Author: Little is known about the prophet Nahum. His name means “comfort” and his words of the destruction of Nineveh would likely have been a comfort to the people of Judah who saw them as a threat. He is identified as an Elkoshite but even the general location of that city has been lost. Given the time that Nahum lived however, it is reasonable to assume that he came from the southern kingdom of Judah.
Recipients: All three chapters of Nahum focus on the fall of Nineveh and therefore the prophecies would be pertinent to the Assyrians. However, the book was written for the remaining Israelites in the southern kingdom. It was meant as a comfort that God would judge the Assyrians wickedness.
Date: Nahum’s prophecies come before the fall of Nineveh in 612 BC. There is a reference to the fall of Thebes having already occurred. This took place in 663 BC. Therefore Nahum prophesied sometime between 663 BC and 612 BC. It is likely that his message came closer to 612 BC however as Nineveh’s destruction is considered imminent in the book. This would make Nahum a contemporary of Zephaniah and a young Jeremiah.
Background of Nahum: Possibly as early as 200 years beforehand (the book of Jonah is difficult to date) the prophet Jonah delivered a message about Nineveh’s doom. However, Nineveh repented and God withheld disaster.
In 722 BC the Assyrians – whose capital was Nineveh – wiped out the northern kingdom of Israel. They were the instrument of God’s punishment against an idolatrous northern kingdom but that didn’t mean that God had overlooked their sin. By Nahum’s time judgment was at hand and Nineveh would be destroyed 110 years after it destroyed the kingdom of Israel.
Theology: It is easy to present God as a one sided, loving, compassionate God. But we need to balance that with God’s righteousness and justice. Nahum strikes the balance between love and wrath, reminding us that God is “slow to anger” but will also “not leave the guilty unpunished.” God held off disaster when the Ninevites repented in Jonah’s day but ultimately He did not ignore the wickedness of the Assyrians.