Inductive Bible Studies,

[Copyright by W. R. HARPER, 1887.]

PREPARED BY PROFESSORS W. R. HARPER (Yale University), W. G. BALLANTINE (Oberlin Theol. Sem.), WILLIS J. BEECHER (Auburn Theol. Sem.), and G. S. BURROUGHS (Amherst College).


Thirtieth Study.—The Prophecy of Nahum.

[The material of this " study " is furnished by Professors Burroughs. It is edited by Professor Harper.]



1. The prophecy of Nahum finds its place at the close of the activity of Isaiah and Micah. It fittingly concludes the prophecy of the Assyrian period in Judah. Taking its stand upon the character of Jehovah, it emphasizes his justice toward the heathen world-power, as represented in Assyrian Nineveh. The character of Jehovah must condition his attitude and action toward the heathen, as well as toward Israel-Judah. Herein is found hope and comfort for his people.

2. The comparatively recent explorations in the East, uncovering the site and bringing to light the contemporary history of this heathen capital, together with the continued advance in Assyrian researches, cannot but render the study of this book peculiarly interesting and instructive. Nineveh, uncovered from her mounds, stands before us as she was in "the days of the prophet. Thus "the Bible and the Monuments are mutually interpreting one another.

3. The attention of the student is particularly called to the Book of Nahum as a specimen of Hebrew literature. Those who are interested in the literary study of the Bible may well devote themselves to a careful consideration of the form of this book. Such as can, even with effort, read it in the original, should endeavor to do so. Its striking beauties, however, may be quite thoroughly comprehended by a study of the English text of the Revision, aided by the suggestions of an appreciative student of the Hebrew.1


1. Read, carefully, in the Revision, the Book of Nahum, noting particularly the glowing descriptive style of the prophet. Observe his metaphors. Exercise the imagination as you read. Mark, as you proceed, such passages as are not clear. At the conclusion of your study of the biblical lesson, if these have not cleared themselves up, after thought has been bestowed upon them, consult a good commentary.

Answer, from your reading, the following questions:

(1) Is the book one connected prophecy? Do the chapter-breaks indicate suitable divisions of the text for convenience in study? Do these divisions fall in with turns in the prophet's thought?

(2) Considering the several chapters as separate, consecutive portions;

(a) What is the relation of the first to the two following?

(b) What the relation of the second to the third? What contrast do you find between them?

(c) What the relation of the third to the two preceding? Wherein does it appear to be a fitting conclusion to the progress of the book?

(3) What, in short, is the character of " the burden of Nineveh "? How would you briefly describe " the vision of Nahum (1:1)"?

2. Re-read ch. 1. Make a particular study of the following points:

(1) In what portion of this chapter is the character of Jehovah set forth? In what twofold manner is it represented? What is the basis of the prophet's declaration regarding Jehovah? See v. 1, cf. Exod. 20:5; 34:14; Deut. 4:24. In the description of Jehovah, the judge, what images, drawn from nature, are employed? See

(a) 3b; cf. Micah 1:2,3; Ps. 83:15;

(b) v. 4; cf. Joel 1:18 seq.; Isa. 33:9;

(c) v. 5; cf. Amos 9:5; Micah 1:4. Notice the general influence of the Psalms upon the prophet's expression.

(2) In what following verses is the application made of the relation of this character of Jehovah to the case of Nineveh,

(a) by special reference to evils lately suffered from the Assyrians,

(b) by direct announcement, first to Judah and then to Assyria? How complete and how extensive is the destruction thus announced?

(3) What is the figure at the conclusion of the chapter (v. 15)? What may we infer, from the statements here found, as to any recent invasion and its effects?

(4) What is the probable meaning of vs. 9b, 10? How do you interpret vs. 11, 12? Are we to think of a definite individual here? If can we determine whom? In v. 14 does "thee," refer to an individual or to the city Nineveh, as representing heathen world-power?

(5) Do we find in ch. 1 a fundamental principle stated, viz., that righteousness is supreme in world-history? Show the relation of this thought to the special statements of this chapter and those which follow. Is it repeated in the course of these chapters? Where and how?

3. Re-read ch. 2.

(1) Would you characterize this chapter as peculiarly a "vision" of the prophet? How would you divide it so as to bring out the following scenes:

(a) the gathering of the hosts about the doomed city;

(b) the preparation for the defense and the panic connected therewith;

(c) the capture of the city, the flight and the taking of the spoil;

(d) the exulting shout of triumph;

(e) the cause of this destruction.

(2) Is this description such as to lead us to conclude that the prophet had seen Nineveh? or, is it general in character, based upon current information regarding the city and such knowledge as might have been obtained from having seen the Assyrian army during their invasion of Judah?

(3) What is the probable meaning of vs. 6-8a? How do you interpret " Huzzab " (v. 7)?

4. Re-read ch. 3.

(1) Does the prophet, in this chapter, return to the realities of the present, uttering his denunciation against Nineveh, on the basis of the principle laid down in ch. 1?

(2) Do you, however, find a connection between the latter part of ch. 2 and ch. 3, viz.,

(a) 2:11,12, Nineveh, the enemy of mankind, and 3:1-4;

(b) 2:13, Nineveh the enemy of Jehovah, and 3:5-7.

(3) Analyze the chapter as follows:

(a) Nineveh the enemy of man, therefore her destruction is seen;

(b) Nineveh the foe of Jehovah, therefore her destruction is sure;

(c) greater No-Amon could not escape, therefore Nineveh cannot;

(d) all resistance is hopeless;

(e) the conclusion, the wicked oppressor, destroyed, is unmourned.

(4) Make a study of the figures employed in this chapter; consider carefully their meaning and connection; with the aid of marginal references, note similar figures in Scripture, observing in what books they occur.

(5) Wherein is found the message of the Book of Nahum to men of all time?


1. The Prophet; his Birthplace; his Date.

(1) Signification of the prophet's name? See 1:12b,13. Why was the book one of " consolation " to Judah?

(2) What locations have been assumed as the prophet's birthplace? Do there appear to be any reasons of moment for its location in Assyria? Does the imagery of the book, together with its general character, appear on the contrary, to indicate a Palestinean location for its author? Considering the date of the book (see below), would you incline to consider " the Elkoshite " a man of Judah?

(3) What appears to be the date of the book, judging from internal evidence,

(a) the condition of the Assyrian power,

(b) the allusions to invasions and their effects,

(c) the reference to the destruction of No-Amon?3

2. The Style of the Prophet. What may be said as to the prophet's diction? What are the marked characteristics of his style? Do you find energy, beauty, clearness in his poetry ? Compare with the Book of Joel. What as to the connection of thought with thought, throughout the book? What as to the effect of the book as a whole upon the reader ?

3. Comparison with the Book of Jonah.4 Make a careful comparison of the Book of Nahum and that of Jonah.

(1) What is the theme of prophecy in both cases?

(2) What is the contrast brought forward in the Book of Jonah? If Nineveh be spared, what shall be the fate of Israel, unrepentant? What is the contrast in the Book of Nahum? If Nineveh, the wicked world-power perish, how great is the security of the people of Jehovah, trusting in Him (v. 7)? Contrast Jonah's message to Israel with Nahum's message to Judah. What cause for the contrast is found in the diverse character of the kingdoms? Show how the moral government of Jehovah is set forth in the combination of the messages of these two books.


1) Particular attention is called to the Hebrew (now O. T.) Student for October, 1882, containing the Hebrew text of Nahum, with translation of the same, together with translation of the " Septuagint, Targum and Vulgate texts, the work of the "translating committee of the exegetical class of the Hebrew Summer School of 1882. The form of the book is well brought out by Kleinert, Lange's Corn., "Nahum—" Consult also the literature given below.

2) The following literature may be consulted: Delitzsch, "O. T. Hist. of Redemption,"?60: von Orelli, "O. T. Prophecy," p. 311 seq.; Geikie, "Hours with the Bible," vol. 5, pp. 115-125; Keil and Delitzsch, Minor Prophets, "Nahum," C. F. Keil; Lange's Com., " Nahum," Paul Kleinert and Charles Elliott; Pusey, "Minor Prophets;" Smith's Bible Dict., "Nahum." The literature illustrative of the Book of Nahum is very extensive. The student is referred to Lange's "Nahum," Introd., and particularly to "The Literature of Biblical Assyriology," O. T. STUDENT, Feb., '88, Twenty-first Inductive Study, p. 195. From these extended lists, he may select such books as may be suited to his reading and may be accessible.

3) The sack of Thebes referred to is conjectuired to be its taking by Assurbanipal, known from the Assyrian records and located about 660 B. C. The prophecy of Nahum can hardly be placed earlier than under Hezekiah, after the departure of Sennacherib from Judah; its location in the times of Manasseh seems to fall in well with all the evidence in the case.

4) See the twenty-second study.