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The Catholic Study Bible A special version of the New American Bible, with a wealth of background information useful to Catholics.

A Jealous God

A Jealous God

The opening verse of Nahum's prophecy is somewhat shocking to modern ears: “A jealous and avenging God is the LORD.” Such a characterization of God was not new. One of the oldest descriptions of the biblical God is found in Exodus 15, 3 : “The Lord is a warrior” and on Sinai the Lord declares that he is a jealous God (Ex 20, 5 ). This aspect of the divinity was never thought to be incompatible with mercy and love. It is simply the expression of justice: “the Lord never leaves the guilty unpunished.” The wrath of God is only the manifestation of the moral order in the universe. Events like the fall of Nineveh were precious, because they showed that justice eventually prevailed. Nahum also says that the Lord is slow to anger ( 1, 3 ) and emphasizes his goodness to the righteous ( 1, 7 ). The immediate demonstration of that goodness was that God gave the smaller peoples of the Near East the satisfaction of seeing the fall of Assyria.

A Shortsighted Prophecy

The most striking thing about Nahum's prophecy, however, is how shortsighted it was. While Judah was freed from one oppressor it would soon be subjected to another, no less destructive. A mere fifteen years after Nahum proclaimed security, Jerusalem would again be under siege.

The lesson to be learned from Nahum is a two‐edged one. The fall of Assyria is a reminder that all tyrants fall sooner or later and therefore is a cause of hope. The hope is tempered by the realization that the fall of a particular tyrant is not the end of all tyranny. History is full of surprises, not all of them pleasant. Nahum's exultation over the fall of Nineveh is echoed in the New Testament in John of Patmos's anticipation of the fall of Rome (Revelation 17–18 ). John uses the image of the harlot, which is found in Nahum 3, 4 . Rome, too, fell eventually, but other tyrants took its place. Yet there is consolation in the knowledge that no power lasts forever.

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