Lesson 3 of6
In Progress

Background of Nahum

The book of Nahum addresses Judah in the context of Assyrian dominance and points to its pending demise. Under Asshurbanipal’s leadership (669-633 B.C.E.), Assyria had achieved widespread political power. By 663, its reach extended to Egypt, marked most notably by its destruction of Thebes (see Nahum 3:8-10). Assyria’s fall was rapid; Babylon successfully rebelled within a few years after Assurbanipal’s death. The historical record shows that a combination of Medes and Babylonians destroyed Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, in 612 B.C.E. 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). The capacity of God to overturn Assyrian dominance appears to be a question before the Judean audience. Nahum points to God as a refuge in a world of political turmoil–a turmoil that will lead to the demise of Assyrian domination. 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.), but precise dating is not possible. Even if the book were written after the actual fall of Nineveh, the claim of the book would be audacious: Assyria’s defeat was not due merely to the rough and tumble of politics but was the deed of God. That claim would have been disputed by Babylonian conquers and perhaps by doubters within Judah.