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Bible Study: Nahum

by PastorWilliams on September 11th, 2013

Chapter 1

1 An oracle concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum of Elkosh.

The title of this prophecy tells us that the oracle contained therein does not belong to the prophesies against Judah. It is a prophecy against Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire. Nahum follows up Jonah’s prophesies of an earlier century because they had fallen away again.

Nahum was born in the town of Elkosh. Beyond that we know nothing about Nahum. The place of Elkosh is debated between a small, insignificant village in Galilee (much like Tishbe) or a similar small village on the eastern edge of the Tigris where Christians and Muslims in that area reverence the tomb that bears his name. Nahum’s Galilean origin has been attested from as far back as Sts. Jerome (4th century) and Cyril of Alexandria (2nd century).

However, neither place makes much historical sense in the chronological events of 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles. From either setting, Nahum would be in exile. His prophecy has no indications that he is currently in exile as he is proclaiming this oracle.

His prophecy contains an extended oracle against Nineveh divided into three parts, from which the chapters have been divided. Chapter 1 shows God’s divine purpose to inflict judgment upon the oppressor of His people Israel. Chapter 2 gives the people of Judah, facing the continual advances of the Assyrian army, the joyful news of Nineveh’s conquest and destruction. Chapter 3 shows Nineveh’s guilt and inevitable ruin.

2-5 The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD is avenging and wrathful; the LORD takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. 3 The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, and the LORD will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. 4 He rebukes the sea and makes it dry; he dries up all the rivers; Bashan and Carmel wither; the bloom of Lebanon withers. 5 The mountains quake before him; the hills melt; the earth heaves before him, the world and all who dwell in it.

Nahum begins his prophecy by reminding his listeners of God’s jealous and avenging nature against those who stand in the way of His plan of salvation. God may move slowly in His anger, but His slowness by no means condones the evils done by the guilty. Everything in all creation is under His control. Everything is moved out of its place when He arrives.

His slowness shows His mercy. He takes away the unrighteous for condemnation, but He saves His people also through His wrath. “He rebukes the sea and makes it dry” in verse 4 brings the hearer/reader back to the Red Sea. The sea is rebuked and dried up so that the Israelites could walk to safety, but the Egyptians were drowned by the sea when they tried to cross.

God’s wrath both saves the repentant and condemns the unrepentant. This has become lately the focus of an argument over a line in the contemporary hymn “In Christ Alone”. In this hymn, Jesus’ crucifixion is described:

’til on that cross as Jesus died
the wrath of God was satisfied
for every sin on Him was laid
here in the death of Christ I live.

An influential Baptist leader and writer took offense with the wrath of God being satisfied in Jesus. But if God’s wrath were not satisfied with Jesus’ sacrifice, there would be no salvation. No Gospel in the Bible.

6-11 Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken into pieces by him. 7 The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. 8 But with an overflowing flood he will make a complete end of the adversaries, and will pursue his enemies into darkness. 9 What do you plot against the LORD? He will make a complete end; trouble will not rise up a second time. 10 For they are like entangled thorns, like drunkards as they drink; they are consumed like stubble fully dried. 11 From you came one who plotted evil against the LORD, a worthless counselor.

Nahum continues with the proclamation of God’s wrath and indignation, but he turns right around and says, “The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; He knows those who take refuge in Him” (v7). Those who seek refuge in Him will be like Noah who was spared the ravages of the Flood as he and his family were in the Ark.

Verse 11 is the major source for dating Nahum’s prophecy. “From you came one who plotted evil against the LORD, a worthless counselor” can most easily describe Sennacherib. Therefore Nahum must have prophesied some time during Manasseh’s reign, possibly after Manasseh’s repentance and return to the throne.

12-13 Thus says the LORD, “Though they are at full strength and many, they will be cut down and pass away. Though I have afflicted you, I will afflict you no more. 13 And now I will break his yoke from off you and will burst your bonds apart.”

God’s destruction of Nineveh will not be a piecemeal affair. It will not be a prolonged wearing down of Nineveh’s defenses by Judah’s army. It will be done quickly while Nineveh is at its full strength. Destruction will come swiftly upon Nineveh, breaking the yoke of fear from the necks of the people of Judah.

14 The LORD has given commandment about you: “No more shall your name be perpetuated; from the house of your gods I will cut off the carved image and the metal image. I will make your grave, for you are vile.”

Assyria’s time of ruling was shortly coming to an end. There would be no more Assyria or Nineveh. Not as it had been before. Their idolatry, especially of their own power, would be the reason for their destruction.

15 Behold, upon the mountains, the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace! Keep your feasts, O Judah; fulfill your vows, for never again shall the worthless pass through you; he is utterly cut off.

These words of peace for Judah echo Isaiah 52:7: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’” When the yoke of Assyrian tribute is broken, which has been in place since the reign of King Ahaz, there will be a time of peace for Judah. But as we’ll see next week, that time is also rather short.


[edit] Chapter 2

1 The scatterer has come up against you. Man the ramparts; watch the road; dress for battle; collect all your strength.

The audience for the prophecy now turns from good tidings for Judah to the desolation declared for Nineveh. The “scatterer” is coming to Nineveh. Many of the earlier translations use “destroyer” or “He that dasheth in pieces” for the word “scatterer”.

As Nineveh was declared to be destroyed by God at the height of their power, Nahum encourages them to put up as much of a defense and a fight as possible. Not because they might have a chance to win the battle. But to further show God’s glory in His indignation and wrath.

2 For the LORD is restoring the majesty of Jacob as the majesty of Israel, for plunderers have plundered them and ruined their branches.

God destroys Nineveh so that He might restore the majesty of Judah. To reverse the plundering so that God’s people may see His glorious blessing and comfort again.

3 The shield of his mighty men is red; his soldiers are clothed in scarlet. The chariots come with flashing metal on the day he musters them; the cypress spears are brandished. 4 The chariots race madly through the streets; they rush to and fro through the squares; they gleam like torches; they dart like lightning. 5 He remembers his officers; they stumble as they go, they hasten to the wall; the siege tower is set up. 6 The river gates are opened; the palace melts away; 7 its mistress is stripped; she is carried off, her slave girls lamenting, moaning like doves and beating their breasts. 8 Nineveh is like a pool whose waters run away. “Halt! Halt!” they cry, but none turns back. 9 Plunder the silver, plunder the gold! There is no end of the treasure or of the wealth of all precious things.

God joins together a massive army. The red color was the primary color of battle dress for soldiers in antiquity. This army is the most technologically advanced army of this era. “The chariots race madly through the streets,” almost appearing to run over each other.

When this army comes and sieges the city, the Assyrian king calls for his great warriors and officers, but they stumble as they try to take up their appointed positions for the city’s defense because they are afraid of God’s great army’s advance.

After the city’s defenses crumble by God’s command, Nineveh, the great mistress of the nations, will be stripped bare of everything that she held as important. The inhabitants of Nineveh, those who survive the city’s destruction (612 BC), will mourn over the city, just as the inhabitants of Jerusalem would less than thirty years later (586 BC).

Verse 8 gives the image of a pool whose water is running out. Not that it’s evaporating. It’s more the idea of an above-ground pool being emptied by a hole in the side. The people of Nineveh try to keep the city together, to make the rushing water stop, but it’s no use. The city is then plundered to repay what had been taken from Judah in tribute for so many years.

10 Desolate! Desolation and ruin! Hearts melt and knees tremble; anguish is in all loins; all faces grow pale! 11 Where is the lions’ den, the feeding place of the young lions, where the lion and lioness went, where his cubs were, with none to disturb? 12 The lion tore enough for his cubs and strangled prey for his lionesses; he filled his caves with prey and his dens with torn flesh.

The desolation of Nineveh will be so total that only the wild beasts, especially the lions, will want to make their dwelling there. And the destruction will be so complete that the lion will have more than enough so that he will not have to hunt for food for a long time.

13 Behold, I am against you, declares 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 no longer be heard.

God is against Nineveh. Ultimately, the Babylonians don’t conquer Nineveh. God conquers Nineveh. He conquers it so utterly that it will never be as great as it once was, even if it were rebuilt.

[edit] Chapter 3

1 Woe to the bloody city, all full of lies and plunder–no end to the prey! 2 The crack of the whip, and rumble of the wheel, galloping horse and bounding chariot! 3 Horsemen charging, flashing sword and glittering spear, hosts of slain, heaps of corpses, dead bodies without end–they stumble over the bodies! 4 And all for the countless whorings of the prostitute, graceful and of deadly charms, who betrays nations with her whorings, and peoples with her charms.

With the desolation, the city will be filled with blood. The devil had filled the city and her inhabitants with so many of his lies that they refused to repent. Therefore they were slaughtered because of her whorings with the nations.

5 Behold, I am against you, declares the LORD of hosts, and will lift up your skirts over your face; and I will make nations look at your nakedness and kingdoms at your shame. 6 I will throw filth at you and treat you with contempt and make you a spectacle. 7 And all who look at you will shrink from you and say, “Wasted is Nineveh; who will grieve for her?” Where shall I seek comforters for you?

Verse 7 has echoes in Revelation 14:8 and 18:2: “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great.” The shame of her nakedness will be like that prophesied for the great prostitute of Revelation 17. The entire world, who had previously looked up to her, will treat her with contempt and make a spectacle out of her.

8 Are you better than Thebes that sat by the Nile, with water around her, her rampart a sea, and water her wall? 9 Cush was her strength; Egypt too, and that without limit; Put and the Libyans were her helpers.

Nahum points towards Thebes, Cush, Egypt, Put and Libya as examples of great power and strength who were sent into captivity because of their sins.

10 Yet she became an exile; she went into captivity; her infants were dashed in pieces at the head of every street; for her honored men lots were cast, and all her great men were bound in chains. 11 You also will be drunken; you will go into hiding; you will seek a refuge from the enemy. 12 All your fortresses are like fig trees with first-ripe figs– if shaken they fall into the mouth of the eater. 13 Behold, your troops are women in your midst. The gates of your land are wide open to your enemies; fire has devoured your bars.

Desolate Nineveh will be like a fig tree that has just gotten the first ripe figs on it. The slightest wind shakes the figs off and they fall to the ground. After the Babylonian conquest of Nineveh, the captives of Nineveh will be shaken by the slightest things that happen to or around them.

14 Draw water for the siege; strengthen your forts; go into the clay; tread the mortar; take hold of the brick mold! 15 There will the fire devour you; the sword will cut you off. It will devour you like the locust. Multiply yourselves like the locust; multiply like the grasshopper! 16 You increased your merchants more than the stars of the heavens. The locust spreads its wings and flies away.
17 Your princes are like grasshoppers, your scribes like clouds of locusts settling on the fences in a day of cold– when the sun rises, they fly away; no one knows where they are.
18 Your shepherds are asleep, O king of Assyria; your nobles slumber. Your people are scattered on the mountains with none to gather them. 19 There is no easing your hurt; your wound is grievous. All who hear the news about you clap their hands over you. For upon whom has not come your unceasing evil?

Again, Nahum encourages Nineveh to futilely stand in God’s way. Once more, he tries the futility of working against God’s Word and plan. They cannot stand but will be driven away by the magnitude of God’s judgment, just as locusts fly away at the sun’s approach.

From → Thru the Bible

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