Minor Prophets: The Book of Nahum


Contemporaries

There were four minor prophets who spoke forth the Word of the Lord all more or less at the same time during the time of Judah’s destruction, at the end of the seventh and beginning of the sixth centuries BC. 

Although some theologians tentatively place Obadiah during the reign of Jehoram, in 848-841 BC, Jewish scholars place Obadiah, Habakkuk and Zephaniah as contemporaries of Jeremiah and Ezekiel during the reigns of the evil kings Jehoiakim and Joiachin in Judah, reigning from 608-597 BC. We have completed reading through these southern prophets together.

Now it is time to turn our attention to Nahum, prophet to the northern kingdom,who had already been dragged into captivity by the Assyrians, along with the rest of Israel.

To Nahum, God likened the Assyrians to cruel lions, strangling and dragging their prey into their bloody city. Now the righteous lion, the lion of Judah, would put right all the wrong that Assyria had committed. And for that reason,

Nahum has been likened to the lion, symbol of Judah.

Nahum James Tissot (1836-1902 French) Jewish Museum, New York, USA

Chronologically, it seems, Nahum was written circa 640 BC., approximately fifty years before Judah’s deportation, and perhaps fifteen years before the rise of Babylon began in earnest, authenticating his prophetic vision of Assyria’s permanent downfall (and perhaps corroborated by later editors). In his third oracle, Nahum mentions the recent fall of Thebes, which occurred in 663 BC, but does not mention its reconstruction, which took place in 654 BC.

Other scholars place Nahum closer to the destruction of Nineveh, circa 615 BC.

Josephus indicated Nahum might even have been living in Jerusalem, rather than exiled with the rest of northern Israel, during the reigns of either Ahaz or Hezekiah, as far back as the eighth century BC.

Though Nahum’s name means “Comforter”—and the oracle would have brought a certain comfort to those seeking justice for Assyria’s crimes—Nahum’s main message is one of wrath and vengeance. In fact, there are 33 words associating God with anger and violence, and 17 words associating the object of God’s wrath (presumably Assyria if “Nineveh,” from verse 1, indicates) with some form of evil.

Those who eventually gathered all the material together to comprise the Hebrew scriptures tell us in the first verse of this book that Nahum came from Elkosh, which is probably either what is now Alqush in northern Iraq, or Capharnaum, in the Galilee region of northern Israel.

Nahum’s three oracles echo the warnings delivered by Jonah and Zephaniah, and are organized into two main themes:

  1. The fall of Nineveh under God’s righteous and fearsome wrath
  2. The nature of God

As we read through his book, we will observe Nahum employing an acrostic hymn, oracles of judgment, satire, a curse, and funeral laments as vehicles for conveying his prophecy of the fall of Nineveh.

With many thanks to a really wonderful resource on YouTube called “The Bible Project,” let us begin our study of Nahum with this overview.

Introduction to Nahum | The Bible Project

[Fall of Nineveh | By むーたんじょ – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48411583%5D

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