Nahum’s Rhetorical Allusions to Neo-Assyrian Conquest Metaphors -- By: Gordon H. Johnston

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 159:633 (Jan 2002)
Article: Nahum’s Rhetorical Allusions to Neo-Assyrian Conquest Metaphors
Author: Gordon H. Johnston


Nahum’s Rhetorical
Allusions to Neo-Assyrian
Conquest Metaphors*

Gordon H. Johnston

* This is article three in a three-part series, “The Rhetorical Use of Allusions in the Book of Nahum.”

Gordon H. Johnston is Associate Professor of Old Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas.

Few books of the Bible have been as marginalized for their seeming irrelevance to everyday life as the Book of Nahum. Most Christians today see little that is applicable in this book, whose entire message focuses on the imminent destruction of the Neo-Assyrian Empire and Nineveh, its capital. Many critical scholars pass a negative judgment on Nahum, asserting that it is the “most nationalistic” and “least spiritual” book in Scripture, consumed with nothing more than vengeful delight in the destruction of the Assyrians.1 Fully forty-six of its forty-seven verses seem to do little more than reveal the prophet’s vision of the military onslaught that toppled this wicked empire. So most modern readers conclude that little food for the soul can be harvested from this obscure book about God’s judgment on a bloodthirsty military regime.

The horrific events of September 11, 2001, may have changed all this, however. The world has been dramatically altered by the

brutal attack and destruction of thousands of innocent victims by vicious terrorists. Quite unexpectedly the world today bears an unfamiliar similarity to the ancient world of the Judeans who had been afflicted for decades by the wicked Assyrian war machine. Just as the Book of Nahum offered hope and comfort to ancient Judah and other Syro-Palestinian nations who had been brutalized by Assyrian invasions of their homelands, the timeless message of this ancient Hebrew prophet can offer comfort today: God will judge the wicked (both empires and individuals) who inflict military destruction on His people and the world as a whole (Nah. 1:2–8). The sovereign God is just: He avenges the unjust military destruction of the innocent (vv. 2–3). Though He may allow the wicked to wreak havoc for a season, He will eventually destroy all evil regimes (vv. 12–15). Every evil empire that militarily brutalizes the innocent eventually falls on its own ashes. Those who trust in God may find refuge and comfort with Him in times of trouble (v. 8), knowing that He will eventually bring relief from military affliction (

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