God's Wrath Destroys Nineveh

Updated: Oct 31, 2019


I am studying the prophetical book of Nahum and I want to share what I'm learning with you. It is about a specific time period in the Bible and will enhance your reading of other books of the Bible.

Nahum is a minor prophetical book. This just means it is a short prophetical book, not that what it says is less important. The last 17 books of the Old Testament are the prophetical books of the Old Testament. The last 12 of these 17 books are called "minor."

WHO: The book of Nahum is about the words God spoke through the prophet Nahum regarding Nineveh. Two prophets spoke to Nineveh: Jonah being the first one and you are probably more familiar with him because of the fish thing. The second is Nahum.

Picture taken off of my Then & Now Bible Maps [6] (affiliate link*)

Black is Bible times. Red is modern times.

WHERE: Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian empire. Assyria was the world power at the time. They were wicked people. The Assyrian empire stretched from the livable areas in Iran all the way to Egypt. The capital, Nineveh, was located in what is today Iraq, near modern-day Mosul. You remember in 2014 that ISIL took over Mosul and 100,000 Christians fled the city and the Nineveh plains. Because of the persecution, the Christian population which had existed there since the 1st century AD was removed. Most historical archeological sites were destroyed. That is where Nineveh was located.

Picture taken from my The Complete Guide to the Bible by Stephen M. Miller, page 265 [5] (*affiliate link)

WHEN: God told Jonah to go to Nineveh approximately 760 BC and tell them they would be judged. Jonah didn't want to go to his enemies. Remember him being swallowed by a fish. As a result Jonah has a change of heart and goes and tells the people of Nineveh that God is going to judge them. They repent and all is good between them and God. For awhile. (See my post Ineligible for Forgiveness dated 7/23/18.)

Sometime in the next 100 plus years the people of Nineveh slid back into their sinful evil ways. Nahum prophesied about 660 BC that God was going to destroy the Assyrians. And it happened in 612 BC with amazing accuracy.

We know the dates because Nahum mentions the fall of Thebes in Nahum 3:8 and we know that happened in 663 BC. The Babylonians wrote extensively about defeating the Assyrians in 612 BC.

WHAT WOULD HAPPEN: Nahum said the siege of Nineveh would be lengthy. The Ninevites would be drunk. They would be destroyed by flood. They would be destroyed by fire. Their temples would be destroyed. The queen and her maidens will die as sacrifices. The people would never return. The city of Nineveh would be completely and totally destroyed and would never be rebuilt.

WHAT HAPPENED: About fifty years later in 612 BC it happened exactly as God told Nahum it would! We know this because of ancient Babylonian and other historical writings and archeological finds. A coalition army made up of Babylonians, Medes and Scythians marched on Nineveh. The Assyrian king had given liberal amounts of wine to his soldiers to make them merry. They got drunk! At the same time the Euphrates and Tigris rivers flooded and part of Nineveh's wall was washed away. The Babylonians recorded plundering Nineveh. They burnt it as evidenced by the charred archeological finds. From 612 BC on Assyria ceased to exist. They were wiped off the planet.

What makes this so remarkable is no one in Nahum's time thought this was possible. Nineveh was incredibly fortified and protected. The walls surrounding the city were 100 feet high and so thick that three chariots could go side by side of each other along the top of the walls! The walls had many fortified towers. Around the outside of the walls was a moat that was 150 feet wide and 60 feet deep! Reportedly Nineveh had enough supplies to survive a 20-year siege.

ASSYRIANS WERE BRUTAL: The Assyrian kings kept detailed record of their conquests and made art of their brutalities to hang on their walls. When we read about the Assyrians in the Bible we don't really get an understanding of the war crimes they committed. But an understanding of their cruel methods in defeating and submitting their enemies puts them into perspective. The Assyrians removed the Northern Kingdom of Israel (10 tribes) from the map in 722 BC. The Bible doesn't go into too much detail on this. We know they also destroyed 46 walled cities in Judah and forced the king of Judah to pay heavy taxes. That was how the Assyrians operated. They spread complete fear throughout the land in order to keep the nations inline to pay them taxes. They took pride in their terror tactics and meticulously documented them.

Here is a sampling of what the Assyrian kings documented:

  • Cut off their hands and fingers. Others cut off their noses, ears and fingers. Put out many of their eyes.

  • Skin them alive and put their skin on the walls of the cities they conquered.

  • Cut off their heads and put them on stakes and line the roads to their city.

  • Swing babies by their ankles and crack their heads against a stone wall.

  • Formed pillars of their corpses.

  • Impaled men on stakes against their city gate.

  • "I pierced his [Uaite's] chin with my keen hand dagger. Through his jaw I passed a rope, put a dog chain upon him and made him occupy a kennel of the east gate of the inner of Nineveh."

  • "I cut off their members and had carried about as an object lesson for all lands."

  • "I cut off their testicles and tore out their privates like seeds of a cucumber."

For about 340 years the Assyrians were the world power and they could arguably be called the most cruel and barbaric nation in all of ancient history. Maybe in all of history. 340 years. Think about how long of a time period that is! And at about 190 years of their reign God sent them Jonah. Why? Because of His holy mercy. Because He is a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity. (Jonah 4:2)

No wonder Jonah didn't think his cruel enemies deserved God's mercy. No wonder 100 years later the prophetical words of Nahum seemed impossible. Wipe out the Assyrians!? But about 50 years after Nahum spoke, God had enough. He had given the Assyrians plenty of time to change. They continued to do evil.

God gave them a chance with Jonah. They brought on God's wrath themselves.

The theme of the book of Nahum is Nineveh's destruction because they had incurred God's wrath.

WRATH OF GOD: And this brings us to God's wrath.

Nahum 1:2 says:

A jealous and avenging God is the LORD; the LORD is avenging and wrathful. The LORD takes vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserves wrath for His enemies.

Nahum isn't a fun book to read. Thank goodness it is short. It only has a couple uplifting verses.

The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, and the LORD will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.

Nahum 1:3

The LORD is good, a stronghold in the days of trouble, and He knows those who take refuge in Him.

Nahum 1:7

The rest of the book of Nahum is about God's wrath. We don't talk much about that subject these days. A. W. Pink in his book The Attributes of God (*affiliate link) says "... there are more references in Scripture to the anger, fury, and wrath of God, than there are to His love and tenderness." It isn't a concept we should take lightly or ignore.

In my class Connecting the Dots of the Bible class I go over the keyword "lovingkindness" and the concept of "the fear of God." I tell the students to read the Bible with balance of these two things. I wrote two posts on this if interested. See: He is Full of Lovingkindness dated 5/11/16 and Fearing God dated 5/12/16.

Holy wrath and holy mercy were, are, and always will be co-existing attributes of God. Therefore our responsibility to hold them in tension is a Timeless Principle. We dare not make God less than or different from how the Bible portrays Him. [2]

God has told us that the wages of sin is death. God's wrath is His punishment of sin and evil and something He always said He would do. Maybe we are not as cruel and brutal as the Assyrians were, but we each sin and do evil. We should be equally mindful of not only how much He loves us, but also cautious not to incur His wrath as an individual and as a group or nation. We must hold these attributes of His in tension and balance when reading the Bible, thinking of God, and praying to Him. Mindful of both the intimacy and love of God for us, His children, and at the same time foster profound reverence for Him and His power and sovereignty.

The good news though is that having holy mercy for His created beings, Jesus delivered us from His eternal wrath our sin would cause. We are redeemed by the cross.

May we fall to our knees in gratitude.

  1. The Amazing Collection, The Early Minor Prophets, Set 6 (Alpharetta, Georgia: Big Dream Ministries, Inc.), 2005, 117-139.

  2. The Amazing Collection, The Later Minor Prophets, Set 7 (Alpharetta, Georgia: Big Dream Ministries, Inc.), 2005, 23-45.

  3. Rose Publishing, Bible Overview, (Torrance, California: Bristol Works, Inc.), 2012, 139-141 and 145-147. (*affiliate link)

  4. John H. Walton, Mark L. Strauss, Ted Cooper Jr., The Essential Bible Companion, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan) 2006, 64-65 and 68-69. (*affiliate link)

  5. Stephen M. Miller, The Complete Guide to the Bible, (Phoenix, Arizona: The Steve Laube Agency LLC), 2007, 253-258 and 265-269. (*affiliate link)

  6. Rose Publishing, Then & Now Bible Maps, (Carson, California: RW Research, Inc.), 2007, The Middle East. (*affiliate link)

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