Nahum is another of the Twelve, the twelve minor prophets. They are called the minor prophets only because their books are small. Nahum’s focus, unlike most (but not all) prophets, was not Israel but on Assyria. What Nahum has in common with the other prophets is the certainty that God is in control, not only of Israel but of all the nations. Isaiah made the case that Assyria acted on God’s behalf as punishment for the sins of Israel and Judah. Eventually, according to Isaiah, Assyria itself would be punished by God for its failure to acknowledge God. In other prophets we have read oracles to the nations and Nahum follows in that genre with its focus on Nineveh.
The book of Nahum was written after the Assyrian capture of Thebes in 663 BCE. Nineveh, the capital of Assyria fell in 613 BCE to a coalition of Babylonians and Medes. Some scholars believe Nahum was written before the fall of Nineveh. Others believe it was written after the capture of Nineveh and is more of a response to the event than a prophecy about the fall. You will remember that Assyria was responsible for the destruction of the Northern Kingdom and was the dominate empire in the region until it is replaced.
In Nahum, God is presented as a mighty warrior and modern readers must contend with issues of violence, justice and revenge as well as its disturbing portrayal of women. Also consider as we read how Nahum stands in tension with the message of Jonah. How do we reconcile these two portrayals?
An Outline of Nahum: based on Machinist
1:2-14 Description of God’s power and wrath
1:15-2:13 Destruction of Nineveh
3:1-19 Satirical Lament over Nineveh
Read More About It:
Here are several good sources to aid your reading of Nahum.
Anderson, Bernhard W., Katheryn Pfister Darr, Understanding the Old Testament Abridged fourth Edition. (Upper Saddle River,New Jersey: Prentice Hall) 1998.
Machinist, Peter “Nahum” in HarperCollins Bible Commentary Mays, James L. ed.(San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco) 2000.
Garcia- Treto, Francisco O.,”Nahum” in The New Interpreter’s Bible Vol 7, Keck, Leander E. ed. (Nashville: Abingdon Press) 2001.
O’Brien, Julia M., “Nahum” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha: New Revised Standard Version.Coogan, Michael D.; Brettler, Marc Z.; Perkins, Pheme; Newsom, Carol A. (2010-01-20) Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.