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Nahum 3:4

4. Because of the multitude of the whoredoms of the wellfavoured harlot, the mistress of witchcrafts, that selleth nations through her whoredoms, and families through her witchcrafts.

4. Ob multitudinem scortationum meretricis pollentis gratia, magistrae veneficiorum, vendentis gentes in scortationibus suis, et nationes in suis veneficiis.


The Prophet mentions again the cause why God would execute so dreadful a vengeance on that city, which yet procured by its splendor so much glory and respect among all people: and God seems in a manner to have but little regard for the order of the world when he thus overturns great cities. For since he is the Creator of the whole world, it seems to be his proper office to protect its various parts, especially those which excel in beauty, for they seem to deserve a higher regard. When therefore any splendid city is demolished, such thoughts as these occur to us, — That God is either delighted with the ruin of the world, or is asleep in heaven, and that thus all things revolve by chance and contingency. Therefore the Prophet shows, that God had just reasons for decreeing the ruin of Nineveh, and for deforming that beauty, that it might not deceive the eyes of men. Hence he compares Nineveh to a harlot. The similitude seems not to be very suitable: but yet if we take a nearer view of things, the Prophet could not have more fitly nor more strikingly set forth the condition of that city. He had before mentioned its barbarous cruelty, and said, that it was the den of lions, and that savage and bloody wild beasts dwelt there. He now begins to speak of the frauds and crafty artifices by which the kings of this world attain for themselves both wealth and power. The Prophet then makes the city Nineveh to be like a harlot for this reason, — because it had not only brought under its power neighboring nations by threats and terrors, and also by cruelty, but because it had ensnared many by oblique arts and fraudulent means, by captious dealings and allurements. This is the reason why it is now called a harlot by the Prophet.

The Prophets of God seem indeed to speak but with little reverence of great cities and empires: but we know that it rightly belongs to the Spirit of God, that in exercising his own jurisdiction, he should uncover the base deeds of the whole world, which otherwise would lie concealed and even under the appearance of virtues deceive the eyes and senses of the simple: and as men so much flatter themselves, and are inebriated with their own delusions, it is necessary that those who are too self-indulgent and delicate should be roughly handled. As then kings ever set up their own splendor that they may dazzle the eyes of the simple, and seem to have their own greatness as a beautiful covering, the Spirit of God divests them of these masks. This then is the reason why the Prophet speaks here, in no very respectful terms, of that great monarchy which had attracted the admiration of all nations. For when the Spirit of God adopts a humble and common mode of speaking, men, blinded by their vices, will not acknowledge their own baseness; nay, they will even dare to set up in opposition those things which cover their disgraceful deeds: but the Spirit of God breaks through all these things, and dissipates those delusions by which men impose on themselves.

Such is the reason for this similitude; On account of the multitude, he says, of the whoredoms of the harlot, who excels in favor It is said by way of concession that Nineveh was in great favor, that is, that by her beauty she had allured to herself many nations, like a harlot who attains many lovers: and thus the Prophet allows that Nineveh was beautiful. But he adds that she was the mistress of sorceries כשף, casheph, means sorcery, and also juggling: we may then render כשפים, cashaphim, used here, juggleries, (praestigias — sleights of hand.) But the Prophet seems to allude to filters or amatory potions, by which harlots dementate youths. As then harlots not only attract notice by their beauty and bland manners and other usual ways; but they also in a manner fascinate unhappy youths, and use various arts and delusions; so the Prophet under this word comprehends all the deceits practiced by harlots; as though he said, “This harlot was not only beautiful, but also an enchantress, who by her charms deceived unhappy nations like a strumpets who dementates unhappy youths, who do not take care of themselves.”

He afterwards adds, Who sells nations by her whoredoms, and tribes by her sorceries Though Nahum still carries on the same metaphor, he yet shows more clearly what he meant by whoredoms and sorceries, — even the crafts of princes, by which they allure their neighbors, and then reduce them to bondage. Then all the counsels of kings (which they call policies) 240240     Practicas, used here evidently in a sense not classical, meaning the crafty tactics of politicians. The word practic, in English, was, at one time, used in a bad sense, signifying what was sly and artful, or crafty; and practice too was employed to designate a trick, or a stratagem.Ed. are here, by the Spirit of God, called sorceries or juggleries, and also meretricious arts. This reproof, as I have already said, many deem to have been too severe; for so much majesty shone forth then in the Assyrians, that they ought, as they think, to have been more respectfully treated. But it behaved the Spirit of God to speak in this forcible language: for there is no one who does not applaud such crafty proceedings. Where any one, without mentioning princes, to ask, Is it right to deceive, and then by lies, deceptions, perjuries, cavils, and other arts, to make a cover for things? — were this question asked, the prompt answer would be, that all these things are as remote as possible from virtue, as nothing becomes men more than ingenuous sincerity. But when princes appear in public, and make this pretense, that the world must be ruled with great prudence, that except secret counsels be taken, all kingdoms would immediately fall into ruin, — this veil covers all their shameful transactions, so that it becomes lawful for them, and even praiseworthy, to deceive one party, to circumvent another, and a third to oppress by means of deception. Since then princes are praised for their craftiness, this is the reason why the Prophet here takes away, as it were by force, the mask, under which they hide their base proceedings; “They are,” he says, “meretricious arts, and they are sorceries and juggleries.”

It is of one city, it is true, that he speaks here; but the Prophet no doubt describes in this striking representation how kingdoms increase and by what crafty means, — first, by robberies, — and then by artful dealings, such as would by no means become honest men in the middle class of life. But princes could never succeed, except they practiced such artifices. We yet see how they are described here by the Spirit of God, — that they are like strumpets given to juggleries, and to other base and filthy arts, which he calls whoredoms. But I have said, that the meaning of the Prophet can be more clearly elicited from the second clause of the verse, when he says that the Ninevites made a merchandise of the nations. We see indeed even at this day that princes disturb the whole world at their pleasure; for they deliver up innocent people to one another, and shamefully sell them, while each hunts after his own advantage, without any shame; that he may increase his own power, he will deliver others into the hand of an enemy. Since then there are crafty proceedings of this kind carried on too much at this day, there is no need that I should attempt to explain at any length the meaning of the Prophet. I wish that examples were to be sought at a distance. Let us proceed —

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