AUTHOR AND DATE
Nahum is a series of judgment oracles and taunts against the Assyrian Empire and its capital city of Nineveh, given by God in a vision to the prophet Nahum, whose name means “comfort.” The prophecies were made sometime between 660–630 B.C. from Elkosh, an unidentified locale in the southern kingdom of Judah.
Nineveh, capital of the Assyrian Empire, is the explicit audience of Nahum’s announcement of God’s impending judgment. The regional superpower of the eighth century, Assyria had been used by God to chasten the unfaithful northern kingdom of Israel, resulting in the exile and captivity of 722 B.C. (2 Kings 17). Nineveh had repented from its wickedness several years before Nahum through the warnings of Jonah, but this repentance was short-lived as Assyria added abuse to God’s purpose for his just chastisement of Israel (Zech. 1:15) and exhibited the characteristic hubris of great earthly empires.
But Nahum is a prophet of Israel, and his prophecies are part of Israel’s Scriptures. The implicit audience is the people of God, those already in exile or afraid they would be soon. “Overhearing” God’s warning to Nineveh would have comforted those doubting God’s power, justice, or faithfulness as well as providing hope that oppression would end.
THE GOSPEL IN NAHUM
In a variety of ways, the prophecy of Nahum brings home the gospel and carries along the redemptive story that culminates in Jesus Christ.”
1. First, there are explicit gospel promises in Nahum—promises of good news and peace (1:15) and an end to the Lord’s discipline (v. 12) and to the power of the oppressors (v. 13). God is a stronghold and refuge for those in trouble (v. 7). God’s saving character is made clear at numerous points.
2. Second, as God’s excellencies are proclaimed in judgment (1:2–7), the repentant hear and receive grace. Even though Nahum does not explicitly call Nineveh to repent, repentance is always in order even if hope is not explicit (cf. Jer. 18:7–10). An oracle of judgment is a means of grace to the listening believer (Heb. 4:11; 6:1–8), and of gospel proclamation. Truth is being spoken. This is one manifestation of God’s goodness to humanity.
3. Third, we are comforted in knowing that judgment upon wickedness will inevitably come. All will be set right. We can be hopeful and patient. The gospel frees us not only from God’s just claims against us but from the dominion of the world, the flesh, and the Devil. In saving, God overthrows and destroys dominions that are opposed to his rule and oppress his people. This is why Jesus Christ would lift up some and overthrow others (Luke 2:34), feed some and send others away (Luke 1:53). The good news is not good news for all. In his death and resurrection, Jesus brings an end to empires and puts to shame the powers who oppress (Psalm 2; Luke 20:43; John 12:31; Col. 2:14–15; Heb. 10:13).
4. Fourth, and supremely, our focus is drawn to the severity of judgment that Jesus Christ bore for us in his suffering in our place. The taunts deserved by evil (Nah. 3:5–7) were ultimately borne by him (Ps. 22:7; Luke 23:37). But for his extravagant act of mercy, our fate would be the same as Nineveh. Instead, we now stand in God’s presence blameless, “ with great joy (Jude 24).
The whole Bible is about the grace of God ultimately revealed in Jesus (Luke 24:27, 44; John 5:39, 46). The whole Bible is about the gospel (Rom. 1:1–2; 1 Pet. 1:10–12). That includes Nahum. Reading Nahum, we see the judgment to fall on the wicked, and the trajectory that culminates in Jesus continues—a trajectory that clarifies how any wicked person can be fully and freely forgiven.
* Taken from ESV Gospel Transformation Bible.
For a video on Nahum via the Bible Project, click here.
This week’s Bible reading schedule:
|Monday: Nahum 3||☐||Thursday: Habakkuk 3||☐|
|Tuesday: Habakkuk 1||☐||Friday: Zephaniah 1||☐|
|Wednesday: Habakkuk 2||☐||Saturday: Zephaniah 2||☐|