Fausset's Bible Dictionary


"consolation" and "vengeance", to Israel and Israel's foe respectively. The two themes alternate in Nahum 1; as the prophecy advances, vengeance on Assyria predominates.

Country. "The Elkoshite" (Nah_1:1), from Elkosh or Elkesi a village of Galilee pointed out to Jerome (Preface in Nahum). Capernaum, "village of Nahum," seemingly takes its name from Nahum having resided in the neighbourhood, though born in Elkosh. The allusions in Nahum indicate local acquaintance with Palestine (Nah_1:4; Nah_1:15; Nah_2:2) and only general knowledge of Nineveh (Nah_2:4-6; Nah_3:2-3). This confutes the notion that the Alkush (resembling the name Elkosh), E. of the Tigris and N. of Mosul, is Nahum's place of birth and of burial, though Jewish pilgrims visit it as such.

DATE. Hezekiah's time was that in which trust in Jehovah and the observance of the temple feasts prevailed as they did not before or after. So in Nah_1:7; Nah_1:15, "Jehovah is a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knoweth (with approval) them that trust in Him ... O Judah, keep thy solemn feasts." Moreover Nahum has none of the reproofs for national apostasy which abound in the other prophets. Nahum in Elkosh of Galilee was probably among those of northern Israel, after the deportation of the ten tribes, who accepted Hezekiah's earnest invitation to keep the Passover at Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 30). His graphic description of Sennacherib and his army (2Ch_1:9-12) makes it likely he was near or in Jerusalem at the time.

Hence, the number of phrases corresponding to those of Isaiah (Nah_1:8-9, compare Isa_8:8; Isa_10:23; Nah_2:10 with Isa_24:1; Isa_21:3; Nah_1:15 with Isa_52:7). The prophecy in Nah_1:14, "I will make it (namely, 'the house of thy gods,' i.e. Nisroch) thy grave," foretells Sennacherib's murder 20 years after his return from Palestine, "as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god" (Isa_37:38). He writes while Assyria's power was yet unbroken (Nah_1:12; Nah_2:11-13; Nah_3:1, "the bloody city, full of lies ... the prey departeth not": Nah_3:15-17). The correspondence of sentiments in Nahum with those of Isaiah and Hezekiah implies he wrote when Sennacherib was still besieging and demanding the surrender of Jerusalem (Nah_1:2 ff, with 2Ki_19:14-15; Nah_1:7 with 2Ki_18:22; 2Ki_19:19; 2Ki_19:31; 2Ch_32:7-8; Nah_1:9; Nah_1:11 with 2Ki_19:22; 2Ki_19:27-28; Nah_1:14 with 2Ki_19:6-7; Nah_1:15 and Nah_2:1-2 with 2Ki_19:32-33; Nah_2:13, "the voice of thy messengers shall no more be heard," namely, Rabshakeh the bearer of Sennacherib's haughty message, with 2Ki_19:22-23).

The historical facts presupposed in Nahum are Judah's and Israel's humiliation by Assyria (Nah_2:2); the invasion of Judah (Nah_1:9-11); the conquest of No-Amon or Thebes in Upper Egypt, probably by Sargon (Isaiah 20) who, fearing lest Egypt should join Palestine against him, undertook an expedition against it, 717-715 B.C. (Nah_3:8-10). Tiglath Pileser and Shalmaneser had carried away Israel. Judah was harassed by Syria, and oppressed by Ahaz's payments to Tiglath Pileser (2 Chronicles 28; Isaiah 8-9). As Nahum refers in part prophetically to Sennacherib's (Sargon's successor) last attempt on Judah ending in his host's destruction, in part as matter of history (Nah_1:9-13; Nah_2:13), he must have prophesied about 713-710 B.C., 100 years before the event foretold, namely, the overthrow of Nineveh by the joint forces of Cyaxares and Nabopolassar in the reign of Chyniladanus, 625 or else 603 B.C.

The name "Huzzab" (Nah_2:7) answers to Adiabene, from the Zab or Diab river on which that region lay; a personification of Assyria, and seems to be an Assyrian word. So the original words, minzaraik, taphsarika, for "crowned" or "princes" (Nah_3:17) and "captains" or "satraps" (also in Jer_51:27); contact with Assyria brought in these words. Nah_2:18, "the faces gather blackness," corresponds to Isa_13:8; Joe_2:6; Joel is probably the original. Nah_1:6 with Joe_2:7; Amo_2:14; Nah_1:3 with Joe_2:13; the mourning dove, Nah_2:7, with Isa_38:14; the first ripe figs, Nah_3:12, with Isa_28:4; Nah_3:13 with Isa_19:16; Nah_3:4 with Isa_23:15; Nah_2:4-5; Nah_2:14 with Isa_22:7; Isa_36:9; Mic_1:13; Mic_5:10.

The Assyrians, by just retribution, in turn should experience themselves what they caused to Israel and Judah (compare also Nah_1:3 with Jon_4:2; Nah_1:13 with Isa_10:26-27; Nah_1:8 with Isa_10:21-22; Isa_8:8; Nah_1:9; Nah_1:11 with Isa_37:23; Nah_3:10 with Isa_13:16; Nah_2:2 with Isa_24:1; Nah_3:5 with Isa_47:2-3; Nah_3:7 with Isa_51:19). Plainly, Nahum is the last of the prophets of the Assyrian period. Jeremiah borrows from, and so stamps with inspiration, Nahum (Jer_10:19 compare Nah_3:19; Jer_13:26 compare Nah_3:5; Jer_50:37; Jer_51:30, compare Nah_3:13). Nahum is seventh in position in the canon, and seventh in date.

Subject matter. "The burden of Nineveh." The three chapters form one consecutive whole, remarkable for unity of aim. Nahum encourages his countrymen with the assurance that, alarming as their position seemed, assailed by the mighty foe which had already carried captive the ten tribes, yet that not only should the Assyrian fail against Jerusalem, but Nineveh and his own empire should fall; and this not by chance, but by Jehovah's judgment for their iniquities.

STYLE. Clear and forcible. Several phases of an idea are presented in the briefest sentences; as in the sublime description of God in the beginning, the overthrow of Nineveh, and that of No Amon. Melting softness and delicacy alternate with rhythmical, sonorous, and majestic diction, according as the subject requires; the very sound of the words conveys to the ear the sense (Nah_2:4; Nah_3:3). Paronomasia or verbal assonance is another feature of likeness to Isaiah, besides those already mentioned (Nah_1:3; Nah_1:6; Nah_1:10; Nah_2:2-3; Nah_2:11; Nah_3:2).


Taken from: Fausset's Bible Dictionary by Andrew Robert Fausset (1821-1910)