Today’s reading: Nahum 1-3.
“Why do those Assyrians keep popping up in the Old Testament?”
Assyria dominated the Middle East from the ninth to seventh centuries BC. Its territory stretched from modern-day Iraq through Syria to Jordan, Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea. It used advanced military technology to conquer surrounding nations and its cruelty was legendary. Nineveh, the same city that Jonah preached in, was its capitol. As Assyria grew in power it threatened the survival of both Israel and Judah, who had never faced such a mighty enemy.
841 BC Assyria begins to exact tribute from Israel.
760 BC (about) Jonah preaches in Nineveh and the city repents.
744 BC Tiglath-pileser III (called Pul in the Bible) reigns, and in 733 begins to invade Israel. Judah, under King Ahaz, pays tribute to Assyria to avoid conflict. Ahaz even builds a shrine to the Assyrian god, Asshur, in the temple at Jerusalem.
721 BC Assyria, led by Shalmaneser V and then Sargon II, defeats Israel and destroys the Northern Kingdom.
704 BC Sennacherib reigns; Hezekiah is king in Judah, and in 701 Assyria surrounds Jerusalem, only to withdraw after 185,000 troops die in a single night.
630 BC (about) Nahum prophesies that Nineveh will fall.
612 BC Fall of Nineveh to the Babylonians and Medes; Josiah is king in Judah.
Nineveh had repented of its godless ways when Jonah preached there, but their devotion to the LORD didn’t last. They resumed their idolatry and ruthless warfare and brought down God’s final judgment. Nahum’s message was one of condemnation for Nineveh, but of hope for Judah since the Assyrians would no longer trouble them (Nahum means hope).
From you, [O Nineveh,] has one come forth who plots evil against the LORD and counsels wickedness. This is what the LORD says: “Although they have allies and are numerous, they will be cut off and pass away. Although I have afflicted you, [O Judah,] I will afflict you no more. Now I will break their yoke from your neck and tear your shackles away.” Nahum 1:11-13
Listen to the charges God brought against Nineveh:
- a city of blood, full of lies, full of plunder, never without victims
- the wanton lust of a harlot, alluring, the mistress of sorceries, who enslaved nations by her prostitution and peoples by her witchcraft
- one who plots evil against the LORD and counsels wickedness
Two points that are noteworthy about Assyria and its capital city:
- God used Assyria as his rod to punish Israel, but punished Assyria in turn for its wickedness.
- God was patient with Assyria, even sending his messenger to preach repentance, but in the end there was a limit to his patience. He said he could not let the guilty go unpunished.
“You remember in what foul-mouthed language Rabshakeh addressed king Hezekiah; and God now declares that there shall be no more such letters as his. God may allow evil to lord it over his people for a while; but he puts a hook in the mouth of the leviathan by-and-by. He that restraineth the sea and the waves thereof, Jehovah is his name, and he restraineth the wickedness of men.” Charles Spurgeon