The Old Testament Presents... Reflections of Christ
by Paul R. Van Gorder
The book of Nahum is God's message of the impending destruction of Nineveh. The prophet's name means ''comfort'' or ''consolation.'' He reminds us of Noah, whose name also means ''rest'' or ''comfort.'' Nahum is the seventh chronologically of the minor prophets, and he ministered during the reign of Hezekiah.

About 150 years earlier, God had sent Jonah to deliver His warning to Nineveh. When the city repented, God held back His hand of judgment. Now ''the burden of Nineveh'' was laid upon Nahum's heart by God, and his prophecy graphically foretells the complete desolation of that people who oppressed the Jews. The destruction came 100 years later, when God, in His holiness, dealt harshly with the sin of Nineveh.

The great truths of the book of Nahum, for believers today, are its descriptions of God's character and power, for they depict the character and power of Jesus Christ. Few Old Testament books give us as much information on this subject as Nahum. The key verse of the prophecy is, ''The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked'' (Nahum 1:3).

  1. Nineveh Judged (ch. 1)
  2. Nineveh Sentenced (ch. 2)
  3. Nineveh Executed (ch. 3)
Nineveh's destruction is minutely described, for Nahum wrote, ''But with an overrunning flood He will make an utter end of the place, and darkness shall pursue His enemies'' (1:8). Nineveh was beseiged by the Medes and the Babylonians. In the third year of that seige, the river was swollen with continual rains. It overflowed all of the city, breaking down the wall. The king built a large funeral pyre in the palace, collected all of his wealth, his concubines and eunuchs. He then burned the palace and everything in it, including himself and his servants. The enemy came in through the break in the wall and took the city.

[God's dealings with Nineveh reveal aspects of His nature...]
  1. God controls the forces of nature (1:3-5; 2:6).
    The prophet recognized that the God he worshiped was not a blind force. Nahum was not a pantheist. He believed that God is above nature and controls it; that God exists apart from matter. God has not wound up the universe, started it running, and then withdrawn from it. By Jesus Christ, He has created all things, and the Son of God is the Sustainer of this universe. ''For by Him were all things created,... and He is before all things, and by Him all things consist [hold together]'' (Colossians 1:16,17)

    The same God that caused the wind to blow in Jonah's story would, one day, pick up the elements of nature and hurl them upon wicked Nineveh.

    We have lost much of the Old Testament concept of God. A great tragedy may come into our midst, and yet there is no repentance. An epidemic may sweep over the land, and yet no one turns to God. On every hand, we see the works of the Lord in the affairs of men.

    Little do we realize how much God has intervened in the control of this and other nations. The changing of the wind at the battle of Gettysburg turned the tide, sparing the union and eventually delivering the land from slavery. The psalmist declared, ''He commandeth and raiseth the stormy wind'' (Psalm 107:25). Napoleon challenged the world and God, saying, ''The Lord is on the side of the heaviest artillery.'' But it was the tiny snowflake that stopped his forward march and brought him to defeat. ''Fire and hail; snow and vapor; stormy wind fulfilling His word'' (Psalm 148:8).

    A century after Nahum's prophecy, God turned loose His elements, and Nineveh fell to the armies of the Medes. The remains of that city were just a matter of conjecture until 1841, when the spade of the archaeologist uncovered it, and the Bible story was confirmed.

  2. God protects His own (1:7).
    ''The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knoweth those who trust in Him'' (v.7). What a wonderful verse! It stands like an island amid Nahum's troubled and tempest-tossed lake. All is calm, even though the context is a raging sea. Nahum is describing one of God's eternal attributes. The Lord Jesus said to the rich young ruler, ''Why callest thou Me good? There is none good but one, that is, God'' (Mark 10:18). Since Jesus Christ is God-- God manifest in the flesh-- He is good. He is good in Himself, essentially and independently. He is eternally and unchangeably good. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit manifest this quality in every act of grace and providence. When is God good? In the day of trouble. ''He knoweth those who trust in Him'' (v.7). ''No good thing will He withhold from them who walk uprightly'' (Psalm 84:11).
  3. He is a God of justice (1:3).
    We learn in verse 3 that God ''will not at all acquit the wicked.'' The mysteries of Calvary are bound up in that little phrase. Someone has written, ''It put Jehovah to no test when He rolled shining stars from the palm of His creating hand and scooped out the channels for the tempestuous seas. But when it came to saving rebellious man, God faced that which tested the infinite.'' A holy God ordained just laws for the government of His world. Man broke the law. All men break it, and God indeed must judge them.

    When a known criminal is pardoned, something is desperately wrong with either the law or the administration of it. For God to show clemency to man would indicate the same flaw. Yet, He is a God of mercy and love. How could He be just, and yet be the the justifier of the sinner? The answer is found in the divine Substitute, the Lord Jesus Christ. John said, ''Behold the Lamb of God!'' (John 1:29). Here was One who was both an acceptable and ''willing substitute.''

    Plato once said to Socrates, ''God may forgive a deliberate sin, but I do not see how He can do it.'' I do! Some 300 years later, the apostle John wrote, ''The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin'' (1John 1:7). The songwriter has written,

    I do not understand how it can be
    That even God could save a soul like me;
    But this I know, and in that surety hide,
    I only know that Christ the Savior died.

Although he was burdened with the doom of the mighty city of Nineveh, Nahum closed chapter 1 with a word of consolation to the redeemed of the Lord. ''Though I have afflicted thee, I will afflict thee no more... Behold upon the mountains the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace! O Judah, keep thy solemn feasts, perform thy vows; for the wicked shall no more pass through thee; he is utterly cut off'' (1:12,15). [cp. Isaiah 52:7; Romans 10:15]
Like all of the prophets, Nahum looks forward to the time when Christ will come to reign in righteousness and justice. As in every other portion of the Old Testament Scriptures, the Lord's Anointed is visible upon the horizon. In Nahum, we see both His character and His power, and we anticipate His glorious coming.

See the Book Notes on Nahum for a verse by verse study of this book.
Return to table of contents for ''The Old Testament Presents... Reflections of Christ,''
written by Paul R. Van Gorder, Copyright 1982 by RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI.
Used by permission [within The Book from].
Further distribution is not allowed without permission from RBC.

For another brief look at this book of the Bible,
see the related chapter in Christ in All the Scriptures, by A.M. Hodgkin.

Go to The Book opening page.