“I am against you,” declares the Lord Almighty. “I will lift your skirts over your face. I will show the nations your nakedness and the kingdoms your shame. I will pelt you with filth, I will treat you with contempt and make you a spectacle. All who see you will flee from you and say, ‘Nineveh is in ruins—who will mourn for her?’ Where can I find anyone to comfort you?” Are you better than Thebes, situated on the Nile, with water around her? The river was her defense, the waters her wall. Cush and Egypt were her boundless strength; Put and Libya were among her allies. Yet she was taken captive and went into exile. Her infants were dashed to pieces at every street corner. Lots were cast for her nobles, and all her great men were put in chains. You too will become drunk; you will go into hiding and seek refuge from the enemy. – Nahum 3:5-11
God is painting a pretty bleak picture of Nineveh for the people of Israel to see, “I will lift your skirts over your face. I will show the nations your nakedness and the kingdoms your shame. I will pelt you with filth, I will treat you with contempt and make you a spectacle”. The “you” here is Nineveh and God is trying to get their attention and the attention of the people of Israel. He certainly got my attention.
God compares Nineveh to another city of the region, Thebes on the Nile River. I had to do a little research into this city so I could make sense of the analogy God is using. Apparently Thebes was the capitol of ancient Egypt near the present day city of Luxor, Egypt. The city spanned the Nile just like Nineveh spanned the Tigris River. This city was the seat of Egyptian power and wealth and is the location of the Valley of the Kings where the tomb of Tutankhamen was found.
Thebes was wealthy, successful, and the seat of earthly power for Egypt. One of the most powerful nation’s at the time, but it was apparently conquered and dethroned. God is saying that Nineveh will have the same fate and by implication so will Israel. What God is highlighting here is the true value and worth of earthly treasures and power. By most earthly measures the pharaohs were rich, powerful, and successful. From God’s perspective, in the eternal scheme of things, they were nothing more than naked captives in exile from their true home, the “undiscovered country” where God dwells.
It is interesting that God makes a point of mentioning that both these cities used the river as a defense, “the waters her wall.” It seems like God is reminding the people He is mightier than these seemingly mighty rivers, the Tigris and the Nile. He is the only real and lasting refuge, the One River. Paradoxically He is also the means of crossing the seemingly impassible river than divides this land of Oblivion from the undiscovered country.
I think God’s main point here is that He is the only unbeatable wall behind which we are “safe”. I think this is ultimately because the real dangers we face are not physical. Affecting not just our infants, nobles, and great men, but our very souls. These great and powerful cities will fall because they have placed their trust in themselves and their treasures rather than God. They are focused on what can be seen and touched rather than being seen and touched by God by a God who sees them.
Prayer: God thank You for being our refuge and helping us see and be seen by You.