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by Peter Pett
A Commentary On Nahum the Prophet.
By Dr Peter Pett BA BD (Hons-London) DD
Nahum came from Elkosh which was possibly, but not certainly, in Judah. His prophecy may be dated between 664 BC and 612 BC.
The reason that we can date it so accurately is because it mentions the capture of No-amon (i.e. Thebes) (Nahum 3:8-10), as an indication that no city is too great to declare itself invincible. But was clearly written before the destruction of Nineveh itself in 612 BC.
The historical events behind the prophecy were the death of Ashurbanipal, the great king of Assyria (c. 627 BC), who ruled a vast empire held together by force and cruelty. This produced a situation where, within a year or so, Babylon, under Nabopolassar, felt able to assert her independence. About ten years later Babylon made an alliance with the Medes and attacked Assyria with a view to destroying all its military might, systematically reducing all its major strongholds.
Assyria’s capital city, Ashur, fell in 614 BC, followed two years later, after bitter fighting, by Nineveh itself.
The world sighed with relief. Assyria’s cruelty was a byword among the nations who had experienced it at first hand, and no one regretted their passing. The prophecy is a timely warning that no matter how great and impregnable someone may seem, one day their actions will catch up with them.
But why should we be interested in a book about the fate of Assyria? The answer is because it is a book about us all, especially the nations that are at ease. We see in this book a warning and foretaste of God’s judgment on all. It is delayed but it is inevitable. Elsewhere the mercy of God is emphasised, although never overlooking His moral attitude towards sin, but here it is His judgment that is emphasised.
This book is a reminder that however dark things may appear, however powerful the enemies of God might seem, they are not so powerful that they will last for ever. One day, sooner than any might think, they will crumble and collapse. But God will go on for ever.
And this judgment comes on one who has offered false pleasures to a sinful world. It has multiplied businessmen and accountants. It has offered sexual perversion and sinful pleasures. It has grown great in trade, and accumulated power. But it has forgotten God. And in that is its downfall.
This was one of the times when God’s judgment was revealed in its full awesomeness on a nation which believed itself invulnerable, and the prophet spells it out clearly and in some detail so that we might truly absorb it. God is love, but He is also light, and where His love does not prevail only the consequences of His sin-revealing light remains. And that, unless we repent, leads only to judgment.
The prophecy can be split into three sections.
· Chapter 1. Declaration of judgment on the great city, (on Nineveh).
· Chapter 2. The sack of the great city, (of Nineveh).
· Chapter 3. Why the great city (Nineveh) deserves its fate.
As we consider the prophecy, and consider Nahum’s feelings, we must remember that Assyria had cruelly downtrodden Judah and Israel for long periods, and had equally cruelly destroyed Samaria, the capital city of Israel (the Northern kingdom) carrying away into captivity, with great harshness, the cream of the nation, as well as crushing many other nations.
And the people shared with their king in his guilt. For they exulted in his conquests and benefited from his spoils. Judah had been impoverished by the burden of its demands, and the worship of YHWH had suffered because of the requirement to honour Assyria’s gods. Neither had any cause to pity Assyria the Arrogant. Now the Lord had determined an end to its cruel activities. It had run its course. Only judgment remained.
The prophecy is a warning to all despots and men of violence and great cities that affect the world, that they will reap what they sow.
the First Week of Advent