“Jehovah is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that take refuge in Him” (Nahum 1:7 ASV).
by Robert Goodman
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Nahum was the seventh of the Minor Prophets. His writings focused on the judgment and destruction of the Assyrian Empire. The name Nahum means “comforter” or “penitent,” and his prophetic writings provided a message of hope and encouragement to the tribe of Judah. During his life, Judah suffered under the oppression of the Assyrian Empire. This was a period just prior to the Babylonian Empire.
For almost one hundred years Judah was in conflict with the Assyrians. Their tyranny continued until about 612 BC when Nineveh was attacked and burned by its former subjects: the Medes, the Babylonians, and the Persians. Within a few years, the Assyrian Empire ended forever, just as God had promised in Nahum’s prophecy.
While God reveals much through Nahum’s writings, very little is known about his personal life. Among Biblical scholars, there is disagreement about where he was born and where he lived. Nahum 1:1 describes him as “the Elkoshite.” The exact location of “Elkosh” has been lost over time, but many believe it was located on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. Other scholars contend that Nahum lived in the town of “Alqosh” or “Alqush,” an Assyrian city at the base of the Bayhidhra Mountains in northern Iraq, but this seems unlikely since Nahum was a prophet to Judah.
Nahum, Jeremiah, and Zephaniah were all contemporaries who prophesied to Judah. Nahum’s message concerned God’s judgments upon and destruction of Assyria. Jeremiah warned Judah to submit to Babylon’s authority, and Zephaniah’s prophecy was focused on repentance, judgment, and the promise of restoration. They had messages related to the fall of Assyria.
The book of Nahum is written in a poetic style that adds power and elegance to its prophetic message. The three chapters of the book are divided into two major themes. Chapter one details Assyria’s downfall, while chapters two and three detail God’s judgment upon Assyria and its capital, Nineveh.
Nahum chapter one reveals that God takes vengeance on His enemies while He protects and delivers His people. Nahum 1:4-5 says, “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.” Nothing can stop God’s judgment. This chapter also affirms that God is a stronghold for his people so that they can worship Him. This chapter closely follows the 97th Psalm where we have a similar picture of fire destroying God’s enemies, the earth trembling in fear, and the mountains melting like wax.
The second and third chapters of Nahum pronounce judgment on Nineveh. In chapter two, the power of Assyria is reduced to stubble at the hands of invaders. The city was to be plundered of all of its riches and laid waste. Chapter three shows that the reason for Nineveh’s demise would be the unstoppable judgments of God. Nothing man can do can stop this. This judgment is also described in Isaiah 10:24,25, where God tells them, “Therefore thus saith the Lord God of hosts, O my people that dwellest in Zion, be not afraid of the Assyrian … For yet a very little while and the indignation shall cease, and my anger in their destruction.”
The great city of Nineveh (near present-day Mosul) fell to a group of countries that were formerly its subjects. They plundered and overthrew the city and burned it to the ground. It was not until the 20th century that its scale and grandeur was revealed during archeological excavations. Nineveh was on the east side of the Tigris River opposite the present-day city of Mosul.
Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria and at its peak, the city was the center of commerce for the civilized world. Its power was demonstrated by the monumental scale and the exquisite beauty of its buildings. It truly was the “exceeding great city” described by Jonah in Jonah 3:3. The city was located on the silk road linking the east and the west. Caravans of silk, spices, and other goods flowed through its gates. It was a massive city extending for miles East of the Tigris River and along the river. The fertile plain between Alqosh and Nineveh was an agricultural region that provided abundant food.
The Assyrians were a warlike, brutal people that extended their reach by striking fear into the nations under their iron grip. They held their claims to foreign lands through intimidation and terror. Nineveh was described as a city of bloodshed in Nahum 3:1, “Woe to the bloody city! it is all full of lies and robbery.” The Assyrians tortured captives by burning, skinning them alive, or by cutting off body parts.
Demise of Assyria
The book was prophetic of the demise of the Assyrian empire. However, like many prophecies, it also has a rich application in our day.
Nahum 1:2 (KJV) states, “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 New International Version gives a more accurate translation of these verses. “The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The Lord takes vengeance on his foes and vents his wrath against his enemies.” The terms “avenging” and “vengeance” are translated from the same Hebrew word (Strong’s H5358, naqam; a primitive root; to grudge, i.e. avenge or punish).
Avenging, rather than revenge, more accurately represents the meaning of the word. Avenging has the connotation of punishing for a wrongdoing to the intent of satisfying justice, while revenge has a vicious and vindictive connotation involving retaliation and mistreatment. As Nahum 1:3 (NIV) says, “The Lord is slow to anger but great in power; the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished.” God’s avenging is justice for a wrong, and applies the principles of justice to the entire society, not just an individual. Psalms 37:17 says that the Lord will break the arm of the wicked, and a broken arm can be healed. Avenging is meant to remediate the situation rather than to just pay one back. It is not in God’s character to retaliate, torture, and torment.
In Nahum 1:7 (ASV) the prophet declares, “Jehovah is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knoweth them that take refuge in Him.” This was a wonderful assurance to Judah that Assyria would be thoroughly destroyed and vanish forever. In our day, the “day of trouble” or “time of trouble,” we can also firmly trust that the Lord protects those who take refuge in Him. This especially gives us comfort as we witness the disintegration of the world around us. For we know God is not slack in fulfilling His promises, and that faith can firmly trust Him come what may.
When we turn to the scriptures, there are several passages which coincide with the descriptions we find in Nahum chapters two and three. In Daniel 12:4 we read that during this time of trouble “many shall run to and fro and knowledge shall be increased.” This scripture is linked to the Lord’s invisible return as evidenced by an explosion in knowledge and global transportation. Likewise, Nahum 2:3 says, “The chariots rage in the streets: they rush to and fro in the broad ways: the appearance of them is like torches; they run like lightnings.” We are reminded of nighttime images of the earth from space where earth’s highways (broadways) are illuminated by millions of vehicles traveling through the night.1
God’s Judgments in Our Time Also In Nahum 2:3 we find the phrase “the day of his preparation.” This was initially applied during the time of Nahum to the preparation the Lord was making to destroy the Assyrian Empire. This prophecy also applies to our day.2 During the time of trouble, the Lord is preparing the elements and conditions for the tumultuous events of Jacob’s trouble culminating in Armageddon. Only after the old systems of this world are destroyed can God usher in a new dispensation. Just like Nineveh, the corrupt systems of this present evil world must be plundered and then burned by the fire of God’s wrath.
There are several major works of preparation that the Lord is orchestrating during this Day of His Preparation. These events are necessary to help demolish the old order and to usher in the new dispensation. Without the destruction of these systems, God’s master plan could not be built on a firm foundation.
(1) See Reprint of Zion’s Watchtower, May 1883, pages 480-481, for a discussion of the lightnings and their association with Daniel 12.
(2) See Reprint of Zion’s Watchtower, July 1909, page 4431, for discussion of the end-time.
One major work during this time is the reestablishment of the nation of Israel. This was a miraculous work because the Jews had not been a nation for almost 2,000 years. The regathering began in the 1870’s and continues down to our day. Since Israel is key to dispensing Kingdom blessings, it is essential that they must be revitalized prior to the start of the new dispensation. How can the blessings flow from Israel if they are not regathered?
In Genesis 28:14, God promised Jacob, father of the Jewish people, “In thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” The Jews must be regathered from all parts of the earth. There are already more Jews in Israel today than in any other country in the world. But there is still a large population of Jews in the U.S., so we anticipate in the near future an exodus of Jews from America to Israel. Only after these things are accomplished will the stage be set for the final phase of Jacob’s trouble followed by God’s kingdom.
The Day of His Preparation is also the final period for the selection of the Church. During this time, the wheat and tares will be separated and the purifying work of God’s Church will be complete. In Matthew 25:31 we read, “the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory.” This indicates that after the marriage of the Lamb, Christ will return with all of his holy angels (his Church) to execute judgment on the false systems and to usher in a new world order.
During The Day of His Preparation, Christ is orchestrating the demolition of the old systems. The increase of knowledge is integral to this work. The religious, social, political, and financial systems are being precariously propped up. Even with the instant technology of our day, these fragile systems are on the verge of collapse. As we learned on September 11, a horrific attack on one country can trigger a worldwide economic downturn. The world’s financial markets are so interdependent that a disruption in any one of them can cause a cascade of failures around the world. This was illustrated when Greece’s inability to pay its debts threatened the stability of the European Union and the world economy.
The church systems have also ventured into business in an attempt to stay solvent. Because of declining church attendance, they had to seek other sources of income. Churches are now involved in healthcare, counseling, education, elder care, publishing, media, and other ventures to shore up their finances.
Politically, the world is clamoring for change to somehow “fix the problems.” Yet, the people continue to be fed political promises that fail to materialize. Those in power have leveraged that power to benefit themselves at the expense of nearly everyone else. Social media, designed to benefit mankind, has led to instability across the globe. This was an important factor in the Arab Spring which has destabilized the entire Middle East. Truly, the world is on the brink of destruction. But the Lord is holding back the four winds until His preparation is complete.
The closing work of The Day of His Preparation is the gathering of the Lord’s Great Army. The military, political, religious, and social forces of the world are unknowingly being recruited by God to bring down the corrupt systems of this world. As it says in Nahum 1:3 (ASV), “Jehovah … will by no means clear the
The technology from the increase of knowledge is being used to bring the hidden things to light. At no other time in history has the truth about the affairs of men been revealed in so many ways. The rich and powerful can no longer hide their secrets and this knowledge is helping to mobilize the Lord’s Great Army. Businesses continue to have data breaches that compromise their customers and reveal their secrets.
Preparing for Something Better
The forces unleashed during The Day of His Preparation will bring the social, political, financial, and religious systems of this world to ruin, just as Nineveh was destroyed. All these things will lead to a monumental spasm that will obliterate the present world order and destroy today’s corrupt systems. This demolition will clear the way for a new dispensation.
God is mindful of the individual suffering that this collapse brings and allows no greater destruction that is needed to accomplish his purposes. “Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain” (Psalms 76:10). God brings this judgment to save the meek of the earth and usher in a new era of peace and righteousness for all men, women, and children who have ever lived. In Nahum 1:15 we read in the NIV, “Look, there on the mountains, the feet of one who brings good news, who proclaims peace! Celebrate your festivals, Judah, and fulfill your vows. No more will the wicked invade you; they will be completely destroyed.”
This affirms that in God’s kingdom and the ages to come, God will symbolically stand upon the mountains of the earth and rule in peace. This new dispensation will allow all to worship God and learn of His loving character. The wicked will be destroyed forever. Praise be to God for His promise of deliverance.
Nahum’s prophecy is a special message to the footstep followers of today. This seventh minor prophet’s message is especially relevant to those who have sworn to the covenant by sacrifice (Psalm 50:5). Through Nahum, God assures us that the corrupt systems will be judged and utterly destroyed. The Lord affirms the importance of his message to us during this time of violence, war, greed, and corruption. He further assures us that He alone is the only source of comfort and protection during these trying times. In all these things, we rejoice as we see the world’s redemption drawing nigh.
What a wonderful comfort Nahum’s prophecies provide. May we redouble our efforts to be found worthy of God’s trust. Praise be to God who is directing these events as a part of His master plan for the reconciliation of mankind.