The Book of Nahum
Nahum or The Book of Nahum is a prophetic text included in the Nevi’im of the Jewish Bible Tanakh. The authorship of the book of Nahum is attributed to Nahum himself, a prophet from 7th century BC who probably wrote the text in Jerusalem. Not much is known about the personal history of Nahum the prophet, except that he came from the city of Elkosh or Alqosh. There is considerable controversy among historians as to the exact location of Elkosh, and although many theories exist, there is no universally agreed opinion regarding the same. The literal meaning of the name of the prophet is “comforter”.
According to some scholars, Nahum prophesied around 740 BC when the rulership of Ahaz was still in its earlier stages. Other sources date his works and the Book of Nahum around 8th century BC during the rulership of Hezekiah. Nahum is believed to have witnessed invasion of Sennacherib as well as the elimination of his host. Still other sources claim that it was written shortly prior to the invasion of Nineveh by Babylonians and Medes. As indicated by Nahum 3:8, the oracles were written after the destruction of Thebes by the Assyrians in 663 BC.
The main purpose of the Book of Nahum is to declare the warning of divine wrath and judgment on Nineveh. His words act as a continuation of the themes on which Jonah spoke around 120 years earlier. In chapter one of the Book of Nahum, Nahum speaks to the people of Nineveh and warns them of God’s judgment. He says that God has the power over all things on earth, including the mountains and hills that can shake and dissolve because of his mighty presence. The prophet then expresses a hope for Israel’s Southern Kingdom as a result of the forthcoming judgment of Nineveh. Although Nineveh is a strong and powerful country now, in time they will pass away and dissolve. On the other hand, even though Yahweh has afflicted the Southern Kingdom and the people of Judah, he will not hurt them again.
The next two chapters of the Book of Nahum describe the ultimate annihilation of Nineveh in the year 612 BC. Nineveh is then compared to the mighty Egyptian city of Thebes which was destroyed by Assyria in 663 BC. In the following lines, Nahum illustrates the frenzied activities of Nineveh’s soldiers as they attempt in vain to resist the siege led by the invading troops. Nahum even starts to take an active part in the battle’s proceedings, and poetically commands orders to the defending soldiers. He uses numerous metaphors and similes to illustrate his points. Nahum compares the Assyrian city of Nineveh to a lion, which is the official symbol of Assyrian power. He says that although Nineveh is now like the lion of strength having a den filled with dead preys, in time this lion will be a weak animal filled with fear that will hide in its den. The book of Nahum concludes with a funeral dirge and a taunt song about the imminent destruction that is about to be unleashed on Nineveh and the death and demise of the people and rulers of the once majestic Assyrian kingdom.
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