the sword will cut you down;
it will devour 2 you like the young locust would.
Multiply yourself 3 like the young locust;
multiply yourself like the flying locust!
your officials 8 are like a swarm of locusts!
They encamp in the walls on a cold day,
1 sn The expression the fire will consume you is an example of personification. Fire is often portrayed consuming an object like a person might consume food (Lev 6:3; 10:2; 16:25; Num 16:35; Deut 4:24; 5:22; Judg 9:15; 1 Kgs 18:38; 2 Kgs 1:10, 12, 14; 2 Chr 7:1; Isa 5:24; 10:17; 30:27, 30; 33:14; Amos 1:4, 7, 10, 12, 14; 2:2, 5; 5:6).
2 tn The verb אָכַל (’akhal, “to consume, to devour”) is used twice for emphasis: “the fire will consume you, the sword…will devour you.”
sn The expression the sword…will devour you is an example of personification; the sword is frequently portrayed as consuming or devouring a defeated enemy (Deut 32:42; 2 Sam 2:26; 11:25; 18:8; Hos 11:6; Jer 2:30; 12:12); see BDB 37 s.v. אָכַל 4; HALOT 46 s.v. אכל.
3 tc The root כָּבֵּד (kabbed, “be numerous”) is repeated for emphasis: the forms are the Hitpael infinitive absolute הִתְכַּבֵּד (hitkabbed) and Hitpael imperative הִתְכַּבְּדִי (hitkabbÿdi), both translated here as “Multiply yourself”). The infinitive absolute functions as an imperative (GKC §113.bb, 346). The BHS editors suggest emending the Hitpael infinitive absolute form הִתְכַּבֵּד to the Hitpael imperative form הִתְכַּבְּדִי in order to have two identical forms in this line. However, this is not necessary; the infinitive absolute is used for stylistic variation and often precedes imperatives to add urgency. The MT makes sense as it stands.
4 tn Or “Increase!” or “You have increased.” The form and meaning of the MT perfect tense verb הִרְבֵּית (hirbet; from רָבָה [ravah], “to increase”) is debated. The LXX translated it as a simple past meaning. However, some scholars argue for an imperatival form or an imperatival nuance due to the presence of the two preceding volitive forms: הִתְכַּבֵּד (hitkabbed) and הִתְכַּבְּדִי (hitkabbÿdi, “Multiply…multiply!”). For example, the editors of BHS propose emending the perfect tense הִרְבֵּית to the imperative form הַרְבִי (harvi, “multiply!”). K. J. Cathcart (Nahum in the Light of Northwest Semitic [BibOr], 145) retains the MT perfect form but classifies it as a precative perfect with an imperatival nuance (“increase!”). Some scholars deny the existence of the precative perfect in Hebrew (G. R. Driver, Tenses in Hebrew, 25-26); however, others argue for its existence (IBHS 494-95 §30.5.4).
5 tn The words “they are like” are not in the Hebrew text, but are supplied in the translation for clarity.
6 tn The verb פָּשַׁט (pashat, “to strip off”) refers to the action of the locust shedding its outer layer of skin or sheaths of wings while in the larval stage (BDB 833 s.v.). In a similar sense, this verb is normally used of a person stripping off garments (Gen 37:23; Lev 6:4; 16:23; Num 20:26, 28; 1 Sam 18:4; 19:24; 31:8, 9; 2 Sam 23:10; 1 Chr 10:8, 9; Neh 4:17; Job 19:9; 22:6; Ezek 16:39; 23:26; 26:16; 44:19; Hos 2:5; Mic 2:8; 3:3).
7 tn Or “your guards.” The noun מִגְּזָרַיִךְ (miggÿzarayikh, “your courtiers”) is related to Assyrian manzazu (“courtier”; AHw 2:639.a) or massaru (“guard”; AHw 2:621.a); see HALOT 601 s.v. *מִגְּזָר). The nuance “princes,” suggested by older lexicographers (BDB 634 s.v. מִנְזַר), is obsolete.
8 tn The noun טַפְסְרַיִךְ (tafsÿrayikh, “your scribes”) from טִפְסָר (tifsar, “scribe, marshal”) is a loanword from Assyrian tupsarru and Sumerian DUB.SAR (“tablet-writer; scribe; official”); see BDB 381 s.v. טִפְסָר; HALOT 379 s.v. This term is also attested in Ugaritic tupsarru and in Phoenician dpsr. As in Jer 51:27, it is used of military and administrative officials. This term designated military officials who recorded the names of recruits and the military activities of Assyrian kings (see P. Machinist, “Assyria and its Image in the First Isaiah,” JAOS 103 : 736).
9 tn Heb “it flees.”
10 tc The BHS editors propose redividing the singular MT reading וְנוֹדַד (vÿnodad, “and it flees”) to the plural וְנוֹדְדוּ (vÿnodÿdu, “and they flee”) due to the difficulty of a singular verb. However, the LXX supports the singular MT reading. The subject is גוֹב (gov, “swarm”), not individual locusts.
11 tc The MT reads the noun with 3rd person masculine singular suffix מְקוֹמוֹ (mÿqomo, “its place”). The BHS editors suggest emending to 3rd person masculine plural suffix מְקוֹמָם (mÿqomam, “their place”). The MT is supported by the LXX reading, which has a singular suffix. The 3rd person masculine singular suffix is not as awkward as the BHS editors claim – its antecedent is the singular אַרְבֶּה (’arbeh, “locust”) and גוֹב גֹבָי (gov govay, “a swarm of locusts”), as reflected by the 3rd person masculine singular verb וְנוֹדַד (translated “it flies away”).
12 tc The MT reads אַיָּם (’ayyam, “Where are they?”); see, e.g., Isa 19:12; DCH 1:202-3 s.v. אֵי; HALOT 40 s.v.). On the other hand, the LXX’s οὐαί αὐτοῖς (ouai autoi", “Woe to them!”) seems to reflect a reading of אֶיָּם (’eyyam, “Alas to them!”). The BHS editors suggest emending to אֵיכָה (“Alas!” or “How?”) and join it to v. 18, or אוֹי מַה (’oy mah, “Woe! Why…?”) joined to v. 18. HALOT (40 s.v.) suggests the emendation אֵיךָ (’ekha, “Alas to you!”).
tn Heb “Its place is not known – where are they?” The form אַיָּם has been taken in various ways: (1) an interrogative adverb with 3rd person masculine plural suffix (“where are they?”; GKC 296-97 §100.o; BDB 32 s.v. אַי 1.a); (2) an interrogative particle אֵי (’ey, “where?”) lengthened to אַיָּה (ayyah) and written with the enclitic particle ־ם (mem; GKC 295 §100.g), similar to ayyami (“where?”) in Assyrian (CAD 1.1.220); see W. A. Maier, Nahum, 356; R. D. Patterson, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah (WEC), 111; T. Longman, “Nahum,” The Minor Prophets, 2:826.