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Nahum 1:3

3. The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked: the Lord hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.

3. Jehova tardus iris (ad verbum, sed, tardus ad iram) et magnus robore; et purgando non purgabit; Jehova in turbine et tempestate via ejus, et nubes pulvis pedum ejus.


The Prophet goes on with the same subject; and still longer is the preface respecting the nature of God, which however is to be applied, as I have said, to the special objects which hereafter he will state. He says here that God is slow to wrath Though this saying is taken also from Moses yet the Prophet speaks here for the purpose of anticipating an objection; for he obviates the audacity of the ungodly who daringly derided God, when any evil was denounced on them, — Where is the mercy of God? Can God divest himself of his kindness? He cannot deny himself. Thus profane men, under the pretense of honoring God, cast on him the most atrocious slander, for they deprive him of his own power and office: and there is no doubt but that this was commonly done by many of the ungodly in the age of our Prophet. Hence he anticipates this objection, and concedes that God is slow to wrath. There is then a concession here; but at the same time he says that God is great in strength, and this he says, that the ungodly may not flatter and deceive themselves, when they hear these high attributes given to God, that he is patient, slow to wrath, merciful, full of kindness. “Let them,” he says, “at the same time remember the greatness of God’s power, that they may not think that they have to do with a child.”

We now then see the design of the Prophet: for this declaration — that God hastens not suddenly to wrath, but patiently defers and suspends the punishment which the ungodly deserve. This declaration would not have harmonized with the present argument, had not the Prophet introduced it by way of concession; as though he said, — “I see that the world everywhere trifle with God, and that the ungodly delude themselves with such Sophistries, that they reject all threatening. I indeed allow that God is ready to pardon, and that he descends not to wrath, except when he is constrained by extreme necessity: all this is indeed true; but yet know, that God is armed with his own power: escape then shall none of those who allow themselves the liberty of abusing his patience, notwithstanding the insolence they manifest towards him.”

He now adds, By clearing he will not clear. Some translate, “The innocent, he will not render innocent.” But the real meaning of this sentence is the same with that in Exodus 34; and what Moses meant was, that God is irreconcilable to the impenitent. It has another meaning at the end of Joel 3, where it is said, ‘I will cleanse the blood which I have not cleansed.’ On that text interpreters differ; because they regard not the change in the tense of the verb; for God means, that he would cleanse the filth and defilements of his Church, which he had not previously cleansed. But Moses means, that God deals strictly with sinners, so as to remit no punishment. By clearing then I will not clear; that is, God will rigidly demand an account of all the actions of men; and as there is nothing hid from him, so everything done wickedly by men must come forth, when God ascends his tribunal; he will not clear by clearing, but will rigidly execute his judgment.

There seems to be some inconsistency in saying, — that God is reconcilable and ready to pardon, — and yet that by clearing he will not clear. But the aspect of things is different. We have already stated what the Prophet had in view: for inasmuch as the ungodly ever promise impunity to themselves, and in this confidence petulantly deride God himself, the Prophet answers them, and declares, that there was no reason why they thus abused God’s forbearance, for he says, By clearing he will not clear, that is, the reprobate: for our salvation consists in a free remission of sins; and whence comes our righteousness, but from the imputation of God, and from this — that our sins are buried in oblivion? yea, our whole clearing depends on the mercy of God. But God then exercises also his judgment, and by clearing he clears, when he remits to the faithful their sins; for the faithful by repentance anticipate his judgment; and he searches their hearts, that he may clear them. For what is repentance but condemnation, which yet turns out to be the means of salvation? As then God absolves none except the condemned, our Prophet here rightly declares, that by clearing he will not clears that is, he will not remit their sins, except he tries them and discharges the office of a judge; in short, that no sin is remitted by God which he does not first condemn. But with regard to the reprobate, who are wholly obstinate in their wickedness, the Prophet justly declares this to them, — that they have no hope of pardon, as they perversely adhere to their own devices, and think that they can escape the hand of God: the Prophet tells them that they are deceived, for God passes by nothing, and will not blot out one sin, until all be brought to mind.

He afterwards says, that the way of God is in the whirlwind and the tempest; that is, that God, as soon as he shows himself, disturbs the whole atmosphere, and excites storms and tempests: and this must be applied to the subject in hand; for the appearance of God is in other places described as lovely and gracious: nay, what else but the sight of God exhilarated the faithful? As soon as God turns away his face, they must necessarily be immersed in dreadful darkness, and be surrounded with horrible terrors. Why then does the Prophet say here, that the way of God is in the whirlwind and storms? Even because his discourse is addressed to the ungodly, or to the despisers of God himself, as in Psalm 18; where we see him described as being very terrible, — that clouds and darkness are around him, that he moves the whole earth, that he thunders on every side, that he emits smoke frown his nostrils, and that he fills the whole world with fire and burning. For what purpose was this done? Because David’s object was to set forth the judgments of God, which he had executed on the ungodly. So it is in this place; for Nahum speaks of the future vengeance, which was then nigh the Assyrians; hence he says, The way of God is in the whirlwind and tempest; that is, when God goes forth, whirlwinds and tempests are excited by his presence, and the whole world is put in confusion.

He adds, that the clouds are the dust of his feet When any one with his feet only moves the dust within a small space, some dread is produced: but God moves the dust, not only in one place, — what then? he obscures, and thus covers the whole heaven, The clouds then are the dust of his feet 210210     I offer the following translation of this verse, —
   Jehovah is slow to wrath, though great in power;
Absolving, Jehovah will not absolve:
In the whirlwind and in the storm
is his way;
And the cloud is the dust of his feet.

   The second line presents some difficulty. It is evidently an imperfect sentence; most supply the word, guilty; but rather the “enemies” mentioned before are to be understood. The meaning appears to be this, — Jehovah is slow to wrath, that is, to execute his vengeance, though he is great in power, capable of doing so; but though he delays, he will not eventually clear or absolve his enemies. With the Septuagint I connect “Jehovah” with the second and not with the third line, and agreeably with the idiom of the Hebrew; the verb generally precedes its nominative. The order of the words in Welsh would be exactly the same, —

   Gan ddieuogi ni ddiuoga Jehova.

   — Ed.
We now apprehend the whole meaning of the Prophet, and the purpose for which this description is given. Of the same import is what follows —

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