Nahum 1 - Outline of Nahum (Book Notes menu page)
The LORD's Judgment of Nineveh is a Comfort to Israel.
1. The burden of Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite.
Nahum...- his name means 'comfort.'
His message of judgment upon Israel's enemies would be a source of comfort to believers among the people of Israel.
...the Elkoshite...- Presumably, Nahum came from a village by the name of Elkosh.
Several locations have been suggested, but none is certain.
  • Al Qosh - located about 25 miles north of Mosul (Nineveh) on, what is today, the southern border of Kurdish Iraq. According to Jewish tradition, the tomb of Nahum is housed in an ancient synagogue, in this town. In recent years, it has fallen into disrepair and has been threatened with destruction by ISIS. However, there is no record that the LORD sent Nahum to Nineveh.
  • Elkesi - a village near Ramah in northern Israel. Israeli tour guides point to this site as Nahum's birthplace.
  • Elcesei - a village in northern Judah. Because Nahum wrote to Judah (v.15), some believe this was his home town.
  • Capernaum (Kfer Nahum, village of Nahum) - The town, on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee, which was the site of many events in the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. Perhaps Nahum was born at one of the two places with names like Elkosh, but later moved to Capernaum. It is best not to speculate on such matters. The LORD would have made these things clear, if they were essential to Nahum's message.
Nahum did not date his book (eg., with reference to the sitting kings).
However, internal evidence indicates the time of writing. Nahum's account of Assyria's defeat when they threatened Jerusalem (1:9-15), indicates that he was a contemporary of king Hezekiah and the prophets Isaiah and Micah. However, because he references the destruction of No-Amon (3:8) which occurred in 663 BC, it is evident that he wrote shortly after that event, probably during the reign of king Manasseh (Hezekiah's son), while Assyria was still at the peak of its power, and well before the destruction of Nineveh by Babylon in 612 BC.
the burden of Nineveh...-
The 'burden' {HB=massa', a weighty oracle, a heavy utterance} of Nineveh was the pronouncement of judgment so severe, that Nineveh and the nation of Assyria (of which Nineveh was the capital) would be completely and permanently destroyed.
    About 100 - 150 years before Nahum, the LORD had sent Jonah to Nineveh. There, Jonah proclaimed God's Word warning of imminent judgment. When the whole nation believed and repented, God had withheld that judgment (Jon 3:4-10). But with the passage of time, the nation forgot God's Word and turned back to their old ways.
    By the time that Nahum wrote, Assyria had already conquered and taken captive the northern kingdom of Israel. Assyria was a tool by which the LORD exercised judgment upon Israel's apostasy from Him.
    In the experience of Nineveh, we see that the LORD deals with the apostasy of Gentile nations (who knew but forsook the fear of God) much as He deals with Israel: with love, justice and goodness. He warned Nineveh, and spared them, because of His love and mercy (Jon 4:11). Though He loves them, the LORD must judge unrepentant sinners because His justice demands it. He waits to see if they will repent (Nah 1:3a). But when He sees that hearts are hardened beyond the point of return, He takes righteous action to put sin away, because He is good (eg., v.9).
The LORD's character is displayed in His dealings with men (v.2-8).
2. God [is] jealous, and the LORD revengeth;
the LORD revengeth, and [is] furious;
the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries,
and he reserveth [wrath] for his enemies.
God is jealous...- His jealousy has two sides:
  • He demands exclusive devotion from those He loves. Ex 20:2-6
  • He watches out for those He loves. He deals with their enemies. Joel 2:18
the LORD 'avengeth' - (Stated three times, in v.2) The meaning is not 'revenge' but 'vengeance.'
He acts, not 'to get even' (revenge), but to make right that which is wrong and out of order.
He acts in vengeance against His people when they turn away from Him (Deu 32:35-40).
He acts in vengeance against the enemies of His people (Deu 32:40-43). Note that His vengeance is a cause for joy, for those, in every nation, who trust in Him.
God... is furious...- He hates sin (Rom 1:18).
His people can trust Him to do what is right. Isa 59:17,18; Rom 12:19; Heb 10:30
He reserveth wrath for his enemies.- But He preserves His own (2Pet 2:9).
3 The LORD [is] slow to anger, and great in power,
and will not at all acquit [the wicked]:
the LORD hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm,
and the clouds [are] the dust of his feet.
the LORD is slow to anger...-
He sent Jonah to Nineveh. He withheld judgment when they repented. He waited more than 100 years as they turned back to their sinful ways, before taking vengeance.
     Almost a hundred years before Nineveh's destruction, the LORD had demonstrated His ways, through His judgment upon Israel (the northern kingdom). For more than a century, He had sent many prophets to warn Israel and call them to repentance. He had waited patiently. But when His justice could wait no longer, He chose to use Assyria as His instrument of judgment (2Kin 17:4-18).
     Assyria was without excuse. They had not only seen that God judged His own people for their sin, but they had also been used by God as the instrument of His judgment. They had every reason to take heed to His warning of judgment upon themselves.
...and will not at all acquit {ie., clear the guilt of} the wicked...
He cannot ignore sin. Sin's penalty must be paid. Sin must be put away. Ex 34:6,7
...and great in power...- His longsuffering should not be mistaken for impotence.
That He has the power to exercise judgment is demonstrated by His power over all of creation...
4 He rebuketh the sea, and maketh it dry, and drieth up all the rivers:
Bashan languisheth, and Carmel, and the flower of Lebanon languisheth.
5 The mountains quake at him, and the hills melt,
and the earth is burned at his presence,
yea, the world, and all that dwell therein.
6 Who can stand before his indignation?
and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger?
his fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him.
He rebuketh the sea...-
He opened a path through the Red Sea, and through the Jordan River, for His people.
Bashan... Carmel... Lebanon... languish...-
He is able to cause fertile regions to wilt in drought. This may also be a reference to the LORD's judgment upon the northern kingdom of Israel, since Bashan and Carmel were within their territory, and Lebanon was under their influence at the height of their power. With the captivity of Israel, the land's fertility faded for lack of caretakers. cp. Psa 107:33,34
He controls earthquakes and volcanoes.
The earth and all of its inhabitants are 'burned' {lit., moved, lifted, shaken} at His Presence.
Who can stand before His indignation... the fierceness of His anger...
It is futile to fight the forces of nature. Wise men will flee the violence of earthquakes and volcanoes. Should they ignore Him who controls these things?
     No sinner can stand against His fury against sin. (Psa 1:5; 2:12; Rom 3:19,20; Mal 3:2; Rev 6:17)
     Every one of us is guilty. None of us can stand before God, before whom our righteousness is filthiness (Isa 64:6). We are all in desperate need of the Redeemer, who bore our sins, to take them away (Isa 53:5,6; Joh 1:29). Apart from Him there is no hope for the sinner.
7 The LORD [is] good, a strong hold in the day of trouble;
and he knoweth them that trust in him.
8 But with an overrunning flood he will make an utter end of the place thereof,
and darkness shall pursue his enemies.
God's own people are secure in Him. Psa 25:8-11; 37:39,40; 100:5; Lam 3:25
In the day of trouble, when Assyria threatened Jerusalem, king Hezekiah had taken refuge in the LORD. Isa 37:14-20
But... He will make an utter end of the place thereof...
The LORD will completely annihilate the source of trouble for His people.
...with an overrunning flood...
Nineveh was utterly destroyed with an overrunning flood of Babylonian soldiers, who were aided by the flooding of the Tigris River. (We will see further details about the fall of Nineveh, when we come to ch. 2.)
...darkness will pursue His enemies.
Nineveh had received spiritual light through Jonah's preaching of God's Word. For a time, they had walked in that light. But they had turned away, because men love the darkness of sin (Joh 3:19). Those, who willfully reject the light of God's Word, block out their only hope of escaping from darkness (eg., Mat 8:11,12; 22:13). Hell's hottest flames will be the burning regret of Truth rejected... 'if only I had placed my trust in the LORD, for He is good' (v.7).
     The LORD holds men and nations accountable for the light they have received. For more than 200 years, our nation (the U.S.A.) has been exposed to the light of God's Word, in far greater intensity than ever shined upon Nineveh. The LORD wiped Nineveh off the map completely. Should He treat us any less severely?
The LORD's verdict against Assyria is presented in v.9-15.
9. What do ye imagine against the LORD?
he will make an utter end: affliction shall not rise up the second time.
10 For while [they be] folden together [as] thorns,
and while they are drunken [as] drunkards,
they shall be devoured as stubble fully dry.
What do you imagine {ie., plan, devise} against the LORD?
The question is addressed to Assyria, which had laid plans for the conquest of Jerusalem.
The implied answer is that you cannot prevail in conflict against the God of Israel.
...He will make an utter end... affliction will not rise up the second time...
The LORD would utterly and permanently destroy Nineveh. There would be no recovery. The nation would never again rise. Nor would it ever again inflict or suffer distress, because it would be forever buried.
...they shall be devoured {ie., consumed as by fire} as stubble fully dry...-
Dry stubble burns furiously and completely, until nothing remains.
Such would be the fate of Assyria, even though her soldiers moved in a tight impenetrable formation (like an entangled hedge of thorns), and even though the nation was drunk with pride in their own strength.
11 There is [one] come out of thee,
that imagineth evil against the LORD, a wicked counsellor.
12 Thus saith the LORD; Though [they be] quiet, and likewise many,
yet thus shall they be cut down, when he shall pass through.
Though I have afflicted thee, I will afflict thee no more.
There is one... that imagineth evil... a wicked counsellor.
During the reign of Hezekiah, Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, through his representative, Rabshakeh, had blasphemed and mocked the LORD, outside the wall of Jerusalem (Isa 36:4-10).
     The full account, of Assyria's blasphemous intent and of the LORD's supernatural deliverance of Jerusalem, is recorded three times in scripture (in 2Kin 18,19; 2Chr 32; Isa 36,37). Apparently, the LORD wants us to take notice, and to take comfort in the fact that He is able to deliver His own and to destroy their enemies. 'The Assyrian' will fall before Him (foreshadowing the fall of the Antichrist, as discussed at v.15 below.)
Though they be quiet and likewise many... (v.12)
The meaning of this phrase was a puzzle for scholars, until excavations began on the ruins of Nineveh, in 1850 AD. Researchers discovered hundreds of tablets, including dozens containing this wording, which constituted an Assyrian legal formula, stating "joint and several responsibility" for fulfilling an obligation. The sense here is "even though your entire nation joins together as one person to resist Me, nevertheless I shall overcome you."
     This phrase, which is actually a trans-literation of the Assyrian legal formula, would not have been understood by the Jewish scribes. Yet, they faithfully copied the words as they received them. This is another example of the LORD's providential preservation of the Biblical text. [Condensed and adapted from the NScofRB.]
...thus shall they be cut down, when he shall pass through...
The LORD "passes through" in judgment. He "passes over" in salvation (Ex 12:23; Isa 31:5).
     Assyria had received a foretaste of their fate, with the loss of 185,000 soldiers encamped against Jerusalem, long before the Lord passed through their land (Isa 37:35-37).
...I will afflict thee no more...-
When the LORD passed through their land, their judgment would be complete. He would not need to pass through in judgment a second time (v.9).
13 For now will I break his yoke from off thee, and will burst thy bonds in sunder.
The LORD speaks this word of encouragement to Jerusalem.
In Hezekiah's day, Assyria was at the peak of their power. The fulfillment of this prophecy would have seemed laughably unlikely, except to those who knew and trusted Him.
14 And the LORD hath given a commandment concerning thee,
[that] no more of thy name be sown:
out of the house of thy gods will I cut off the graven image and the molten image:
I will make thy grave; for thou art vile.
The LORD speaks this word of judgment to Assyria and to its king. more of thy name be sown...
The nation would be cut off, and forgotten, never to rise again.
The king of Assyria would have no more seed. This was fulfilled when Sennacherib returned to his country, and was slain by his own sons (Isa 37:37,38).
...thy gods will I cut off...
The Assyrian religion involved prolific idolatry. When the Medes and Babylonians destroyed Nineveh (612 BC), they also destroyed the idols, which were offensive to their own form of religion.
...for thou art vile...
The english word 'vile' connotes corruption and wickedness. The wickedness of Nineveh is described in ch. 3. However, this Hebrew word {HB=qalal}, which is sometimes translated as 'cursed,' means 'trifling, of little account' (eg., Job 40:4). While the Assyrians were confident in their invincible military might, in reality, they were 'nothing.' The LORD would easily sweep them away.
15 Behold upon the mountains the feet of him
that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace!
O Judah, keep thy solemn feasts, perform thy vows:
for the wicked shall no more pass through thee; he is utterly cut off.
Judah is encouraged to trust the LORD in the face of Assyrian oppression.
For soon, they will receive the good news that the enemy has been defeated.
Their faith in God will soon be rewarded and they will joyfully keep their annual 'pilgrim festivals,' and perform the vows that they made to Him as they prayed for deliverance (Eze 36:37,38).
In the meantime, they must wait and trust Him.
...for the wicked shall no more pass through thee; he is utterly cut off.
The end of the Assyrian nation did not bring the end of Judah's trouble. Not long after Nineveh fell, Babylon arose to conquer Jerusalem and take it captive. Under Gentile dominion, Israel (consisting of all twelve tribes) is still awaiting the good news of peace.
     Although Nahum's prophecy is dominated by the judgment upon Nineveh, it also looks beyond to the rise and defeat of the Antichrist, who is, ultimately, the one in view in v.11.
     Elsewhere, 'the Antichrist' is called 'the wicked' one (2The 2:3-12) and "the Assyrian" (Isa 10:24; 14:25; Mic 5:5,6). At first, Israel will put their confidence in the strength of this world leader (Isa 10:12-25, note v.20). However, it will not be long before his ungodly identity and intentions are known. When Israel recognizes their error and turns to the LORD, He will act to destroy the satanically empowered 'Assyrian' and his associated gentile world powers, which together are the 'Babylon' of the end times (Isa 14:12,21-27; Rev 18:2).
     [To understand the prophetic connection between 'the Assyrian' and 'the Antichrist', see the Book Notes on the passages referenced in the above paragraph.]
...the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace...-
The messengers, who reported the fall of Nineveh, brought comfort to those dwelling in Jerusalem. But that comfort was soon broken by the Babylonian invasion. Nahum's prophecy looks far beyond the LORD's judgment of Nineveh, in anticipation of the end of Israel's troubles.
     This message of peace is echoed in Isa 52:7, where the context (beginning at Isa 40:1-11) rings with joy at Israel's final deliverance from all of her oppressors (Isa 51:12,13; 52:1-12), and reveals the identity and work of the Deliverer (Isa 52:13- 53:12).
     This same good news reverberates in the NT, in Rom 10:13-15, where the context shows that God is not done with Israel... that their Deliverer will come to them (Rom 11:25-27)... and that, in Him, Salvation is presently available for 'whosoever shall call' upon Him (Rom 10:1-13).

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