Nahum 3:19 – Endless Cruelty?


Nahum 3:19


No one has escaped Assyria’s extensive violence, but Nahum announces its end.


Since everyone has experienced Assyrian cruelty, there will be no one to heal or soften the judgment to be visited upon Assyria. The blow will be final and deadly. Rather than mourn the fall of Nineveh, all the victimized peoples will rejoice. However, it is important not to collapse the festivals and vows that Judah is to resume (1:15) with the applause envisioned at the end of the book. This book ends with a question—who has ever escaped your endless cruelty? Here, the question seems like a rhetorical one. No one has escaped and so no one will mourn Assyria’s downfall. But in the wider context of the canon, only one other book ends with a question—and it is a book that presents a decidedly different outcome for Nineveh: the Book of Jonah. There, the reader is cautioned against an interpretation that would restrict God’s mercy. Remembering the question of the chronological order of the books (see “Relationship to Jonah” in the section “Introductory Issues in Nahum”), Nahum and Jonah’s questions together either invite reflection on the marvelous complexity of the biblical canon or on our impulse to restrict God’s mercy to ourselves and invite God’s wrath on our enemies. Both are valuable matters to reflect on for people of faith.