Thursday, March 19, 2020
The Old Testament Book of Nahum
This is the last chapter of Nahum. Judah had been oppressed by Assyria. The Lord used Nahum to prophesy Nineveh’s destruction. Through the three chapters of Nahum we see the single idea is the doom or destruction of the Assyrian capitol of Nineveh. Nahum was sent to bring comfort to Judah although the news he brought was bad for Nineveh.
Again, I urge you to open your Bible and read the scriptures for yourself. Pray for guidance in His word and let the Holy Spirit lead you.
The first word we see in this chapter is woe. This is the biblical declaration of curse. This was directed to the bloody city, Nineveh. Nineveh is described in four ways in this single verse: bloody, robbery, lies, and prey. Prey would describe how they approached their conquests. They stalked societies like a lion hunting its prey as we saw back in chapter 2. The Assyrians acted with barbaric violence thus being labeled the bloody city. This is due to their military conquests as well as frequent human sacrifices to false gods. The city was filled with the lies of whoredom and prostitution. Additionally, the generals and kings would lie to lure kingdoms into a false belief that they would be safe if they simply surrendered. Those who were not taken captive or killed were robbed of all their possessions. In the end, Nineveh would experience the same fate they had heaped on much of the region.
Verses 2 and 3:
Nahum described with detail the events to come. The words Nahum used to describe the coming battle paints a vivid picture of the terror Nineveh would face. Consider that Jonah had described the city from a hundred years earlier as having walls 40 to 50 feet high and actually had inner walls. The city was so large that it took Jonah three days to preach there. There were more than six score thousand persons. If you do the math, that was more than 120,000 people. Those numbers would have increased exponentially over a hundred years. Also, that number may only include adult males eligible to fight. If that is the case, Nineveh likely had half a million or more people during Nahum’s prophecy.
Being in a fortified city, all these people felt safe. Nahum described the sites and sounds that would bring the complete annihilation of the city. The sounds of chariots and horses. The sight of soldiers coming with swords. This city was about 2 km long and about 1 km wide. Imagine New York city today filled with people being attacked without warning. As we see in verse three, bodies piled up. The people stumbled over their own dead in an attempt to escape the Babylonian army. The streets filled with blood.
Why? A multitude of whoredoms… The people of Nineveh as a whole lacked morality in every sense. On one hand, they would allow weaker nations to believe the Assyrian military would protect them if they allied themselves with Assyria. Of course, this was never the case. They would make the weaker nation their subjects. When they did give military aid, a monetary exchange was expected. They were not spiritually faithful – religious prostitution. They practiced witchcraft. The rituals they practiced were beyond inappropriate. Many of the least “civilized” cultures today would cringe at the practices of the Assyrians.
During the reign of Hezekiah, the king of the Assyrians had lied to Judah and tried to sway their allegiance by telling them that Hezekiah was wrong about their God. Hezekiah had encouraged Judah to trust in God’s deliverance from the hand of the Assyrians. Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, told them that they would be safe in surrendering to the Assyrian empire. Obviously, that was not true.
God’s declaration says, “Behold, I am against thee.” The word behold is a call to attention. The Lord is very definite in His judgment. None can withstand His judgment when He decides to execute it. God declared that Nineveh and Assyria as a whole would fall and He would make sure everyone noticed it. He declared He would reveal their nakedness. Remember Nahum brought this prophecy as a comfort for Judah. He sent this message to Judah to say that He would execute vengeance on their behalf. Our God is great. He will stand against those who wrong His people. I personally take great comfort in knowing that the Lord I serve and trust reveals wrongs and vindicates on my behalf. I don’t need to do anything to retaliate for any wrongs. I don’t need to call out anyone for anything done in secret. As the Bible says, every thing comes to light. There would be none who would comfort Nineveh. Their deeds were too despicable. They had gone so far, that none would feel sorry for them.
Nahum compares Nineveh to the city of populous No which is the ancient city of Thebes, or Luxor today. The Assyrians had defeated this great city themselves. It was a fortified city with many geographical features protecting it. Nahum is saying that Nineveh is no better fortified than this city. It would fall just as easily. Nahum uses this description as a warning against Nineveh because they could relate to it.
Nahum gives a list of things the people of Nineveh will try in verses 11-14. In verse 15, he reveals that they will not be saved by their actions. They could attempt to further fortify their city, but it would not help them. God builds up nations and God can and will tear them down. No matter how great and powerful a nation is, God is in control. He has leveled great nations in the past. He will level great nations in the present. He will level great nations in the future. None should ever get so comfortable in worldly power that they forsake the Lord. He will give everybody a chance, but He has a timeline. Nineveh was given a chance when Jonah was sent to them. They repented temporarily. They soon forgot history. They returned to their own ways – their own desires. Their lust for power and temporal things led to them afflicting God’s chosen people. Not only did God execute judgment for their treatment of Judah, God added their transgressions against other nations as well.
Nahum continues to further describe vividly how Nineveh will not survive. He says that the generals and nobles will scatter as grasshoppers and locusts. Grasshoppers and locusts do not stick together like ants or bees. Once the season changes, as Nineveh’s season was changing, grasshoppers and locusts scatter and go their own way. If they are ever gathered again, it is by chance only. God promised Nineveh would be cut down as if eaten by a cankerworm. If you have ever seen a plant eaten by a cankerworm, you know that there is no recovering once it is cut down. The beautiful leaves and buds are cut off leaving nothing to grow. Nineveh was completely annihilated by the Babylonian army at the will of God.
Judah must have been relieved to know that Nineveh had been dealt with. However, despite all that the Lord did for Judah, they would eventually be led off in captivity by their own liberators because of their own unfaithfulness to God. The Lord stands for us. He fights unseen battles for us daily. He executes judgment on those who seek to harm us. Yet, like Judah, we are often ungrateful and unfaithful. Take comfort in knowing that we serve the one true, gracious, merciful, all powerful, mighty God; the one who protects His children even when we don’t see it.