God, the Scatterer.

The scatterer has come up against you.
    Man the ramparts;
    watch the road;
dress for battle;
    collect all your strength.

For the Lord is restoring the majesty of Jacob
    as the majesty of Israel,
for plunderers have plundered them
    and ruined their branches.

The shield of his mighty men is red;
    his soldiers are clothed in scarlet.
The chariots come with flashing metal
    on the day he musters them;
    the cypress spears are brandished.
The chariots race madly through the streets;
    they rush to and fro through the squares;
they gleam like torches;
    they dart like lightning.
He remembers his officers;
    they stumble as they go,
they hasten to the wall;
    the siege tower is set up.
The river gates are opened;
    the palace melts away;
its mistress is stripped; she is carried off,
    her slave girls lamenting,
moaning like doves
    and beating their breasts.
Nineveh is like a pool
    whose waters run away.
“Halt! Halt!” they cry,
    but none turns back.
Plunder the silver,
    plunder the gold!
There is no end of the treasure
    or of the wealth of all precious things. Nahum 2:1-9 ESV

The Assyrians were powerful. They were feared. And rightly so, because their military might was second to none. No one had been able to resist their armies and oppose their will. When they determined to take a city, its walls eventually crumbled under the onslaught of the Assyrian siege engines, and the inhabitants were either killed or taken captive. This scene had been repeated time and time again throughout the known world as the Assyrian empire slowly and methodically spread, consuming everything in its path. But Nahum has news for the Assyrians. They are about to meet “the scatterer”. All the other nations they conquered and consumed had been protected by false gods made of stone or precious metals. But this time, they had chosen to attack a nation whose God was real. He did not need to be carried around and placed on a shelf. He was not mute and deaf. He did not have arms that hung lifeless at His side and eyes that were incapable of seeing. He was Yahweh, the God of the universe and the protector of the people of Judah. They were His people. He had chosen them and He would be faithful to protect them. Yes, they were disobedient and rebellious and undeserving of His grace and mercy, but God had made a covenant with them, and He would keep it. And He had not ordained the Assyrians to act as His agents of punishment. They had been His chosen instrument of destruction when He finally chose to punish the northern kingdom of Israel. He had sovereignly commissioned the Assyrians to attack Israel, sack their capital and take their people captive. This tragic event and the explanation for it, is described in the book of 2 Kings:

In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria, and he carried the Israelites away to Assyria and placed them in Halah, and on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.

And this occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and had feared other gods and walked in the customs of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel, and in the customs that the kings of Israel had practiced. And the people of Israel did secretly against the Lord their God things that were not right. They built for themselves high places in all their towns, from watchtower to fortified city. They set up for themselves pillars and Asherim on every high hill and under every green tree, and there they made offerings on all the high places, as the nations did whom the Lord carried away before them. And they did wicked things, provoking the Lord to anger, and they served idols, of which the Lord had said to them, “You shall not do this.” Yet the Lord warned Israel and Judah by every prophet and every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways and keep my commandments and my statutes, in accordance with all the Law that I commanded your fathers, and that I sent to you by my servants the prophets.”

But they would not listen, but were stubborn, as their fathers had been, who did not believe in the Lord their God. – 2 Kings 17:6-14 ESV

God had used the Assyrians before, but He had not called on them this time. They were out of bounds and outside the will of God. So, Nahum, speaking on behalf of God, warns the Assyrians of what is about to happen. Speaking prophetically, Nahum describes for them the scene that is going to take place within the walls of Nineveh, the Assyrian capital. The scatterer has come. That term was a common one in that day and was used of a conquering king. But in this case, Nahum is using it to speak of Yahweh. He will be the driving force behind the fall of Nineveh. While God will use other nations to accomplish His will, their efforts will be ordained and sanctioned by Him. And their victory will be the result of His sovereign will. The Assyrians and their capital will fall because they defied the will of God.

God was going to send Cyaxeres the Mede and Nabopolassar the Babylonian against Nineveh. And Nahum warns the people of Nineveh to make preparations for their arrival.

Man the ramparts;
    watch the road;
dress for battle;
    collect all your strength. – Nahum 2:1 ESV

They were to prepare for battle and arm themselves for war. Now, they were going to be on the receiving end of an enemy attack. This time, it would be the walls of mighty Nineveh that would be surrounded by enemy troops and pounded by siege engines. And Nahum tells the Assyrians why this is going to happen:

For the Lord is restoring the majesty of Jacob
    as the majesty of Israel,
for plunderers have plundered them
    and ruined their branches. – Nahum 2:2 ESV

God had not forgotten His people. He had not abandoned them. Even though He had allowed some of their cities to be plundered and destroyed by the Assyrians, He had not forsaken them completely. Now, He was going to put an end to Assyria’s onslaught against His people.

The following verses provide a graphic depiction of what was going to happen. This description of the coming events was intended to provide encouragement for the people of Judah and instill fear in the Assyrians. Nahum provides a scene-by-scene summary of what is going to happen within the walls of Ninevah. The enemy’s soldiers with their gleaming shields and spears will appear on the streets of the city. Chariots complete with scythe-like blades attached to their wheels will careen through the city, wreaking havoc and scattering the people before them. The Assyrians will attempt to muster a defense, but will fail. During the siege of Nineveh, which would last three years, there would be storms that would cause the rivers running through the city to flood. Historians believe these natural events were part of the cause of the city’s eventual fall. The flooded rivers ended up washing away the foundations under some of the walls and causing them to fall. Many of the cities buildings, along with its palaces, were also destroyed by the flooding. So, God, the creator of the universe, would not only marshal enemy armies against Nineveh, He would utilize His creation to bring and end to the once-mighty Assyrians.

And all of this would leave the people of Nineveh running for their lives. But the city and its great wealth would be plundered by the Medes and Persians. It’s gods would be taken as booty. It palaces would be stripped of their gold and silver. Nothing of value would be left. And Nahum warns that the end result will be total desolation.

Desolate! Desolation and ruin!
    Hearts melt and knees tremble;
anguish is in all loins;
    all faces grow pale! – Nahum 2:10 ESV

Nobles and slaves alike, would all be taken captive. They would be marched out of Ninevah, mourning and wailing over their defeat. One day they would be on top of the world, the next they would be demoralized and defeated captives, walking in chains to face their God-ordained fate.

This entire passage is designed to portray God as sovereign. He is not just the God of Judah, He is the God of the universe and everyone who lives in it. Whether the Assyrians, Medes, Babylonians or any other people group acknowledge Him as God is beside the point. He is God. The world is His and all who live on this planet do so at His pleasure. There is a sense in which all men believe they are self-made and self-determinative. We want to believe that we are the masters of our own fates and in control of our own destinies. But God, speaking through His prophet, Nahum, would have us remember that it is He who is in control. And while there will be those days when it appears as if God is distant and His power has somehow waned or diminished, we must always remember that He alone is God. He is not done yet. His will is not yet completely fulfilled. In the case of the nation of Judah, they would have additional experiences of defeat and demoralization. They would be spared from the attack of the Assyrians, but would eventually fall at the hands of the Babylonians. But it would be all according to God’s will. And the prophet Joel reminds us that God has an even greater fate in store for His people, and it will come about in His perfect, sovereign timing.

“Egypt shall become a desolation
    and Edom a desolate wilderness,
for the violence done to the people of Judah,
    because they have shed innocent blood in their land.
But Judah shall be inhabited forever,
    and Jerusalem to all generations.
I will avenge their blood,
    blood I have not avenged,
    for the Lord dwells in Zion.” – Joel 3:19-21 ESV

The Scatterer will also be the Gatherer. He will return His people to their land and place His Son on the throne of David. The Kingdom of God will reign on earth, with the King of kings and the Lord of lords ruling in righteousness over all the world.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson