The Minor Prophets are for hipsters. You know, the more obscure books that you probably haven’t heard of. Not like Isaiah and Jeremiah which are so mainstream. Well for the next six weeks I’m challenging myself and my adult Sunday school class at Graystone EPC to read and discuss several of the Minor Prophets. These are books that many of us have never read in their entirety and that receive little teaching time. If you’re interested in joining us or want to read/reread some biblical books this summer (I personally recommend listening to it read aloud on a Bible app), I’ll be sharing simplified summaries of historical context and some thoughts and questions on how these books can offer us conviction and insight today.
Let’s start with Nahum! This prophet is one of three prophets (joined by Jonah and Obadiah) who address their discourse to Gentile nations rather than the Israelites. Nahum is writing in Judah (the southern kingdom, retaining the capitol Jerusalem and the Temple) to Nineveh, the Assyrian capitol, around 663BC. The northern kingdom (they claimed the name Israel) went off the rails first and as a result of their rampant and prolonged idolatry, fell to Assyria in 722BC. The Assyrians were the world power at the time and were oppressing their vassal nations for their resources and workforces. Jonah had been reluctantly sent about 100 years prior and the people repented at that time, but they gradually fell away from following God.
As Nahum is writing Judah has been living in the shadow of Assyria for nearly 60 years and the Assyrians are stronger than ever. Nineveh would not fall to Babylon until 612BC when they were utterly wiped out. Meanwhile, Assyria is at the height of their empire, and had put down Hezekiah’s rebellion about 40 years earlier. Then comes this upstart prophet, speaking in a form of war poetry against a city of violence, greed and lust. They seem unstoppable, making Nahum’s prophecy seem preposterous and impossible. Judah is a vassal kingdom paying heavy tribute to Assyria so it sounds like very good news to an oppressed people, even if it feels far-fetched.
(For the record, archaeological study has supported Nahum’s prophecy with remarkable accuracy.)
Take 10-15 minutes to read through Joel. For additional context and themes, check out the Bible Project’s animated commentary
As you read through this short book, consider these application questions:
God gave this people an opportunity to escape judgment and receive His mercy through Jonah’s preaching. The people responded positively at the time but it clearly didn’t stick. What would have contributed to Nineveh forgetting?
When we think about global powers today, in many ways the US is the dominant “empire” that has the most resources and infrastructure. If we’re the world super power, how are we stewarding that? Who are our “vassal kingdoms” that we benefit from, and who we risk exploiting? Where do we need to repent?
What would it be like to read this as an oppressed people group? How might this bring comfort to oppressed and terrorized Christians around the world?
When we consider the timeline, it took 50 years before Nahum’s prophecy would come to pass. When do you find it hard to wait for God to act and intercede in the injustices in the world? How might this book give you hope and patience?
Other Minor Prophets study guides (in chronological order):