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16th May

Nahum 1-3; Psalm 131

Bible in a Year
6 minutes
In this article
16th May

Nahum 1-3; Psalm 131

Bible in a Year
6 minutes


Unlike many of the other prophetic books, Nahum isn't a prophet to the southern kingdom of Judah, or the northern kingdom of Israel. Instead, Nahum is a prophet to the foreign city of Nineveh and its nation Assyria, declaring their doom and destruction.

The Assyrians were one of Israel's greatest enemies and took the northern kingdom city into exile. But while the emphasis of this book is on Nineveh's destruction, the city isn't mentioned until we get to Nahum 2.

Nahum 1 - God comes in power and judgement against Assyria

Nahum 2 - The fall of Nineveh

Nahum 3 - The fall of Assyria

The fall of Nineveh serves as a model for how God will eventually stop all violent empires. God’s goodness and justice means that oppression must be brought down and removed.

Nahum 1-3

Nahum starts with the character of God, and it sets the tone of the book. God is a jealous God, full of vengeance and wrath. But unlike humans who are all too often controlled by these kinds of emotions, God is in full control of his anger and wrath. He reserves it for his enemies and those who are guilty.

God is also powerful. He comes like a mighty storm of whirlwind. He can dry up seas and melt mountains. And all of this ultimately flows from the fact that God is good. He is a stronghold and a refuge to his people. Out of protection to them, he will pour out his wrath on his enemies.

Nahum turns to Nineveh and challenges them, saying whatever they plan to do God will put an end to it. He will tangle them up and consume them.

God then speaks, turning to his people Israel and encouraging them that Assyria will fall. Yes, God has punished Israel for their own wickedness, but that will stop and he will rescue them from the oppression of Assyria.

God turns back to Assyria and declares judgement on them. He will make sure their name is no longer boasted about, challenging their pride. He will cut them off from their gods and their idols, challenging their false worship. And he will destroy them, making their city like one large grave.

This destruction of Israel's enemies will be a source of hope. When all this happens, it will be like a messenger coming declaring good news of peace. And in that time, God's people will once again enjoy life, but this time enjoying it God's way, keeping his feasts and their vows to him.

Next, Nahum gives two long poems declaring Nineveh's destruction. It might be tempting to look into this imagery and try to draw out deep theological meaning, but these poems are really just what they seem to be; descriptions of Nineveh's destruction. The meaning of these poems is simple. God is saying to Nineveh, "I am against you" (Nahum 2:13).

The first poem starts with a warning to Nineveh to get ready, because God is sending an army to redeem his people. We then get a description of the soldiers that will be attacking Nineveh and they look powerful, with good weapons, armour, and chariots.

These chariots race through the suburbs and surrounding areas of the city, moving towards the city walls. The attackers will set up siege weapons, and will get the gates open. They will rush in, plundering and taking what they want; women, silver, and gold.

Nahum likens the destruction inside the city to lions tearing up their prey into pieces so they can take it back with them to feed their cubs. The entire poem is very graphic, but also very detailed, in a way we've not seen in prophetic books.

This isn't just imagery, this is a clear description of how this battle will look. And as we've already mentioned, the message is simple. God is against the people of Nineveh, and he will destroy them.

While the first poem is focused on the very descriptive destruction of the city of Nineveh, the second poem talks about the fall of the nation Assyria. Nahum starts this poem with mourning for the destruction on Nineveh.

This may seem weird. Nineveh are the bad guys. We should be celebrating, right? Well, yes, and no. While the destruction of evil and wickedness is important, it is still sad. It is sad that the wickedness was there to begin with and it's sad that it got to where these people couldn't change their ways and had to be destroyed.

So Nahum mourns all the death in Nineveh and the wickedness in the city that led to it. Then again, God declares the key message of these two poems, "I am against you" to Assyria. While they may currently stand proud, he will mock them and shame them, so that the other nations will look at them with contempt rather than awe.

God challenges Assyria for its pride. He asks if they genuinely believed they were better than the other nations, like Egypt or Cush (Ethiopia)? God points out that just like those nations have been destroyed and led into exile by Assyria, God will do the same to them.

Turning back to the city Nineveh, Nahum, ironically, encourages them to prepare their defences because God will destroy them. He is mocking them, saying that can try their best but they won't be able to stop God. God will destroy them. Nahum ends his poem saying that people will clap and celebrate when Assyria has been destroyed, because of their wickedness.

Because the book of Nahum is much more detailed and has much less imagery than some of the other prophetic books, it can seem unclear what the point of the book is about. But a lot of the language used is similar to other prophetic books, like Isaiah.

The reason for this is to set Assyria up as an example. In Isaiah, the prophet declared Babylon's destruction, and then noted that just as God will destroy Babylon for its wickedness, one day he will destroy all wickedness from the earth. Nahum is doing the same with Assyria.

Just as Assyria will soon be destroyed for their wickedness, Assyria is an example for God purging wickedness from the earth. In that time, his people will then leave free of oppression and rejoice.

Psalm 131

This psalm is to king David and is named as a psalm of ascent. These psalms were sung by worshippers as they ascended to Jerusalem for the three pilgrimage festivals (Passover, Festival of Weeks, and Festival of Tabernacles) or possibly by the Levites as they ascended the steps of the Temple. Psalm 120-134 are all psalms of ascent.

Psalm 131:1-2 - I do not strive for myself

Psalm 131:3 - Hope in the Lord

In this ascent journey we’ve gone from being far from God's presence (Psalm 120), to seeking God’s presence (Psalm 121), and then to reaching God’s presence (Psalm 122). From there, the psalmist has asked the Lord for help (Psalm 123) and then praised the Lord for his protection (Psalm 124).

From within Jerusalem, they reflected on the nature of righteousness and wickedness (Psalm 125). They thanked God for how he has restored his city, but also ask for more (Psalm 126). This leads the psalmist to reflect on the importance of God being first and foremost in our live (Psalm 127) and fearing God (Psalm 128).

Having focused on God’s authority and power, the psalmist then reflects on how God rescued them and Israel from oppressors (Psalm 129). Then the psalmist called out to God to rescue them from, and forgive them for, their sin (Psalm 130). Now, the psalmist places their trust in the Lord.

The psalmist starts by pointing out to the Lord that they are not proud. They do not thing too highly of themselves or seek power or position above their station. This didn’t come easily to them, but they have learnt to quiet their soul.

Now they are a like a weaning child with their mother. They simply trust that their mother will provide for their needs and rest in that. The implication in this is that the Lord is the mother who they are trusting in. And because of this, the psalmist encourages the rest of Israel to similarly hope in the Lord.

It’s fitting that this psalm is attributed to king David. Starting out as a shepherd boy, we never saw David striving for power or position. Twice he had the opportunity to kill Saul and make himself king, and twice he simply trusted in the Lord’s timing (1 Samuel 24, 26). Trusting in the Lord means learning to be at peace with what you have and trusting that the Lord will provide what you need in his timing.

Anything you think I've missed? Maybe you've got a question that still needs answering. Send me a message over on my Instagram (@brynjoslin). I'd love to talk it through with you some more.

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