LIGHT FROM NAHUM
Alan Campbell, B.A. (U.K.)
IN this Laodicean church age in which we live, we see the Scriptures of Truth under increasing assault from the forces of Modernism and self-styled Higher Criticism. The Virgin Birth, miraculous ministry and even the Resurrection of our Lord are questioned by our leading Churchmen and the faith of many is being daily undermined. We, in the Israel-Identity movement, who accept the National Historicist interpretation of the Prophetic Scriptures have however, "... a more sure word of prophecy..." which, says Peter " ..shineth in a dark place until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts". - (II Peter 1:19)
We know that AlmightyGod in His sovereign plan and purpose, allowed the knowledge of our Israel-Identity to come to the fore at just that period of time when Modernism began to arise and had our message been accepted by the Evangelicals, faith in God and His Word would have been re-established and confirmed. There is no doubt, whatsoever, but that prophecy fulfilled in history constitutes the most convincing proof of the Inspiration and Inerrancy of God's Word; this can be well illustrated by a study of one of the least known of the so-called Minor Prophets - Nahum.
WHO WAS NAHUM?
The meaning of names was of great significance to the ancient Israelites and the name "Nahum" means 'consoler' or 'comforter'. We are told little about him
except that in the opening verse of his book, he is described as an Elkoshite. Whilst Nahum ministered in Judah, some Bible scholars suggest that Elkosh may have been a village in the area of Galilee, and they point out that the town of Capernaum, the centre of Christ's ministry means the 'village of Nahum', and that, therefore, the birth place of the prophet may have been nearby. There is also said to have been a town called Elkosh, twenty miles north of Nineveh the object of Nahum's prophecy; and some have suggested that he may have been of the Ten Tribes of Israel carried away captive by the Assyrians.
Regarding the date of Nahum's prophecy, we are given some indication of this in the book itself. The prophet makes reference to the fall of No-Amon, the Egyptian city of Thebes in 663 B.C., (Nahum 3:8) as a past event, and since his prophecy concerns the stil future downfall of the Assyrian capital Nineveh, which occurred in 612 B.C.,we can place his ministry between these two dates, most likely in and around 630 B.C., when Assyria was still at the height of its power, and before the series of disastrous internal revolts,including the secession of Babylon from the Assyrian Empire in 626 B.C.
THE OBJECT AND STYLE OF THE BOOK
The Theme of the Book of Nahum is given in the opening verses as the 'burden of Nineveh', in other words judgment upon the great city of Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire, the major world power of that day.The book itself is a classic of Hebrew poetry, rich in simile, metaphor, rhetorical questions and moving word pictures. It is a single poem consisting of some ten stanzas or strophes of almost equal length. These stanzas in turn form three larger divisions based on the following themes:-
A) The coming judgment of Nineveh.
B) The judgment itself.
C) The guilt of the great city.
ASSYRIA AND NINEVEH
For over two centuries starting around 850 B.C., Assyria had risen to be a major world Empire, overshadowing the Middle East. Renowned for the strength of its vast army and infamous for its cruelty, Assyria had conquered and deported the people of the Ten Tribes of Northern Israel during the years 745 to 676 B.C., the climax of these campaigns being the fallof the Israelite capital of Samaria in 721 B.C. In addition, Sennacherib had conquered all the fenced cities of Judah deporting some two hundred thousand of their inhabitants and besieging Hezekiah, King of Judah in his own capital city of Jerusalem. For Nahum, a prophet in the tiny Kingdom of Judah to predict the doom of such a mighty Empire, required great courage indeed.
As for the city of Nineveh, it was one of the oldest in the ancient world. It had been founded by Nimrod shortly after the Flood according to Genesis 10:11-12,
being mentioned in the records of Hammurabi who reigned between 1792 and 1750 B.C. Located in the North part of the Euphrates valley, Nineveh had long been a rival of Babylon. The actual name Nineveh referred to the entire complex of villages served by a common irrigation system based upon the Khoser and Tigris Rivers, and protected by a common network of defences and fortifications. The heart of the city was the great palace area protected by walls 100 feet high, and broad enough to carry four chariots riding abreast. Greater Nineveh was about 30 miles long and 10 miles wide, and was protected by five walls and three great
moats or canals which had been constructed by the slave labour of foreign captives. We can estimate the population of this great metropolis to have been around one million people, basing our assumption on Jonah's reference to one hundred and twenty thousand babies in Nineveh (Jonah 4:11). When Nahum prophesied the doom of Nineveh, it was the reigning city of the earth, the centre of trade, commerce and military might, strong and rich beyond compare, yet within two decades the dire predictions of the servant of God had come to pass in vivid detail.
THE SINS OF ASSYRIA AND NINEVEH
Sin always results in judgment, and it was the wickedness of the Assyrian capital Nineveh that ultimately produced its doom. Nahum enumerates these sins as follows:-
"And the Lord hath given a commandment concerning thee ... out of the house of thy gods will I cut off the graven image and the molten image; I will make thy grave; for thou art vile". - (Nahum 1:14)
"Because of the multitude of the whoredoms of the well-favoured harlot, the mistress of witchcrafts, that selleth nations through her whoredoms and families through her witchcrafts. Behold I am against thee, saith the Lord of hosts; ..." - (Nahum 3:4,5)
Not only was Nineveh a centre of political, military and economic power, it was like neighbouring Babylon, a veritable headquarters of the grossest forms of idolatry. The Assyrians worshipped a multiplicity of gods including Merodach, Nebo and Ansor. We are given further insight into this pagan religion in chapter 2:7
where we read:
"and Huzzab shall be led away captive".
The word 'Huzzab' is rendered 'mistress' in the Revised Standard Version, and many commentators believe it refers to Ishtar the Mother Goddess or Queen of Heaven. She was the Goddess of Love and War,with the warlike side of her nature being stressed by the militaristic Assyrians. Sacred prostitution was an integral part of her worship and her cult, which had been initiated in Babylon by Semiramis, wife of Nimrod, had spread throughout the East. She was worshipped in Canaan as Ashtaroth or Astarte, and Jeremiah tells us that the apostate women of Judah offered cakes to this Queen of Heaven. It was from her name Ishtar, that we derive the word Easter, and by New Testament times the concept of the Mother Goddess had spread throughout the Roman Empire, e.g., as Cybele and Diana of the Ephesians. This Babylonish/Assyrian cult finds its latter day expression in the Mariolatry practised by modern Roman Catholicism at Lourdes, Fatima and
B) VIOLENCE AND CRUELTY
TheAssyrian war machine was noted for its extreme cruelty. Such cruelty was in fact part ofa military strategy aimed at striking fear into the cities and nations under
attack, who when they heard the dreadful fate of those who resisted, surrendered all the more quickly to Assyria. King Asshurnasirpal III (883-859 B.C.) had
boasted how he dealt with his defeated foes:-
"The heads of their warriors I cut off, and I formed them into a pillar over against the city."
("Light from the Ancient Past" by Finnegan)
It was to this bloodthirsty Empire and its capital Nineveh that Almighty God spoke the following words by Nahum:
"Woe to the bloody city! It is all full of lies and robbery; the prey departeth not; The noise of a whip, and the noise of the rattling of the wheels, and of the prancing horses, and of the jumping chariots. The horseman lifteth up both the bright sword, and the glittering spear; and there is a multitude of slain, and a great number of carcasses; and there is none end of their corpses; they stumble upon their corpses". - (Nahum 3:1-3)
Not only were their opponents savagely slaughtered by the Assyrians, but the vanquished survivors were deported to other parts of their Empire and often reduced to slavery, whilst conquered cities and states were stripped of their treasures which were brought to Nineveh to enhance its wealth and prestige.
THE FIVE PROPHECIES OF NAHUM AND THEIR FULFILMENT
Having looked at the background to the message of Nahum concerning Nineveh, let us now look at the five predictions he made concerning the fate of the city and
how these were fulfilled in exact detail.
(1) Firstly Nahum predicted that the seemingly impregnable city of Nineveh would fall to its enemies swiftly and without difficulty:-
"All thy strongholds shall be like fig trees with the first ripe figs: if they be shaken they shall even fall into the mouth of the eater".- (Nahum 3:12)
History tells us that Nineveh was surrounded and besieged in 612 B.C. by a combined force of Babylonians, Medes and Scythians. In those days sieges of great cities often lasted well over a year, but Nineveh fell in a mere three months, like an overripe cluster of figs just as Nahum had predicted.
(2) Nahum also stated that the city would be conquered whilst the defenders were in a state of drunkenness:
"While they are drunken as drunkards, they shall be devoured as stubble fully dry". - (Nahum 1:10)
"Thou also shalt be drunken: ...thou also shall seek strength because of the enemy." - (Nahum 3:11)
Once again secular history confirms sacred prophecy, for according to the book 'Evidence That Demands a Verdict' the downfall of Nineveh came about as follows:-
"Camped outside the city walls, the king of Assyria...became lax in his vigilance and began to indulge with his soldiers in much drinking. With great success the enemy general routed the disorganized camp ... battle decided entirely by Assyrian drunkenness".
(3) Nahum then went on to describe the exact manner in which the city would fall, by means of the very system of rivers, moats and waterways which had been part of the defences.
"But with an overrunning flood he will make an utter end of the place thereof..." - (Nahum 1:8)
"The gates of the rivers shall be opened, and the palace shall be dissolved". - (Nahum 2:6)
The ancient historian Diodorous Siculus tells us:-
"After heavy rains the river broke down a distance of the city walls ...the siegers learning of the break in the walls attacked".
The rainfall which caused the rivers of Nineveh to overflow and breach the defences, thus contributed to the success of the besieging armies just as Nahum had
foretold, and the evidence of this flood has been located by the archaeologists who found a layer of sand and pebbles in the ruins of the ancient city.
(4) Nahum then went on to state that once captured, Nineveh would be destroyed by fire:-
"Fire shall devour thy bars". - (Nahum 3:13)
"There shall the fire devour thee". - (Nahum 3:15)
Once again we turn to the historical record of the archaeologists as found in the book "Nimrod and its Ruins" Vol II, page 434:
"The wall plaster had been burnt yellow by the flames and then blackened with soot which had penetrated into the brickwork itself. The intense heat had caused the south wall to bend inward and the floor of the chamber itself was buried upon a great pile of burnt debris ... filled with ash ... never have I seen so perfect an example of a vengeful bonfire, the soot still permeating the air."
(5) Nahum finally foretold that not only would Nineveh be conquered and destroyed, but that it would disappear completely and never be restored:
"There is no healing of thy bruise; thy wound is grievous". - (Nahum 3:19)
"And the Lord hath given a commandment concerning thee, that no more of thy name be sown". - (Nahum 1:14)
"Thou shalt be hid" - (Nahum 33:11)
Sure enough, unlike other ancient cities which after conquest and ruin, were subsequently restored and rebuilt, Nineveh virtually vanished from existence so that the sceptics even questioned if it had ever existed. The proud city which had ruled a large part of the then known world disappeared beneath the desert sands and was only rediscovered in the mid-Nineteenth Century by such excavators and archaeologists as, Howard Rassam, Paul Emile Botta, Layard (who unearthed the famous Black Obelisk of Shalmanasser) and in more recent times the Mallowan expedition of 1949/50.
THE LESSONS FOR US
(A) THE INSPIRATION AND INERRANCY OF HOLY SCRIPTURE
At a time when so many are seeking to undermine the authenticity of the Word of God, seeking to portray it as full of legends, fables and historical inaccuracies, the amazing fulfilment of Nahum's prophecies regarding Nineveh confirm our faith in a God who meant what He said, and who said what He meant. The historical fulfilment of prophecy leaves no room for Higher Criticism. If we do not have an infallible Bible, we do not have a Kingdom message. Let us give thanks that fulfilled prophecy refutes Modernism in whatever guise it may come.
(B) THE ABSOLUTE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD
Sometimes, as we look upon the world scene we could become discouraged at the onward march and apparent triumph of evil. We need to remember that our God has said:-
"Behold the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance". - (Isaiah 40:15)
Look again at how Nahum describes the power and majesty of the mighty God of Israel:-
"The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked: the Lord hath His way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet. He rebuketh the sea, and maketh it dry and drieth up all the rivers: ...the mountains quake at him, and the hills melt, and the earth is burned at His presence, yea the world and all that dwell therein. Who can stand before His indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of His anger? His fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by Him. The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble: and He knoweth them that trust in Him". - (Nahum 1:3-7)
Although at times in His sovereign will and purpose He permits an evil Empire like Assyria 'the rod of His anger' to triumph for a time, even to the apparent
detriment of Israel, yet in all of this God is working His purpose out. When the forces of evil have accomplished their work of chastisement and purification upon Israel, their power will be broken and scattered as swiftly as that of ancient Nineveh.
(C) THE DOOM OF EVIL SYSTEMS
Today, at the ending of the age, as we groan under the Babylonish world system in all its manifestations, religious, political and economic, let us take consolation from Nahum; for just as God Almighty brought Assyria and Nineveh, the afflicters and tormentors of Israel to judgment, so the ultimate doom of Babylon is just as surely foretold for us in the prophecies of Jeremiah 50/51 and Revelation 17/18, and shall shortly come to pass. God's message today concerning modern Babylon is the same as that given to ancient Nineveh:-
"Behold I am against thee saith the Lord of Hosts",
and to modern Anglo-Saxon Israel, these words of comfort from Nahum come echoing down the centuries:-
"Though I have afflicted thee, I will afflict thee no more. For now will I break his yoke from off thee and burst thy bonds in sunder". - (Nahum 1:12-13)
O Lord, hasten Thou that day!
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