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Introduction to the Book of Nahum

Julian Spriggs M.A.

Nahum the prophet

Nahum’s name means "comfort" or "consolation". His home town was Elkosh (1:1). Its location is unknown, but is probably in Judah. Like Jonah, Nahum's message was to the city of Nineveh, the Assyrian capital, which finally fell to the Babylonian armies in 612 BC. His contemporaries were Habakkuk, Zephaniah and Jeremiah.

Historical background

Nahum probably prophesied during the reign of the godly King Josiah of Judah (640 - 609), who introduced great spiritual reforms. Assyria was still a world power and a threat to Judah at this time.

Date

There are three indicators of the date of the prophecy: The first is that Nahum refers to Ashurbanipal's sack of Thebes in Egypt as a past event (3:8), which occurred in 663 BC. Secondly, he predicts the fall of Nineveh as a future event, which occurred in 612 BC, and thirdly he brings no word of judgement or condemnation on Judah, but only words of encouragement (1:12-15). This would imply that Nahum prophesied during or after the reforms of King Josiah. The date of Nahum is therefore after 663, before 612 and during the reign of Josiah (640 to 609). 620 BC would be a sensible suggestion, otherwise before the Scythian invasion of Assyria in 626 BC.

Content of the book

Nahum's message is primarily concerned with the impending doom of the city of Nineveh, which once it falls, will bring relief to the kingdom of Josiah. So, the message is doom to Nineveh and comfort and consolation to Judah. Two sins of Nineveh are denounced: The first is Assyria's military might which had been used with indiscriminate ferocity (2:1-13). The second is that Assyria's commerce had deliberately corrupted the surrounding nations to provide the luxuries of the city. Morality and honesty counted for nothing, everything was secondary to the acquisition of wealth and pleasure (3:1-4)

To Judah, the messengers were bringing the good news that Nineveh had fallen. God's people were summoned as an act of thanksgiving for the destruction of the oppressor, to observe God's appointed feasts and to discharge their vows, their obligations and commitments to God (1:15).

Jonah's message to Nineveh was one of mercy, Nahum's was one of doom, but together they show God's dealings with the nations. They show that God prolongs the day of his grace, but when that day is exhausted, he comes in judgement for their sins. Jonah's message and Nineveh's repentance from a hundred years before had been forgotten by the time of Nahum. Nothing remained now but God's judgement.

Structure of the book

Ch 1 Judgement on Nineveh declared
Ch 2 Judgement on Nineveh described
Ch 3 Judgement on Nineveh defended


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