Who is the well-favoured harlot in Nahum 3:4? By Jack Kettler
Key themes in Nahum:
The destruction of evil; the jealousy and vengeance of God.
The time of Nahum’s prophecy was the coming judgment of Nineveh by the Medes and Babylonians in 612 B.C.
- God’s judgment on Nineveh – Chapter one
- Siege and capture of Nineveh – Chapter two
- The total ruin of Nineveh – Chapter three
“Because of the multitude of the whoredoms of the well favoured harlot, the mistress of witchcrafts, that selleth nations through her whoredoms, and families through her witchcrafts.” (Nahum 3:4)
Who is the well-favoured harlot that Nahum speaks?
Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers informs the reader regarding Nahum’s prophecy:
“(4-6) Because of the multitude. — In the idolatry and superstition of Nineveh the prophet finds the cause of her destruction. Perversion of religious instinct is frequently denounced under the same figure in Scripture. Here, however, a more literal interpretation is possible, since there is reason to believe the religious rites of Assyria were characterised, like those of Babylon, by gross sensuality. According to Herod, i. 199, the Babylonian worship of Beltis or Mylitta was connected with a system of female prostitution, which was deemed “most shameful” even by the heathen historian. Compare also the Apocryphal Book of Bar 6:43. The same deity was worshipped in Assyria. Professor Rawlinson writes: “It would seem to follow almost as a matter of course that the worship of the same identical goddess in the adjoining country included a similar usage. It may be to this practice that the prophet Nahum alludes when he denounces Nineveh as a ‘well-favoured harlot,’ the multitude of whose harlotries was notorious” (Five Great Monarchies, ii. 41).” (1)
“Well favoured” means beautiful or having special advantages. In addition, as Ellicott notes, “perversion of religious instinct is frequently denounced under the same figure in Scripture,” in other words, as a harlot. God even called His own people harlots or accused them of practicing whoredoms.
“My people ask counsel at their stocks, and their staff declareth unto them: for the spirit of whoredoms hath caused them to err, and they have gone a whoring from under their God.” (Hosea 4:12)
“My people consult their wooden idol, and their diviner’s wand informs them; For a spirit of harlotry has led them astray, and they have played the harlot, departing from their God.” (Hosea 4:12 NASB)
Against the backstop of God’s judgment, He offers hope because of His slowness to anger in (Nahum 1:3) and His goodness and strength in (1:7). To answer the starting question, the well-favoured harlot is Nineveh.
It is interesting to note that many times when God addresses the people, a city, or a country ripe for His judgment, He will personify them collectively as a harlot.
“It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.” (Lamentations 3:22)
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
- Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, Nahum, Vol.5, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 519.
Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of books defending the Reformed Faith. Books can be ordered online at: https://www.amazon.com/Books-Jack-Kettler/s?rh=n%3A283155%2Cp_27%3AJack+Kettler