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Through Christ, Who taught us the way to Love: David Buffaloe, Didaskalos Ministries
The Book of Nahum is considered to be one of the twelve minor prophets - not minor because of its significance, but minor because of its size. In the Septuagint, the early Jewish translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, Nahum immediately followed the Book of Jonah. Jonah was the prophet to Nineveh, Nineveh repented and was saved, but later walked away from God in apostasy. Nahum prophesied to Nineveh in its backslidden state.
The name "Nahum" means "comfort or consolation", and the Book was, indeed, a comfort to Judah. Judah was threatened by Assyria (Nineveh was it's capital city), and God foretold His condemnation to Assyria thus comforting Judah. Nahum is considered, by conservative theology, to be the author of the Book. We know little about Nahum other than what the Book tells us. Nahum was an Elkoshite, from a city called Elcosh - but we really don't know where this town was located. Some have suggested that Elcosh was the city later known as Capernaum, since "Caper" means "village", and they assume Capernaum means, literally, "the city of Nahum". This is only supposition, though. We have no concrete evidence to support this theory.
The Book was written between 663-612 BC. This dating is based on the text:
Nahum 3:8 "Art thou better than populous No, that was situate among the rivers, that had the waters round about it, whose rampart was the sea, and her wall was from the sea?"
For No (Noammon) was destroyed by Assyria. Nahum used Noammon (the city of thieves) to illustrate that, as God destroyed them who were apostate, so would He destroy Nineveh who fell in the same apostasy. For Nahum to use Noammon as an illustration it is supposed that the destruction - especially as he was using the illustration to the Ninevites - then in order for the illustration to be most effective it would have had to have happened within these Ninevites lifetime as well. Noammon was destroyed in 663 BC. Also, we know that Nineveh was destroyed in 612 BC, so the writing had to be between 663-612 BC. We have no other way of dating the Book, for no Kings are listed (as in other books). Again, the fact that a King was not listed again gives us a clue to its dating. The evil King Manasseh reigned from 686-642 BC:
2 Chronicles 33:10-11 "And the LORD spake to Manasseh, and to his people: but they would not hearken. Wherefore the LORD brought upon them the captains of the host of the king of Assyria, which took Manasseh among the thorns, and bound him with fetters, and carried him to Babylon."
And it's possible that God refused to recognize the reign of this evil King in Nahum's prophetic book. The fact that Manasseh was not mentioned, therefore, may be a clue that it was written during his reign.
Historical setting and theme of Nahum: Jonah prophesied around 782-753 BC, Nineveh repented, but then they went apostate once more. God declared His holiness in two ways: by seeking retribution against sinners, and by showing those who trust in Him compassion and Grace. The theme is best described as "I the Lord thy God am righteous, and demand your obedience".
The outline of the Book is simple. In chapter 1 Nineveh's destruction is decreed by God, in chapter 2 that destruction is depicted, and in chapter three the causes for its destruction is described.
Selected Studies in Nahum:
1. There is a strong emphasis on God's wrath in Nahum. In just the first six verses we see: (vs 2) God's response to the wicked, (vs 3) God will not acquit the wicked, (vs 6) God is fierce in anger, indignant toward the wicked, and fully powerful enough to exercise judgment. There is also a strong emphasis on God's compassion toward the righteous. We also see that (vs 3) God is slow to anger, (vs 7) God is good, and a stronghold in the day of trouble, and (vs 15) He will always deliver His people from the wicked one.
2. The prophecy of 2.6:
Nahum 2:6 "The gates of the rivers shall be opened, and the palace shall be dissolved."
When God prophesies something, He completely fulfills what He says. By studying ancient history we find out that there was a great flood that hit Nineveh just before the Babylonian and Egyptian attacks that destroyed the great wall of the city. This wall, over 50 feet thick at its base, washed away, and made an impossible invasion easy. When the Athenian historian visited the site of Nineveh 200 years later he recognized the ruins of Nineveh as some fallen city, but had no idea it was the ruins of Nineveh. When Alexander the Great passed through that area he saw no evidence of ancient ruins at all. The erasure of Nineveh was so complete that Liberal theologians used to portray Nineveh as a fairy tale - but in 1845 the ruins of Nineveh were unearthed, found under a small hillock that sheep grazed on.
The title "Habakkuk" literally means "to embrace". Habakkuk embraced God in his life, and though he was given difficult prophecies he relayed these messages faithfully to the people. Though we know little about Habakkuk, we do know that he lived during the time of Jeremiah - which places the writing of the Book sometime between 609-605 BC.
The prophecy of Habakkuk foretold that a great power, Babylon, was going to come and punish Judah for her apostasy. In 612 BC Assyria was destroyed as a world superpower, which left Babylon preeminent over the region. In 605 BC Babylon moved on Egypt and captured it - and readied itself to take Judah. The theme of the Book would be "Problems of faith in the face of difficulties".
Outline of Habakkuk: The Book only has two major divisions. In the first division Habakkuk examines the "Problems of Faith". In 1.1-12 the question asked is "How can a holy God permit unholiness to go unchecked?". We can relate to this section, for our country has moved farther and farther from righteousness and into apostasy. The high point of the past decade was that Americans had "less" abortions that decade than any of the other previous ones. This is no cause for celebration, but religionists rejoiced. How can a few less murders be better? The divorce rate is so high that two out of every three marriages are fated to fail, and apathy is overwhelming in most of our Church congregations. Homosexuality is endorsed by the clergy, rather than being treated as sin, and the norm is for two people in love to live together in adultery rather than marry.
In 1.13-2.20 the question asked is "How can God allow a wicked nation to triumph over His people?". The answer to that is, when God's people reject God, He often allows the wicked to reign in order to bring the chosen back to righteousness. Again, this is a very real scenario for our country. Since 1980 the military forces and equipment have been drastically downsized in order to free up funds so congress people can give themselves raises. Or so we can fund dung covered canvas pictures to shame holy images, and call them art. Or to fund the studies of the sexual habits of the cat flea.
Isaiah 5:20 "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!"
We as a nation are ripe for the judgment of God, and Habakkuk clearly points this out to even the most uninformed.
In the second major section the answer given is "If you have faith in God, you will be sustained in the midst of evil times" (3.1-19). The apocalypse may be coming, but to those who have placed their faith in Christ, who live in Christ, they shall overcome.
Habakkuk is unique in that, among the other prophetic books you see the prophet speaking directly for God, but in Habakkuk the prophecies uncover great spiritual truths. Habakkuk is a man, and his soul (and his struggle with these prophecies) shines through the text. In that sense Habakkuk is similar in literary style to Job or Jonah.
Historical Setting of Habakkuk: Assyria has just fallen, and Judah is increasing in her wickedness. The leadership of the nation is corrupt, taking advantage of the poor. Kind of reminds you of four police officers getting away with murder in today's newspaper, doesn't it? Judah is prime for punishment, and Babylon is getting ready to start the first of three attacks against her.
Interestingly, it was the nobility that were most corrupt in Judah, and it was the nobility that were the first to be captured and dispersed by Babylon. Your riches will not hide you in the day of judgment.
The key verse in Habakkuk is found in:
Habakkuk 2:4 "Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith."
This same theme is picked up by Paul in the New Testament writings:
Galatians 3:11 "But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith."
Romans 1:17 "For therein
is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written,
The just shall live by faith."
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