Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
Nahum, Book of
The same uncertainty and dispute have prevailed on many points affectiing the prophecy as have been detailed above respecting the prophet.
1. Place of Writinrg. — This largely depends upon the location of his birthplace. Dr. Davidson, in his Introduction to the Old Testamnet, confesses that the testimonies in favor of the Galilaean authorship are older and better; but still prefers to think that Nahum was an Assyrian by residence, "because the analogy of prophecy and internal phenomena favor this opinion." But Prof. Stahelin justly remarks that the absence of all reference in the prophecy to the Hebrew exiles in Assyria, among whom the prophet is supposed, on this hypothesis, to have been born and brought up, is an "internal phenomenon" which is quite decisive against the supposition; and with regard to the alleged "analogy of prophecy" being opposed to the idea that a prophet living so far from Nineveh as Galilee could utter predictions of so much circumstantiality against it, it is hard to see how such a statement can be reconciled with such circumstantial prophecies as those directed against Babylon by Isaiah and other certainly Palestinian prophets.
2. Date of the Prophecy. — This is even more uncertain than its place of writing. In the Seder Olam Rabba (page 55, ed. Meyer) Nahum is made contemporary with Joel and Habakkuk in the reign of Manasseh. Syncellus (Chron. Page 201 d) places him with Hosea, Amos, and Jonah in the reign of Joash king of Israel, more than a century earlier; while according to Eutychius (Ant. page 252) he was contemporary with Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, and prophesied in the fifth year after the destruction of Jerusalem. Josephus (Ant. 9:11, 3) mentions him as living in the latter part of the reign of Jotham. "About this time was a certain prophet, Nahum by name; who, prophesying concerning the downfall of Assyrians and of Nineveh, said thus," etc.; to which he adds, "and all that was foretold concerning Nineveh came to pass after one hundred and fifteen years." From this Carpzov concluded that Nahum prophesied in the beginning of the reign of Ahaz, about B.C. 742. Modern writers are divided iou their suffrages. Bertholdt thinks it probable that the prophet escaped into Judah when the ten tribes were carried captive, and wrote in the reign of Hezekiah. Keil (Lehrb. d. Einl. in d. A.T.) places him in the latter half of Hezekiah's reign, after the invasion of Sennacherib. Vitringa (Typ. Doctr. proph. page 37) was of the like opinion, and the same view is taken by De Wette (Einl. page 328), who suggests that the rebellion of the Medes against the Assyrians (B.C. 710), and the election of their own king in the person of Deioces, may have been present to the prophet's mind. But the history of Deioces and his very existence are now generally believed to be mythical. This period also is adopted by Knobel (Prophet. 2:207, etc.) as the date of the prophecy. He was guided to his conclusion by the same supposed facts, and the destruction of No Ammon. or Thebes, of Upper Egypt, which he believed was effected by the Assyrian monarch Sargon (B.C. 717-715), and is referred to by Nahum (Nahum 3:8) as a recent event. In this case the prophet would be a younger contemporary of Isaiah (comp. Isaiah 20:1). Ewald, again, conceives that the siege of Nineveh by the Median king Phraortes (B.C. 630-625) may have suggested Nahum's prophecy of its destruction. The existence of Phraortes at the period to which he is assigned is now believed to be an anachronism. (See MEDES).
Junius and Tremellius select the last years of Josiah as the period at which Nahum prophesied; but at this time not Nineveh, but Babylon, was the object of alarm to the Hebrews. The arguments by which Strauss (Nahumi de Nino Vaticinium, prol. c. 1, 3) endeavors to prove that the prophecy belongs to the time at which Manasseh was in captivity at Babylon, that is, between the vears 680 and 667 B.C., are not conivincing. Assuming that the position which Nahum occupies in the canon between Micah and Habakkuk supplies, as the limits of his prophetical career, the reigns 6tf Hezekiah and Josiah, he endeavors to show from certain apparent resemblances to the writings of the older prophets — Joel, Jonah, and Isaiah — that Nahum must have been familiar with their writinrgs, and consequently later in point of time than any of them. But a careful examination of the passages by which this argument is maintained will show that the phrases and turns of expression upon which the resemblance is supposed to rest are in no way remarkable or characteristic, and might have been freely used by any one familiar with Oriental metaphor and imagery without incurring the charge of plagiarism. Two exceptions are Nahum 2:10, where a striking expression is used which only occurs besides in Joel 2:6, and Nahum 1:15 (Hebrews 2:1), the first clause of which is nearly word for word the same as that of Isaiah 52:7. But these passages, by themselves, would equally prove that Nahum was anterior both to Joel and Isaiah, and that his diction was copied by them. Other references which are supposed to indicate imitations of older writers, or, at least, familiarity with. their writings, are Nahum 1:3 compared with Jonah 4:2; Nahum 1:13 with Isaiah 10:27; Nahum 3:10 with Isaiah 13:16; Nahum 2:2 [1 ] with Isaiah 24:1; Nahum 3:5 with Isaiah 47:2-3; and Nahum 3:7 with Isaiah 51:19. For the purpose of showing that Nahum preceded Jeremiah, Strauss quotes other passages in which the later prophet is believed to have had in his mind expressions of his predecessor with which he was familiar. The most striking of these are Jeremiah 10:19 compared with Nahum 3:19; Jeremiah 13:26 with Nahum 3:5; Jeremiah 51:30 with Nahum 3:13. Words which are assumed by the same commentator to be peculiar to the times of Isaiah are appealed to. by him as evidences of the date of the prophecy. But the only examples which he quotes prove nothing: שֶׁטֶ, sheteph (Nahum 1:8, A.V. "flood"), occurs in Job, the Psalms, and in Proverbs, but not once in Isaiah; and מְצוּרָה, mtsmi dah (Nahum 2:1 , A.V. "munition"), is found only once in Isaiah, though it occurs frequently in the Chronicles, and is not a word likely to be uncommon or peculiar, so that nothing can be inferred from it. Besides, all this would be as appropriate to the times of Hezekiah as to those of Manasseh. That the prophecy was written before the final downfall of Nineveh, and its capture by the Medes and Chald(eans (cir. B.C. 625), will be admitted.
The allusions to the Assyrian power imply that this was still unbroken (Nahum 1:12; Nahum 3:15-17). The glory of the kingdom was at its brightest in the reign of Esarhaddon (B.C. 680-660), who for thirteen vears made Babylon the seat of the empire; and this fact would incline us to fix the date of' Nahum rather in the reign of his father Sennacherib. for Nineveh alone is contemplated in the destruction threatened to the Assyrian power, and no hint is given that its importance in the kingdom was diminished, as it necessarily would be, by the establishment of another capital. That Palestine was suffering from the effects of Assyrian invasion at the time of Nahum's writing seems probable from the allusions in Nahum 1:11-13; Nahum 2:2; and the vivid description of the Assyrian armament in Nahum 2:3-4. At such a time the prophecy would be appropriate; and if Nahum 1:14 refers to the death of Sennacherib in the house of Nisroch, it must have been written before that event. The capture of No Ammon, or Thebes, has not been identified with anything like certainty. It is referred to as of recent occurrence, and it has been conjectured with probability that it was sacked by Sargon in the invasion of Egypt alluded to in Isaiah 20:1. These circumstances seem to determine the fourteenth vear of Hezekiah (B.C. 712) as the period before which the prophecy of Nahum could not have been written. The condition of Assyria in the reign of Sennacherib would correspond with the'state of things implied in the prophecy; and it is on all qccounts most probable that Nahum flourished in the latter half of the reign of Hezekiah, and wrote his prophecy soon after the date above mentioned, either in Jerusalem or its neighborhood, where the echo still lingered of "the rattling of the wheels, and of the prancing horses, and of the jumping chariots" of the Assyrian host, and "the flame of the sword and lightning of the spear" still flashed in the memory of the beleaguered citizens. The arguments in favor of this date, adduced by Eichhorn (in his Einleit.), supporting the same conclusion reached by Vitringa (Typus Doctrt. Proph. page 37), have not been overthrown by Davidson in his late Introd. to the O.T.; and it may therefore be regarded as measurably acquiesced in by the majority of modern critics.
As to the above attempt to fix the date of Nahum's prophecy by comparing parts of it with similar passages in the writings of Isaiah (viz., Nahum 3:5 with Isaiah 47:2-3; Nahum 3:7; Nahum 3:10 with Isaiah 51:19 sq.; Nahum 2:1 with Isaiah 52:1; Isaiah 52:7; Nahum 2:3 with Isaiah 52:8), the resemblance between these passages, it is alleged, is so close that the one writer must have had the other before him when composing his own oracles; and as it is assumed that Nahum was the copier, and as Isaiah's writing must be placed in the latter part of the reign of Hezekiah, it is concluded that Nahum must have written towards the close of that reign or early in the following. But allowing the similarity of the passages, everything else in this argument is mere assumption, any part of which may be reversed with equal probability; and accordingly we find that while Keil and Otto Strauss hold Nahum for the borrower, Delitzsch and Nagelsbach attribute this to Isaiah. The supposed allusion to Sennacherib's invasion in 1:14 has been thought to find support from the words אָשַׂים קַבְרֶךָ, which, joined as the accents direct with what precedes, may be rendered, "I will make it [the house of thy gods] thy grave," and may be viewed as referring to the slaughter of Sennacherib in the temple of his deity (Isaiah 37:38). But to this much weight cannot be attached; for, on the one hand, the rendering in the A.V. is quite as likely to be the correct one as that suggested, and, on the other, it by no means follows that when a man's grave is said to be made in any place it means that in that place he is to be murdered.
The results of the above discussion may be briefly summed up thums: that Nahum was a native of Galilee; that upon the invasion and deportation of the ten tribes he escaped into the territory of Judah, and probably took up his residence in Jerusalem, where he witnessed the siege of the city by Sennacherib, and the destruction of the Assyrian host, in the reign of Hezekiah; and that probably soon after that memorable event, which proved "the beginning of the end" of the Assyrian power, and taking occasion from it, the Spirit of prophecy chose him to be the instrumnent of predicting the final and complete overthrow of Nineveh and her empire-an empire which had been built up by violence and cruel oppression. and which was justly doomed to perish by the extremities of fire and sword. Nahum was a contemporary of Isaiah and Micah.
3. Contents. – As the title "the burden of Nineveh" imports, the prophecy of Nahum is directed against that proud city, and falls into three parts. The first
(1) contains the introduction (1-10) and the theme of the prophet's oracle (11-14). The second
(2) sets forth the calamity which should come upon the Assyrian empire. The third
(3) recapitulates the reasons for thei judgments that should be thus inflicted, and announces the certainty of their coming. The whole forns one continuous composition. There is no ground for the opinion which some (Huet, Kalinsky, Bertholdt) have maintained that the three parts of the book were produced at different times. To descend to details, the prophecy commences with a declaration of the character of Jehovah, "a God jealous and avenging," as exhibited in his dealings with his enemies, and the swift and terrible vengeance with which he pursues them (Nahum 1:2-6),while to those that trust in him he is "good, a stronghold in the day of trouble" (Nahum 1:7), in contrast with the 'verwhelming flood which shall sweep away his foes (Nahum 1:8). The language of the prophet now becomes more special, and points to the destruction which awaited the hosts of Assyria who had jutst gone up out of Judah (Nahum 1:9-11). In the verses that follow the intention of Jehovah is still more fully declared, and addressed first to Judah (Nahum 1:12-13), and then to the monarch of Assyria (Nahum 1:14). And now the vision grows more distinct. The messenger of glad tidings, the news of Nineveh's downfall, treads the mountains that were round about Jerusalem (Nahum 1:15), and proclaims to Judah the accomplishment of her vows. But round the doomed city gather the destroying armies; "the breaker in pieces" has gone up, and Jehovah musters his hosts to the battle to avenge his people (Nahum 2:1-2). The prophet's mind in vision sees the burnished bronze shields of the scarlet- clad warriors of the besieging army, the flashing steel scythes of their war- chariots as they are drawn up in battle array, and the quivering cypress- shafts of their spears (Nahum 2:3).
The Assyrians hasten to the defence: their chariots rush madly through the streets. and run to and fro like the lightning in the broad ways, which glare with their bright armor like torches. But a panic has seized their mighty ones; their ranks are broken as they march, and they hurry to the wall only to see the covered battering- rams of the besiegers ready for the attack (Nahum 2:4-5). The crisis hastens on with terrible rapidity. The river-gates are broken in, and the royal palace is in the hands of the victors (Nahum 2:6). And then comes the end; the city is taken and carried captive, and her maidens "moan as with the voice of doves," beating their breasts with sorrow (Nahum 2:7). The flight becomes general, and the leaders in vain endeavor to stem the torrent of fugitives (Nahum 2:8). The wealth of the city and its accumulated treasures become the spoil of the captors, and the conquered suffer all the horrors that follow the assault and storm (Nahum 2:9-10). Over the charred and blackened ruins the prophet, as the mouthpiece of Jehovah, exclaims in triumph, "Where is the lair of the lions, the feeding place of the yomung lions, where walked lion,lioness, lion's whelp, and none made [them] afraid?" (Nahum 2:11-12). In reverse of this the downfall of Nineveh was certain, for "behold! I am against thee, saith Jehovah of Hosts" (Nahum 2:13). The vision ends, and the prophet, recalled from the scenes of the future to the realities of the present, collects himself, as it were. for one final outburst of withering denlunciation against the Assyrian city, not now threatened by her Median and Chaldaean conquerors, but in the fuill tide of prosperity, the oppressor and corrupter of nations. Mingled with this woe there is no touch of sadness or compassion for her fate; she will fall unpitied and unlamented, and with terrible calmness the prophet pronounces her final doom: "All that hear the bruit of thee shall clap the hands over thee; for upon whom has not thy wickedness passed continually?" (Nahum 3:19).
4. The genuineness of this prophecy has never been called in question. The words in the inscription, ניניה מטא, have been subjected to suspicion by some on the ground that, as the proper commencement of the writing follows, they are probably a later addon; but, as Hasvernick remarks, there is nothing unfit in the arrangement which makes the announcement of the subject precede the announcement of the author, and therefore nothing improbable in the supposition that both parts of the inscription came from the same penthat of the author.
5. Style. — As a poet, Nahum occupies a high place in the first rank of Hebrew literature. In proof of this it is only necessary to refer to the opening verses of his prophecy (Nahum 1:2-6), and to the magnificent description of the siege and destruction of Nineveh in chapter 2. His style is clear and uninvolved, though pregnant and forcible; his diction sonorous and rhythmical, the words re-echoing to the sense (comp. Nahum 2:4; Nahum 3:3). According to Eichhorn, the most striking characteristic of his style is the power of representing several phases of an idea in the briefest sentences, as in his description of God, the conquest of Nineveh, and the destruction of No Ammon. "The variety in his manner of presenting ideas discovers much poetic talent in the prophet. The reader of taste and sensibility will be affected by the entire structure of the poem, by the agreeable manner in which the ideas are brought forward, by the flexibility of the expressions, the roundness of his turns, the exquisite outline of his figures, by the strength and delicacy, and the expression of sympathy and greatness, which diffuse themselves over the whole subject."
Some words and forms of words are almost peculiar to Nahum; as, for example, שְׂעָרָה for סְעָרָה, in Nahum 1:3, occurs only besides in Job 9:17; קִנּוֹא for, קִנָּא in Nahum 1:2, is found only in Joshua 24:19; תְּכוּנָה, Nahum 2:9 , is only found in Job 23:3, and not in the same sense; דֹּהֵי, in Nahum 3:2, is only found in Judges 5:22; פֶּלָדוֹת and רָעִל, Nahum 2:3 , נָהִג, Nahum 2:7 , בּוּקָה and מְבוּקָה, Nahum 2:10 , מַנְּזָרַים, Nahum 3:1, and כֵּהָה, Nahum 3:19, do not occur elsewhere. The unusual form of the pronominal suffix in מִלְאָכֵכֵה, Nahum 2:13 , נָפשׁוּ for נָפצֹוּ . Nahum 3:18, are peculiar to Nahum; מִעִר, Nahum 3:5, is also found in 1 Kings 7:36; גּוֹבִי, Nahum 3:17, occurs besides only in Amos 7; and the foreign word טִפְסִר, Nahum 3:17, in the slightly different form טַפְסִר, is found only in Jeremiah 2:27.
6. Confirmation by History. — We should expect a prophecy so entirely occupied with the overthrow of Nineveh to admit of frequent and useful illustration from the recent literature of the Assyrian monuments. And our expectation is not disappointed. One of Nahum's latest commentators, Dr. Otto Strauss, has made large use of this newly-opened source in his work, published in 1853, Nahumi de Nino Vaticinium explicazit, ex Assyriis Monumentis illustravit, etc. His prolegomena, especially in the chapters "De rebus Assyriorum" and "De indole Vaticinii," are full of new and valuable matter; and in his commentary he frequently quotes and applies to the elucidation of the text the writings of Botta, Layard, Rawlinson, and Bonomi, and thus fully vindicates the truth of a remark made by the lastnamed authuor that in the sculptures of Khorsabad and Nimrud "we possess an authentic contemporary commentary upon the prophecies." See also Vanlce Smith, Prophecies relating to Nineveh (Lond. 1857); Breitencicher, Nineve and Nahum (Munich, 1861). The predictions of the prophet have been remarkably fulfilled. The city of Nineveh was destroyed about 607 or 606 B.C., or about a century after the prophec of' Nahum was uttered. The recent researches of Dr. Lavard in the ruins of Nineveh throw a striking light upon the prophecy of Nahum, denouncing, nearly 2500 years ago, the fall of Nineveh. We can but glance at a few of these, and compare them with the words of the prophet. The "recently uncovered pavement at the gateway, marked with the rlts of the chariot wheels," tallies exactly with Nahum 3:2, where the prophetic vision presents the man of God, rapt into future times, "the noise of the whip. and the noise of the rattling of the wheels and of the prancing horses, and of the bounding warchariots." The "ivory ornaments, the metal bowls, vases, and saucers, most beautifully embossed and engraved, denoting by the style of sculpture a very advanced stage of civilization," tally with the prophet's description of the "store and glory of the pleasant furniture" (Nahum 2:9). The "buried city and its ornamental remnants, fragile with rust," and their destination in their mutilated condition to the museums of modern nations, recall Nahum 3:6; Nahum 1:14 : "I will cast my filth upon thee;" "I will make thy grave; I will set thee as a gazing-stock." (See NINEVEH).
7. Commentaries. — The following are the special exegetical helps on this prophecy alone: Theophylact, Commentaria (in Opp. volume 4); Julian of Toledo, Cormmentarius (in the Bibl. Max. Patr. volume 12); Bibliander, Exegesis (Tigur. 1534, 8vo); Luther, Enarratio (in Opp. 4:475; also in German, ed. Agricola, 1555); De la Huerga, Commentarius (Lugd. 1558, 1561, 8vo); Chvtrasus, Explicatio (Viteberg. 1565, 8vo; also in Opp. 2:341); Selnecker, Auslegung [includ. Jon. and Hab.] (Leips. 1567, 4to); Pintus, Commentarius [includ. Dan. and Lam.] (Corimb. 1582; Colon. 1582, 8vo; Ven. 1583, 4to; Aultun, 1595, 8vo; also in Opp.); Drusius, Lectiones [ includ. Hab. etc.] (Lugd. 1595, 8vo); Gesner, Expositio (Vitemb. 1604, 8vo); Crocius, Commentarius (Brem. 1620, 1627, 12mo); Tarnovius, Conmmentarius (Rost. 1623, 4to); De Quiros, Conmmentarii [includ. Mal.] (Hispali, 1623, fol.; Lugd. 1623, 4to); Ursinus, lHypomnematca [includ. Obad.] (Francf. 1652, 8vo); Hafenreffer, Commnentarius [includ. Hab.] (Stuttg. 1663, 4to); Abarbanel, Commentarius, ed. Sprecher (Helnst. 1703, 4to); Aben-Ezra, Comment. (Heb. and Lat., ed. Lund, Upsal. 1705, 4to; Lat. only, ed. Stenhagen, Upsal. 1705, 8vo); Van Hoeke, Explicatio [includ. five other minor proph.] (Ludg. Bat. 1709, 4to; also in Germ., Frkf. and Lpz. 1710, 4to); Wiild, Meditationes (Francf. 1712, 4to); Kalinsky, Observationes (Vratislav, 1748, 4to); Lessing, Observationes [includ. Jon.] (Chemnitz, 1780, 8vo); Conz, Erkllrung (in Staudlin's Beitrige, Stuttg. 1786, page 72 sq.); Agrell, Observationes (Upsal. 1788, 4to); Wahl, Uebersetz. (in his lagazin [Halle, 1790], 3:62 sq.); Grimm, Erklarung (Diisseld. 1790, 8vo; Greve, Interpretatio [includ. Hab.] (Amst. 1793, 4to); Svanborg, Nota (Upsal. 1806, 4to); Frahn, Curae (Rost. 1807, 4to); Neumann, Anmerk. (Bresl. 1808, 8vo); Middeldorpf, Uebersetz., with Anmerk. by (Gurlitt (Hamb. 1808, 8vo); Kreenan, Expositio (Hardev. 1808, 4to); Bjorn. Vatic. Nah. [includ. Lam.] (Hafn. 1814, 8vo); Justi, Erlaut. (Lpz. 1820, 8vo); Schroder, HaRfenklange [includ. Joel and Hab.] (Hildesh. 1827, 8vo); Rosenmuiller, Scholia (Lips. 1827, 8vo); Philippson, Uebers. [includ. Hos. etc.] (Halle, 1828, 8vo); Hilemann, Illustratio (Lips. 1842, 8vo); Edwards, Notes (in the Biblioth. Sacra, 1848, page 551 sq.); Strauss, Nineve, etc. (in Lat., Lps. 1853; in Germ. ib. 1858, 8vo); Breiteneicher, Nineve und Nah. (Munich, 1861, 8vo); Reinke, Aelt. Fersion. (Munich, 1867, 8vo). (See PROPHETS, MINOR).
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Nahum, Book of'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/n/nahum-book-of.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.