24 Jul 2007
Nahum: Celebrating God’s Wrath #1Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Christian hope, Exegesis, Hebrew Bible, Hermeneutics, Ministry, Nahum, Preaching, War -Peace
The Abuse of Wrath
My title my be a bit surprising considering the bad rap God’s wrath has gotten in recent times. I recall growing up and having a lively, and misguided, preacher practically scare the you know what out of me. These preachers usually cite such passages as 2 Thessalonians 1.5-10, Christians are then made to fear the wrath of God or the coming of the Lord Jesus. Yet Paul’s intent or purpose in those passages is just the opposite of my preacher: Paul says of the coming of the Lord, for example, that we “encourage one another” with this hope (1 Thess 4.18). Further, Paul is writing to lift the spirits of the down trodden and persecuted Thessalonians by reminding them that God will deal with his enemies and the enemies of his People. In Thessalonians it is those who don’t know God, those who don’t know Christ, those who wage war on his people that are warned to beware! The wrath of God is not directed at his people in Thessalonians. Rather the Wrath of God is directed on behalf of God’s People! His coming in wrath proves that he is a God of love to his people in Thessalonians.
Beginning to “Hear” Nahum
Nahum, that book that has languished in the bowels of neglect and obscurity, can really help God’s People today to grasp the good news of God’s wrath. Nahum helps us to celebrate the wrath of God. Nahum deserves careful, thoughtful and reflective reading. Though piously affirming the “authority” of Scripture some preachers have recently, and shockingly, suggested that reading Scripture within its context is not necessary. Such a procedure functionally makes the whims of the preacher the authority rather than the text. But Nahum must be read with in its historical context and within the context of redemptive history in the Story of God.
Nahum delivered his message between 663 BCE and 612. The Egyptian city of Thebes mentioned in 3.8 was destroyed by the Assyrians in 663 so that is the earliest it could have been preached. Nineveh was destroyed in 612 so that is the latest it could have been preached. Most scholars would place the book after 625 and that is a reasonable date.
Assyria during the eighth and seventh centuries BCE was noted for its thirst for blood and debased cruelty. Its armies wreaked total destruction upon their captive’s lands, but they also systematically deported defeated peoples and replaced them with foreign populations. The northern kingdom of Israel suffered such a fate at the hands of Assyria when Samaria was destroyed in 722 BCE and for all intents and purposes disappeared from history forever.
Assyria was the superpower of the day. She was a ruthless state. Her name become a synonym with terror. Nineveh was nearly an impregnable fortress, guarded by walls, moats, the River Khusar. The city was unsuccessfully besieged by the Medes in 614. The Medes were joined by the Scythians and Babylonians and after a two and a half month siege the wall was breached. The fighting was savage and intense as recent archeological investigation has shown.
In our next installment we will look at the theological message of Nahum … whose name, interestingly, in Hebrew means comfort … has for his people and why it is called the good news of peace!!! One cannot say “nahum” without saying “comfort.” God is comforting his people because he is a God of loving and saving justice … what good news that is to his oppressed little band of people.