Nahum: A Stronghold in the Day of Trouble
Key Text: Chapter 1:7
“The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.”
Nahum; The Man and his Times
Nahum is simply defined as being the Elkoshite, 1:1. There has been considerable discussion as to where the place of his birth was situated. There is a strong tradition that his home village was sited in Galilee. This is borne out by the fact that the town of Capernaum, in the Galilee region, means “The Village of Nahum”. Others will argue that he was from a place in Judah, as his prophecy had more of an interest for the Southern Kingdom than for the north, Galilee being situated in the north.
While it is not possible to fix with any certainty his ancestral home we can confidently pin point the period in which he served the Lord. In 3:8 he refers to a city called “No” which was conquered. Authorities are agreed that this was the capital of Upper Egypt which was famous for its wealth and military power. This city was known by two names. One was No-Ammon which had reference to the idol of the god Ammon which was worshipped there. The other more famous name for this Egyptian city was Thebes. In 3:10, however, Nahum records the desolation of No-Ammon which took place at the hands of the Assyrians in 664-63 BC. This suggests that Nahum’s prophecy occurs after this historical incident.
Nahum’s prophecy, focuses upon the city of Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire. From the outset his writing is described as “The Burden of Nineveh” (1:1). He prophecies the eventual destruction, of what was in his day, the greatest city ever built.
In the 2nd Chapter Nahum anticipates, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, the details of Nineveh’s conquest. Verse 6 is most striking where the gates of the rivers are opened up, bringing about the dissolution of the palace. There was a strong belief, which apparently existed in Nineveh, that when the river Tigris turned against the city, Nineveh would be destroyed. When the armies, led by the city of Babylon besieged Nineveh, they did so after a time of heavy and persistent rain that caused considerable flooding. As a result the foundations of the wall were eroded making it possible for the enemy to breach the defences. As a result the King of Nineveh made a massive funeral pyre not only for himself but for his eunuchs and concubines, burning down his entire palace before the enemy reached him. This occurred in 612 BC. Therefore Nahum’s place in history is fixed between the fall of No-Ammon in Egypt and the collapse of Nineveh, by the Tigris, in modern day Iraq.
Nahum ministered during the last 50 years of the kingdom of Judah. He was certainly a contemporary of Jeremiah and may have witnessed the spiritual revival, which took place during the good reign of King Josiah.
The Core Purpose of Nahum’s Prophecy
Judah was a small Kingdom, which was encircled by the menace that had come from Nineveh. A century earlier the Assyrians had both conquered and brought an end to Israel, the northern kingdom among the Jews. Nahum described the fall of No-Ammon at the hands of Nineveh, in Egypt. Therefore to the north, to the south, to the east and to the west the soldiers of Nineveh ruled supreme. Yet Judah was protected.
There was a very good reason why Jerusalem was spared the treatment that other great cities had experienced at the hands of the Assyrians. Before Nahum’s day, the armies of Sennacherib, the Assyrian Emperor, besieged Jerusalem, but were defeated by the angel of death in the still of the night. This event was so engrained into the consciousness of the greatest military power on earth that they passed by Judah and left this Kingdom alone.
Nevertheless as Nineveh became stronger there was much fear within Judah. They had some reason to fear. Nineveh was infamous for her cruelty towards whatever people she subjugated. Nineveh was a rich city, with wealth that had been plundered from whatever nation she had annexed.
In 1:7 Nahum comforts Judah with the wonderful words, “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.”
Nineveh was a powerful fortress. The inner city was surrounded by a wall which was 8 miles in circumference. It was 100 feet high and was so wide that chariots could race 3 abreast on top of it. This wall had 1200 towers and 14 gates. Beyond this wall was the outer city surrounded by yet another longer, outer wall. Beyond the outer wall was what we might call extensive suburbs. It took Jonah 3 days to travel through Nineveh preaching the message God had given him.
Nahum, however, taught Judah, that Jehovah was a stronghold greater than Nineveh.
Martin Luther took great encouragement from this text when he wrote:
“We must relate and apply it not merely to that trial of Judah but to absolutely every day of our trials and adversities, so that we may learn to flee for refuge in any trial at all to this sweetness of the Lord as if to a holy anchorage.”
The Wider Purpose of Nahum’s Prophecy
Nineveh was once one of the most ancient of all the cities in the world. Genesis 10:10-14 tells about the rise of the first world empire under Nimrod. He built several cities. The most famous and most enduring were Babel (Babylon) and Nineveh. Nineveh was the first to rise to prominence to be followed by Babylon. Nimrod was a mighty hunter in that he was a tyrant, a despot. His name means rebel. Babel was the centre of the first false religion in world history indicating that Nimrod was a hunter of souls. A rebel against God in the greatest sense of the word. This character persisted in Nineveh because twice Nahum describes this city as imagining or plotting against Jehovah (1:9, 11). This was a city that had elevated herself as God.
Therefore the God of Israel was going to bring this city down showing that He was the only true God and none can stand against Him.
In this regard Nineveh is a fitting illustration of all the Kingdoms in the world today with their bustling cities and their vast populations.
There is a spirit in this world which is as the spirit of ancient Nineveh. There is rebellion against God manifesting itself through false religion and atheism. This rebellion is a fostering of the depravity endemic in human nature. Therefore a society which is rebellious is cruel and corrupt. Nahum, in the third chapter, identifies the cruelties of Nineveh. In Romans 3 Paul catalogues the sins of the Roman world, in which he resided. We observe the same character traits in our society today.
Yet God has suffered long with Nineveh. Nahum identifies this attribute of God in 1:3. Indeed a century earlier Jonah visited Nineveh and the great city was brought to repentance. Tragically later generations had forgotten this remarkable work of grace.
So it is in the great nations of the world today. The message of the Gospel has been preached, many of these Kingdoms have experienced revival, but sadly future generations have forgotten or have turned away from the message of grace through Christ.
Nahum’s message was that the long suffering of God will eventually wear out and come to an end. Therefore from the beginning of his prophecy, Nahum writes about the vengeance of God. Judgement day was on the horizon for Nineveh. So it is for this world of sin in which we live. The Presidents, Prime Ministers and Monarchs of this world take no account of their creator, but He takes notice of them. Governments do not regulate their policies in the light the Day of Judgement. But still there is a God who will hold them to account for all their actions.
This wider vision of Nahum is exceedingly solemn as we consider it with God’s dealings with all sinful and wicked humanity in view. It ought to draw us into the prayer offered by Habakkuk, our next study, who cried out that God would “in wrath remember mercy” (3:2).