Nahum (Overview)

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A Nahum 1:1-10 – Like A Force of Nature The LORD Avenges
B Nahum 1:11-15 – Nineveh Destroyed But Judah Restored
C Nahum 2:1-10 – Vivid Description of Nineveh’s Destruction
D Nahum 2:11-13 – Lament Over Nineveh
C′ Nahum 3:1-7 – Vivid Description of Nineveh’s Destruction
B′ Nahum 3:8-13 – Nineveh Destroyed Like Thebes
A′ Nahum 3:14-19 – Like A Force of Nature Nineveh Is Destroyed

Timeline (c. 660 BC)

Historical Context of Nahum

The book of Nahum is a eulogy for Nineveh. Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, and the same city that had once repented at Jonah’s preaching about 130 years earlier. We are told in the first verse that this is a vision given to Nahum, but we are not told exactly when this vision was given, or when it was fulfilled. Commentators differ on the timing of this book, but I think the most likely option is to place its composition between 660-630 BC and its fulfillment awhile later in 612 BC.

We know from 2 Kings 14 that Jonah ministered during the reign of Jeroboam II. This would mean that Nineveh became a God-fearing city around 750 BC, but eventually apostatized and become an idolatrous empire bent on world conquest. This is confirmed by external sources on the ancient world, and by Assyria’s conquest of Israel in 722 BC. In Nahum 3:8-10, he refers to the fall of a great city called “No Amon” as a past event. This likely refers to the fall of the Egyptian city of Thebes by the Nile River. Assyria had brutally conquered Thebes in 663 BC, but God says that now it is Assyria’s turn to be conquered. In 612 BC at the Battle of Nineveh, Assyria fell to an alliance of Medes and Babylonians. Babylon would then take center stage as a world power (Dan. 2) and eventually destroy Jerusalem in 586 BC. So Nahum foretells a major turning point in global affairs as the apex of Assyrian power will be brought to an end.

God Judges the Gentiles

One of the lessons of this book is that although Israel was God’s covenant people and under the laws of Moses, God also judges foreign nations as well. It is likely that after Nineveh repented at Jonah’s preaching, they were then instructed in the law of God and taught the ways of righteousness. If Nineveh was obedient, they would be blessed, but if they fell away from God, the judgment would be far worse, because now they would be sinning against greater light. It is easy for Christians to think that God is distant and uninvolved in world affairs, but that is just bad theology. As Nahum shows us, God remembers the sins of nations, and He is the avenger of innocent blood. This reality continues and is even heightened now that the times of ignorance have ended (Acts. 17:30). Any nation that persists in its rebellion against God will not last, and Nahum is a standing testament to this truth today. God is patient and slow to anger, but He will not at all acquit the wicked. If we continue to exalt ourselves against Him, He will eventually crush us.

The Jealous God

When the Bible says that God is jealous, or vengeful, or furious, we must remember that God’s ways are not our ways, and his thoughts are not our thoughts (Is. 55:8-9). This is a fundamental principle we must always remember whenever we talk about God. For example, when we say that God is one, we are not just saying that there is numerically only one true God in the world, although that is true, what we are saying is that God’s very essence is one, He is unified in a way beyond our creaturely comprehension. God is not the sum total of different parts like a bunch of Lego blocks that snap together to make one house. There is not a mercy block, a love block, and a holiness block that all come together to form God’s being. There is no real multiplicity of attributes in God, only a rational distinction we make in our minds according to Scripture. This is because the finite cannot comprehend the infinite.

When we say that God is love, or good, or powerful, we are using inspired creaturely categories to describe the indescribable. And this applies to descriptions we have here of God’s jealousy and wrath. God’s jealousy is devoid of any sinful envy or coveting. It is God’s good, holy, and burning zeal for something that is rightfully His. The reason God describes Himself in these terms is because of our inability to understand His essence. And so we must reason from what we know and experience on the creaturely plane, and then by analogy apply it to God but without any of our sinful and creaturely limitations. This means that God’s jealousy and fury is beyond anything that man’s jealousy and fury can stir up, and that is a terrifying thought if you are on the receiving end of it. Conversely, God’s love, patience, and mercy are also beyond our reckoning, and the heart of man cannot even imagine what God has in store for those who love Him (1 Cor. 2:9). As you read Nahum, allow it to expand and shape your vision of who God is. God is jealous and His jealousy is good. God is wrathful and His wrath is just. God is angry and His anger is holy. God is one and His essence infinite.