Dissertation on Nahum

This page contains a link to my Ph.D. Dissertation, “Nahum’s Use of Ambiguity and Allusion to Prophesy the Destruction of Spiritual Powers.” I post it here in the hope that it may be of benefit to some, and also that it may play some role in more people recognizing the intricacy and beauty of the book of Nahum.

To download the dissertation in PDF format, click here.


Dissertation Abstract


  The last 120 years of Nahum scholarship have focused on linguistic difficulties. Nahum features a badly broken half-acrostic, words of debated meaning, some of the most peculiar grammatical constructions in the Old Testament, and sentences that do not have a clear subject. The vision changes subject, scene, and metaphor rapidly, sometimes from one word to the next, and scholars have not been able to provide satisfactory explanations.

   This dissertation asserts that the impasse stems from a faulty presupposition about Nahum’s purpose. Nahum scholars usually read the book as a judgment against Assyria for its crimes against humanity. This dissertation contends that YHWH condemns the spiritual powers of Assyria, and their human agents, for crimes against YHWH’s honor: seducing, enslaving, and prostituting His people.

   Nahum uses terse, ambiguous constructions to declare the fulfillment of previous prayers and prophecies. The ambiguity allows Nahum to proclaim the fall of Nineveh in 612 B.C. and the destruction of dark powers, namely, the underworld, Ishtar, and Assyria’s supreme god, Asshur.

   Nahum 1:2 describes YHWH as a wronged husband. The book then begins a process, by means of multiple allusions, to annul Judah’s covenant with death, incapacitate Assyria’s human leaders, strip away its seductive power, and break its military strength.

   This theory generates alternate explanations for debated issues in Nahum scholarship. It proposes that the anti-acrostic elements of Nah 1:2–8 mark allusions to Ps 9, and other texts, which culminate by cancelling Judah’s covenant with death. Nahum 1:9–14 alludes to 2 Kgs 18–19, as well as Assyrian inscriptions, to portray Assyria as YHWH’s recalcitrant vassal. Nahum 2:8 and 3:4–7 use an extended allusion to the death of Jezebel to announce the destruction of Ishtar’s power, which Nineveh used to spiritually seduce and prostitute the ancient Near East. Nahum 3:18–19 uses allusions to Assyrian ideology, Gen 10–11, and Mic 5, to declare the destruction of Assyria’s deified patriarch, Asshur the god of war. Therefore, Nahum’s linguistic difficulties serve the author’s purpose to prophesy YHWH’s vengeance against evil spiritual powers, and their human agents, for their crimes against YHWH’s honor.