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.
I see a three-point outline in Nahum’s first oracle, designed to encourage and give bracing comfort to the people of Judah. Matters looked grim, there was no question, but ultimately, Almighty God would not only prevail but triumph over their terrifying foe.
Nahum and Jonah are best read side-by-side, for they offer the two sides of the same coin of God’s justice and mercy, wrath and compassion, found in the passage of scripture they both refer to:
The Lord, the Lord,
a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger,
and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,
keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation,
forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin,
yet by no means clearing the guilty,God to Moses, Exodus 34:6-7 (NRSV)
but visiting the iniquity of the parents
upon the children
and the children’s children,
to the third and the fourth generation.
Nahum’s oracle begins with an appeal to God’s character of righteousness and justice via the Lord’s revelation of God to Moses. Though God is merciful and compassionate, God’s righteousness cannot but bring justice to bear on the guilty. The oracle acknowledges God is slow to anger, but the Lord is also great in power. This tension between mercy and justice gives way to wrath and vengeance, and protective jealousy over God’s people, in the case of the Assyrians.
Holy War is the Driving Theology
Before you engage in battle, the priest shall come forward and speak to the troops, and shall say to them: “Hear, O Israel! Today you are drawing near to do battle against your enemies. Do not lose heart, or be afraid, or panic, or be in dread of them; for it is the Lord your God who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to give you victory.”Deuteronomy 20:2-4 (NRSV
God is Judah’s Savior and Deliverer, their Stronghold and Refuge. As such, using all God’s power as Creator, God will bring to bear the very forces of nature to completely annihilate the “evil” and “wicked” adversaries who have plotted against God’s people, and therefore God. No sky is high enough, do darkness deep enough, no mountain unassailable enough, to withstand God’s supreme power to make a “full end” to the Assyrian empire. Even plots made in secrecy are known to the supremely powerful God.
There is none like you, O Lord;
you are great, and your name is great in might.Jeremiah 10:6
Name theology grew out of the ancient supposition that the name of a thing or person held the character and power of its namesake. As Jeremiah wrote, because God is unique, so is God’s name.
- As God reveals God’s name, God reveals God’s self
- There is nothing more solemn to swear by than God’s name
- God’s name is to be reverenced and never misused
- All praise and honor is to be given to God’s name
So Name theology underpins God’s promise to wipe out Assyria’s name, destroy their gods, and consign them to worthless, unmarked graves.
A resurgence of the Exodus informs God’s final reassurances to Judah. Though it was the Lord who (deservedly) afflicted them, God will now once again release them from the bondage of slavery to their persecutors, literally breaking the Assyrian yoke, and snapping the Assyrian bonds. Shalom is restored. The violence of uncreating all the wrongs (even the rocks are broken to pieces) levels everything on which to rebuild.
Once free, Judah may again celebrate their festivals, keep the vows of their covenant with God, and live in peace.
[Lion of Judah | Image by Alexandra ❤️A life without animals is not worth living❤️ from Pixabay]