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The Book of Nahum is the seventh book of the 12 minor prophets of the Hebrew Bible. It is attributed to the prophet Nahum, and was probably written in Jerusalem in the 7th century BC.[1]

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The book of the prophet Nahum This short prophetic book is a collection of poems announcing the downfall of one of Israel's worst oppressors, the ancient empire of Assyria and its capital city Nineveh. The Assyrians arose as one of the world's first great empires. And their expansion into Israel resulted in the total destruction and exile of the northern kingdom and its tribes. The Assyrian armies were violent and destructive on a scale that the world had never seen before. And so Israel and its neighbors were awaiting the downfall of Assyria, which eventually came in the year 612 BC. The Babylonians rose up and began a rebellion that overtook Nineveh and brought down the Assyrian Empire. And so chapter 2 depicts the fall of Nineveh in vivid poetry. And chapter 3 then explores the downfall of the empire as a whole. But, this book isn't just an angry tirade against Israel's enemies. The introductory chapter shows us that there is way, way more going on here. The book opens with an incomplete alphabet poem that begin by describing a powerful appearance of God's glory. It's very similar to how the previous book, Micah, begin and how the next book, Habakkuk, is going to conclude. And it's God, the all-powerful Creator, coming to confront the nations and bring His justice on their evil. And the poem opens by quoting from the famous line of God's self-description after the golden calf incident, in the book of Exodus chapter 34, "The Lord is slow to anger, He's great in power, He won't leave evil unpunished." And so the rest of the poem goes back and forth, contrasting the fate of the arrogant violent nations with the fate of God's faithful remnant. When God brings down all the arrogant empires, He will provide refuge for those who humble themselves before Him. Now here's what's really interesting. Is that you thought this book was only about Assyria but Nahum actually nowhere mentions Nineveh or Assyria in chapter 1. And when he describes the downfall of the bad guys, he uses Isaiah's language about the fall of Babylon (which happened much later in history). And not only that, Nahum also describes the downfall of the bad guys as good news for the remnant of God's people. It's a direct allusion to Isaiah's good news about the downfall of Babylon. And so all these little details from Chapter 1, they come together to make a key point: for Nahum, the fall of Nineveh is being presented as an example. As an image of how God is at work in history in every age. How He won't allow the arrogant or violent empires of our world to endure forever. So the message of Nahum is actually very similar to that of Daniel. Assyria stands in a long line of violent empires throughout history. And Nineveh's fate is a memorial to God's commitment to bring down the violent and the arrogant in every age. With this perspective from the opening chapter, the book then returns to its focus on Assyria. And so chapter 2 describes the Battle of Nineveh and the overthrow of the city in progressive stages. So first, we see the front line of Babylonian soldiers. And then we read about the charge of the chariots. And then the chaos on the city walls as the city is breached. Then the slaughter of Nineveh's people. Then the plundering of the city. Chapter 3 goes on to describe the results of the city's downfall for the empire as a whole. So Nahum begins by announcing a woe upon the city whose kings built it with the blood of the innocent. It's an image of how injustice was built into the very system that made Assyria so successful. But their violence has sown the seeds of their own destruction, and so Assyria will fall before Babylon. The book concludes with a taunt against the fallen king of Assyria. He's stricken with a fatal wound. And from among all the nations, that he once oppressed, no one comes to help him. Rather they sing and celebrate his destruction. And that's how the book ends. Now this is a gloomy book. But it's important to see how Nahum's message addresses the tragic and perpetual cycles of human violence and oppression in every age. Human history is filled with tribes and nations elevating themselves and using violence to take what they want, resulting in the death of the innocent. And the book of Nahum uses Assyria and Babylon as examples to tell us that God is grieved. And that He cares about the death of the innocent. And that His goodness and His justice compel Him to orchestrate the downfall of oppressive nations. And God's judgment on evil is good news. Unless, of course, you happen to be Assyria. Which brings us all the way back to the conclusion of that opening poem in chapter 1. Which tells us that, "The Lord is good and a refuge in the day of distress. He cares for those who take refuge in Him." And so the little book of Nahum invites every reader to humble themselves before God's justice. And to trust that, in His time, He will bring down the oppressors of every time and place. And that's what the book of Nahum is all about.



According to some,[citation needed] Nahum prophesied in the beginning of the reign of Ahaz (740s BC). Others, however, think that his prophecies are to be referred to the latter half of the reign of Hezekiah (8th century BC). The book would then have been written in Jerusalem, where Nahum would have witnessed the invasion of Sennacherib and the destruction of his host (2 Kings 19:35).

The scholarly consensus is that the "book of vision" was written at the time of the fall of Nineveh [2] at the hands of the Medes and Babylonians [3] (612 BC). This theory is demonstrated by the fact that the oracles must be dated after the Assyrian destruction of Thebes, Egypt in 663 BC, as this event is mentioned in Nahum 3:8.[2]


Little is known about Nahum's personal history. His name means "comforter", and he was from the town of Alqosh, (Nahum 1:1) which scholars have attempted to identify with several cities, including the modern `Alqush of Assyria and Capharnaum of northern Galilee.[4] He was a very nationalistic Hebrew, and lived amongst the Elkoshites in peace. His writings were likely written in about 615 BC, before the downfall of Assyria.[5][6]

Historical context

Simplified plan of ancient Nineveh, showing city wall and location of gateways.
Simplified plan of ancient Nineveh, showing city wall and location of gateways.

The subject of Nahum's prophecy is the approaching complete and final destruction of Nineveh, the capital of the great and at that time flourishing Assyrian empire. Ashurbanipal was at the height of his glory. Nineveh was a city of vast extent, and was then the center of the civilization and commerce of the world, according to Nahum a "bloody city all full of lies and robbery" (Nahum 3:1), a reference to the Neo-Assyrian Empire's military campaigns and demand of tribute and plunder from conquered cities.

Jonah had already uttered his message of warning, and Nahum was followed by Zephaniah, who also predicted (Zephaniah 2:4–15) the destruction of the city.

Nineveh was destroyed apparently by fire around 625 BC, and the Assyrian empire came to an end, an event which changed the face of Asia. Archaeological digs have uncovered the splendor of Nineveh in its zenith under Sennacherib (705–681 BC), Esarhaddon (681–669 BC), and Ashurbanipal (669–633 BC). Massive walls were eight miles in circumference.[7] It had a water aqueduct, palaces and a library with 20,000 clay tablets, including accounts of a creation in Enuma Elish and a flood in the Epic of Gilgamesh.[8][9]

The Babylonian chronicle of the fall of Nineveh tells the story of the end of Nineveh. Nabopolassar of Babylon joined forces with Cyaxares, king of the Medes, and laid siege for three months.[10]

Assyria lasted a few more years after the loss of its fortress, but attempts by Egyptian Pharaoh Neco II to rally the Assyrians failed due to opposition from king Josiah of Judah,[11] and it seemed to be all over by 609 BC.[12]


The Book of Nahum consists of two parts:[13]

Chapter one shows the majesty and might of God the LORD in goodness and severity.[14]

Chapters two and three describe the fall of Nineveh, which later took place in 612 BC. Nineveh is compared to Thebes, the Egyptian city that Assyria itself had destroyed in 663 BC.[2] Nahum describes the siege and frenzied activity of Nineveh's troops as they try in vain to halt the invaders. Poetically, he becomes a participant in the battle, and with subtle irony, barks battle commands to the defenders. Nahum uses numerous similes and metaphors[citation needed]. Nineveh is ironically compared with a lion, in reference to the lion as an Assyrian symbol of power; Nineveh is the lion of strength that has a den full of dead prey but will become weak like the lion hiding in its den. It comes to conclusion with a taunt song and funeral dirge of the impending destruction of Nineveh and the "sleep" or death of the Assyrian people and demise of the once great Assyrian conqueror-rulers .


The fall of Nineveh

Nahum's prophecy carries a particular warning to the Ninevites of coming events, although he is partly in favor of the destruction.[6] One might even say that the book of Nahum is "a celebration of the fall of Assyria."[3] And this is not just a warning or speaking positively of the destruction of Nineveh, it is also a positive encouragement and "message of comfort for Israel, Judah, and others who had experienced the "endless cruelty" (Nahum 3:19) of the Assyrians."[3] The prophet Jonah shows us where God shows concern for the people of Nineveh, while Nahum's writing testifies to his belief in the righteousness/justice of God[15] and how God dealt with those Assyrians in punishment according to "their cruelty" (Nahum 3:19). The Assyrians had been used as God's "rod of […] anger, and the staff in their hand [as] indignation." (Isaiah 10:5)

The nature of God

From its opening, Nahum shows God to be slow to anger, but that God will by no means ignore the guilty; God will bring his vengeance and wrath to pass. God is presented as a God who will punish evil, but will protect those who trust in Him. The opening passage (Nahum 1:2–3) states: "God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies. The LORD is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked". God is strong and will use means, but a mighty God doesn't need anyone else to carry out vengeance and wrath for him.

Nahum 1:3 (NIV) The LORD is slow to anger and Quick to love; the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished.

Nahum 1:7 (NIV) The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him


God's judgement on Nineveh is "all because of the wanton lust of a harlot, alluring, the mistress of sorceries, who enslaved nations by her prostitution and peoples by her witchcraft" (Nahum 3:4 NIV). Infidelity, according to the prophets, related to spiritual unfaithfulness.[16] For example: "the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the LORD" (Hosea 1:2 NIV). The apostle John used a similar analogy in Revelation chapter 17.

The prophecy of Nahum was referenced in the deuterocanonical Book of Tobit. In Tobit 14:4 (KJV) a dying Tobit says to his son Tobias and Tobias' sons:

[My son] hurry off to Media, for I believe the word of God that Nahum spoke about Nineveh, that all these things will take place and overtake Assyria and Nineveh. Indeed, everything that was spoken by the prophets of Israel, whom God sent, will occur.

However, some versions, such as the King James Version, refer to the prophet Jonah instead.


The book was introduced in Calvin's Commentary [17] as a complete and finished poem:

No one of the minor Prophets seems to equal the sublimity, the vehemence and the boldness of Nahum: besides, his Prophecy is a complete and finished poem; his exordium is magnificent, and indeed majestic; the preparation for the destruction of Nineveh, and the description of its ruin, and its greatness, are expressed in most vivid colors, and possess admirable perspicuity and fulness.

— Rev. John Owen, translator, Calvin's Commentary on Jonah, Micah, Nahum

Nahum, taking words from Moses himself, have shown in a general way what sort of "Being God is". The Reformation theologian Calvin argued, Nahum painted God by which His nature must be seen, and "it is from that most memorable vision, when God appeared to Moses after the breaking of the tables."[18]

The book could be seen as an allusion to the history as described by Moses; for the minor Prophets, in promising God's assistance to his people, must often remind how God in a miraculous manner brought up the Jews from Egypt.[19]


  1. ^ "There is no explicit date in the book of Nahum, but internal evidence suggests a date in the mid-seventh century." Baker, David W. (1988). Nahum, Habakkuk and Zephaniah. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. p. 18. ISBN 978-0-8308-9482-6.
  2. ^ a b c Kent H. Richards, Nahum Introduction: The Harper Collins Study Bible, (New York: Harper Collins, 2006) 1250
  3. ^ a b c Michael D. Coogan, A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009) 297–298
  5. ^ Heaton, E. W., A Short Introduction to the Old Testament Prophets, p. 35, Oneworld Publications, P.O. Box 830, 21 Broadway, Rockport, NA 01966, ISBN 1-85168-114-0
  6. ^ a b "Nahum".
  7. ^ Society, The Biblical Archaeology. "Destruction of Judean Fortress Portrayed in Dramatic Eighth-Century B.C. Pictures - The BAS Library".
  8. ^ "Saudi Aramco World : Nineveh". Archived from the original on 2011-07-08. Retrieved 2011-11-13.
  9. ^ "CREATION MYTHS IN THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST". Archived from the original on 2011-11-27.
  10. ^ "The fall of Nineveh Chronicle (ABC 3)".
  11. ^ "ANE History: The End of Judah".
  12. ^ "Assyria, 1365609 B.C."
  13. ^ Clark, David J.; Hatton, Howard A. (1994). The Books of Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah. New York: United Bible Societies. p. 1. ISBN 0-8267-0130-2.
  14. ^ See also Romans 11:22
  15. ^ "Nahum".
  16. ^ Centre Column Reference Bible, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1994) 1262
  17. ^ "Commentaries on Twelve Minor Prophets".
  18. ^ Source deleted by authors as at 24 August 2016
  19. ^ Calvin's Commentary on Jonah, Micah, Nahum; Rev. John Owen, translator

External links

  • Wikisource Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Nahum". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. This article also contains a section on the Book of Nahum.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainEaston, Matthew George (1897). "Nahum". Easton's Bible Dictionary (New and revised ed.). T. Nelson and Sons.

Book of Nahum
Preceded by
Hebrew Bible Succeeded by
Old Testament
This page was last edited on 19 December 2018, at 15:01
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