Deal justly while it is your time to ride the high places of the earth, is God’s message to the nations through Nahum. Ancient Assyria stands as a sign of warning to any nation holding power on the world scene. God rules and He determines the times of all nations.
[Darris McNeely] Here at the Home Office of the United Church of God, glad to have all of you here tonight, and all of you that are watching online live tonight, and others that would be later on, certainly welcome to all of you. We are continuing our series on the Minor Prophets tonight. And as you can see on the slide, tonight we are going to be talking about the book of Nahum.
So, why don’t we… Remain in your seats, and I’ll ask God’s blessing on the Bible study. Our great God in Heaven, Father, we bow before You and come to Your throne this evening, very grateful for Your calling, Father, for Your grace in our lives. We ask for Your blessing as we gather here as friends to study into a book that, perhaps, is not on our top shelf of books that we may be watching and familiar with within the Old Testament, but one nevertheless that is important and has a message that is very important to understand for us today from Your Word. So we ask for Your guidance upon it and Your blessing upon our understanding and our hearing. Thank you, Father, for all that You provide. And we commit this study into Your hands and we pray in Christ Holy name. Amen.
Well, I did kind of mention that the book of Nahum is not a book we commonly turn to. It might be a part of your Bible that’s kind of shiny. You know the shiny parts of your Bible, the part that’s not well-thumbed and turned to quite often. And even among the Minor Prophets, this is one book that is short but perhaps not always known. There’s one that is perhaps even shorter and maybe even less known. We haven’t come to that one yet. It’s the book of Obadiah. But we will cover that one in due course. But I have to admit that Nahum is not one that I’ve ever given a Bible study on in depth in this way, and preparing for it really opened up another area of understanding on a topic that I think is important to understand, not only from the Bible but also for today. So let’s get into it. Let’s look at the story of the prophet Nahum.
What I would like to do tonight is start, not by actually turning to the book Nahum, although if you’re already there, put your thumb or your pencil or wherever you use to hold your place there. But let’s turn over to the book of Acts because I’d like to begin with a thought that the apostle Paul gives to us in chapter 17 of the book of Acts and verse 26. We’ll jump right into the meat or the heart of a sermon that the apostle Paul gave in Athens on a place called Mars Hill. And it’s a sermon that is commonly known as, starts off as he talks about the Unknown God. It’s a remarkable sermon. But in that message, Paul makes this comment as he talks about the work of God, the works of God upon the earth. And he says that, “He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth and has determined the pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings.” This is a profound verse to understand.
What Paul is saying here is that not only is God the Creator of every nation, we’re all of one blood, and that’s even a medical fact in terms of the blood types or the blood of mankind, that we are of one blood. But he said, He has placed men on the face of the earth and nations and He’s determined their times, the pre-appointed times, which speaks to God plan and purpose for human life as worked out among the nations of the entire earth and the boundaries of their dwellings. Now, “the pre-appointed times” is what I want to focus on in regard to this book of Nahum here.
When we look at history, we have seen a very quick survey of history will show that nations have risen and fallen through the centuries: Egypt, Syria, Babylon, Rome. In our modern times, we’ve had the rise and fall of Great Britain as a world empire and power. We’ve had the Soviet Union come and go. We are still in a time of America’s ascendancy as a global power, a superpower on the earth. Centuries past, there’ve been others. The Dutch had a moment on the world’s stage. The Spanish had a moment on the world’s stage. All of this is testimony to what Paul says here, it is by God that He has pre-appointed the times when a group of people and a nation might have a dominating influence upon the world or a region of the world and then it will pass.
This is a truth: a truth of history, and we find it to be a truth of the Bible. As we apply this to the book of Nahum, we are going to look at a statement, a very short, brief three-chapter statement by one of God’s prophets, a man named Nahum, to an ancient empire, the Assyrian Empire. All right? And Nahum’s prophecy is going to give testimony to the truth of what Paul says here in Acts 17, that God governs world history, and that’s the theme of Nahum. We have one theme to focus on and come back to in this quick study tonight, it is that God governs the world’s history. And that’s the one point that I want to bring out as we look here at the book of Nahum.
I had the opportunity in the earlier Bible studies to cover the book of Jonah about a month or so ago. And Jonah, if you remember, was the story of Jonah going to the city of Nineveh and giving a prophecy which he did ultimately after he took a little side trip into the belly of a whale and then was thrown up, literally, on the land again and finally accomplished what God wanted. And he preached the message of repentance and the city repented. They changed. It was a brief change. It did not endure. That was the story of Jonah in the 6th century BC, when he went to that ancient land and reluctantly took God’s message to the city. Now, as I said, it was a temporary change. The nation of Assyria of which Nineveh was the capital, continued to wage their war through their region of the Middle East. And if you look at a map that we have here, you can see how that empire here in the blue spread its influence over what is the area we today call the Middle East. They didn’t happen to call it that at the time, but it is the area of Mesopotamia, the Tigris, Euphrates area up through what is modern day Syria, and down you see the coast into the area of what is historically Israel, Palestine, today the state of Israel, all the way down the borders of Egypt.
Assyria was a very large and great power in this region for about a thousand years. The story of Assyria is fascinating. It rises out of the midst of history kind of parallel with what has already happened down in Egypt with its great empire down there. This is a large empire of the Assyrian people up in this area, and one of its capitals and one of its premiere cities being there at the city of Nineveh.
Assyria was a very vicious nation. They were God’s scourge on His people in Isaiah 10. He even referred to Assyria as “the rod of His anger” because eventually, and we talked about this at the time of the study on Jonah, Assyria took the northern nation of Israel, the 10 tribe nation that had divided off from the nation of Judah—the people of Judah created their own nation—Assyria was the nation that God used to take them captive. And that’s already taken place by the time we now come into the time setting for that for the book of Nahum. And so they carried away captive the tribes of Israel, the northern nation.
And then about 100 years after that event, God uses Nahum, another prophet, to declare a final judgment upon Nineveh. And in this case, there will not be a fasting in sackcloth as we saw back in the time of Jonah. In fact, by the time we get down to the year 612 BC, and that’s the only date I’ll give you here tonight—well, there’s a set, one of two dates I’ll give you, but it’s the one you should remember. 612 BC is the traditional date for the fall of the city of Nineveh. As I said, there will be no repentance. And this is essentially what Nahum’s single-minded focus is in his message because, again, God governs history. God determines the pre-appointed times of the nations of mankind. He determines when nations will rise, how long they will stay, and He determines when they will decline, fall, and disappear. And in the case of Assyria, we are dealing with the time when God says that nation would disappear. It is told in advance, several years in advance by the prophet Nahum.
So with that, let’s look a little bit closer at the setting within the date period of Nahum’s prophecy and look at this because if you could tell by the map, the nation of Judah is still there. It has not been wrested away by Assyria. But Assyria has essentially made the nation of Judah a vassal nation by the time we come to the story in Nahum. And by a vassal nation, I mean they have essentially overpowered the nation, but they’ve not waged a total war to destroy the cities and take the people captive as their custom was. Instead, they allowed Judah to continue with their own kings, but they demanded an annual payment of bribe money, what is called tribute money, in order to maintain their semi-independence; but at the same time, they were soaking them dry, extorting money from them, and that money was flowing to Nineveh. And that what’s taking place at this particular point in time.
There’s one reference that we should make at this, and if we go to Nahum 3, you can go ahead and remove your marker and go back there. We’ll go to Nahum 3, because it is very clear that at this point in the prophecy of Nahum of an event that has already taken place in Egypt with the capture of a city way up the Nile River called Thebes. In Nahum 3:8 Nahum 3:8Are you better than populous No, that was situate among the rivers, that had the waters round about it, whose rampart was the sea, and her wall was from the sea?
American King James Version×, the prophet will write this. He says, “Are you better than No-Amon?” Now that is the name for the city of Thebes. Thebes is, what we would know that city by today is the Greek name, and it was a large temple complex upriver from the area of the mouth of the Nile. And it at this point has already been taken captive. And Nahum writes in his message to the city of Nineveh. And he says, “Are you no better than Thebes, or No-Amon, the city that was situated by the River.” The river referenced here, verse 8, is the Nile, “that had the waters around her,” and they did. The Thebes sat on the Nile River. “Her rampart was the sea,” and that means the Nile there again, “whose wall was the sea? Ethiopia and Egypt were her strength,” Ethiopia to the south, Egypt proper to the north. “It was boundless. Put and Lubim were your helpers.” Verse 10, “Yet she was carried away; and she went into captivity. Her young children also were dashed to pieces at the head of every street, and they cast lots for her honorable men, and all her great men were bound in chains.”
What Nahum is referring to is an event about the year 663 BC, where Assyria had actually gone all the way into Egypt and waged a battle against the city of Thebes, and he described exactly what had taken place. That it was taken captive and the population was decimated at that time. That helps us to understand the dating then for the message of Nahum. And we can probably put that about the year 655 BC to 650 BC as to when Nahum’s prophecy was given. 655 BC to 650 BC, a few years after the fall of Thebes, and yet a few years before the actual time when the city of Nineveh will be destroyed by the Babylonians in the year 612 BC. So Nahum is giving his message in advance, several decades in advance at the time when Nineveh will fall. Keep in mind that this message is given when Nineveh is still what we would call a world power or a world superpower in that region and at that time.
Now, as I said, Judah, where Nahum lives, is a vassal of Assyria. It’s a very dark period for the people of Judah. We’re probably looking about the time in the biblical record of the king of Judah that is called Manasseh. And we all remember King Manasseh? He was one of the evil Kings of Judah. He came after King Hezekiah. And he was before Josiah. You know, to sandwich him in between two of the good kings, two last good kings of Judah, Hezekiah before him, Josiah after him. Manasseh instituted child sacrifice, even put his own son through the fire. He was a very wicked king. But he had a turn of nature from his father, Hezekiah, and perhaps because, again, it was a dark time for the nation of Judah. And Assyria was on its flanks continually extorting money from them. And perhaps, so all of this along with just a nature that was not good for Manasseh, caused him to be a very evil and wicked ruler at that particular time. In essence, the nation of Judah is in its final stages but it doesn’t yet know it. Within a generation, Judah itself would fall, but this is the setting.
We turn over to 2 Chronicles. Again hold your place in Nahum, and let’s turn to 2 Chronicles 33. I want to read something because this will help us then to understand the setting for the book of Nahum. In 2 Chronicles 33, beginning in verse 9, we will read a bit about Manasseh here. And I want you to keep in mind that what we’re reading is, again, the setting for the message of Nahum, that likely Nahum was one of the prophets that prophesied not only against Manasseh but then sets the stage for some of the events that take place here. In verse 9 of 2 Chronicles 33, it says, “So Manasseh seduced Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to do more evil than the nations who the Lord had destroyed before the children of Israel.” Verse 10, it says, “And the Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they would not listen.” God sent prophets, sent people to them, but Manasseh would not listen. Down in verse 18, as it wraps up the lesson or the story of Manasseh, it says this, “The rest of the acts of Manasseh, his prayer to his God, and the words of the seers who spoke to him in the name of the Lord God of Israel, indeed they are written in the book of the kings of Israel,” where you can find additional information about Manasseh.
But in verse 18, what I want you to focus on is the fact that, “The words of the seers who spoke to him in the name of the Lord God.” It’s very likely that Nahum was one of those seers, one of those prophets that went to Manasseh. And this is a critical point of understanding. If indeed he was, then his prophetic denunciation, Nahum’s denunciation of Nineveh could very well have fallen into the hands of the Assyrians and led in part to the actual captivity of Manasseh to Babylon under the control of the Assyrians. This is what happened, if you remember of story Manasseh. He was actually taken as a prisoner to Babylon and very viciously treated and interrogated there for a period of time. It could be, and this is a speculation, but if you, I think, want to get a better understanding of what Nahum’s message actually says and the setting for it, it could be that Nahum wrote his prophecy, it got out to the Assyrians, they blamed the king and they took him captive, meaning that Manasseh could very well have read the message of Nahum and understood it even as he was in captivity by the Assyrians at the time. And it could be, again we’re speculating in a sense, reading into this a bit, but I don’t think it’s too far in the imagination that Nahum in his prophecies may have even influenced Manasseh when he was in prison and helped lead him to a repentance and the slight reforms that he created at the end of his life.
Back in verse 11 here in chapter 33 of 2 Chronicles. It says that, “As Manasseh was in prison, therefore the Lord brought upon them the captains of the army, the king of Assyria and took Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze fetters, and carried him off to Babylon. And when he was in affliction,” verse 12, “he implored the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers.” This is the story of Manasseh. He did repent and humbled himself at that particular time. And in verse 13, “He prayed to Him and he received his entreaty.” God did and heard his supplication, brought him back to Jerusalem to his kingdom, and then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God. So he had a brief turnaround after God had allowed him to be carried away.
And so we can imagine that Manasseh’s interrogation by the king or his henchmen there must have been a brutal one. And if as verse 13 here shows us, he returned. When we come back and think about what that return to Jerusalem would have accomplished, if you look at verses 14 and 15 of Chronicles here, it said that he built a wall. He made certain reforms in the city. And in verse 15 it says, “He took away the foreign gods and the idol from the house of the Lord, and all the altars that he had built in the mount of the house of the Lord and in Jerusalem, and he cast them out of the city.” There was a period of reform.
And in verse 16, it said,”He repaired the altar of the Lord, sacrificed peace offerings and thanks offering on it and commanded Judah to serve the Lord God of Israel.” Now this was a turnaround from Manasseh. And here’s the point. It could be, very well, that the turnaround of King Manasseh was himself a part from the message that Nahum gave, because when we go back to the book of Nahum, and what I want you to do is go back to chapter 1, verse15. There’s a well-known passage here that Nahum directs to the people. It is an echo of the prophet Isaiah in Nahum 1:15 Nahum 1:15Behold on the mountains the feet of him that brings good tidings, that publishes peace! O Judah, keep your solemn feasts, perform your vows: for the wicked shall no more pass through you; he is utterly cut off.
American King James Version×, because here, Nahum writes, “Behold on the mountains the feet of him who brings good tidings, who proclaims peace.” This is language from the book of Isaiah that is here, who had gone a few years before Nahum. Nahum would’ve known Isaiah’s message. He said, “O Judah, keep your appointed feast. Perform your vows, for the wicked one shall no more pass through. He’s utterly cut off.” And so we just read back in verse 16 of 2 Chronicles 33 that Manasseh had cleaned up the altar and the worship in Judah for a brief time at the end of his life after coming back from the captivity that he had in Babylon at the hand of the Assyrians.
Could it be that he was influenced by what Nahum had written and that was in part what helped bring about a slight change of heart for him? Really a major change considering where he had been, but the reforms that he brought about did not last. It is conceivable that that is what was taking place as the backstory to the story of Nahum in the city, in the nation of Judah with its king Manasseh and what was happening there. But Nahum’s message is not a message to Judah. It is a message to Nineveh. And it’s with that in mind that we should consider for a moment Nahum himself, and the man, and helps perhaps get us into then a little bit more of his message. We’re not going be covering every verse, obviously, in Nahum tonight. In one Bible study, we can’t do that. So I’m kind of piecemealing this together into a storyboard for us to put a handle on what is taking place here.
Who was Nahum? The only thing we’re told is what we’re told in Nahum 1:1 Nahum 1:1The burden of Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite.
American King James Version×where he opens his message and he says, “The burden against Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum, the Elkoshite.” Now, Nahum from the city or the village of the Elkoshite or Elko. He was an Elkoshite, from Elko is the way to understand it. Where was this? Well, there’s a lot of speculation. The general consensus is that Elko was a city in Judah, that he was of the area of Judah, which makes sense with everything else we’ve said. There’s other speculation that he actually died around Nineveh. For years there was actually a tomb up there. There’s other thought that he might be from the city of Capernaum on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. Capernaum means “place of Nahum”. But the feeling is that he was more likely from this area of Elko and it was somewhere in the nation of Judah. And so he was a native of Judah likely. And again, his sole focus is on the message to Nineveh.
Now, there are some who have studied the book of Nahum quite extensively and some of the scholars that have speculated that Nahum may have been among the people—emissaries we would call them ambassadors or delegates—who may have actually taken the money, the bribe money, annually to the Assyrians. And that Nahum may have been among those who would have taken that money to Nineveh over the years that it was vassal state, and delivered the money. It would’ve been in gold and silver and vessels in a kind of caravan. They would’ve made an annual trek up to Assyria to deliver this. And it’s feasible that Nahum may have been one of these individuals because of the descriptions that he gives about the city of Nineveh as you look at his prophecy, and what he then is able to see. Because while in Nineveh, he would’ve observed the large city, its walls, its gates, its broad boulevards, its buildings, its palaces, its squares, which are all a part of what he describes in the three chapters of his prophecy.
If you turn over to Nahum 2 and let’s begin looking at verse 4, Nahum 2:4 Nahum 2:4The chariots shall rage in the streets, they shall jostle one against another in the broad ways: they shall seem like torches, they shall run like the lightning.
American King James Version×. He makes this comment. He says, “The chariots rage in the streets. They jostle one another in the broad roads. They seem like torches. They run like lightning.” Nineveh had broad streets, broad avenues in its ultimate form and setting after it had been in embellished by all of its kings. In verse 5, it says, “He remembers his nobles. They stumble in their walk. They make haste to her walls, and the defense is prepared.” Nineveh had very large walls, much like Babylon eventually did under Nebuchadnezzar, large, wide walls to protect itself against an enemy attack.
In verse 6, here it says, “The gates of the rivers are opened and the palace is dissolved and its vast wealth.” Nineveh sat on the Tigris River. So again, it’s not illogical to imagine that Nahum could’ve very well have seen this, and he’s describing it in his prophecy. And it may be that he had made visits there for either taking money or maybe in some other capacity. In verse 9, here he says, “Take spoil of silver. Take spoil of gold. There is no end of treasure or wealth of every desirable price.” An apt description of what Assyria did. As they would wage war, conquer a city, a nation, they would loot the treasures. They would take the money. And it was this money was flowing into Nineveh and the other great cities of the empire. And this is what Nahum sees as he looks at this. And so he begins to craft an impassioned, powerful indictment of the city of Nineveh. And therefore, the Assyrian power at this point, and it is no holds barred, there’s not any embellishment here. He goes straight at the city, and he describes it in details that we know about and can verify from the archaeological history that has come down to us in our knowledge about Assyria.
Nahum is a prophet who sees the violence of Assyria firsthand, and he’s outraged at it. He knows the story of Assyria’s attempted conquest of Jerusalem back during the time of Sennacherib, and the night when 180,000 Assyrian troops died outside the walls of Jerusalem during the time of Hezekiah that had preceded the times of Nahum. He knows about the rape of the city of Thebes on the Nile down in Egypt. And he knows about its conquest and its wars of others. And he’s seen the aftermath of the violence. And he’s moved by God’s Spirit to write this message of God’s judgment in very simple and clear language.
His words are filled with a noble passion that sets it apart from other prophets. If the New King James language sometimes still is a bit too tight for us, it’s good to read it in another modern language. The NLT is always good in any of these areas to pick up and read. Or another modern, the NIV would be good as well to get a different perspective on exactly what he is actually pouring out of his heart against Nineveh as he sees all of this in his time. And he comes to understand that that they’re going to answer to God. It is a very, very bold message that Nahum has crafted here about the sole superpower of the world at that time. And it is a very, very vicious superpower.
I described Assyria in my last Bible study when we were talking about Assyria, Nineveh during the Bible study on Jonah. And I likened Assyria to a certain NFL football team of its time. And I took a little flack for that. So I should take that back, I guess. Now I don’t know if I want to put another NFL team in there or not because then I’ll probably offend somebody else. But I’ll come to a maybe more apt analogy at the end of the Bible study. So I’ll save that for that. So I’ll retract my other statement that the Assyrians were like some NFL football team in the ancient world.
But they were very, very vicious in their approach toward people. And this is part of what Nahum says here. They were also like the other great powers of their time, the early pagan, idolatrous people. In Nahum 1:14 Nahum 1:14And the LORD has given a commandment concerning you, that no more of your name be sown: out of the house of your gods will I cut off the graven image and the molten image: I will make your grave; for you are vile.
American King James Version×, he says, “The Lord has given a command concerning you. Your name shall be perpetuated no longer.” Their name is going to wiped out. Note that particular line because we’ll see that that is true. Their name is almost, for its own day, it’s obliterated. The city is forgotten once it falls. He says, “Out of the house of your gods, I will cut off the carved image and the molded image. I will dig your grave, for you are vile.” It’s possible that, had Nahum gone to Nineveh, gone into some of the palaces and official buildings, that he would’ve seen huge reliefs along the walls, stone-carved reliefs of the various gods of Assyria that were there that had been brought back to life, excavated by archaeologists in modern times. And he would’ve even seen pictures of the punishment of people who blasphemed the Assyrian gods, and how they treated people who didn’t treat their gods with respect. Nahum would have seen that, and he’s writing about that.
The Assyrian kings would boast of defending the honor of the Assyrians gods. And they also took the gold and the silver from every captive nation. They carried it back into Nineveh. And Nahum shows that all of this wealth is going to disappear. If you turn over to Nahum 2, Nahum 2. And let’s look at verses 9 and 10. He writes, “Take spoil of silver. Take spoil of gold,” because it was there in Nineveh is why he says this. “There’s no end of treasure or wealth of every desirable prize,” because it had been taken to Nineveh. And possibly Nahum had carried Judah’s share of that and deposited it there as the bribe money on occasion. “She is empty, desolate, and waste.” And Nahum is saying this is all going to be taken and stripped from you. And it was.
Now there was something else that Nahum writes that he could well have observed as he went to the city of Nineveh and into the very buildings that housed the power of Nineveh. He would’ve seen Assyrians reliefs that showed the king and his nobles hunting lions. The lion is a very important symbol throughout the Bible. As it applies here to Assyria, we see from the actual carved reliefs of these Assyrians kings that they loved to hunt lions. Now at that time, the region had lions. Now they’re not there today. If you want to see a lion in the world today like this, you have to go to Africa. You will not see that in the ancient land where Assyria dwelt which is Syria, Iraq, that area today. But the kings loved their hunting. And this particular picture which taken, brought from the walls of the great palace in Nineveh shows a lion being hunted. You see the arrows coming out of it here. They love to show this. And there are just dozens and dozens of basically… These were the photographers, the hunting trophies of their day. That they somehow stuffed them and brought them back and had preserved them through a taxidermy method that’s long gone. But the stone reliefs of Assyria had been unearthed. You can go to the British Museum and see them, probably the biggest collection. If any of you ever go Chicago, you can see there’s a place called the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago. They have a very nice Assyrian exhibit there. And you can see things like this and other, some of the large winged bulls. But the best collection is probably in the British Museum because it was the British who excavated Nineveh back in 1840s, 1850s when they began that.
And this was a very common scene. If we turn over the Nahum 2, and we read how Nahum turned this against then the kings. Beginning in verse 11, he says, “Where is the dwelling of the lions and the feeding place of the young lions, where the lion walked and the lioness, and lion’s cub and no one made them afraid? The lion tore in pieces enough for his cubs, killed for his lionesses, filled his caves with prey, and his dens with flesh.” Verse 13, “ ‘Behold, I am against you,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘I will burn your chariots in smoke. And the sword will devour your young lions.’” So Nahum turns this picture of the lions being killed for sport by the kings, he turns it now against the Ninevites and the Assyrians. And he says, “The sword will devour your young lions,” just as you engaged in that rapacious sport, now it’s going to be turned on you, and your progeny will be cut off. “I will cut off your prey from the earth, and the voice of your messengers shall be heard no more.” And so Nahum likely saw those pictures, knew of their culture, turns it against them, and says they’re going to be hunted like they hunted the lions.
The day of destruction finally came upon Nineveh, as I’ve said, in the year 612, some few decades after the time Nahum likely prophesied. The Babylonians, the next big kid on the block, came against the city and destroyed the city. And Nahum described that in advance. In chapter 2, beginning in verse 1, he writes about this coming destruction for the city of Nineveh. He says, “He who scatters has come up before your face. Man the fort, watch the road,” in other words, put your sentries out, put your guards out, “strengthen your flanks, fortify your power mightily.” In verse 2, “For the Lord would restore the excellence of Jacob like the excellence of Israel whom they had destroyed. For the emptiers have emptied them out and ruined their vine branches. The shields of his mighty men are red, the valiant men are in scarlet, the chariots come with flaming torches in the day of his preparation and the spears are brandished.”
And the same doom is pronounced upon Nineveh as they, in turn, had an acted upon Samaria and Israel, Thebes, and other nations. In chapter 3:1 of Nahum, he says, “Woe to the bloody city.” And it was a bloody city. The Assyrians had a well-earned reputation for being bloody. And again, if you go back to the reliefs that were…that have been founded in the palaces, it will tell the story of the blood that was spilled by the Assyrians over their captive peoples. This is one that shows captives being flayed alive, their skin being peeled off by Assyrians that are upright, and the horizontal figures are being literally skinned alive. These people like to depict that, the way they treated their people by either skinning them alive, by impaling them, decapitating them, pulling their tongues out. There’s all kinds of pictures that show this being done. This is another impalement of a three on the upper level there, and they’re being skinned alive by the Assyrians.
But this is what their king looked at every day when he would walk down his halls, and the staff and the courtiers would come and go through the palace of the king, on all sides scenes like this was what they saw, because they reveled in portraying how they treated those who stood against them, who blasphemed their gods.
There’s one picture I want to show you here finally. I won’t show you, won’t curl your skin too much tonight. But there’s another scene from the hall of the king that shows the king dining. And that’s what happening in this particular picture here if you look at it. On the right is the king kind of in recline, and he’s got a goblet of wine that he’s lifting to his face. And in front of them is his queen, and she’s got a goblet of wine she’s lifting as well. He’s dining with his queen. Now if you look over to left, you’ll see we’ve highlighted these to help it sound out, that little figure over to the left, you know what that is? It’s a head. It’s a head of somebody that the king defeated. Scholars have figured out that that’s probably the king that he defeated who was formerly married to the wife that he’s now talking and he’s dining with. So here’s the story. The Assyrian king wages war, kills this other king, cut his head off, brings it back to the palace, hangs it in his dining room. And then to just show his own superiority, he brings the queen, the wife of that decapitated king in, forces her to eat with him in front of the head of her dead husband. Can you imagine the thinking that puts together such a scene like this? And then he has it carved into stone for posterity. This was the type of people the Assyrians were. All right? You figure out, you put together your own worse case modern example to be the equal of what they were.
Now you understand why Nahum is worked up the way he is in this particular prophecy. He goes after them, tooth and nail. And he brings it down in this. We all know the old adage, that what comes around, goes around, comes around. And in the Bible, it’s said another way, “you reap what you sow,” is what the Bible says. Assyria reaped what it had sown throughout the years. Remember, God is the God of history. He is the judge of nations. He determines their appointed times. And this is what Nahum is telling us. Over their long history, the Assyrians were brutal, barbaric people. Yet there came a point in history where God said enough is enough. And their time had come to an end. And He removed Assyria, and He has done that with any other nation of equal or less ferocity when their time is come.
When we turn over to Nahum 2:13 Nahum 2:13Behold, I am against you, said the LORD of hosts, and I will burn her chariots in the smoke, and the sword shall devour your young lions: and I will cut off your prey from the earth, and the voice of your messengers shall no more be heard.
American King James Version×, we began to see how Nahum wraps this up in the story and brings it to a conclusion. Chapter 2 of Nahum in verse 13, he says, “Behold,” speaking for God, “I am against you, says the Lord of hosts. I will burn your chariots in smoke, and the sword will devour your young lions. I will cut off your prey from the earth. The voice of your messengers will be heard no more.” In 3:7, he says, “It shall come to pass that all who look upon you will flee from you and say, ‘Nineveh is laid waste. Who will bemoan her? Where shall I seek comforters for you?” It will be forgotten. Nineveh is going to pass into history.
And we come down to the end of the book in verse 19 of chapter 3. And the last word is, “Your injury…” Well, let’s read verse 18, “Your shepherds slumber, O king of Assyria, your nobles rest in the dust. Your people are scattered, no one gathers them. Your injury has no healing. Your wound is severe. All who hear news of you will clap their hands over you for upon whom has not your wickedness passed continually?” For hundreds of years their wickedness passed back and forth over the peoples of that region. And now God says it’s going to come to you. And so in 612, Nineveh, that great city, disappeared from history and was forgotten, in 612.
Now, the Babylonians did this. And it became… Essentially Nineveh was forgotten. Babylon came and went as well. Greece came and went. Persia becomes a great empire. There’s a story about 200 years after, a little more than 200 years after the time of Nineveh’s fall. Remember Nineveh fell in 612. About the year 400, there’s story of a group of Greek mercenary soldiers, about 400 BC, who have been waging a battle in Persia. Money runs out, the tides turns against them, and there’s about—they’re called the Ten Thousand—10,000 Greek mercenary soldiers. And they basically say, “We’re going back home.” So they began to make their track back westward. They want to get back to Greece. The story is told by the Greek writer who was with them, who was one of their generals or leaders, a man by the name of Xenophon. It’s called Xenophon’s Ten Thousand in history.
And as they’re making their way back toward Greece, they camp one night on the Tigris River near this huge mound of dirt and evident spoils of something that was there. And Xenophon writes about it. And Xenophon, 200 years after the time of Nineveh, doesn’t even know what he’s looking at because Nineveh has been forgotten. He actually calls it a city by the name Larisa. And he gets it wrong. And it’s a very brief mention in his history and it’s well-known story, that 200 years after the fall of Nineveh, the city has been forgotten and nobody knows where it was. And a group of Greek soldiers spent a night there, and they don’t know what’s in front of them. This is ancient city, the city of Nineveh that ruled that part of the world at one time, is no longer there. It’s a lesson. It’s a lesson for any great and large nation then and now. Remember, God judges the nations. God controls history. God decides when nations rise and fall.
And the fact that 200 years later, which is, you know, we can look back 200 years from our modern perspective to 200 years, and now that would bring us, you know, into the early 19th century in our history, in our own story, and we can’t imagine forgetting where a particular city and empire actually existed. But this happened in the world of that time. In part, it happened because of the building materials that Nineveh was made from, they were made from a lot of clay bricks, many of which were not fired. And so that when the fires destroyed the beams that held up the great buildings that did exist in the city, the stone and other parts of the buildings, like the reliefs that we still have, all came down. The walls were made out of clay. Much of it was unfired clay which would have just dissolved and returned to dirt. The bricks which had been fired, they did endure. But time and flooding and water and rain and wind covered it all over until people started planting corn or wheat on top of what had once been a flourishing great city. And it was forgotten.
In fact, it was not until the 1840s that Nineveh was actually excavated by the British. And its secrets, some of what I showed here, once again saw the light of day, and its history reconstructed out of the records that came out of the archaeological excavations there, to where we know what took place, and the kings and at least the political history of Assyria. But it’s a lesson in how ephemeral power can be. And there is a lesson for us today, how quickly things can change.
Much has been made about the phrase in recent months to “make America great again.” Now, we’re in a time, as I said earlier, America is a great power, a world superpower still. I don’t necessarily agree with the phrase “make America great again.” I would rather say that America is great. But America’s great because God made America great. And we are a great nation today. It’s a question of making America great again that’s relative depending upon who’s speaking. America is great, but America’s great because God made it great. And America will remain great until God removes His blessing. That’s something we should not forget. When God removes His blessing, when that occurs, it will be a different world order than what we see today. America has been guided by a nature and a spirit that has been like that of the patriarch Joseph. And we should understand our history and our time on the world stage and what it has been. And we do, because of the promises that God made to Abraham and that we have been the modern recipients of the fulfillment of that in modern days.
The book of Genesis in chapter 49 tells of the benefit in the end days that Joseph, who received through his sons, that blessing, that physical blessing that God had first given to Abraham. Joseph in the time of the end would be like a well-watered bough whose vines runs over the wall that essentially extends out to others and is a blessing to others. And America has been just that and still is. And still is to this day. But America’s not lived up to the terms of God’s covenant and God’s law. And its national sins are not small. When God decides to judge this nation, when its pre-appointed time has come and it is over, that fall will be conclusive and it will be dramatic. And we should not forget that. I think that that is a lesson for us to draw as we look at how quickly Nineveh fell, and how when God decided the time was over, it was over, and it was forgotten.
America could… Its role in the world could change overnight. But it won’t until God decides that that time has come, just as He had decided with Nineveh, that enough was enough. Now that’s another part of the story to consider, but it flows out of what we are talking about today because today in the same region of ancient Nineveh to whom Nahum’s prophecy went, is another city called Mosul. In fact, the city of Mosul in Iraq that you hear about is actually on the site of the ancient city of Nineveh. And Mosul today is undergoing a great battle because it has been in the last three years a center for ISIS. Out of that region, ISIS has its caliphate, its self-proclaimed caliphate has been pushed back in recent months. There’s a battle going on as we speak here tonight over the city of Mosul on the very site of ancient Nineveh. But we know about the power of ISIS, and that, as we’ve seen, its atrocities were just as vicious as the ancient Assyrian people, and what they have done to people. I won’t rehearse all of that tonight, but we have watched that now because of the power of the Internet and media today, the last three years that has been flashed around the world.
As we look at that region, there’s something I think that we can learn and that we should learn. The book of Daniel shows us something very interesting. It’s in chapter 9. We won’t turn there, I’ll just briefly refer to it, but in chapter 9 of Daniel, there is a revelation God gives to the prophet that is instructive about, again, world history and events. He tells Daniel through… God shows Daniel through the angel Gabriel, that he has been withheld for some time coming and revealing a vision to Daniel because he was detained by the, essentially, to sum it up, two powerful spirit beings called the Prince of Persia and the Prince of Greece, and that he’s got to then go back and return and fight them again. They actually withheld the messenger from God, Gabriel, coming and delivering a message to Daniel.
Behind the scenes then and today, they’re very powerful spirit beings who control the events. And that day they were called the Prince of Persia and the Prince of Greece. They still exist. That’s another Bible study, another story for another time. But the powers that dominated and ruled in that part of the world then are still there. And they are hostile to the plan and the purpose of God. And they are still a part of an alternative scheme and plan engineered by Satan the devil to assert his will and purpose and plan upon mankind in this earth.
And we need to, we should understand that, as we look at the powerful forces that are arrayed to advance their cause within human affairs, God allows it all according to His purpose and according to His timing, His prophetic timing. And God allows those powers to influence only so much and no more. And I think that those spirit powers still work today in the affairs of nations that we read about every single day. And our leaders fret and worry about and scheme about and fight and try to prevent their encroachment upon America, the West, and create some of the problems that we see today.
So as we study the prophets of God and their messages, we see God’s hand at work in the ancient world. We should also understand that it is all still very current for us today and take it very, very seriously. And realize that, while Nahum had a message directly for the city of Nineveh in its day, that message still lives to the nations of the world, any nation that works such vicious evil powers. But also on a larger scale, we need to remember that power, timing, position on the world stage is transitory. And it will come and it will go.
There’s stanza from a poem that I would like to read at this point. It’s a poem by Rudyard Kipling, whose was kind of the poet of empire for Great Britain at its height. Rudyard Kipling who wrote, “Kim” and whose book “The Jungle Book” is still something that fascinates people today. But he wrote a poem called “Requiem”. And there’s one stanza that’s very interesting to this message here tonight. In it, he says, “Far-called our navies melt away,” speaking of the British Empire, their navies went far and melted away. “On dune and headlands sinks the fire. Lo, all our pomp of yesterday is one with Nineveh and Tyre.” Kipling was writing in the post-World War I era when he had began to see that the empire of Great Britain was on its decline. And he says, “Our pomp of yesterday,” at its height during the Victorian period, is one with… It’s like that of Nineveh and Tyre. Well, we’ve read about Nineveh today. And even a poet of Great Britain understood how transitory national greatness and power is. And he says in conclusion here, almost to God, “Judge of the Nations, spare us yet, lest we forget.” Lest we forget. We don’t need to forget. We should not forget that God is the God of history. God is the judge of all nations. God judged Nineveh, the Assyrians, and every other great world power after that. He judges and rules in history today, and His purpose still stands.
So Nahum offers us a very short, powerful image of God’s judgment at work among the great powers. And so if we turn back to Acts 17:26 Acts 17:26And has made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;
American King James Version×, once again to conclude. Let’s remember this, as Paul said, “He is made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings.” The message of Nahum, echoed here by Paul. God governs the world history. Let’s never forget that God controls our destiny.
Thank you, all of you, for coming out tonight. Hope you have a safe trip home. The next Bible study will be, I believe, in three weeks from tonight. We’ll be on the road traveling in two weeks, all of us. So it’ll be three weeks from tonight we’ll have the next Bible study. At that time, I believe we go into the book of Habakkuk. So we’ll see you then, and have a safe evening, and a good rest of your week.