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Nahum 3:16-17

16. Thou hast multiplied thy merchants above the stars of heaven: the cankerworm spoileth, and flieth away.

16. Multiplicasti negotiatores tuos quasi stellas coelorum; bruchus praedatus est et avolat.

17. Thy crowned are as the locusts, and thy captains as the great grasshoppers, which camp in the hedges in the cold day, but when the sun ariseth they flee away, and their place is not known where they are

17. Principes tui (vel, coronati; deducitur enim a רזכ quod significat coronam; sed malo vertere, egregios, vel, praestantissimos quosque; principes ergo tui, vel, eximii tui) quasi locusta, et duces tui quasi locusta locustarum (est quidem aliud nomen, sed non possumus certo distinguere inter illas species, quemadmodum dictum est Jaelis 1 capite,) quae castramentantur (id est, considunt) in maceriis (id est, clausuris) in die frigoris: sol exortus est, et migrarunt; et non cognoscitur locus earum ubi.


From these words we may learn what the Prophet before meant, when he said that the Assyrians were like locusts or chafers; as though he said, — “I know that you trust in your great number; for ye are like a swarm of chafers or locusts; ye excel greatly in number; inasmuch as you have assembled your merchants and traders as the stars of heaven.” Here he shows how numerous they were. But when he says, The chafer has spoiled, and flies away, he points out another reason for the comparison; for it is not enough to lay hold on one clause of the verse, but the two clauses must be connected; and they mean this, — that the Assyrians, while they were almost innumerable, gloried in their great number, — and also, that this vast multitude would vanish away. He then makes an admission here and says, by multiplying thy merchants, thou hast multiplied them; but when he says, as chafers and as locusts, he shows that this multitude would not continue, for the Lord would scatter them here and there. As then the scattering was nigh, the Prophet says that they were chafers and locusts.

We now understand the design of the Prophet: He first ridicules the foolish confidence with which the Assyrians were inflated. They thought, that as they ruled over many nations, they could raise great armies, and set them in any quarter to oppose any one who might attack them: the Prophet concedes this to them, that is, that they were very numerous, by multiplying thou hast multiplied; but what will this avail them? They shall be locusts, they shall be chafers. — How so? A fuller explanation follows, Thou hast multiplied thy merchants as the stars of heaven: but this shall be temporary; for thou shalt see them vanishing away very soon; they shall be like the chafers, who, being in a moment scattered here and there, quit the naked field or the meadow. But by merchants or traders some understand confederates; and this comparison also, as we have before seen, frequently occurs in the Prophets: and princes at this day differ nothing from traders, for they outbid one another, and excel in similar artifices, as we have elsewhere seen, by which they carry on a system of mutual deception. This comparison then may be suitable, Thou hast multiplied thy traders,tes practiciens. But the meaning of the Prophet may be viewed as still wider; we may apply this to the citizens of Nineveh; for the principal men no doubt were merchants: as the Venetian of the present day are all merchants, so were the Syrians, and the Ninevites, and also the Babylonians. It is then nothing strange, that the Prophet, by taking a part for the whole should include under this term all the rich, Thou hast then multiplied thy merchants 249249     The latter clause of the last verse and this verse and the following are evidently connected. The first, התכבד, hath י added to it in ten or more copies, and may be deemed an imperative as well as the other, and in the feminine gender; Calvin takes it an infinitive. This would be literal rendering —
   Increase thyself as the chafer,
Increase thyself as the locust,

   16. Multiply thy merchants more than the stars of heaven:
The chafer spoils, and flies away:

   17. Thy crowned ones shall be as the locusts,
And thy rulers as the gibbous caterpillar;
Which lodge in the fences in the cold day;
The sun rises and they flit away,
And not known is the place where they

   — Ed.

He has hitherto allowed them to be very numerous; but he now adds, The chafer has spoiled, and flies away The verb means sometimes to spoil, and it means also to devour: The chafer then has devoured, and flies away; that is, “Thy princes, (as he afterwards calls them,) or thy principal men, have indeed devoured; they have wasted many regions by their plunders, and consumed all things on every side, like the chafers, who destroy the standing corn and all fruits: thou hast then been as a swarm of chafers.” For as chafers in great numbers attack a field, so Nineveh was wont to send everywhere her merchants to spoil and to denude the whole land. “Well,” he says “the chafer has devoured, but he flies away, he is scattered; so it shall happen,” says the Prophet, “to the citizens of Nineveh.” And hence he afterwards adds,

And thy princes are as locusts: this refers to the wicked doings, by which they laid waste almost the whole earth. As then the locusts and chafers, wherever they come, consume every kind of food, devour all the fields, leave nothing, and the whole land becomes a waste; so also have been thy princes; they have been as locusts and thy leaders as the locusts of locusts, that is, as very great locusts; for this form, we know, expresses the superlative degree in Hebrew. Their leaders were then like the most voracious locusts for the whole land was made barren by them, as nothing was capable of satisfying their avarice and voracity.

The Prophet then adds, They are locusts, who dwell in the mounds during the time of cold; but when the sun rises, not known any more is their place He now shows, that it would not be perpetual, that the Ninevites would thus devour the whole earth, and that all countries would be exposed to their voracity; for as the locusts, he says, hide themselves in caverns, and afterwards fly away, so it shall happen to thy princes. But this passage may be taken to mean, — that the Ninevites concealed themselves in their hiding-places during the winter, and that when the suitable time for plundering came, they retook themselves in different directions, and took possession of various regions, and brought home plunder from the remotest parts. This meaning may be elicited from the words of the Prophet; and the different clauses would thus fitly coalesce together, that when the Ninevites left their nests, they dispersed and migrated in all directions. I do not at the same time disapprove of the former meaning: they are then like locusts, who lodge in mounds during the time of cold; but when the sun rises, — that is, when the season invites them, (for he speaks not of the winter sun,) but when the heat of the sun prevails and temperate the air, — then, he says, the locusts go forth and fly away, and known no more is their place He means, in short, that the Ninevites plundered, and that they did so after the manner of locusts; and that a similar end also was nigh them; for the Lord would destroy them, yea, suddenly consume them, so that no trace of them could be found. It follows —

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