Nahum 2:5
He shall recount his worthies: they shall stumble in their walk; they shall make haste to the wall thereof, and the defence shall be prepared.
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(5) And the defence shall be prepared.—Better, but [there] the storming-shed has been prepared. Here the surprise and disorder of Nineveh is more plainly portrayed. The Assyrian king bethinks him of his stoutest warriors, but they stumble in their paths in nervous perplexity. Men ran to the city wall, but against it the besiegers have already erected their storming-shed—a proceeding which ought to have been prevented by the discharge of stones and other missiles from the walls. The storming-shed protected the battering-rams. Of the representations of these preserved in the monuments of Nineveh, Professor Rawlinson thus writes: “All of them were covered with a framework, which was of osier wood, felt, or skins, for the better protection of those who worked the implement. . . . Some appear to have been stationary, others provided with wheels. . . . Again, sometimes combined with the ram and its framework was a movable tower containing soldiers, who at once fought the enemy on a level, and protected the engine from their attacks (Ancient Monarchies, i. 470).

Nahum 2:5-6. He — The enemy that attacks Nineveh, namely, the king of Babylon; shall recount his worthies — Shall select some of his choicest troops for the siege of it. They shall stumble in their walk — They shall show such forwardness, and be so eager to begin the attack of the city and mount the walls, that they shall stumble and throw one another down in their haste. The defence shall be prepared — Hebrew, הסכךְ, the covering. So the Vulgate, preparabitur umbraculum: “Testudo qua tecti subruant mœnia.” — Grotius. “The testudo, or fence, with which being covered, they might undermine and throw down the walls.” The gates of the river shall be open — See note on Nahum 1:8. The palace shall be dissolved — Or, molten; shall be consumed with fire.

2:1-10 Nineveh shall not put aside this judgment; there is no counsel or strength against the Lord. God looks upon proud cities, and brings them down. Particular account is given of the terrors wherein the invading enemy shall appear against Nineveh. The empire of Assyria is represented as a queen, about to be led captive to Babylon. Guilt in the conscience fills men with terror in an evil day; and what will treasures or glory do for us in times of distress, or in the day of wrath? Yet for such things how many lose their souls!He shall recount his worthies - The Assyrian king wakes as out of a sleep, literally, "he remembers his mighty men" (as Nahum 3:18; Judges 5:13; Nehemiah 3:5); "they stumble in their walk," literally, paths , not through haste only and eager fear, but from want of inward might and the aid of God. These whom God leads stumble not Isaiah 63:13. : "Perplexed every way and not knowing what they ought to do, their mind wholly darkened and almost drunken with ills, they reel to and fro, turn from one thing to another, and in all" labor in vain.

They shall make haste to the walls thereof, and the defense - (literally, "the covering") shall be prepared The Assyrian monuments leave no doubt that a Jewish writer is right in the main, in describing this as a covered shelter, under which an enemy approached the city; "a covering of planks with skins upon them; under it those who fight against the city come to the wall and mine the wall underneath, and it is a shield over them from the stones, which are cast from off the wall."

The monuments, however, exhibit this shelter, as connected not with mining but with a battering ram, mostly with a sharp point, by which they loosened the walls . Another covert was employed to protect single miners who picked out single stones with a pick-axe . The Assyrians sculptures show, in the means employed against or in defense of their engines, how central a part of the siege they formed . Seven of them are represented in one siege . The "ram" Ezekiel 4:2 is mentioned in Ezekiel as the well-known and ordinary instrument of a siege.

Thus, Nahum 2:3 describes the attack; and Nahum 2:4 describes the defense; the two first clauses of Nahum 2:5 describes the defense; the two last describe clauses the attack. This quick interchange only makes the whole account more vivid.

: "But what avails it to build the house, unless the Lord build it? What helps it to shut the gates, which the Lord unbarreth?" On both sides is put forth the full strength of man; there seems a stand-still to see, what will be, and God brings to pass His own work in His own way.

5. The Assyrian preparations for defense.

He—the Assyrian king.

shall recount his worthies—(Na 3:18). Review, or count over in his mind, his nobles, choosing out the bravest to hasten to the walls and repel the attack. But in vain; for

they shall stumble in their walk—"they shall stumble in their advance" through fear and hurry.

the defence shall be prepared—rather, the covering machine used by besiegers to protect themselves in advancing to the wall. Such sudden transitions, as here from the besieged to the besiegers, are frequent (compare Eze 4:2), [Maurer]. Or, used by the besieged Assyrians [Calvin].

This verse may indifferently refer either to Nineveh and its king making their defence, or to the Chaldeans and their king maintaining the siege; both act with rigour and diligence. Recount; muster, and give orders.

Worthies; approved officers and commanders.

They shall stumble; show such forwardness, make such haste, that they shall not stand to pick their way; and there shall be so many, that they shall stumble for want of room.

They shall make haste to the wall; the Assyrians to defend, the Chaldeans to assault, the walls of Nineveh.

The defence; what might defend the besieged, and what might defend the besiegers; all shall be ready on both sides, and what men can do, both will do.

He shall recount his worthies,.... Either the dasher in pieces, Nahum 2:1, the kings of Babylon and Media, shall call together their general officers, and muster the forces under then, and put them in mind of their duty, and recount the actions of their ancestors in former times, in order to animate and encourage them to the siege and attack of the city of Nineveh; or the king of Assyria shall recount and muster up his nobles, and the troops under them, to sally out against the enemy, and meet him in the field, and give him battle:

they shall stumble in their walk: being many, and in haste to obey the orders of their commander, shall stumble and fall upon one another; or else the Ninevites in their march out against the enemy shall be discomfited and flee before him, or be dispirited and flee back again:

they shall make haste to the wall thereof; of Nineveh; that is, the Medes and Chaldeans shall make haste thither, to break it down or scale it; or the Ninevites, failing in their sally out, shall betake themselves in all haste to their city walls, and defend themselves under the protection of them:

and the defence shall be prepared; or the "covering": the word (h) used has the signification of a booth or tent, to cover and protect; here it signifies something that was prepared, either by the besiegers, to cover them from the darts and stones of the besieged, as they made their approaches to the walls; or which the besieged covered themselves with from the assaults of the besiegers; rather the former.

(h) "operimentum", Pagninus, Montanus; "integumentum", Calvin; "testudo", Vatablus, Grotius, Cocceius, Burkius.

{f} He shall recount his worthies: they shall stumble in their walk; they shall make haste to the wall thereof, and the defence shall be prepared.

(f) Then the Assyrians will seek by all means to gather their power, but all things will fail them.

5. It is not easy to say whether this verse refers to the besiegers or the besieged. As Nahum 2:3 referred to the preparation, and Nahum 2:4 to conflicts before the walls, Nahum 2:5 might naturally as the next step describe the assault on the wall by the besiegers. The siege actually lasted two years, but the prophet condenses the whole into a few brilliant successive scenes. The term rendered “worthies” is translated “nobles,” Ch. Nahum 3:18, marg. valiant men, viz. those of the king of Assyria. If the meaning were the same here reference would be to the measures of defence taken by the Assyrian king. The expression “they hasten to the wall” might also seem more natural if the defenders were referred to; and the other expression “they stumble in their walk” (or march) is more likely to be said of worn-out defenders than of an eager enemy in the act of delivering an assault. The phrase could hardly describe the pellmell rush of a storming party towards the wall.

recount his worthies] He bethinketh himself of his worthies, or valiant men.

shall stumble in their walk] they stumble in their steps. Their stumbling might be due to the suddenness of their call and weariness from the harassing fatigues of the defence. There is no necessity for supposing that the defenders were sunk in sloth and effeminate from debauchery.

the defence shall be prepared] is prepared. The term “defence” (sokek), lit. coverer, is obscure in two ways: (1) it is uncertain whether it be a thing or a body of men, an engine or a party of troops, called the coverer, as another similar word is the ambush, i.e. the party forming an ambuscade: and (2) it is uncertain whether it belongs to the besiegers or the besieged. If the rest of the verse described the defenders this clause would also most naturally be said of them. In this case it would be either some apparatus of defence against the assault of the enemy or a body of men placed in some position to beat back the storming party. City walls were usually provided with turrets or battlements projecting forward over the walls, from which the besieged could observe the movements of the enemy at the foot, and hurl destructive missiles upon them. A party placed in such a position might be intended. (Figures, Billerb.-Jerem., p. 160.) On the other hand, if the sokek belonged to the besiegers it would probably be some engine for battering the walls, The construction is less natural: they hasten to the wall, but the sokek has been prepared—they find the engines in position and at work. There was great variety of battering machines. Besides the usual ram, a beam with an iron head, suspended by chains and swung against the wall, there were engines run on wheels and generally provided with two wall-breachers armed with lance-shaped heads. These rams were not generally swung horizontally but sloping upwards so as to operate on the foundations of the projecting towers, and bring them down. (Figures in Billerb.-Jerem., p. 180 seq.; Layard, II. 367 seq.) These wheeled breaching engines were of course roofed to protect those who worked the rams. Such an engine has some resemblance to the vinea or mantlet (so R.V. here); the testudo or roof of shields does not seem to have been used in eastern warfare. Moveable towers which put the assailants on a level with the defenders on the wall were also employed, Layard, II. 368 sq.

Verse 5. - The prophet turns to the Ninevites and their preparations for defence. He shall recount his worthies; he remembers his nobles. The King of Nineveh calls to mind the mighty captains who have often led his armies to victory, and sends them to defend the walls (comp. Nahum 3:18). The LXX., anticipating the next clause, adds here, καὶ φεύξονται ἡμέρας, "and they shall flee by day." They shall stumble in their walk. In their fear and baste, or half drunken, they totter and stumble as they hasten to the walls of the city. The defence shall be prepared; literally, the covering is prepared. If this refers to the operations of the Ninevites, it means some kind of breastwork or fascine erected between the towers; but it most probably depicts the sight that meets their eyes from the wails. They see the besiegers bringing up their mantelets and towers. As used by the Assyrians, the machine called "the covering" is either a wooden tower or a wicker mantelet in which was suspended a battering ram. It stood on four or six wheels, and the larger sort had archers posted in the various stories, both to annoy the enemy and to defend the engine. The rams were provided with lance headed extremities, and must have rather picked at and loosened the courses of bricks of which the walls were composed than battered them down (see Bonomi, 'Nineveh and its Palaces,' pp. 160, 234, 243, etc. Layard, 'Nineveh,' ch. 5. p. 376, etc., figs. 57, 58). The Septuagint rendering applies rather to the besieged, Ἐτοιμάσουσι τὰς προφυλακὰς αὐτῶν, "They shall prepare their defences." Nahum 2:5The Assyrian tries to repel this attack, but all in vain. Nahum 2:5. "He remembers his glorious ones: they stumble in their paths; they hasten to the wall of it, and the tortoise is set up. Nahum 2:6. The gates are opened in the rivers, and the palace is dissolved. Nahum 2:7. It is determined: she is laid bare, carried off, and her maids groan like the cry of doves, smiting on their breasts." On the approach of the war-chariots of the enemy to the attack, the Assyrian remembers his generals and warriors, who may possibly be able to defend the city and drive back the foe. That the subject changes with yizkōr, is evident from the change in the number, i.e., from the singular as compared with the plurals in Nahum 2:3 and Nahum 2:4, and is placed beyond the reach of doubt by the contents of Nahum 2:5., which show that the reference is to the attempt to defend the city. The subject to yizkōr is the Assyrian (בּליּעל, Nahum 2:1), or the king of Asshur (Nahum 3:18). He remembers his glorious ones, i.e., remembers that he has 'addı̄rı̄m, i.e., not merely generals (μεγιστᾶνες, lxx), but good soldiers, including the generals (as in Nahum 3:18; Judges 5:13; Nehemiah 3:5). He sends for them, but they stumble in their paths. From terror at the violent assault of the foe, their knees lose their tension (the plural hălı̄khōth is not to be corrected into the singular according to the keri, as the word always occurs in the plural). They hasten to the wall of it (Nineveh); there is הסּכך set up: i.e., literally the covering one, not the defender, praesidium militare (Hitzig), but the tortoise, testudo.

(Note: Not, however, the tortoise formed by the shields of the soldiers, held close together above their heads (Liv. xxxiv. 9), since these are never found upon the Assyrian monuments (vid., Layard), but a kind of battering-ram, of which there are several different kinds, either a moveable tower, with a battering-ram, consisting of a light framework, covered with basket-work, or else a framework without any tower, either with an ornamented covering, or simply covered with skins, and moving upon four or six wheels. See the description, with illustrations, in Layard's Nineveh, ii. pp. 366-370, and Strauss's commentary on this passage.)

The prophet's description passes rapidly from the assault upon the city wall to the capture of the city itself (Nahum 2:6). The opened or opening gates of the rivers are neither those approaches to the city which were situated on the bank of the Tigris, and were opened by the overflowing of the river, in support of which appeal has been made to the statement of Diodor. Sic. ii. 27, that the city wall was destroyed for the space of twenty stadia by the overflowing of the Tigris; for "gates of the rivers" cannot possibly stand for gates opened by rivers. Still less can it be those roads of the city which led to the gates, and which were flooded with people instead of water (Hitzig), or with enemies, who were pressing from the gates into the city like overflowing rivers (Ros.); nor even gates through which rivers flow, i.e., sluices, namely those of the concentric canals issuing from the Tigris, with which the palace could be laid under water (Vatabl., Burck, Hitzig, ed. 1); but as Luther renders it, "gates on the waters," i.e., situated on the rivers, or gates in the city wall, which were protected by the rivers; "gates most strongly fortified, both by nature and art" (Tuch, de Nino urbe, p. 67, Strauss, and others), for nehârōth must be understood as signifying the Tigris and its tributaries and canals. At any rate, there were such gates in Nineveh, since the city, which stood at the junction of the Khosr with the Tigris, in the slope of the (by no means steep) rocky bank, was to some extent so built in the alluvium, that the natural course of the Khosr had to be dammed off from the plain chosen for the city by three stone dams, remnants of which are still to be seen; and a canal was cut above this point, which conducted the water to the plain of the city, where it was turned both right and left into the city moats, but had a waste channel through the city. To the south, however, another small collection of waters helped to fill the trenches. "The wall on the side towards the river consisted of a slightly curved line, which connected together the mouths of the trenches, but on the land side it was built at a short distance from the trenches. The wall on the river side now borders upon meadows, which are only flooded at high water; but the soil has probably been greatly elevated, and at the time when the city was built this was certainly river" (see M. v. Niebuhr, Geschichte Assurs u. Babels, p. 280; and the outlines of the plan of the ground oh which Nineveh stood, p. 284). The words of the prophet are not to be understood as referring to any particular gate, say the western, either alone, or par excellence, as Tuch supposes, but apply quite generally to the gates of the city, since the rivers are only mentioned for the purpose of indicating the strength of the gates. As Luther has correctly explained it, "the gates of the rivers, however firm in other respects, and with no easy access, will now be easily occupied, yea, have been already opened." The palace melts away, not, however, from the floods of water which flow through the open gates. This literal rendering of the words is irreconcilable with the situation of the palaces in Nineveh, since they were built in the form of terraces upon the tops of hills, either natural or artificial, and could not be flooded with water. The words are figurative. mūg, to melt, dissolve, i.e., to vanish through anxiety and alarm; and היכל, the palace, for the inhabitants of the palace. "When the gates, protected by the rivers, are broken open by the enemy, the palace, i.e., the reigning Nineveh, vanishes in terror" (Hitzig). For her sway has now come to an end.

הצּב: the hophal of נצב, in the hiphil, to establish, to determine (Deuteronomy 32:8; Psalm 74:17; and Chald. Daniel 2:45; Daniel 6:13); hence it is established, i.e., is determined, sc. by God: she will be made bare; i.e., Nineveh, the queen, or mistress of the nations, will be covered with shame. גּלּתה is not to be taken as interchangeable with the hophal הגלה, to be carried away, but means to be uncovered, after the piel to uncover, sc. the shame or nakedness (Nahum 3:5; cf. Isaiah 47:2-3; Hosea 2:12). העלה, for העלה (see Ges. 63, Anm. 4), to be driven away, or led away, like the niph. in Jeremiah 37:11; 2 Samuel 2:27.

(Note: Of the different explanations that have been given of this hemistich, the supposition, which dates back as far as the Chaldee, that huzzab signifies the queen, or is the name of the queen (Ewald and Rckert), is destitute of any tenable foundation, and is no better than Hitzig's fancy, that we should read והצּב, "and the lizard is discovered, fetched up," and that this "reptile" is Nineveh. The objection offered to our explanation, viz., that it would only be admissible if it were immediately followed by the decretum divinum in its full extent, and not merely by one portion of it, rests upon a misinterpretation of the following words, which do not contain merely a portion of the purpose of God.)

The laying bare and carrying away denote the complete destruction of Nineveh. אמהתיה, ancillae ejus, i.e., Nini. The "maids" of the city of Nineveh personified as a queen are not the states subject to her rule (Theodor., Cyr., Jerome, and others), - for throughout this chapter Nineveh is spoken of simply as the capital of the Assyrian empire, - but the inhabitants of Nineveh, who are represented as maids, mourning over the fate of their mistress. Nâhag, to pant, to sigh, for which hâgâh is used in other passages where the cooing of doves is referred to (cf. Isaiah 38:14; Isaiah 59:11). כּקול יונים instead of כּיּונים, probably to express the loudness of the moaning. Tophēph, to smite, used for the smiting of the timbrels in Psalm 68:26; here, to smite upon the breast. Compare pectus pugnis caedere, or palmis infestis tundere (e.g., Juv. xiii. 167; Virg. Aen. i. 481, and other passages), as an expression of violent agony in deep mourning (cf. Luke 18:13; Luke 23:27). לבבהן for לבביהן is the plural, although this is generally written לבּות; and as the י is frequently omitted as a sign of the plural (cf. Ewald, 258, a), there is no good ground for reading לבבהן, as Hitzig proposes.

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