Nahum--When Cobwebs Become Cables

NEARLY TWO HUNDRED years after Jonah's spectacular revival campaign at Nineveh, the ax of judgment fell on the stiff neck of the rebellious Assyrians. The cob webs of evil habit finally became strong cables that bound them so firmly to wrongdoing that God could do no more for them. There fore, they were left to drain the cup of divine wrath. . .

-an executive editor of Ministry at the time this article was written

NEARLY TWO HUNDRED years after Jonah's spectacular revival campaign at Nineveh, the ax of judgment fell on the stiff neck of the rebellious Assyrians. The cob webs of evil habit finally became strong cables that bound them so firmly to wrongdoing that God could do no more for them. There fore, they were left to drain the cup of divine wrath.

Nahum's name comes from a Hebrew word meaning "comfort" or "consolation." Yet he was not assigned a ministry of compassion to Nineveh. There was no need for him to travel to and up and down the streets of the doomed city. It was only necessary for him to write out the message of doom as a permanent record of why the judgment of Cod fell on the haughty Assyrians. How Jonah would have envied Nahum's commission had he been still alive!

Yet Nahum did bear a message of comfort or consolation. Not to Nineveh, but to his own people. They needed to know that Assyrian tyranny and cruelty would inevitably redound in merciless punishment and that the degradations of idolatry result in the degradation of the nation. In their thinking they may have stumbled over the seemingly continuing prosperity of Assyria and certainly needed the assurance that God was not overlooking iniquity. Nineveh's judgment would be just as inevitable and certain as was His longsuffering and mercy.

Nahum tells us, "The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked" (Nahum 1:3). It is interesting that our modern prophet quotes this verse more frequently than any other in this book. In one passage she informs us that, while God "does not delight in vengeance, He will execute judgment upon the transgressors of His law. He is forced to do this, to preserve the inhabitants of the earth from utter depravity and ruin. In order to save some He must cut off those who have become hardened in sin. ... By terrible things in righteousness He will vindicate the authority of His downtrodden law. And the very fact of His reluctance to execute justice testifies to the enormity of the sins that call forth His judgments and to the severity of the retribution awaiting the transgressor." --Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 628.

Comparison of Jonah and Nahum

Both Jonah and Nahum, of course, direct their messages specifically to Nineveh. Jonah's book is almost entirely a narrative detailing his experience whereas Nahum's main thrust is God's message. Nahum carefully details Assyria's sins and wickedness as well as their resultant punishment. Jonah's message delivered in person led to repentance, while Nahum's Epistle merely informed of coming destruction and the reason for it. Unlike Jonah, Nahum did not specifically set a time for the destruction of the city.

Both these prophets, as might be expected of men with strong nationalistic ties, seem to delight in the prospects of Nineveh's fall. Yet their human reaction does not obscure God's mercy and longsuffering in dealing with sinners. Both prophets acknowledge the power of God and His Tightness as well as righteousness in the way He deals with erring men. Both also, of course, point out the justice of God.

Messianic parallels and applications are found in both books. Jonah's experience in the belly of the fish God prepared is a figure that points to Christ's death and resurrection. Christ is portrayed in Nahum as the Lord of hosts, the commander of the forces of heaven. Nahum 1:15 specifically reflects the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 52:7.

Eschatological Applications

As might be expected of a book that stresses the judgment theme, Nahum is a rich mine for those searching for eschatological treasures. The awe-inspiring description of the manifestation of God's power and the outpouring of His wrath in chapter 1, verses 3-6, clearly points toward the upheavals in the earth at the time of Christ's second coming. (See Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 109.)

Nahum 1:9 unequivocally states that the Lord "will make an utter end: affliction shall not rise up the second time." Not only does this verse call attention to the certainty and permanency of Nineveh's destruction, but it ultimately points to the final fate of the wicked and assures us that sin will never again rear its ugly head to trouble God's universe. (See The Great Controversy, p. 504).

The Great Controversy, page 641, applies Nahum 2:10 to the time when all faces turn pale at Christ's second coming. The Hebrew term translated "blackness" here and in Joel 2:6 can also be interpreted as "paleness." The Revised Standard Version translates the last part of this verse "all faces grow pale."

Outline of the Book

Without giving the sources, Quimby refers to two possible outlines for Nahum:

"One writer has outlined the book as follows:

a. Chapter 1---the verdict of vengeance.

b. Chapter 2---the vision of vengeance,

c. Chapter 3---the vindication of vengeance.

"Another author has presented the book as follows:

Chapter 1---judgment on Nineveh declared.

Chapter 2---judgment on Nineveh described.

Chapter 3---judgment on Nineveh defended."

---P. E. Quimby, Messages of the Prophets, p. 1587.

For our purposes in developing the contents of this book we will use the outline suggested last.

Judgment Declared

The awful fate of those that must face the wrath of God is vividly described in chapter 1. First, we are given a picture of the power of God to punish wicked nations and people in verses 1-6. "Men are prone to abuse the long-suffering of God, and to presume on His forbearance. But there is a point in human iniquity when it is time for God to interfere; and terrible are the issues." --Selected Messages, book 2, p. 372.

These verses point forward to that time soon to come when "by terrible things in righteousness He [God] will vindicate the authority of His downtrodden law. The severity of the retribution awaiting the transgressor may be judged by the Lord's reluctance to execute justice." --The Great Controversy, p. 627.

Verse 7 counterbalances this terrifying picture of judgment with God's promise to His people that He will be a stronghold to them in the day of trouble. "He knoweth them that trust in him."

Nineveh was to be an object lesson to men for all time as to what will happen to those who exalt themselves above God. Verses 8 through 10 point out how God will make an "utter end" of the place. Assyria will be as thorns mowed down, heaped up to dry, and then set on fire.

The last part of the first chapter in the English version describes Israel's eventual deliverance from the Assyrian terror and promises good tidings of salvation, which are to be fulfilled through the Messiah.

Judgment Described

In chapter 2, Nahum clearly describes the fall of Nineveh. He graphically details the blood, confusion, distress, and plunder that is to take place when the proud city is destroyed. The last verse of the chapter reiterates God's reason for administering such terrible justice. Nineveh has used up her allotted time. There has been a brief attempt following the ministry of Jonah to repent and reform, but it was just superficial. Divine patience has run out and Nineveh's probation has ceased.

Judgment Defended

The rationale for destroying Nineveh is extended in chapter 3. This section can be outlined as follows:

Verses 1-4---Crimes

Verses 5-7---Consequences

Verses 8-17---Certainty of Destruction

Verses 18, 19---Clapping at Destruction

Verses 1-4 begin with a pronouncement of woe upon the doomed city. The vivid description of the conquest of the city is followed by an explanation that she is being judged for her harlotries, or idolatry.

The consequences of her crimes are set forth in verses 5-7. Nineveh will be shamed before the nations of the world. The ultimate in shame is expressed in the words, "I will throw filth at you" (R.S.V.). Not that God throws filth, but He allows Nineveh's abominations to become a universal gazing stock. Verse 7 indicates that those who gaze on her degradation will not feel sorry for her.

Verses 8-10 illustrate what will happen by referring to the fate of No, or Thebes, in Upper Egypt. Thebes was destroyed by the Assyrians in 663 B.C. Nineveh's destruction is just as certain no matter how well fortified the city may be (verses 11-17).

The conclusion of this section, in the last two verses of the book, stresses the fact that there can be no healing or no relief. It is too late for Nineveh. The nations are gleeful and clap their hands in joy at Assyria's downfall since they have all suffered under her tyranny.

The cobwebs of evil habit have developed into such strong, unbreakable bonds for this world power that God can do nothing more for Nineveh. However, Israel and God's people today can learn a much-needed lesson from what is happening and turn to the Lord of hosts while there is still opportunity.

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-an executive editor of Ministry at the time this article was written

July 1975

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