The Gospel According to Nahum
I. Two Seeds
The book of Nahum is not at first glance a book that presents the Gospel of Jesus Christ to us, but upon closer reading we see a number of themes come up that point us backward toward the postlapsarian Garden of Eden (cf. Gen 3:14-24) and forward to the Kingdom of God after the consummation of all things.
One of these themes is that of the distinction between the seed of Israel (i.e. God’s people, as given in 1:7, 12-13, 15; 2:1-2), and the seed of satan (i.e. the enemies of God and His people, as given in 1:1-6, 8-11, 14; 2:3-13, and all of chapter 3). The Lord’s judgment upon the nations will not affect His seed, His people, but it will destroy His enemies.
II. Nakedness, Fig Leaves, and Being Exposed by the Lord
The two seeds are also added to in dimension by the imagery contained in 3:5-12, which read, respectively:
“Behold, I am against you,” says the Lord of hosts;
“I will life your skirts over your face,
I will show the nations your
And the kingdoms your shame.”
All your strongholds are fig trees
with ripened figs;
If they are shaken,
They fall into the mouth of the eater.
We first encounter this language in Genesis 3, immediately after the Fall, where we read:
Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. (Gen. 3:7)
Having broken the Law of God, Adam and Eve were now exposed, guilty, and bearing the shame of their own sin. Yet, instead of confessing their sin, they tried to cover their nakedness with fig leaves. Nineveh, although not an individual but a collection of individuals, is similar in that the time has come for the Lord to reckon accounts, and rather then confessing His Lordship over them and repenting, they have, in a sense, “sewn fig leaves together and made themselves coverings” – at least in the form of military prestige and power. However, they cannot hide from the Lord, for their strongholds are like “fig trees with ripened figs” and they are about to be shaken. The language practically mirrors that which is found in Genesis, and seems to shed light on the Lord Jesus’ statement about the ripening of the fig tree in Matthew 24:32-33:
“Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branches have put forth leaves, so you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, know it is near — at the doors!”
What we encounter in Nahum, then, deals directly with political, but seems to hint at a greater, eschatalogical event where the coverings of all rebellious men and women who dwell on the Lord’s earth, who have sinned and not sought reconciliation but who have tried to hide themselves from the Lord when He returns, when those “fig leaves,” to speak figuratively (no pun intended), will be torn away, and the shame of their nakedness will be revealed.
III. Imagery Related to Satan
Nineveh, in some senses, almost seems to function in three interrelated ways: (i.)as a nation, (ii.)as a metonym for the king of Nineveh, (iii.)as a type of satan, as there is imagery that also points us back to the postlapsarian Garden of Eden in Nahum 3:18-19. The text reads:
“Your shepherds slumber, O king of Assyria;
Your nobles are in the dust.
Your people are scattered on the mountains,
And no one gathers them.
Your injury has no healing,
Your wound is severe.
All who hear news of you
Will clap their hands over you,
For upon whom has not your
Imagery of God’s enemy, and the enemy of His specially chosen people, here also find similar passages in Ezekiel 28:11-19 and Isaiah 14:12-21, which speak of satan if we understand the passages as being capable of being understood in the above three ways (i.e. according to (i.)historical reference, (ii.)metonymical use, and (iii.)typological use).
IV. The Herald of the Good News
The judgment of God upon the wicked on that day when He removes all of their idols, their false confidences are shaken, and the whole world system that is opposed to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is brought to ruins, on that day His children will be safe, spared from the wrath of God, for they are His chosen, His elect people – the seed of Abraham, the sons of God by faith in the good news. Hence, we hear the gospel proclamation in 1:15:
Behold, on the mountains
The feet of him who brings good
Who proclaims peace!
O Judah, keep your appointed
Perform your vows.
For the wicked one shall no more
pass through you;
He is utterly cast off.
The judgment of God upon the unbelieving is terrible, awful, and horrifying to them, but it is a day of rejoicing for the elect of God, for in it He will both save His people and show His perfect justice against those who have set themselves against the Lord and His Christ (cf. Ps 2). [This good news proclamation runs parallel to the news of Assyria’s destruction in 3:18-19, spec. v. 19.] This isn’t an encouragement for us to hope for the destruction of the lost, but for us to know that while we seek to preach the gospel and compel men to be reconciled to God (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:20), we can rest assured that He in His perfect holiness is vindicated in punishing the unbelieving. The good news in this passage is that the Lord will save His elect people and He will judge the wicked – He will execute perfect justice!
IV. Israel’s Stronghold Vs. The Fig Trees of Unbelievers
As noted earlier, the unsaved have no covering with which to conceal their shameful nakedness, so they cover themselves with fig leaves/fig trees. Since all have sinned and deserve the wrath of God, then what covers the people of Israel? The Lord Himself. He is their stronghold. Nahum draws this parallel between the Stronghold of God’s people (cf. 1:7) which is sure and unshakable, and the false strongholds that are like fig trees with ripened figs ready to be consumed (cf. 3:12). The Lord God Himself, to reiterate, is Israel’s Stronghold, their Security, their Defense – their salvation.
And the Lord is Jesus Christ who is our covering, and who will return in glory to judge the quick and the dead.
Can we not in this title see a reference to the wicked one’s final overthrow by Christ the Lord of lords? While in primary and secondary uses of the phrase “the wicked one” – as in the reprobate enemies of Yahweh – is no doubt meant, it seems that the third use should be read “the wicked one.” Cf. Revelation 20:7-10
Cf. also, Revelation 6:9-11 which shows the suffering of the saints awaiting the Lord’s answer to their prayers for holy retribution upon His and their enemies, and vv. 12-17 which shows the parallel suffering of the enemies of God. We see very clearly in that passage that the Lord’s judgment is both a source of terror for the unbelieving and a source of rejoicing for the people of God who long to see His rule fully established at the final eradication of all sin and evil.