Tag Archives: Nahum 2

Smack-Talk

Where now is the lions’ den,
    the place where they fed their young,
where the lion and lioness went,
    and the cubs, with nothing to fear?
Nahum 2:11 (NIV)

When I was a younger man, I enjoyed being part of groups of friends who would compete in on-line pools in which we tried to pick which teams would win each week. I listened to a lot of sports radio while I was on the road. But, I grew weary of the constant braggadocio, belittling of others, and never-ending “smack-talk” in which people played this kind of verbal “king of the mountain.” They would gloat over the fans of the teams they hate, until the tables turned and the gloating went the other way. It was stupid. So, I still enjoy being a fan of my favorite teams, and I find it fun to casually follow them. Otherwise, I try to avoid the world in which sports is taken seriously.

That sub-culture of smack-talk in sports came to mind this morning as I read today’s chapter because Nahum’s entire prophetic poem is an ancient version of talking smack against his people’s greatest enemy, Assyria. Choose your favorite sport, Assyria was the big-market dynasty that never loses and has been dominant forever. Nahum is part of a small market team that had a few good seasons back in the day but has been nothing but a doormat ever since.

If a fan was going to talk smack against the New York Yankees, let’s say. You’d want to take well-known things about the Yankees and then turn them into negatives:

“The house that Ruth built will be reduced to rubble.”
“Black pinstripes will turn blood red when they are slaughtered.”
“Aaron will be ‘Judged’ and found wanting.”

That’s exactly what Nahum is doing with Assyria, thought it’s easily lost on modern readers.

When Nahum writes:

The Lord will restore the splendor of Jacob
    like the splendor of Israel,
though destroyers have laid them waste
    and have ruined their vines.

He’s alluding to Assyria’s earlier domination over the northern tribe of Israel and Assyria’s insult-to-injury tactic of destroying all of an enemy’s vines so that they will have no wine to drown their sorrows. Nahum is proclaiming that the little underdog will rise again, while the mighty dynasty of Assyria is coming down.

When Nahum writes:

The shields of the soldiers are red;
    the warriors are clad in scarlet.

He’s referencing a common Assyrian boast of their shields and robes dripping with their enemies’ blood. Nahum is turning the tables, saying it will be Assyria’s blood coating the shields and robes of their enemy.

When Nahum writes:

The river gates are thrown open
    and the palace collapses.

He’s referencing the network of reservoirs and irrigation canals in and around Nineveh. When the dams are opened the river floods, making the Nineveh palace weak and compromised.

When Nahum writes:

Plunder the silver!
    Plunder the gold!
The supply is endless,
    the wealth from all its treasures!

He’s referencing the incredible wealth of Nineveh which they hoarded by plundering other peoples. This time, it will be a conquering army that plunders all of their treasures. By the way, in the late 20th century the tombs of Assyrian queens were discovered. Click here to view an online book that catalogs the hoard of gold and treasures they found (scroll past page 220 or so to see the images). It gives you an idea of the treasure that awaited those who conquered Nineveh.

When Nahum writes:

Where now is the lions’ den,
    the place where they fed their young,
where the lion and lioness went,
    and the cubs, with nothing to fear?

Ashurbanipal defeating a lion.

He’s alluding to the fact that Assyrian kings were closely associated with lions. Ashurbanipal, who was likely on the throne as Nahum is writing, was often depicted with lions or hunting lions. Statues of him always show him holding a lion. Nahum is saying that “the lion’s den” of Nineveh will be desolate after their defeat.

In the quiet this morning, I can’t help but think about how hollow Nahum’s smack-talk must have sounded when he wrote it. No one could have imagined Assyria’s defeat, and Nahum would have been laughed at and mercilessly derided for suggesting such a thing.

But, he was right. He might not have been right in the moment, but he saw the handwriting on the wall. He would be proved right in time.

That’s the way it is as a follower of Jesus. Having faith in justice and believing that the Great Story will unfold as prophetically predicted rings hollow for most people. You can find plenty of people who laugh and shake their heads. And, it neither surprises me nor do I ever think that will change. Still, I believe that justice will prevail one day and that Love wins, just as Jesus claimed it would.

But hey, I’m a Cubs fan. I’ve learned that “someday” does actually arrive.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

October

“I am against you,”
    declares the Lord Almighty.
“I will burn up your chariots in smoke,
    and the sword will devour your young lions.
    I will leave you no prey on the earth.
The voices of your messengers
    will no longer be heard.”
Nahum 2:13 (NIV)

U2 rose to fame during my college years. The iconic band that now fills stadiums and cuts deals with Apple to release their CDs was just an avant garde group of punks from Ireland when I first heard of them. One of the early songs that was extremely popular on my campus is now largely forgotten in their repertoire. It is quite simple and short:

October
And the trees are stripped bare
Of all they wear
What do I care

October
And kingdoms rise
And kingdoms fall
But you go on…and on…

I thought about that song this morning as I mused on Nahum’s prophesied fall of the Assyrian empire. The Assyrian empire (a.k.a. the Neo-Assyrian empire) was one of three empirical legacies of the Assyrians. It was their final empire which lasted just 300 years, roughly from 910-612 B.C. It is ranked 119 out of 214 historic world empires on Wikipedia’s charts.

Nahum was a prophet of doom for the Assyrians. Though they had risen to heights of regional power they were now to be silenced once and for all. And, Nahum’s prediction came true when an alliance of their vassals rose up to destroy the capitol city of Nineveh a few years later.

Kingdoms rise and kingdoms fall. But You go on…

As a lover of history, I often think about the ebb and flow of human kingdoms and empires. As the Great Story plays out from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation, there is a constant rise and fall of kingdoms and empires. Hundreds of them. How many of them thought that they were it. How many claimed to be the greatest? How many claimed that they would never fall? How many rulers claimed divinity or divine right?

Kingdoms rise and kingdoms fall. But You go on…

This morning, I’m humbled. I am suspicious of any claims of divine right, invincibility, or superiority whether that come from an ISIS propaganda video or a presidential candidate’s propaganda ad. There is a larger story being told, and the kingdoms of this world are all merely playing their part.

Kingdoms rise and kingdoms fall. But You go on.

Restoration

Front Stoop Construction1Even though the destroyer has destroyed Judah,
    the Lord will restore its honor.
Israel’s vine has been stripped of branches,
    but he will restore its splendor.
Nahum 2:2 (NLT)

Eight years ago this summer Wendy and I bought our little brick tudor house just a block north of the town square. I dubbed it “Vander Well Manor” on Foursquare, which never fails to make my heart smile. It is such a quaint little home that I have a hard time not romanticizing it. When I look at our house from the street I think of how Obi Wan Kenobi described the light saber: “an elegant [house] for a more civilized age.” It was about seventy years old when we bought it and was showing significant signs of age and wear. It has no central air conditioning and an ancient boiler from somewhere near the Eisenhower administration. We have slowly been updating and fixing what it desperately needs in the moment. We have done a lot, but there is so much more to do.

Over the past couple of years Wendy and I have engaged in a long, on-going conversation about the investment required in continuing to fix our little house up to bring it to the state we both really want it to be. Do we keep pumping time, energy and resources into the old house or do we invest in building something new from the ground up? It’s hard not to look at the numbers and think that selling this place and building something new might be the wiser investment. We have gone back and forth, but we keep ending up choosing restoration over replacement. We love this house. The girls come back and call it home. It is in this place that we’ve shared so much of life.

Beyond that, there is something spiritual in the theme of restoration that resonates deep within me. Throughout God’s Message we see God restoring what is old, broken and discarded and bringing out of it something more precious and powerful. The ancient, childless couple Abram and Sara become parents of the nations. The old and dishonored Moses is transformed into a leader for the ages. David, a scalawag bandit with a price on his head, who wanders in the desert for twenty years rises to unite the nation and  rule for 40 years. In today’s chapter Nahum envisions the restoration of Israel. Jesus’ bloody, crucified body is raised to new life of eternal splendor.  Twelve largely uneducated men of questionable character carry Jesus’ message to the nations and literally turn the world upside down. I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see. Restoration through God’s amazing grace.

So, perhaps I’m over spiritualizing it. Perhaps I’m waxing poetic so as to feel better about the money we just spent to pour a new front stoop and patio. The truth is that I love word pictures. They speak to the depths of my soul. Each time I drive home and pull into the driveway and then into the rotting garage with a door that won’t close, I am reminded that I too am a work in progress. Restoration takes time, energy and resources. God is not finished with me and, thankfully, hasn’t given up on me.