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Icons of the Bible: Nahum - Prophet to Nineveh

Updated: Sep 3, 2023

Icons of the Bible: Nahum - Prophet to Nineveh
Icons of the Bible: Nahum - Prophet to Nineveh

Icons of the Bible

Summary of the Book of Nahum

Author: The author of the Book of Nahum identifies himself as Nahum (in the Hebrew “Consoler” or “Comforter”) the Elkoshite (1:1). There are many theories as to where that city was though there is no conclusive evidence. One such theory is that it refers to the city later called Capernaum (which literally means “the village of Nahum”) at the Sea of Galilee.

Date of Writing: Given the limited amount of information that we know about Nahum, the best we can do is narrow the timeframe in which the Book of Nahum was written to between 663 and 612 B.C. Two events are mentioned that help us to determine these dates. First, Nahum mentions Thebes (No Amon) in Egypt falling to the Assyrians (663 B.C.) in the past tense, so it had already happened. Second, the remainder of Nahum’s prophecies came true in 612 B.C.

Purpose of Writing: Nahum did not write this book as a warning or “call to repentance” for the people of Nineveh. God had already sent them the prophet Jonah 150 years earlier with His promise of what would happen if they continued in their evil ways. The people at that time had repented but now lived just as bad if not worse than they did before. The Assyrians had become absolutely brutal in their conquests (hanging the bodies of their victims on poles and putting their skin on the walls of their tents among other atrocities). Now Nahum was telling the people of Judah to not despair because God had pronounced judgment and the Assyrians would soon be getting just what they deserved.

Key Verses:

Nahum 1:7, “The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.”

Nahum 1:14a. “The LORD has given a command concerning you, Nineveh: ‘You will have no descendants to bear your name.'”

Nahum 1:15a, “Look, there on the mountains, the feet of one who brings good news, who proclaims peace!” See also Isaiah 52:7 and Romans 10:15.

Nahum 2:13a, “'Behold I am against you,' says the LORD of hosts.”

Nahum 3:19, “Nothing can heal your wound; your injury is fatal. Everyone who hears the news about you claps his hands at your fall, for who has not felt your endless cruelty?”

Brief Summary: Nineveh once had responded to the preaching of Jonah and turned from their evil ways to serve the Lord God. But 150 years later, Nineveh returned to idolatry, violence, and arrogance (Nahum 3:1–4). Once again God sends one of His prophets to Nineveh warning of judgment in the form of the destruction of their city and exhorting them to repentance. Sadly, the Ninevites did not heed’s Nahum’s warning, and the city was brought under the dominion of Babylon.

Foreshadowings: Paul uses shades of the imagery of Nahum 1:15 in Romans 10:15 in regard to the ministry of the Messiah and the apostles. It may also be understood of any minister of the Gospel whose business it is to "preach the Gospel of peace." God has made peace with sinners by the blood of Christ, and has given to His people the peace that “transcends all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). The preacher’s work is also to "bring glad tidings of good things" (KJV), such as reconciliation, righteousness, pardon, life, and eternal salvation by a crucified Christ. The preaching of such a Gospel, and bringing such news, make their feet beautiful. The imagery here is of one who runs to others, eager and joyful to proclaim the Good News.

Practical Application: God is patient and slow to anger. He gives every country time to repent of sin and follow Him as Lord. But He is not mocked. Any time a country turns away from Him and rejects righteousness, evil results, and He steps in with judgment. This was true for Assyria, and it will be true for any nation today. As Christians it is our duty to stand up for biblical principles and proclaim Christ, for it is only in repentance and the life-changing message of the gospel that any country can find hope." from the article: Summary of the Book of Nahum

A long article but worth the read..

The West as Nineveh: How Does Nahum’s Message of Judgement Apply to Today?


All Scripture is inspired by God—but maybe with the exception of Nahum, we think’.1 Along with Obadiah and Haggai, it has no place in the three-year lectionary and is rarely preached. The book of Nahum is brutal and bloody, callous and cruel and ‘we often wish Nahum were not in the canon’2 for God is the one who incites and executes terrible judgement upon Assyria. These punishments are ‘not softened by constantly remembering how mean the Assyrians were’,3 yet softening is the approach taken by many who do write or preach on Nahum.

Along with espousing the wickedness of Assyria, many commentators are at pains to point out that the oracle is ‘full of comfort’4 for Judah, that Nahum must be read alongside the more forgiving book of Jonah, balanced with the rest of the Book of the Twelve,5 and taken in context with the rest of Scripture. ‘If Nahum’s words seem harsh, then it is because he must use appropriate literary convention to express the seriousness of the situation’.6 Only when the caveats are in place and Nahum has been satisfactorily muzzled is he allowed to mutter in muffled tones his bold, crude prophecy.

The book’s most redeeming feature is that it is regarded by many as the ‘top most rung of sublime literature’7 and with the discovery in the late nineteenth century of the incomplete and broken acrostic hymn found in the first chapter,8 much ink has been spilt on Nahum’s literary qualities. It has sometimes been treated as ‘a bad book written well’9. As this paper will reveal, a number of commentators of Nahum do give it the fair hearing any book within the canon of Scriptures deserves.

The first part of this article will examine the theological context of the relationship between Israel and the nations within the broader framework of the Hebrew Bible. The hypothesis is that the Hebrew Bible is as missiologically focused as the NT. Although this is not an exegetical work on the book of Nahum, this first section wild primarily discuss the relevant exegetical issues.

The second section of the essay will discuss God’s judgement of Nineveh (the capital city of Assyria) and seek to answer why Assyria was judged. This will be achieved by critically assessing the sins of Assyria (from both Scriptural and non-canonical sources) which culminated in God’s outpouring of his wrath and searching for underlying universal moral principles...

..To ask whether ‘The West’ is Nineveh is asking the wrong question and to substitute ‘The West’ (or any other nation) in place of Nineveh is hermeneutically unsound. It is better to consider the underlying issues with Nineveh and to see if the nation in question echoes any of those sins. Both past and most recent history of the West indicate that the West employs injustice and therefore is under God’s judgement. It is questionable whether there is any nation that is not indicted by Nahum’s message. Most nations oppress nations that are weaker than themselves and sometimes even the weaker members of their own nation. Therefore, to some extent, all nations are Nineveh.

Given that ‘The West’ is guilty of injustice and oppression, the challenge to Western Christians is how to respond. Primarily, nations need to repent and for that to happen, there needs to be those who preach Nahum’s message to the nations. The church, as the people of God, needs to repent of her own behaviour and attitudes and also to repent on behalf of its leaders and those in power who perpetuate injustice. The church also needs to speak out on behalf of the oppressed and to become practically involved in striving for justice. As well as this she should allow those who are oppressed to express their suffering, but in the context of knowing that vengeance is God’s alone. Mission extends to both the oppressor and the oppressed but, ultimately, God is sovereign. Humbly acknowledging this fact is the first step to take when responding to Nahum’s message of judgement." from the article: The West as Nineveh: How Does Nahum’s Message of Judgement Apply to Today?

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