The Book of Nahum is placed as the seventh of the twelve Minor Prophets. His name, in Hebrew, means “consolation.” At the time of the utterance of his words of prophecy, the ten tribes that comprised the Northern Kingdom of Israel had been destroyed and carried away into captivity by the Assyrians. Nahum’s message was preached to the Southern Kingdom of Judah, possibly toward the close of King Hezekiah’s reign (about 700 BC), or perhaps even around the time when King Manasseh returned from his temporary captivity in Assyria (around 665 BC). At this time, the Assyrian empire was at the zenith of its power and strength; and the descriptions of it which are given in the Scriptures reveal its arrogance and habitual oppression of other nations.
Nahum was not sent to Nineveh as Jonah had been about 100-150 years earlier. By Nahum’s time, that city’s opportunity for repentance was forever gone; and so his message was one which spoke of a full destruction. It was a declaration of the vengeance of God upon Nineveh, and it may be divided into three parts: the verdict of vengeance (chapter 1), the vision of vengeance (chapter 2), and the vindication of vengeance (chapter 3). The burden of Nahum’s prophecy was principally directed to Nineveh; but in reality, the great purpose of his labor was intended for the spiritual consolation of God’s own people.
When Jonah came to Nineveh and preached, the Ninevites repented and were spared; yet soon afterward, they became worse than ever. And in order that Nineveh might know the God Who was contending with her, the prophet Nahum is here commissioned to describe Him to them (verses 2-8). It is good for all readers to carefully pay attention to what is here said concerning Him; for this passage speaks great terror to the wicked, but it also speaks comfort to believers. Therefore, let sinners read these words and tremble, and let saints read them and triumph! The wrath of God is here revealed from heaven against His enemies, while His favor and mercy are here assured to His faithful subjects.
Our God is a God of inflexible justice, Who will take vengeance upon His enemies. He is a God of irresistible power, and He is able to deal with His foes – no matter how many, how mighty, or how hardy they may be. He is “great in power” (verse 3); and therefore, it is good to have Him as our Friend, and bad to have Him as our enemy. His majestic power is asserted and proved in these verses, which give pictures of various outworkings of it in the kingdom of nature. We may always find the visible effects of His power displayed in the ordinary course of nature, yet sometimes His great might is manifested even more clearly in the surprising alterations of that course – such as whirlwinds, droughts, and earthquakes. But in addition to being a God of power and might, He is also a God of infinite mercy. Those who rebelliously continue in their ways of unrepentant sin ought to be afraid, for He will by no means acquit the wicked; but He is ready to show mercy to those who have offended Him, and He will immediately receive them into His favor upon their repentance. He stands as a stronghold in the day of trouble (verse 7) for all who humbly confess that they have no merits of their own, and that they have nothing which can save them except the precious blood of the Savior. To this stronghold, all sinners may run and find safety in the day that their sins threaten to bring ruin upon their heads; and once they are securely within its Almighty walls of merciful protection, not even the devil himself can pull them out of it!
Verses 9-15 seem to speak of the destruction of the army of the Assyrians under King Sennacherib, during the reign of King Hezekiah in Judah (2 Chr. 32; Isa. 36 and 37). Sennacherib and his braggart spokesman Rabshakeh drew up an evil letter and spoke evil words – not only against Hezekiah and his people, but even against God Himself! We can hardly think of a time when the glorious Majesty of heaven and earth was more daringly or more blasphemously affronted than it was by Sennacherib and the loudmouth Rabshakeh. There is a great deal of wickedness that is imagined against the Lord by the forces of hell, and against the interests of His Kingdom in the world; but it will prove to be a vain thing (Ps. 2:1-2). He Who sits in heaven laughs at these vain imaginations against Him, and He will turn their counsels headlong. And this is exactly what happened in Sennacherib’s case. God made an utter end of his army; it was totally cut off and laid dead on the spot by one fatal stroke of the destroying Angel.
But as we mentioned earlier, the great purpose of Nahum’s ministry was intended for the spiritual consolation of God’s own people. Hence, in going to great lengths to speak of the ruin of the Assyrian army, the Lord was encouraging His children by the great deliverance which He would hereby work for them. The overthrow of Sennacherib’s forces was a picture of the great salvation by which the Lord’s redeemed people are made free indeed! The tidings of this great deliverance for Jerusalem were published and welcomed with abundance of joy throughout the whole kingdom (verse 15). When Sennacherib was defeated, the feet of the bearer of the good news was seen coming at a distance upon the mountains – as fast as his feet would carry him. And how beautiful and pleasant a sight it is when we see a messenger who preaches Gospel-peace by Jesus Christ!
Thank You, Lord Jesus, that You are a stronghold that is open to all sinners who run to find safety therein from the justice that is due to them because of their sins! Amen.
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