The story of ancient Ninevah, according to the commentary by Matthew Henry, was a magnificent display of God’s judgment and mercy, his sovereignty over nations, and his love for the nation of Israel. Nahum’s letter to the Assyrian Empire spoke of future terror to the city and vindication for Israel. Nahum’s name in Hebrew meant “comfort” to Israel, yet judgment to Israel’s enemies.
Just over a century earlier, the prophet Jonah preached a short message to Ninevah, “Repent, for judgment is coming.” As a result, the entire city repented and experienced a major revival. For a century, the city repented of its wickedness toward other nations. However, the older generation failed to train the younger generation in the teachings of God.
Notice a haunting verse from Judges 2:10-12, “And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim. And they forsook the LORD God of their fathers.”
During the time of Nahum, the Assyrians had reverted back to their old wicked habits. They once again raided neighboring nations. They divided families by selling them into slavery. They plundered towns, stole anything of value and burned crops. They devastated communities in order to rob the wealth to hold for their own.
Ninevah had become proud. Their pride rested on their 100-foot tall walls and the safety of the Tigris River. They were proud of their wealth that they had plundered and horded for themselves. They were proud of their ability to send terror to neighboring nations and to intimidate their own way to supremacy. They remembered their own deeds, but forgot God.
Nahum was not intimidated. In his letter of prophecy, Nahum described the character of God. According to Biblical historians, Nahum wrote this short book, only 47 verses total, as a warning to Ninevah and a comfort to the nation of Judah.
After composing the oracle, he stood on the hills in Galilee and read it out loud, possibly knowing that Assyrian scouts were hiding out in groves or bushes in order to plan another attack. Boldly, Nahum delivered the message by saying, “God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for His enemies. The LORD is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked…”
In his message, Nahum described some of the characteristics of God. God is jealous over His people, which meant that God was passionate about His people. He took note of each raid that was made by the Assyrian army. He took note of each tear shed by families who became forcefully separated as slaves for the citizens of Ninevah. He made a note of their wealth stolen by the Assyrian army. God had had enough.
Notice in chapter 1:7-8, Nahum gave a clue on how God was going to destroy the city of Ninevah. Nahum said, “The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knoweth them that trust in him. But with an overrunning flood he will make an utter end of the place thereof, and darkness shall pursue his enemies.”
According to Biblical historians, after Nahum proclaimed his oracle, the Tigris River flooded which caused parts of the city’s 100-foot wall to cave in. East of Ninevah was the city of Babylon that had been scouting Ninevah for several years for a possible invasion. After the flood, the Babylonian army made a surprise invasion, in which they captured the city’s wealth of silver and gold. The city was leveled and burned; its inhabitants were carried away captive, and the city was never rebuilt.
What can we learn from Nahum? God is loving and just. He takes note of His children’s trials because He knows those who are called by His name. God has an eternal love for His children.
The Rev. Kitty Mills teachers Sunday School at Mount View Pentecostal Holiness Church in Claudville, Virginia.