Nahum prophesied when the Assyrian power was collapsing, at the death of Ashurbanipal, the last king in 626. In 612 the Medes and Babylonian allies attacked and destroyed Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrians. Even before that, however, the Assyrians were losing their control over the people whom they had enslaved and who thoroughly hated them. The Jews were among them. Nahum’s poems show the heart of a patriot who believes that the Lord governs the history of the nations.
What do you plot against Yahweh?
•1Oracle against Nineveh. This is the book of the vision which Nahum of Elkosh has seen.
2Yahweh is a jealous and avenging God,
Yahweh takes vengeance in his wrath;
3Yahweh is slow to anger
though immense in power.
He does not overlook the evil.
In storm and whirlwind is his path;
clouds are the dust of his feet.
4He rebukes the sea and dries it;
he drains rivers of their water.
Bashan and Carmel wither;
the blossoms of Lebanon fade.
5Before him the mountains quake
and the hills melt;
the earth trembles
and all the peoples.
6Who can stand before his fury?
Who can face his blazing anger?
His wrath is poured out like fire,
and the rocks are rent asunder.
7Yahweh is good for those who hope;
in the day of trouble he shelters them.
He remembers those who trust in him
8when the flood engulfs them.
He utterly destroys his adversaries
and pursues his foes into darkness.
What are you plotting against him?
Yahweh will bring it to an end,
9oppression will not rise a second time.
Yahweh gives his foe no quarter,
he stores up fury for his enemy.
10They will be entangled
devoured like thorns,
and be consumed like dry stubble.
11Yahweh will take off Juda his enemy
the one who plots evil.
12Thus Yahweh says to Judah:
“Though they be strong and many
they will be annihilated.
Though I had afflicted you,
no more shall I afflict you.
13I will break their yoke from your neck
and tear away your shackles.”
14To the people of Nineveh,
here is Yahweh’s decree.
“No descendants shall bear your name.
I will abolish from your temple
the carved image and the molten idol.
I will make your tomb an object of shame.”
1See, there on the mountains, the feet of one who brings good news, one who proclaims peace.
Judah, celebrate your feasts
and carry out your vows.
For the wicked have been destroyed,
they will not attack you any more.
3Yahweh will now restore
Jacob’s magnificence, like Israel’s splendor.
For they had been plundered,
laid waste as a ravaged vineyard.
Nineveh shall fall
2Against Nineveh a destroyer advances.
Watch the road, man the fortress;
brace yourselves, muster your forces.
4The shields of his soldiers are red;
his warriors are crimson-clad.
His chariots gleam as if on fire
when mustered in battle array,
while prancing horses and frenzied horsemen
wait impatiently for bloody action.
5As chariots storm through the streets
and dash madly through the squares,
they look like flashing torches
or darting lightning bolts.
6The picked troops are called out;
ranks break at their charge.
Having set up the mantelet
they rushed toward the rampart.
7The river gates are thrown open,
and the palace defense collapses.
8The goddess is taken captive
together with all her handmaids,
moaning like doves and beating their breasts.
9Nineveh looks like a pool
with its waters running away:
All flee: “Stop, stop!”
but no one comes back.
10All kinds of wealth, gold and silver—
it is an endless treasure, a heap of the most precious things.
11Waste and ruin, desolation and emptiness, failing hearts and trembling knees,
terror and agony on all blanched faces!
12Where now is the lion’s cave,
the den of the cubs
where the lion would bring his prey,
and the cubs lie down undisturbed?
13The lion tore to pieces for his whelps,
and strangled for his mates;
he filled his caves with prey
and his dens with mangled flesh.
14Yahweh Sabaoth speaks:
I have come against you.
I will send up your chariots in smoke,
give your cubs to the sword;
wipe the earth clear of your plunder,
and your envoys’ voices will be heard no more.
The city of blood
1Woe to the bloody city, city of lies and booty,
O city of unending plunder!
2But what! Crack of whips,
rumble of wheels and clatter of hoofs!
3See the frenzied chargers,
the flashing swords and glittering spears,
the heaps of the wounded,
the dead and dying
—we trip over corpses!
4The harlot is paying for her harlotries,
her deadly charms, her sorceries.
She traded nations with her prostitutions
and caught peoples by her spells.
5“I am against you,” Yahweh Sabaoth says.
“I will lift your skirts over your face.
I will show the nations your nakedness
and the kingdoms your disgrace.
6I will pelt you with filth,
I will treat you with contempt
and make of you a shameful show,
7so that all who look on you
will turn their backs in disgust
and say: Nineveh—a city of lust—is in ruins.
Who will mourn for her?
Where can we find one to comfort her?
8Are you any better
than Thebes by the Nile,
surrounded by water,
her rampart the river,
and the water her wall?
9Ethiopia and Egypt were her stay,
Put and Libya were her allies,
10yet she was carried away
and held captive among the exiles.
Her infants were dashed to pieces
at the head of every road;
lots were cast for her nobles,
her great men bound in chains.
11You, too, shall drink of this:
you will also hide from your enemies.
12Your fortresses are like fig trees
laden with early-ripening fruits
which fall, when shaken,
into the waiting mouths.
13Look at your braves—they are like women!
Your gates are wide open,
the bars consumed by fire,
and the enemies freely enter.
14Brace yourselves for the siege: draw water,
strengthen the bulwark,
tread the clay and the mortar
and repair the brickwork.
15There the fire will devour you
and the sword will cut you down
though you were numerous as locusts,
beyond count like grasshoppers.
16You had multiplied your merchants
more than the stars of the sky;
17like grasshoppers were your officials
and your soldiers like swarms of locusts
which settle on the walls on a cold day.
But the sun appears, they fly away and they are gone, no one knows where.
18O king of Assyria, your shepherds slumber,
your nobles lie down fast asleep,
while over the mountains your people scatter,
and there is no one to gather them up.
19Nothing can heal your wounds; your injury is fatal.
All clap their hands
when they hear about your fall,
for who has not suffered constantly
the plague of your cruelty?
• 1.1 This introductory song presents the central theme of Nahum’s prophecy: Yahweh is concerned about being acknowledged on earth as the only God; he is present in everything that takes place in nature, and above all, in the faithfulness towards his friends.
Trusting in God’s words, in a terrible poem Nahum prophesies the destruction of Nineveh blow by blow: it symbolizes liberation from all kinds of slavery.
Through Nahum, the Bible approves the happiness of all little people upon seeing the destruction of the powerful who ignored all their rights and dominated them through terror.