Book of Nahum

The Book of Nahum is the seventh book of the 12 minor prophets of the Hebrew Bible. It is attributed to the prophet Nahum, and was probably written in Jerusalem in the 7th century BC.[1]


Josephus[2] places Nahum during the reign of Jotham, while others place him in the beginning of the reign of Ahaz, Judah's next king, or even the latter half of the reign of Hezekiah, Ahaz's son;[citation needed] all three accounts date the book to the 8th century BC. The book would then have been written in Jerusalem, where Nahum would have witnessed the invasion of Sennacherib and his retreat.[3]

The scholarly consensus is that the "book of vision" was written at the time of the fall of Nineveh[4] at the hands of the Medes and Babylonians in 612 BC.[5][6] This theory is demonstrated by the fact that the oracles must be dated after the Assyrian destruction of Thebes, Egypt in 663 BC, as this event is mentioned in Nahum 3:8.[4]


Little is known about Nahum's personal history. His name means "comforter", and he was from the town of Elkosh or Alqosh (Nahum 1:1), which scholars have attempted to identify with several cities, including the modern `Alqush of Assyria and Capernaum of northern Galilee.[7] He was a very nationalistic Hebrew, and lived amongst the Elkoshites in peace. His writings were likely written in about 615 BC, before the downfall of Assyria.[8][9]

Historical contextEdit

Simplified plan of ancient Nineveh, showing city wall and location of gateways.

The subject of Nahum's prophecy is the approaching complete and final destruction of Nineveh, the capital of the great and at that time flourishing Assyrian empire. Ashurbanipal was at the height of his glory. Nineveh was a city of vast extent, and was then the center of the civilization and commerce of the world, according to Nahum a "bloody city all full of lies and robbery",[10] a reference to the Neo-Assyrian Empire's military campaigns and demand of tribute and plunder from conquered cities.

Jonah had already uttered his message of warning, and Nahum was followed by Zephaniah, who also predicted[11] the destruction of the city.

Nineveh was destroyed apparently by fire around 625 BC, and the Assyrian empire came to an end, an event which changed the face of Asia. Archaeological digs have uncovered the splendor of Nineveh in its zenith under Sennacherib (705–681 BC), Esarhaddon (681–669 BC), and Ashurbanipal (669–633 BC). Massive walls were eight miles in circumference.[12] It had a water aqueduct, palaces and a library with 20,000 clay tablets, including accounts of a creation in Enuma Elish and a flood in the Epic of Gilgamesh.[13][14]

The Babylonian chronicle of the fall of Nineveh tells the story of the end of Nineveh. Nabopolassar of Babylon joined forces with Cyaxares, king of the Medes, and laid siege for three months.[15]

Assyria lasted a few more years after the loss of its fortress, but attempts by Egyptian Pharaoh Necho II to rally the Assyrians failed due to opposition from king Josiah of Judah,[16] and it seemed to be all over by 609 BC.[17]


The Book of Nahum consists of two parts:[18] a prelude in chapter one,[19] followed by chapters two and three which describe the fall of Nineveh, which later took place in 612 BC. Nineveh is compared to Thebes,[20] the Egyptian city that Assyria itself had destroyed in 663 BC.[4] Nahum describes the siege and frenzied activity of Nineveh's troops as they try in vain to halt the invaders. Poetically, he becomes a participant in the battle, and with subtle irony, barks battle commands to the defenders. Nahum uses numerous similes and metaphor that Nineveh will become weak 'like the lion hiding in its den'. It concludes with a taunt song and funeral dirge of the impending destruction of Nineveh and the "sleep" or death of the Assyrian people and demise of the once great Assyrian conqueror-rulers.


The fall of NinevehEdit

Nahum and the destruction of Nineveh; Illuminated Bible from the 1220s, National Library of Portugal

Nahum's prophecy carries a particular warning to the Ninevites of coming events, although he is partly in favor of the destruction.[9] One might even say that the book of Nahum is "a celebration of the fall of Assyria."[5] And this is not just a warning or speaking positively of the destruction of Nineveh, it is also a positive encouragement and "message of comfort for Israel, Judah, and others who had experienced the "endless cruelty"[21] of the Assyrians."[5]

The prophet Jonah shows us where God shows concern for the people of Nineveh, while Nahum's writing testifies to his belief in the righteousness/justice of God[22] and how God dealt with those Assyrians in punishment according to "their cruelty".[23] The Assyrians had been used as God's "rod of […] anger, and the staff in their hand [as] indignation."[24]

The nature of GodEdit

From its opening, Nahum shows God to be slow to anger, but that God will by no means ignore the guilty; God will bring his vengeance and wrath to pass. God is presented as a God who will punish evil, but will protect those who trust in Him. The opening passage states: "God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies. The LORD is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked".[25]

"The LORD is slow to anger and Quick to love; the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished."[26]

"The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him"[27]


God's judgement on Nineveh is "all because of the wanton lust of a harlot, alluring, the mistress of sorceries, who enslaved nations by her prostitution and peoples by her witchcraft."[28] Infidelity, according to the prophets, related to spiritual unfaithfulness.[29] For example: "the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the LORD."[30] John of Patmos used a similar analogy in Revelation chapter 17.

The prophecy of Nahum was referenced in the deuterocanonical Book of Tobit. In Tobit 14:4 (NRSV) a dying Tobit says to his son Tobias and Tobias' sons:[31]

[My son] hurry off to Media, for I believe the word of God that Nahum spoke about Nineveh, that all these things will take place and overtake Assyria and Nineveh. Indeed, everything that was spoken by the prophets of Israel, whom God sent, will occur.

However, some versions, such as the King James Version, refer to the prophet Jonah instead.[32]


The book was introduced in Calvin's Commentary [33] as a complete and finished poem:

No one of the minor Prophets seems to equal the sublimity, the vehemence and the boldness of Nahum: besides, his Prophecy is a complete and finished poem; his exordium is magnificent, and indeed majestic; the preparation for the destruction of Nineveh, and the description of its ruin, and its greatness, are expressed in most vivid colors, and possess admirable perspicuity and fulness.

— Rev. John Owen, translator, Calvin's Commentary on Jonah, Micah, Nahum

Nahum, taking words from Moses himself, have shown in a general way what sort of "Being God is". The Reformation theologian Calvin argued, Nahum painted God by which His nature must be seen, and "it is from that most memorable vision, when God appeared to Moses after the breaking of the tables."[34]

The book could be seen as an allusion to the history as described by Moses; for the minor Prophets, in promising God's assistance to his people, must often remind how God in a miraculous manner brought up the Jews from Egypt.[35]


  1. ^ "There is no explicit date in the book of Nahum, but internal evidence suggests a date in the mid-seventh century." Baker, David W. (1988). Nahum, Habakkuk and Zephaniah. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. p. 18. ISBN 978-0-8308-9482-6.
  2. ^ Josephus, Flavius (1958). Vol. VI: Jewish Antiquities, Books IX–XI. Loeb Classical Library. Vol. 326. Translated by Marcus, William. London: William Heinemann. pp. 125–129, XI.xi.2–3.
  3. ^ 2 Kings 19:35
  4. ^ a b c Kent H. Richards, Nahum Introduction: The Harper Collins Study Bible, (New York: Harper Collins, 2006) 1250
  5. ^ a b c Michael D. Coogan, A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009) 297–298
  6. ^ Pinker, Aron (April–June 2005). "Nahum – The Prophet and His Message" (PDF). Jewish Bible Quarterly. 33 (2): 6. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2022-10-09.
  8. ^ Heaton, E. W., A Short Introduction to the Old Testament Prophets, p. 35, Oneworld Publications, P.O. Box 830, 21 Broadway, Rockport, NA 01966, ISBN 1-85168-114-0
  9. ^ a b "Nahum".
  10. ^ Nahum 3:1
  11. ^ Zephaniah 2:4–15
  12. ^ Society, The Biblical Archaeology (24 August 2015). "Destruction of Judean Fortress Portrayed in Dramatic Eighth-Century B.C. Pictures - The BAS Library".
  13. ^ "Saudi Aramco World : Nineveh". Archived from the original on 2011-07-08. Retrieved 2011-11-13.
  14. ^ "CREATION MYTHS IN THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST". Archived from the original on 2011-11-27.
  15. ^ "The fall of Nineveh Chronicle (ABC 3)".
  16. ^ "ANE History: The End of Judah".
  17. ^ "Assyria, 1365609 B.C."
  18. ^ Clark, David J.; Hatton, Howard A. (1994). The Books of Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah. New York: United Bible Societies. p. 1. ISBN 0-8267-0130-2.
  19. ^ Jerusalem Bible (1966), Nahum 1
  20. ^ Nahum 3:8: New King James Version
  21. ^ Nahum 3:19
  22. ^ "Nahum".
  23. ^ Nahum 3:19
  24. ^ Isaiah 10:5
  25. ^ Nahum 1:2–3
  26. ^ Nahum 1:3 (NIV)
  27. ^ Nahum 1:7 (NIV)
  28. ^ Nahum 3:4 NIV
  29. ^ Centre Column Reference Bible, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1994) 1262
  30. ^ Hosea 1:2 NIV
  31. ^ Tobit 14:4 NRSV
  32. ^ Tobit 14:4 KJV. Quote: "Go into Media my son, for I surely believe those things which Jonas the prophet spake of Nineve, that it shall be overthrown; and that for a time peace shall rather be in Media; and that our brethren shall lie scattered in the earth from that good land: and Jerusalem shall be desolate, and the house of God in it shall be burned, and shall be desolate for a time;"
  33. ^ "Commentaries on Twelve Minor Prophets". Archived from the original on 2017-10-14. Retrieved 2012-08-23.
  34. ^ Source deleted by authors as at 24 August 2016
  35. ^ Calvin's Commentary on Jonah, Micah, Nahum; Rev. John Owen, translator

External linksEdit


  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainEaston, Matthew George (1897). Easton's Bible Dictionary (New and revised ed.). T. Nelson and Sons. {{cite encyclopedia}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)

Book of Nahum
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