Book of Nahum
From Textus Receptus
Author and Context
Nahum prophesied, according to some, 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 (700s BC). Probably the book was written in Jerusalem, where he witnessed the invasion of Sennacherib and the destruction of his host (2 Kings 19:35). And still others support the idea that the "book of vision" was written shortly before the fall of Nineveh (612 BCE). This theory is evidenced by the fact that the oracles must be dated after the Assyrian destruction of Thebes in 663 BCE as this event is mentioned in Nah 3:8.
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 center of the civilization and commerce of the world, a "bloody city all full of lies and robbery" (Nahum 3:1), for it had robbed and plundered all the neighboring nations. It was strongly fortified on every side, bidding defiance to every enemy. One popular verse is 3:5, "Behold, I am against thee, saith the Lord of hosts, and I will uncover thy skirts upon thy face; and I will show the nations thy nakedness, and the kingdoms thy shame." This is very symbolic showing that Nineveh was known for being a city full of prostitutes.
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, predictions which were remarkably fulfilled (625 BC) when Nineveh was destroyed apparently by fire, and the Assyrian empire came to an end, an event which changed the face of Asia.
From its opening, Nahum shows God to be slow to anger but also one who will be no means clear the guilty but will bring his vengeance and wrath to pass. 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’s theme carries a particular warning to the Ninevites of coming events, although he is partly in favor of the destruction. 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 of God. The Assyrians had been used as God's "rod of [...] anger, and the staff in their hand [as] indignation." (Isaiah 10:5)
Chapters 1:1-2:2 show the majesty and might of God the LORD in goodness and severity.
Chapters 2:3-3:19 describe the fall of Nineveh in 612 BCE. Nineveh is compared to Thebes, the Egyptian city that Assyria itself had destroyed in 663 BCE. 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.