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.
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
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.