Woo hoo! – I finally found an indisputable truth in the bible. V 2: “The Lord is a jealous God, filled with vengeance and rage. He takes revenge on all who oppose him and continues to rage against his enemies!” Sadly, this is intended as praise – the author believes that Yahweh’s power is really awesome, and continues for several more verses, gushing about how his god can make the oceans dry up, cause the green forests to wither, destroy people, and more. I guess our ideas about what constitutes admirable behavior have evolved somewhat since this book was written.
V 12 is full of sh*t, given the historical context of this book. It had to be written after 612 BCE (because chapters 2 and 3 describe the fall of Nineveh in that year); and it precedes the siege and fall of Jerusalem around 590ish BCE. So why is Yahweh telling the Jews “O my people, I have punished you before, but I will not punish you again. Now I will break the yoke of bondage from your neck and tear off the chains of Assyrian oppression.” That’s just great – but he will punish them again; we all know what’s coming. He’ll free them from the Assyrians, and then sell them out to King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians just a few years later.
Yahweh turns his anger towards Nineveh, and it isn’t pretty. Nahum describes the battle and the destruction in a play-by-play commentary. But it hardly makes sense. Jonah prophesied about the destruction of Nineveh previously; and in his book, the people repented and Yahweh suspended their punishment. So why is god targeting them now? Maybe their repentance didn’t stick and they have gone back to their sinful ways. But then why did Jesus hold the people of Nineveh up as good examples in his preaching?
This confirms that Nineveh is now regarded as a city of murder and lies – so much for their former repentance! There’s quite a diatribe in here about how evil the people are and all the havoc Yahweh wreaks on them, and Nahum sounds delighted about it. Nineveh is compared to Thebes (v 8-10), the Egyptian city that had been destroyed back in 663 BCE, ironically, by the Assyrians. What goes around, comes around.
Out of curiosity, I looked up Nineveh. It was the capital of the Assyrian Empire and was, in its heyday, the largest city in the world. It was located in a central position on the Tigris between the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean, placing it on all the important trade routes of the time. By 700 BCE it was a truly magnificent city, with a huge palace, 15 gates, 18 water canals and a system of aqueducts, and a population of over 100,000. But its greatness was short-lived.
Beginning around 627 BCE, Nineveh fell victim to a number of wars, and after the battle described in Nahum, it never recovered. Its ruins have been extensively excavated by archeologists. Today there are only ruins.
The ruins lie across the river from the modern city of Mosul, Iraq. Kuyunjik is the mound indicating the ruins of the ancient palace in Nineveh.
And here’s something really sad – ISIS is destroying the historical site.