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Nahum 1:2

2. God is jealous, and the Lord revengeth; the Lord revengeth, and is furious; the Lord will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies.

2. Deus aemulator (sic vertunt,) et ulciscens Jehova; ulciscens Jehova, et Dominus irae (vel, possidens iram;) ulciscens Jehova hostes suos, et servans (vel, responens) idem (vel, ipse) inimicis suis.


Nahum begins with the nature of God, that what he afterwards subjoins respecting the destruction of Nineveh might be more weighty, and produce a greater impression on the hearers. The preface is general, but the Prophet afterwards applies it to a special purpose. If he had only spoken of what God is, it would have been frigid at least it would have been less efficacious; but when he connects both together, then his doctrine carries its own force and power. We now apprehend the design of the Prophet. He might indeed have spoken of the fall of the city Nineveh: but if he had referred to this abruptly, profane men might have regarded him with disdain; and even the Israelites would have been perhaps less affected. This is the reason why he shows, in a general way, what sort of Being God is. And he takes his words from Moses; and the Prophets are wont to borrow from him their doctrine: 208208     How far this language is right, may be questioned. The Prophets, under the immediate direction of the Divine Spirit, can hardly be said to borrow from a previous writer. They have no doubt announced the same sentiments, and in some instances, used the same words, as those found in the writings of Moses; but they derived them not from those writings, but from Divine inspiration: and, as Calvin has often observed, they adduced nothing but what they received from God. But this language is not peculiar to Calvin: he adopted it from the fathers. — Ed. and it is from that most memorable vision, when God appeared to Moses after the breaking of the tables. I have therefore no doubt but that Nahum had taken from Exodus 34 what we read here: he does not, indeed, give literally what is found there; but it is sufficiently evident that he paints, as it were, to the life, the image of God, by which his nature may be seen.

He says first, that God is jealous; (amulus — emulous); for the verb קנא, kona, means to irritate, and also to emulate, and to envy. When God is said to be קנוא, konua, the Greeks render it jealous, ζηλωτην, and the Latins, emulous, (amulatorem) But it properly signifies, that God cannot bear injuries or wrongs. Though God then for a time connives at the wickedness of men? he will yet be the defender of his own glory. He calls him afterwards the avenger, and he repeats this three times, Jehovah avengeth, Jehovah avengeth and possesseth wrath, he will avenge. When he says that God keeps for his enemies, he means that vengeance is reserved for the unbelieving and the despisers of God. There is the same mode of speaking in use among us, Je lui garde, et il la garde a ses ennemis. This phrase, in our language, shows what the Prophet means here by saying, that God keeps for his enemies. And this awful description of God is to be applied to the present case, for he says that he proclaims war against the Ninevites, because they had unjustly distressed the Church of God: it is for this reason that he says, that God is jealous, that God is an avenger; and he confirms this three times, that the Israelites might feel assured that this calamity was seriously announced; for had not this representation been set before them, they might have thus reasoned with themselves, — “We are indeed cruelly harassed by our enemies; but who can think that God cares any thing for our miseries, since he allows them so long to be unavenged?” It was therefore necessary that the Prophet should obviate such thoughts, as he does here. We now more fully understand why he begins in a language so vehement, and calls God a jealous God, and an avenger.

He afterwards adds, that God possesses wrath I do not take חמה, cheme, simply for wrath, but the passion or he it of wrath. We ought not indeed to suppose, as it has been often observed, that our passions belong to God; for he remains ever like himself. But yet God is said to be for a time angry, and for ever towards the reprobate, for he is our and their Judge. Here, then, when the Prophet says, that God is the Lord of wrath, or that he possesses wrath, he means that he is armed with vengeance and that, though he connives at the sins of men, he is not yet indifferent, nor even delays because he is without power, or because he is idle and careless, but that he retains wraths as he afterwards repeats the same thing, He keeps for his enemies 209209     The following may be proposed as the literal rendering of this verse, —
   A God jealous and an avenger is Jehovah;
is Jehovah, and one who has indignation:
is Jehovah on his adversaries,
And watch does he for his enemies.

   God is said to be jealous in the second commandment, being one who will not allow his own honor to be given to another. Avenger, נקם, is a vindicator of his own rights; and he is said to have indignation, or hot wrath, or great displeasure; בעל חמה, possessor, holder, or keeper of indignation. His adversaries, צריו, rather, his oppressors; the oppressors of his people were his own oppressors. נוטר means to watch, rather than to keep. Its meaning here is to watch the opportunity to take than to keep. Its meaning here is to watch the opportunity to take vengeance on his enemies. The description here is remarkable, and exactly adapted to the oppressive state of the Jews. The dishonor done to God’s people was done to him. He is jealous, a defender of his own rights, full of indignation, and watches and waits for a suitable time to execute vengeance, to vindicate his own honor. — Ed.
In short, by these forms of speaking the Prophet intimates that God is not to be rashly judged of on account of his delay, when he does not immediately execute His judgments; for he waits for the seasonable opportunity. But, in the meantime there is no reason for us to think that he forgets his office when he suspends punishment, or for a season spares the ungodly. When, therefore, God does not hasten so very quickly, there is no ground for us to think that he is indifferent, because he delays his wrath, or retains it, as we have already said; for it is the same thing to retain wrath, as to be the Lord of wrath, and to possess it. It follows —

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