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Nahum 2:3-4

Context
Prophetic Vision of the Fall of Nineveh

2:3 The shields of his warriors are dyed red; 1 

the mighty soldiers are dressed in scarlet garments. 2 

The metal fittings 3  of the chariots 4  shine

like 5  fire 6  on the day of battle; 7 

the soldiers brandish 8  their spears. 9 

2:4 The chariots 10  race madly 11  through the streets,

they rush back and forth 12  in the broad plazas;

they look 13  like lightning bolts, 14 

they dash here and there 15  like flashes of lightning. 16 

Nahum 2:13

Context
Battle Cry of the Divine Warrior

2:13 “I am against you!” declares 17  the Lord who commands armies: 18 

“I will burn your chariots 19  with fire; 20 

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 tc The MT reads מְאָדָּם (mÿadam, “reddened”) from אָדֹם (’adom, “red”). The LXX confused the roots אָדָם (“man”) and אָדֹם (“red”): ἐξ ἀνθρώπων (ex anqrwpwn, “from among men”) which reflects מֵאָדָם (meadam, “from man”) from אָדָם.

tn The Hebrew term מְאָדָּם (“reddened”) from אָדֹם (“red”) refers to clothes made red with dye (Exod 25:6; 26:14; 35:7, 23; 36:13; 39:34) or made red from bloodshed (Isa 63:2). The parallelism between מְאָדָּם (“reddened”) and מְתֻלָּעִים (mÿtullaim, “clad in scarlet colored clothing”) suggests that the shields were dyed prior to battle, like the scarlet dyed uniforms. Nahum 2:1-10 unfolds the assault in chronological sequence; thus, the spattering of blood on the warrior’s shields would be too early in the account (R. D. Patterson, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah [WEC], 65).

sn As psychological warfare, warriors often wore uniforms colored blood-red, to strike fear into the hearts of their enemy (see Xenophon, Cyropaedia 6.4.1; Ezek 23:5-6).

2 tn The Pual participle מְתֻלָּעִים (mÿtullaim, “dressed in scarlet”) from תָּלָע (tala’, “scarlet”) is used elsewhere of clothing dyed red or purple (Isa 1:18; Lam 4:5).

3 tc The MT reads פְּלָדוֹת (pÿladot, “steel”; see the following tn). The LXX’s αἱ ἡνιάι (Jai Jhniai, “the reins”) and Vulgate’s habenai (“reins”) confused פְּלָדוֹת (pÿladot) with כְּלָיוֹת (kÿlayot, “reins, kidneys”). The BHS editors suggest emending the MT’s פְּלָדוֹת (peladot) to לַפִּדוֹת (lappidot, “torches”) to create the simile כְּאֵשׁ לַפִּדוֹת (kÿesh lappidot, “like torches of fire” or “like flaming torches”) which is reflected in the Syriac Peshitta and Symmachus (so KJV, RSV, NJPS). The problem with this is that לַפִּיד (lappid, “torch”) is masculine in gender, so the plural form is not לַפִּדוֹת but לַפִּדִים (lappidim) – which appears in Nah 2:4 (BDB 542 s.v. לַפִּיד; HALOT 533 s.v. לַפִּיד). Others propose a complete reversal of the consonants to דלפות from the root דָּלַף (dalaf, “to drip, to trickle, to leak, to weep”) and translate כְּאֵשׁ דְלָפוֹת (kÿesh dÿlafot) as “like flickering fire” (so NEB). Against this proposal is the fact that דָּלָף is usually used in reference to water, but it is never used in reference to fire (HALOT 223 s.v. דלף; BDB 196 s.v. דָּלַף).

tn Heb “the steel.” The Hebrew term פְּלָדוֹת is a hapax legomenon. The corresponding noun פְּלָדָה (pÿladah) probably means “metal, steel” (BDB 811 s.v. פְּלָדָה; HALOT 761 s.v. פְּלָדָה), and it is probably related to Arabic puladu, Syriac pld’, and early Persian fulad (all of which mean “steel”). This rendering is followed by NASB, NIV, NRSV. The term פְּלָדוֹת (“steel”) probably refers to the metallic pole attachments for the chariot spears, the side armor of the chariots, or the steel scythes fastened to the axle of a chariot. Xenophon described the army of Cyrus in a similar manner; the side armor of the chariots and the breastplates and thigh-pieces of the chariot-horses were “flashing with bronze” (Xenophon, Cyropaedia 6.4.1). On the other hand, Cathcart connects Hebrew פְּלָדָה to Ugaritic paladu, which means “a garment made of linen hair,” and suggests that פְּלָדוֹת הָרֶכֶב (pÿladot harekhev) refers to the coverings, blankets, or caparisons of chariot horses (K. J. Cathcart, Nahum in the Light of Northwest Semitic [BibOr], 88). This demands that הָרֶכֶב be nuanced “chariot horses” – a problem when it means “chariots” in Nah 2:4; 3:2.

4 tn The collective singular רֶכֶב (rekhev, “chariot”) refers to all of the chariots in the army as a whole: “chariots; chariotry” (BDB 939 s.v. 1; HALOT 891 s.v. 1). The singular form rarely refers to a single chariot (BDB 939 s.v. 2; HALOT 891 s.v. 3). The collective use is indicated by the plural verb “they race back and forth” (יִתְהוֹלְלוּ, yitholÿlu) in v. 5 (GKC 462 §145.b). The term רֶכֶב usually refers to war chariots (Exod 14:7; Josh 11:4; 17:16, 18; 24:6; Judg 1:19; 4:3, 7, 13; 5:28; 1 Sam 13:5; 2 Sam 1:6; 8:4; 10:18; 1 Kgs 9:19, 22; 10:26; Jer 47:3; 50:37; 51:21; Ezek 23:24; Nah 2:3, 4, 13).

5 tc The MT reads the preposition בְּ (bet, “are [like]”), but several Hebrew mss read the comparative preposition כְּ (kaf, “like”). This textual variant probably arose due to the visual similarity of the two letters (orthographic confusion) and the relatively rare use of בְּ in metaphors – the comparative preposition כְּ (“like”) is much more common in metaphors. The MT is the more difficult reading and best explains the origin of the variant.

tn Heb “The chariots are…” The preposition בְּ on בְּאֵשׁ (bÿesh) denotes essence: “The chariots are…” (GKC 430 §133.c; HALOT 104 s.v. בְּ 3). The use of this preposition creates a metaphor, comparing the steel fittings of the chariots to flashes of fire.

6 tn Or perhaps “The chariots are [like] flaming torches.”

7 tn Heb “on the day of its preparation.” The Hiphil infinitive construct הֲכִינוֹ (hakhino; from כּוּן, kun) means “to prepare, to make ready” (HALOT 465 s.v. כּוּן; BDB 466 s.v. כּוּן). The Hiphil verb is used of preparing weapons and military equipment for the day of battle (2 Chr 26:14; Ps 7:13 [HT 7:14]; 57:6 [HT 57:7]). The 3rd person masculine singular suffix (“its preparation”) is a collective singular, referring to the chariotry as a whole.

8 tc Some scholars adopt the variant reading הַפְּרֹשִׁים (happÿroshim, “the horses”) and relate הָרְעָלוּ (horalu) to Arabic raàala (“to stand in row and rank”): “the horses stand in row and rank,” that is, at attention. However, it is preferable to retain the MT for the noun, with the verb given its normal Hebrew meaning.

tn Heb “the spears quiver”; or “the spears are made to quiver.” Alternately, “the horses quiver” or “the horses shake [with excitement].” The Hophal perfect הָרְעָלוּ (horalu, “are made to quiver”) is from רָעַל (raal, “to quiver, to shake”) which appears elsewhere only in Hab 2:16 (BDB 947 s.v. רָעַל; HALOT 900 s.v. II רעל); the related noun רַעַל (“reeling”) appears only once (Zech 12:2). This Hebrew root is related to the Aramaic רְעַל (rÿal, “to quiver, to shake”). The action of the spear-shafts quivering is metonymical (effect for cause) to the action of the spear-shafts being brandished by the warriors. In the translation the words “the soldiers” are supplied for clarity.

9 tc The MT reads הַבְּרֹשִׁים (habbÿroshim, “the cypresses”). A variant textual tradition (preserved in several Hebrew mss) reads הַפְּרֹשִׁים (happÿroshim, “spears, horses, horsemen”) which is reflected in the LXX and Syriac. The variant noun הַפְּרֹשִׁים is derived either from IV פָּרַשׁ (“horse, horseman”; see BDB 831 s.v. פָּרַשׁ; HALOT 977 s.v. פָּרָשׁ) or II פָּרַשׁ (“spear, staff”) which is related to Akkadian parussu (“spear-staff”; see BDB 831 II פָּרַשׁ). The LXX connects הַבְּרֹשִׁים to IV פָּרַשׁ (“horsemen”) as indicated by its translation οἱ ἱππεϊς (Joi Jippei", “the horsemen”). While some English versions follow the MT (KJV, NASB, NIV, NJPS), others adopt the alternate textual tradition (RSV, NEB, NJB, NRSV).

tn Heb “the cypresses”; alternately, “the horses.” The Hebrew noun הַבְּרֹשִׁים (“the cypresses”) is probably from the root בְּרוֹשׁ (bÿrosh, “cypress, fir”) and is a figure of speech (synecdoche of material) in which the thing made (spear-shafts) is intended by the use of the term for the material out of which it is made (cypress wood). See K. J. Cathcart, Nahum in the Light of Northwest Semitic (BibOr), 89.

10 tn Heb “the chariot.” The Hebrew noun הָרֶכֶב (harekhev, “the chariot”) is a collective use of the singular, as indicated by the plural verb “[they] race madly” (see GKC 462 §145.b).

11 tn The Hitpolel imperfect יִתְהוֹלְלוּ (yitholÿlu, “they rush wildly”) is from the root III הלל (“to be foolish, to be senseless, to be insane”). The Hitpolel stem describes seemingly insane actions: “to pretend to be insane; to act like a madman” (1 Sam 21:14; Jer 25:16; 50:38; 51:7; see HALOT 249 s.v. III הלל). When used in military contexts, it describes the wild, furious action of war-chariots charging forward to attack the enemy (Jer 46:9). The Hitpolel stem is the equivalent to the Hitpael stem for geminate verbs (see IBHS 425-26 §26.1.1). The Hitpolel stem expresses energetic, intense, and rapid action; it gives special energy and movement to the verbal idea (J. Muilenburg, “Hebrew Rhetoric: Repetition and Style,” VTSup 1 [1953]: 101).

12 tn The Hitpalpel imperfect יִשְׁתַּקְשְׁקוּן (yishtaqshÿqun, “they rush back and forth”; see GKC 153 §55.g) is from שָׁקַק (shaqaq, “to rush upon; to rush forth”); cf. Prov 28:15; Isa 33:4; Joel 2:9 (HALOT 1009 s.v. I שׁקק). The Hitpalpel is the Hitpael stem for geminate verbs (IBHS 425-26 §26.1.1). The Hitpalpel stem gives special energy and movement to the verbal idea; it connotes intense, furious, and energetic action (e.g., Deut 9:20; Jer 5:22; see J. Muilenburg, “Hebrew Rhetoric: Repetition and Style,” VTSup 1 [1953]: 101). The nun ending on יִשְׁתַּקְשְׁקוּן may denote additional energy and emphasis (see IBHS 516-17 §31.7.1).

13 tn Heb “Their appearance is like.”

14 tn Or “like torches.” The Hebrew term לַפִּיד (lappid) often means “torch, flame” (Gen 15:17; Judg 7:16, 20; 15:4, 5; Isa 62:1; Ezek 1:13; Zech 12:6; Dan 10:6), but sometimes refers to “lightning bolts” (Exod 20:18; Job 12:5; see HALOT 533 s.v. לַפִּיד; BDB 542 s.v. לַפִּיד). Most English versions render this usage as “torches” (KJV, NASB, NIV, NRSV, NJPS). However, the parallelism with כַּבְּרָקִים (kabbÿraqim, “like lightning flashes”) suggests that in this context כַּלַּפִּידִם (kalappidim) may be nuanced “like lightning bolts.”

15 tn Or “they flash here and there.” The Polel imperfect יְרוֹצֵצוּ (yirotsetsu, “they dash here and there”) is from the root רוּץ (ruts) which means “to run quickly” in reference to men (Gen 18:2; 2 Kgs 23:12; Prov 4:12) and “to gallop” in reference to horsemen (Joel 2:14). The Hiphil stem denotes “to drive off with haste” (Jer 49:19; 50:44). The Polel stem, which is used here, means “to race about swiftly; to flash by speedily; to run to and fro” (HALOT 1208 s.v. רוץ; BDB 930 s.v. רוּץ).

16 tn Or simply, “like lightning.” The term “lightning flash” (בָּרָק, baraq) is often used to compare the brightness of an object to the flash of lightning: the glory of Yahweh (Ezek 1:13), the splendor of an angel (Dan 10:6), the glitter of swords (Deut 32:41; Ezek 21:15; Nah 3:3; Hab 3:11), and the gleam of arrowheads (Job 20:25). It is also used as a figure (hypocatastasis) for speed, such as the swift destruction of an enemy (Zech 9:14). Perhaps both images are suggested here: the bright glitter of the chariots ( v. 4b) and the speed of the chariots as suggested by the verb “they dash here and there” (יְרוֹצֵצוּ, yÿrotsetsu, v. 5b).

17 tn The term נְאֻם (nÿum) is a fixed formulaic term meaning “oracle” (Isa 14:22-23; 17:3; 22:25; Jer 8:3; 25:29; 31:38; 49:26; Zech 13:2, 7).

18 tn Traditionally, “the Lord of hosts.” The title pictures God as the sovereign king who has at his disposal a multitude of attendants, messengers, and warriors to do his bidding. In some contexts, like this one, the military dimension of his rulership is highlighted. In this case, the title pictures him as one who leads armies into battle against his enemies.

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 (malakhekheh, “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 [1973]: 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 [1977]: 87).

22 tn Heb “I will cut off your prey from the land.”

23 tc The MT reading מַלְאָכֵכֵה (malakhekheh, “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 (malakhayikh, “your deeds”) – a confusion of מַלְאָךְ (malakh, “messenger”) for מְלָאכָה (mÿlakhah, “deed”) due to the unusual Hebrew ending here.



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