Have you read Nahum lately? He’s another of the Minor Prophets in the Old Testament who dealt with Nineveh, but his obedience was quicker than Jonah’s answer to God’s call. Nahum is regarded by some scholars as a sequel to Jonah. The Ninevites repented when Jonah preached, but their turn around was temporary. Years later, God raised up Nahum to condemn them and announce their doom.
Other scholars see Jonah as more of a short-story that deals with what God would do if Nineveh, Israel’s enemy, repented. It’s meant to explain the merciful nature of God. His grace reaches even people we hate. But Nahum’s prophecy is considered more realistic for the historical times. He proclaimed Nineveh’s end which was caused by its persecution of God’s people and others in the ancient world.
It seems to me that we need to separate the two prophets in our minds as well as in history. Jonah does have the character of a good story about a moral truth as opposed to a report of an historical, literal event. Nahum is a prophetic message in line with the rest of the Old Testament prophetic writings. His message both condemned the Assyrians (Nineveh was their capital city), and consoled the Israelites who suffered much at their hands.
In chapter one of his prophecy, Nahum expresses the vengeful nature of God. “The Lord is slow to anger but great in power; the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet” (Nah. 1:3, NIV). God is mightier than the forces of nature. A nation that is ruthless toward its neighbors, conquering them as Assyria had done, will experience his wrath.
In chapter two, Nahum narrates the coming siege of Nineveh. The city gates will be overrun. “Nineveh is like a pool whose water is draining away” (Nah. 2:8a, NIV). No one can stop her from being pillaged. The Almighty Lord is opposed to Assyria and her conquest. He will repay her plundering of other nations by plundering her.
In chapter three, Nahum decries Nineveh as a “city of blood” and announces God’s unchangeable decree. The city will die. “‘I am against you,’ declares the Lord Almighty. ‘I will lift your skirts over your face. I will show the nations your nakedness and the kingdoms your shame’” (Nah.3:5, NIV). Nineveh could not be cured; she has been injured fatally.
Nahum presents God as an unstoppable terror to sinners. Those who treat their fellow human beings tragically will come to a tragic end themselves. This is not a book of grace, but wrath and judgment. Why? Because the Lord, despite his willingness to forgive, cannot forgive sin that continues and overwhelms with no genuine repentance on the part of people.
Is this a book for Christians? Definitely, it is written for any and all who wish to deal with God as he is, rather than as they wish him to be. God is holy and righteous. He cannot tolerate evil, and he will punish those who perpetrate evil on the earth. Sin is a genuine experience among humans, and God must eradicate it from our characters. For Christians, Peter spelled out an judgment’s reality: “…it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Pt. 4:17, NIV).
Our judgment is tempered by grace. Can you imagine what it would be like to meet the just Judge of humanity without grace to buffer his harshness? Nahum will teach you.