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Theme: God Will Judge and Destroy Nineveh
- God Will Judge and Destroy Nineveh. This destruction will come because of Assyria’s rejection of God and God’s word and because of Assyria’s treatment of Israel. This has always been the pattern of history—God judges those nations that curse Israel. Kings, dictators, and nations have relentlessly tried to defeat and control or wipe out Israel. They have never completely succeeded. We can trace the attempts from Satan, the Canaanites, Egyptians, Philistines, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, Islamic peoples, Nazi Germany, Russia and the Soviet Union, modern so-called Palestinians, Iraq, Iran, and …. God will not allow the complete destruction. Those who attempt it always lose.
- Nahum 1:1, and 3:5-7 and compare Jeremiah 50:17-18.
- Nahum 1:1, The oracle of Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite.
- Nahum 3:5-7, “Behold, I am against you,” declares the Lord of hosts; “And I will lift up your skirts over your face, And show to the nations your nakedness And to the kingdoms your disgrace. 6 “I will throw filth on you And make you vile, And set you up as a spectacle. 7 “And it will come about that all who see you Will shrink from you and say, ‘Nineveh is devastated! Who will grieve for her?’ Where will I seek comforters for you?”
- Nahum. He is from Elkosh. The site of this village is unknown, though the most likely place is in Galilee or Judah. Nothing else is known of Nahum. Depending on Nahum’s dates, the kings of Judah who reigned during Nahum’s time were Manasseh (686-642 BC), Amon (642-640 BC), and Josiah (640-609 BC).
- Summary of Nineveh and Assyria. By the time of Nahum Assyria had already defeated and exiled Israel (722) and was a continuing threat to Judah. After Jonah’s ministry to Nineveh, Nineveh regained some of its stability and power, but Assyria failed to pass on God’s message that Jonah delivered. She continued to harass Judah. Jeremiah said that God would punish Babylon as he had punished Assyria because of their treatment of Israel and Judah (Jeremiah 50:17-20). Nahum predicted that God would destroy Nineveh. This occurred in 612 BC. The Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar finished off Assyria at the battle of Carchemish in 605 BC.
- Assyrian kings from Jonah (around 760 BC) to the fall of Nineveh.
- Assur-dan III 773-755 BC.
- Assur-nirari V 755-744 BC.
- Tiglath-pileser III 744-727 BC.
- Shalmaneser V 726-722 BC.
- Sargon 722-705 BC.
- Sennacherib 705-681 BC.
- Esarhaddon 681-669 BC.
- Assurbanipal from Nineveh 69-626 or 633 BC. There was civil war in Assyria, 652-648 BC with Assurbanipal the victor.
- Shamash-shum-ukin from Babylon 669-?
- Ashur-etil-elani 626-621 or 619 BC.
- Sin-shum-lishir a few months around 619.
- Sin-shar-ishkun 619?-612 BC.
- Ashur-uballit reigned from Harran 612-05 BC.
- Nineveh was founded by Nimrod, a descendent of Ham (Genesis 10:11). It was a large and almost impregnable city. It sat on the eastern bank of the Tigris River opposite modern Mosul. The Tigris was the west and south boundary. A wall eight miles long was the east and north boundary. In Sennacherib’s day (r. 705-681 BC) the walls around the city were 40-50 feet high and extended for two and one half miles along the Tigris River and eight miles around the inner city. There were 15 city gates.
- The New Unger's Bible Dictionary says, “The remains of Nineveh are a silent witness to the glory of Assyria under Sennacherib and his successors Esarhaddon (681–669 BC and Ashurbanipal (669–626 BC). The Kuyunjik Mound yielded not only the vast palace of Sennacherib but also the royal residence and famous library of Ashurbanipal in which were housed 22,000 inscribed clay tablets. These are important for their accounts of the creation and Flood and because they furnish scholars with invaluable background material for OT studies.”
- Nineveh is the location for Old Testament books Jonah and Nahum. The events are about 140 years apart. Jonah shows God’s grace to those who obey his call to repentance. Nahum shows God’s judgment on those who turn away from God’s grace after having experienced it.
- Jonah went to Nineveh around 750 BC. The prophet preached God’s message to the people of Nineveh and they believed God. About 100 years later Nahum predicted the destruction of Nineveh because the Ninevites turned back to their sinful ways after having experience God’s grace 100 years ago. The destruction of Nineveh predicted by Nahum about 650 BC took place in 612 BC.
- Assyria was a power under King Tiglath-Pileser III (r. 745-727 BC), also known as Pul. At this time God’s prophets’ ministries were under the shadow of Assyrian domination. About 740 BC Judah, Israel, and Aramaea formed a coalition to resist Assyria. This coalition failed. In 734 BC Israel (Pekah) and Syria (Rezin) fought against Judah in order to force Judah, ruled by Ahaz, into another coalition against Assyria. Ahaz refused. Instead, Ahaz went to Assyria for help. This was the background for Isaiah 7-9. Assyria defeated both Israel and Syria. Micah names three kings of Judah (Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah) who had the specter of Assyria hanging over them.
- Esarhaddon ruled Assyria from 681-669 BC. When he died his two sons took the rule. Shamash-shum-ukin ruled from Babylon and Assurbanipal ruled from Nineveh. In 652 civil war erupted which lasted four years. Assurbanipal won, but this put an end to Assyrian greatness. The Pax Assyrica (721-650) was broken.
- Assurbanipal had a successful reign. He had peace and order within his empire and with other regions—Canaan, Syria, and Phoenicia. He also had favorable relationships with Lydia, Babylonia, and Sythia.
- In the last part of Assurbanipal’s reign he had to fight wars to maintain his empire. Cambridge Ancient History Vol 3, page 127, “and then suddenly, we know not how, both king and kingdom fell on evil days. In a striking passage Ashurbanipal speaks of his last unhappy years.” He died in 626 BC. Disorder and defeat would now plague the empire.
- By 620 BC, Nabopolassar, the new king of Babylon (r 626-605) and Cyaxares of Media allied against Assyria.
- In 614 BC, Cyaxares was operating in the Nineveh area. Nabopolassar soon joined him. Then in 612 the Sythians, the Medes under Cyaxares , and the Babylonians under Nabopolassar assaulted Nineveh. According to CAH Volume 3, page 129, “The brief words of the Babylonian Chronicle, ‘a great havoc of the people and the nobles took place…they carried off the booty of the city, a quantity beyond reckoning, they turned the city into ruined mounds,’ are the counterpart of the picturesque description of Assyria’s downfall by the Israelite prophet Nahum.”
- From May to July there were three unsuccessful sieges, but the city finally fell in August of 612 BC.
- A remnant escaped from Nineveh. They went 100 miles west to Harran. Ashur-uballit assumed the throne from there.
- In 610 the same coalition went against Harran. Ashur-uballit left the city and withdrew to the west. Now only Egypt remained loyal to Assyria, though Egypt had broken away years before.
- In 609 BC the Egyptian king, Necho, proceeded to move up through Palestine to aid the Assyrians. He brushed aside Josiah, King of Judah, and joined the Assyrians. The Egyptians moved east to Carchemish on the Euphrates River. For the next four years Egypt attempted to take Harran without success.
- By 605 Nebuchadnezzar had taken over form his father Nabopolassar. He moved north along the Euphrates and defeated the Egyptians at Carchemish. This ended both the Assyrian empire and the Egyptian domination of Canaan.
- The Egyptians fled southwest through Canaan with Nebuchadnezzar not far behind. While Nebuchadnezzar was in Canaan he heard of the death of his father, Nabopolassar, so returned to Babylon to take the crown. It was at this time that Daniel and his friends were taken to Babylon.
Key People and Places
- Nineveh (Nahum 1:1; 2:8), the leading city and capital of Assyria.
Key Words and Phrases
- Oracle מַשָּׂא (Nahum 1:1), was a threatening message from God about a person or nation.
Overview Outline is the Same as the Chapter Titles
- Nahum 1, Sentence of Nineveh’s destruction
- Nahum 2, Description of Nineveh’s destruction
- Nahum 3, Explanation of Nineveh’s destruction
Trace the Theme
- God Will Judge and Destroy Nineveh. This destruction will come because of Assyria’s rejection of God and God’s word and because of Assyria’s treatment of Israel.
- Chapter one begins with the oracle or sentence against Nineveh. The basis for God’s judgment is the character of God. He is holy, just, omnipotent, sovereign, good, and dependable. For those who trust and obey him, he is a stronghold in time of danger, but Nineveh has become his enemy and God will destroy her (Nahum 1:1-8). Nineveh has devised against the Lord and plotted evil against the Lord. He will prepare Nineveh’s grave (Nahum 1:9-14). The chapter ends with a message of comfort to Judah who was struggling under Assyrian domination (Nahum 1:15).
- Chapter 2 describes the destruction. The Lord will bring the Medes and Babylonians against Nineveh (Nahum 2:1). While announcing this judgment, Nahum also says that the LORD will restore the splendor of Israel in a future time. From other Scripture we learn that this is the time of Messiah’s reign (Nahum 2:2). In verses 3-10 the destruction is described. The coming destroyers of Nineveh are unstoppable. The people of Nineveh flee. Their faces have grown pale (Nahum 2:3-10). Nahum questions where has Nineveh “the den of lions” gone. The LORD of hosts is against Nineveh (Nahum 2:11-13).
- Chapter 3 starts with another woe to Nineveh for her treatment of other people and nations. Pillage, prey, whips, swords, corpses, dead bodies, selling nations—all are part of the reason for the Lord's judgment (Nahum 3:1-4). The LORD will make a spectacle of her and disgrace her (Nahum 3:5-7). No one will help her (Nahum 3:8-10). There is no place to hide; the city walls will not protect her; fire will destroy Nineveh; her military will be like locusts and grasshoppers on a stone wall in the cold—not moving (Nahum 3:11-17). Nineveh’s leadership will fail and the people will scatter. There is no help. Everyone who hears of her destruction will be overjoyed (Nahum 3:18-19).
- Nahum’s oracle begins with God’s character and attributes. God is always the basis for what ultimately happens in history (Nahum 1:2-8).
- God will judge nations who curse Israel (See Genesis 12:3 and Jeremiah 50:17-20). Nineveh was a mighty oppressor of Israel and God will judge her (Nahum 1:1-2, 9, 11, 2:2, 8-10, 13, 3:1, 5, 7, 11-19). Nations curse Israel in many ways—by attacking her, by opposing her biblical position, by taking her land, and by persecuting her people.
- God is a refuge and is faithful to those who do trust him and obey him (Nahum 1:7).
- God has chosen Israel for his service and he will ultimately protect and bless her (Nahum 1:15-2:2).
So What? Take Home Lessons for us From Nahum
- Be very careful in our treatment of Israel.
- God justly judges Gentile nations who “curse” Israel. Our country had better not do that.
- God is a strong refuge—a comforter and protector of people and nations who trust him and obey him. If we in our country want God’s protection we must trust him and obey him.
- God gives nations time to repent or mend their ways toward him and toward Israel. The United States must be very careful about our attitude and treatment of Israel.