Nahum wanted the Ninevites to know that there was a judgment from God coming to them if they did not do as the previous generation did when Jonah came to preach to them. He wanted them to repent and turn from their plans to invade God’s people. But the nation of Assyria and its many counselors just confused things to the point that it was impossible to straighten them out. It’s like a rolled-up ball of Christmas lights. It’s easier to throw them out and get new ones than straighten out the ones we have. Not only do the counselors add to the confusion, but they have also become so decadent that they cannot think for themselves. Nahum tells them in Chapter 1, verses 10-11, “For they are like entangled thorns, like drunkards as they drink; they are consumed like stubble fully dried.  From you came one who plotted evil against the Lord, a worthless counselor.” One commentator argues, “This must be one of the most difficult texts in the Old Testament. No satisfactory translation of the passage has been offered to date.”[1] So many different opinions have been offered that this passage has been dubbed “hopelessly corrupt.” The writer goes on and says, “Although numerous conjectures have been put forward, none has met with scholarly consensus or proved to be entirely satisfactory.”

All the images seem to imply a profound hopelessness. You cannot untangle thorn bushes. You cannot deal with a drunkard in the middle of his drunkenness. You cannot unburn the stubble when it’s consumed by fire. The commentator continues, “The point of the comparison in all three seemingly unrelated cases is that of total consumption: the bush by its thorns, the drunkard by his drink, the stubble by fire.” It does seem to focus on the “impossibility of God’s enemies ever rising again after He has judged them.” He will make a complete end, a total destruction, of those that destroy His people. Those that set their hearts on the total destruction of God’s people will themselves face total destruction.

This is seen very often in the Bible and in History. God had promised to bless the people that bless His people. He also promised to curse the people that curse His people. The cursing here has to do with the idea of total destruction. In human relationships, it’s akin to murder. The total elimination of the one that I hate. Pharaoh tried it and drowned in the red sea. As McDowell observes, the Book of Esther tells us of another attempt, “A plot to destroy the Jews was made by an evil man named Haman, who was eventually hanged when his plot backfired. The Jews were allowed to avenge their enemies, and this victory was celebrated with the establishment of the Feast of Purim to be observed in commemoration of their being saved from total destruction.”[2] Nahum is warning the Assyrians that there will be no recourse if they carry out their plans to destroy Israel utterly. They did not listen, and it didn’t take long for Babylon to conquer and destroy them. Babylon, of course, followed the same fate. We could move on through the history of man’s attempts to destroy the Chosen people of God. Hitler, with the Nazi hate for Jews, is another attempt that ended with their own destruction. I like what Ralph Davis said about God fighting for His people. Elsworth quotes him in his commentary on Joshua, “Dale Ralph Davis says of this passage: ‘… the writer wants us to see that it is Yahweh who is the fighter; he is the warrior, he is the victor who crushes the enemy.’ He proceeds to say, ‘It is too bad much of the church has lost this vision of God or Christ as the warrior who fights for his people.… No mild God or soft Jesus can give his people hope. It is only as we know the warrior of Israel who fights for us (and sometimes without us) that we have hope of triumphing in the muck of life.’”[3]

[1] Patterson, Richard D., and Andrew E. Hill. 2008. Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 10: Minor Prophets, Hosea–Malachi. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

[2] McDowell, Josh. 1997. Josh McDowell’s Handbook on Apologetics. Electronic ed. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Ellsworth, Roger. 2008. Opening up Joshua. Opening Up Commentary. Leominster: Day One Publications.