My Understanding of Nahum

The Book of Nahum is the seventh of the Twelve Minor Prophets of the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament that comes between the prophetic books of Micah and Habakkuk.  This poetic work was about the destruction of the capital city of the Assyrian Empire, Nineveh, much like the prophet Jonah had warned them in the 7th century BCE also.

Little is known about Nahum, except that he came from the town of Elkosh, perhaps near Capharnum in northern Galilee.  He was sometimes called the Elkoshite.  His writings could be from around 625 BCE, before or after the downfall of Assyria.  However, an older date would be possible if Nahum prophesied in the beginning of the reign of King Ahaz (736-716 BCE) or during the rule of King Hezekiah (716-687 BCE).  The book could have been written in Jerusalem, where Nahum would have witnessed the invasion of Assyrian King Sennacherib (705-681 BCE) as in 2 Kings, chapter 19.  The Assyrian had destroyed Thebes, Egypt in 663 BCE, something mentioned by Nahum, so that it would be after that 663 BCE but not later than 612 BCE.

The subject of Nahum’s prophecy was the approaching complete and final destruction of Nineveh, the capital of the great flourishing Assyrian empire with its enclosed eight-mile wall.  Nineveh had been the center of civilization and commerce at that time because of their conquered cities.  Nineveh was destroyed by fire around 625 BCE, while the Assyrian empire came to an end around 612 BCE.  There is a Babylonian chronicle about the fall of Nineveh.

None of the other minor prophets have the same sublime vehemence and the boldness of Nahum.  His prophetic work is like a finished poem with magnificent, vivid, and majestic descriptions of the preparations for the destruction of Nineveh, and its ruin.

An outline of the Book of Nahum shows that it consists of two parts, a prelude and then the descriptive fall of Nineveh.  This first chapter indicated the majesty and might of God Yahweh in his goodness and severity.  Nahum indicated that Yahweh was slow to get angry, but he would not ignore the guilty ones.  Yahweh would punish evil, but he would reward those who trusted him.  Yahweh was good, a refuge in times of trouble, because he cared for those who trusted him.

After the title about Nahum, Yahweh showed his anger in the storms and clouds.  He was capable of drying up the sea and the rivers.  The mountains and hills would quake and melt as the whole world would tremble at the hot anger of Yahweh.  His fiery anger could even break rocks.  Yahweh was good because he protected people, even in floods.  His enemies were weak.  Yahweh was going to be against Judah, the Assyrians, and the king of Nineveh.  However, the good news was that there was going to be peace.

Chapters two and three describe the fall and ruin of Nineveh.  Nahum let the reader participate in this battle with his subtle irony, similes, and metaphors.  They were to get ready for the battle.  Nahum described the siege and frenzied activity of the Nineveh soldiers and chariots.  This distressed city tried in vain to halt the invaders.  He compared Nineveh to a lion with great power, whose den was full of dead prey.  The bloody city of Nineveh became like an exposed prostitute city.  He also compared Nineveh to Thebes, the Egyptian city that Assyria itself had destroyed in 663 BCE.  Their fire there was like a swarm of locusts.  Then there was the final lament for this great city and its inhabitants.

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