Thursday, April 18, 2013

Nahum 2:7-13 (Part 2)

7 its mistress is stripped; she is carried off, her slave girls lamenting, moaning like doves and beating their breasts. 8 Nineveh is like a pool whose waters run away. “Halt! Halt!” they cry, but none turns back. 9 Plunder the silver, plunder the gold! There is no end of the treasure or of the wealth of all precious things. 10 Desolate! Desolation and ruin! Hearts melt and knees tremble; anguish is in all loins; all faces grow pale! 11 Where is the lions’ den, the feeding place of the young lions, where the lion and lioness went, where his cubs were, with none to disturb? 12 The lion tore enough for his cubs and strangled prey for his lionesses; he filled his caves with prey and his dens with torn flesh. 13 Behold, I am against you, declares the LORD of hosts, and I will burn your chariots in smoke, and the sword shall devour your young lions. I will cut off your prey from the earth, and the voice of your messengers shall no longer be heard.

"Nineveh was laid waste as ruthlessly and completely as her kings had once ravaged Susa and Babylon; the city was put to the torch, the population was slaughtered or enslaved, and the palace so recently built by Ashurbanipal was sacked and destroyed. At one blow Assyria disappeared from history. Nothing remained of her except certain tactics and weapons of war ...The Near East remembered her for a while as a merciless unifier of a dozen lesser states; and the Jews recalled Nineveh vengefully as 'the bloody city, full of lies and robbery.' In a little while all but the mightiest of the Great Kings were forgotten, and all their royal palaces were in ruins under the drifting sands. Two hundred years after its capture, Xenophon's Ten Thousand marched over the mounds that had been Nineveh, and never suspected that these were the site of the ancient metropolis that had ruled half the world. Not a stone remained visible of all the temples with which Assyria's pious warriors had sought to beautify their greatest capital. Even Ashur, the everlasting god, was dead." (Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage, pp. 283, 284). 1935

What can we learn from Nineveh? Matthew Henry summed it up when he wrote: "About a hundred years before, at Jonah's preaching, the Ninevites repented, and were spared, yet, soon after, they became worse than ever. Nineveh knows not that God who contends with her, but is told what a God he is. It is good for all to mix faith with what is here said concerning Him, which speaks great terror to the wicked, and comfort to believers. Let each take his portion from it: let sinners read it and tremble; and let saints read it and triumph. The anger of the Lord is contrasted with his goodness to his people. Perhaps they are obscure and little regarded in the world, but the Lord knows them. The Scripture character of Jehovah agrees not with the views of proud reasoners."

2:10 Buqa, Mebuqa, Mebulaqa, “Desolate! Desolation and ruin!” The Hebrew wording creates and intensifying of the gloominess by alliteration and growing length of the words used, along with rhyme. To create something of the proper atmosphere, you’d probably have to say this in a Transylvanian accent or something to make it sound sufficiently eerie. 

2:11-13 Lions played a huge part in Assyrian iconography. All of the royal reliefs are full of lion imagery. It carried both a royal and religious significance. The mention of lions, cubs and lionesses here is clearly sarcastic.

In ancient Assyria, lion hunting was a sport reserved for kings. These hunts were symbolic of the ruling monarch’s duty to protect and fight for his people. Reliefs found in a former palace in Nineveh dating from about 645 BC in the British Museum in London show King Ashurbanipal hunting lions. The Assyrian Kings were famous hunters. They would often go lion hunting for political and religious purposes. They thought that if they were good at hunting, the gods would favor them, which would help them later. These kings are often portrayed on the plains of Syria, but there were no lions there so they were imported from Africa. To get the lion out of his cage and onto the Syrian plains, a servant would raise a door and start running. Then the lion would get beaten by dogs and beaters, so that the lion would go to the king. The king would kill the lion from a chariot with his bow and arrow or spear. Sometimes the king would kill it on foot with a sword. He would do this by holding it by the mane and then thrusting the sword into the lion's throat. Then, when the lion was killed, the king would pour a libation over it and give a speech to the city’s god to thank him, so the lion's evil spirit wouldn't come back and haunt him. The pictures of these hunts were usually hung in the king's tomb. Expert spearmen and archers would protect the king, but this wasn't really needed because the kings were expert hunters.

The lion hunting was part of the religious life of Assyria; hence it was an idolatrous practice. God singles out this imagery with an obvious sense of irony. This is reminiscent of the 10 Plagues of Egypt. By the plagues, God took direct shots at 10 Egyptian deities. By destroying Nineveh, God did so in a way that flouted the nonexistence of the Assyrian gods and goddesses.

Gushkin-banda – god of gold
Ea - god of the waters
Qingu - battle leader
Ishtar - goddess of love, procreation, and war
Siduri - barmaid
Nusku - god of fire
Gerra - god of fire
Ishum - god of fire

There is no God but the Lord and He delights in showing His glory by proving the nothingness of the gods of the nations.

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