If you read this small prophetic book, it might surprise you to find out that Nahum means comfort, because it’s all about God’s wrath on evil. The book of Nahum is a prophecy directed at the nation of Assyria—you’ll often hear Assyria addressed as Nineveh, because that was its capital city.
At this point in the Bible story, Israel has split into two kingdoms: the southern and northern kingdom. Nahum is a prophet from the southern kingdom, Judah. In Nahum’s day, God’s people find themselves under the thumb of Assyria, a wicked foreign power that was taking over the known world. God had given Assyria the chance to turn to him and avoid destruction 100 years earlier, by sending them the prophet Jonah. But they did not ultimately forsake their wickedness.
God wanted his people to overhear him boasting of his judgment against this rampantly wicked nation. By letting Judah hear him call Assyria to account through this prophet, God reassures his people that he will deliver them from their enemies, and he reassures us that he will not let evil go unpunished. Nineveh is modern day Mosul, Iraq, and in 612 BC Assyria fell to Babylon and this prophecy was fulfilled.
Hear God’s Word from Nahum:
Woe to the city of blood, full of lies, full of plunder, never without victims! The crack of whips, the clatter of wheels, galloping horses and jolting chariots! Charging cavalry, flashing swords and glittering spears! Many casualties, piles of dead, bodies without number, people stumbling over the corpses—all because of the wanton lust of a harlot, alluring, the mistress of sorceries, who enslaved nations by her prostitution and peoples by her witchcraft. ‘I am against you,’ declares the LORD Almighty. (Nahum 3:1-5 NIV)
This nation was brutal and bloody. In God’s accusation against Nineveh, he lists all the worst kinds of sins we can imagine—dark magic, violence, prostitution, and enslavement—all enveloped in a culture of warfare.
The book of Nahum answers some of the most emotionally challenging questions we have—what does God feel, and what will God do about the unchecked evil in the world? After all, “You would not want to live in a world where the one in charge of the world did not care about evil” (Paul David Tripp). But sometimes we wonder if we do live in a world where evil prevails unaccounted for.
The Bible, and specifically the book of Nahum, tells us otherwise. God does not ignore evil. He is “avenging and wrathful; the LORD takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies” (Nahum 1:2).
God does not ignore evil.
Nahum raises a terrifying boast against evil in the world, “’I am against you,’ declares the LORD Almighty,” and we know “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Nahum 3:5 NIV; Hebrews 10:31 ESV).
Nahum makes clear that God is sovereign over the world and, thus, all nations. “The mountains quake before him and the hills melt away. The earth trembles at his presence, the world and all who live in it” (Nahum 1:5). God is the Creator of all creation. God is not just the God of Israel—he’s LORD over Assyria of the past and every other nation today. Therefore, God will hold all of creation accountable, bringing justice to every evil, because “The LORD is good…” (Nahum 1:7). Goodness will prevail at the end of all things—by a brutal eradication of all wickedness.
That verse goes on to say, “The LORD is…a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him, but with an overwhelming flood he will make an end of Nineveh…” (Nahum 1:7-8). Somehow, this wrathful God is also a safe place—but for who? By mowing evil to the ground, God makes the land a safe place “for those who trust in him.”
The book of Nahum anticipates how God will mercifully save his people by bringing judgment on her enemies—on evil itself. Who are his people? Who are those who trust in him? How are they saved from God’s judgment? After all, “no one is righteous,” and “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”—we’re all in for it, unless there’s a way out of judgment (Romans 3:10; Romans 3:23).
God spent some of his wrath on Nineveh for their sin, but that outpouring was only a shadow of the wrath to come (Romans 1:18).
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NIV)
In between Nineveh’s destruction and the end of all things, God poured out a measure of his wrath—wrath that should have fallen on “those who trust him,” but fell on his Son instead.
Jesus, God in the flesh, marched to the cross and laid down his life long ago, accepting the wrath of God that we deserved, so that anyone who by faith gives their life to the King of kings, can find forgiveness and mercy.
For all who trust in Jesus, God becomes their Father, a refuge in times of trouble (Romans 5:10). Those who trust in Jesus will not experience the wrath of God but will share in the peace and joy that comes at the end of all things, when all that is sad will come untrue.
God pours out his wrath on evil. He does not let evil—our own sinfulness, or anyone else’s—go unpunished. God’s wrath upon sin falls in one of two places. For those who trust him, the wrath of God falls on Jesus. For those who are against God, his wrath falls on them.
Nahum comforts us that if we trust in Jesus, one day, we will clap at the final defeat of God’s enemies (Nahum 3:19), but we will also fall on our faces for the mercy God showed us in Jesus Christ. And on that day, “God himself will be with us and be our God” (Revelation 21:3). No more blood, no more violence, no more terrorists, no more dictators, just peace in the presence of a good God (Revelation 21:1-8).