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Nahum

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Nahum

THEME:  Destruction of Nineveh:  A Comfort for the people of God

DATE:  Between 663 and 612 BC (probably 663-654)

The destruction of Nineveh took place in 612 BC.  Since Nahum prophesied concerning the destruction of Nineveh, his prophecy must pre-date Nineveh’s destruction. 

Nahum mentions the fall of the city of “No” (Thebes) in 3:8-10, alluding to Ashurbanipal’s destruction of Thebes in 663 BC.  His prophecy probably dates to the years just after the fall of Thebes (between 663 and 654 BC).  There are many reasons for this.  (1) Judah remains under the yoke of Assyria in Nahum (see 1:12-13; 2:2).  Nahum probably pre-dated the reign of Josiah since Judah was not really under Assyrian control during Josiah’s reign (640-609).  (2) Thebes was rebuilt in 654; it is likely that Nahum used Thebes as an example of destruction before it was rebuilt.[1]  (3) Also, Nineveh (Assyria) seems to have still enjoyed its time of strength (see Nahum 1:12; 3:1, 4, 16), early in the reign of Ashurbanipal (669-626). 

If Nahum delivered this message in 663-654, his ministry would date to the reign of Manasseh, who personally experienced the yoke of Assyria (II Chron. 33:11).

I.       Yahweh, the God of Israel (1:2-8)

 

A.       Yahweh is a Jealous and Avenging God (v. 2)

Israel’s repeated idolatry provoked the Lord to jealousy and, thus, He punished them.  However, God’s jealousy is also the basis for the restoration and protection of His people (see Zechariah 1:14; 8:2).  Three times, Nineveh’s destruction is described as divine revenge (naqam).

B.       Yahweh is Slow to Anger but Great in Power (vv. 3-6)

1.       Longsuffering (v. 3)

2.       Just (v. 3)

3.       Great in power (vv. 3-5)

Not even Nineveh the great, with its proud kings, can escape.[2]

4.       Unbearable (v. 6)

C.      Yahweh is Good, a Stronghold in the Day of Trouble (vv. 7-8)

1.       A stronghold to His people—to those trusting in Him (v. 7)

2.       A strong destroyer to His enemies (specifically Nineveh; v. 8)

II.    Nineveh’s destruction, a deliverance and a comfort to Judah (1:9-15)

 

A.       Nineveh denounced for planning evil against Yahweh (vv. 9-11)

B.       Nineveh’s destruction pictured as a deliverance for Judah (vv. 12-14)

C.      Nineveh’s destruction pictured as a call for Judah to rejoice (v. 15)[3]

 

III. Prediction of Nineveh’s destruction (2:1-13)

 

A.       Nineveh is attacked (vv. 1-4)

 

A coalition of Babylonians (under Nabopolassar, Nebuchadnezzar’s father), Medes, and Scythians defeated and destroyed Nineveh in 612 BC.  The Medes evidently led the coalition.

B.       Nineveh falls (vv. 5-8)

Nahum 2:6 refers to the opening of the “gates of the rivers” and the dissolution of the palace.  Nineveh was located on the bank of the Tigris River and two tributaries of the Tigris (the Khosr and the Tebiltu) both flowed through the city itself.[4]  History records that heavy rains and flooding (see also 1:8) caused great damage to the walls and gates of Nineveh during the siege by the Babylonians and Medes.[5]  The rains usually fell in March; the rivers were at their highest in April/May.  This corresponds to the month Ab, when the city of Nineveh fell.[6]  This providential intervention by God hastened Nineveh’s destruction.  The flight of the inhabitants (2:8) was very literally fulfilled (see BKC, 1495).

 

C.      Nineveh is plundered (vv. 9-13)

Great must have been the plunder.[7]  After Sennacherib’s first campaign, he writes:  “I returned to Assyria with 208,000 captive people, a huge spoil, 7,200 horses and mules, 11,073 asses, 5,230 camels, 80,050 cattle, 800,100 ewes.—This does not include the men, asses, camels, cattle, and sheep which my troops had carried off and parceled out among themselves.”[8]  The successful conquests of Sennacherib’s powerful grandson, Ashurbanipal, also yielded much booty.

IV. Prophetic denunciation of Nineveh (3:1-19)

 

A.       Denounced for her wickedness (vv. 1-7)

 

B.       Destroyed like Thebes (vv. 8-11)

 

No Amon, also called Thebes, fell to the Assyrian king, Ashurbanipal, in 663 BC.  Like Nineveh, a major part of Thebes’ defense was its location on the banks of a river.  Like Thebes, Nineveh would be destroyed.

C.      Defenses rendered “useless” (vv. 12-19; BKC, 1503)

 

Every effort of the Ninevites to build up the walls (v. 14)[9] or multiply themselves (v. 15) would be in vain.  Nineveh would be destroyed by fire (v. 15).  The merchants with whom they had traded would be of no help to the city (v. 16).  In v. 17, their “crowned” and “captains” (probably referring to Nineveh’s officials and guards) would be like locusts that “settle on walls but when the warmth of the sun comes in the morning, they fly away.  Similarly, in panic the guards on the walls would also suddenly vanish” (BKC, 1504).

“Amid universal applause [v. 19] Nineveh will disappear forever.”[10]


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[1] See Walter Maier, Nahum, 36.

[2] See examples of arrogance in Maier, 106.

[3] One must remember how Assyria had repeatedly devastated Judah (and Israel).  In 701 BC, Sennacherib conquered much of Judah, stopping short of Jerusalem only because of divine intervention.  Sennacherib claims that he captured 46 of Hezekiah’s cities and took 200,150 people captive.  Esarhaddon, son of Sennacherib, forced Manasseh to pay tribute to him during his Syro-Palestine campaign in 676.  During the reign of Ashurbanipal, Assyria exiled Manasseh to Babylon, where he languished in a dungeon until his repentance.

[4] Even the Assyrian king Sennacherib realized the potential danger of these two rivers for the city of Nineveh.  He built a pool or a reservoir (dam), evidently complete with a gate or sluice, to contain the Khosr during its seasonal raging (Maier, 121).  Sennacherib complained that the Tebiltu, which seems to have run along the southwestern wall of the city (on the inside), “not only rose above its bank repeatedly during the centuries, but also undermined the foundations of some palaces and probably was the cause for their demolition” (quoted in Maier, 124).

[5] See Bible Knowledge Commentary:  Old Testament, 1495, for an excellent chart showing the very literal historical fulfillments of Nahum’s prophecies.

[6] See “The Fall of Nineveh” in The Ancient Near East, ed. James Pritchard.

[7] See booty lists in Maier, 267-70.

[8] Maier, 104.  Although these numbers are undoubtedly exaggerated, they suggest nonetheless the booty taken.

[9] This was very literally fulfilled.  See BKC, 1495.  Archaeologists have found evidence of the Ninevites’ attempt to build up the city walls using mud bricks and stones. 

[10] P. A. Verhoef, “Nahum, Book of,” in Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, 4:358.

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