Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
This chapter opens the prophecy against the Assyrians and their metropolis with a very magnificent description of the infinite justice, tender compassion, and uncontrollable power of God, Nah 1:1-8. To this succeeds an address to the Assyrians; with a lively picture of their sudden overthrow, because of their evil device against Jerusalem, Nah 1:9-11. Then appears Jehovah himself, proclaiming deliverance to his people from the Assyrian yoke, and the destruction of the Assyrian idols, Nah 1:12-14; upon which the prophet, with great emphasis, directs the attention of Judah to the approach of the messenger who brings such glad tidings; and exultingly bids his people to celebrate their solemn feasts, and perform their vows, as a merciful Providence would not suffer these enemies of the Jewish state to prevail against them, Nah 1:15.
The burden of Nineveh - משא massa not only signifies a burden, but also a thing lifted up, pronounced, or proclaimed; also a message. It is used by the prophets to signify the revelation which they have received from God to deliver to any particular people: the oracle - the prophecy. Here it signifies the declaration from God relative to the overthrow of Nineveh, and the commission of the prophet to deliver it.
As the Assyrians under Pul, Tiglath-pileser, and Shalmaneser, three of their kinds, had been employed by a just God for the chastisement of his disobedient people; the end being now accomplished by them, God is about to burn the rod wherewith he corrected Israel; and Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian empire, is to be destroyed. This prediction appears to have been accomplished a short time after this by Nebuchadnezzar and Cyaxares, the Ahasuerus of Scripture.
Nahum, נחום Nachum, signifies comforter. The name was very suitable, as he was sent to comfort the people, by showing them that God was about to destroy their adversaries.
God is jealous - For his own glory.
And - revengeth - His justice; by the destruction of his enemies.
And is furious - So powerful in the manifestations of his judgments, that nothing can stand before him.
He reserveth wrath - Though they seem to prosper for a time, and God appears to have passed by their crimes without notice, yet he reserveth - treasureth up - wrath for them, which shall burst forth in due time.
The Lord is slow to anger - He exercises much longsuffering towards his enemies, that this may lead them to repentance. And it is because of this longsuffering that vengeance is not speedily executed on every evil work.
Great in power - Able at all times to save or to destroy.
The Lord hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm - These are the effects of his power; and when they appear unusual, they may be considered as the immediate effects of his power: and although he be in them to punish and destroy, he is in them to direct their course, to determine their operations, and to defend his followers from being injured by their violence. The pestilential wind which slew one hundred and eighty-five thousand of the Assyrians did not injure one Israelite. See Kg2 19:35.
The clouds are the dust of his feet - This is spoken in allusion to a chariot and horses going on with extreme rapidity: they are all enveloped in a cloud of dust. So Jehovah is represented as coming through the circuit of the heavens as rapidly as lightning; the clouds surrounding him as the dust does the chariot and horses.
He rebuketh the sea - The Red Sea and the rivers: probably an allusion to the passage of the Red Sea and Jordan.
The description of the coming of Jehovah, from the third to the sixth verse, is dreadfully majestic. He is represented as controlling universal nature. The sea and the rivers are dried up, the mountains tremble, the hills melt, and the earth is burnt at his presence. Bashan, Carmel, and Lebanon are withered and languish: streams of fire are poured out, and the rocks are cast down to make him a passage. If then, the seas, the rivers, the mountains, the hills, the rocks, and the earth itself, fail before Jehovah, or flee from his presence, how shall Nineveh and the Assyrian empire stand before him?
The Lord is good - In the midst of judgment he remembers mercy; and among the most dreadful denunciations of wrath he mingles promises of mercy. None that trust in him need be alarmed at these dreadful threatenings; they shall be discriminated in the day of wrath, for the Lord knoweth them that trust in him.
But with an overrunning flood - Bishop Newcome thinks this may refer to the manner in which Nineveh was taken. The Euphrates overflowed its banks, deluged a part of the city, and overturned twenty stadia of the wall; in consequence of which the desponding king burnt himself, and his palace, with his treasures. - Diodor. Sic., Edit. Wessel., p. 140, lib. ii., s. 27.
Darkness shall pursue - Calamity. All kinds of calamity shall pursue them till they are destroyed.
Affliction shall not rise up the second time - There shall be no need to repeat the judgment; with one blow God will make a full end of the business.
While they be folden together - However united their counsels may be, they shall be as drunken men - perplexed and unsteady in all their resolutions; and before God's judgments they shall be as dry thorns before a devouring fire.
Imagineth evil against the Lord - Such were Pul, Kg2 15:10, Tiglath-pileser, Kg2 15:29; Shalmaneser, Kg2 17:6; and Sennacherib, Kg2 18:17; Kg2 19:23.
A wicked counsellor - Sennacherib and Rabshakeh.
Though they be - many - Sennacherib invaded Judea with an army of nearly two hundred thousand men.
Thus shall they be cut down - The angel of the Lord (a suffocating wind) slew of them in one night one hundred and eighty-five thousand Kg2 19:35.
Now will I break his yoke from off thee - This refers to the tribute which the Jews were obliged to pay to the Assyrians, Kg2 17:14.
No more of thy name be sown - No more of you shall be carried away into captivity.
I will make thy grave; for thou art vile - I think this is an address to the Assyrians, and especially to Sennacherib. The text is no obscure intimation of the fact. The house of his gods is to be his grave: and we know that while he was worshipping in the house of his god Nisroch, his two sons, Adrammelech and Sharezer, smote him there that he died, Kg2 19:37.
Behold upon the mountains - Borrowed probably from Isa 52:7, but applied here to the messengers who brought the good tidings of the destruction of Nineveh. Judah might then keep her solemn feasts, for the wicked Assyrian should pass through the land no more; being entirely cut off, and the imperial city razed to its foundations.