ImmerseProphets - 197



IMMERSED IN NAHUM
V E R Y L I T T L E I S K N O W N about the prophet Nahum. We are given no details of his personal life other than that he “lived in Elkosh,” a city whose
location is unknown today. Since he shows brilliant skill with words, we
do know that he was educated and literate. The historical situation he
refers to in his messages is also clear.
Nahum’s five oracles describe the fall of the city of Nineveh, capital
of the Assyrian Empire, an event that happened in 612 bc . The messages celebrate this event as an expression of God’s just rule over the
world, specifically his judgment against an oppressive people. Nahum
highlights the Assyrians’ oppression by asking, “Where can anyone be
found who has not suffered from your continual cruelty?”
The first oracle in the book is most likely a song because its lines begin
with the consecutive letters of the first half of the Hebrew alphabet.
(This literary device appears in several of the psalms.) The oracle praises
God as both just and merciful, echoing the language God used to
describe himself to Moses at Mount Sinai: “The Lord is slow to get
angry, but . . . he never lets the guilty go unpunished.” This provides
the context for what’s said in the other four oracles in the book, which
describe God’s judgment against Nineveh.
The second oracle draws a series of contrasts by speaking alternately
to Assyria and Judah. For example, the temples and gods of Assyria
will be destroyed, but Judah will again be free to celebrate its own
religious festivals. Here we get a brief glimpse of an essential truth of
the gospel: When the “messenger is coming over the mountains with
good news,” a crucial part of the announcement is that God’s enemies
have been defeated.
The third oracle is a poetic depiction of the battle in which Nineveh
was conquered. It’s here that the prophet Nahum particularly exhibits
his special ability with words. He first develops an extended image of
bright colors and gleaming light to portray a formidable coalition of
nations on the attack. He then alludes to the way Nineveh’s river floods
and destroys part of its wall, creating a breach that allows the siege
forces to enter. He uses the image of receding floodwaters to represent
the Assyrian army and population fleeing the onslaught. When Nahum
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