God’s Sovereignty and the Fall of Assyria

The Lord is good,
    a stronghold in the day of trouble;
he knows those who take refuge in him.
    But with an overflowing flood
he will make a complete end of the adversaries,
    and will pursue his enemies into darkness. (Nahum 1:7–8)


When I was visiting the British Museum in London last September, I was reminded of the cataclysmic fall of Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire, in 612 B.C. The Museum houses hundreds of artifacts from the Assyrian Empire and is a vivid reminder of its epic destruction. As I perused the helmets and swords of Assyrian soldiers, shards of pottery, jewelry, clay tablets, prisms, wall panel reliefs, obelisks, and statues of gods and emperors, I was struck again with the reality that the most powerful empire in the world in the seventh century B.C. became a ruinous heap with its material items disseminated across the Ancient Near East. 

Another thing I gleaned from these Assyrian treasures I beheld was the sovereignty and promises of God. I immediately recalled the Book of Nahum — God’s message to the kingdom of Judah regarding Assyria through his prophet, whose message I had expounded in a series of lectures at my church several months prior to my trip and which was still fresh on my mind as I meandered around the Assyrian gallery. While Assyria’s destruction is historically attributed to the Chaldeans, the prophecy of Nahum given around 650 B.C. explains that God’s sovereign plan led to its calamitous demise. 

The main point of Nahum’s prophecy is that God’s burning wrath will be unleashed on Nineveh because of its vile culture of murder, pillaging, political deception, and devaluing of human life. In the midst of the explanation and presentation of God’s wrath in Nahum’s prophecy, the Lord announces this incredibly consoling news to Judah, Assyria’s geographical neighbor: “the Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble” (Nah 1:7). Despite the divine surge of wrath upon wicked Assyria, Judah will find that God is good and a stronghold in the middle of it. What theological and spiritual lessons can we learn from Nahum’s message and the destruction of Nineveh 2,600 years later? 

First, because God is sovereign over the minutest details of history and our own personal lives, we can and should trust God. This God gave very explicit, even graphic, predictions to Nahum forty years before Nineveh’s destruction in order to display his meticulous control of Assyria’s demise. God was sovereign over the precise details of the battle down to the very specific ways that the Chaldeans attacked Nineveh by flooding. The accuracy of God’s predictions regarding Nineveh is attested to by historians such as Herodotus and Siculus.

In the same way, every facet of our lives is touched and directed by God. God cares about the minutest details, even what we might consider mundane — our geographical location, our daily meals, our finances, our marriages, our suffering, etc. None of it is mundane to the Lord, and all of it is his. All of life is sacred space because it belongs to a holy, sovereign God. We can trust God as our stronghold and refuge, though we may not fully comprehend the purposes or mystery of God’s will. John Flavel’s words remind us to attend to God’s workings in and around us:

It is a vile slighting of God not to observe what He manifests of Himself in his Providences. . . . O fill your hearts with the thoughts of Him and His ways. If a single act of Providence is so ravishing and transporting, what would many such be, if they were presented together to the view of the soul! If one star be so beautiful to behold, what is a Constellation! Let your reflections therefore upon the acts and workings of Providence for you be full, extensively and intensively.[1]

Second, God always keeps his promises. When God predicted through Nahum that Nineveh would fall, it transpired in the very manner that God had articulated. In the history of redemption, God has demonstrated that not only is he powerful enough to bring about physical deliverance, but also to bring spiritual salvation for his people. Our God has an impeccable resumé of helping his people throughout history, and he will continue to help his people, including us. 

One of God’s many promises to his people is that he will pour out his wrath on the wicked who engage in sustained rebellion against him as the Assyrians did. But God also promises that he will not unleash his wrath on his own elect — those who believe in Jesus Christ his Son for the forgiveness of sins. Rather, Christ “leaped into the Sea of his Father’s wrath, to save you from drowning.”[2] God does not look upon believers with anger or displeasure because “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1). We should claim and rehearse the promises of God because they remind us of God’s infinite love, mercy, and grace to us who are unworthy of such graces. 

The Promises are a Christians Magna Charta; they are his chief Evidences for heaven. Men highly prize their Charters and Priviledges, and carefully keep the Conveyances and Assurances of their Lands: Oh! How should Saints then treasure up and keep these Precious Promises which the Lord hath given them, and which are to them instead of all Assurances, for their protection, maintenance, deliverance, comfort, and everlasting happinesse?[3]

The prophetic details of Nahum’s prophecy should not be lost on us today. No scheme of the wicked, no matter how heinous, can cancel Jesus’s everlasting dominion. The Lord Jesus Christ is on His throne, and no one can unseat him. All kingdoms are temporary, but Jesus’s kingdom is forever. The schemes of wicked men and bloodthirsty emperors are no match for the eternal King. We serve a God who will “pursue his enemies into darkness” (Nah 1:8). There is a Sovereign God in heaven, and he is infinitely greater and better than any empire, country, state, or government no matter how mighty. He is infinitely greater than political leaders or any state and federal law. He is more powerful than all 195 governments of current countries combined. And one day everyone will answer to that God and will bow the knee to King Jesus and confess that He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords (1 Tim 6:15; Rev 17:14, 19:16). May we rest in Him as our stronghold and refuge (Nah 1:7).

Brian Hanson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of History and Theology

Prayer Requests:

  1. Pray that we would “extensively and intensively” reflect upon God’s sovereignty in all facets of our lives.
  2. Pray that we would rest in God, our stronghold and refuge.
  3. Pray that our faculty, staff, and student body would trust in God this semester, “treasuring up” and claiming his promises in the Word of God. 
  4. Praise the Lord for the largest matching gift in the school’s history.
  5. Pray for our Spring Preview Day and that the Lord would guide the students who attend.




[1] John Flavel, Divine conduct, or, The mysterie of Providence (London: R.W., 1678), pp. 125, 127–128.
[2] Thomas Watson, Religion our true interest (London: J. Astwood, 1682), p. 119.
[3] Thomas Brooks, The unsearchable riches of Christ (London: Mary Simmons, 1657), p. 144.