The book of Nahum has only three chapters, all written in the form of Hebrew poetry, not easily discernable in the prose formatting employed in this edition. In these poems the prophet expresses his great delight in the collapse of the oppressive Assyrian Empire, which occurred in 612 b.c. when they were conquered by the Babylonians. Nahum's prophecy gives powerful voice to the long suppressed feelings of anger and hatred, which the Assyrian occupation had created in the minds of all Judeans. In the final section (3.8-19) Nahum vindictively celebrates the destruction of Nineveh, the Assyrian imperial capital, with a bitingly ironic question linking it to the Egyptian city of No (Thebes) which Assyria had destroyed fifty years earlier under King Ashurbanipal: “[A]rt thou better than populous No?” (3.8). For centuries the Assyrian kings had sent their armies westward every spring to maraud among the many nations and city-states. Those that submitted to Assyrian might were spared but still required to pay a heavy tribute. Those that resisted were obliterated and thoroughly plundered. Much of the Assyrian economy seems to have been based on this tribute collection and systematic looting of conquered kingdoms (see 2 Kgs 15.19,20 for one example of forced tribute from king Menahem of Israel). In 722 b.c. the Assyrian armies completed a lengthy siege of Samaria, utterly destroyed it, and carried its leaders and people into exile in far-off Assyria.
The Assyrian royal annals record in detail the many conquests, the numbers of people killed or captured, and the amount of booty obtained. Reading these, it is impossible to miss the fact that brutality was a key policy feature of Assyrian statecraft. The prophet Nahum has clearly inherited the long Israelite memory of Assyrian aggression and cruelty over centuries and sees their demise as the well-deserved work of Almighty God. Little is known about Nahum himself. The opening verse identifies him simply as “Nahum the Elkoshite.” He provides no other information about himself and none is known from other sources. But judging by the standards of classical Hebrew poetry, we know him to be a skilled poet whose poems are of the highest rank.
Announcement of Hope for Judah: God Will Overthrow Assyria (1.1-15)
Nahum's Strong Words of Judgment for Nineveh (2.1—3.19)
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