Easton's Bible Dictionary
Nahum prophesied, according to some, in the beginning
of the reign of Ahaz (B.C. 743). Others, however, think that his prophecies are
to be referred to the latter half of the reign of Hezekiah (about B.C. 709). This
is the more probable opinion, internal evidences leading to that conclusion. Probably
the book was written in Jerusalem (soon after B.C. 709), where he witnessed the
invasion of Sennacherib and the destruction of his host ( 2
Kings 19:35 ).
The subject of this prophecy is the approaching complete and final destruction
of Nineveh, the capital of the great and at that time flourishing Assyrian empire.
Assur-bani-pal was at the height of his glory. Nineveh was a city of vast extent,
and was then the centre of the civilzation and commerce of the world, a "bloody
city all full of lies and robbery" ( Nahum
3:1 ), for it had robbed and plundered all the neighbouring nations. It was
strongly fortified on every side, bidding defiance to every enemy; yet it was
to be utterly destroyed as a punishment for the great wickedness of its inhabitants.
Jonah had already uttered his message of warning, and Nahum was followed by Zephaniah,
who also predicted ( Zephaniah
2:4 - 15
) the destruction of the city, predictions which were remarkably fulfilled (B.C.
625) when Nineveh was destroyed apparently by fire, and the Assyrian empire came
to an end, an event which changed the face of Asia. (See NINEVEH.
Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names
Smith's Bible Dictionary
Prophecy of Nahum . --The date of Nahum a prophecy can
be determined with as little precision as his birthplace. It is, however, certain
that the prophecy was written before the final downfall of Nineveh and its capture
by the Medes and Chaldeans, cir. B.C. 625. The allusions to the Assyrian power
imply that it was still unbroken. ch. ( Nahum
1:12 ; 2:8
) It is most probable that Nahum flourished in the latter half of the return of
Hezekiah, and wrote his prophecy either in Jerusalem or its neighborhood. The
subject of the prophecy is, in accordance with the superscription, "the burden
of Nineveh," the destruction of which he predicts. As a poet Nahum occupies a
high place in the first rank of Hebrew literature. His style is clear and uninvolved,
though pregnant and forcible; his diction sonorous and rhythmical, the words re-echoing
to the sense. Comp. ( Nahum
2:4 ; 3:3
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
I. AUTHORSHIP AND DATE
1. The Name:
The name Nahum (nachum; Septuagint and New Testament Naoum; Josephus, Naoumos)
occurs nowhere else in the Old Testament; in the New Testament it is found in
Luke 3:25. It is not uncommon in the Mishna, and it has been discovered in Phoenician
inscriptions. It means "consolation," or "consoler," and is therefore, in a sense,
symbolical of the message of the book, which is intended to comfort the oppressed
and afflicted people of Judah.
2. Life and Home of Nahum:
Of the personal life of Nahum, practically nothing is known. In Nahum 1:1 he is
called "the Elkoshite," that is, an inhabitant of Elkosh. Unfortunately, the location
of this place is not known.
The Four Traditions
One tradition, which cannot be traced beyond the 16th century AD, identifies the
home of Nahum with a modern village Elkush, or Alkosh, not far from the left bank
of the Tigris, two days' journey North of the site of ancient Nineveh. A second
tradition, which is at least as old as the days of Jerome, the latter part of
the 4th century, locates Elkosh in Galilee, at a place identified by many with
the modern El-Kauze, near Ramieh. Others identify the home of the prophet with
Capernaum, the name of which means "Village of Nahum." A fourth tradition, which
is first found in a collection of traditions entitled "Lives of the Prophets,"
says "Nahum was from Elkosh, beyond Bet Gabre, of the tribe of Simeon." A place
in the South is more in harmony with the interest the prophet takes in the Southern
Kingdom, so that the last-mentioned tradition seems to have much in its favor,
but absolute certainty is not attainable.
3. Date, as Related to Assyrian History:
The Book of Nahum centers around the fall and destruction of Nineveh. Since the
capture of the city is represented as still in the future, it seems evident that
the prophecies were delivered some time before 607-606 BC, the year in which the
city was destroyed. Thus the latest possible date of Nahum's activity is fixed.
The earliest possible date also is indicated by internal evidence. In 3:8 the
prophet speaks of the capture and destruction of No-amon, the Egyptian Thebes,
as an accomplished fact. The expedition of Ashurbanipal, king of Assyria, against
Egypt, which resulted in the fall of Thebes, occurred about 663 BC. Hence, the
activity of Nahum must be placed somewhere between 663 and 607.
As to the exact period between the two dates there is disagreement among scholars.
One thing is made quite clear by the prophecy itself, namely, that at the time
the words were spoken or written, Nineveh was passing through some grave crisis.
Now we know that during the second half of the 7th century BC Assyria was threatened
(1) The Revolt of Shamash-shumukin:
The revolt of Shamash-shumukin of Babylon against his brother, the king of Assyria,
(2) The Invasion of 625 BC:
The invasion of Assyria and threatened attack upon Nineveh by some unknown foe,
perhaps the Scythians, about 625 BC.
(3) The Final Attack:
The final attack, which resulted in the fall and destruction of Nineveh in 607-606
(4) Probable Date:
The first crisis does not offer a suitable occasion for Nahum's prophecy, because
at that time the city of Nineveh was not in any danger. Little is known concerning
the second crisis, and it is not possible either to prove or to disprove that
it gave rise to the book. On the other hand, the years immediately preceding the
downfall of Nineveh offer a most suitable occasion. The struggle continued for
about 2 years. The united forces of the Chaldeans and Scythians met determined
resistance; at last a breach was made in the northeast corner of the wall, the
city was taken, pillaged and burned. Judah had suffered much from the proud Assyrian,
and it is not difficult to understand how, with the doom of the cruel oppressor
imminent, a prophet-patriot might burst into shouts of exultation and triumph
over the distress of the cruel foe. "If," says A.B. Davidson, "the distress of
Nineveh referred to were the final one, the descriptions of the prophecy would
acquire a reality and naturalness which they otherwise want, and the general characteristics
of Hebrew prophecy would be more truly conserved." There seems to be good reason,
therefore, for assigning Nahum's activity to a date between 610 and 607 BC.
II. THE BOOK
1. Contents (Nahum 1 - 3):
Nahum is the prophet of Nineveh's doom. Nahum 1 (plus Nahum 2:2) contains the
decree of Nineveh's destruction. Yahweh is a God of vengeance and of mercy (Nahum
1:2 , 3); though He may at times appear slack in punishing iniquity, He will surely
punish the sinner. No one can stand before Him in the day of judgment (Nahum 1:4
- 6). Yahweh, faithful to those who rely upon Him (Nahum 1:7), will be terrible
toward His enemies and toward the enemies of His people (Nahum 1:8). Judah need
not fear: the present enemy is doomed (Nahum 1:9 - 14), which will mean the exaltation
of Judah (Nahum 1:15 ; 2:2). The army appointed to execute the decree is approaching,
ready for battle (Nahum 2:1 - 4). All efforts to save the city are in vain; it
falls (Nahum 2:5 , 6), the queen and her attendants are captured (Nahum 2:7),
the inhabitants flee (Nahum 2:8), the city is sacked and left a desolation (Nahum
2:9 - 13). The destruction of the bloody city is imminent (Nahum 3:1 - 3); the
fate is well deserved and no one will bemoan her (Nahum 3:4 - 7); natural strength
and resources will avail nothing (Nahum 3:8 - 11); the soldiers turn cowards and
the city will be utterly cut off (Nahum 3:12 - 18); the whole earth will rejoice
over the downfall of the cruel oppressor (Nahum 3:19).
Opinions concerning the religious significance of the Book of Nahum may differ,
but from the stand-point of language and style all students assign to Nahum an
exalted place among the prophet-poets of the ancient Hebrews; for all are impressed
with the intense force and picturesqueness of his language and style. "Each prophet,"
says Kirkpatrick, "has his special gift for his particular work. Nahum bears the
palm for poetic power. His short book is a Pindaric ode of triumph over the oppressor's
fall." So also G.A. Smith: "His language is strong and brilliant; his rhythm rumbles
and rolls, leaps and flashes, like the horsemen and chariots he describes."
Until recently no doubts were expressed concerning the integrity of the book,
but within recent years scholars have, with growing unanimity, denied the originality
of Nahum 1:2 - 2:2 (Hebrew 2:3), with the exception of Nahum 2:1, which is considered
the beginning of Nahum's utterances. This change of opinion is closely bound up
with the alleged discovery of distorted remnants of an old alphabetic poem in
Nahum 1 (HDB, article "Nahum"; The Expositor, 1898, 207; ZATW, 1901, 225; Eiselen,
Minor Prophets, 422). Now, it is true that in Nahum 1:2 - 7 traces of alphabetic
arrangement may be found, but even here the artistic arrangement is not carried
through consistently; in the rest of the chapter the evidence is slight.
The artificial character of acrostic poetry is generally supposed to point to
a late date. Hence, those who believe that Nahum 1 was originally an alphabetic
poem consider it an exilic or post-exilic production, which was at a still later
date prefixed to the genuine prophecies of Nahum. In support of this view it is
pointed out further that the prophecy in Nahum 1 is vague, while the utterances
in Nahum 2 and 3 are definite and to the point. Some derive support for a late
date also from the language and style of the poem.
That difficulties exist in Nahum 1, that in some respects it differs from Nahum
2 and 3, even the students of the English text can see; and that the Hebrew text
has suffered in transmission is very probable. On the other hand, the presence
of an acrostic poem in Nahum 1 is not beyond doubt. The apparent vagueness is
removed, if Nahum 1 is interpreted as a general introduction to the more specific
denunciation in Nahum 2 and 3. And a detailed examination shows that in this,
as in other cases, the linguistic and stylistic data are indecisive. In view of
these facts it may safely be asserted that no convincing argument has been presented
against the genuineness of Nahum 1:2 - 2:2. "Therefore," says G.A. Smith, "while
it is possible that a later poem has been prefixed to the genuine prophecies of
Nahum, and the first chapter supplies many provocations to belief in such a theory,
this has not been proved, and the able essays of proof have much against them.
The question is open."
1. The Character of Yahweh:
The utterances of Nahum center around a single theme, the destruction of Nineveh.
His purpose is to point out the hand of God in the impending fall of the city,
and the significance of this catastrophe for the oppressed Hebrews. As a result
they contain little direct religious teaching; and what there is of it is confined
very largely to the opening verses of Nahum 1. These verses emphasize the twofold
manifestation of the Divine holiness, the Divine vengeance and the Divine mercy
(Nahum 1:2,3). The manifestation of the one results in the destruction of the
wicked (Nahum 1:2), the other in the salvation of the oppressed (Nahum 1:15 ;
2:2). Faith in Yahweh will secure the Divine favor and protection (Nahum 1:7).
2. Nahum's Glee over the Ruin of Nineveh:
The fierceness of Nahum, and his glee at the thought of Nineveh's ruin, may not
be in accord with the injunction, "Love thine enemy"; but it should be borne in
mind that it is not personal hatred that prompts the prophet; he is stirred by
a righteous indignation over the outrages committed by Assyria. He considers the
sin and overthrow of Nineveh, not merely in their bearing upon the fortunes of
Judah, but in their relation to the moral government of the whole world; hence,
his voice gives utterance to the outraged conscience of humanity.
3. Universality of Yahweh's Rule:
While Nahum's message, in its direct teaching, appears to be less spiritual and
ethical than that of his predecessors, it sets in a clear light Yahweh's sway
over the whole universe, and emphasizes the duty of nations as well as of individuals
to own His sway and obey His will. This attitude alone will assure permanent peace
and prosperity; on the other hand, disobedience to His purpose and disregard of
His rule will surely bring calamity and distress. The emphasis of these ethical
principles gives to the message of Nahum a unique significance for the present
day and generation. "Assyria in his hands," says Kennedy, "becomes an object-lesson
to the empires of the modern world, teaching, as an eternal principle of the Divine
government of the world, the absolute necessity, for a nation's continued vitality,
of that righteousness, personal, civic, and national, which alone exalteth a nation."
4. The Messianic Outlook:
In a broad sense, Nahum 1:15 is of Messianic import. The downfall of Nineveh and
Assyria prepares the way for the permanent redemption and exaltation of Zion:
"the wicked one shall no more pass through thee."
Comms. on the Minor Prophets by Ewald, Pusey, Keil, Orelli; G.A. Smith (Expositor's
Bible); Driver (New Century); B.A. Davidson, commentary on "Nahum," "Habakkuk,"
"Zephaniah" (Cambridge Bible); A.F. Kirkpatrick, Doctrine of the Prophets; Eiselen,
Prophecy and the Prophets; F.W. Farrar, Minor Prophets ("Men of the Bible" series);
Driver, Introduction to the Lit. of the Old Testament; HDB, article "Nahum"; EB,
F. C. Eiselen
bible commentary, bible history, bible reference, bible study, book of nahum, burden of nineveh, nachum, nahum, naoum, old testament, prophecy of nineveh