Date: Seventh Century B.C.
Nahum, born in Elkosh, in Judah, was a prophet whose primary ministry was to the city of Nineveh. Jonah had been sent by God about 100 years earlier to preach repentance to the Ninevites, and a large portion of them had responded favorably. The intervening years, however, brought a change of heart as well as a change of government, and Nineveh went back to its old ways. God therefore gave Nahum the task of preaching judgment to the Assyrian capital sometime between 664 B.C. and the city’s fall in 612 B.C. Although his message was directed to Nineveh, there is no evidence that Nahum ever went there in person.
Theological Themes in the Book of Nahum
Nahum’s message is one of coming judgment for the Ninevites. Their sins will be punished: specifically their idolatry (1:14), arrogance (1:11), murder, lies, treachery, superstition, and social sins (3:1-19). For all of this the city will be destroyed. Nineveh was, he said, a city filled with blood (3:1), a graphic description of the awful depths to which the nation of Assyria had sunk.
The foundation of Nahum’s message is that God rules over all the earth, even over those who do not acknowledge him as God. Nineveh’s gods and goddesses were nothing according to Nahum. The only God who exists holds us all accountable, whether we know it or not, whether we accept it or not. God alone is God. The Ninevites would soon see that to trust in idols is to trust in wood and stone.
Nonetheless, Nahum pointed out, God was willing to save the city if they repented. God is always seeking the lost, is slow to anger (1:3), is good (1:7), and is a stronghold to those who trust in him (1:7). God sends good news to those who will listen (1:15), a theme later taken up by the New Testament writers when describing the work of Jesus and the preaching of the gospel (a word that means good news).
Outline for the Book of Nahum
- A prophecy of judgment Nahum 1:1-15
- The fall of Nineveh Nahum 2:1-13
- The reason for Nineveh’s fall Nahum 3:1-19