|Minor Prophets Nahum Class Notes for October 5, 2015
Our study of the minor prophets is organized chronologically which gives us some insight into the progression of history as God deals with the sins of His people. As the northern kingdom of Israel sank deeper and deeper into idolatry and immorality, God sent prophets to speak His word of warning to Israel and their need for repentance. Beginning in 870 BC Elijah and Elisha preceded Joel, Amos and Hosea as time after time God told them of pending judgment and exile. The great prophet Isaiah was a contemporary of these three minor prophets, and there are more Messianic prophecies in this book than in any other.
During these years, Assyria was growing in power and threatening to invade Israel. God sent reluctant Jonah as a prophet to the capital, Nineveh, bringing about their repentance and a reprieve for Israel. Jonah acknowledged that God is gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, abundant in lovingkindness and relenting concerning calamity for Assyria--but that will not last. Assyria returned to its idolatry and greed invading Israel in 722 BC and taking its people into captivity.
Assyria was God's instrument in His dealings with Israel, yet Assyria would also be accountable to God for their evil deeds--yet, not without warning. God sent the prophet Nahum (658-615 BC) and in just 110 years since their conquest of Israel, Assyria was judged by God and defeated by Babylon in 612 BC.
Not much is known about Nahum. He was from Elkosh, but the location of that town is not known. It is possibly Al Qosh in northern Iraq, which would make Nathan one of the exiles from Israel. However, he may have been from Capernaum (town of Nahum) which was in Israel. The date of this prophecy cannot be determined exactly because no kings are mentioned. However, Assyria is presented as a powerful nation, dating this book prior to its decline after the death of King Ashurbanipal in 626 BC.
While Assyria was becoming weaker, Babylon was growing stronger.
The city of Nineveh was proud of its strength and power. They felt secure with walls reaching 100 feet high and a surrounding moat of 150 feet in width and 60 feet deep. Yet, pride goes before destruction . . and a massive flood of the Tigris River damaged its walls to the extent that the Babylonians gained access. Nineveh was destroyed to the extent that it was lost to history until its rediscovery and excavation in 1842 AD.
Assyria is modern Syria, and current events give us insight into the cruelty and barbarous acts committed in the name of war. Because of rebellion, King Assad had killed thousands of his own people with chemical weapons. ISIS publicly beheads and maims their enemies. They do not value life nor respect human dignity. They are a terror to all who oppose their evil schemes.
Archaeologists have uncovered carvings and art which had been mounted on palace walls which depicted torture and captives impaled on poles as big as fence posts. Some of their tactics as recorded by history include throwing babies against stone walls, dismembering and blinding soldiers, displaying heads as pyramids, stacking bodies like firewood, people skinned alive, mutilating bodies and feeding them to dogs and pigs, and humiliating enemy leaders.
So, what was Nahum's message for Assyria? Assyria needed to know that although God had shown mercy to the generation before them, God also judges His enemies and brings about justice for those who are against Him. Nahum's message would have brought comfort and encouragement to Judah, for Assyria was cruel and menacing even to the gates of Jerusalem. This is a message for today, also, and those who deny or ignore God are accountable.
In our homework we looked back at Assyria's invasion of northern Judah when Hezekiah was king.
Hezekiah's reign began around 680 BC, and Nahum dates from 650 to 620 BC. Hezekiah would be followed by Manasseh who would reign until 642 BC. Manasseh was an evil and idolatrous king, and he was followed by kings with short reigns some of whom were puppet kings of either Egypt or Babylon. Jerusalem would maintain its national identity until it revolted against Babylon and Jerusalem was destroyed in 586 BC. It is interesting to observe how God preserved Judah against the powerful advancing army of Assyria after Israel was defeated.
From 2 Kings 18 and 19 we know that Hezekiah was 25 years old when he became king and he reigned for 29 years in Jerusalem. He was a righteous king, destroying idolatrous worship places, trusting God and keeping His commandments. God prospered Hezekiah and protected Judah. He defeated the Philistines and successfully resisted Assyria although it was during his reign that Israel would be taken captive and exiled.
As Assyria advanced on Judah, Hezekiah paid a huge ransom for Judah including 11 tons of silver and a ton of gold from the Temple and treasures from his own house. (2 Kings 18:13-16) Even this tribute did not satisfy Sennacherib who laid siege to Jerusalem. Sennacherib argued that Judah's alliance with Egypt would not save them and that the Lord had called on Assyria to destroy Judah. Besides, all the gods of lands already conquered had not saved them.
Hezekiah went into mourning, went into the Temple to pray, and sent for counsel from Isaiah. Isaiah sent back word from the LORD, "Do not be afraid because of the words that you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed Me. Behold, I will put a spirit in him so that he will hear a rumor and return to his own land. And I will make him fall by the sword in his own land."
Sennacherib defied God and would not relent; Hezekiah took Isaiah's message and spread it out before the LORD in the Temple. Hezekiah's prayer is recorded in 2 Kings 19:14-19. God answered Hezekiah's prayer and during the night the angel of the LORD killed 185,000 Assyrians and the remainder returned to Nineveh. Just as prophesied, Sennacherib was assassinated as he worshiped his false god.
After Sennacherib's defeat around 675 until 586 BC, Judah suffered greatly from the surrounding nations. Judah was reduced to a puppet nation by both Egypt and Babylon, but Jerusalem still stood.
Nahum would prophesy the defeat of Assyria, but Judah's captivity would follow close behind.
Assyria is God's instrument against Judah (Isa. 10:1--11), but Assyria will experience God's judgment.
Nahum 1:1-6 The oracle of Nineveh. the book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite.
A jealous and avenging God is the LORD; the LORD is avenging and wrathful.
The LORD takes vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserves wrath for His enemies.
The LORD is slow to anger and great in power,
And the LORD will be no means leave the guilty unpunished.
In whirlwind and storm is His way, and clouds are the dust beneath His feet.
He rebukes the sea and makes it dry; He dries up all the rivers.
Bashan and Carmel wither; the blossoms of Lebanon wither.
Mountains quake because of Him and the hills dissolve;
Indeed the earth is upheaved by His presence, the world and all the inhabitants in it.
Who can stand before His indignation? Who can endure the burning of His anger?
His wrath is poured out like fire and the rocks are broken up by Him.
Nahum begins by establishing the fact that God is omnipotent, a holy and jealous God who will punish the wicked and avenge His own. Assyria had abandoned its repentance after Jonah's message to Nineveh and had taken the northern kingdom of Israel. God had been patient, but now His justice would punish the wicked, coming like a whirlwind and a storm. God's power, majesty, and even judgment, are often described in terms of the violence of nature. God's sovereignty over His creation is recalled as rebuking the sea and making it dry, as when the children of Israel crossed the Red Sea. Bashan and Carmel were fertile valleys, but God can cause draught to destroy their crops. Even the mighty cedars of Lebanon are subject to God's provision. He brings earthquakes to shake the earth and all its inhabitants.
Two rhetorical questions follow: Who can stand before His indignation?
Who can endure the burning of His anger? The answer is: No one!
Nahum 1:7-8 The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble,
And He knows those who take refuge in Him.
This verse contrasts God's fierce judgment with His compassion for those who put their trust in Him.
It foreshadows Judah's hope for redemption in v. 12-15 and 2:2.
But with an overflowing flood He will make a complete end of its site,
And will pursue His enemies into darkness.
Nahum 1:9-14 The previous verses have established God's power and sovereign right to judge, now Nahum weaves expressions of hope and blessing for Israel. God not only punishes, but He saves.
Whatever you devise against the LORD, He will make a complete end of it.
Distress will not rise up twice.
There will be an end to the affliction of God's people. It will happen only once. The end is determined.
Like tangled thorns, and like those who are drunken with their drink,
They are consumed as stubble completely withered.
From you has gone forth one who plotted evil against the LORD, the wicked counselor.
This is literally "the counselor of Belial" and suggests satanic influence on the king of Assyria, possibly referring back to Sennacherib who invaded Judah.
Thus says the LORD, "Though they are at full strength and likewise many,
even so, they will be cut off and pass away.
Though I have afflicted you, I will afflict you no longer.
So now, I will break his yoke bar from upon you, and I will tear off your shackles."
The LORD has issued a command concerning you:
"Your name will no longer be perpetuated.
I will cut off idol and image from the house of your gods.
I will prepare your grave for you are contemptible."
Three judgments are pronounced on Assyria:
1. The king of Assyria, representing the nation, would have no descendants.
2. The gods by which they received their authority would be destroyed.
3. The king would be put to death.
Woven in this judgment against Assyria is hope for Judah:
Their affliction will not last forever, for God will set them free.
Nahum 1:15 Behold on the mountains the feet of him who brings good news, who announced peace!
Celebrate your feasts, O Judah; pay your vows.
For never again will the wicked one pass through you; He is cut off completely.
During the siege the people were prevented from observing their religious feasts. When Assyria is destroyed, once again God's people will return to their worship and pay the vows made under the siege.
Isa. 52:7 parallels the reference to those who announced deliverance from Babylon.
Nahum 2:1-13 These verses continue with details concerning Nineveh's destruction.
v. 1 While Assyria had made a practice of scattering its captives to many nations, now
Assyria will be scattered. Nahum mocks the Assyrians by telling them to be prepared for
the coming invasion of Babylon.
v. 2 Nahum refers to the blessings given through Jacob and promises restoration of Judah.
v. 3-4 Still referring to "the one who scatters" Assyria, Babylon's fierce armor and attire are described.
Their chariots cause destruction.
v. 5 This verse refers to how walls are overrun by the use of towers allowing enemy soldiers to enter.
Historians have estimated the number of towers built to assault Nineveh were as many as 1500
and some were as high as 200 feet. A "mantelet" is a fortress type box on top of the tower which
would protect the soldiers inside until they reached the wall.
v. 6 Nineveh was located at the convergence of three rivers--the Tigris and two smaller rivers.
Dams which had been built to control flooding were opened and the city walls damaged by the
v. 7 Refers to the patron goddess of Nineveh, Ishtar, who would be carried away to demonstrate the superiority of the Babylonian gods to those of Assyria.
v. 8 Nineveh had been like an oasis attracting people, but now everyone would flee.
v. 9 Nineveh's spoils of war would be plundered as spoils of war.
v. 10 Fear and terror.
v. 11-13 While they had been proud and powerful like lions, they will be prey.
Never forget--it is the LORD who does this.
Nahum 3:1-19 Nineveh's destruction is deserved.
Nahum lists their offenses and the just judgment which will follow.
1. v. 1-3 Assyria was unusually cruel and bloodthirsty, employing lies and treachery to subdue her enemies. Assyria was greedy, filling the cities with plunder from other nations.
The city would be so devastated that the streets would be filled with corpses,
causing those who tried to defend the city to stumble over them.
2. v. 4-7 Assyria had both spiritual and moral offenses. Nations were seduced by her evil enticements.
Assyria would be publicly exposed, shamed and humiliated.
There would be rejoicing at her destruction. No one would comfort Assyria.
3. v.8-19 They had not learned from the destruction of Thebes in Egypt (No-amon) which bore many parallels to Nineveh. Thebes was the capital of Egypt, 400 miles south of Cairo. It was a magnificent city known for its 100 gates, a pagan temple 330 feet long and 170 feet wide. It had a network of canals bringing water to the city. Thebes was by the Nile River, while Assyria was by the Tigris. While each city was protected by conquered nations which surrounded them, each would fall to their enemies.
Thebes was probably the most prominent city in the Nile Valley. Massive ruins hint of the wealth and political power that was once there--forests of columns 40 to 60 feet high bordered by statues, immense palaces, treasurer of gold and silver from the burial sites in the Valley of the Kings. Ironically, Thebes had been totally destroyed by Nineveh just 50 years earlier. After capturing the city, the ruler of Nineveh decided that Thebes was too far removed from their capital city to govern effectively, and he ordered Thebes to be totally destroyed.
Nahum used metaphors to describe Nineveh's weaknesses:
walls like ripe fruit that easily falls from a tree; battle forces like weak women.
Nahum used sarcasm to mock the people to do all they could to defend themselves.
They would be completely defeated, as the locust strips foliage, there would be nothing left.
Their merchants who had brought much treasure to Nineveh only added to the amount to be destroyed. The complete devastation extended to their leadership. When finished the
locusts would fly away for more to consume.
Their leaders were exhausted and dead and the people were scattered. There was no one to help.
Nineveh fell to Babylon in 612 BC and would not recover. All who heard of it would rejoice.
Because of Nineveh's atrocities and cruelties, her destruction brought joy to the nations.
God's punishment is always just to punish sin and reward righteousness,
never non-just to fail to punish sin and reward righteousness
never unjust to punish sin or reward righteousness inappropriately
God will repay according to their deeds, wrath for the unrighteous and rewards for the righteous.
Even a superpower like Assyria is no match for God's judgment.
History records the truth of Nahum's prophecies.
A coalition force marched on Assyria in 612 BC, including long oppressed Babylon along with Medes from Iran and Scythians from near the Black Sea. Nahum 2;1
The Babylonian Chronicles report of the battle reports that a flood washed away part of the wall,
throwing out a welcome mat for the invaders. Nahum 2:6, 8
Nineveh's vast wealth of silver and gold was confirmed by Babylonian records. Nahum 2:9
Charred ruins show that the invaders torched the city. Nahum 3:15
Invaders so thoroughly demolished Nineveh that it has never been rebuilt. Sandstorms covered the ruins within a few centuries. Today it is a grassy hill, a bump on flat plains. It's name is Tell Kuyunjik, "mound of many sheep." Nahum 2:13
Nineveh repented following Jonah's message from God, but the next generation did not abide in God's mercy. In our homework we looked at the benefits of a Christian life that stays in the love and commandments of Christ.
To abide means to stay, remain, continue, dwell, continue; to remain stable or fixed; to submit without shrinking; to bear patiently, submit, tolerate, suffer the consequences of; to suffer for.
1 John 2:6 To walk as Jesus walked.
2:10 To love his brother.
2:14 To stay in God's word and overcome the evil one.
3:9 Does not practice sin.
3:15 Does not hate his brother but has eternal life.
3:24 Keeps God's commandments; has received the Holy Spirit Rom. 8:9
4:12 God's love is perfected in us.
4:13 God has given us His Spirit.
4:15 Confesses that Jesus is the Son of God.
2 John 1:2 Truth abides in us forever.
1:9 Stays in the teachings of Christ and has both the Father and the Son
APPROXIMATE TIME LINE OF THE PROPHETS
931 BC Kingdom of Solomon divided into Israel and Judah
870 to 800 BC Elijah and Elisha prophesied to Israel
800 Joel Repent or face destruction like a locust plague
Jonah Prophesied against Nineveh who repented
Amos Repent from their social injustice and idolatry
Isaiah Sins of Israel; many Messianic prophecies
Micah Calls Judah to repent
Hosea God's love for Israel despite her unfaithfulness
722 Exile: Northern Kingdom taken into captivity by Assyria
Judah and Jerusalem threatened by Sennacherib
Nahum Prophesied the destruction of Nineveh
612 Nineveh destroyed
Habakkuk prophesied against Judah
Zephaniah prophesied against Judah
Obadiah prophesied against Edom
586 Exile: Judah captured and Jerusalem destroyed by Babylon
Jeremiah called for repentance; lamented over Jerusalem
516 Return from Exile and Temple rebuilt
Note: Some of these prophets and events overlap, but this chart is just to give a general sequence of events.
Founded by Nimrod Gen. 10:8-11
Located on the eastern bank of the Tigris river opposite the modern cit of Mosul.
Capital of the Assyrian Empire completely obliterated that it became like a myth until its discovery by Sir Austen Layard and others in the 19th century.
The city wall, 8 miles long, outlined an area 3 miles in length and less than a mile and a half wide. Adjacent cities were often included in the general reference to "the great city of Nineveh".
Nineveh was the home of Hammurabi 1700 BC
Sennacherib 704-681 BC greatly beautified the city and built a wall 40-50 feet high that extended 2-1/2 miles along the Tigris and 8 miles around the inner city.
City defenses can still be traced. He also built a water system, one of the oldest aqueducts in history at Jerwan across the Gomer River. The royal residence had 71 rooms and walls lined with sculptured slabs.
Sennacherib was succeeded by Esarhaddon 681-669 BC and Ashurbanipal 669-626 BC whose famous library has been unearthed which housed 22,000 clay tablets.
An alliance of Babylonians, Medes and Scythians destroyed Nineveh in August 612 BC after a two-month siege. Victory was due in part to releasing the city's water supply and the inundation of the Koser River, dissolving the sundried brick of which much of the city was built.
Nineveh is a site so huge that it will probably never be completely excavated. A modern village covers one of the larger palaces. Cemeteries that cannot be disturbed cover other areas. Excavators have to bore through 30 to 40 feet of debris before Assyrian strata are reached.