Nahum 1:9
What do ye imagine against the LORD? he will make an utter end: affliction shall not rise up the second time.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(9-15) The first revelation of God’s judgment, by the awful overthrow of Sennacherib’s invading army in the reign of Hezekiah.

(9) Afflictioni.e., Nineveh’s affliction of Israel, the same Hebrew word being used in Nahum 1:7 to denote Israel’s “trouble” or “affliction” proceeding from Nineveh. (See also Nahum 1:12.) Nineveh shall not afflict Israel a second time. Applying the whole passage to the destruction of Sennacherib’s host, we necessarily prefer this to the other possible interpretation—God will not have occasion to send affliction on Nineveh a second time, i.e., this visitation will be so exhaustive that there will be no need to repeat it. For the judgment on Sennacherib was not God’s final visitation.

Nahum 1:9-10. What do ye imagine against the Lord? — Having declared the dreadfulness of God’s power and anger against the wicked, his goodness toward his people, and denounced future destruction against the Ninevites; he now expostulates with them, inquiring what it is they design against God, and on what ground they flatter themselves into such an attempt: as if he had said, What a foolish and wicked thing it is for you to plot against Jehovah, as if you could outwit infinite wisdom, and overcome almighty power. He will make an utter end — He will cause your utter desolation to be the issue of your projects, and the punishment of your sins. Affliction shall not rise up the second time — God will at once, and for ever, destroy your city and empire. He will lay you low at one stroke, so that there will be no occasion to repeat it. For while they be folden together as thorns — Or, For as thorns golden or entangled together are thrown into the fire all at once, and easily burned, yea, help to destroy each other; so shall the Ninevites be easily and surely destroyed. And while they are drunken as drunkards — As men drunken and unable to help themselves; who, when any sudden danger arises, are all involved in the same fate. They shall be devoured as stubble fully dry — Which soon catches fire, and breaks out into a flame. The meaning of the whole verse is, that on a sudden they should be involved in a general destruction. Diodorus relates, it was while all the Assyrian army were feasting for their former victories, that their enemies, being informed by some deserters of the negligence and drunkenness in their camp, “assaulted them unexpectedly by night, and falling orderly on them disorderly, and prepared on them unprepared, became masters of the camp, slew many of the soldiers, and drove the rest into the city.”

1:9-15 There is a great deal plotted against the Lord by the gates of hell, and against his kingdom in the world; but it will prove in vain. With some sinners God makes quick despatch; and one way or other, he will make an utter end of all his enemies. Though they are quiet, and many very secure, and not in fear, they shall be cut down as grass and corn, when the destroying angel passes through. God would hereby work great deliverance for his own people. But those who make themselves vile by scandalous sins, God will make vile by shameful punishments. The tidings of this great deliverance shall be welcomed with abundant joy. These words are applied to the great redemption wrought out by our Lord Jesus and the everlasting gospel, Ro 10:15. Christ's ministers are messengers of good tidings, that preach peace by Jesus Christ. How welcome to those who see their misery and danger by sin! And the promise they made in the day of trouble must be made good. Let us be thankful for God's ordinances, and gladly attend them. Let us look forward with cheerful hope to a world where the wicked never can enter, and sin and temptation will no more be known.The prophet had in few words summed up the close of Nineveh; he now upbraids them with the sin, which should bring it upon them, and foretells the destruction of Sennacherib. Nineveh had, before this, been the instrument of chastising Israel and Judah. Now, the capture of Samaria, which had cast off God, deceived and emboldened it. Its king thought that this was the might of his own arm; and likened the Lord of heaven and earth to the idols of the pagan, and said, "Who are they among all the gods of the countries, that have delivered their country out of mine hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of mine hand?" 2 Kings 18:35. He sent "to reproach the living God" 2 Kings 19:16 and "defied the Holy One of Israel" (see 2 Kings 19:15-34). His blasphemy was his destruction. It was a war, not simply of ambition, or covetousness, but directly against the power and worship of God.

"What will ye so mightily devise" , "imagine against the Lord?" He Himself, by Himself, is already "making an utter end." It is in store; the Angel is ready to smite. Idle are man's devices, when the Lord doeth. "Take counsel together, and it shall come to nought; speak the word, and it shall not stand: for God is with us" Isaiah 8:10. While the rich man was speaking comfort to his soul as to future years, God was making an utter end. "Thou fool, this night shall thy soul be required of thee."

Affliction shall not rise up the second time - Others have understood this, "affliction shall not rise up the second time," but shall destroy at once, utterly and finally (compare 1 Samuel 26:8; 2 Samuel 20:10): but:

(1) the idiom there, "he did not repeat to him," as we say, "he did not repeat the blow" is quite different;

(2) it is said "affliction shall not rise up," itself, as if it could not. The causative of the idiom occurs in 2 Samuel 12:11, "lo, I will cause evil to rise up against thee;" as he says afterward, "Though I have afflicted thee, I will afflict thee no more" Nahum 1:12. "God," He had said, "is good for a refuge in the day of affliction;" now, personifying that affliction, he says, that it should be so utterly broken, that it should rise up no more to vex them, as when a serpent's head is, not wounded only but, crushed and trampled underfoot, so that it cannot again lift itself up. The promises of God are conditioned by our not falling back into sin. He saith to Nineveh, "God will not deliver Judah to thee, as He delivered the ten tribes and Samaria." Judah repented under Hezekiah, and He not only delivered it from Sennacherib, but never afflicted them again through Assyria. Renewal of sin brings renewal or deepening of punishment. The new and more grievous sins under Manasseh were punished, not through Assyria but through the Chaldeans.

The words have passed into a maxim, "God will not punish the same thing twice," not in this world and the world to come, i. e., not if repented of. For of the impenitent it is said, "destroy them with a double destruction" Jeremiah 17:18. Chastisement here is a token of God's mercy; the absence of it, or prosperous sin, of perdition; but if any refuse to be corrected, the chastisement of this life is but the beginning of unending torments.

9. What do ye imagine against the Lord?—abrupt address to the Assyrians. How mad is your attempt, O Assyrians, to resist so powerful a God! What can ye do against such an adversary, successful though ye have been against all other adversaries? Ye imagine ye have to do merely with mortals and with a weak people, and that so you will gain an easy victory; but you have to encounter God, the protector of His people. Parallel to Isa 37:23-29; compare Ps 1:1.

he will make an utter end—The utter overthrow of Sennacherib's host, soon about to take place, is an earnest of the "utter end" of Nineveh itself.

affliction shall not rise up the second time—Judah's "affliction" caused by the invasion shall never rise again. So Na 1:12. But Calvin takes the "affliction" to be that of Assyria: "There will be no need of His inflicting on you a second blow: He will make an utter end of you once for all" (1Sa 3:12; 26:8; 2Sa 20:10). If so, this verse, in contrast to Na 1:12, will express, Affliction shall visit the Assyrian no more, in a sense very different from that in which God will afflict Judah no more. In the Assyrian's case, because the blow will be fatally final; the latter, because God will make lasting blessedness in Judah's case succeed temporary chastisement. But it seems simpler to refer "affliction" here, as in Na 1:12, to Judah; indeed destruction, rather than affliction, applies to the Assyrian.

Having declared the dreadfulness of God’s power and anger against the wicked, his goodness towards his people, and denounced future destruction against the Ninevites and Assyrians, he doth now expostulate with them, would know what it is they think of God, what it is they design against him, and on what ground they flatter themselves into such an attempt.

Against the Lord, the God of Israel; for however you, O Ninevites and Assyrians, will look only upon a poor, afflicted people, (weakened by many wars,) and design to swallow them up, yet they are the people of the Lord, and you design against him what you design against them.

He will make an utter end; he will make your utter desolation to be the issue of your projects, and the punishment of your sins: see Nahum 1:8.

Affliction shall not rise up the second time; when that storm which shall overthrow you is past, no other shall arise, because you shall be no more; as if the prophet had said, God will at once and for ever destroy your empire and city.

What do ye imagine against the Lord?.... O ye Ninevites or Assyrians; do you think you can frustrate the designs of the Lord, resist his power, and hinder him from executing what he has threatened and has determined to do? or what mischief is it you devise against his people, which is the same as against himself? can you believe that you shall prosper and succeed, and your schemes be carried into execution, when he, the all wise and all powerful Being, opposes you?

he will make an utter end; of you, as before declared, and will save his people; which may be depended on will certainly be the case:

affliction shall not rise up the second time; either this should be the last effort the Assyrians would make upon the Jews, which they made under Sennacherib, and this the last time they would afflict them; or rather their own destruction should be so complete that there would be no need to repeat the stroke, or give another blow; the business would be done at once. This seems to contradict a notion of some historians and chronologers, who suppose that Nineveh was destroyed at two different times, and by different persons of the same nations; and so the whole Assyrian empire was twice ruined, which is not likely in itself, and seems contrary to this passage; for though some ascribe it to Arbaces the Mede, and Belesis the Babylonian as Diodorus Siculus (e); and others to Cyaxares the Mede as Herodotus (f), and to Nebuchadnezzar the first, or Nabopolassar the Babylonian in a later period; so Tobit (g) says it was taken by Nebuchadnezzar and Ahasuerus, the same with the Cyaxares of Herodotus; yet all seem to agree that it was taken by the conjunct forces of the Medes and Babylonians; and there are some things similar (h) in all these accounts, which show that there was but one destruction of Nineveh, and of the Assyrian empire.

(e) Bibliothec. l. 2. p. 110, 111. (f) L. 1. sive Clio, c. 106. (g) Tobit 14:15. (h) See the Universal History, vol. 4. c. 8. sect. 5. & vol. 5. p. 22. Margin, & Nicolai Abrami Pharus Vet. Test. l. 6. c. 19. p. 165.

What do ye {k} imagine against the LORD? he will make an utter end: affliction shall not rise up the second time.

(k) He shows that the undertakings of the Assyrians against Judah and the Church were against God, and therefore he would so destroy them the first time, that he would not need to return the second time.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
9. What do ye imagine against the Lord] Compare Nahum 1:11 : “out of thee came forth one that imagined evil against the Lord.” This sense, though the natural one, does not connect well with the next clause. Possibly the meaning is, What do ye imagine (think) of the Lord? in regard to Him and His operations. The next words then explain how He is to be thought of, and what His way of operation is: He will make an utter end.

Affliction … the second time] Or, trouble shall not rise twice. Is the statement a threat against Jehovah’s enemies or particularly Nineveh? or is it a promise to Israel? Do the words mean that as the Lord shall make an utter end of Nineveh the trouble that now threatens her shall be once for all? or is the sense that Israel having suffered once from Assyria (Sennacherib) she shall not suffer twice? The use of the word “twice” as well as the connexion seems to favour the former sense, though perhaps the term “affliction” or trouble not unnaturally suggests the second. Comp. 1 Samuel 26:8, “Let me pin him with the spear to the earth at one stroke (one time) and I will not smite him the second time (lit. I will not repeat to him)”; 2 Samuel 20:10. The same ambiguity arises in Nahum 1:12.

Verse 9. - The prophet suddenly addresses both Jews and Assyrians, encouraging the former by the thought that God can perform what he promises, and warning the latter that their boasting (comp. Isaiah 10:9, etc.; Isaiah 36:20) was vain. What do ye imagine against the Lord? Quid cogitatis contra Dominum? (Vulgate). This rendering regards the question as addressed to the Assyrians, demanding of them what it is that they dare to plot against God; do they presume to fight against him, or to fancy that his threats will not be accomplished? But the sentence is best translated, What think ye of the Lord? Τί λογίζεσθε ἐπὶ τὸν Κύριον; "What devise ye against the Lord?" (Septuagint). This is addressed not only to the Jews in the sense, "Do ye think that he will not accomplish his threat against Nineveh?" but to the Assyrians also. He will make an utter end. This denunciation is repeated from ver. 8 to denote the absolute certainty of the doom. Affliction shall not rise up the second time. The Assyrians shall never again have the power of oppressing Judah as they have ruined Israel there shall be no repetition of Sennacherib's invasion. Septuagint, Οὐκ ἐκδικήσει δὶς ἐπιτοαυτὸ ἐν θλίψει: Non vindicabit bis in idipsura (Jerome). From this text the Fathers take occasion to discuss the question how it is that God does not punish twice for the same sin. Nahum 1:9The reason for all this is assigned in Nahum 1:9. Nahum 1:9. "What think ye of Jehovah? He makes an end; the affliction will not arise twice. Nahum 1:10. For though they be twisted together like thorns, and as if intoxicated with their wine, they shall be devoured like dry stubble. Nahum 1:11. From thee has one come out, who meditated evil against Jehovah, who advised worthlessness." The question in Nahum 1:9 is not addressed to the enemy, viz., the Assyrians, as very many commentators suppose: "What do ye meditate against Jehovah?" For although châshabh 'el is used in Hosea 7:15 for a hostile device with regard to Jehovah, the supposition that 'el is used here for ‛al, according to a later usage of the language, is precluded by the fact that חשׁב על is actually used in this sense in Nahum 1:11. Moreover, the last clause does not suit this view of the question. The word, "the affliction will not stand up, or not rise up a second time," cannot refer to the Assyrians, or mean that the infliction of a second judgment upon Nineveh will be unnecessary, because the city will utterly fall to the ground in the first judgment, and completely vanish from the earth (Hitzig). For צרה points back to בּיום צרה, and therefore must be the calamity which has fallen upon Judah, or upon those who trust in the Lord, on the part of Nineveh or Asshur (Marck, Maurer, and Strauss). This is confirmed by Nahum 1:11 and Nahum 1:15, where this thought is definitely expressed. Consequently the question, "What think ye with regard to Jehovah?" can only be addressed to the Judaeans, and must mean, "Do ye think that Jehovah cannot or will not fulfil His threat upon Nineveh?" (Cyr., Marck, Strauss). The prophet addresses these words to the anxious minds, which were afraid of fresh invasions on the part of the Assyrians. To strengthen their confidence, he answers the question proposed, by repeating the thought expressed in Nahum 1:8. He (Jehovah) is making an end, sc. of the enemy of His people; and he gives a further reason for this in Nahum 1:10. The participial clauses עד סירים to סבוּאים are to be taken conditionally: are (or were) they even twisted like thorns. עד סירים, to thorns equals as thorns (עד is given correctly by J. H. Michaelis: eo usque ut spinas perplexitate aequent; compare Ewald, 219). The comparison of the enemy to thorns expresses "firmatum callidumque nocendi studium" (Marck), and has been well explained by Ewald thus: "crisp, crafty, and cunning; so that one would rather not go near them, or have anything to do with them" (cf. 2 Samuel 23:6 and Micah 7:4). כּסבאם סבוּאים, not "wetted like their wet" (Hitzig), nor "as it were drowned in wine, so that fire can do no more harm to them than to anything else that is wet" (Ewald); for סבא neither means to wet nor to drown, but to drink, to carouse; and סבוּא means drunken, intoxicated. סבא is strong unmixed wine (see Delitzsch on Isaiah 1:22). "Their wine" is the wine which they are accustomed to drink. The simile expresses the audacity and hardiness with which the Assyrians regarded themselves as invincible, and applies very well to the gluttony and revelry which prevailed at the Assyrian court; even if the account given by Diod. Sic. (ii. 26), that when Sardanapalus had three times defeated the enemy besieging Nineveh, in his great confidence in his own good fortune, he ordered a drinking carousal, in the midst of which the enemy, who had been made acquainted with the fact, made a fresh attack, and conquered Nineveh, rests upon a legendary dressing up of the facts. אכּלוּ, devoured by fire, is a figure signifying utter destruction; and the perfect is prophetic, denoting what will certainly take place. Like dry stubble: cf. Isaiah 5:24; Isaiah 47:14, and Joel 2:5. מלא is not to be taken, as Ewald supposes (279, a), as strengthening יבשׁ, "fully dry," but is to be connected with the verb adverbially, and is simply placed at the end of the sentence for the sake of emphasis (Ges., Maurer, and Strauss). This will be the end of the Assyrians, because he who meditates evil against Jehovah has come forth out of Nineveh. In ממּך Nineveh is addressed, the representative of the imperial power of Assyria, which set itself to destroy the Israelitish kingdom of God. It might indeed be objected to this explanation of the verse, that the words in Nahum 1:12 and Nahum 1:13 are addressed to Zion or Judah, whereas Nineveh or Asshur is spoken of both in what precedes (Nahum 1:8 and Nahum 1:10) and in what follows (Nahum 1:12) in the third person. On this ground Hoelem. and Strauss refer ממּך also to Judah, and adopt this explanation: "from thee (Judah) will the enemy who has hitherto oppressed thee have gone away" (taking יצא as fut. exact., and יצא מן as in Isaiah 49:17). But this view does not suit the context. After the utter destruction of the enemy has been predicted in Nahum 1:10, we do not expect to find the statement that it will have gone away from Judah, especially as there is nothing said in what precedes about any invasion of Judah. The meditation of evil against Jehovah refers to the design of the Assyrian conquerors to destroy the kingdom of God in Israel, as the Assyrian himself declares in the blasphemous words which Isaiah puts into the mouth of Rabshakeh (Isaiah 36:14-20), to show the wicked pride of the enemy. This address merely expresses the feeling cherished at all times by the power of the world towards the kingdom of God. It is in the plans devised for carrying this feeling into action that the יעץ בּליּעל, the advising of worthlessness, consists. This is the only meaning that בּליּעל has, not that of destruction.
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