Jonah brought a message to Nineveh, called for their repentance, and gave them 40 days to repent. They did! God spared the city, which went on for some time because of their repentance. But the change of heart and life did not last long, so God sent the Assyrians and their capital city, Nineveh, another prophet. Verse 1 gives us the title of this prophecy and the author. It says, “An oracle concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum of Elkosh.” Nahum brings an “oracle” concerning Nineveh. The word for “oracle” is often translated as “burden.” When used to describe the messages from the prophets, it usually means a warning of coming destruction. In this case, its focus is on the capital city of Assyria, Nineveh. Assyria destroyed the northern nation of Israel in 722 BC. Nahum’s oracle against Assyria came about a hundred years later. Their wickedness had reached the level where God was about to act. The prophecy primarily concerns Assyria’s treatment of Judah and Jerusalem, where God dwelled with His people.

We often refer to the old testament writings and scriptures as “books.” We even call the Psalms “The Book of Psalms.” It is better to call it the “Psalter” or a “collection” of the 150 Psalms sung in holy worship in the practice of Israel. But it is not a “book.” “Nahum’s is the only prophecy which calls itself a book, and this is rather unexpected because the prophecy is so short.”[1] I can’t help but relate this to the thought that Nahum “closed the book on Nineveh.” Whereas many of the cities destroyed in the Mideast and surrounding areas have been rebuilt, Nineveh was never rebuilt. Nahum predicted that. Verse 9 of chapter one says, “What do you plot against the Lord? He will make a complete end.” Verse 14 repeats the end of Nineveh’s existence as a city. Indeed, Nahum’s oracle closes the book on Nineveh.

We do not know where the city of Elkosh was. There are many suggestions, but I think most commentators see it as in the south area of Judea because it speaks to the people of Judah as well as Nineveh.  Nahum’s name means “comfort” in Hebrew. Whereas the oracle is a “burden” against Assyria, the message is a great comfort to those in Judah. Assyria was dedicated to the destruction of Judah and had made several attempts to destroy her, but God had always intervened to save his people. It’s not that God hated the Assyrians. After all, he had sent two prophets to move them to repent. They did under Noah but did not repent at Nahum’s message. Their hearts were set on Jerusalem’s destruction, and God intervened to stop it. Even though God’s people sin, turn their backs on Him, and face the consequences of their rebellion, God will still stand up for them against their enemies. Psalm 143:12 says, “And in your steadfast love you will cut off my enemies, and you will destroy all the adversaries of my soul, for I am your servant.” We, too, have an enemy whose entire purpose in living is our destruction. He prowls around like a roaring lion trying to find any that he may devour. But the final book in the Bible, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, puts an end to that enemy once and for all. He’s thrown into the lake of fire, never again to torment the children of God. God’s steadfast love endures forever. “So the purpose of Nahum’s book is to announce the fall of Nineveh and thereby comfort Judah with the assurance that God is in control.”[2] We, too, should find comfort in Nahum’s book.

[1] Clark, David J., and Howard A. Hatton. 1989. A Translator’s Handbook on the Book of Nahum. UBS Handbook Series. New York: United Bible Societies.

[2] Johnson, Elliott E. 1985. “Nahum.” In The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, edited by J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, 1:1496. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.