SOURCE FOR QUESTIONS
Nahum 1:1 through 3:19
Zephaniah 1:1 through 3:20
KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger.” (Zephaniah 2:3)
The Book of Nahum deals with God’s punishment of the enemies of Judah, and the consequent good news for the people of God. The prophecy is fairly narrow in scope, focusing on the destruction of Nineveh that would occur in the year 612 B.C. The exact date is difficult to determine, but the prophecy was given sometime after the year 663 B.C., when the Egyptian city of Thebes fell to the Assyrians. Nahum compared Nineveh to Thebes (the city of No mentioned in Nahum 3:8-10). He recounted the seeming invincibility and sad destruction of that city and then predicted that a similar fate awaited Nineveh. The first chapter describes the holy character of God the Judge; the second chapter describes Nineveh’s fall; and the third chapter explains why the city would fall.
Zephaniah prophesied sometime during the reign of a good king of Judah, Josiah, probably between 640 and 621 B.C. (Zephaniah 1:1). However, Josiah followed two of the most wicked kings of Judah (Manasseh and Amon), so the nation of Judah was in a low moral state when Zephaniah prophesied. His prophecy may have played a crucial role in the moral reforms that King Josiah implemented, although after Josiah was killed in battle, Judah lapsed once more into sinful behavior. In chapter 1, the prophet declared that judgment would come to Judah and, in chapter 2, to the Gentile nations surrounding it. Chapter 3 brings out that God will extend mercy and restoration in the last days, and there will be a time of rejoicing.
The destruction of Nineveh that both Nahum and Zephaniah predicted was so complete that many modern people doubted the existence of the city until archeologists discovered its ruins, with great difficulty, in the 19th century.
- The two original primary audiences for Nahum’s prophecy were the nation of Assyria (whose capital city was Nineveh), and the nation of Judah, which had been oppressed by the Assyrians. Nahum prophesied the destruction of the great city of Nineveh, which was utterly destroyed by the Babylonians in 612 B.C. Read chapter 1 of Nahum’s prophecy. How would you feel if you were an Assyrian hearing this prophecy? How would you feel if you were a person from the land of Judah?
- Nahum began his prophecy with a description of God in Nahum 1:2-7. What can we learn about God’s nature and attributes from these verses? How should knowing these attributes impact our behavior and attitude toward Him?
- What were God’s intentions for Assyria, and why? Nahum 1:9,14; 2:13; 3:19
- In chapter 3, Nahum spelled out a number of the specific sins of the Ninevites that were the reason for the judgment pronounced upon them. What were these sins? (Nahum 3:1, 4, 19) In what ways are the sins of the Ninevites evident in our society today?
- Unlike Nahum’s prophecy, which focused almost exclusively on the destruction of Nineveh, the prophecy of Zephaniah foretold the destruction of Judah (Zephaniah 1) and the Gentile nations surrounding Judah (Zephaniah 2). What Gentile nations were named? (Zephaniah 2:4-15) What do you think is indicated by the fact that nations to the west, east, south, and north of Judah were all mentioned?
- In Zephaniah 1:12-13 the prophet said that God would punish those who were “settled on their lees,” a phrase which meant they were at ease, or apathetic. Why was this attitude worthy of God’s punishment?
- Although Zephaniah’s prophecy of destruction was much broader than Nahum’s prophecy, it also held out more hope for the redemption of the Gentile nations. What does God promise in Zephaniah 2:3, 3:9, and 3:13?
- Zephaniah 3:14 commands, “Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem.” Why would the prophet ask the people of Judah to rejoice after pronouncing the coming wrath of God upon Judah and all the nations? (Zephaniah 3:15)
- What do the prophecies of Nahum and Zephaniah teach us about the way we should live our lives?
The prophecies of Nahum and Zephaniah were fulfilled in part when Nineveh was ransacked in the year 612 B.C. and when Judah fell to Babylon in the year 586 B.C. However, the ominous world-wide “day of the Lord” prophesied by Zephaniah, and the universal worship of the Lord which is to follow this time of trouble, has not yet come to pass.