Jehovah’s Word Is Alive
Highlights From the Books of Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah
THE Assyrian world power has already devastated Samaria, the capital of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel. Assyria has also long been a menace to Judah. The prophet Nahum of Judah has a word regarding the Assyrian capital, Nineveh. Composed before 632 B.C.E., the Bible book of Nahum contains that message.
The next power to rise is the Babylonian Empire, sometimes ruled by Chaldean kings. The book of Habakkuk, perhaps completed in 628 B.C.E., foretells how Jehovah will use that world power as his agent for executing judgment and what will eventually befall Babylon.
The prophet Zephaniah of Judah predates both Nahum and Habakkuk. Prophesying more than 40 years before the destruction of Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E., he proclaims a message of both doom and hope for Judah. The Bible book of Zephaniah also contains pronouncements against other nations.
“WOE TO THE CITY OF BLOODSHED”
“The pronouncement against Nineveh” is from Jehovah God, who is “slow to anger and great in power.” Although Jehovah is “a stronghold in the day of distress” to those seeking refuge in him, Nineveh is to be destroyed.—Nahum 1:1, 3, 7.
“Jehovah will certainly gather [restore] the pride of Jacob.” Like ‘the lion tearing to pieces,’ however, Assyria has terrorized the nation of God’s people. Jehovah “will burn up [Nineveh’s] war chariot in the smoke. And a sword will devour [her] own maned young lions.” (Nahum 2:2, 12, 13) “Woe to the city of bloodshed”—Nineveh. “All those hearing the report about [her] will certainly clap their hands” and rejoice.—Nahum 3:1, 19.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
1:9—What will “an outright extermination” of Nineveh mean for Judah? It will mean permanent relief from Assyria; “distress will not rise up a second time.” Speaking as if Nineveh were no more, Nahum writes: “Look! Upon the mountains the feet of one bringing good news, one publishing peace. O Judah, celebrate your festivals.”—Nahum 1:15.
2:6—What “gates of the rivers” were opened? These gates referred to the opening made in the walls of Nineveh by the waters of the Tigris River. In 632 B.C.E. when the joint forces of the Babylonians and the Medes came up against Nineveh, she did not feel particularly threatened. Secure behind her high walls, she considered herself to be an impenetrable city. However, heavy rains caused the Tigris to overflow. According to historian Diodorus, this “both inundated a portion of the city and broke down the walls for a distance.” The river gates were thus opened, and as foretold, Nineveh was taken as quickly as fire devours dry stubble.—Nahum 1:8-10.
3:4—How was Nineveh like a prostitute? Nineveh deceived nations by promising them friendship and help but actually bringing upon them the yoke of oppression. For example, Assyria gave Judean King Ahaz some help against the Syro-Israelite conspiracy. Eventually, though, “the king of Assyria came against [Ahaz] and caused him distress.”—2 Chronicles 28:20.
Lessons for Us:
1:10. Massive walls with hundreds of towers did not prevent the fulfillment of Jehovah’s word against Nineveh. The enemies of Jehovah’s people today will not be able to escape God’s adverse judgments.—Proverbs 2:22; Daniel 2:44.
‘THE RIGHTEOUS ONE WILL KEEP LIVING’
The first two chapters of the book of Habakkuk are a dialogue between the prophet and Jehovah God. Distressed over what is taking place in Judah, Habakkuk asks God: “Why is it that you make me see what is hurtful, and you keep looking upon mere trouble?” In reply, Jehovah says: “I am raising up the Chaldeans, the nation bitter and impetuous.” The prophet expresses surprise that God would use “those dealing treacherously” to punish Judah. (Habakkuk 1:3, 6, 13) Habakkuk is assured that the righteous one will keep living, but the enemy will not escape punishment. Moreover, Habakkuk records five woes to be taken up against the Chaldean foe.—Habakkuk 2:4.
In a prayer for mercy, Habakkuk recounts “in dirges” such past demonstrations of Jehovah’s awesome power as those at the Red Sea, in the wilderness, and at Jericho. The prophet also foretells the marching forth of Jehovah with destructive anger at Armageddon. The prayer concludes with the words: “Jehovah the Sovereign Lord is my vital energy; and he will make my feet like those of the hinds, and upon my high places he will cause me to tread.”—Habakkuk 3:1, 19.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
1:5, 6—Why might the raising up of the Chaldeans against Jerusalem have seemed unbelievable to the Jews? By the time Habakkuk began prophesying, Judah had come under the powerful influence of Egypt. (2 Kings 23:29, 30, 34) Although the Babylonians were on the rise, their army had not yet defeated Pharaoh Necho. (Jeremiah 46:2) Moreover, Jehovah’s temple was in Jerusalem, and the Davidic dynasty had ruled uninterrupted from there. To the Jews back then, God’s “activity” of allowing the Chaldeans to destroy Jerusalem would appear unthinkable. Regardless of how unbelievable Habakkuk’s words may have sounded to them, though, the vision about Jerusalem’s destruction by the Babylonians ‘without fail came true’ in 607 B.C.E.—Habakkuk 2:3.
2:5—Who is the “able-bodied man,” and why “will [he] not reach his goal”? The Babylonians, who used their military prowess to conquer nations, were a composite “able-bodied man.” The taste of victory made him like someone intoxicated with wine. He would not succeed in gathering to himself all the nations, however, because Jehovah would use the Medes and the Persians to cause his fall. The modern-day composite “man” is made up of political powers. He too is drunk with self-assurance and self-importance and has an insatiable appetite for expansion. But he does not reach his goal of “gathering to himself all the nations.” Only God’s Kingdom will unite mankind.—Matthew 6:9, 10.
Lessons for Us:
2:1. Like Habakkuk, we should remain spiritually alert and active. We should also be ready to adjust our thinking in line with any “reproof,” or correction, we may receive.
2:6, 7, 9, 12, 15, 19. Woe is certain upon the one who is greedy of dishonest gain, loving violence, practicing immorality, or engaging in idolatry. We must be on guard to avoid these traits and practices.
2:11. If we fail to expose the wickedness of this world, “a stone itself will cry out plaintively.” It is important that we courageously keep on preaching the Kingdom message!
3:6. Nothing will be able to stand in the way of Jehovah when he executes his judgment, not even human organizations that seem as permanent as the mountains and the hills.
3:13. We have the assurance that the destruction at Armageddon will not be random. Jehovah will save his faithful servants.
3:17-19. Even though hardship may befall us before and during Armageddon, we can be confident that Jehovah will supply us with “vital energy” as we joyfully continue serving him.
“THE DAY OF JEHOVAH IS NEAR”
Baal worship runs rampant in Judah. Jehovah says through his prophet Zephaniah: “I will stretch out my hand against Judah and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” Zephaniah warns: “The day of Jehovah is near.” (Zephaniah 1:4, 7, 14) Only those meeting God’s requirements will “be concealed” in that day.—Zephaniah 2:3.
“Woe to . . . the oppressive city”—Jerusalem! “‘Keep yourselves in expectation of me,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘till the day of my rising up to the booty, for my judicial decision is to gather nations . . . in order to pour out upon them my denunciation.’” But God promises: “I shall make you people to be a name and a praise among all the peoples of the earth, when I gather back your captive ones before your eyes.”—Zephaniah 3:1, 8, 20.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
2:13, 14—Whose “voice will keep singing” in completely desolated Nineveh? Since Nineveh was to become a place for wild animals and birds, the voice that would keep singing refers to birdsong and possibly to the sound of the wind in the windows of deserted buildings.
3:9—What is the “pure language,” and how is it spoken? It is the truth of God found in his Word, the Bible. It includes all Bible teachings. We speak it by believing the truth, by correctly teaching it to others, and by living in harmony with God’s will.
Lessons for Us:
1:8. Some in Zephaniah’s day were apparently seeking the acceptance of surrounding nations by “wearing foreign attire.” How foolish it would be for Jehovah’s worshippers today to try to conform to the world by similar means!
1:12; 3:5, 16. Jehovah kept sending his prophets to warn his people of his judicial decisions. He did so even though—like dregs congealed at the bottom of a wine vat—many Jews had settled down and were apathetic toward the message. As Jehovah’s great day nears, instead of allowing the indifferent attitude of people to cause ‘our hands to drop down’ in slackness, we need to keep on declaring the Kingdom message without letup.
2:3. Only Jehovah can save us in the day of his anger. To remain in his favor, we need to “seek Jehovah” by carefully studying his Word, the Bible; prayerfully asking for his guidance; and drawing close to him. We must “seek righteousness” by living a morally clean life. And we need to “seek meekness” by cultivating a meek and submissive attitude.
2:4-15; 3:1-5. On the day of the execution of Jehovah’s judgment, Christendom and all the nations, which have oppressed God’s people, will meet the same end as did ancient Jerusalem and surrounding nations. (Revelation 16:14, 16; 18:4-8) We should fearlessly continue to declare God’s judgments.
3:8, 9. As we await the day of Jehovah, we prepare for survival by learning to speak the “pure language” and by ‘calling upon God’s name’ by making a personal dedication to him. We also serve Jehovah “shoulder to shoulder” in association with his people and offer him “a sacrifice of praise” as a gift.—Hebrews 13:15.
“There Is a Hurrying of It”
The psalmist sang: “Just a little while longer, and the wicked one will be no more; and you will certainly give attention to his place, and he will not be.” (Psalm 37:10) When we reflect upon what was foretold about Nineveh in the book of Nahum and about Babylon and apostate Judah in the book of Habakkuk, we have no doubt that the psalmist’s words will come true. How much longer, though, must we wait?
“The great day of Jehovah is near,” says Zephaniah 1:14. “It is near, and there is a hurrying of it very much.” The book of Zephaniah also shows us how we may be concealed in that day and what we must do now to prepare for survival. Indeed, “the word of God is alive and exerts power.”—Hebrews 4:12.
[Pictures on page 8]
Nineveh’s massive walls did not prevent the fulfillment of Nahum’s prophecy
Randy Olson/National Geographic Image Collection