The Context of Nahum

The first verse of the book of Nahum tells us the book of Nahum is an oracle regarding Nineveh. This oracle was given in an historical context, so in order to understand the book of Nahum, it’s helpful to understand the history of Nineveh and Assyria. Nineveh was a city in Assyria.

Watch the video to learn more or scroll down to read the transcript.


The first verse of the book of Nahum tells us the book of Nahum is an oracle regarding Nineveh. This oracle was given in an historical context, so in order to understand the book of Nahum, it’s helpful to understand the history of Nineveh and Assyria. Nineveh was a city in Assyria. 

Nineveh and Assyria are mentioned very early in the Bible. As you know, Genesis starts out with creation and the flood. After the flood there was the Tower of Babel where people were given different languages and they started dispersing around the world. 

Around that time, there was a man named Cush who became the father of Nimrod. We read the following about Nimrod in Genesis.

Gen. 10:10   The beginning of his kingdom was Babel and Erech and Accad and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. 11 From that land he went forth into Assyria, and built Nineveh and Rehoboth-Ir and Calah, 12 and Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city.

This is the first time in the Bible we see a reference to Nineveh and Assyria. We see that Nineveh was started as a city very shortly after the flood. 

The rest of the book of Genesis tells us about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They lived roughly 2000BC. The books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy tell us about the Israelites leaving slavery in Egypt, receiving the Mosaic Law, and traveling through the wilderness for forty years. That happened roughly 1500BC. Joshua, Judges, and Ruth tell us what the Israelites did between 1500BC and 1000BC. That was a time when every man did what was right in his own eyes. 1 & 2 Samuel tell us about David becoming king roughly 1000BC. The books of 1 & 2 Kings tell us what happened between 1000BC and 500BC.

As I said, David became king around 1000BC. His son Solomon ruled over the kingdom of Israel after David. After Solomon died the nation of Israel split into two different kingdoms. There was a northern kingdom called Israel. There was a southern kingdom called Judah. David and Solomon’s descendants ruled over the southern kingdom that was called Judah. 

After David and Solomon died, Nineveh and Assyria become very prominent in that part of the world. For a time, Assyria was the dominant power in the world. 

One of the kings that ruled over the northern kingdom of Israel was a man named Menahem. We read about him in 2 Kings.

2Kings 15:19   Pul, king of Assyria, came against the land, and Menahem gave Pul a thousand talents of silver so that his hand might be with him to strengthen the kingdom under his rule. 20 Then Menahem exacted the money from Israel, even from all the mighty men of wealth, from each man fifty shekels of silver to pay the king of Assyria. So the king of Assyria returned and did not remain there in the land. 

This was the beginning of a series of events where Assyria figured very prominently in the history of the nation of Israel. 

Later, there was a man named Pekah who was king of Israel. We read about him and Assyria in 2 Kings 15.

2Kings 15:29   In the days of Pekah king of Israel, Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria came and captured Ijon and Abel-beth-maacah and Janoah and Kedesh and Hazor and Gilead and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali; and he carried them captive to Assyria.

The king of Assyria carried many Israelites back to Assyria as captives. 

Later, the king of Aram and the king of Israel waged war against Jerusalem and the nation of Judah. Ahaz, who at that time was the king of Judah, appealed to the king of Assyria for help. We read about this in 2 Kings 16.

2Kings 16:7   So Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, saying, “I am your servant and your son; come up and deliver me from the hand of the king of Aram and from the hand of the king of Israel, who are rising up against me.” 8 Ahaz took the silver and gold that was found in the house of the LORD and in the treasuries of the king’s house, and sent a present to the king of Assyria. 9 So the king of Assyria listened to him; and the king of Assyria went up against Damascus and captured it, and carried the people of it away into exile to Kir, and put Rezin to death.

In 2 Kings 17 we read about Assyria coming against the nation of Israel again.

2Kings 17:1   In the twelfth year of Ahaz king of Judah, Hoshea the son of Elah became king over Israel in Samaria, and reigned nine years. 2 He did evil in the sight of the LORD, only not as the kings of Israel who were before him. 3 Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up against him, and Hoshea became his servant and paid him tribute. 4 But the king of Assyria found conspiracy in Hoshea, who had sent messengers to So king of Egypt and had offered no tribute to the king of Assyria, as he had done year by year; so the king of Assyria shut him up and bound him in prison.

2Kings 17:5   Then the king of Assyria invaded the whole land and went up to Samaria and besieged it three years. 6 In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and carried Israel away into exile to Assyria, and settled them in Halah and Habor, on the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.

That is what happened. However, it’s important to continue reading in verse seven about why this happened. 

2Kings 17:7   Now this came about because the sons of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them up from the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and they had feared other gods 8 and walked in the customs of the nations whom the LORD had driven out before the sons of Israel, and in the customs of the kings of Israel which they had introduced.

Yahweh used Assyria as a tool to punish Israel for their idolatry. 

After Assyria exiled Israel, there was a man named Hezekiah who ruled over the kingdom of Judah. He also had problems with Assyria. Let’s read from 2 Kings 18.

2Kings 18:13   Now in the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and seized them. 14 Then Hezekiah king of Judah sent to the king of Assyria at Lachish, saying, “I have done wrong. Withdraw from me; whatever you impose on me I will bear.” So the king of Assyria required of Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold.

Hezekiah paid a lot of money to Assyria. However, the king of Assyria moved against Jerusalem anyway.

2Kings 18:17   Then the king of Assyria sent Tartan and Rab-saris and Rabshakeh from Lachish to King Hezekiah with a large army to Jerusalem. So they went up and came to Jerusalem.

Next, there was some dialogue that took place. Eventually, Hezekiah cried out to God and asked for help. God provided some help.

2Kings 19:35   Then it happened that night that the angel of the LORD went out and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men rose early in the morning, behold, all of them were dead. 36 So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and returned home, and lived at Nineveh. 37 It came about as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer killed him with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son became king in his place.

That is a brief summary of the interaction between Nineveh and the Israelites. While God used Nineveh as a tool to punish the Israelites for their idolatry, God was not happy with Nineveh and the Assyrians and how they carried that out. God eventually brought punishment on the Assyrians themselves. 

There are multiple passages in the Old Testament where God gave His verdict and judgment upon Nineveh and Assyria. The book of Nahum is one of the books that contains God’s pronouncements against Nineveh and Assyria and tells us what God thought of Nineveh. 

Thanks for visiting Bible Mountain. If you have already joined my email list, thank you, and please forward this to someone else who would benefit from visiting Bible Mountain. If you have not joined my email list yet, please do so now. My email list is free. This is the best way to make sure you receive all my content. In order to join, go to, click on email, and that will take you to a page where you can sign up. Your email address will not be sold nor given away. Once again, thank you for visiting Bible Mountain.

“All Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®,
Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973,
1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation
Used by permission.” (