INTRODUCTION

The Book of Nahum is the seventh book of the 12 minor prophets of the Hebrew Bible. It is attributed to the prophet Nahum, and was probably written in Jerusalem in the 7th century BC.

According to some, Nahum prophesied in the beginning of the reign of Ahaz (740s BC).

Others, however, think that his prophecies are to be referred to the latter half of the reign of Hezekiah (8th century BC).

The book would then have been written in Jerusalem, where Nahum would have witnessed the invasion of Sennacherib and the destruction of his host (2 Kings 19:35).

The scholarly consensus is that the "book of vision" was written at the time of the fall of Nineveh at the hands of the Medes and Babylonians (612 BC).

This theory is demonstrated by the fact that the oracles must be dated after the Assyrian destruction of Thebes, Egypt in 663 BC as this event is mentioned in Nahum 3:8.

 

AUTHOR

Little is known about Nahum’s personal history.

His name means "comforter", and he was from the town of Alqosh, (Nahum 1:1) which scholars have attempted to identify with several cities, including the modern `Alqush of Assyria and Capharnaum of northern Galilee.

He was a very nationalistic Hebrew, and lived amongst the Elkoshites in peace. His writings were likely written in about 615 BC, before the downfall of Assyria.

 

HISTORICAL CONTEXT

Simplified plan of ancient Nineveh, showing city wall and location of gateways.

The subject of Nahum's prophecy is the approaching complete and final destruction of Nineveh, the capital of the great and at that time flourishing Assyrian empire.

Ashurbanipal was at the height of his glory.

Nineveh was a city of vast extent, and was then the center of the civilization and commerce of the world, according to Nahum a "bloody city all full of lies and robbery" (Nahum 3:1), a reference to the Neo-Assyrian Empire's military campaigns and demand of tribute and plunder from conquered cities.

Jonah had already uttered his message of warning, and Nahum was followed by Zephaniah, who also predicted (Zephaniah 2:4–15) the destruction of the city.

Nineveh was destroyed apparently by fire around 625 BC, and the Assyrian empire came to an end, an event which changed the face of Asia.

Archaeological digs have uncovered the splendor of Nineveh in its zenith under Sennacherib (705–681 BC), Esarhaddon (681–669 BC), and Ashurbanipal (669–633 BC).

Massive walls were eight miles in circumference.

It had a water aqueduct, palaces and a library with 20,000 clay tablets, including accounts of a creation in Enuma Elish and a flood in the Epic of Gilgamesh.

The Babylonian chronicle of the fall of Nineveh tells the story of the end of Nineveh.

Nabopolassar of Babylon joined forces with Cyaxares, king of the Medes, and laid siege for three months.

Assyria lasted a few more years after the loss of its fortress, but attempts by Egyptian Pharaoh Neco II to rally the Assyrians failed due to opposition from king Josiah of Judah, and it seemed to be all over by 609 BC.

 

OVERVIEW

The Book of Nahum consists of two parts:

Chapter one shows the majesty and might of God the LORD in goodness and severity.

Chapters two and three describe the fall of Nineveh, which later took place in 612 BC.

Nineveh is compared to Thebes, the Egyptian city that Assyria itself had destroyed in 663 BC.

Nahum describes the siege and frenzied activity of Nineveh’s troops as they try in vain to halt the invaders.

Poetically, he becomes a participant in the battle, and with subtle irony, barks battle commands to the defenders.

Nahum uses numerous similes and metaphors.

Nineveh is ironically compared with a lion, in reference to the lion as an Assyrian symbol of power; Nineveh is the lion of strength that has a den full of dead prey but will become weak like the lion hiding in its den.

It comes to conclusion with a taunt song and funeral dirge of the impending destruction of Nineveh and the "sleep" or death of the Assyrian people and demise of the once great Assyrian conqueror-rulers.

 

THEMES

The fall of Nineveh

Nahum's prophecy carries a particular warning to the Ninevites of coming events, although he is partly in favor of the destruction.

One might even say that the book of Nahum is "a celebration of the fall of Assyria."

And this is not just a warning or speaking positively of the destruction of Nineveh, it is also a positive encouragement and "message of comfort for Israel, Judah, and others who had experienced the "endless cruelty" (Nahum 3:19) of the Assyrians."

The prophet Jonah shows us where God shows concern for the people of Nineveh, while Nahum's writing testifies to his belief in the righteousness/justice of God and how God dealt with those Assyrians in punishment according to "their cruelty" (Nahum 3:19).

The Assyrians had been used as God's "rod of […] anger, and the staff in their hand [as] indignation." (Isaiah 10:5)

 

THE NATURE OF GOD

From its opening, Nahum shows God to be slow to anger, but that God will by no means ignore the guilty; God will bring his vengeance and wrath to pass.

God is presented as a God who will punish evil, but will protect those who trust in Him.

The opening passage (Nahum 1:2–3) states: "God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies.

The LORD is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked".

God is strong and will use means, but a mighty God doesn't need anyone else to carry out vengeance and wrath for him.

Nahum 1:3 (NIV) The LORD is slow to anger and Quick to love; the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished.

Nahum 1:7 (NIV) The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.

 

IMPORTANCE

God's judgement on Nineveh is "all because of the wanton lust of a harlot, alluring, the mistress of sorceries, who enslaved nations by her prostitution and peoples by her witchcraft" (Nahum 3:4 NIV).

Infidelity, according to the prophets, related to spiritual unfaithfulness.

For example: "the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the LORD" (Hosea 1:2 NIV).

The apostle John used a similar analogy in Revelation chapter 17.

 

DISCOURSE

The book was introduced in Calvin's Commentary as a complete and finished poem:

No one of the minor Prophets seems to equal the sublimity, the vehemence and the boldness of Nahum: besides, his Prophecy is a complete and finished poem; his exordium is magnificent, and indeed majestic; the preparation for the destruction of Nineveh, and the description of its ruin, and its greatness, are expressed in most vivid colors, and possess admirable perspicuity and fulness.
— Rev. John Owen, translator, Calvin's Commentary on Jonah, Micah, Nahum

Nahum, taking words from Moses himself, have shown in a general way what sort of "Being God is".

The Reformation theologian Calvin argued, Nahum painted God by which His nature must be seen, and "it is from that most memorable vision, when God appeared to Moses after the breaking of the tables."

The book could be seen as an allusion to the history as described by Moses; for the minor Prophets, in promising God’s assistance to his people, must often remind how God in a miraculous manner brought up the Jews from Egypt.

CHAPTER 1

THE BURDEN OF NINEVEH

1:1 The burden of Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite.

1:2 God [is] jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and [is] furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth [wrath] for his enemies.

1:3 The LORD [is] slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit [the wicked:] the LORD hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds [are] the dust of his feet.

1:4 He rebuketh the sea, and maketh it dry, and drieth up all the rivers: Bashan languisheth, and Carmel, and the flower of Lebanon languisheth.

1:5 The mountains quake at him, and the hills melt, and the earth is burned at his presence, yea, the world, and all that dwell therein.

1:6 Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? his fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him.

1:7 The LORD [is] good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.

1:8 But with an overrunning flood he will make an utter end of the place thereof, and darkness shall pursue his enemies.

1:9 What do ye imagine against the LORD? he will make an utter end: affliction shall not rise up the second time.

1:10 For while [they be] folden together [as] thorns, and while they are drunken [as] drunkards, they shall be devoured as stubble fully dry.

1:11 There is [one] come out of thee, that imagineth evil against the LORD, a wicked counsellor.

 

JUDAH DELIVERED FROM THE TYRANTS

1:12 Thus saith the LORD: Though [they be] quiet, and likewise many, yet thus shall they be cut down, when he shall pass through. Though I have afflicted thee, I will afflict thee no more.

1:13 For now will I break his yoke from off thee, and will burst thy bonds in sunder.

1:14 And the LORD hath given a commandment concerning thee, [that] no more of thy name be sown: out of the house of thy gods will I cut off the graven image and the molten image: I will make thy grave; for thou art vile.

1:15 Behold upon the mountains the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace! O Judah, keep thy solemn feasts, perform thy vows: for the wicked shall no more pass through thee; he is utterly cut off.

CHAPTER 2

THE DESTRUCTION OF NINEVEH

2:1 He that dasheth in pieces is come up before thy face: keep the munition, watch the way, make [thy] loins strong, fortify [thy] power mightily.

2:2 For the LORD hath turned away the excellency of Jacob, as the excellency of Israel: for the emptiers have emptied them out, and marred their vine branches.

2:3 The shield of his mighty men is made red, the valiant men [are] in scarlet: the chariots [shall be] with flaming torches in the day of his preparation, and the fir trees shall be terribly shaken.

2:4 The chariots shall rage in the streets, they shall justle one against another in the broad ways: they shall seem like torches, they shall run like the lightnings.

2:5 He shall recount his worthies: they shall stumble in their walk; they shall make haste to the wall thereof, and the defence shall be prepared.

2:6 The gates of the rivers shall be opened, and the palace shall be dissolved.

2:7 And Huzzab shall be led away captive, she shall be brought up, and her maids shall lead [her] as with the voice of doves, tabering upon their breasts.

2:8 But Nineveh is of old like a pool of water: yet they shall flee away. Stand, stand, [shall they cry;] but none shall look back.

2:9 Take ye the spoil of silver, take the spoil of gold: for [there is] none end of the store [and] glory out of all the pleasant furniture.

2:10 She is empty, and void, and waste: and the heart melteth, and the knees smite together, and much pain [is] in all loins, and the faces of them all gather blackness.

2:11 Where [is] the dwelling of the lions, and the feeding place of the young lions, where the lion, [even] the old lion, walked, [and] the lion's whelp, and none made [them] afraid?

2:12 The lion did tear in pieces enough for his whelps, and strangled for his lionesses, and filled his holes with prey, and his dens with ravin.

2:13 Behold, I [am] against thee, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will burn her chariots in the smoke, and the sword shall devour thy young lions: and I will cut off thy prey from the earth, and the voice of thy messengers shall no more be heard.

CHAPTER 3

NINEVEH SEDUCED BY BABYLON THE GREAT HARLOT

3:1 Woe to the bloody city! it is all full of lies [and] robbery; the prey departeth not;

3:2 The noise of a whip, and the noise of the rattling of the wheels, and of the pransing horses, and of the jumping chariots.

3:3 The horseman lifteth up both the bright sword and the glittering spear: and [there is] a multitude of slain, and a great number of carcases; and [there is] none end of [their] corpses; they stumble upon their corpses:

3:4 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.

3:5 Behold, I [am] against thee, saith the LORD of hosts; and I will discover thy skirts upon thy face, and I will shew the nations thy nakedness, and the kingdoms thy shame.

3:6 And I will cast abominable filth upon thee, and make thee vile, and will set thee as a gazingstock.

3:7 And it shall come to pass, [that] all they that look upon thee shall flee from thee, and say, Nineveh is laid waste: who will bemoan her? whence shall I seek comforters for thee?

3:8 Art thou better than populous No, that was situate among the rivers, [that had] the waters round about it, whose rampart [was] the sea, [and] her wall [was] from the sea?

3:9 Ethiopia and Egypt [were] her strength, and [it was] infinite; Put and Lubim were thy helpers.

3:10 Yet [was] she carried away, she went into captivity: her young children also were dashed in pieces at the top of all the streets: and they cast lots for her honourable men, and all her great men were bound in chains.

3:11 Thou also shalt be drunken: thou shalt be hid, thou also shalt seek strength because of the enemy.

3:12 All thy strong holds [shall be like] fig trees with the firstripe figs: if they be shaken, they shall even fall into the mouth of the eater.

3:13 Behold, thy people in the midst of thee [are] women: the gates of thy land shall be set wide open unto thine enemies: the fire shall devour thy bars.

3:14 Draw thee waters for the siege, fortify thy strong holds: go into clay, and tread the morter, make strong the brickkiln.

 

THE LOCUST SWARM STRIPS NINEVEH

3:15 There shall the fire devour thee; the sword shall cut thee off, it shall eat thee up like the cankerworm: make thyself many as the cankerworm, make thyself many as the locusts.

3:16 Thou hast multiplied thy merchants above the stars of heaven: the cankerworm spoileth, and fleeth away.

3:17 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.]

3:18 Thy shepherds slumber, O king of Assyria: thy nobles shall dwell [in the dust:] thy people is scattered upon the mountains, and no man gathereth [them.]

3:19 [There is] no healing of thy bruise; thy wound is grievous: all that hear the bruit of thee shall clap the hands over thee: for upon whom hath not thy wickedness passed continually?