18:2 that sends messengers by sea,
who glide over the water’s surface in boats made of papyrus.
Go, you swift messengers,
to a nation of tall, smooth-skinned people, 1
to a people that are feared far and wide, 2
to a nation strong and victorious, 3
whose land rivers divide. 4
1 tn The precise meaning of the qualifying terms is uncertain. מְמֻשָּׁךְ (mÿmushakh) appears to be a Pual participle from the verb מָשַׁךְ (mashakh, “to draw, extend”). Lexicographers theorize that it here refers to people who “stretch out,” as it were, or are tall. See BDB 604 s.v. מָשַׁךְ, and HALOT 645-46 s.v. משׁךְ. מוֹרָט (morat) is taken as a Pual participle from מָרַט (marat), which can mean “to pull out [hair],” in the Qal, “become bald” in the Niphal, and “be wiped clean” in the Pual. Lexicographers theorize that the word here refers to people with bare, or smooth, skin. See BDB 598-99 s.v. מָרַט, and HALOT 634-35 s.v. מרט. These proposed meanings, which are based on etymological speculation, must be regarded as tentative.
2 tn Heb “from it and onwards.” HALOT 245 s.v. הָלְאָה suggests the translation “far and wide.”
3 tn Once more the precise meaning of the qualifying terms is uncertain. The expression קַו־קָו (qav-qav) is sometimes related to a proposed Arabic cognate and taken to mean “strength” (see BDB 876 II קַו). Others, on the basis of Isa 28:10, 13, understand the form as gibberish (literally, “kav, kav”) and take it to be a reference to this nation’s strange, unknown language. The form מְבוּסָה (mÿvusah) appears to be derived from בּוּס (bus, “to trample”), so lexicographers suggest the meaning “trampling” or “subjugation,” i.e., a nation that subdues others. See BDB 101 s.v. בּוּס and HALOT 541 s.v. מְבוּסָה. These proposals, which are based on etymological speculation, must be regarded as tentative.
4 tn The precise meaning of the verb בָּזָא (baza’), which occurs only in this oracle (see also v. 7) in the OT, is uncertain. BDB 102 s.v. suggests “divide” on the basis of alleged Aramaic and Arabic cognates; HALOT 117 s.v., citing an alleged Arabic cognate, suggests “wash away.”