Perhaps there are a few of you today who are so tuned out to football that you don’t quite “get” the title today – “Richard Sherman Nahum.” What I am referencing is that the prophet Nahum has a communication style about like that of Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, who made the critical play in the recent NFC Championship game that sent his team to the Super Bowl. In an interview with Erin Andrews after the game, he had an outburst of loud trash talking that will be remembered for decades in the NFL. And like him, the prophet Nahum lays down some serious verbal smack about the coming fate of the Assyrian Empire.
Here a couple of examples: “I will pelt you with filth, I will treat you with contempt and make you a spectacle … Look at your troops—they are all weaklings.” Nahum would get a 15-yard personal foul penalty in the NFL for taunting with words like that.
But he was speaking to a people with a serious pride problem. Never before had a nation or empire expressed an attitude quite so bombastic as had the Assyrians. One of their kings wrote of himself, “I am Ashurbanipal, the great king, the mighty king, king of the universe, king of Assyria. The great gods magnified my name; they made my rule powerful.” Another named Esarhaddon said, “I am powerful, I am all powerful, I am a hero, I am gigantic, I am colossal, I am honored, I am magnified, I am without equal among all kings, the chosen one of Asshur, Nabu, and Marduk.” (Those final proper nouns were the names of Assyrian Gods.)
So, to get his message of the reality of the Assyrians’ certain coming destruction, Nahum resorts to Richard Sherman-style lingo. He even prophesies of the nature of their destruction – which would come by the rivers flooding and undercutting the city walls to allow access by the Medes and Babylonians. Nineveh was a sort of Fort Knox in terms of the stashes of silver and gold from all the conquered nations like Israel and Egypt. Nahum depicts the nasty battle and destruction, along with the wealth all being carried away. At the end of chapter three, he concludes with the statement that everyone everywhere would clap with pleasure at Assyria’s destruction, in that all people had felt the pain of their cruelty (like beheading masses of conquered people and stacking their heads in artistic pyramids – stuff like that!).
The Old Testament prophets contain repeated themes such as are seen in Nahum’s writing: that God and justice prevail in the end, that current riches and power are not necessarily the blessing of God, and that God would be faithful to his covenant promises to his own people and restore them. And in these themes are timeless truths for us as we live, almost as if in exile in uncharted territory, as strangers in a fallen world where injustice and evil often seem to prosper. Righteousness and truth prevail in the end, and we may have a part in that ultimate success through relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
Nahum Chapter 2
2:1 An attacker advances against you, Nineveh. Guard the fortress, watch the road, brace yourselves, marshal all your strength!
2 The Lord will restore the splendor of Jacob like the splendor of Israel, though destroyers have laid them waste and have ruined their vines.
3 The shields of the soldiers are red; the warriors are clad in scarlet. The metal on the chariots flashes on the day they are made ready; the spears of juniper are brandished.
4 The chariots storm through the streets, rushing back and forth through the squares. They look like flaming torches; they dart about like lightning.
5 Nineveh summons her picked troops, yet they stumble on their way. They dash to the city wall; the protective shield is put in place.
6 The river gates are thrown open and the palace collapses.
7 It is decreed that Nineveh be exiled and carried away. Her female slaves moan like doves and beat on their breasts.
8 Nineveh is like a pool whose water is draining away. “Stop! Stop!” they cry, but no one turns back.
9 Plunder the silver! Plunder the gold! The supply is endless, the wealth from all its treasures!
10 She is pillaged, plundered, stripped! Hearts melt, knees give way, bodies tremble, every face grows pale.
11 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?
12 The lion killed enough for his cubs and strangled the prey for his mate, filling his lairs with the kill and his dens with the prey.
13 “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.”
3:1 Woe to the city of blood, full of lies, full of plunder, never without victims!
2 The crack of whips, the clatter of wheels, galloping horses and jolting chariots!
3 Charging cavalry, flashing swords and glittering spears! Many casualties, piles of dead, bodies without number, people stumbling over the corpses—4 all because of the wanton lust of a prostitute, alluring, the mistress of sorceries, who enslaved nations by her prostitution and peoples by her witchcraft.
5 “I am against you,” declares the Lord Almighty. “I will lift your skirts over your face. I will show the nations your nakedness and the kingdoms your shame.
6 I will pelt you with filth, I will treat you with contempt and make you a spectacle.
7 All who see you will flee from you and say, ‘Nineveh is in ruins—who will mourn for her?’ Where can I find anyone to comfort you?”
8 Are you better than Thebes, situated on the Nile, with water around her? The river was her defense, the waters her wall.
9 Cush and Egypt were her boundless strength; Put and Libya were among her allies.
10 Yet she was taken captive and went into exile. Her infants were dashed to pieces at every street corner. Lots were cast for her nobles, and all her great men were put in chains.
11 You too will become drunk; you will go into hiding and seek refuge from the enemy.
12 All your fortresses are like fig trees with their first ripe fruit; when they are shaken, the figs fall into the mouth of the eater.
13 Look at your troops—they are all weaklings. The gates of your land are wide open to your enemies; fire has consumed the bars of your gates.
14 Draw water for the siege, strengthen your defenses! Work the clay, tread the mortar, repair the brickwork!
15 There the fire will consume you; the sword will cut you down—they will devour you like a swarm of locusts. Multiply like grasshoppers, multiply like locusts!
16 You have increased the number of your merchants till they are more numerous than the stars in the sky, but like locusts they strip the land and then fly away.
17 Your guards are like locusts, your officials like swarms of locusts that settle in the walls on a cold day—but when the sun appears they fly away, and no one knows where.
18 King of Assyria, your shepherds slumber; your nobles lie down to rest. Your people are scattered on the mountains with no one to gather them.
19 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?