He that dasheth in pieces is come up before thy face: keep the munition, watch the way, make [thy] loins strong, fortify [thy] power mightily.
Ver. 1. He that dasheth in pieces is come up before thy face] Nebuchadnessar the elder, that maul a of the whole earth, Jeremiah 50:23, that brake, and dispersed the nations, as a maul or great hammer doth the hardest stones. See how like a right Pyrgopolynices he vaunteth of his valour and victories, Isaiah 10:8,12. So Demetrius was surnamed Poliorcetes, the destroyer of cities; Attilas called himself Orbis flagellum, the scourge of the world. Julius Caesar was Fulmen belli, the thunderbolt of war; he had taken in his time a thousand towns, conquered three hundred nations, took prisoner one million of men, and slain as many. These were dissipatores indeed, and dashers in pieces, rods of God's wrath; and this they took to be a main piece of their silly glory. How much more honour was it to Augustine to be styled Haereticorum malleus, the hammer of heretics! and to Mr Hildersam, to be Schismaticorum malleus, the maul of schismatics! and lastly, to Luther, that he could thus say of himself:
“ Pestis eram virus, moriens ero mors tua papa! ”
“I living, stopped Rome's breath, and dead, will
be Rome's death!”
Is come up before thy face] Nineveh lay high, and those that went thither were said to go up, Hosea 8:9. Nebuchadnezzar is said here to be come up, to it long before he did (which set forth God's omniscience: "Known to him are all his works from the beginning of the world," Acts 15:18 Psalms 139:2; and present to him are all things, both past and future), and to come up before Nineveh's face; who thought none dared have been so bold as to look her in the face. But though she had been a terror, yet now she is a scorn; as was likewise Ephraim, when he offended in Baal, Hosea 13:1. See Trapp on " Hos 13:1 "
Keep the munition, watch the way, &c.] Ironice omma, q.d. Do all this if you think it will do any good. But it is all to no purpose; you are an undone people, your enemies are above fear and you below hope: you have hitherto delighted in war, you shall now have enough of it; you have troubled the world with your arms and armies, now you shall meet with your match, a people terrible from the beginning. Up, therefore, and do your utmost; neglect nothing that may serve for your necessary defence; but it will not be: for "except the Lord keep the city the watchman waketh but in vain," Psalms 127:1 .
a trans. and fig. after L. malleus. (Often, like hammer, scourge, applied to a person as the irresistible foe or the terrible oppressor of some person, class, or institution.) Obs. ŒD
For the LORD hath turned away the excellency of Jacob, as the excellency of Israel: for the emptiers have emptied them out, and marred their vine branches.
Ver. 2. For the Lord hath turned away the excellency of Jacob, as the excellency of Israel] Both the ten tribes carried captive already and the other two (vexed by Sennacherib's invasion) have taken their turns, and have had their part of bitter affliction; and shalt thou, O Nineveh, altogether escape unpunished? Never think it. Especially since thou hast exceeded thy commission, and exercised an unheard of cruelty upon God's people; for he was but a little displeased, but ye have helped forward the affliction, Zechariah 1:15. See Trapp on " Zec 1:5 "
For the emptiers have emptied them out] The Assyrians have spoiled and pillaged till they have left neither men nor means behind them; such clean work they have made, sweeping all before them, like a sweeping rain that leaveth no food, Proverbs 28:3. Omnia corradunt et converrunt.
And marred their vine branches] That is, their sons and their daughters, saith Lyra; their cities and villages, say others; like a malicious vinedresser, that not only cuts off the luxurious or barren branches, but pulls up the young sprouts by the roots, and so mars the vineyard. The Assyrians endeavoured utterly to destroy the whole seed of Abraham without any mercy or compassion; and this undid them. The jealous and just God cannot bear with such boars out of the wood, that waste his vines, Psalms 80:13 .
The shield of his mighty men is made red, the valiant men [are] in scarlet: the chariots [shall be] with flaming torches in the day of his preparation, and the fir trees shall be terribly shaken.
Ver. 3. The shield of his mighty men is made red] Panoplia terrorem auget. All was red (a colour much affected by the Medes, Persians, and Chaldees), to show that they were a sanguinary nation, and not more gold thirsty Isa 13:17 than blood thirsty (Herodot., Dioed. Sic., Xenophon, Curtius).
The valiant men are in scarlet] A colour affected by martial men, that would seem to fear no colours. The Lacedaemonians used it much when they went to fight: that if they should be wounded their blood might not appear upon their apparel, for the discouragement of themselves and encouragement of the enemy by such a sight. The Romish cardinals are clothed in scarlet, and are created by a red hat which the Pope giveth them, in a token that they should be ready to shed their blood for the Catholic faith; which if they should do (as never any of them yet did) they would be no better than the devil's martyrs; since it is the cause, and not the punishment, that maketh a true martyr. A Tyburn tippet (as plain Mr Latimer was wont to speak) would well become those scarlet fathers; who, like bells, will be never well tuned till well hanged; for their blood guiltlness and soul murder especially. In the kingdom of Naples there were two notable thieves (the one named Pater Noster, the other Ave Maria) who at various times had murdered one hundred and sixteen men, and were therefore deservedly put to a cruel death (Rainold. de Idol. Rom. praefat.). But nothing so cruel as the Pope and his conclave deserve, for their sending of so many souls daily to that great red dragon; red with the blood of souls which he hath swallowed, as St Peter hath it, 1Pe 5:8 Revelation 12:3 .
The chariots shall be with flaming torches] Those currus falcati, chariots armed with scythes and hooks, with and in which they were wont to fight: these shall be with flaming torches carried along in them, either to light them fighting by night, or else to fire the enemies' houses, and to terrify their hearts.
And the fir trees shall be terribly shaken] With the rattling of the chariots and clattering of the armour. In a bloody fight between Amurath, the third King of Turks, and Lazarus, Despot of Servia, the noise of warlike weapons, the neighing of horses, and outcries of men were so terrible and great, that the wild beasts in the woods stood astonished therewith, the trees seemed to be shaken; and the Turkish histories, to express the terror of the day, vainly say, that the angels in heaven, amazed with that hideous noise, for that time forgot the heavenly hymns, &c. The word here rendered terribly shaken is rather Chaldee than Hebrew; as spoken of the Chaldees coming against Nineveh.
The chariots shall rage in the streets, they shall justle one against another in the broad ways: they shall seem like torches, they shall run like the lightnings.
Ver. 4. The chariots shall rage in the streets] Shall run so fast, as if they were mad that drove them.
They shall jostle one against another] Coxabunt, they shall smite side to side, through haste and heat of fighting.
They shall seem like torches] Heb. Their aspect is as of torches; fire sparkleth out of their eyes that are in them; they look upon the Assyrians, as if they would look through them.
They shall run like the lightnings] Heb. They shall break through as the lightnings; that is, with incredible swiftness; as lightning in an instant cometh out of the east and shineth even to the west, Mat 24:27 Luke 10:18 .
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.
Ver. 5. He shall recount his worthies] Or gallants, magnificoes. These Esarhaddon, the King of Nineveh, seeing himself straitened, shall muster up, and mind of their duties; bidding them now or never play the men, since the empire was at stake.
They shall stumble in their walk] Through fearfulness and faint heartedness; according to that of the Psalmist, "The stouthearted are spoiled, they have slept their sleep: and none of the men of might have found their hands. At thy rebuke, O God of Jacob, both the chariot and horse are cast into a dead sleep," Psalms 76:5,6. God struck a terror into the Ninevites upon the first coming of the Chaldees. See Deuteronomy 11:25. Therefore there is no great credit to be given to Diodorus Siculus (cap. 7, lib. 3), who saith, that the Chaldees were thrice overcome in battle by the Assyrians, when as they came in arms to besiege Nineveh.
They shall make haste to the wall thereof] The Chaldees shall; taking advantage of the Ninevites' fear, that cowardly passion, that disarmeth and disableth a man for his own defence: or, the Assyrians shall hasten to the wall as fast as their fainting and failing legs will carry them; to try what they can do to keep out the enemy. So the Emperor of Constantinople, certainly advertised the Turks' purpose for the general assault shortly to be given, after that he had many times with tears requested to have borrowed money of his covetous subjects, to have been employed for defence of their city; he first commended himself and them to the Almighty by general fasting and prayer; and afterwards appointed every captain and commander to some certain place of the wall, for defence thereof, &c., but all in vain, as here at Nineveh.
And the defence shall be prepared] Heb. the covering or coverer, Testudo militaris. Some military engine or moveable defence.
The gates of the rivers shall be opened, and the palace shall be dissolved.
Ver. 6. The gates of the rivers shall be opened] Notwithstanding all afore mentioned endeavours to save the city, the water gates of those that stood near the river Tigris flew open either, by means of that inundation above mentioned, or by the enemies' irruption, or the treachery of some that were within.
And the palace shall be dissolved] Or melted, haply by that inundation; howsoever by hostile impression: whether we understand it to be the palace royal or the idol temple, or both (the word will bear either), for it was not unusual for princes to have their houses near to the temples, as the kings of Judah had, Jeremiah 22:14. The Trojans had their palladium in the tower; the Romans their temple of Jupiter Capitolinus in the capitol; Constantine the Great built the Lateran church in his Lateran palace; William Rufus, his Westminster hall near the minster.
And Huzzab shall be led away captive, she shall be brought up, and her maids shall lead [her] as with the voice of doves, tabering upon their breasts.
Ver. 7. And Huzzab shall be led away captive] The queen; so called because she stood firm, and was best underlaid of any other, as was thought. Some render it, quae firma stabat, ducta est in exilium. She that was wont to stand at the king's right hand, as Psa 45:9 which is a place both of dignity and of safety. As Christ is at God's right hand, Psalms 110:1, so the Church is at his, Psalms 45:9, and he hath led captivity captive, Ephesians 4:8, spoiled principalities and powers, made an open show of them, triumphing over them in himself, Colossians 2:15. This is the saints' happiness: they are out of gunshot, more than conquerors, even triumphers, 2 Corinthians 2:14 .
She shall be brought up] Whither she would not, to take horse or coach to go into captivity, as Queen Zenobia was brought in triumph to Rome, in golden fetters, by Aurelianus, the emperor.
And her maids shall lead her] Her maids of honour. The gyneceum or seraglio or harem shall fall into the hands of rude soldiers, and by them be hurried away into a far country. Neither is it without desert: for omne malum fere ex Gynaeceo; Women are many times means of such mischief, and for their miscarriages men "fall by the sword, and the mighty in the war; the gates also of the city lament and mourn," Isaiah 3:11; Isaiah 3:25,26, even for the ladies' gallantry, whereof we have here an inventory. What a deal of trouble bred Jezebel in Israel, Athaliah in Judah, those two late turbulent queen mothers in Scotland and France! of which latter and her Cardinal Lorraine, one made this stinging distich,
“ Non audet Stygius Pluto tentare quod audet
Effraenis Monachus, plenaque fraudis anus. ”
As with the voice of doves ] Mourning secretly to themselves, and groaning inwardly (In morem columbaram mussitantium, Isaiah 38:14; Isa 59:11), as not suffered to bark at those that carry them captive (as Hecuba, Queen of Troy, did, and is therefore famed to be turned into a bitch), or to fill the air with complaints of their hard fortunes, as they call it, or to ease their grief by loud lamentations; but forced to smother it, and take it all to themselves, which is no small aggravation of it; for Expletur laehrymis egeriturque dolor (Ovid). Their tongues and their tears are women's best weapons. Et hic fere lasciviae, luxus, et libidinis finis est, saith Gualther here. Lo such, for the most part, is the end of lasciviousness, luxury, and lust. Let women be warned.
Tabering upon their breasts] Not singing and playing on instruments, after their ladies, as once; but moaning and groaning and knocking their breasts, for the greatness of their grief and heaviness; whereof this is an excellent and eloquent description.
But Nineveh [is] of old like a pool of water: yet they shall flee away. Stand, stand, [shall they cry]; but none shall look back.
Ver. 8. But Nineveh is of old like a pool of water] Like a fish pool of water, and therefore happy. The word (ברכה) here used for a pool, or pond, signifieth also a blessing. The Pope was wont to say of England, that it was puteus inexhaustus, his pit that could not be drawn dry. Such a pit or pool was Nineveh. Populous, wealthy, potent, &c., Isaiah 8:7, the magazine of the whole east, a rich Cargazon, and not unlike the island Cyprus, anciently called Macaria, that is, blessed for the plenty, prosperity, and pleasure there abounding. This invited the Romans to subdue it; as the pearls usually cast out at the flood, and gathered at the ebb, drew Caesar's affection for the conquest of Britain; and as Nineveh's fish pool did the Chaldean fishermen. The greater wealth the greater spoil awaiteth a people or person, Proverbs 1:19. As if a tree hath thick and large boughs, every man desires to be lopping at it. Nineveh's antiquity is here also noted. Of old, or of a long time, she hath been Empress of the East; she was the seat of the first monarchy, which she also held longest of any, even over 1300 years. Howbeit this shall be now no protection to her, but an article or an argument against her, that she is an old sinner, and hath been long time heaping up and hoarding the mammon of unrighteousness.
Yet they shall flee away] As waters do when the banks of a pond are broken down; and as fish do when the water is drawn out or dried up; then they friggle any way. So shall the Ninevites flee away, when their city is once broken: pugnae obliti, pristinaeque virtutis.
Stand, stand, shall they cry] Their own commanders, desirous to rally them; or their enemies, desirous to ransack them, and make prize of them: Sed surdo fabulam.
But none shall look back] Or, cause them to turn. Nemo potest eos resupinare; their hearts are fallen into their heels, and they have much more mind to save themselves by flight than by fight.
Take ye the spoil of silver, take the spoil of gold: for [there is] none end of the store [and] glory out of all the pleasant furniture.
Ver. 9. Take ye the spoil of silver, take the spoil of gold] This is the voice of God to the Chaldeans; encouraging them to fall on, since they are sure of good booty, plenty of plunder, which he here freely bestoweth upon them. In like sort Mahomet, the Great Turk, the better to encourage his soldiers to storm Constantinople, caused proclamation to be made through his camp the day before, that he would freely give all the spoil of the city for three days unto them if they could win it. And for confirmation thereof, he solemnly swore the Turk's great oath, &c. Now the love of money is Dεινος και παντολμος, saith a Father, daring and desperate.
For there is none end of the store] Fat plunder, as was at Constantinople; the wealth whereof the Turks themselves wondered at; and were therewith so enriched, that it is a proverb among them at this day, if any grow suddenly rich, to say, He hath been at the sacking of Constantinople. Neither did they more wonder at their wealth than derided their folly; for that possessing so much, they would part with so little to their emperor, for the defence of themselves and their country. And the like is reported of Heidelberg.
And glory out of all the pleasant furniture] Heb. Vessels, or utensils of desire; which are said to yield glory, because with men one hath so much glory and respect as he hath wealth and rich household stuff. See Genesis 31:1. See Trapp on " Gen 31:1 " 1 Kings 10:23 2 Chronicles 32:27. See here also the just judgment of God upon such as set their affections upon that costly vanity, rich furniture (Hezekiah smarted for it, Isaiah 39:2; Isaiah 39:6 2Ch 32:27), or rich attire, which is superbiae nidus, the nest of pride, saith one. The worst apparel is nature's garment; the best but folly's garnish, saith another.
She is empty, and void, and waste: and the heart melteth, and the knees smite together, and much pain [is] in all loins, and the faces of them all gather blackness.
Ver. 10. She is empty, and void, and waste] An elegant alliteration in the original, beyond translating, בוקה וסבוקה ופבלקה. whereby the utter destruction and consternation of the city and monarchy is graphically depainted, and set forth to the life. See a like elegance Jeremiah 16:15. The last word, rendered waste, signifieth burnt up, or void of all verdure; a place where nothing green groweth. Such a horrible devastation followeth upon God's word of command to the Chaldees, Nahum 2:9, like as when Christ cursed the barren fig tree it withered away immediately, Matthew 21:20, though it be the most succulent of any tree, and beareth the brunt of winter blasts unwithered. God's words, however slighted, are not wind, but fire, Jeremiah 5:13,14 .
And the heart melteth] The heart (in quo fortitude stabulum habet, the seat of courage) fell asunder in their bosoms like drops of water; they were cowed out. See Joshua 2:11; Joshua 5:1; Jos 7:5 Isa 13:7 Ezekiel 21:12 .
And much pain is in all loins] Such pain as befalleth women in travail, Isaiah 21:3; Isaiah 13:8 Joe 2:6 Micah 4:9,10; the doubled form of the Hebrew word implieth the extremity of it. The loins are the seat of strength; whence the Latins call weak men (Elumbes) loinless men.
And the faces of them all gather blackness] Heb. A pot, i.e. such blackness as is on the sides of a pot (Olla, lebas, cacabus). See Joel 2:6. Joy and sorrow will show themselves in the face as in a glass. Now if for a temporal mischief there is so great a consternation in wicked men, what shall we think there is in hell?
Where [is] the dwelling of the lions, and the feedingplace of the young lions, where the lion, [even] the old lion, walked, [and] the lion's whelp, and none made [them] afraid?
Ver. 11. Where is the dwelling of the lions, &c.] Where is Nineveh, once so terrible, now so despicable? Leoni mortuo vel mus insultat. A dead lion or a lively mouse! Once none dared look at it or mute against it, now each passenger can insult over it, inquire where it stood, and not be afraid to take this lion by the beard. "God poureth contempt upon princes, and weakeneth the strength of the mighty," Job 12:21, when once they turn tyrants, and exercise regiment without righteousness, as Micah 3:2,3. Such a mighty hunter, or devourer of men and nations, was Nimrod (the first founder of this Assyrian monarchy), and became a proverb against all tyrants and persecutors, Genesis 10:9. Such a lion was Nero, 2 Timothy 4:17. Such a tiger Tiberius, of whom one saith, that he laid hold with his teeth on all the excellent spirits of his time; Domitian, who, not content with the blood of Christians, commanded all Jews that were of the stock of David to be sought out, and put to death; Diocletian, and the rest of the primitive persecutors; as also that man of sin, the whole pack of popes, successors to Boniface VIII (who came in like a fox, reigned like a lion, died like a dog), and to Benedict XII, who, when he died, had this epitaph made of him:
“ Hic situs est Nero, laicis leo, vipera clero:
Devins a vero, turba repleta mere. ”
And the feedingplace of the young lions ] Where the old ones provided prey for them till they could skill to do it for themselves; that which they would soon learn and practise, when once grown up. The Assyrian young princes were accustomed to rapine and cruelty from the first; being no better than young Tiberius, whom his tutor, Theodorus Gadareus, rightly characterized when he said, he was dirt kneaded with blood ( πηλος αιματι πεφυραμενος ); or than Nero the lion; of whom his father, Domitius, prophesied, that of himself and his wife, Agrippa (both notoriously naughty), no good man could be born. Mali corvi, malum ovum. The wicked ravens lay bad eggs. Of an ill breed, ne catulus quidem relinquendus, to leave not even a young dog behind, said the Romans, when they slew one of their tyrants together with his young son. It was Maximinus, if I mistake not.
Where the lion, even the old lion, walked] The courageous or hearty lion (named of Leo, a heart), walked and stalked with his whelps, and none made them afraid (Labi). But now his heart melteth, his knees knock together with fear and faintness, as Nahum 2:10, his city Nineveh, that was not only spoliarium latronum, but spelunca leonum (Calv.), is how nowhere; it shall live by fame only, time shall triumph over it. God will "stain the pride of all glory, and bring into contempt all the honourable of the earth," Isaiah 23:9. So Ovid. (Metam. lib. 15):
“ Clara fuit Sparte, magnae viguere Mycenae,
Vile solum Sparte est, altae cecidere Mycenae.
Oedipodioniae quid sunt nisi nomina Thebae? &c. ”
The lion did tear in pieces enough for his whelps, and strangled for his lionesses, and filled his holes with prey, and his dens with ravin.
Ver. 12. The lion did tear in pieces enough for his whelps] i.e. That which might have been enough and spare, but that they were unsatiable. So covetous they were and ravenous, that their posy might have been, Totus non sufficit orbis; their desire of more was enlarged as hell; greedy lions they were, that could never have enough, Isaiah 56:11. As a ship may be overladen with gold and silver, even unto sinking, and yet have compass and sides enough to hold ten times more; so the cormorants and covetous wretches of this world though they have enough to sink them, yet never have they enough to satisfy them.
And strangled for his lionesses] i.e. For his wives and concubines, by whom they were commanded, being captivarum suarum captivi, as Plutarch saith of the Persian kings; slaves to their she-slaves, whom they enriched and adorned with the spoils of the subdued nations. Cicero, in his fifth action against Verres, saith that the kings of Persia and Syria (think the same of Assyria), as they had many wives, so they would bestow upon them whole cities for their maintenance. Antiochus, King of Syria, gave two fair cities to his concubine, 2Ma 4:30. Antony gave all Egypt to Cleopatra. Henry II of France gave to Diana Valentina all the confiscation of goods made in the kingdom for cause of heresy, A.D. 1554, which caused the burning of many good people. Utinam hodie non essent leaenae, saith Calvin here: It were to be wished there were not today lionesses, that can of themselves strangle and devour; but we see that there are some women that exceed all men in impudence and cruelty. The queen mother, he meant, in all likelihood, as Beza did her cruel son, Charles IX, author of the massacre, in that verse of his, made upon that new star in Cassiopeia, 1572:
“ Tu vero Herodes sanguinolente time. ”
“Truly you are Herod by bloody fear.”
And filled his holes with prey, and his dens with ravin] His palaces with treasure, his coffers with cash, raked together by evil arts and oppressive practices. What else was the whole Assyrian empire but a great thievery? Alexander the Great was told to his teeth, that he was the greatest thief in the world. And was not Julius Caesar such another? who said, that for a kingdom's sake right might be violated? and who robbed his country of her liberty for the satisfying of his unlawful desire of ruledom? But for whom all this? surely for those that never thanked them for anything, but fought for their spoil.
Behold, I [am] against thee, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will burn her chariots in the smoke, and the sword shall devour thy young lions: and I will cut off thy prey from the earth, and the voice of thy messengers shall no more be heard.
Ver. 13. Behold, I am against thee] Ecce me conira te (Hoc ecce non excitat mode sed perterrefacit). Behold, I, who am of myself a whole army of men, van and rear both, Isaiah 52:12. I am against thee, saith the Lord of hosts (Deus serierum) God of order, who have all creatures at command, if need were, as auxiliaries; and can arm your forces against you, sheath your own swords in your own bowels. Woe be to those that have God against them! The Tigurine rendereth it, En me tibi hostem, &c.
And I will burn her chariots in the smoke] That is, saith Danaeus, I will burn all their munition and furniture for war, with a most bitter and soft fire, that they may be the more grieved and the more tormented thereby. Others by smoke understand the suddenness of the judgment, q.d. No sooner shall my wrath begin to kindle, but I will consume them; primo impetu, on the first assult, so soon as ever the flame beginneth to break forth, or rather before. By chariots may be also meant those that were carried in them. The Hebrew gloss here is, By smoke, that is, by a fire whose smoke is seen afar off, see Judges 20:40. Such shall be the fire of the last day, as A Lapide here noteth out of Jerome; when all the lions and lions' whelps, that is, all tyrants and oppressors, shall be burnt, together with all their chariots, pomps, and messengers, ac imprimis eorum dux et princeps Antichristus, and especially antichrist, their captain and chieftain. He and his Jesuits shall doubtless then be cast "alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone," Revelation 19:20. Let A Lapide note that.
And the sword shall devour thy young lions] Thou shalt bring forth children to the murderer, and those that have taken the sword (though never so young) shall perish by the sword, Matthew 26:52. As a nettle stings quickly, an urchin is rough while young, and a crab soon goes backward; so sanguinary dispositions will soon discover themselves.
And I will cut off thy prey from the earth] Thou shalt be no further terrible and troublesome to the nations, whom thou hast vexed and spoiled. Of Baldwin, that apostate, one saith, that when he died, desiit simul maledicere et vivere, he ceased at once to live and to rail. And of our Henry II the chronicler writeth, that in a great distemperature against his rebellious sons he departed the world, which so often himself had distempered. Nineveh, the great huntress, was now under that woe, Isaiah 33:1 .
And the voice of thy messengers] Thy heralds, by whom thou hast proclaimed war, or made unreasonable demands, or laid hard laws upon other nations, or exacted grievous tributes, or published thy new victories, to keep people in awe; or lastly, blasphemed my great name, as Rabshakeh, one of thy messengers, will do, 2 Kings 18:19. These shall all be silenced, an end shall be put to them and thee.