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The Prophecy of Nahum - 09-19-2014
The prologue concerning the dating of the prophets is found here: http://christogenea.org/GreekOT/books-prophets
Here we shall present the prophecy of Nahum, with some commentary and material from some of the correlating scriptures and history. Not much is known of Nahum himself. The prophet does not date himself except by the conditions expressed in his writing, and only calls himself Nahum the Elkoshite, most likely meaning that he came from a place named Elkosh.
There is conjecture that Capernaum, the New Testament town, was named for the prophet. The Hebrew word which gives us the name Nahum means comfort, and it is fitting for his message since the destruction of Assyria would be a comfort to Israel. The phrase from which the name Capernaum is derived means village of comfort. There are at least four towns named Comfort in the United States, in Texas, North Carolina, Wisconsin and West Virginia. Capernaum may have been named likewise, and there is not necessarily a connection to the prophet.
There is also a place called Alqosh in what is now northern Iraq which allegedly dates to Assyrian times, which is plausible, and for which there has been claimed a connection to the prophet for many centuries. If that is so, then Nahum would be an Israelite of the Assyrian captivity. However while this is a possibility it cannot be taken for granted that it is true, and one may argue that the context of the prophecy, especially in the first chapter, places the prophet in Jerusalem.
Now for a discussion of the historical background of Nahum's prophecy. Some chronologies place the beginning of the rule of Hezekiah the king of Judah as early as 729 BC. Hezekiah ruled the kingdom of Judah for twenty-nine years. Others begin his reign as late as 715 BC. 2 Kings 18:10 states that Samaria was taken in the 6th year of the rule of Hezekiah, and that is generally accepted to have happened in 722 or 721 BC. So a starting date of 727 for the beginning of Hezekiah's rule is a fair estimate, counting the years inclusively, and 715 is far too late. In 2 Kings 18:13 we read that Sennacherib the king of Assyria took 46 fenced cities of Judah in the 14th year of Hezekiah, which counting inclusively from 727 would be 714 BC.
The Bible records the siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib most fully in 2 Kings chapters 18 and 19, which end with the annihilation of Sennacherib's army by apparently supernatural means: “32 Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shield, nor cast a bank against it. 33 By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, saith the LORD. 34 For I will defend this city, to save it, for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake. 35 And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses. 36 So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh. 37 And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword: and they escaped into the land of Armenia. And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead.” The period before “it came to pass”, as it says in 2 Kings 18:37, was actually quite a long time, since by the popular chronologies Esarhaddon ascended to the throne around 680 BC. While the Assyrian records are not clear about the circumstances of the death of Sennacherib, they are supportive of the Biblical account. Esarhaddon left inscriptions explaining that he was the youngest of his brothers and was the appointed successor of his father, which made his brothers jealous. Thereafter Esarhaddon attained the throne in the aftermath of a civil war against his brothers, whom he said “went out of their senses, doing everything that is wicked in (the eyes of) the gods and mankind, and (continued) their evil machinations” (ANET, p. 289).
When the Assyrians under Sennacherib had decimated Judah and had threatened Jerusalem, Hezekiah became “sick unto death”, as it is described in 2 Kings chapter 20, and he entered into prayer to Yahweh the God of Israel. He was at that time visited by the prophet Isaiah, who was nearing the end of his own ministry. Then Isaiah delivered the word of Yahweh to the king, as it is recorded in that same chapter: “5 Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the LORD. 6 And I will add unto thy days fifteen years; and I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake.” From the chronology of Scripture, these last 15 years of the life of Hezekiah were apparently from just after 714 to about 699 BC.
The destruction of the Assyrian army is reported at the end of 2 Kings chapter 19, however the illness of Hezekiah happened “in those days”, as 2 Kings chapter 20 attests, and therefore the promise of 2 Kings 20:6 certainly preceded the records of 2 Kings 19:35-37. This matter confuses all of the so-called scholars who attempt a chronology, because they all perceive the fifteen years to follow the destruction of the Assyrian army, rather than to coincide with the siege. The Bible is not written as a perfectly linear narrative. Hezekiah's illness must have occurred near the beginning or not long before the siege of Jerusalem, as Yahweh promises him that “I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake.” Jerusalem must have been under siege for a good portion of these final 15 years of the life of Hezekiah, since the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem lasted for several years.
The annals of Sennacherib have been preserved in several ancient inscriptions which have been discovered by archaeologists, including the Sennacherib Prism and the Taylor Prism. The king, according to the generally accepted chronologies, ruled Assyria from 704 to 681 BC. But if the generally accepted date for the rule of Sargon II and the fall of Samaria is accepted, then Sennacherib's rule must have started at least 10 years sooner, if the Scripture is correct. However it may be that Sennacherib, being the successor and son of Sargon II was considered king by the scribes of Judah before he actually took the throne, since he was crown prince and co-regent with his father. There are a multitude of problems when assessing ancient chronologies, however the archaeological records certainly attest to the historicity of the events themselves. The following translation from the Annals of Sennacherib concerns the siege of Jerusalem in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah (from Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, edited by James B. Pritchard and published by Princeton University Press in 1969, p. 288, translated by D. D. Luckenbill):
“As to Hezekiah, the Judahite, he did not submit to my yoke, I laid siege to 46 of his strong cities, walled forts and to the countless small villages in their vicinity, and conquered (them) by means of well-stamped (earth-)ramps, and battering-rams brought (thus) near (to the walls) (combined with) the attack by foot soldiers, (using) mines, breeches as well as sapper work. I drove out (of them) 200,150 people, young and old, male and female, horses, mules, donkeys, camels, big and small cattle beyond counting, and considered (them) booty. Himself I made a prisoner in Jerusalem, his royal residence, like a bird in a cage. I surrounded him with earthwork in order to molest those who were leaving his city's gate. His towns which I had plundered, I took away from his country and gave them (over) to Mitinti, king of Ashdod, Padi, king of Ekron, and Sillibel, king of Gaza. Thus I reduced his country, but I still increased the tribute and the katrû-presents (due) to me (as his) overlord which I imposed (later) upon him beyond the former tribute, to be delivered annually. Hezekiah himself, whom the terror-inspiring splendor of my lordship had overwhelmed and whose irregular and elite troops which he had brought into Jerusalem, his royal residence, in order to strengthen (it), had deserted him, did send me, later, to Nineveh, my lordly city, together with 30 talents of gold, 800 talents of silver, precious stones, antimony, large cuts of red stone, couches (inlaid) with ivory, nîmedu-chairs (inlaid) with ivory, elephant-hides, ebony-wood, boxwood (and) all kinds of valuable treasures, his (own) daughters, concubines, male and female musicians. In order to deliver the tribute and to do obeisance as a slave he sent his (personal) messenger.”
The Biblical account being accurate, the Annals of Sennacherib seem to be an early instance of political spin. There is no doubt that these annals were created as memorials boasting of the conquests of these kings. Therefore Sennacherib's claim to have left Hezekiah a prisoner “like a bird in a cage” is only to save face after the loss of so many thousands of his troops at the hand of ahweh the God of Israel, and his subsequent withdrawal of the siege. The siege was clearly a defeat since it failed in its purpose to take the city and lead its people captive, recorded in the words of the Assyrian ambassador Rabshakeh in 2 Kings chapter 18. Ironically, while Sennacherib boasted that he had left Hezekiah “like a bird in a cage”. The prophet Isaiah had written (Isaiah 31:5) that “5 As birds flying, so will the LORD of hosts defend Jerusalem; defending also he will deliver it; and passing over he will preserve it”, and Isaiah's words were a prophecy of the destruction of Sennacherib's army.
We have provided this background, and plan to discuss some of these things further, in part because from some of the statements in Nahum's first chapter it seems that he is alluding to the events of the reign of Hezekiah, but from the third chapter of Nahum it is evident that he is not writing until after 663 BC. However since Nineveh fell around 612 BC, the prophet must be writing before that time. It is safe to place the date of Nahum's prophecy within that 50-year period.
The text of Nahum used here is from the King James Version, while we will cite some important variations from the Septuagint or other versions.
Nahum 1:1 The burden of Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite.
The purpose of Nahum's entire prophecy is to foretell the vengeance which Yahweh will take against the Assyrians for their destruction of Israel and Judah. Nahum is not the only prophet who presaged this, as there are lengthy sections of Isaiah which foretell of the coming destruction of Assyria at the hands of the children of Israel in concert with some of the other nations that Assyria had oppressed. However this prophecy found in Nahum was written as a relatively short stand-alone lyrical poem for the particular purpose of warning of Assyria's doom. As we shall see, it seems to be an answer to the vaunting of the Assyrians against the God of Israel. That Assyria was all-powerful in the eyes of the ancient world, and that Israel and much of Judah had already been decimated by the Assyrians, makes the prophecy all the more striking. We can imagine those who heard it wondering in disbelief. Therefore Nahum's prophecy should be a source of inspiration to those of us who understand the role of true Israel in the world of today.
2 God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies. 3 The LORD is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked: the LORD hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.
The references to the adversaries, the enemies, and the wicked [which is only inferred here but which is explicit in verse 15] are all references to the Assyrians. One place in Isaiah where the purpose of Yahweh in reference to Assyria is summarized is in Isaiah chapter 10: “5 O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation. 6 I will send him against an hypocritical nation, and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. [So we see that Assyria is the rod by which Yahweh would punish the children of Israel. The hypocritical nation is Israel.] 7 Howbeit he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so; but it is in his heart to destroy and cut off nations not a few. 8 For he saith, Are not my princes altogether kings? 9 Is not Calno as Carchemish? is not Hamath as Arpad? is not Samaria as Damascus? 10 As my hand hath found the kingdoms of the idols, and whose graven images did excel them of Jerusalem and of Samaria; 11 Shall I not, as I have done unto Samaria and her idols, so do to Jerusalem and her idols? [The Assyrian is too proud of himself for the task assigned him by God.] 12 Wherefore it shall come to pass, that when the Lord hath performed his whole work upon mount Zion and on Jerusalem, I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks. 13 For he saith, By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom; for I am prudent: and I have removed the bounds of the people, and have robbed their treasures, and I have put down the inhabitants like a valiant man: 14 And my hand hath found as a nest the riches of the people: and as one gathereth eggs that are left, have I gathered all the earth; and there was none that moved the wing, or opened the mouth, or peeped. [A lesson to those of us who are successful in our endeavors is that we should always be humble in our success, and give the credit for it to God.] 15 Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? as if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were no wood. [The Assyrian was only a tool in the hand of God, and therefore should not have vaunted himself against that God.] 16 Therefore shall the Lord, the Lord of hosts, send among his fat ones leanness; and under his glory he shall kindle a burning like the burning of a fire. 17 And the light of Israel shall be for a fire, and his Holy One for a flame: and it shall burn and devour his thorns and his briers in one day; [this is one strong indication that the children of Israel would participate in the destruction of Nineveh, and there are others later in the chapter] 18 And shall consume the glory of his forest, and of his fruitful field, both soul and body: and they shall be as when a standardbearer fainteth. 19 And the rest of the trees of his forest shall be few, that a child may write them. [Little would be left of the Assyrians.]”
4 He [Yahweh] rebuketh the sea, and maketh it dry, and drieth up all the rivers: Bashan languisheth, and Carmel, and the flower of Lebanon languisheth.
Perhaps the Word of God is using these once-glorious places in Israel as a proverb. For Isaiah had already mentioned these same places on several occasions, and in chapter 33 of his prophecy he wrote a similar oracle naming these same places in connection with the vengeance of Yahweh: “9 The earth mourneth and languisheth: Lebanon is ashamed and hewn down: Sharon is like a wilderness; and Bashan and Carmel shake off their fruits. 10 Now will I rise, saith the LORD; now will I be exalted; now will I lift up myself.”
5 The mountains quake at him, and the hills melt, and the earth is burned at his presence, yea, the world, and all that dwell therein. [Mountains and hills are analogies for nations large and small.] 6 Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? his fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him. 7 The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him. 8 But with an overrunning flood he will make an utter end of the place thereof, and darkness shall pursue his enemies.
Yahweh God knows those who trust in Him, but to trust in a god, or in God, is to keep His ways. Therefore Nahum is referring to the children of Israel who are obedient to their God, indicating that they would be looked after by Him. He is a strong hold in a day of trouble, and therefore keeping His ways one may abide His anger. On the other hand, destruction is certain to those of His enemies.
9 What do ye imagine against the LORD? he will make an utter end: affliction shall not rise up the second time. 10 For while they be folden together as thorns, and while they are drunken as drunkards, they shall be devoured as stubble fully dry. 11 There is one come out of thee, that imagineth evil against the LORD, a wicked counsellor.
At verse 11 the Septuagint has the future tense of the verb: “Out of thee shall proceed a device against the Lord, counselling evil things hostile to him.”
In 2 Kings chapters 18 and 19 there is the account of the Assyrian officer who blasphemed Yahweh the God of Israel, which is representative of Assyrian pride and insolence that is illustrated here in Nahum. From 2 Kings 18: “17 And the king of Assyria sent Tartan and Rabsaris and Rabshakeh from Lachish to king Hezekiah with a great host against Jerusalem. And they went up and came to Jerusalem. And when they were come up, they came and stood by the conduit of the upper pool, which is in the highway of the fuller's field. 18 And when they had called to the king, there came out to them Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, which was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah the son of Asaph the recorder. 19 And Rabshakeh said unto them, Speak ye now to Hezekiah, Thus saith the great king, the king of Assyria, What confidence is this wherein thou trustest? 20 Thou sayest, (but they are but vain words,) I have counsel and strength for the war. Now on whom dost thou trust, that thou rebellest against me? 21 Now, behold, thou trustest upon the staff of this bruised reed, even upon Egypt, on which if a man lean, it will go into his hand, and pierce it: so is Pharaoh king of Egypt unto all that trust on him. 22 But if ye say unto me, We trust in the LORD our God: is not that he, whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah hath taken away, and hath said to Judah and Jerusalem, Ye shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem? 23 Now therefore, I pray thee, give pledges to my lord the king of Assyria, and I will deliver thee two thousand horses, if thou be able on thy part to set riders upon them. 24 How then wilt thou turn away the face of one captain of the least of my master's servants, and put thy trust on Egypt for chariots and for horsemen? 25 Am I now come up without the LORD against this place to destroy it? The LORD said to me, Go up against this land, and destroy it. 26 Then said Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, and Shebna, and Joah, unto Rabshakeh, Speak, I pray thee, to thy servants in the Syrian language; for we understand it: and talk not with us in the Jews' language in the ears of the people that are on the wall. 27 But Rabshakeh said unto them, Hath my master sent me to thy master, and to thee, to speak these words? hath he not sent me to the men which sit on the wall, that they may eat their own dung, and drink their own piss with you? 28 Then Rabshakeh stood and cried with a loud voice in the Jews' language, and spake, saying, Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria: 29 Thus saith the king, Let not Hezekiah deceive you: for he shall not be able to deliver you out of his hand: 30 Neither let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD, saying, The LORD will surely deliver us, and this city shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria. 31 Hearken not to Hezekiah: for thus saith the king of Assyria, Make an agreement with me by a present, and come out to me, and then eat ye every man of his own vine, and every one of his fig tree, and drink ye every one the waters of his cistern: 32 Until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of corn and wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of oil olive and of honey, that ye may live, and not die: and hearken not unto Hezekiah, when he persuadeth you, saying, The LORD will deliver us. 33 Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered at all his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? 34 Where are the gods of Hamath, and of Arpad? where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivah? have they delivered Samaria out of mine hand? 35 Who are they among all the gods of the countries, that have delivered their country out of mine hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem out of mine hand? 36 But the people held their peace, and answered him not a word: for the king's commandment was, saying, Answer him not. 37 Then came Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, which was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah the son of Asaph the recorder, to Hezekiah with their clothes rent, and told him the words of Rabshakeh.”
However the response of Hezekiah to this blasphemy of the Assyrians was humble, for he cared not for his own reproach, but that the Assyrians reproached his God, and rather than respond with his own words he appealed to his God. This helps to clarify the account of 2 Kings chapter 20, that Hezekiah's illness and his repentance coincided with the events of Sennacherib's siege of Jerusalem, rather than following it. From 2 Kings chapter 19: “1 And it came to pass, when king Hezekiah heard it, that he rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the LORD. 2 And he sent Eliakim, which was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and the elders of the priests, covered with sackcloth, to Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz. 3 And they said unto him, Thus saith Hezekiah, This day is a day of trouble, and of rebuke, and blasphemy: for the children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth. 4 It may be the LORD thy God will hear all the words of Rabshakeh, whom the king of Assyria his master hath sent to reproach the living God; and will reprove the words which the LORD thy God hath heard: wherefore lift up thy prayer for the remnant that are left. 5 So the servants of king Hezekiah came to Isaiah. 6 And Isaiah said unto them, Thus shall ye say to your master, Thus saith the LORD, Be not afraid of the words which thou hast heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. 7 Behold, I will send a blast upon him, and he shall hear a rumour, and shall return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.” While this event with Rabshakeh and Hezekiah is from a somewhat earlier time than Nahum's, it nevertheless represents the pride of Assyria for which the Assyrians would be destroyed. It also seems to be the first affliction of Judah which Nahum infers in verse 9, which is also referred to in verse 12:
12 Thus saith the LORD; Though they be quiet, and likewise many, yet thus shall they be cut down, when he shall pass through. Though I have afflicted thee, I will afflict thee no more. 13 For now will I break his yoke from off thee, and will burst thy bonds in sunder.
Verse 12 seems to be a reference to the destruction of the Assyrian army before the gates of Jerusalem, but that interpretation conflicts with what is evident concerning the dating of Nahum in chapter 3 of his prophecy. The Septuagint reads differently in verse 12, where Brenton's translation of the Greek is “Thus saith the Lord who rules over many waters, Even thus shall they be sent away, and the report of thee shall not be heard any more. And now I will break off his yoke from you and snap the bonds that bind you.” Although the Assyrian siege was broken with the destruction of Sennacherib's army, Assyria remained a great power and still had Hezekiah and Judah under tribute. The Assyrian records attest to that, as does Scripture. That Esarhaddon, the successor of Sennacherib, was still active in Judah and Samaria is even attested to in Ezra chapter 4.
Judah was heavily afflicted by the Assyrians and Jerusalem was besieged in the days of Sennacherib, but that was at least 40 years before Nahum prophesied. The reference to No, or Thebes, in chapter 3 of Nahum indicates that he is not writing until after 663 BC. But here he says that “affliction shall not rise up the second time” and “There is one come out of thee, that imagineth evil against the LORD” as if there is another threat to Jerusalem by the Assyrians. The Assyrian king Ashurbanipal, the son of Esarhaddon, ruled for over 50 years, from approximately 668 BC to 633 BC. In his annals he listed the nations and kings from whom he drew tribute and forces for his campaigns in Egypt, and among them are listed “Ba'al, king of Tyre” and “Manasseh (Mi-in-si-e), king of Judah”. After the campaign in Egypt and the destruction of Thebes, the Tyrians revolted against Assyria. The king states in his annals “In my third campaign I marched against Ba'il, king of Tyre, who lives (on an island) amidst the sea, because he did not heed my royal order, did not listen to my personal (lit.: of my lips) commands. I surrounded him with redoubts, seized his communications (lit.: roads) on sea and land. I (thus) intercepted (lit.:strangled) and made scarce their food supply and forced them to submit to my yoke.” Shortly thereafter there was a large insurrection amongst the Nabataeans and the other tribes of Arabia, which Ashurbanipal campaigned to subject. After that campaign he returned to Tyre, this time to the mainland city which the Assyrians called Ushu, where he records that “On my return march, I conquered the town Ushu the emplacement of which is on the seacoast I killed those inhabitants of Ushu who did not obey their governors by refusing to deliver the tribute which they had to pay annually. I took to task those among them who were not submissive. Their images and the (surviving) people I led as booty to Assyria. I killed (also) those inhabitants of Accho who were not submissive, hanging their corpses on poles which I placed around the city. The others I took to Assyria, formed a contingent (out of them) and added (it) to the large army which Ashur has presented to me.”
Manasseh was king in Judah for 55 years following the death of Hezekiah his father, or from about 699 to 645 BC. It is hard to imagine that the wicked king did not revolt from Assyria at this time, and especially since there were revolts against Assyria in many of the surrounding nations. The annals of Ashurbanipal also mention assistance from the kings of Edom and Moab, but there is no mention of Judah. Of course, the annals themselves are not preserved completely. However Scripture does record such a thing, and presents it from an entirely different viewpoint.
From 2 Chronicles chapter 33: “9 So Manasseh made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to err, and to do worse than the heathen, whom the LORD had destroyed before the children of Israel. 10 And the LORD spake to Manasseh, and to his people: but they would not hearken. 11 Wherefore the LORD brought upon them the captains of the host of the king of Assyria, which took Manasseh among the thorns [the Septuagint has 'in bonds', other translations of the Hebrew have 'with hooks' or 'in manacles'], and bound him with fetters, and carried him to Babylon. 12 And when he was in affliction, he besought the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, 13 And prayed unto him: and he was intreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD he was God. 14 Now after this he built a wall without the city of David, on the west side of Gihon, in the valley, even to the entering in at the fish gate, and compassed about Ophel, and raised it up a very great height, and put captains of war in all the fenced cities of Judah. 15 And he took away the strange gods, and the idol out of the house of the LORD, and all the altars that he had built in the mount of the house of the LORD, and in Jerusalem, and cast them out of the city. 16 And he repaired the altar of the LORD, and sacrificed thereon peace offerings and thank offerings, and commanded Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel. 17 Nevertheless the people did sacrifice still in the high places, yet unto the LORD their God only. 18 Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh, and his prayer unto his God, and the words of the seers that spake to him in the name of the LORD God of Israel, behold, they are written in the book of the kings of Israel. 19 His prayer also, and how God was intreated of him, and all his sin, and his trespass, and the places wherein he built high places, and set up groves and graven images, before he was humbled: behold, they are written among the sayings of the seers. 20 So Manasseh slept with his fathers, and they buried him in his own house: and Amon his son reigned in his stead.”
It seems that this passage of Nahum must therefore be connected somehow to these events in the time of Manasseh. After Manasseh, his wicked son Amon ruled Judah for two years, and then there was the 30-year rule of the good king, Josiah. It was during the time of Josiah that Assyria was destroyed. However the end of Josiah's rule may actually have involved that same event. On the surface it appears that the dating for the death of Josiah may be as late as 609 BC. However if the years are counted inclusively, and the anchor date for Hezekiah's 14th year of 722 or 721 BC is correct, then Josiah may easily have died as early as 613 or 612 BC, which is the generally accepted date for the fall of Nineveh.
The Scripture says of the death of Josiah, from 2 Kings chapter 23: “29 In his days Pharaohnechoh king of Egypt went up against the king of Assyria to the river Euphrates: and king Josiah went against him; and he slew him at Megiddo, when he had seen him. 30 And his servants carried him in a chariot dead from Megiddo, and brought him to Jerusalem, and buried him in his own sepulchre. And the people of the land took Jehoahaz the son of Josiah, and anointed him, and made him king in his father's stead.” The Egyptian pharaoh may very well have been sending armies to Assyria to assist in its destruction. At this time the pharaoh was attempting to gain from the fall of Assyria all the land of the Levant as far as the city of Carchemish, which was the ancient Hittite capital. Pharaohnechoh was defeated at Carchemish by Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, in the 4th year of Jehoiakim as Jeremiah 46:2 attests. Some of this is recorded by the Greek historian Herodotus, in The Histories, Book 2 Chapter 159. There the Judahites are called “Syrians” and Megiddo is called “Magdolus”. Herodotus referred to the Judahites as the “Syrians of Palestine” several times in his histories.
14 And the LORD hath given a commandment concerning thee, that no more of thy name be sown: out of the house of thy gods will I cut off the graven image and the molten image: I will make thy grave; for thou art vile. 15 Behold upon the mountains the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace! O Judah, keep thy solemn feasts, perform thy vows: for the wicked shall no more pass through thee; he is utterly cut off.
Nahum wrote at least 40 years after the ministry of Isaiah saw its end, and must have been familiar with his prophecy. Verse 15 is reminiscent of Isaiah 52:7, and here Nahum connects the coming destruction of Assyria to the deliverance and obedience of Judah. After Manasseh was delivered from the hand of the Assyrians there was a partial reform, but a full reform came shortly thereafter, in the days of Josiah.
The reference to the wicked who “shall no more pass through thee” is not a reference to sinful people, although it may be prophetic of that if Judah had indeed repented and continued in the ways of Yahweh their God. But in the immediate context here it must be a reference to the Assyrians themselves, who in the opening of this prophecy were explicitly called the adversaries and enemies of Yahweh.
Nahum 2:1 He that dasheth in pieces is come up before thy face: keep the munition, watch the way, make thy loins strong, fortify thy power mightily. 2 For the LORD hath turned away the excellency of Jacob, as the excellency of Israel: for the emptiers have emptied them out, and marred their vine branches.
The emptiers are the Assyrians, and this is a reference to the earlier deportations of Israel. “He that dasheth in pieces is come up before thy face” because the Assyrians had once again come to Jerusalem, apparently when Manasseh was taken captive.
3 The shield of his mighty men is made red, the valiant men are in scarlet [references to the blood of the Assyrians shed in retribution]: the chariots shall be with flaming torches in the day of his preparation, and the fir trees [nations] shall be terribly shaken. 4 The chariots shall rage in the streets, they shall justle one against another in the broad ways: they shall seem like torches, they shall run like the lightnings. 5 He shall recount his worthies: they shall stumble in their walk; they shall make haste to the wall thereof, and the defence shall be prepared. 6 The gates of the rivers shall be opened, and the palace shall be dissolved.
The ruins of ancient Nineveh's are found in two large mounds called Kouyunjik and Nabī Yūnus which are located on a level part of the plain near the junction of the Tigris and the Khawṣar Rivers. The area covers about 1,900 acres and was surrounded by a 7.5 mile brick wall. Nineveh was an important junction for commercial routes crossing the Tigris. The following is from the Encyclopedia Britannica article on Nineveh: “From the ruins it has been established that the perimeter of the great Assyrian city wall was about 7.5 miles long and in places up to 148 feet wide; there was also a great unfinished outer rampart, protected by a moat, and the Khawṣar River flowed through the centre of the city to join the Tigris on the western side of it.” With this description, Nahum 2:6 may be better understood.
7 And Huzzab shall be led away captive, she shall be brought up, and her maids shall lead her as with the voice of doves, tabering [a word describing a musical sort of beating] upon their breasts.
The reference to Huzzab seems to come from a misunderstanding on the part of the original King James Version translators, and only a few modern translations follow it. Brenton's Septuagint follows the Greek well where he has this verse to read “and the foundation has been exposed; and she has gone up, and her maid-servants were led away as doves moaning in their hearts.” Rather than “Huzzab” the New American Standard Bible reads “it is fixed”, which is closer to the understanding of the Hebrew word reflected by the Septuagint. The she and her later in the passage seem to refer to the city itself.
8 But Nineveh is of old like a pool of water: yet they shall flee away. Stand, stand, shall they cry; but none shall look back.
From Brenton's Septuagint, and the repetition is found in the Greek also: “And as for Nineve, her waters shall be as a pool of water: and they fled, and staid not, and there was none to look back.” The meaning seems to be that the people of Nineveh shall disappear as a pool of water is breached and cannot stay in its place.
9 Take ye the spoil of silver, take the spoil of gold: for there is none end of the store and glory out of all the pleasant furniture. 10 She is empty, and void, and waste: and the heart melteth, and the knees smite together, and much pain is in all loins, and the faces of them all gather blackness. 11 Where is the dwelling of the lions, and the feedingplace of the young lions, where the lion, even the old lion, walked, and the lion's whelp, and none made them afraid?
Nineveh was one of the greatest of cities, yet from the time of its destruction around 612 BC until it was first excavated by the British in the 1840's it laid in ruins under piles of rubble. Today it is still only piles of rubble, however in recent times it is encroached upon by the relatively new Iraqi city of Mosul.
12 The lion did tear in pieces enough for his whelps, and strangled for his lionesses, and filled his holes with prey, and his dens with ravin. 13 Behold, I am against thee, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will burn her chariots in the smoke, and the sword shall devour thy young lions: and I will cut off thy prey from the earth, and the voice of thy messengers shall no more be heard.
Again, from later in Isaiah chapter 10 where the destruction of Assyria was also prophesied: “24 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD of hosts, O my people that dwellest in Zion, be not afraid of the Assyrian: he shall smite thee with a rod, and shall lift up his staff against thee, after the manner of Egypt. 25 For yet a very little while, and the indignation shall cease, and mine anger in their destruction. 26 And the LORD of hosts shall stir up a scourge for him according to the slaughter of Midian at the rock of Oreb: and as his rod was upon the sea, so shall he lift it up after the manner of Egypt. 27 And it shall come to pass in that day, that his burden shall be taken away from off thy shoulder, and his yoke from off thy neck, and the yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing.” This certainly indicates that the children of Israel would play a significant role in the destruction.
Nahum 3:1 Woe to the bloody city! it is all full of lies and robbery; the prey departeth not;
Of course, Nahum continues to refer to Nineveh.
2 The noise of a whip, and the noise of the rattling of the wheels, and of the pransing horses, and of the jumping chariots. 3 The horseman lifteth up both the bright sword and the glittering spear: and there is a multitude of slain, and a great number of carcases; and there is none end of their corpses; they stumble upon their corpses:
Around the time of Nahum, the Lyric and Epic poets of Classical Greece began to flourish. The works of Homer can be dated to about 610 BC. The poetic language of Nahum, and Isaiah also, seem to foreshadow the great Greek poets, and they are every bit as polished.
4 Because of the multitude of the whoredoms of the wellfavoured harlot, the mistress of witchcrafts, that selleth nations through her whoredoms, and families through her witchcrafts. 5 Behold, I am against thee, saith the LORD of hosts; and I will discover thy skirts upon thy face, and I will shew the nations thy nakedness, and the kingdoms thy shame.
The Hebrew word for wellfavoured does not indicate favor which comes from God. Rather, in order to make a comparison Nahum insinuates that Nineveh is, allegorically, an attractive whore.
6 And I will cast abominable filth upon thee, and make thee vile, and will set thee as a gazingstock [or a spectacle]. 7 And it shall come to pass, that all they that look upon thee shall flee from thee, and say, Nineveh is laid waste: who will bemoan her? whence shall I seek comforters for thee?
The two great mounds where the ruins of Nineveh are found continue to attest to the perfection of the Word of Yahweh. Even if a contentious individual would insist that Nahum wrote after the fact, Nineveh was never rebuilt and everything Nahum said of the once-great Assyrians remains true to this day. Therefore the Word of Yahweh is true and its providence is sure.
8 Art thou better than populous No, that was situate among the rivers, that had the waters round about it, whose rampart was the sea, and her wall was from the sea?
The reference to No is a reference to the city in Egypt called Amon-No, which is also known as Thebes. The destruction of Thebes was recorded on the so-called Rassam Cylinder found in 1849 by Sir Henry Layard in the ruins of ancient Nineveh, which is an inscription of Ashurbanipal who ruled Assyria from about 668 to 633 BC. The inscription says in part: “In my second campaign I marched directly against Egypt (Musur) and Nubia. URdamane heard of the approach of my expedition (only when) I had (already) set foot on Egyptian territory. He left Memphis and fled into Thebes to save his life. The kings, governors, and regents whom I had installed in Egypt came to meet me and kissed my feet. I followed URdamane (and) went as far as Thebes, his fortress. He saw my mighty battle array approaching, left Thebes and fled to Kipkipi. Upon a trust(-inspiring) oracle of Ashur and Ishtar I, myself, conquered this town completely. From Thebes [another version says “From Thebes, the capital of Egypt”] I carried away booty, heavy and beyond counting: silver, gold, precious stones, his entire personal possessions, linen garments with multicolored trimmings, fine horses, (certain) inhabitants, male and female. I pulled two high obelisks, cast of shining zahalu-bronze, the weight of which was 2,500 talents, standing at the door of the temple, out of their bases and took (them) to Assyria. (Thus) I carried off from Thebes heavy booty, beyond counting. I made Egypt (Musur) and Nubia feel my weapons bitterly and celebrated my triumph. With full hands and safely, I returned to Nineveh, the city (where I exercise) my rule.” (ANET, p. 295)
9 Ethiopia and Egypt were her strength, and it was infinite; Put and Lubim were thy helpers.
The reference is to No (Thebes) in verse 8 and not to Nineveh, which is being addressed. Therefore the rendering of the last clause as it is found in the NAS version is more accurate: “Put and Lubim were among her helpers.” Thebes stood against Assyria with the help of these surrounding nations, yet it was nevertheless destroyed by the Assyrians, and the prophet is using its example as a warning to the Assyrians themselves.
Cush (Ethiopia), Mizraim (Egypt, which was Musur to the Assyrians), and Phut were all descendants of Ham listed in Genesis 10:6. It is possible that the Lubim also mentioned in 2 Chronicles chapters 12 and 16, who are certainly the Libyans of history, should be associated with either the Ludim or the Lehabim of Genesis 10:13, and we would go so far as to estimate that Ludim is an ancient error for the Lubim. However none of these were Nubians, at least originally, and the historical Nubians were certainly negroes.
10 Yet was she carried away, she went into captivity: her young children also were dashed in pieces at the top of all the streets: and they cast lots for her honourable men, and all her great men were bound in chains.
Here Nahum continues to refer to No, or Thebes in Egypt, as a warning to Assyria. As the Assyrians were able to destroy Thebes, Nineveh would also be destroyed. Nineveh was indeed destroyed in like manner about 50 years after the Assyrians destroyed Thebes. From Assyrian inscriptions the destruction of Thebes is believed to have happened around 663 BC. Therefore with certainty Nahum's prophecy was made some time after 663 BC and before 612 BC when Nineveh was finally destroyed.
If our connection of verses 9 through 13 in chapter 1 to the time of Manasseh is correct, then Nahum prophesied not long after Thebes was destroyed, and probably before 644 BC while Manasseh was still king. After the death of Ashurbanipal in 633 BC, although some sources date his death to as late as 627 BC, Assyria was in decline due to internal strife caused by struggles and civil wars over the succession. Since Nahum's prophecy depicts Assyria at the height of its power, it is unlikely that Nahum prophesied at this late time. Therefore we may confidently date the prophet to the 30-year period between the fall of Thebes and the death of Ashurbanipal. The revival in Judah which seems to be announced in Nahum 1:15 may refer to the partial repentance of Manasseh described in 2 Chronicles 33:13-16, or the much fuller revival under Josiah a few short years later, which is still well within that 30-year period. If we accept that it refers to the revival under Manasseh, we may further narrow the time of Nahum's prophecy to after 663 BC and before the end of Manasseh's reign circa 644 BC.
11 Thou also shalt be drunken: thou shalt be hid, thou also shalt seek strength because of the enemy.
Rendering the final phrase “because of an enemy” would have been better in consideration of both context and grammar, because there is no definite article in the Hebrew. The Septuagint Greek has only “because of enemies”, where Brenton added a pronoun and wrote “because of thine enemies.”
12 All thy strong holds shall be like fig trees with the firstripe figs: if they be shaken, they shall even fall into the mouth of the eater. 13 Behold, thy people in the midst of thee are women: the gates of thy land shall be set wide open unto thine enemies: the fire shall devour thy bars. 14 Draw thee waters for the siege, fortify thy strong holds: go into clay, and tread the morter, make strong the brickkiln. 15 There shall the fire devour thee; the sword shall cut thee off, it shall eat thee up like the cankerworm: make thyself many as the cankerworm, make thyself many as the locusts.
Regardless of the power of Assyria, her great fortresses and armies would fall easily into the hands of her enemies. While the NASB agrees with the King James Version's rendering of the Hebrew at verse 15, Brenton's Septuagint reads thus: “There the fire shall devour thee; the sword shall utterly destroy thee, it shall devour thee as the locust, and thou shalt be pressed down as a palmerworm.” In Joel chapter 1, the Assyrians and the other nations which had devoured ancient Israel were described in that same manner, as the cankerworm, palmerworm, caterpillar and locust.
16 Thou hast multiplied thy merchants above the stars of heaven: the cankerworm spoileth, and flieth away.
Nahum had said in verses 4 and 5 of this chapter “4 Because of the multitude of the whoredoms of the wellfavoured harlot, the mistress of witchcrafts, that selleth nations through her whoredoms, and families through her witchcrafts. 5 Behold, I am against thee, saith the LORD of hosts; and I will discover thy skirts upon thy face, and I will shew the nations thy nakedness, and the kingdoms thy shame.”
In the prophecies of Hosea and Amos, Yahweh chastised the children of Israel for the whoredom of international trade. Nineveh is portrayed here in that same manner, as is the whore of Babylon in the Revelation, chapter 18. The stars of heaven often refer to the people of God in scripture, and Nineveh certainly multiplied her merchants above the children of Israel. Ostensibly, all of history's great empires were built for the sake of the world's merchants.
Where it says that “the cankerworm spoileth, and flieth away”, it is evident that once the damage is done, those who caused it would not be found. Nineveh was not taken over. Rather it was destroyed and those who destroyed it had left for good.
17 Thy crowned are as the locusts, and thy captains as the great grasshoppers, which camp in the hedges in the cold day, but when the sun ariseth they flee away, and their place is not known where they are.
The references to insects here present a different analogy. The mighty warriors of Assyria will flee before their enemies like grasshoppers when the time comes that Nineveh falls.
18 Thy shepherds slumber, O king of Assyria: thy nobles shall dwell in the dust: thy people is scattered upon the mountains, and no man gathereth them. 19 There is no healing of thy bruise; thy wound is grievous: all that hear the bruit of thee shall clap the hands over thee: for upon whom hath not thy wickedness passed continually?
While after the fall of Nineveh there were scatterings of Assyrian people in diverse places, there were no longer any great Assyrian peoples, and the national identity was completely destroyed. A source as flacid as Wikipedia says of Nineveh that “It was the largest city in the world for some fifty years until, after a bitter period of civil war in Assyria itself, it was sacked by an unusual coalition of former subject peoples, the Babylonians, Medes, Persians, Chaldeans, Scythians and Cimmerians in 612 BC.”
To quote from a paper at Christogenea which was written nearly ten years ago and entitled Herodotus, Scythians, Persians & Prophecy: “Herodotus relates that the Medes were already at war with the Assyrians, when the Scythians invaded Media during the reign of the Median King Cyaxares (which would be approximately 625-585 B.C., according to Herodotus’ chronology). The Scythians prevented the Medes from destroying Nineveh, and themselves 'became masters of Asia', a position they held for 28 years. While Herodotus states that Cyaxares conquered Nineveh himself, after becoming free of the Scythians, this is impossible since Nineveh was destroyed before 612 B.C., and Herodotus is likely repeating later Median propaganda. Strabo tells us rather that 'In ancient times Greater Armenia ruled the whole of Asia, after it broke up the empire of the Syrians', where he is obviously confusing Syrians with Assyrians (and he mentions 'Greater Media' later in the same paragraph). Greater Armenia being that first Scythian land according to Diodorus Siculus (Library of History, 2. 43), along with the witness of Herodotus, albeit indirectly, shows that Isaiah was correct, the Israelites – and surely with Medes alongside them – destroyed Nineveh, and the Assyrian Empire. (Herodotus, The Histories, 1. 102-106, Strabo, Geography, 11. 13. 5).”
Now there is little doubt that the Babylonians were also in league with the Scythians and Medes, and Babylon was ruled at that time by the Chaldaeans. However Nebuchadnezzar did not ascend in Babylon until about 605 BC, and from that time began to assemble his own empire, which was relatively short-lived and supplanted by the Persians. Modern academics assign the Babylonians a more significant role in the destruction of Assyria than they deserve only because the academics have taken their information mostly from Babylonian sources. The Assyrian records are very scarce after the time of Ashurbanipal, and it is evident that none of his successors controlled the empire to the extent that he himself had. So it is very likely that the 28 years of Scythian hegemony over Asia attested to by Herodotus and corroborated by Strabo began before 612 BC. After the fall of Nineveh, the Cimmerians were the first of the Scythians to cross Anatolia and into Europe, while the Scythians began to migrate in waves through and around the Caucasus mountains and the Black and Caspian seas. These are the children of Israel whom Isaiah prophesied would help destroy Assyria, and the connections between the Israelites and the Cimmerians and Scythians have been dug out of those same ruins in Mesopotamia.