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Nahum 3:1-4

Reason for Judgment: Sins of Nineveh

3:1 Woe to the city guilty of bloodshed! 1 

She is full of lies; 2 

she is filled with plunder; 3 

she has hoarded her spoil! 4 

Portrayal of the Destruction of Nineveh

3:2 The chariot drivers will crack their whips; 5 

the chariot wheels will shake the ground; 6 

the chariot horses 7  will gallop; 8 

the war chariots 9  will bolt forward! 10 

3:3 The charioteers 11  will charge ahead; 12 

their swords 13  will flash 14 

and their spears 15  will glimmer! 16 

There will be many people slain; 17 

there will be piles of the dead,

and countless casualties 18 

so many that people 19  will stumble over the corpses.

Taunt against the Harlot City

3:4 “Because 20  you have acted like a wanton prostitute 21 

a seductive mistress who practices sorcery, 22 

who 23  enslaves 24  nations by her harlotry, 25 

and entices peoples by her sorcery 26 

1 tn Heb “of bloods.” The plural noun דָּמִים (damim, “bloods”) connotes “bloodshed” or “blood guilt” (BDB 196-97 s.v. דָּם 2.f; HALOT 224-25 s.v. דָּם 5; DCH 2:443-47 s.v. דָּם). Human blood in its natural state in the body is generally designated by the singular form דָּם (dam, “blood”); after it has been spilled, the plural form is used to denote the abundance of blood in quantity (IBHS 119-20 §7.4.1; BDB 196-97 s.v. דָּם 2.f). The plural is often used with the verb שָׁפַךְ (shafakh, “to spill, to shed”) to connote bloodshed (Gen 9:6; 37:22; Lev 17:4; Num 35:33; Deut 21:7; 1 Sam 25:31; 1 Kgs 18:28; 2 Kgs 21:16; 24:4; 1 Chr 22:8; Ezek 16:38; 22:4, 6, 9, 12, 27; 23:45; 33:25; 36:18; Prov 1:16). The plural often denotes bloodshed (Gen 4:10; 2 Sam 3:27, 28; 16:8; 20:12; 1 Kgs 2:5; 2 Kgs 9:7, 26, 33; 2 Chr 24:25; Job 16:18; Isa 1:15; 4:4; 9:4; 26:21; 33:15; 34:3, 6, 7; Ezek 7:23; 16:6, 9, 36; 21:37; 22:13; 24:8; Hos 1:4; 4:2; Hab 2:8, 12, 17; Mic 3:10; Zech 9:7) or blood-guilt (Exod 22:1; Lev 20:9; Num 35:27; Deut 19:10; 22:8; Judg 9:24; 1 Sam 25:26, 33; 2 Sam 21:1; Isa 33:15; Ezek 9:9). The term can refer to murder (2 Sam 16:7, 8; Pss 5:7; 26:9; 55:24; 59:3; 139:10; Prov 29:10) or more generally, connote social injustice, cruelty, and oppression (Deut 21:8, 9; 1 Sam 19:5; 2 Kgs 21:6; 24:4; Pss 94:21; 106:38; Prov 6:17; Isa 59:7; Jer 7:6; 22:3; Joel 4:19; Jonah 1:14). The term may refer to blood that has been shed in war (1 Kgs 2:5) and the unnecessary shedding of blood of one’s enemy (1 Kgs 2:31), which is probably the intended meaning here. The phrase “city of bloodshed” (עִיר דָּמִים [’ir damim], “city of bloods”) is used elsewhere to describe a city held guilty before God of blood-guilt and about to be judged by God (Ezek 22:2; 24:6).

2 tn Heb “All of her [is] lying.”

3 tn Heb “full of plunder.”

4 tn Heb “prey does not depart.”

5 tn Heb “the sound of a whip.”

6 tn Heb “the shaking of a chariot wheel.”

7 tn Heb “a horse.”

8 tn Albright argues that the term דֹּהֵר (doher) should be translated as “chariot driver” (W. F. Albright, “The Song of Deborah in Light of Archaeology,” BASOR 62 [1936]: 30). More recent research indicates that this term denotes “to dash” (HALOT 215 s.v.) or “to gallop, neigh” (DCH 2:417 s.v. דהר I). It is used as a synonym for רָקַד (raqad, “to skip”). This Hebrew verb is related to Egyptian thr (“to travel by chariot”) and Arabic dahara VII (“to hurry”). The related noun דַּהֲרָה (daharah) means “dashing, galloping” (Judg 5:22; HALOT 215 s.v.; DCH 2:417 s.v. דַּהֲרָה I).

9 tn Heb “a chariot.”

10 tn The Piel participle מְרַקֵּדָה (mÿraqqedah, “jolting”) is from רַקַד (raqad); this verb means “to dance, to leap” (of children, Job 21:11), “to skip about, to dance” (Eccl 3:4), and “to leap” (of chariots, Joel 2:5). In related Semitic languages (Akkadian, Ugaritic, and Arabic) the root raqad means “to dance, to skip about.” Here, the verb is used as a figurative expression (hypocatastasis) to describe the jostling of the madly rushing war-chariots.

11 tn Heb “a horseman.” Although the Hebrew term פָּרָס (paras, alternately spelled פָּרָשׂ [paras] here) could denote “horse” (1 Sam 8:11; Joel 2:4; Hab 1:8; Jer 46:4), the Hiphil participle מַעֲלֶה (maaleh, “cause to charge”) – the subject of which is פָּרָס – suggests that פָּרָס refers here to “horsemen” charging their horses (2 Sam 1:6; 1 Kgs 20:20; Jer 4:29; 46:4).

12 tn The term מַעֲלֶה (maaleh; the Hiphil participle “cause to charge”) refers to charioteers bringing war-horses up to a charge or attack (e.g., Jer 46:9; 51:27). On the other hand, the KJV translates this as “lifteth up [both the bright sword and the glittering sword],” while RV renders it as “mounts [his horse (or chariot)].”

13 tn Heb “a sword.”

14 tn Heb “flash of a sword.” Alternately, “swords flash.” Although לַהַב (lahav) can mean “blade” (Judg 3:22; 1 Sam 17:7), it means “flash [of the sword]” here (e.g., Hab 3:11; see HALOT 520 s.v.) as suggested by its parallelism with וּבְרַק (uvÿraq, “flashing, gleaming point [of the spear]”); cf. Job 20:25; Deut 32:41; Hab 3:11; Ezek 21:15.

15 tn Heb “a spear.”

16 tn Heb “and flash of a spear.” Alternately, “spears glimmer” (HALOT 162 s.v. בָּרָק).

17 tn Heb “many slain.”

18 tc The MT reads לַגְּוִיָּה (laggÿviyyah, “to the dead bodies”). The LXX reflects לְגוֹיָה (lÿgoyah, “to her nations”) which arose due to confusion between the consonant ו (vav) and the vowel וֹ (holem-vav) in an unpointed text.

tn Heb “There is no end to the dead bodies.”

19 tn Heb “they.”

20 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).

21 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).

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

23 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.

24 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).

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

26 tn Heb “and clans by her sorceries.”

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