Just two weeks ago we followed the reluctant prophet Jonah as he was called by God to go to Nineveh, but ran in the opposite direction. God finally got Jonah’s attention and he decided to go along with the plan. Nineveh was an important city in the Assyrian Empire, an antagonist and enemy of those who lived in Israel and Judah. For the last two weeks we have talked about how brutal, vicious, and bloodthirsty the Assyrians were in their conquests of foreign nations. If you will remember the past couple of weeks, I shared with you how the Assyrians would impale their victims on long spears, decapitate their victims and pile the heads up in a pyramid in the city, and even skin their victims alive. They were a brutal, bloodthirsty nation of conquerors.
For these reasons Jonah hated the Ninevites, yet he went to Nineveh and proclaimed, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned!” (Jonah 3:4 NIV) The Ninevites responded in a way that no one could have ever imagined. They repented, the king issued a decree calling for a nation-wide fast, and he ordered the people,
8 …Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. (Jonah 3:8 NIV)
Jonah was livid. He stomped around and fumed as he told God,
2 …”O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. (Jonah 4:2 NIV)
Jonah was so angry that God would show His grace to the people of Nineveh that he asked God to take his life. God was more concerned about the transformation of the Ninevites than He was about the anger of Jonah.
It is impossible to pinpoint the date of Jonah’s visit to Nineveh, but we can narrow it down to the time period of Jeroboam II, the king of the northern kingdom of Israel. We learn that from 2 Kings 14:23-25. Jeroboam II ruled Israel from 793-758 B.C. Most people place Jonah’s trip to Nineveh towards the end of Jeroboam II reign, around 760 B.C. That is important for you to remember as we begin our study for today.
Our study today, on the message of the prophet Nahum, is the sequel to Jonah. Jonah would have loved to have been given the message that God gave to Nahum because Nahum’s call from God was to pronounce the end of Nineveh. The repentance of the Ninevites didn’t “take,” they returned to their evil, vicious ways, and the patience of God was replaced by the wrath of God. Read more