Nahum’s name means “comfort” or “consolation,” a shortened form of Nehemiah, which means “the comfort (or consolation) of Jehovah.” Little is known about Nahum apart from his powerful prophecy and his identification as “the Elkoshite.” There are three basic theories regarding the location of Elkosh: (1) an Assyrian city “al-Kush” on the Tigris River not far from Nineveh; (2) Capernaum, the well-known city in the northern kingdom, whose name was changed in honor of Nahum; (3) a city of uncertain location in the southern kingdom. If the reference is to a city in Assyria, it would indicate Nahum’s family had been part of the Assyrian deportation at the fall of Samaria (722 BC), thus giving him northern roots. Identifying the significance of “the Elkoshite” conclusively is not crucial to the interpretation of the message.
A historic event and a future event mark the time frame for Nahum’s prophecy. Nahum 3:8 mentions the fall of No, a chief Egyptian city also known as No-Amon or Thebes. Thebes fell to the Assyrian forces under the leadership of Assurbanipal around 664/663 BC. Nahum’s prophecy began after that event but before the fall of Nineveh which was the theme of his message. Nineveh fell to a Medo-Babylonian coalition in 612 BC. The Babylonian Chronicle, a concise record of Nabopolassar’s campaigns (616-609 BC) describes a two-month siege against Nineveh that was ultimately aided by the flooding of the Tigris, which enabled the Babylonian forces to breach Nineveh’s seemingly impregnable defensive walls. Significantly, Nahum links Nineveh’s fall to a flood (1:8; 2:6). In the light of the historic and future event, Nahum’s prophecy dates between 663 and 612 BC.
The doom and destruction of Nineveh.
To warn sinners of God’s exacting justice and to encourage God’s people with His power to save, also to vouchsafe His redemptive purpose by showing that no opposition can frustrate the advancement of God’s kingdom. Nahum 1:7-8 sums up the dual purpose.
The Contribution of Nahum to Redemptive Revelation
Although there are no explicit references to Christ in Nahum, the prophecy points to Christ and makes a vital contribution to the progression of redemptive history. Nahum reveals God in terms of justice, power, and goodness and artfully intertwines the message of judgment and grace. His message of consolation to Israel was that God would judge Nineveh, a great and bloody city whose savagery was proverbial both in Scripture and its own records. Ironically, this message of certain destruction of Nineveh comes a hundred years after Jonah’s message to Nineveh that led to the amazing display of God’s grace in sparing the city in the light of its widespread repentance. That repentance under Jonah was short-lived and soon forgotten, and now Nahum pronounces doom on this new generation whose gross iniquities and opposition to God would find no pardon. Great and unrepentant sins bring certain ruin. Significantly, whereas Jonah preached his message of threatened judgment directly to Nineveh, leading to their experience of grace, there is no indication that Nineveh ever heard Nahum’s declaration of a certain and irreversible sentence of doom. God is gracious to whom He is gracious, but He withholds His mercy from whom He wills (Rom. 9:14-18). He is sovereign in both grace and judgment. Nahum’s oracle contributes to the redemptive message by highlighting the sinner’s desperate condition and warning sinners of every age not to trifle with God. His message is indeed a comfort to saints of the certainty of God’s unfailing plan and purpose of redemption. Had Assyria successfully persisted in their cruelty and opposition to Israel, the coming of Messiah would have been jeopardized. There had to be an Israel if there was going to be Christ, and God ensured that the Christ was coming. Assyria was just one more member of the serpent’s seed that would be defeated in its hostility to the promised Seed of the woman (Gen. 3:15). Nahum assures us that the whole program of redemption is on course. That God defeats this fierce enemy of grace points directly to the mediatorial kingship of Christ that assures the defeat of all of His and our enemies: a victory won on the cross that continues in the church and will be consummated at the end of time.
- Superscription (Nahum 1:1)
- The Announcement of Nineveh’s Doom (Nahum 1:2-15)
- The Identity of the Judge: The Song of God’s Majesty (Nahum 1:2-8)
- The Purpose of the Judgment (Nahum 1:9-15)
- Destruction to Nineveh (Nahum 1:9-11)
- Deliverance for Judah (Nahum 1:12-15)
- The Description of Nineveh’s Destruction (Nahum 2:1-13)
- Warfare (Nahum 2:1-6)
- Defeat and Plunder (Nahum 2:7-13)
- The Reasons for Nineveh’s Destruction (Nahum 3:1-19)
- Great Sins (Nahum 3:1-10)
- Great Weakness (Nahum 3:11-19)
Extracted from: Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible Notes(Beeke, Joel R. 2015. Reformation Heritage Books).
See Today’s Bible Reading and Bible Study challenges below, which include the Book of Psalms and build on this overview with a chapter-by-chapter Bible reading plan and Bible study insights.