The Book of Nahum

I. Title

        The title of the book is the same in Hebrew as it is in the English and Greek translations. The name Nahum means "consoler", "consolation", or "comforter."

II. Author and Setting

A. Author

        Very little is known about Nahum's life. He is mentioned only in the first verse of the book that bears his name and in Luke 3:25. The name itself is not uncommon; it occurs often in Northwest Semitic inscriptions, once in the Arad ostraca (seventh century BC) and once in the Lachish letters (seventh century BC). It occurs often in the Mishna, also. Nahum is nowhere called a "prophet" (Hebrew: nabi'), but the book is classified both as an "oracle" (Hebrew masa') and as a "vision" (Hebrew hazon), classifications associated also with Habakkuk, Obadiah, Malachi, and throughout Isaiah.
        The only thing we know about Nahum is his hometown, Elkosh. Where the town of Elkosh might be, though, remains something of a mystery. Although there is an Elkosh is Assyria, just north of Nineveh, this seems an unlikely possibility for a Hebrew prophet's hometown. A more likely possibility places his hometown in Galilee, in a spot that is now known as Capernaum. In Hebrew (Kephar Nahum) the name of the city means "City of Nahum".

B. Setting

        Two different dates are generally accepted as possibilities for Nahum's ministry:

1. Between 661 and 612 BC (between the conquest of No-Amon [Thebes] in Egypt [Nahum 3:8] and the destruction of Nineveh in 612 BC.)
2. Between 722 and 701 BC (after the capture of Israel and before the siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib [cf. Micah].)

        There are two events described in the book of Nahum that could be helpful in establishing a date for the book. One is the description of one "who plots evil against Yahweh and counsels wickedness", in 1:11. The second event is Assyria's invasion of Thebes (No-Amon) in 3:8. The only problem, of course, is that Assyria invaded Thebes four times: during the reigns of Sargon, Sennacherib, Essarhaddon, and Ashurbanipal, covering a time span from 718 to 657 BC.
        More precision than this is difficult to demonstrate.

III. An Outline of Nahum

I. Yahweh will avenge his people 1:1-15
II. The battle for Nineveh 2:1-13
III. The fate of Nineveh 3:1-19

Questions on Nahum

1. When did Nahum prophesy?
2. Against whom does he prophesy?
3. When was his prophesy fulfilled?
4. What were the sins for which Nineveh was to be judged?
5. Which came first, Jonah or Nahum?