Nations do not triumph in a vacuum—a nation or people cannot win without a different nation or people losing. That is why Nahum 1:7–15 interweaves predictions of Judah’s triumph with visions of Assyria’s fall. At the time of Nahum’s ministry, Judah had seen its brother Israel in the north fall to Assyria some sixty years earlier. Moreover, it was no doubt hard for even the faithful Judahites to imagine they would be spared forever after Sennacherib failed to capture Jerusalem in 701 BC, for he still devastated Judah (Isa. 36–37). But Nahum encouraged Judah to persevere in faith, assuring the people of God’s goodness and salvation in the day of trouble (Nah. 1:7–8).
This prophecy gave the people of Judah the good news that the affliction they had suffered from Assyria was actually inflicted upon them by the Lord (v. 12). This may be hard for many of us to accept, for how can affliction ever be a good thing? The answer is found in the truths of God’s sovereignty and our sonship. If the Lord is sovereign over all of our trouble, we can be sure He has a purpose in it and that it did not arrive outside of His control, power, or knowledge. Furthermore, knowing that affliction comes to the people of the Lord at the Creator’s hand indicates that we are His children. Just as good earthly fathers discipline their children, our perfectly good Father in heaven disciplines us for our good (Deut. 8:5; Heb. 12:3–11). Let us note that not all discipline from on high is punitive. The faithful remnant of Judah and Israel had kept covenant with God. In one sense, by His grace, they did not deserve the pain inflicted on the impenitent nation. Yet even their suffering contributed to good ends. If nothing else, when the Lord fulfilled His promise to exile the impenitent covenant community, He proved to the elect that He always keeps His Word (Lev. 26; 2 Kings 17:1–23; 2 Chron. 36:1–21).
Judah suffered at Assyria’s hands even though that empire never conquered the southern kingdom (Isa. 36–37). Nahum’s good news was that Judah would enjoy peace and keep the law of God in gratitude for its rescue (Nah. 1:15). Despite the impenitence of the people as a whole, the Lord remembered His ancient promises to Judah, and He would restore Jacob’s majesty “as the majesty of Israel” (2:2). Applying the titles Jacob and Israel to Judah, Nahum indicated that the glory of the united kingdom would return, that a king in Zion would once more rule over the one undivided people of God.