Common Notes 2.9.16

“That’s not fair!” Its one of the first phrases every child learns. Why? Because deep down inside, everyone wants justice, we want the world to be fair and we get upset when it isn’t. God is no different. “To do righteousness and justice is more desired by the LORD more than sacrifice.” Proverbs 21:3

Nahum is a book about justice. To understand that, however, you really need to understand a bit about the context in which it was written, namely the Assyrian culture that predominated the land around 630 B.C. The prophet is writing during a time when the nation of Israel has been ruined, conquered fully by the Assyrians. The nation of Judah has only just been able to keep them at bay, paying tribute as a vassal state, which isn’t a whole lot better.

Victims of Assyrian armies were often tortured to death, here by flaying. The skins were then mounted for display on the walls of the conquered city.

Victims of Assyrian armies were often tortured to death, here by flaying. The skins were then mounted for display on the walls of the conquered city.

The Assyrians are a bloodthirsty lot, they built their empire through warfare and enjoyed impaling, flaying, beheading, burning and otherwise torturing their victims to death before putting their bodies on display for survivors to witness. They were cruel, arrogant, greedy and deceitful, and they wanted everyone to know it. Imagine what it would be like, living every day knowing that a bloodthirsty horde might come over the hill to visit your home at any time with little or no warning. That was reality for the people of Judah. It was harsh and unpleasant and stressful in a way we can’t hardly comprehend.

Enter Nahum. His name means “comfort,” and it is appropriate for the message of justice God sends him to deliver. Nahum tells people how powerful God is, how strong and mighty and… angry? Yes, angry. God is angry with Nineveh (the capitol of Assyria) for their many sins and although He is patient, their time has run out. If you are one of God’s people, this must sound awesome! Nahum describes how God will protect His people, restore them, and bring them justice by destroying Nineveh completely. The prophet claims that the city will suffer flooding (it sat at the confluence of two rivers), it will be besieged, plundered, burnt and forgotten. And amazingly, in 612 B.C., history tells us these things all happened. While the city was under siege by a coalition of foreign armies, a flood undermined the walls, and after the attackers had sacked it completely it was burned to the ground. Archaeologists digging through the ruins (near modern day Mosul, Iraq) have found dead bodies just laying in the streets where they fell to the swords of their conquerors, no one survived to bury the dead.

For God’s people today, this short book reminds of several things, but foremost among them is this: God is just. He may not work on our schedule, but justice is assured. Feeling bullied? Cheated? Oppressed? Abused? Know this with absolute surety, “The LORD is a jealous and avenging God…” (Nahum 1:2) You might not see it, you might not feel it, you might not understand it, but justice will come.

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