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Nahum 1:1 A prophecy concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite

Writing around 650 BC, Nahum foretold the destruction of Nineveh, which occurred in 612 BC. Jonah announced the destruction of Nineveh about a hundred years earlier, but that judgment was delayed due to their repentance (Jonah 3:5). Nineveh returned to her evil ways, however, and sealed her own doom.

The city of Nineveh stands for the whole Assyrian empire, of which it was the capital. The Assyrians destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 BC. They were also a threat to the southern kingdom of Judah, which they had already plundered (2 Kings 18:13-16). The Assyrians inflicted terrible suffering on their enemies, and struck fear in the hearts of many. The prophet’s name means comfort, and his prophecy was a comfort to the people of Judah.

Nahum 1:2 The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The Lord takes vengeance on his foes and vents his wrath against his enemies. 

By attacking the people of God, the Assyrians were attacking God himself. [W]hoever touches you touches the apple of his eye (Zechariah 2:8), wrote Zechariah. Likewise, when Saul was persecuting Christians, the Lord said to him: Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? (Acts 9:4). Whoever attacks a child of God attacks God himself—and may incur the wrath of God.

One man attacked his pastor’s reputation and nearly destroyed his ministry. The town was small, so most people heard of it, and knew that it was wrong. While the man was waging war against his pastor, he went up in his airplane, and died when it crashed. Reading providence is seldom wise, but the town’s people drew their own conclusions. The Lord takes vengeance on his foes and vents his wrath against his enemies. 

Nahum 1:3 [T]he Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished

Any judge who pardoned criminals, just because he was merciful, would not be qualified for the job. And if the criminal was a murdering rapist, the judge would be considered evil, for not imposing justice. This is why there has to be a Judgment Day. [T]he Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished

And since we are all guilty of something, we all have reason to be concerned. We might be better than other sinners, but that does not make us righteous. If God gives us what we deserve, we’ll be in hell forever (Matthew 25:41).

Because of his mercy, however, God sent his Son to bear the punishment we deserve. [H]e was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him (Isaiah 53:5), wrote Isaiah.

Since God bore the penalty for our sins, he can be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus (Romans 3:26), wrote Paul. God can be a righteous judge, and still be merciful to those who believe in Jesus Christ, because justice was fulfilled when Jesus died on a cross for our sins. In fact, it would be wrong for God to punish believers for their sins, because their sins have already been paid for. To require a double payment would be unjust.

Nahum 1:6 Who can withstand his indignation? Who can endure his fierce anger? His wrath is poured out like fire; the rocks are shattered before him

Here we should think of lightning striking the top of a mountain, splitting rocks, and causing them to tumble down. But God’s wrath is even worse than that. They called to the mountains and the rocks, Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it? (Revelation 6:16-17), wrote John. It is better to have a mountain fall on your head than to face the wrath of God. 

Nahum 2:6 The river gates are thrown open and the palace collapses

This seems to describe the fall of Nineveh. The river gates may have been closed until a massive amount of water was backed up. When it was released, the mighty flow of water breached the city walls, providing access for the opposing army. No one is safe from God’s judgment, no matter how strong their defense. 

Nahum 3:19 Nothing can heal you; your wound is fatal. All who hear the news about you clap their hands at your fall, for who has not felt your endless cruelty? 

Nahum’s final verse assures the reader that Nineveh will never rise again. The destruction was so complete that the city was buried in sand, and lost to the world, until it was rediscovered by archaeologists in 1845. God’s people will live forever, but the memory of his enemies will be buried in the dust.

Reflection and Review
Why is it dangerous to attack God’s people?
Why can’t sins be pardoned apart from Jesus Christ?
What is the wrath of God like?