Piles of Slain, Heaps of Corpses: Lament, Lyric, and Trauma in the Book of Nahum
With its description of God as wrathful and vengeful and its graphic depiction of war and violence, Nahum has often been treated as a dangerous book, both in church settings and in academic circles. This dissertation is an effort to confront violence, both in my community and in the book of Nahum. It is a contextual reading of Nahum against the background of the wars that have plagued my country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo since the early 1990s. It argues that Nahum’s description of God and its depiction of war scenes were meant to evoke in seventh-century BCE Judahite audiences the memory of war and destruction at the hands of the Assyrians. The vivid images of YHWH’s war against Nineveh do not give readers a historical report on the fall of Nineveh, neither do they intend to foreshadow the historical fall of that Neo-Assyrian capital city in 612 BCE. Rather, they more likely reflect the prophet-poet’s attempt to depict a world that would have spoken to the painful collective memory of those who survived the destruction of Lachish and other Judahite towns during Sennacherib’s invasion of Judah in 701 BCE. The prophet uses lyric poetry to evoke (rather than narrate) Judah’s memory of war and reveal the immediate and comforting presence of YHWH within the conditions of war. He presents that revelation by adapting two traditional literary forms, the biblical Oracle against foreign Nations (OAN) and the Ancient Near Eastern city lament. Given the rhetoric of the book within its early audience, I show that this book can also speak powerfully into the conditions of Congolese Christians who have suffered the trauma of war.
African Biblical interpretation
Book of Nahum
Book of the Twelve
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