Daily Bible Studies
|Series Theme: Studies in Nahum|
Introduction to Nahum
The Minor Prophets
Many people look at the minor prophets of the Old Testament and think they are of little worth. In reality these minor prophets' tend to be like nuggets of gold that need digging out. If we will examine them carefully and check their historical context, we will find Scriptures of great worth. This is certainly true of Nahum.
This is a book about the downfall of a city which, at first sight may appear to have little to commend it to us. Read Nahum as if it is a modern TV documentary. Because it is highly prophetic, the prophet sees future things as if they are the present. There are incredibly graphic and accurate descriptions of what is going to happen to Nineveh. We will leave a description of Assyria and Nineveh to a following special note, but what is promised this city from the Lord is displayed in this short little book' in an amazing way.
The Structure of the Book
The following is what we find here. As we said, see it as a fast moving TV documentary:
The following, we believe, was probably the chronology for the times we are considering in this book:
The reason commentators believe Nahum prophesied about that time is because he referred to the destruction of Thebes as a past event (3:8) which occurred in 664/663 and the destruction of Nineveh as a future event. Biblical references to Assyria and Nineveh that might help us are as follows:
NB. Although Nineveh was destroyed in 612BC, the nation continued for a few more years and then ceased to exist as a nation in 609BC. Babylon, or Babylonia, had been becoming a separate identity from about the time was Nahum was prophesying, and became stronger and stronger until, with the end of Assyria, they became the dominant force in the region, eventually being the nation used by the Lord to take Judah into exile between 597 and 587BC.
Assyria, therefore, were a dominant force in what we now call the Middle East, for a period of about two hundred years, and were used by the Lord to discipline wayward Israel again and again. However, even the instrument of discipline is answerable to the Lord, and He it was who brought their end by the destruction of Nineveh .
Chapter: Nahum 1
Passage: Nahum 1:1-11
A. Find Out:
1. How is this book described? v.1
2. How is God described? v.2,3a
3. Where does Nahum see God's hand? v.3b-6
4. How does he describe the Lord? v.7
5. But what will the Lord do? v.8-10
6. Why? v.11
Nahum speaks primarily against Nineveh; that is the thrust of the book. He starts off though, by declaring something of God's activity against evil.
Note, first, God's motivation for coming against evil: it is relationship! Jealousy (v.2) is a word that springs out of relationship, or rather its breakdown. There is a right jealousy. It is right to be jealous for your wife if you are a husband who sees another man advancing on your spouse. God's people are sometimes described as his bride, and He has hopes for His bride so that when someone (perhaps the devil through evil men) comes against His people, He feels jealousy for them.
Why is Nineveh the focus of God's attention? It is because someone has come from there plotting evil against God (v.12) and against His people (v.15). God has watched this over a period of time (v.3a) but will now rise up against this place. Nahum describes God's activity in terms of power, the power seen in nature that cannot be withstood (v.3-6, esp. v.6a). This will result in the bringing down of Nineveh (v.10).
But, in the midst of this comes an amazing word of reassurance God cares for those who trust in Him (v.7). He is a refuge for them in the midst of all this. There IS a refuge in the midst of chaos!
Chapter: Nahum 1
Passage: Nahum 1:12-15
A. Find Out:
1. What does the Lord say about Nineveh ? v.12a
2. What does He say about Judah ? v.12b,13
3. What does He then say about Nineveh 's future? v.14a,b
4. What does He say He will do specifically? v.14c,d
5. Who is coming? v.15a
6. What does He say to do and why? v.15b-
So far this chapter has been a song of revelation about the Lord (v.2-7) and about His plains to foil the wickedness of Nineveh (v.8-11). Now it becomes a specific word from the Lord (v.12a) which speaks about the end of their oppression against Judah.
Nineveh feels strong because it has plenty of allies who will support it, but the Lord says they will soon be gone (v.12). It seems that the Lord has used Assyria to chastise Judah ( Israel ) but that is about to come to an end.
Then it returns to a general word against Nineveh (v.14 on). God has given a command, a decree has been issued from heaven, which cannot be thwarted, that Nineveh 's end has come. There will no descendants, no future. All of their idol worship is coming to an end for God has decreed the death of Nineveh for its evil.
So, He says to Judah, look, there on the mountains is coming a messenger who is bringing the good news to you of the downfall of Nineveh and your release from their oppression. Peace is coming, so you can celebrate your festivals again. No more will they come against you, it's over!
In these few verses history is encapsulated: God has used an evil nation to chastise Israel , but now He has decreed its end.
Chapter: Nahum 2
Passage: Nahum 2:1-7
A. Find Out:
1. What is Nineveh challenged to do and why? v.1
2. By contrast what will the Lord do with Israel ? v.2
3. Who are then described? v.3,4
4. How does Nineveh respond? v.5
5. Yet what happens? v.6
6. Why? v.7a
1. How is the Lord going to deal with Nineveh ?
2. How will it eventually fall?
We come in these verses to what turns out to be a most remarkably accurate prophecy. What is coming is laid out bit by bit by the Lord. First comes a warning of an attacker who will come against Nineveh. It's not going to be a surprise. Nineveh is invited to be on its guard. Because Israel have been one of the victims of Assyria's violence, the contrast is now made with what will happen to Israel they will be restored to splendour despite Assyria's attacks on them.
Then the picture is painted in more fully of soldiers in red, of their shining chariots who will come to pillage the city. Whether the chariots of verse 4 are his or Nineveh's is not clear. It may be that verses 4 and 5 describe Nineveh 's protective measures, but eventually the river is going to flood in and the city will fall because God has decreed for this to happen.
Now what does history tell us about the end of Nineveh, for it was the end for them? Assyria had grown and in 705BC Nineveh was made its capital. It was a great city with great walls but with the water of rivers surrounding and protecting her. About 630BC Nahum prophesied these things. In 612 Nineveh was destroyed. How? The Medes, Persians and Scythians came against it but the walls were too great for them. After a three month siege heavy rains raised the river levels to such an extent that they broke into the city and the walls collapsed. Nineveh fell by an act of God just as He said!
1. Human strength will never stand against God's will.
2. When God says something will happen, it will!
Chapter: Nahum 2
Passage: Nahum 2:8-13
A. Find Out:
1. To what does the prophet compare Nineveh in the future? v.8
2. What does he see happening? v.9,10
3. To what next does he compare Nineveh in the past? v.11,12
4. What word of doom is then spoken? v.13a
5. What does the Lord say He is going to do? v.13b-
1. What does the first picture convey?
2. What does the second picture convey?
3. What do the other verses convey?
The prophet has just spoken of the coming armies and the destruction of Nineveh by water. Now he uses the picture of water to convey something else. He speaks of a pool draining away (perhaps like our bath drains away when the plug is pulled out). There is an inevitability about the outcome and it won't matter how much the inhabitants cry, No!, it will still happen. There is going to come a draining of all the wealth of Nineveh (v.9) and there was a lot and the stripping of Nineveh is going to be so terrible that the once proud and strong inhabitants will go weak at the knees!
Then comes a second picture of a lion's den where the father and mother bring home their prey to the waiting cubs. The implication is that that was how it had been with Assyria. The armies had gone out and plundered the surrounding nations and brought the spoil back to waiting Nineveh who had gladly received it. Now it is all going to be taken, now they are going to be stripped of everything.
Why? Because the Lord is against them and He has decreed it. He is going to destroy all their weapons of destruction (the chariots v.13b), He will bring a sword from invading armies to kill the occupants of this city who had been like young lions receiving the prey. No longer will there be prey because no longer will there be those who prey on others. Gone will be the messengers who came to bring the news of conquests to Nineveh.
1. Some foolish people feel proud and strong. It is self-deception.
Chapter: Nahum 3
Passage: Nahum 3:1-7
A. Find Out:
1. How is Nineveh first described again? v.1
2. List the description of the battle. v.2,3
3. What had Nineveh been involved in? v.4
4. So what does the Lord say He will do? v.5,6
5. What will be the outcome? v.7
These verses can perhaps be considered as covering two things: what Nineveh has done and what will happen to her.
First what Nineveh has done. Verse 1 encapsulates her violent past. Because it was the capital city, it was responsible for the shedding of blood across the nations. It unrighteously justified its actions (lies), was full of the plunder taken from the nations, and always had a new victim nation in its sights. What a picture of unfeeling abuse of power!
But in verse 4 it is described in the prophetic language of condemnation for spiritual failure. They are part of the human race and should know better (see Rom 1:18 -20), and they became a spiritual prostitute using sorcery and witchcraft to get guidance and obtain power, and what was even worse, they took it to other nations as well!
Second, there is what was going to happen to them. This is described in two ways. First the very graphic word pictures of verses 2 and 3 describing the invading army's destruction. But then there is the awful general description of the Lord's activity, what He is going to do with them in all this. They had appeared strong, dressed in the finery of power and sorcery. The Lord is going to strip all this away and show them naked to the world and when the world sees them stripped they will deride and abandon Nineveh to a memory in history. The end of Nineveh is clearly decreed again and there is no one to help!
Chapter: Nahum 3
Passage: Nahum 3:8-13
A. Find Out:
1. Who does the prophet now consider for comparison? v.8a
2. On what had she relied? v.8b,9
3. Yet what had happened? v.10
4. So what will yet happen to Nineveh ? v.11
5. What are their defences like? v.12
6. What does he say is the reality about their troops? v.13
1. What point is the prophet making in verses 8 to 10?
2. What point is he making in verse 12?
3. What point is he making in verse 13?
Nineveh was standing strong and feeling secure and so Nahum's words might easily be rejected. So, he says, you think you are any better than the mighty city of Thebes in Egypt (otherwise known as No Amon). They had water as their defence, they had alliances with other nations and felt secure; look at what happed to them! Thebes had fallen in 664/663. The same thing is going to happen to you. You are going to get into a fearful state where you will go into hiding from the enemy. Nineveh was under siege from invaders for three months before she fell with all her great people hiding behind the defences but that hasn't happened yet.
You feel strong, he implies. Well I tell you that all your fortresses or strong defensive towers are just like ripe fruit on a tree waiting to be shaken off. That's the thing about ripe fruit it hardly takes anything to shake it down, and that's what the defences of Nineveh are like to the Lord! As for your troops these troops who have plundered mercilessly for decades - when this happens, they'll be like women and all their strength will evaporate. I tell you, he continues, you are wide open to the enemy because the power of heaven has removed the strength of your gates. You think you look strong, but the truth is quite different, because if God has said that is how it is, then that IS how it is!
1. Appearances can be deceiving. Don't feel secure because of looks.
2. Our security is in the Lord alone.
A. Find Out:
1. What does the prophet call Nineveh to do? v.14
2. Yet why does he say that will be a waste of time? v.15
3. How had they been like locusts? v.16,17
4. What was the state of the leaders? v.18
5. What was their ultimate state? v.19a
6. What was the feeling of the on-looking world? v.19b,c
1. What do you think is the point of verse 14?
2. What is the literary transition from verse 15 to 16?
3. What is the end picture of Nineveh ?
In this last passage of our study in Nahum there is a clever literary transition; the prophet's imagery flows on like a changing river. In verses 11-13 he had warned about the inevitability of their fall, but in verse 14 he challenges them to get ready for the coming siege. It's as if he says, I know you'll struggle to the end so go for it. But verse 15 cuts right back across that so it's as if he is saying, but don't worry it will all be in vain for fire and sword WILL destroy you whatever you do! In alluding to their destruction he uses the picture of grasshoppers coming and eating everything. At the end of verse 15 his cry is for the grasshoppers to multiply, even worse, multiply like locusts, and we assume that he refers to he coming invaders. But then in verses 16 and 17 he talks about how the Assyrians themselves had been like locusts, stripping the lands they had invaded; merchants and soldiers alike from Assyria had done the same thing.
Then comes the final picture-painting of the state of Assyria and of Nineveh. Their leaders are in a state of complacency, relaxed, careless in their strong victorious state, but in no state to rule the people against an invader, and so the people are scattered. An alternative understanding of this could be that verse 18 describes the death of all the leaders prophecy is often ambiguous. The end is decreed (v.19) and when the surrounding nations see it, they will rejoice because the day of the harsh invader is ended! This is God's decree!
1. The lesson is the same: human might is transitory and deceptive.
As we come to the end of this short book, the lessons are short and simple:
1. Sin means people abuse people.
The history of Assyria was one of growing might that spilled over its boundaries, invading surrounding nations, destroying and stripping. Strong people abuse their power so often to the detriment of others. At the time when Nahum probably wrote, Assyria looked big, powerful and invincible and because of that all the surrounding nations were suffering. If they had been a godly people they could have brought peace and order to the whole region but instead they brought the opposite. Sin chooses the wrong over the right. We are called to choose right. Ensure you do!
2. Godlessness & Unrighteousness is Transitory
A nation, a people or a person will only continue for so long. God will not allow such a nation, people or person unfettered reign. They will only continue as long as it suits His purposes. It does mean however, that God is also not in a rush. Nahum spoke these words and it was probably over a decade before they were fulfilled. God uses nations and people and works within their timescales. We may appear to be getting away with sin, but be warned, it is simply God giving you time to come to your senses and repent. He will deal with it if you won't.
3. God is Sovereign
The big lesson of this book is that God is sovereign. He speaks this word through Nahum in the face of the might and power of Assyria and in the face of the incredible strength of Nineveh. Again and again He declares that He will bring an invading army against them, there will be a siege, and eventually the walls will collapse because of water. The Assyrians perhaps laughed at this word, but it was exactly fulfilled. It doesn't matter how big or strong a nation, people or person appears, God can deal with them easily. It's not a problem to Him He is Almighty God! The call is for us to bring our lives in line with Almighty God and worship Him. He is the Lord, so even if nations or ideologies appear to be reigning supreme in our world, understand that it is only for a time and only because God is using them for His purposes, and He will hold them accountable. Their time is limited. Be at peace. Rejoice in the knowledge that He is working out His purposes and NO ONE can hinder them!