8 Are you better than Thebes that sat by the Nile, with water around her, her rampart a sea, and water her wall? 9 Cush was her strength; Egypt too, and that without limit; Put and the Libyans were her helpers. 10 Yet she became an exile; she went into captivity; her infants were dashed in pieces at the head of every street; for her honored men lots were cast, and all her great men were bound in chains. 11 You also will be drunken; you will go into hiding; you will seek a refuge from the enemy. 12 All your fortresses are like fig trees with first-ripe figs—if shaken they fall into the mouth of the eater. 13 Behold, your troops are women in your midst. The gates of your land are wide open to your enemies; fire has devoured your bars. 14 Draw water for the siege; strengthen your forts; go into the clay; tread the mortar; take hold of the brick mold! 15 There will the fire devour you; the sword will cut you off. It will devour you like the locust. Multiply yourselves like the locust; multiply like the grasshopper! 16 You increased your merchants more than the stars of the heavens. The locust spreads its wings and flies away. 17 Your princes are like grasshoppers, your scribes like clouds of locusts settling on the fences in a day of cold— when the sun rises, they fly away; no one knows where they are. 18 Your shepherds are asleep, O king of Assyria; your nobles slumber. Your people are scattered on the mountains with none to gather them. 19 There is no easing your hurt; your wound is grievous. All who hear the news about you clap their hands over you. For upon whom has not come your unceasing evil?
The 2nd detail I find interesting is the reference to being hidden or hiding. There are scholars who see here a prediction remarkably fulfilled in the state in which the ruins of Nineveh were found. Centuries past in which there was no visible record at such a place as Nineveh ever even existed. And I have reference this fact several times during our study that skeptical scholars doubted the existence of Nineveh, and therefore doubted the veracity of Scripture. And it was only in the mid-19th century when Nineveh was in fact discovered. Nonetheless, it is very likely that the reference to being hidden or hiding predicts the fact that Nineveh will seek help from political allies in much the same way Thebes sought help from her political allies when she was attacked by Nineveh.
Verse 12. We have in verse 12 indication of how easy the fall of Nineveh will be. It is compared to a tree with ripe figs they can simply be shaken and fruit will fall off the tree. It seems to be the consensus among scholars that the reference to the first ripe figs expresses the rapidity and ease of the capture of Nineveh. We seem to have an indication of this from other passages, such as Isaiah 28:4 and Revelation 6:13.
Verse 13. Earlier I mentioned the underlying sarcasm in the passage, and in verse 13 this is very clearly seen. The passage reads, “Behold, your troops are women in your midst.” This is an archaic way of saying, “You throw like a girl!” By comparing their soldiers to women a prophet is insulting the city. It is a very snarky way of saying, “you have no one up to the challenge.” This language appears in other passages of Scripture as well (Isa. 19:16; Jer. 50:37; 51:30).
You will recall that several weeks ago I mentioned that the Assyrian king, rather than be captured by the enemy and subjected to who knows what humiliation, chose to burn himself and his family alive along with all his treasures. This effectively set the gates of the city on fire and this is a fact attested to by ancient historians.
The sarcasm is ramped up in verses 14, 15 and 16. Here we find Nineveh being told to get their act together and put up a fight. Yet they are told that nothing they will do will be of any avail. You’ll notice in this passage several references to locusts. If you have ever seen any documentaries or read anything about the devastation which locusts have wreaked upon him of the African nations you will understand how poignant this language is. In the ancient world nothing was feared more than a horde of locusts. In fact, the Hebrew language has 10 words for locust. You’ll remember that one of the devastating plagues in Egypt was a plague of devouring locusts. They travel in swarms numbering in the hundreds of millions. They have been measured in densities up to 500 tons of locusts per square mile. Swarms like this can travel hundreds of miles eating every leaf in their path. In 1954 a series of 50 swarms of locusts invaded Kenya. The largest of the Kenyan swarms covered 200 km² and had an estimated population of 10 billion individual locusts. In total hundred thousand tons of locusts descend upon the nation of Kenya covering an area of 1000 km². We’re talking a locust population in excess of 50 billion. What is interesting in this passage is that Nineveh is being warned that even if she were to multiply herself to such gigantic proportions this will avail her nothing. She will fall and she will fall hard. Not only will she fall, but it will be easy. A 2nd reference to locusts deals with the way the swarm mysteriously vanishes after taking its fill. In the days before Doppler radar, a swarm of locusts could descend upon an area and move on, and no one knew where it had gone. Nahum tells us that this is what the nobility of Nineveh will look like. They will be there one day and gone the next and no one will know where they have gone.