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Nahum was written during the reign of Josiah, and it’s an oracle of judgment on Assyria and its capital, Nineveh.  It is, in effect, a sequel to the book of Jonah, which tells of the repentance and forgiveness of Nineveh 100-150 years prior.  In the interim, Assyria became the regional hegemon and threw away its newfound obedience of God for unrivaled savagery in pursuit of power, money, and other worldly interests.

The most interesting point for me from Nahum is twofold.  First, God controls the fate of nations.  God allowed Assyria to grow in power and wealth so that He could use it as an agent of punishment for Israel.  It discarded God as it grew and found less and less need for Him, but it was ironically God that was enabling it to grow.  What God gives, He can take away.  This is the second aspect of my takeaway from Nahum.  Just because God allows a sinful nation to be an agent of punishment, it doesn’t mean that that nation is favored by Him or will escape judgment itself.  In fact, Assyria suffers a worse fate than Israel because it was obliterated from history by the Babylonians and Persians.  While Israel did have its capital destroyed and its people sent into exile, the remnant of Israel as a political/ethnic unit has persisted, and the Jews served as the vessel of God to bring His salvation to the world.

I am reminded of Paul’s statement that God chastises whom He loves.  The tone of His anger toward Israel differs from that of his anger toward Assyria (or Tyre, or other pagan nations to whom He has spoken judgment).  With Israel, He speaks in pain and frustration for a relationship gone wrong.  His anger comes from a place of hurt; whereas with Assyria, His words are more taunting and wrathful in tone, coming from a place of justice.  The difference is slight (and I may be fabricating it out of whole cloth), but I think it’s telling.

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