Book of Nahum


Authorship, date, and background Three of the Minor Prophets addressed themselves to particular heathen nations and their destruction by God's fiat: Obadiah spoke about Edom; Habakkuk pronounced judgment on Chaldea; and Nahum announced the downfall and disappearance of Assyria and its capital Nineveh. Nahum's name means "consolation," "comfort," or "relief" The prophet himself came from Elkosh, the site of which is unknown except that it was undoubtedly in Judea. Apart from what is contained in the book itself, nothing else is known about Nahum.

The book can be dated with reasonable accuracy. From the text is apparent that Thebes (i.e., No or No-Amon) has been sacked by Ashurbanipal of Assyria around 663 B.C. The sack and end of the Assyrian empire is to take place shortly. Since this event occurred in 612 B.C., when the Medes and Chaldeans destroyed Nineveh, Nahum's ministry can be dated after 663 B.C. and before 612 B.C. in all probability, Nahum's prophecy was written shortly after the sack of Thebes but before Thebes began to rise again in 654 B.C.

Under the preaching of Jonah, the judgment of God against Nineveh has been suspended because of the nation's repentance. Now there is impending judgment unrelieved by any possibility if repentance. The nation was now ripe for ruin by God. The prophecies of Jonah and Nahum, separated by more than a century and a half, illustrate the mercy and the patience of god in dealing with sinful nations.

Characteristics and content Nahum's prophecy burns with the white heat of anger against a cruel enemy of God's people. This ruthless military power which has conquered and overthrown other nations will now itself be conquered and overthrown. Judah can rejoice that at last the indignation of god has found expression in the disappearance of a nation which has kept her in a state of vassalage for many years. Nahum sees God as the sovereign ruler of the nations whose omnipotence cannot be thwarted. Yet God is slow to anger, but he will not keep his anger from resulting in judgment forever.

In this instance the coming judgment of God is to be final. Judah will never again need to fear this nation. His graphic picture of Nineveh's overflow includes the siege against the city, its conquest, and its utter and complete ruination by the invading hosts. The Ninevites justly deserve this judgment because they are ruthless plunderers and have been commercial exploiters of many peoples. When the end of Nineveh comes, no one will offer any lamentations over its demise; they will look upon the ruins with utter contempt. Worst of all, in the light of God's numerous pronouncements of judgment upon his own people, one difference between them and the Assyrians is made plain. Nahum repeats the fact that Judah will leave behind a remnant, whereas there will be no remnant left after the ruination of Nineveh - it will perish for the earth forever.