Shortly before the fall of Nineveh in 612 B.C., Nahum uttered his prophecy against the hated city. To understand the prophet’s exultant outburst of joy over the impending destruction it is necessary to recall the savage cruelty of Assyria, which had made it the scourge of the ancient Near East for almost three centuries. The royal inscriptions of Assyria afford the best commentary on the burning denunciation of “the bloody city.”‘ In the wake of their conquests, mounds of heads, impaled bodies, enslaved citizens, and avaricious looters testified to the ruthlessness of the Assyrians. Little wonder that Judah joined in the general outburst of joy over the destruction of Nineveh!
But Nahum is not a prophet of unrestrained revenge. God’s moral government of the world is asserted. Yahweh is the avenger but he is also merciful, a citadel in the day of distress. Nineveh’s doom was a judgment on the wicked city. Before many years passed, Jerusalem too was to learn the meaning of such a judgment.
The Book is divided as follows: The Lord’s Coming in Judgment (⇒ Nahum 1:2-⇒ 2:1, 3) The Fall of Nineveh (⇒ Nahum 2:2-⇒ 3:19)
Oracle about Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum of Elkosh.
1 2 A jealous and avenging God is the LORD, an avenger is the LORD, and angry; The LORD brings vengeance on his adversaries, and lays up wrath for his enemies;
The LORD is slow to anger, yet great in power, and the LORD never leaves the guilty unpunished. In hurricane and tempest is his path, and clouds are the dust at his feet;
3 He rebukes the sea and leaves it dry, and all the rivers he dries up. Withered are Bashan and Carmel, and the bloom of Lebanon fades;
The mountains quake before him, and the hills dissolve; The earth is laid waste before him, the world and all who dwell in it.
4 Before his wrath, who can stand firm, and who can face his blazing anger? His fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are rent asunder before him.
The LORD is good, a refuge on the day of distress; He takes care of those who have recourse to him,
when the flood rages; He makes an end of his opponents, and his enemies he pursues with darkness.
5 What are you imputing to the LORD? It is he who will make an end! The enemy shall not rise a second time;
As when a tangle of thornbushes is set aflame, like dry stubble, they shall be utterly consumed.
6 For, says the LORD, be they ever so many and so vigorous, still they shall be mown down and disappear. Though I have humbled you, I will humble you no more.
Now will I break his yoke from off you, and burst asunder your bonds.
7 From you he came who devised evil against the LORD, the scoundrel planner.
8 The LORD has commanded regarding you: no descendant shall come to bear your name; From your temple I will abolish the carved and the molten image; I will make your grave a mockery.
1 [2-8] A poem written in the style of the alphabetic psalms; cf Psalm 9A;25;111;119. Here, however, most of the verses beginning with the letters of the second half of the alphabet are not preserved.
2  A jealous . . .God: see note on ⇒ Exodus 20:5.
3  Bashan, Carmel and Lebanon were famous for their forests.
4 [6-7] The coming of God in judgment has two aspects: to those who oppose him it will be unbearable; to those who have recourse to him it will bring strength and consolation.
5  What are you imputing to the LORD?: the people of Judah are asked what they think God has in mind.
6  (12,13)They: the enemies of Judah. You: Judah. His yoke: the dominion of the Assyrian king over Judah.
7  (11)From you . . . the scoundrel planner: addressed to Nineveh, the capital city of Sennacherib, king of Assyria, who besieged Jerusalem c. 700 B.C.
8  You: the king of Assyria.