We begin with the prophet Nahum whose ministry extended from 663-612 B.C. He was alive during the spiritual revival in Judah under King Josiah (640-609 B.C.), but Judah squandered the spiritual awakening and soon lapsed back into its idolatrous practices. Similarly, Nineveh shook off the spiritual awakening initiated during Jonah’s preaching. The country quickly took up its previous practices of extreme brutalities over conquered armies, and re-established their horrendous reputation for cruelty. That was the Nineveh Nahum condemned.
For Nineveh, the chance for self-reformation had expired (1:7-9). Nahum opened his prophecy by extolling the moral attributes of God, citing His righteousness as the basis for the impending destruction of Nineveh, the Capital of Assyria. He compared its coming destruction to an “overrunning flood” which would result in darkness in the land. We can understand the destruction brought about by water in the tsunami that shattered the economy of Japan. More to the point, we will be grappling for years trying to reverse the vast destruction on Delaware, New Jersey, and New York by the hurricane Sandy as its force came ashore at high tide, bringing incalculable destruction. Something like that happened at Nineveh. Apparently an earthquake changed the course of the Tigris River, destroying the city walls which allowed invading armies free access to the city.
Next, the Bible states that God can override wicked strategies (vv. 12-13). The wicked counselor of verse 11, not a part of our assigned verses, but the reference is probably to Sennacherib, king of the Assyrians, who had fought against Judah in the time of the prophet Isaiah (2 Kings 19:20-23). The king of Assyria was slain by two of his sons, Adrammelech and Sharezer (2 Kings 19:37). With the immediate threat removed, God would withhold for a time the inevitable capture of Jerusalem (v. 13).
Nahum describes Nineveh at the height of its power, around 622 B.C., but foretold its coming destruction (vv. 12-13). We know it came only 10 years later, in 612 B.C. For the time being, the judgment of Judah was postponed. It’s fall would begin in 606 B.C. and be completed by 587 B.C. God’s long-range promised captivity was but a few short years away.
Nahum graphically described Nineveh’s fall (2:8-10). He prophesied about Nineveh standing in a pool of water, that is, surrounded by the Tigris River when the walls of the city collapsed, sending water cascading over the city. With the waters came the Medo-Persian armies, slaying everything in their path. The Assyrian army was overrun. As soldiers fell, their commanding officers shouted, “Stand! Stand!” None dared look back to fallen comrades. The vision then shifted to the conquerors pillaging the treasury of riches amassed by the Assyrians (v. 9). When the city was destroyed, those who survived could only attend their wounds (v. 10).
The Bible then interrupts this dismal picture as it focuses attention on God’s judgment (vv. 11-12). Historians have their interpretation of Nineveh’s ball, but the Bible goes behind the scenes for a moral interpretation. The God of history weighed the nation in the scales of justice and found them lacking (v. 12). His judgment of Judah was prolonged, but the end was near, just six years later.
We close with God’s final assessment (3:18-19). The national leaders, then lying in the grave, had left the people without a successor who could leader the shattered people. The surrounding nations could clap their hands that Nineveh was gone forever.
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