Nahum is a prophet with a message that is at best unseemly and at worst downright awful. He’s a prophet of schadenfreude. His book is a book of joy – joy in the sufferings of Assyria.
To be fair, the Assyrians could really be a nasty bunch of bastards. They were a conquering nation that would cut off heads, pile them up outside the cities they took over, and then advertise what they’d done to everyone else. They were the biggest bully on the block – and they were a pretty successful bully for about 300 years.
Around when Nahum lives, they finally get theirs. And Nahum is practically peeing himself in joy over that fact.
This chapter has an introduction extolling God’s immense power. Then we move onto our main theme – how it’s time for Nineveh (Assyria’s capital) to get what they have coming to them.
This is a Bible chapter that Jerry Bruckheimer would love. It’s full of action imagery. It’s hard to see a real point, as Nahum more interested in giving us a sense of Nineveh’s downfall than really discussing its theological implications. Nahum is more about the what than the why.
Thus we get a bunch of lines, like: “The chariots dash madly through the streets, and wheel in the squares, looking like torches, bolting like lightning.” We’ve had plenty of prophets discuss downfalls of cities before, but I don’t think any quite get so into the actual physical description of the place’s downfall. It’s always a bit more abstract. But Nahum loves diving into that imagery. He could write screenplays for Michael Bay (assuming Michael Bay actually makes movies with scripts instead of just a series of random explosions).
It’s more of the same. It’s just a series of impressionistic images of Nineveh’s fall: “The crack of the whip, the rumbling of wheels, horses galloping, chariots bounding, cavalry charging, the flash of the sword, the gleam of the spear, a multitude slain, a mass of corpses.” Yup, throw in a few explosions and you have yourself a script Michael Bay will pay a premium for.
Nahum does come to his point: “Nineveh is destroyed: who can pity her?” It was a city that subjugated others and treated them like dirt, so when their time has come, why not celebrate?
There isn’t much theology here. It’s just a three-chapter dance upon the grave of an enemy nation. But Assyria really was a bunch of jerks. That makes this more tolerable than Obadiah’s ranting at Edom. Whereas Israel and Judah had been the overlords of Edom, and Obadiah was upset that Edom didn’t care for their inferior status, Assyria was the bully – one that destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel and took away the ten “lost tribes” of Israel.