Nahum’s Prophetic Name -- By: Gregory Cook
TynBull 67:1 (2016) p. 37
Nahum’s Prophetic Name
While Nahum commentators correctly acknowledge that the prophet Nahum’s name derives from the Hebrew root for ‘comfort’, they incorrectly interpret the significance of his name for the prophecy. Commentators usually argue that the name does not fit Nahum’s violent vision or they state that the name fits precisely, as Yhwh’s vengeance brings comfort to his afflicted people. This article contends that the first two verses of Nahum allude to Isaiah 1:24, which indicates that Yhwh receives comfort by being avenged. Therefore, Nahum’s name indicates that the primary purpose of the book is to bring comfort to Yhwh, not his adulterous people.
Commentators universally assert that Nahum’s name (נַחוּם) derives from the same root as the verb meaning ‘to comfort’.1 In Hebrew, wordplay with names ‘is quite frequent’.2 Names often contain meaning that affects the interpretation of a passage, so much so that wordplay may even ‘form the basis for complete poems’.3 While scholars have recognised that the book of Nahum engages in wordplay with the prophet’s name, they have not recognised Nahum’s allusion to Isaiah 1:24, and therefore have misunderstood the significance of his name for interpreting the book.
Julia O’Brien observes that many scholars view ‘the connection between comfort and the book’s vengeance filled contents’ as ‘ironic or even nonsensical’.4 It will be shown, however, that Nahum believed vengeance brought comfort. While other scholars make this precise point by arguing that Nahum’s name foretold Yhwh’s ‘compassion to his oppressed people’,5 this view misinterprets the primary object of Nahum’s comforting words. The prophecy focuses on Yhwh’s comfort, not Judah’s.
The evidence for this hypothesis comes from recognising the likelihood that Nahum 1:1–2 makes an intentional allusion to Isaiah 1:24.6 The Hebrew text of You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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