Nahum prophesied circa 650 BC, more than 100 years after Jonah visited Nineveh. Since then, in 722 BC, Assyria attacked and conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel taking the Hebrews captive to Nineveh. A few decades after Nahum’s prophesy the events forecast were fulfilled in 612 BC. At the time of Nahum’s writing the Assyrians were regarded in the Southern Kingdom as brutal and oppressive heathens and a dangerous threat lying at the doorstep of Judah. Nahum prophesied the destruction of Nineveh and the resulting collapse of Assyrian power. They hoped for the return of the Jews exiled from the Northern Kingdom.
Nah 3:1 Woe to the bloody city, all full of lies and plunder— no end to the prey! The nature of “woe to” is explained in detail in following verses. The city itself is described as full of lies and plunder with no end to its prey. It was a city full of itself.
Nah 3:11 You also will be drunken; you will go into hiding; you will seek a refuge from the enemy. Nineveh was one of the most highly fortified cities ever built. Its walls were 10 stories high and 300 feet thick. Though Babylon would wage war against it for years, it was impossible to penetrate. In fact Babylon broke off the attack for a while. Then the rainy season came and floods unlike anything they prepared for made the Tigris and its tributaries running through Nineveh rage. The great mortar walls could handle almost anything, but the waters eroded away a critical section of wall. Paying no heed, the Assyrians were in the midst of a festival when Babylon came back to lay a new siege to the city. The army was in fact drunk when the Babylonian army arrived and attacked through the eroded breach. In verse 15 the prophesy says a “fire will consume you, the sword will cut you off.” Archeologists have found evidence of a consuming fire in the ramparts of the city almost certainly from the Babylonian siege.
The Good News of Nahum 3
Nah 3:19 There is no easing your hurt; your wound is grievous. All who hear the news about you clap their hands over you. For upon whom has not come your unceasing evil? At first this doesn’t sound like Good News. In fact it is the best news. Assyria represents a hated enemy. This is an enemy who enslaves us and endeavors to destroy us. Assyria was in fact a real physical enemy of ancient Israel. As a metaphor, Assyria also represents all the evil of the world and the purveyor of that evil, Satan (Eph 6:12). Satan seeks to devour, enslave, and bring death (1 Pe 5:8). But: “the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to keep the unrightous under punishment until the day of judgment.” (2 Pe 2:9) We know Satan will be ultimately and eternally be defeated (Rev 20:10) and Jesus Christ is victorious over more than just Satan. Jesus has won victory over death itself (1 Jn 5:11-12).