b(l xmh in Nahum 1:2

peter_kirk at sil.org peter_kirk at sil.org
Tue Jan 4 12:32:07 EST 2000

Dear Ben,

I feel that here you are trying to shelter behind the polysemy in 
English of the word "lord", indeed trying to stretch it to cover the 
even greater polysemy of the Hebrew BA(AL. Maybe Butterworth and Pusey 
were trying to translate the word BA(AL consistently as "lord" 
wherever it occurs - which even the Revised Version did not attempt 
with this word.

What do you mean by your phrase "a lord of wrath"? Is "lord" here a 
divine title? Presumably not, as you do not use a capital letter. Does 
it mean "nobleman", or "one in authority", or "owner" as of slaves? 
Does it simply mean "one in control"? And if so, do you mean that YHWH 
controls all wrath in the world, or only his own wrath?

I think we need to realise that in general the construct relation is 
not always best translated into English by "X of Y". Of course such an 
English phrase has many different meanings, not simply possessive. I 
think that this is a case where we need to look at how the word BA(AL 
is used in construct relationships, when the second member is an 
abstract noun. In very many cases, including the two from Proverbs I 
quoted, the meaning is "one characterised by", with absolutely no 
divine overtones. The divine name Baal is used as a construct in such 
phrases as Baal-Peor and Baal-Zebub, but the only case which is 
anywhere near a parallel with Nahum 1:2 is Baal-Berith, Judges 8:33, 
9:4, which is a divine name. This would leave open the possibility 
that Baal-Xema is a divine name and Nahum is identifying YHWH with 
that divinity, but I don't think that one fits the context nearly as 
well as my parallel in Proverbs.

Peter Kirk

______________________________ Reply Separator _________________________________
Subject: Re: b(l xmh in Nahum 1:2
Author:  <ben.crick at argonet.co.uk> at Internet
Date:    03/01/2000 23:15

On Sun  2 Jan 2000 (19:46:24), c.s.bartholomew at worldnet.att.net wrote: 
> I agree with you that we have here a reference to historical combat.
> But the presence of historical combat does not rule out an allusion to 
> cosmic combat. The two can and often are combined in the same context 
> (e.g. Ex. 15).
> On the B(L myth in Nahum 1:2-6 see particularly Robert B. Chisholm, Jr. 
> "Interperting The Minor Prophets," Grand Rapids 1990, Page 168ff. I
> don't know much about Chisholm, just found his book at the library and 
> brought it home to look at.


 Thanks for the personalised response. I don't have RB Chisholm to hand, 
 but I do like Mike Butterworth's translation 'The LORD is jealous and 
 avenging, avenging and *a lord of wrath*, taking vengeance on his 
 adversaries, keeping [it] with respect to his enemies'. I notice that 
 this is also the rendering preferred by EB Pusey, Oxford, as long ago as 
 1860 (a lord of Wrath). YHWH is Ba`aL here; not some other petty b(l.

 'Lord of wrath' interprets the Construct relationship better than my 
 attempt '[YHWH] full-of fury'. We need to remember that YHWH is not only 
 the God of Love CeSeD; he is also the lord of Wrath. "To me belongeth 
 vengeance and recompense" (Deuteronomy 32:35). But as Nahum rightly 
 insists, "The LORD [is] slow to anger..." (verse 3). He waited until 
 after the mission of Jonah, and then some, before acting. But Jealousy 
 is a virtue in its proper sense; the God of Love will be properly
 jealous for His people whom he loves. This means taking vengeance against 
 those who assault and abuse his beloved.

 Even though God authorised the destruction of Samaria and northern Israel 
 by Assyria, he did not authorise the excessively brutal methods employed by 
 the Assyrian armies. All the commentators agree that Sennacherib is the 
 "wicked counsellor" of verse 11. His invasion is recorded three times: in
 2 Kings 18-19; 2 Chronicles 32; and Isaiah 36-37. He sent the Rabshakeh to 
 threaten Hezekiah in Jerusalem; and that is where we see the spiritual 
 dimension. All the Rabshakeh's rhetoric was against YHWH the God of Judah. 
 Hezekiah resorted to prayer to YHWH in His Temple about this; and Isaiah 
 gave him the answer from the LORD. 2 Kings 19:35-37 tells how YHWH destroyed 
 the Assyrian army, and how Sennacherib met his death whilst worshipping the 
 idol Nisroch. So yes!  there is a spiritual dimension indeed. YHWH is LORD 
 of all the earth, not just of Judah only: and all the gods of the nations 
 are but idols, whether carved (wood) or cast (metal), Nahum 1:14.

 Verse 12 reads 'iM-$:LeMiYM W:KeN RaBBiYM "even though they be quiet and 
 likewise many". This was long taken for a corruption in the text (even the LXX 
 fudges it), until excavations in Nineveh showed that this is an Assyrian legal 
 formula indicating joint and several responsibility in law for carrying out a 
 contract. YHWH through Nahum quotes their own legal formula against them. Does 
 Chisholm mention this, Clay?  I can't track down where I read it...

 Revd Ben Crick, BA CF
 <ben.crick at argonet.co.uk>
 232 Canterbury Road, Birchington, Kent, CT7 9TD (UK) 

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