1. Title. The title of the book consists simply of the name of the prophet who was its author. Nahum, Heb. Nachum, means “comforted,” or “the one comforted.” The name occurs only here in the Old Testament, although it is related to the names Nehemiah, “Yahweh has comforted,” and Menahem, “comforter.”
2. Authorship. There is no information concerning Nahum other than that found in his prophecy. He was an “Elkoshite,” that is, a native of Elkosh (see on ch. 1:1).
3. Historical Setting. An indication of the time of Nahum’s prophetic ministry is found in the reference to the fall of No (ch. 3:8). This city (known by the Greeks as Thebes, later as Diospolis) was destroyed by Ashurbanipal, king of Assyria, in 663 B.C. Thus at least a portion of Nahum’s ministry must have been after that time. The prophet views the fall of Nineveh as still future (ch. 3:7), and thus a reasonable date for Nahum could be around 640 B.C. Since this prophecy, which tells of Assyria’s end, was written when that nation was apparently in the fullness of its power and prosperity, the book of Nahum strikingly verifies scriptural prophecy and attests the divine inspiration of the prophets. In Ashurbanipal’s reign most of the nations of the Fertile Crescent were either subjugated by Assyrian arms or paid tribute to Assyria. However, before he died the picture began to change, and after his death (about 627?) the Assyrian Empire soon disintegrated. Finally, after a siege of three months, Nineveh itself was captured in 612 B.C. by the Medes and the Babylonians (see Vol. II, p. 67). For a description of the city of Nineveh see Additional Note on Jonah 1. See also map p. 1002.
4. Theme. The book has one supreme theme, the coming fate of Nineveh. Because of this the prophecy is complementary to the message of Jonah. Jonah preached repentance to Nineveh, and because its inhabitants humbled themselves before God, the city was saved. However, Assyria again lapsed into iniquity, and it was Nahum’s burden to predict the divine sentence of its destruction. Nineveh’s measure of pride, cruelty, and idolatry had come to the full. Far too long had the kings of Assyria defied the God of heaven and His sovereignty, placing the Creator of the universe on a par with the idols of surrounding nations (see 2 Kings 18:33-35; 19:8-22), for these kings supposedly were carrying out the wishes of their god Ashur when they fought against other nations (see Vol. II, pp. 54, 55). Assyria’s defiance of God must cease, if not by the nation’s repentance, then by its destruction. The downfall of the Assyrian forces in Judah had been previously foretold by Isaiah (Isa. 37:21-38), but Nahum’s prediction foresaw the final downfall of the capital of the empire itself.
I. The Divine Purpose to Punish Nineveh, 1:1–15. A. The superscription,1:1.