What is the relationship of vengeance, or punishment, to justice, do we think? Do we have the idea that forgiveness is morally superior to vengeance – and if so, why is that? Where does that idea come from? Or do we feel the moral acceptability of vengeance, or forgiveness, depends in any way on what specifically we are thinking needs forgiving, or avenging? These are hard questions, and they seem to arise in connection with our reading and study of Nahum 1, the text we are studying for Sunday, December 26. [Some notes on the text are here.] Here are a couple more questions we might want to think about or discuss in class:
The picture of God that emerges from these verses in Nahum includes “avenging,” “jealous,” “wrathful,” “indignant,” “powerful,” and “good.” How do those descriptions all fit together for us? Can we think of circumstances or situations in which all of those characteristics fit together? What circumstances? What light do those examples shed on the meaning of this text?
[More personal] Can we think of situations in which it would be wrong not to be indignant? What situations? What light do those examples shed on Nahum’s oracles?
[Even more personal] When we ourselves think of God as “good,” what other qualities does that good God have? How does that understanding of God’s goodness seem to be related to our own circumstances? What thoughts or feelings do we have about that? Why?
In verse 8, we learn that God has “adversaries” and “enemies.” In the historical situation in which Nahum is writing, we understand these “adversaries” and “enemies” to be the Assyrians. What qualities mark the Assyrians, and what does this tell us about God’s adversaries and enemies? Implications?
The profound challenge raised by Nahum might be how we understand “God is love” to include the divine attitudes and behavior Nahum describes. How do we understand that, or begin to? What questions do we still have about this, and how important are those questions to us? Why is that?
Overall, studying Nahum seems like an opportunity for us to look at our own understanding of God, and at how that understanding is related to our relationship with God. Nahum’s picture of God might prompt us to ask ourselves how open our understanding of God is to change, and what our answers there tell us about our relationship with God – and how we feel about that.
Image: “Spannende Lektüre,” Walther Firle, 1929, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.