Nahum (The Book & The Prophet)

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Date of Book Authorship: 7th century BC (Pre-Exilic)
Date of Prophet’s Activity: 7th century BC
Audience: Inhabitants of Judah

Nahum was a minor prophet whose name meant “comforter.” Not much is known about him other than that he came from the town Alqosh and was an Elkoshite (Nahum 1:1), and was likely active during the 7th century BC. The book was written in the 7th century BC likely between 663 and 612 BC. It is possible to estimate Nahum’s date of authorship given that chapter 3 speaks of the fall of Thebes which occurred in 663 BC as an event that had already past (1). Additionally, throughout the book the prophet prophesied the imminence of the fall of the city of Nineveh which occurred in 612 BC. The book of Nahum was addressed to both Judah and Nineveh, and particularly Israelite readers living in Judah.

Key to the text are Nahum’s oracles against the city of Nineveh (2). Nineveh been made the capital of the Assyrian Empire by King Sennacherib, and Nuham’s oracles represented all that the Judeans despised concerning the Assyrians, and they looked forward to its destruction. The Assyrians had destroyed Samaria (722-721 BC) which resulted in the captivity of the northern kingdom of Israel, and they thus posed a threat to Judah. The prophet Nahum condemns the Assyrians for their evil and violence,

“Woe to the city of blood, full of lies, full of plunder, never without victims! The crack of whips, the clatter of wheels, galloping horses and jolting chariots! Charging cavalry, flashing swords and glittering spears! Many casualties, piles of dead, bodies without number, people stumbling over the corpses” (3:1-4).

The final king of the Assyrian empire, Ashurbanipal (669–627) is remembered for being a particularly violent, brutal, and cruel towards his enemies. However, after his death the empire’s influence and power weakened which culminated in the destruction of Nineveh in 612 BC. The destruction of the city is depicted in the book of Nahum in some graphic detail which is consistent with its style and vocabulary expressed in its poetry, metaphors, similes, repetition, and imagery. The prophet seemed to revel and boast in the ruin of Nineveh following years of oppression and suffering under its rule. Thus, the main theme in the book of Nahum is that Yahweh punishes any nation that has exploited his people and treated them cruelly, and in this case it was Assyria. Yahweh remains supreme over against any international empire.

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