Monday, May 6, 2013

Nahum 3:8-19 (Part 1)

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?

Thebes is actually No-Amon in Hebrew. It is the Egyptian name for Thebes in Upper Egypt, named after the Egyptian sun-god Amun. The prefix “No” means “belonging to.” The Egyptian god, Amon, was represented as a human figure with the Rams head (Jer. 46:25; Eze. 30:14-16). The defeat of Thebes at the hands of Assyria, described in Nahum 3:10 was a picture to Assyria of what she would experience at the hands of Babylon. The Received Text has the word, “populous.” If this is correct, as I assume it to be, it is a further warning to Nineveh that Thebes’ large population did not save her from destruction anymore then Nineveh’s large population would save her from destruction.

Thebes was located near channels where the Nile divides thus the city lay on both sides of the Nile River. It is mentioned in Homer’s Iliad, with special attention given to its hundred gates [Iliad, 9.381]. The ruins of the city as now found in Egypt still fill a location with a circumference of about 27 miles. There are many temples in this location, Luxor and Carnac being the most famous. On one wall in the temple of Carnac there is an engraving which represents the expedition of the Pharaoh Shishak against Jerusalem during the reign of Rehoboam (1 Kings 14:25; 2 Chron. and 12:2-9).

When the text mentions its rampart being the sea, this would probably be nothing more than a repetition of the previous clause. The Nile is what is spoken of here, and it is called a sea most likely because of its appearance during the annual floods (Isa. 19:5).

Verse 9. The passage says, “Cush” in the Hebrew, which is the Jewish name for Ethiopia. It is believed by scholars that Ethiopia was in league with Upper Egypt at the time under question. When the text says “Egypt,” is referring to the southern tribes residing in the area we now know is Egypt.

Put, or Phut (Gen. 10:6), was a descendent of Noah’s son Ham (Ezekiel 27:10). The name comes from a root word which means a bow and historical records tell us that these men were famous archers. The Libyans mentioned in the text were probably the wandering tribes which the Jews called the Ludim. In Scripture and in history the Ludim are always connected with the Egyptians and Ethiopians which means they are probably distinct from the people we know today as Libyans they were probably first wandering tribes who later settled in the area around Carthage under the name Libyans.

Verse 10. We are told in verse 10 that despite all of the strength, population, political allies, and natural defenses, Thebes was destroyed, its people went into captivity and its noble class were sold into slavery.

The mention of these details is particularly poignant because Nineveh is being told that the measure she measured out upon Thebes is going to be measured back upon herself. I mentioned a few weeks ago the underlying sarcasm of this passage. And I compared it to the 10 plagues of Egypt. Each one of those 10 plagues was a direct face on attack against a specific Egyptian deity. Nineveh had delighted in her violent, abusive treatment of other nations, cities and peoples, and most recently, her crushing blow against Thebes. In this passage, the very treatment she had subjected Thebes to, she was going to have dealt back to her. On more than one occasion in Scripture, not merely the Exodus, does God appear to delight in flouting the weaknesses of the false gods of the nations. One recalls the confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. After the prophets of Baal had failed to elicit a response, Elijah began to mock them, going so far as to suggest that their God might be sitting on the toilet. That is what is meant by the Hebrew idiom “covering his feet.”

Verse 11. The details in verse 11 to details of verse let us stand out to me in particular. The first is the reference to being drunk. We all know from Scripture that this is always a reference to facing the wrath of God. Isaiah 51:17 says, “Wake yourself, wake yourself, stand up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the LORD the cup of his wrath, who have drunk to the dregs the bowl, the cup of staggering.” Verse 21 continues the motif saying, “… hear this, you who are afflicted, who are drunk, but not with wine…” In Jeremiah 25:15 reads “Thus the LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: “Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it.” However, the notion of drinking a cup of the wrath of God is most prominent when Christ faces it on the cross. And we must remember that all references to judgment, God’s wrath and destruction in the Old Testament are merely types and shadows of what we see in the final outpouring of wrath in the New Testament. This is a two-fold outpouring, mind you: for the people of God the wrath of God was poor out upon Christ; he suffered in their stead. He bore the punishment that their sins deserved. For everyone else, there remains the anticipation of the great and final Day of Judgment in which God’s wrath will be poured out upon all who are outside of Christ and they must bear the full brunt of it eternally because it is infinite eternal wrath against sin -sin which will never be atoned for because it was never atoned for and once a person is in hell he’s there eternally forever separated from the saving efficacy of the substitutionary atonement of Christ.

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