Besides Jonah and Zephaniah, Nahum was also called to prophesy to Nineveh, long after Nineveh repented under Jonah’s ultimatum. According to Legends of the Bible compiled by Louis Ginzberg, Nineveh’s repentance only lasted 40 days, but that 40 days of repentance stayed the execution of judgment for some 100 years. Jonah prophesied against Nineveh around 760 BCE and Nineveh fell 612 BCE. Who says the “God of the Old Testament” is not merciful!?
Exd. 34:6 And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,
It is believed Nahum wrote the book that bears his name around 630-620 BCE. Possibly during King Josiah’s reform (1:15; II Kings 22:8-23:5) but the Seder Olam tells us that Joel, Nahum and Habakkuk were contemporaries who prophesied in the time of the wicked king Manasseh of Judah. But according to Radak his name has been omitted on account of his wickedness. These times would also indicate that Nahum overlapped the early prophetic ministry of Jeremiah.
Josiah reigned over Judah from 640-609 BCE.
Manasseh ruined Israel from 697-642 BCE and thus it is reasonable for Nahum to have prophesied during the reign of both kings.
We also know Nahum prophesied before the fall of Nineveh and 3:8-10 refers to the fall of “No” or “No-Amon” (The Egyptian city of Thebes) which is known to have occurred in 661 BCE. So we can deduce Nahum’s prophecy we read occurred sometime between 663-612 BCE.
Nahum’s prophecy was, as we have already stated, against Nineveh which were Assyrians who were known for their extreme cruelty to those whom they conquered and at times they perpetuated their cruelty against Israel, thus Jonah’s reluctance and even disgust to have to deliver a second chance message to Nineveh. The reason Nineveh was chosen because it was a large city in an ancient tri-city type of network. The other two cities were called Khorsabad and Nimrud.
It is safe to say that Nahum was a prophet in Judah seeing as the two kings we mention were Judean kings and that by this time the Northern Kingdom has already been dissolved. Ironically God used Assyria as an instrument of judgment to send the Northern Kingdom into exile. But because of taking things to far, Assyria had to be punished for their overuse of their cruel tactics on Israel, the apple of God’s eye. They would be conquered by a coalition of Babylonians, Medes and Scythians.
Conveniently all three chapters are three separate oracles against the Assyrians, especially the Assyrians of Nineveh.
The location of Elkosh (1:1) is uncertain, but Jerome believed it to be near Ramah in Galilee, near Capernaum and some say that this was Nahum’s birth place and it was renamed Kaphar-Nahum (The village of Nahum) in his honor. This was Yeshua our Messiah’s main haunts too.
Nahum means “comfort” or “consolation” but this fact seethes with irony considering there is absolutely nothing comforting or consoling about Nahum’s message to Nineveh, but Nineveh’s judgment would have been a comfort and consoling fact to Israel and Judah.
It is fascinating to compare Jonah and Nahum.
JONAH: The Mercy of God: The emphasis is on the disobedient prophet who prophesied to an obedient nation who repented to ADONAI.
NAHUM: The Judgment of God: The emphasis is on the prophecy by an obedient prophet who prophesied to a disobedient nation who rebelled against ADONAI.
Nahum remains is said to be buried inside the synagogue at Alqosh outside Iraq who inhabitance claim that was the original Elkosh. Coincidentally Jonah also is said to be buried in Mosul Iraq.
I have entitled this commentary, “The No-Nonsense of Nahum” because Nahum pulls no punches as he delivers the chilling message of G-d’s justifiable judgment upon Assyria.
All quoted are from the King James Version unless otherwise noted due to its Public Domain status.