In the very first verse, Nahum tells you what the prophecy is all about. It is the burden of Ninevah. Ninevah was the capital of Assyria, and the Assyrian empire sort of ruled the world around the 700-800 B.C., on down to about 600. The Assyrians were very cruel, heartless people. They made a practice of seeking to terrorize their enemies. When they would take captives, they would often skin people alive. They would cut off a foot, cut off a hand, cut off an ear, cut off their nose, pull their tongues out, would maim, and disfigure the captives, in order to create terror. They would also make piles of human skulls, just to create terror in the hearts of their enemies. Many times nations, or cities that were surrounded by the Assyrians, rather than to go into captivity, and to be mutilated, the people would commit mass suicide.
The city of Ninevah itself was on the Tigris river, about three hundred miles north of Babylon. It, the outer kind of city was some ten miles wide, and thirty miles long. You remember when Jonah went to declare to them the judgment of God that was going to come, it said that he went into the city three days journey. A day’s journey was considered about ten miles. Thus, from one of the city to the other, thirty miles long would take three days, to walk from one end of the city to the other. The center part of the city was about a mile and a half, by three miles. It was surrounded by walls. Actually, there were five walls around the city of Ninevah, and the canals and all, it was a very strongly defended city because of the canals, the moats, the walls. But the inner wall of the city was a hundred feet wide, and wide enough that four chariots could race side by side around the walls. About an eight mile trip around the walls of the inner city, where there were the great palaces, and the, the place of the king.
Now for a long time, because Ninevah was so completely destroyed, the Bible critics were declaring that it was a mythological city. That it never really existed. That it was just one of those, like Atlantis, just a myth kind of a thing. But then, the archeologists came along, and they discovered the ruins of Ninevah. They began to excavate, they found the palaces, they found a tremendous library, in which in the records of the Assyrians, ten different kings of Israel are mentioned by name. Confirming the whole Bible record, and of course, all of the Bible critics again walk away in embarrassment and shame, because with all of their pretended intelligence, they’ve turned out to be fools.
So, he is prophesying against this city of Ninevah, declaring the judgment of God that is going to come. He prophesied about 150 years after Jonah had visited the city. You remember in the story of Jonah, how that when he went to the city of Ninevah to declare to them that God’s judgment was going to come in forty days, they were gonna be destroyed, that the people repented. They all put on sackcloth, ashes on their head, even the king, and they repented before the Lord. The Lord forgave them, and was merciful to them, much to the chagrin of Jonah. He spared the city, did not destroy it, and now 150 years later, Nahum is again predicting the destruction that will soon be coming upon Ninevah.
The time of Nahum’s prophecy is a matter of speculation. There are those Bible scholars who feel that he prophesied at the time that Hezekiah was king in Judah, which would mean he was a contemporary to Isaiah the prophet. There are others who put his prophesies a little later, right around 620 or so, just before Assyria was destroyed, by a combination of the forces of the Medes, and the Babylonians. Ultimately Assyria fell to the Medes, and the Babylonians. The father of Nebuchadnezzar led the armies against Assyria. They had the city under siege for three years, and on several occasions the Assyrian troops came out, and did a lot of damage. The father of Nebuchadnezzar had a hard time holding the troops together, but there was a flood, and many of the walls of Assyria were washed away in the flood. It opened the doors for the troops to come in. There was fierce battle, and there was an utter destruction of the Assyrians. Those that could, fled, but for the most part, they were destroyed. The great city of Ninevah fell, never to rise again.
So the burden of Nineveh. It is the book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite (1:1).
Now Nahum means comforter. There is a village on the shores of the sea of Galilee, that is called Capernaum. It means the home of Nahum. Jesus spent most of His ministry in the city of Capernaum. Many of you who have visited Israel, in your mind, you can just sort of close your eyes, and you can picture the ruins of Capernaum, there on the north west shore of the sea of Galilee. The synagogue, the ruins of the synagogue that are there. It is thought that he was from Galilee, and that Elkosh was a little village near Capernaum. There was also a city by the name of Elkosh about fifteen miles north of Ninevah, and there are those that say he was one of the Israelites that was taken captive by Assyria, and came from that area of Elkosh.
In fact, today they have a grave there at Elkosh in Iraq. It is venerated by the Moslems and the Christians that like traditional places. There are signs that say, “This is the tomb of Nahum”. That was sort of a recent vintage, it hasn’t always been there, but someone decided they can make some money by putting up a sign and, like in, in, go to Joppa, and there’s a sign you know, “The house where Peter was on the roof”, and they’ll take you through for a few dollars, and let you go up on the roof where Peter had his vision. The house of course is about four hundred years old. It, it’s a rooftop in the city of Joppa, so what do you expect? What do you want for your money you know! So Nahum was probably from the Galilee region, as he makes mention of Bashan, and Carmel, and Lebanon, areas up in the Galilee region.
Now he begins the prophecy against Ninevah by declaring…
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 (1:2).
Now it was the Assyrians who had conquered the northern kingdom of Israel, and had taken them as captives. It was the practice of the Assyrians when they captured a nation, to move the people from their homeland to another area, and to divide them. So there would be just little pockets of Israelites, but no major concentration. They found that if they left the people living in the area that they were familiar to, that they were more prone to rise up in rebellion against Assyria at a later time. So they would move whole populations, scatter them, and thus, demoralize them. They would lose their sense of nationality, and they were easier to subdue.
The Assyrians had destroyed Israel, and they had taken them captive. They were cruel in their treatment of Israel, and so the time of God’s revenge against Assyria, because of what they did to His people, have come. In the book of II Kings, when the Assyrians had captured the northern kingdom of Israel, and had come to take the city of Jerusalem, this Rabshakeh came with the letter from the king Shalmaneser, in which they were blaspheming God, in which they told the people, “Don’t trust in the words of Hezekiah, saying God is gonna defend you. What gods have been able to defend against the might of the Assyrians?” And the fellow said to the men on the wall, “Just surrender to us, and live peaceably until we come and we’ll take you to another land that is just like this one. A land that’s very fertile and verdant, and we’ll, we’ll move you out to other places”.
That was the common practice of the Assyrians, just to move the people from their land, to a foreign land so that they would be weakened morally, and not as apt to rebel. So they had taken away the northern kingdom, and now God is furious, and He is going to bring His vengeance against Ninevah, and He has reserved His wrath for His enemies.
The Lord is slow to anger (1:3),
This has been two, or three hundred years in coming. Jonah was there. He warned them of the judgment. Now Nahum is prophesying against them, a hundred and fifty years after Jonah. It was yet another hundred years or so before the judgment actually came.
I am thankful personally, for the patience that God has. He is much more patient than I. He is longsuffering, and I appreciate that, when it comes to me. I’m not so appreciative when it comes to my enemies, but God is so merciful, so gracious as He deals with us, with our weaknesses, with our failings.
I think that many times we cast God in a bad light, thinking that He is just waiting for you to make that first mistake, so He can you know, just really teach you a good lesson now. When, in reality, He is just slow to anger, He is patient, He’s merciful, He deals with us with great patience, as He seeks to perfect us, and make us into the image of Christ. He’s slow to anger.
but he has great power, [He is omnipotent] and he will not at all acquit the wicked (1:3):
God will punish the wicked. They’re not getting by with it, and, and the fact that God is slow to anger, the fact that God is longsuffering, often times causes people to feel a security in their wickedness. “Because God hasn’t punished me, I’m getting by with it.” They feel that God doesn’t see, that somehow they are hiding things from God. Or, they think that God doesn’t care. “It doesn’t really matter to God if I do these things. It, it, it’s, doesn’t matter.” Or, worse than that, they begin to think that God actually approves of it, because, “He’s let me get by with it”. That is a terrible mistake to make! He is slow to anger, but He will not at all acquit the wicked. He will punish the wicked. Ninevah thought that they were getting by with it, they’re not. Their judgment is waiting.
the Lord hath his way in the whirlwind in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet (1:3).
Beautiful, picturesque speech, as he speaks of the storm, and the whirlwind within it, the cumulus clouds, and this awesome force of nature, a tornado kind of a thing, this, this force of nature. God’s power, as manifested in nature.
He rebukes the sea, and makes it dry, he dries up all the rivers: Bashan languisheth, Carmel, and the flower of Lebanon languisheth. [Those fertile, beautiful places become parched and dry.] The mountains quake at him, the hills melt, the earth is burned at his presence, yea, the world, and all that dwell therein. [When His judgment comes.] Who can stand before his indignation? who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? his fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him (1:4-6).
When God moves, when God acts, who can withstand Him? When we see the forces of nature, we feel so completely helpless. What can you do? But then in the midst of, of this awesome power of God in judgment, the prophet declares…
The Lord is good (1:7),
Now he turns from the enemies of God, who are going to experience the judgment of God, to the people of God. To them, his words are words of comfort. “The Lord is good.”
a stronghold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him (1:7).
The word, “good”, and “God”, are the same root in English. They are closely associated. God is good. This is one of the characteristics of God that is declared throughout the entire bible. It is affirmed over and over that God is good, and that God is a stronghold in the day of trouble. He is the place that you can find refuge when you are facing real trouble. Our strength, our refuge is in the Lord, and He knows those who put their trust in Him.
But with an overrunning flood he will make an utter end of the place thereof, and darkness shall pursue his enemies (1:8).
It’s interesting that it was with an overwhelming flood that the city of Ninevah fell. It was as the result of this flood, that, that wiped out the defenses, took down some of these great walls of Ninevah, that caused the fall. So he is here prophesying that with an overrunning flood, “He will take, He will make an utter end of the place thereof, and darkness will pursue His enemies.”
What do you imagine against the Lord? he will make an utter end (1:9):
And as we said the destruction of Ninevah was so great, that for hundreds of years they actually question whether or not it was a mythological place or a real place. I mean, they just sort of said, “no it never did really exist”. “He’ll make an utter end.”
affliction shall not rise up a second time. [The Assyrians would afflict their enemies, but they would not arise again.] For while they be folden together as thorns, while they are drunken as drunkards, they shall be devoured as stubble fully dry (1:9-10).
Now after the king of Ninevah, or the Assyrian king had sent the forces out against the Babylonian and Mede troops that had besieged the city, when they were successful in their forays against the enemies, the king felt very secure. He just withdrew within the city, and they began to have a drunken, or drinking parties, getting drunk and so forth, and they felt very secure. A reference to that, “And while they are drunken as drunkards, they shall be devoured as stubble that is fully dry”. Like a, a flame in a, in a dry, grassy field.
There is one that come out of thee, that imaginest evil against the Lord, he is a wicked counsellor (1:11).
Now turn back to II Kings. This wicked counselor that he is referring to, is this Rabshakeh. In verse twenty eight of II Kings, eighteen, “Then Rabshakeh stood, and he cried with a loud voice to the, in the Jews language, and he spake saying, Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria, Thus saith the king, Let not Hezekiah deceive you, for he shall not be able to deliver you out of his hand. Neither let Hezekiah make you trust in Jehovah saying, Jehovah will surely deliver us, and this city shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria. Hearken not to Hezekiah, for thus saith the king of Assyria, Make an agreement with me, by a present”. That is, “pay tribute to me”. “And come out to me, and then eat ye, every man of his own vine, and every one of his own fig tree, and drink of one’s own waters from his cistern, until I come. And I will take you away to a land like your land, a land of corn and wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of oil and olives and honey, that you might live, and not die. Don’t hearken to Hezekiah when he persuades you saying, Jehovah will deliver us.”
So Nahum is making reference to this man who has come out, and is imagining evil against Jehovah. He is a wicked counselor.
Thus saith Jehovah, Though they be quiet, and likewise many, yet thus shall they be cut down, and when he shall pass through. Though I have afflicted thee, I will afflict thee no more (1:12).
Now God is, is talking now to, in the latter part, “Though I have afflicted”, He’s talking now to Judah. He is saying…
For now will I break his yoke off thee, and will burst thy bonds in sunder (1:13).
The Assyrian army that had come to capture Jerusalem, was destroyed by God. In one night a hundred and eighty five thousand of the Assyrian troops were slain by the angel of the Lord. So the Assyrian who was seeking to afflict them never did afflict Judah after that. “I will break his yoke from off thee, I will burst thy bonds asunder.” Then he again refers to Ninevah in verse fourteen.
The Lord hath given a commandment concerning thee, [That is Ninevah] that no more of thy name be sown: out of the house of thy gods will I cut off the graven image and the molten image: and I will make thy grave; for thou art vile. [Then] Behold upon the mountains the feet of him that brings the good tidings, that publisheth peace! O Judah, keep thy solemn feasts, perform thy vows: for the wicked shall no more pass through thee; he is utterly cut off (1:14-15).
Referring of course, to the Assyrians. When the news comes of the fall of Ninevah, the, how on the mountains…
The feet of them that bring the good news, that Ninevah has fallen (1:15)!
As we read that verse we think of Hezekiah, I mean of Isaiah, who wrote somewhat similar in fifty two, seven. “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace. That bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation, and saith unto Zion, Thy God reigns!”
Now he describes the battle in the fall of the city of Ninevah.
He that dasheth in pieces is come up before thy face: keep the munition, watch the way, make your loins strong, fortify thy power mightily. For the Lord hath turned away the excellency of Jacob, as the excellency of Israel: for the emptiers have emptied them out, and marred their vine branches. The shield of his mighty men is made red, the valiant men are in scarlet: the chariots shall be with flaming torches in the day of his preparation, and the fir trees shall be terribly shaken. The chariots shall rage in the streets, they shall justle one against another in the broad ways: they shall seem like torches, they shall run like the lightnings. He shall recount his worthies: and they shall stumble in their walk; and they shall make haste to the wall thereof, and the defense shall be prepared. The gates of the rivers shall be opened, [They were by that flood.] and the palace shall be dissolved. And Huzzab shall be led away captive, [They think that maybe she was the wife of the king.] she shall be brought up, and her maids shall lead her as with the voice of doves, tabering upon their breasts (2:1-7).
The mourning, the weeping. Now just as is described here, the chariots jostling in the streets, the chariot battles and all. This is exactly what happened in the fall of Ninevah. There have been some preachers that have, have tried to tie this prophecy with the prophecy of automobiles. It, sort of, well, it is stretching it! It isn’t really prophesying of automobiles. “The chariot shall rage in the streets, they will justle one against another in the broad ways: they will seem like torches, they will run like the lightnings”, and uh, but that is not a description of modern day traffic in Los Angeles. But the prophecy is against Ninevah.
And Ninevah is of old like a pool of water (2:8):
The city was surrounded by these canals. It was sort of like the city of Venice. The streets, many of them were canals. “And it was like a pool of water.”
and yet they shall flee away. Stand, stand, they shall cry; but none will look back. [When it’s taken, those that can get out of there, get out, though the officers are yelling, “Stand!”, you know, but they’re leaving.] Take ye the spoil of silver, take the spoil of gold: for there is no end of the store (2:8-9),
The Assyrians were robbers. Every year they would send their armies out to destroy other cities, other nations. They would take all of the treasures, so that it was an extremely vast treasure store, there in Ninevah, for they had plundered the world. The treasures of the world were there in Ninevah. But now, they become the booty for the Babylonians who conquer Ninevah. “Take the spoil of silver, of gold: for there’s no end of the store.”
and the glory out of all the pleasant furniture. She is empty, and void, and waste: and the heart melteth, and the knees smite together, [As in, fear] and much pain is in all the loins, and the faces of them all gather blackness (2:9-10).
As the face turns black with famine, under the siege. Fear gripping the hearts of the people, and the city emptying out.
Where is the dwelling of the lions, [Of course the Assyrians were like a lion, just going out and ravaging the prey.] the feedingplace of the young lions, where the young lion, even the old lion, walked, and the lion’s whelp, and none made them afraid? [They ruled, they conquered, they were vicious, and they were very ferocious.] The lion did tear in pieces enough for his whelps, and strangled for his lionesses, and filled his holes with prey, and his dens with ravin. [They had, as I say, sacked and plundered the world, and gathered the treasures there.] Behold, I am against thee, saith the Lord of hosts, and I will burn her chariots in the smoke, and the sword shall devour her young lions: and I will cut off thy prey from the earth, and the voice of thy messengers shall no more be heard (2:11-13).
“You’re finished! Over! Done! Ninevah shall be no more!” Have you met an Assyrian lately?
Woe to the bloody city! it is all full of lies and robbery; the prey departeth not; The noise of the whip, [And again, further description of the destruction.] the noise of the rattling of the wheels, [That is the chariots.] and of the prancing horses, and of the jumping chariots. And the horseman lifteth up both the bright sword and the glittering spear: and there is a multitude of slain, and a great number of carcases; and there is no end of their corpses; they stumble upon their corpses: [The slaughter that was to take place, and did take place, even exactly as Nahum predicted, and this is the reason…] Because of the multitude of thy whoredoms of the wellfavoured harlot, the mistress of witchcrafts, that selleth nations though her whoredoms, families through her witchcrafts. Behold, I am against thee, saith the Lord of hosts; and I will discover thy skirts upon thy face, and I will shew the nations thy nakedness, and the kingdoms thy shame. And I will cause abominable filth upon thee, and I will make thee vile, and I will set you as a gazingstock (3:1-6).
People will look in wonder at the utter destruction that has taken place of this once powerful kingdom, that was the terror of the whole world.
And it shall come to pass, that all they that look upon thee shall flee from thee, and say, Ninevah is laid waste: but who’s going to bemoan her? when shall I seek comforters for thee? [No one is gonna moan the fact that this horrible, vicious people are wiped out.] Are you better than the populous No (3:7-8),
Now “No” was “thief”, in Egypt. It also was an island kind of a complex in the Nile river. It was actually conquered by Assyria. It was once a very wealthy, opulent place there in Egypt. “And are you better than the populous No”…?
that was situate among the rivers, that had the waters round about it, whose rampart was the sea, and her wall was from the sea? [There was a lake there, and the walls on the lake, with the tombs and so forth, of course, we know the glory of the city of the thieves!] Ethiopia and Egypt were her strength, and it was infinite; Put and Lubim were thy helpers. Yet was she carried away (3:8-10),
No-Amon actually, or the Thebes–They were carried away.
she went into captivity: her young children were also dashed in pieces at the top of all the streets: and they cast lots for the honorable men, [As far as taking them as slaves.] and they were bound in chains. Thou also shall be drunken: thou shalt be hid, thou also shalt seek strength because of the enemy. But all of your strong holds shall be like fig trees with the firstripe figs: if they are shaken, they’ll fall into the mouth of the eater (3:10-12).
The firstripe figs. They usually come in the latter part of June. They are not as large a crop as, as the normal fig. But there are those that, in the springtime, they come out early. They are usually a better flavor. They’re, they’re usually the best, and you see them ripe on the tree. You shake the tree, and they fall into your mouth. So that’s what he’s describing here. “Your strongholds are like these just, you’re gonna get shaken and fall in the mouth of your enemies.”
Behold thy people in the midst of thee are women: the gates of thy land shall be set wide open unto thine enemies: and fire will devour your bars. Draw the waters for the siege, fortify the strong holds: [Gather together water, store it, because of the siege, fortify the strongholds.] go into the clay, and tread the mortar, make strong the brickkiln. [“Try to build up your walls, try to fortify yourself!”] There shall the fire devour thee; and the sword will cut thee off, it will eat up like a cankerworm: make thyself many as the cankerworm, make thyself many as the locusts. But you have multiplied your merchants above the stars of heaven: the cankerworm spoils, and flees away. Thy crowned are like the locusts, and thy captains as the great grasshoppers, which camp in the hedges in the cold day, but when the sun ariseth they flee away, and their place is not known where they are (3:13-17).
So it’s gonna be left empty, it’s gonna be left desolate. It’s gonna be just like a place where the grasshoppers in the hedges, and when it turns cold, and when the sun comes out, they’re gone! You just wonder, where in the world did they all go!
Thy shepherds slumber, O king of Assyria: thy nobles shall dwell in the dust: thy people are scattered upon the mountains, and no man will gather them. There is no healing of thy bruise; thy wound is grievous: all that hear the bruit of thee shall clap their hands in joy, rejoicing over thee: for upon whom hath not thy wickedness passed continually (3:18-19).
They’re gonna be utterly, completely destroyed, and there will be nothing but rejoicing among the nations, because of the cruelty, the fierceness of Assyria. The power is now gone, and the world rejoices in it. Just as was prophesied, so did it come to pass. God’s certain word. You can read the annals of history, and discover that it happened just as Nahum had predicted. A hundred years later, the destruction of Ninevah came. The word of God again was confirmed and fulfilled.
You know, prophecy is such a fascinating thing. The bible is for the most part, prophecy, as God speaks of the things that are going to be, before they happen. So that, when they happen, you will know that it was God who had spoken. God has spoken of the days in which we live, and days that are yet future. He has described battles, and the fall of nations, and the fall of cities, just like He did Ninevah, that have not yet been fulfilled. Many of these prophesies of the future are about to be fulfilled. You can be sure that they, that their fulfillment is just as certain as was the fulfillment of the prophesies against Ninevah.
God’s word will not, and cannot fail. That is why it is so foolish for a person to gamble against the word of God! To think that you can get by with your sin, to think that you really don’t need Jesus Christ as your Savior, to think that somehow you can escape the judgment of God which is prophesied to come! You need to pay attention to what God has said, because God will fulfill His word, and those wonderful prophesies of the coming again of Jesus Christ, the establishing of God’s kingdom, and the glorious reign of Christ upon the earth! It should be something that would thrill your heart, knowing that the word of God is certain. The word of prophecy is sure. What God has said, He has fulfilled, and He shall yet fulfill that which is not yet fulfilled. The word of God will not fail. You can trust your life to it.
Father, we thank You for your sure Word. Lord, in this day and age, where there’s not much for sure in the world in which we live, such an uncertainty about the future. When nations are being rocked, and shaken. The powers are being shaken. Lord, we thank You that we can hold on to the solid rock, Jesus Christ. Father, we pray tonight that we will put our trust in You, and find that You are a stronghold in the day of trouble, and You know those who put their trust in You. Lord may we not fight or gamble against your truth, but may we submit to that truth. Lord may we live a life that will be pleasing unto You. Help us Lord to be pure, even as Jesus as pure, to be righteous, even as He is righteous. Lord may we seek to live to bring glory and honor unto You. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.
Edited & Highlighted from “The Word For Today” Transcription, Pastor Chuck Smith, Tape #7363