The Book of Nahum
J. Deering, AncientPath.net
The Book Of Nahum
Introduction to The Book of Nahum
J. Deering, AncientPath.net
NAHUM (Nay' huhm) Personal name meaning, "comfort, encourage." Hebrew prophet and the Old Testament book that contains some of his messages. Very little biographical information is known about the prophet Nahum. He is called an Elkoshite (1:1), but the location of Elkosh is unknown.
The date of the prophet's ministry can be placed between 600 and 700 B.C. by two events mentioned in his book. Nahum 3:8 refers to the destruction of the Egyptian capital, No-amon or Thebes, in 663 B.C. and indicates that the prophet was active after this time. In chapter 2, he looked forward to the destruction of Nineveh which took place in 612 B.C. Nahum, therefore, prophesied after 650 B.C., probably close to the time of the fall of Nineveh.
Historical Background Since about 730 B.C., Israel and Judah had been Assyrian vassals. Almost a century later, the Assyrian Empire began its decline. Many vassal nations revolted along with Josiah of Judah (2 Kings 22-23). A coalition of Medes, Babylonians, and Scythians attacked Assyrians and in 612 B.C. destroyed the capital, Nineveh. The Assyrians formed a coalition with the Egyptians, but in 605 B.C., they were defeated. (Holman)
The subject of this prophecy is the approaching complete and final destruction of Nineveh, the capital of the great and at that time flourishing Assyrian empire. Assur-bani-pal was at the height of his glory. Nineveh was a city of vast extent, and was then the centre of the civilization and commerce of the world, a "bloody city all full of lies and robbery" (Nah. 3:1), for it had robbed and plundered all the neighboring nations. It was strongly fortified on every side, bidding defiance to every enemy; yet it was to be utterly destroyed as a punishment for the great wickedness of its inhabitants.
Jonah had already uttered his message of warning, and Nahum was followed by Zephaniah, who also predicted (Zeph. 2:4-15) the destruction of the city, predictions which were remarkably fulfilled (625 B.C.) when Nineveh was destroyed apparently by fire, and the Assyrian empire came to an end, an event which changed the face of Asia. (Easton)
The Prophet's Message The Assyrian oppression created a troubling question. How could God allow such inhumanity to go unanswered? Nahum responded to Assyrian tyranny with a message marked by its vivid language. Assyria's might had been heavy upon Judah, but Nahum announced that God would destroy them.
While the Book of Nahum is harsh and deals with the unpleasantness of war, it served to give hope to the people of Judah. They had been subjected to the cruel domination of Assyria for over a century, but now their faith in God to act on their behalf could be bolstered through God's response. God's justness was reaffirmed.
The book opens with an affirmation of God as an avenging God. The fierceness of His wrath is pictured in terms of the destruction of nature.
The second chapter graphically portrays the future fall of Assyria's capital, Nineveh. Such an event must have been hard for the people to imagine. Nineveh was a massive city with a defensive wall that measured eight miles in circumference and ranged in height from 25 to 60 feet. A moat also surrounded it.
The Book of Nahum closes with more threats against Nineveh. Ironically, as Assyria had destroyed Thebes in 663 B.C., so the same fate would befall Nineveh (3:8-11). (Holman)
Nineveh: First mentioned in Gen. 10:11, which is rendered in the Revised Version, "He [i.e., Nimrod] went forth into Assyria and built Nineveh." It is not again noticed till the days of Jonah, when it is described (Jonah 3:3; 4:11) as a great and populous city, the flourishing capital of the Assyrian empire (2 Kings 19:36; Isa. 37:37). The book of the prophet Nahum is almost exclusively taken up with prophetic denunciations against this city. Its ruin and utter desolation are foretold (Nah. 1:14; 3:19, etc.). Zephaniah also (Zeph. 2:13-15) predicts its destruction along with the fall of the empire of which it was the capital. From this time there is no mention of it in Scripture till it is named in gospel history (Matt. 12:41; Luke 11:32).
This "exceeding great city" lay on the eastern or left bank of the river Tigris, along which it stretched for some 30 miles, having an average breadth of 10 miles or more from the river back toward the eastern hills. This whole extensive space is now one immense area of ruins. Occupying a central position on the great highway between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean, thus uniting the East and the West, wealth flowed into it from many sources, so that it became the greatest of all ancient cities.
About 633 B.C. the Assyrian empire began to show signs of weakness, and Nineveh was attacked by the Medes, who subsequently, about 625 B.C., being joined by the Babylonians and Susianians, again attacked it, when it fell, and was razed to the ground. The Assyrian empire then came to an end, the Medes and Babylonians dividing its provinces between them. "After having ruled for more than six hundred years with hideous tyranny and violence, from the Caucasus and the Caspian to the Persian Gulf, and from beyond the Tigris to Asia Minor and Egypt, it vanished like a dream" (Nah. 2:6-11). Its end was strange, sudden, tragic. It was God's doing, his judgment on Assyria's pride (Isa. 10:5-19).
Babylon: The Greek form of BABEL; Semitic form Babilu, meaning "The Gate of God." In the Assyrian tablets it means "The city of the dispersion of the tribes." The monumental list of its kings reaches back to 2300 B.C., and includes Khammu-rabi, or Amraphel(q.v.), the contemporary of Abraham.
It stood on the Euphrates, about 200 miles above its junction with the Tigris, which flowed through its midst and divided it into two almost equal parts. The Elamites invaded Chaldea (i.e., Lower Mesopotamia, or Shinar, and Upper Mesopotamia, or Accad, now combined into one) and held it in subjection. At length Khammu-rabi delivered it from the foreign yoke, and founded the new empire of Chaldea (q.v.), making Babylon the capital of the united kingdom. This city gradually grew in extent and grandeur, but in process of time it became subject to Assyria. On the fall of Nineveh (606 B.C.) it threw off the Assyrian yoke, and became the capital of the growing Babylonian empire. Under Nebuchadnezzar it became one of the most splendid cities of the ancient world.
When Nineveh was destroyed, 606 B.C., Nabopolassar, the viceroy of Babylonia, who seems to have been of Chaldean descent, made himself independent. His son Nebuchadrezzar (Nabu-kudur-uzur), after defeating the Egyptians at Carchemish, succeeded him as king, 604 B.C., and founded the Babylonian empire. He strongly fortified Babylon, and adorned it with palaces and other buildings. His son, Evil-merodach, who succeeded him in 561 B.C., was murdered after a reign of two years. The last monarch of the Babylonian empire was Nabonidus (Nabu-nahid), B.C.555-538, whose eldest son, Belshazzar (Bilu-sar-uzur), is mentioned in several inscriptions. Babylon was captured by Cyrus, "king of Elam," 538 B.C., who issued a decree permitting the Jews to return to their own land (Ezra 1), and though it revolted more than once in later years, it never succeeded in maintaining its independence.
It then ceased to be the capital of an empire. It was again and again visited by hostile armies, till its inhabitants were all driven from their homes, and the city became a complete desolation, its very site being forgotten from among men until centuries had come and gone.
Outline of NAHUM
I. The Theme and Author, 1:1
II. The Majesty of god, 1:2-14
A. The Attributes of God, 1:2-8
B. The Anger of God, 1:9-14
III. The Judgment of God, 1:15-3:19
A. Judgment Proclaimed, 1:15
B. Judgment Predicted, 2:1-2
C. Judgment Described, 2:3-10
D. Judgment Vindicated, 2;11-3:7
E. Judgment Forewarned, 3:8-10
F. Judgment Inevitable, 3:1-19