The book of Jonah is well-known because Jonah spent time in the belly of a fish for three days (Jonah 1:17). He wound up there as punishment for running from God because he did not want to preach to Nineveh (Jonah 1:1-3, 12). After the fish vomited Jonah up, he preached to the people, they repented, and God withheld His wrath (Jonah 3).
People are far less likely to have heard of or read the book of the prophet Nahum. Nahum lived anywhere from 90-150 years after the events of Jonah. Although God sent Nahum to preach to Nineveh like Jonah (Nahum 1:1), this time it was not a warning to repent.
The book is short and filled with quick, direct words from God regarding His character and Nineveh’s coming destruction. The warning from God comes most directly in Nahum 2:13, “Behold, I am against you, declares the LORD of hosts, and I will burn your chariots in smoke, and the sword shall devour your young lions. I will cut off your prey from the earth, and the voice of your messengers shall no longer be heard.”
Then the aftermath of God’s wrath is recorded in chapter 3. When reading the chapter, you can see the destruction in striking poetry (Nahum 3:2-4). The most sobering word are the final two verses of the book:
Your shepherds are asleep, O king of Assyria; your nobles slumber. Your people are scattered on the mountains with none to gather them. There is no easing your hurt; your wound is grievous. All who hear the news about you clap their hands over you. For upon whom has not come your unceasing evil? (Nahum 3:18–19)
The message is clear: there is no call to repent; there is no hope for Nineveh. The ancestors of the citizens heard God’s warning and changed, but at some point, they went back. By Nahum’s time, Nineveh had grown into the capital of the powerful Assyrian Empire through large scale massacres, cruelty, torture, and unseen levels of destruction. They were an example of 2 Peter 2:22, “What the true proverb says has happened to them: ‘The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.’”
The people may have thought that God would warn them again like He did in the past, but Nahum makes clear the importance of understanding the full character of God. He is slow to anger and great in power, but at the same time, He will by no means clear the guilty (Nahum 1:3). Paul later echoes this when he says that we should not presume on God’s mercy because it is meant to lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4).
The Bible is full of examples of God’s mercy that leads to repentance and revival, only to see the people fall away. If we routinely fall back into sin and presume God’s grace, it may be a sign that we have not yet come to faith in Christ. How have you responded to
many mercies God has shown you, especially the gift of Jesus for your sins? If you have not yet trusted Jesus for your salvation, do not presume on God’s unending mercy. Ask God for the faith to trust Him, acknowledge your sin, receive Jesus, and live (Nahum 1:7).