Nahum, Prophet of Comfort

An EasyEnglish Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on the Book of Nahum

Gordon Churchyard

Words in boxes are from the Bible.

A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.


Comfort them; comfort my people, says the *LORD (Isaiah 40:1). (‘Comfort’ means ‘stop them suffering and make them strong’. ‘*LORD’ is a special word for God. Look below at note on Nahum 1:2. The name Nahum means ‘comfort’.)

About this book

Assyria was a country to the north and east of Israel. In 722 *BC, Assyria defeated Israel. BC means ‘years Before Christ came to the earth’. Israel was a country where 10 of the tribes (or very large families) of the *Jews lived. Judah was a country to the south of Israel. It had two tribes in it. They were Judah and Benjamin. Jerusalem was the capital of Judah.

Soldiers from Assyria took the people from Israel away to Assyria. Soon after, they made Judah’s people obey Assyria. Sargon the Second and Sennacherib were kings of Assyria. They made Judah pay taxes to Assyria. After that, Judah’s people were not really free. They were the servants of Assyria.

The people who lived in Assyria were very cruel. Graham Scroggie tells us some of the things that they did. (He tells us in his book, The Unfolding Drama of Redemption.) They threw away the dead bodies of soldiers as if they were rubbish. They made big piles of human heads. They burnt the sons and daughters of their enemies. They burnt their cities. They killed so many people that the ground was red with blood. They stuck men on to poles that had sharp points. They scattered dead bodies on the mountains and in the rivers. The rivers could not flow! They cut the hands from kings. And they fixed them to walls with nails. They left their bodies for animals to eat. They did many other nasty things.

After about 750 *BC, Nineveh became the capital of Assyria. It was on the east side of the River Tigris. There was a wall round it about 12 kilometres long. The wall was 16 metres high. The wall was wide enough for three horses and their *chariots to drive together on it. A chariot was a special cart that soldiers rode in. Horses pulled them. Over 100 000 people lived in Nineveh.

The palace where the king lived was wonderful. Nineveh had beautiful gardens. The gardens had rare plants and animals in them. Foreign slaves built all this! They built *temples, palaces, libraries and many other magnificent buildings. The *temples were buildings where Nineveh’s people met to praise their gods.

Nobody ever thought that anyone would defeat Assyria. Nobody ever thought that anyone would destroy Nineveh! People thought that Assyria was much too strong for anyone to defeat it. But Assyria had problems. In 626 *BC one of their strongest kings died. After that, there were only weak kings. Also, two other nations became very strong. They were called the Scythians and the Babylonians. We do not know much about the Scythians. The Babylonians destroyed Nineveh in 612 *BC.

Nahum said that God would send someone to destroy Nineveh. He also said that people who *trusted in God would be safe. He probably said this between 660 and 620 *BC.

Chapter 1

v1 (These are) serious words about Nineveh. (This is) a book about what Nahum, the man from Elkosh, saw.

Words in brackets (...) are not in the *Hebrew Bible. They help us to understand Nahum. *Hebrew is the language that Nahum spoke.

‘Serious words’ means that they are important words and sad words. Some translations call them ‘oracles’ or ‘burdens’. Perhaps they were words that the people read aloud. The word ‘book’ may mean that. Perhaps they were like the script (words) of a play. They were like the words that actors repeated. Perhaps the people said them in the *temple at Jerusalem. This was where God’s people met to praise him.

Nahum may be short for ‘Nahumiah’. Nahumiah means ‘God will comfort’.

Nahum came from Elkosh. We do not know where this was. There is a ‘Capernaum’ in the *New Testament. Capernaum means ‘City of Nahum’. Bible students do not think that this was Elkosh. They think that it was nearer to Jerusalem.

Nahum ‘saw’ these words, or things. He did not invent them. They came from God.

v2 The *LORD is a jealous God and he is an angry God. The *LORD is angry. He really is the *Lord of *fury! The *LORD will be very angry against his enemies. He will be extremely angry against anyone that fights against him.

v3 The *LORD is slow to become angry. But he is very powerful. He will certainly punish guilty people. He rides in the wild wind and in the storm. The clouds are like dust under his feet.

v4 He is someone that is angry with the sea. And he makes it dry. Also, he makes all the rivers to become dry. Bashan and Carmel become dry. And no flowers grow in Lebanon.

v5 The mountains shake when he (God) is there. And the hills just melt! The earth becomes as nothing in front of him. The world becomes like nothing. Everyone who lives in it becomes like nothing.

v6 Nobody can stand up (in front of him) when he is angry. Nobody can fight against his *fury. He pours out his great anger like fire. He breaks all the rocks.

v7 The *LORD is better than a castle when trouble comes! He protects everyone that comes to him for help.

v8 But, like a great flood of water, he will destroy its (Nineveh’s) place. He will chase his enemies into the darkness.

Verses 2-8 are a psalm (or song with music). It tells us how great God is. It is like a picture of God in action. That picture includes storms, earthquakes and volcanoes that are erupting! (See verse 6.) They are pictures of God’s anger. He is angry with his enemies. But he is not angry with anyone who *trusts in him. That is still true today.

 ‘*LORD’ is a special Bible word. It translates the *Hebrew word ‘Yahweh’ or ‘Jehovah’. *LORD is the *Covenant Name of God. A covenant is when two or more people agree. Here the *covenant is between God and the people of Judah and Israel.

God is angry because he agreed to protect his people. But only if they obeyed him. But they did not obey him. So, he allowed Assyria to punish Judah and Israel.

But now God decided to punish Assyria because they did it! This is because he is a jealous God. This means that he still loves Judah.

The word ‘*fury’ means ‘great anger’. So ‘*Lord of *fury’ means that he is very angry. ‘*Lord’ here translates the *Hebrew word ‘Baal’. It means ‘master’. Often in the *Old Testament, ‘Baal’ is the name of a false god. They believed that Baal rode on the clouds. Another name for him was ‘cloud-rider’. Nahum makes clear that the one true God is the real cloud-rider, not some false god! So, he calls the one true God ‘Baal’!

In verse 3, God rides in the wind and the storm. This happens in many places in the Bible. A good example is Psalm 18. Several psalms describe God as a storm.

In verse 4, God makes everything that is near him dry. He makes the sea, the rivers and even the land dry. Bashan, Carmel and Lebanon were *fertile places near to Judah. It is so dry that flowers will not grow!

In verse 5, we read that the mountains shake. We call this an earthquake. The ground shakes and the buildings on it fall over.

The difference between the earth and the world in *Hebrew is this. The earth is everywhere. But the world is only that part of the earth where people live. A big earthquake destroys everything!

In verse 6, God is like a volcano that is erupting. A volcano is a mountain that shoots out rocks and fire. Then we say that the volcano is ‘erupting’.

Verse 7 is very important. It tells us about the time when all these bad things will happen. At that time, God will make everyone who *trusts him safe. Here it probably means that God will help his people, the *Jews.

In verse 8, ‘its place’ is a puzzle. It probably means ‘Nineveh’. Nineveh was the capital of Assyria. But the *Greek *Old Testament says that it means any city that fights against God. The *Jews translated their Bible from *Hebrew into *Greek about 200 *BC.

v9 Whatever plans you make against the *LORD, he will end them. Trouble will not come a second time.

v10 It will be as if:

·        sharp little points will catch them in bushes,

·        too much wine has made them drunk,

·        (fire) will burn them like dead and dry plants.

v11 Someone has come from you (Nineveh) that has made wicked plans against the *LORD. They suggested (that people do) bad things.

v12 This is what the *LORD is saying. There are many (of them) and they are strong. But (God) will kill them. They will not be (there again). I have hurt you (Judah). But I will not hurt you again.

v13 Now I will stop its (Nineveh’s) power over you. Also, I will tear your chains away (Judah).

v14 This is what the *LORD has ordered for you (King of Nineveh). There will be no children with your name. I will destroy the images and *idols in the house of your gods. You are completely evil. So I will decide where they will bury you.

v15 Someone is bringing good news. You can see his feet on the mountains (people in Judah). He will tell everyone (that there is) peace. Have your *festivals, Judah! Do what you have promised (to God). The wicked people will never attack you again. (God will) remove them completely.

In these verses, we must decide whom God is talking to. The *Hebrew Bible does not tell us. (The *Jews wrote their Bible in *Hebrew.) Sometimes it is Nineveh (or the King of Nineveh). Sometimes it is Judah. In verse 9, it is Nineveh.

Nahum is very clever here. He uses words from Assyria itself. They said, ‘God does not say things twice.’ But Nahum changes it to ‘trouble will not come a second time’. God means ‘trouble’ to the people in Assyria. This means that God will destroy Assyria. Then there will be no more people in Assyria! God will not have to destroy Assyria again.

In verse 10, there are some pictures. The people in Assyria try to run away. But, it will be as if bushes had caught them. Or they will not be able to run because they are so drunk.

And something will eat them as if they were dry leaves. The Bible does not say what will eat them. Our translation suggests that it might be fire. So it translates the *Hebrew word ‘eat’ as ‘burn’.

In verse 12, ‘many (of them)’ probably includes people from other countries that fight with the soldiers from Assyria.

In verse 13, the words Nineveh and Judah are not in the *Hebrew Bible.

In verse 14, the word ‘you’ probably means the King of Assyria. He would have no children and no gods. Also, he would not decide where his people would bury him. God would decide that. Usually kings decided for themselves where to put their graves. Often they were very special places, like the *Pyramids where the people in Egypt buried their kings.

In the *Hebrew Bible, verse 15 starts chapter 2 of Nahum. Here, Nahum uses the name Judah. He tells them to have their *festivals. Festivals were special times in the *Jewish religion. They were like parties. The people enjoyed good food and wine. They praised God at those times, too. They also sang and they danced.

Think about why Nahum does not speak about Judah and Nineveh in verses 9 to 14. It is because these verses are always true. It does not matter where the bad country is. And it does not matter when it happens. But God will decide when he will become angry!

Think about ‘the wicked people will never attack you again’. It means the people from Assyria. Other nations did attack Judah. For example, Babylon did in 586 *BC, only a few years later. But the people from Assyria, the ‘wicked people’ never attacked Judah after 612 *BC.

(Chapter 2 in the *Hebrew Bible starts here)

v15 Someone is bringing good news. You can see his feet on the mountains (people in Judah). He will tell everyone (that there is) peace. Have your *festivals, Judah! Do what you have promised (to God). The wicked people will never attack you again. (God will) remove them completely.

v2 The *LORD will make Jacob splendid again, as splendid as Israel. Wasters have wasted them. And the wasters have destroyed their *vines.

In English Bibles, verse 15 ends chapter 1 of Nahum. But in *Hebrew Bibles, it starts chapter 2. Also, many Bible students agree that Nahum 2:2 should follow Nahum 1:15. So we printed it like this. But it means that these two verses come twice! The two verses probably belong together.

Nahum 1:9-14 is about Nineveh. It tells us what God will do to the city. Nahum 2:1 and 2:3-10 describe the defeat of Nineveh.

But the two verses printed above are about God’s people. They are not about Nineveh. However, Nineveh is in these verses. In verse 15, ‘the wicked people’ means ‘Nineveh’s people’. In verse 2, ‘wasters’ means the people that wasted Israel and Judah. These wasters were the people from Nineveh, the Assyrians.

For nearly a century, Assyria made Judah obey the King in Nineveh. Judah’s people could not do what they liked. But now someone will bring good news. There will be peace. God will kill their enemies. Judah will be free again to have (or enjoy) their *festivals. The Assyrians will not stop them. Jacob and Israel will be splendid again!

Assyria destroyed Israel in 722 *BC. It is now 100 years later. Only Judah remains. But Nahum hopes that both countries will be great and splendid again. Christians believe that it will not happen yet. Probably it will not happen until Jesus returns to the earth.

The *vines were plants. Fruit called grapes grew on them. They made wine from the grapes. There may be a double meaning in the word ‘*vines’. The *vine was a sign of Judah’s people. So it may mean ‘wasted them and killed them’. ‘Them’ is the people of Israel and Judah.

Chapter 2 in English Bibles

v1 (Nineveh), someone will come against you to scatter you! (So) guard your city. Watch the road! Strip for action and gather all your strength together!

v2 The *LORD will make Jacob splendid again, as splendid as Israel. Wasters have wasted them. And the wasters have destroyed their *vines.

v3 His soldiers have red *shields. His men-of-war have scarlet uniforms. Their *chariots flash like shining metal as they ride in them. They wave their *spears in the air.

v4 The *chariots speed through the streets. They rush round the (city) squares. They look like torches of fire, like flashes of lightning.

v5 (Nineveh’s king) sends for the special soldiers that he has picked. But they fall on their way (to him). They rush to the wall (of the palace). And they put in place the *shields that protect it.

v6 (But) the gates of the rivers are open wide. The palace falls down!

v7 And they strip (the *goddess) Huzzab and they carry her away. Her slave girls cry. As they beat their breasts, they make a noise like birds (make).

v8 (And) Nineveh is like a pool of water. The water just drains away! ‘Stop! Stop!’ they shout, but nobody turns back.

v9 Steal (their) silver. Steal (their) gold! (There is) no end to the *treasure. (There are) heaps of precious things.

v10 (They) robbed (it). They stole (from it). They took everything away (from it). (Every) heart was very afraid and (every) knee shook. Bodies could not keep still and every face became pale.

These verses describe the time when enemies seized Nineveh in 612 *BC. But Nahum wrote the verses before that. Nowhere does the book describe Nahum as a *prophet, but he was a *prophet. He told people what God thought. And he told people what God would do.

We need to know whom these verses are about. If we do not know that, these verses will confuse us. That is why our translation puts extra words in brackets (…). Not all Bible students agree, but this is a sensible way to make the meaning clear. So we have this:

Verse 1 God is warning Nineveh. Someone will attack the city, so its soldiers must be ready.

Verses 3-4 These verses describe the enemy. The enemy is the armies of Babylon. We say armies, because there were three of them: Scythians, Medes and Persians. Together we call them Babylon.

They had red *shields and uniforms. Scarlet is a colour very like red. Soldiers protected themselves with *shields. *Spears were long sticks with points on the end. They could kill an enemy. The soldiers rode in *chariots.

Verse 5 The King of Nineveh sends for his best soldiers. They run to his palace. But many of them fall (or trip) on the way.

The *Hebrew Bible says ‘they rush to her wall’. We think that ‘her’ means the palace. The King of Nineveh lived in the palace. But maybe it was the *temple where their *goddess was. A goddess is a female god. There were many gods and *goddesses in the *temple at Nineveh also. One *goddess was Ishtar, or Huzzab. The people in Assyria thought that she was *goddess of the whole world. And they thought that she was the *goddess of love.

Verse 6 They had built the city called Nineveh on a river. It was a river that flowed into the River Tigris. At this time, rains made the rivers flood. The flood knocked down part of Nineveh’s wall. Nahum *prophesied that this would happen. He said, ‘the gates of the rivers are open wide.’ It means that the floods in the rivers made gates (holes) in the city’s walls. Soldiers from Babylon came in through these gates. The floods also knocked down buildings like the palace of the King of Nineveh.

Verse 7 So the soldiers from Babylon carry away Ishtar, or Huzzab. Her female slaves cry and they are very sad. They make noises like birds called doves.

Verse 8 The people in Nineveh flow away like water. The leaders shout ‘Stop!’ but nobody does stop! The people in Nineveh all run away.

Verses 9-10 Steal their silver and gold (their *treasure) says the *prophet. So they robbed it. ‘It’ means the capital of Assyria, called Nineveh. This made Assyria’s people very frightened.

In the *Hebrew Bible, there are just three words at the start of verse 10. The verse should start, ‘Robbed, stolen, taken’. This gives us an idea of the *Hebrew poetry in the book of Nahum. Our English words have not so much poetry in them.

v11 The place where lions sleep (has gone). The place where the young lions feed (has gone). (That was the place that) the lion and lioness went to. And the baby lions did not disturb anybody (there).

v12 The lion tears because the baby lions need (food). He kills for his lioness. He fills his secret places with what he has caught. He fills these caves with bodies that he has torn.

v13 Look, I am against you, says the *LORD of everything! I will burn your *chariots with (a lot of) smoke. The sword will eat up your young lions. I will take away the things that you catch in the world. Nobody will hear again the voice of the people that you send (to collect taxes).

These verses are a ‘taunt song’. This means that the *prophet is laughing at Assyria with these words. Assyria is the lion in the song. The place where he slept has gone. The place where young lions fed has gone. Once that place was Nineveh and Assyria. Now it is nowhere!

A lioness is a female lion. The lions and lionesses and the baby lions have gone because Nineveh and Assyria have gone. Babylon has destroyed them!

Verse 12 tells us what Assyria was like. Assyria’s soldiers tore and killed. They were very cruel to the people that they defeated. They took people away from their own countries … or ‘fills these caves with the bodies that he has torn’. Verse 12 says ‘he’ because it tells us about a male lion.

‘The *LORD of everything’ is a name for God. It means this: God is King of everything that we can see. And he is King of everything that we cannot see.

Chapter 3

v1 Trouble will come to you, city of blood! You are full of lies. You are full of things that your people stole! There were always people for them to rob.

v2 Crack of whip and rattle of wheel! Horses gallop and *chariots scream!

v3 Horsemen rush. Swords flash and *spears shine! People with injuries, heaps of them are dead! More dead bodies than anyone can count. People fall over dead bodies …

v4 … all because you always behave like a harlot! You attract people. You are like a mistress of magic. You are like a harlot that does magic! So you make whole countries your slaves because of that.

v5 I am against you, says the *LORD of everything. I will lift the harlot’s skirts over her face. Every country will see her naked and every country will see her shame.

v6 I will throw rubbish at you. I will look at you with *scorn. And I will show (everyone how) wicked you are.

v7 Everyone that sees you will run away from you. They will say, ‘Someone destroyed Nineveh. But nobody will cry for the people. I do not know where I could find anyone to comfort you.’

In these verses, Nahum curses (says that evil things will happen to) Assyria. He says that trouble will come because they killed people (blood). And because they said things that were not true (lies). And because they stole things.

In verses 2 and 3, he describes the battle that will happen. His words here do not make sentences. Instead, they make sounds like what happens.

·          the ‘crack’ (sharp sound) of a whip,

·          the ‘rattle’ (sound of wood when it hits wood) of *chariot wheels,

·          the ‘gallop’ (sound of their feet on the ground) of horses,

·          the ‘scream’ (like someone who is crying) of the *chariots.

There will be dead bodies everywhere.

In verse 4, Nahum gives the reason. Nineveh is like a harlot. A harlot is a woman that has sex with a man for money. Nahum means this as a picture. Because people pay taxes to Nineveh (Assyria), Nineveh does not hurt them.

But he also says that Nineveh uses magic. God’s rules do not allow this. Today we do not use the word magic. We say ‘occult’ instead. This means to let evil *spirits do things for and by means of us.

In verse 5, God says ‘I am against you’. He will make Nineveh like a naked woman. This again is a picture. It means this: People will see Nineveh’s people and Assyria’s people as they really are. They are very evil and wicked.

v8 You are not better than Thebes, (a city) on the River Nile. Water was all round it. The river was its defence. The water was a wall (all round) it.

v9 Cush and Egypt always made it (Thebes) strong. Put and Libya gave it help.

v10 But its people became an *exile. They took its people away (into another country). They cut its little children into small pieces at the end of every street. A competition decided where its honourable men would go. They bound its great men in chains.

v11 You also (Nineveh) will become like a drunk. Nobody will find you. Even you (your people) will run away from an enemy in order to look for a safe place.

v12 All your castles will be like fig trees. They will have the first ripe fruit on them. When anyone shakes (the tree), the figs will fall into the mouth of someone. That person will eat (them).

v13 Look, your soldiers are (like) women in your army! Your enemies will find the gates of your country open. Fire will burn the bars (of your city gates).

v14 Store enough water for when (the enemy) is all round you! Make your castles strong! Dig in the ground. Mix the cement and repair the (broken) walls!

v15 There the fire will burn you completely. The sword will cut you up as if you were (an insect called) a grasshopper. Multiply like the grasshopper! Multiply like the (larger insect called the) locust!

v16 You have more merchants than there are stars in the skies! Like the locusts, they steal everything and (then) they fly away.

v17 Your guards are like locusts. Your officials are like thousands of locusts! They stay on the walls on a cold day. But they fly away when the sun appears. Nobody knows where (they go).

v18 King of Assyria, your leaders are asleep. Your officials are resting. Your people are scattering to the mountains. Nobody gathers them together.

v19 Nobody will cure you when (somebody has) hurt you. Your injury will kill you. Everybody that hears the news about you will clap their hands. Everyone suffered from your cruelty that never ends.

Verses 8-10 tell us about when soldiers destroyed Thebes. Thebes was a city in Egypt. Soldiers from Assyria destroyed it in 663 *BC. It had the River Nile to defend it. Thebes had the people from Put and Libya to help it. But Assyria still destroyed Egypt.

Verses 11-19 tell Assyria that it will be like Egypt. Someone will destroy Assyria.

In verses 11-13, there are three pictures:

a) Nineveh will be like a drunk. It (its people) will run away and hide.

b) Nineveh will be like a ripe fig tree. Figs are fruits. When someone shook the tree, the ripe figs fell off.

Enemies will beat Assyria when someone shakes the tree. That means ‘when someone attacks it’.

c) Nineveh’s soldiers will be like women. This means that they will not be as strong as men. So, its enemies will destroy Nineveh.

Again, Nahum tells Nineveh to prepare itself for the attack.

In verse 14, God tells Nineveh to:

a) make sure that there is enough water in the city,

b) make its castles strong. (They might have to get more cement from the ground in order to do this.)

In verses 15-17, there are grasshoppers and locusts. Grasshoppers are insects. Locusts are big grasshoppers. Millions of them flew into countries that we read about in the Bible. They ate everything green. They left nothing for the people to eat. God tells Assyria to multiply like these grasshoppers. Someone will still destroy it. It can have as many merchants as there are stars. Someone will still destroy it.

The officials of Assyria will give no help. When trouble comes, nobody will find them. They will fly away like locusts on a hot day!

Word List

BC ~ 700 BC means the year that was 700 years before Christ came to the earth, and so on.

chariot ~ a kind of cart that soldiers use to fight. Horses pull it.

covenant ~ two people have agreed what each should do.

exile ~ when people have to leave their own country, often for a long time.

fertile places ~ land where you can grow strong and healthy plants for food.

festival ~ special times in the *Jewish religion. They were like parties but the *Jews praised God at those times.

fury ~ what you feel when you are very, very angry.

goddess ~ a female god.

Greek ~ the language of people from Greece.

Hebrew ~ the language of *Jewish people.

idol ~ something that a person makes to be a god.

Jew ~ people who were born from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their children.

Jewish ~ a word that describes a *Jew or anything that belongs to a *Jew.

LORD ~ a special name for God that his people use. It is the *covenant name of God.

Lord ~ master, ruler, God.

New Testament ~ the last part of the Bible, which the writers wrote after the life of Jesus.

Old Testament ~ the first part of the Bible; the holy things that the writers wrote before Christ’s birth.

prophesy ~ to tell about things that will happen in the future; to speak with God’s help and on God’s behalf.

prophet ~ person who speaks for God. He can sometimes say (*prophesy) what will happen in the future.

pyramid ~ a building with a point at the top; the people in Egypt buried their kings in pyramids.

scorn ~ to show that you think that a person or his message has no worth.

shield ~ something that a soldier holds in front of his body to protect him in a battle. People made shields from metal, wood or from hard leather with a wooden edge.

spear ~ a long and thin weapon of war (something to fight people with), like a sword.

spirit ~ spirits are alive, but we cannot see them. There are good spirits usually called angels. Bad spirits (also called evil spirits, or demons) do not live in God’s home now, but in the air round us. Satan (the devil) is their leader.

temple ~ the special building in Jerusalem where the *Jews worshipped God (showed honour to God).

treasure ~ something that has a great value.

trust ~ believe that someone will be good to you; believe what someone says.

vine ~ a plant that fruits called grapes grow on.


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This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words)

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