Ashurbanipal’s Peace And The Date Of Nahum -- By: Gregory D. Cook

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 79:1 (Spring 2017)
Article: Ashurbanipal’s Peace And The Date Of Nahum
Author: Gregory D. Cook

Ashurbanipal’s Peace And The Date Of Nahum

Gregory D. Cook

Gregory D. Cook received his PhD from Westminster Theological Seminary and is the author of Severe Compassion: The Gospel According to Nahum (Presbyterian & Reformed, 2016).

Even though the book of Nahum baffles biblical scholars at numerous points, establishing the prophecy’s chronological setting has not proven difficult. The destruction of Thebes (663 BC) mentioned in Nah 3:8–10 along with the prediction of Nineveh’s destruction (612 BC) set firm limits for the book’s context.1 The acknowledgement of these boundaries is so widespread that “hardly anybody doubts that the book of Nahum or part of it has to be dated” within this period.2 However, scholars have come to no agreement on a more precise date.3 This article proposes that the book does give a precise date through a subtle clue. The word שְׁלֵמִים

(1:12) dates the book to 639 BC by alluding to Assyria’s destruction of Elam in that year and prophesying the peace of 639–627 BC.4

I. Elam

Ashurbanipal campaigned against Elam five times. The first of these occurred in 653 BC after Elam joined a rebellion begun by Ashurbanipal’s brother (Shamash-shum-ukin), who had been installed as king of Babylon. Ashurbanipal did not succeed in completely subduing Elam until his fifth campaign. The bitterness of the wars with Elam resulted in Assyrian barbarity toward the conquered nation:

The sanctuaries of Elam I destroyed totally (lit., to non-existence). Its gods (and) goddesses I scattered (lit., counted) to the wind(s). Their secret groves, into which no stranger (ever) penetrates, whose borders he never (over)steps—into these my soldiers entered, saw their mysteries, and set them on fire. The sepulchers of their earlier and later kings, who did not fear Assur and Ishtar, my lords, (and who) had plagued the kings, my fathers, I destroyed, I devastated, I exposed to the sun. Their bones (members) I carried off to Assyria. I laid restlessness upon their shades. I deprived them of food-offerings and libations of water. For a (distance) of a month of twenty-five days’ journey I devastated the provinces of Elam. Salt and silhu (some prickly plant) I scattered over them.5

This ca...

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