Grace Windows


The Grace Institute

Grace Community Fellowship

March 5, 1998

The Background of Nahum

Based on internal evidence, it appears Nahum was written after the fall of Israel in 722 BC but before the fall of Ninevah in 612. It is very likely, based upon the description of the relationship between Assyria and Judah, that Nahum prophesied in the ea rly reign of King Josiah. Assyria was in the last days of its great power. They still controlled most of the Middle East. However, Babylon, Persia, and Egypt were all expanding in strength.

Nahum’s Description of the LORD (1:2-8)

Nahum begins his “burden” against Ninevah with 7 verses describing the God:

While these characteristics may seem to be contradictory, when you examine to whom each of these traits are revealed, they are not contradictory but complimentary. For example, in verses 2-3 that God’s jealous, avenging side is revealed to His adversaries and the wicked. Yet, in verse 7, his goodness and strength are revealed to those that know and trust Him.

To those who are proud and evil, God maybe slow to anger, but his righteousness will demand punishment. To those who are humble and trusting in Him, He is good and provides comfort and refuge.

The Purpose of Nahum (Chapter 1:9-15)

This dichotomy continues in verses 9-15, as Nahum records God’s word to two distinct audiences. The message changes as the audience changes.

Verses Audience Message
1:9-11 Ninevah Your evil plots will not succeed. You will be devoured.
1:12-13 Judah I will release you from your bondage.
1:14 Ninevah I will destroy you, your gods, and your idols.
1:15 Judah Be faithful, for I will deliver you.

The two audiences of this chapter force the question: for whom is the message of Nahum intended. Did Nahum actually prophecy to Ninevah, like Jonah, in order to give the Assyrians a chance to repent? Or were these prophecies intended for Judah, to encoura ge them to trust in the faithfulness of God?

When following the unified flow of the book, it appears more likely that Nahum presented these prophecies to Judah rather than directly to the Assyrians. First, while a Judean audience would be interested in both the destruction of Ninevah and the deliver ance of Judah, the message of deliverance for Judah would have little relevance to Ninevite ears. Furthermore, the prediction of destruction does not include a call for repentance as is normal in the prophetic model. In fact, the only call for action is p resented to Judah in 1:15, where the LORD commands “O Judah, keep your appointed feasts, perform your vows.”

The purpose of the book is to encourage the faithful that God will deliver them and that vengeance belongs to the LORD. It reminds Judah that in the end, Assyria will pay for their evil, and that God will rescue those that trust and know Him.

The Style of Nahum (Chapters 2-3)

The Style of Nahum

Descriptive Style

Nahum spends the next two chapters illustrating in great detail how Ninevah will be destroyed. The language he uses is extremely specific and descriptive:

(Nahum 2:3-4 NKJV) “The shields of his mighty men are made red, The valiant men are in scarlet. The chariots come with flaming torches in the day of preparation, and the spears are brandished. The chariots rage in the streets. They jostle one another in t he broad roads; They seem like torches, they run like lightening.”
(Nahum 3:2-3) “The noise of the whip and the noise of rattling wheels, of galloping horses, of clattering chariots! Horsemen charge with bright sword and glittering spear. There is a multitude of slain, a great number of bodies, countless corpses- They st umble over the corpses-”

Nahum’s poetry is masterful in its style and writing. You can see and hear exactly what the fall is going to be like. This detailed description is more than just good literature. Nahum description is evidence that these words truly are from God. For these details are fulfilled in great detail.


In all Jonah, Obadiah, and Nahum, we see a unified theme of the way God wants us to deal with our enemies. Jonah taught us how not to respond, and demonstrated that God may want to use us to reach our enemies, and that God loves our enemies just as much a s He loves us. Obadiah condemned Edom for not helping their enemies (Judah) when they were in dire need. Nahum taught Judah to trust the LORD for vengeance, and that the wicked will be punished in the end.

The Grace Institute is a three year course of study offered at Grace Community Fellowship taking a deeper look at the scriptures, doctrine, and ministry. These notes are from the Winter 1998 semester class, Survey of Old Testament Prophets. This class was taught by Ken Carson, an elder at Grace Community Fellowship.

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