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Nahum 1:3

“The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, and the LORD will by no means clear the guilty.”

With the conclusion of our study of Micah yesterday, we also finished our study of the writing prophets of the eighth century BC. We move on in our study of the Old Testament prophetic literature to the work of Nahum of Elkosh from the seventh century BC. Like some of the other writing prophets, we read of Nahum nowhere else in the Old Testament. Some scholars believe Elkosh was an ancient town located in the geographic center of ancient Assyria (modern Iraq). If so, Nahum was likely a descendant of one of the families from Israel carried into exile in 722 BC.

Nahum delivered his prophecy a few decades prior to Assyria’s decline and downfall. His reference to the fall of the Egyptian city of Thebes to King Assurbanipal of Assyria in 663 BC (Nah. 3:8–10) makes that year the earliest possible date for his prophecy, while the reference to Nineveh’s full strength (1:12) gives us the latest possible date somewhere around 653–early 652 BC. This is because Assyria’s decline began in 652 BC when it lost Thebes after a bloody, protracted battle with Babylon. It picked up steam upon Assurbanipal’s death in 627 BC. The year 612 BC marks the fulfillment of Nahum’s vision, as that is when Nineveh fell to the Babylonians. Proof for the divine inspiration of Nahum’s prophecy is seen in that he predicted Nineveh’s fall some fifty years beforehand, when hardly anyone would have believed that Assyria could ever be vanquished.

The book of Nahum is an oracle against Nineveh, the capital city of the Assyrian Empire. Although Assyria was the rod of God’s wrath against the unfaithful old covenant community (Isa. 10:5), the empire in itself was not pleasing to Him. Assyria thought it was doing what empires do—conquering and increasing its glory—and had no regard for the Lord (2 Kings 18:28–35). Our sovereign God uses even those who hate Him to achieve His purposes, even though He will destroy such instruments if they never bow to Him. During the middle of the seventh century BC, Nahum predicted that the Lord was going to bring about the fall of Nineveh, beginning His prophecy with a reminder that God takes vengeance on His enemies. He pictures the Lord as the Divine Warrior, riding the clouds into battle against His enemies (Nah. 1:1–6; see Pss. 18:7–15; 68:5–10). At the last day, this Divine Warrior will come on the clouds again to destroy His foes and rescue us who are waiting eagerly for Him (1 Thess. 4:13–18; Rev. 1:7).

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

Those who walked by sight and not by faith under the old covenant would have found it nearly impossible to believe that Assyria would ever fall. Yet those who trusted God’s Word through Nahum were vindicated when Nineveh crumbled. Today, we walk by faith and not by sight, believing that the Lord will keep His promises even when we cannot see how He will do so. What is impossible for us is not impossible with Him, and His past fidelity undergirds our future hope.


For Further Study
  • Joshua 5:13–15
  • Jeremiah 20:11
  • Zephaniah 2:13–15
  • Matthew 12:38–42

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From the May 2013 Issue
May 2013 Issue