Their hearts faint, 2
their knees tremble, 3
the feeding place 9 of the young lions,
and no one disturbed them? 13
and strangled prey to provide food 15 for his lionesses;
he filled 16 his lairs with prey
and his dens with torn flesh.
the sword will devour your young lions; 21
you will no longer prey upon the land; 22
the voices of your messengers 23 will no longer be heard.”
1 tn 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 umÿvuqah umÿvullaqah; NJPS “Desolation, devastation, and destruction!”; NRSV: “Devastation, desolation, and destruction!”).
sn 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).
2 tn Heb “and melting heart.”
3 tn Heb “and tottering of knees.”
4 tn Heb “and shaking in all of the loins.”
5 tn Heb “all of their faces.”
6 tn Heb “gather” or “withdraw.” The Piel perfect קִבְּצוּ (qibbÿtsu) 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 (qibbÿtsu pa’rur) 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.”
7 tn The Hebrew term פָּארוּר (pa’rur) 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 proswpon pantwn Jw" proskauma xutra", “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 (pÿ’er, “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, “parur – paárur: A Case of Biblical Paronomasia,” OTWSA 12 : 21-26). The NJPS translation appears to adopt this approach: “all faces turn ashen.”
8 tn Or “What has become of the den of the lions?”
9 tc The Masoretic form וּמִרְעֶה (umir’eh, “the feeding ground”) is supported by the Dead Sea Scrolls: ומרעה (4QpNah). It is also reflected in the LXX reading ἡ νομή (Je nomh, “the pasture”). The BHS editors suggest emending to וּמְעָרָה (umÿ’arah, “the cave”), which involves the metathesis of ר (resh) and ע (ayin). This proposed emendation is designed to create a tighter parallelism with מְעוֹן (mÿ’on, “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 (umÿ’arah, “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).
10 tn 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?”).
11 tn 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 (liv’ah; 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 (lÿhavi’, “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).
13 tn 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].”
14 tn Heb “as much as he needs.” The term בְּדי (bÿdi, “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).
15 tn The words “to provide food” are not in the Hebrew text, but are supplied in the translation for clarity.
16 tn The Piel verb וַיְמַלֵּא (vayÿmalle’) is a preterite with vav (ו) consecutive which depicts a sequence of events.
18 tn Traditionally, “the
19 tc 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 (rovÿkhah). 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 (plhqo" 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 (mal’akhekheh, “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 : 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.
20 tn 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.
21 tc The MT reads וּכְפִירַיִךְ (ukhÿfirayikh, “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.
sn 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 : 87).
22 tn Heb “I will cut off your prey from the land.”
23 tc The MT reading מַלְאָכֵכֵה (mal’akhekheh, “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 (mal’akhayikh, “your deeds”) – a confusion of מַלְאָךְ (mal’akh, “messenger”) for מְלָאכָה (mÿla’khah, “deed”) due to the unusual Hebrew ending here.