Nahum 1:1–3, 7–8; 3:1–7, 19comment (0)
June 14, 2007
By Jay T. Robertson
Related Scripture: Nahum 1:1–3, 7–8; 3:1–7, 19
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Assistant Professor, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
AFFIRM GOD’S JUSTICE
Nahum 1:1–3, 7–8; 3:1–7, 19
Nahum wrote his prophecy in the middle of the seventh century B.C. We do not know anything about Nahum the man, except that he was from Elkosh. The Book of Nahum begins with an introductory psalm on the character of God (1:2–8). In the rest of Chapter 1 and the beginning of Chapter 2 (1:9–2:2), Nahum moves back and forth between addressing God’s people, Judah, and addressing the city of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. Several verses into Chapter 2, the prophet begins to speak to Nineveh at length (2:3–3:19) and it becomes clear what this vision is about: God’s promise to destroy the Ninevites utterly as judgment for their sins.
Understand God’s Competency (1:1–3)
Of all the prophetic works, only Nahum is described as a “book” in the title verse. This book most likely took the form of a scroll that may have been circulated as an underground pamphlet during times of Assyrian persecution. Nahum’s book encouraged Judah. God delivers the oppressed. He punishes the oppressor. Nahum’s prophecy brought hope to a people without hope, announcing God’s victory over the evil ones.
Nahum begins his book by describing the character of God. The Lord is described as “jealous.” Rooted in covenantal background, this term denotes the Lord’s deep, fiercely protective commitment to His people and His exclusive claim to obedience and reciprocal commitment. “Vengeance” belongs supremely to God, the Judge of the whole earth, and to the ordained representatives of His authority. Man, therefore, is forbidden to take the law into his own hands or to exercise his own vengeance on enemies. Nineveh, despite God’s use of her violence, had done just that. Now, as she had devastated cities, so it would happen to her: military invasion, siege, slaughter, destruction by fire, humiliation, captivity, exile and utter destruction. Like jealousy, “wrath” denotes God’s intense and passionate anger toward sin.
The Lord’s anger is balanced by His forbearance. Nahum reminds Israel not only is God slow to anger against their sins but He is also slow to anger against their enemy’s sins.
Affirm God’s Nature (1:7–8)
The Lord is good. In this context, as an expression of covenant commitment to defend His people, the Lord Himself is a “stronghold,” a refuge, for His people. The word translated “cares” is literally “knows.” God intimately takes care of those who have entered into relationship with Him. He will protect them and supply their every need. The goodness of God, like His patience, does not do away with His judgment. God will make a “full end” of His enemies. He will destroy them according to His time schedule. He and He alone controls history. His judgment is an inevitable expression of His goodness on behalf of the victims of evil.
Implement God’s Standards (3:1–7, 19)
Nahum skillfully progressed from a description of the greatness of God to the full and final end of Assyria. No one can stand against the greatness of God. God will bring a final end to Nineveh, and He will restore the oppressed peoples. God declares to Nineveh, “I am against you.” The Lord will bring destruction and humiliation to Nineveh, “the city of blood.” The atrocities of the Assyrian armies are legendary. They were extremely violent and cruel. God was also against Nineveh because she was deceitful, having seduced the nations with her lies. This city that had plundered others would now be plundered. The sights and sounds of urban warfare in the streets are described in verses 2–3. Nineveh had behaved as a prostitute; now she would suffer the humiliation of a prostitute.
The Lord of history Himself will bring utter humiliation and devastation to this oppressor. There will be “no remedy for your injury.” No reprieve. No pardon. No escape. Nahum’s words provide hope for the people of Jerusalem. Jerusalem would not suffer much longer under the yoke of a contemptible nation. Soon Jerusalem would be free, and the people would experience the goodness and protection of God.