Not many people study the small prophetic book of Nahum. It is only three chapters, a total of 47 verses. One may read the book in five minutes, or you can spend thirty minutes and absorb almost all that it contains. But let’s consider it anyway and maybe benefit some who have not studied it.
Most biblical names had a meaning, and ‘Nahum’ is no exception. his name means, ‘Consolation’ or ‘comforter’. Nahum lived contemporarily with prophets Habakkuk, Jeremiah and Zephaniah. His book is generally accepted as being written about 630-612 B.C.
The very first verse of his book tells us where he was from and mentions what his book is about, thusly: “The burden of Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite.”
His father was named Elkesi and there was a village named the same and it is expected that Elkoshite had reference to the city rather than his father, since seldom were the offspring of a man called by his name with “ite” attached to it. But rather it normally referred to the people of a location. Some believe he was born in Capernaum since the meaning of that word is “village of Nahum”)
The circumstances of the book of Nahum is quite different to that of Jeremiah and Zephaniah in that they are warning Judah of their pending captivity. The northern Kingdom of Israel was already in Assyrian captivity. Nahum, on the other hand was proclaiming the destruction of one of Judah’s enemies, Nineveh.
Most are familiar with the story of Jonah who was sent to warn Nineveh of their imminent destruction unless they repented of their sinful ways, and they did so. God forgave them at that time and they again prospered. This episode occurred in 858 B.C. whereas the book of Nahum was written some 225-230 years later. Here again the city had become evil and in disfavor with God and Nahum is proclaiming that to them. This time there is not chance for their repentance, the judgment of God was final and no opportunity for His mercy was to be.
The three chapters of the book of Nahum forms three separate headings, (1) The Lord through Nahum declares the doom of Nineveh. (2) The total overthrow of Nineveh told. (3) Nineveh’s destruction.
In the beginning of the first chapter, Nahum describes the power, severity and character of God:
“Jehovah is a jealous God and avengeth; Jehovah avengeth and is full of wrath; Jehovah taketh vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth [wrath] for his enemies. Jehovah is slow to anger, and great in power, and will by no means clear [the guilty]: Jehovah hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. He rebuketh the sea, and maketh it dry, and drieth up all the rivers: Bashan languisheth, and Carmel; and the flower of Lebanon languisheth. The mountains quake at him, and the hills melt; and the earth is upheaved at his presence, yea, the world, and all that dwell therein. Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? his wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken asunder by him. Jehovah is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that take refuge in him. But with an over-running flood he will make a full end of her place, and will pursue his enemies into darkness.” (Nahum 1:2-8 ASV)
The rest of this short chapter tells of totality of Nineveh’s fall and that Judah will no longer be tormented by those of Nineveh. Read verses 9 through 15 here.In chapter 2, Nahum tells of the siege and fall of he city in the first 7 verses:
“He that dasheth in pieces is come up against thee: keep the fortress, watch the way, make thy loins strong, fortify thy power mightily. For Jehovah restoreth the excellency of Jacob, as the excellency of Israel; for the emptiers have emptied them out, and destroyed their vine-branches. The shield of his mighty men is made red, the valiant men are in scarlet: the chariots flash with steel in the day of his preparation, and the cypress [spears] are brandished. The chariots rage in the streets; they rush to and fro in the broad ways: the appearance of them is like torches; they run like the lightnings. He remembereth his nobles: they stumble in their march; they make haste to the wall thereof, and the mantelet is prepared. The gates of the rivers are opened, and the palace is dissolved. And it is decreed: she is uncovered, she is carried away; and her handmaids moan as with the voice of doves, beating upon their breasts.” (Nahum 2: 1-7 ASV)
Notice verse 6: “The gates of the rivers are opened, and the palace is dissolved.” The Believers Study Bible states that, “The Babylonian Chronicle tells that Nineveh fell because the flooding rivers made breaches in the city’s defenses.”
The remaining 6 verses tell of the complete plunder and ransacking of the city so the destruction will be complete and Nineveh will be no more. Read these verses here.
Chapter 3 then describes the condition of the city is after its destruction and adds that it is a deserved fate of a sinful city:
Woe to the bloody city! it is all full of lies and rapine; the prey departeth not. The noise of the whip, and the noise of the rattling of wheels, and prancing horses, and bounding chariots, the horseman mounting, and the flashing sword, and the glittering spear, and a multitude of slain, and a great heap of corpses, and there is no end of the bodies; they stumble upon their bodies;– because of the multitude of the whoredoms of the well-favored harlot, the mistress of witchcrafts, that selleth nations through her whoredoms, and families through her witchcrafts. Behold, I am against thee, saith Jehovah of hosts, and I will uncover thy skirts upon thy face; and I will show the nations thy nakedness, and the kingdoms thy shame. And I will cast abominable filth upon thee, and make thee vile, and will set thee as a gazing-stock. And it shall come to pass, that all they that look upon thee shall flee from thee, and say, Nineveh is laid waste: who will bemoan her? whence shall I seek comforters for thee? (Nahum 3:1-7 ASV) Read chapter 3 here.
Nations today, including our own, should study the history Nineveh and consider their near destruction in the book of Jonah and then their final total destruction here in the book of Nahum. All are treading on dangerous ground when God is forsaken by them.
“But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out.”(Numbers 32:23 KJV)