Nahum - God’s Specific Judgment
In August of 1939, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which essentially promised that Europe would be divided among the two nations so long as they left each other alone. This pact held firm as nation after nation fell under the Nazi jackboot -- first Poland, then France, Netherlands, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Greece...the list goes on. All the while, the Soviet Union sat silently, not interfering.
Then, on June 22, 1941, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union. The world was shocked -- they had a pact together! Not only that, but the Russians were left almost completely unprepared for the invasion. Stalin, one of the most paranoid and distrustful dictators ever, trusted the Germans? Nothing made sense.
Only now can we see a little of what actually happened so long ago. In 2011, the Russian government declassified intelligence reports from 1941 that showed exactly what information Stalin received:
-- Russian intelligence officials named the exact -- or almost exact -- date of the invasion no fewer than 47 times in the 10 days before the attack.
-- Moscow knew as early as 1935 that the Nazis wanted to attack, and in 1936 even had the codename -- “Eastern Campaign”
-- In May of 1941 -- only one month before the actual invasion -- Hitler himself told Stalin that he would be relocating some of his troops to the west “between 15 and 20 June, approximately”. Substitute “east” for “west” and you see that Hitler almost let his own secret out.
-- Between 1st June and the invasion, Soviet Border Guards captured more than 300 German spies, of which several gave up the date of the planned invasion.
Even more items exist, but for the sake of time I’ll leave them out right now. Needless to say, Stalin knew full well of the upcoming invasion -- he had very specific warnings. Stalin simply chose to ignore it -- he didn’t want to believe it, so he didn’t. Because of that, more than 20 million Soviet lives ended in World War II.
Sometimes, we get a warning that we don’t want to hear. We don’t want to know that we’re doing something that will get us hurt. Maybe we’re having too much fun, or we’re simply too busy with life to worry about warnings about future events that “might” happen. Warnings come for a reason, though; and we would do well to listen.
God often gives warnings, but often they’re fairly general: “repent or you will be punished”. In the book of Nahum, though, God gave a very specific warning to His prophet Nahum aimed at the city of Nineveh.
Yes, that’s the same city where God sent Jonah about 100 years earlier. Nineveh received a warning from Jonah and listened, so they were spared. Soon after, though, they began to fall back again, so God sent another warning.
Nahum is divided into three chapters, each one has a specific purpose. Chapter 1 is God telling Nineveh that they will be destroyed for their sins. I can see the Ninevites’ reaction -- they just shrug it off, thinking that “God clearly didn’t mean it last time, or else they would have been destroyed, right? No, we can just say we’re sorry again and everything will be fine.”
God doesn’t work like that.
In Chapter 2, God tells Nineveh that they will be conquered by a foreign army. In addition, though, He gives very specific details about how Nineveh will be destroyed. Nahum 2:3-6:
“3The shields of the soldiers are red; the warriors are clad in scarlet. The metal on the chariots flashes on the day they are made ready; the spears of juniper are brandished. 4The chariots storm through the streets, rushing back and forth through the squares. They look like flaming torches; they dart about like lightning. 5Nineveh summons her picked troops, yet they stumble on their way. They dash to the city wall; the protective shield is put in place. 6The river gates are thrown open and the palace collapses.”
Let’s go through this verse by verse...
“3The shields of the soldiers are red; the warriors are clad in scarlet. The metal on the chariots flashes on the day they are made ready; the spears of juniper are brandished.”
Red uniforms. Red shields. Chariots and spearmen. God just told the Ninevites what types of soldiers the opposing army would have, and what they will look like! If I heard this, I would be trying to think of what army had red uniforms, chariots, and spearmen...but the Ninevites simply ignore the warning.
“4The chariots storm through the streets, rushing back and forth through the squares. They look like flaming torches; they dart about like lightning.”
Here, God is telling the Ninevites that their enemy will overwhelm them. The Ninevites will be so taken by surprise that chariots will be able to enter the city before the defense can even get prepared. They have free reign over the city.
“5Nineveh summons her picked troops, yet they stumble on their way. They dash to the city wall; the protective shield is put in place.”
Too late the Ninevites get their own army ready -- they continuously stumble and trip on their way to defend their city. They run to the wall, tripping and falling all over themselves out of fear, in order to put up the protective shield. This was like a canopy of wood and animal skins that they spread out on the top of the city walls to try to prevent soldiers from climbing over the walls. As we find out in verse 6, though, it didn’t do much good…
“6The river gates are thrown open and the palace collapses.”
The city of Nineveh sat on the banks of the Tigris river. Like most cities near water, they had a gate in their wall specifically devoted to accessing that water so people could get to their boats to fish or travel. Think of it like the dockyard of the city. In this verse, Nahum prophecies that these gates will be thrown open. Normally, this wouldn’t be a terrible thing, but the Tigris river is prone to flooding; when this happens, these gates are always shut tight to prevent the floods from entering the city itself. By telling the Ninevites this, Nahum is letting them know that their city will flood during the attack.
The second part of that verse, “and the palace collapses”, tells the Ninevites that their kingdom will fall. Nineveh was the capital city of the Assyrian Empire, the strongest military power of the time. Again, the Ninevites simply ignore the warning.
So, now I know what you’re all thinking -- is that what really happened, or is it all a metaphor or something?
Well, less than 50 years after Nahum wrote these words, in 612 B.C., Nineveh was destroyed. Let’s read a short chronicle on how it happened, as written by the conquering armies, the Babylonians and the Medes.
First, let me show you a picture of a typical Babylonian charioteer and spearman. Look familiar? Check out the red shield, red tunic, and polished metal chariot. So far it matches exactly what Nahum prophesied.
After besieging the city for three months, they broke through the defenses and plundered the city, stealing anything of value. The Tigris river was indeed in flood stage at this point, so to complete the destruction of the city, the Median and Babylonian armies opened the river gates and flooded the city. They killed the king of Assyria and burned down his palace.
It’s interesting to note that the second half of Nahum 2:6 was fulfilled twice here -- not only did the palace collapse metaphorically, in that the empire fell, but literally as well. It was set on fire and literally fell down.
But wait, Nahum didn’t mention the plunder, did he? That doesn’t match! Well, actually he did. Nahum 2:9-10:
“Plunder the silver! Plunder the gold! The supply is endless, the wealth from all its treasures! 10She is pillaged, plundered, stripped! Hearts melt, knees give way, bodies tremble, every face grows pale.”
Yep. It’s there too.
Everything that Nahum prophesied came true, exactly in the way he said it. So what does this mean? It means, when God tells you something, you need to listen -- especially if it’s something you don’t particularly want to hear!
God has filled His Word with warnings for all of us -- if we’re not for Him, then we’re against Him. Repent or be destroyed. You cannot enter heaven except through Christ. It’s up to us to decide if we’re going to listen to the warnings, and get saved and live for Him, despite what the world will say about it, or act like the Ninevites, or Stalin, and just ignore the warnings because they don’t make us feel warm and fuzzy inside; they’re full of bad news and unpleasant thoughts.
I know which one I would pick. How about you?