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Bible Study, The Minor Prophets: Nahum

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Posted on CCPC's website 2022

The Minor Prophets Study Index page.

      This is a long term, in depth, wide focus study of the Minor Prophets, drawing as much from the history of their times as possible, as well as looking at the original language of the prophet.
      Which for this tough little book is the seventh verse of the first chapter:
“The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble, and he knoweth them that trust in him.” (1611)

      First off, this is one of the more difficult books of the Book of the Twelve. In spite of his name meaning “source of comfort”, there's not a lot comforting going on in his poems. In fact, one commentator goes as far as to call the book a “doom song”.
      This book is the only place in the Bible where the name Nahum / Nahhum is seen. And his home town is no less mysterious, Eiqosh (the Elkoshites, verse 1). As far as is known, the site of this settlement has never been identified in Israel, and some maintain that it may be as far away as in modern Iraq, near Nineveh itself.
      There are two similarities with Jonah. As with Jonah, this book says it is about Nineveh. However, as we'll see, Nahum takes his time getting around to the city, but in the mean time he paints with a wide enough brush to take in just about everybody else. Then, later on, he gets specific.
      The second is that his tomb is supposedly located in Alqosh just north of Mosul, which is built on the site of ancient Nineveh. Unlike Jonah, the mosque built around his tomb was not destroyed by the Islamic State, having fallen into such bad condition that it was in danger of collapse on its own. Work to restore the historic structure is ongoing. There is nothing except ancient legend to indicate that Nahum had ever been anywhere near the place, dead or alive.
      There is nothing in the text to indicate that the work was recorded by anybody except the man who uttered the poetry. But then again, when you look at the name and its meaning, it could be that this writer was one of the few Hebrew prophets that were women.

Chapter 1

      “mas sa” (load / burdon) of Nineveh. “se per” (missive (in modern terms: letter or essay)) of the “ha·zo·wn” (vision (implies divine origin)) of Nahum the “’el·qo·si”

2 This verse begins an alphabetic sequence of lines, such as in Psalm 119.
      The prophet did not use the words God and YHWH in verse one, Nahum makes up for it now.
      “El” (God) is “qan·no·w” (jealous), “we·no·qem” (avenges / takes revenge)- (repeated) YHWH avenges, and YHWH is “he·mah” ('filled with' wrath), 'will take vengeance' YHWH (repeated) “le·sa·raw” (enemies / adversaries) “we·no·w·ter” (keeps / reserves) His “le·’o·ye·baw” (foes).

      YHWH is “'e rek” (slow) “’ap·pa·yim” (anger) .....
      This is a quote from Exodus 34 : 6, and Psalm 103 : 8, and other verses.
      ... and great in power, and 'will not' “ye·naq·qeh” (acquit / 'hold blameless'), ...
      'the wicked' is not in the Hebrew but is implied
      .... YHWH has the “be·su·pah” (cyclone (see Job 38)) and the “u·bis·‘a·rah” (storm), “we·‘a·nan” (clouds) “'a baq” ('are the' dust) “rag law” ('of his' feet).

      A description of the power of YHWH.
      Bashan is an historic agricultural region to the north and east of Lake Galilee, Carmel is of course the coastal mountain mentioned in other texts, the “uperah lebanown” (flower of Lebabon) could well be the Cyclamen libanoticum (Lebanon cyclamen) which is the national flower of Lebabon as it is only found in a small area inland of Beruit.

      This verse quotes Psalm 97 : 5, and echoes Micah 1 : 4

      Before “za' mow” ('His' indignation) who can stand? And who “ba·ha·ro·wn” (burning heat) “’ap·pow” ('of His' face (or) anger)? “ha ma tow” ('His' wrath / rage) “nit·te·kah” (poured) “ka 'es” (fire), “w?·ha?·?u·rîm” (and the rocks) “nit ta su” (break / tear down) 'by Him'.

      “towb” (good), YHWH is a “le·ma·‘o·wz” (stronghold / place if refuge) “be·yo·wm” (time) “sa rah” (distress / trouble), “we·yo·de·a‘” (knows / acknowledges) “ho se” (take refuge) in Him.

      “u·be·se·tep” (a flood) “'o ber” (over) “ka lah” (complete 'annihilation') of its place “we·’o·ye·baw” (foe / enemy) “ye·rad·dep” (persue (to persecute)) “ho sek” (darkness).

      Nahum switches tone and asks a question.
      What “te·has·se·bun” ('do you' consider) against YHWH? He will “kah la” (complete destruction) of it. Not rise up a second time “sa rah” (distress / trouble)

      Discussion: Those who plot against God are compared to thorny vines and drunks that will be consumed like 'stubble' in the fire. Meaning that the plans and devices of men will come to naught.
      The illusion is continued in the New Testament in verses like 1 Corinthians 3 : 12 and following. Which of course harkens back to Proverbs 17 : 3

      Continues: From those vines and drunks and the ones who plot against God, come evil “be·li·ya·‘al” (worthless) counselors.
      It doesn't end well.

      Thus says YHWH, “so le mim” (whole / complete / full) and abundant, like this “na·goz·zu” (cut off) when he “we·‘a·bar” (pass through / over). “we·‘in·ni·tik” (humbled / afflicted) I will afflict you no more.

      Now “'es bor” (I will break) the ('his' and 'their' are NOT in the Hebrew) yoke from you and your 'bonds / shackles' “’a·nat·teq” (break).

      Now a very serious bit.
      paraphrase: A command concerning you from God, your name shall no longer continue. Your idols will be cut off from your house, I will dig your grave, for you are “qal·lo·w·ta” (cursed).

      The tone changes again, with a message of hope. Judah is instructed to do what they know they should be doing, and the 'evil one' will be cut off.
      And that verse ends the acrostic section.

Chapter 2

      Nahum has a bit of military advice.

      Nahum states that YHWH will restore “ge 'o wn” (majesty) of “ya·‘a·qob”, again, as we've seen others do, using the old name of the patriarch, and reinforces the idea using “yis·ra·’el”.
      .... for “be·qa·qum” (made empty 'a void) “bo·qe·qim” (devestators), and their vines ruined.

      'News from the front', the translations are good on the blood stained shields and the rest of it.
      One of the translations seemed to think that the enemies shields would be painted red before the battle, no, they're going to be red with the blood of the city's defenders.

      very modern paraphrase: “their charioteers drive like NASCAR drivers on the last lap”

      the implied 'he' seems to refer to the enemy (Assyria) and its king, to say it is referring to YHWH doesn't make sense in this context....
      he “yiz·kar-” (remember) “’ad·di·raw” (leaders / masters 'nobility') “yik·ka·se·lu” (stumble) in their walk....
      yet those that 'stumble in their walk' are the ones that run to the city walls and prepare the defense.
      Something that doesn't end well.

      While this verse describes something along the lines of seasonal flooding, except the KJV and certain others get the translation wrong, the word for what is dissolved is “we·ha·he·kal” which means 'temple'.

            Go look at your favorite translation and check for female pronouns, or even proper names from the beginning of Nahum until now.
      This verse presented some translation problems that began with the 1560 Geneva Bible (the bulk source for the KJV fifty years later):
“and Huzzab the Queene shalbe led away captiue, and her maides shal leade her as with the voyce of doues, smiting vpon their breasts” (italics as in the original)
“And Huzzab shall be led away captiue, she shall be brought vp, and her maids shall leade her as with the voyce of doues, tabring vpon their breasts.” (1611)

      And those problems continued even into some of the modern translations.
      St Jerome got it right in his Latin edition we call the Vulgate, completed around 400 AD:
“et miles captivus abductus est et ancillae eius minabantur gementes ut columbae murmurantes in cordibus suis”
'And the soldier is led away captive: and her bondwomen were led away mourning as doves, murmuring in their hearts.'

      There is no 'she' to this point in the Greek Septuagint, although in it the verse we are looking at is 8 instead of 7 in that text. See link below for the Greek and English from the Internet Sacred Texts Archive.
      We won't even discuss where they came up with a person's name.

      Let's dissect the Hebrew and see what we see, something that should be said here is that, in ancient Hebrew, Verbs do not directly have a gender but depend on the object. See link below, “Q#1”.

“we·hussab” ('to stand' / establish / fix ('it is fixed')) “gul·le·tah” ((usually) carried away / exiled (can also be used as 'exposed / revealed)), “ho·‘a·la·tah” (go / ascend / brought), “we·’am·ho·te·ha” (female servant (implies young woman)) “me·na·ha·go·wt” (lead away / drive (like cattle)) “ke·qo·wl” (voice / noise) “yo·w·nim” (doves / pigeons), “me·to·pe·pot” (beat (as in 'to drum')) “'al” (on / upon) “lib·be·hen” (hearts (implies: their own chest)).
      The direct object of all this activity, including where the palace in verse 6 was, appears to be in the first phrase of the next verse, and was a proper noun, a place name, without gender. However, later in chapter 3, this becomes very clear and we see a foreshadowing of Babylon as depicted in Revelation.
      Exactly where some of the translations got that the subject was a “queen”, nevermind her name, is a mystery we may never solve. But don't worry, later on a verse gets dusty when there was no dust in the original.

      “we·ni·ne·weh” ('but' Nineveh) 'like a pool of water, of days', and they “na sim” (fled away / escape). 'stand still , stop' they exclaim, “we 'en” (no one) “map neh” (turned).

      Paraphrased: “loot the place”

      “bu·qah” ('she is' empty / void (this noun is feminine)), “u·me·bu·qah” (desolate), “u·me·bul·la·qah” (and waste)...
      The ending phrase is an echo from Joel 2 : 6.
      The description here is extreme anguish and sorrow.

11 and 12
      paraphrase: “Where's the lions?”
      Note: when the male lion has to go out and hunt and kill, times are really tough.

      Behold, I am against you, says YHWH of hosts.
      Paraphrase:... you're going to have a really bad day. And then it'll be really quiet.

Chapter 3

      The accusation is telling:
      “Ho w” (woe / alas) to the city “na min” (blood / bloody (especially innocent blood))! All is “ka has” (deception) “pe req” (plunder) full, its victims never leave.

      paraphrase: the city was noisy as well

      'a cavalry charge'....
      The details of the carnage are quite vivid in the Hebrew. If you wish to look at them, it's in the Interlinear as linked below.

      There are two indictments of this female embodiment of the city.
      ...“me rob” (multitude / abundance) of her “ze·nu·ne” ('harlotries'), the harlot of the “tow bat” ('upper class') “hen” (charming / elegant) “ba 'a lat” (mistress (female owner)) “ke sa pim” (sorcery), who sells nations through her harlotry, and families through her sorcery.
      Not only is she a prostitute of various sorts, she uses magic against the people.

      The same introduction as verse 13 of chapter 2, YHWH is speaking:
      .... and I will expose 'her nakedness' (meaning the hollowness of her ways and lies, as well as the usual kind of nakedness), and her shame.

      and I will throw upon you “siq·qu·sim” (detestable things / abominations) “we·nib·bal·tik” (disgrace / dishonored (as in 'look foolish') and make you “ke·ro·’i” (spectacle)

      “the time will come...” is good in the translations.
      .... “sad·de·dah” (destroyed)! Nineveh who will “ya·nud” (mourn / grieve), where will I seek “me·na·ha·mim” (comfort / consolation / compassion) for you?

8 and 9
      “no ’a·mo·wn” (No Amon).....
time out 'yes, you in the corner, you had a question....'
      “That's the proper name of an Egyptian deity, what's going on?”

      Remember when we looked at a couple of pagan gods that originally represented cites? Here's one from Egypt who started out as just a local minor god, who was then promoted to represent the city of Thebes (Waset, and sometimes No), about 500 miles up the Nile from the sea. The local god of the city of No was called Amon.
      He was a god that tended to hide himself in various locations here and there, but could be convinced to come out and do things from time to time. Like when he was drafted to replace an even older local god and moved up with his wife Amunet to become the figurehead for the capital city of the growing kingdom of 'Upper Egypt'.
      The magnificent temple complexes known as Karnak and Luxor, within walking distance of the city of Thebes, were dedicated to Amon, after he got a somewhat undeserved promotion and became known as Amon Ra, and was now the chief of their pantheon of gods. (as to what the KJV committee did with the name, we'll ignore and move on)

      Thebes had its ups and downs, including a long decline when the Egyptian court moved north to the Nile Delta. Then it really had a bad time of it when the Assyrians captured Lower Egypt and marched, or sailed, up the river and attacked and then plundered Thebes.
      After that, Thebes never regained its stature as an imperial city although it did retain some religious mystique due to the ancient temples there, although the local god, Amon / Amun, was largely forgotten.
      He is also mentioned in Jeremiah 46:25 and Ezekiel 30.
end time out

      Nine concludes with one thing that doesn't fit the city of Thebes, unless it is being considered that the Mediterranean was the 'rampart' for Egypt against its enemies from the North and the Red Sea to the East.
      Then it mentions Ethiopia (ancient Nubia), also listed is Libya and Lubim. While the second group is somewhat mysterious, they were evidently from the same area of the northern coast of Africa, and may have been related. And as 9 states, Egypt's “helpers”.

      Discussion. The taking of the city by the enemy is reminiscent of what Assyria, in her 'glory days', did to everybody else. In fact, when the Medes, supported by the rebel forces from Babylon, attacked the city in 612 (give or take), this is pretty spot on as to what happened. Including the slaughter of infants, who need more care than they're worth when you're traveling, and the taking of slaves and prisoners. See link below for more:

      Also you will “tis·ke·ri” (be drunk (except in this context, drunk as in 'intoxicated' doesn't make sense, this 'drunk' would be better rendered as 'consumed' which fits the rest of the verse)), “na·‘a·la·mah” ('you will be' hidden), you will “te·baq·si” (seek / search for) “ma 'o wz” (stronghold / fortress (safety)) “me·’o·w·yeb”

      A bit of gallows humor from the prophet, comparing the best fortifications of Nineveh to a fig orchard full of ripe fruit that falls down to eat if the tree is shaken.

      Paraphrase: your people are women (implying 'defenseless') and your city will be burned to the ground.

      The translations are good on the advice about preparing for the siege.

15 through 17
      Discussion: we've seen this image before, such as from our old friend Joel. The unstoppable force that everybody was familiar with, a swarm of locusts. A power that is even more destructive than enemy armies. Now, instead of them sweeping over the Northern Kingdom, they're coming to visit Nineveh. Where there are more merchants than the 'stars of heaven', but in the end, it won't matter.
      In 16 the term used for what the locusts do “pa sat” is the word for what an army does (plunder) and 'fly away'.
      The last verse of this section talks about the military commanders hiding in the hedges and how many of them, and their soldiers, there are, but it does them no good, this time. There are some stories of the rebellion when generals changed sides and fought with their 'cousins' from Babylon, against the empire itself, because they were loyal to the king of Babylon who was of the Assyrian royal house. Now, when Nineveh needs the army, they can't find it.

18 that dust we mentioned earlier is here now
      “na mu” (sleep / rest) “ro·‘e·ka” ('herdsmen' / 'flock tenders' (may or may not have been sheep, but anything in a 'pasture')), king of Assur (in this case it probably means the empire) “yis·ke·nu-” (dwell / live) (NOTE: the added phrase 'in the dust' is not in the Hebrew, nor is it in the Vulgate, or the 1560, but 'the dust' does show up in the 1611), “’ad·di·re·ka” (mighty / noble ones) “na·po·su” (up 'scattered') “‘am·me·ka” ('your' people) on the mountains and “we 'en” (none) “me·qab·bes” (gathers / assembles them).

      paraphrase: “you're hurt bad, really bad” and all who hear that news will celebrate...
      .... “'al mi” (upon whom) not “‘a·be·rah” (pass through / by) “ra·‘a·te·ka” (evil / bad / ugly) “ta mid” (continually/ perpetually).

End Nahum

Selected Sources for this book:

the Interlinear at

This link will take you to the main page for Jerome of Stridon's master work,
the Vulgate Bible
With English directly under the Latin verse.

And as a
Downloadable PDF:

The Greek Septuagint

Also at sacred-texts they have a chart, way down the page, where you can compare several translations head to head:
The Hypertext Bible

A page about 'gender' (the proper use of the word):
“Gender Representation In Ancient Hebrew” Thebes, Egypt

August 10, 612 BC: Nineveh, the Largest City in the World, Fell
for a news headline, that one's a bit late

Sources used throughout entire study:

the 1611 KJV

The Minor Prophets Study Index page.

NOTE: The Bible Study Lesson presented above is posted as a reference document to begin a conversation of the topic. And that's it. Please accept it at such.

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