Notes for “Reading Nahum Together”
Sweeney, Marvin A.. The Twelve Prophets, Volume Two. Part of the Berit Olam: Studies in Hebrew Narrative & Poetry Series, David W. Cotter General Editor. (Liturgical Press Collegeveille, MN 2000)
Trei Asar The Twelve Prophets Vol. II: Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. (Mesorah Publications New York 2009). Translation and commentary by Rabbi Yitzchok Stavsky.
Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian Empire from about 700 BC to 612 BC when the Babylonians conquered the Assyrians.
Sweeney p. 419: “The Book of Nahum is designed to refute the view that the LORD is powerless or unjust, particularly in light of Assyria’s destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel in the late eighth century and the imposition of its rule over Judah and Jerusalem throughout most of the seventh century B.C.E..”
Sweeney p. 420: “…the placement of Nahum after Jonah indicates that Nineveh failed to follow through and suffered the consequences as a result.”
Nahum is not mentioned anywhere else in the Bible. His name means “to comfort, to have compassion”. His town of Elkosh is completely unknown.
Nineveh was built with moats surrounding it for self defense that could be filled with water from the nearby Khusur River. Archeologists have extensive evidence that the city was destroyed by fire. The rabbis assert that the city was on the Tigris River.
Sweeney dates the book to about 612 BC – right before or right after the fall of the city.
The bulk of this book is a “prophetic refutation speech” – a form of argument in which two contrasting views are presented, sometimes with some evidence for each, and then a conclusion drawn.
Both Judah and Assyria have underestimated the LORD.
Regarding chapter 3, Sweeney p. 436: “Insofar as the LORD is responsible for the welfare of Jerusalem and the Assyrian king is responsible for Nineveh, the text portrays the LORD as the omnipotent figure over against the now unprepared and defeated Assyrian king.”
Nahum 3:1-7 is an oracle of woe against Nineveh that identifies the cause of their downfall as abusive treatment of the nations they had conquered – with LORD as the one who brings it about. The Assyrians were known to have forced male captives to march naked in order to humiliate and control them.