By Elizabeth Prata
King Sennacherib and his crown prince Arda-Mullissi after the battle of Lachish in 701 BC. From the palace at Nineveh. Source Looklex Encyclopedia
Who is Nahum?
He was an Old Testament prophet about whom we know little. Nahum the Elkoshite is a short form of the name Nehemiah. His name means ‘consolation’ and he might have been from Capernaum, which means ‘town of Nahum’ or he might have been from Al-Qosh in modern-day Iraq. No one knows for sure. What we do know for sure is that his book of prophecy, technically, an oracle’ is a prophecy against Nineveh of the Assyrian empire, for persecuting God’s people of Judah.
Of his prophecy, we know a lot. His three chapter oracle against that mighty capital city is muscular, vivid, and tough to read. God’s character is on sharp display here, and part of His character is His wrath. Gregory Cook named his commentary “Severe Compassion” because of God’s severity in dealing with His enemies and His compassion in dealing with His people. Nahum shows this in all its starkness.
Jonah preached God’s coming judgment to the Ninevites and they repented, from the King to the lowest slave. God stayed His hand of judgment. Unfortunately, about 100 years after Jonah’s preaching, the Ninevites had returned to the God-dishonoring ways and the judgment Jonah had promised was coming. Nahum preached that, to the Ninevites through preaching to Judah, whom Assyria was harassing and persecuting. Nahum’s oracle promised Judah and end once for all of the wars and torment by the Assyrians.
When John MacArthur preached a sermon called “Who Is God?” he began with Nahum.
Roy Gingrich was a pastor and Bible teacher who is known for having created outlines for the books of the Bible, including the Major and Minor prophetical books. I find them extremely helpful. Here, Gingrich introduces Nahum’s book and I comment after each line-
A. IT IS POETICAL IN ITS FORM—It is the most poetic of all the prophetic writings.
I found it a wonder to read because of its language and poetry.
B. IT IS VIVID AND FORCEFUL IN ITS STYLE—We can see the actions described by Nahum.
It takes your breath away in parts, it is so vivid. You can almost hear the clatter and strorm of invading chariots and the screams and cries of the Assyrians.
C. IT IS ANIMATED AND LIFE-LIKE IN ITS PRESENTATION—There is nothing artificial or unrealistic in the book’s descriptions.
Yes. Despite the war materiel being antiquated it is very present-day.
D. IT IS RAPID IN ITS MOVEMENT—It moves from scene to scene with lightning-like rapidity.
I use the term muscular. Like the book of Mark, with its use of the word ‘immediately’ and its short active sentences, Nahum ‘s poetry is less Elizabeth Barrett Browning and more modern-day war poet Sigfried Sassoon.
E. IT IS MAJESTIC IN ITS MORAL DESCRIPTIONS OF GOD—No other Bible book excels Nahum in this respect.
Soaring in its powerful descriptions of the power of God, I agree, no other book has an equal in showing God’s moral character
F. IT IS UNITARY IN ITS THEME—It has one theme, the soon-coming destruction of Nineveh.
Woe to God’s enemies! This book made me grateful I am not His enemy but by His grace, I am His friend!!
X. THE VALUE OF THE BOOK
The book has great value because of its teachings concerning God’s righteousness. It teaches that God ultimately destroys the wicked and delivers the righteous. It teaches that God is severe to His enemies and good to His friends. (Gingrich)
If you would like to read reviews of Cook’s commentary Severe Compassion, some are here on Goodreads.
I pray you read Nahum, even better, Jonah then Nahum, and move on to other Minor Prophets. These books are so named not because they are less-than but because of their brevity compared to the Major Prophets such as Isaiah or Ezekiel. God’s moral character, His severe compassion, and His power. Nineveh was destroyed and obliterated so thoroughly that the city itself as never even found until 1845, 2000 years after the prophecy came true.
Yet, look at this. God is great in love and compassion. Only three nations are mentioned in the future literal 1000 year kingdom to come, Israel, Egypt, and…Assyria:
In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrians will come into Egypt and the Egyptians into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians. In that day Israel will be the third party with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, “Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance.” (Isaiah 19:23-25)