There is a stark contrast in the messages given to Judah and Nineveh. Following the initial section proclaiming judgement on Nineveh, Judah had been reminded of the Lord’s goodness and that He is a stronghold in the day of trouble and knows those who trust in Him. The Targum Jonathan adds, “Good is Jehovah to Israel.”[i] Though the prophecy is given to comfort Judah (Nahum 1:15), there will come a time when Judah and Israel are again reunited (Ezekiel 37:15-28).
The psalms and proverbs often differentiate between the wicked and the godly and ultimately this reflects the difference between the believer and the unbeliever. One has real, certain and lasting hope, whilst the other has no hope. The judgement on Nineveh would also reassure Judah that the Lord had heard their prayers and that the Lord is just and righteous. He would bring them to account but He would also comfort them.
Since No Amon (Thebes) was destroyed in 663BC and Nahum 3:8 comments on that event we can ascertain that this book was written following that. This helps us to establish which of the Assyrian rulers is being addressed. Rashi relates the “you” of verse 9 and verse to Nineveh and the kings of Assyria and connects that with Nahum 1:9b which states, “affliction will not rise up a second time.”[ii] He links the “you” in verse with Nineveh from whom Sennacherib emanated.[iii] Formerly Sennacherib boasted exceedingly against Judah, Hezekiah prayed and God delivered them miraculously (Isaiah 36-37). Hezekiah’s prayer tells us something of how we should pray since he not only prayed for deliverance for Judah but all kingdoms of the earth may know that you are the Lord (Isaiah 37:20).
Sennacherib reached the height of his power, the zenith of his arrogance, the full rebellion against God and then he fell. Ashurbanipal was the new ruler, though would he fair any better? The coalition of the Medes and Babylonians brought destruction upon Nineveh. Verse 11 mentions a wicked counsellor which literally means a “counsellor of Belial”, suggesting Satanic influence. How often has Satan tried to inspire rulers to conspire against the Lord and His people?
Like powerful and predatory nations today, the Assyrians trusted in their numbers and military might. Assyria had assumed that their prowess was of their own making. Yet the Lord’s purpose was for them to be used like Babylon as a temporary chastening agent to chasten Israel (Isaiah 10:5-19). Undoubtedly, the Lord raises nations today to chastise other nations and if they go too far then judgement will surely fall. Sennacherib’s own sons killed him (Isaiah 37:37-38). Unger adds that in with accordance with Nahum 1:14a, Saracus, the grandson of Sennacherib committed suicide.[iv]
In the closing verse of this chapter there is the promise of good news. “Behold, on the mountains The feet of him who brings good tidings, Who proclaims peace! O Judah, keep your appointed feasts, Perform your vows. For the wicked one shall no more pass through you; He is utterly cut off” (Nahum 1:15). This would have reminded them of previous deliverance (Isaiah 52:7-10). Isaiah reminded them that they had formerly been in Egypt and then later the Assyrians oppressed them but the Lord would bring deliverance. Babylon would follow Assyria, though they would return to Judah after seventy years. You may face a major series of challenges in your life but it is the gospel that saves.
The good news is the gospel that Paul preaches in Romans 10:15, quoting Isaiah 52:7 and Nahum 1:15, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things.” Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Paul writes with no uncertainty “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth one confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10).
Sennacherib is like Satan who loves to oppose God and desires that people serve him. Unbelievers are enslaved by sin and entrapped by the world, the flesh and Satan. We cannot free ourselves so we must look to the Lord and be saved. Hezekiah prayed to the Lord and he was delivered.
Our Lord proclaims shalom (peace) as He gives a unique peace that is not of this world. Peace is something the world craves yet can never achieve. Without Messiah, real and lasting peace is not possible. The nations rage against the Lord and His anointed, though their attempts are futile. Yeshua gives us His peace with God through His substitutionary sacrifice taking our sin upon Himself and making atonement through His blood that was shed. He died so that we might live so we must turn to Him and trust in Him.
When the Assyrians were overthrown, those in Judah would be able to keep their feasts and perform their vows. The feasts were and are joyful occasions remembering the Lord’s goodness and sharing fellowship. The feasts point us to Messiah including His death and resurrection and look forward to His return, rule and reign. Then Messiah will bring peace in His Messianic Kingdom. One day all nations will keep the Feast of Tabernacles (Zechariah 14:16-21).
There is a final deliverance for those who trust in Him. There is a future and a hope and a sparing of the judgement and no more sickness, death or crying in heaven. The Lord is good to those who trust in Him and He is a stronghold in the day of trouble. He knows those who trust in Him. Blessed are those who put their trust in Him!
[i] Targum Jonathan on Nahum 1 https://www.sefaria.org/Targum_Jonathan_on_Nahum.1.8?lang=bi
[ii] Rashi on Nahum 1 https://www.sefaria.org/Rashi_on_Nahum.1.11.2?lang=bi
[iv] Merrill F. Unger Unger’s Commentary on the Old Testament (AMG, 2002; Chattanooga), p1884