Oppression Will End
THE record of oppression that humankind has made for itself is indeed shocking. Countless millions have suffered. Especially have wars of conquest been the source of misery. Besides the direct loss of life resulting from such conflicts, the famines and pestilences accompanying war have taken a heavy toll in lives. Do you not yearn for the day when oppression and its attendant suffering will be no more?
There is One higher than men who has decreed an end to all oppression in his due time. Yes, the Almighty God Jehovah is fully aware of the shameful record that men and nations have made. His past dealings with individuals and peoples guarantee that he will hold an accounting. In fact, the kind of God that he is makes it necessary for him to act. His Word tells us: “Jehovah is a God exacting exclusive devotion and taking vengeance; Jehovah is taking vengeance and is disposed to rage. Jehovah is taking vengeance against his adversaries, and he is resentful toward his enemies. Jehovah is slow to anger and great in power, and by no means will Jehovah hold back from punishing.”—Nah. 1:2, 3.
These words form part of Nahum’s prophetic pronouncement against Nineveh, the capital of ancient Assyria. Since Jehovah God is unchanging in his standards, the historical record regarding the destruction of Nineveh assures us that oppression will not last indefinitely. (Mal. 3:6) Additionally, for lovers of righteousness, there is nothing to fear from a day of reckoning. Nahum’s prophecy provides this encouragement: “Jehovah is good, a stronghold in the day of distress. And he is cognizant of those seeking refuge in him.” (Nah. 1:7) Therefore, our examining Nahum’s prophecy can be most faith-strengthening.
NINEVEH ‘ENSNARES NATIONS’
The prophet referred to Nineveh as a “city of bloodshed.” (Nah. 3:1) Its warriors were like lions tearing apart prey, that is, the weaker peoples and nations. (Nah. 2:11-13) In the seventh century B.C.E., when Nahum prophesied, the Assyrians were the terror of the Middle East. To inspire fear, they were especially cruel toward those refusing to meet their demands. Captives of war might be burned or skinned alive. Many were blinded or led with cords attached to hooks piercing the nose or lips.
Even the kingdom of Judah did not escape suffering at the hands of the Assyrians. Ahaz unwisely appealed to King Tiglath-pileser (Tilgath-pilneser) for aid against a coalition of the kingdoms of Israel and Syria. Although the Assyrians smashed the power of this coalition, Judah did not really benefit. Ahaz came to be at the mercy of his powerful and demanding ally. The Bible reports: “Tilgath-pilneser the king of Assyria came against him and caused him distress, and did not strengthen him. For Ahaz stripped the house of Jehovah and the house of the king and of the princes and thus made a gift to the king of Assyria; but it was of no assistance to him.”—2 Ki. 16:5-9; 2 Chron. 28:20, 21.
In the hope of maintaining a measure of independence, other nations were similarly drawn into alliances with Assyria. But such alliances only resulted in their being faced with Assyrian oppression and loss of freedom. Because the alliances promised much in the way of help and protection but eventually led to painful experiences, Nineveh is spoken of as a prostitute “ensnaring nations.” (Nah. 3:4) Her offers of friendship were appealing. But woe to the nation that accepted them!
When Hezekiah, the son and royal successor of Ahaz, tried to cast off the Assyrian yoke, King Sennacherib invaded the kingdom of Judah, seizing one fortified city after another. Only divine intervention saved Jerusalem from destruction. Jehovah’s angel struck down 185,000 of the Assyrian host, forcing Sennacherib to give up plans for laying siege to the city.—2 Ki. 18:13; 19:32-36.
NINEVEH’S END FORETOLD
The Assyrian invasions of Judah interfered with agricultural operations and travel to the yearly festivals held at the temple in Jerusalem. What relief, therefore, the fall of Nineveh would bring! Anticipating this, the prophet Nahum was inspired to state: “Look! Upon the mountains the feet of one bringing good news, one publishing peace. O Judah, celebrate your festivals. Pay your vows; because no more will any good-for-nothing person pass again through you. In his entirety he will certainly be cut off.”—Nah. 1:15.
What could Nineveh expect on the day of her calamity? The prophet Nahum describes the city under siege. In vain does Assyria’s king look to his “majestic ones,” his powerful military men, for protection. (Nah. 2:5) Defenders of the city would be like weak women. The prophecy challenges Nineveh: “Water for a siege draw out for yourself. Strengthen your fortified places. Get into the mire, and trample down in the clay; grab hold of the brick mold.” Nevertheless, all efforts to strengthen the city’s defenses would prove to be useless. The prophecy continues: “Even there fire will devour you. A sword will cut you off.”—Nah. 3:13-15.
Nineveh had been “like a pool of waters” into which peoples and the riches of the nations flowed. “But,” says Nahum, “they are fleeing. ‘Stand still, you men! Stand still!’ But there is no one turning back.” (Nah. 2:8) Thus, the peoples who had profited from Nineveh would escape in all directions. Cries for them to remain to help the city would fall on deaf ears. Enormous stores of silver and gold would come into the hands of the plundering conquerors.—Nah. 2:9.
That the “city of bloodshed” would suffer such a fate may have seemed unbelievable to many. However, the foretold event was not without historical precedent. Nahum called attention to this with the words: “Are you better than No-amon, that was sitting by the Nile canals? Waters were all around her, whose wealth was the sea, whose wall was from the sea. Ethiopia was her full might, also Egypt; and that without limit. Put and the Libyans themselves proved to be of assistance to you. She, too, was meant for exile; she went into captivity. Her own children also came to be dashed to pieces at the head of all the streets; and over her glorified men they cast lots, and her great ones have all been bound with fetters.”—Nah. 3:8-10.
The Assyrians knew well what had befallen No-amon, or Thebes. Their armies, under the command of King Ashurbanipal, had razed Thebes to the ground. The city’s “wall”—her defenses, including the Nile and its canals—had failed. Even the military support of the Ethiopians, Libyans and the men of Put had not been able to save Thebes.
Nothing could save Nineveh either. She had made such a bad record for herself through her wars and alliances that her fall would be greeted with jubilation. “All those hearing the report about you,” wrote Nahum, “will certainly clap their hands at you; because upon whom was it that your badness did not pass over constantly?”—Nah. 3:19.
In fulfillment of Nahum’s prophecy, Nineveh fell to the combined forces of Babylonian King Nabopolassar and Cyaxares the Mede in 632 B.C.E. The Babylonian Chronicles state: “The great spoil of the city and temple they carried off and [turned] the city into a ruin-mound.”
Today the site of ancient Nineveh is still a desolate ruin, vindicating the God of true prophecy, Jehovah. Just as oppressive Nineveh came to nothing, so will all oppressors in the fast-approaching “war of the great day of God the Almighty.” (Rev. 16:14) What grand relief this will bring! May we then be found among those who are seeking refuge in the Supreme Sovereign.