Divine Author: God the Holy Spirit
Human Author: Nahum (“comfort, encourage”)
Date of Prophecy: c. 650 BC
Key Verse: “The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.”—Nahum 1:7
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In three short chapters, with a combined total of forty-seven verses, the prophet Nahum speaks against one of Israel’s greatest enemies, the Assyrian Empire, and its capital, Nineveh.
The Assyrians rose to prominence in the Middle East c. 884 BC. As their empire expanded, the Assyrians overran Israel in 722 BC, taking captive the ten northern tribes (2 Kings 17). The military might of the vast empire was no match for the people of God.
The brutality of the Assyrians was astonishing. The people were known for their cruelty, and took pride in it anticipating the maxim, “It is better to be feared than loved…if you cannot be both” (Niccol Machiavelli, The Prince, 1532).
The Assyrians were not only feared, they were hated. The Hebrew people waited with great anticipation for God to avenge them, according to Divine promise. “And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bears long with them?” (Luke 18:7).
In 612 BC, the Lord moved against Israel’s great enemy. The Babylonians rose up in rebellion to bring down the Assyrian Empire.
Nahum 1: God is an Avenging God
The impending destruction of the Assyrian Empire by God was first conveyed to the people in Nineveh, the capital of the Empire. “The burden of Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite.” Nahum was from the town of Elkosh, a place whose precise location remains unknown, but is presumed to have been in Judea. The book begins with the appearance of the Lord coming to confront evil and administer justice.
The Assyrians might have believed they were invincible, but that was a delusional belief.
The Hebrews might have wondered how God could allow the viciousness and cruelty of Assyria to go unpunished. Now the people knew. The Lord was coming to avenge His elect, and destroy the Enemy of God. There would be justice, though it is true, the Lord is slow to anger.
The longsuffering of God toward people, even those who are evil, was a Divine concept taught to Moses. Nahum quotes from the Law of Moses.
“And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, 7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation” (Nahum 1:3 cf. Exodus 34:6-7).
Though God is longsuffering, He will not suffer, or permit evil to continue indefinitely. The Lord will punish the wicked (Nahum 1:12), and protect the righteous (Nahum 1:13-15). This does not mean that the righteous will never suffer sorrow, hunger, pain, or death, as they are swept up in the events of life. It does mean that ultimately God will avenge His own.
Nahum continues his message to Israel by prophesying in detail the great and terrible fall of the city of Nineveh in particular. That must have been difficult for people to believe because Nineveh was a city with a fortified wall. The wall was eight miles in circumference, and ranged in height from 25 to 60 feet. It would have been hard to scale. There was a moat around the city. Nevertheless, the city would fall, according to the Word of the Lord. There would be chariots in the streets (Nah. 2:4); the tremendous gates to the city would not be able to stop the marauding invaders when they came (Nah. 2:5). The godless city would be plundered (Nahum 2:7-10).
Notice that the fall of Nineveh was to take place in progressive states. First, there would be the foot soldiers forming the front line. Then would come the charge of the chariots. This would be followed by breeches on the city walls. Once inside the city, there was to be a great slaughter, and a plundering of the citizens. The wealth of the nation would be confiscated.
The prophesy of Nahum concludes with more frightful words, especially to the Ninevites. As Assyria had destroyed Thebes in 663 BC without mercy, so Nineveh would be ravished (Nahum 3:8-11). Let the people in Nineveh prepare for a siege if they want to (Nahum 3:14). Let the inhabitants store up a good water supply. Let more mud bricks be addressed to the formable walls. It would not matter. Who can stop the hand of God?
The Assyrians would have no right to bemoan their own violent downfall for the Empire had been built on the spoils of the war. Therefore, Nineveh would itself be a bloody city, for it was a city full of lies and robbery (Nahum 3:1).
The book concludes with the mocking of the king of Assyria. He receives a fatal wound, and finds that, of all the nations he has oppressed, no one will come to help him. Rather, there is a great celebration of his destruction. People clap their hands in joy over him (Nahum 3:19).
If there is an overarching message from Nahum, it is this. War is hell on earth. War is harsh. War is not romantic, it is brutal, cruel, violent, and sickening. Still, in the midst of the bloodshed and carnage there is hope, and there is faith. God’s justice demands the guilty be held accountable, and the righteous vindicated and honored. God will not leave evil unpunished.
Spiritual Lessons from the Book of the Prophet Nahum
Nineveh is an example to all the nations on earth. There is a saturation point to sin, and then comes the Divine work of purifying vengeance. God will not allow the evil empires in the world to endure forever.
The truth of this observation is reflected in the downfall of the Assyrian Empire, the Babylonian Empire, the Greek Empire, the Roman Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the Third Reich of Nazi Germany, and that Evil Empire, the Soviet Union.
America, beware. God is aware of the militancy of the homosexual movement, the killing of the unborn babies for body parts, the love for violence in society promoted by Black Lives Matter, and ANTIFA. America’s military might will not protect her. She is marked for doom. The only reason why America has not been swept into the dustbin of history is because of God’s infinite grace and mercy. But, that shall not last forever. COVID 19 is just an indication of things to come. The four horsemen of the apocalypse shall ride across the land: Pestilence, War, Famine, and Death. The first horseman now rides.
The destruction of the Assyrian Empire is a testimony to God’s retributive justice. The only question is this. “Will people learn the lesson of history, and repent?” Historically, the answer is, “No. People learn nothing from history, and are doomed to repeat it.” And so, they do.
Injustice is built into every conquering empire. Sometimes, people within a nation become aware of the injustices in society and make changes. Where there is slavery, it ends. Where there is racism, it is confronted. Where there is excessive greed, or too much political power, the Robber Barons, the Vanderbilts, the Goulds, the Carnegies, the Stalinist, the Kennedys, the Clintons, the Bushes, the Soros’ are removed so more damage cannot be done. Sometimes, God will bring a revival to a nation, and grant people the grace to repent.
It must never be thought that God does not care about what is happening in society. God does care. It is because God cares, it is because His nature is one of holiness, that the Lord is compelled to bring the wicked down, while comforting those who grieve, and give hope to every soul by sin oppressed. There is mercy with the Lord, in time, and in eternity. In the realm of society, and in the realm of the soul.
Church, be of good cheer. The Lord is a refuge in the day of distress. His arms are open in love to receive those who take refuge in Him (Nahum 1:7).
Do not miss the gospel found in Nahum. Humble yourself before God’s justice. Pray for the gift of repentance. Stop sinning. Cease to be violent. Trust in the Lord to bring down the oppressors in your life, but in His time, and in His place.
“In His time, in His time,
He makes all thing beautiful in His time.
Lord, my life to you I bring,
may each song I have to sing,
be to you a lovely thing, in your time.
In your time, in your time,
you make all thing beautiful in your time.
Lord, my life to you I bring,
may each song I have to sing,
be to you a lovely thing, in your time.”