The Causal כִּי Clause in Nahum 2:2[3]

Nahum 2:2[3]: For the Lord is restoring the majesty of Jacob just as the majesty of Israel;for those who empty (plunder), have emptied (plundered) them and their branches they have destroyed.

[Nahum 2:2[3 כִּ֣י שָׁ֤ב יְהוָה֙ אֶת־גְּא֣וֹן יַעֲקֹ֔ב כִּגְא֖וֹן יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל כִּ֤י בְקָקוּם֙ בֹּֽקְקִ֔ים וּזְמֹרֵיהֶ֖ם שִׁחֵֽתוּ׃

In the book of Nahum, the Lord delivers an oracle against the Assyrians, one of Israel’s primary enemies.  The book is chocked full of woes and curses on Assyria due to the devastation they caused to their neighbors, including Israel.  However, in Nahum 2:2[3], we get a כִּי clause that provides the ground or reason for why the Lord will destroy Assyria. 

Two כִּי clauses occur in Nahum 2:2[3], but the first one is the one we are interested in today.  In Nahum 2:1[2], the Lord tells Assyria that the scatterer has come against them and they should prepare for battle even though they will be utterly destroyed.  The Lord has already told Israel that someone stands on the mountain who brings good news and publishes peace (1:15[2:1]), so the message of Assyria’s devastation already implies rescue and peace for Israel.  However, in Nahum 2:2[3], the Lord provides this explicit ground for why he will destroy Assyria; “for/because (כִּי) the Lord is restoring the majesty of Jacob just as the majesty of Israel.” 

כִּי clauses can come in several forms.  Russell Fuller says that כִּי expresses result rather than purpose, but when describing “result,” he says, “The result clause, by contrast [to the purpose clause], expresses outcome, eventuality, or effect of another action or situation.”[1]  Indeed, the effect of God destroying Assyria is to restore the majesty of Jacob.  Purpose and result clauses are therefore closely related and sometimes difficult to distinguish.  Ronald Williams begins his discussion of the כִּי clauses with the causative clause.[2]  The causative is likely the best grammatical identifier for the clause we have in Nahum 2:2[3].  Why does the Lord warn Assyria to “man the ramparts”?  “Because” he is restoring the majesty of Jacob.  Gesenius says that the conditional clause with the perfect tense (שָׁב) “refers to clauses already brought fully into effect.” [3]  So, while most English translations communicate a progressive aspect of the verb (“is restoring”), the perfect within the causal כִּי clause indicates the surety of God’s work on Israel’s behalf. 

In Nahum 2:2[3], we see that the Lord restores his people by destroying their enemies.  Paul tells New Testament believers that our primary struggle is not against flesh and blood, but “against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12b).  We know that our primary enemy is sin and death, but in the same way that the Lord destroyed Nineveh in order to restore the majesty of Jacob, he will also destroy our enemies of sin and death in order to restore the majesty of those who trust in Christ.  Indeed, he has already conquered sin and death at the cross, and therefore, we can be confident that he will gain the victory for his people when he returns again. 

God’s desire is that his people would reflect his glory.  For Israel, that primarily meant living as a holy nation.  For New Testament believers, reflecting God’s glory also comes by living holy lives under the direction and aid of the Holy Spirit.  As we walk according to the Spirit, we are made more and more into Christ-likeness and subsequently reflect more and more of the majesty of our Savior.  Indeed, when the Lord conquers our enemies of sin and death, he is restoring the majesty of his people and displaying his ever-present glory through the Church.  Take some time today to reflect on the areas in your life where the “forces of evil in the heavenly places” wage war with your soul.  Then, with confidence, ask the Lord to scatter them using the same vengeance with which he destroyed Assyria. 

  • [1] Russell Fuller, Invitation to Biblical Hebrew Syntax (Grand Rapid: Kregel Academic, forthcoming), §51.
  • [2] Ronald J. Williams, Williams’ Hebrew Syntax, 3rd ed., rev. and exp. by John C. Beckman (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007), §444. See also, GKC, §158b and JM §170d-da. 
  • [3] GKC, §158d.
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