What’s Plural for Crisis?

P8090590What a week. Glad i managed to squeeze in some board gaming (inter alia, Days of Wonder’s “Pirate’s Cove”), with accompanying smack talk, till the wee hours,

Truffles the Singapore Street Catand an introduction to possibly the most chor lor cat to be adopted from the streets (who purred, marked me with a few rubs on the lower extremities, then settled down to a chewfest of my Vibrams), before the tsunami waves of what the media is terming “The U.S. Debt Crisis” hit Singapore shores:

Negative Swap Offer RateFinance people everywhere were sniggering that the negative swap offer rate (here, -0.99) means banks should pay people to take up loans.

Ended the work week with a good run of Nahum. Hardly genteel stuff; very 18+ for violence.

Q: When in Israel’s history is Nahum preaching?
“The Assyrian king Ashurbanipal took the city in 664/663 b.c. Nahum also predicts the fall of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, as a future event. Nineveh fell to a coalition of Medes and Babylonians in 612 b.c. The book was composed, therefore, between 664/663 and 612 b.c.

The book implies that Nineveh (and Assyria) was still at or near the height of its power (cf. 1:12a; 2:11–13; 3:1, 4b) and that Judah was still firmly under Assyrian control (from which the Lord would free them; 1:12b–13, 15; 2:2).

Nahum’s book is a sequel to, and a dramatic contrast with, the book of Jonah. Jonah’s mission to Nineveh was probably sometime in the first half of the eighth century b.c. He was to warn that large city of God’s impending judgment because of Nineveh’s wickedness. To Jonah’s dismay, the Ninevites heeded his message, repented, and were spared God’s judgment.

This repentance, however, did not last beyond 745 b.c., when Tiglath-pileser III (745–728/727) made his people the leading military power in the Near East. The vast Assyrian Empire was established by bloodshed and massacre, cruelty and torture, destruction, plundering, and exiling such as has seldom been seen in history. After several campaigns, Tiglath-pileser greatly enlarged the territory paying him homage with annexed land and vassal kingdoms, including the northern kingdom of Israel (reduced in size by the Assyrians) and the southern kingdom of Judah. Succeeding rulers maintained and expanded this empire. In 722 b.c. the Assyrians brought to an end the northern kingdom of Israel.

Sennacherib (reigned 704–681 b.c.) made Nineveh the capital of his kingdom (c. 700). His energetic building program included a splendid palace, water-supply and water-control projects, and a massive wall to surround the expanded city. Nineveh was destroyed in 612 b.c., never to be restored, marking the end of Assyria. A small remnant of Assyrians did escape the city, fleeing to Haran and making Ashur-uballit II “king of Assyria.” In 610 b.c., though, Haran fell to the Babylonians and their allies. Ashur-uballit retreated, but in 609 b.c., with Egyptian help, he tried to recapture Haran. That attempt failed, and Ashur-uballit and the Assyrians disappeared from history.” (ESV Study Bible)

Q: Whom is Nahum preaching to?
Judah (1:15)

Q: Who is the subject of Nahum’s preaching?
Nineveh, capital city and possibly representative of the nation of Assyria

Q: If we know what genre of literature it is, we will know how to properly interpret it. What genre is it?
oracle, vision, in poetic form

Q: What is an oracle?
Prophetic utterance or proclamation. Here, about the God’s present wrath and Assyria’s future.

Q: If vision, then what are the different scenes in the vision of Nahum?
Nahum 1 – God’s intention, God’s eye view, anticipation of what is to come
Nahum 2 – Siege and sack of Nineveh
Nahum 3 – Taunting in the aftermath and explanation of destruction

Q: Why do you think Nahum was written in poetic form?

Q: If poetry, then we must interpret the images and metaphors and not take these literally. How do they picture God and Nineveh?
Nahum 1 – God’s interaction with, and his effect on, nature and the natural world is described in figurative language illustrating awesome omnipotence, warrior, protector (cf v7 – “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble”)

“Bashan, a northern Transjordanian region, was famous for its rich pasturelands. Carmel, a mountain next to the Mediterranean Sea and close to Lower Galilee, was well known for its beauty and luxuriant countryside. Lebanon, a mountainous region just to the north of Israel, was noted for its forests. For a similar reference to these three regions, see Isa. 33:9. Hills and mountains are symbols of permanence and immovability, but even they cannot stand before God.”

“Rocks represent the hardest objects in nature, easily shattered by the Lord.”

“Like an overflowing flood, God’s judgment is overwhelming; Nineveh was to be destroyed by a flood (see 2:6, 8). complete end … God’s judgment will culminate with removal from this life and everlasting damnation.”

“Entangled thorns can be thrown en masse into the fire, just as the Assyrians as a whole will be wiped out. Like drunkards, the Assyrians will be unable to defend themselves successfully against their attackers. The image of burning dry stubble, a frequent one in the OT, conveys the sense of quick extermination.”

“…the house of your gods I will cut off. Complete defeat of the Assyrian ruler would also be marked by the desecration of his temple and the destruction or removal of his idols, which represented the gods who he believed gave him power, wealth, and descendants. Archaeologists have noted the complete destruction that Nineveh’s temples underwent.”

God is all-powerful. He will be able to do exactly as he says.

Q: What has Nineveh done to provoke God’s anger and vengence in Nahum 1:9-14?
Plotted against the LORD, plotted evil against the LORD, oppressed God’s people.

Q: This book was written not directly to the Ninevites, but to Judah. What might Nahum have intended the Judeans to gain from hearing these words?
“In contrast to his anger, God is good to his people, blessing those who trust in him. stronghold. The Lord is the never-failing protector of his people. He will keep them safe and rescue them from human and spiritual enemies (e.g., Ps. 27:1; 37:39; Isa. 17:10; Jer. 16:19). God knows his people with love and affection, which results in his benevolent actions.”

Q: Nahum 2 – present-tense narrative of future event is like an eyewitness account of the city being attacked. What imagery is used to describe the strength of Nineveh?
Nahum 2:3-4, Nahum 2:11-12

Q: What happens to the mighty Nineveh and is this described?
Overrun by the enemy, sacked and plundered. Nahum 2:5-12

Q: How will all this happen to them?
Nahum 2:13

Nahum 3 – Q: What imagery is used to portray Nineveh?
Seductress, prostitute, whore.

(Point of interest: metaphor for Nineveh in Nahum 2 is male – here in , it is female.)

What else will happen to her?
Nahum 3. Humiliated, made so disgusting that people will shrink from her, so frightened that she will hide, made impotent and so utterly destroyed that there will be no more trace of her descendants.

Why are Assyrians being humiliated and destroyed?
3:1 – full of lies and plunder
3:4 – seduced other nations (corrupted them so they lusted for wealth? see 2 Kings 16:18) and betrayed them
3:19 – unceasing evil

Whereas Jonah was asked to preach a message of repentance, what do you think is the aim of Nahum’s message? Why?

Q: We know about Ancient Egypt and about the Romans and the Greeks and Alexander the Great, but there are no travelling exhibitions on Assyria. How does that knowledge add to what you have learnt about God in this book?

Q: Even though this book is specifically about Nineveh, what have you learnt about God that helps you understand how he thinks and acts?

Q: In light of this, how then will he act in the present and future? And how should you then act?

What is God doing in the face of “evil”; why didn’t God do anything about Auschwitz, the Gulag or the Killing Fields or the the myriad incidents of violence, barbarity, injustice, violations, terrorism, Clockwork Orange-type activity all around the world throughout the centuries?
See what God did to the cruel Nineveh who perpetuated violence and slavery, who plundered the nations. They were utterly humiliated and destroyed.

But it wasn’t only their uncivilised behaviour that brought on their judgement but their sin – that is  ultimately, their opposition to God and God’s people (Nahum 1:9-14). It is merely a consequence of their standing opposed to God and not acknowledging him as Lord that made them lust after riches and wealth so that they plundered nations; in rejecting him and his word (already preached to them via a very reluctant Jonah), they also rejected the value of human life – which is really only valuable because humans were/are made by God.

If this is what God did to Nineveh, what will God do in the future to others who too have not acknowledged him as their king, even if they did not mastermind massacres or arrange a looting spree via social media platforms and Blackberrys?

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