1:2 The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The Lord takes vengeance on his foes and vents his wrath against his enemies.
Oh really now! Ya don’t say.
1:7 The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him…
Oh … uhhh, o.k. thank goodness I was starting to get a little worried for a second there haha because I mean that other verse said …
1:8 but with an overwhelming flood he will make an end of Nineveh; he will pursue his foes into the realm of darkness.
Oh. So … o.k. But didn’t you just say …
1:14 The Lord has given a command concerning you, Nineveh: “You will have no descendants to bear your name. I will destroy the images and idols that are in the temple of your gods. I will prepare your grave, for you are vile.”
Uhhh … gulp … can we just rewind for a …
3:1 Woe to the city of blood, full of lies, full of plunder, never without victims!
3:3 Charging cavalry, flashing swords and glittering spears! Many casualties, piles of dead, bodies without number, people stumbling over the corpses— 3:4 all because of the wanton lust of a prostitute, alluring, the mistress of sorceries, who enslaved nations by her prostitution and peoples by her witchcraft. 3:5“I am against you,” declares the Lord Almighty. “I will lift your skirts over your face. I will show the nations your nakedness and the kingdoms your shame.
Jesus Lord help us all. Oh wait I guess Jesus doesn’t exist yet at this point. We’re even more hosed than I thought. But tell me this – how the hell did we get from the Lord being jealous and vengeful, to good and caring, and then straight back to him massacring Nineveh in a hail of blood and guts and people tripping over dead bodies and naked bearing of shame?? OH I see. It’s because Nineveh didn’t pay attention to the fine print: They have to actually do what the Lord says and trust in him and follow his rules if they want to be included in the “God is good and a refuge in times of trouble” bit. And it seems, according to Nahum, that what they’ve been doing is precisely the opposite of that.
You see, Nineveh is the capital of the Neo-Assyrian Empire. You may recall that Assyria has never played the good guy in these Bible books. As a matter of fact, along with Babylon, they were actually responsible for the fall of the Israelites in 2nd Kings (see my handy dandy chart here, left side of the chart – Assyria defeated Israel and then later, Babylon defeated Judah). So essentially what the book of Nahum is about is punishing Nineveh for all the bad stuff it has done, particularly to God’s chosen people, the Israelites, which the Assyrians attacked and overtook.
Nahum is one of those annoying books that gives zero timeframe for our titular prophet’s life and story, so we really don’t know for sure when any of this is happening. Wikipedia tells us that there are a few theories as to when it takes place, but the most logical theory seems to be that it takes place somewhere around 612 BC: Over 100 years after Assyria’s defeat of Israel and right at the moment when the combined forces of Babylon and Medes stroll on over and defeat Nineveh, which is the beginning of the end of the Assyrian Empire. Well, you had a nice run there Assyria, but it looks like it’s lights out for you now. Hope you enjoyed it while it lasted. Karma is a bitch, ain’t it?
That karma sentiment is basically the entire gist of Nahum as he supposedly prophesies the events of 612 BC before they happen. It’s kinda like, “How does it feel NOW, bitches!?” But here’s where it gets awkward: You may recall that when the Assyrians attacked and defeated Israel to begin with, God was up there in the sky orchestrating the entire thing on purpose, to punish Israel for their sins. As he does – he likes to make a mess specifically so that he can play the hero and clean it up later. It’s like a little kid playing with action figures, creating a scene where the villains wreak havoc and mayhem just so the hero can then come save the day and give the villains what they deserve. Except when God does this stuff, it’s not make-believe.
3:8 Are you [Nineveh] better than Thebes, situated on the Nile, with water around her? The river was her defense, the waters her wall. 3:9 Cush and Egypt were her boundless strength; Put and Libya were among her allies. 3:10 Yet she was taken captive and went into exile. Her infants were dashed to pieces at every street corner. Lots were cast for her nobles, and all her great men were put in chains.
3:14 Draw water for the siege, strengthen your defenses! Work the clay, tread the mortar, repair the brickwork! 3:15 There the fire will consume you; the sword will cut you down— they will devour you like a swarm of locusts. Multiply like grasshoppers, multiply like locusts!
3:19 Nothing can heal you; your wound is fatal. All who hear the news about you clap their hands at your fall, for who has not felt your endless cruelty?
And that’s the end of Nineveh and the end of the book of Nahum. But before we pack up and go home, there’s another interesting part of this story – If the name Nineveh sounds at all familiar to you, it’s probably because it was the main focus of a book we just recently read – Jonah. You may recall that God kept telling Jonah to go prophesy in a particular city, but Jonah kept trying to run away from God, getting swallowed by a “great fish” in the process before finally relenting and going where God told him to. The destination in question? You guessed it. Nineveh.
And what’s so crazy about it is that Jonah’s prophet work in Nineveh was by FAR the most successful I can even remember reading thus far – The people of Nineveh listened to him and repented and did all the things God wanted them to. They were good little boys and girls and everything seemed to be coming up roses for them at that point. So when the heck did all that happen in relation to the events of Nahum? Well, Jonah prophesied during the time of King Jeroboam II. A look at this timeline shows that this was about a 150-ish years prior to the events of Nahum, making it clear that a lot can change in 150 years. You can go from horse-drawn carriages to landing on the moon, and you can go from God reforming you with care to God annihilating you … purposely wiping you off the face of the earth permanently.
There’s really nothing good about Nahum, and I’ve laid out the bad stuff pretty well, so I’m not going to bother splitting this review into Good and Bad sections. I’ll just keep this concise for the short 3-chapter book it is and get straight to the rating now:
I just can’t think of any redeeming qualities that exist in Nahum. It’s all about revenge. And even worse than that, it’s revenge for something God claimed he orchestrated to begin with. Per usual. O.k. next up, we have Habakkuk. Another 3 chapter prophet book that no one really seems to care about except me right now. See ya soon.