Explanations: The prophecy of Nahum

Postponement is no cancellation. 1 The burden of Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite. 

Another prophecy speaking of Nineveh only? 
Yes, for the mercy and grace of which the book of Jonas witnesses, could lead to a wrong conclusion, like now many draw wrong conclusions as well from Gods grace and longsuffering, thinking there will never be judgment. 

Jonah had had to announce judgment in that city. But when they repented, the judgment did not come. It was however temporary only. After that God made the prophet Nahum announce judgment for Nineveh the second time. And the judgment he announced has come indeed. 

That is true for the world as well. Because the gospel of Jesus Christ, the risen Saviour, is preached, judgment has not yet come. But it will come. The last prophetic book in Scripture, the revelation, announces the judgments that will come over the world. 

Jonah and Nahum belong together: Postponement is no cancellation. 
So the gospel and the Revelation belong together. 
But let us consider the prophecy of Nahum. 
2 God is jealous, and the LORD avengeth; the LORD avengeth and is furious. The LORD will take vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserveth wrath for His enemies.

Many do not believe that. They do not believe at all in the existence of God. And if they think there must be "something", they often think like people mentioned in Zephaniah 1:12 12 And it shall come to pass at that time that I will search Jerusalem with candles, and punish the men that are settled on their dregs, that say in their heart, `The LORD will not do good, neither will He do evil.', though the prophet had said in verse 7 "the day of the Lord is at hand". 
Obviously people in Nineveh began to think that way after some time. But that was a mistake. 
The Lord had shown mercy indeed after the preaching of Jonah, but that was the one side. God is merciful indeed. When men refuse to hear and despise Gods grace, there will be seen another side, that the Lord avenges all unrighteousness. 

3 The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked. The LORD hath His way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet. 
4 He rebuketh the sea and maketh it dry, and drieth up all the rivers; Bashan languisheth and Carmel, and the flower of Lebanon languisheth. 
5 The mountains quake at Him, and the hills melt, and the earth is burned at His presence, yea, the world and all that dwell therein. 
6 Who can stand before His indignation? And who can abide in the fierceness of His anger? His fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by Him. 

That the Lord is slow to anger has been seen after Jonah had preached in Nineveh. And that the world, overflowing with unrighteousness, has not yet been judged is a matter of Gods being slow to anger as well. 
The word "longsuffering" can also be translated by " having great patience". It does not say that the Lord is willing to postpone for a fortnight. It goes further. After announcing judgment in Noah's time, God waited hundred and twenty years before the flood came. 

Before judgment came over the Amorites and Canaanites, four hundred years passed by. 
People however draw wrong conclusions. They laugh about judgment and think it will never be, because in the days of their parents and grandparents, and never yet it has come. 
But it will come. And then it will be overwhelming. 
Because nobody knows it better than God Himself, He still is longsuffering, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). God is love. 
But He also is light, and his righteousness is like the mountains. Some day his power will be manifest and then people will try to hide for that power. Judgment on sin will come for all who rejected the atonement through Jesus Christ. The whole universe and all its laws is subject to and governed by Him. Wind, water and the light of the sun obey is will, though people think nobody can influence them. He lets dry up sea and streams, luxuriant valleys He does shrivel up, the earth He makes burst open on his command. Who will be able to withstand Him, when He comes in wrath? 

  Hoe groot is uw lankmoedigheid, 
dat U de ongerechtigheid
nog steeds voorbij hebt laten gaan! 
Hoe houdt uw liefde U nog in
en maakt u steeds nog geen begin
de wereld in uw toorn te slaan. 

Behoudt toch nog in deze tijd
als vrucht van uw barmhartigheid
voordat uw toorn, o God, ontbrandt. 
Wie kan, als U de aarde slaat
met al wat ter beschikking staat, 
ontkomen aan uw slaande hand? 

How great is your longsuffering
That you still let pass
So much unrighteousness. 
How does your love still restrain your anger
That you made not yet a beginning
In judging the earth. 

O God, save still in this time
As fruit of your mercy
Before your wrath comes. 
Who can, when you are smiting the earth
With everything available
Escape from your hand? 

7 The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knoweth them that trust in Him.

Very touching are those words in a prophecy which announces an unavoidable judgment. 
The Lord is good and will be good, even in times of distress. When war, hunger and natural disasters make people desperate and they in vain will try to hide from the wrath of the Lamb, He will be a stronghold for all who shelter with Him. That will be the experience of all who received the gospel of the Kingdom of the last days and of the remnant of Israel in the terrible time of Gods wrath over the earth (Revelation 6 - 16). 

Yes, God is slow to anger and has no pleasure in the misery and perdition of his enemies. The One who will judge is the same who prayed on the cross: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). He rejoices when a guilty sinner escapes judgment by fleeing to Jesus, saying "Take away my iniquity and receive me graciously" (Hosea 14:2) through Jesus Christ. 

8 But with an overrunning flood He will make an utter end of the place thereof, and darkness shall pursue His enemies. 
9 What do ye contrive against the LORD? He will make an utter end; affliction shall not rise up the second time. 
10 For while they are folded together as thorns and while they are drunken as drunkards, they shall be devoured as stubble fully dry. 
11 There is one that comes out of thee, that imagineth evil against the LORD, a wicked counselor. 
12 Thus saith the LORD: "Though they be quiet and likewise many, yet thus shall they be cut down when he shall pass through.

The judgment of Nineveh had become unavoidable and that will be true as well for the world in Gods time. 
People have their weapons, but what can human weapons do against the power of the Almighty? What could men do against the flood, what could Pharaoh do against the returning waters of the sea, what could the Canaanites do against the big hailstones? And these are only the most obvious things for Him who holds all things in his hands. 
Is it possible that verse 11 refers to the coming antichrist of the future, the beast in Revelation? I think so. (We have then to look past the time of Nineveh to the time of the end.) 

Though I have afflicted thee, I will afflict thee no more; 
13 for now will I break his yoke from off thee, and will burst thy bonds asunder." 

The twelfth verse I divided into two parts, because I am convinced that the second part does not speak of the enemy but of Gods people, Israel. Both verses remind me of the promises in Isaiah 10 And it shall come to pass in that day, that his burden shall be taken away from off thy shoulder and his yoke from off thy neck, and the yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing. (verse 27). That prophecy is about Assyria too and is no doubt referring to the end of the age. So consolation for them that take refuge with God in stead of hiding from Him, but a decisive judgment for the wicked and godless, as verse 14 says: 

14 And the LORD hath given a commandment concerning thee, that no more of thy name be sown: "Out of the house of thy gods will I cut off the graven image and the molten image. I will make thy grave, for thou art vile." 

That happened to Nineveh in Mesopotamia indeed. Where the town has been now are old ruins and heaps of rubble. 
In the time of the end the world, of which judgment has long ago been announced but which has got extension and grace owing to the risen Saviour, will finally undergo what Nineveh did undergo, the postponed judgment. 

Nineveh has been found wanting in Gods balances, Belshazzar had been found wanting, the world will be found wanting in Gods scales and then judgment will fall. 
How are things with you, reader? 
Is your life up to the standard of God? Will not you be found wanting as well? Let Jesus Christ save you and hide you behind the door with the blood. Receive Him now, for he has not yet come as the Judge. He still is the Preacher, like Jonah, in order you hear and repent. 

15 Behold upon the mountains the feet of Him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace! O Judah, keep thy solemn feasts, perform thy vows; for the wicked shall no more pass through thee; he is utterly cut off. 

  Eens is het treuren en wenen gedaan, 
eens wordt verlangen verblijden, 
als God zijn Woord in vervulling doet gaan
en Hij ons vreugd zal bereiden. 
Eens roept de bode, zie, hier is uw God! 
Eens zal ons Jezus begroeten. 
Nu nog volharden en hopen we tot
wij onze Heiland ontmoeten. 

Someday sorrow and tears will be gone, 
Someday longing will give place to joy, 
When God will fulfil his word
And will prepare gladness for us. 
Someday the messenger will cry Behold your God, 
Someday Jesus will meet us. 
Now we still have to persevere
Till we can greet our Saviour. 

We can apply this to Christians (as I did in the poem), meeting their Lord when the last trumpet will have called them. The prophecy does however not relate to Christians, but to Israel, the world (under the image of Nineveh) and the Assyrian (which was Nineveh) in the last days, who will attack Israel but be destroyed by the coming of the Lord. In Isaiah 28:18 and 19 we read about that enemy of the last days: And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it. 
19 From the time that it goeth forth it shall take you, for morning by morning shall it pass over, by day and by night; and it shall be a vexation only to understand the report." 

But Nahum was allowed to encourage Judah with the words of this fifteenth verse, because the Lord will fulfil what had been spoken by Isaiah 10:24-27 24 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD of hosts: "O My people that dwellest in Zion, be not afraid of the Assyrian. He shall smite thee with a rod and shall lift up his staff against thee, after the manner of Egypt. 
25 For yet a very little while and the indignation shall cease, and Mine anger in their destruction." 
26 And the LORD of hosts shall stir up a scourge for him according to the slaughter of Midian at the rock of Oreb; and as His rod was upon the sea, so shall He lift it up after the manner of Egypt. 
27 And it shall come to pass in that day, that his burden shall be taken away from off thy shoulder and his yoke from off thy neck, and the yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing. 

The joy of which our fifteenth verse is speaking, we find in Isaiah in the short chapter 12: And in that day thou shalt say: "O LORD, I will praise Thee; though Thou wast angry with me, Thine anger is turned away, and Thou comforted me. 
2 Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid; for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; He also has become my salvation." 
3 Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation; 4 and in that day shall ye say: "Praise the LORD! Call upon His name! Declare His doings among the people; make mention that His name is exalted. (1-4) 

1 He that dasheth in pieces has come up before thy face. Man the defenses! Watch the way! Make thy loins strong! Fortify thy power mightily! 

It is an incitement for Nineveh to prepare for the coming disaster, more or less sarcastic because the judgment had been decided, like that of the world will be. 

2 For the LORD hath turned away the excellency of Jacob, as the excellency of Israel; for the emptiers have emptied them out and marred their vine branches.
The threatening words of the preceding verse have to do with what is said in this one. For the ruin of Israel was the rise of the heathen. On the other hand the rise of Israel in the future will be the downfall of godless heathen powers. This second chapter predicts the downfall of Nineveh, which was at the same time an image of the future judgment of all enemies of Israel.
(There is difference in the translation of this verse. Some suppose it to speak of the fall of Israel, others conversely of the downfall of heathen powers. My preference is the last opinion, but it is not a thing that changes the contents of the chapter.) 

3 The shield of his mighty men is made red, the valiant men are in scarlet; the chariots shall be with flaming torches in the day of his preparation, and the fir trees shall be terribly shaken. 
4 The chariots shall rage in the streets, they shall jostle one against another in the broad ways; they shall seem like torches, they shall run like the lightning. 
5 He shall muster his worthies; they shall stumble in their walk; they shall make haste to the wall thereof, and the defense shall be prepared.

Here too there is difference in interpretation. Some suppose these verses to speak of the nearing enemy. Others think it is a sketch of the Ninevites, hastening to the defence of their city. Because of verse 5 I think that vision is right. 

6 The gates of the rivers shall be opened, and the palace shall be dissolved. 
7 And Huzzab shall be led away captive, she shall be brought up; and her maids shall lead her as with the voice of doves, beating upon their breasts. 

The excited hastening of the Ninevites for the defence of the city would not avail. The gates gave way and the doom of the city was certain. 
So in the future the world powers will prepare and assemble in Armageddon but in vain. The Lord will destroy them with the sword proceeding out of the mouth of the King of kings and the Lord of lords (Revelation 19:21) 

8 But Nineveh is of old like a pool of water; yet they shall flee away. "Stand, stand!" shall they cry, but none shall look back. 
9 Take ye the spoil of silver, take the spoil of gold; for there is no end of the store and glory of all the pleasant furnishings. 10 She is empty and void and waste; and the heart melteth, and the knees smite together; and much pain is in all loins, and the faces of them all gather blackness. 

Like every metropolis Nineveh was an accumulation of people from all countries, adventurers, fortune hunters, power-mad persons, flatterers and hooligans, mutual dependent one on another, but none of them reliable. A pool out of which the water flows away as soon as the dam has been broken. Then looting, destruction and ruthlessness are the only sure things. 

11 Where is the dwelling of the lions and the feeding place of the young lions, where the lion, even the old lion, walked, and the lion's whelp, and none made them afraid? 
12 The lion tore in pieces enough for his whelps and strangled for his lionesses, and filled his holes with prey and his dens with rapine. 

Nineveh imagined itself supreme and independent. Who would stop it, when it intended to subject nations and to take their spoil? Rich and increased with goods they felt themselves. 
That is what will characterize the world in the future. Power and science and all attainments of the modern society, who can withstand that and what would be unattainable for them? 
But sudden destruction will come upon them. When the Lord interferes and let hear his voice, people with all their possibilities will prove to be like reed stems or withered leafs, moved by every breath of the wind. 

13 "Behold, I am against thee," saith the LORD of hosts, "and I will burn her chariots in the smoke, and the sword shall devour thy young lions; and I will cut off thy prey from the earth, and the voice of thy messengers shall no more be heard." 
1 Woe to the bloody city! It is all full of lies and robbery; the prey departeth not. 

All power will be gone, all riches disappeared, influence and a voice will be forgotten. The Lord will have risen and demand satisfaction of so many centuries of godlessness, lye, and violence. Woe to the world on that day. 

2 The noise of a whip and the noise of the rattling of the wheels, and of the prancing horses and of the jumping chariots! 
3 The horseman lifteth up both the bright sword and the glittering spear, and there is a multitude of slain and a great number of carcasses. And there is no end of their corpses" they stumble upon their corpses" 

This is a sketch in few words of what would pass at the fall of Nineveh, the city which had temporarily been shown mercy after the preaching of a prophet who returned from the sea: Many slain, carcasses, no end of them. 
That is what the world will befall. It profits for over two thousand years of the longsuffering of God, who postponed judgment after the preaching of the Man who has returned from the dead, Jesus Christ. That time of mercy will soon end, after which judgment will come, like for Nineveh. Therefore make haste to obtain mercy now. Repent and believe the gospel. For it is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." (1 Timothy 1:15). 

4 Because of the multitude of the whoredoms of the wellfavored harlot, the mistress of witchcraft, that selleth nations through her whoredom, and families through her witchcraft. 
5 "Behold, I am against thee," saith the LORD of hosts, "and I will uncover thy skirts upon thy face; and I will show the nations thy nakedness and the kingdoms thy shame. 
6 And I will cast abominable filth upon thee and make thee vile, ad will set thee as a gazingstock. 
7 And it shall come to pass that all they that look upon thee shall flee from thee and say, `Nineveh is laid waste! Who will bemoan her?' From whence shall I seek comforters for thee?" 

For Nineveh there was no longer escape or postponement. On the day God knows, there will be no postponement for the world like wise. When God will put an end to it, nobody shall prevent it. With none of his judgments people could interfere. Great is his mercy, great his longsuffering, great his compassion, but great his judgment as well. The next verse mentions one of his judgments in the past. 

8 Art thou better than populous No, that was situated among the rivers, that had the waters round about it, whose rampart was the sea and her wall was from the sea? 
9 Ethiopia and Egypt were her strength, and it was infinite; Put and Lubim were thy helpers. 
10 Yet was she carried away; she went into captivity. Her young children also were dashed in pieces at the top of all the streets; and they cast lots for her honorable men, and all her great men were bound in chains. 

It had not been instructive for Nineveh, that went into the same sure direction of judgment. 
So the world did not learn anything from the flood, from the fall of Sodom, from the judgment of Canaan, and therefore its judgment will be as certain as it has been for Nineveh. 

11 Thou also shalt be drunken; thou shalt be hid; thou also shalt seek strength because of the enemy. 
12 All thy strongholds shall be like fig trees with the first ripe figs: if they be shaken, they shall even fall into the mouth of the eater. 
13 Behold, thy people in the midst of thee are women; the gates of thy land shall be set wide open unto thine enemies; the fire shall devour thy bars. 
14 Draw thee waters for the siege! Fortify thy strongholds! Go into clay and tread the mortar; make strong the brick kiln! 
15 There shall the fire devour thee; the sword shall cut thee off; it shall eat thee up like the cankerworm. Make thyself many as the cankerworm, make thyself many as the locusts. 
16 Thou hast multiplied thy merchants above the stars of heaven. The cankerworm despoileth, and fleeth away. 
17 Thy crowned ones are as the locusts, and thy captains as the great grasshoppers, which camp in the hedges in the cold day; but when the sun ariseth they flee away, and their place is not known where they are. 
18 Thy shepherds slumber, O king of Assyria; thy nobles shall dwell in the dust; thy people are scattered upon the mountains, and no man gathereth them. 
19 There is no healing of thy bruise; thy wound is grievous. All that hear the report of thee shall clap the hands over thee. For upon whom hath not thy wickedness passed continually? 

Using the downfall of Nineveh as an image, the prophet gave a description of the lot (fate) of the world, that will not have taken to heart the message of the Man, who has risen from the dead. Let it not be your fate! 

Like Jonah He went through death
And gave his life for us. 
His tomb, closed and sealed, 
Had to deliver Him again. (give Him back) 

Through Him, the resurrected Lord, 
God is still longsuffering, 
But some day Jesus Christ will return
And then Gods wrath will come. 

Who can stand before Him? 
Who escape his wrath? 
Anyone who came to Him with his sin
Will be pardoned. 

J. Ph. Buddingh