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
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1 tc The MT reads מְאָדָּם (mÿ’adam, “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 (me’adam, “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 (mÿtulla’im, “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).
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 (kÿ’esh 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 (kÿ’esh 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
tn Heb “The chariots are…” The preposition בְּ on בְּאֵשׁ (bÿ’esh) 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 (hor’alu) 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 (hor’alu, “are made to quiver”) is from רָעַל (ra’al, “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 (rÿ’al, “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
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.