Introduction to Nahum

By James M. Rochford

Nahum’s name means “compassionate” or “consolation.” This is one of the great ironies of this book, because it describes God’s judgment over the Assyrians. God is compassionate through his judgment, however, because he is showing compassion on the weak who were harmed by the Assyrians—namely, Israel. While many have speculated where he grew up (1:1 “the Elkoshite”), this isn’t certain. It could be anywhere from Elkosh in Iraq, a town near Galilee, or Capernaum (“Town of Nahum”).[1]

Nahum has a strong dependency on the book of Isaiah in particular.[2] He shows that God will not just show judgment on his people, but on all people. Remember, this book was written a couple of generations after the destruction of the Northern Kingdom (Israel) in 722 BC. The people were probably wondering if God was only going to punish Israel, and not the bloodthirsty Assyrians. As Habakkuk asked, “How long, O Lord, will I call for help, and You will not hear? I cry out to You, ‘Violence!’ Yet You do not save” (Hab. 1:2). God answers this question in Nahum 1:12.

Date

Nahum must have written sometime between 661 BC and 612 BC. Nahum refers to the fall of Themes as a past event (which occurred in 661 BC), but he predicts the fall of Nineveh (1:8; 2:6; 3:8) as a future event (which occurred in 612 BC). Jonah preached to Nineveh in the 8th century. Because they repented (Jon. 3:6-7), God spared them from judgment for a hundred years.

Teaching Rotation

This book can be taught in one night. Emphasize the background of the Ninevites (Assyrians) and their cruelty. Emphasize God’s universal judgment for all people—not just Israel.

Nahum 1

The purpose of this book is to predict the judgment over Nineveh (v.1). God is slow to anger, but he will eventually judge (v.2). It isn’t that he’s weak (v.3).

Nahum 2

God compares himself to a roaring lion (v.12).

Nahum 3

The bodies will be piled up (v.3). People will celebrate their destruction (v.19).

 

[1] Armerding, Carl. Nahum. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Daniel and the Minor Prophets (Vol. 7). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House. 1986. 452.

[2] Armerding, Carl. Nahum. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Daniel and the Minor Prophets (Vol. 7). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House. 1986. See #6 Literary Parallel, pp.453-456.