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Nahum 1:5-7

Context

1:5 The mountains tremble before him, 1 

the hills convulse; 2 

the earth is laid waste 3  before him,

the world and all its inhabitants 4  are laid waste. 5 

1:6 No one can withstand 6  his indignation! 7 

No one can resist 8  his fierce anger! 9 

His wrath is poured out like volcanic fire,

boulders are broken up 10  as he approaches. 11 

1:7 The Lord is good 12 

indeed, 13  he is a fortress 14  in time of distress, 15 

and he protects 16  those who seek refuge 17  in him.

1 tn Or “because of him.” The Hebrew preposition מִמֶּנּוּ (mimmenu) is taken in a causal sense (“because of him”) by NASB, NJPS; however, it is taken in a locative sense (“before him”) by KJV, NKJV, NRSV, NIV. On the other hand, the LXX rendered it in a separative sense: ἀπ' αὐτοῦ (ap autou, “from him”). The parallelism between 1:5a and 1:5b seems to favor the locative nuance: “The mountains quake before him (מִמֶּנּוּ), the earth is laid waste before him (מִפָּנָיו, mifanayv).”

2 tn Traditionally, “the hills melt.” English versions typically render הִתְמֹגָגוּ (hitmogagu) as “melt” (KJV, NRSV, NIV, NJPS) or “dissolve” (NASB). The LXX renders it ἐσαλεύθησαν (esaleuqhsan, “are shaken”). The Hebrew root has a range of meanings: (1) “to melt,” of courage (Ps 107:26) or troops retreating (“melting away” in fear) in battle (1 Sam 14:16); (2) “to dissolve,” of mountains dissolving due to erosion (Amos 9:13); (3) “to quake, shake apart,” of mountains quaking, swaying backwards and forwards, coming apart, and collapsing in an earthquake (Amos 9:5; Pss 46:6 [7]; 75:3 [4]). The latter fits the imagery of v. 5 (violent earthquakes): the earth trembles in fear at the approach of the Divine Warrior (e.g., Hab 3:6).

3 tn Or “is upheaved”; or “heaves.” There is debate whether the originally unpointed Hebrew verb וַתִּשָּׂא (vattissa’) should be vocalized as וְתִּשָּׂא (vÿttissa’; NASB “is upheaved”; NRSV, NJPS “heaves”) from the root נָשָׂא (nasa’, “to lift up”) or as וַתִּשָּׁא (vattisha’, “is devastated, laid waste”) from the root שֹׁאָה (shoah, “to devastate, lay waste”). The vocalization וְתִּשָּׂא is attested in the Masoretic tradition and the Greek versions: Origen (“was raised up”), Symmachus (“was moved”), and Aquila (“shivered”). However, וְתִּשָּׂא demands an intransitive (“heaves”) or passive (“is upheaved”) sense which is not attested for the Qal stem. The vocalization וַתִּשָּׁא (“is devastated, laid waste”) is supported by the Syriac and Vulgate. The revocalization of the MT וְתִּשָּׂא (“is lifted up”) to וַתִּשָּׁא (“is devastated”) is suggested by the BHS editors and several Hebrew lexicons (HALOT 726 s.v. נשׁא; BDB 670-71 s.v. נָשָׂא). The revocalization involves only the difference between the form שׂ (sin) and שׁ (shin) and is followed in the present translation.

4 sn The phrase “the world and all its inhabitants” is used to stress the universal dimensions of God’s revelation of his glory and his acts of judgment (e.g., Pss 33:8; 98:7; Isa 18:3; 26:9, 18; Lam 4:12).

5 tn The words “are laid waste” are not in the Hebrew text, but are an implied repetition from the previous line.

6 tn Heb “stand before” (so KJV, NASB, NRSV, NLT). The Hebrew verb עָמַד (’amad, “stand”) here denotes “to resist, withstand.” It is used elsewhere of warriors taking a stand in battle to hold their ground against enemies (Judg 2:14; Josh 10:8; 21:44; 23:9; 2 Kgs 10:4; Dan 11:16; Amos 2:15). It is also used of people trying to protect their lives from enemy attack (Esth 8:11; 9:16). Like a mighty warrior, the Lord will attack his enemies, but none will be able to make a stand against him; none will be able to hold their ground against him; and none will be able to protect themselves from his onslaught (Pss 76:7[8]; 147:17; Mal 3:2).

7 tn Heb “Who can stand before his indignation?” The rhetorical question expects a negative answer; it is translated here as an emphatic denial. The Hebrew noun זַעַם (zaam, “indignation, curse”) connotes the angry wrath or indignant curse of God (Isa 10:5, 25; 13:5; 26:20; 30:27; Jer 10:10; 15:17; 50:25; Ezek 21:36; 22:24, 31; Hab 3:12; Zeph 3:8; Pss 38:4; 69:25; 78:49; 102:11; Lam 2:6; Dan 8:19; 11:36). It depicts anger expressed in the form of punishment (HALOT 276 s.v.; TWOT 1:247).

8 tn Heb “Who can rise up against…?” The verb יָקוּם (yaqum, “arise”) is here a figurative expression connoting resistance. Although the adversative sense of בְּ (bet) with יָקוּם (yaqum, “against him”) is attested, denoting hostile action taken against one’s enemy (Mic 7:6; Ps 27:12), the locative sense (“before him”) is preferred due to the parallelism with לִפְנֵי (lifney, “before him”).

9 tn Heb “Who can rise up against the heat of his anger?” The rhetorical question expects a negative answer which is translated as an emphatic denial to clarify the point.

10 tn Or “burst into flames.” The Niphal perfect נִתְּצוּ (nittÿtsu) from נָתַץ (natats, “to break up, throw down”) may denote “are broken up” or “are thrown down.” The BHS editors suggest emending the MT’s נִתְּצוּ (nittÿtsu) to נִצְּתּוּ (nitsÿtu, Niphal perfect from יָצַת [yatsat, “to burn, to kindle, to burst into flames”]): “boulders burst into flames.” This merely involves the simple transposition of the second and third consonants. This emendation is supported by a few Hebrew mss (cited in BHS apparatus). It is supported contextually by fire and heat motifs in 1:5-6. The same metathesis of נִתְּצוּ and נִצְּתּוּ occurs in Jer 4:26.

11 tn Heb “before him” (so NAB, NIV, TEV).

12 tn The Masoretic disjunctive accent marker (zaqeph parvum) divides the lines here. Most English versions reflect this line division (KJV, RSV, NASB, NIV, NRSV, NKJV). Some extend the line: “Yahweh is better than a fortress” (NJB); “The Lord is good to those who hope in him” (NJPS); and “The Lord is good to those who trust him” (NEB). This issue is complicated by the textual problems in this verse.

13 tn The preposition לְ (lamed) probably functions in an emphatic asseverative sense, suggested by D. L. Christensen, “The Acrostic of Nahum Reconsidered,” ZAW 87 (1975): 22. This explains the preceding statement: the Lord is good to his people (1:7a) because – like a fortress – he protects them in time of distress (1:7b).

14 tc Some ancient versions read, “The Lord is good to those who trust him.” The MT reads לְמָעוֹז (lÿmaoz, “a fortress”): the noun מָעוֹז (maoz, “fortress”) with the preposition לְ (lÿ, see below). However, the LXX reflects the reading לְמֵעִיז (lÿmeiz, “to those who trust [him]”): the Hiphil participle from עוּז (’uz, “seek refuge”) with the preposition לְ. The variants involve only different vocalizations and the common confusion of vav (ו) with yod. Most English versions follow the traditional Hebrew reading (KJV, RSV, NASB, NIV, NRSV, NKJV); however, several others follow the alternate Greek reading (NEB, NJPS). The BHS editors and several other scholars favor the LXX tradition; however, the Masoretic tradition has been defended by others. The Masoretic tradition is supported by the Dead Sea Scrolls (4QpNah). The problem with the LXX reading is the absence of the direct object in the Hebrew text; the LXX is forced to supply the direct object αὐτόν (auton, “him”; for a similar addition of the direct object αὐτόν by the LXX, see Amos 9:12). The main objection to the MT reading לְמָעוֹז (“a fortress”) is that לְ is hard to explain. However, לְ may be taken in a comparative sense (Cathcart: “Yahweh is better than a fortress in time of distress”) or an asseverative sense (Christensen: “Yahweh is good; indeed, a fortress in time of distress”). See K. J. Cathcart, Nahum in the Light of Northwest Semitic (BibOr), 55; idem, “More Philological Studies in Nahum,” JNSL 7 (1979): 4; D. L. Christensen, “The Acrostic of Nahum Reconsidered,” ZAW 87 (1975): 22. Elsewhere, the Lord is commonly portrayed as a “fortress” (מָעוֹז) protecting his people (Pss 27:1; 28:8; 31:3, 5; 37:39; 43:2; 52:9; Isa 17:10; 25:4; 27:5; Joel 4:16; Jer 16:19; Neh 8:10; Prov 10:29).

15 sn The phrase “time of distress” (בְּיוֹם צָרָה) refers to situations in which God’s people are oppressed by enemy armies (Isa 33:2; Jer 14:8; 15:11; 16:19; Obad 12; Pss 20:2; 37:39). Nahum may be alluding to recent Assyrian invasions of Judah, such as Sennacherib’s devastating invasion in 701 b.c., in which the Lord protected the remnant within the fortress walls of Jerusalem (2 Kgs 18-19; 2 Chr 32; Isa 36-37).

16 tn Heb “he knows” or “he recognizes.” The basic meaning of the verb יָדַע (yada’) is “to know,” but it may denote “to take care of someone” or “to protect” (HALOT 391 s.v.; see Gen 39:6; Job 9:21; Ps 31:8). Most English versions render it as “know” here (KJV, RSV, NASB, NKJV) but at least two recognize the nuance “protect” (NRSV, NIV [which reads “cares for”]). It often refers to God protecting and caring for his people (2 Sam 7:20; Ps 144:3). When the subject is a king (suzerain) and the object is a servant (vassal), it often has covenantal overtones. In several ancient Near Eastern languages this term depicts the king (suzerain) recognizing his treaty obligation to protect and rescue his servant (vassal) from its enemies. For example, a letter from Abdi-Ashirta governor of Ammuru to the Egyptian king Amenophis III ends with a plea for protection from the raids of the Mittani: “May the king my lord know [= protect] me” (yi-da-an-ni; EA 60:30-32). Similarly, in the treaty between Muwattallis and Alaksandus, the Hittite suzerain assures his vassal that in case he was attacked, “As he is an enemy of you, even so he is an enemy to the Sun; I the Sun, will know [= “protect”] only you, Alaksandus” (see H. B. Huffmon, “The Treaty Background of Hebrew YADA`,” BASOR 181 (1966): 31-37; idem, “A Further Note on the Treaty Background of Hebrew YADA`,” BASOR 184 (1966): 36-38.

17 tn Or “those who trust in him” (NIV); NAB “those who have recourse to him.”



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