Academic journal article Journal of Biblical Literature

Nahum

Academic journal article Journal of Biblical Literature

Nahum

Article excerpt

Nahum, by Klaas Spronk. Historical Commentary on the Old Testament. Kampen: Kok Pharos, 1997. Pp. iod + 153. N.P.

This volume follows the approach of the recently inaugurated Historical Commentary on the Old Testament series by seeking to place the book of Nahum both within its own historical context and within the history of its interpretation. Spronk attributes the prophetic book to an author writing ca. 650 B.C.E., who used the pseudonym Nahum to indicate his intention to "comfort" the Israelites in the face of Assyrian oppression. He appears to have drawn upon Assyrian royal texts, Israelite cultic literature, especially the Psalms, and the words of Isaiah of Jerusalem. The book of Nahum, in turn, influenced Habakkuk, Second Isaiah, Jeremiah, later proto-apocalyptic literature, Qumran material, and the New Testament. It was incorporated into its current location in the middle section of the book of the Twelve in imitation of the larger prophetic books, with their sections dealing with woe to Israel, woe to the nations, and comfort for Israel. But contrary to traditional views which saw the book as simply one of vengeance, Spronk interprets it in terms of Yahweh's anger at injustice and oppression of the weak.

The greatest strength of this volume is the detailed attention to literary and structural details. Spronk divides the prophetic book into three "cantos"-1:1-11; 1:12, 2:914; and 3:1-19-with the latter two further divided into three "subcantos" each. The (sub)cantos are divided into "canticles," which are then broken into "strophes." The second and third cantos both have shorter middle canticles while all three are linked by repeated keywords. In addition, Spronk sees a chiasm (mirror pattern) in 2:1-3:18 as well as an overlapping linear sequence of parallels in 2:4-8 and 3:1-5. Not everyone will be convinced by every proposal (for example, the mirror pattern alternates between semantic and exact lexical correspondences and does not incorporate 3:1-4) but nonetheless, Spronk is correct in his assessment that there is "an intricate web of crossreferences throughout the book" (p. 5).

The commentary proper presents the author's own translation of each canto, followed by "Essentials and Perspectives," which comprises an overview of the content and the history of interpretation aimed at a general audience. This material is developed at length in the "Scholarly Exposition," which is divided into introductory matters of bibliography and structure and a detailed exegesis. …

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