Friday, July 8, 2016

Nahum and the God of Sovereign Wrath: Some Quotations

A jealous and avenging God is the Lord;

the Lord is avenging and wrathful.

The Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries,

and he reserves wrath for his enemies.

Nahum 1.2

“God’s jealousy is not a compound of frustration, envy, and spite, as human jealousy so often is, but appears instead as a (literally) praiseworthy zeal to preserve something supremely precious.”  J. I. Packer[1]

“God’s wrath in the Bible is never the capricious, self-indulgent, irritable, morally ignoble thing that human anger so often is.  It is, instead, a right and necessary reaction to objective moral evil… Would a God who took as much pleasure in evil as He did in good be a good God?  Would a God who did not react adversely to evil in His world be morally perfect?  Surely not.  But it is precisely this adverse reaction to evil, which is a necessary part of moral perfection, that the Bible has in view when it speaks of God’s wrath.”  J. I. Packer[2]

“That God is dangerous in his holiness should not be dismissed as if it were a primitive idea, beyond which we have now evolved.  It is, in fact, a reality toward which we are all moving, for in the end God’s holiness will prove to be the final line of resistance to all that is wrong, all that is evil in the world.  The day is coming when truth will be placed forever on the throne, and error forever on the scaffold.”  David Wells[3]

“Nahum invites a celebration of divine sovereignty and justice, affirming that God’s retributive justice is good news.”  Thomas Renz[4]

“No message could be more repulsive to the modern mind than the idea of retributive justice.  But this truth finds open exposition in the messages of these seventh-century prophets [Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah].  The historical events that befell Judah, Assyria, Egypt, and Babylon attest to the truthfulness of their declaration.  It finds no contradiction in the Scriptures of the new covenant, but only repeated reinforcement (2 Thess. 1:6-10; 2 Cor. 5:10).”  O. Palmer Robertson[5]

“This great God depicted by Nahum is not just an abstract idea, a nebulous concept.  He is a living person whose nature defines the meaning of personhood.  He interacts powerfully with the world he has made, so that the attributes that Nahum has so vividly delineated have their telling effect on every element of creation.  The sea, the rivers, the fruitful lands, mountains, hills, the earth, the world and all its inhabitants—these diverse segments feel the effects of God’s jealousy, vengeance, wrath, anger, might, and justice.”  O. Palmer Robertson[6]

[1] J. I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove, Ill.: Intervarsity Press, 1973), 153.  For more on God’s jealousy see my paper “The Jealousy of God” online:

[2] Packer, Knowing God, 136-137.  For more on God’s wrath see my Bible study online:

[3] David F. Wells, God in the Wasteland: The Reality of Truth in a World of Fading Dreams (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1994), 142.

[4] Thomas Renz, “Nahum” in Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible ed. Kevin J. VanHoozer (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 2005), 528.

[5] O. Palmer Robertson, The Books of Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah—NICOT (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1990), 22.

[6] Robertson, The Books of Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah—NICOT, 66.