Nahum writes about the coming end of Assyria. Whereas Jonah went and preached to the Assyrians, the message of Nahum is for the Jews. Their cruel oppressor, Assyria, is doomed before the Lord. “I will prepare your grave,” God says, “for you are vile” (1:14). “‘I am against you,’ declares the LORD Almighty. ‘I will burn up your chariots in smoke, and the sword will devour your young lions’ [or princes – mt]. ‘I will leave you no prey on the earth. The voices of your messengers will no longer be heard.’” (2:13).
Back in the stone age, when I was learning to play chess, my teachers taught me to say “check” when my opponent’s king was in danger, and “check your queen” when my opponent’s queen was in danger. I was even taught to say “guard your queen” in French.
Imagine my surprise upon learning, after too many chess matches to count, that such is considered rude; tantamount to shouting Boom Shakalaka Boom and doing a victory dance. Very poor conduct indeed.
In Nahum 2, God doesn’t just announce “guard your queen.” He just says “checkmate” before the battle even starts. As the chapter opens, God says to Assyria, “get ready for battle.” In verses 3-5, however, it is difficult to know who He’s describing. Is it the advancing army against Assyria, or is it the army of Assyria herself? Probably it is the Assyrian army. Great though it was, facing the onslaught of Babylon, she panicked, and was ruined. The decree of the Lord is for Assyria’s utter destruction. Though her symbol might be a lion, the real lion was the Lord. Assyria did not acknowledge the Lord as God. But it didn’t matter. God was, and remains, sovereign in the affairs of mankind.