1 Woe to the bloody city, all full of lies and plunder—no end to the prey! 2 The crack of the whip, and rumble of the wheel, galloping horse and bounding chariot! 3 Horsemen charging, flashing sword and glittering spear, hosts of slain, heaps of corpses, dead bodies without end—they stumble over the bodies! 4 And all for the countless whorings of the prostitute, graceful and of deadly charms, who betrays nations with her whorings, and peoples with her charms. 5 Behold, I am against you, declares the LORD of hosts, and will lift up your skirts over your face; and I will make nations look at your nakedness and kingdoms at your shame. 6 I will throw filth at you and treat you with contempt and make you a spectacle. 7 And all who look at you will shrink from you and say, Wasted is Nineveh; who will grieve for her? Where shall I seek comforters for you?
1-3 Compare verse 1 with Habakkuk 2:12 and Ezekiel 24:6-14, which is addressed to Babylon, Assyria’s successor. We have already discussed the fact that Assyria was incredibly violent, even by contemporary standards. What is interesting here is that the language of verses 2 and 3 is exactly like the Assyrian boasts recorded on the clay tablets of Sennacherib’s chronicles. Again we have God turning sinners’ boasts on their heads and causing the arrogant to fall into the pit they have dug for others.
Albert Barnes comments: “It is all full of lies and robbery - Better, ‘it is all lie; it is full of robbery’ (plunder). ‘Lie’ includes all falsehood, in word or act, denial of God, hypocrisy; toward man, it speaks of treachery, treacherous dealing, in contrast with open violence or plunder. The whole being of the wicked is one lie, toward God and man; deceiving and deceived; leaving no place for God who is the Truth; seeking through falsehood things which fail. Man ‘loves vain words and seeks after lies’ (Psalm 4:2). All were gone out of the way. There were none in so great a multitude, for whose sake the mercy of God might spare so great a city. It is full, not so much of booty as of rapine and violence. The sin remains, when the profit is gone. Yet it ceases not, but perseveres to the end; ‘the prey departs not;’ they will neither leave the sin, nor the sin them; they neither repent, nor are weary of sinning. Avarice especially gains vigor in old age, and grows by being fed. ‘The prey departeth not,’ but continues as a witness against it, as a lion's lair is defiled by the fragments of his prey.”