In the book of Nahum we see how the wrath of God forever puts an end to the power and dominion of the world and the pride of man. But as He judges, He also thinks of those who trust in Him.
Nothing is known about Nahum other than what he says about himself in his book. That is not much. He mentions his name and the place where he comes from. The commission he has is to tell Nineveh the judgment of the LORD.
Not much is known about the dating of his prophecy either. A few data in his prophecy indicate a limit of time within which it will have been. Nahum mentions in his prophecy the place No-amon and what happened to that place as an example for Nineveh that such will undergo a similar fate (Nah 3:8-10). The conquest of No-amon took place in ca. 663 BC. Another event is the fall of Nineveh herself, about which Nahum prophesied. That fall took place in 612 BC. So the message of Nahum dates from somewhere between 663 and 612 BC.
Nahum is the second prophet of whom we have a message from the LORD for Nineveh. About a century and a half earlier the prophet Jonah was sent to Nineveh, in the time of Jeroboam II – ca. 825-785 BC (2Kgs 14:25). Like Nahum, Jonah had to bring a message of judgment. The response was the massive conversion of the city. But over time, the fire of conversion was extinguished and the city began to live in sin again, in rebellion against God.
There is no room for conversion in the message Nahum has for Nineveh. The city has sunk so much into sin that there is no hope of a new conversion, so that nothing remains but the final judgment. The fact that God spared the city after the preaching of Jonah only makes Sanherib’s guilt greater when he acts against the people and the city of the God who so graciously spared Nineveh.
Although the actual subject of the book is the judgment of Nineveh, we also hear words of comfort for God’s people. Nahum means ‘comfort’. The judgment of Nineveh means comfort for God’s people. As they suffer under the domination of this wicked people, they may comfort themselves with the thought that God will not forget them and will break the yoke of this enemy.
For us, the encouragement is that we may know that suffering that befalls us, for whatever reason, is in the hand of the Lord. We may also know that He will finally take the suffering away from us in order to do good for us in the end. In the life of the believer it is not evil or suffering that has the last word, but the Lord.
The message of Nahum may be about Nineveh and be for Nineveh, but he is proclaimed in Judah. It is therefore also a message for Judah. Nahum means, as has already been said, ‘comfort’. His message is a message of comfort for God’s people. In his prophecy of judgment on Nineveh lies for God’s people the comfort of the redemption of a oppressive yoke. In this respect, Nahum is a forerunner of Simeon in Jerusalem who looked for the “consolation of Israel” (Lk 2:25), which came in the coming of the Messiah.
Nahum shows how the wrath of God forever puts an end to the power and dominion of the world and the pride of man. But in the midst of the judgment we also find here the testimony of the faithfulness of God (Nah 1:7). As He exercises vengeance, He thinks of those who trust and wait for Him. This prophecy is about
1. the destruction of Assyria, that will never rise again, and
2. the deliverance of Judah, who will finally be redeemed (Nah 1:15).
So the book of the prophet Nahum has as subject the destruction of Nineveh. Nineveh is the capital of Assyria, the great enemy of God’s people and of God. Assyria has been used by God as an instrument to punish His people who have deviated from Him. Assyria has only had and pursued its own interests. That people have also boasted of their own power and have slandered God. God will reward Nineveh as the representative of Assyria for all the evil they have done (Isa 10:5-19).
The destruction of Nineveh is a good example of how the kingdoms of men seem impregnable, but nevertheless perish through the judgment of God. In the judgment of Nineveh we see the judgment of Assyria and of all the hostile nations. Nineveh represents Assyria and Assyria represents all the hostile nations.
Division of the book
The book can be divided into three parts, corresponding to the three chapters it contains:
A. The Judgement of Nineveh (or Assyria) and the Restoration of Israel (Nahum 1).
1. Introduction (Nahum 1:1)
2. The features of the LORD (Nahum 1:2-7)
3. The final verdict on Assyria (Nahum 1:8-14)
4. The good news (Nahum 1:15)
B. Detailed report on the imminent destruction of Nineveh (Nahum 2).
1. Siege and capture of the city (Nahum 2:1-7)
2. The plunder (Nahum 2:8-10)
3. The mess (Nahum 2:11-13)
C. The causes of the judgment (Nahum 3).
1. Greed and abominations (Nahum 3:1-3)
2. Depravity and idolatry (Nahum 3:4-7)
3. Comparison with Egypt; example of No-Amon (Nahum 3:8-10)
4. The irreparable mess (Nahum 3:11-10)