Author and His Times
Nahum (unknown apart from this book) prophesies to Judah sometime after Assyria’s peak of power in 663 BC (Assyria’s conquering of Thebes, and therefore Egypt), yet prior to the fall of Assyria in 612 BC – most probable dating is closer to the later. He is from Ekosh – but no one knows where that is. He prophesied the destruction of Nineveh (and therefore all of Assyria) for their legendary and barbaric cruelty/injustice in conquest. Nahum prophesied while Kings Manasseh and Josiah were Assyrian vassals, therefore making Nahum’s prophecy very politically incorrect.
Nineveh and the rest of Assyria falls in 612 BC, never to rise again. Alexander did not even notice the site a few centuries later in 331 BC. Traces of the city were first discovered in AD 1842. A very impressive defeat for the Mede/Scythian/Babylonian union considering Nineveh’s 100 ft. wall, 140 x 60 ft moat, and 1200 defense towers. Jonah show Nineveh’s YHWH’s compassion, Nahum showed them His justice.
I. (1.2-8) Devine Warrior Victory Hymn
II. (1.9-2.2) Oracle #1
III. (2.3-13) Vision of Nineveh’s Ruin
IV. (3.1-17) Series of Oracles and Taunts on Nineveh’s Demise
V. (3.18-19) Satirical Dirge over the Fallen Assyrian Empire
Like Obadiah, this prophetic “woe” was against a foreign nation. The oracles probably were not delivered on foreign soil, nor were they directed at calling Judah to repentance. The prophesied destruction of Assyria was simply for Judah’s comfort. If God stretched you to forgive your enemies through Jonah, He relieves the tension a bit by the justice presented in Nahum.
How to Read It
Alertness to the metaphors, as well as the various poetic forms (hymn, salvation, doom, taunt, dirge) will go a long way in your reading. Read II Kings 17-23 and II Chronicles 33-34 for the historical background of Nahum’s times.