The Gospel of Nahum

A prophecy concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite. Nahum 1:1

Of all the minor prophets, Nahum is among the least recognized. His hometown, Elkosh, not easily identified, is the name of a small village in northern Galilee on the Lebanese border, founded in 1949 by immigrants from Yemen. That is not likely Nahum’s home area. Other locations are a town on the Tigris River, not in Israel, but closer to Ninevah. And a third interesting possibility identifies Nahum’s town as Capernaum (Caper Nahum, the village of Nahum), the center of Jesus’ Galilean ministry on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee.

The first words, a prophecy concerning Nineveh, establish the theme, God’s judgment on the Assyrians, the nations that conquered the northern kingdom of Israel in 721 BC.  Nahum’s prophecy is dated in the middle to late seventh century BC, prophesying the fall of Ninevah which occurred in 612 BC as she was defeated by the Babylonians.

The Lord is a jealous and avenging God;
the Lord takes vengeance and is filled with wrath.
The Lord takes vengeance on his foes
and vents his wrath against his enemies.

Who can withstand his indignation?
    Who can endure his fierce anger?
His wrath is poured out like fire;
    the rocks are shattered before him.
Nahum 1:2, 7

Where is the good news in this?  Is the prophet gloating over Israel’s conqueror facing a similar fate?

Judgment is Good News as we think about it being righteous judgment. With all the injustice in this world, man’s inhumanity to man, the promise that God, the righteous judge, will not allow any injustice to go unnoticed and unresolved is a great comfort. It is a reminder that we don’t have to worry or take revenge against our oppressors for God will make it right.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.
I
f it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written:

“It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
 Romans 12:17-21

But as we await God’s justice for those who have abused us, what about God’s justice for us?  What do we deserve? Nahum reveals God’s pattern of great patience before judgment is rendered.

The Lord is slow to anger but great in power;
    the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished.
Nahum 1:3

This reflects the beauty of God’s character as revealed in Exodus 34:6, 7.  The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished;

The high point of this prophecy is that God’s justice and mercy are worked out in a specific plan of Good News.

Look, there on the mountains,
    the feet of one who brings good news,
    who proclaims peace!
Celebrate your festivals, Judah,
    and fulfill your vows.
No more will the wicked invade you;
    they will be completely destroyed.
Nahum 1:15

This reflects a similar passage in Isaiah 52:7 and is picked up by Paul in Romans 10:15.

And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?
As it is written:
“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!

Nahum doesn’t get specific about the Gospel as revealed in other prophets and fulfilled in Jesus, but he proclaims the foundation of it in God’s justice and mercy.

 

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