Behold, I am against thee, saith the LORD of hosts; and I will discover thy skirts upon thy face, and I will shew the nations thy nakedness, and the kingdoms thy shame. And I will cast abominable filth upon thee, and make thee vile, and will set thee as a gazingstock. — Nahum 3:5-6
The year was 1897, and celebratory events were taking place in Great Britain in honor of Queen Victoria’s sixty years on the British Throne. Author Rudyard Kipling had written a poem in honor of the occasion but, dissatisfied with his first attempts, had thrown an early draft in the wastepaper basket — from which it was rescued, so the story goes, by his wife. A friend who was visiting at the time joined Kipling’s wife in praising the poem, and with their encouragement, he completed it.
Titled Recessional, the piece expresses Kipling’s concern that the British Empire might go the way of all previous empires. He knew that when godly nations rise to wealth and power, they are inclined to forget their God, and to support that premise, he referred to the ancient cities of Nineveh and Tyre. Kipling recognized that boasting and aggressive foreign policy were vain in light of God’s dominion over the world.
The words “lest we forget” form the refrain of the piece. The phrase became popular after World War I as a warning about the perils of pride, self-confidence, or arrogance resulting in fatal retribution.
Far-called, our navies melt away;
On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet.
Lest we forget — lest we forget!
Nahum would have appreciated Kipling’s challenge to the people of Great Britain. The prophet’s message of impending doom for the nation of Assyria was in direct response to that evil nation’s pride, cruelty, and idolatry — they had forgotten the message of Jonah, which had caused them to repent over a hundred years earlier. Now, because of their sins, Nahum predicted that this proud and powerful nation would be utterly destroyed, for when God’s judgment falls, men are powerless to stand against it.
In our day, as in the time of Nahum, we know that disobedience, rebellion, and injustice will not prevail, but will be punished by a righteous and holy God. Let us learn the lessons that history has taught, and be careful to obey God and to put our trust in Him.
The chapter begins with a prediction of “woe” to the “bloody city.” The word woe implies an accusation and declaration of punishment. In this case, God was making a public declaration of punishment against the people of Nineveh due to their terrible deeds. The Assyrians were hungry to conquer nations and were guilty of extensive bloodshed, brutality, atrocity, and political tyranny.
Verse 5 leaves no question as to God’s intent toward the city: “Behold, I am against thee.” Through the prophet, He proclaimed that He would “discover thy skirts upon thy face, and . . . shew the nations thy nakedness.” Public exposure was a practice to reveal unchastity. In ancient times, prostitutes were made a spectacle by subjecting them to public ridicule. God used this graphic example to show that Nineveh would bear much disgrace. The same stripping of dignity that they had imposed on the nations they conquered would be imposed upon them.
Nineveh’s apparent indestructible status must have made Nahum’s prophecy seem incredulous. Its splendor, expansive territory (approximately eighteen thousand acres), fortified gates, and military dominance seemed permanent. Yet, God warned that Nineveh was no better than No [Thebes], which had been the capital city of Upper Egypt but had fallen to invading armies from Assyria.
The phrase “all thy strong holds” in verse 12 is an allusion to the outlying fortresses surrounding Nineveh. The Hebrew word translated stronghold means “fortification” or “defender.” Nahum foretold that these points of defense would be like fig trees that easily give up their ripe figs when shaken; they would be easily overcome.
The chapter takes on an ironic tone when, in verse 14, Nahum urged the Assyrians to attempt to prepare for this massive attack. He told them to store up water, reinforce their fortifications, make strong brick, and increase their numbers like the locusts. However, all this would be to no avail because in the moment of God’s vengeance, fire would devour the city, the leaders that they were so dependent upon would be like “great grasshoppers,” and the army commanders like “swarming locusts.” Locusts may travel in vast swarms and cause destruction in their path, but when their wings are exposed to cold, they grow stiff and lifeless. In essence, Nahum prophesied that their generals would be inept and powerless to save the city and would fly away in that day of vengeance.
Nineveh’s destruction occurred just as Nahum prophesied. Complete desolation and devastation took place and the nations around it rejoiced. Even today, archeological studies have found proof that Nineveh was indeed destroyed by fire. Thus, God’s revenge for the oppressed was fulfilled.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
III. Nineveh’s fall vindicated (3:1-19)
A. The defense of the city (3:1-3)
B. The condition of the city (3:4-7)
C. The certain doom of the city (3:8-19)
1. The example of No (3:8-10)
a. Her formidable location (3:8)
b. Her formidable protection (3:9)
c. Her fatal demise (3:10)
2. The defenselessness of Nineveh (3:11-13)
3. The instructions for Nineveh (3:14)
4. The destruction of Nineveh (3:15-19)
a. The complete desolation (3:15-16)
b. The strengthless army (3:17-18)
c. The complete destruction (3:19)
God is a God of justice. Unless there is repentance, sin and rebellion against Him will not go unpunished, regardless of seeming security and protection.