Nahum 2

Proclamation of the Destruction of Nineveh

[Heb. 2:2] The watchmen of Nineveh shout:
The introductory phrase “The watchmen of Nineveh shout” is not in the Hebrew text, but has been supplied from the context for clarity.

“An enemy who will scatter you
The MT reads מֵפִיץ (mefits, “scatterer, disperser”), the Hiphil participle of פּוּץ (puts, “to scatter, to disperse”; HALOT 755 s.v. פוּץ, but see BDB 807 s.v. מֵפִיץ, which classifies it as a noun). The Vulgate’s qui dispergat (“one who disperses”) and the LXX’s ἐμφυσῶν (emfusōn, “one who blows hard; one who scatters”) also reflect מֵפִיץ. The BHS editors propose the emendation מַפֵּץ (mappets, “shatterer, hammerer, war club”; e.g., Jer 51:20 and Prov 25:18). This is unnecessary; the text makes sense as it stands and there is no textual support for the emendation. The theme of exile and dispersion is prominent in the book (Nah 2:7; 3:10–11, 17–18).
Heb “a scatterer.” The Hebrew term מֵפִיץ (mefits, “scatterer”) is either a collective singular referring to the Babylonian army or a singular of number referring to the Babylonian commander. Singular forms occur elsewhere in the vision of the fall of Nineveh (2:1–10), used in reference to the Babylonian commander (Nah 2:3, 5)
is marching out
Or “has come up”; or “has advanced.” Used in reference to an army, the verb עָלָה (’alah, “to go up”) means “to advance; to march against” (HALOT 829 s.v. 3.d; see 1 Sam 7:7; 1 Kgs 20:22; Isa 7:1; 21:2; Jer 46:9; Joel 1:6; Mic 2:3). Appearing in a prophetic vision, the suffix conjugation (perfect tense) form עָלָה can denote a future-time action that is pictured as complete (certain) and independent (not contingent upon other factors). The so-called “prophetic perfect” or “perfect of confidence” vividly expresses a future action that is “as good as done” (cf. Num 24:17; Isa 5:13; 8:23–9:1). See R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 33, #165; IBHS 489–90 #30.5.1.
to attack you!”
Heb “against your face”; NASB, NRSV “against you.”

The Qal infinitive absolute נָצוֹר (notsar, from נָצַר [nastar], “to guard”) is used in an imperatival sense as the following string of imperatives suggests. The imperatival use of the infinitive absolute is often used to introduce a series of imperatives with special urgency (e.g., Deut 1:16; 2 Sam 24:12; 2 Kgs 5:10). See IBHS 593–94 #35.5.1; R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 42, #211.
the rampart!
The BHS editors suggest revocalizing the Masoretic noun מְצֻרָה (metsurah, “rampart”) to the noun מַצָּרָה (matsarah, “the watchtower”) from the root נָצַר (natsar, “to watch, guard”). This would create a repetition of the root נָצַר which immediately precedes it: מַצָּרָה נָצוֹר (natsor matsarah, “Watch the watchtower!”). However, the proposed noun מַצָּרָה (“the watchtower”) appears nowhere in the Hebrew Bible. On the other hand, the Masoretic reading מְצֻרָה (“rampart”) and the related noun מָצוֹר (matsor, “rampart”) appear often (Pss 31:22; 60:11; Hab 2:1; Zech 9:3; 2 Chr 8:5; 11:5, 10, 11, 23; 12:4; 14:5, 21:3; 32:10). Thus, the Masoretic vocalization should be preserved. The LXX completely misunderstood this line. The LXX reading (“one who delivers out of tribulation”) has probably arisen from a confusion of the MT noun נָצוֹר (“guard”) with the common verb נָצַר (“deliver”). It also reflects a confusion of MT מְצֻרָה (“road, rampart”) with מִצְּרָה (mitserah, “from distress”).

Watch the road!
Prepare yourselves for battle!
Heb “Make strong your loins,” an expression which could refer (1) to the practice of tucking the ends of the long cloak (outer garment) into the belt to shorten it in preparation for activities like running, fighting in battle, etc. (cf. NAB, NRSV “gird your loins”); (2) to preparing oneself physically for the onslaught of the enemy (cf. NASB “strengthen your back”); or (3) to a combination of mental and physical preparation for battle (cf. NIV “brace yourselves”).

Muster your mighty strength!”
Heb “Make [your] strength exceedingly firm.”

For the Lord will restore
The Qal perfect שָׁב (shav, “restore, return”) is an example of the so-called “prophetic perfect.” In this case, the perfect tense does not denote past-time action, but a future-time action that is pictured as complete (certain) and independent (not contingent upon other factors). The so-called “prophetic perfect” or “perfect of confidence” vividly expresses a future action that is deemed “as good as done” (Num 24:17; Isa 5:13; 8:23–9:1). See R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 33, #165; IBHS 489–90 #30.5.1. Though the transitive use of the Qal of this verb is problematic, most scholars derive שָׁב from the root שׁוּב (shuv, “to turn, to return, to restore”). However, W. A. Maier (Nahum, 232) contends that שָׁב is derived from I שָׁבַב (shavav, “to cut off, to destroy, to smite”) which is related to Arabic sabba (“to cut”), Aramaic sibba’(“splinter”), and New Hebrew. Maier admits that this would be the only occurrence of a verb from I שָׁבָב in the OT; however, he argues that the appearance of the plural noun שְׁבָבִים (shevavim, “splinters”) in Hos 8:6 provides adequate support. There are several problems with Maier’s proposal. First, his support from Arabic, Aramaic (Targum) and New Hebrew is all late. Second, it creates a hapax legomenon (a word that occurs only once in the Hebrew Bible) for a well-known Hebrew word which frequently appears in climactic contexts in prophetic speeches, as here. Third, the root שׁוּב (shuv, “to turn, to return, to restore”) makes perfectly good sense in this context. The meaning of this usage of שָׁב (from the root שׁוּב) is debated. The LXX took it in the negative sense “has turned aside.” On the other hand, it is nuanced in a positive, salvific sense by the Vulgate, Targum, and Syriac. The salvific nuance is best for the following reasons: (1) its direct object is גְּאוֹן (geon) which should be understood in the positive sense of “majesty; exaltation; glory” (see following note on the word “majesty”); (2) the motive clause introduced by causative/ explanatory כִּי (ki, “for”) would make little sense, saying that the reason the Lord was about to destroy Nineveh was because he had turned away the pride of Judah; however, it makes good sense to say that the Lord would destroy Nineveh because he was about to deliver Judah; and (3) a reference to the Lord turning aside from Judah would be out of harmony with the rest of the book.
the majesty
The BHS editors propose emending the MT reading גְּאוֹן (geon, “majesty; pride”) to גֶּפֶן (gefen, “vineyard”) due to the mention of “their branches” (וּזְמֹרֵיהֶם, uzemorehem) in the following line (so HALOT 169 s.v. גָּאוֹן [2.b]). However, the LXX supports the MT.
While גְּאוֹן (geon) sometimes has the negative connotation “pride; arrogance; presumption” (Isa 13:11, 19; 14:11; 16:6; 23:9; Jer 13:9; 48:29; Ezek 16:49, 56; 32:12; Hos 5:5; 7:10; Amos 6:8; Zeph 2:10; Zech 9:6; 10:11; 11:3; Ps 59:13; Job 35:12; 40:10), it probably has the positive connotation “eminence; majesty; glory” (e.g., as in Exod 15:7; Isa 2:10, 19, 21; 4:2; 24:14; 60:15; Mic 5:3; Ps 47:5) in this context (BDB 145 s.v. 1.a).
of Jacob,
as well as
The preposition כְּ (kaf) on כִּגְאוֹן (kigon, “the glory of Israel”) may be comparative (“like the glory of Israel”) or emphatic (“the glory of Jacob, indeed, the glory of Israel”). See J. O’Rourke, “Book Reviews and Short Notes: Review of Nahum in the Light of Northwest Semitic by Kevin J. Cathcart,” CBQ 36 (1974): 397.
the majesty of Israel,
Or “for.” The introductory particle כִּי (ki) may be causal (“because”), explanatory (“for”), or concessive (“although”). KJV adopts the causal sense (“For”), while the concessive sense (“Although”) is adopted by NASB, NIV, NJPS, NRSV.
their enemies have plundered them
Heb “plunderers have plundered them.” The Hebrew root בָּקַק (baqaq, “to lay waste, to empty”) is repeated for emphasis: בְקָקוּם בֹּקְקִים (veqaqum boqeqim, “plunderers have plundered them”). Similar repetition of the root בָּקַק occurs in Isa 24:3: “[The earth] will be completely laid waste” (הִבּוֹק תִּבּוֹק, hibboq tibboq).

and have destroyed their fields.
Heb “their vine-branches.” The term “vine-branches” is a figurative expression (synecdoche of part for the whole) representing the agricultural fields as a whole.

Prophetic Vision of the Fall of Nineveh

The shields of his warriors are dyed red;
The MT reads מְאָדָּם (meadam, “reddened”) from אָדֹם (’adom, “red”). The LXX confused the roots אָדָם (“man”) and אָדֹם (“red”): ἐξ ἀνθρώπων (ex anqrōpōn, “from among men”) which reflects מֵאָדָם (meadam, “from man”) from אָדָם.
The Hebrew term מְאָדָּם (“reddened”) from אָדֹם (“red”) refers to clothes made red with dye (Exod 25:6; 26:14; 35:7, 23; 36:13; 39:34) or made red from bloodshed (Isa 63:2). The parallelism between מְאָדָּם (“reddened”) and מְתֻלָּעִים (metullaim, “clad in scarlet colored clothing”) suggests that the shields were dyed prior to battle, like the scarlet dyed uniforms. Nahum 2:1–10 unfolds the assault in chronological sequence; thus, the spattering of blood on the warrior’s shields would be too early in the account (R. D. Patterson, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah [WEC], 65).
As psychological warfare, warriors often wore uniforms colored blood-red, to strike fear into the hearts of their enemy (see Xenophon, Cyropaedia 6.4.1; Ezek 23:5–6).

the mighty soldiers are dressed in scarlet garments.
The Pual participle מְתֻלָּעִים (metullaim, “dressed in scarlet”) from תָּלָע (tala’, “scarlet”) is used elsewhere of clothing dyed red or purple (Isa 1:18; Lam 4:5).

The metal fittings
The MT reads פְּלָדוֹת (peladot, “steel”; see the following [T]). The LXX’s αἱ ἡνιάι (hai hēniai, “the reins”) and Vulgate’s habenai (“reins”) confused פְּלָדוֹת (peladot) with כְּלָיוֹת (kelayot, “reins, kidneys”). The BHS editors suggest emending the MT’s פְּלָדוֹת (peladot) to לַפִּדוֹת (lappidot, “torches”) to create the simile כְּאֵשׁ לַפִּדוֹת (keesh lappidot, “like torches of fire” or “like flaming torches”) which is reflected in the Syriac Peshitta and Symmachus (so KJV, RSV, NJPS). The problem with this is that לַפִּיד (lappid, “torch”) is masculine in gender, so the plural form is not לַפִּדוֹת but לַפִּדִים (lappidim) – which appears in Nah 2:4 (BDB 542 s.v. לַפִּיד; HALOT 533 s.v. לַפִּיד). Others propose a complete reversal of the consonants to דלפות from the root דָּלַף (dalaf, “to drip, to trickle, to leak, to weep”) and translate כְּאֵשׁ דְלָפוֹת (keesh delafot) as “like flickering fire” (so NEB). Against this proposal is the fact that דָּלָף is usually used in reference to water, but it is never used in reference to fire (HALOT 223 s.v. דלף; BDB 196 s.v. דָּלַף).
Heb “the steel.” The Hebrew term פְּלָדוֹת is a hapax legomenon. The corresponding noun פְּלָדָה (peladah) probably means “metal, steel” (BDB 811 s.v. פְּלָדָה; HALOT 761 s.v. פְּלָדָה), and it is probably related to Arabic puladu, Syriac pld’, and early Persian fulad (all of which mean “steel”). This rendering is followed by NASB, NIV, NRSV. The term פְּלָדוֹת (“steel”) probably refers to the metallic pole attachments for the chariot spears, the side armor of the chariots, or the steel scythes fastened to the axle of a chariot. Xenophon described the army of Cyrus in a similar manner; the side armor of the chariots and the breastplates and thigh-pieces of the chariot-horses were “flashing with bronze” (Xenophon, Cyropaedia 6.4.1). On the other hand, Cathcart connects Hebrew פְּלָדָה to Ugaritic paladu, which means “a garment made of linen hair,” and suggests that פְּלָדוֹת הָרֶכֶב (peladot harekhev) refers to the coverings, blankets, or caparisons of chariot horses (K. J. Cathcart, Nahum in the Light of Northwest Semitic [BibOr], 88). This demands that הָרֶכֶב be nuanced “chariot horses” – a problem when it means “chariots” in Nah 2:4; 3:2.
of the chariots
The collective singular רֶכֶב (rekhev, “chariot”) refers to all of the chariots in the army as a whole: “chariots; chariotry” (BDB 939 s.v. 1; HALOT 891 s.v. 1). The singular form rarely refers to a single chariot (BDB 939 s.v. 2; HALOT 891 s.v. 3). The collective use is indicated by the plural verb “they race back and forth” (יִתְהוֹלְלוּ, yitholelu) in v. 5 (GKC 462 #145.b). The term רֶכֶב usually refers to war chariots (Exod 14:7; Josh 11:4; 17:16, 18; 24:6; Judg 1:19; 4:3, 7, 13; 5:28; 1 Sam 13:5; 2 Sam 1:6; 8:4; 10:18; 1 Kgs 9:19, 22; 10:26; Jer 47:3; 50:37; 51:21; Ezek 23:24; Nah 2:3, 4, 13).
The MT reads the preposition בְּ (bet, “are [like]”), but several Hebrew mss read the comparative preposition כְּ (kaf, “like”). This textual variant probably arose due to the visual similarity of the two letters (orthographic confusion) and the relatively rare use of בְּ in metaphors – the comparative preposition כְּ (“like”) is much more common in metaphors. The MT is the more difficult reading and best explains the origin of the variant.
Heb “The chariots are…” The preposition בְּ on בְּאֵשׁ (beesh) denotes essence: “The chariots are…” (GKC 430 #133.c; HALOT 104 s.v. בְּ 3). The use of this preposition creates a metaphor, comparing the steel fittings of the chariots to flashes of fire.
Or perhaps “The chariots are [like] flaming torches.”
on the day of battle;
Heb “on the day of its preparation.” The Hiphil infinitive construct הֲכִינוֹ (hakhino; from כּוּן, kun) means “to prepare, to make ready” (HALOT 465 s.v. כּוּן; BDB 466 s.v. כּוּן). The Hiphil verb is used of preparing weapons and military equipment for the day of battle (2 Chr 26:14; Ps 7:13 [HT 7:14]; 57:6 [HT 57:7]). The 3rd person masculine singular suffix (“its preparation”) is a collective singular, referring to the chariotry as a whole.

the soldiers brandish
Some scholars adopt the variant reading הַפְּרֹשִׁים (happeroshim, “the horses”) and relate הָרְעָלוּ (horalu) to Arabic raʿala (“to stand in row and rank”): “the horses stand in row and rank,” that is, at attention. However, it is preferable to retain the MT for the noun, with the verb given its normal Hebrew meaning.
Heb “the spears quiver”; or “the spears are made to quiver.” Alternately, “the horses quiver” or “the horses shake [with excitement].” The Hophal perfect הָרְעָלוּ (horalu, “are made to quiver”) is from רָעַל (raal, “to quiver, to shake”) which appears elsewhere only in Hab 2:16 (BDB 947 s.v. רָעַל; HALOT 900 s.v. II רעל); the related noun רַעַל (“reeling”) appears only once (Zech 12:2). This Hebrew root is related to the Aramaic רְעַל (real, “to quiver, to shake”). The action of the spear-shafts quivering is metonymical (effect for cause) to the action of the spear-shafts being brandished by the warriors. In the translation the words “the soldiers” are supplied for clarity.
their spears.
The MT reads הַבְּרֹשִׁים (habberoshim, “the cypresses”). A variant textual tradition (preserved in several Hebrew mss) reads הַפְּרֹשִׁים (happeroshim, “spears, horses, horsemen”) which is reflected in the LXX and Syriac. The variant noun הַפְּרֹשִׁים is derived either from IV פָּרַשׁ (“horse, horseman”; see BDB 831 s.v. פָּרַשׁ; HALOT 977 s.v. פָּרָשׁ) or II פָּרַשׁ (“spear, staff”) which is related to Akkadian parussu (“spear-staff”; see BDB 831 II פָּרַשׁ). The LXX connects הַבְּרֹשִׁים to IV פָּרַשׁ (“horsemen”) as indicated by its translation οἱ ἱππεϊς (hoi hippeis, “the horsemen”). While some English versions follow the MT (KJV, NASB, NIV, NJPS), others adopt the alternate textual tradition (RSV, NEB, NJB, NRSV).
Heb “the cypresses”; alternately, “the horses.” The Hebrew noun הַבְּרֹשִׁים (“the cypresses”) is probably from the root בְּרוֹשׁ (berosh, “cypress, fir”) and is a figure of speech (synecdoche of material) in which the thing made (spear-shafts) is intended by the use of the term for the material out of which it is made (cypress wood). See K. J. Cathcart, Nahum in the Light of Northwest Semitic (BibOr), 89.

The chariots
Heb “the chariot.” The Hebrew noun הָרֶכֶב (harekhev, “the chariot”) is a collective use of the singular, as indicated by the plural verb “[they] race madly” (see GKC 462 #145.b).
race madly
The Hitpolel imperfect יִתְהוֹלְלוּ (yitholelu, “they rush wildly”) is from the root III הלל (“to be foolish, to be senseless, to be insane”). The Hitpolel stem describes seemingly insane actions: “to pretend to be insane; to act like a madman” (1 Sam 21:14; Jer 25:16; 50:38; 51:7; see HALOT 249 s.v. III הלל). When used in military contexts, it describes the wild, furious action of war-chariots charging forward to attack the enemy (Jer 46:9). The Hitpolel stem is the equivalent to the Hitpael stem for geminate verbs (see IBHS 425–26 #26.1.1). The Hitpolel stem expresses energetic, intense, and rapid action; it gives special energy and movement to the verbal idea (J. Muilenburg, “Hebrew Rhetoric: Repetition and Style,” VTSup 1 [1953]: 101).
through the streets,
they rush back and forth
The Hitpalpel imperfect יִשְׁתַּקְשְׁקוּן (yishtaqshequn, “they rush back and forth”; see GKC 153 #55.g) is from שָׁקַק (shaqaq, “to rush upon; to rush forth”); cf. Prov 28:15; Isa 33:4; Joel 2:9 (HALOT 1009 s.v. I שׁקק). The Hitpalpel is the Hitpael stem for geminate verbs (IBHS 425–26 #26.1.1). The Hitpalpel stem gives special energy and movement to the verbal idea; it connotes intense, furious, and energetic action (e.g., Deut 9:20; Jer 5:22; see J. Muilenburg, “Hebrew Rhetoric: Repetition and Style,” VTSup 1 [1953]: 101). The nun ending on יִשְׁתַּקְשְׁקוּן may denote additional energy and emphasis (see IBHS 516–17 #31.7.1).
in the broad plazas;
they look
Heb “Their appearance is like.”
like lightning bolts,
Or “like torches.” The Hebrew term לַפִּיד (lappid) often means “torch, flame” (Gen 15:17; Judg 7:16, 20; 15:4, 5; Isa 62:1; Ezek 1:13; Zech 12:6; Dan 10:6), but sometimes refers to “lightning bolts” (Exod 20:18; Job 12:5; see HALOT 533 s.v. לַפִּיד; BDB 542 s.v. לַפִּיד). Most English versions render this usage as “torches” (KJV, NASB, NIV, NRSV, NJPS). However, the parallelism with כַּבְּרָקִים (kabberaqim, “like lightning flashes”) suggests that in this context כַּלַּפִּידִם (kalappidim) may be nuanced “like lightning bolts.”

they dash here and there
Or “they flash here and there.” The Polel imperfect יְרוֹצֵצוּ (yirotsetsu, “they dash here and there”) is from the root רוּץ (ruts) which means “to run quickly” in reference to men (Gen 18:2; 2 Kgs 23:12; Prov 4:12) and “to gallop” in reference to horsemen (Joel 2:14). The Hiphil stem denotes “to drive off with haste” (Jer 49:19; 50:44). The Polel stem, which is used here, means “to race about swiftly; to flash by speedily; to run to and fro” (HALOT 1208 s.v. רוץ; BDB 930 s.v. רוּץ).
like flashes of lightning.
Or simply, “like lightning.” The term “lightning flash” (בָּרָק, baraq) is often used to compare the brightness of an object to the flash of lightning: the glory of Yahweh (Ezek 1:13), the splendor of an angel (Dan 10:6), the glitter of swords (Deut 32:41; Ezek 21:15; Nah 3:3; Hab 3:11), and the gleam of arrowheads (Job 20:25). It is also used as a figure (hypocatastasis) for speed, such as the swift destruction of an enemy (Zech 9:14). Perhaps both images are suggested here: the bright glitter of the chariots ( v. 4b) and the speed of the chariots as suggested by the verb “they dash here and there” (יְרוֹצֵצוּ, yerotsetsu, v. 5b).

The commander
Heb “he”; the referent (the commander) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
The MT reads the Qal imperfect 3rd person masculine singular יִזְכֹּר (yizkor, “he commands”) from II זָכַּר (zakkar, “to command”); see above. The rarity of this homonymic root in Hebrew has led to textual variants and several proposed emendations. The LXX misunderstood זָכַּר and the syntax of the line: καὶ μνησθνήσονται οἱ μεγιστατες (mnēsthnēsontai hoi megistätes, “And their mighty men will be remembered”; or “will remember themselves”). The LXX reflects the Niphal imperfect 3rd person common plural יִזָּכְרוּ (yizzakhru, “they will be remembered”). The BHS editors suggest emending to יִזָּכְרוּ on the basis of the LXX. The BHK editors proposed emending to pilpel imperfect 3rd person common plural יְכַרְכְרוּ (yekharkheru, “they prance, they whirl”) from II כָּרַר (karar, “to dance”). None of the emendations are necessary once the existence of the homonym II זָכַּר (“to order”) is recognized.
The Hebrew verb II זָכַּר is related to Akkadian zakartu (“to give an order”; see CAD 2:17). This is distinct from the more common root zakar I (“to remember”) which is related to Akkadian zakaru. The English versions are split between the two roots: “he commands” (NJPS) and “he summons” (NIV) versus “he recounts” (KJV), “he remembers” (NASB), and “he calls” (NRSV).
his officers;
they stumble
The MT reads the Niphal imperfect 3rd person masculine plural יִכָּשְׁלוּ (yikoshlu, “they stumble”) from the root כָּשַׁל (kashal, “stumble”). G. R. Driver argues that the MT makes little sense in the portrayal of a successful assault; the motif of stumbling warriors usually connotes defeat (Isa 5:27; Jer 46:6). Driver argues that MT’s יִכָּשְׁלוּ (“they stumble”) arose from metathesis (reversal of consonants) from an original יִשָּׁלְכוּ (yishalkhu, Niphal from שָׁלַךְ [shalakh, “to cast forth”]) which also appears in 2 Kgs 13:24–25, 28 (“hurled himself,” i.e., rushed headlong). Driver suggests that this is related to Arabic salaka VII (“to rush in”). He notes that the emendation would produce a tighter parallelism with the following noun: יְמַהֲרוּ (yemaharu, “they hasten”). See G. R. Driver, “Linguistic and Textual Problems: Minor Prophets II,” JTS 39 (1938): 270. On the other hand, Armerding argues that the anomalous MT reading יִכָּשְׁלוּ (“they stumble”) can be explained without recourse to textual emendation. The stumbling of the attacking army is caused, not by their weakness, but by the corpses of the Assyrians strewn in their path which obstructs their advance. Armerding suggests that this motif appears in Nah 3:3 (C. E. Armerding, “Nahum,” EBC 7:475).
Alternately, “they rush forward.”
as they advance;
Or “in their trenches”; or “in their columns”; Heb “in their advance”; or “in their march.” The noun הֲלִיכָה (halikhah, “procession, journey”) is nuanced “march; advance” in a military context (BDB 237 s.v. 1.a; HALOT 246 s.v. 1.a). Similarly, the related verb הָלַךְ (halakh) means “to march, to advance” in battle contexts (Judg 1:10; Hab 1:6). This is related to the Assyrian noun alaktu (“to advance”) which is often used of military advances (CAD 1.1.299). The related Assyrian noun aliktu means “detachment of soldiers” (CAD 1.1.346). HALOT suggests that הֲלִיכָה is related to an Assyrian noun which is a technical military term: “trenches, columns” (HALOT 246 s.v. *הֲלִיכָה). This line could be rendered, “They stumble in their trenches” or “They stumble in their columns.”

they rush to the city wall
The MT reads הוֹמָתָהּ (homatah, “her wall”). On the other hand, several Hebrew mss, Targum Jonathan, and the Syriac Peshitta omit the mappiq and preserve an alternate textual tradition of the directive -he ending: הוֹמָתָה (“to the wall”). The directive sense is seen in the LXX. Although the MT lacks the directive -he (ה) ending, it is possible that the MT’s הוֹמָתָהּ functions as an adverbial accusative of direction meaning “to her wall.” The adverbial accusative of direction often occurs after verbs of motion (R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 13–14, #54; IBHS 169–71 #10.2.2).
Heb “to her wall,” referring to Nineveh.

and they set up
The MT reads the Hophal perfect 3rd person masculine singular וְהֻכַן (vehukhan, “and [it] is prepared”). On the other hand, the LXX reading reflects the Hiphil perfect 3rd person common plural וְהֵכִינּוּ (vehekhinnu, “and they will prepare”). Arguing that the active sense is necessary because the three preceding verbs are all active, K. J. Cathcart (Nahum in the Light of Northwest Semitic [BibOr], 95) suggests emending to the Hiphil infinitive absolute וְהָכִין (vehakhin, “and [they] prepare”). However, the Masoretic form should be retained because it is the more difficult reading that best explains the origin of the LXX reading. The shift from active to passive verbs is common in Hebrew, marking a cause-result sequence (e.g., Pss 24:7; 69:14 [15]; Jer 31:4; Hos 5:5). See M. Weinfeld, “The Active-Passive (Factitive-Resultive) Sequence of Identical Verbs in Biblical Hebrew and Ugaritic,” JBL 84 (1965): 272-82.
Heb “the mantelet is prepared.”
the covered siege tower.
Heb “mantelet.” The Hebrew noun סֹכֵךְ (sokhekh, “mantelet”) is a military technical term referring to a large movable shelter used as a protective cover for soldiers besieging a fortified city, designed to shield them from the arrows shot down from the city wall (HALOT 754 s.v.; BDB 697 s.v.). This noun is a hapax legomenon (a word that only occurs once in the Hebrew Bible) and is derived from the verb III סָכַךְ (sakhakh, “to cover; to protect”; TWOT 2:623–24). K. J. Cathcart (Nahum in the Light of Northwest Semitic [BibOr], 95) suggests that the translation “mantelet” is supported by the use of the verb III סָכַךְ in Ps 140:7 [8]: “Yahweh, my Lord, my fortress of safety; shelter (סַכֹּתָּה, sakotah) my head in the day of arms.” This is reflected in several recent English versions: “wheeled shelters” (NJPS), “protective shield” (NIV), “covering used in a siege” (NASB margin), and “mantelet” (ASV, NAB, NASB, NRSV). Cf. also TEV “the shield for the battering ram.”
The Hebrew term translated covered siege tower probably does not refer to a battering ram, but to a movable protective tower, used to cover the soldiers and the siege machinery. These are frequently depicted in Neo-Assyrian bas-reliefs, such as the relief of Sennacherib’s siege of Lachish. The Neo-Assyrians used both small, hut-like shelters that could be carried by a few men, as well as larger, tower-like structures rolled on wheels to the top of siege embankments. These mantelets protected the attackers while they built the embankments and undermined the foundations of the city walls to hasten their collapse. Siege towers were equipped with machines designed to hurl stones to smash the fortifications and firebrands to start conflagrations (see A. H. Layard, Nineveh and Its Remains, 2:281–86).

The sluice gates
Or “river dam gates”; NAB, NIV, NRSV, NLT “river gates.”
Nineveh employed a system of dams and sluice gates to control the waters of the Tebiltu and Khoser Rivers which flowed through the city (R. C. Thompson and R. W. Hutchinson, A Century of Exploration at Nineveh, 120–132). However, the Tebiltu often flooded its banks inside the city, undermining palace foundations and weakening other structures. To reduce this flooding, Sennacherib changed the course of the Tebiltu inside the city. Outside the city, he dammed up the Khoser and created a reservoir, regulating the flow of water into the city through an elaborate system of double sluice gates (D. D. Luckenbill, Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylon, 99–100; J. Reade, “Studies in Assyrian Geography, Part I: Sennacherib and the Waters of Nineveh,” RA 72 [1978]: 47-72; idem, “Studies in Assyrian Geography, Part II: The Northern Canal System,” RA 72 [1978]: 157-80). According to classical tradition (Diodorus and Xenophon), just before Nineveh fell, a succession of very high rainfalls deluged the area. The Khoser River swelled and the reservoir was breached. The waters rushed through the overloaded canal system, breaking a hole twenty stades (about 2.3 miles or 3.7 km) wide in the city wall and flooding the city. When the waters receded, the Babylonians stormed into Nineveh and conquered the city (Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca Historica, 2.26-27, especially 27.1-3; Xenophon, Anabasis, 3.4.12; P. Haupt, “Xenophon’s Account of the Fall of Nineveh,” JAOS 28 [1907]: 65-83). This scenario seems to be corroborated by the archaeological evidence (A. T. Olmstead, History of Assyria, 637).
are opened;
the royal palace is deluged
Heb “and the palace melts.” The Niphal perfect נָמוֹג (namog, “is undulated”) from מוּג (mug, “to melt, to soften, to dissolve”) is sometimes used of material objects (earth, hills) being softened or eroded by water (Ps 65:11; Amos 9:13). Nahum pictures the river banks inside Nineveh overflowing in a torrent, crashing into the royal palace and eroding its limestone slab foundations.
Ironically, a few decades earlier, Sennacherib engaged in a program of flood control because the Tebiltu River often flooded its banks inside Nineveh and undermined the palace foundations. Sennacherib also had to strengthen the foundations of his palace with “mighty slabs of limestone” so that “its foundation would not be weakened by the flood of high water” (D. D. Luckenbill, Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylon, 99–100). At the time of the fall of Nineveh, the Palace of Ashurbanipal was located on the edge of the sharpest bend of the Khoser River as it flowed through the city; when the Khoser overflowed its banks, the palace foundation was weakened (J. Reade, “Studies in Assyrian Geography, Part I: Sennacherib and the Waters of Nineveh,” RA 72 [1978]: 51).
and dissolves.
Or “the palace collapses and crumbles.” The Hophal perfect 3rd person masculine singular וְהֻצַּב (vehutsav) is from either I נָצַב (“to stand”; HALOT 715 s.v. I נצב; BDB 662 s.v. נָצַב) or II נָצַב (“to dissolve, weaken”; HALOT 715 s.v. II נצב). Many scholars who take וְהֻצַּב from I נָצָב (“to stand”) suggest that the meaning is “it is fixed; it is determined” (BDB 662 s.v. נָצַב). This is followed by several English versions: “it is decreed” (NIV, NRSV) and “it is fixed” (NASB). This is a rather awkward idea and does not seem to fit the context of the description of the destruction of the palace or the exile of the Ninevites. On the other hand, several scholars suggest that וְהֻצַּב is derived from נָצָב II (“to be weak”; cf. Ps 39:6; Zech 11:16; ) which is related to Arabic nasiba (“to be weak”) or Arabic nasaba (“to suck out, to dissolve”) and Assyrian nasabu (“to suck out”); see W. H. F. Saggs, “Nahum and the Fall of Nineveh,” JTS 20 (1969): 220-21; R. D. Patterson, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah (WEC), 69–70. As a parallel word to נָמוֹג (namog, “is deluged” or “melts”), וְהֻצַּב (“is weakened” or “is dissolved”) describes the destructive effect of the flood waters on the limestone foundations of the palace. The verse divisions in the MT place וְהֻצַּב at the beginning of v. 7 ET [v. 8 HT]; however, it probably should be placed at the end of v. 6 ET [v. 7 HT] and connected with the last two words of the line: וְהַהֵיכָל נָמוֹג וְהֻצַּב (vehahekhal namog vehutsav, “the palace is deluged and dissolved”; see Patterson, 69–70). This is supported by several factors: (1) the gender of וְהֻצַּב is masculine, while the verbs in v. 7 are feminine: גֻּלְּתָה הֹעֲלָתָה (gulletah hoalatah, “she is led into exile and taken away”); (2) the gender of the final verb in v. 6 is masculine: נָמוֹג (“[the palace] is deluged”); (3) both וְהֻצַּב and נָמוֹג are passive verbs (Niphal and Hophal); (4) both נָמוֹג (“is deluged”) and וְהֻצַּב (“is dissolved/weakened”) are parallel in meaning, describing the effects of flood waters on the limestone foundation of the royal palace; (5) this redivision of the lines produces a balanced 3+3 and 2+2 colon count in these two lines; and (6) this produces a balance of two verbs each in each colon. The meaning of וְהֻצַּב is notoriously difficult. Scholars offer over a dozen different proposals but only the most important are summarized here: (1) Most scholars take וְהֻצַּב as Hophal perfect 3rd person masculine singular with vav (ו) conjunction from I נָצַב (“to stand”), meaning “it is fixed; it is determined” (BDB 662 s.v. נָצַב). This is followed by several English versions: “it is decreed” (NIV, NRSV) and “it is fixed” (NASB). The LXX translation καὶ ἡ ὑπόστασις (kai hē hupostasis, “and the foundation”) reflects a reading of וְהֻצַּב with a meaning similar to its use in Gen 28:12 (“a stairway resting on the earth”) or a reading of וְהַמַּצָּב (vehammatsav) from the noun מַצָּב (matsav, “place of standing”; cf. BDB 662 s.v. מַצָּב; HALOT 620 s.v. מַצָּב). (2) The BHS editors suggest emending to Hophal perfect 3rd person feminine singular וְהֻצְאָה (vehutsah) from יָצָא (yatsa’, “to go out”), meaning “she is led out into exile” or “she is led out to be executed” (HALOT 427 s.v. יצא; see, e.g., Gen 38:25; Jer 38:22; Ezek 14:22; 38:8; 44:5; Amos 4:3). (3) Early Jewish interpreters (Targum Jonathan, Kimchi, Rashi) and modern Christian interpreters (e.g., W. A. Maier, Nahum, 259–62) view וְהֻצַּב as the proper name of an Assyrian queen, “Huzzab.” This is adopted by several English versions: “And Huzzab is exiled” (KJV, RV, NJPS). However, this view has been severely criticized by several scholars because no queen in Assyrian history is known by this name (G. R. Driver, “Farewell to Queen Huzzab!” JTS 16 [1965]: 296-98; W. H. F. Saggs, “Nahum and the Fall of Nineveh,” JTS 20 [1969]: 220). (4) Several scholars suggest that וְהֻצַּב is the Hophal perfect of II נָצַב which is related to Assyrian nasabu (“to suck out”) and Arabic nasaba (“to suck out; to dissolve”), as in Ps 39:6 and Zech 11:16. Taking גֻּלְּתָה (gulletah) as the noun “column-base” (see translator’s note on the word “exile” in this verse), Saggs translates the line as: “its column-base is dissolved” (W. H. F. Saggs, “Nahum and the Fall of Nineveh,” JTS 20 [1969]: 220-21). Patterson connects it to the last two words of the previous line: וְהַהֵיכָל נָמוֹג וְהֻצַּב, “The palace collapses and crumbles” (Patterson, 69–70). (5) Driver revocalizes it as the noun וְהַצֹּב (“and the [captive] train”) which he relates to the Arabic noun sub (“train”): “the train of captives goes into exile” (so NEB). This is reflected in the Greek text of the Minor Prophets from Nahal Heber which took וְהֻצַּב as “wagon, chariot.” (6) Cathcart suggests that the MT’s וְהֻצַּב may be repointed as וְהַצַּב which is related to Assyrian hassabu (“goddess”). (7) Several scholars emend to וְהַצְּבִי (vehatsevi, “the Beauty”) from צְבִי (tsevi, “beauty”) and take this as a reference to the statue of Ishtar in Nineveh (K. J. Cathcart, Nahum in the Light of Northwest Semitic [BibOr], 96–98; M. Delcor, “Allusions ʿ la déesse Istar en Nahum 2, 8?” Bib 58 [1977]: 73-83; T. Longman, “Nahum,” The Minor Prophets, 2:806). (8) R. L. Smith (Micah-Malachi [WBC], 82) derives consonantal והצב from נְצִיב (nitsiv, “pillar”; HALOT 716-17 s.v. נְצִיב) which is related to Assyrian nisibi which refers to the statue of a goddess.

The term “Nineveh” is not in the Hebrew text, but is supplied from context.
is taken into exile
The MT reads the Pual perfect 3rd person feminine singular גֻּלְּתָה (gulletah) from גָלָה (galah, “to uncover, to go into exile”; BDB 162-63 s.v. גָלָה; HALOT 191-92 s.v. גלה). There are two basic views of the meaning of גֻּלְּתָה in this verse: (1) “She is stripped” (see R. L. Smith, Micah-Malachi [WBC], 81). This may describe the exposure of the foundation of a building (Ezek 13:14) or the uncovering of intimate parts of the body (Exod 20:26; Isa 47:3; Ezek 16:36, 57; 23:29; ). This is reflected in the LXX reading ἀπεκαλύφθη (apekalufqē, “she has been exposed”). This approach is followed by NASB (“she is stripped”). (2) “She is taken into exile” (KJV, NIV, NRSV, NJPS). The Qal stem of גָלָה often means “to go into exile” (Judg 18:30; 2 Kgs 24:14; Isa 5:13; 49:21; Jer 1:3; Ezek 39:23; Amos 1:5; 5:5; 6:7; Lam 1:3); the Hiphil often means “to deport exiles” (2 Kgs 15:20; 16:9; 17:6, 11, 26, 28, 33; 18:11; 24:14–15; 25:11; Jer 20:4; 22:12; 24:1; 27:20; 29:1, 4, 7, 14; 39:9; 43:3; 52:15, 28, 30; Ezek 39:28; Amos 1:6; 5:27; Lam 4:22; Esth 2:6; Ezra 2:1; Neh 7:6; 1 Chr 5:6, 26, 41; 8:6; 2 Chr 36:20); and the Hophal stem always means “to be deported; to be taken into exile” (Jer 40:1, 7; Esth 2:6; 1 Chr 9:1). This makes the best sense in the light of the parallel verb הֹעֲלָתָה (hoalatah, “she is led away”) in v. 7 [8 HT] and the description of the fleeing Ninevites in v. 8 [9 HT]. The BHS editors and HALOT suggest that consonantal גלתה be vocalized as Qal perfect 3rd person feminine singular גָּלְתָה (goltah, “she goes into exile”) from גָלָה (Qal: “go into exile”). R. D. Patterson suggests vocalizing consonantal גלתה as the noun with 3rd person feminine singular suffix גָּלְתָהּ for גּוֹלְתָהּ (goltah, “her exiles/captives”) and taking the singular form as collective in meaning: “her exiles/captives are carried away” (Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah [WEC], 70). W. H. F. Saggs suggests that גֻלְּתָה is the noun גֻּלָּה (gullah, “column-base”) as in 1 Kgs 7:41–42; 2 Chr 4:12–13 (BDB 165 s.v. גֻּלָּה 2.b; HALOT 192 s.v. גֻּלָּה 1.b) which is related to Assyrian gullatu (“column-base”; CAD 5:128). He renders the phrase וְהֻצַּב גֻּלְּתָה (vehutsav gulletah) as “its column-base[s] is/are dissolved” (see above). He suggests that this provides an excellent parallel to “the palace begins to melt” (וְהַהֵיכָל נָמוֹג, vehahekhal namog). W. H. F. Saggs also proposes that the LXX reflects this picture (“Nahum and the Fall of Nineveh,” JTS 20 [1969]: 220-25).
and is led away;
Or “And its column-bases collapse and it goes up [in smoke].” The MT reads the Hophal perfect 3rd person feminine singular הֹעֲלָתָה (hoalatah, “she is carried away”) from עָלָה (’alah, “to go up”). The Hiphil stem of עָלָה often describes a military commander leading a group of forced workers out of a town (1 Kgs 5:13 [HT 5:27]; 9:15, 21; 2 Chr 8:8); likewise, the Hophal stem may denote “to be led away into exile” (HALOT 830 s.v.; BDB 748 s.v. עָלָה).

her slave girls moan
The MT reads the Piel participle מְנַהֲגוֹת (menahagot, “sobbing, moaning”) from II נָהַג (“to moan, to lament”; HALOT 675 s.v.; BDB 624 s.v. II נָהַג). This root is related to Assyrian nagagu (“to cry”; AHw 2:709.b). This harmonizes well with the following cola: “Her maidservants moan like doves, they beat upon their breasts.” This is adopted by several English versions (NASB, NIV, NRSV). On the other hand, an alternate vocalization tradition (represented by several Hebrew mss, Targum Jonathan, LXX, and Vulgate) reads the Pual participle מְנֹהֲגוֹת (menohagot, “forcibly removed”) from the more common root I נַהַג (“to drive away, to lead away”; HALOT 675 s.v. נהג). This root is often used of conquerors leading away exiles or prisoners of war (Gen 31:26; Deut 4:27; 28:37; Isa 20:4; Lam 3:2). This picture is clearly seen in the LXX reading καὶ αἱ δοῦλαι αὐτῆς ἤγοντο (kai hai doulai autēs ēgonto, “and her maidservants were led away”). This textual tradition harmonizes with the imagery of exile in the preceding colon (see translator’s note on the word “exile” in this verse). This approach is adopted by several English versions (KJV, NJPS).
Or “her maidservants are led away [into exile].”
like doves
Heb “like the sound of doves.”
while they beat
The Poel participle מְתֹפְפֹת (metofefot, “beating continuously”) is from תָפַף (“to beat”; HALOT 1037-38 s.v. תֹּף; BDB 1074 s.v. תָּפַף). Elsewhere it is used of beating timbrels (Ps 68:26; 1 Sam 21:14). The participle describes a circumstance accompanying the main action (“her maidservants moan”) and functions in a continual, repetitive manner (see IBHS 625–26 #37.6; R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 43, #221).
their breasts.
The MT reads מְתֹפְפֹת עַל־לִבְבֵהֶן (metofefot al-livvehen, “beating upon their hearts [= breasts]”). The LXX reading φθεγγόμεναι ἐν καρδίαις αὐτῶν (fthengomenai en kardiais autōn, “moaning in their hearts”) reflects either an alternate textual tradition or simple textual confusion. The Greek participle φθεγγόμεναι seems to reflect either: (1) the Qal participle הֹגוֹת (hogot) from הָגָה (hagah, “to moan”) as reflected in Targum Jonathan and Vulgate or (2) the Poel participle מְנֹהֲגוֹת (menohagot, “moaning”) from II נָהַג (“to moan”) which appears in the previous line, pointing to a transposition of words between the two lines.
Heb “upon their heart.” The term “their heart” (לִבְבֵהֶן, livvehen) is a figure of speech (synecdoche of the inner organ for the outer body part) representing their breasts/chests (e.g., Dan 4:16 [13]; see HALOT 516 s.v. לֵבָב; BDB 523 s.v. לֵבָב II.1). The singular noun is used collectively for all the maidservants as a whole, as the plural suffix indicates (see IBHS 113 #7.2.1; R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 7, #2).

Nineveh was like a pool
The term “pool” (בְּרֵכָה, berekhah) usually refers to a man-made artificial water reservoir fed by water aqueducts rather than to a natural pond (HALOT 161 s.v.). For example, it is used in reference to man-made water reservoirs for the royal gardens (Eccl 2:6; Neh 2:14); man-made water reservoirs in Jerusalem, some of which were fed by aqueducts (2 Kgs 18:17; 20:20; Isa 7:3; 22:9, 11; 36:2; Neh 3:15, 16); the pool of Gibeon (2 Sam 2:13); the pool of Hebron (2 Sam 4:12); the pool of Samaria (1 Kgs 22:38); and the pools of Heshbon (Song 7:5). The pool of Siloam, built by Hezekiah and fed by the underground aqueduct known as Hezekiah’s Tunnel, is designated by the term בְּרֵכָה in 2 Kgs 20:20 and the Siloam Inscription (line 5).
Nineveh was like a pool of water. This is an appropriate simile because Nineveh was famous for its artificial pools, many of which serviced the royal gardens. Two rivers also flowed through the city: the Tebiltu and the Khoser.
of water
Or “Nineveh [is] like a pool of water.” Either a present tense or a past tense verb may be supplied.
throughout her days,
The MT reads מִימֵי הִיא (mime hi’, “from her days”). The form מִימֵי is composed of the assimilated preposition מִן (min, “from”) prefixed to the plural construct of יוֹם (yom, “day”; see HALOT 399 s.v. יוֹם). The preposition מִן is used temporally, marking the beginning of a continuous period (“since, from”; see HALOT 597 s.v. מִן 2; BDB 581 s.v. מִן 4.a). Several scholars suggest that the third-person independent pronoun הִיא (hi’) functions as a possessive genitive (“her”), a usage attested in Ugaritic, Akkadian, and elsewhere in Hebrew (2 Kgs 9:18; Isa 18:2; Nah 2:12). See K. J. Cathcart, Nahum in the Light of Northwest Semitic (BibOr), 100–101; IBHS 291 #16.2 n. 9; T. Longman, “Nahum,” The Minor Prophets, 2:807. The plural of יוֹם (“day”) here denotes “lifetime” (HALOT 400 s.v. יוֹם 6.c). The phrase מִימֵי הִיא probably means “from the beginning of her days” or “throughout her days” or “during her lifetime.” This is similar to “from the beginning of your days” or “since your days began” or “as long as you live” (1 Sam 25:28; Job 38:12; see HALOT 400 s.v. יוֹם 6.c; 597 s.v. מִן 2.a; BDB 581 s.v. מִן 4.a). Several English versions adopt this: “throughout her days” (NASB), “from earliest times” (NJPS), and “[Nineveh] of old” (KJV). In contrast to the Masoretic vocalization, the consonantal text מִימֵי הִיא is rendered “her waters” by the LXX and critical scholars. The reading of the LXX (τὰ ὕδατα αὐτῆς, ta hudata autēs, “her waters”) reflects the alternate vocalization מֵימֶיהָ (memeha, “her waters”). The BHS editors suggest emending the MT to מֵימֶיהָ (“her waters”). Saggs suggests that the original form was מֵימֶיהָא (memeha’, “her waters”) which he explains thus: מִימֶי is the plural construct of מָיִם (mayim, “waters”); הָא is the 3rd person feminine singular suffix on the plural noun, as in Ezek 41:15 (GKC 107 #32.l); the yod (י) of Masoretic הִיא (hi’) is a secondary matres lectionis inserted into wrongly-divided and misunderstood ־הָא (W. H. F. Saggs, “Nahum and the Fall of Nineveh,” JTS 20 [1969]: 220-25). These alternative approaches are followed by several English versions: “its water is draining away” (NIV); “whose waters run away” (NRSV); and “its waters are fleeing” (NJB).
Heb “from days of her” or “from her days.”

but now
The translation takes the vav on וְהֵמָּה (vehemmah) in a temporal sense. This approach is also adopted by NJPS: “Now they flee.”
her people
Heb “they”; the referent (the people of Nineveh) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
are running away;
Or “fleeing away”; or (maintaining the imagery of the pool of water) “draining away.”

she cries out:
The introductory phrase “she cries out” is not in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
“Stop! Stop!” –
but no one turns back.
Or “can turn [them] back.” The Hebrew verb ָָפּנַה (panah, “to turn”) often describes the fearful flight from an attacking enemy army (Josh 7:12; Judg 20:42, 45, 47; Jer 46:5, 21; 47:3; 48:39; 49:8, 24). Nahum pictures the people of Nineveh fleeing from their attackers; nothing can be done to stop their fearful flight. The Hiphil participle מַפְנֶה (mafneh) may be taken in an intransitive (Jer 46:5, 21; 47:3; 49:24) or transitive sense (Judg 15:4; 1 Sam 10:9; Jer 48:39), i.e., “no one turns back” or “no one can turn [them] back,” respectively (see IBHS 436–43 #27.2).

Her conquerors cry out:
The phrase “Her conquerors cry out” has been supplied from context.

“Plunder the silver! Plunder the gold!”
There is no end to the treasure;
riches of every kind of precious thing.
10  Destruction, devastation, and desolation!
Heb “Emptiness and devastation and being laid waste.” Several English versions attempt to reproduce the assonance, alliteration, and paronomasia of three similarly sounding Hebrew words: בּוּקַָה וּמְבוּקָה וּמְבֻלָּקָה (buqah umevuqah umevullaqah; NJPS “Desolation, devastation, and destruction!”; NRSV: “Devastation, desolation, and destruction!”).
Destruction, devastation, and desolation. The feminine form of each of these terms is used, referring to Nineveh (e.g., NASB: “She is emptied! Yes, she is desolate and laid waste!”). Conquered cities are often personified as a desolated woman (e.g., Isa 47:1; 54:1).

Their hearts faint,
Heb “and melting heart.”

their knees tremble,
Heb “and tottering of knees.”

each stomach churns,
Heb “and shaking in all of the loins.”
each face
Heb “all of their faces.”
Heb “gather” or “withdraw.” The Piel perfect קִבְּצוּ (qibbetsu) from קָבַץ (qavats, “to gather”) may be nuanced in the intensive sense “to gather glow; to glow [in excitement]” (HALOT 1063 s.v. קבץ pi. 4) or the privative sense “to take away, withdraw” (BDB 868 s.v. קָבַץ Pi.3). The phrase קִבְּצוּ פָארוּר (qibbetsu parur) is very difficult; it occurs only here and in Joel 2:6 which also describes the fearful facial reaction to an invading army. It probably means: (1) to grow red in fear; (2) to grow pale in fear; or (3) to turn ashen in fear. This difficult phrase may be translated by the modern English idioms: “every face grows pale” or “every face flushes red in fear.”
The Hebrew term פָּארוּר (parur) occurs only here and in Joel 2:6 where it also describes a fearful facial reaction. The meaning of פָּארוּר is debated and numerous etymologies have been suggested: (1) From פָּרוּר (parur, “cooking pot”; HALOT 964 s.v. פָּרוּר): LXX τὸ πρόσωπον πάντων ὡς πρόσκαυμα ξύτρας (to prosōpon pantōn hōs proskauma xutras, “all their faces are like a blackened/burned pot”); Vulgate et facies omnium sicut nigredo ollae (“all their faces are like a black pot”); Targum Jonathan (“covered with black like a pot”). This approach is adopted by the KJV and AV: “the faces of them all gather blackness.” (2) From פְּאֵר (peer, “beauty”). Taking קָבַץ (qavats) in a private sense (“gather in”), several scholars propose: “to draw in beauty, withdraw color,” hence: “their faces grow pale” (NASB, NIV); see K&D 26:192–93; A. Haldar, Studies in the Book of Nahum, 59. (3) From פָּרַר (parar, “break in pieces”). Due to fear, their faces have gathered wrinkles. (4) From IV פּרר (“to boil”), related to Arabic ’pr and Syriac npr (“to boil”): “their faces glow red in excitement” (HALOT 860 s.v.). (5) From פּאר (“grey, ash grey”): “their faces turn grey” (J. J. Gluck, “parurpaʾrur: A Case of Biblical Paronomasia,” OTWSA 12 [1969]: 21-26). The NJPS translation appears to adopt this approach: “all faces turn ashen.”

Taunt against the Once-Mighty Lion

11  Where now is the den of the lions,
Or “What has become of the den of the lions?”

the feeding place
The Masoretic form וּמִרְעֶה (umireh, “the feeding ground”) is supported by the Dead Sea Scrolls: ומרעה (4QpNah). It is also reflected in the LXX reading ἡ νομή (he nomē, “the pasture”). The BHS editors suggest emending to וּמְעָרָה (umearah, “the cave”), which involves the metathesis of ר (resh) and ע (ayin). This proposed emendation is designed to create a tighter parallelism with מְעוֹן (meon, “the den”) in the preceding line. However, this emendation has no textual support and conflicts with the grammar of the rest of the line: the feminine noun וּמְעָרָה (umearah, “the cave”) would demand a feminine independent pronoun instead of the masculine independent pronoun הוּא which follows. Nevertheless, several English versions adopt the emendation (NJB, NEB, RSV, NRSV), while others follow the reading of the MT (KJV, NASB, NIV, NJPS).
of the young lions,
Alternately, “the lion…[once] prowled there.” The construction שָׁם…אֲשֶׁר (’asher...sham) denotes “where…there” (BDB 81 s.v. אֲשֶׁר). This locative construction is approximately reflected in the LXX interrogative ποῦ (pou, “where?”).
the lion, lioness,
The meaning of the term לָבִיא (lavi’) is debated. There are three basic approaches: (1) The MT reads לָבִיא, which is supported by the Dead Sea Scrolls (4QpNah) which preserves the consonantal form לביא (see DJD 5:38). Most English versions render לָבִיא as “lioness,” the parallel term for אַרְיֵה (’aryeh, “lion”); so RSV, NASB, NIV, NJPS; in contrast, KJV has “old lion.” Indeed, the noun לָבִיא (“lioness” or “lion”; BDB 522 s.v. לָבִיא) occurs frequently in poetic texts (Gen 49:9; Num 23:24; 24:9; Deut 33:20; Isa 5:29; 30:6; Joel 1:6; Job 4:11; 38:39). The problem is the absence of a vav (ו) conjunction between the two nouns and the presence of a singular rather than plural verb: הָלַךְ אַרְיֵה לָבִיא (halakh aryeh lavi’, “lion [and] lioness prowled”). Furthermore, the term for “lioness” in the following verse is not לָבִיא but לִבְאָה (livah; see HALOT 515 s.v. *לִבְאָה; BDB 522 s.v. לָבִיא). (2) Due to the grammatical, syntactical, and lexical difficulties of the previous approach, several scholars propose that the MT’s לָבִיא is a Hiphil infinitive construct form shortened from לְהָבִיא (lehavi’, “to bring”); cf. Jer 27:7; 39:7; 2 Chr 31:10; HALOT 114 s.v. בוא. Because the Hiphil of בּוֹא (bo’) can depict an animal bringing food to its dependents (cf. 1 Kgs 17:6), they treat the line thus: “where the lion prowled to bring [food]” (Ehrlich, Haldar, Maier). The Dead Sea Scrolls (4QpNah) reading לביא does not solve the problem because the pesher to this line uses לבוא (“to enter”), and it is not clear whether this is a literal translation or creative word-play: “Its pesher concerns Demetrius, king of Greece, who sought to enter (לבוא) Jerusalem” (col. 1, line 4). (3) The LXX translation τοῦ εἰσελθεῖν (tou eiselqein, “would enter”) seems to have confused the consonantal form לביא with לבוא which it viewed as Qal infinitive construct לָבוֹא from בּוֹא (“to enter”). This approach is followed by at least one modern translation: “where the lion goes” (NRSV).
and lion cub once prowled
The verb הָלַךְ (halakh, “to go, to walk”) is occasionally used of animals (1 Sam 6:12). Here it is nuanced “prowled” in the light of the hunting or stalking imagery in vv. 12–13.

and no one disturbed them?
Or “and no one frightened [them].” Alternately, reflecting a different division of the lines, “Where the lion [and] lioness [once] prowled // the lion-cub – and no one disturbed [them].”

12  The lion tore apart as much prey as his cubs needed
Heb “as much as he needs.” The term בְּדי (bedi, “as much as he needs”; HALOT 219 s.v. 2a) is composed of the preposition בְּ (bet) and the noun דַּי (day, “enough, what is required”). This idiom means” to satisfy the hunger of [something]” (cf. Jer 51:58; Hab 2:13).

and strangled prey to provide food
The words “to provide food” are not in the Hebrew text, but are supplied in the translation for clarity.
for his lionesses;
he filled
The Piel verb וַיְמַלֵּא (vayemalle’) is a preterite with vav (ו) consecutive which depicts a sequence of events.
his lairs with prey
and his dens with torn flesh.

Battle Cry of the Divine Warrior

13  “I am against you!” declares
The term נְאֻם (neum) is a fixed formulaic term meaning “oracle” (Isa 14:22–23; 17:3; 22:25; Jer 8:3; 25:29; 31:38; 49:26; Zech 13:2, 7).
the Lord who commands armies:
Traditionally, “the Lord of hosts.” The title pictures God as the sovereign king who has at his disposal a multitude of attendants, messengers, and warriors to do his bidding. In some contexts, like this one, the military dimension of his rulership is highlighted. In this case, the title pictures him as one who leads armies into battle against his enemies.

“I will burn your chariots
The MT reads the 3rd person feminine singular suffix on a singular noun: רִכְבָּהּ (rikhbah, “her chariot”). However, the BHS editors suggest emending to the 2nd person feminine singular suffix on a plural noun: רִכְבֵּךְ (rikhbekh, “your chariots”) due to the use of 2nd person feminine singular suffixes throughout this verse and the anomaly of the singular noun. On the other hand, the Dead Sea Scrolls (4QpNah) read רובכה (“your abundance”) which is the plene spelling of רֹבְכָה (rovekhah). This reflects the transposition (metathesis) of כ (kaf) and ב (bet) in the consonantal forms רכבה and רבכה. The textual tradition attested at Qumran is reflected in the LXX’s πλῆθος σου (plēthos sou, “your abundance”) which reflects a reading of רֹבְכָה (“your abundance”) as well. It should be noted that the plene form of the 2nd person feminine singular suffix appears elsewhere in the MT of this verse: מַלְאָכֵכֵה (malakhekheh, “your messenger”). Although there is good evidence for the alternate traditions, the MT reading may be retained for three reasons: (1) The burning of enemy chariots was a common threat in ancient Near Eastern warfare (see D. R. Hillers, Treaty-Curses and the Old Testament Prophets, 60; K. J. Cathcart, “Treaty-Curses and the Book of Nahum,” CBQ 35 [1973]: 182). (2) The singular רֶכֶב (rekhev, “chariot”) is often used collectively to refer to all the chariots of a nation (Exod 14:7; Josh 11:4; 24:6; Judg 4:7, 13; 5:28). (3) The abrupt shift from the 2nd person feminine singular suffix on אֵלַיִךְ (’elayikh, “I am against you!”) to the 3rd person feminine singular suffix on רִכְבָּהּ (“her chariot”) is an example of a common poetic/stylistic device: heterosis of second to third person (see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 525 [4.5]). The 2nd person feminine singular suffix in the translation above is used simply for smooth literary style. This is a good example of how sensitivity to figures of speech, ancient Near Eastern backgrounds, and syntax can prevent unnecessary textual emendations.
with fire;
Heb “with smoke.” The term “smoke” (עָשָׁן, ’ashan) is a figure of speech (metonymy of effect for the cause) representing the fire which produces the smoke (Josh 8:19–20; Isa 65:5; cf. Rev 14:11). In the translation this has been replaced with “fire” since most English readers would find the expression “to burn [something] with smoke” unfamiliar.

the sword will devour your young lions;
The MT reads וּכְפִירַיִךְ (ukhefirayikh, “and your young lions”), as reflected by the LXX. The BHS editors emend to וּגִיבֹּרַיִךְ (ugibborayikh, “and your warriors”); this lacks textual support and is unnecessary.
The Assyrian warriors are pictured as young lions in Nah 2:11–13. The Assyrians often pictured themselves with lion imagery (see D. Marcus, “Animal Similes in Assyrian Royal Inscriptions,” Or 46 [1977]: 87).

you will no longer prey upon the land;
Heb “I will cut off your prey from the land.”

the voices of your messengers
The MT reading מַלְאָכֵכֵה (malakhekheh, “your messengers”) has a very unusual ending: the plural ending of the noun is spelled defectively (short spelling), while the 2nd person feminine singular pronominal suffix is spelled plene (long spelling); see GKC 258 #91.l. It is possible that the final ה (hey) is due to dittography with the first letter of the first word of the next verse, הוֹי (hoy, “Woe!”). On the other hand, the LXX reads τὰ ἔργα σου (ta erga sou, “your deeds”) which reflects מַלְאֲכַיִךְ (malakhayikh, “your deeds”) – a confusion of מַלְאָךְ (malakh, “messenger”) for מְלָאכָה (melakhah, “deed”) due to the unusual Hebrew ending here.
will no longer be heard.”
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