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Notes on the Prophecy of Nahum
Search and look,” said the prejudiced Jewish doctors, when summarily disposing of the claims of the Lord Jesus, “for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.” We have already seen, in the case of Jonah, that their positive assertion was unsupported by the evidence of Scripture, to which they so coolly appealed. The son of Amittai was unquestionably out of Galilee. There are the best of reasons for believing the same of Nahum. He is called the Elkoshite; that is, a man from Elkosh, or, as it is sometimes written, Elkesi (ver. 1).
It is well known that there was an Assyrian village on the banks of the Tigris by this name; but Jerome states positively, when he retreated to Palestine from the turmoil of an unfriendly world, that he was shown the site of the Galilean Elkosh where Nahum was reported to have been born.
The prophecy of Nahum bears every evidence of having been delivered in the land prior to the death of Sennacherib, and, therefore, at least a century before the destruction of Nineveh, of which it mainly treats. He was in all likelihood contemporary with Isaiah, and uttered his poetic prediction in the reign of Hezekiah. Nahum was therefore, one can scarcely doubt, a Galilean, who came at the call of God from his northern home to speak words of comfort to the trembling people of the south, whose hearts were in fear because of the Assyrian invasion.
The book seems to divide readily into two parts. Chapter 1 presents the Eternal One as the Rock and Stay of those who confide in Him, whatever the danger that threatens. Locally, it was the army of Sennacherib that seemed about to overwhelm them. But God was above all, as was soon made manifest. Chapters 2 and 3 give the destruction of Nineveh, whence the oppressor had come. The description of the siege and breaking up of the guilty city is a masterpiece of dramatic poetry.
It is of interest to note that both the prophets whose Galilean birth we have commented on had to do largely with Nineveh in their ministry. Jonah was used to the repentance of the generation of his day, about one hundred and fifty years ere Nahum declared the final overthrow of the city because its iniquities had reached unto heaven. In that destruction it is easy to see a picture of the future end of the impious Assyrian of the last days, to which attention has frequently been directed in these notes.
Nahum means Consolation; and consolatory indeed are the precious words of cheer which he was inspired to deliver in this first chapter.
Vengeance belongs to God. To the Thessalonian saints Paul writes, “It is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you.” He is ever watching over His people; and while He permits many things for their discipline, He will never overlook an indignity done to His redeemed. “He reserveth wrath for his enemies” (ver. 2). Note this: the enemies of His people are His enemies. He makes their cause His own. Faith rests on this, and is thus saved much worry and anxiety. Nature would be alarmed and excited, where faith is calm and quiet. Nature sees the Assyrian armies: faith looks up to the God of battles. The entire 19th and 20th chapters of 2 Kings may be read with profit in this connection, as they describe the actual scenes to which the first part of Nahum’s prophecy refers.
The third verse contains much that is precious for the afflicted soul, as well as a solemn warning for him who hardens himself against discipline. Slow to wrath, and mighty in power, the Lord cannot pass by iniquity. He will not acquit, or hold guiltless, the wicked. Of old, God had declared to Moses that He was “merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty” (Exodus 34:5-7). Full of love as He is-yea, though He is love itself-yet He is also light: therefore sin must be judged. This is where the cross comes in. But even for men who have found forgiveness there, God will not tolerate unjudged evil; and if we judge not ourselves, we must be judged by Him; for “when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world” (1 Corinthians 11:32). Exodus 34:6 is for the sinner’s warning. Nahum 1:3 is for the saint’s comfort. Yet the principle is the same; for whether in the case of men in general, or of His children in particular, His holy eye passes over nothing till all is judged. But if the whirlwind and the storm seem about to overwhelm, and for the believer the sky seems black with clouds, it is sweet to know that the Lord has His way in all that seems so terrific, and at times so arbitrary. The stormy wind but fulfils His word, and “the clouds are the dust of His feet.” Look up then, dear tried and perplexed soul; for He is just above those heavy clouds of sorrow. As the dust in the distance betrays the approach of the traveler ere the form is seen upon the dry roadway, so the clouds tell of His near presence who knows all thy griefs and comes in love to dry thy tears. At His word the tempest-tossed sea is rebuked and the rivers of woe assuaged, even as of old He dried up the Red Sea and rolled back the waters of Jordan. All creation must own His power, and all elements yield to His authority. None can stand before His indignation nor abide the day of His wrath. Yet He is good, a fortress in the day of trouble, “and He knoweth them that trust in Him” (vers. 4-7).
What comfort words like these would be to Hezekiah and his people, shut up in Jerusalem, affrighted and taunted by the arrogant Assyrian, polluting the air with his blasphemies against Jehovah!
Little did Rab-shakeh and Sennacherib know with whom the battle was really to be fought. Little could they realize that Jerusalem would flourish long after Nineveh had become a heap of ruins. In accordance with Isaiah 10:5 to 19, Nahum foretold in vers. 8 to 10 the very manner in which the imperial city by the Tigris was to be destroyed. Profane history gives its testimony in the record of Ctesias that while a drunken feast was going on, the flood-gates of the city were swept away by a sudden rise of the river, and the palace foundations were thus dissolved. The army of the Babylonians, who had been besieging it for some time, entered by the breach made, and burned it with fire while the inebriated inhabitants sought in vain to escape. See chap. 3:11.
Such should be proud Nineveh’s end. Meantime one had come from thence, a counselor of Belial, imagining evil against the Lord (ver. 11). This is God’s description of haughty Sennacherib, who may well be viewed as a type of the last great Assyrian, so often contemplated in the prophecies.
But all his boasting was in vain: Jehovah had permitted his invasion as a chastisement for the sins of Judah. He had observed the effect. Hezekiah and his princes were humbled before Him. Now God would act for them. Though He had afflicted them, He would do so no more. The Assyrian hosts were blasted by the breath of His mouth, and Sennacherib himself basely murdered a short time afterward, as ver. 14 declared he would be, by the hands of his own sons. See Isaiah 37:36-38.
Freed from the danger that had threatened, Judah could keep her feasts in peace, rejoicing in the appointed ministry of cheer sent by Jehovah. His messengers are spoken of in Isaiah 52:7 in almost the same language. Possibly Nahum and Isaiah feasted together when the enemy was thus destroyed, and enlargement granted to Judah.
Delivered and exultant, they are called upon to perform their vows, for the host that had but a little before struck terror to their souls would pass through the land no more.
Who can fail to see in all this a wondrous picture of the introduction of millennial blessing when the last coalition against Israel has been overthrown, and the Lord Jesus Himself shall descend with feet beautiful upon the mountains to publish peace that shall no more be disturbed!
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Nahum 1". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
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