New English Translation
New English Translation
7 The Lord is good[a]—
indeed,[b] he is a fortress[c] in time of distress,[d]
and he protects[e] those who seek refuge[f] in him.
8 But with an overwhelming flood[g]
he will make a complete end of Nineveh;[h]
he will drive[i] his enemies into darkness.
Denunciation and Destruction of Nineveh
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- Nahum 1:7 tn The Masoretic disjunctive accent marker (zaqeph parvum) divides the lines here. Most English versions reflect this line division (KJV, RSV, NASB, NIV, NRSV, NKJV). Some extend the line: “Yahweh is better than a fortress” (NJB); “The Lord is good to those who hope in him” (NJPS); and “The Lord is good to those who trust him” (NEB). This issue is complicated by the textual problems in this verse.
- Nahum 1:7 tn The preposition לְ (lamed) probably functions in an emphatic asseverative sense, suggested by D. L. Christensen, “The Acrostic of Nahum Reconsidered,” ZAW 87 (1975): 22. This explains the preceding statement: the Lord is good to his people (1:7a) because—like a fortress—he protects them in time of distress (1:7b).
- Nahum 1:7 tc Some ancient versions read, “The Lord is good to those who trust him.” The MT reads לְמָעוֹז (lemaʿoz, “a fortress”): the noun מָעוֹז (maʿoz, “fortress”) with the preposition לְ (le, see below). However, the LXX reflects the reading לְמֵעִיז (lemeʿiz, “to those who trust [him]”): the Hiphil participle from עוּז (ʿuz, “seek refuge”) with the preposition לְ. The variants involve only different vocalizations and the common confusion of vav (ו) with yod (י). Most English versions follow the traditional Hebrew reading (KJV, RSV, NASB, NIV, NRSV, NKJV); however, several others follow the alternate Greek reading (NEB, NJPS). The BHS editors and several other scholars favor the LXX tradition; however, the Masoretic tradition has been defended by others. The Masoretic tradition is supported by the Dead Sea Scrolls (4QpNah). The problem with the LXX reading is the absence of the direct object in the Hebrew text; the LXX is forced to supply the direct object αὐτόν (auton, “him”; for a similar addition of the direct object αὐτόν by the LXX, see Amos 9:12). The main objection to the MT reading לְמָעוֹז (“a fortress”) is that לְ is hard to explain. However, לְ may be taken in a comparative sense (Cathcart: “Yahweh is better than a fortress in time of distress”) or an asseverative sense (Christensen: “Yahweh is good; indeed, a fortress in time of distress”). See K. J. Cathcart, Nahum in the Light of Northwest Semitic (BibOr), 55; idem, “More Philological Studies in Nahum,” JNSL 7 (1979): 4; D. L. Christensen, “The Acrostic of Nahum Reconsidered,” ZAW 87 (1975): 22. Elsewhere, the Lord is commonly portrayed as a “fortress” (מָעוֹז) protecting his people (Pss 27:1; 28:8; 31:3, 5; 37:39; 43:2; 52:9; Isa 17:10; 25:4; 27:5; Joel 4:16 HT [3:16 ET]; Jer 16:19; Neh 8:10; Prov 10:29).
- Nahum 1:7 sn The phrase “time of distress” (בְּיוֹם צָרָה, beyom tsarah) refers to situations in which God’s people are oppressed by enemy armies (Isa 33:2; Jer 14:8; 15:11; 16:19; Obad 12; Pss 20:2; 37:39). Nahum may be alluding to recent Assyrian invasions of Judah, such as Sennacherib’s devastating invasion in 701 b.c., in which the Lord protected the remnant within the fortress walls of Jerusalem (2 Kgs 18-19; 2 Chr 32; Isa 36-37).
- Nahum 1:7 tn Heb “he knows” or “he recognizes.” The basic meaning of the verb יָדַע (yadaʿ) is “to know,” but it may denote “to take care of someone” or “to protect” (HALOT 391 s.v.; see Gen 39:6; Job 9:21; Ps 31:8). Most English versions render it as “know” here (KJV, RSV, NASB, NKJV) but at least two recognize the nuance “protect” (NRSV, NIV [which reads “cares for”]). It often refers to God protecting and caring for his people (2 Sam 7:20; Ps 144:3). When the subject is a king (suzerain) and the object is a servant (vassal), it often has covenantal overtones. In several ancient Near Eastern languages this term depicts the king (suzerain) recognizing his treaty obligation to protect and rescue his servant (vassal) from its enemies. For example, a letter from Abdi-Ashirta governor of Ammuru to the Egyptian king Amenophis III ends with a plea for protection from the raids of the Mittani: “May the king my lord know [= protect] me” (yi-da-an-ni; EA 60:30-32). Similarly, in the treaty between Muwattallis and Alaksandus, the Hittite suzerain assures his vassal that in case he was attacked, “As he is an enemy of you, even so he is an enemy to the Sun; I the Sun, will know [= “protect”] only you, Alaksandus” (see H. B. Huffmon, “The Treaty Background of Hebrew YADA`,” BASOR 181 (1966): 31-37; idem, “A Further Note on the Treaty Background of Hebrew YADAʿ,” BASOR 184 (1966): 36-38.
- Nahum 1:7 tn Or “those who trust in him” (NIV); NAB “those who have recourse to him.”
- Nahum 1:8 tn Some scholars connect “in an overwhelming flood” (וּבְשֶׁטֶף עֹבֵר, uveshetef ʿover) with the preceding line: “he protects those who trust him in an overwhelming flood.” However, others connect it with the following line: “But with an overwhelming flood he will make a complete end of its [Nineveh’s] site.” D. T. Tsumura (“Janus Parallelism in Nah 1:8, ” JBL 102 : 109-11) suggests that it does double duty and should be read with both lines: “he knows those who trust him in an overwhelming flood, / but with an overwhelming flood he will make a complete end of its [Nineveh’s] site.” Connecting it with the preceding line creates a tight parallelism and a balanced 5+5 metrical count. Connecting it with the following line harmonizes with Nah 2:9 , which describes the walls of Nineveh being destroyed by flood waters, and with historical evidence (Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca Historica, 2.27.1-3; Xenophon, Anabasis, 3.4.12) and modern archaeological evidence (A. T. Olmstead, History of Assyria, 637). This might be an example of intentional ambiguity: God will protect his people from the very calamity that he will use to destroy his enemies.
- Nahum 1:8 tc Heb “her place.” Alternately, some ancient versions read “his adversaries.” The MT reads מְקוֹמָהּ (meqomah, “her place”). This is supported by the Dead Sea Scrolls (מקומה, “her place,” found in 4QpNah) and Symmachus (τῆς τόποῦ αὐτοῦ, tēs topou autou, “her place”). The reading of the LXX (τούς ἐπεγειρουμένους, tous epegeiroumenous, “those who rise up [against Him]”) and Aquila (ἀντισταμενῶν, antistamenōn, “adversaries”) reflect מְקּוֹמיהוּ or מְקִימיהוּ or מְקִּמָיו (“his adversaries”), also reflected in the Vulgate and Targum. Some scholars suggest emending the MT in the light of the LXX to create a tight parallelism between “his adversaries” (מקומיו) and “his enemies” (וְאֹיְבָיו, veʾoyevayv) which is a parallel word pair elsewhere (Deut 28:7; 2 Sam 22:40-41, 49; Mic 7:6; Ps 59:2). Likewise, Tsumura suggests emending the MT because the text, as it stands, does not have a clear parallel word for “his enemies” (וְאֹיְבָיו)—emending the MT’s מְקוֹמָהּ (“her place”) to מקומיו (“his adversaries”) would result in a parallel word (D. T. Tsumura, “Janus Parallelism in Nah 1:8, ” JBL 102 : 109-11). The BHS editors propose emending the MT in favor of the Greek tradition. The English versions reflect both textual traditions—several follow the MT with “her place” and “its site” (KJV, NASB, NIV, NKJV, NJPS), while others adopt the LXX reading and emend the Hebrew, resulting in “his adversaries” (NRSV) or “those who defy him” (NJB). The MT makes sense as it stands, but the proposed emendation is attractive and involves only the common confusion between ה and יו.
- Nahum 1:8 tc The BHS editors propose emending the Masoretic reading יְרַדֶּף (yeraddef, Piel imperfect of רָדַף [radaf], “to chase”) to יֶהְדֹּף (yehdof, Qal imperfect of הָדַף [hadaf], “to thrust away, drive away”). Although הָדַף is used with חֹשֶׁךְ (khoshekh, “darkness”) in Job 18:18 (“he is driven from light into darkness”), the MT makes good sense as it stands, and is supported by the versions. The conjectural emendation has no support and is unnecessary.
- Nahum 1:9 tn Alternately, “Why are you plotting?” or “What are you plotting?” The term מַה (mah) ordinarily functions as the interrogative pronoun “what?” (HALOT 550-51 s.v.; BDB 552-53 s.v.). It is often used in reproachful, ridiculing questions and in accusations with an insinuation of blame, reproach, or contempt; see Gen 4:10; 37:10; 44:15; Josh 22:16; Judg 8:1; 15:11; 20:12; 1 Sam 29:3; 2 Sam 9:8; 1 Kgs 9:13; 2 Kgs 9:22; 18:19). It is more disparaging than מִי (mi; HALOT 551 s.v. מַה). The LXX translates it with the interrogative pronoun τί (ti, “what?”). R. L. Smith (Micah-Malachi [WBC], 76) takes it as the indefinite pronoun “whatever” (see also BDB 553 s.v. מָה 3; GKC 443-44 §137.c; Num 23:3; 1 Sam 19:3; 20:10; 2 Sam 18:22-23, 29; Job 13:13; Prov 25:8). W. A. Maier (Nahum, 186) takes it as the interrogative adverb “why?” (see also BDB 553 s.v. מָה 2.b; Gen 3:13; 12:18; 26:10; Exod 14:15; 17:2; 2 Kgs 6:33; 7:3; Pss 42:6, 12 HT [42:5, 11 ET]; 43:5; 52:3 HT [52:1 ET]; Job 7:21; 15:12; Song 8:4). All three are represented in English versions: “What?” (KJV, NKJV), “Why?” (NRSV, NJPS), and “Whatever” (NASB, NIV).
- Nahum 1:9 tn Less likely, “[What are you] thinking about.” When used with אֶל (ʾel) the verb חָשַׁב (khashav) may be taken (1) in a hostile sense: “What are you plotting against the Lord?” or (2) in a nonhostile sense: “What are you thinking about the Lord?” The hostile sense is clearly intended when it is used in collocation with the direct object רָעָה (raʿah, “evil”; Zech 7:10; 8:17; Pss 35:4; 140:3; Prov 16:9) or when it is followed by the preposition עַל (ʿal; Gen 50:20; 2 Sam 14:13; Jer 11:19; 18:11, 18; 29:11; 48:2; 49:30; Mic 2:3; Nah 1:11; Ps 36:5; Esth 8:3; 9:24, 25; Dan 11:25). It is also used in a hostile sense when followed by the preposition אֶל, as it is here (Jer 49:20; 50:45; Hos 7:15; Nah 1:9). The major lexicons classify this usage in a hostile sense (BDB 363 s.v. חָשַׁב; HALOT 360 s.v. חשׁב). The verb is repeated in Nah 1:11 where it is clearly used in a hostile sense.
- Nahum 1:9 tn Or “The Lord will completely foil whatever you plot against him”; or “Whatever you may think about the Lord, he [always] brings everything to a conclusion.”
- Nahum 1:9 tc The MT reads צָרָה (tsarah, “distress”). This is supported by the LXX. However, the BHS editors propose emending the MT’s צָרָה (“distress”) to צָרָיו (tsarayv, “his adversaries”). Several English versions follow course (NRSV, NJPS); however, the majority of English versions follow the traditional MT reading (KJV, NASB, NIV, NKJV). The term “distress” (צָרָה, tsarah) is repeated from v. 7: God will not only protect his people in time of “distress” (צָרָה) from the Assyrians (v. 7), he will put an end to “distress” (צָרָה) by destroying the Assyrians (v. 9).
- Nahum 1:9 tn The originally unvocalized consonantal form תקום is vocalized in the MT as תָקוּם (taqum, “will arise”) from קוּם (qum, “to arise”). However, the LXX reflects a vocalization of תִקּוֹם (tiqqom, “will take vengeance”) from נָקַם (naqam, “to avenge”). The Masoretic vocalization makes sense and should be retained. The LXX vocalization probably arose under the influence of the three-fold repetition of נקם in Nah 1:2.