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Studies in the Prophets
NAHUM

Nahum

Who was he and where did he come from?
His name means “comfort”
Not a prophet who is easily committed to memory. Apart from his name we know little about him. We don’t learn about his family. Although his home town is said to be Elkosh – however its location is uncertain.
There is an assumption that Elkosh was in Galilee
                Some have suggested  it might be Capernaum (Village of Nahum)
                Another tradition suggests Beit-Jebrun south west of Jerusalem .

What seems to be certain though is that he was a southern prophet.
               
The book is almost exclusively a series of oracles against Assyria or more precisely Nineveh, so they can’t be any later than the year 612 which marked the collapse of Assyrian power in the region.

Something seems to have triggered Nahum to write about God’s anger, so commentators seek an occasion where Assyria used its might against the kingdom of Judah

It could be

  1. When the Assyrians attacked Jerusalem in the time of King Manasseh and took him away in chains. 2 Chron 33:10-13.
  2. During Assyria’s last campaign which took place between 639 and 637

While both of these are possible contenders, we need to remind ourselves that Assyria and Nineveh may just be symbolic references for “the foe” – remember how in the Book of Revelation in the New Testament references to “Babylon” were in fact symbolic references to Rome.

I am not simply trying to deepen the confusion here. One scholar (J D W Watts in the Cambridge Bible Commentary) has suggested that the book may have formed the basis of a liturgical act which could have been used in the event of a national crisis. The idea being that the name Nineveh could be replaced with the current foe that was troubling the nation. This theory is reinforced by the fact that verses 2-8 are a partial acrostic poem. 

Terrific idea but I think I think I would shunt that one into the siding because if it is the case it would
make the book very different from any of the other works in the scroll of the twelve and I think later on we may be concentrating on the argument that these 12 seemingly disparate books do have some sort of cohesive unity.

  Structure
1:1 – 2:2               God faithful and jealous, will redeem his people
2:3-13                    Nineveh overcome – its pretensions mocked.
3:1-19                    Judgement pronounced and complete destruction

 

The book, and incidentally it is the only work of a minor prophet which is specifically called a book begins with what we call a theophany – a description of the appearance of God – whirlwind, storm, clouds, quaking mountains etc. The message is clear, God, angry, jealous and faithful will redeem his people of Judah because of what Assyria has done.

Assyria and its leaders are warned – though they may be strong they will be cut off and pass away. God will make a full end of them and will not take vengeance twice upon the.  Heavy stuff!
Meanwhile for the people of Judah
Behold, on the mountains the feet of him
                who brings good tidings,
                who proclaims peace!
               Keep your feasts, O Judah,
                 fulfil your vows,
for never again shall the wicked come against you,
he is utterly cut off.   (Nahum 1:15

In chapter 2 the sack of Nineveh is pictured vividly by a well organised army and its people led away in humiliation.
In reality Nineveh fell to the Medes, Babylonians and Scythians in 612BC, but I don’t think what we have here is a reminiscence.

In chapter 3 the picture of terrible destruction continues. Nineveh’s enslavement of other nations is likened to the tempting advances of a prostitute and she will be treated like a prostitute in return.

Nahum I find a puzzle – and while I don’t want to go too deeply into what he says May I put before you three thoughts.

  1. There seems to be a lack of ethical themes in his work of the nature that we find in the major prophets.  He is just a representative of the anti-Assyria party
  2. I just wonder if in certain contexts if he is not very similar to the false Prophets ….
  3. His message is just so different from that of the book of Jonah

Yet in the LXX version of the Minor Prophets his work is next to that of the prophet Jonah.

Nahum knows that the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal attacked and destroyed Thebes (Nahum 3:8)
The date of this seems to have been 663.

Some of the oracles could go as late as 612 which marked the collapse of Assyrian power in the region

It is also possible that the prophecy has a retrospective element.
Some commentators suggest that the words were used in a liturgical worship.
Nineveh may even stand for a different enemy.

 

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