Can you people who are like iron and bronze break that iron fist from the north? 1
|NET © Notes||
1 tn Or “Can iron and bronze break iron from the north?” The question is rhetorical and expects a negative answer. The translation and meaning of this verse are debated. See note for further details. The two main difficulties here involve the relation of words to one another and the obscure allusion to iron from the north. To translate “literally” is difficult since one does not know whether “iron” is subject of “break” or object of an impersonal verb. Likewise, the dangling “and bronze” fits poorly with either understanding. Options: “Can iron break iron from the north and bronze?” Or “Can one break iron, even iron from the north and bronze.” This last is commonly opted for by translators and interpreters, but why add “and bronze” at the end? And what does “iron from the north” refer to? A long history of interpretation relates it to the foe from the north (see already 1:14; 4:6; 6:1; 13:20). The translation follows the lead of NRSV and takes “and bronze” as a compound subject. I have no ready parallels for this syntax but the reference to “from the north” and the comparison to the stubbornness of the unrepentant people to bronze and iron in 6:28 suggests a possible figurative allusion. There is no evidence in the Bible that Israel knew about a special kind of steel like iron from the Black Sea mentioned in later Greek sources. The word “fist” is supplied in the translation to try to give some hint that it refers to a hostile force.
sn Compare Isa 10:5-6 for the idea here.