To the king of Nineveh
“Yahweh has commanded
‘Your name shall not be
Perpetuated no longer.
From the house
Of your gods
I will cut off
The craved image
With the cast image.
I will make your grave.
You are worthless.’”
Nahum announced that Yahweh had commanded that the name of the king of Assyria, probably King Sennacherib of Assyria (705-681), would not be perpetuated any longer. The various carved images and cast mold idols would be cut off from the house of their gods. Yahweh was going to make a grave for the king and all his idols, because they were all worthless.
“The word of Yahweh
Came to me.
‘Son of man!
The house of Israel
All of them,
Are worthless dross.
In the smelter,
They have become
Yahweh once again came to Ezekiel, the son of man. This time he proclaimed that the house of Israel had become worthless dross, the left over elements after smelting in a furnace. Thus silver, bronze, tine, iron, and lead were all worthless, as if they were the remains of a refining process in a smelting furnace.
“As for the gold
That these idol gods wear
It will not shine
Wipes off the tarnish.
They were being cast,
They had no feeling.
They are bought
Without regard to cost.
But there is no breath
Having no feet,
They are carried
On the shoulders of others.
To all humans
This author’s diatribe against the false idols continues with an accusation that these idols have no feelings. They wear gold for beauty, but it will not shine unless someone else wipes off its tarnish. As these idols were cast in an iron furnace, they had no feelings while this was going on. However, money is not a problem with creating these idols. Even so, these expensive idol images have no breath and no feet. They have to be carried on the shoulders of others. Thus they reveal to everyone that they are worthless.
“All her people groan.
They search for bread.
I have become!’”
Once again, we have the shift from a third person description about Jerusalem to a first person singular Jerusalem itself praying directly to Yahweh, the God of Israel. All the people were groaning due to the lack of bread or nourishment. They were trading their treasures for food, which makes sense. They wanted to revive their strength. This verse ends with the first person singular plea to Yahweh. Jerusalem laments how worthless she has become. This verse starts with the Hebrew consonant letter Kaph. Each verse after this will use the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet in this acrostic poem.
“An oracle concerning
The animals of the Negeb.
Through a land
Of the lioness.
Of the roaring lion,
Of the viper,
Of the flying serpent,
They carry their riches
On the backs of donkeys.
They carry their treasures
On the humps of camels,
To a people
That cannot profit them.
Egypt’s help is worthless.
Their help is empty.
Therefore I have called her
‘Rahab who sits still.’”
This seems to be an oracle by Yahweh about the animals in the Negeb desert, south of Israel. The messengers of the King of Judah were going to pass by these animals as they went with their riches on the backs of donkeys and treasures on the camel humps on their way to Egypt. Along the way, they would suffer trouble and distress. They would see many animals, like lioness, lions, vipers, and flying serpents. However, Isaiah says that their mission was worthless and empty. It was a waste of time since the Egyptians could not help them. In fact, Isaiah calls Egypt a useless sitting still ‘Rahab,’ a mythological sea monster like the Leviathan monster.
“Do not desire
A multitude of worthless children!
Do not rejoice in ungodly offspring!
If they multiply,
Do not rejoice in them,
Unless the fear of the Lord is in them!
Do not trust in their survival!
Do not rely on their numbers!
One can be better than a thousand.
To die childless
Than to have ungodly children.”
You should not desire many children, if they are worthless. Therefore you should not rejoice just because you have many children. They will not survive if they do not fear the Lord. Do not think because they are so many, it does not matter. It is better to have one good child than 1,000 useless children. It is even better to die without children than to have many ungodly children. Having more children does not mean they are better children.
“Who can learn the counsel of God?
Who can discern what the Lord wills?
The reasoning of mortals is worthless.
Our designs are likely to fail.
A perishable body weighs down the soul.
This earthy tent burdens the thoughtful mind.
We can hardly guess at what is on earth.
What is at hand
We find with labor.
But who has traced out
What is in the heavens?
Who has learned your counsel,
Unless you have given wisdom?
You sent your Holy Spirit from on high.
Thus the paths of those on earth
Were set right.
People were taught
What pleases you.
They were saved by wisdom.”
What is the will of the Lord (θέλει ὁ Κύριος)? How can you have counsel with God (βουλὴν Θεοῦ)? What man is able to know (ἄνθρωπος γνώσετα) these things because human reasoning is worthless? By our own designs we are likely to fail. Then we have the Platonic thought about how our perishable body (σῶμα) weighs down our souls (ψυχήν) as our earthly tent holds back our minds. We can only guess what is going on even when we work hard here on earth (γῆς). We have no idea what is going on in heaven (οὐρανοῖς). The only way that we know anything is with the counsel and the wisdom (σοφίαν) that your Holy Spirit (τὸ ἅγιόν σου πνεῦμα) gives to us. Here is a clear rare explicit mention of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament books. This is the only way that we can stay on the right path. We are saved by wisdom (τῇ σοφίᾳ).
“Whoever walks in integrity
Will be safe.
But whoever follows crooked ways will fall into the pit.
Anyone who tills his land
Will have plenty of bread.
But one who follows worthless pursuits
Will have plenty of poverty.
The faithful will abound with blessings.
But whoever is in a hurry to be rich
Will not go unpunished.”
If you walk in integrity, you will be safe. However, if you follow the crooked ways, you will fall into the pit of death. Then repeating a phrase from chapter 12, if you till the land you will have plenty of bread. On the other hand, if you pursue worthless pursuits, you will end up with plenty of poverty. The faithful will have many blessings, but those who are in a hurry to become rich will not go unpunished.
“The thoughts of the righteous are just.
But the advice of the wicked is treacherous.
The words of the wicked are a deadly ambush.
But the speech of the upright delivers them.
The wicked are overthrown.
They are no more.
But the house of the righteous will stand.
One is commended for good sense.
But a perverse mind is despised.
Better to be a common despised man,
Who works for himself,
Than to be self important,
But lack food.
The righteous know the need of their animals.
But the mercy of the wicked is cruel.
Those who till their land will have plenty of food.
But those who follow worthless pursuits have no sense.”
Here we have a description of the righteous person. The thoughts of the righteous are just. On the other hand, the advice and the words of the wicked are treacherous and set an ambush. The upright speech of the righteous will help them to escape. Even though the wicked will be overthrown, the house of the righteous will continue to stand because they have good sense. The wicked are despised. It is better to work for yourself than pretend to be self important without any good. The righteous take good care of their animals. Even the mercy of the wicked is cruel. If you till the land, you will have plenty of food. However, if you pursuit worthless things, you are senseless.
“Who will bring me to the fortified city?
Who will lead me to Edom?
Have you not rejected us?
You do not go out
With our armies.
O grant us help
Against the foe!
Human help is worthless.
We shall do valiantly.
It is he who will tread down our foes.”
This psalm ends with an almost word for word repeat of Psalm 60. There is a call to God to continue to help them in their battles. David realized that he could not succeed without God’s help, especially against fortified cities and Edom. If God did not go out with their armies, they would not win because human help was worthless. With God, they would fight valiantly so that they could smash their foes.