Nahum – Chapter 1

What Do You Think About G-d?

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

Unlike most of the Twelve Prophets, little is known of Nahum (Nachum). We are not told his lineage, his background, or the kings during whose reigns he was active. Unlike Obadiah and Jonah, he does not appear elsewhere in Tanach (the Bible). We are told that he was from Elkosh, a city about which we know nothing else from Tanach. From context, we can see that Nahum was active subsequent to Jonah, as the city of Nineveh has reverted to their former evil ways. The Seder Olam places Nahum as a contemporary of the prophet Habakkuk, during the reign of Menashe, king of Judah.

G-d spoke to Nahum about Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, which had repented and been spared during the time of the prophet Jonah. G-d avenges Himself against those who antagonize Him. He takes a long time to get angry, but when He’s had enough, He’s the wrong One to have against you. He strikes swiftly, like a storm. He dried up the sea and He will dry up the nations that do evil (compared here to rivers). Kings and rulers (compared to mountains and hills) tremble before G-d and fear his verdict. No one can stand before His fury.

Remember that G-d is good; even when He punishes some people, He simultaneously does kindness for others, specifically those who place their trust in Him. But His anger will put a swift end to His enemies.

Nahum asks the people of Nineveh, whose punishment he is foretelling, what they think of G-d. Do they think He’s unable to pull off what He said He would do? He will put Nineveh down with one fell swoop; they will not get back up. They will be struck quickly, during their partying, and be consumed like dry straw. (The Radak explains that dry straw burns quickly and is wholly consumed.)

Nineveh is not a nice place. You know who came from Nineveh? Sennacherib, who plotted against G-d. G-d says that even if all the people of Nineveh agree, and even if they are many, they will no longer trouble Israel. G-d is breaking Assyria’s hold over Israel and He will free the Jews from their control. G-d tells the king of Assyria that he is the last of his line; his sons will not succeed him. G-d will cut off the idols of Assyria and He has prepared the grave for the king. (The Radak feels that this prophecy refers to Sennacherib, but Rashi feels that it refers to Eisar-Chadon, Sennacherib’s successor. This makes sense, as Sennacherib appears to have been succeeded by his son, counter to this prophecy, although other sons assassinated him and fled to Ararat. Compare with II Kings 19:36-37.)

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