Introduction
Nahum is devoted to neither Israel (the Northern Kingdom) or Judah (the Southern Kingdom) but Assyria. As recounted in 2 Kings 18-19 and Isaiah 36-37, having conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel, Assyria attempts to conquer Judah, advancing all the way to the very walls of Jerusalem. Through his messenger, the king of Assyria attempted to persuade Hezekiah and Jerusalem to surrender with a series of arguments wherein the king and Assyria falsely represented God. Hezekiah took Sennacherib’s letter to the temple, spread it out before the Lord and prayed. The Lord answered through Isaiah and the angel of the Lord killed 185,000 Assyrians who returned to Assyria, never to return. Nahum might be though of as God’s own letter back to the Assyrians, who were so proud and boastful claiming not just military and political, but spiritual superiority to Israel and all nations, and that their accomplishments came through their false gods, not the One True God. It wasn’t a political agenda that brought God’s judgment, but spiritual unfaithfulness and rejection of God.

1The oracle of Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite.

 

2A jealous and avenging God is the
Lord;

The Lord is avenging and wrathful.

The Lord takes vengeance on His
adversaries,

And He reserves wrath for His
enemies.

3The Lord is slow to anger and
great in power,

And the Lord will by no means
leave the guilty unpunished.

In whirlwind and storm is His
way,

And clouds are the dust beneath
His feet.

[Read 1:1-3]

Q: Why is God’s tone so serious? What is probably the source of His anger?

A: That the Assyrians refused to recognized HE was the source of their rise to power. They placed their trust and praise in false gods instead of Him.

Q: Why should the Assyrians have known better? Did God ever make Himself known to them?

A: Nineveh—the Assyrian capital—is where Jonah was sent about 100 years earlier. At that time the Assyrians repented at Jonah’s message.

Q: What can we learn from the fact that God did not immediately wipe out the entire Assyrian empire for their sins but sent messages through the likes of Jonah and Nahum?

  • God always relents to allow time for repentance.
  • The Assyrians should have learned the lessons of the Northern Kingdom of Israel given over to judgment by God at the hands of Assyria.
  • They were given time to change their behavior when the 185,000 were killed outside Jerusalem for taunting God, but did not.
  • God’s justice comes at HIS own time, but ALWAYS comes.

Q: What might we infer about God’s plan of salvation in the way He has dealt with Assyria?

A: As evidenced by sending Jonah and others, ALL nations are included in His plan.

5Mountains quake because of Him

And the hills dissolve;

Indeed the earth is upheaved by
His presence,

The world and all the inhabitants
in it.

6Who can stand before His
indignation?

Who can endure the burning of
His anger?

His wrath is poured out like fire

And the rocks are broken up by
Him.

7The Lord is good,

A stronghold in the day of trouble,

And He knows those who take
refuge in Him.

8But with an overflowing flood

He will make a complete end of its
site,

And will pursue His enemies into
darkness.

[Read 1:5-8]

[Interesting Trivia: Verses 2-8 are in Hebrew alphabetical order making them more dramatic from a literary standpoint and easier for a native speaker to memorize.]

Q: What is the meaning of the contrast of v.7 about the positive characteristics of the Lord, in comparison with the other verses around it describing horrific judgment? What does it mean within the context of God’s message to Assyria?

A: It’s a very emphatic statement that it’s the Assyrians who have rejected God and therefore will not experience the blessings He bestows on those who choose Him, but will rather experience the consequences of their choice. They could have made the right choice but did not.

Q: Note in v.5 the phrase “the hills dissolve” and the phrase in v.8 “with an overflowing flood”. How was Nineveh itself ultimately conquered resulting in the complete destruction of the Assyrian Empire?

A: Although this was predicted at the time for the future, it is now historical fact that the conquest of Nineveh would be accomplished when its rivers around Nineveh were redirected into a flood against it and its brick structures literally dissolved in a flood.

Point: God’s judgments are always directly connected to complete rejection of Him upon people who have been given numerous and repeated messages and even signs to repent. When His judgment finally arrives, it always comes in such a way as to testify not only to His power, glory and authority to those experiencing it, but in witness to those in the vicinity. Just as Assyria should have learned the right lesson from the countries it conquered who themselves rejected God as well as the signs from God, so should the rest (especially Judah) learn from the example made of Assyria.

15Behold, on the mountains the feet
of him who brings good news,

Who announces peace!

Celebrate your feasts, O Judah;

Pay your vows.

For never again will the wicked
one pass through you;

He is cut off completely.

[Read 1:15]

Q: What is the good news for Judah?

A: Assyria will never return to their land, will never be a threat to them again.

Q: What lesson should Judah have learned from this? What is the sign from God?

A: God is showing a sign to Judah that He is doing this work. The lesson they should have learned is to repent and acknowledge God, running to Him in order to avoid the same fate as demonstrated on Assyria.

Application: Do we learn from others’ mistakes, others’ sins? Share a lesson you’ve learned and implemented in your own life based on observing what God did in someone else’s life.

6The gates of the rivers are opened

And the palace is dissolved.

7It is fixed:

She is stripped, she is carried away,

And her handmaids are moaning
like the sound of doves,

Beating on their breasts.

[Read 2:6-7]

Q: What is the bad news for Assyria?

A: Assyria will be completely destroyed. Here we have another reference to the final annihilation of Nineveh when the rivers are diverted and it literally melts before the enemy’s forces.

Point: Chapter 2 is a detailed account of God’s thoughts, role and working in exacting judgment on Assyria.

4All because of the many harlotries
of the harlot,

The charming one, the mistress of
sorceries,

Who sells nations by her harlotries

And families by her sorceries.

[Read 3:4]

Q: This is a specific charge against Assyria by God. Is the issue that they’ve merely “sinned” or temporarily back-slidden from Him?

A: They have become totally and completely unfaithful to him—hence they are called a harlot—but even more like a prostitute they have enticed others into a lifestyle of sin with them. Assyria entices whole nations and families into unfaithfulness, into turning their back on the Lord. Not just a sinner in need of repentance, they are actively engaged in leading people away from God.

8Are you better than No-amon,

Which was situated by the waters
of the Nile,

With water surrounding her,

Whose rampart was the sea,

Whose wall consisted of the sea?

9Ethiopia was her might,

And Egypt too, without limits.

Put and Lubim were among her
helpers.

[Read 3:8-9]

Q: What is God’s purpose in naming these other countries in His discourse to Assyria?

A: These are all countries who experienced God’s judgment from which Assyria should have learned the right lesson, to embrace God instead of rejecting Him for the same false gods/worship that led to these countries’ downfall. Therefore, Assyria is without excuse.

Multiply yourself like the
swarming locust.

16You have increased your traders
more than the stars of heaven—

The creeping locust strips and flies
away.

17Your guardsmen are like the
swarming locust.

Your marshals are like hordes of
grasshoppers

Settling in the stone walls on a
cold day.

The sun rises and they flee,

And the place where they are is
not known.

18Your shepherds are sleeping,
O king of Assyria;

Your nobles are lying down.

Your people are scattered on the
mountains

And there is no one to regather
them.

19There is no relief for your
breakdown,

Your wound is incurable.

All who hear about you

Will clap their hands over you,

For on whom has not your evil
passed continually?

[Read 3:15b-19]

Q: List the 6 types of Assyrians mentioned in this passage and what they represent.

  • (v.16) Traders. In spite of the great economy Assyria has built, money will not save them.
  • (v.17) Guardsman and Marshals. These are the Assyrian military who will disappear in battle like a swarm of locusts taking off for parts unknown.
  • (v.18) Shepherds. Often representing spiritual leadership, the Assyrian shepherds are asleep and therefore ineffectual.
  • (v.19) Nobles. The societal leaders, rather than taking a stand, are lying down and therefore of no use.
  • (v.19) The People. With no one military, spiritual, or civilian leadership they are completely ineffectual, scattered on the worst type of terrain one could find themselves in combat and therefore impossible to effectually organize on.

Q: What is God describing as the situation pertaining to Assyria’s final demise?

A: Complete breakdown from top to bottom in every sense. In v.19 He describes it as “Your wound is incurable.” There is no hope of healing or recovery.

Q: According to v.19, what is their core problem?

A: “For on whom has not your evil passed continually?” Treatment of others.

Application: What’s the lesson for us when God has given someone over to our care, authority, or power? How should we take to personal heart the lessons we’ve observed as the result of God working in their life?

 

Epilogue

The destruction of Nineveh was so complete that for hundreds of years leading up to its initial discovery in 1845, even many Christian and church scholars did not think it actually existed. They believed it was probably symbolic of those who reject God and not an actual place or people. However, no other site has been archeologically excavated more nor yielded more independent confirmation of Old Testament events than Nineveh. Even today it is a witness to us that we need to learn the proper lessons from God’s judgment against it. End