HABAKKUK

Introduction

Habakkuk gives us no details about his genealogy, nor does he tell the name of the king during whose reign he was active. For that reason, we are left to search for clues to his time period in his message. Since he gives oracles concerning the Chaldeans, who rose to power at the end of the seventh century BC, most scholars assume that Habakkuk lived during that period, which would make him a contemporary of Jeremiah and Zephaniah.

Chapter 1

Yahweh establishes the Chaldeans, who are a fearsome people.

    1. The oracle which Habakkuk the prophet saw.
    2. For how long, Oh Yahweh, have I cried out, but you do not hear? I cry to you of violence, but you do not rescue (me).
    3. Why do you show me iniquity and you look upon mischief, and devastation and violence are before me, and there has been strife, and contention is raised.
    4. Therefore, instruction1 is becoming ineffective, and justice never goes forth, for wicked ones surround the righteous; therefore justice goes forth perverted.
    5. See among the nations, and look, and be astonished, be amazed, for he is performing a work in your days. You will not believe it when it is told (to you).
    6. For behold, I am establishing the Chaldeans, the bitter and impetuous nation, who are marching through the breadth of the land to possess dwellings which are not theirs.
    7. They are dreadful and terrible; their justice and oracles2 will go forth from themselves.
    8. And their horses are faster than leopards, and sharper than evening wolves; and their riders spring about, and their riders come from afar; they will fly like an eagle that rushes to devour (prey).
    9. They all come to do violence. The terror3 of their faces (moves) forward, and they have gathered captives like the sand.
    10. And they will mock the kings, and rulers are objects of derision to them. They laugh at any fortress; they pile up earth and capture it.
    11. Then a wind has changed, and they pass over and commit offenses, (and attribute) their strength to their god.
    12. Are you not from everlasting, Oh Yahweh, my God, my Holy One? We will not die, Oh Yahweh, you have appointed them for a judgment, and, Oh Rock,4 you have established them for correction.
    13. (Your) eyes are too pure to see evil, and you are not able to gaze upon trouble. Why do you gaze upon traitors (and) remain silent as a wicked man swallows one more righteous than he?
    14. And you have made man like the fish of the sea, like the creeping things, to rule over them. 5
    15. They raise them all with a hook; they drag them in their net and gather them in their fishing net. Therefore they rejoice and are glad.
    16. Therefore they sacrifice to their net and burn incense to their fishing net, for in it is the fat of their portion, and their food is succulent.
    17. Is it because of this that they empty their net, and continually slay the nations, not sparing (them)?
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1. Or “the gospel” (torah).
2. The Hebrew word here is normally used to mean “load” or “burden,” but it has a special use as regards prognostication, and therefore can also mean “oracle” as was seen in verse 1. In this case, Habakkuk is comparing the justice and oracles of Yahweh, which have been perverted by the Lord’s own people, with the type of justice and oracles that they can expect from the Babylonians. As a matter of fact, the Babylonians did indeed rely heavily on oracles, which their priests sought to obtain through such means as extispicy, which involved sacrificing an animal and looking at the liver or entrails for signs. They also used dreams and astrology.
3. Here I am following the suggestion in the footnotes of the BHS and replacing the obviously corrupt (or at least non-sensical) word מגמת with the word מגׂרת.
4. Tsor means literally “rock” but is also a epithet of God, who is sturdy and steady like a rock.
5. The MT reads כרמשׂ לא משל בו whereas the Qumran manuscript reads כרמשׂ למשל בו. I am following the Qumran text in this case, because it makes better sense.
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Chapter 2

The righteous will live by his faith; the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of Yahweh

    1. Let me stand on my watch, and let me set myself upon a fortification, and I will keep watch to see what he will speak to me, and what I will reply when I am reproved.
    2. And Yahweh answered me and said, Write the vision, and clarify it upon the tablets, so that one may read it quickly.
    3. For there is another vision for an appointed time, and in the end it will utter and not lie. If it tarries, wait for it, for it will surely come, it will not delay.
    4. Behold, it is swollen – his soul is not upright within him; but the righteous will live by his faith.
    5. Furthermore, the wine deals treacherously; (he is) a haughty man and will not abide, who widened his soul like Sheol, and he is like death and will never be satisfied; and he has gathered all the nations to himself, and he has collected all peoples to himself.
    6. Should not all these take up a parable against him, and a satire of riddles against him? And he will say, Woe to him who increases what is not his! How long? And to him who loads himself down with heavy debts.
    7. Will not those who bite you arise suddenly, and those who violently shake you awaken? And you will become booty for them.
    8. Because you have plundered many nations – all the remaining peoples will plunder you, because of the blood of men and the violence (done to) the land, the city, and all those dwelling in it.
    9. Woe to him who gets evil gain for his household through violence, to place his nest on high, to be saved from the evil one.
    10. You have advised shame for your house by cutting off many peoples, and you sin against your own soul.
    11. For a stone will cry from a wall, and a chip1 will answer from a tree.
    12. Woe to him who builds a city with blood, and who establishes a town with injustice.
    13. Behold, is it not from Yahweh of the Heavenly Hosts? And the peoples toil for fire, and the nations weary themselves for what is empty.
    14. For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of Yahweh, as the water covers the sea.
    15. Woe to him who gives his neighbors a drink from the goblet of his fury,2 and then makes (them) drunk in order to gaze upon their nakedness.
    16. You have been filled more with disgrace than honor. You also should drink and be considered uncircumcised. The cup of the right hand of Yahweh will turn upon you, and disgrace (will be) upon your glory.
    17. For the violence of Lebanon will cover you, and the ruin of the cattle will break them; because of the blood of men and the violence (done to) the earth, the city, and all those dwelling in it.
    18. What benefit was there from the graven image that its maker fashioned it? (Or) a molten image and a teacher of lies, that the one who fashioned the creation trusted in it to make dumb idols?
    19. Woe to him who says to the wood, Awaken! (Or) to the dumb stone, Arise! Shall it teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, but there is no spirit within it.
    20. But Yahweh is in his holy temple. Be silent before him, all the earth!
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1. The word is kafis, and we have no idea what it means. “Chip” is the word used in the Chabad translation. The LXX uses the word for “beetle.”
2. The Hebrew text seems to be corrupted here, so I am following the suggestions for emendations (which in part follow the Qumran text) found in the BDB sub I. (ספח) and in the footnotes of the BHS.
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Chapter 3

Habakkuk offers up a prayer in the form of a psalm

    1. A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet concerning the errors.
    2. Oh Yahweh, I have heard a report of you. I feared, Oh Yahweh, your work. Over the course of years, revive it. Over the course of years, let it be known. In anger, you will remember to be merciful.
    3. God will come from Teman,1 and the Holy One from Mount Paran.2 Selah. 3 His glory has covered the heavens, and his splendor has filled the earth.
    4. And (his) brightness is like light. He has rays from his hand; and there is the hiding place of his strength.
    5. Before him goes pestilence, and flames go forth at his feet.
    6. He stood and measured out the earth. He saw and made nations spring up; and the everlasting mountains were shattered; the everlasting hills bowed down. The ways of eternity are his.
    7. I saw the tents of Cushan4 in affliction; the curtains of the land of Midian 5 did quake.
    8. Was Yahweh angry with the rivers? Is your anger with the rivers, or your wrath with the sea? For you ride upon your horses (in) your chariots of salvation.
    9. Your bow has been bared (according to) the oaths of the tribes, a saying. Selah. You split the earth into rivers.
    10. Mountains saw you (and) were in anguish. A stream of water passed by; the deep gave out its voice, (and) lifted up his hands on high.
    11. The sun and the moon stood in their abode; they will go toward the light of your arrows; toward the brightness of the lightening of your spear.
    12. You treat the earth in fury, and in anger you trample nations.
    13. You went forth for the salvation of your people, for the salvation of your anointed. You have severely wounded the head of the house of the wicked, by uncovering it from the base to the neck. Selah.
    14. Among his tribes you pierced the heads of his warriors. They were storming out to scatter me. They were joyful as if to devour a poor man in secret.
    15. You trampled in the sea with your horses, a heap of great waters.
    16. I heard and my inward parts trembled; at the sound my lips quivered. Decay comes into my bones, and I quake in my place, that I might be rested in the day of trouble, to rise up against a people that will attack us.
    17. For a fig tree will not blossom, and there will be no produce on the vines. The product of the olive tree will fail, and the fields will not produce food. The sheep will be cut off from the fold, and there will be no cattle in the barns.
    18. But I will rejoice in Yahweh; I will have joy in the God of my salvation.
    19. Yahweh the Lord is my strength, and he made my feet like (those of) does; and he will guide me in my cultic places. To the director, with my melodies.
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1. Or “from the south.”
2. The wilderness of Paran is mentioned as a place where the Israelites rested during the Exodus (Nu. 10:12).
3. Selah is an interjection found in the Psalter, and it was apparently a signal for the worshipers to lift up their voices.
4. It is not clear whether Cushan here is a poetic form of Cush (Ethiopia), or a reference to Mesopotamia derived from the name of a ruler, Cushan-Rishathaim, mentioned in Judges 3:8.
5. Midian was probably located on the eastern shore of the Gulf of Aqaba.
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