Nothing can heal you;
your wound is fatal.
All who hear the news about you
clap their hands at your fall,
for who has not felt
your endless cruelty?
Nahum 3:19 (NIV)
I am wrapping up the book Band of Brothers by Stephen A. Ambrose, the book that inspired the HBO miniseries of the title. I’m enjoying getting more depth and insight to the actual story told in the miniseries, and I’m impressed with how closely they stuck to the true story.
For those who are unfamiliar (if there are any) Band of Brothers is the story of one company of airborne infantry from boot camp through D-Day (when the Allies invaded Normandy) and to VE Day (Victory in Europe) in World War II.
One of the things that has stood out in reading the book is the way that things changed for the soldiers when they made their way into Germany itself. There was such a contrast between the German towns and villages which had been untouched by the war and the violence, destruction, and devastation Easy Company experienced fighting its way through France, the Netherlands, and Belgium. Even more stark was the relatively “normal” life they witnessed of German towns and citizens protected from the carnage their country had unleashed on others and the horrors of the concentration camp the men discovered in the nearby woods. Richard Winters wrote, “…it leaves feelings that cannot be described and will never be forgotten.”
I have to believe that this is about as close as most modern readers can come to understanding the schadenfreude the prophet Nahum spews in today’s chapter. Assyrian brutality is infamous in history.
From one commentary I read:
“Many casualties, piles of dead” (vs. 3). Assyrian armies had inflicted these horrors on conquered enemies. The inscriptions of Ashurnasirpal give the most frightful reports: “I captured many soldiers alive. The rest of them I burnt. I carried off valuable tribute from them. I built a pile of live (men and) heads before his gate. I erected on stakes 700 soldiers before their gate. I razed, destroyed (and) turned in to ruin hills the city. I burnt their adolescent boys and girls.” When Sennacherib conquered Babylon, he related, “I left no one. I filled the city squares with their corpses.” Relief sculptures depict Assyrian soldiers bringing the heads of their enemies for secretaries to record.
The epilogue of Nahum’s prophetic message is its fulfillment. Assyria an its capital city of Nineveh fell to the Babylonians in 612 B.C. Nineveh was utterly destroyed. Assyria became a province of the Babylonian and Persian empires, then faded into history. Just 200 years after Nineveh’s fall the Greek adventurer, Xenophon, traveled through the area and was completely unaware that Nineveh, once the largest city on the planet, had ever existed there.
As I’ve been reading and contemplating Nahum’s prophetic poetry this week, lyrics of an old U2 song keep flitting through my soul:
Kingdoms rise, and Kingdoms fall.
But You go on, and on, and on.
As I prepare and study for a series of messages this fall on the wisdom of the Sage of Ecclesiastes, I also can’t escape the notion that all life is simply “vapor” that comes and goes so fleetingly. I can see it. It appears tangible, yet when I try to grasp it simply slips through the fingers.
And so I leave the words of ancient Nahum for now, until the journey brings me back this way. Kingdoms and empires come and go on this earth as they have since the first civilization in Sumer. And so, they ever will until the Great Story is concluded. And so I press on with the words of Isaiah echoing in my soul:
Doom to those who go off to Egypt
thinking that horses can help them,
Impressed by military mathematics,
awed by sheer numbers of chariots and riders—
And to The Holy of Israel, not even a glance,
not so much as a prayer to God.
Still, he must be reckoned with…
Isaiah 31:1-2 (MSG)
And so, I reckon I’ll take a brief respite from this chapter-a-day journey to enjoy an extended Labor Day holiday with dear friends. I plan to resume Wednesday of next week. Enjoy your holiday, my friend. Cheers!
If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.