Daniel Timmer – Nahum Commentary – Q & A

Nahum commentary by Dan Timmer

Daniel Timmer (PhD, Trinity International University) is Professor of Biblical Studies for the PhD program at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary.

He is an ordained ruling elder in the Reformed Church of Quebec and also serves at the Faculté de théologie évangélique in Montreal.

Prior to serving with PRTS, Dr. Timmer taught at Farel Reformed Seminary in Montreal, Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, MS, and the University of Sudbury in Ontario.

He is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society, the Institute for Biblical Research, and the Society of Biblical Literature, and has published a number of articles and several books exploring various aspects of biblical theology.

Dr. Timmer’s research has been supported by grants from the Association for Theological Schools and the Priscilla and Stanford Reid Trust, and he was a guest lecturer at the University of Duisberg-Essen in 2017.

He and his wife Andreea have two sons, Nathan and Felix.

1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Nahum?

My exploration of the Minor Prophets started in Jonah, as part of an attempt to develop a biblical theology of mission and to understand better the relationship between Israel and the nations. Since Nineveh repented (albeit only temporarily) under Jonah’s ministry but was once again fully committed to idolatrous and violent imperialism by the time of Nahum’s ministry roughly a century later, I was intrigued by the differences between the two books with regards to Nineveh in particular. So, after working on Jonah for a while, I turned to Nahum.

In order to prepare for writing this commentary, I tried to get a head-start on the most complicated aspects of the book. These included questions like why Nahum does not criticize Judah for the sins that other prophets condemn (e.g., Micah, Zephaniah); how to understand God’s justice in punishing Assyria for sins which are primarily attributed to the empire’s king (1:14) and rulers (3:18); and how to understand Nahum’s critiques of Assyria in theological terms. Some of my answers to these questions became presentations at the Society of Biblical Literature and the Institute for Biblical Research, and a few developed into articles that parts of the commentary build upon.

2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?

At the center of the “target audience” are seminary students and pastors, but as surprising as it may sound, the focus of ZECOT series on discourse analysis makes the commentary reasonably accessible to those with less training. This is because one of the main goals of discourse analysis is to explain how each part of the book relates to the others. Even in a short book like Nahum, this focus on the big picture helps readers better understand the parts in relation to the whole and vice versa.

3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Nahum?

The ZECOT series is distinct by virtue of its focus on discourse analysis. On one level, this helps the reader put all the pieces together. This is true at the level of individual passages (for example, the relation of divine wrath and mercy to the theophany and the possibility of escaping its judgment in 1:2-8) or longer sections (for example, Nineveh’s fall as foreseen in chapter 2 in relation to the woe oracle, taunts, and dirge of chapter 3).

At the same time, discourse analysis attends to the way that the author uses word order, syntax, literary genres, and even sounds to highlight certain parts of the text (e.g., the word order “A zealous and avenging God is YHWH” puts the predicate and its divine attributes before the subject, and indeed before anything else in the main part of the book). Details like these greatly enrich one’s understanding of the text.
In terms of particular goals, I have tried to write the commentary in such a way that it integrates the text’s historical, literary, and theological facets and so offers a nicely balanced interpretation. I also gave special attention to the theological nature of Assyria’s imperial project and royal ideology, since they go a long ways toward explaining the conflict between YHWH and Assyria.

4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?

I find the opening hymn (1:2-8) very powerful. After describing God’s commitment to justice and to defending his holiness (with less emphasis on his grace, for the moment), the hymn describes a theophany that will bring worldwide judgment in earth-shaking, terrifying terms. Yet it does so in order to highlight the need for the reader/hearer to find deliverance from this judgment, and finally reveals in 1:7 that only God can provide that deliverance. Nahum has a remarkable ability to combine rich literary description and profound theological reflection that captures something of God’s majesty and holiness, and to make it immensely personal and practical at the same time.

5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?

Nahum 1:2-8 drives home the point that the whole world stands exposed to divine judgment, and that no one is righteous. This essentially puts all human beings in their natural spiritual condition on the same level as Assyria—our sins might be different, but they are all essentially rebellion against God and manifest an inflexible desire to live life on our own terms and for our own glory. This helps me see God’s amazing grace in saving his enemies when they seek shelter from his wrath in Jesus Christ.

It is also good news that God will ultimately deliver his people from all their spiritual enemies, regardless of how dominant or dangerous those forces seem here and now. God reigns supreme over all!

6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Nahum?

Klaas Spronk’s commentary on Nahum is very concise and clearly written, and Duane Christiansen’s much larger Nahum commentary offers abundant historical, literary, and devotional material. A few foreign-language titles are worth mentioning: Brian Tidiman’s French commentary on Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah (Edifac) is full of well-considered exegesis and deals with the text’s literary, historical, and theological facets in a balanced way, and Heinz-Josef Fabry’s German commentary on Nahum (Herder), although it gives a good bit of attention to the historical-critical tradition, is very thorough and has a nice theological dimension.

Books that shed helpful light on the Neo-Assyrian background of the book include H. W. F. Saggs, The Might That Was Assyria (Sidgwick & Jackson) and F. M. Fales, Guerre et paix en Assyrie: Religion et impérialisme (Cerf; a similar English work is Fales, War in the Assyrian Empire [John Wiley & Sons]). I should also mention the many works of Ernst Wendland, who very capably integrates discourse analysis with very solid interpretation in his articles and books (see his Academia.edu page).

7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?

In terms of current projects, I am finishing a commentary on Obadiah, Jonah, and Micah for the Tyndale Old Testament series, and another on Amos and Jonah is being translated into French for the Commentaire évangélique biblique series. Finally, in the next year or two I hope to finish a volume on the theology of Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah for the Old Testament Theology series published by Cambridge University Press—all God willing.

Most of my publications are available on my Academia.edu page, and details about my teaching ministry can be found on the relevant pages of the websites of the schools at which I teach: Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary (https://prts.edu/) and the Faculté de théologie évangélique in Montreal (https://www.fteacadia.com/).

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