Lesson 3 of 6
In Progress

Background of Nahum

The book of Nahum addresses Judah in the context of Assyrian dominance and points to its pending demise. Under King Ashurbanipal’s leadership (669-633 BCE), Assyria had achieved widespread political power. By 663, its reach extended to Egypt, marked most notably by its destruction of the city of Thebes (see Nahum 3:8-10), the capital city and center of the Egyptian empire for over a millennium. But Assyria’s fall was rapid; Babylon successfully rebelled within a few years after Ashurbanipal’s death (626 BCE). The historical record shows that a combination of Medes and Babylonians destroyed Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, in 612 BCE. Babylon emerged as the next dominant power in the ancient Near East.

In Nahum, Assyrian dominance is construed as affliction that has been sent by God, but which is soon to be over (1:12). God’s capacity to end Assyrian dominance appears to be a question in the minds and hearts of the people of Judah. Nahum reads the political turmoil and offers a word affirming that God is a place of refuge. Not only will Assyrian domination find its end, Judah will be restored (1:15). The nation or nations that will overthrow Assyria are not named. It is reasonable to place the date of composition within the reign of Josiah (640-609 B.C.E.), when Judah enjoyed a brief period of relative autonomy during the decline of the Assyrian empire, but more precise dating is not possible. Even if the book were written after the actual fall of Nineveh in 612 BCE, the claim of the book would still be audacious: Assyria’s defeat was due not merely to the rough and tumble of politics but to the work of God.