ZEPHANIAH AND NAHUM PREDICT THE FALL OF NINEVEH
Before discussing the very serious contents of the book of Nahum, I want to tell you of another letter that was delivered to me. Like the letter of Nahum, this one also warned me of very very very bad news – the demise of me, the mighty, wealthy and beautiful city of Nineveh.
I noticed when I received the book, that like the prophecies of other Minor Prophets, the book of Zephaniah is simply called by the name of the author. Zephaniah. In Hebrew it means: “Yahweh has hidden,” or “Yahweh has treasured.”
We know nothing of this prophet aside from what he says of himself in his book. It seems certain from ch. 1:1 that he came from a distinguished family.
Zephaniah 1:1 The word of the LORD which came to Zephaniah the son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hezekiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah.
The fact that he traces his ancestry back to “Hizkiah,” or Hezekiah, may be taken as an indication that he refers to the king of Judah who bore that name, and thus implies his royal heritage.
The prophet gives as the time of his prophecy (ch. 1:1) the reign of Josiah, king of Judah (640–609 BC.). Inasmuch as Zephaniah predicted my overthrow (Nineveh (2:13), an event that occurred in 612, is evidence that he prophesied in the earlier part of Josiah’s reign.
The book of Zephaniah, like that of Joel, focuses on “the day of the Lord.”
Isaiah 2:12 For the day of the LORD of hosts Shall come upon everything proud and lofty, Upon everything lifted up— And it shall be brought low—
It refers to temporal events such as the invasion of a foreign army, the capture of a city and the suffering that befalls the inhabitants. This appears much in the second chapter of Isaiah.
So what this book was telling me is that a foreign army will and besiege and destroy me.
But he also made an urgent appeal to me:
Zephanaih 2:3 Seek the LORD, all you meek of the earth, Who have upheld His justice. Seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be that you will be hidden In the day of the LORD’s anger.
We ignored his appeal to brake with our sins of subjugating nations and flaying them and treating them like dirt. We thought we were invincible. Regret is a good thing but it always comes too late.
Let me read to you what he wrote concerning me, my kings and my people
Zephaniah 2:13 And He will stretch out His hand against the north, Destroy Assyria, And make Nineveh a desolation, As dry as the wilderness.
Those who were continual transgressors of the law of God and behave an inhumane manner to people, would receive a punishment, the very opposite of the reward given to those who remain faithful to the Lord (see Isa. 65:21).
Zephaniah 2:14 The herds shall lie down in her midst, Every beast of the nation. Both the pelican and the bittern Shall lodge on the capitals of her pillars; Their voice shall sing in the windows; Desolation shall be at the threshold; For He will lay bare the cedar work.
A detailed description is given here of the “desolation” to come upon Nineveh (see v. 13). In graphic language the prophet pictures the absence of human inhabitants in the ruins of the city
Zephaniah 2:15 This is the rejoicing city That dwelt securely, That said in her heart, “I am it, and there is none besides me.” How has she become a desolation, A place for beasts to lie down! Everyone who passes by her Shall hiss and shake his fist.
That fateful day did come. Through the centuries the Mesopotamian sands covered the shame of my ruins.
For many centuries my story was buried until Layard and Botta excavated me and now the clay tablets publish my story.
DISCOVERY OF ELKOSH
Austen Henry Layard, who visited me and my area in 1847, reported that by “a very ancient tradition” the village contains the tomb of the prophet Nahum, whose Old Testament book begins with: “An oracle concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum of Elkosh.”
At present great renovations are being made to his tome. Nahum’s parents were exiled in 722 BC by Sargon II and they settled in Elkosh.
TWO PROPHETS – ONE MESSAGE
Me and my ruins are going to tell you about two prophets who visited us: Jonah, who warned us that God is going to destroy us. Why? Because of our cruelty to our vassal states. There was no mercy in our dealings with these subjugated people.
Not only my entire population repented but ever our cruel king Adad-Nirari repented in sackcloth and ashes.
“Nahum’s prophecy was the complement to Jonah’s prophecy. Jonah celebrated God’s mercy; Nahum relentless judgments of God against all sinners world-wide.”
“Earlier, Jonah had brought a message to Nineveh which revealed the love of God, and now the message of the Book of Nahum reveals the justice of God—the two go together.”
SENACHERIB CHALLENGED GOD
I remember the day when our mighty king Senacherib left me to go and destroy Jerusalem, the capital of the Hebrew people. He destroyed many of Judah’s cities. After his destruction of Lachish, Jerusalem was to be his next victim.
But my king committed a great crime when he besieged Jerusalem. Because none of all his previous victories of territories were also victories over their local gods.
Listen to his arrogant blasphemous challenges:
Isaiah 36:18 Beware lest Hezekiah persuade you, saying, “The LORD will deliver us.” Has any one of the gods of the nations delivered its land from the hand of the king of Assyria?
Isaiah 36:19 Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Indeed, have they delivered Samaria from my hand?
Isaiah 36:20 Who among all the gods of these lands have delivered their countries from my hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem from my hand?’ ”
The following night one angel of the Lord destroyed a 185,000 thousand of his soldiers. He had to accept the fact that the God of Israel was not the same God as our Assyrians and Phoenician gods.
He never repented. My ruins tell the story of how two of his sons assassinated him while he worshipped his god Nisroch.
Isaiah 37:38 Now it came to pass, as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, that his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer struck him down with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Ararat. Then Esarhaddon his son reigned in his place.
Unfortunately, Esarhaddon his son did not learn from his father’s mistakes. We will deal with him a little later in our presentations.
Listen to the serious warning from the prophet Nahum:
Nahum 1:9 What do you conspire against the LORD? He will make an utter end of it.
In this presentation we are going to look at a similar message of prophet Nahum who visited us. But this time we rejected his warning of our future destruction.
THE SUPERB LITERARY STYLE OF HANUM
Let me share a few comments of Biblical scholars on the literary style of the book of Nahum:
He has been called “the poet laureate among the Minor Prophets.”
He wrote in a very vivid and powerful style. His word pictures are superb, his rhetorical skill is beyond praise.
“None of the minor prophets … seem to equal Nahum in boldness, ardour and sublimity. His prophecy … forms a regular and perfect poem: the exordium (the beginning or introductory part, of a treatise), is not merely magnificent, it is truly majestic; the preparation for the destruction of Nineveh, and the description of its downfall and desolation, are expressed in the most vivid colours, and are bold and luminous in the highest degree.”
His reverence for the almighty, trust in divine justice and goodness, condemnation of national iniquity, positive conviction that God will keep His word—these are qualities of true greatness. Add to that Nahum’s mighty intellect, his patriotism and courage, his rare, almost unequalled, gift of vivid presentation, and he indeed looms as one of those outstanding figures in human history who have appeared only at rare intervals.
In our study of the book of Nahum you may be shocked at the expressions of God’s justice. But a careful study will show that it is part of God’s goodness and love. If we refuse His love, we destroy ourselves. God’s wrath and anger are also against the destructive nature of our sins.
Henry Ward Beecher, the famous preacher said, “A person who doesn’t know how to be angry doesn’t know how to be good.” Thomas Fuller wrote, “Anger is one of the sinews of the soul. He who lacks it has a maimed mind.”
A corollary to this revelation is another truth about God that Nahum reveals: God’s love always interprets His wrath. Whenever we observe some instance of God’s vengeance, we must remember that it springs from His love. We cannot always make the connection, and we may not be able to explain the connection to ourselves and others, but there is a connection. God’s vengeance proves the depth of His love. Parents who love their children discipline them. Likewise, God disciplines because He loves.
From my Nineveh ruins I greet you till we meet again. May I encourage you to read through the book of Nahum. Expose yourself to a new revelation of the loving caring character of God.