Nahum 1:1–11 Our Good and Terrible God
Key Notes: Assyria is God's servant to judge Israel. God's wrath and judgment.
Historical Setting: Nahum was from Elkosh, but we are not sure of the location of his town and we know little about the prophet. His book was written in the mid- to late 7th century B.C. (663–612 B.C.) because the book refers to the Assyrian conquest of Thebes (3:8–10), which was completed in 663BC. Manasseh and later Josiah were kings in Judah. The defeat of Thebes was a remarkable military achievement. Its conquest of modern-day Iraq, Syria, parts of iran and Turkey and the Mediterranean strip down to Egypt, made Assyria a formidable world power. Nahum predicted the demise of Assyria in 612BC. The principal city of Nineveh fell to the Babylonian and the Medes.
Israel's problems with Assyria go back 150 years. Jonah (~780 BC) was sent by God to Ninevah to demand its repentance--a demand he wanted no part of. But Ninivah repented and turned away God's wrath. The northern kingdom of Samaria fell to the Assyrians some 60 years later under God's direction. (720BC). A few years later Sennacharib (701) came after Judah, and although he ravaged the little towns on the way, Hezekiah prayed for Jerusalem and the city was saved--at the Assyrians' expense. Now, some 40 years later the prophet Nahum prophesies the destruction of Ninevah and Assyria as a world power. Alas, the troubles of Judah were not at an end, and Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians in 587BC.
Nahum is the most poetic book in form and in imagery of all the minor prophets. It is the only book of prophecy to refer to itself as a book. (1:1). For these reasons some say it was a written prophecy, and not a spoken one. It may have been both.
Nahum 1:2–8 reads like a psalm with parallel stanzas, vivid imagery and with no particular references to times, places, or people. It is a hymn of victory—compare it to Psa. 68, 97 or 114. it is interesting to note that Nahum sings a hymn of victory before Assyria is overthrown, displaying great confidence in the Lord.
He uses apocalyptic imagery:
Clouds are the dust of His feet. 1:3
Storm, whirlwind, drought, earthquake, volcano. 1:3–5
Flood, darkness 1:8
When God comes in judgment, all the earth shudders and heaves. Recite these verses to yourself the next time you see storm clouds rolling in. It is intense.
It is interesting to note in light of verse 8 that a flooding of the Tigris river caused twenty-one furlongs (2.64 miles) of Nineveh's walls to collapse, leaving the city vulnerable to attack. It appears the Medes strategically diverted its flow as part of their siege. (See also 2:6.)
God is Jealous, Avenging, Wrathful 1:2
Slow to anger, Powerful, Just 1:3
Indignant (offended) 1:6
Good! A stronghold, A refuge. 1:7
Jealous: He will remove every obstacle that stands in the way of His purpose for us—whether it's internal or external.
Avenging, wrathful: He hates evil and He destroys it.
Indignant: I've heard the gospel paraphrased as “God is not mad at you.” If you are in Christ, that is true.
"... there is no condemnation left for those who are in Christ." Rom. 8:1. But if you are opposing Christ, He is offended. And anyone in that category should be praising Him for His patience, and hurry to repentance.
Why does opposition to God's purposes still exist? He is....
- Powerful. Opposition does not deny His ability to respond!
- Just, so it is not because He doesn't care, or doesn't know the difference between good and evil!
- Patient. He is long-suffering, not wanting any of His creatures to perish. He gives us all time to repent of our sin.
- Good: In spite of threats, judgments, and destruction, God is good. No, wait. Because of all the threats, judgments, destruction, God is good. We should not be so quick to dismiss the wrath of God as one of His less-than-wonderful attributes.
A just God knows good from evil. A powerful God is able to conquer evil. A good God wills to conquer evil. His wrath is His passionate desire to rid His world of evil. And His patient love is what keeps Him from unleashing all of His wrath upon our world at once. But He is a God of wrath every bit as much as a God of love, and it all shows forth His goodness.
9–11 God's character is applied to Assyria's arrogance.
Assyria is God's instrument of justice against Israel, but arrogance had become their own biggest obstacle to fulfilling God's purpose. They got too big for their britches. (See Isaiah 10:5–19; 36:13–22.)
Jesus' ministry demonstrated that God had sent Him not to fight against Israel's worldly oppressors, but against their spiritual oppressors—Satan and the forces of evil. He conscripted an army and fortified them—us!—not with swords and shields, but with the Gospel. Imagine the Church going forth like a storm cloud rolling in, spreading the good news, and the powers and principalities of darkness suffering an upheaval of their world.
God, give us the eyes to see our world in Your light.
God is still the Cosmic Warrior.
written by Greg Meyer