Introduction to the Book of Nahum
and Study of Nahum 1-3
September 23rd

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Nahum (Overview)

Nahum is one of the Minor Prophets, but at least one commentator has observed that he provides "one of the most dramatic texts in the Old Testaments (1)." He served as a prophet in Judah (the southern kingdom of Israel) during the reigns of Manasseh and Josiah. Nahum is presumed to have been the author of the book and focuses mostly on a judgment against Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. The oracle is directed against Nineveh, but the intended audience is the Israeli people in exile in Assyria and the small remnant who remained in Jerusalem and other parts of Judah. Nahum intended to give them hope and remind them of the LORD's sovereignty over all powers on earth.

The book of Jonah that we recently read had also featured a tale of the city of Nineveh. By contrast, in that case, the prophecy was intended to be heard by the people of Nineveh. They repented with sincerity following the visit from Jonah, but after a century or so they went back to their old ways and once again put themselves in the path of God’s wrath. This time there would be no opportunity for repentance.

References used in this study include the following books:

  • Boadt, Lawrence, Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction, Paulist Press, Mahwah, NJ; 1984

  • Boadt, Lawrence, Jeremiah 26-52, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Nahum, Wipf and Stock Publishers, Eugene Oregon, 1982

  • Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, MI; 1993

  • Life Application Study Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, M; 1991 (with commentary from an inter-denominational team of experts)

  • Men's Devotional Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI; 1993 (with daily devotionals from Godly men)

  • Myers, Jacob M, The Layman’s Bible Commentary, Volume 14, The Book of Hosea, The Book of Joel, the Book of Amos, the Book of Obadiah, and the Book of Jonah; John Knox Press, Richmond, VA, 1959

  • The New American Bible, Sponsored by the Bishop's Committee of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Catholic Bible Publishers, Wichita, KS, 1970

  • Peterson, Eugene, The Message, The Bible in Contemporary Language, NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO, 80920, 2005

Nahum 1-3 (No No Nineveh)

Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

The LORD is slow to anger, yet great in power;
the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished.
In stormwind and tempest he comes,
and clouds are the dust at his feet;

- Nahum 1:3 (NAB)

Summary of Chapters

In the first ten verses of chapter 1, Nahum begins with a respectful description of God as an all powerful being who wields his power as he sees fit. Humans create small puffs of dust when they walk on a dry road, but the LORD's footsteps stir up whirlwinds and tornadoes. He can be patient - but when his patience expires he can inflict any punishment he desires.

    He rebukes the sea and dries it up;
       he makes all the rivers run dry.
    Bashan and Carmel wither
       and the blossoms of Lebanon fade.
    The mountains quake before him
       and the hills melt away.
    The earth trembles at his presence,
       the world and all who live in it.

    - Nahum 1:4-5 (NIV)

The first part of the chapter is a prelude to the oracle against Nineveh. In the last part of chapter 1, the LORD explains that he will use this power to punish Nineveh, who put yokes on the necks of the people of Judah but points out that Judah has already suffered enough and will not be punished any further.

Chapter 2 describes the attack to be carried out by other nations as instruments for the LORD. The attacker will storm the city with an overwhelming force of chariots in red, causing confusion and disarray in the besieged city of Nineveh. The city will be plundered. The predators will become the prey and they will cease to exist.

In chapter 3, Nahum continues with a description of the suffering and embarrassment to be faced by Nineveh because of its sins. He concludes with a statement that depicts the world’s reaction to this event and the overarching reason for the punishment:

    When the story of your fate gets out,
       the whole world will applaud and cry “Encore!”
    Your cruel evil has seeped
       into every nook and cranny of the world.
       Everyone has felt it and suffered.

    - Nahum 3:19 (MSG)

Reflection and Application

While Micah used clever relations of words and sarcasm to draw attention to his message, Nahum uses beautiful poetry to describe God, such as the line in verse 1:3: “His way is in the whirlwind and the storm and clouds are the dust of his feet.” We don't need to be as poetic as Nahum when we describe our LORD, but we can be influenced and inspired by the descriptions used by Nahum in his adoration of our Creator.

Note the sins committed by Nineveh, as described by Nahum: It was pride and the arrogance of thinking they were above God. Let this serve as a reminder to us to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.

For further reflection on the book of Nahum, we recommended an essay from Joe Buchanan, the Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Metropolis, Illinois. In this thoughtful essay, Rev Buchanan notes that Nahum is among the most neglected books in the Bible and he outlines several important reminders that Nahum provides for us. Here is a couple of excerpts from his introduction::

    In the entire history of preaching I doubt there is any section of the Bible more neglected than the minor prophets and among the minor prophets none is as ignored as the book of Nahum. ...The message that Nahum delivers is one of judgment and the picture of God given in the book is one of vengeance, wrath and anger. Consider the second verse of the opening chapter, “The Lord is a jealous, and avenging God; the Lord is avenging and wrathful; the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps earth for his enemies.” (1:2) This picture of God doesn’t go over too well in the modern church but I would like to suggest that there’s more to Nahum than what we see at first glance. There are hidden nuggets in this short book that the modern church desperately needs to hear. Let me just mention a few of the important themes that make Nahum one of the most relevant books for our times...

You can read the full text at the following link:
"Nawho? — Why We Need to Preach From the Most Neglected Book of the Bible"

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What is the strongest wind that you ever felt?
    2. What colorful words would we use to describe our concept of God?
    3. Why did God choose to save the people of Nineveh during the visit from Jonah but not during the time of Nahum?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we know you are the Creator and can summon massive armies from Heaven or Earth, according to your will. Help us to address you accordingly and talk to others about you and your Glory.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    Building Engineers and Maintenance Workers


    (1) Boadt, Lawrence, Jeremiah 26-52, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Nahum, Wipf and Stock Publishers, Eugene Oregon, 1982, p. 233

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Book of Habakkuk (Suggestions for God to Consider)

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