Nothing is known about Nahum...except that he came from Elkosh. It is said that there was an Elkosh on the Tigris River, about 20 miles north of Nineveh. Nahum may have been one of the Israelite captives that were taken to Babylon. His name is part of the word, “Capernaum”, which means “village of Nahum”…perhaps telling us that this was his hometown and that he may have been one of its founders or leading citizens. His name means "consolation".
His message is that Nineveh (Assyria) will be destroyed...which happened in 612 B.C. They had been converted almost 100 years before through the preaching of Jonah…but the people had not passed on their faith to their children and they had quickly reverted to cruel, heathen practices. They destroyed Samaria (Israel) in 722 B.C. and nearly capture Jerusalem (Judah) in 701 B.C.
Time written & time covered in history:
His message against Nineveh was given in Judah.
“The book itself indicates the limits within which it belongs. Thebes (No-Amon) had fallen (3:8-10, 663 B.C.). The fall of Nineveh is represented as impending. It took place 607 BC. Thus Nahum was between 663 and 607. As Nineveh is pictured in the full swing of its glory, and has its troubles began with the Scythian invasion (662 B.C.), it may be a good guess to place this prophecy shortly before the Scythian invasion, say about 630 B.C.—which would make Nahum a contemporary of Zephaniah, who also predicted the ruin of Nineveh and language of amazing vividness (Zephaniah 2:13-15).
Halley’s Bible Handbook, Henry H. Halley, p. 368
The people of Nineveh had been converted almost 150 years before through the preaching of Jonah (circa 785 B.C.)...but the people had not passed on their faith to their children and they had quickly reverted to cruel, heathen practices. They destroyed Samaria (Israel) in 722 B.C. and nearly capture Jerusalem (Judah) in 701 B.C.
Hoshea (730-721 B.C.), the last king of Israel, reigned 9 years. He paid tribute to the king of Assyria, but made a secret alliance with the king of Egypt. Then came the Assyrians, and administered the final death-blow to the Northern Kingdom. Samaria fell, and its people followed the rest of Israel into Captivity. The prophets at that time were Hosea, Isaiah and Micah. The Northern Kingdom had lasted about 200 years. Every one of its 19 kings had walked in the sins of Jeroboam its founder. God had sent prophet after prophet, and judgment after judgment, in an effort to turn the nation back from its sins. But in vain. Israel was joined to its idols. There was no remedy, and the wrath of God arose and removed Israel out of the land.
It was by the Assyrian Empire that the Kingdom of Israel was destroyed. In recent years annals of Assyrian kings have been found in which they themselves had their own exploits recorded. In these annals names of ten Hebrew kings occur: Omri, Ahab, Jehu, Mena-hem, Pekah, Hoshea, Uzziah, Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh. Many statements are found which confirm Biblical statements. Nineveh was its capital.
Assyrian policy was to deport conquered peoples to other lands, to destroy their sense of nationalism and make them more easily subject. Assyrians were great warriors. Most nations then were robber nations. Assyrians seem to have been about the worst of them all. They builded their state on the loot of other peoples. They practiced cruelty. They skinned their prisoners alive, or cut off their hands, feet, noses, ears, or put out their eyes, or pulled out their tongues, and made mounds of human skulls, all to inspire terror. Assyria was founded, previous to 2000 B.C., by colonists from Babylon, and for many centuries was subject to, or in conflict with, Babylon. About 1300 B.C. Shalmaneser I, threw off the yoke of Babylon, and ruled the whole Euphrates Valley. Then Assyria declined. Tiglath-pileser I (1120-1100), made Assyria again a great kingdom. Then another period of decline. Then followed the brilliant epoch of 300 years in which Assyria was a World-Empire, under the following kings:
- Assurnasipal II (885-860 B.C.). Warlike and cruel. Welded Assyria into the best fighting machine of the ancient world.
- Shalmaneser II (860-825 B.C.). First Assyrian king to come in conflict with Israel. Ahab fought him. Jehu paid him tribute.
- Shansi-adad (825-808). Adad-nirari (808-783). Shalmaneser III (783-771). Assur-dayan (771-753). Assur-lush (753-747). Decline.
- Tiglath-pileser III (747-727). "Pul" was his personal name. He carried North Israel into Captivity (734 B.C See under Isaiah 7).
- Shalmaneser IV (727-722). He besieged Samaria; died in the siege.
- Sargon II (722-705). Completed destruction of Samaria and Israel's captivity. Sargon I was a Babylonian king of 2000 years earlier.
- Sennacherib (705-681). Most famous of Assyrian kings. Defeated by an angel before Jerusalem. Burned Babylon. (See under II Chronicles 32.)
- Esar-haddon (681-668). Rebuilt Babylon. Conquered Egypt. Was one of the greatest of Assyrian kings.
- Assur-banipal (668-626). (Sardanopalus, Osnapper). Destroyed Thebes. Collected a great library. Powerful, cruel, literary.
- Assur-etil-ilani, Sin-sar-iskun (Saracos) (626-607). Beset by Scythians, Medes and Babylonians, the brutal Empire fell. Nineveh was capital of the Assyrian Empire, which had destroyed Israel… Founded by Nimrod, shortly after the Flood (Genesis 10:11-12), it had, from the beginning, been a rival of Babylon: Babylon in the south part of the Euphrates valley, Nineveh in the north part of the Euphrates valley; the two cities about 300 miles apart (see map page 49). Nineveh rose to world power about 900 B.C Soon thereafter it began to "cut off" Israel. About 785 B.C God had sent Jonah to Nineveh in an effort to turn it aside from its path of brutal conquest. Within the following 60 years (by 721 B.C), the Assyrian armies had completed the destruction of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. For still another 100 years Nineveh continued to grow more and more powerful and arrogant. The term Nineveh refers to the whole complex of associated villages served by one great irrigation system, and protected by the one network of fortifications based on the river defenses. The city proper is also called Nineveh. It is the great palace area in the heart of the greater system. At the height of Nineveh's power, on the eve of its sudden over-throw, Nahum appeared with this prophecy, called by some, "Nineveh's Death-Song," a "Cry of Humanity for Justice." Its destruction was so complete that even its site was forgotten. When Xenophon and his 10,000 passed by 200 years later he thought the mounds were the ruins of some Parthian city. When Alexander the Great fought the famous battle of Arbela (331 B. C.), near the site of Nineveh, he did not know there had ever been a city there. Koyunjik is the name of the principal mound. East of the Tigris, just across from the modern city Mosul. It covers about 100 acres, and is on an average about 90 feet high. It contains the palaces of Sennacherib and Assurbanipal. Sennacherib was the king who raided Judah. His palace was the grandest of them all. It was uncovered by Layard (1849-50). About the size of three large city blocks.Halley’s Bible Handbook, Henry H. Halley, pp. 369-370)
- Library of Assur-banipal. Perhaps the most epochal archaeological discovery ever made. Uncovered by Layard, Rassam, and Rawlinson (1852-54), in the palace of Sennacherib. Originally contained 100,000 volumes. About a third of it has been recovered and is in the British Museum. Assurbanipal was something of an archaeologist; had his scribes search and copy the libraries of ancient Babylon, of an age 2000 years before his day. Thus to him we are indebted for preserving knowledge of primitive Babylonian literature.
- Discovery of the Ruins of Nineveh. So completely had all traces of the glory of the Assyrian Empire disappeared that many scholars had come to think that the references to it in the Bible and other ancient histories were mythical; that in reality such a city and such an empire never existed. In 1820 an Englishman, Claude James Rich, spent 4 months sketching the mounds across the Tigris from Mosul, which he suspected were the ruins of Nineveh. In 1845 Layard definitely identified the site; and he and his successors uncovered the ruins of the magnificent palaces of the Assyrian kings, whose names have now become household words, and hundreds of thou-sands of inscriptions in which we read the history of Assyria as the Assyrians themselves wrote it, and which to a remarkable degree confirm the Bible.
- The Fall of Nineveh, 607 B.C (or 612?). Within about 20 years after Nahum's prediction an army of Babylonians and Medes closed in on Nineveh. After 2 years of siege a sudden rise of the river washed away part of the walls. Nahum had predicted that the "river gates would be opened" for the destroying army (2:6). Through the breach thus made the attacking Babylonians and Medes swept in to their work of destruction. Prancing horses, cracking whips, rattling wheels, bounding, raging chariots, flashing swords, great heaps of dead bodies (2:3-4; 3:1-7). It all came to pass exactly as Nahum had pictured it; and the bloody vile city passed into oblivion.
- Greater Nineveh was about 30 miles long and about 10, miles wide (see page 365). It was protected by 5 walls and 3 moats (canals) built by the forced labor of unnumbered thousands of foreign captives, Jonah's mention of 120,000 babes (Jonah 4:11), suggests it might have had a population of near a million. The inner city of Nineveh proper, about 3 miles long, and 1½ miles wide, built at the junction of the Tigris and Khoser rivers, was protected by walls 100 feet high, and broad enough at the top to hold 4 chariots driven abreast, 8 miles in circuit.
- At the time of Nahum's prophecy, Nineveh was queen city of the earth, mighty and brutal beyond imagination, head of a warrior state built on the loot of nations. Limitless wealth from the ends of the earth poured into its coffers. Nahum likens it to a den of ravaging lions, feeding on the blood of nations (2:11-13).
- Halley’s Bible Handbook, Henry H. Halley, pp. 208-210)
- The Revelation of God’s Character
Because God is just, He must punish all sin. Notice the words in 1:2-3,6-7 (NASV) that speak of Him as Judge (jealous, avenging, wrathful, great in power, indignation, anger).
- The Revelation of God’s Judgment
His message is that Nineveh (Assyria) will be destroyed...which happened in 612 B.C. His theme is that if we do not respond to God’s mercy (as Assyria didn’t), then God’s judgment will follow. Nineveh had totally rejected the God that they claimed to have received under the preaching of Jonah (2 Kings 18:25,30,35; 19:10-13). Nahum’s prophecy was not a call to repentance…that time had passed. His was declaration of the certainty of judgment and doom.
The Revelation of God’s Character Nahum 1:1-14
The word “oracle” in the NASV is translated as “burden” in the KJV, “prophecy” in the NIV, and “message” in the NLT…
- The burden: In the prophets, a burden is a "heavy" message of weighty importance, heavy in the sense that it produces sorrow or grief.
- "Massa comes from the verb 'to lift up' (nasa), and so it can mean 'to carry' or 'to lift up the voice.' From the first meaning comes the translation 'burden,' or 'load'; and from the second meaning we get the translation 'oracle,' or 'utterance.'" (Wolf, in his commentary on Isaiah) Grammatically, we may be able to say "oracle," but since these are heavy oracles, we are justified in calling them burdens.
- "Massa not only signifies a burden, but also a thing lifted up, pronounced, or proclaimed; also a message. It is used by the prophets to signify the revelation which they have received from God to deliver to any particular people." (Clarke)
David Guzik :: Study Guide for Nahum 1,
This is a message that is heavy…meaning that its content is of great significance and importance because of the consequences that it details.
Nahum is going to deliver a scathing declaration of judgment by God against Nineveh. But first, in order to establish God’s credentials to pass such judgment, he describes God’s Character.
Nahum 1:2 God is Jealous for His People
Assyria is going to be incredibly harsh in its treatment of Israel when it conquers it. Here, Nahum is warning Assyria that they will be held accountable for this action by a God who is “jealous” for His people and will respond harshly to anyone who harms them.
Nahum 1:3 God is Absolute in His Power
Assyria may be a powerful nation…but they are nothing in comparison to the power of an almighty God.
Nahum 1:4-6 God is Universal in His Supremacy
God’s reign is over all lands and all peoples. Even the physical world itself is under His control.
Nahum 1:7-8 God is Protective of His People
If you harm God’s people…there is no escaping from Him. He can even see in the dark.
Nahum 1:9-14 God is All-powerful in His Authority
God's judgment cannot be avoided or overcome. When they are at the zenith of their power…He will totally destroy them…to such a degree that their lineage will be cut off and they will have no descendants.
The Revelation of God’s Judgment Nahum 1:15-3:19
Now that he has established God’s right to enact judgment…he tells the people what the results will be.
Nahum 1:15 God’s Judgment is Proclaimed
The destruction of Nineveh by the Babylonians will be good news for the people of Judah. This happened in 612 B.C.
Nahum 2:1-2 God’s Judgment is Restorative
The result of God's judgment will be the restoration of Israel.
Nahum 2:3-10 God’s Judgment is Decisive
God's judgment is quick and complete.
Nahum 2:11-3:7 God’s Judgment is Just
The extent of God’s judgment is justified due to the extent of the brutal treatment of Assyria against other people.
Nahum 3:8-10 God’s Judgment is Forewarned
For those Assyrians who might question the justice of God’s judgment…He reminds them of how harshly they treated (judged) the people of No-Amon. No-Amon is the Hebrew name for the Egyptian city of Thebes…the capital of Upper Egypt. It was sacked by the Assyrians in 663 B.C. So, God is saying, “You question how I am going to treat you…but you have no qualms with how you treated the people of Thebes” (:8). God warns the people of His coming judgment and says that even as other countries could not stop it from happening, neither can they (:9-10).
Nahum 3:11-19 God’s Judgment is Inescapable
God's judgment is coming and is inevitable. They can do all that they want to prepare for it…but they will fail. They can try to hide and ignore it (:11-12), they can they can build fortifications (:13-15), their population can grow significantly (:16-17)…but even so, when the time of God’s judgment arrives, there will be no one who can help them (:19). When people of other nations hear of the demise of Assyria they will rejoice (:19).
Prayer: Lord, You are righteous and just in Your decision to judge sin. Help me to always be mindful of the glorious attributes of Your divine nature. Keep me aware of Who You are…and how I am to relate to You.