Introduction to Nachum
According to Seder Olam Rabbah (perek 20), Nachum was a prophet in the days of Menashe ben Chizkiya, the king of Yehuda (not so long before the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdash). He was a student of Yoel the prophet, and was a contemporary of Chabakuk. During the days of Nachum, Yehuda was subservient to Ashur and paid taxes to them. Nachum prophesied about the destruction of Ashur and its capital city Ninveh.
Perek 1: Nachum relayed that Hashem is ruthless when dealing with Bnei Yisrael’s enemies, but will withhold His anger until the correct time for reckoning. Hashem grants people the opportunity to repent, but ensures that the guilty are punished sufficiently – even superpowers like Ashur (Rashi). Just as Hashem treats enemies harshly, He is a source of altruistic kindness towards the righteous and is all-powerful. Hashem controls agricultural success and even Lords fear Him (Rashi). Nachum warned Ninveh (capital of Ashur) that however mighty they become, they will be eradicated to such an extent that “They will never need to be destroyed again”. Nachum also predicted that Hashem will redeem Eretz Yisrael from Ashur’s occupation, and will remove idolatry from the land.
Perek 2: Nachum forecast the celebrations marking Sancheirev’s death and Ashur’s downfall. He informed Bnei Yisrael that with the death of Sancheirev, they will be able to return to their land and celebrate their festivals in Yerushalayim (Radak 2:1). Moreover, Hashem will enable Bnei Yisrael to regain their former prominent status (Rashi), even though foreign countries had plundered them (Radak). Nevuchadnetzar’s cavalry and arsenal will be decimated despite their best efforts to defend themselves. Ninveh will shake from the raging warfare and the Queen of Ashur will be taken captive amid her attendants’ mourning.
Perek 3: Nachum related that Hashem will cause Ninveh to become a city of “a galloping horse and chariot” and many carcasses in punishment for their robbery, dishonesty, murder of foreign nationals, idolatry, and witchcraft. Hashem will strip Ninveh of its dignity and it will be dominated by other countries, for it is “No better than No-Ammon (a city destroyed by Nevuchadnetzar [Rashi])”. Although Ninveh had powerful allies; Cush, Egypt, Put and Luvim, ultimately, all these empires were conquered and exiled. Nachum warned that Ninveh was next in line. Hashem will give Bavel easy access to Ninveh; “Your gates have been opened wide”. Internationally, people will not sympathize with Ninveh, but will rejoice at the downfall of an evil nation that afflicted many other countries (Radak).