THE CURSES OF VASSAL TREATIES OF ESARHADDON (VTE) AND NAHUM
CURSES OF NAHUM TAKEN FROM THE CURSES OF ESARHADDON ON HIS VASSALS TO DESCRIBE THE COMING DOOM OF NINEVEH
The curses against me, Nineveh announced by Nahum exhibit significant parallels with Neo-Assyrian treaty curses. These latter documents differ from other extrabiblical sources inasmuch as they contain maledictions, calling down of curses that are extensive, specific, vivid, and distinctive.
Since Assyrian kings delivered their diplomatic messages not only to the king but also to the population (cf. 2 Kings 18:26-36), one may presume that the prophet must have known such documents or traditions and intentionally drew from them to frame his invectives, denunciation, against the Assyrian enemy.
Listen to one of these typical curses:
472-493: The Great Gods’ Curses
[If you break the treaty’s terms:]
The Great Gods of heaven and earth, they who dwell throughout the world, each one whose name is recorded in this tablet:
May they strike you! May they frown upon you! May they curse you furiously with a sickening curse!
Above, may they snatch away your wellbeing; below, in the underworld, may they make your ghost thirst for water.
May shadow and sunshine constantly overpower you; may you find no refuge in an alcove’s shelter.
May food and water abandon you; famine and scarcity, starvation and plague, may you never be free from their presence.
The “horns” of your maidens, the “bowstrings” of your youths*: before your very eyes, may dogs and pigs drag them through the streets of Ashur.
In this regard, the following parallels between Nahum and the Vassal Treaties of Esarhaddon (VTE) deserve notice:
(1) curse of darkness 1:8 But with an overflowing flood He will make an utter end of its place, And darkness will pursue His enemies. You will the parallel of darkness in the Vassal Treaties of Esarhaddon (VTE 422-424);
(2) destruction of name and posterity. (Nahum 1:14 The LORD has given a command concerning you: “Your name shall be perpetuated no longer. Out of the house of your gods I will cut off the carved image and the molded image. I will dig your grave, For you are vile.” This is what Esarhaddon pronounced on his vassals (VTE 543, 544);
(3) destruction of chariots (Nahum 2:13 Behold, I am against thee, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will burn her chariots in the smoke. You find this in (VTE 612-616). The cruelty that my king Esarhaddon practised is now being practised on me.
(4) punishment of prostitutes (Nahum 3:5-7 and VTE 617);
(5) incurable wound and fatal disease (Nahum 3:19 and VTE 472-477);
(6) overwhelming flood (Nahum 1:8 and VTE 442);
(7) drying up of water sources (Nahum 1:4 and VTE 440, 441);
(8) faces of them all gather blackness. Skin colour changed (Nahum 2:10 and VTE 585-587);
(9) the voice of thy messengers shall no more be heard. Silencing of one’s voice (Nahum 2:13 and VTE 437-439);
(10) The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, And will not at all acquit the wicked. (Nahum 1:3 and VTE 576, 577; 582-584).
In addition, the curses of warriors acting like fearful women (Nahum 3:13) and a locust plague (verses 15-17), albeit absent from VTE, are attested in other documents dated to Neo-Assyrian times.
Nahum have intentionally alluded to Assyrian treaty curses in order to achieve some sort of rhetorical effect.
First, we should note the genre similarities inasmuch as the parallels between Nahum and the extrabiblical documents occur in the domain of treaty curses. Second, although in isolation any of the noted motifs may have a number of parallels with other ancient Near Eastern documents, the number of parallels between Nahum and the VTE are much higher than with any other single document of the ancient Near East, which can hardly be mere coincidence.
Third, considering that Nahum announced the demise of the Assyrian Empire, he intentionally used imagery and language borrowed from the Assyrians themselves to underscore the rhetorical force of his message, emphasizing that “the treaty curses that the Assyrians threatened to invoke on Judah would be the very judgments Yahweh would invoke on the Assyrians.”
I, Nineveh was amazed when I read the pro[hectic book of Nahum. He must have researched the Vassal Treaties of Esarhaddon with great care. One thing is certain; the Holy Spirit inspired him to write this marvellously authentic book.
Today I and my ruins look back almost 3000 years ago when we were destroyed by the combined armies of the Medes and Babylonians.
A century and a half before the 612 BC destruction we repented upon the preaching of Jonah.
But then we slipped back to our old ways of destroying the lives of people. It started gradually but it reached a climax during the cruel wars of king Ashurbanipal.
You can see some of his war crimes on the reliefs in some of the famous museums.
The unseen God of the Hebrews is not an exclusive God, He is an loving righteous inclusive God. He loved us just as He loved His people who bore His name.
King Senacherib was such a mighty king and he defeated so many nations as well as their local gods.
After destroying the mighty fortified city of Lachish, he challenged the God of the Hebrews. Let me read it again:
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?’ ”
Listen to the way God reacted to Senacherib’s boastful daring words:
Isaiah 37:33 “Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria: ‘He shall not come into this city, Nor shoot an arrow there, Nor come before it with shield, Nor build a siege mound against it.
Isaiah 37:34 By the way that he came, By the same shall he return; And he shall not come into this city,’ Says the LORD.
Isaiah 37:35 ‘For I will defend this city, to save it For My own sake and for My servant David’s sake.’ ”
Isaiah 37:36 Then the angel of the LORD went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand; and when people arose early in the morning, there were the corpses—all dead.
Isaiah 37:37 So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went away, returned home, and remained at Nineveh.
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.
I still remember the day our mighty king returned home to me with a few defeated, down casted soldiers who were mourning about the death of their colleagues.
I am looking at my ruins and I am thinking of the prophets who warned us of the coming doom.
I am also reminded of the words of Moses when he wrote about the balanced fair character of God the Creator.
Exodus 34:6 And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth,
Exodus 34:7 keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.”
What a fair theology. When a sinner sees his mistakes like we did during the time of Jonah, God forgives without any reproach. How could He do a thing like this. Who is going to pay for the cruel sins we committed before Johan visited us?
One of the prophets of Jerusalem explains the manner in which God takes care of the sins we have confessed:
Isaiah 53:4 Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted.
Isaiah 53:5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.
Not one of our gods would ever have done this. But this what the God of Jonah and Nahum did.
He took the punishment that we deserved upon Himself. And on Calvary He died on our behalf.
In the British museum one can visit this statue that was discovered at the Nabu temple at Nimrud. Adad-Nirari III testifies of his conversion after the preaching of Jonah. He says there is only one God.
He and my 120,000 citizens accepted the forgiving grace of the Creator God and the judgments and punishments of our wickedness fell on Him.
God sent another prophet by the name of Nahum to tell us that He was going to punish us like he warned us before. It was a profoundly serious warning because are iniquity and cruelty knew no bounds.
This is what could have happened to us but we refused God’s forgiveness, we despised His love and we reaped the consequences.
Someone wrote the following beautiful word of God’s Son who came and died for the sins of mankind:
Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserves. He was condemned for our sins, in which He had no share, that we might be justified by His righteousness, in which we had no share. He suffered the death, which was ours, that we might receive the life which was His. “With His stripes we are healed.”
I Nineveh did not repent and I was destroyed. Let this be a profoundly serious warning to you. If you cling to your sins, you will perish.
But if you repent, break with your sins, especially the sins of punishing people by your unforgiving attitude, you will inherit God’s forgiveness and live forever in His presence.
But if you reject His forgiving love, you will be ruined for eternity.
I plead with you to make the right choice.
THE CURSES OF VASSAL TREATIES OF ESARHADDON (VTE) AND NAHUM