Nahum was a prophet while the Northern Kingdom of Israel was exiled in Assyria, and this book is a collection of his writings announcing Assyria’s downfall, specifically its capital city, Nineveh.
The Assyrians were one of the most powerful empires of the ancient near east. They rose to power around 700 B.C., and at their height, controlled territories in modern-day Turkey, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran, as well as Israel.
Around 721 B.C., Assyria conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel and exiled its people. But the prophet Nahum accurately predicts this empire’s downfall at the hands of another nation (Babylon).
The book of Nahum begins with a description of God, in His glory and power, coming to judge the nations who reject Him as the One, true God.
Much of the book compares and contrasts how God will respond to those who reject Him and those who humble themselves and remain faithful to Him.
In His perfect justice, God will confront evil, but He will provide refuge to those who are faithful to Him.
Nahum portrays the fall of Nineveh as an example or model of how God is at work in all nations throughout history.
Arrogance and humility: The major theme in Nahum is God’s response to those who are arrogant and those who are humble. For those who act like Assyria—who believe that all wealth and power is theirs for the taking, even at the expense of others—God will be swift to judge. But for those who humbly submit to God and remain faithful to Him, God will be a refuge and a place of safety.
HOW DOES THIS FIT INTO GOD’S STORY?
Nahum, like the other Old Testament prophets, warns a specific group of people, in his case, the Assyrians, of the consequences of unfaithfulness to God—divine judgment and destruction.
But Nahum reminds the reader that God’s battle is against evil and injustice, not specific people.
Assyria serves as an example of all corrupt nations in history, like Babylon, Egypt, Rome and others, who built empires through violence, oppression and the selfish pursuit of wealth and power.
God hates sin and evil, and He grieves the sin of His creation. Because of His perfect goodness and justice, He orchestrates the downfall of corrupt and oppressive nations who rebel against Him.
But Nahum also reminds us that there is hope for those who set aside their selfish ambitions, humble themselves and seek the Lord.
To them, God will be a refuge and a place of safety from the power of His divine justice—and this refuge is extended to all who come to Him, no matter who they are or where they come from.