1 He who dashes in pieces has come up before your face. Guard the fortress, watch the way, make your loins strong, and fortify your power mightily.
2 For the LORD has turned away the excellence of Jacob, as the excellence of Israel. For the emptiers have emptied them out and marred their vine branches.
3 The shield of his mighty men is made red. The valiant men are in scarlet. The chariots shall be with flaming torches in the day of his preparation, and the fir-trees shall be terribly shaken.
4 The chariots shall rage in the streets. They shall jostle one against another in the broad ways. They shall seem like torches and they shall run like the lightnings.
5 He shall recount his nobles. They shall stumble in their walk. They shall make haste to the wall thereof, and the defense shall be prepared.
6 The gates of the rivers shall be opened, and the palace shall be dissolved.
7 And she who stood firm shall be led away captive, she shall be brought up, and her maids shall lead her as with the voice of doves, beating upon their breasts.
8 But Nineveh is of old like a pool of water. Yet they shall flee away. "Stand, stand," they shall cry, but no one shall look back.
9 Take the spoil of silver and take the spoil of gold. There is no end to the supply. There is glory from all the desirable vessels.
10 She is empty, void, and waste. And the heart melts, the knees smite together, much pain is in all loins, and all of their faces gather blackness.
11 Where is the dwelling of the lions and the feeding-place of the young lions, where the lion, the lioness, and the lion's whelp walked and no one made them afraid?
12 The lion tore in pieces enough for his whelps and strangled for his lionesses, and filled his caves with prey and his dens with flesh.
13 "Behold, I am against you," says the LORD of hosts, "and I will burn her chariots in the smoke, and the sword shall devour your young lions. And I will cut off your prey from the earth, and the voice of your messengers shall be heard no more."
John Gill's Chapter Summary:
This chapter gives an account of the destruction of the city of Nineveh; describes the instruments of it as very terrible and powerful, and not to be resisted (verses 1-4); the manner of taking it, the flight of its inhabitants, and the spoil of its riches and treasures (verses 5-10); and the king and the princes thereof, compared to a lion, and a lion's whelp, are insulted as being without a den or dwelling place, because of their cruelty and ravening, for which the Lord was against them, and threatened them with utter ruin, which he brought upon them (verses 11-13).
[v.1] - "He who dashes in pieces" - That is, the waster, or the destroyer.
[v.3a] - "The chariots shall be with flaming torches" - From John Calvin's Commentary: "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." See verse 4.
[v.3b] - "the fir-trees shall be terribly shaken" - By "fir-trees," what is likely alluded to here are spears or lances. On this, John Owen said, "The figure is bold, but it is no unusual thing in poetry to call an instrument by the name of the material of which it is made." From John Calvin's Commentary: "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... 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."
[v.7] - "she who stood firm" - There are various renderings of the Hebrew word here. Ultimately, it is ambiguous and even quite obscure. The KJV renders it Huzzab as a proper noun and the name of the queen of Nineveh, but, as John Calvin states (and others), "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." On that note, the Pulpit Commentary says this: "We may dismiss the idea that Huzzab is the name of the queen. Such a personage is unknown to history; and there is no reason why she should be mentioned rather than the king; and persona are not introduced by name in prophecy except for some very special reason, as Cyrus (Isaiah 44:28)." The Jamieson-Faucet-Brown Commentary offers this explanation: "[Huzzab is] rather, Nineveh personified as a queen. She who had long stood in the most supreme prosperity." Calvin then explains the passage as follows: "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 anyone prefers to regard the queen as intended, it would yet be better to take הצב, etsab, 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, eutsab: 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 anyone 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 lament, 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."
John Calvin's Prayer for Verses 1-8:
Grant, Almighty God, that as you constantly remind us, in your word, and teach us by so many examples, that there is nothing permanent in this world, but that the things which seem the firmest tend to ruin, and instantly fall and of themselves vanish away, when by your breath you shake that strength in which men trust,— O grant, that we being really subdued and humbled, may not rely on earthly things, but raise up our hearts and our thoughts to heaven, and there fix the anchor of our hope; and may all our thoughts abide there, until at length, when you have led us through our course on earth, we shall be gathered into that celestial kingdom, which has been obtained for us by the blood of your only-begotten Son. Amen.
[v.9] - "the supply" - Literally, "the preparation," that is, things prepared, supply, store. This is likely referring to the wealth or treasure of the place.
[v.10] - "blackness" - The meaning of the Hebrew word here is uncertain. John Calvin was inclined to this rendering: "all faces shall withdraw their beauty, or their brightness." Yet, he also admitted that there is no real difference to the meaning of the passage whether it be rendered, "withdraw brightness," or, "gather blackness." John Owen pointed to the English rendering of the Septuagint, which is, "and the face (or, the faces) of all as the burning on the pot." The burning on the pot refers to when a pot or cauldron is blackened by smoke. Regardless of how the passage is rendered, the idea behind it is to signify an outward appearance of sorrow.
[v.11] - "Where is the dwelling of the lions" - The word lions in this passage is literally, "lionesses," for in the Hebrew, the feminine gender is used. Perhaps the femenine gender was used because the passage is using a lion as a metaphor for Nineveh, and the Hebrew language uses the feminine gender when referring to cities (see the note for Nahum 1:8).
John Calvin's Prayer for Verses 2:9-3:1:
Grant, Almighty God, that as we have now heard of punishments so dreadful denounced on all tyrants and plunderers, this warning may keep us within the limits of justice, so that none of us may abuse our power to oppress the innocent, but, on the contrary, strive to benefit one another, and wholly regulate ourselves according to the rule of equity: and may we hence also receive comfort whenever the ungodly molest and trouble us, and doubt not but that we are under thy protection, and that you are armed with power sufficient to defend us, so that we may patiently bear injuries, until at length the ripened time shall come for you to help us, and to put forth your power for our preservation; nor let us cease to bear our evils with patience, as long as it may be your will to exercise us in our present warfare, until having gone through all one troubles, we come to that blessed rest which has been provided for us in heaven by Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.