At the time of Nahum’s prophecy, Assyria had passed the peak of its power and was heading for inevitable conquest by the rising power of Babylon.
Nahum, as God’s spokesman, announced a fitting judgment on Assyria, enlivening his message with graphic descriptions of the destruction of Assyria’s capital, Nineveh. Background to the book About one hundred years previously, Assyria had conquered the northern kingdom Israel and taken its people into captivity (722 BC; 2 Kings 17:6). It then applied pressure to the southern kingdom Judah. Through the reign of one Judean king after another, tension and conflict existed between Judah and Assyria (2 Kings 16:7-20; 18:7-37; 19:1-37; 2 Chron 28:20-21; 30:6; 33:11).
By the time Josiah became king of Judah (640 BC), Assyria had weakened sufficiently for Josiah to carry out extensive political and religious reforms in Judah. Nahum was most likely one of those prophets who began to preach in Judah during the revival of prophetic activity that occurred during Josiah’s reign. Most nations of the region had at some time suffered from the brutality of Assyria (Nahum 3:19). Nahum, who had been deeply stirred over Assyria’s injustice and cruelty, had a feeling of satisfaction that at last a fitting divine judgment was to fall upon the ruthless oppressor (Nahum 2:10,13; 3:5-7,19). Nineveh was conquered by the armies of Babylon in 612 BC. Summary of the book Nahum opens his book with striking word-pictures showing that God takes vengeance on those who fight against him, though he protects those who trust in him (1:1-15). The prophet then describes the coming attack on Nineveh (2:1-9), which is to be punished because of the fierce cruelty with which it destroyed its victims (2:10-13). A third poem gives a further description of Nineveh’s overthrow. The reason given this time is the nation’s unrestrained greed for wealth and power (3:1-19).