Day 216: Learning from the Nah Nahs (Jonah and Nahum)

“The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord is avenging and wrathful; the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.”
‭‭Nahum‬ ‭1:2-3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

In the canonical Old Teatament, the books of Jonah and Nahum are separated by the book of Micah. As a Bible teacher, I’ve sometimes wished that Nahum came right after Jonah, because the two books really tell two halves of the same story. It’s easy to remember when you look at the names of the prophets: JoNAH and NAHum. When I teach through the storyline of the Old Testament, I call them the Nah Nah Brothers.

The first of the Nah Nahs is Jonah. The events of Jonah take place around 760 BC. God tells him to preach repentance to the city of Nineveh. He rebels and gets swallowed by a fish. You know that story, but see Day 188: What you Think About From the Belly of a Fish (Jonah 2) if you need a review.

Nineveh repents, and Jonah is ticked about it. He complains to God in Jonah 4, quoting Exodus 34 and Psalm 103 to Him in the process:

“And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.”
‭‭Jonah‬ ‭4:2‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The book ends with God asking Jonah a question: “Should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 people who do not know their right hand from their left?“ (see Jonah 4:11)

That’s where Jonah ends. But the answer to God’s question, at least in the short term, seems to be, “No! You shouldn’t pity Nineveh!” Because less than forty years later, Assyria overruns the northern kingdom of Israel. Jonah could have still been alive at the time, and if he was, I’m sure he was saying, “I told you so!”

But now, fast forward to Nahum, the second Nah nah Brother. It’s 612 BC, more than a century after Israel’s fall to the Assyrians. Assyria about to fall to the new bully on the block, Babylon.

Remember Jonah 4:2? Jonah complained that God was slow to anger. Now, look how Nahum opens:

“The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord is avenging and wrathful; the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.”
‭‭Nahum‬ ‭1:2-3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Nahum is God’s answer to Jonah. By looking at the two books together, we see the God who is indeed merciful and gracious and slow to anger, but we also see the God who crumbles empires and will not let the guilty go unpunished. Think of it this way:

  • JoNAH said, “Nah… God’s gonna let them off the hook.
  • NAHum said, “Nah… God might be slow to anger, but He does get angry. And when He does, it’s game over.

It was indeed game over for the Assyrians. Never again would they be a world power. They were conquered by the Babylonians, who were conquered by the Persians, who were conquered by the Greeks, who were conquered by the Romans. And on and on it goes. The lesson of history is that every empire will rise, have its moment, and fall.

Nah nah,

Hey hey,

Goodbye.

Author: James

I pastor Glynwood Baptist Church in Prattville, Alabama. I read a lot, write a little, and drink lots of coffee. I have three callings in life: surrender to Christ, be a husband to Trish, and be the best father/grandfather I can be. Everything else is an assignment, because everything else can be done by someone else.

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