The Holy Scriptures

Nahum 1‑3; Habakkuk 1‑3; Zephaniah 1‑3; Haggai 1‑2  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 8
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The Minor Prophets: Nahum—Haggai
Nahum’s vision concerned Nineveh (Nah. 1:11The burden of Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite. (Nahum 1:1)). Less than 150 years had elapsed since Jonah, and it had become a city of blood, full of lies and robbery, lording its sovereignty over its conquered peoples (ch. 3:14). Founded by Nimrod, a descendent of Ham (Gen. 10:1111Out of that land went forth Asshur, and builded Nineveh, and the city Rehoboth, and Calah, (Genesis 10:11), margin; Mic. 5:66And they shall waste the land of Assyria with the sword, and the land of Nimrod in the entrances thereof: thus shall he deliver us from the Assyrian, when he cometh into our land, and when he treadeth within our borders. (Micah 5:6)), Nineveh is a picture of usurped authority and independence from God. Nimrod flaunted his might and power before the Lord— “he began to be a mighty one in the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord” (Gen. 10:8-98And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth. 9He was a mighty hunter before the Lord: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord. (Genesis 10:8‑9)). This is the character of the Assyrian. Though used by God as the rod of His anger, the Assyrian must be punished for his high looks and proud heart, “for he saith, By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom; for I am prudent” (Isa. 10:12-1312Wherefore it shall come to pass, that when the Lord hath performed his whole work upon mount Zion and on Jerusalem, I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks. 13For he saith, By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom; for I am prudent: and I have removed the bounds of the people, and have robbed their treasures, and I have put down the inhabitants like a valiant man: (Isaiah 10:12‑13)).
Yet in Nahum, a book of judgment, we find a most comforting verse for the day of trouble: “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knoweth them that trust in Him” (Nah. 1:77The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him. (Nahum 1:7)). The second chapter details the capture of Nineveh. The book closes with the solemn declaration: “There is no healing of thy bruise; thy wound is grievous” (ch. 3:19).
The character of Habakkuk is very different from other prophecies. In Nahum, we have the “burden of Nineveh” (Nah. 1:11The burden of Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite. (Nahum 1:1)), in Zechariah, “the burden of the word of Jehovah” (Zech. 9:1 JnD; 12:1 JnD), but here we have “the burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see” (Hab. 1:11The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see. (Habakkuk 1:1)). His was a burden that deeply felt the iniquity of the people and the overwhelming calamity about to consume them. In Habakkuk the point is not so much the unfolding of events, but rather a message to the heart of the faithful in the midst of those events. In this, Habakkuk presents the faithful remnant in Israel.
As a consequence of their wickedness, God would raise up the Chaldean, “that bitter and hasty nation” (ch. 1:6). Their overthrow would be complete, the Chaldean absolutely devastating in their violence. Faith knows that God established the Chaldean for correction (ch. 1:12), but here was one more wicked than they (ch. 1:13). Could God allow them to continue gathering men into their net as if they were fish, burning incense to the god of their success (ch. 1:15-17)?
Habakkuk awaits his answer from his watchtower (ch. 2:1). Faith must wait in patience; God’s Word will not and cannot fail (ch. 2:3). The heart of the oppressor was lifted up in pride; it will not be overlooked, but the portion of the just is to live by faith (ch. 2:4). Five woes are pronounced on the oppressor of the nations for their wickedness. Jehovah is in His holy temple; all the earth should keep silence before Him (ch. 2:20).
The book concludes with the prayer of Habakkuk in response to the Lord’s reply. This is a prayer of faith, of full confidence in Jehovah. It recalls the glory and power of God when He brought them out of Egypt and established them in the land of Canaan. While waiting, the heart of faith can rejoice in the Lord; he can joy in the God of his salvation (ch. 3:18).
The book of Zephaniah is preeminently a book of judgment; its subject, the day of Jehovah (Zeph. 1:77Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord God: for the day of the Lord is at hand: for the Lord hath prepared a sacrifice, he hath bid his guests. (Zephaniah 1:7) JND). “That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness” (ch. 1:15). Despite revival during Josiah’s reign, Judah was unchanged. Baal worship continued and idolatrous priests—Chemarim (ch. 1:4; 2 Kings 23:55And he put down the idolatrous priests, whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem; them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the host of heaven. (2 Kings 23:5), margin)—served in the temple.
The second chapter begins with a plea to Judah, a nation without shame (Zeph. 2:1 JnD). The meek of the land are exhorted to seek the Lord, for “it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger” (ch. 2:3).
The third chapter begins with an address to Jerusalem—that filthy and polluted city (ch. 3:1). In the midst of this fearful darkness, a remnant is very clearly recognized (ch. 2:3,7; 3:12-13).
In Zephaniah, Christ is not introduced as the Messiah, but as Jehovah. “Jehovah hath taken away thy judgments, He hath cast out thine enemy; the King of Israel, Jehovah, is in the midst of thee; thou shalt not see evil any more” (ch. 3:15 JND). The language with which He comforts the remnant recalls that of the Song of Solomon—“Jehovah thy God is in thy midst, a mighty one that will save: He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in His love; He will exult over thee with singing” (ch. 3:17 JND). The book begins with “the word of Jehovah” and ends with “Jehovah”—a name that speaks of relationship.
Haggai is the first of the post-captivity prophets. His prophecy consists of five messages received over the space of four months. Though God had permitted a remnant of Judah to return to Jerusalem, the former relationship had not been restored. There was no throne; a Gentile ruled over the land; things were literally and figuratively in a state of ruin. The people who had returned to the land, with such joy and energy having laid the foundation of the temple, were now discouraged.
For the returned remnant there was tranquility enough to build their own houses. Faith was not required for this and the world offered no resistance (Hag. 1:44Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste? (Haggai 1:4)). When faith is lacking, circumstances and our own will dictate our doings (ch. 1:2). In neglecting the Lord’s house, they had really neglected the Lord, and as a result discipline had to come in—such too is God’s heart in love (ch. 1:5-11). Stirred up by the message, the work resumed (ch. 1:14).
Faith in the day of ruin is not pretentious and acknowledges the condition of things. This day was not that bright day when they were brought up out of the land of Egypt—but the same Lord was with them (ch. 2:5). A day is coming when the latter glory of the house—still the same house in the eye of God—will exceed the former (ch. 2:9). But this cannot happen until “the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land” are all shaken and then there will be peace (ch. 2:6).
The fourth prophecy states what the priests understood—the unclean defiles the holy (ch. 2:10-19). They and the work of their hands were unclean (ch. 2:14). Their present work did not change that. Only when there is a response to His discipline—for then the work is His—can blessing flow (ch. 2:19).
The final message addresses itself to Zerubbabel, the leader of those that returned and a descendant of David (Matt. 1:1212And after they were brought to Babylon, Jechonias begat Salathiel; and Salathiel begat Zorobabel; (Matthew 1:12)). With the shaking of nations, God would establish His throne in the true seed of David, Christ, the Lord’s anointed. “In that day, saith the Lord of hosts, will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, My servant, the son of Shealtiel, saith the Lord, and will make thee as a signet: for I have chosen thee, saith the Lord of hosts” (Hag. 2:2323In that day, saith the Lord of hosts, will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel, saith the Lord, and will make thee as a signet: for I have chosen thee, saith the Lord of hosts. (Haggai 2:23)).
N. Simon