Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Vengeance: Nahum 1 with poem by Thomas Curtis Clark, The Vision of Nahum

Daily Readings
Sirach 28, Jeremiah 36, Nahum 1, Jeremiah 45

Daily Text: Nahum 1

Nahum was written sometime between 663 B.C., the Fall of Thebes, and 612 B.C. the Fall of Nineveh. J. M. M. Roberts prefers 640-630 B.C. as the narrowed interval of time during which the poem was written [531;36]. Nahum 1 is made up of an acrostic psalm (vss. 2-8) and a prophecy of direct address (vss. 9-15).

The acrostic, that is, each couplet beginning with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet, is more or less complete between the letters Aleph and Caph. While the psalm may have had an origin prior to Nahum’s use of it, it is used to great effect in this first oracle. God’s vengeance is associated with his jealously and his anger. He will not be treated as one god among many in any nation of the world, not simply in Judah. And his anger relates to the way Assyria has treated Judah. He may be slow to anger, but once aroused he will not clear the one who has aroused his anger. Perhaps the reference to ‘slowness’ of anger has to do with the justification for it, so that once aroused he will follow through. He will not “clear the guilty” (cf. vs. 3). While he will always be a refuge to those who trust him, those who do not will have no hiding place from his anger and avenging spirit, not even the darkness. God’s vengeance is part of his justice by definition. A loving God that was not interested in justice would be one without moral character. The idea that vengeance is inappropriate is a ‘bogus morality’ for “vengeance cannot be discarded without discarding the concern for justice as well” [531:45].

Verse 9 seems to indicate the direct address of Judah and God is questioning why she questions, or meditates against or plots against the LORD. Even though she is being oppressed by Assyria, she need not question whether the LORD will avenge her, for Assyria will come to an end, she will be burnt like dry straw. There is a promise in this oracle for Judah in vs. 12b: “Though I have afflicted you, I will afflict you no more.” Verse 14 is a direct address to Assyria who will be so completely cut off, from her people and her gods that there will be no one left to bury her except the LORD.

Verse 15 returns to Judah, a continuation of verse 13. There is the promise of peace within this beautiful poem, and the assurance that Judah will be able to celebrate her festivals and complete her vows. This may well be an historical reference that set the stage for Josiah’s celebration of the Passover as seen in II Chronicles 35.

The Vision of Nahum
Thomas Curtis Clark

Jehovah is mighty, and a jealous God,
And who can stand before him?
The chariots of Nineveh are strong,
Her men run like lightnings;
But Jehovah hath seen her drunkenness
And her violence toward Judah,
And he will make a full end of her,
And she shall perish from the earth.
Thus spake Nahum.
But Jehovah is good,
A stronghold in the day of trouble;
He knoweth them that take refuge
In him.
Israel and Judah, the people of the remnant,
Shall be redeemed from the hand of the spoiler,
The bloody city.
Thus spake Nahum, the prophet of God:
Behold, upon the mountains how beautiful are
The feet of him that bringeth good tidings,
That publisheth peace!

Collect for the Day
O Almighty God, the Father of all mankind, we pray thee to turn to thyself the hearts of all peoples and their rulers, that by the power of thy Holy Spirit peace may be established on the foundation of justice, righteousness and truth; through Him who was lifted up on the cross to draw all men unto Himself, even thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

[286:74:213 William Temple, 1881-1944]


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