To begin with, go to this link to read a brief overview of Nahum by Chuck Swindoll. It is really good and I won’t try to repeat everything he wrote. https://insight.org/resources/bible/the-minor-prophets/nahum
Now, what stands out about the book of Nahum and how does it apply to us and help us? Nahum is one of those books that is easy to date: sometime between the fall of No-amon (Thebes) in Egypt (663 BC), which Nahum refers to in the past tense, and the rebuilding of Thebes (654 BC). He prophesied during the reign of perhaps the most evil king of Judah, King Manasseh, and yet before the very end of Manasseh’s reign when he repented in 648 BC. That means Nahum is still prophesying during the idolatrous and evil period of Manasseh’s reign.
God had sent Jonah in about 760 BC to announce that Ninevah was about to fall, but Ninevah repented and God spared them, at least for the time, much to Jonah’s anger. We don’t know how long the revival in Ninevah lasted, but Ninevah and Assyria returned to their evil ways after that and now, 100 years after Jonah, the prophet Nahum announced that Ninevah was going to fall. Read the 3 chapters of Ninevah. It is a detailed description of the panic and destruction of the city. Assyria was at full strength (1:12), God was about to destroy them. Assyria had been a world power for several centuries (especially from 900-600 BC). They conquered all of Mesopotamia and expanded the empire to include much of the Middle East including Egypt, Babylonia, Israel, and Cypress. They reached their peak under the rule of King Tiglath-Pileser I. The final, and perhaps strongest, of the Assyrian Empires ruled from 744 BC to 612 BC.
Assyria had been a great thorn in the side of the northern kingdom of Israel. 2 Kings 17:1-6 tells about the fall of Samaria (and Israel) to Assyria.
17:1 “Hoshea son of Elah began to rule over Israel in the twelfth year of King Ahaz’s reign in Judah. He reigned in Samaria nine years. 2 He did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, but not to the same extent as the kings of Israel who ruled before him.
3 King Shalmaneser of Assyria attacked King Hoshea, so Hoshea was forced to pay heavy tribute to Assyria. 4 But Hoshea stopped paying the annual tribute and conspired against the king of Assyria by asking King So of Egypt* to help him shake free of Assyria’s power. When the king of Assyria discovered this treachery, he seized Hoshea and put him in prison. 5 Then the king of Assyria invaded the entire land, and for three years he besieged the city of Samaria. 6 Finally, in the ninth year of King Hoshea’s reign, Samaria fell, and the people of Israel were exiled to Assyria. They were settled in colonies in Halah, along the banks of the Habor River in Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.” Samaria, the capital of Israel, fell to Assyria in 722BC.
Assyria continued to be a bully and oppressor of the southern kingdom of Judah after the fall of Israel, the northern kingdom. 2Kings18.13–19.37 tells about Assyria’s siege of Jerusalem in 701 BC by King Sennacherib of Assyria when Hezekiah was the king of Judah. Read that section in 2 Kings. Even though Assyria was a terribly cruel empire, God had actually used Assyria to punish His people in the northern kingdom. He had allowed Assyria to take Israel into exile in 722 BC and transplanted Assyria’s to take their place, which led to the Samaritan people that you read about in the NT. So, in the reign of Hezekiah of Judah, Assyria is ready to overthrow Jerusalem and take Judah into captivity also. Hezekiah was a good king and had made many reforms. So God was favorable to Hezekiah and Judah at this time. But, as you read 2 Kings 18 and 19, notice the arrogance and blasphemy of Assyria. The Assyrians mock Judah for trying to resist them. They brag at how they had conquered the gods of many nations, and they mocked Judah for trusting in their god to deliver them. This arrogance and blasphemy seems to be the turning point in God using Assyria any longer. 2 Kings 19:
27 “But I know you well— where you stay and when you come and go. I know the way you have raged against me. 28 And because of your raging against me and your arrogance, which I have heard for myself, I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth. I will make you return by the same road on which you came.” 32 “And this is what the Lord says about the king of Assyria: “His armies will not enter Jerusalem. They will not even shoot an arrow at it. They will not march outside its gates with their shields nor build banks of earth against its walls. 33 The king will return to his own country by the same road on which he came. He will not enter this city, says the Lord. 34 For my own honor and for the sake of my servant David, I will defend this city and protect it.” That night God killed 185,000 of the Assyrian army and the siege lifted and King Sennacherib returned to Assyria, only to be assassinated after that by his own sons. Assyria continued to be a world power after this, but something interesting happened after Jerusalem was saved. God told Hezekiah that he was about to die, but God gave him 15 extra years and the miracle of the sun dial going backwards to confirm that. The Babylonians sent messengers to Hezekiah to check out that miracle, and Hezekiah boastfully showed them the treasures of the temple. God then told Hezekiah that the Babylonians would eventually take Judah captive. God knew that after Hezekiah’s good reign would follow the most evil king of Judah, King Manasseh. He knew that He would one day allow Babylonian to do what Assyria had tried to do, i.e. overthrow Jerusalem and take Judah captive. Hezekiah reigned from 715-686 BC. His evil son Manasseh would reign for 55 years (some of that co-regent with Hezekiah and as sole reign 686-642 BC).
That brings us back to Nahum who prophesied sometime between 663-654 BC during the evil reign of Manasseh. God has already told Hezekiah that it would be Babylon who would take Judah captive some day, and now through Nahum he predicts the fall of Assyria which would happen in 612 BC, paving the way for Babylon to be the world power that would destroy Jerusalem and the temple, and take Judah captive in 586 BC as God had told Hezekiah. Ninevah would be destroyed 50 years after Nahum predicted it, but the plans are already in working. God is moving among the nations. As Daniel said in Daniel 2:21 God “removes kings and establishes kings”. He will remove the Assyrian Empire and replace it with the Babylonian Empire. Babylon will do His will and destroy Jerusalem and take Judah into captivity for 70 years (606-536 BC). God will then send the Medes and Persians to destroy Babylon in 539 BC, and cause Cyrus the Persian king to allow Judah to return to the Holy Land to rebuild the temple. Ezra will make a 2nd return from Babylon to reform the keeping of the Law. Nehemiah will make a 3rd return to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
But did the fall of Ninevah happen just as Nahum predicted? Yes, in every detail. I suggest you go to this Wikipedia cite to get an a good account of the battle of Ninevah in 612 BC. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Nineveh_(612_BC) Or google it! Of course, the agnostics say Nahum could not have predicted this 50 years before it happened! They say he or someone using his name wrote the book of Nahum after the fact! But we know God can use his prophets to predict the future. That is they way He proves that His prophets are true prophets.
So, other than seeing prophecy fulfilled, which in very valuable to us, how does Nahum apply to us? To answer that, look at how it applied to Judah at the time that it was written. Most of the original readers would not live to see the prophecy come true. But they could get comfort to know that eventually God would punish the evil, idolatrous, wicked, cruel Assyrians. Notice that is how Nahum begins his book. Nahum 1:
2 A jealous and avenging God is the Lord;
The Lord is avenging and [b]wrathful.
The Lord takes vengeance on His adversaries,
And He reserves wrath for His enemies.
3 The Lord is slow to anger and great in power,
And the Lord will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.”
No doubt the righteous people among Judah are depressed by the evil reign of Manasseh and the cruelty of the Assryians. After Jerusalem was spared under Hezekiah, they probably still feared that eventually God would send the Assyrians after all to punish Judah just as He had send them to punish Israel. They perhaps wonder about God’s justice in the world and why the wicked are allowed to prosper. God had described Himself to Moses in Exodus 34 as a slow to anger but wrathful God who would seek vengeance against the wicked and by no means leave the guilty unpunished. So, they wonder, is God really capable of doing that, and if so, why does He not act. Nahum just wants them to know that God will eventually punish the wicked, cruel Assryians. Some might even live to see it happen. Notice Nahum does not even mention the Babylonians and what they would do to Jerusalem and Judah in 586 BC. For the time being, He just wants the righteous in Judah to have some comfort in knowing that God will eventually execute justice in the world. The wicked in Judah would care less about what Nahum was predicting probably, but the righteous need to know God’s plans.
So how does that apply to us today? I’m not sure that many of us in America can appreciate this book. In the U.S. we are living in a period of peace and prosperity. There is no world power threatening our existence, or is there? Many of us are very concerned about the spread of radical religious extremists. ISIS was a big threat for a while. Many of us remember the Bay of Pigs in Cuba and the nuclear confrontation between Kennedy and Krushchev of Russia in the 1960’s and how close we came to WWIII. 9/11 struck hard at us. Now the conflict with Iran is posing the threat of another war. Terrorism scares us to death, imagining what the terrorists will use next. Where will all this end up in the future? Only God knows, and He does not send prophets any more to predict the future. Some claim to be able to do that, but their prophecies never come true 100% of the time. In spite of all this, we can know that eventually God will punish the wicked. He will act among the nations to do His will. He might just let the free will of man carry out its course. But eventually, He will execute justice. Just remember, if America doesn’t return to its roots and follow God, part of His plans might be to allow America to be destroyed also. Nahum said Ninevah would fall, but late Judah would fall also.
Christians living in 3rd world countries probably understand the application of Nahum better than we do. They are often faced with radical extremists threatening their very existence, just as the righteous among Judah faced the threat from Assyria. They have watched radical them come in, kill and imprison their leaders, persecute their fellow Christians, burn their churches, etc. Maybe they can read Nahum and get similar hope that God will one day execute justice and punish those who persecute them even if they don’t live to see it. Indeed, we wonder how God might do that. But believers wondered how God would stop Hitler and the Holocaust also, but God did eventually stop him. I hope this article helps you appreciate this short little book of prophecy and how it might apply to us. Relax and let God take care of the affairs of the world. Just set a good Christian example for those around you and let God do His thing. But be assured that He will do His thing. Take comfort in that.