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Nahum 1:2-4

Context
God Takes Vengeance against His Enemies

1:2 The Lord is a zealous 1  and avenging 2  God;

the Lord is avenging and very angry. 3 

The Lord takes vengeance 4  against his foes;

he sustains his rage 5  against his enemies.

1:3 The Lord is slow to anger 6  but great in power; 7 

the Lord will certainly not 8  allow the wicked 9  to go unpunished.

The Divine Warrior Destroys His Enemies but Protects His People

He marches out 10  in the whirlwind and the raging storm;

dark storm clouds billow like dust 11  under his feet. 12 

1:4 He shouts a battle cry 13  against the sea 14  and makes it dry up; 15 

he makes all the rivers 16  run dry.

Bashan and Carmel wither; 17 

the blossom of Lebanon withers.

1 tn Heb “jealous.” The Hebrew term קַנּוֹא (qanno’, “jealous, zealous”) refers to God’s zealous protection of his people and his furious judgment against his enemies. The root קָנָא (qana’) can denote jealous envy (Gen 26:14; 30:1; 37:11; Pss 37:1; 73:3; 106:16; Prov 3:31; 23:17; 24:1, 19; Ezek 31:9), jealous rivalry (Eccl 4:4; 9:6; Isa 11:13), marital jealousy (Num 5:14, 15, 18, 25, 30; Prov 6:34; 27:4), zealous loyalty (Num 11:29; 25:11, 13; 2 Sam 21:2; 1 Kgs 19:10, 14; 2 Kgs 10:16; Ps 69:10; Song 8:6; Isa 9:6; 37:32; 42:13; 59:17; 63:15; Zech 1:14; 8:2), jealous anger (Deut 32:16, 21; Ps 78:58), and zealous fury (Exod 34:14; Deut 5:9; 29:19; 1 Kgs 14:22; Job 5:2; Pss 79:5; 119:139; Prov 14:30; Isa 26:11; Ezek 5:13; 8:3; 16:38, 42; 23:25; 35:11; 36:5, 6; 38:19; Zeph 1:18). See BDB 888 s.v. קָנָא; E. Reuter, TDOT 13:47-58.

2 tn The syntax of this line has been understood in two ways: (1) as a single clause with the Lord as the subject: “A jealous and avenging God is the Lord” (NRSV; NASB) or “The Lord is a jealous and avenging God” (NIV); and (2) as two parallel clauses: “God is jealous, and the Lord avenges” (KJV). The LXX reflects the latter. Masoretic accentuation and Hebrew syntax support the former. Accentuation links קַנּוֹא וְנֹקֵם (qanovÿnoqem, “jealous and avenging”) together rather than dividing them into separate clauses. Normal word order suggests that קַנּוֹא וְנֹקֵם (“jealous and avenging”) are attributive adjectives modifying אֵל (’el, “God”). In verbless clauses such as this, the predicate normally precedes the subject; thus, “a jealous and avenging God” (אֵל קַנּוֹא וְנֹקֵם, ’el qannovÿnoqem) is the predicate and “the Lord” (יְהוָה, yÿhvah) is the subject.

3 tn Or “exceedingly wrathful”; Heb “a lord of wrath.” The idiom “lord of wrath” (וּבַעַל חֵמָה, uvaal khemah) means “wrathful” or “full of wrath” (Prov 22:24; 29:22). The noun “lord” (בַעַל) is used in construct as an idiom to describe a person’s outstanding characteristic or attribute (e.g., Gen 37:19; 1 Sam 28:7; 2 Kgs 1:8; Prov 1:17; 18:9; 22:24; 23:2; 24:8; Eccl 7:12; 8:8; 10:11, 20; Isa 41:15; 50:8; Dan 8:6, 20); see IBHS 149-51 §9.5.3.

4 tn The term נָקַם (naqam, “avenge, vengeance”) is used three times in 1:2 for emphasis. The Lord will exact just retribution against his enemies (the Assyrians) to avenge their wickedness against his people (Judah).

5 tn The verb “rage” (נָטַר, natar) is used elsewhere of keeping a vineyard (Song 1:6; 8:11-12) and guarding a secret (Dan 7:28). When used of anger, it does not so much mean “to control anger” or “to be slow to anger” (HALOT 695 s.v.) but “to stay angry” (TWOT 2:576). It describes a person bearing a grudge, seeking revenge, and refusing to forgive (Lev 19:18). It is often used as a synonym of שָׁמַר (shamar, “to maintain wrath, stay angry”) in collocation with לְעוֹלָם (lÿolam, “forever, always”) and לָעַד (laad, “continually”) to picture God harboring rage against his enemies forever (Jer 3:5, 12; Amos 1:11; Ps 103:9). The long-term rage depicted by נָטַר (“maintain rage”) serves as an appropriate bridge to the following statement in Nahum that the Lord is slow to anger but furious in judgment. God seeks vengeance against his enemies; he continually rages and maintains his anger; he is slow to anger, but will eventually burst out with the full fury of his wrath.

6 tn Heb “long of anger,” i.e., “slow to anger” (Exod 34:6; Num 14:18; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2; Pss 86:15; 103:8; 145:8; Prov 14:29; 15:18; 16:32; Neh 9:17) or restraining anger (Jer 15:15; Prov 25:15). Cf. NCV “The Lord does not become angry quickly.”

7 tc The BHS editors suggest emending MT “power” (כֹּחַ, koakh) to “mercy” (חֶסֶד, khesed) as in Exod 34:6; Num 14:18; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2; Ps 103:8; Neh 9:17. However, this is unnecessary, it has no textual support, and it misses the rhetorical point intended by Nahum’s modification of the traditional expression.

sn This is an allusion to the well-known statement, “The Lord is slow to anger but great in mercy” (Exod 34:6; Num 14:18; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2; Ps 103:8; Neh 9:17). Nahum subtly modifies this by substituting “great in mercy” with “great in power.” God’s patience at the time of Jonah (Jonah 4:2) one century earlier (ca. 750 b.c.), had run out. Nineveh had exhausted the “great mercy” of God and now would experience the “great power” of God.

8 tn Or “he will certainly not acquit [the wicked]”; KJV “and will not at all acquit the wicked.” The root נָקַה (naqah, “to acquit”) is repeated for emphasis. The phrase “he will certainly not allow the wicked to go unpunished” (וְנַקֵּה לֹא יְנַקֶּה, vÿnaqqeh loyÿnaqqeh) is an emphatic construction (see GKC 215 §75.hh; IBHS 584-88 §35.3.1).

9 tn The words “the wicked” are not in the Hebrew text but are supplied in the translation; they are implied when this idiom is used (Exod 34:7; Num 14:18). In legal contexts the nuance “the guilty” is most appropriate; in nonlegal contexts the nuance “the wicked” is used.

10 tn Heb “His way is in the whirlwind” (so NIV). The noun דַּרְכּוֹ (darko, “his way”) is nuanced here in a verbal sense. The noun דֶּרֶךְ (derekh) often denotes a “journey” (Gen 28:20; 30:36; 45:23; Num 9:10; Josh 9:13; 1 Sam 21:6; 1 Kgs 18:27). The verb דָּרַךְ (darakh) often means “to tread a path” (Job 22:15) and “to march out” (Judg 5:21). The Lord is portrayed as the Divine Warrior marching out to battle (Exod 15:1-12; Deut 33:2; Judg 5:4-5; Pss 18:7-15; 68:4-10, 32-35; 77:16-19; Mic 1:3-4; Hab 3:3-15).

11 tn Heb “clouds are dust.”

12 tn Heb “of his feet.”

13 tn The term גָּעַר (gaar) often denotes “reprimand” and “rebuke” (cf. KJV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV). When it is used in the context of a military attack, it denotes an angry battle cry shouted by a mighty warrior to strike fear into his enemies to drive them away (e.g., 2 Sam 23:16; Isa 30:17; Pss 18:15; 76:6; 80:17; 104:7). For example, the parallel Ugaritic term is used when Baal utters a battle cry against Yamm before they fight to the death. For further study see, A. A. MacIntosh, “A Consideration of Hebrew g`r,” VT 14 (1969): 474; P. J. van Zijl, “A Consideration of the root gaar (“rebuke”),” OTWSA 12 (1969): 56-63; A. Caquot, TDOT 3:49-53.

14 sn The “sea” is personified as an antagonistic enemy, representing the wicked forces of chaos (Pss 66:6; 72:8; 80:12; 89:26; 93:3-4; Isa 50:2; Mic 7:12; Hab 3:8; Zech 9:10).

15 tn This somewhat unusual use of the preterite (וַיַּבְּשֵׁהוּ, vayyabbÿshehu) follows a participle which depicts characteristic (present-time) action or imminent future action; the preterite depicts the subsequent present or future-time action (see IBHS 561-62 §33.3.5).

16 sn The Assyrians waged war every spring after the Tigris and Euphrates rivers dried up, allowing them to cross. As the Mighty Warrior par excellence, the Lord is able to part the rivers to attack Assyria.

17 tn The term אֻמְלַל (’umlal, “withers”) occurs twice in this verse in MT. The repetition of אֻמְלַל is also supported by the Dead Sea Scrolls (4QpNah). The BHS editors suggest emending the first occurrence of אֻמְלַל (“withers”) to דָּלְלוּ (dollu, “languishes”) to recover the letter ד (dalet) in the partial acrostic. Several versions do, in fact, employ two different verbs in the line (LXX, Syr, Targum, and Vg). However, the first verb at the beginning of the line in all of the versions reflects a reading of אֻמְלַל. Although several elements of an acrostic are present in Nahum 1, the acrostic is incomplete (only א [alef] to כ [kaf] in vv. 2-8) and broken (several elements are missing within vv. 2-8). There is no textual evidence for a complete, unbroken acrostic throughout the book of Nahum in any ancient Hebrew mss or other textual versions; it is most prudent simply to leave the MT as it stands.



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