Nahum writes of the fall of Nineveh 150 years after Jonah. "A Babylonian cylinder now in the British Museum gives a day by day account of the eight years of Nabopolassar’s reign. The chronology is well established. Among other interesting events it records the final siege and fall of Nineveh. It gives the date of the fall of Nineveh as the fourteenth year of Nabopolasssar. This according to our system of reckoning would be 612 B.C." The Spade and The Scripture, James C. Muir, Broadman Press 1940, pg.151&2.
"Who would have thought that the only account vouchsafed to later times of the siege and capture of the great city of Asshur (Nineveh)would be a poetical sketch written beforehand in a petty subject state, (Israel) nearly a thousand miles from the scene by the servant of a rival and victorious God!" History, Prophecy and the Monuments, James McCurdy, Macmillan 1914, pg.413. "It is Nahum, however, that is the chief censor of Nineveh among the prophets of Israel" (ibid, pg.411).
"Nahum is the prophet-artist who gives us the most terrifying and ghastly picture of the final tragedy in the history of Assyria. The vividness and detail descriptive of methods of defense, of the fruits of plunder..." etc. ( The Monuments and The Old Testament, Ira M. Price, American Baptist Publication Society, 1899, pg.207).
Nineveh epitomized the greatness of the Assyrian nation in culture as well as warfare. Ashur-nasir-pal had developed a war machine "the wonder and the terror of the East" developing siege warfare "to a fine art" and carrying it out with "unspeakable cruelty." Scenes describing "the whole range of Assyrian life" (are) preserved on alabaster slabs done by skilled artisans of those days. The Bible and Archaeology, J.A. Thompson, Erdmans, 1962, pp.110-118. This section ends with the quotation, "Assyria remains in the memory of men today as possibly the supreme example of a nation with the highest culture, with a highly formed religion and skill in all the arts of mankind but which lacked in its inner soul that love of righteousness and that fear of God of which the prophets of Israel spoke so fervently. Of what use is culture if a man or nation lacks righteousness?"
Nahum 2:13 I am Against Thee
To understand this chapter one must realize that every word of it is primarily to or about the city of Nineveh. No other interpretation is acceptable.
The opening words are similar in the Hebrew to those used in Jeremiah 51:20 "Thou art my battle axe," there spoken of Nebuchadnezzar but here, according to J.F.B., the Medo-Babylonian army "is prophetically meant."
As Halley in his Bible Handbook says, "throughout these three chapters, Nineveh’s destruction is foretold in astonishing and graphic detail." "The onlooker is terror-stricken, horrified, unnerved and faint at the sudden doom of the proud city" says Price (ch.1, par. 3), pg.208 referring to verse 10 "She is empty and void and waste; the heart melteth, the knees smite together, and anguish is in all loins and faces of them all are waxed pale."
Reference in verses 11 and 12 to lions is appropriate for a nation "whose chief sport was hunting and slaying lions" (ibid., pg.209).
There have been those who have thought when reading verse four about chariots raging in the streets that this is a prophecy concerning automobiles. This, of course, is totally a wrong use of the Bible and should be discountenanced by Bible believers. This would be like seeking God’s guidance by closing the eyes and placing one’s finger on a random verse and expecting His direction. We may laugh at such foolish behavior, but fail ourselves in not "rightly dividing the word of truth" (II Tim.2:15). Seeking the true interpretation in the prophets can be extremely difficult. Taking time to think carefully about what we are reading and trying to find some study guides to help is more important than reading thru the Bible in a year, as gratifying as that may be.
Nahum 3:1 Woe to the Bloody City
"It was by the Assyrian Empire (of which Nineveh was capital) that the kingdom of Israel was destroyed (the Northern ten tribes). In recent years the annals of Assyrian kings have been found in which they themselves had their own exploits recorded. In these annals the names of ten Hebrew kings occur: Omri, Ahab, Jehu, Menahem, Pekah, Hoshea, Uzziah, Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh. Many statements are found which confirm, supplement or illustrate Biblical statements." Halley’s Bible Handbook, pg.195.
The destruction of this city was so complete as prophesied by Nahum and Zephaniah (2:13-15) that "when Alexander the Great fought... near the site of Nineveh (331 B.C.), he did not even know there had ever been a city there" (ibid, pg.332).
"After almost twenty-five centuries of oblivion, her vastness, her majesty, her power and her cruelty are brought to light and set down beside the character given her by the writers of Holy Writ. Isaiah 5:25-29 (and elsewhere), Nahum, Zephaniah and others have left us a fragmentary portraiture of the Assyrian... as true to life as that painted by the monarchs’ own artists," The Monuments and The Old Testament, Ira M. Price, pg.207.
One of the greatest of all archeological discoveries was at Nineveh in 1852 when the palace of Sennacharib was uncovered containing 10's of 1000's of volumes which are now in the British Museum. King Assurbanipal had had his scribes search and copy the libraries of ancient Babylon of an age 2000 years before his day.
In spite of all this culture, these Assyrian kings were so cruel in warfare that most everyone was happy to see them annihilated. God did it and Nahum had it right when he included this chapter by stating that all that hear of it would clap their hands (v.19).