Nahum God's Judgement on the Wicked Empire

Historical Background

On the cusp of its fall to the Medes and the Neo-Babylonian Empire, Nahum tells an oracle of judgement against Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire. Assyria, a cruel empire, had destroyed the capital of the Northern Kingdom in 722/721. A generation later, it failed in taking the Kingdom of Judah. This is a prophecy against "the bloody city, all lies and full of plunder" (Na 3:1). This prophecy is made just before Nineveh's own collapse in 612 BCE.

"all lies and full of plunder..." (Na 3:1)

Thematic Context

The 7th Century prophets worked in the century between the fall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Thus there was little emphasis upon social reform as found in the 8th Century prophets. Instead, they are concerned with grand national matters of survival; their concerns were existential. Thus when the Assyrian Empire was threatened and then fell, those in the Southern Kingdom would have been relieved and saw the work of God in their preservation and safety.

Literary Structure of Nahum and Theme of this PAGE

In this short work, there are four divisions: the appearance of God, the judgement on Nineveh, the coming attack upon Nineveh and the inevitability of the Nineveh's destruction. Together, they show the concerns of the 7th Century prophet: namely the national survival of Judah among the political maneuvering of the superpowers surrounding them.

As some viewers (such as myself) may be uncomfortable with rejoicing over a destroyed city and empire, I used images from a contemporary mythos, Star Wars, to illustrate this PAGE. Like the circumstances of the Kingdom of Judah, Star Wars tells a story of a small force seeking peace and independence from an evil and much larger empire. Nahum's prophecy uses strong language and hyperbole to describe the Assyrians; they are entirely wicked. The closest parallel to the totality of their evil is the Sith-led Empire of Star Wars.

Episode I. God Appears (Na 1:2-8)

While "the Lord is slow to anger" (Na 1:3), this is a prophecy of a just God: the wicked are punished and the good are protected. Nahum tells us that God is "an avenger" (Na 1:2) and "great in power" (Na 1:3) and that even the mountains "quake before him" (Na 1:5). Even if they were to hide, God "pursues his enemies into darkness" (Na 1:7). Thus the wickedness of the Ninevites, no longer how long it may have been tolerated, could not go unpunished.

"...the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished..." (Na 1:3b)

So wicked!

"The Lord is good to those who wait for him, a refuge on the day of distress..." (Na 1:7)

You're our only hope

Episode II. Judgement of Nineveh and Restoration of Judah (Na 1:9-2:1)

The Lord issues a judgement on Nineveh because "from you has come one plotting evil against the Lord" (Na 1:11). This judgement will be total destruction: "no descendant will bare your name....I will make your grave a dung heap" (Na 1:14). Thus the destruction will last throughout history and their names and reputations will be shamed.

This judgement will lead to peace and rejoicing in Judah: "never again will your destroyers invade you; they are completely cut off" (Na 2:1).

"Though so fully intact and so numerous, they shall be mown down and disappear." (Na 1:12)

"At this moment on the mountains the footsteps of one bearing good news, of one announcing peace!" (Na 2:1)

Beep beep bloop

Episode III. Attack on Ninevah (Na 2:2-3:7)

Nineveh will be attacked: "one who scatters has come up against you" (Na 2:2). In spite of their defenses, the city will be destroyed and plundered and people deported. The nobles and royals are shamed: "the palace is washed away...the mistress is led forth captive and her maidservants led away" (Na 2:7-8). The next generation is slain as well. Using the images of lions to describe the royal family, Nahum oracles that "the sword will devour your young lions; your preying on the land I will bring to an end, the cry of your lionesses will be heard no more" (Na 2:14). No one will regret this. "Nineveh is destroyed, who can pity her?" (Na 3:7).

"Like fire are the trappings of the chariots on the day he prepares for war; the cavalry is agitated!" (Na 2:4)

"I will consume your chariots in smoke..." (Na 2:14)

"I will...make you a spectacle". (Na 3:6)

Episode IV. Nineveh's Fate is Inescapable (Na 3:-19)

Just as the Assyrians destroyed No-amon (Thebes), so too will Nineveh be destroyed. "You too shall drink of this; you too shall be overcome" (Na 3:11). No matter how big their armies, their fate is inescapable: "to your foes are open wide the gates of your land" (Na 3:13). The Lord is just, responds to wickedness and makes the annihilation complete. "There is no healing for your hurt, your wound is fatal" (Na 3:19).

"Your sentries are like locusts...yet when the sun rises, they vanish, and no one knows where they have gone." (Na 3:17) empty...

"All who hear this news of you clap their hands over you; for who has not suffered under your malice?" (Na 3:19)

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