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An Introduction to the Book of Nahum

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I. TITLE OF THE BOOK:

A. Hebrew: In Hebrew the book is titled <wjn which is probably the passive form of “comforted” with the name of Yahweh omitted1

B. Greek: In Greek the book is titled NAOUM which is basically a transliteration of the Hebrew

II. AUTHOR:

A. He is identified as Nahum the Elkoshite (Nahum 1:1)

B. The title “the Elkoshite” may have reference to the town that Nahum was from (e.g., Elkosh); however, it is not presently known where that town was located. Perhaps it was in Judah since he writes to Judah.

C. His name means “consolation” or “comfort” which has significance since that is what he will bring to Judah through his message about the destruction of Nineveh

D. Canonicity of Nahum has never been seriously challenged2

III. DATE: 663 to 612 B.C. (perhaps between 663 to 654 B.C.)

A. The prophecy’s identification of the Assyrian (Ashurbanipal) destruction of the Egyptian city of Thebes (No-amon), in upper Egypt on the Nile (Nahum 3:8), suggests that the book was written after 663 B.C.

B. Since the essence of the book is to describe the upcoming destruction of the Assyrian capital of Nineveh, it is probable that the book was written before 612 B.C.

C. Perhaps the book’s emphasis upon the power of the Assyrians may suggest a date before 645 B.C. since its decline was evident by 626.3 This would have been during the reign of Manasseh (686-642 B.C.)

D. Conclusion: Therefore it is reasonable to affirm that Nahum was written sometime between 663 B.C. and 612 B.C., perhaps before the rebuilding of the city of Thebes from 663 B.C. to 654 B.C.

IV. HISTORICAL SETTING:

A. The Assyrian power rose with Ashurnasirpal II (884-859 B.C.) and Shalmaneser II (859-824 B.C.)

B. Tiglath-pileser III (Pul in the Scriptures) began a group of conquerors who took Syria and Palestine including Shalmaneser V (727-722 B.C. who began the deportation of Samaria), Sargon II (722-705 B.C. who completed the deportation of Samaria), Sennacherib (704-581 B.C. who attacked king of Judah, Hezekiah [Josiah’s father]), and Esarhaddon (681-669 B.C. who led campaigns against Egypt)

C. Esarhaddon’s son, Ashurbanipal (669-631) ruled much of the upper Egyptian city of Thebes, but his decline and that of Assyria’s soon followed

D. In 616 B.C. Nabopolassar expanded his kingdom, and in 612 B.C. he joined with the Medes and Scythians to destroy Nineveh

E. Assyria’s army was defeated in 609 B.C. at Haran

F. What was left of Assyria’s army went to Carchemish (just west of the Euphrates River and north of Aram)

V. RELATIONSHIP TO OTHER PROPHETS:

A. Jonah: Nahum is related to Jonah who prophesied 150 years earlier against Nineveh and experienced a great revival in the city. It seems that Nineveh has now fallen again into is severe sin and is being told again of certain judgment

B. Nahum is one of three prophets who have prophesies against other nations:

1. Nahum--against Assyria

2. Obadiah--against Edom

3. Habakkuk--against Babylon
These three countries/empires afflicted God’s people throughout their history

VI. PURPOSES:

A. To place a “burden” (oracle) or destruction upon Nineveh
Note--there is no counter condemnation upon Judah

B. To provide comfort for Judah who was afflicted by Assyria with the assurance that God is in control and will fight for His people
Bob Chisholm says it this way, “The sovereign Lord, who is the most powerful of all warriors, would avenge the harm done to His covenant people by appropriately and thoroughly judging their Assyrian oppressors”4


1 See Homer Heater, Jr., Notes on the Book of Nahum, unpublished class notes in seminar in the preexilic Old Testament prophets [Dallas Theological Seminary, Fall 1990], 171.

2 Pfeiffer argued that 1:2-10 was not original because he felt that it was a late, corrupted piece of acrostic poetry, but there is no good evidence that such an acrostic poem exists in the text (for a fuller discussion see Carl E. Armerding, Nahum, in The Expositor's Bible Commentary, VII:457-58; Gleason L. Archer, Jr. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 361).

3 See the discussion by Carl E. Armerding, Nahum, in The Expositor's Bible Commentary, VII:452-53.

Elliott E. Johnson summarizes Walter Maier's arguments (in The Book of Nahum: A Commentary, pp. 30, 34-37) for a date between 663 and 654 when he writes, 1. The description of Nineveh (1:12; 3:1, 4, 16) does not match the decline of the Assyrian nation under Ashurbanipal's sons, Ashur-etil-ilani (626-623 B.C.) and, Sin-Shar-ishkum (623-612) B.C.).

2. When Nahum prophesied Judah was under the Assyrian yoke (1:13, 15; 2:1, 3). This fits with the reign of Manasseh over Judah (697-642) more than with the reign of Josiah (640-609).

3. The Medes rose in power around 645 B.C. as an independent nation, and the Neo-Babylonian Empire began in 626. If Nahum had written shortly before Nineveh's fall to those nations in 612, mention of them would be expected. But since Nahum does not mention the Medes or the Babylonians, he probably wrote his prophecy before 645.

4. Most important, however, is the fact that nine years after Thebes was destroyed, it was restored (in 654). Nahum's rhetorical question in 3:8 would have had little or no force if it had been written after 654 (Elliott E. Johnson, Nahum, in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty: Old Testament, 1496; see also Gleason L. Archer, Jr. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 361).

4 Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., Interpreting the Minor Prophets, 179.

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines