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Nahum Overview


Author:  The author identifies himself as Nahum (which in the old Hebrew means "consoler" or "comforter) the Elkoshite.  The location of Elkosh, his hometown, is uncertain, but most scholars think somewhere is southern Judah, while one theory suggests Capernaum, Galilee, which literally translates "village of Nahum."

Date of Writing:  The author speaks in the past-tense of the fall of Thebes, which took place in 663 B.C., but prophesied Nineveh's downfall, which occurred in 612 B.C.; therefore, Nahum uttered the prophecy between 663 and 612 B.C, but most likely toward the end of this period since he speaks of the fall of Nineveh as taking place very soon.   This would place him during the reign of Josiah as King of Judah (2 Kings 21 and 22; 2 Chronicles 33, 34, and 35) and make him a contemporary of Zephaniah and young Jeremiah. 

Historical Context:  Assyria, with Nineveh as its capitol, destroyed and took captive the Northern kingdom (biblically referred to as "Israel" or "Ephraim") in 722 B.C.  The Assyrians were known to be an extremely cruel and wicked culture, which treated its conquered victims with senseless brutality.  The Book of Jonah, written about 760 B.C, tells us that the people of Nineveh repented after hearing  his prophecy, however, by the time of Nahum, 150 years later, they had returned to a way of life characterized by idolatry, violence, and arrogance. 

Purpose of Writing:  In the Book of Nahum, God once again sends His prophet to preach judgment on the city of Nineveh.  In contrast to Jonah, Nahum's prophecy was not a general call to repentance but a pronouncement, since the Ninevites had already been forewarned.  It was intended, indirectly, as a message to the people of Judah, informing them that God had pronounced judgment on their mortal enemy, Assyria, which would soon get what it deserved, and in fact happened in 612 B.C. when that nation was conquered and subjugated by the Babylonian Empire.  Sadly, despite dire warnings from the prophet Jeremiah, Jerusalem would suffer the same fate in 597 B.C.  

Literary Style:  The book consists primarily of judgment oracles (visions) that express intense moods, sights, and sounds.  The language is poetic (metered), with frequent use of metaphors, vivid word pictures, repetitive phrases, and rhetorical questions that point to God's righteous anger over Assyria's moral wickedness.    

Outline of Book:

  • Chapter 1:  Nineveh's Judge
  • Chapter 2:  Nineveh's Judgment
  • Chapter 3:  Nineveh's Destruction

Christ as seen in Nahum:  While there are no direct Messianic prophecies in Nahum, in line with the basic Christological spirit of all OT prophecy, Nahum represents Christ as the jealous God and avenger of His adversaries (see Nah. 1:2)  

Application:  God is patient and slow to anger, giving every nation more than adequate time to proclaim Him as its Lord.  However, He is not to be mocked; and any time a nation turns away from Him to serve its own selfish motives, and He will-at a time decided by Him-step in with judgment.  Moreover, this principle applies to all nations of the present, including the United States of America.