Introduction to Nahum
The name of Nahum means “comfort,” and his very name must have given comfort to the nation of Judah as he predicted the imminent destruction of her inveterate enemy, the unspeakable Assyrians, with their mighty capital, ancient Nineveh. Nahum is called an “Elkoshite,” but the location of Elkosh is unknown. Many think Elkosh was later renamed Kaphar Nahum (“the Village of Nahum”) in his honor. This city was known as Capernaum, in Galilee, in New Testament times. If so, Nahum was a native of the northern kingdom of Israel, but moved to Judah after the Assyrian invasion and destruction of Israel.
His entire prophecy is an indictment of Nineveh and a prophecy of its soon-coming judgment. Although it is not mentioned by Nahum, it had been about 150 years since Nineveh’s king and people had all repented of their wickedness and turned to the Lord at the preaching of Jonah. Since that generation, however, Nineveh and the Assyrians had descended into greater depths of cruelty and evil than ever, and God’s could no longer tolerate such sinfulness. He used Assyria to punish Israel, but now Assyria’s time had come, and Nahum’s prophecy announced it in no uncertain terms.
Although some have suggested Nahum prophesied during the reign of Hezekiah in Judah, the evidence seems to fit better the closing days of Josiah’s rule. In any case, Nahum’s prophecies against Nineveh were completely fulfilled.
1:1 Nineveh. Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, was destroyed in 612 B.C., by a confederacy of the hosts of Babylon, Media, and Scythia, according to the generally accepted Biblical chronology, so the prophecy of Nahum was given before that. The exact date, however, is unknown.
1:1 Nahum. Nahum was a prophet of Judah, but his prophecy focuses entirely on Nineveh and Assyria. His home was in Elkosh, which may later have been renamed Kaphar-Nahum (the village of Nahum), or Capernaum, in honor of its most famous citizen.
1:2 his adversaries. Nineveh had turned to God at the preaching of Jonah, perhaps a century or so before Nahum’s prophecy. Having once heard and professed the truth, the guilt of Nineveh became all the more inexcusable when she turned from the Lord into greater violence and wickedness than ever. Hence, Nahum prophesied God would soon take revenge on “His adversaries.”
1:3 in the storm. Although tornadoes and other violent storms are natural phenomena in the world under God’s Curse (Genesis 3:17-19), their causes are very complex and their timing and intensity cannot yet be predicted by scientists. Angels, however, with greater wisdom, can—to some degree—control them for God’s purposes. In fact, as Job’s experiences showed, even Satan and his fallen angels may have this knowledge (Job 1:13-20).
1:4 drieth up all the rivers. Compare Joel 1:20; Revelation 11:6; 16:12. The catastrophic natural phenomena implied here go far beyond any events that occurred when Nineveh was destroyed by the Babylonians and their allies. However, such events are described in connection with the great tribulation period of the last days. This may well mean that at least some of the prophecies of Nahum, like many other Old Testament prophetic Scriptures, have both near and far fulfillments. The immediate focus was on wicked Nineveh and its coming destruction. The long-range view, however, looks toward end-time catastrophes on all these Bible lands, including the Assyro/Babylonian region where Nineveh once reigned.
1:5 burned at his presence. Note such last-day characteristics as revealed in Revelation 6:12; 8:7; II Peter 3:10.
1:7 day of trouble. “The day of trouble” may refer to the tribulation period of the last days. This comforting promise to those who trust in the Lord would seem more appropriately applied to the persecuted believers of that day, rather than to any believing Ninevites (if there were any) at the time when Nineveh was destroyed by the invading armies of Babylon and its confederates.
1:11 imagineth evil. Many scholars believe that Nahum prophesied in Judah at least partially during the reign of Hezekiah. If so, this could well be a prediction of the imminent invasion of Judah and Jerusalem by the Assyrian armies under Sennacherib.
1:12 he shall pass through. Again assuming that this passage refers mainly to the armies of Sennacherib, this is a remarkable prophecy of the miraculous deliverance of Jerusalem. “Though they [the Assyrians] be quiet [i.e., asleep], and likewise many [185,000], yet thus shall they be cut down [all slain], when he [i.e., the angel of the LORD] shall pass through” (II Kings 19:35).
1:14 make thy grave. Over and over again Nahum prophesies the utter demise—not only of Sennacherib (II Kings 19:36-37) and his descendants—but eventually even of Nineveh and the entire Assyrian empire. This was completely fulfilled.
1:15 publisheth peace. This beautiful pre-Christian gospel message evidently was repeated and extended by Isaiah, sometime after the miraculous deliverance from Sennacherib (Isaiah 52:7).