Nahum 3

Reason for Judgment: Sins of Nineveh

Woe to the city guilty of bloodshed!
Heb “of bloods.” The plural noun דָּמִים (damim, “bloods”) connotes “bloodshed” or “blood guilt” (BDB 196-97 s.v. דָּם 2.f; HALOT 224-25 s.v. דָּם 5; DCH 2:443-47 s.v. דָּם). Human blood in its natural state in the body is generally designated by the singular form דָּם (dam, “blood”); after it has been spilled, the plural form is used to denote the abundance of blood in quantity (IBHS 119–20 #7.4.1; BDB 196-97 s.v. דָּם 2.f). The plural is often used with the verb שָׁפַךְ (shafakh, “to spill, to shed”) to connote bloodshed (Gen 9:6; 37:22; Lev 17:4; Num 35:33; Deut 21:7; 1 Sam 25:31; 1 Kgs 18:28; 2 Kgs 21:16; 24:4; 1 Chr 22:8; Ezek 16:38; 22:4, 6, 9, 12, 27; 23:45; 33:25; 36:18; Prov 1:16). The plural often denotes bloodshed (Gen 4:10; 2 Sam 3:27, 28; 16:8; 20:12; 1 Kgs 2:5; 2 Kgs 9:7, 26, 33; 2 Chr 24:25; Job 16:18; Isa 1:15; 4:4; 9:4; 26:21; 33:15; 34:3, 6, 7; Ezek 7:23; 16:6, 9, 36; 21:37; 22:13; 24:8; Hos 1:4; 4:2; Hab 2:8, 12, 17; Mic 3:10; Zech 9:7) or blood-guilt (Exod 22:1; Lev 20:9; Num 35:27; Deut 19:10; 22:8; Judg 9:24; 1 Sam 25:26, 33; 2 Sam 21:1; Isa 33:15; Ezek 9:9). The term can refer to murder (2 Sam 16:7, 8; Pss 5:7; 26:9; 55:24; 59:3; 139:10; Prov 29:10) or more generally, connote social injustice, cruelty, and oppression (Deut 21:8, 9; 1 Sam 19:5; 2 Kgs 21:6; 24:4; Pss 94:21; 106:38; Prov 6:17; Isa 59:7; Jer 7:6; 22:3; Joel 4:19; Jonah 1:14). The term may refer to blood that has been shed in war (1 Kgs 2:5) and the unnecessary shedding of blood of one’s enemy (1 Kgs 2:31), which is probably the intended meaning here. The phrase “city of bloodshed” (עִיר דָּמִים [’ir damim], “city of bloods”) is used elsewhere to describe a city held guilty before God of blood-guilt and about to be judged by God (Ezek 22:2; 24:6).

She is full of lies;
Heb “All of her [is] lying.”

she is filled with plunder;
Heb “full of plunder.”

she has hoarded her spoil!
Heb “prey does not depart.”

Portrayal of the Destruction of Nineveh

The chariot drivers will crack their whips;
Heb “the sound of a whip.”

the chariot wheels will shake the ground;
Heb “the shaking of a chariot wheel.”

the chariot horses
Heb “a horse.”
will gallop;
Albright argues that the term דֹּהֵר (doher) should be translated as “chariot driver” (W. F. Albright, “The Song of Deborah in Light of Archaeology,” BASOR 62 [1936]: 30). More recent research indicates that this term denotes “to dash” (HALOT 215 s.v.) or “to gallop, neigh” (DCH 2:417 s.v. דהר I). It is used as a synonym for רָקַד (raqad, “to skip”). This Hebrew verb is related to Egyptian thr (“to travel by chariot”) and Arabic dahara VII (“to hurry”). The related noun דַּהֲרָה (daharah) means “dashing, galloping” (Judg 5:22; HALOT 215 s.v.; DCH 2:417 s.v. דַּהֲרָה I).

the war chariots
Heb “a chariot.”
will bolt forward!
The Piel participle מְרַקֵּדָה (meraqqedah, “jolting”) is from רַקַד (raqad); this verb means “to dance, to leap” (of children, Job 21:11), “to skip about, to dance” (Eccl 3:4), and “to leap” (of chariots, Joel 2:5). In related Semitic languages (Akkadian, Ugaritic, and Arabic) the root raqad means “to dance, to skip about.” Here, the verb is used as a figurative expression (hypocatastasis) to describe the jostling of the madly rushing war-chariots.

The charioteers
Heb “a horseman.” Although the Hebrew term פָּרָס (paras, alternately spelled פָּרָשׂ [paras] here) could denote “horse” (1 Sam 8:11; Joel 2:4; Hab 1:8; Jer 46:4), the Hiphil participle מַעֲלֶה (maaleh, “cause to charge”) – the subject of which is פָּרָס – suggests that פָּרָס refers here to “horsemen” charging their horses (2 Sam 1:6; 1 Kgs 20:20; Jer 4:29; 46:4).
will charge ahead;
The term מַעֲלֶה (maaleh; the Hiphil participle “cause to charge”) refers to charioteers bringing war-horses up to a charge or attack (e.g., Jer 46:9; 51:27). On the other hand, the KJV translates this as “lifteth up [both the bright sword and the glittering sword],” while RV renders it as “mounts [his horse (or chariot)].”

their swords
Heb “a sword.”
will flash
Heb “flash of a sword.” Alternately, “swords flash.” Although לַהַב (lahav) can mean “blade” (Judg 3:22; 1 Sam 17:7), it means “flash [of the sword]” here (e.g., Hab 3:11; see HALOT 520 s.v.) as suggested by its parallelism with וּבְרַק (uveraq, “flashing, gleaming point [of the spear]”); cf. Job 20:25; Deut 32:41; Hab 3:11; Ezek 21:15.

and their spears
Heb “a spear.”
will glimmer!
Heb “and flash of a spear.” Alternately, “spears glimmer” (HALOT 162 s.v. בָּרָק).

There will be many people slain;
Heb “many slain.”

there will be piles of the dead,
and countless casualties
The MT reads לַגְּוִיָּה (laggeviyyah, “to the dead bodies”). The LXX reflects לְגוֹיָה (legoyah, “to her nations”) which arose due to confusion between the consonant ו (vav) and the vowel וֹ (holem-vav) in an unpointed text.
Heb “There is no end to the dead bodies.”

so many that people
Heb “they.”
will stumble over the corpses.

Taunt against the Harlot City

The preposition מִן (min) on מֵרֹב (merov; Heb “from the abundance of harlotries”) is causal: “because of; in consequence of” (HALOT 598 מִן 6; BDB 579-80 s.v. מִן 2.e). See, e.g., Exod 2:23; 15:23; Deut 7:7; 2 Sam 3:11, 37; Job 22:4; Isa 6:4; 43:4; 53:5; Ezek 28:5, 18; Nah 1:5; Zech 2:8; see also IBHS 213 #11.2.11.d; R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 58, #319. The causal sense is supported by the LXX’s ἀπό (apo, “from, because of”). Most English versions adopt the causal sense (KJV, NASB, NIV, NRSV, NJPS).
you have acted like a wanton prostitute
Heb “Because of the many harlotries of the harlot.” The MT connects v. 4 with vv. 5–6; however, the LXX connects v. 4 with vv. 1–3. The Masoretic division is followed by NRSV and NJPS; the LXX division is followed by KJV and NIV; and the NASB division equivocates on the issue. It is best to connect v. 4 with vv. 5–6 (following the MT) because: (1) vv. 1–3 constitute a self-contained woe-oracle; and (2) the theme of the harlot unifies vv. 4–6: the accusation against the harlot (v. 4) and the stereotypical punishment of the harlot (vv. 5–6).

a seductive mistress who practices sorcery,
Heb “fair of form, a mistress of sorceries.”

Heb “she.” This has been translated as a relative pronoun for stylistic reasons. The shift from 2nd person feminine singular (“you”) to 3rd person feminine singular (“she”) is an example of heterosis of persons, a common literary/poetic device used in Hebrew poetry and prophetic literature.
The MT reads the Qal participle הַמֹּכֶרֶת (hammokheret) which is derived from מָכַר (makhar, “to sell, to betray”): “the one who sells/betrays [nations].” The MT is supported by the LXX. The Dead Sea Scrolls read הממכרת (4QpNah 2:7): “the one who sells/betrays [nations]” (see DJD 5:38). Dahood repoints the MT as a Hophal participle, הַמֻּכֶּרֶת (hammukkeret) from נָכַר (nakhar, “to know, to recognize”): “the one who is known [by the nations for her harlotries]” (M. Dahood, “Causal Beth and the Root NKR in Nahum 3.4,” Bib 52 [1971]: 395-96). The BHS editors suggest emending the MT, due to metathesis, to הַכֹּמֶרֶת (hakkomeret) from II כמר (“to ensnare”; HALOT 482 s.v. II כמר) which is related to Assyrian kamaru [A] (“to ensnare”): “The one who ensnares [nations].” The related nouns “snare; net” (מִכְמָר, mikhmar) and “net” (מִכְמֶרֶת, mikhmeret) are used as metaphors of the wicked destroying their victims (Ps 141:10; Isa 51:20; Hab 1:15, 16). This approach is adopted by NJPS: “who ensnared nations.” Others suggest emending to the Qal participle הַכֹּמֶרֶת from III כמר (“to destroy, to overthrow”; BDB 485 s.v. III כמר) related to Assyrian kamaru [B] (“to destroy; to annihilate”): “the one who destroys nations.” The MT may be retained due to strong external support (LXX and 4QpNah) and adequate internal support; the conjectural emendations are unnecessary.
Heb “sells.” Alternately, “enslaves”; or perhaps “deceives.” Most scholars derive the Qal participle הַמֹּכֶרֶת from מָכַר (“to sell, to betray”): “who sells nations.” When used in reference to people, this verb may denote three things: (1) to sell slaves or prisoners of war (Exod 21:8; Deut 21:14; 24:7; Joel 4:3, 6); (2) to sell off someone into the hands of the enemy, that is, to give someone entirely into their power (Exod 21:7; 22:2; Deut 32:30; Judg 2:14; 3:8; 4:2; 10:7; 1 Sam 12:9; Isa 50:1; Joel 4:8; Ps 44:13); and (3) to betray someone (possibly the meaning here in Nah 3:4?); see HALOT 581-82 s.v. I מכר; BDB 569 s.v. מָכַר. This is related to Assyrian makara (“to carry out trade; to make merchandise of”). Some English versions nuance הַמֹּכֶרֶת as “who sells nations” (KJV, NASB); others nuance it metonymically, “who enslaves nations” (NIV, NRSV). Thomas derives הַמֹּכֶרֶת from II מָכַר (“to deceive, to beguile, to betray”) which is related to Arabic makara (“to betray”): “who deceives the nations” (D. W. Thomas, “The Root mkr in Hebrew,” JTS 37 [1936]: 388-89; idem, “A Further Note on the Root mkr in Hebrew,” JTS 3 [1952]: 214).
nations by her harlotry,
Heb “the one who sells nations by her harlotries.”

and entices peoples by her sorcery
Heb “and clans by her sorceries.”

I am against you,” declares the Lord who commands armies.
Traditionally, “the Lord of hosts.” See the note on the expression “the Lord who commands armies” in 2:13.

“I will strip off your clothes!
Heb “I will uncover your skirts over your face.”
Strip off your clothes. In the ancient Near East, the typical punishment for a prostitute was to strip her of her clothes publicly to expose her to open shame, embarrassment, and public ridicule. Because Nineveh had acted like a prostitute, the Lord would punish her as a prostitute.

I will show your nakedness to the nations
and your shame to the kingdoms;
I will pelt you with filth;
Heb “detestable things”; KJV, ASV “abominable filth”; NCV “filthy garbage.”

I will treat you with contempt;
I will make you a public spectacle.
Everyone who sees you will turn away from you in disgust;
they will say, ‘Nineveh has been devastated!
Who will lament for her?’
There will be no one to comfort you!”
While the MT reads 2nd person feminine singular לָךְ (lakh, “for you”), the LXX reads αὔτή (hautē, “for her”). The Dead Sea Scrolls from Wadi Murabba’at read לך (“for you”). The MT reading is preferred for several reasons: (1) it is supported by the scrolls from Wadi Murabba’at; (2) it is the most difficult reading; and (3) it explains the origin of the LXX which probably harmonized this with the preceding 3rd person feminine singular pronoun. Abrupt switches from third to second person are commonly found in poetic and prophetic literature (e.g., Deut 32:15; Isa 5:8; Jer 29:19; Job 16:7) as well as in Northwest Semitic curses (see S. Gevirtz, “West-Semitic Curses and the Problem of the Origins of Hebrew Law,” VT 11 [1961]: 147, n. 4).
Heb “From whence shall I find comforters for you?”

Nineveh Will Suffer the Same Fate as Thebes

You are no more secure
Heb “Are you better than Thebes?”
than Thebes
Heb “No-Amon.” The name is transliterated by NAB, NASB; many other English versions employ the equivalent “Thebes.”

she was located on the banks of the Nile;
the waters surrounded her,
The relative pronoun אֲשֶׁר (’asher) is functioning in a possessive sense: “whose” (Job 37:17; Ps 95:5; Isa 5:28; 49:23; Jer 31:32; see HALOT 98 s.v. 4).
The consonantal form חיל is vocalized in the MT as חֵיל (khel, “rampart”). The LXX translation ἡ ἀρξή (hē arxē, “strength”) reflects confusion between the relatively rare חֵיל and the more common חַיִל (khayil, “strength”); see HALOT 310–12.
was the sea,
the water
Heb “from (the) sea.” The form should be emended to מַיִם (mayim, “water”). This is a figurative description of the Nile River: It functioned like a fortress wall for Thebes.
was her wall.
Cush is the Hebrew name for the ancient kingdom of Ethiopia (also known as Nubia) along the Nile valley south of Aswan in Egypt. Many modern English versions render this “Ethiopia,” but this area is not to be confused with modern Ethiopia (i.e., Abyssinia).
and Egypt had limitless strength;
Or “Cush was limitless and Egypt was strong.” The NIV treats the two nations (“Cush and Egypt”) as a hendiadys of the predicate and translates them as one clause. On the other hand, NJPS treats them separately and translates them in two different clauses.

Put and the Libyans
Heb “Lubim.” Most modern English versions render this as “Libya” or “the Libyans.”
were among
The preposition בְּ (bet) in בְּעֶזְרָתֵךְ (beezratekh) should probably be taken as a bet of identity rather than in a locative sense (DCH 2:84 s.v. בְּ 7; HALOT 104 s.v. בְּ 3).
Although the LXX and Syriac read a 3 fs suffix, the 2 fs suffix on MT בְּעֶזְרָתֵךְ (beezratekh, “your strength”) should be retained because of the support of 4QpNah, which reads בעזרתך. The MT is the more difficult reading and best explains the origin of the variants, which attempt to harmonize with the preceding 3 fs suffix.
Heb “your strength.”
This is an example of enallage – a figure of speech in which a speaker addresses a party who is not present. Here, the prophet Nahum addresses the city of Thebes.
The Hebrew noun עָזָר (’azar) has been understood in two ways: (1) In the light of the Ugaritic root gzr (“hero, valiant one, warrior”), several scholars posit the existence of the Hebrew root II עָזַר (“warrior”), and translate בְּעֶזְרָתֵךְ (beezratekh) as “in your army” (M. Dahood, Psalms, 1:210; P. Miller, “Ugaritic GZR and Hebrew `ZR II,” UF 2 [1970]: 168). (2) It is better to relate the Hebrew עָזָר to Canaanite izirtu (“military help”) which appears several times in the El-Amarna correspondence: “Let him give you soldiers and chariots as help for you so that they may protect the city” (EA 87:13) and “I have provided help for Tyre” (EA 89:18); see K. J. Cathcart, “More Philological Studies in Nahum,” JNWSL 7 (1979): 11.

10  Yet she went into captivity as an exile;
The MT reads לַגֹּלָה (laggolah, “as a captive”) with the preposition לְ (lamed) denoting essence/identity. On the other hand, 4QpNah reads בגולה (“as a captive”) with the preposition בְּ (bet) denoting essence/identity (“as a captive”). The LXX’s αἰξμάλωτος (aixmalōtos, “as a prisoner”) does not reveal which preposition was the original.

even her infants were smashed to pieces
The past-time reference of the context indicates that the Pual verb יְרֻטְּשׁוּ (yerutteshu) is a preterite describing past action (“they were smashed to pieces”) rather than an imperfect describing future action (“they will be smashed to pieces”). The past-time sense is supported by the Syriac and Vulgate. The LXX, however, misunderstood the form as an imperfect. Not recognizing that the form is a preterite, the BHS editors suggest emending to Pual perfect רֻטְּשׁוּ (rutteshu, “they were smashed to pieces”). This emendation is unnecessary once the possibility of a preterite is recognized. The Masoretic reading is supported by the reading ירוטשו found in the Dead Sea Scrolls (4QpNah 3:10).
at the head of every street.
They cast lots
The MT reads יַדּוּ (yadu, “they cast [lots]”) from יָדַד (yadad, “to cast [lots]”). On the other hand, the Dead Sea Scrolls (4QpNah) read ירו (“they threw, cast [lots]”) from יָרָה (yarah, “to throw, cast [lots]”) (e.g., Josh 18:6). The textual variant arose due to orthographic confusion between ד (dalet) and ר (resh) – two Hebrew letters very similar in appearance. The root יָדַד is relatively rare – it occurs only two other times (Obad 11; Joel 4:3 [3:3 ET]) – therefore, it might have been confused with יָרָה which appears more frequently.
for her nobility;
The MT and Dead Sea Scrolls (4QpNah) read ועל נכבדיה (“for her nobles”). The LXX reflects וְעַל כָּל נִכְבַּדֶּיהָ (veal kol nikhbaddeha, “for all her nobles”), adding כָּל (“all”). The LXX addition probably was caused by the influence of the repetition of כָּל in the preceding and following lines.

all her dignitaries were bound with chains.
11  You too will act like drunkards;
The editors of BHS suggest emending the MT reading, the Qal imperfect תִּשְׁכְּרִי (tishkeri, “you will become drunk”) from שָׁכַר (shakhar, “to become drunk”; BDB 1016 s.v. שָׁכַר; HALOT 971 s.v. שׁכר). However, there is no external textual support for the emendation. The imagery of drunkenness is a common figure for defeat in battle.
Heb “you will be drunken.”
You…will act like drunkards. The imagery of drunkenness is frequently used to describe defeat in battle (Isa 49:26; Jer 25:27; 51:21). It is an appropriate use of imagery: Drunkards frequently pass out and wine drools out of their mouth; likewise, slain warriors lie fallen and their blood flows out of their mouths.

you will go into hiding;
The MT reads the Niphal participle נַעֲלָמָה (naalamah) from I עָלַם (’alam, “to conceal”). This is supported by the Dead Sea Scrolls, נעלמה (4QpNah 3:11), and is reflected by the LXX. Several scholars suggest nuancing the Niphal in a passive sense: “you will be concealed” or “you will be obscured” (BDB 761 s.v. I. עָלַם 2). However, the reflexive sense “you will conceal yourself; you will hide yourself” (e.g., Ps 26:4) is better (HALOT 835 s.v. עלם). On the other hand, the BHS editors suggest emending to the Niphal participle נֶעֱלָפָה (neelafah) from עָלַף (’alaf, “become faint”): “you will become faint,” “you will pass out,” or “you will swoon” (HALOT 836 s.v. עלף; BDB 761 s.v. I. עָלַם 2). This is unnecessary and lacks textual support.
Heb “you will hide yourself.”

you too will seek refuge from the enemy.

The Assyrian Defenses Will Fail

12  All your fortifications will be like fig trees
Ironically, Sennacherib had recently planted fig trees along all the major avenues in Nineveh to help beautify the city, and had encouraged the citizens of Nineveh to eat from these fruit trees. How appropriate that Nineveh’s defenses would now be compared to fig trees whose fruit would be eaten by its enemies.
with first-ripe fruit:
This extended simile compares the siege of Nineveh with reapers shaking a tree to harvest the “first-ripe fruit.” Fruit that matured quickly and ripened early in the season dropped from the trees more easily than the later crop which developed more slowly (Isa 28:4). To harvest the later crop the worker had to climb the tree (sixteen to twenty feet tall) and pick the figs by hand from each branch. On the other hand, the fruit from the early harvest could be gathered quickly and with a minimum of effort by simply shaking the trunk of the tree (G. Dalman, Arbeit und Sitte in Palestina, 1:378–80). The point of this simile is that Nineveh would fall easily and quickly.

If they are shaken,
This conditional sentence expresses a real anticipated situation expected to occur in the future, rather than an unreal completely hypothetical situation. The particle אִם (’im, “if”) introduces real conditions (R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 75, #453). The imperfect tense verb יִנּוֹעוּ (yinnou, “they are shaken”) depicts a future-time action conceived as a real situation expected to occur (see Joüon 2:629 #167.c; IBHS 510–11 #31.6.1).
their figs
Heb “they”; the referent (the first ripe fruit of the previous line, rendered here as “their figs”) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
will fall
The syntax of the concluding clause (apodosis) emphasizes that this action is expected and certain to occur. This clause is introduced by vav conjunction and the perfect tense verb וְנָפְלוּ (venoflu, “they will fall”) which emphasizes the expected certainty of the action (see Joüon 2:627–33 #167; IBHS 526–29 #32.2.1).
into the mouth of the eater!
This is appropriate imagery and highly ironic. After defeating their enemies, the Assyrian kings often encouraged their troops to consume the fruit of the conquered city’s fruit trees.

13  Your warriors will be like women in your midst;
the gates of your land will be wide open
Or “have been opened wide.” The Niphal perfect נִפְתְּחוּ (niftekhu) from פָּתַח (patach, “to open”) may designate a past-time action (“have been opened wide”) or a present-time circumstance (“are wide open”). The present-time sense is preferred in vv. 13–14. When used in reference to present-time circumstances, the perfect tense represents a situation occurring at the very instant the expression is being uttered; this is the so-called “instantaneous perfect” (IBHS 488–89 #30.5.1). The root פָּתַח (“to open”) is repeated for emphasis to depict the helpless state of the Assyrian defenses: פָּתוֹחַ נִפְתְּחוּ (patoakh niftekhu, “wide open”).
to your enemies;
fire will consume
Or “has consumed.” The Qal perfect אָכְלָה (’okhlah) from אָכַל (’akhal, “to consume”) refers either to a past-time action (“has consumed”) or a present-time action (“consumes”). The context suggests the present-time sense is preferable here. This is an example of the “instantaneous perfect” which represents a situation occurring at the very instant the expression is being uttered (see IBHS 488–89 #30.5.1).
the bars of your gates.
Heb “your bars.”

14  Draw yourselves water for a siege!
Heb “waters of siege.”

Strengthen your fortifications!
Trample the mud
Heb “go into the mud.”
and tread the clay!
Make mud bricks to strengthen your walls!
Heb “Take hold of the mud-brick mold!”

15  There the fire will consume
The expression the fire will consume you is an example of personification. Fire is often portrayed consuming an object like a person might consume food (Lev 6:3; 10:2; 16:25; Num 16:35; Deut 4:24; 5:22; Judg 9:15; 1 Kgs 18:38; 2 Kgs 1:10, 12, 14; 2 Chr 7:1; Isa 5:24; 10:17; 30:27, 30; 33:14; Amos 1:4, 7, 10, 12, 14; 2:2, 5; 5:6).
the sword will cut you down;
it will devour
The verb אָכַל (’akhal, “to consume, to devour”) is used twice for emphasis: “the fire will consume you, the sword…will devour you.”
The expression the sword…will devour you is an example of personification; the sword is frequently portrayed as consuming or devouring a defeated enemy (Deut 32:42; 2 Sam 2:26; 11:25; 18:8; Hos 11:6; Jer 2:30; 12:12); see BDB 37 s.v. אָכַל 4; HALOT 46 s.v. אכל.
you like the young locust would.

The Assyrian Defenders Will Flee

Multiply yourself
The root כָּבֵּד (kabbed, “be numerous”) is repeated for emphasis: the forms are the Hitpael infinitive absolute הִתְכַּבֵּד (hitkabbed) and Hitpael imperative הִתְכַּבְּדִי (hitkabbedi), both translated here as “Multiply yourself”). The infinitive absolute functions as an imperative (GKC, 346). The BHS editors suggest emending the Hitpael infinitive absolute form הִתְכַּבֵּד to the Hitpael imperative form הִתְכַּבְּדִי in order to have two identical forms in this line. However, this is not necessary; the infinitive absolute is used for stylistic variation and often precedes imperatives to add urgency. The MT makes sense as it stands.
like the young locust;
multiply yourself like the flying locust!
16  Increase
Or “Increase!” or “You have increased.” The form and meaning of the MT perfect tense verb הִרְבֵּית (hirbet; from רָבָה [ravah], “to increase”) is debated. The LXX translated it as a simple past meaning. However, some scholars argue for an imperatival form or an imperatival nuance due to the presence of the two preceding volitive forms: הִתְכַּבֵּד (hitkabbed) and הִתְכַּבְּדִי (hitkabbedi, “Multiply…multiply!”). For example, the editors of BHS propose emending the perfect tense הִרְבֵּית to the imperative form הַרְבִי (harvi, “multiply!”). K. J. Cathcart (Nahum in the Light of Northwest Semitic [BibOr], 145) retains the MT perfect form but classifies it as a precative perfect with an imperatival nuance (“increase!”). Some scholars deny the existence of the precative perfect in Hebrew (G. R. Driver, Tenses in Hebrew, 25–26); however, others argue for its existence (IBHS 494–95 #30.5.4).
your merchants more than the stars of heaven!
They are like
The words “they are like” are not in the Hebrew text, but are supplied in the translation for clarity.
the young locust which sheds
The verb פָּשַׁט (pashat, “to strip off”) refers to the action of the locust shedding its outer layer of skin or sheaths of wings while in the larval stage (BDB 833 s.v.). In a similar sense, this verb is normally used of a person stripping off garments (Gen 37:23; Lev 6:4; 16:23; Num 20:26, 28; 1 Sam 18:4; 19:24; 31:8, 9; 2 Sam 23:10; 1 Chr 10:8, 9; Neh 4:17; Job 19:9; 22:6; Ezek 16:39; 23:26; 26:16; 44:19; Hos 2:5; Mic 2:8; 3:3).
its skin and flies away.
17  Your courtiers
Or “your guards.” The noun מִגְּזָרַיִךְ (miggezarayikh, “your courtiers”) is related to Assyrian manzazu (“courtier”; AHw 2:639.a) or massaru (“guard”; AHw 2:621.a); see HALOT 601 s.v. *מִגְּזָר). The nuance “princes,” suggested by older lexicographers (BDB 634 s.v. מִנְזַר), is obsolete.
are like locusts,
your officials
The noun טַפְסְרַיִךְ (tafserayikh, “your scribes”) from טִפְסָר (tifsar, “scribe, marshal”) is a loanword from Assyrian tupsarru and Sumerian DUB.SAR (“tablet-writer; scribe; official”); see BDB 381 s.v. טִפְסָר; HALOT 379 s.v. This term is also attested in Ugaritic tupsarru and in Phoenician dpsr. As in Jer 51:27, it is used of military and administrative officials. This term designated military officials who recorded the names of recruits and the military activities of Assyrian kings (see P. Machinist, “Assyria and its Image in the First Isaiah,” JAOS 103 [1983]: 736).
are like a swarm of locusts!
They encamp in the walls on a cold day,
yet when the sun rises, they
Heb “it flees.”
fly away;
The BHS editors propose redividing the singular MT reading וְנוֹדַד (venodad, “and it flees”) to the plural וְנוֹדְדוּ (venodedu, “and they flee”) due to the difficulty of a singular verb. However, the LXX supports the singular MT reading. The subject is גוֹב (gov, “swarm”), not individual locusts.

and no one knows where they
The MT reads the noun with 3rd person masculine singular suffix מְקוֹמוֹ (meqomo, “its place”). The BHS editors suggest emending to 3rd person masculine plural suffix מְקוֹמָם (meqomam, “their place”). The MT is supported by the LXX reading, which has a singular suffix. The 3rd person masculine singular suffix is not as awkward as the BHS editors claim – its antecedent is the singular אַרְבֶּה (’arbeh, “locust”) and גוֹב גֹבָי (gov govay, “a swarm of locusts”), as reflected by the 3rd person masculine singular verb וְנוֹדַד (translated “it flies away”).
The MT reads אַיָּם (’ayyam, “Where are they?”); see, e.g., Isa 19:12; DCH 1:202-3 s.v. אֵי; HALOT 40 s.v.). On the other hand, the LXX’s οὐαί αὐτοῖς (ouai autois, “Woe to them!”) seems to reflect a reading of אֶיָּם (’eyyam, “Alas to them!”). The BHS editors suggest emending to אֵיכָה (“Alas!” or “How?”) and join it to v. 18, or אוֹי מַה (’oy mah, “Woe! Why…?”) joined to v. 18. HALOT (40 s.v.) suggests the emendation אֵיךָ (’ekha, “Alas to you!”).
Heb “Its place is not known – where are they?” The form אַיָּם has been taken in various ways: (1) an interrogative adverb with 3rd person masculine plural suffix (“where are they?”; GKC 296-97 #100.o; BDB 32 s.v. אַי 1.a); (2) an interrogative particle אֵי (’ey, “where?”) lengthened to אַיָּה (ayyah) and written with the enclitic particle ־ם (mem; GKC 295 #100.g), similar to ayyami (“where?”) in Assyrian (CAD 1.1.220); see W. A. Maier, Nahum, 356; R. D. Patterson, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah (WEC), 111; T. Longman, “Nahum,” The Minor Prophets, 2:826.

Concluding Dirge

18  Your shepherds
The term shepherd was frequently used in the ancient Near East in reference to kings and other leaders (royal, political, military). Here, the expression your shepherds is an implied comparison (hypocatastasis) referring to the royal/military leadership of Assyria.
are sleeping, O king of Assyria!
Your officers
The Hebrew term אַדִּירֶיךָ (’addirekha, “your officers”) from the root אַדִּיר (’addir, “high noble, majestic one”) designates “prominent people” in society (Judg 5:13, 25; Jer 14:3; Ps 16:3; Neh 3:5; 10:30; 2 Chr 23:20) and prominent “officers” in the military (Nah 2:6; 3:18); see HALOT 14 s.v.; BDB 12 s.v. אַדִּיר. This is related to Assyrian adaru (“high noble official”).
are slumbering!
The MT reads יִשְׁכְּנוּ (yishkenu, “they are settling down; they are lying down”) from שָׁכַן (shakhan, “to settle down, to lie down”). The BHS editors suggest emending to יָשְׁנוּ (yashnu, “they are slumbering”) in order to produce a tighter parallelism with the parallel verb נָמוּ (namu, “they are sleeping”). However, the MT has an adequate parallelism because the verb שָׁכַן is often used in reference to the dead lying down in the grave (Job 4:19; 26:5; Ps 94:17; Isa 26:19; see BDB 1015 s.v. שָׁכַן Qal.2.b). This is a figurative expression (hypocatastasis) for someone dying. Although the LXX misunderstood the syntax of this line, the LXX translation ἐκοίμισε (ekoimise, “he has laid low”) points to a form of the Masoretic verbal root שָׁכַן.

Your people are scattered like sheep
The words “like sheep” are not in the Hebrew text; they are added for clarification of the imagery. The previous line compares Assyria’s leaders to shepherds.
on the mountains
and there is no one to regather them!
19  Your destruction is like an incurable wound;
The MT reads the hapax legomenon כֵּהָה (kehah, “relief, alleviation”). On the other hand, the LXX reads ἴασις (iasis, “healing”) which seems to reflect a reading of גֵּהָה (gehah, “cure, healing”). In the light of the LXX, the BHS editors suggest emending the MT to גֵּהָה (gehah) – which occurs only once elsewhere (Prov 17:22) – on the basis of orthographic and phonological confusion between Hebrew כ (kaf) and ג (gimel). This emendation would produce the common ancient Near Eastern treaty-curse: “there is no cure for your wound” (e.g., Hos 5:13); see HALOT 461 s.v. כֵּהָה; K. J. Cathcart, “Treaty-Curses and the Book of Nahum,” CBQ 35 (1973): 186; D. Hillers, Treaty-Curses and the Old Testament Prophets, 64–66.
Heb “There is no relief of your fracture.”

your demise is like a fatal injury!
Heb “your injury is fatal.”

All who hear what has happened to you
Heb “the report of you.”
will clap their hands for joy,
Heb “will clap their hands over you.”

for no one ever escaped your endless cruelty!
Heb “For who ever escaped…?”

Copyright information for NETfull