Minor Prophets: Nahum, Nineveh’s Annihilation


The last post on Nahum read chapter one from a devotional perspective, dwelling on the wrath of God as a part of God’s nature of both love and righteousness, justice and mercy. Now, we enter into Nahum’s second oracle, a detailed account of Nineveh’s end.

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


Nineveh, That Great City

Nineveh’s origins dated back to an account recorded in the first book of the Bible.

The descendants of Ham: Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan. 

The descendants of Cush: Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabteca. The descendants of Raamah: Sheba and Dedan. 

Cush became the father of Nimrod; he was the first on earth to become a mighty warrior. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord.” The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, and Accad, all of them in the land of Shinar

From that land he went into Assyria, and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-ir, Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city. 

Genesis 10:6-12 (NRSV)
Nimrod Mountain
Nemrut Nemrut Dağı Mountain Nemrut Nimrod

By founding Babylon (Babel) and Nineveh, we have a hint of Nimrod’s nature and character. Nineveh later became the capital of Assyria, whose very name inspired panic in the hearts of the ancient near-east for their truly horrific torture and terrorism. We are told here that Nimrod was “the first mighty man on earth,” in other words, after the Flood.

Intriguing, right?

That phrase, “mighty man,” takes us back to Genesis 6 to the Nephilim, who also appear later on in the Canaanite tribes, suggesting that Nimrod was one of this kind of “mighty men,” who introduced a perverted, degraded form of religion into the world.

Did you notice his first kingdom was Babel? The story of Babel, which concludes the Origin Narratives of Genesis, along with Erech and Accad, were cities in southern Mesopotamia, present-day Iraq.

The Jewish Talmud states he was “a hunter of the souls of men.” His name meant “we will revolt,” and the phrase “before the Lord” is thought to mean “against the Lord.” Put all together, a picture emerges of a magnetic, charismatic, ruthless man, dynamic and controlling, the kind of person everyone was both terrified of and fascinated by, held hopelessly in his thrall.

MARDUK — editor Austen Henry Layard , drawing by L. Gruner [Public domain]

In fact, if you drop the first consonant of Nimrod’s name and take the other consonants – M, R, D – you will have the basic root of the god of Babylon, whose name was Marduk, whom most scholars identify with Nimrod.

God’s Warning to Nineveh

Scripture had already documented four separate intersections between Nineveh, God and God’s people:

  • Jonah’s remarkable apostolic mission to preach repentance—and all of Nineveh did repent!
  • Tiglath Pileser’s capture of a number of Israelites, taking them into captivity.
  • Shalmanezer’s deportation of the northern kingdom of Israel and resettlement of Samaria.
  • Sennacherib’s disastrous (for him) attack on Jerusalem, and blaspheming of God in his attempt to intimidate King Hezekiah.

Each intersection had given the people of Nineveh innumerable opportunities to learn of the one true and living God, to repent of their rapacious violence, turn from their idolatry and turn to YHWH. Yet, it seems after the generation that heeded Jonah’s prophetic warning, Nineveh returned to their former ways and placed their faith in their idols and their own ferocious cruelty.

By Nahum’s time, even Egypt, that ancient and impregnable empire, had fallen to the Assyrian warlords. Known for their atrocities, scorched and salted earth policy, their pillaging and plundering, the Assyrians were dreaded and despised by all nations.

And God’s people had not been protected from them. By Nahum’s time, Israel had become no more, repopulated by foreign peoples bringing with them their native gods. Judah had been repeatedly ravaged and ransacked, two hundred thousand taken as prisoners, the very temple stripped of its silver and gold. The inviolate mountain of God, and sacred city of God, and even God’s holy habitation had been encroached upon.

The unthinkable was now being thought.

Judah had been reduced to becoming a vassal state, groaning under the burden of ever-increasing demands for tribute to Assyria. How could the Lord permit God’s people to be so violated? Had God, then, abandoned them? Were they no longer the chosen of God?

How could the Lord permit God’s very presence on earth to be so desecrated? Where was God’s righteous wrath? God’s mighty justice?

Was the Assyrian boast of old now become prophetic truth?

Has any of the gods of the nations ever delivered its land out of the hand of the king of Assyria!?

Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad?

Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah? Have they delivered Samaria out of my hand?

Who among all the gods of the countries have delivered their countries out of my hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?’”

King Sennacherib of Assyria’s taunt to King Hezekiah of Judah, 2 Kings 18:33-35

Nineveh’s Doom Depicted

This is prophesy at its best!

God raised up Nahum to deliver an oracle of triumph. With breathtaking detail, Nahum foretold of the armies to come.

The shields of his warriors are red;
    his soldiers are clothed in crimson.

Nahum 2:3 (NRSV)

In a seemingly insignificant detail, yet with uncanny accuracy, Nahum predicted the invasion of the future Medes, who would always have red shields so they would look like they were dripping with blood.

The metal on the chariots flashes
    on the day when he musters them;
    the chargersprance.

The chariots race madly through the streets,
    they rush to and fro through the squares;
their appearance is like torches,
    they dart like lightning

Nahum 2:3-4 (NRSV)

The chariots had flashing steel because of knives stuck at right angles on the wheels – imagine those knives catching the light as they spun through the grand boulevards of Nineveh!

The river gates are opened,
    the palace trembles.

Nahum 2:6 (NRSV)

Ancient historians reported how the sluice gates of the Chaser river, which ran through Nineveh, were lifted, causing the river to breach its banks and flow with flood-force throughout the  city, dissolving mudbrick, sweeping families and households with it.

Nineveh is like a pool
    whose watersrun away.
“Halt! Halt!”—
    but no one turns back.

Nahum 2:8 (NRSV)

One account described people and water flowing through the breached wall, so King Saracus, the great grandson of Sennacherib, gathered his family and his treasure, set fire to it all, including himself, and burned down with the palace.

“Plunder the silver,
    plunder the gold!
There is no end of treasure!
    An abundance of every precious thing!”

Nahum 2:9 (NRSV)

Nineveh’s armies had looted nations’ treasure from all over the world, and now the city would itself be looted and despoiled.

“I AM Against You”

The climax of Nahum’s oracle focused on the imagery of lions, for Assyria had been as a pride of merciless lions to the surrounding kingdoms. Where were those lions now?

See, I am against you, says the Lord of hosts, and

I will burn your chariots in smoke, and

the sword shall devour your young lions;

I will cut off your prey from the earth, and

the voice of your messengers shall be heard no more.

Nahum 2:13

The holy wrath of God would indeed stand against those who opposed the Lord, who rejected the word of the Lord come to them through prophets as well as the people of God. The first promise of God, given to Abraham, would still be kept.

I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse.

God to Abram, Genesis 12:3 (NRSV)

After a two-year siege, Nineveh was overcome in 612 BC through the combined efforts of the Medes, the Chaldeans (NeoBabylonians) and the Scythians.


[Persepolis, The Persian Soldiers | Arad, CC BY-SA 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/, via Wikimedia Commons]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s