clergy. At the same time, we must recognize the responsibility that is ours as heirs of the great struggle that was the Reformation. Can we betray those who came before us? What would such a betrayal involve? Are we really willing to assert that the great and momentous beliefs they fought for are no longer as important as we once thought?
The election of a new bishop of Rome in 2013 shed new light on the state of these questions in the minds of many who profess to be “evangelicals” and “biblical” in their faith and orientation. One well-known evangelical leader communicated with his followers electronically that we should be praying that God would “guide” the process of the selection of a new pope. In most venues, the objection that there is nothing remotely biblical about a “supreme pontiff” who is to be venerated as the “vicar of Christ on earth” or the “holy father” found little expression outside of those whose strongest feelings on the matter are borne of prejudice rather than conviction. And once the selection was made, many in the evangelical camp expressed pleasure at the selection, if for no other reason than Francis I has seemed significantly more, well, human — or at least less imperial — than Benedict XVI.
But very little of the public response was prompted by a passionate commitment to, say, the solas of the Reformation, or a knowledgeable, informed rejection of Rome’s soteriology over against a deep-seated love of the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone.
Should the Reformation continue to hold a place of importance in the church that faces such immense opposition as that coming from radical, gospel-hating secularism? Wouldn’t a united front, free from partisan bickering, help the cause of Christ? The answer has to be, “Of course the Reformation remains important, and, in fact, its work must continue in our day, and into the future as well.”
The reason is not hard to see, even if it seems hidden to many in our day. Wonderfully nebulous catchphrases like “the cause of Christ” often hide the truth: the cause of Christ is the glorification of the triune God through the redemption of a particular people through the cross-work of Jesus Christ, which is a rather Puritan way of saying, “The cause of Christ is the gospel.” Each of the emphases of the Reformation, summed up in the solas, is focused upon protecting the integrity and identity of the gospel itself. Without the inspiration, authority, harmony, and sufficiency of Scripture, we do not know the gospel (sola Scriptura). Without the freedom of grace and the fullness of the provision of the work of Christ, we have no saving message (sola fide). And so on.
The Reformation fought a battle that each and every generation is called to fight simply because each and every generation is made up of the fallen sons and daughters of Adam, and hence there will always be those who seek to detract from the singular glory of God in the gospel through the addition of man’s authority, man’s merit, man’s sovereignty. Is this not the meaning of semper reformanda, the church always reforming, always seeking to hear more clearly, walk more closely, to her Lord?
With the ebb and flow of human history, the forces arrayed against the church and her Lord and the particular front upon which the battle rages hottest will change. Rome’s theology has evolved and her arguments have been modified, but the issues remain very much what they were when Luther and Eck battled at Leipzig, only modified and complicated. God’s kingship, man’s depravity and enslavement to sin, and the insatiable desire of sinners to control the grace of God will always be present. And today, the sufficiency, clarity, and authority of Scripture are at the forefront, just as they were then. The need for the Reformation will end when the church no longer faces foes inside and out who seek to distort her purpose, her mission, her message, and her authority. Till then, semper reformanda.
James White Books:
- The Forgotten Trinity
- The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust Modern Translations?
- Grieving: Your Path Back to Peace (Crisis Points)
- What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur'an
- The Potter's Freedom: A Defense of the Reformation and the Rebuttal of Norman Geisler's Chosen But Free
- Is the Mormon My Brother?
- Scripture Alone: Exploring the Bible's Accuracy, Authority and Authenticity
- The Roman Catholic Controversy
- Letters to a Mormon Elder
- The God Who Justifies
- The Sovereign Grace of God
- Drawn By the Father
- Pulpit Crimes: The Criminal Mishandling of God's Word
- Justification by Faith
- The Same Sex Controversy: Defending and Clarifying the Bible's Message About Homosexuality
- Answers to Catholic Claims: A Discussion of Biblical Authority
- The Fatal Flaw: Do the teachings of Roman Catholicism Deny the Gospel?
- Debating Calvinism: Five Points, Two Views
- Mary-Another Redeemer?
- What's With the Mutant in the Microscope: Stuff to Know When Science Says Your Uncle Is a Monkey
- What's With the Dudes at the Door?
- From Toronto to Emmaus: The Empty Tomb and the Journey from Skepticism to Faith
- Answers to Catholic Claims: A Discussion of Biblical Authority
- God's Sovereign Grace
Preach the Word
By Jon Payne 4/01/2014
In the original Table Talk, a collection of informal theological conversations at Martin Luther’s dinner table, the German Reformer gave the following advice to a young minister: “When you are to preach, speak with God and say, ‘Dear Lord God, I wish to preach in Thine honor. I wish to speak about Thee, glorify Thee, [and] praise Thy name. Although I can’t do this well of myself, I pray that Thou mayest make it good.’”
This simple prayer provides a tiny glimpse into Luther’s theology of preaching. More importantly, it underscores to pastors in every age that faithful preaching must be about God, for the glory of God, and in utter dependence upon God.
First, the content of our preaching must be centered on the nature and works of God (2 Cor. 4:5–6). Evangelical preaching today can often be shallow, therapeutic, and man-centered. It commonly lacks theological substance and gravitas. Personal stories and amusing anecdotes crowd the sermon, leaving God as an afterthought. The gospel, the grand theme of Scripture, is vague at best.
Biblical preaching, however, always and unmistakably makes the triune God and His marvelous works of creation, providence, and redemption the main subject matter. God is the main subject of the Bible, and thus should be the central focus of our preaching. Why is Peter’s Pentecost sermon, for example, so powerful and memorable (Acts 2:14–41)? Why were so many who heard it “cut to the heart” with Spirit-wrought conviction? It is because Peter’s sermon boldly and skillfully directed the people’s attention to almighty God, His Word, and the fulfillment of His redemptive purposes in Christ. Moreover, it is in light of God’s mighty acts of judgment and salvation that the Apostle clearly communicated the need for sinners to turn from their rebellious ways and receive Christ for the forgiveness of sins.
The Apostle Paul exhorted Timothy (and all lawfully ordained ministers) to “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:2). If ministers faithfully carry out this biblical mandate, their preaching will be full of God—and nothing will stir the heart of the church unto faith and obedience like a weekly view of God in the preaching of His life-transforming Word.
Second, the ultimate aim of our preaching must be the glory and praise of God. Strictly speaking, the preaching of the Word is not primarily for the salvation of sinners. Instead, preaching is first and foremost for the glory of God—a doxological event that magnifies our Lord’s sublime character and awesome deeds. Thomas Watson said, “God is superlative good … better than anything you can put in competition with him.” Shouldn’t the content of our preaching communicate this glorious reality?
We were created “to glorify God and enjoy him forever” (WSC Q&A 1; see Isa. 43:7). Biblical preaching, therefore, must underscore this foundational purpose, inspiring both preacher and hearer to joyfully “declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among the peoples! For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised” (Ps. 96:3–4a).
Third, preaching must be carried out in utter dependence upon God. Pastors should not rely upon their talents, intellect, or personality. Rather, from the study to the pulpit we must earnestly and humbly pray for a “demonstration of the Spirit and of power” in the preaching of the Word (1 Cor. 2:4b). Indeed, apart from the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit, law and gospel will fall on deaf ears and stony hearts. In the end, preaching will never be effectual unless God makes it so (Ezek. 37:1–14). There is no place for pride or self-reliance in either the preparation or the act of preaching. Apart from Christ and the life-giving Holy Spirit, we can do nothing (John 15:5b).
Preaching is a primary means of grace appointed by God to regenerate, sanctify, nourish, and comfort the souls of His elect in Christ (1 Cor. 1:21; 1 Peter 1:23–25). In confessional terms, it is
… an effectual means of enlightening, convincing, and humbling sinners; of driving them out of themselves, and drawing them unto Christ; of conforming them unto his image; and subduing them to his will; of strengthening them against temptations and corruptions; of building them up in grace; and establishing their hearts in holiness and comfort through faith unto salvation. (WLC Q&A 155)
No task, therefore, is of greater importance for the minister or the church than the faithful proclamation of the whole counsel of God (Acts 6:4; 20:27).
Even so, as a church planter, I experience the daily temptation to make sermon preparation and preaching a secondary matter. Of course, it is no different for pastors in established churches. Ministry is busy. Being mindful of this, let us, as ministers, renew our vow to faithfully “preach the Word.” Let us trust God’s promise to employ the foolishness of preaching for the advancement of his kingdom. And may we receive with humility the Wittenberg Reformer’s sage advice to pray that our preaching would be chiefly about God, to the glory and praise of God, and in prayerful dependence upon Him. “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:36).
Jon Payne Books:
- A Faith Worth Teaching: The Heidelberg Catechism's Enduring Heritage
- In The Splendor Of Holiness: Rediscovering the Beauty of Reformed Worship for the 21st Century
- Ephesians (Lectio Continua)
- Lectio Continua Commentary: Hebrews
- Lectio Continua: Galatians (Expository Commentary)
- Lectio Continua: First Corinthians (Expository Commentary)
- Revelation (Lectio Continua Expository Commentary on the New Testament)
- A Faith Worth Teaching: The Heidelberg Catechism's Enduring Heritage
- John Owen on the Lord's Supper
Why Theological Study Is for Everyone
By Jared Wilson 4/01/2014
Every Christian must be a theologian. In a variety of ways, this is something I tell my church often. And the looks I get from some surprised souls are the evidence that I have not yet adequately communicated that the purposeful theological study of God by lay people is important.
Many times the confused responses come from a misunderstanding of what is meant in this context by theology. So I tell my church what I don’t mean. When I say every Christian must be a theologian, I don’t mean that every Christian must be an academic or that every Christian must be a scholar or that every Christian must work hard at giving the impression of being a know-it-all. We all basically understand what is meant in the biblical warning that “knowledge puffs up” (1 Cor. 8:1). Nobody likes an egghead.
But the answer to formal scholasticism or dry intellectualism is not a neglect of theological study. Laypeople have no biblical warrant to leave the duty of doctrine up to pastors and professors alone. Therefore, I remind my church that theology — coming from the Greek words theos (God) and logos (word) — simply means “the knowledge (or study) of God.” If you’re a Christian, you must by definition know God. Christians are disciples of Jesus; they are student-followers of Jesus. The longer we follow Him, the more we learn about Him and, consequently, the more deeply we come to know Him.
There are at least three primary reasons why every Christian ought to be a theologian.
First, theological study of God is commanded. Having a mind lovingly dedicated to God is required most notably in the great commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37). Loving God with all of our minds certainly means more than theological study, but it certainly does not mean less than that.
Second, the theological study of God is vital to salvation. Now, of course, I do not mean that intellectual pursuit merits salvation. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone (Eph. 2:8) totally apart from any works of our own (Rom. 3:28), which includes any intellectual exertion. But at the same time, the faith by which we are justified, the faith that receives the completeness of Christ’s finished work and thus His perfect righteousness, is a reasonable faith. Faith may not be the same as rationality, but this does not mean that faith in God is irrational.
Saving faith is a gift from God (Eph. 2:8; Rom. 12:3), but it is not some amorphous, information-free spiritual vacuum. The exercise of faith is predicated on information—initially, the historical announcement of the good news of what Jesus has done—and the strengthening of faith is built on information, as well.
Our continued growth in the grace of God, our perseverance as saints, is vitally connected to our pursuit of the knowledge of God’s character and God’s works as revealed in God’s Word. Contrary to the way some idolaters of doubt would have you believe, the Christian faith is founded on facts. Hebrews 11:1 reminds us that for the Christian, faith is not some leap into the dark. Instead, it is inextricably connected to assurance and conviction. It stands to reason that the more theological facts we feast on in the Word, the more assurance and conviction — and thus the more faith — we will cultivate.
Paul tells his young protégé Timothy, “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:16). He is reminding Timothy that the sanctification resulting in continual discipleship to Christ necessarily includes intense study of God’s Word.
Third, the study of God authenticates and fuels worship. True Christians are not those who believe in some vague God nor trust in vague spiritual platitudes. True Christians are those who believe in the triune God of the holy Scriptures and have placed their trust by the real Spirit in the real Savior—Jesus—as proclaimed in the specific words of the historical gospel.
Knowing the right information about God is just one way we authenticate our Christianity. Intentionally or consistently err in the vital facts about God, and you jeopardize the veracity of your claim truly to know God. This is why we must pursue theological robustness not just in our pastor’s preaching but in our church’s music and in our church’s prayers, both corporate and private.
But theological study goes deeper than simply authenticating our worship as true and godly — it also fuels this worship. We must remember what Jesus explained to the Samaritan woman at the well:
True worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:23–24)
We are changed deeply in heart and, therefore, our behavior when we seek deeply after the things of God with our brains. The Bible says so: “Do not be conformed to this world,” Paul writes. “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2). The transformation begins with a renewing of our minds. As John Piper has said, “The theological mind exists to throw logs into the furnace of our affections for Christ.”
Purposeful theological study of God, as an expression of love for God, cannot help but deepen our love for God. The more we read, study, meditate on, and prayerfully apply the word of God, the more we will find ourselves in awe of Him. Like a great ship on the horizon, the closer we get, the larger He looms.
The Coming of the Kingdom part 36
By Dr. Andrew Woods 04/22/2015
We began scrutinizing New Testament texts that "kingdom now" theologians employ in an attempt to argue that the kingdom is a present reality in order to show that none of these passages teach a present form of the kingdom. We have examined the typical texts from the Gospels, Acts, Paul's letters, the general epistles, and Revelation that are typically used by "kingdom now" theologians. At this point, we largely find ourselves in agreement with the following statement by E.R. Craven. Concerning a present, spiritual establishment of the kingdom, Craven notes, "There is no critically undisputed passage in the Scriptures which declares, or necessarily implies, even a partial establishment in New Testament times."  We then began to take a look at some other miscellaneous arguments used by "kingdom now" theologians.
Argument From Silence
Since the biblical text itself fails to positively teach or convey the notion of a present spiritual establishment of the Messianic kingdom of God upon the earth, it is common for "kingdom now" theologians to appeal to an argument from silence. According to this line of thought, since the New Testament fails to mention or emphasize a future earthly kingdom, then the promise of a future terrestrial rule of Christ has somehow been cancelled. Since this promise of a future earthly reign of Christ is cancelled, due to this alleged silence, the Bible's kingdom promises are being fulfilled now in the present Church Age. In the last installment we observed that such thinking represents a logical fallacy known as an "argument from silence" where it is incorrectly assumed that silence on a matter is the same thing as a cancellation of it.
The New Testament's Reaffirmation Of The Land Promises
Furthermore, beyond using faulty logic, the "kingdom now" theologian is wrong in assuming that the New Testament is completely silent on the subject of the restoration of Israel's terrestrial kingdom promises. While not emphasizing this truth to the same degree as is found in the pages of the Old Testament, the New Testament still affirms this truth in several places. For example, Luke 21:24 says, "...Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled". The mere existence of the preposition "until" (achri) implies a time when Gentile dominion over Jerusalem will come to an end and Israel will be restored to her rightful place of rulership over the nations. Matthew 23:38-39 similarly says, "Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!'" Here, Christ speaks to the unbelieving first-century Jewish leadership. As in Luke 21:24, the conjunction "until" (heōs) again implies a time when the nation will pray Psalm 118:26 and consequently see Christ again leaving their house no longer in desolation ( Matt. 24:31; 25:31 ). Christ's promise in Matthew 19:28 also reaffirms the future land promises: "Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." This verse teaches that the resurrected apostles will reign over Israel's twelve tribes. Just as each tribe was allotted land in Old Testament times ( Josh. 13-21 ), tribal land allocation will also be the reality in the future kingdom age ( Ezek. 47-48 ).
Surely Paul speaks of the future kingdom promises through Israel in Romans 11:25-27:
...that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, "The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob." "This is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins."
Notice Paul's express assertion that Israel's hardening is only partial, as well as his affirmation of Israel's future deliverance and forgiveness. Paul also discloses God's intention to keep His covenantal obligations to Israel. The Davidic Covenant seems to be in view in 11:26b by mention of the Messianic deliverer ( Isa. 59:20 ). Similarly, the Abrahamic Covenant appears in Romans 11:27a with its allusion to Isaiah 59:21 and Genesis 17:4. The New Covenant seems to be referred to in Romans 11:27b when it cites Jeremiah 31:31. Thus, these verses furnish a clear reaffirmation of the Old Testament kingdom promises.
New Testament reaffirmation of the land promises is also implied in the Apocalypse. In Revelation 7:4-8, we learn of how God will use 144,000 Jews to evangelize the world during the Tribulation ( Rev. 7:9-17 ). Here, we are specifically told that 12,000 Jewish evangelists will come from each of these twelve tribes. In Revelation 14:4, these Jewish evangelists are called the "first fruits." In Israel's harvest cycle, the first fruits of the harvest guaranteed that the general harvest would also come in. In the same way, the conversion of these 144,000 Jews guarantees that the rest of the Jewish remnant will also be converted ( Zech. 12:10; 13:8-9 ).
Moreover, Revelation 20:7-10 speaks of a final, failed satanic rebellion at the end of the Millennial kingdom as described in Revelation 20:9: "And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them." Notice that this satanic attack is aimed at the "beloved city." Although not identified by name, this designation is a clear reference to the city of Jerusalem since the descriptor "beloved" city or an equivalent statement is used repeatedly in the Psalms to depict Jerusalem ( Ps. 78:68; 87:2 ).  Even Simcox and Ladd, while simultaneously arguing against a literal fulfillment of the temple and sacrifices mentioned in Ezekiel 40–48, indicate that Jerusalem is clearly in view in Revelation 20:9.  The reason that Satan attacks Jerusalem in this final battle is because God, during the Millennial kingdom, will fulfill His promise of making Israel and Jerusalem head over the nations ( Deut. 28:13; Isa. 2:2-3; Zech. 14:16-18 ). Because Israel in general and Jerusalem in particular will be the headquarters or the nerve center of the Millennial kingdom, this special city will become the object of Satan's wrath during this final battle. Robert Thomas explains, "At the end of the Millennium that city will be Satan's prime objective with his rebel army, because Israel will be a leader among the nations."  Finally, it is interesting to note that the gates in the eternal city or the New Jerusalem will be named after the twelve tribes of Israel ( Rev. 21:12 ). Such naming seems to once again reaffirm God's intention to fulfill all that He has purposed to do through His covenanted nation Israel.
In sum, while it is true that that the New Testament is not as clear as the Old Testament on the subject of God's future kingdom promises through Israel, the "kingdom now" theologian errs in asserting that the New Testament is completely silent on this matter. As has been demonstrated, the New Testament reaffirms God's Old Testament kingdom promises at several junctures. However, even if the New Testament remained silent on this matter, that fact in and of itself would be insufficient to establish "kingdom now" theology. Mere silence of the New Testament should not be equated with an overt cancellation.
Focus Upon The Eternal State
Other "kingdom now" theologians note how the New Testament writers seem to focus the believers' hope on the New Jerusalem and the Eternal State rather than Christ's earthly kingdom ( Gal. 4:26; Heb. 11:10, 16; 12:22; 2 Pet. 3:13 ). According to this argument, such a focus conveys a cancellation of the earthly kingdom promises. According to the Knox Seminary Open Letter to Evangelicals:
Simon Peter spoke of the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus in conjunction with the final judgment and the punishment of sinners. Instructively, this same Simon Peter, the Apostle to the Circumcision, says nothing about the restoration of the kingdom to Israel in the land of Palestine. Instead, as his readers contemplate the promise of Jesus' Second Coming, he fixes their hope upon the new heavens and the new earth, in which righteousness dwells. 
However, this view again represents an argument from silence since nowhere in these Eternal State passages do we find an overt cancellation of the Old Testament kingdom and land promises. Moreover, the New Testament's emphasis on the Eternal State may even represent a tacit reaffirmation of the land promises since they will chronologically precede the establishment of the Eternal state ( Rev. 20:1-10; 21-22 ). Mark Hitchcock explains:
Christ will rule over His kingdom on this present earth for one thousand years, and He will reign forever. The future kingdom of God has two parts or phases. Phase one is the millennial reign of Christ on this earth ( Revelation 20:1-6 ), and phase two is the eternal state ( Rev. 22:5 ). As I once heard it described, the Millennium is the front porch of eternity. 
Through its focus on the Eternal State, the totality of New Testament revelation indicates that the Eternal State will one day become a reality only after it is preceded by the fulfillment of the earthly kingdom promises. Thus, the New Testament's focus on the Eternal State merely communicates the end of the matter without neglecting the beginning of the kingdom or the one-thousand year earthly reign of Christ, which chronologically precedes God's eternal rule. In other words, New Testament certainty of the Eternal State simultaneously communicates certainty of the preceding earthly kingdom.Continue Reading (Part 37 on Sept 27 web page)
ENDNOTES E.R. Craven, "Excursus on the Basileia," in The Revelation of John (A commentary on the Holy Scriptures ... by J.P. Lange ... Tr. from the German, rev., enl., and ed. by P. Schaff) (New York: Scribner, 1874), 97.
 Robert Thomas, Revelation 8-22 Exegetical Commentary (Wycliffe Exegetical Commentary)
 W.H. Simcox, The Revelation of S. John the Divine with Notes and Introductions (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1893), 185; George Eldon Ladd, A Commentary on the Revelation of John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972), 270.
 Robert L. Thomas, "A Classical Dispensationalist View of Revelation," in Four Views on the Book of Revelation, ed. C. Marvin Pate (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998), 207.
 Mark Hitchcock, 101 Answers to the Most Asked Questions about the End Times (End Times Answers)
Dr. Andrew Woods Books
Note I copied this article from The Bible Prophecy Blog.
Dr. Andrew Woods Ministry Page, YouTube Channel, and Church.
By John Walvoord (1990)
Christ Jesus, the Future Judge
2 Timothy 4:1. In support of his solemn charge to Timothy to live for God, Paul called attention to the fact that Timothy would be judged by Jesus Christ at the time of His appearing. Though Paul speaks of the judgment of living and dead as if they occur at the same time, Scriptures make clear that the dead will not be judged until the end of the millennial kingdom ( Rev. 20:11–15 ).
The Promise of Being Brought Safely to Christ’s Heavenly Kingdom
2 Timothy 4:18. Following his exhortation to Timothy and his evaluation of some who did not share Paul’s devotion to God, Paul stated his assurance, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory forever and ever. Amen” (v. 18 ). As is clear from history, shortly after writing this to Timothy, Paul was beheaded, but this does not contradict his anticipated promise that God would rescue him. The point is that through his execution Paul was immediately brought safely to the presence of the Lord where he would be free from all the limitations and problems of this life. What from the human point of view is a tragedy is often God’s gracious provision for His own in view of His plans for them in eternity to come.
Titus 2:13. The epistle of Paul to Titus was largely concerned with pastoral counsel and advice, as Titus was one of Paul’s fellow workers. In appealing to Titus, Paul stated that the gospel of salvation “teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” (v. 12 ). As we live our lives in this world, we have a wonderful hope. As Paul expressed it, “while we wait for the blessed hope — the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (v. 13 ). This hope, obviously, related to the rapture of the church rather than the second coming of Christ to set up His kingdom, but the question has been raised as to why it is described as a “glorious appearing.” At his second coming Jesus will appear in a glorious event described in Revelation 19:11–16, an event that all the world will see ( 1:7 ). On the other hand, the rapture of the church is never described as visible to the world. The question therefore remains: How can the rapture be described as a glorious event, as an event that reveals the glory of God? The answer is quite simple.
While the world will not see the glory of Christ at the time of the rapture, as they will at the time of the second coming, at the rapture Christians will behold Him in His glory, and to them it will be a glorious appearing. As stated in 1 John 3:2, “What we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”
Christians will necessarily need to be changed into bodies that are sinless in order to behold the Lord in His holy glory. The fact that we will “see him as he is,” that is, His glorious person, is evidence in John that the Christians will have been transformed, which will make it possible for them to see Him in His glory. The expectation of seeing Christ as He is in glory is another reason to turn away from the glory of this world and live Christian lives before God while we are waiting for His coming.
Paul’s epistle to Philemon concerned the return of Onesimus, who had escaped from Philemon even though he was a slave, but now had become a Christian and had ministered to Paul. The epistle does not have any allusion to the prophetic future.
Prophecy In The Epistle To The Hebrews
The purpose of the epistle to the Hebrews was to confirm the Christian Jews in their faith and to support the teaching that the Christian faith superseded Judaism and fulfilled it. In general, the epistle serves to prove that the Christian faith was better, that Christ’s priesthood was better than that of Aaron’s, and that the new covenant of grace was better than the Mosaic covenant. The epistle was an encouragement to the Christian Jews to remain true to the Christian faith.
Because of its major theme, Hebrews is not devoted to prophecy, but as is always true of any declaration of the Christian faith, the prophetic future of a Christian serves to confirm the importance of living for Christ now.
The Throne of God Is Forever
Hebrews 1:1–9. In comparing Christ to angels, the superiority of Christ is demonstrated by a number of facts. Christ is the Son, having been begotten of the Father (v. 5 ), and angels are instructed to worship Him (v. 6 ). In contrast to angels, who are made ministers, the Son has a throne forever and is superior to all others: “But about the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy’” (vv. 8–9 ). Christ is superior to angels inasmuch as His throne is for eternity because He is the Son of God.
Christ, the Creator Who Exists Forever
Hebrews 1:10–12. Not only the throne of Christ continues forever, but He also continues forever as the Creator. Though creation will be destroyed, Jesus Christ remains the same forever. “O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end” (vv. 10–12 ).
The Promise of Entering into God’s Rest
Hebrews 3:7–11; 4:1–11. Israel had failed to enter into the rest of the faith and the blessing of trusting God for redemption. Because of this, God declared that they would not enter into His rest ( 3:11; cf. vv. 7–10 ).
Readers of the epistle are warned of the danger of falling short of perfect faith and rest in Christ: “Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith” ( 4:1–2 ). As “God rested from all his work on the seventh day” (v. 4 ), there is a place for believers also to rest in faith in God for their salvation, but the offer is limited in time, and the danger is not entering by faith into God’s rest.
This is defined: “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience” (vv. 9–11 ). In the fuller revelation given in the New Testament, believers may now understand their rest in God, in contrast to many in Israel in the Old Testament who did not enter into their rest.
The Promise of the Better Covenant in Christ
Hebrews 8:6–13. The Mosaic covenant had its limitations, both in its promises, which did not offer salvation, and in its duration because it served only for a time. By contrast, a Christian trusting in Christ has a better new covenant, of which Christ is the Mediator: “But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises” (v. 6 ). The new covenant for Christians is better than the Mosaic covenant ( 7:19; Rom. 8:3–4 ) because its promises are unconditional ( Heb. 8:10, 12 ); it brings personal revelation of divine truth to every believer (v. 11 ); it secures forgiveness of sins (v. 12; 10:17 ); it depends on a redemption wrought by Christ on the cross ( 1 Cor. 11:25; Heb. 9:11–12, 18–23 ); and it secures for Israel certain forgiveness and restoration in the future ( 10:9; cf. Jer. 31:31–40 ).
In support of the superiority of the new covenant for Christians, evidence was given that even the Old Testament anticipated the passing of the Mosaic covenant and the introduction of a new covenant with Israel and the house of Judah ( Heb. 8:8 ). Israel’s new covenant was not like the Mosaic covenant, which was temporary and conditional. Instead, as the Lord stated, “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people” (v. 10, c.f., Jer. 31:33 ).
Israel was also promised universal revelation of God’s grace to them: “No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (vv. 11–12 ). This was revealed to be fulfilled in the millennium. The fact that these promises were made to Israel, forming a new covenant replacing the Mosaic covenant, is further evidence that those who put their confidence in the Mosaic covenant are trusting something that is already antiquated: “By calling this covenant ‘new,’ he has made the first one obsolete; and is obsolete and aging will soon disappear” (v. 13 ).
Interpreters of this covenant of Israel have had difficulty because of the question as to where the church, the believers of the present age, comes in. Some have held that the church is the true Israel and therefore inherits the promise along with Israel; others hold that the covenant is with Israel but that the church derives blessing from the covenant of Israel. None of these solutions seem to solve the problem of how the church can have a new covenant that is different in its qualifications from the new covenant with Israel.
Today, it is still necessary to carry the gospel to one’s neighbor, for all do not know the gospel. This is evidence that the new covenant with Israel is not now being fulfilled. The question is: Why does this epistle quote this prophecy from Jeremiah 31:31–34 in full here?
It is most important in understanding this Scripture to realize that the epistle to the Hebrews does not claim that the church is inheriting the covenant with Israel; it claims only one aspect of the covenant, namely, that the covenant with Israel is a new covenant, and as such even the Old Testament predicted that the Mosaic covenant would be superseded. No other application is made in this context. This should have persuaded professing Christians among the Jews that they should not return to Moses.
Though scholars will continue to differ in their explanations, the simple solution to the whole problem is the fact that when Christ died on the cross, He provided grace, that is, unmerited favor with God for those who put their trust in Him, including forgiveness, eternal life, and promise of eternity in the presence of God. In a world that is run by law, including moral law, this new aspect is introduced and made possible by the fact that Christ died for the sins of the world on the cross. This doctrine of God’s grace, of course, had its application in the Old Testament by faith.
Even under the Law, Israelites were forgiven when they confessed their sins. Salvation was possible in the Old Testament, not on the basis of keeping the Law but on the basis of faith in a God who is gracious. This anticipated, of course, the fact that Christ would die on the cross for the sins of the whole world.
Accordingly, the best solution to the problem is to recognize that Christ introduced by His death on the cross this covenant of grace, which has many applications. One of its principal applications was to Israel in the Old Testament. It should be clear from Scripture that Israel’s restoration in the future and deliverance at the second coming of Christ will not be due to any merit on their part but stems from the fact that God is a gracious God. The new covenant, mentioned in Jeremiah 31, is a gracious covenant, based on God’s grace, not on human merit.
The grace of God extended to Israel does not exhaust the grace of God. In the present age, Jews and Gentiles alike come to Christ in faith and are saved, forgiven, and given eternal life on the basis of the grace that is extended to them through the death of Christ.
The covenant of grace, accordingly, is extended principally to Israel in the Old Testament, to the church in the present age, and will be manifested in the gracious restoration of Israel in the future. The one act of dying on the cross makes it possible for Christ to extend grace to those who do not deserve it. This concept of grace, stemming from the death of Christ, can be extended to all acts of God’s forgiveness and mercy, from Adam to the last human being in the world. Accordingly, while God’s rule in different ages may be different, as under the Mosaic law it was a rule of righteousness and in the present age a rule of grace, it is not necessary to confuse God’s promises to Israel with God’s promises to the church in that both these sets of promises stem from the death of Christ without complication to the others.
The salvation of any individual, from Adam to those in the present time and in the future, is based on grace, and forgiveness of those once saved as they fall short of the holiness of God is likewise made possible by the grace of God. This, however, should have been convincing evidence to Jewish Christians who were pondering whether their new relationship to Christ was better than their relationship to Moses. In every particular the New Testament application of grace exceeds that which was true in the Old Testament under Moses.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 106Give Thanks to the LORD, for He Is Good
7 Our fathers, when they were in Egypt,
did not consider your wondrous works;
they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love,
but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.
8 Yet he saved them for his name’s sake,
that he might make known his mighty power.
9 He rebuked the Red Sea, and it became dry,
and he led them through the deep as through a desert.
10 So he saved them from the hand of the foe
and redeemed them from the power of the enemy.
11 And the waters covered their adversaries;
not one of them was left.
12 Then they believed his words;
they sang his praise.
The Continual Burnt Offering (1 Corinthians 6:11)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
September 261 Corinthians 6:11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. ESV
A hard field presents a challenge to the man of faith. He delights in that challenge because he knows that God works, not with what He finds, but with what He brings. His Spirit is able to break down and save the most indifferent or the most contentious men. Athens was the center of Greek culture — a veneer of learning that covered but did not destroy the wickedness of paganism, which caused and even pretended to sanctify the vilest practices. Corinth was notorious for its vice and corruption. To “Corinthianize” was a synonym for a life given over to shame and sensuality of the most degrading character. The worship of the gods of Greece produced no change in the lives of their devotees. Religion and immorality went hand in hand. The gods themselves were but deifications of lust and ambition. Those who worshipped them were like them.
But to these cities Paul came with a message which he knew to be the dynamic of God (Romans 1:16), mighty to the destruction of Satanic strongholds and powerful in building new and holy lives. These new lives would demonstrate the might of the Spirit of God to renew and regenerate the most depraved of mankind, as well as those who gloried in their self righteousness and supposed superiority. No new message was needed. It was the story of the cross - Jesus Christ and Him crucified — which revolutionized multitudes in Corinth and resulted in the establishment of a strong and highly gifted church of God in that iniquitous city.
Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. ESV
O’er this wide waste I loved to roam,
My back to God and heaven and home,
Till Jesus met me far astray,
And beckoned me to come away.
He said on Calv’ry’s cross He died,
A sacrifice for sin was made,
And all because He loved me so,
Then how could I do else but go?
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Learn to be content
(Sept 26) Bob Gass
‘I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.’
(Php 4:1) Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. ESV
Discontentment is a trap that can ensnare you and rob you of joy and fulfilment. That’s why the Bible says you must learn to be content ‘whatever the circumstances’. The notion that a bigger car or a bigger house or a bigger salary will bring you contentment is a myth. There will always be something ‘bigger and better’ out there. There will always be people who have more than you, so you’ll never be able to get off the treadmill. That’s not to imply you should be satisfied with being enslaved to debt or destructive habits, or settle for complacency and mediocrity and not fulfil the call of God on your life. Not at all! You must keep working to improve yourself, while remaining totally dependent on God to bless you, promote you, and meet your needs. Contentment means not coveting another person’s position, possessions, or personality. Your security and self-worth should be based on who you are in Christ, not what you have in material assets. What a great way to live! Paul lived like that. He said, ‘I’ve learned…to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am’ (vv. 11-13 MSG). Each day you have a choice to make regarding your attitude. So, the word for you today is: learn to be content.
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
The board of the oldest institution of higher learning in America, located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, declared its purpose was to “train a literate clergy.” Ten of its twelve presidents prior to the Revolution were ministers, and over fifty percent of the seventeenth-century graduates became ministers. The Rules and Precepts for the students, which were adopted this day, September, 26, 1642, stated: “Let every Student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the maine end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternall life.” The name of the College was Harvard.American Minute
by P.T. Forsyth, (1848-1921)
The Soul of Prayer
If there must be in the Church a communion of belief, there must be there also a communion of prayer. For the communion of prayer is the very first form the communion of belief takes. It is in this direction that Church unity lies. It lies behind prayer, in something to which prayer gives effect, in that which is the source and soul of prayer—in our relation with God in Christ, in our new creation. Prayer for Church unity will not bring that unity; but that which stirs, and founds, and wings prayer will. And prayer is its chief exercise. The true Church is just as wide as the community of Christian prayer, i.e. of due response to the Gospel of our reconcilement and communion with God. And it is a thing almost dreadful that Christians who pray to the same God, Christ, and Saviour should refuse to unite in prayer because of institutional differences.
A prayer is also a promise. Every true prayer carries with it a vow. If it do not, it is not in earnest. It is not of a piece with life. Can we pray in earnest if we do not in the act commit ourselves to do our best to bring about the answer? Can we escape some king of hypocrisy? This is especially so with intercession. What is the value of praying for the poor if all the rest of our time and interest is given only to becoming rich? Where is the honesty of praying for our country if in our most active hours we are chiefly occupied in making something out of it, if we are strange to all sacrifice for it? Prayer is one form of sacrifice, but if it is the only form it is vain oblation. If we pray for our child that he may have God’s blessing, we are really promising that nothing shall be lacking on our part to be a divine blessing to him. And if we have no kind of religious relation to him (as plenty of Christian parents have none), our prayer is quite unreal, and its failure should not be a surprise. To pray for God’s kingdom is also so engage ourselves to service and sacrifice for it. To begin our prayer with a petition for the hallowing of God’s name and to have no real and prime place for holiness in our life or faith is not sincere. The prayer of the vindictive for forgiveness is mockery, like the prayer for daily bread from a wheat-cornerer. No such man could say the Lord’s Prayer but to his judgment. What would happen to the Church if the Lord’s Prayer became a test for membership as thoroughly as the Creeds have been? The Lord’s Prayer is also a vow to the Lord. None but a Christian can pray it, or should. Great worship of God is also a great engagement of ourselves, a great committal of our action. To begin the day with prayer is but a formality unless it go on in prayer, unless for the rest of it we pray in deed what we began in word. One has said that while prayer is the day’s best beginning it must not be like the handsome title-page of a worthless book.
“Thy will be done.” Unless that were the spirit of all our prayer, how should we have courage to pray if we know ourselves at all, or if we have come to a time when we can have some retrospect on our prayers and their fate? Without this committal to the wisdom of God, prayer would be a very dangerous weapon in proportion as it was effective. No true God could promise us an answer to our every prayer. No Father of mankind could. The rain that saved my crop might ruin my neighbour’s. It would paralyse prayer to be sure that it would prevail as it is offered, certainly and at once. We should be terrified at the power put into our foolish hands. Nothing would do more to cure us of a belief in our own wisdom than the granting of some of our eager prayers. And nothing could humiliate us more than to have God say when the fulfilment of our desire brought leanness to our souls. “Well, you have it.” It is what He has said to many. But He said more, “My grace is sufficient for thee.”
--- Forsyth, P. T. (1848-1921).
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
... from here, there and everywhere
Faith is the whole being
and coming to rest
in the eternal certainties.
--- George H. Morrison
Faith is a quickening spirit,
it has insight;
and religious density betrays its absence,
being often the victim of the sermon
instead of the alumnus of the Gospel.
--- P.T. Forsyth The Soul of Prayer
Peace is more than just the absence of war. True peace is justice. True peace is freedom. And true peace dictates the recognition of human rights.
--- Ronald Reagan
Now we can stop lying to ourselves. We are saved from our own self-deception the moment we say with the tax collector, God be merciful to me, a sinner (Luke 18:13)
--- James Bryan Smith Embracing the Love of God: The Path and Promise of Christian Life
Thanks to Meir Yona
A Description Of The Temple.
1. Now this temple, as I have already said, was built upon a strong hill. At first the plain at the top was hardly sufficient for the holy house and the altar, for the ground about it was very uneven, and like a precipice; but when king Solomon, who was the person that built the temple, had built a wall to it on its east side, there was then added one cloister founded on a bank cast up for it, and on the other parts the holy house stood naked. But in future ages the people added new banks, 12 and the hill became a larger plain. They then broke down the wall on the north side, and took in as much as sufficed afterward for the compass of the entire temple. And when they had built walls on three sides of the temple round about, from the bottom of the hill, and had performed a work that was greater than could be hoped for, [in which work long ages were spent by them, as well as all their sacred treasures were exhausted, which were still replenished by those tributes which were sent to God from the whole habitable earth,] they then encompassed their upper courts with cloisters, as well as they [afterward] did the lowest [court of the] temple. The lowest part of this was erected to the height of three hundred cubits, and in some places more; yet did not the entire depth of the foundations appear, for they brought earth, and filled up the valleys, as being desirous to make them on a level with the narrow streets of the city; wherein they made use of stones of forty cubits in magnitude; for the great plenty of money they then had, and the liberality of the people, made this attempt of theirs to succeed to an incredible degree; and what could not be so much as hoped for as ever to be accomplished, was, by perseverance and length of time, brought to perfection.
2. Now for the works that were above these foundations, these were not unworthy of such foundations; for all the cloisters were double, and the pillars to them belonging were twenty-five cubits in height, and supported the cloisters. These pillars were of one entire stone each of them, and that stone was white marble; and the roofs were adorned with cedar, curiously graven. The natural magnificence, and excellent polish, and the harmony of the joints in these cloisters, afforded a prospect that was very remarkable; nor was it on the outside adorned with any work of the painter or engraver. The cloisters [of the outmost court] were in breadth thirty cubits, while the entire compass of it was by measure six furlongs, including the tower of Antonia; those entire courts that were exposed to the air were laid with stones of all sorts. When you go through these [first] cloisters, unto the second [court of the] temple, there was a partition made of stone all round, whose height was three cubits: its construction was very elegant; upon it stood pillars, at equal distances from one another, declaring the law of purity, some in Greek, and some in Roman letters, that "no foreigner should go within that sanctuary" for that second [court of the] temple was called "the Sanctuary," and was ascended to by fourteen steps from the first court. This court was four-square, and had a wall about it peculiar to itself; the height of its buildings, although it were on the outside forty cubits, 13 was hidden by the steps, and on the inside that height was but twenty-five cubits; for it being built over against a higher part of the hill with steps, it was no further to be entirely discerned within, being covered by the hill itself. Beyond these thirteen steps there was the distance of ten cubits; this was all plain; whence there were other steps, each of five cubits a-piece, that led to the gates, which gates on the north and south sides were eight, on each of those sides four, and of necessity two on the east. For since there was a partition built for the women on that side, as the proper place wherein they were to worship, there was a necessity for a second gate for them: this gate was cut out of its wall, over against the first gate. There was also on the other sides one southern and one northern gate, through which was a passage into the court of the women; for as to the other gates, the women were not allowed to pass through them; nor when they went through their own gate could they go beyond their own wall. This place was allotted to the women of our own country, and of other countries, provided they were of the same nation, and that equally. The western part of this court had no gate at all, but the wall was built entire on that side. But then the cloisters which were betwixt the gates extended from the wall inward, before the chambers; for they were supported by very fine and large pillars. These cloisters were single, and, excepting their magnitude, were no way inferior to those of the lower court.
3. Now nine of these gates were on every side covered over with gold and silver, as were the jambs of their doors and their lintels; but there was one gate that was without the [inward court of the] holy house, which was of Corinthian brass, and greatly excelled those that were only covered over with silver and gold. Each gate had two doors, whose height was severally thirty cubits, and their breadth fifteen. However, they had large spaces within of thirty cubits, and had on each side rooms, and those, both in breadth and in length, built like towers, and their height was above forty cubits. Two pillars did also support these rooms, and were in circumference twelve cubits. Now the magnitudes of the other gates were equal one to another; but that over the Corinthian gate, which opened on the east over against the gate of the holy house itself, was much larger; for its height was fifty cubits; and its doors were forty cubits; and it was adorned after a most costly manner, as having much richer and thicker plates of silver and gold upon them than the other. These nine gates had that silver and gold poured upon them by Alexander, the father of Tiberius. Now there were fifteen steps, which led away from the wall of the court of the women to this greater gate; whereas those that led thither from the other gates were five steps shorter.
4. As to the holy house itself, which was placed in the midst [of the inmost court], that most sacred part of the temple, it was ascended to by twelve steps; and in front its height and its breadth were equal, and each a hundred cubits, though it was behind forty cubits narrower; for on its front it had what may be styled shoulders on each side, that passed twenty cubits further. Its first gate was seventy cubits high, and twenty-five cubits broad; but this gate had no doors; for it represented the universal visibility of heaven, and that it cannot be excluded from any place. Its front was covered with gold all over, and through it the first part of the house, that was more inward, did all of it appear; which, as it was very large, so did all the parts about the more inward gate appear to shine to those that saw them; but then, as the entire house was divided into two parts within, it was only the first part of it that was open to our view. Its height extended all along to ninety cubits in height, and its length was fifty cubits, and its breadth twenty. But that gate which was at this end of the first part of the house was, as we have already observed, all over covered with gold, as was its whole wall about it; it had also golden vines above it, from which clusters of grapes hung as tall as a man's height. But then this house, as it was divided into two parts, the inner part was lower than the appearance of the outer, and had golden doors of fifty-five cubits altitude, and sixteen in breadth; but before these doors there was a veil of equal largeness with the doors. It was a Babylonian curtain, embroidered with blue, and fine linen, and scarlet, and purple, and of a contexture that was truly wonderful. Nor was this mixture of colors without its mystical interpretation, but was a kind of image of the universe; for by the scarlet there seemed to be enigmatically signified fire, by the fine flax the earth, by the blue the air, and by the purple the sea; two of them having their colors the foundation of this resemblance; but the fine flax and the purple have their own origin for that foundation, the earth producing the one, and the sea the other. This curtain had also embroidered upon it all that was mystical in the heavens, excepting that of the [twelve] signs, representing living creatures.
by D.H. Stern
than to share the house with a nagging wife.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest
The unblameable attitude
If … thou rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee … --- Matthew 5:23.
If when you come to the altar, there you remember that your brother has anything against you, not—If you rake up something by a morbid sensitiveness, but—“If thou rememberest,” that is, it is brought to your conscious mind by the Spirit of God: “first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” Never object to the intense sensitiveness of the Spirit of God in you when He is educating you down to the scruple.
“First be reconciled to thy brother …” Our Lord’s direction is simple—“first be reconciled.” Go back the way you came, go the way indicated to you by the conviction given at the altar; have an attitude of mind and a temper of soul to the one who has something against you that makes reconciliation as natural as breathing. Jesus does not mention the other person, He says—you go. There is no question of your rights. The stamp of the saint is that he can waive his own rights and obey the Lord Jesus.
“And then come and offer thy gift.” The process is clearly marked. First, the heroic spirit of self-sacrifice, then the sudden checking by the sensitiveness of the Holy Spirit, and the stoppage at the point of conviction; then the way of obedience to the word of God, constructing an unblameable attitude of mind and temper to the one with whom you have been in the wrong; then the glad, simple, unhindered offering of your gift to God.
to the Galatians
The Cross of Christ
In order, in conclusion, to emphasize the pervasive influence of the cross, namely that we cannot eliminate it from any area of our thinking or living, we shall look through Paul’s letter to the Galatians. There are two main reasons for this choice. First, it is arguably his first letter. This is not the place to assess the pros and cons of the ‘South Galatian’ and ‘North Galatian’ theories. The similarity of the contents with the letter to the Romans may suggest the later date, but the situation presupposed in Galatians fits the Acts chronology much better and strongly favours the earlier date. In this case the letter was written about AD 48, within fifteen years of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Secondly, the gospel according to Paul in Galatians (which he defends, along with his apostolic authority, as coming from God, not man) focuses on the cross. Indeed the letter contains seven striking affirmations about the death of Jesus, each of which illumines a different facet of it. When we put them together, we have an amazingly comprehensive grasp of the pervasive influence of the cross.
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Selected poems, 1946-1968
After The Lecture
I am asking the difficult question. I need help.
I'm not asking from ill will.
I have no desire to see you coping
Or not coping with the unmanageable coils
Of a problem frivolously called up.
I've read your books, had glimpses of a climate
That is rigorous, though not too hard
For the spirit. I may have grown
Since reading them; there is no scale
To judge by, neither is the soul
Measurable. I know all the tropes
Of religion, how God is not there
To go to; how time is what we buy
With his absence, and how we look
Through the near end of the binocular at pain,
Evil, deformity, I have tried
Bandaging my sharp eyes
With humility, but still the hearing
Of the ear holds; from as far off as Tibet
The cries come.
From one not to be penned
In a concept, and differing in kind
From the human; whose attributes are the negations
Of thought; who holds us at bay with
His symbols, the opposed emblems
Of hawk and dove, what can my prayers win
For the kindred souls brought close to the bone
To be tortured, and burning, burning
Through history with their own strange light?
The Teacher's Commentary
The Teacher's Commentary
It was early when the apostle rolled over on his pallet and saw the shafts of Morning sunlight sifting through the shutters.
The confrontation over Peter’s sudden unwillingness to eat with Gentile converts (Gal. 2:12) had heightened Paul’s awareness of the dangers facing the young church. Then messengers had come, reporting that delegations of Christian Pharisees had visited the cities where churches had been planted. They taught that the Gentile Christians must place themselves under the Law of Israel, and many were obeying them.
Deeply burdened, Paul had called a number of the brothers together and prayed with them through most of the night.
Now, fully awake, Paul decided to act. Filled with a deep sense of urgency, he found a pen and papyrus sheets and attacked the task he had set himself. His pen raced; passionate phrases appeared. All the churches in southern Galatia must receive a copy of this, his first letter of instruction and his first attempt to set down a theology for the new Christian movement.
“Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ” (1:1). These Judaizers claimed to be authorized by the Jerusalem church. As if man’s authorization counted!
A hundred deaths but not one bit of envy!
BIBLE TEXT / Deuteronomy 31:14 / The Lord said to Moses: The time is drawing near for you to die. Call Joshua and present yourselves in the Tent of Meeting, that I may instruct him. Moses and Joshua went and presented themselves in the Tent of Meeting.
MIDRASH TEXT / Deuteronomy Rabbah 9, 9 / Call Joshua. He said to Him, “Master of the World, let Joshua take my position, so I can live.” The Holy One, praised is He, said, “Do to him what he does to you.” Moses immediately arose and went to Joshua’s house. Joshua was afraid and said, “Moses, my master come to me.” They went out for a walk, Moses walking to the left of Joshua. They entered the Tent of Meeting, the pillar of cloud came down and separated them. When the pillar of cloud left, Moses went to Joshua and said, “What did the Word say to you?” Joshua said to him, “When the Word used to reveal itself to you, did I know what it spoke to you?” At that moment Moses cried out, saying, “A hundred deaths but not one bit of envy!” And Solomon has explained it, “For love is as fierce as death, jealousy as severe as Sheol” (Song of Songs 8:6, authors’ translation)—the love that Moses had for Joshua [was as fierce as death], and the jealousy Moses had for Joshua [was as severe as Sheol]. When he [Moses] accepted that he would die, the Holy One, praised is He, began to appease him. He [God] said to him, “I swear [lit., by your life]! In this world you led My children, so too in the world to come, through you I will lead them.” From where [is the proof]? As it says, “Then his people will remember the ancient days, and Moses” (Isaiah 63:11, authors’ translation).
CONTEXT / How does a human being act when he or she knows death is near? For Moses, according to the Torah, it was with quiet acceptance. In the Midrash, however, the Rabbis imagine a very different reaction. They picture Moses trying to save his life by making a deal with God: “Master of the World, let Joshua take my position, so I can live. I’ll give up my job as leader of the people, and in return, let me not die.”
God agrees to the suggestion. Moses and Joshua will switch positions. Following accepted protocol, Moses immediately arose and went to Joshua’s house, and not vice versa. Joshua at first has great difficulty treating his former master as his disciple: Joshua was afraid and said, “Moses, my master, come to me.” Moses even walks to the left of Joshua, in accordance with proper etiquette. But when God, through the pillar of cloud, reveals a divine message (“the Word”) only to Joshua, Moses feels left out. He asks Joshua, “What did the Word say to you?” And Moses is put in his place. Joshua, it seems, has quickly gotten accustomed to his new superior role and isn’t about to share the privileges of his office with anyone.
Moses is terribly hurt. “A hundred deaths but not one bit of envy! I would rather die a hundred times than experience even one taste of envy!” Moses retracts the deal with God and prepares for death. The prooftext for how hurt Moses is comes from Song of Songs: “For love is as fierce as death, jealousy as severe as Sheol.” Sheol is, in biblical thought, the dark place beneath the earth where all souls go for eternal repose after death.
God consoles Moses. Note God’s opening word: He [God] said to him, “I swear [lit., by your life]! The word חַיֶיךָ/ḥayyekha, “by your life,” is an idiomatic expression used when someone is about to swear an oath. How ironic: We humans usually swear using God as the ultimate reference point. God swears using Moses. This expression has both a positive and a negative side. How painful it must have been for Moses to hear God say, at the moment he accepts death, that his life is so fleeting. At the same time, by making Moses the point of reference—“by your life!”—God is saying, in essence, “You will be around in the future.” Though he must die, he will live again and serve as leader of the people. The basis for that promise comes from the Rabbis’ noticing that the verb in Isaiah is in the future tense: וַיִּזְכֹּר/va-yizkor, “Then his people will remember the ancient days, and Moses.”
How great is God—beyond our understanding!
--- Job 36:26.
I cannot read the Bible without seeing that God has moved his believers in the direction of courage and sacrifice. (Preaching Through the Bible)
In the direction of courage, this is not mere animal courage, for then the argument might be matched by many gods whose names are spelled without capitals. No, this is moral courage, noble heroism, fierce rebuke of personal and national corruption, lofty and inspiring judgment of all good and all evil.
The God idea made mean people valiant soldier-prophets; it broadened the piping voice of the timid inquirer into the thunder of the national teacher and leader. For brass it brought gold; for iron, silver; for wood, brass; and for stones, iron. Instead of the thorn it brought up the fir tree and instead of the brier the myrtle tree, and it made the bush burn with fire.
Wherever the God idea took complete possession of the mind, every faculty was lifted up to a new capacity and borne on to heroic attempts and conquests. The saints who received it conquered kingdoms, administered justice, gained what was promised, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames. Their weakness was turned to strength, they became powerful in battle, they routed foreign armies.
Any idea that inspired life and hope in humankind is to be examined with reverent care. The quality of the courage determines its value and the value of the idea that excited and sustained it.
What is true of the courage is true also of the sacrifice, which has ever followed the acceptance of the God idea. This is not the showy and fanatical sacrifice of mere bloodletting. Many a juggernaut, great and small, drinks the blood of its devotees.
But spiritual discipline, self-renunciation, the esteeming of others better than one’s self, the suppression of selfishness—these are the practical uses of the God idea. It is not a barren sentiment.
It arouses courage. It necessitates self-sacrifice. It touches the imagination as with fire. It deepens every thought. It sanctifies the universe. It makes heaven possible. Unknown, unknowable. Yes, but not therefore unusable or unprofitable.
--- Joseph Parker
How One Sermon Killed Another
At age 18, while studying in a city near his home, Aeneas Sylvius de’ Piccolomini heard a friar preaching. He was impressed and entered church life, but without giving up his vices. Aeneas worked his way up the religious ladder, and was elected as Pope Pius II at age 53. He understood world politics as few did, and he was brilliant. He was a grammarian, geographer, historian, novelist, and orator. But he wasn’t pious. He wrote explicit love stories, fathered children here and there, and instructed young men in ways to “indulge” themselves.
He also had something to say to princes. On September 26, 1460 Pius called European leaders together in Mantua to discuss his life’s dream—a new crusade against the Turks. He preached three hours at the opening session, telling the princes they must emulate Stephen, Peter, and Andrew who were willing to lay down their lives in holy warfare. The Turks have robbed Christianity of its greatest treasures, he said—Jerusalem, where Christ lived; Bethlehem, where he was born; the Jordan River, where he was baptized; Calvary, where he was crucified; Antioch, where the disciples were first called Christians. Joshua had fought for this land. So had Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson. Earlier crusaders had demolished Muslim strongholds and liberated Christian sites. “O! That Godfrey were once more present, and Baldwin and the other mighty men who broke through the ranks of the Turks and regained Jerusalem!”
His message greatly stirred the assembly, and for a moment the princes appeared ready to rush from the room to undertake a new crusade. But the pope was followed by another preacher, Cardinal Bessarion, who spoke for another three hours. By the end of the day, the princes were so worn out by the preaching they had no passion for the cause.
The congress became mired in political rivalry, and the promises made there were never kept; the days of the crusades were over. Yet Pope Pius continued dreaming of one, and his dying words were, “Pray for me, for I am a sinner. Bid my brethren continue this holy expedition.”
It takes strong winds to move a large sailing ship, but the captain uses only a small rudder to make it go in any direction. Our tongues are small too, and yet they brag about big things.
--- James 3:4,5a.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - September 26
“The myrtle trees that were in the bottom.” --- Zechariah 1:8.
The vision in this chapter describes the condition of Israel in Zechariah’s day; but being interpreted in its aspect towards us, it describes the Church of God as we find it now in the world. The Church is compared to a myrtle grove flourishing in a valley. It is hidden, unobserved, secreted; courting no honour and attracting no observation from the careless gazer. The Church, like her head, has a glory, but it is concealed from carnal eyes, for the time of her breaking forth in all her splendour is not yet come. The idea of tranquil security is also suggested to us: for the myrtle grove in the valley is still and calm, while the storm sweeps over the mountain summits. Tempests spend their force upon the craggy peaks of the Alps, but down yonder where flows the stream which maketh glad the city of our God, the myrtles flourish by the still waters, all unshaken by the impetuous wind. How great is the inward tranquility of God’s Church! Even when opposed and persecuted, she has a peace which the world gives not, and which, therefore, it cannot take away: the peace of God which passeth all understanding keeps the hearts and minds of God’s people. Does not the metaphor forcibly picture the peaceful, perpetual growth of the saints? The myrtle sheds not her leaves, she is always green; and the Church in her worst time still hath a blessed verdure of grace about her; nay, she has sometimes exhibited most verdure when her winter has been sharpest. She has prospered most when her adversities have been most severe. Hence the text hints at victory. The myrtle is the emblem of peace, and a significant token of triumph. The brows of conquerors were bound with myrtle and with laurel; and is not the Church ever victorious? Is not every Christian more than a conqueror through him that loved him? Living in peace, do not the saints fall asleep in the arms of victory?
Evening - September 26
“Howl, fir tree, for the cedar is fallen.” --- Zechariah 11:2.
When in the forest there is heard the crash of a falling oak, it is a sign that the woodman is abroad, and every tree in the whole company may tremble lest to-morrow the sharp edge of the axe should find it out. We are all like trees marked for the axe, and the fall of one should remind us that for every one, whether great as the cedar, or humble as the fir, the appointed hour is stealing on apace. I trust we do not, by often hearing of death, become callous to it. May we never be like the birds in the steeple, which build their nests when the bells are tolling, and sleep quietly when the solemn funeral peals are startling the air. May we regard death as the most weighty of all events, and be sobered by its approach. It ill behoves us to sport while our eternal destiny hangs on a thread. The sword is out of its scabbard—let us not trifle; it is furbished, and the edge is sharp—let us not play with it. He who does not prepare for death is more than an ordinary fool, he is a madman. When the voice of God is heard among the trees of the garden, let fig tree and sycamore, and elm and cedar, alike hear the sound thereof.
Be ready, servant of Christ, for thy Master comes on a sudden, when an ungodly world least expects him. See to it that thou be faithful in his work, for the grave shall soon be digged for thee. Be ready, parents, see that your children are brought up in the fear of God, for they must soon be orphans; be ready, men of business, take care that your affairs are correct, and that you serve God with all your hearts, for the days of your terrestrial service will soon be ended, and you will be called to give account for the deeds done in the body, whether they be good or whether they be evil. May we all prepare for the tribunal of the great King with a care which shall be rewarded with the gracious commendation, “Well done, good and faithful servant”
WHEN ALL THY MERCIES, O MY GOD
Joseph Addison, 1672–1719
Oh, give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good; for His mercy endureth forever. (1 Chronicles 16:11 KJV)
A reflection upon God’s blessings will always result in a response of worship and praise; a neglect of gratitude will eventually produce a lifestyle of self-centeredness.
Joseph Addison, the author of this hymn, wrote this introduction for his text:
If gratitude is due from man to man, how much more from man to his Maker. The Supreme being does not only confer upon us those bounties which proceed immediately from His hand, but even those benefits which are conveyed to us by others. Any blessing which we enjoy, by what means soever derived, is the gift of Him who is the great author of good and the Father of mercies.
Joseph Addison was recognized in his era as one of England’s literary greats. He was not only a writer and a moralist, but a man of affairs in his government. He was elected to Parliament and then appointed successively as Under Secretary, Secretary for Ireland, and finally Secretary of State.
These words are thought to have been written by Joseph Addison following his rescue from a shipwreck during a storm off the Coast of Genoa, Italy. The hymn originally had 13 stanzas. It was published on August 9, 1712, in a London daily paper, The Spectator, of which Addison served for a time as editor. The surviving four stanzas have since provided God’s people with a meaningful aid in expressing grateful worship to God for all of His enduring mercies:
When all Thy mercies, O my God, my rising soul surveys, transported with the view I’m lost in wonder, love and praise.
Unnumbered comforts to my soul Thy tender care bestowed before my infant heart conceived from whom those comforts flowed.
When worn with sickness, oft hast Thou with health renewed my face; and, when in sins and sorrows bowed, revived my soul with grace.
Thru ev’ry period of my life Thy goodness I’ll pursue, and after death, in distant worlds, the glorious theme renew.
For Today: Psalm 63:1-5; 86:5–17; 89:1; 103:8–14; James 3:17
Reflect with this author upon God’s mercy of comfort, His mercy of physical and spiritual healing, His mercy of reviving grace—then, respond to Him with grateful expressions of worship and praise. Allow this hymn to help ---
DISCOURSE VI - ON THE IMMUTABILITY OF GOD
4. If God be immutable, it is sad news to those that are resolved in wickedness, or careless of returning to that duty he requires. Sinners must not expect that God will alter his will, make a breach upon his nature, and violate his own word to gratify their lusts. No, it is not reasonable God should dishonor himself to secure them, and cease to be God, that they may continue to be wicked, by changing his own nature, that they may be unchanged in their vanity. God is the same; goodness is as amiable in his sight, and sin as abominable in his eyes now, as it was at the beginning of the world. Being the same God, he is the same enemy to the wicked as the same friend to the righteous. He is the same in knowledge, and cannot forget sinful acts. He is the same in will, and cannot approve of unrighteous practices. Goodness cannot but be always the object of his love, and wickedness cannot but be always the object of his hatred: and as his aversion to sin is always the same, so as he hath been in his judgments upon sinners, the same he will be still; for the same perfection of immutability belongs to his justice for the punishment of sin, as to his holiness for his disaffection to sin. Though the covenant of works was changeable by the crime of man violating it, yet it was unchangeable in regard of God’s justice vindicating it, which is inflexible in the punishment of the breaches of his law. The law had a preceptive part, and a minatory part: when man changed the observation of the precept, the righteous nature of God could not null the execution of the threatening; he could not, upon the account of this perfection, neglect his just word, and countenance the unrighteous transgression. Though there were no more rational creatures in being but Adam and Eve, yet God subjected them to that death he had assured them of: and from this immutability of his will, ariseth the necessity of the suffering of the Son of God for the relief of the apostate creature. His will in the second covenant is as unchangeable as that in the first, only repentance is settled as the condition of the second, which was not indulged in the first; and without repentance, the sinner must irrevocably perish, or God must change his nature: there must be a change in man; there can be none in God; his bow is bent, his arrows are ready, if the wicked do not turn (Psalm 7:11). There is not an atheist, an hypocrite, a profane person, that ever was upon the earth, but God’s soul abhorred him as such, and the like he will abhor forever; while any therefore continue so, they may sooner expect the heavens should roll as they please, the sun stand still at their order, the stars change their course at their beck, than that God should change his nature, which is opposite to profaneness and vanity; “Who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered?” (Job 9:4.)
Use 2. Of comfort. The immutability of a good God is a strong ground of consolation. Subjects wish a good prince to live forever, as being loth to change him, but care not how soon they are rid of an oppressor. This unchangeableness of God’s will shows him as ready to accept any that come to him as ever he was; so that we may with confidence make our address to him, since he cannot change his affections to goodness. The fear of change in a friend hinders a full reliance upon him; an assurance of stability encourages hope and confidence. This attribute is the strongest prop for faith in all our addresses; it is not a single perfection, but the glory of all those that belong to his nature; for he is unchangeable in his love (Jer. 31:3), in his truth (Psalm 117:2). The more solemn revelation of himself in this name, Jehovah, which signifies chiefly his eternity and immutability, was to support the Israelites’ faith in expectation of a deliverance from Egypt, that he had not retracted his purpose, and his promise made to Abraham for giving Canaan to his posterity (Exod. 3:14–17). Herein is the basis and strength of all his promises; therefore, saith the Psalmist, “Those that know thy name, will put their trust in thee” (Psalm 9:10): those that are spiritually acquainted with thy name, Jehovah, and have a true sense of it upon their hearts, will put their trust in thee. His goodness could not be distrusted, if his unchangeableness were well apprehended and considered. All distrust would fly before it, as darkness before the sun; it only gets advantage of us when we are not well grounded in his name; and if ever we trusted God, we have the same reason to trust him forever: (Isa. 26:4) “Trust in the Lord forever, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength;” or, as it is in the Hebrew, “a Rock of Ages,” that is, perpetually unchangeable. We find the traces of God’s immutability in the creatures. He has, by his peremptory decree, set bounds to the sea: “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed” (Job 38:11). Do we fear the sea overflowing us in this island? No, because of his fixed decree. And is not his promise in his Word as unchangeable as his word concerning inanimate things, as good a ground to rest upon?
1. The covenant stands unchangeable. Mutable creatures break their leagues and covenants, and snap them asunder like Samson’s cords, when they are not accommodated to their interests. But an unchangeable God keeps his: “The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from thee, nor shall the covenant of my peace be removed” (Isa. 54:10). The heaven and earth shall sooner fall asunder, and the strongest and firmest parts of the creation crumble to dust, sooner than one iota of my covenant shall fail. It depends upon the unchangeableness of his will and the unchangeableness of his word, and, therefore, is called “the immutability of his counsel” (Heb. 6:17). It is the fruit of the everlasting purpose of God; whence the apostle links purpose and grace together (2 Tim. 1:9). A covenant with a nation may be changeable, because it may not be built upon the eternal purpose of God, “to put his fear in the heart;” but with respect to the creature’s obedience. Thus God chose Jerusalem as the place wherein he would “dwell forever” (Psalm 132:14), yet he threatens to depart from them when they had broken covenant with him; “and the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city to the mountain on the east side” (Ezek. 11:33). The covenant of grace doth not run, “I will be your God if you will be my people;” but “I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Hos. 2:19, &c.) “I will betroth thee to me forever; I, will say, Thou art my people, and they shall say, Thou art my God.” His everlasting purpose is, to write his laws in the hearts of the elect. He puts a condition to his covenant of grace, the condition of faith, and he resolves to work that condition in the hearts of the elect; and, therefore, believers have two immutable pillars for their support, stronger than those erected by Solomon at the porch of the temple (1 Kings 7:21), called Jakin and Boaz, to note the firmness of that building dedicated to God; these are election, or the standing. counsel of God, and the covenant of grace. He will not revoke the covenant, and blot the names of his elect out of the book of life.
2. Perseverance is ascertained. It consists not with the majesty of God to call a person effectually to himself to-day, to make him fit for his eternal love, to give him faith, and take away that faith to-morrow. His effectual call is the fruit of his eternal election, and that counsel hath no other foundation but his constant and unchangeable will; a foundation that stands sure, and, therefore, called the foundation of God, and not of the creature; “the foundation of God stands sure, the Lord knows who are his” (2 Tim. 2:19). It is not founded upon our own natural strength; it may be then subject to change, as all the products of nature are. The fallen angels had created grace in their innocency, but lost it by their fall. Were this the foundation of the creature, it might soon be shaken; since man, after his revolt, can ascribe nothing constant to himself, but his own inconstancy. But the foundation is not in the infirmity of nature, but the strength of grace, and of the grace of God, who is immutable, who wants not virtue to be able, nor kindness to be willing, to reserve his own foundation. To what purpose doth our Saviour tell his disciples their names “were written in heaven” (Luke 10:20), but to mark the infallible certainty of their salvation by an opposition to those things which perish, and have their “names written in the earth” (Jer. 17:23); or upon the sand, where they may be defaced? And why should Christ order his disciples to rejoice that their names were written in heaven, if God were changeable to blot them out again? or why should the apostle assure us, that though God had rejected the greatest part of the Jews, he had not, therefore, rejected his people elected according to his purpose and immutable counsel; because there are none of the elect of God but will come to salvation? For, saith he, the “election hath obtained it” (Rom. 11:7); that is, all those that are of the election have obtained it, and the others are hardened. Where the seal of sanctification is stamped, it is a testimony of God’s election, and that foundation shall stand sure: “The foundation of the Lord stands sure, having this seal, the Lord knows who are his;” that is the foundation, the “naming the name of Christ,” or believing in Christ, and “departing from iniquity,” is the seal. As it is impossible when God calls those things that are not, but that they should spring up into being and appear before him; so it is impossible but that the seed of God, by his eternal purpose, should be brought to a spiritual life, and that calling cannot be retracted; for that “gift and calling is without repentance” (Rom. 11:29). And when repentance is removed from God in regard of some works, the immutability of those works is declared; and the reason of that immutability is their pure dependence on the eternal favor and unchangeable grace of God “purposed in himself” (Eph. 1:9, 11), and not upon the mutability of the creature. Hence their happiness is not as patents among men, quam diu bene se gesserint, so long as they behave themselves well; but they have a promise that they shall behave themselves so as never wholly to depart from God (Jer. 32:40): “I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them to do them good, but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.” God will not turn from them, to do them good, and promiseth that they shall not turn from him forever, or forsake him. And the bottom of it is the everlasting covenant, and, therefore, believing and sealing for security are linked together (Eph. 1:13). And when God doth inwardly teach us his law, he puts in a will not to depart from it: (Psalm 119:102) “I have not departed from thy judgments;” what is the reason? “For thou hast taught me.”
3. By this eternal happiness is insured. This is the inference made from the eternity and unchangeableness of God in the verse following the text (ver. 28): “The children of thy servants shall continue, and their seed shall be established before thee.” This is the sole conclusion drawn from those perfections of God solemnly asserted before. The children which the prophets and apostles have begotten to thee, shall be totally delivered from the relics of their apostasy, and the punishment due to them, and rendered partakers of immortality with thee, as sons to dwell in their Father’s house forever. The Spirit begins a spiritual life here, to fit for an immutable life in glory hereafter, where believers shall be placed upon a throne that cannot be shaken, and possess a crown that shall not be taken off their heads forever.
Use 3. Of exhortation. 1. Let a sense of the changeableness and uncertainty of all other things beside God, be upon us. There are as many changes as there are figures in the world. The whole fashion of the world is a transient thing; every man may say as Job, “Changes and war are against me” (Job 10:17). Lot chose the plain of Sodom, because it was the richer soil. He was but a little tine there before he was taken prisoner, and his substance made the spoil of his enemies. That is again restored; but a while after, fire from heaven devours his wealth, though his person was secured from the judgment by a special Providence. We burn with a desire to settle ourselves, but mistake the way, and build castles in the air, which vanish like bubbles of soap in water. And, therefore,
(1.) Let not our thoughts dwell much upon them. Do but consider those souls that are in the possession of an unchangeable God, that behold his never-fading glory! Would it not be a kind of hell to them to have their thoughts starting out to these things, or find any desire in themselves to the changeable trifles of the earth? Nay, have we not reason to think that they cover their faces with shame, that ever they should have such a weakness of spirit when they were here below, as to spend more thoughts upon them than were necessary for this present life; much more that they should at any time value and court them above an unchangeable good? Do they not disdain themselves that they should ever debase the immutable perfections of God, as to have neglecting thoughts of him at any time, for the entertainment of such a mean and inconstant rival?
(2.) Much less should we trust in them, or rejoice in them. The best things are mutable, and things of such a nature are not fit objects of confidence. Trust not in riches, they have their wanes as well as increases; they rise sometimes like a torrent, and flow in upon men, but resemble also a torrent in as sudden a fall and departure, and leave nothing but slime behind them. Trust not in honor; all the honor and applause in the world is no better than an inheritance of wind, which the pilot is not sure of, but shifts from one corner to another, and stands not perpetually in the same point of the heavens. How, in a few ages did the house of David, a great monarch, and a man after God’s own heart, descend to a mean condition, and all the glory of that house shut up in the stock of a carpenter? ( The Hebrew for carpenter is the same for a stone cutter.) David’s sheep-hook was turned into a seeptre, and the sceptre by the same hand of Providence turned into a hatchet in Joseph his descendant. Rejoice not immoderately in wisdom; that, and learning languish with age. A wound in the head may impair that which is the glory of man. If an organ be out of frame, folly may succeed, and all a man’s prudence be wound up in an irrecoverable dotage. Nebuchadnezzar was no fool, yet, by a sudden hand of God, he became not only a fool or a madman, but a kind of brute. Rejoice not in strength; that decays, and a mighty man may live to see his strong arm withered, and a grasshopper to become a burthen (Eccles. 12:5): “The strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders shall cease because they are few” (ver. 3): nor rejoice in children; they are like birds upon a tree, that make a little chirping music, and presently fall into the fowler’s net. Little did Job expect such sad news as the loss of all his progeny at a blow, when the messenger knocked at his gate; and such changes happen oftentimes when our expectations of comfort, and a contentment in them, are at the highest. How often doth a string crack when the musician hath wound it up to a just height for a tune, and all his pains and delight marred in a moment! Nay, all these things change while we are using them, like ice that melts between our fingers, and flowers that wither while we are smelling to them. The apostle gave them a good title when he called them “uncertain riches,” and thought it a strong argument to dissuade them from trusting in them (1 Tim. 6:17). The wealth of the merchant depends upon the winds and waves, and the revenue of the husbandman upon the clouds; and since they depend upon those things which are used to express the most changeableness, they can be no fit object for trust. Besides, God sometimes kindles a fire under all a man’s glory, which doth insensibly consume it (Isa. 10:16); and while we have them, the fear of losing them renders us not very happy in the fruition of them; we can scarce tell whether they are contentments or no, because sorrow follows them so close at the heels. It is not an unnecessary exhortation for good men; the best men have been apt to place too much trust in them. David thought himself immutable in his prosperity, and such thoughts could not be without some immoderate outlets of the heart to them, and confidences in them; and Job promised himself to die in his nest, and “multiply his days as the sand,” without any interruption (Job 29:18, 19, &c.); but he was mistaken and disappointed. Let me add this: trust not in men, who are as inconstant as anything else, and often change their most ardent affections into implacable hatred; and though their affections may not be changed, the power to help you may. Haman’s friends, that depended on him one day, were crest-fallen the next, when their patron was to exchange his chariot of state for an ignominious gallows.
(3.) Prefer an immutable God before mutable creatures. Is it not a horrible thing to see what we are, and what we possess, daily crumbling to dust, and in a continual flux from us, and not seek out something that is permanent, and always abide the same, for our portion? In God, or Wisdom, which is Christ, there is substance (Prov. 8:21), in which respect he is opposed to all the things in the world, that are but shadows, that are shorter or longer, according to the motion of the sun; mutable also, by every little body that intervenes. God is subject to no decay within, to no force without; nothing in his own nature can change him from what he is, and there is no power above can hinder him from being what he will to the soul. He is an ocean of all perfection: he wants nothing without himself to render him blessed, which may allure him to a change. His creatures can want nothing out of him to make them happy, whereby they may be enticed to prefer anything before him. If we enjoy other things, it is by God’s donation, who can as well withdraw them as bestow them; and it is but a reasonable, as well as a necessary thing, to endeavor the enjoyment of the immutable Benefactor, rather than his revocable gifts. If the creatures had a sufficient virtue in themselves to ravish our thoughts and engross our souls; yet when we take a prospect of a fixed and unchangeable Being, what beauty, what strength have any of those things to vie with him? How can they bear up and maintain their interest against a lively thought and sense of God? All the glory of them would fly before him like that of the stars before the sun. They were once nothing, they may be nothing again; as their own nature brought them not out of nothing, so their nature secures them not from being reduced to nothing. What an unhappiness is it to have our affections set upon that which retains something of its non esse with its esse, its not being with its being; that lives indeed, but in a continual flux, and may lose that pleasurableness to-morrow which charms us to-day?
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
God Is Good