A prophecy concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite. The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The Lord takes vengeance on his foes and vents his wrath against his enemies. The Lord is slow to anger but great in power; the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet. He rebukes the sea and dries it up; he makes all the rivers run dry. Bashan and Carmel wither and the blossoms of Lebanon fade. The mountains quake before him and the hills melt away. The earth trembles at his presence, the world and all who live in it. Who can withstand his indignation? Who can endure his fierce anger? His wrath is poured out like fire; the rocks are shattered before him. – Nahum 1:1-6
Welcome to the book of Nahum! I confess this is not a book I have spent much time reading before so I am looking forward to new discoveries in this reach of “the river”. Apparently Nahum means “comforter” in Hebrew and he is one of the “minor prophets” speaking to the people of Israel in this transition period before the coming of Jesus.
This passage starts with a reference to Ninevah of Jonah fame. Apparently this prophecy was directed at them. The God of the beginning of this passage is very much the “Mad Max” God of the old testament, full of vengeance and wrath. The passage then throws out some interesting and confusing metaphors to describe the “way of God”. “His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet”. The first part I get, God is present in powerful storms and mighty winds. The second part seems like a murky metaphor, how can clouds be dust? First the one I understand…
On my last night in Haiti we were having dinner in a Petionville and a really amazing thunderstorm blew in on our way to the restaurant. The rain was literally pouring off of the bus in a mighty river. The streets became rivers and it seems like the rain would never stop. We were greeted at the restaurant by a man with a large umbrella intended to be used as a sun shade, it was not really waterproof. He proceeded to usher groups of 4-5 people at a time beneath this large umbrella. You can imagine it is not so easy to have 5 people walking together beneath an umbrella. In the end I am pretty sure everyone got about as wet as if they had just made a run for it, which is what I decided to do. Now back to the murky metaphor.
Clouds have held very complex meaning in my float so far in the bible. God himself has appeared in the temple as a cloud. The idea of a Godly condensate is somewhat central to the way the people of Israel at this time seem to be thinking about God, the cloud is separated and high above them, So what does it mean that the cloud are the “dust of his feet”. This would seem to be describing some sort of reference to the merging of two worlds, the physical (the dust), and the spiritual (the clouds). I confess I am still confused about the meaning here. Perhaps the point is being made that God ultimately rules both worlds, the physical and the spiritual.
This seems to be borne out by the subsequent sentences about God parting “the sea and dries it up; he makes all the rivers run dry.” I wonder if this is part of a transition from the physical God of Moses that showed up in tangible ways to part the waters of the Red Sea and the spiritual Godly Condensate to come in the form of Jesus. Perhaps this preparation was necessary to allow the people to receive this very different God-Man Jesus. I do not know. This passage is “funny water” to be sure.
Prayer: God the images here of a merging of two worlds is both interesting and confusing. Help me to understand the words you shared through the prophet Nahum.