Book of Nahum
The Book of Nahum, often called simply, Nahum, is an ancient Jewish writing written in Biblical Hebrew and canonized into the Minor Prophets section of the Nevi'im. Christians place it in their old testament. In the text, Nineveh, the ancient capital of the Assyrian empire once located in what is now Northern Iraq, plays an important role.
Authorship and Dating
In 1:1, the author identifies himself as Nahum the Elkoshite, which is a very ambiguous identification. Nahum (נחום [Nachuwm]) is assumed to mean "comfort," and Elkoshite is assumed to be a descendant of Elkosh. Neither of these can be verified since both words exist only once in all of antiquity. Historians can't even say is Elkosh is a person, culture, region, or something else. One possible explanation is the ancient city in Northern Iraq, close to where Nineveh once stood, called Alqosh. In fact, there is a tomb in Alqosh which claims to contain the body of Nahum, but, as far as I know, there is no contemporary evidence to suggest it's genuine.
To my knowledge, there is no contemporary evidence to date it back that far, and no ancient manuscripts to carbon date. So, historians try to date the Book of Nahum based on the contents of the surviving text which mentions the sacking of No Amon (now Thebes, Egypt) (3:8-10) and the fall of Nineveh. Thebes was sacked around 663 BCE, and Nineveh around 612 BCE. Because of this, historians who view this writing as a historical account date the book to around 610 BCE. However, Jewish tradition states that this is a prophecy, which requires it to have been written before the events, so they must date it at least prior to 612 BCE, some about 100 years prior.
The book is either meant to be a prophecy or historic account. It is written in a poetic format and describes the horror of Jehovah and the impending destruction of the city of Nineveh at the hands of Jehovah.
I have several translations of this book from various bibles, and have read the NIV translation.
- If the book is a prophecy, it's wrong. Historians demonstrate that it was not the Israelites who sacked Nineveh, or even worshipers of Jehovah, but various armies of various other religions including Babylonians, Chaldeans, Medes, Persians, Scythians, and Cimmerians. Also, 1:14 says of the city, "You will have no descendants to bear your name," but there is still a major region of Iraq called the Nineveh Governorate.
- There are a couple passages which are just rather strange. For example, 3:12 says that the fortresses of Nineveh "are like fig trees with their first ripe fruit; when they are shaken, the figs fall into the mouth of the eater." I'm presuming that's a poetic way of saying they will be easily defeated, but it's a rather strange simile. 3:5-6 says that Jehovah will lift the clothes of the occupants above their heads so that everyone else can see their shameful naked bodies. Someone needs to give Jehovah a lesson in consent!
- The author doesn't like grasshoppers at all! 3:15 reads, "the sword will cut you down and, like grasshoppers, consume you. Multiply like grasshoppers, multiply like locusts!" 3:17 reads, "Your guards are like locusts, your officials like swarms of locusts that settle in the walls on a cold day—but when the sun appears they fly away, and no one knows where."
- There are a couple words in the Book of Nahum that are used in ways contrary to other contemporary texts. For example, the word (נצב [natsab]) is usually translated to "stand erect," but that use doesn't fit with how it appears in 2:7. Because of this, there are a wide array of different translations for this verse. A similar problem occurs in 1:10.
- From beginning to end, this text is horrifying revenge porn. It is an extremely graphic account of the gleeful execution of everyone in a city. 3:3 reads, "Many casualties, piles of dead, bodies without number, people stumbling over the corpses..." 2:9 tells the advancing armies to "Plunder the silver! Plunder the gold! The supply is endless, the wealth from all its treasures!" 3:19 even says everyone who hears about the city's collapse with clap their hands with joy. The occupants of the city are described in various ways as being evil, like in 3:1, where it is called the, "city of blood, full of lies, full of plunder," but, that's not how cities work. Yes, corruption often exists in cities, and criminals can become wealthy, but, in order to function, the bulk of any city's occupants must be average law-abiding people. If Jehovah is all powerful, he should be able to punish just those bad people, but, instead, he wants to raze the entire city.
- The text described Jehovah as a terrifying monster rather than a loving father. For example, 1:2-3 begins, "The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The Lord takes vengeance on his foes and maintains his wrath against his enemies," and 1:6 continues, "Who can withstand his indignation? Who can endure his fierce anger? His wrath is poured out like fire; the rocks are shattered before him."
- The book is very disparaging toward women. 3:13 insults the city's troops saying, "they are all women!" 2:7 reads, "It is decreed that the city be exiled and carried away. Its slave girls moan like doves and beat upon their breasts." Why would slave women be upset to be freed? And 3:4 describes Nineveh as "the wanton lust of a harlot, alluring, the mistress of sorceries, who enslaved nations by her prostitution and peoples by her witchcraft," but many of the "heroes" of the bible hire prostitutes, so they're hypocrites.