4. NAHUM 1 – INTRODUCING THE PROPHET NAHUM AND HIS PROPHECY OF NINEVEH
All that is left om me are ruins upon ruins. But many centuries I boasted om the most sophisticated library. It was the brainchild of my last great ruler, Ashurbanipal.
Wherever he conquered nation cities he collected the valuable clay tablets of their scribes and transported it here to me Nineveh. If is was not for these precious tablets, the knowledge of our kings and their rich history would have been lost for ever.
But during the reign of Ashurbanipal a strange and shocking document was delivered to me. The contents caused me sleepless nights for an exceptionally long time.
BOOK AF NAHUM
The author was a native of Elkosh, a city about 60 kilometres north of my present site here next to Mosul.
During the time of Sargon II, his parents were amongst the exiles that were transplanted here to the former Assyria.
I was intrigued when I first read his Hebrew name Nachum meaning “consolation,” “the one comforted.”
His name was discovered on an ancient Hebrew seal, on a jar handle, and in Phoenician inscriptions from Ugarit.
Let me give you some detail of this exceptional person:
He was a prophet of Judah in the 7th cent. BC, and author of the book that bears his name.
His name appears in Luke’s genealogy of Jesus Christ.
Luke 3:25 the son of Mattathiah, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai,
The book of Nahum, that bears his name is seventh of the so-called Minor Prophets.
In in chapter 3:8–10 he mentions the fall of No (Thebes), modern Luxor which was destroyed by Ashurbanipal of Assyria in 663 BC. Nahum wrote his book shortly after that date.
I was so shocked when I read his prophecy of the desolation of Nineveh (3:7), my Assyrian capital. This happened sometime later in 612 BC, and his book may therefore be dated 640 BC.
The book of Nahum announces the doom of the great Assyrian Empire at the very time when the nation was at the crest of its power.
I have to mention that Jerusalem and Judah had been suffering repeated Assyrian invasions and had been forced to pay tribute intermittently for 75 years. We the Assyria appeared invincible, but God prophesied through Nahum that He would break the Assyrian yoke (ch 1:13).
Can you imagine the effect that this message had on the faithful in Judah that God was still watching over His people and that He would visit justice upon their oppressors?
THE WORLD DOMINATION DURING THE TIME OF ASHURBANIPAL
During Ashurbanipal’s reign (669–631) most of the nations of the Fertile Crescent, from Mesopotamia to Egypt, either were subject to the Assyrians or were under tribute to them. However, before his death, the situation had already begun to change. Soon thereafter the empire disintegrated, and Nineveh itself fell in 612 BC. to the Medes and the Babylonians.
I must share the following shocking account. He burnt himself in his palace alongside his concubines, his gold and silver when Nabopolasser and Cyaxares besieged in.
FATE OF NENEVEH
The book of Nahum is concerned exclusively with my coming fate. About a century and a half before Nahum, Jonah called me and my people to repentance, and for a time my king and people alike, humbled themselves before God (Jonah 3:5–10).
Accordingly, for a time, the city was spared. But the reformation did not last, and Nahum now predicted the imminent destruction of the “bloody city” (Nah 3:1).
A century prior to Nahum’s time we had been the “rod” of God’s anger (Is 10:5) against the northern kingdom, Israel, whose 10 tribes we took captive.
A few years later in 701, under Sennacherib, God used the same rod to chasten the people of Jerusalem and Judah (chs 36; 37; cf. 8:7, 8).
But by our monumental pride and unabashed cruelty we now had filled their cup of iniquity. We were defying the sovereignty of the God of heaven and were abasing the Creator of the universe to a level with our idols (ch 36:7, 14–20).
We, the Assyrians, had refused to cooperate with God’s purpose for her as a nation and therefore we lost our mandate to rule.
The prophecy of Nahum is written in poetic style, its 1st chapter being an alphabetic psalm (Acrostic) of unusual form. Although in the text as it has come down to us some letters of the alphabet are missing and others appear out of sequence, it is quite possible that originally the alphabetical arrangement was complete.
Each letter of the alphabet introduces a new thought. Thus in v 5 the 1st member of the poetic parallelism, “the mountains quake at him, and the hills melt,” begins with the Hebrew letter he’, while the 2d, “and the earth is burned at his presence, yea, the world, and all that dwell therein,” begins with waw, the next letter in the Hebrew alphabet.
The prophecy of Nahum logically falls into 2 parts:
(1) an ascription of praise, extolling God as merciful and just, as the ruler of the world and arbiter of national destiny (Nah 1:1–10), and
(2) a vivid description of the fall of Nineveh (1:11 to 3:19).
Nahum entitles his prophecy “The burden of Nineveh.” God takes the enemies of His people to be His own “adversaries” (ch 1:2).
Though He is “slow to anger” He will not forever countenance their wickedness (v 3). The forces of nature—the sea, the rivers, the mountains, the earth itself—are subject to His pleasure (vs 4–6).
To His own people He is “a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knows them that trust him” (v 7). When He sets His hand to punish us the Assyrians “he will make an utter end,” and never again will we, the Assyrians rise to oppress His people (v 9).
For some time, God has permitted us to prosper (v 12), but the time is imminent, at hand when He will break us, the Assyrian yoke, and restore peace to Judah (vs 13–15).
The destroyer is depicted as laying siege to me, Nineveh, and in irony God summons its garrison to prepare to defend the city (ch 2:1).
Our shields are red with blood, and our chariots rumble through the streets to the point of attack (vs 3, 4).
Our warriors stumble at their appointed places on the city wall (v 5), the sluice gates are opened, and my palace is inundated (v 6).
As my inhabitants tremble in fear, the invaders rush into the city, and take its spoil (vs 7–10).
In chapter 3 our horsemen are pictured as lifting their spears and swords in battle and multitudes of our soldiers falling down slain (ch 3:1–3).
God is against me, Nineveh because of my crimes, my immorality, and my oppression of others (vs 4–6)
This is the reason why I am laid waste (v 7). I am no better than the city of No (Thebes) of Egypt or of other nations that have fallen (vs 7–9).
My people are taken captive or scattered leaderless upon the mountains, and the “shepherds,” my leaders of Assyria, are laid to rest in the dust. My wound is a mortal one, and “there is no healing” of the bruise I now suffers (vs 10–19).
This was only a brief synopsis of the greater traumatic drama of what happened before my destruction and during my destruction.
At the preaching of Jonah, we repented. At writing of Nahum and his call to repent, we refused.
I am going to share some precious lessons with you. The most important one concerns our relationship with our loved one, our family, our friends and our enemies.
If you are hurting people emotionally as we had hurt them physically, you are heading for destruction. There comes a time when God ceases to plead with us. It happens when we refuse to relent the way we treat other people, God’s precious property.
The prophet Zephaniah joins the prophet Nahum is warning Nineveh of the coming catastrophe.
What lessons are there in the Bible that warns its readers of coming day of judgment? How should we react to these timely warning?