I want to introduce you to a person you may not know anything about. He is in the Bible, he is a prophet, he carried the Word of God to both the people of God and the surrounding nations, he wrote a book we can still read today, and the funny thing is he is among a group of other prophets who are largely ignored by the Church today. His name is Nahum, and though he is called a minor prophet, he and his message are of major importance.
Nahum begins by saying in 1:1, “An oracle concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum of Elkosh.”
There is scarcely little we know about Nahum. 1:1 only tells us a few things things. First, Nahum (a shortened form of the name Nehemiah) means “comfort” or “compassion.” Second, Nahum was from Elkosh. We don’t know where Elkosh was located exactly but some place Elkosh in Galilee while others place Elkosh in Capernaum (because a possible meaning of the name Capernaum is “Nahum’s city.”) Others place Elkosh in the area around Judah. Way out there, an Eastern medieval tradition places Elkosh within Nineveh, and argues that Nahum was a descendant of an exiled northern Israelite. Third, the other prophetic books and their timeline places Nahum as a contemporary of the prophets Zephaniah and Habakkuk, and the King Josiah.
Because the prophecy of Nahum is largely directed towards the Assyrian capitol of Nineveh, it is important to know about the history of Assyria during this time.
To put this in perspective, Jonah preached to Nineveh around 780. Afterwards a handful of Assyrian kings led the nation to power and expansion: they were Tiglath-Pileser III (747-727), Shalmaneser V (726-722), Sargon II (721-705), Sennacherib (704-681), and Esarhaddon (686-669). Afterwards, Ashurbanipal came into power, and captured the Egyptian city of Thebes. This caused Assyria and its capitol Nineveh to hit its high point of power, growth, and expansion. He remained king until 627 BC when his brother and semi-King of Babylon Samas-sum-ukin led an unsuccessful revolt against Assyria that virtually emptied Assyria of its resources. Ashurbanipal died shortly after, and Assyria’s decline began. The next king of Babylon, Nabopolassar, led a revolt against Nineveh and won in 612 BC. It was this time, between the capture of Thebes and the fall of Nineveh, a time when Nineveh had grown rich and safe, fat and wealthy, that their evil grew as well.
Into this context, the oracle of God came to Nineveh through His prophet Nahum.