Bible Teaching Notes
Tuesday, September 19, 2017
Omar C. Garcia

Nahum

Notes by Jerry Perrill, Missionary to Laos and Thailand (Retired)


First, consider a bit of history, putting Assyria and its capital Nineveh in historical context. 
 
Some 100 years before this Nahum’s prophecy, a man by the name of Jonah had reluctantly gone to Nineveh (after his encounter with a large fish) to preach the downfall of that great city. He was afraid that that cruel nation might repent if they heard the word of God, - and they did! Perhaps the experience of Sennacherib, king of Assyria – when he lost 185,000 men in battle outside of Jerusalem (see Isaiah chaps 36, 37) had prepared the people to hear the Word of the Lord! But sadly this response to the great God lasted only a short while. Sennacherib returned home and was assassinated by two of his sons and the nation went from bad to worse.
 
We don’t know when the book was written, but it has to be between 663 B.C. when Thebes, a great city of southern Egypt (see 3:8), fell to Nineveh’s expanding kingdom; and 612 B. C. when Nineveh itself fell. During most of that 50 years Ashurbanipal was the king who ruled and expanded that kingdom into what we might call the superpower of the world. By their mighty power they pillaged, plundered, humbled and killed every thing and every one in front of them. They even conquered mighty Egypt and reduced Jerusalem to paying homage to them. He had great building projects, religious pursuits, cultivation of their great culture. It was the zenith of Assyrian imperialism and has been termed the Pax Assyrianca.  The lure of wealth and luxury brought multitudes to Nineveh.
 
During this time – bright for Assyria; dismal for God’s people – Nahum’s short message comes to the forefront. 
 
Here is an outline of the book, taken from The Wycliffe Exegetical Commentary, ‘Nahum’ by Richard D. Patterson:
 
Superscription (1:1)
 
I.          The Doom of Nineveh Declared (1:2-2:1)
 
            A.         Theme: God is a God of justice who will punish the wicked and avenge
                                    His own (1:2)
            B.         Development: A hymn to the Sovereign God (1:2-10)
 
                        1.         Who defeats His foes (1:2-6)
                        2.         Who destroys the plotters (1:7-10)
 
            C.         Application: God’s justice for Nineveh and Judah (1:11-2:1)
 
II.          The Doom of Nineveh Described (2:1-3:19)
 
            A.         Theme: God is a just Governor of the Nations who will punish wicked
                                    Nineveh and restore His own (2:1-2)
            B.         Development: First description of Nineveh’s demise (2:3-10)
            C.         Application: The discredited city (2:11-13)
            D.         Development: Second description of Nineveh’s demise (3:1-7)
            E.         Application: The defenseless citadel (3:8-19)
 
                        1.         A comparison of Nineveh and Thebes (3:8-13)
                        2.         A concluding condemnation of Nineveh (3:14-19)
 
Notes on the text:
 
1:1        Nahum means ‘comfort’ but the only comfort is towards the faithful in Israel as God’s
people long oppressed by Assyria. No one is sure where Elkosh was. We see the word book in it making some wonder if it were first preached aloud and later put to paper, or as a book (letter) to be sent to Nineveh. Unlike the slim hope that Obadiah held out for Edom at the last (vv. 19-21), Nahum has no such comfort for Nineveh, the sole recipient of this prophecy.
 
1:2        Jealous is used in the positive sense as a parent might be jealous for the good of a child
– even if it meant correction and discipline for that child. Three times the avenger is mentioned; twice as being a God of wrath. For the family relationship between God and His people, see   Isa. 54:4-17; Jer. 2:4-3:5; Ezek. 16 (whole chapter). Attributing jealousy to the Lord poses no problem for in OT usage jealousy is but the intolerance of rivalry or unfaithfulness.  This strong word emphasizes the Lord’s right to exclusive possession of His people.
 
1:2-6     Though God is patient, slow to anger, he will, in His perfect time, execute His great
power, and will surely not leave (the guilty) unpunished. This is always balanced by His good purposes to His chosen.  This hymn gives us a poetic description of the character of God and the response of the world and the people in it to this God in all His power. The OT often emphasizes God’s majesty by associating Him with the clouds, the whirlwind and with a devastating effect on the rocks, mountains, waters, etc. See Ps. 68:4; Isa. 19:1.  
 
1:7-10   The word trust is literally ‘those who take refuge in,’ and has come to have the idea of
the believer’s absolute and exclusive trust in Yahweh. For those who put their total trust in the Lord and in Him alone, God is indeed a strong fortress, and that one can stand when troubles come in like an overwhelming flood. In verse 10, the point of comparison is a picture of total consumption: the bush by its thorns, the drunkard by his drink, the dry stubble by fire. If you use the NIV, notice the little half-brackets under ‘Nineveh’ (1:8, 11, 14; 2:1) and under ‘Judah’ (1:12). This means that the translators have decided to help you in reading, because the Hebrew has only the pronoun ‘he, him’. Perhaps the author wanted his readers to pay attention. Good idea for us too!!!!!

1:11-15   
The style changes from the hymnic (song) to narrative in this section. The sad results
are described by Maier and the archaeologists discoveries:
“Some sections of the Nabu temple were so completely overturned that competent investigators decided further exploration of these sites would not pay. Slabs written by Ashurbanipal have ben found at Nineveh with the King’s inscription asking the god Ishtar, “For all time, O Ishtar, look upon it (the temple) with favor.” The utter devastation of this sanctuary only 14 years after Ashurbanipal’s death proved Istar’s impotence and God’s justice.”
Another adds, “The statue of Ishtar was discovered, prostrate and headless, amid the ruins of her temple, which had stood at Nineveh for almost 15 centuries.”
 
Verse 15 picks up the theme of Isaiah 52:7 and later echoed by Paul in Rom. 10:15. The hope for believers far surpasses the prophecy of Isaiah and Nahum. There is good news!
 
2:1-3:19  The message of doom is unrelenting in the prophesied end of a once great but
rebellious and wicked nation. 2:1 is a satirical call to Nineveh to prepare for battle (as if any preparation against God could ever be adequate!). Then 2:2 is an encouragement to Israel. Then from 2:3 on is a message of relentless judgment against Assyria. Terrifying in that God says twice in this passage (2:13; 3:5) I am against you, says the Lord of Hosts. Nothing can ever be more eternally terrifying than that!
 
Practical stuff for 21st C entury Christians drawn from the text:
 
1:2        Three times in this verse we read that God is a God of just vengeance. We remind
ourselves from time to time of the words in Romans 12:19, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” quoted from Deut. 32:35. But do we seriously believe that one day God will take vengeance on all unrighteousness. Some who have read Nahum think that it is very unfair for God to come down so hard on Nineveh. They know very little about the awful consequences of sin. This leads us to ‘fear the Lord’ in a real sense and to agree with Hebrews 10:31, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
 
1:3-2:1 In these verses we read of the mighty character of God and of His dealing both with
 wickedness and as a refuge to those who trust Him. Especially in the application part of this chapter, verses 8-15, you have to read carefully to see when the message is directed towards unbelieving wickedness and when it is to His believing people.
 
2:2-3:19 The rest of the book (part II in the outline above) speaks of awesome and terrible ruin
and destruction on Nineveh. One can only read it and weep with fear and trembling not only for those of a once mighty nation, but for our selves and for a nation that seems determined to press on in continuingly wicked ways. We have, in our democratic ways, sentenced over 40 million, helpless innocent babies to death. We gloat over the right to consume alcohol and in the same period as we have been involved in Iraq, have killed over ten times as many by alcohol-related deaths as the causalities of war. We scream for our rights and refuse our responsibilities. We pass laws making it illegal to speak of God and defend a moral standard based on the Commandments He has given us. And on and on. . . . How long before God judges us? Billy Graham once said, “God will have to forgive Sodom and Gomorrah if He doesn’t judge America!” How long before He says to us as He said to Assyria in two different places (see 2:13; 3:5), “’I am against you,’ declares the Lord Almighty.” Does that phrase not almost paralyze our hearts with fear?

Listen to these words by Dever on She is pillaged, plundered, stripped!” (2:10):
That is exactly what happened. Nineveh’s end was absolutely traumatic. In 612 the Medes, Babylonians and Scythians, aided by rain and rising rivers washed through the walls and attackers poured into the city . . . Before invaders could grab the king, he gathered up his wives and concubines into an inner part of his palace and burned them all in an immense funeral pyre. . . . When the site of ancient Nineveh was finally discovered and excavated in 1842, archeologists found no stores of silver and gold, as they hoped for. It was absolutely empty. Everything was taken – ‘stripped’ bare. Indeed, these first archeologists found unusually deep strata of ashes.
 
I wrote these words in my Bible several years ago. They are still true.
 
Only too readily do men think that, because wickedness is allowed for a time, it is
therefore condoned. The opening passage (1:2-8) is a reminder that God’s righteous anger is directed against all unrighteousness and that, without trust and repentance, there is no forgiveness ever!
 
As the commentary by Mark Dever concludes the summary of Nahum, God is in charge! Read chapter 1:2-8 once again.



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