The book of Nahum is never quoted in the NT. No major Christian Sunday lectionary includes readings from it. No Haftorah reading in the Jewish synagogue service employs it. In Year II of the Catholic Daily Lectionary, Nahum 2:1, 3; 3:1-3, 6-7 is read on Friday of the 18th week in Ordinary Time. The responsorial verse for this day sets the theme of the Mass: "It is I who deal death and give life." God has the power to punish and save, give life or death. The Responsorial Psalm is Deut 32:35c-36b, 39, 41. The Gospel reading is Mt 16:24-28.
To the best of my knowledge now reading from Nahum is used in the Office of Readings.
Nahum (Hebrew: nachûm) means "one who is consoled," "one who is comforted." The name is widely believed to be a contraction of the name Nehemiah, "the consolation of God." It is related to the name Noah, an interesting fact given the flood imagery employed in the book There may be a play on the name in Nah 3:7~"And all who look on you will shrink from you and say, Wasted is Nineveh; who will bemoan her? whence shall I seek comforters (Heb. nâcham,) for her." The book has been greatly criticized in modern times because of the apparent glee with which the prophet celebrates the demise of the Assyrian Empire, but two things should be kept in mind: 1. the sheer brutality of the Assyrians, which they both glorified and eroticized; 2. A proper understanding of the biblical concepts of wrath and vengeance.
After a superscription wherein the book is described an oracle (literally, "burden") against Nineveh, the capitol and personification of the Assyrian Empire, there follows an introduction (Nah 1:2-11), beginning with a hymn which portrays God as a divine warrior (Nah 1:2-8),. In this hymn God is portrayed as a avenger of wrongdoing possessing cosmic power (Nah 1:2-5) against which nothing or no one can stand (Nah 2:6). He can protect those who trust in Him (Nah 2:7) even as He brings down punishment on is foes (Nah 1:8). This hymn is followed by a rhetorical question directed towards the Assyrians and, possibly, doubters among God's people (Nah 1:9a). This question introduces a statement about the certainty of His victory (Nah 1:9b-10). This introductory section ends with a reminder of how God had rescued His people and the city of Jerusalem from the Assyrians in time past (Nah 1:11). This is a reference to the 701 BC siege of Jerusalem by the Assyrian king Sennacherib who, through his commander, counseled the defenders of Jerusalem not to trust either their king of their God. God, however, forced the Assyrians to withdraw (see 2 Kings 18:13-19:37).
The rest of the book has been variously outlined by scholars. I like the following reverse parallel structure:
A1). INTRODUCTION. Nah 1:12-15. The strength of Assyria will come to naught. They had been sent to punish God's people, but will do so no more (Nah 1:12; see Isa 10:5-27). Their power is broken and their king will die (Nah 1:13-14). God's people will rejoice and offer thanksgiving sacrifices in celebration (Nah 1:15).
B1). A CALL TO ACTION WHICH AVAILS NOTHING. Nah 2:1-10. God "the scatterer" has come against the city of Nineveh and its defenders are called to take action (Nah 2:1). As the Assyrians had been sent by God to punish His people, so now He has sent the scarlet clad Babylonians to punish Assyria and to restore the fortunes of His people (Nah 2:2-3). Already they are in the suburbs of the city, threatening the walls of the city-proper (Nah 2:4). Assyrian officers rush to defend the walls but, ominously, they stumble (Nah 2:5). I see this as implying that their legendary military efficiency--emphasized in Isa 5:26-30--is coming to and end. The river gates which regulated the flow of water into the city and controlled flooding are compromised and the city is flooded and the palace "melts" ( Nah 2:6, so the text should read). God, the Divine Warrior who had power to dry up rivers and melt hills now floods Nineveh and melts its palace (see Nah 1:4-5). The stature of the goddess Ishtar, "mistress" of the city is "stripped" of it adornments and taken as booty while her "maidens" [priestesses] mourn (Nah 2:7). Ironically, the flooded city is compared to a pool whose waters have been drained away and which no human power can halt (Nah 2:8). The image probably relates to the fleeing Assyrian soldiers. Isaiah 8:5-8 had described the invading Assyrians as a raging flood, but in confrontation with the Cosmic Warrior their military might has drained away. The city of plunderers is plundered (Nah 2:9). This section, which began with a call to the Assyrians to gird their loins and collect their strength (Nah 2:1) now ends with talk of faint hearts, weak knees, and anguished loins (Nah 2:10).
C1). A RHETORICAL QUESTION INTRODUCES A TAUNT AGAINST ASSYRIAN PRIDE. Nah 2:11-12. The lair (Nineveh) of the once mighty lion of Assyria can no longer be found. Assyrian might was often depicted in terms of a lion attack (Amos 3:4, 8, 12). The Assyrian Chronicles often portray the empires kings as having lion-like qualities, and the goddess Ishtar was often portrayed in artwork as a lioness.
D1). JUDGEMENT AGAINST THE LIONS OF ASSYRIA. Nah 2:13. This section obviously builds on the previous one. But note that God is again described as coming against Assyria (as in Nah 2:1). Assyrian military messengers will no longer herald conquests and victories; a contrast with the message of good news that God's victory will bring (Nah 1:15).
E). WOE UPON THE BLOODY CITY AND ITS HARLOTRIES. Nah 3:1-4
D2). JUDGMENT AGAINST THE HARLOT CITY. Nah 3:5-7. As in the D1 section (Nah 3:13) God is said to be against Nineveh/Assyria. Building upon the E section (Nah 3:1-4) which mentioned "harlotries" the fate of the city is compared to that of a harlot's treatment in the ancient world. Behind the image is the military practice of the Assyrians who, to humiliate their captives would strip them, cover them with dung, or throw them on dung heaps (Isa 20:4; Amos 4:2).
C2). A RHETORICAL QUESTION INTRODUCES A TAUNT AGAINST ASSYRIAN PRIDE. Nah 3:8-13. The Egyptian city of Thebes was one the first truly great city of the Middle East. It was for nearly fourteen hundred years the center of the Great Egyptian Empire-from circa 2,000 BC until its fall to the Assyrians in 663 BC. Like Nineveh, which was located on the Euphrates, it was a great river city on the banks of the Nile. Like Nineveh and its Euphrates, Thebes was protected by a series of moats fed by the Nile and, like Nineveh, it was though impregnable. But Nineveh too will fall; and what they had perpetrated on the inhabitants of Thebes will be perpetrated on them. The lion who had once dwelt in its lair of Nineveh secure, coming and going at will (section C1, Nah 2:11-12), will have no refuge from enemies. The lion that once cared for its cubs (Nah 2:12) will behold their deaths. The Assyrian lion/king who once protected his lioness will see the men of his military become as women. The lion who once fed his own will have his military might plundered like ripe figs.
B2). A CALL TO ACTION WHICH AVAILS NOTHING. Nah 3:14-17. No matter what the Assyrians do to prepare for the siege (Nah 3:14), it will come to naught. No matter how much water they draw, it will not quench the fire. Fire and sword will devour them like locusts, even if they were to multiply like locust (Nah 3:15-17).A2). CONCLUSION. Nah 3:18-19. One interpretation is as follows: the Assyrian king's "shepherds" (military commanders) and nobles are dead ("asleep," "slumber"). This recalls the A1 section which spoke about the Assyrian might passing away (Nah 1:12). My own opinion is that the shepherds and nobles are references to the Assyrian gods and the image of sleep/slumber a reference to their inability to aid the king or protect themselves--he introduction had promised that they would be "cut off" Nah 1:14. In the introduction their demise is bound up with that of the king whose name would not be perpetuated, and whose grave would be dug. Here, they are helpless in the face of the God, "the scatterer" (Nah 2:1) who has "scattered" the king's people (Nah 3:18). The king himself is grievously wounded, ready for the previously mentioned grave (Nah 3:19). The good news of Assyria's demise, directed towards Judah (1:15), is news all those afflicted by Assyria will rejoice in.