Chapter one 1: 1 The oracle of Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite

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chapter one

1:1 The oracle of Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite. {m.s.n.const. aF'm; derived from the verb nasa’, to lift up; generally understood as a burden, a prophetic speech which is threatening— hwEn>ynI—m.s.n.const. rp,se a book, a writing—m.s.n.const. !Azx' a vision, what is seen, particularly a prophetic vision— ~Wxn: Nahum—d.a. + prop.noun yviqol.a, the Elqoshiy}
Exposition vs. 1

  1. Verse 1 constitutes the superscription (something written or engraved on the surface of, outside, or above something else) to the book of Nahum.

  2. It is somewhat unusual in that it contains a double construction, which is a feature that is not common to the other books of prophecy in the Old Testament. Isa. 1:1; Jer. 1:1

  3. The first portion of the double construction is translated as the oracle of Nineveh by most of the English translations.

  4. The phrase employs the noun aF'm; (massa’), which is derived from the verb af'n" (nasa’—to lift, take up, or carry).

  5. This has given rise to two distinct options in terms of translation, since it is derived from the verb meaning to lift up.

  6. The first deals with what is being lifted up, and is translated by the English noun burden; this is supported by Keil, Calvin, Luther, and others, who see the term pointing to the burden being carried.

  7. In support of this position, we find the term used of animals (IIKings 5:17 “load”) and burdens carried by men. Jer. 17:21,22

  8. A great number of the usages of this term deal with very unpleasant subjects, which most often deal with destruction, devastation, and ruin. Isa. 13:1, 15:1, 17:1, 19:1, 21:1

  1. Therefore, it should be understood as a burden, in the sense that the prophet that was given the information found the information to be somewhat oppressive, due to its weighty subject matter.

  2. When the men of God had to see visions of human suffering and destruction, it weighed on them; they were disturbed by the reality of the dreadful events that were coming to pass.

  1. Others point out that the term is used in other contexts, which are not nearly as burdensome as the prophecy against Nineveh. Mal. 1:1

  1. These interpreters understand the force of this construction to mean the oracle that it is taken up against Nineveh.

  2. Therefore, the prophet takes up this oracle against the city; he lifts up his voice to declare its doom.

  1. The conclusion is that both views have merit, and are likely connected; it is a burden to the prophet to receive such troublesome information, and he is obligated to lift up his voice to declare that information.

  2. The second term following the construct noun is to be understood as an objective genitive; it is not Nineveh that was burdened; seeing the destruction of Nineveh formed a burden to the prophet, which he is obligated to communicate.

  3. As seen in the introduction to this book, Nineveh was at the height of its prosperity under the reign of Ashurbanipal; from Nineveh, he ruled the most powerful empire on the earth at that time.

  4. Under his reign, the borders had been enlarged (but not necessarily secured very well), and Ashurbanipal had turned much of his effort to expanding culture within Nineveh, building a vast library, consisting of works of grammar, lexicography, poetry, history, science, and religion.

  5. The inclusion of the city Nineveh within the superscription is important, since without it the first portion of the book would be unintelligible; indeed, Nineveh is not mentioned explicitly until the second chapter. Nah. 2:8

  6. Nineveh was at a very high point in its history when Nahum writes his book/scroll, which contained the vision of Nahum.

  7. Although some interpreters (Keil) suggest that this vision was not delivered orally, such is an argument from silence; what can be said is that the vision has been written down for all to read.

  8. The use of the Hebrew term !Azx' (chazon—vision) indicates that what Nahum wrote down was not his own words or opinions; what he recorded consisted of information that God had specifically revealed to him. ISam. 3:1; IChron. 17:3,15

  9. This superscription makes it quite clear that Nahum is not simply offering his own insights, which might be discernable to anyone living in that present time.

  10. Instead, he was recording the exact events as they were revealed by God, no matter how forbidding the subject matter may be.

  11. Although we know nothing of Nahum’s personal history, we do know that his name comes from a Hebrew root that means compassion or comfort.

  12. This prophecy is designed to be a comfort to the inhabitants of Judah, which had suffered under the might of the Assyrian Empire, just as others had. Nah. 1:15

  13. The only other information that we are given about Nahum is that he was a native or resident of Elkosh, which would appear to be located within Judah; however, the location remains a mystery.

1:2 A jealous and avenging God is the LORD; The LORD is avenging and wrathful. The LORD takes vengeance on His adversaries, And He reserves wrath for His enemies. {m.s.n. lae God—m.s.adj. aANq; used to express strong emotion, zeal, zealous, jealous—waw + Qal part.m.s. ~q;n" to take vengeance or revenge, functions as an adjective, modifying ‘El— hwhy supply “is” YHWH—Qal act.part.m.s. ~q;n" avenging— hwhy—waw + m.s.n.const. l[;B; lord, master, boss—f.s.n. hm'xe hot, angry, wrath, hot displeasure, indignation—Qal act.part.m.s. ~q;n" vengeful—prop. name hwhy—insep.prep. l + m.p.n.const. + 3 m.s.suff. rc; an adversary, an enemy, one in opposition to YHWH—waw + Qal act.part.m.s. rj;n' to keep, to maintain, in this context, it has the idea of bearing a grudge—insep.prep. l + m.p.n.const. + 3 m.s.suff. byEao the verb emphasizes the internal hostility between one and his enemies}
Exposition vs. 2

  1. The superscription identifies the subject of this prophecy as the city of Nineveh; the balance of the book deals with the reality that God has determined to destroy the city.

  2. Although the doom of Nineveh in this book is not conditional, it is certain, the book makes it quite clear that the Sovereign God executes this judgment because it is just and demanded.

  3. Our verse begins the prophecy with a declaration of the primary theme of the book, which extends through the end of chapter 1; God will not only punish the wicked, according to His sovereign timing, He will also avenge the righteous.

  4. The structure of verse 2 employs a threefold repetition of the name YHWH, with each usage making a twofold assertion about the character or activity of YHWH.

  5. The syntax of the first line has been understood in at least two ways.

  1. The first is that it is a single clause with YHWH as the subject, which translation is reflected in the New American Standard.

  2. The second understands the line as being composed of two parallel clauses, and is translated as, God is jealous, and the LORD avenges, which is reflected in LXX, and the KJV.

  1. Normal word order suggests that ~qenOw> aANq; (qanno’ wenoqem--jealous and avenging) are attributive adjectives modifying lae (God).

  2. In clauses such as this that do not have a verb, the predicate normally precedes the subject; thus, a jealous and avenging God is the predicate and YHWH is the subject.

  3. The first adjective aANq; (qano’—jealous), which is derived from the verb an"q' (qana’), expresses a very strong emotion whereby some quality or possession of the object is desired by the subject.

  4. In that regard, it is best understood by the English term zeal, which moves to the related ideas of envy (zeal for what belongs to another), and jealousy (zeal for what belongs to you).

  5. The zeal or jealousy of God is seen in the fact that He is deeply interested in the welfare of His people, and requires devotion to Himself and His standards. Ex. 20:5, 34:14; Deut. 6:13-17

  6. The passage in Exodus indicates that God’s name is zealous/jealous, which indicates that this is a fundamental part of His nature that is compatible with His righteous standards.

  7. God is “possessive” when it comes to His relationship with those that are His; He is intolerant of rivals, and does not appreciate unfaithfulness. James 4:4-5

  8. Generally speaking, humans engage in jealousy as a function of the sin nature; therefore, it is not a quality that is normally appropriate. Gen. 30:1, 37:11; Acts 17:5

  9. When jealousy is motivated and/or proceeds from the sin nature, it is a very destructive force within the lives of believers.

  1. Jealousy is a mental attitude sin that is stronger than wrath or anger. Prov. 27:3-4

  2. Jealousy is a strong force that can destroy natural love. SOS 8:6

  3. Jealousy is a destructive force that can rob a person of tranquility, and even result in health problems. Prov. 14:30

  4. Those that advocate various forms of unsound or false doctrine create an environment in which jealousy/envy thrives. ITim. 6:3-4

  1. However, there is an appropriate form of zeal or jealousy that one may exhibit toward something, or someone, that is legitimately his. Num. 5:14, 25:11; IICor. 11:2

  2. In that regard, jealousy forms the motive and basis for sanctified vengeance, which God has reserved to Himself. Prov. 6:34; Deut. 32:35

  3. In this case, God’s zeal or jealousy is directed toward His people Israel; therefore, He is inclined and prepared to engage in judgment on those that may abuse His people. Deut. 32:43

  4. It is this quality of sanctified zeal/jealousy that causes God to judge those that have treated His people with disrespect. Zech. 2:8

  5. The second quality that is ascribed to God is seen in the adjectival usage of the Qal active participle of the verb ~q;n" (naqam), which expresses the idea of revenge or vengeance.

  6. This reality is strongly emphasized in this verse, as Nahum uses this family of words in each of the three couplets. avenging, avenging, takes vengeance

  7. However, one must understand that this is a natural response that proceeds from the holiness and justice of God, which righteously punishes sin or evildoing by exacting satisfaction from the evildoer.

  8. The righteousness and justice of God demand that all sins and all sinful conditions be judged at some point in the angelic conflict.

  9. Believers are to recognize that God reserves the right to take vengeance; believers are to avoid revenge tactics and personal vendettas against others, and commit their cause to the One who judges righteously. Lev. 19:18; Ps. 18:47; Rom. 12:19

  10. The first couplet emphasizes that God is zealous/jealous for His people, and that Assyria will become the object of His vengeance because of its actions toward Israel.

  11. Nahum continues to build on the idea of God’s vengeance in the second couplet, as he brings in the added reality of God’s wrath.

  12. In all three of the couplets, the Qal active participle is used, which indicates that this is not some isolated or passing truth; God’s righteousness always demands that He execute His vengeance on those that deserve it.

  13. The fact that God is patient and does not do so immediately does not mitigate the fact that He must execute judgment on the Assyrians on account of their wickedness toward Judah.

  14. The term translated wrathful in the New American Standard is expressed in the Hebrew as hm'xe l[;b; (ba’al chemah—lord of wrath).

  15. This is a Hebrew idiom that is used to describe a person’s outstanding characteristic or attribute. Gen. 37:19; Prov. 22:24, 29:22; Eccles. 10:11

  16. The Hebrew noun hm'xe (chemah—wrath) is first used of physical heat, such as that produced by a fever or snakebite (Deut. 32:33); however, most of the usages refer to inner, emotional heat, which can be fanned to various degrees of intensity.

  17. In that regard, it spans the spectrum from simple displeasure, to anger, to burning anger, to rage, and to fury.

  18. As TWOT indicates, “the point seems clear, once God is provoked to wrath, satisfaction of some kind must be made by the execution of judgment upon the cause of it.

  19. The final couplet forms the climax to verse 2, as it builds on the concepts of vengeance and anger, as they are directed toward God’s adversaries and enemies.

  20. The Hebrew term rc; (tsar—adversary) denotes one that pushes, one that puts pressure on another; it focuses on the harassment and torment that one causes another.

  21. In this case, the adversary is constantly putting pressure on God, which in turn causes Him to take vengeance on the adversary.

  22. Again, the use of the participle indicates that this is an ongoing function of God; it is not some isolated, or petty response.

  23. The final statement begins with the Qal active participle of the verb rj;n' (natar), which means to keep, guard, reserve, or maintain; it is used of tending a vineyard (SOS 1:6), or keeping a secret. Dan. 7:28

  24. When the verb is used of anger, it does not mean to control one’s anger, or to be slow to anger; it means to retain one’s anger, to stay angry.

  25. It describes a person bearing a grudge, seeking revenge, and refusing to forgive until vengeance is taken. Lev 19:18

  26. It is used here to denote that YHWH constantly maintains His anger; it is not lessened or appeased until such time as He executes the appropriate judgment.

  27. The same thought is expressed with other constructions, which indicate that God is pictured as harboring rage against His enemies forever. Jer. 6:11, 7:20

  28. The objects of God’s rage are His enemies; the Hebrew term byEao (‘oyebh) comes from a verb that has the basic meaning of hostility or hatred.

  29. God’s enemies demonstrate their hatred of and hostility toward God as they engage in oppressive or aggressive actions against His people. Ezek. 25:15, 35:5

  30. Therefore, God’s righteousness and justice demand that He treat them with the full force of His hostility, hatred, and wrath.

  31. The final line of our verse is critical to the understanding that God’s vengeance is a process; His wrath is not always immediate manifested.

  32. There are many occasions on which God restrains Himself; He does not immediately exhibit His wrath against His enemies/adversaries until the time is right.

  33. From the human perspective, it may appear that God does not always govern the world properly; however, the Bible is clear that God’s timing is perfect, and all things are governed by His schedule. Hab. 2:3; IIPet. 3:9

  34. The fact that there is sufficient ambiguity from the human perspective should cause the thinking believer to appreciate the need to walk by faith and not by sight. IICor. 4:18, 5:7

  35. As the translators of the NET Bible have noted, this thought of God’s rage “serves as an appropriate bridge to the following statement in Nahum that the LORD is slow to anger but furious in judgment.”

  36. God seeks vengeance against His enemies as he continually rages and maintains His anger; He is slow to anger, but will eventually give expression with the full fury of his wrath.

1:3 The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, And the LORD will by no means leave the guilty unpunished. In whirlwind and storm is His way, And clouds are the dust beneath His feet. { hwhy—m.s.adj.const. %rea' lit. long of—m.dual.n. @a; nostrils; long of nostrils=slow to anger—waw + m.s.adj.const. lAdG" great of—m.s.n. x;Ko strength, power, might; it is used to express potency, the ability to produce a result—waw + Piel inf.abs. hq'n" to leave one unpunished; to declare one free of guilt or punishment, lit clearing—neg. al{ not—Piel pf. 3 m.s. hq'n" lit. acquitting, not He will acquit, with the implied object of the guilty or wicked— hwhy—insep.prep. B + m.s.n. hp'Ws 16X, a strong wind, a tempest, a whirlwind—waw + insep.prep. B + f.s.n. hr'['f. a storm—m.s.n.const. + 3 m.s.suff. %r,D, His way, road, path—waw + m.s.n. !n"[' cloud, collective singular—supply “are”—m.s.n.const. qb'a' 8X, dust of, dust produced by—f.dual.n.const. + 3 m.s.suff. lg His feet}
Exposition vs. 3

  1. Having asserted that God has what some would consider to be negative qualities, such as jealousy, wrath, and the determination to take vengeance on His enemies, Nahum now asserts that God is slow to anger.

  2. Although this might appear on the surface to form a contradiction, such is not the case.

  3. The previous verse employed a number of participles, which are designed to indicate that God habitually acts in the manner described in verse 2.

  4. Therefore, one might expect God to instantly retaliate against His enemies, particularly when they are attacking the objects of God’s love.

  5. However, God also possesses the quality of being slow to anger, which means that He is not only patient with mankind in general, He is patient with His enemies as well.

  6. This quality is attributed in God in several other places in the Old Testament, and is also confirmed by New Testament theology. Ex. 34:6; Num. 14:18; Ps. 86:15

  7. In fact, the LXX uses the Greek adjective makro,qumoj (makrothumos) to translate the Hebrew phrase long of nostrils.

  8. The family of words derived from the verb makroqume,w (makrothumeo), literally means to remain calm or tranquil, to bear up under some provocation, and specifically denotes the concept of patience with people. Rom. 2:4, 9:22; Eph. 4:2

  9. Therefore, God’s justice may be slow to be manifested, since He is deeply concerned about His creation and desires all men to orient to His plan. ITim. 2:4; IIPet. 3:9

  10. God does not immediately enforce His righteousness and justice upon a guilty humanity, since He does not take pleasure in the destruction of those He created. Ezek. 18:23,32

  11. The phrase that follows has generated some controversy, since the editors of the BHS have sought to emend the text by changing the word power to the word mercy.

  12. This is largely based on some parallel passages, which regularly link God’s patience with God’s mercy or lovingkindness. Neh. 9:17; Joel 2:13; Jon. 4:2

  13. Nevertheless, there is no real textual support for making such an emendation, and it is not necessary since the text makes perfect sense as it stands.

  14. What editors did not appear to understand is that Nahum intentionally modifies this phrase to indicate that the Ninevites were not now going to be the object of God’s grace and mercy, they were going to be the objects of His great power in judgment.

  15. The fact that God is great in power stresses His attribute of omnipotence, which is the attribute that indicates that God’s power is without bounds.

  16. The Hebrew term x;Ko (koach—power) denotes first the capacity to act, then comes to denote the strength or ability to produce a given result.

  17. God’s power is seen in His ability to create (Jer. 10:12, 32:17), it is seen in His ability to transcend the laws of nature by performing miracles (Ex. 9:16, 32:11), and in His ability to deliver His people. Isa. 63:1

  18. When one compares human power and ability to the power and ability of God, it quickly becomes apparent that there is no comparison. IIChron. 20:6; Amos 2:14

  19. Although God is greatly patient, keeping His power under control and not immediately judging His enemies, it is clear that His adversaries and His enemies will experience that power in judgment.

  20. The Hebrew construction that follows uses the infinitive absolute, which is coupled with the imperfect of the same verb, to express an emphatic declaration. Gen. 2:16,17, 3:4, 15:13

  21. In this case, it is used with the negative to form an emphatic denial of the fact that those that are guilty will forever escape the power and wrath of God.

  22. The Hebrew verb hq'n" (naqah) is related to cognate verbs in other languages, which means to be pure or clean; when used in the Piel, it has the sense of declaring one to be clean or innocent, to acquit one of some charge. Job 9:28

  23. God can reserve this right to Himself, since He is not only the offended party when people sin against Him, He is also the judge. Ex. 20:7; Jer. 30:11

  24. The New American Standard has supplied the term guilty to complete the thought of the emphatic denial; however, while guilty serves well in a forensic context, in a moral context one could equally supply the term wicked.

  25. God is not only a righteous and just God, who is zealous for His own standards, He has the inherent power and ability to effect that justice as the following statements indicate.

  26. God’s great power in judgment is seen in the storm metaphor that follows, as God is pictured as the Sovereign Warrior marching out to battle.

  27. The Hebrew noun %r,D, (derek) refers to a path that is worn down through use; it is often used of a journey, or even one marching out to battle. Jud. 5:21

  28. The meaning is not so much that YHWH uses the whirlwind and storm as the vehicles of His movement, as that these terrifying natural events in nature are created by His very presence.

  29. God is pictured as marching forth in His wrath, coming at His enemies in the dreadful form of a dark and ominous storm. Ps. 18:7-15; Isa. 29:6, 66:15

  30. The dark and foreboding storm clouds are declared to simply be the dust of His feet, which employs an anthropomorphism to picture God marching to war against His enemies, with His feet kicking up the dust like an advancing army.

  31. This anthropomorphism indicates God’s immensity in regard to His creation; the Sovereign Warrior advances toward His enemies with a frightening display of His awesome power.

  32. God’s power over the storm is to be understood as a condemnation of the arrogance of the Assyrian kings, who described their conquests using similar language.

  33. Ashur-nasir-apli II claimed that at his approach “all lands convulse, writhe, and melt as though in a furnace.“

  34. Assyrian ideology set its conquests in the context of Ashur’s absolute superiority to all the other gods, and so allowed for no limits to the empire’s expansion.

  35. Further, it would serve as an indictment of the Assyrian storm god Adad, whose powers were believed to be frightening, bringing thunderstorms and floods upon his enemies.

  36. This god is often shown standing on a bull, and here he can be seen with lightning bolts in his hands and a solar disc above his head.

  37. The latter part of this verse pictures God as the Warrior King, marching forth in anger against His enemies, who will be overthrown in merciless judgment.

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