Today we begin our journey through the Old Testament book of Nahum.
Nahum is a prophetic book, a minor prophet because of its size, not because of its message.
Nahum is the “sequel”, if you will, to the book of Jonah. If you’ll remember the story of the book of Jonah, God calls Jonah, a prophet, to go preach to the Assyrian capital of Ninevah. Jonah refuses to go, as Ninevah and the Assyrians are evil archenemies of God and of Israel. God chases Jonah down and Jonah then reluctantly obeys. Much to Jonah’s displeasure, the entire city of Ninevah repents, and God spares His wrath against the city.
Fast forward a century later, Ninevah and Assyria have reverted back to their old ways. They have long forgotten Jonah’s words, and are evil through and through. God has not forgotten His promise to bring His righteous judgment against the Assyrians and against Ninevah its capital if the Assyrians do not change their evil ways. The Ninevites’ repentance a century earlier was a stay of execution as long as they honored God.
So what do we know about the author of this book? Not much. The author is Nahum, as indicated in the introduction. Ironically, Nahum’s name means “comfort”, quite the opposite of the message God told Nahum to tell the Ninevites. The “comfort” in Nahum’s name would possibly apply to Judah, God’s people, as they hear the good news that one of their great oppressors has been humbled and destroyed (Nahum 1:15).
Nahum introduces himself as being from Elkosh. Scholars have no precise location for this city or village. Elkosh could be a village in northern Iraq (where some of the exiles might have been taken, and where he was born); Elkosh could have been a small village in Galilee, or even Capernaum (translated, meaning “town of Nahum”). The location of Elkosh is not of any significance to the meaning and message of the book.
The timeframe of this writing was likely between 642 and 622 BC. Scholars estimate this timeframe because the book refers to the earlier fall of Thebes in 664 BC (see Nahum 3:8). Also, historians clearly record that Ninevah fell in 612 BC, so Nahum’s prophesy was before that timeframe.
Nahum was writing as a prophet, with his time overlapping with the end of King Manasseh’s reign and the beginning of King Josiah’s reign. The reign of the evil Assyrian empire was about to come to an end at the hand of the Medes and Persians, and its capital of Ninevah would be destroyed. In fact, God’s promise that the city of Ninevah would go into hiding (see Nahum 3:11) was true – it was not rediscovered until 1842 AD!
The book of Nahum has three simple sections that follow the chapter divisions:
- God’s goodness toward Judah and wrath toward Assyria and Ninevah (chapter 1)
- God’s preparation for battle (chapter 2)
- Assyria’s overthrow and Ninevah’s ruin (chapter 3)
So what can we learn from this quick summary of the book of Nahum?
- God is righteous and good to those that follow Him and judges evil and brings justice to a broken world.
- God’s timeframe is not our timeframe – God holds nations accountable for long periods of time (roughly a century, in the case of Assyria and Ninevah).
- If God can overthrow the dominant world power in that day and hide its capital city for almost 2,500 years, He can surely help me with my small problems today.