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Nahum 3:14 (NASB) reads:

Draw for yourself water for the siege! Strengthen your fortifications! Go into the clay and tread the mortar! Take hold of the brick mold!

The following verses go on to say that the city will be destroyed. Some commentaries such as Jamieson-Fausset-Brown suggest that it is an "Ironical exhortation to Nineveh to defend herself." While Barnes and others suggest that their efforts [presumably already underway] are useless.

Later verses continue the theme with the image of their enemies being as numerous as locusts, so they (Assyria) should be as locusts as well. Yet verse 17 states the guards and officers of Nineveh are already "like locusts."

Is their anything in the context or original language that clarifies whether God is saying: a) Defend yourself, so I can make an example of you; b) Prepare yourself, but it will be in vain (as Barnes suggests "mocking them"); c) or some other connotation?

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This is a verse that one has to look at the entire chapter to get an accurate context. When you look at verses preceding, you will see that God is intent on humiliating them, so it should come as no surprise that God is intent on destroying them, this much we know. Now, based upon the fact that this is book of prophecy and not a book of history, and that the outcome is going to be the same no matter what they do, this scripture is probably an observation stating that they can arm themselves, but whatever they do will be in vain.

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Is not the answer to your question to be found in the very next verse?

There fire will devour you
The sword will put an end to you;
It will devour you like the grub

Verse 17 says that the guards and marshals were like locusts and piles of hoppers on stone fences, but that when the sun comes out, they fly away, and where they are nobody knows

Surely Nahum is saying here that any defense that Nineveh undertakes will be in vain. This is also to be found, I think, in the fact that readers would have known that Nineveh was destroyed and never rebuilt.

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