NAHUM 1:1 – 3:19 and REVELATION 17:1–6
The name Nahum means “Comforter or Counsellor”. He was a contemporary prophet alongside Jeremiah and Zephaniah. He prophesied during the end of Manasseh’s reign in Judah as well as that of Ammon. He was also prophesying during the early stages of Josiah’s reign. His message is primarily directed at the capitol city of Nineveh which had not yet fallen. The major and minor prophets spoke concerning Israel or Judah and then the other nations. Nahum is primarily geared towards Nineveh and it is a message that speaks to any heathen nation that would come against Israel.
The Book of Nahum can be divided into three parts:
1) A Declaration of judgement (1:1-15)
2) The Siege and Destruction of Nineveh (2:1-13)
3) Description of Nineveh’s wickedness (3:1-19)
The book begins with the burden the Lord has for Nineveh by way of judgement. The city was given the opportunity to repent (and it did for a season) under the ministry of Jonah but it never totally turned from its evil and wicked ways as we shall see. Nahum is mentioned as being an Elkoshite. Apparently there was a place in Galilee known as Elkosh. It is a region that had been overrun on many occasions by the Assyrians. There is no doubt that Nahum had been affected on numerous occasions by their wickedness.
It is God who takes vengeance upon His enemies and He does so at a timing of His choosing. The Apostle Paul brings this out in Hebrews 10:30. We tend to be quick in wanting to see justice but we must trust in God and in His timetable for vengeance upon the wicked. The Lord’s act in exerting vengeance upon Nineveh is qualified by the earlier examples of His longsuffering and mercy. Nahum 1:3 is pretty much a direct quotation from Exo 34:6-7. It was here where Moses had a revelation of the mercy and long-suffering attributes of God. This revelation helped to prepare Him to be the priest and leader that he was called to be. The mercy of God had already been seen in the sending of Jonah to the capitol city. God now had to judge them due to their turning back to their ways of wickedness after their earlier season of repentance. The cup of iniquity upon Assyria was stayed for a season due to their repenting under the preaching of Jonah. Their return to wickedness renewed the filling up of their cup. The same is true for the nations of the earth today. A mighty move of God can spark a nationwide repentance which then stays the hand of God from judgement. If a nation continues to seek the face of God His mercies will then hold true. When looking at America we see that its origins were founded upon a godly seed. There may well be a resurgence of America in future but not until it goes through a period of desolations. The sins for which America is guilty of cannot go unpunished, yet there is the anchoring hope of Restoration.
The descriptions of what will take place in Nineveh are given in verses 5-6. The mountains will quake and the earth will burn. This is also a picture of what will come upon other heathen nations who either came against Israel or those who gloated in their distress. It can also be applied to what the future battle at Armageddon will look like.
A comforting message in the midst of God’s wrath is given in verse 7. God will be a refuge for those who trust Him in the midst of their trouble. This will also be true during the time of the tribulation. The Lord then places His focus back on the totality of destruction that will come upon the Assyrians by way of the Babylonians (vs 8-9). A characteristic that will be seen amongst the Assyrians at the time of their judgement will be the spirit of drunkenness. You often see this at the downfall of empires. The Babylonian kingdom fell in one night during a drunken gathering which involved Belshazzar and his men (Daniel 5).
The Lord seems to target a particular Assyrian King in verse 11. There were many that were evil but Sennacherib was by far the worst. He was the king in power at the time of the planned Assyrian assault upon Judah under the reign of King Hezekiah. The Lord moved against the Assyrians in totality in two different events. The first was when God sent His angel to slay 185,000 men in one night at the time of Hezekiah. The second would be when Nineveh ultimately fell in 612 BC. The capitol city of Nineveh is the primary focus of Nahum’s prophesy. Finally, in verse 16 there is the charge to keep the solemn feasts. Does this have meaning for us today? Yes, but not in the manner that Israel of old would celebrate them. Each of the feasts represents an experience that every believer should be appropriating. It begins with Passover (Salvation) and ends with Tabernacles. (Inhabiting Zion) It is the message of the 7 feasts that leads a believer into holiness. Each of them must be exercised which includes the 6th feast of Atonement. This is the feast that many in the church choose to neglect because it deals with the root issue of sin (Lev 23:29).
The actual events regarding the siege of Nineveh are covered in this chapter. The Word of the Lord in verse 1 is directed to the Babylonians who have been given the charge to destroy Nineveh and the remainder of the Assyrians. In verses 2-6 we see the means by which the Babylonians were able to come against the Assyrians. The Babylonians are in their element now as God uses them as his instrument of wrath upon Nineveh. The time will come when the Babylonians will be destroyed by the Medes and Persians in a very similar way. This is why we are to never gloat in anyone else’s misfortune. We can make our self to be vulnerable to the same things if we are not careful. This has happened over and over in the downfall of ministers. Instead of taking a priestly approach by grieving and spending time in prayer we spend time talking down the wrong committed by the offender. Yes, we are to uphold truth and to present it in wisdom to a congregation. At the same time we always need to allow the sword to be directed towards our own heart while taking on the posture of humility towards the offender (vs 2-6).
The queen of Assyria is named (Huzzab) who was going to be led away into captivity along with her maids (vs 7). It will be a time of mass confusion as they seek to escape the coming calamity (vs 8). There was great wealth amongst the monarchy as seen in verse 9. They (The Assyrians) had extensive holdings in gold and silver. Still, we see in verse 10 just how impoverished the Assyrians became. The description of the desolations to come upon Nineveh is very similar to what King Belshazzar experienced when he saw the hand writing upon the wall. He lost control of his faculties which is what will soon happen to Nineveh. At one time the Assyrians were likened to lions that feared no man or foe. They would not back down as seen through the life and times of Sennacherib. The decree of the Lord is clearly upon Nineveh and absolutely nothing can stop Him now.
If the description of God’s hand upon Nineveh was not enough from the previous chapter the Lord even adds more here. It speaks of the absolute revulsion God had for the Assyrians. The description given in the first 3 verses is one of absolute slaughter. The Babylonians will rush into the city and slay the men of Nineveh in an all-out massacre. When a nation is given over to drunkenness and immorality you will often find that they indulge in witchcraft and Spiritism. Once again there will be a similar breakdown seen in the Babylonians when their date with destiny is due. Is it any wonder that these same vices are prominent in our world today? This is the fruit of lawlessness resulting in the voiding of God’s laws and commandments. It is this lawlessness that enables the cup of iniquity to become full. One gets the sense today that the cup is quickly filling to the brim.
The desolation to Nineveh will have others looking on in fear and bewilderment. It is a similar picture to the Babylon of the last days when the time of her wrath comes upon her. It is also a picture of what the fall of Lucifer in the end will be like as seen in the following verse from Isaiah.
Isa 14:16 They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms;
There is a season when wickedness and the purveyors of wickedness seem to be on top of the world. They seem infallible and immune to any form of defeat or demise. There is a set timing for their destruction and when it happens it is thorough and complete. As believers we must always seek to have the big picture; to have the ability to see things as God sees them. This fresh perspective will change everything in how we live. It will help for faith to arise so that we can live above the circumstantial elements of today. In verses 8-10 the Lord addresses the pride of those in Nineveh. The Assyrians had dominance for a period of 700 years in city called Thebes, which was a royal city of the Pharaohs located alongside the Nile. The Lord overthrew them and was soon to overthrow the city of Nineveh. We have to pay close attention to many of our churches today because there can be that “empire mentality” that can creep in. The Lord will always test the foundations to see what is at the root. If there is iniquity, compromise or concealed sin it will one day collapse. The Lord gives opportunity to repent and is long-suffering in His approach to the church and even to heathen nations. He sent Jonah to Nineveh with a warning of destruction. They heard and repented but did not follow through in the long run. They returned to their iniquity soon thereafter. The Word of the Lord is now being pronounced against Nineveh once again.
It would be the spirit of drunkenness and fear that would bring down Nineveh (vs 11-13). The men would become like women in the midst of the Babylonian assault making them no match against their attackers. It would not matter the preparations and precautions the Assyrians would take against the Babylonians due to their sentence having gone forth from the Lord. There is no escape and there is no remedy (vs 14-18). There are eternal warnings to glean from this message to Nineveh. It was at one time a powerful nation; a nation that stood proud and strong for many years has now come to a bloody end. This event took place over 2700 years ago and Nineveh has never risen again since. This example serves as a reminder of what eternity is like. The deception of invincible power during this brief time on earth will lead to eternal torment and regret. This is not just a message to the heathen but to all of us in the church. The Assyrians were a people who boasted and overflowed in abominable pride. It was pride that served as the catalyst for Lucifer’s rebellion in heaven. One of the primary messages we should be taking away from this message is to learn to embrace humility. It will help ensure that we walk in the Fear of the Lord and to keep us in close alignment to God and His Ways. We do not want to see our churches today to become “spiritualized Nineveh’s”.
We now come to the judgment of the great whore which is depicted in verses 17-18 and 19:1-5. When reading through the Word of God you often find contrasts that help to portray the good versus the evil. This is true concerning the picture of a woman. There is the virtuous woman and you have the woman who is portrayed as a whore. Here we have a woman likened to a whore who portrays the false church. Here in chapter 17 we see a false church or we can say a false religious system. John is first going to be shown this false church characterized by a woman likened to a whore. John will then be showed the woman who becomes the Lamb’s wife. It will be the same angel who will show John these two contrasting women.
In verse 2 the woman (system) is shown to be one who sits upon many waters who has had an effect upon many of the kings of the earth. This woman has infected other nations by its sin through immorality, idolatry and other forms of filth. The woman that is depicted in verse 3-6 is the false religious system that has its roots in Babel; the ancient city in Genesis whose founder was Nimrod. Interestingly, the name Babel is interpreted to mean “gate of God”. Is this not what Nimrod was trying to penetrate (Gen 11:1-6)? There are many speculations as to what this woman represents. Is it a city, is it a system or is it a church? The subsequent verses will help answer that question but I do believe this “whore” is pointing to a church system. There will be the judging of another Babylon to come which will we will see in chapter 18. We must understand that there are two Babylon’s being addressed in Revelation 17 and 18. There is “Mystery Babylon” which is covered in chapter 17 and then there is a literal city of Babylon covered in chapter 18. We need to appreciate the fact that there can be dual fulfilments and applications in many of the verses seen in these two chapters.
We have consistently made the point that the message of Babylon is threaded throughout the whole of the Word of God, from Genesis to Revelation. The mystery Babylon of Revelation 17 will point to a city which we will soon see. The Babylon of chapter 18 will also point to a city but there are the systems that Babylon represents that will also have to be addressed. We are looking at Babylon at the end of the church age. The cup of her iniquity is now ripe so the judgements to come are full.
We have a bit of a clue to who Mystery Babylon may be as we look at verse 6. It is a system or church that has considerable blood on its hands. It is a church that has brought about martyrdom for many saints through the years of its existence. Its identity will be soon forthcoming.
The angel that was presenting this vision to John is now going to unveil the identity of both the woman and the beast. The beast has on his head 7 heads and 10 horns. The angel begins with giving some clues regarding the beast. John was shown a beast who “was” meaning that he had once lived. The description goes on to say that the beast “is not” meaning that he is no longer alive during the days of John. Finally, this beast will again arise and lead many into perdition. This means he is a man who once lived before John, was dead at the time of John and will arise to come on the scene at this climatic juncture in time. The antichrist has to be a man who once lived before the Apostle John. The question we now ask is whether he can be identified? He will ascend out of the bottomless pit as a false Christ while the true Christ descends from heaven. He will be recognizable to those whose hearts are in alignment with God. Let us not forget the example of Judas at the time of the last supper. He was the one whom Satan was able to enter into and no one but the Lord could discern him. It was the Apostle John who received the revelation of who the betrayer would be. It is the Apostle John now being given the Revelation of a much bigger picture. This man will rise from the dead which in turn will captivate the world. He will be able to garner a large gathering of people unto himself.
The angel now turns John’s attention towards the woman in verse 9. The 7 heads that are atop the head of the beasts are 7 mountains or hills that this woman sits upon. The city built upon 7 hills has always been rendered as being Rome. It was Rome that was still in power at the time of John. This city of Rome has been likened to “drinking the blood” of the saints and martyrs. This is a futuristic statement that John is relating seeing that this city and the church that is supported by Rome will be involved in many significant massacres. There will be a renewing of such atrocities in this particular woman or church as the days to this age closes. I feel it is safe to say that the pope will figure prominently as well.
In verses 10-11 there is the mention of 7 kings, 5 of which have already fallen before the days of John. The beast will come forth from one of the 7 heads that are represented but in reality will actually be the 8th. How do we substantiate this? We also know that the antichrist will have to be from one of the 5 kingdoms that proceeded Rome. The beast is described as having feet like a bear which would speak of Persia when looking at Daniel 7. He is also likened to a lion which would speak of Babylon as well as a body that would speak of Greece. The point of this is to say that these 7 heads represent nations that have adversely affected Israel through the time of their existence. These nations would be Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, and the 10 kings which represent the resurrected Roman Empire. The Beast (antichrist) will be the 8th king or the 11th horn when taking into account Daniel 7:8, 11, 20, and 21.
In verse 12 there are 10 horns which are explained as being 10 kings who do not have any kingdom as yet but will receive power with the Beast. These 10 kings are identified further through Daniel 7:23-24. The Beast comes after these 10 kings are in place. They will later seek to make war with the Lamb but they will not be able to prevail against Him. This is the picture of the Lord’s return at the time of the 2nd coming. There is a further description given of these saints as being those who are called, chosen and faithful. This is an important portion of the verse because it denotes three levels of Christian development. One of the best examples in being able to break down these three levels of spiritual growth is to examine the 3 stages of Moses life. Moses lived to be 120 years old and his life can be broken down into 3 (40) year segments. His first 40 years was in Egypt and it was there where he sensed his burden and call to be the deliverer on behalf of Israel (Heb 11:25). He asserted leadership in the slaying of the Egyptian who was fighting a Jew. He was rejected by the people he felt called to deliver while being on the hit list of Pharaoh and Egypt. This introduced him to the land of Midian which we can characterize as his “chosen” years. This 40 year period was a training and proving time for Moses. He was in obscurity, being hidden for a day when God would lift him up into the fullness of ministry. When he met the Lord at the burning bush he entered the “faithful” stage of his walk. The last 40 years saw him as God’s faithful witness and leader. He received the Law from God while seeking to teach it and live by it. Remember, many are called but only few are chosen (Math 22:14). It then narrows further down to those who are actually faithful. May God help for us to be among them.
In verse 15 the attention is again brought back to the whore. It is clear that this church has had great influence. This mystery Babylon has touched every area of the world and is not only responsible for many deaths but for sending countless multitudes to hell. In verse 16 this mystery Babylon is going to meet its end. It will be the beast with the 10 kings that will lead a siege against Rome. These 10 nations are emerging in our world today through various means of terrorism. The antichrist will have ability to martial these forces and bring them to Rome to do their work of destruction. It is God allowing for this to happen for all the blood that has been shed from the beginning of time. If one were to do some historical research one would be able to trace Nimrod to modern day Rome. In other words the Church of Rome can be traced back to Genesis 10. The mystery woman of Revelation 17 is clearly identified in the last verse. That great city has to be none other than Rome.