The Burden of Nineveh
August 23, 2015
This letter is somewhat unique. It is a prophecy against Nineveh. We know little of Nahum. He is prophet of Israel but is speaking to the conquering power. He is prophesying sometime between 663-612 BC.
Keep in mind that Assyria is the occupying force at this time of the northern kingdom. They conquered Samaria, the capital of the Northern Kingdom in 722 BC.
Also, keep in mind that Jonah had preached to Nineveh before Assyria attacked the Northern Kingdom and took Samaria in the sixth year of Hezekiah.
In the fourteenth year of Hezekiah, Sennacherib took all the fenced cities of Judah and set his sights on Jerusalem. Hezekiah paid tribute to Sennacherib to keep him out of the city.
Jonah’s reluctance to preach to them was directly related to their threat to Israel. His fears were realized. God forgave Nineveh when they repented and He did not destroy the city at that time. And some time later, they returned to their former ways, both in their internal sins as well as their sins against God’s people by attacking Israel and Judah.
The time of Sennacherib’s attack is around 700 BC.
2 Kings 18:28 Then Rabshakeh stood and cried with a loud voice in the Jews’ language, and spake, saying, Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria: 29 Thus saith the king, Let not Hezekiah deceive you: for he shall not be able to deliver you out of his hand: 30 Neither let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD, saying, The LORD will surely deliver us, and this city shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria. 31 Hearken not to Hezekiah: for thus saith the king of Assyria, Make an agreement with me by a present, and come out to me, and then eat ye every man of his own vine, and every one of his fig tree, and drink ye every one the waters of his cistern: 32 Until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of corn and wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of oil olive and of honey, that ye may live, and not die: and hearken not unto Hezekiah, when he persuadeth you, saying, The LORD will deliver us. 33 Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered at all his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? 34 Where are the gods of Hamath, and of Arpad? where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivah? have they delivered Samaria out of mine hand? 35 Who are they among all the gods of the countries, that have delivered their country out of mine hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem out of mine hand?
Assyria does, in fact, attack Jerusalem but they are turned away.
2 Kings 19:6 And Isaiah said unto them, Thus shall ye say to your master, Thus saith the LORD, Be not afraid of the words which thou hast heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. 7 Behold, I will send a blast upon him, and he shall hear a rumour, and shall return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.
2 Kings 19:15 And Hezekiah prayed before the LORD, and said, O LORD God of Israel, which dwellest between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; thou hast made heaven and earth. 16 LORD, bow down thine ear, and hear: open, LORD, thine eyes, and see: and hear the words of Sennacherib, which hath sent him to reproach the living God. 17 Of a truth, LORD, the kings of Assyria have destroyed the nations and their lands, 18 And have cast their gods into the fire: for they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone: therefore they have destroyed them. 19 Now therefore, O LORD our God, I beseech thee, save thou us out of his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the LORD God, even thou only.
2 Kings 19: 2 Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shield, nor cast a bank against it. 33 By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, saith the LORD. 34 For I will defend this city, to save it, for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake.
2Kings 19:35 And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.
So Assyria is turned away and forced to fight her battles elsewhere. This gives Jerusalem reprieve for a while. About 90 years after this, Nineveh is destroyed by the Babylonians, who then also attack and destroy Jerusalem 25 years later.
Jonah preached to Nineveh prior to 722. B.C.
Nineveh fell to Babylon in 612. B.C.
Jonah was reluctant to preach to them because they were the dominant world power and greatest threat to Israel.
Samaria fell to Nineveh in 722 B.C.
About 100 years later, Nineveh herself is destroyed by the Babylonians.
Nah. 1:1 The burden of Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite.
Nah. 1:2 God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies.
The God of the Old Testament is the God of the New Testament. He does not change. It is important for us to realize this when we read words about God being jealous and taking revenge and being furious. He brings wrath to His enemies.
This is the burden against Nineveh. Nineveh is an enemy of God. But keep in mind that this is not nationalism. The Ninevites repented under the preaching of Jonah and God relented of His design of judgment against them.
They are enemies now because they have pursued wickedness and cruelty and have attacked God’s people.
3 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.
The God of the Old Testament is slow to anger. He is slow to anger but He is not incapable of anger. Sin provokes Him and when He acts, His actions are terrible.
4 He rebuketh the sea, and maketh it dry, and drieth up all the rivers: Bashan languisheth, and Carmel, and the flower of Lebanon languisheth. 5 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. 6 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.
God is sovereign over all things. He is sovereign over nature and nations. This is an important point. We reason from the general to the particular. If God is sovereign even over the wind and rain and sea, of course He is sovereign over men and nations. Because He is the creator and ruler of all things, we owe our allegiance to Him. This is true of all men and nations and His law applies to all.
7 The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him. 8 But with an overrunning flood he will make an utter end of the place thereof, and darkness shall pursue his enemies.
The Lord is good. He defines goodness. We cannot accuse God of injustice. He does not act unjustly. Those who look to Him find Him a stronghold in the day of trouble. In the midst of that, the Lord takes note of His own. Darkness pursues His enemies.
Nah. 1:9 What do ye imagine against the LORD? he will make an utter end: affliction shall not rise up the second time. 10 For while they be folden together as thorns, and while they are drunken as drunkards, they shall be devoured as stubble fully dry.
11 There is one come out of thee, that imagineth evil against the LORD, a wicked counsellor.
12 Thus saith the LORD; Though they be quiet, and likewise many, yet thus shall they be cut down, when he shall pass through. Though I have afflicted thee, I will afflict thee no more. 13 For now will I break his yoke from off thee, and will burst thy bonds in sunder.
Numbers are not an obstacle for the Lord. He defeats mighty armies with smaller armies. The Lord uses wicked nations to discipline other wicked nations. Assyria had been his instrument in judging Samaria. Now Babylon is His instrument in judging Assyria and Nineveh.
Again, we see that the Lord is sovereign. His rules apply to all nations. They are all culpable for their behavior.
14 And the LORD hath given a commandment concerning thee, that no more of thy name be sown: 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.
The Lord speaks harshly of the Ninevite gods and images. He call them vile.
15 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.
Good news is coming to those of Judah who are besieged by the Ninevites and those who have been taken captive. The good news is that the enemies and captors will be judged.
This announcement is one of peace to His people. The Lord exhorts them to keep their solemn feast and perform their vows. He calls them back to obedience at the time that Nineveh is judge.
They do not fully respond to this. Nineveh is judged but Judah does not fully repent of her evil. Within forty years, they will destroyed by Babylon.
2: 8 But Nineveh is of old like a pool of water: yet they shall flee away. Stand, stand, shall they cry; but none shall look back. 9 Take ye the spoil of silver, take the spoil of gold: for there is none end of the store and glory out of all the pleasant furniture. 10 She is empty, and void, and waste: and the heart melteth, and the knees smite together, and much pain is in all loins, and the faces of them all gather blackness.
Nineveh was one like a pool of water, a place of deep refreshment, a place of nourishment and strength. But now the water will flee away. The health and strength and rest will be no more. They are loaded with spoils from the nations they have conquered but now they will be spoiled, the gold, the silver and all pleasant furnishings. They all will flee away at their judgment.
Their faces used to be bright with health and life and fatness. Their faces now turn to blackness, the face of darkness, sickness and leanness.
Nah. 2:11 Where is the dwelling of the lions, and the feedingplace of the young lions, where the lion, even the old lion, walked, and the lion’s whelp, and none made them afraid? 12 The lion did tear in pieces enough for his whelps, and strangled for his lionesses, and filled his holes with prey, and his dens with ravin. 13 Behold, I am against thee, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will burn her chariots in the smoke, and the sword shall devour thy young lions: and I will cut off thy prey from the earth, and the voice of thy messengers shall no more be heard.
Assyria had been the lion. They had been the predator attacking their enemies and devouring them. Now they are the prey and God is the lion.
Nah. 3:1 Woe to the bloody city! it is all full of lies and robbery; the prey departeth not;
Nineveh was a particularly bloody city. They were very cruel to those they defeated.
If their adversaries resisted them, they made a cruel mockery of them by cutting off their hands and feet and impaling them on poles. They also flayed, or skinned alive their captors. With others, they cut off their noses and even their private parts. Still others, they beheaded and placed their heads on a pole to carry around as a sign of their complete victory. They truly were a bloody city.
Nahum 3: 4 Because of the multitude of the whoredoms of the wellfavoured harlot, the mistress of witchcrafts, that selleth nations through her whoredoms, and families through her witchcrafts. 5 Behold, I am against thee, saith the LORD of hosts; and I will discover thy skirts upon thy face, and I will shew the nations thy nakedness, and the kingdoms thy shame.
Whoredoms, harlotry, witchcraft, deceit, enslavement were the ways of Nineveh. God takes note of these things in all nations.
This should be encouraging to us and frightening to us. It is encouraging because no matter where this wickedness is perpetrated, the Lord takes notes. He notes it and if there is no repentance, He brings chastisement and eventually judgment. We who love truth and justice should rejoice at this.
It is frightening because we see many of these sins currently being done in our own land. There are many adulteries. Men and women are not faithful to their spouses. There is rampant sexual promiscuity and it is defended vigorously, even within certain elements of the church. It should not surprise us to see the manifestations of sexual promiscuity. Abortion, sexually transmitted diseases, fatherless families, women and children dependent upon the government for survival, an assault on the definitions of marriage. We see all of these things rampant in our culture. How can we not expect God to act against us as Americans?
But He also takes note of His people. Amidst the enemies, He finds His people and takes not of them for blessing.
The Lord says that He will take such wickedness and expose their skirts upon their face. He will lift up their skirts and expose their nakedness. This is currently happening to Planned Parenthood. They are being exposed for what they really are. They cannot hide the shame of their nakedness.
This is likely to happen in various sectors of the hypocritical church. It is also likely to happen to our government officials who lie and steal and take advantage of the poor. The State Lottery comes to mind, as well as a host of bureaucratic taxation.
With whom do we identify? If I ask you, Of what country are you a citizen? What is your answer? I would like us to think about this for a while. Perhaps we identify America too closely with God’s kingdom? It is true that America belongs to God, as do all the nations. The Lord Jesus is at the right hand of the Father ruling Heaven and Earth from heaven.
But American is not the same as God’s Kingdom. America is not the same as Ancient Israel. We, Christians, are foremost, citizens of God’s Kingdom. Our greatest desire should be to see His Kingdom prosper, to see Him bless His Kingdom on Earth.
Furthermore, we should expect God to hold men and nations accountable for their behavior. This means that when there are a multitude of bloody and egregious sins in a nation, that God takes note. We are in such times in our own country.
So, we pray for repentance for God’s people and revival among the heathen in our land. And we should expect God’s favor upon us to the extent that there is repentance. But if there is no repentance, we should expect God to be faithful to His truth and to His people. AND, we should rejoice at His justice as He builds His Kingdom to fill the whole Earth.