Introduction

What is the Book of Nahum About?

Read this 5-minute introduction to help you find your bearings in the Bible story, and be inspired to read Nahum!

Videos

Historical Context

The significance of the writing prophets was not their personal lives; it was their message. Thus, background information about the prophet from within the prophecy is rare. Occasionally one of the historical books will shed additional light. In the case of Nahum, nothing is provided except that he was an Elkoshite (Nahum 1:1), referring either to his birthplace or his place of ministry. Attempts to identify the location of Elkosh have been unsuccessful. Suggestions include Al Qosh, situated in northern Iraq (thus Nahum would have been a descendant of the exiles taken to Assyria in 722 BC), Capernaum (“town of Nahum”), or a location in southern Judah (cf. Nahum 1:15). His birthplace or locale is not significant to the interpretation of the book.

—John MacArthur

Source: Copyright 2022, Grace to You. All rights reserved. Used by permission. This Grace to You article originally appeared here at gty.org.

From Bibles.net: Remember that the ultimate author of every book of the Bible is the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). He has written this book to equip you for life, to help you know the true God, and to give you hope (2 Timothy 3:16; Romans 15:4). The Holy Spirit wrote Nahum for your good and to lead you into joy.

The prophet Nahum was God’s messenger to announce the fall of Nineveh and the complete overthrow of Assyria. Nahum refers to the fall of Thebes as a wellknown occurrence (Nahum 3:8-10). The Assyrian king Ashurbanipal conquered Thebes around 664 BC. Nahum also predicts the fall of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, as a future event. Nineveh fell in 612 BC. The book was composed, therefore, between 664 and 612 BC. 

The Near East at the Time of Nahum

c. 660-614 BC

Nahum likely prophesied sometime between the high point of Assyria’s power around 664 BC and the fall of Nineveh in 612. During this time the Assyrian Empire was in decline. Meanwhile Egypt, Judah, and Babylonia regained autonomy and eroded the power of Assyria. Nahum foretold of the fall of Nineveh, the capital of the mighty Assyrian Empire.  

Unless otherwise indicated, this content is adapted from the ESV Global Study Bible® (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright ©2012 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Books
Message Series

Nahum Boot Camp by Garrett Kell

In 3-messages, Garrett Kell walks us through the book of Nahum. You’ll learn about the historical context and setting of this prophetic book, helping you understand how it fits into the Bible story. But Garrett Kell will also help you see how Nahum is relevant to your life today and how it leads us to treasure Jesus for all he has done for us.

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Nahum Dictionary

As you read through Nahum, you might come across words and ideas that are foreign to you. Here are a few definitions you will want to know! Note that this dictionary was created for the New International Version (NIV) Bible.

A powerful and aggressive nation, the most powerful Middle Eastern empire from the tenth century BC through most of the seventh century. Nineveh was the capital city. Assyria conquered Israel and took its inhabitants captive.

(1) One of the sons of Jacob and Leah. (2) The descendants of Jacob and Leah’s son of the same name, who became the tribe of Judah. (3) The southern kingdom when the Israelites divided into two separate countries after the death of King Solomon. (The northern kingdom was called Israel.)

(1) To loot or rob, especially during a war. (2) The property taken by such looting or robbery.

A place of safety, away from danger; a shelter. See also city of refuge. (One of six cities set aside by Moses where a person who had accidentally killed someone could stay until a fair trial could be held. While the person was in a city of refuge, he or she would be safe from family or friends of the dead person who might want to kill him or her.)

Very great anger.

(1) A wooden bar that goes over the necks of two animals, usually oxen. The yoke holds the animals together when they are pulling something such as a cart or plow. (2) Two oxen yoked together. (3) A word picture for any burden or demand. Slavery, imprisonment, taxes, or unfair laws may be called yokes. (4) A partnership.

Dictionary Source

This content is from What the Bible Is All About, written by Henrietta Mears. Copyright © 1953, 2011 by Gospel Light. Copyright assigned to Tyndale House Publishers, 2015. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. 

Tough Questions

We have found answers to some tough questions that we anticipate may arise as you read this book of the Bible. We know we can’t answer every question you will have; therefore, we have written this article, so you know how to find answers for your kids: How Do I Answer Tough Questions About the Bible?

Insights

The following insights are from pastors and scholars who have spent significant time studying the book of Nahum.

This book is a vivid prediction of the approaching downfall of Nineveh, the capital city of the Assyrian Empire at the end of the seventh century BC. The Assyrians practiced some of the most brutal forms of warfare in the ancient Near East, including impaling their enemies, skinning them alive, and burying them alive inside the mud brick walls that surrounded cities. Nahum, whose name means “consolation” or “comfort,” spoke God’s comfort to his people, long harassed by Assyria, with the promise that this cruel and oppressing people would soon meet destruction at God’s hand. 

—Henrietta Mears  

Source: This content is from What the Bible Is All About, written by Henrietta Mears. Copyright © 1953, 2011 by Gospel Light. Copyright assigned to Tyndale House Publishers, 2015. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The book of Nahum opens with a psalm of praise in honor of God, who, like a warrior, comes to avenge the wrongs committed against his people. This warrior God will decimate the Assyrian Empire, which, though at the peak of its power, with innumerable armies at its disposal, will be destroyed as quickly as dry vegetation burns. This judgment comes from the goodness of the Lord, who saves those who hide and wait in him. For them, the coming of this warrior God is indeed good news of peace.

—Kristofer D. Holroyd

Source: Content taken from Jonah, Micah, and Nahum: A 12-Week Study © 2018 by Kristofer D. Holroyd. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

In regards to this idea of judgment, another note for you is that from what I can see, every Hebrew word for anger is used in the book of Nahum. There’s quite a different number of words that we will see translated as we go through here, in regards to wrath and indignation and vengeance and anger and fury. And all these different words—he uses them all in this book. This is a book where God’s wrath is revealed in high definition. 

—Garrett Kell

Source: Garrett Kell, quoted from his message, “Chapter 1” on the book of Nahum from his course Nahum Boot Camp. This video originally appeared here at The Gospel Coalition.

The message of Nahum provides the counterpart to the book of Jonah in the Minor Prophets. In the previous century, the Lord spared Nineveh from threatened judgment because of their repentant response to the preaching of Jonah. The book of Jonah testified to the Lord’s redemptive concern even for the hated Assyrians. However, a generation later, the Assyrians were again brutalizing Judah and the surrounding nations in the Middle East, so God decided to destroy this violent nation. Both Jonah and Nahum end with a question, and both reference the Mosaic confession that the Lord was both gracious and slow to anger as well as just and unwilling to excuse the guilty (Exodus 34:6-7; Jonah 4:2; Nahum 1:3). These attributes of the Lord applied to his dealings with the nations as well as his treatment of his chosen people, Israel. The Lord in his compassion delayed the judgment on Nineveh, but his justice also demanded that the Assyrians be held accountable for their violence and atrocities.

—Ed Hindson and Gary Yates

Source: Hindson, Ed and Gary Yates. Essence of the Old Testament: A Survey. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2012. Page 412.

God does not always express his wrath immediately…He is very often patient with sinners. But we must not get it twisted in our minds as to what’s actually happening. God is not overlooking evil in his patience. Rather, he is doing two things. Second Peter 3 tells us he’s being patient toward people so that they will believe [in him] (2 Peter 3:9), and Romans 2 tells us that he’s storing up wrath (Romans 2:5). Listen to this from Romans 2:5, “Because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed” (ESV). You hear that? That’s what’s happening in the lives of non-Christians. They are storing up wrath for themselves—evidence upon evidence that will fall upon them in righteous judgment on that final day. God is being patient and not giving people what they deserve right now with wrath, and he is passing over their sins—not overlooking them. It will fall upon them eventually. 

—Garrett Kell

Source: Garrett Kell, quoted from his message, “Chapter 1” on the book of Nahum from his course Nahum Boot Camp. This video originally appeared here at The Gospel Coalition.

Celebrate that God will put an end to all violence.

Nahum celebrates YHWH [The Lord’s] sovereignty and justice and invites us to join in that celebration. God’s retributive anger is good news because it deals with oppression, violence, and wickedness… Nahum challenges us to trust and submit to YHWH, not a God of violence but a God who ends violence, and to make sure that we are not counted among his adversaries…

Remember that evil makes God angry.

Nahum’s fierce language is understandable but also suggests that there are situations in which nothing less than the fierce opposition to evil expressed in Nahum will do. Nahum is first of all a book of comfort in the face of evil and fear. Where people feel helpless and abandoned, the message of God’s anger can be a message of hope. At the same time, there is a bit of Nineveh in all of us, and Nahum can serve as a reminder of the wickedness of asserting ourselves over against the Creator.

Remember God’s love for us at the cross to bear our punishment himself.

While God’s determination to end all wickedness is good news, its execution is not pleasant, and the horror of the fall of Nineveh may speak to us about the horrors of the cross endured by Christ. God’s intolerance of evil is not without costs. What is lacking in Nahum itself is an indication that God will ultimately bear this cost himself, but that fact that the book of Nahum does not tell the whole story does not take away from the fact that it tells one part of the story very well. Christian readers must tell the fuller story and cannot speak of God’s persistent resistance to evil apart from the cross of Christ.

—Thomas Renz  

Source: Renz, Thomas. The Books of Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah. New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2021. Note: Subtitles added by Bibles.net. 

Nahum offers Judah no encouragement to rebel against the Assyrians. Judah has to wait Yahweh’s time and let Yahweh be the one who takes action…Nahum provides less powerful people, too, with no encouragement to attack their overlords. The prophecies do provide them with hope that God will not leave them under this domination forever.  

—John Goldingay  

Source: Goldingay, John and Pamela Scalese. Minor Prophets II. Understanding the Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2012.

Exposing Our Shame: Nineveh’s judgment climaxes with a picture of her most private parts being exposed as she stands before the world covered in filth. This graphic image points to the end of time, when all people will have all of their secrets exposed—not only their deeds done in darkness but even the hidden “purposes of the heart” (1 Corinthians 4:5 ESV). For those who trust in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, however, Jesus himself provides the covering for our exposure: his own righteousness (Zechariah 3:1–5; Matthew 22:1–14; Revelation 7:13–17).

The Isolation of Hell: As a result of her judgment, Nineveh finds herself utterly alone, with no one even to grieve for her (Nahum 3:7). Such isolation portrays the destitution of eternity for those who reject God and his Son, our Savior. As the Egyptians found themselves in total darkness because of Pharaoh’s refusal to heed the word of the Lord from Moses (Exodus 10:21–23), so too will those who reject Christ be cast into utter darkness (Matthew 8:12; 25:30). It is this very isolation that Jesus endures on the cross for his people, as he cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46 ESV).

The Shame of the Cross: Our sin not only results in our guilt before God; it also brings with it the feelings of shame associated with that guilt. As we see with the destruction of Nineveh, her punishment includes becoming the object of scorn of those who see her and mock her (Nahum 2:10–12) or shrink away from her in disgust and horror (Nahum 3:7). That shame provides us an image of the spiritual shame we experience in being alienated from God through our disobedience. But the good news of the gospel is that Jesus Christ carried our shame on the cross. To be crucified naked, especially for a circumcised Jew in a Gentile culture, would result in scorn, mockery, and alienation. But, for our sake, Jesus “endured the cross, despising the shame” (Hebrews 12:2 ESV); therefore, those in Christ “shall never again be put to shame” (Joel 2:26–27 ESV).

—Kristofer D. Holroyd

Source: Content taken from Jonah, Micah, and Nahum: A 12-Week Study © 2018 by Kristofer D. Holroyd. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

The good news of victory (Nahum 1:15 [Nahum 2:1]) is not limited to the downfall of the Neo-Assyrian Empire. Good news is proclaimed again in the return from the Babylonians exile, a return marking another instance of God asserting his reign over evil (Isaiah 52:7). These historical events find their climax in God’s victory over evil won in the death and resurrection of Christ. This is why Nahum 1:15 (Nahum 2:1) is again fulfilled in the proclamation of the gospel (cf. Romans 10:15; Ephesians 6:15).

Nahum reminds us that liberation and life in peace entail the destruction of God’s enemies. The lifting up of the lowly goes hand in hand with the deposition of the powerful (Luke 1:52). The apostle Paul’s affirmation that no powers can separate God’s people from God’s love can be fleshed out with Nahum’s invitation to imagine the most powerful human force defeated, unable to harm God’s people without God’s permission.

—Thomas Renz  

Source: Renz, Thomas. The Books of Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah. New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2021.

Nahum Playlist

Discover music inspired by the message and content of the book of Nahum.

A Stronghold (Nahum 1:7; Micah 7:7 - NKJV)
by Scripture Memory Songs | Scripture Memory
God Is Our Refuge
by Sovereign Grace Music | Praise & Worship 
Lord Have Mercy
by Matt Boswell & Matt Papa | Contemporary 
Refuge
by The Worship Initiative feat. Shane & Shane | Praise & Worship
Take Shelter
by Keith & Kristyn Getty feat. Skye Peterson | Praise & Worship
More Songs