I was reading Nahum (about Nineveh) and thought about Jonah (also about Nineveh) and asked, “Did Nahum come before Jonah?” I’ve got the answer!
It’s a puzzling question, so I did some research. No, Nahum came after Jonah. There are 100 years between Jonah and Nahum. Jonah preached to Nineveh (760 B.C.) and they repented. The next generation acted wickedly. Then, Nahum prophesied Nineveh’s destruction (650 B.C.), which came true in 612 B.C. Let’s discover more!
Now, there is, of course, more to it than that. It’s important to understand how I arrived at this conclusion, so read on to find out!
By the way, it’s worth noting that Nineveh, capital of the Assyrian empire, was probably not only the most powerful but also the most idolatrous, cruel, and evil empire on earth.
For example, Ashurnaṣirpal II said, “I stormed the mountain peaks and took them. In the midst of the mighty mountain I slaughtered them; with their blood I dyed the mountain red like wool.… The heads of their warriors I cut off, and I formed them into a pillar over against their city; their young men and their maidens I burned in the fire” (Luckenbill, Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia, 1:148). After capturing a leader, he wrote, “I flayed [him], his skin I spread upon the wall of the city …” (ibid., 1:146). He also wrote of mutilating the bodies of live captives and stacking their corpses in piles.
Was that too much info? Sorry…
Ok, now, let’s ask this question…
What are the Differences Between Nineveh in Jonah and Nineveh in Nahum?
And what happened to Nineveh between Jonah and Nahum?
Repentance in Jonah and Nahum
Jonah, which was written before Nahum, pictures Nineveh as repenting in response to Jones’s short message. Whatever that repentance entailed, they even put sackcloth on the cattle (Jonah 3:8)! And for whatever reason, the Lord did not bring his punishment upon them.
Now, Nahum is different. The Nineveh in a home is all the more deserving of judgment, it seems, more than any other nation. They utterly abused other nations and were horrifically violent. They opposed the LORD! Whereas in Jonah, there was opportunity to repent, here in Nahum, it does not seem that was part of God’s plan.
Capable of Change
Therefore it makes sense that in Jonah Nineveh is still tender and able to change. And clearly they did, because they avoided destruction! Jonah presents this change in the detailed response to Jonah’s message. The children and the cattle all participated!
But the Nineveh in Nahum seems hardened and unable to be reconciled. It could be that they repentance in Jonah was only surface level. Or it could also be that another generation came up who rejected the Lord. Nahum gives testimony that evil and violence will not go unpunished.
|Nineveh in Jonah||Nineveh in Nahum|
|Repentance?||If repent, no destruction||No repentance, only judgment|
|Capable of Change?||Yes, capable of change||No, irredeemable|
Let’s also ask…
When Was Nahum and Jonah Written?
Jonah was written between 793-753 B.C. and Nahum was written about 100 years later, just before 645 B.C.
Let’s go into more detail on that.
When Was Jonah Written? When Did Jonah Take Place?
Jonah is difficult to date. Jonah came from Gath-hepher, not far from Nazareth (2 Kings 14:25). This would place Jonah during the reign of Jeroboam II (about 793-753 B.C.), and since Jonah prophesied about the expansion of Israel’s borders (2 Kings 14:25), it could be that Jonah prophesied early in Jeroboam II’s reign. To get more specific is speculation.
When was Nahum Written? When Did Nahum Take Place?
Nahum 3:8 mentions the fall of Thebes (“No Amon”). That happened in 663 B.C., so obviously Nahum was written after that. Nahum predicts the fall of Nineveh, which occurred in 612 B.C. So obviously Nahum was written before that.
Now we have a range. Nahum was written between 663 B.C. and 612 B.C.
Here are some facts we need to keep in mind:
- The fall of Thebes was recent enough to be mentioned in Nahum 3:8. I prefer a date closer to the fall of Thebes.
- Nineveh in Nahum is not described as being in decline, which happened under Ashurbanipal’s sons (620s B.C.).
- Judah was under Assyria’s control (1:13, 15; 2:1, 3) which makes us think about Manasseh (697 B.C.-642 B.C.)
- Nahum does not mention the Medes (645 B.C.) or the Babylonian empire (626 B.C) which we would expect since they destroy Nineveh. They likely were not around yet.
These points lead me to conclude that Nahum must have been written before 645 B.C.
Now, this tells us that Jonah was written before Nahum.
How Does the Book of Nahum Relate to the Book of Jonah?
Both Nahum and Jonah preached to the same city: Nineveh of Assyria. They also relate in that the book of Jonah shows compassion upon them, but the book of Nahum demonstrates God’s righteousness in judging them.
Where is Jonah in Bible Chronologically?
Jonah is in the Old Testament and in the prophets section, particularly after the Major Prophets. Jonah occurs after Obadiah and before Micah. The order is Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, etc.
Where is Nahum in Bible Chronologically?
Nahum, too, is in the Old Testament and in the minor prophet section. Nahum is placed after Micah and before Habakkuk. The order is Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, etc.
Did Nahum Come Before Jonah?
No, Jonah came before Nahum. They are linked together by the common city they preached to: Nineveh of Assyria.