The strength and power of Nineveh, Assyria's capitol, was considered to be as unsinkable as the Titanic was boasted to be. Like the ferocious lion's which were embedded in most of its artwork to represent it, the battle practices of Assyria's kings were vicious. Infants were slaughtered, captives were mutilated before lots determined their destiny, kings and officials were impaled on spears as winner's trophies and corpses piled by the city gate to suppress any thought of retaliation. But the second chapter of Nahum proclaims that like the Titanic, the Assyrian Empire was going down.
In brilliantly vivid poetry, Nahum describes several different aspects of the city's fall and each has been concurred through archaeology and other ancient documents. Nahum declares that Nineveh would be flooded (Nah. 2:6, 8). An over-flowing river (dated to this time) flooded the city and broke a section of the wall. Nahum declares the people would flee, leaving the city vulnerable to looting (v. 8). The Babylonian Chronicle (a record of Nineveh's fall to the Babylonians) reports that so much pillaging and plundering occurred, it caused the city to look like a pile of rubble (v.9). And finally in Nahum 2:13, the prophet says the Nineveh's chariots will go up in smoke. Archaeological digs of this era have revealed a 2" thick layer of charcoal and ashes confirming that God did indeed burn up Nineveh's glorious war machines. The NIV Archaeological Study Bible notes, "Nineveh's destruction was so complete that the decimated city was never rebuilt and within a few centuries it was covered with windblown sand, leaving, leaving no trace of it except for a mound which is known today as Tel Kuyunjik (the mound of many sheep).
There are two aspects of judgment at the core of Nahum's prophecy. While the Lord used the powerful pagan nation to judge the Northern Kingdom for its disobedience in Covenant matters (and would eventually do the same to the Southern Kingdom through Babylon), Nineveh would also be judged for the way they treated God's people. Much like the ancient city of Thebes (another virtually impossible city to conquer) was ruined for their treatment of God's people (Nah. 3:8 a. k. a. No-Amon), Nineveh will also be destroyed. This came to pass in 612 B. C. at the hands of the Babylonians, Medes, and Scythians, only 50 years after Nahum prophesied it.
Nahum, like the prophets before him and those who followed after him brings a word of hope to the people of Judah who now lived in fear of Assyria. Nahum does this in two significant passages. The first is in 1:15 when Nahum declares there is good news and the people should celebrate their feasts. This signifies that though their punishment for disobedience may be harsh, it will not be the end of them. The second is at the beginning of chapter 2 when Nahum says the Lord will restore Israel's glory (2:2). Since the Northern Kingdom was about to fall and Judah's tentative freedom was on shaky ground, God had not forgotten His people nor their homeland. He would restore both. The prophet whose name means "comfort" offered hope to a people who lived in uncertain times.
I think most of us, as we look at the general state of the world find ourselves fearful of what might happen at the hands of evil men (and women). Their "power" seems out of control and while they are not connected to Assyria, it is good for us to remember what Nahum said about God in 1:3. It is God's nature to wait patiently for the perfect time (Ex. 34:6; Num. 14:18; Neh. 9:17; Ps. 86:15, 103:8, 145:8,; Jl. 2:13; Jon. 4:2) but when the time comes, His judgment is swift and thorough (Ex. 14:26-28; Num. 16:25-35; Ac. 5:1-10; Rev. 20:9). We can take comfort in the fulfillment of Nahum's prophecy for if God was faithful to bring down Assyria, He will also be faithful to judge those who rage against Him today (Rev. 21:5-8, 22:10-13). Take hope my friend! God is not finished with history yet.
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div. 7/12/2015