When God Says, “Enough!”

Woe to the bloody city,
    all full of lies and plunder—
    no end to the prey!
The crack of the whip, and rumble of the wheel,
    galloping horse and bounding chariot!
Horsemen charging,
    flashing sword and glittering spear,
hosts of slain,
    heaps of corpses,
dead bodies without end—
    they stumble over the bodies!
And all for the countless whorings of the prostitute,
    graceful and of deadly charms,
who betrays nations with her whorings,
    and peoples with her charms.

Behold, I am against you,
    declares the Lord of hosts,
    and will lift up your skirts over your face;
and I will make nations look at your nakedness
    and kingdoms at your shame.
I will throw filth at you
    and treat you with contempt
    and make you a spectacle.
And all who look at you will shrink from you and say,
“Wasted is Nineveh; who will grieve for her?”
    Where shall I seek comforters for you? Nahum 3:1-7 ESV


For the third time since he started his oracle, Nahum will describe the fall of Nineveh, but this time he will provide the reason for the fall. He begins this section with the word, “woe”, which signals that what follows contains a warning of impending doom. The prophet, Isaiah, would use the same word when speaking of the city of Jerusalem and the nation of Judah.

“Woe to them! For they have brought evil on themselves.” – Isaiah 3:9 ESV

Their impending doom is directly tied to their guilt. They were a people known for shedding blood. They had conquered countless cities and captured or slaughtered their citizens. As a result of the victories, they had taken much plunder and moved it to their capital, Nineveh. But their appetite was insatiable. There was no end to their need for conquest and so there was no end to their prey. They were never satisfied. But God had had His fill of the Assyrians. He would no longer put up with their exploits, so Nahum uses very graphic terms to describe their fall: “hosts of slain, heaps of corpses, dead bodies without end—they stumble over the bodies!” (Nahum 3:3 ESV). The chariots and horsemen of the Medes and Persians were going to do to Nineveh what the Assyrians had done to countless other cities. The citizens of Nineveh were going to know the fear and terror of a siege as enemy soldiers attacked their city day after day, month after month. They would know what it was like to live under the constant threat that each day could bring the city’s fall and their own deaths.

And Nahum provides us with the “why.” He lets us know the reason for their coming destruction.

And all for the countless whorings of the prostitute,
    graceful and of deadly charms,
who betrays nations with her whorings,
    and peoples with her charms. – Nahum 3:6 ESV

Nahum compares the Assyrians to a prostitute. In some sense their probably refers to the role they often played as an ally to more defenseless nations. They would offer their services to those under threat by other powers, and agree to come to their aid should they be needed – all for money or tribute. King Ahaz of Judah, would turn to the Assyrians for aid against the combined forces of Syria and Israel.

So Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, saying, “I am your servant and your son. Come up and rescue me from the hand of the king of Syria and from the hand of the king of Israel, who are attacking me.” Ahaz also took the silver and gold that was found in the house of the Lord and in the treasures of the king’s house and sent a present to the king of Assyria. – 2 Kings 16:7-8 ESV

But on many occasions, they would turn on those they had agreed to help. That’s exactly what they did to Judah. Years later, Sennacherib, the king of Assyria surrounded Jerusalem and sent a message to the king.

Do not listen to Hezekiah. For thus says the king of Assyria: Make your peace with me and come out to me. Then each one of you will eat of his own vine, and each one of his own fig tree, and each one of you will drink the water of his own cistern, until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and wine, a land of bread and vineyards. – Isaiah 36:16-17 ESV

Sennacherib was lying to Hezekiah. He offered to take them to Assyria and provide them with fine land and to treat them fairly. But he had nothing of the sort in mind. They were deceitful and motivated by conquest. And they were willing to use military might or cunning deception to get what they wanted. Not only that, Nahum accuses them of witchcraft and sorcery. The Hebrew word translated as “deadly charms” is the word kesheph and it refers to the practice of witchcraft. The Assyrians were pagans who mixed sorcery and witchcraft with their religious practices, and sought the aid and direction of the spirit world to determine their fate. This, coupled with their military success, made them highly attractive to the nations around them. Even King Ahaz of Judah, when he met with King Tiglath-pileser, was enamored by their temple and its altar. So he “sent to Uriah the priest a model of the altar, and its pattern, exact in all its details. And Uriah the priest built the altar; in accordance with all that King Ahaz had sent from Damascus, so Uriah the priest made it, before King Ahaz arrived from Damascus” (2 Kings 16:10-11 ESV). Not only that, Ahaz had the bronze altar, the one that was prescribed by God as the place to offer all the sacrifices, moved from its place of prominence. And then Ahaz began to use to as a tool of divination, saying, “the bronze altar shall be for me to inquire by” (2 Kings 16:15 ESV).

The power and success of Assyrian had made them attractive to other nations. They became the nation to emulate. Their power was great, so their gods must be great as well. Their methods had been successful, so other nations began to model themselves after Assyrian, adopting their ways, both militarily and spiritually. But many of these nations would become the victims of Assyria and end up being sold into slavery.

But God was about to bring all that to an end. He tells them, “Behold, I am against you, declares the Lord of hosts, and will lift up your skirts over your face; and I will make nations look at your nakedness and kingdoms at your shame” (Nahum 3:5 ESV). God was going to expose them for what they really were. But not only that, He was going to judge them for all that they had done. One of the things the Assyrians were known for was mocking the gods of the nations they conquered. Sennacherib did so when he surrounded Jerusalem.

Beware lest Hezekiah mislead you by saying, “The Lord will deliver us.” Has any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Have they delivered Samaria out of my hand? Who among all the gods of these lands have delivered their lands out of my hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?’” – Isaiah 36:18-20 ESV

But God would have the last laugh. He would be the one to mock the Assyrians.

“I will cover you with filth
    and show the world how vile you really are.
All who see you will shrink back and say,
    ‘Nineveh lies in ruins.
Where are the mourners?’
    Does anyone regret your destruction?” – Nahum 3:6-7 NLT

Mighty Nineveh would be no match for the might of Yahweh. Their track record of success would be brought to an abrupt end. Their tenure of violence and destruction was coming to come to a screeching halt, all because God deemed it so. And the nations would rejoice over the demise of Assyria. There would be no mourners at their wake. No one would cry over the destruction of the once mighty nation of Assyria. Their day in the sun would end with darkness and anonymity. No king or nation can stand before God Almighty. No individual or people group is immune from His power or can escape His judgment. Like the Assyrians, they may face the music in their own lifetimes, but all will face the coming judgment of God. No one will be able to escape His righteous indignation and avoid His future punishment reserved for all those who rebel against Him and refuse His Son as the only means by which they might be saved. The Assyrians would hear the “woe” of God and live to regret it. But the day is coming when all mankind will hear God’s declaration of either judgment or acceptance. All will have to answer for their sins one day. But for those who have placed their faith in His Son as their sin substitute and Savior, they will face no judgment, because their sin debt has been paid for once and for all.

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