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Nahum 3:4-5

Context
Taunt against the Harlot City

3:4 “Because 1  you have acted like a wanton prostitute 2 

a seductive mistress who practices sorcery, 3 

who 4  enslaves 5  nations by her harlotry, 6 

and entices peoples by her sorcery 7 

3:5 I am against you,” declares the Lord who commands armies. 8 

“I will strip off your clothes! 9 

I will show your nakedness to the nations

and your shame to the kingdoms;

1 tn The preposition מִן (min) on מֵרֹב (merov; Heb “from the abundance of harlotries”) is causal: “because of; in consequence of” (HALOT 598 מִן 6; BDB 579-80 s.v. מִן 2.e). See, e.g., Exod 2:23; 15:23; Deut 7:7; 2 Sam 3:11, 37; Job 22:4; Isa 6:4; 43:4; 53:5; Ezek 28:5, 18; Nah 1:5; Zech 2:8; see also IBHS 213 §11.2.11.d; R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 58, §319. The causal sense is supported by the LXX’s ἀπό (apo, “from, because of”). Most English versions adopt the causal sense (KJV, NASB, NIV, NRSV, NJPS).

2 tn Heb “Because of the many harlotries of the harlot.” The MT connects v. 4 with vv. 5-6; however, the LXX connects v. 4 with vv. 1-3. The Masoretic division is followed by NRSV and NJPS; the LXX division is followed by KJV and NIV; and the NASB division equivocates on the issue. It is best to connect v. 4 with vv. 5-6 (following the MT) because: (1) vv. 1-3 constitute a self-contained woe-oracle; and (2) the theme of the harlot unifies vv. 4-6: the accusation against the harlot (v. 4) and the stereotypical punishment of the harlot (vv. 5-6).

3 tn Heb “fair of form, a mistress of sorceries.”

4 tn Heb “she.” This has been translated as a relative pronoun for stylistic reasons. The shift from 2nd person feminine singular (“you”) to 3rd person feminine singular (“she”) is an example of heterosis of persons, a common literary/poetic device used in Hebrew poetry and prophetic literature.

5 tc The MT reads the Qal participle הַמֹּכֶרֶת (hammokheret) which is derived from מָכַר (makhar, “to sell, to betray”): “the one who sells/betrays [nations].” The MT is supported by the LXX. The Dead Sea Scrolls read הממכרת (4QpNah 2:7): “the one who sells/betrays [nations]” (see DJD 5:38). Dahood repoints the MT as a Hophal participle, הַמֻּכֶּרֶת (hammukkeret) from נָכַר (nakhar, “to know, to recognize”): “the one who is known [by the nations for her harlotries]” (M. Dahood, “Causal Beth and the Root NKR in Nahum 3.4,” Bib 52 [1971]: 395-96). The BHS editors suggest emending the MT, due to metathesis, to הַכֹּמֶרֶת (hakkomeret) from II כמר (“to ensnare”; HALOT 482 s.v. II כמר) which is related to Assyrian kamaru [A] (“to ensnare”): “The one who ensnares [nations].” The related nouns “snare; net” (מִכְמָר, mikhmar) and “net” (מִכְמֶרֶת, mikhmeret) are used as metaphors of the wicked destroying their victims (Ps 141:10; Isa 51:20; Hab 1:15, 16). This approach is adopted by NJPS: “who ensnared nations.” Others suggest emending to the Qal participle הַכֹּמֶרֶת from III כמר (“to destroy, to overthrow”; BDB 485 s.v. III כמר) related to Assyrian kamaru [B] (“to destroy; to annihilate”): “the one who destroys nations.” The MT may be retained due to strong external support (LXX and 4QpNah) and adequate internal support; the conjectural emendations are unnecessary.

tn Heb “sells.” Alternately, “enslaves”; or perhaps “deceives.” Most scholars derive the Qal participle הַמֹּכֶרֶת from מָכַר (“to sell, to betray”): “who sells nations.” When used in reference to people, this verb may denote three things: (1) to sell slaves or prisoners of war (Exod 21:8; Deut 21:14; 24:7; Joel 4:3, 6); (2) to sell off someone into the hands of the enemy, that is, to give someone entirely into their power (Exod 21:7; 22:2; Deut 32:30; Judg 2:14; 3:8; 4:2; 10:7; 1 Sam 12:9; Isa 50:1; Joel 4:8; Ps 44:13); and (3) to betray someone (possibly the meaning here in Nah 3:4?); see HALOT 581-82 s.v. I מכר; BDB 569 s.v. מָכַר. This is related to Assyrian makara (“to carry out trade; to make merchandise of”). Some English versions nuance הַמֹּכֶרֶת as “who sells nations” (KJV, NASB); others nuance it metonymically, “who enslaves nations” (NIV, NRSV). Thomas derives הַמֹּכֶרֶת from II מָכַר (“to deceive, to beguile, to betray”) which is related to Arabic makara (“to betray”): “who deceives the nations” (D. W. Thomas, “The Root mkr in Hebrew,” JTS 37 [1936]: 388-89; idem, “A Further Note on the Root mkr in Hebrew,” JTS 3 [1952]: 214).

6 tn Heb “the one who sells nations by her harlotries.”

7 tn Heb “and clans by her sorceries.”

8 tn Traditionally, “the Lord of hosts.” See the note on the expression “the Lord who commands armies” in 2:13.

9 tn Heb “I will uncover your skirts over your face.”

sn Strip off your clothes. In the ancient Near East, the typical punishment for a prostitute was to strip her of her clothes publicly to expose her to open shame, embarrassment, and public ridicule. Because Nineveh had acted like a prostitute, the Lord would punish her as a prostitute.



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