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Holman Bible Dictionary
The date of the prophet's ministry can be placed between 600,700 B.C. by two events mentioned in his book. Nahum 3:8 refers to the destruction of the Egyptian capital, No-amon or Thebes, in 663 B.C. and indicates that the prophet was active after this time. In Nahum 2:1 , he looked forward to the destruction of Nineveh which took place in 612 B.C. Nahum, therefore, prophesied after 650 B.C., probably close to the time of the fall of Nineveh.
Historical Background Since about 730 B.C., Israel and Judah had been Assyrian vassals. Almost a century later, the Assyrian Empire began its decline. Many vassal nations revolted along with Josiah of Judah (2 Kings 22-23 ). A coalition of Medes, Babylonians, and Scythians attacked Assyrians and in 612 B.C. destroyed the capital, Nineveh. The Assyrians formed a coalition with the Egyptians, but in 605 B.C., they were defeated. See 2 Kings 22-23 .
The Prophet's Message The Assyrian oppression created a troubling question. How could God allow such inhumanity to go unanswered? Nahum responded to Assyrian tyranny with a message marked by its vivid language. Assyria's might had been heavy upon Judah, but Nahum announced that God would destroy them.
The book opens with an affirmation of God as an avenging God. The fierceness of His wrath is pictured in terms of the destruction of nature. For over a century, the Assyrians seemed to have had an uncontrolled reign, but now God was responding. His judgment is likened to an approaching storm. Perhaps the people of Judah doubted God's justness since Assyria seemed to have no restraints. Nahum, however, sought to dispel this notion.
The second chapter graphically portrays the future fall of Assyria's capital, Nineveh. Such an event must have been hard for the people to imagine. Nineveh was a massive city with a defensive wall that measured eight miles in circumference and ranged in height from 25 to 60 feet. A moat also surrounded it. Yet, Nahum, poetically affirmed the city's fall. The enemy would rush upon the city with their chariots (Nahum 2:4 ), and the gates would be unable to keep them out (Nahum 2:5 ). The great city would be plundered (Nahum 2:7-10 ).
The Book of Nahum closes with more threats against Nineveh. Ironically, as Assyria had destroyed Thebes in 663 B.C., so the same fate would befall Nineveh (Nahum 3:8-11 ). Preparations for a siege on the city are alluded to in Nahum 3:14 . Water would be stored and fortifications strengthened by the addition of more mud bricks. Yet, these preparations would not keep away God's devastating judgment.
While the Book of Nahum is harsh and deals with the unpleasantness of war, it served to give hope to the people of Judah. They had been subjected to the cruel domination of Assyria for over a century, but now their faith in God to act on their behalf could be bolstered through God's response. God's justness was reaffirmed.
I. The Sovereign God Makes Himself Known (Nahum 1:1-11 )
A. The jealous, patient Lord takes vengeance on His adversaries (Nahum 1:1-3 ).
B. The earth quakes at the arrival of God (Nahum 1:4-5 ).
C. Who can endure the heat of God's anger? (Nahum 1:6 ).
D. The good Lord is a refuge for His troubled, trusting people (Nahum 1:7 ).
E. God protects those who seek Him but will destroy the enemy (Nahum 1:8-9 ).
F. The enemy must drink the cup of God's wrath (Nahum 1:10-11 ).
II. In the Enemy's Fall, God Offers Hope for His Oppressed People (Nahum 1:12-15 ).
A. God can defeat the enemies no matter how strong and numerous they are (Nahum 1:12-13 ).
B. God judges the enemy because of its false gods (Nahum 1:14 ).
C. God calls His delivered people to grateful worship (Nahum 1:15 ).
III. God Will Bring Judgment Upon His Wicked Enemy (Nahum 2:1-3:19 ).
A. The enemy will fall, but God's people will be restored (Nahum 2:1-2 ).
B. Armies and wealth cannot prevent God's judgment (Nahum 2:3-12 ).
C. When God declares war, the enemy is helpless (Nahum 2:13 ).
D. God humiliates wicked peoples (Nahum 3:1-19 ).
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Nahum'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hbd/n/nahum.html. 1991.