“Introduction to the Book of Nahum,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)
“Nahum,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual
The book of Nahum contains a prophecy that Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, would be destroyed because of its people’s wickedness. The Assyrians had brutally conquered and terrorized large areas of the Near East in the eighth century B.C., destroying the Northern Kingdom of Israel and deporting its inhabitants in approximately 721 B.C. and later laying siege to Jerusalem in 701 B.C.
Nahum addressed a significant portion of his prophecy to the people of Nineveh. These people were not the same as those who had repented of their sins after Jonah had preached in Nineveh more than a century earlier. The people of Nineveh in Nahum’s time had returned to wickedness, and their actions led to their destruction. The destruction of Assyria can be likened to the destruction of the wicked in the last days. By studying the Ninevites in both Jonah’s day and Nahum’s time, students can learn that when people turn from sin, the Lord will forgive them, and when they do not, they will be destroyed.
As students study the book of Nahum, they can also learn that God cares deeply about His people and will not let their oppressors go unpunished. Students can also learn of the great mercy that the Lord shows to those who trust in Him.
According to Nahum 1:1, this book records “the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite.” We do not know whether Nahum wrote or dictated the words of this vision or someone else wrote them. Nahum prophesied in the seventh century B.C., at about the same time as Zephaniah and Jeremiah. Each of these prophets shared insights into the years leading up to the Babylonian conquest of Judah.
The prophecy of Nahum was most likely recorded in the kingdom of Judah sometime after 660 B.C. and before the fall of Nineveh, which occurred around 606 B.C. (see Bible Dictionary, “Nahum”).
Nahum wrote in poetic form, using imagery and symbolism. His tone is markedly hostile toward Nineveh, especially in chapters 2 and 3, which describe the city’s destruction and humiliation. The book’s description of the Lord’s anger may cause some readers to feel uncomfortable. However, it is important to recognize that underlying the Lord’s anger toward Nineveh is a deep sense of concern for the suffering of the many people who had been conquered, slain, enslaved, and terrorized by Assyria (see Nahum 3:19). The Lord’s judgments of the wicked are connected to His compassion for their victims.
The meaning of Nahum’s name, “consoler,” plays an important role in the prophet’s message (see Bible Dictionary, “Nahum”). The unrepentant wicked will receive no comfort (see Nahum 3:7), but the righteous can take comfort from Nahum’s message that the Lord cares about them and will one day bring an end to wickedness.
Nahum 1 Nahum explains that the Lord will burn the earth at His Second Coming but will show mercy to the righteous.
Nahum 2 Nahum prophesies of Nineveh’s destruction, which foreshadows events that will occur in the latter days.
Nahum 3 Nahum continues to foretell Nineveh’s destruction.