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Preface to Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah

The books of Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah are often neglected by pastor and people alike, to the loss of all concerned. These prophets were not only astute observers of their time and authors of literary distinction, they were also spiritually sensitive men who held a high concern for God’s person and reputation. Their pronouncements on the greed, materialism, and spiritual and moral decay that beset seventh-century-B.C. Judahite society are no less valid in today’s world. Careful consideration of these books will, therefore, pay rich spiritual dividends to their readers.

My hope is that those who interact with this commentary will come to love these prophets as I have. In carrying out the aims of the series I have attempted to follow faithfully the WEC format. My translations are intended to be neither strictly literal nor highly literate. Rather, my goal is to give a faithful translation of the MT that reflects the conclusions given in the exegetical discussions. Particularly important or disputed areas are marked by an asterisk and referred to in the Additional Notes by the symbol †.

Preceding each translation I have provided an opening overview of the section under consideration. Consequently the reader becomes aware at the beginning of the discussion of where he is in the book’s flow of thought and of what might lie ahead. The Exegesis and Ex-position section is devoted to the larger issues controlling the interpretation of the passage. It is my conviction that the chair of proper exegesis rests upon the four evenly balanced legs of grammatical precision, historical accuracy, literary conventions, and proper theological conclusions. Therefore, matters relative to all four areas will be found, though in varying degrees, throughout the exegetical discussions. In utilizing these exegetical tools, however, my aim has been always to avoid technical jargon so that the comments will be useful to all of God’s people. At times, matters brought up in this section will receive fuller attention in the Additional Notes. Such items are marked by an asterisk and indicated in the Additional Notes by italics.

The Additional Notes section is reserved for matters of concern to scholarly precision. While they often contain information useful in understanding or amplifying the conclusions reached in the Exegesis and Exposition, they at times contain details not mentioned previously. Although original text citations are not generally transliterated here, as in the Exegesis and Exposition, they are usually translated so that the material under consideration will be understandable to all readers. Likewise, comments and citations in extrabiblical foreign languages are customarily translated or summarized for the benefit of all.

My special thanks go to Ronald Youngblood for his many helpful suggestions and to my dear wife, Ann, who painstakingly (and painfully) prepared this commentary from my handwritten draft. Only my students and secretary can begin to appreciate the herculean nature of that task! My fondest hope is that the result of our labors has been the production of a commentary that is readable and helpful and not given to a display of erudition. Remembering Hitzig’s observation that we accomplish nothing in our own strength (Mit unserer macht is nichts getan), to the extent that this has been achieved the final credit belongs to Him who is the source of all true wisdom. Above all, may this book be honoring to Him “who loved [us] and gave himself for [us]” (Gal. 2:20, NIV).


The following abbreviations have been adopted for this commentary in addition to or in modification of those found in the Journal of Biblical Literature:


C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentaries on the Old Testament


The Dead Sea Scrolls


The Expositor’s Bible Commentary


Grace Theological Journal


The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia (1939 edition)


L. Koehler und W. Baumgartner, Hebräisches und Aramäisches Lexikon zum Alten Testament (3d edition)


New King James Version


The Peshitta


Loren R. Fisher, ed., Ras Shamra Parallels, Analecta Orientalia 49, 3 vols. (Roma: Pontificium Institutum Biblicum, 1981)


Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament


Wycliffe Exegetical Commentary


The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible


General Works

Baker, David W. Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah. TOTC. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1988.

Bewer, Julius A. The Literature of the Old Testament. 3d ed. New York: Columbia U., 1962.

Bullock, C. Hassell. An Introduction to the Old Testament Prophetic Books. Chicago: Moody, 1986.

Chisholm, Robert B., Jr. Interpreting the Minor Prophets. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1989.

Contenau, Georges. Everyday Life in Babylon and Assyria. New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 1966.

Craigie, Peter C. Twelve Prophets. 2 vols. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1985.

Delaporte, L. Mesopotamia. Translated by V. Gordon Childe. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1970.

Driver, S. R. An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament. Rev. ed. New York: Scribner’s, 1950.

Eissfeldt, Otto. The Old Testament: An Introduction. Translated by P. R. Ackroyd. New York: Harper & Row, 1976.

Feinberg, C. L. The Minor Prophets. Chicago: Moody, 1976.

Freeman, Hobart E. An Introduction to the Old Testament Prophets. Chicago: Moody, 1971.

_____. Nahum Zephaniah Habakkuk. Everyman’s Bible Commentary. Chicago: Moody, 1973.

Hailey, Homer. A Commentary on the Minor Prophets. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1972.

Harrison, R. K. Introduction to the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971.

Hummel, Horace D. The Word Becoming Flesh. St. Louis: Concordia, 1979.

Jastrow, Morris, Jr. Hebrew and Babylonian Traditions. New York: Charles Scribner’s, 1914.

Keil, C. F. The Twelve Minor Prophets. COT. 2 vols. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1954.

Laetsch, Theo. The Minor Prophets. St. Louis: Concordia, 1956.

Larue, Gerald A. Babylon and the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1969.

Layard, Austen H. Nineveh and Its Remains. 2 vols. New York: Putnam, 1849.

Lehman, Chester K. Biblical Theology: Old Testament. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald, 1971.

Lehrman, S. M. The Twelve Prophets. Soncino Books of the Bible. 12th ed. Edited by A. Cohen. New York: Soncino, 1985.

Luckenbill, Daniel David. Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia. 2 vols. Chicago: U. of Chicago, 1926-27.

Olmstead, A. T. History of Assyria. Chicago: U. of Chicago, 1951.

Parrot, André Babylon and the Old Testament. New York: Philosophical Library, 1958.

_____. Nineveh and the Old Testament. New York: Philosophical Library, 1955.

Pritchard, James B., ed. Ancient Near Eastern Texts. 3d ed. Princeton: Princeton U., 1969.

Pusey, E. B. The Minor Prophets. 2 vols. Grand Rapids, Baker, 1953.

Rice, T. T. The Scythians. London: Thames and Hudson, 1957.

Robertson, O. Palmer. The Books of Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah. NICOT. Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1990.

Robinson, T. H. Prophecy and the Prophets. 2d ed. London: Duckworth, 1953.

Saggs, H. W. F. Assyriology and the Study of the Old Testament. Cardiff: U. of Wales, 1969.

_____. Everyday Life in Babylonia and Assyria. New York: G. P. Putnam’s, 1965.

_____. The Greatness That Was Babylon. New York: Hawthorn, 1962.

_____. The Might That Was Assyria. London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1984.

Schoville, Keith N. Biblical Archaeology in Focus. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1978.

Smith, George Adam. The Book of the Twelve Prophets. Rev. ed. 2 vols. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1929.

Smith, Ralph L. Micah-Malachi. WBC. Waco: Word, 1984.

Vermes, G. The Dead Sea Scrolls in English. Baltimore: Penguin, 1962.

von Rad, Gerhard. Old Testament Theology. 2 vols. New York: Harper, 1965.

von Orelli, C. The Twelve Minor Prophets. Translated by J. S. Banks. Reprint. Minneapolis: Klock and Klock, 1977.

Wiseman, D. J. Chronicles of Chaldaean Kings. London: British Museum, 1956.

_____, ed. Peoples of Old Testament Times. Oxford: Clarendon, 1973.


Commentaries and special studies

Armerding, Carl. E. “Obadiah, Nahum, Habakkuk.” In EBC, vol. 7. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985.

Cathcart, Kevin J. Nahum in the Light of Northwest Semitic. Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1973.

Haldar, Alfred. Studies in the Book of Nahum. Uppsala: Lundequistska Bokhandeln, 1947.

Kohlenberger, John R. III. Jonah and Nahum. Everyman’s Bible Commentary. Chicago: Moody, 1984.

Maier, Walter A. The Book of Nahum. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1959.

Schulz, Hermann. Das Buch Nahum. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1973.

Smith, John M. P. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Zephaniah and Nahum. ICC. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1911.


Allis, O. T. “Nahum, Nineveh, Elkosh.” EvQ 27 (1955): 67-70.

Becking, Bob. “Is het boek Nahum een literaire eenherd.” NedTTs 32 (1978): 107-24.

Cathcart, Kevin J. “More Philological Studies in Nahum.” JNSL 7 (1979): 1-12.

_____. “Treaty Curses and the Book of Nahum.” CBQ 35 (1973): 179-87.

Christensen, D. L. “The Acrostic of Nahum Reconsidered.” ZAW 87 (1975): 17-30.

_____. “The Acrostic of Nahum Once Again.” ZAW 99 (1987): 409-15.

_____. “The Book of Nahum: The Question of Authorship within the Canonical Process.” JETS 31 (1988): 51-58.

Delcor, Matthias. “Allusions a la deese Istar, Nahum 2:8” Bib 58 (1977): 73-83.

Florit, Josep Ribera i. “La versión aramaica del profeta Nahum.” Anuario 6 (1980): 291-322.

Levenson, J. D. “Textual and Semantic Notes on Nahum 1:7-8.” VT 25 (1975): 792-95.

Patterson, Richard D., and Michael E. Travers. “Literary Analysis and the Unity of Nahum.” GTJ 9 (1988): 45-58.

_____. “Nahum: Poet Laureate of the Minor Prophets.” JETS 33 (1990): 437-44.

Renaud, Bernard. “La composition du livre de Nahum.” ZAW 99 (1987): 198-219.

Rowley, H. H. “Nahum and the Teacher of Righteousness.” JBL 75 (1956): 188-93.

Saggs, H. W. F. “Nahum and the Fall of Nineveh.” JTS 20 (1969): 220-25.

Tsumura, David T. “Janus Parallelism in Nah 1:8” JBL 102 (1983): 109-11.

Weiss, R. “A Comparison Between the Masoretic and the Qumran Texts of Nahum III, 1-11.” RQ 4 (1963-64): 433-39.

Woude, A. S. van der. “The Book of Nahum: A Letter Written in Exile.” OTS 20 (1977): 108-26.

Yoder, P. B. “A-B Pairs and Composition in Hebrew Poetry.” VT 21 (1971): 470-89.


Commentaries and special studies

Armerding, Carl E. “Obadiah, Nahum, Habakkuk.” In EBC, vol. 7. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985.

Brownlee, W. H. The Text of Habakkuk in the Ancient Commentary from Qumran. JBL Monograph XI. Philadelphia: Society of Biblical Literature, 1959.

_____. The Midrash Pesher of Habakkuk. Missoula, Mont.: Scholars, 1979.

Hiebert, Theodore. God of My Victory. Harvard Semitic Monographs 38. Atlanta: Scholars, 1986.

Humbert, P. Problèmes du livre d’Habacuc. Neuchatel: Secretariat de L’Universite, 1944.

Ward, W. Hayes. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Habakkuk. ICC. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1911.


Ahuviah, A. “‘Why Do You Countenance Treachery?’ A Study in the Oracle Which Habakkuk the Prophet Saw (1:1-2:4).” Beth Mikra 31 (1985/86): 320-27.

Albright, W. F. “The Psalm of Habakkuk.” In Studies in Old Testament Prophecy Dedicated to T. H. Robinson, edited by H. H. Rowley, pp. 1-18. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1950.

Cassuto, U. “Chapter III of Habakkuk and the Ras Shamra Texts.” In Biblical and Oriental Studies, translated by Israel Abrahams, vol. 2, pp. 3-15. Jerusalem: Magnes, 1975.

Cathcart, Kevin J. “Legal Terminology in Habakkuk 2:1-4.” Proceedings of the Irish Biblical Association 10 (1986): 103-10.

_____. “A New Proposal for Hab 1,17.” Bib 65 (1984): 575-76.

Dahood, Mitchell. “Two Yiphil Causatives in Habakkuk 3:13a.” Or 48 (1979): 258-59.

Day, John. “New Light on the Mythological Background of Allusion to Resheph in Habakkuk iii 5.” VT 29 (1979): 353-55.

Eaton, J. H. “The Origin and Meaning of Habakkuk 3.” ZAW 76 (1964): 144-71.

Emerton, J. A. “The Textual and Linguistic Problems of Habakkuk II.4-5.” JTS 28 (1977): 2-17.

Gowan, D. E. “Habakkuk and Wisdom.” Perspective 9 (1968): 157-66.

Gunneweg, A. H. J. “Habakuk und das Problem des leidenen s£dyq.” ZAW 98 (1986): 400-15.

Harris, J. G. “The Laments of Habakkuk’s Prophecy.” EvQ 45 (1973): 21-29.

Janzen, J. Gerald. “Habakkuk 2:2-4 in the Light of Recent Philological Advances.” HTR 73 (1980): 53-78.

Johnson, Marshall D. “The Paralysis of Torah in Habakkuk 14.” VT 35 (1985): 257-66.

Koch, Dietrich-Alex. “Der Text von Hab 2 4b in der Septuaginta und im Neuen Testament.” ZNW 76 (1985): 68-85.

Longman, Tremper III. “The Divine Warrior: The New Testament Use of an Old Testament Motif.” WTJ 44 (1982): 290-307.

Margulis, Baruch. “The Psalm of Habakkuk: A Reconstruction and Interpretation.” ZAW 82 (1970): 409-39.

Otto, E. “Die Stellung der Wehe-Worte in der Verkundigüng des Propheten Habakuk.” ZAW 89 (1977): 73-106.

Patterson, Richard D. “The Psalm of Habakkuk.” GTJ 8 (1987): 163-94.

Peckham, Brian. “The Vision of Habakkuk.” CBQ 48 (1986): 617-36.

Prinsloo, W. S. “Die boodskap van die boek Habakuk.” Nederduits Gereformeerde Teologiese Tydskrif 20 (1979): 146-51.

Rast, Walter E. “Justification by Faith.” Cur TM 10 (1983): 169-75.

Scott, James M. “A New Approach to Habakkuk ii 4-5a.” VT 35 (1985): 330-40.

van der Wal, A. J. O. “Lo„á Na„mu„t in Habakkuk I 12: A Suggestion.” VT 38 (1988): 480-82.

Verhoef, P. A. “Habakkuk.” In ZPEB, edited by Merrill C. Tenney. Vol. 3, pp. 1-5. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975.

Walker, H. H., and N. W. Lund. “The Literary Structure of the Book of Habakkuk.” JBL 53 (1934): 355-70.

Zemek, George, Jr. “Interpretive Challenges Relating to Habakkuk 2:4b.” GTJ 1 (1980): 43-69.


Commentaries and special studies

Fausset, A. R. “Zephaniah.” In R. Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, A Commentary Critical, Experimental and Practical on the Old and New Testaments. 6 vols. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1948.

Kapelrud, A. S. The Message of the Prophet Zephaniah. Oslo-Bergen-Troms: Universitetsforlaget, 1975.

Sabottka, L. Zephanja. Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1972.

Smith, John M. P. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Zephaniah and Nahum. ICC. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1911.

Walker, Larry. Zephaniah. In EBC, vol. 7. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985.


Anderson, George W. “The Idea of the Remnant in the Book of Zephaniah.” Annual of the Swedish Theological Institute 11 (1977-78): 11-14.

Baldacci, Massimo. “Alcuni nuovi esempi di taw infisso nell’ebraico biblico.” Bibbia e Oriente 24 (1982): 107-14.

Cazelles, H. “Sophonie, Jérémie et les Scythes en Palestine.” RB 74 (1964): 24-44.

Christensen, Duane L. “Zephaniah 2:4-15: A Theological Basis for Josiah’s Program of Political Expansion.” CBQ 46 (1984): 669-82.

Clark, David. “Of Beasts and Birds: Zephaniah 2:14.” BT 34 (1982): 243-46.

Clark, David. “Wine on the Lees.” BT 32 (1981): 241-43.

Delcor, M. “Les Kerethim et les Cretois.” VT 28 (1978): 409-22.

De Roche, Michael. “Zephaniah I 2-3” The ‘Sweeping’ of Creation.” VT 30 (1980): 104-9.

Donner, H. “Die Schwellenhüpfer: Beobachtungen zu Zephanja 1, 8f.” JSS 15 (1970): 42-55.

Eiselen, F. C. “Book of Zephaniah.” ISBE-1 5:3144-45.

Elliger, K. “Das Ende der ‘Abendwolfe’ Zeph 3, 3, Hab 1, 8.” In Festschrift A. Bertholet, edited by W. Baumgartner, pp. 158-75. Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1950.

Fensham, F. C. “Book of Zephaniah.” IDBSup, pp. 983-84.

Gordis, Robert. “A Rising Tide of Misery.” VT 37 (1987): 487-90.

Gozzo, Serafino M. “Il profeta Sofonia e la dottrina teologica del suo libro.” Antonianum 52 (1977): 3-37.

Hyatt, J. P. “The Date and Background of Zephaniah.” JNES 7 (1948): 25-29.

Hoffman, Y. “The Root QRB as a Legal Term.” JNSL 10 (1982): 67-73.

Ihromi. “Die Haufung der Verben des Jubelns in Zephanja iii 14f., 16-18: rnn, rwà, sÃmh£, àlz, sÃwsà und gi‚l.” VT 33 (1983): 106-10.

Lemaire, Andre. “Note sur le titre bn hmlk dans l’ancien Israël.” Sem 29 (1979): 59-65.

Lohfink, Norbert. “Zefanja und das Israel der Armen.” BK 39 (1984): 100-108.

Nel, J. P. “A Structural and Conceptual Strategy in Zephaniah, chapter 1.” JNSL 15 (1989): 155-67.

Oeming, Manfred. “Gericht Gottes und Geschichte der Völker nach Zef 3, 1-13.” TQ 167 (1987): 289-300.

Olivier, J. P. J. “A Possible Interpretation of the Word s£iyya‚ in Zeph. 2, 13.” JNSL 8 (1980): 95-97.

Renaud, B. “Le Livre de Sophonie. La Theme de YHWH structurant de la Synthese Redactionnelle.” RevScRel 60 (1986): 1-33.

Rice, Gene. “The African Roots of the Prophet Zephaniah.” The Journal of Religious Thought 36 (1979): 21-31.

Schneider, D. A. “Book of Zephaniah.” ISBE 4:1189-91.

Seybold, Klaus. “Text und Auslegung in Zef 2, 1-3.” Biblische Notizen 25 (1984): 49-54.

Smith, L. P., and E. R. Lacheman. “The Authorship of the Book of Zephaniah.” JNES 9 (1950): 137-42.

Stuhlmueller, Carroll. “Justice toward the Poor.” TBT 24 (1986): 385-90.

von Rad, G. “The Origin of the Concept of the Day of Yahweh.” JSS 4 (1959): 97-108.

Williams, D. L. “The Date of Zephaniah.” JBL 82 (1963): 77-88.

Zalcman, Lawrence. “Ambiguity and Assonance at Zephaniah ii 4.” VT 36 (1986): 365-71.

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines, History, Prophecy/Revelation