Nahum 1 – God’s Vengeance and Goodness & Bethlehem

Finger Pointing UpThe book of Nahum appears to mainly be about God’s anger towards Nineveh, so let’s take a closer look at...

Nahum 1
God’s Vengeance and Goodness

1 The burden of Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite.

1 Statue of Jesus in Lebanon
Statue of Jesus in Lebanon

“Nineveh” – the capital city stands for the entire Assyrian empire and though they had repented for Jonah, they are back to their old evil ways.

2 God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies.

“Revengeth…revengeth…vengeance” – God acts justly in judgment toward all who oppose Him and His kingdom.  The repetition is for emphasis.

3 The LORD is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked: the LORD hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.

“The wicked” – such as Nineveh.  This idea is the necessary counterpart to Mic 7:18-20.  God’s compassion tempers His judgment of sin but not in such a way as to leave Assyria’s gross sin unpunished.

4 He rebuketh the sea, and maketh it dry, and drieth up all the rivers: Bashan languisheth, and Carmel and the flower of Lebanon languisheth.

2 The Earliest Known Dictionaries
The Earliest Known Dictionaries
Circa 2,300 B.C.
The Urra=hubullu, currently preserved at the Louvre Museum in Paris.

The oldest known dictionaries are cuneiform tablets from the Akkadian empire with biliingual wordlists in Sumerian and Akkadian discovered in Ebla in modern Syria.

“Bashan…Carmel…Lebanon” – these three places were noted for their fertility, vineyards and trees, but at the Lord’s word they wither.

5 The mountains quake at him, and the hills melt, and the earth is burned at his presence, yea, the world, and all that dwell therein.

“Mountains…hills… earth…world” – emblems of stability and performance.

6 Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? his fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him.

7 The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.

8 But with an overrunning flood he will make an utter end of the place thereof, and darkness shall pursue his enemies.

“Overrunning flood’ – symbolic of an invading army.

“End…darkness” – in 612 B.C. that end came for Nineveh, and the darkness enveloped her.  Through the ministry of Jonah, Nineveh had formerly experienced the light of God.  Bus she later rejected it, and the result was the darkness of judgment.

9 What do ye imagine against the LORD? he will make an utter end: affliction shall not rise up the second time.

“Affliction shall not rise up the second time” – this statement only means that Assyria will not do exactly to Judah what it did to Samaria in 722 B.C.  in fact, in 701, Sennacherib succeeded in destroying 46 walled cities and carried over 200,000 Judahites into captivity.

God, however, chose to spare Judah complete captivity due to the blasphemy of the Rab-shaketh.

10 For while they be folden together as thorns, and while they are drunken as drunkards, they shall be devoured as stubble fully dry.

11 There is one come out of thee that imagineth evil against the LORD, a wicked counsellor.

“That imagineth evil” – possibly the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal (669-627 B.C.), the last great Assyrian king, whose western expeditions succeeded in subduing Egypt and to whom King Manasseh had to submit as a vassal.

12 Thus saith the LORD; Though they be quiet, and likewise many, yet thus shall they be cut down, when he shall pass through. Though I have afflicted thee, I will afflict thee no more.

“I have afflicted thee” – God had used Assyria as the rod of His anger against His covenant breaking people in the days of Ahaz and again in the time of Manasseh.

3 Relief of Grape Leaves from Southwest Palace of Sennacherib in Nineveh Assyrian.
Relief of Grape Leaves from Southwest Palace of Sennacherib in Nineveh – Assyrian.

13 For now will I break his yoke from off thee, and will burst thy bonds in sunder.

14 And the LORD hath given a commandment concerning thee, that no more of thy name be sown: out of the house of thy gods will I cut off the graven image and the molten image: I will make thy grave; for thou art vile.

“I will make thy grave” – God used the Babylonians, the Medes and the Scythians to dig Nineveh’s grave in 612 B.C.  For the fulfillment of this prophecy see Eze 32:22-23).

15 Behold upon the mountains the feet of him that bringeth good tidings that publisheth peace! O Judah, keep thy solemn feasts, perform thy vows: for the wicked shall no more pass through thee; he is utterly cut off.

Bethlehem

Situated five miles south of Jerusalem along the main ridge route, Bethlehem (“house of bread”) was an insignificant town during Old Testament times, except for being the birthplace of David, who was also anointed there by Samuel (1 Sam 16).

4 South Bethlehem in winter
South Bethlehem in winter

The book of Ruth, which deals with David’s paternal ancestors, is for the most part set in this village. The Old Testament does record a few other minor historical details about Bethlehem, however.

For a time a Philistine garrison continued the town (2 Sam 23:14-16). Also, Bethlehem was one of the villages that Rehoboam fortified in his effort to hold on to Judah after the defection of the northern tribes (2 Chr 11:5—12).

Micah prophesied that the Messiah would come from this otherwise insignificant community (5:2-5), but it was not unfitting that the Messianic “son of David” should be born in the birthplace of David.

Archaeologically, little is known of ancient Bethlehem. The site was occupied from prehistoric times (some prehistoric flints and split animal bones have been unearthed there). Bethlehem may be mentioned in one of the Amarna Letters, but this reference is disputed.

Most archaeological research at Bethlehem, in fact, focuses on the Church of the Nativity and on the history of the site through the Byzantine, Islamic and Crusader periods.

5 Church of the Nativity Bethlehem
Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem
Church of the Nativity is the oldest church in the Holy Land still in use, commemorating the birthplace of Jesus Christ (pbuh).

Since St. Helena is believed to have built the Church of the Nativity, there are others who believe that it was the Emperor Constantine who ordered the construction of monumental churches to honor the three principal events of Jesus’ life.

Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem is noted in the two Gospel infancy narratives (Matt 2:1; Lk 2:4), and the testimony is clear that the Jewish leaders knew of Micah’s prophecy that the Messiah would be born there (Matt 2:4-6; Jn 7:42).

Although the slaughter of the infant and toddler boys of the town by Herod the Great is not attested in other ancient sources, the account fits the character of this paranoid “king.”

The small size of the village at the time, clustered as it was on the hillside where the Church of the Nativity was later built, indicates that probably only a few dozen little boys were killed as the result of Herod’s irrational fury.

Heinous as this infanticide was, the incident would probably not have attracted the attention of ancient historians.

Very early church tradition locates Jesus’ birth in a cave in Bethlehem, over which the emperor Hadrian constructed a shrine to a Roman deity. Later, the Christian emperor Constantine erected a church building over the cave.

After its partial destruction by the Samaritans in the 6th century A.D., the Church of the Nativity was rebuilt by the emperor Justinian and still stands today as one of the most ancient church buildings in existence.

… Nineveh.

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