From the Editor’s Notebook
Outline Studies of the Minor Prophets
Nahum: The Book of God’s Wrath
Key Word: Doom.
Message: “The Awful Doom of the Apostate” (Robert Lee).1 Or, as Dr. Merrill F. Unger has interpretively summarized Nahum’s message: “The prophet has one theme, judgment upon Nineveh, the capital of the mighty Assyrian Empire … and hence of Assyria, the ‘giant among the Semites.’”2
Key Verses: 1:3 — “The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked: the Lord hath His way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet.” 1:8 & 9: “But with an overrunning flood He will make an utter end of the place thereof, and darkness shall pursue His enemies. What do ye imagine against the Lord? He will make an utter end: affliction shall not rise up the second time.”
In a sense, the book of Nahum is the continuation of the book of Jonah. The prophet’s message was given some 150 years after Jonah’s and, like Jonah’s message, was directed to the great fortress city of Nineveh in Assyria. Under Jonah’s preaching Nineveh’s repentance was brought about, while Nahum predicted the great city’s utter ruin.
What we know about the prophet Nahum is found in 1:1. He was a native of Elkosh (its location is unknown today). Interestingly enough, there was a city by that name just a few miles north of Nineveh’s ruins. Nahum could have lived there and from that city prophesied to Nineveh, much as Daniel did to Babylon later on. However, tradition asserts that Nahum was a Galilean like Jonah. A meaning given for Capernaum is the “village of Nahum,” and if Capernaum is a Hebrew word, then this is the evident origin.
The name Nahum means “compassion” or “consolation,” some having thought that his name is an abbreviation of Nehemiah. The dates between which Nahum prophesied are 663 B.C., when Thebes fell (Nahum 3:8-10), and 606 B.C., when Nineveh fell. It is estimated that the prophecy belongs to around the year 650 B.C., having been fufilled to the letter some 44 years later. After the Assyrian invasion and the captivity of the Northern Kingdom, Nahum escaped into Judah and probably lived in Jerusalem, having witnessed the siege of the Holy City and the destruction of the Assyrian hosts when in one night 185,000 perished (cf. 2 Kings 18 & 19). Nahum was contemporary with Isaiah and Hezekiah.
While this brief prophecy bears a message of divine doom and wrath against Nineveh, it is at the same time one of great comfort to any and all of God’s people who live in fear of a powerful and godless nation. On this very theme, W. Graham Scroggie has written: “NAHUM is a book which should bring much comfort in these days to all lovers of righteousness. In our time, as then, proud civilizations, so-called, are staking everything upon the strength of their fighting power on land and sea and in the air, and their boast, as we might expect, is characterized by a monstrous disregard of God, His righteousness and sovereignty; but again as long ago, men and nations will have to learn that God is on the Throne, and that ‘His kingdom ruleth over all.’”3
Nahum’s prophecy has been described as one great “at last.” Of his prophecy, Robert Lee has said: “Nahum forms a beautiful, vivid, pictorial poem on the grandeur, power, and justice of God, and on the conflict between Jehovah and this cruel and defiant world empire of Nineveh.”4
An anonymous prophetic student has commented: “None of the minor prophets seem to equal Nahum in boldness, ardour, and sublimity. His prophecy forms a regular, perfect poem; the exordium is not merely magnificent, it is truly majestic; the preparation for the destruction of Nineveh, and the description of its downfall and desolation, are expressed in the most vivid colours, and are bold and luminous in the highest degree.”
The key phrase of Nahum is “utter end” (1:8-9).
1. The Judge (1:1-7)
2. The Judgment (1:8-3:19)
1. Judgment upon Nineveh declared (1)
2. Judgment upon Nineveh described (2)
3. Judgment Upon Nineveh Defended (3)
—W. Graham Scroggie6
As to the city itself, Nineveh seemed an impregnable fortress. Located on the left bank of the Tigris River, the walls of this great Assyrian city rose 100 feet into the air and were further strengthened by more than 1,200 mighty towers. Furthermore, the city was protected on three sides by a moat leading to the Tigris. The walls of Nineveh enclosed 1,800 acres, and the massiveness of the walls were such that they were wide enough for three chariots to drive abreast on them. There were at least 15 gates leading into the city, coupled with the fact that its circumference measured 60 miles. In case of a siege Nineveh could maintain its own food supply from within the city itself. Nineveh owed its chief renown to Sennacherib (2 Kings 19), who built a majestic palace at Kuyunjik and an arsenal at Nebi-Yunus, and also laid out a park. Esarhaddon, a younger son of Sennacherib, widened the streets and built a palace at Nebi-Yunus. The fall of Nineveh was predicted by both Nahum and Zephaniah, the city’s overthrow and destruction having been brought about by the Medes and Babylonians in 606 B.C.
Another great city mentioned in Nahum was Thebes. The No of Nahum 3:8, Jeremiah 46:25 and Ezekiel 30:14-16, is Thebes, the ancient capital of Upper Egypt. It was located on the banks of the Nile River, 450 miles from Cairo. Of prehistoric foundation, it provided the 11th and 12th dynasty kings, and after the expulsion of the Hyksos it flourished again. It was said to have had 100 gates.
By his prophecy Nahum brought comfort to a harassed and fearful people (cf. 1:7, 12-13), even as God’s prophet served to warn all godless nations that ultimately all God can do with an apostate people and nation is to destroy them.
In describing the wrath of God, Nahum uses seven different words: jealousness, venegeance, wrath, anger, indignation, fierceness and fury. However, Nahum’s prophecy is not vindictive. On the contrary, it stresses that God’s wrath must be interpreted by His love. Where there is divine love there will always be righteous indignation against sin, and where there is anger there will always be love for the sinner.
In 606 B.C. the invasion of Nineveh was made possible by the swollen waters of the Tigris River flooding a part of the city. Nahum foretold this in 2:6. The city was then given over to fire as described in 3:13-15. Nineveh’s fate had long been delayed, but over its ruin might well be written the words: “The mills of God grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly small.” So thorough was God’s judgment of the city that for centuries the place where it had once stood was not known.
The words of Nahum 1:15a —“Behold upon the mountains the feet of him that bringeth good things, that publisheth peace!” — are applied by the Apostle Paul to the Gospel of Christ in Romans 10:15.
In 3:1, Nahum refers to Nineveh as “the bloody city.”
Nahum 1:7 is one of the choicest texts in all the Bible: “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knoweth them that trust in Him.”
In the book of Nahum the LORD JESUS CHRIST is revealed as our “STRONGHOLD IN THE DAY OF TROUBLE.”
The Annual Meeting
The Annual Meeting of FOOD FOR THE FLOCK INC. was held in Toronto on Saturday, October 25th, 1986. Among other things, the committee made a decision to continue publication of “Food for the Flock” magazine as our Lord enables us to do so.
For the first time in my twelve years as editor, I was unable to attend the meeting because of the serious illness of my father, Mr. George Rainey. At that time it appeared our Lord might take him “Home,” but presently as I write (Nov. 13th) his condition has stabilized, although he remains quite weak. The continued prayers of the saints on his behalf are much appreciated.
—W. Ross Rainey
1 Robert Lee, The Outlined Bible.
2 Merrill F. Unger, Unger’s Bible Handbook, p. 423.
3 W. Graham Scroggie, Know Your Bible, I, pp. 181-82.
4 Lee, op. cit.
6 Scroggie, op. cit., p. 183.