Nahum wrote to Judah concerning the menacing Assyrian Empire about two centuries after Jonah had preached in its capital, Nineveh. This was about a generation after Micah had condemned Judah for its sins and prophesied its fall. Nahum’s name means “comforter” or “consoler,” but he was only a consolation to those who could accept the justice of God’s wrath on Judah for its apostasy.
Those who were faithful to God and willing to accept the idea of Judah’s judgment as consistent with the righteousness of God were still likely frustrated by the constant threat of the viciously cruel Assyrian Empire. Repeatedly it had threatened Judah and ravaged its rural areas; its terror had reached as far as Egypt. Assyria used terror as a matter of policy. The consequences of resistance were death and destruction on a massive scale. How such an evil power could be allowed to overcome Judah was a logical question.
Nahum’s “consolation” was that Assyria would not survive long enough to conquer Judah, which was itself also doomed to judgment at God’s bidding. Nahum predicts the fall of Nineveh at the peak of its reign of terror. Its fall would be precipitous. As powerful as it seemed, Assyria, Nahum says, will not last long enough to overthrow Judah. The fulfillment we know from history. After a long section of Nineveh’s wall was washed away by the flooding Tigris River, the capital was so exposed it could not resist an attacking coalition of Medes, Chaldeans, and Scythians. It was never rebuilt and never again to be an instrument of God’s affliction on Judah.
The message of Nahum is that God’s longsuffering makes Him slow to anger, but He does judge wickedness, which never gains any advantage over His providence. So, the decree of judgment on Judah remained, but the instrument would not be Assyria. God raised up the Chaldeans (or Babylonians, after their capital) from obscurity to do that. Judah had focused on Nineveh and the Assyrians because that was their political nemesis, but God can fix political problems easily, and Nahum here assures Judah He was going to fix their “Assyrian problem.” The more important moral problem remained, however: God was in charge and His covenant people had transgressed the terms of that covenant by their apostasy. For that there would be consequences.