Habakkuk 21I will stand at my watch post;
I will remain stationed on the city wall. ▼
▼ Habakkuk compares himself to a watchman stationed on the city wall who keeps his eyes open for approaching messengers or danger.
I will keep watching, so I can see what he says to me
and can know ▼
▼ The word “know” is supplied in the translation for clarification.how I should answer
when he counters my argument. ▼
▼ Heb “concerning my correction [or, “reproof”].”
The Lord Assures Habakkuk2 The Lord responded: ▼
▼ Heb “the Lord answered and said.” The redundant expression “answered and said” has been simplified in the translation as “responded.”
“Write down this message! ▼
▼ Heb “[the] vision.”Record it legibly on tablets,
so the one who announces ▼
▼ Or “reads from.”it may read it easily. ▼
▼ Heb “might run,” which here probably means “run [through it quickly with one’s eyes],” that is, read it easily.
3 For the message is a witness to what is decreed; ▼
▼ Heb “For the vision is still for the appointed time.” The Hebrew word עוֹד (’od, “still”) is better emended to עֵד (’ed, “witness”) in light of the parallelism (see the note on the word “turn out” in the following line). The “appointed time” refers to the time when the divine judgment anticipated in vv. 6–20 will be realized.
it gives reliable testimony about how matters will turn out. ▼
▼ Heb “and a witness to the end and it does not lie.” The Hebrew term יָפֵחַ (yafeakh) has been traditionally understood as a verb form from the root פּוּחַ (puakh, “puff, blow”; cf. NEB “it will come in breathless haste”; NASB “it hastens toward the goal”) but recent scholarship has demonstrated that it is actually a noun meaning “witness” (cf. NIV “it speaks of the end / and will not prove false”; NRSV “it speaks of the end, and does not lie”). See J. J. M. Roberts, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah (OTL), 106. “The end” corresponds to “the appointed time” of the preceding line and refers to the time when the prophecy to follow will be fulfilled.
Even if the message ▼
▼ Heb “it”; the referent (the message) has been specified in the translation for clarity.is not fulfilled right away, wait patiently; ▼
for it will certainly come to pass – it will not arrive late.
4 Look, the one whose desires are not upright will faint from exhaustion, ▼
▼ The meaning of this line is unclear, primarily because of the uncertainty surrounding the second word, עֲפְּלָה (’apelah). Some read this as an otherwise unattested verb עָפַל (’afal, “swell”) from which are derived nouns meaning “mound” and “hemorrhoid.” This “swelling” is then understood in an abstract sense, “swell with pride.” This would yield a translation, “As for the proud, his desires are not right within him” (cf. NASB “as for the proud one”; NIV “he is puffed up”; NRSV “Look at the proud!”). A multitude of other interpretations of this line, many of which involve emendations of the problematic form, may be found in the commentaries and periodical literature. The present translation assumes an emendation to a Pual form of the verb עָלַף (’alaf, “be faint, exhausted”). (See its use in the Pual in Isa 51:20, and in the Hitpael in Amos 8:13 and Jonah 4:8.) In the antithetical parallelism of the verse, it corresponds to חָיָה (khayah, “live”). The phrase לֹא יָשְׁרָה נַפְשׁוֹ בּוֹ (lo’ yoshrah nafsho bo), literally, “not upright his desire within him,” is taken as a substantival clause that contrasts with צַדִּיק (tsadiq, “the righteous one”) and serves as the subject of the preceding verb. Here נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh) is understood in the sense of “desire” (see BDB 660-61 s.v. נֶפֶשׁ for a list of passages where the word carries this sense).
but the person of integrity ▼ will live ▼ because of his faithfulness. ▼
▼ Or “loyalty”; or “integrity.” The Hebrew word אֱמוּנָה (’emunah) has traditionally been translated “faith,” but the term nowhere else refers to “belief” as such. When used of human character and conduct it carries the notion of “honesty, integrity, reliability, faithfulness.” The antecedent of the suffix has been understood in different ways. It could refer to God’s faithfulness, but in this case one would expect a first person suffix (the original form of the LXX has “my faithfulness” here). Others understand the “vision” to be the antecedent. In this case the reliability of the prophecy is in view. For a statement of this view, see J. J. M. Roberts, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah (OTL), 111–12. The present translation assumes that the preceding word “[the person of] integrity” is the antecedent. In this case the Lord is assuring Habakkuk that those who are truly innocent will be preserved through the coming oppression and judgment by their godly lifestyle, for God ultimately rewards this type of conduct. In contrast to these innocent people, those with impure desires (epitomized by the greedy Babylonians; see v. 5) will not be able to withstand God’s judgment (v. 4a).
5 Indeed, wine will betray the proud, restless man! ▼
▼ Heb “Indeed wine betrays a proud man and he does not dwell.” The meaning of the last verb, “dwell,” is uncertain. Many take it as a denominative of the noun נָוָה (navah, “dwelling place”). In this case it would carry the idea, “he does not settle down,” and would picture the drunkard as restless (cf. NIV “never at rest”; NASB “does not stay at home”). Some relate the verb to an Arabic cognate and translate the phrase as “he will not succeed, reach his goal.”▼
▼ The Babylonian tyrant is the proud, restless man described in this line as the last line of the verse, with its reference to the conquest of the nations, makes clear. Wine is probably a metaphor for imperialistic success. The more success the Babylonians experience, the more greedy they become just as a drunkard wants more and more wine to satisfy his thirst. But eventually this greed will lead to their downfall, for God will not tolerate such imperialism and will judge the Babylonians appropriately (vv. 6–20).
His appetite ▼
▼ Heb “who opens wide like Sheol his throat.” Here נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh) is understood in a physical sense, meaning “throat,” which in turn is figurative for the appetite. See H. W. Wolff, Anthropology of the Old Testament, 11–12.is as big as Sheol’s; ▼
▼ Sheol is the proper name of the subterranean world which was regarded as the land of the dead. In ancient Canaanite thought Death was a powerful god whose appetite was never satisfied. In the OT Sheol/Death, though not deified, is personified as greedy and as having a voracious appetite. See Prov 30:15–16; Isa 5:14; also see L. I. J. Stadelmann, The Hebrew Conception of the World, 168.
like death, he is never satisfied.
He gathers ▼
▼ Heb “he gathers for himself.”all the nations;
he seizes ▼
▼ Heb “he collects for himself.”all peoples.
The Proud Babylonians are as Good as Dead6 “But all these nations will someday taunt him ▼
▼ Heb “Will not these, all of them, take up a taunt against him…?” The rhetorical question assumes the response, “Yes, they will.” The present translation brings out the rhetorical force of the question by rendering it as an affirmation.
and ridicule him with proverbial sayings: ▼
▼ Heb “and a mocking song, riddles, against him? And one will say.”
‘The one who accumulates what does not belong to him is as good as dead ▼
▼ Heb “Woe [to] the one who increases [what is] not his.” The Hebrew term הוֹי (hoy, “woe,” “ah”) was used in funeral laments and carries the connotation of death.
(How long will this go on?) ▼
▼ This question is interjected parenthetically, perhaps to express rhetorically the pain and despair felt by the Babylonians’ victims.–
he who gets rich by extortion!’ ▼
▼ Heb “and the one who makes himself heavy [i.e., wealthy] [by] debts.” Though only appearing in the first line, the term הוֹי (hoy) is to be understood as elliptical in the second line.
7 Your creditors will suddenly attack; ▼
▼ Heb “Will not your creditors suddenly rise up?” The rhetorical question assumes the response, “Yes, they will.” The present translation brings out the rhetorical force of the question by rendering it as an affirmation.▼
▼ Your creditors will suddenly attack. The Babylonians are addressed directly here. They have robbed and terrorized others, but now the situation will be reversed as their creditors suddenly attack them.
those who terrify you will spring into action, ▼
▼ Heb “[Will not] the ones who make you tremble awake?”
and they will rob you. ▼
▼ Heb “and you will become their plunder.”
8 Because you robbed many countries, ▼
▼ Or “nations.”
all who are left among the nations ▼
▼ Or “peoples.”will rob you.
You have shed human blood
and committed violent acts against lands, cities, ▼
▼ Heb “because of the shed blood of humankind and violence against land, city.” The singular forms אֶרֶץ (’erets, “land”) and קִרְיָה (qiryah, “city”) are collective, referring to all the lands and cities terrorized by the Babylonians.and those who live in them.
9 The one who builds his house by unjust gain is as good as dead. ▼
He does this so he can build his nest way up high
and escape the clutches of disaster. ▼
▼ Heb “to place his nest in the heights in order to escape from the hand of disaster.”▼
▼ Here the Babylonians are compared to a bird, perhaps an eagle, that builds its nest in an inaccessible high place where predators cannot reach it.
10 Your schemes will bring shame to your house.
Because you destroyed many nations, you will self-destruct. ▼
▼ Heb “you planned shame for your house, cutting off many nations, and sinning [against] your life.”
11 For the stones in the walls will cry out,
and the wooden rafters will answer back. ▼
▼ The house mentioned in vv. 9–10 represents the Babylonian empire, which became great through imperialism. Here the materials of this “house” (the stones in the walls, the wooden rafters) are personified as witnesses who testify that the occupants have built the house through wealth stolen from others.
12 The one who builds a city by bloodshed is as good as dead ▼ –
he who starts ▼
▼ Or “establishes”; or “founds.”a town by unjust deeds.
13 Be sure of this! The Lord who commands armies has decreed:
The nations’ efforts will go up in smoke;
their exhausting work will be for nothing. ▼
▼ Heb “Is it not, look, from the Lord of hosts that the nations work hard for fire, and the peoples are exhausted for nothing?”
14 For recognition of the Lord’s sovereign majesty will fill the earth
just as the waters fill up the sea. ▼
▼ Heb “for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, just as the waters cover over the sea.”
15 “You who force your neighbor to drink wine ▼
▼ No direct object is present after “drink” in the Hebrew text. “Wine” is implied, however, and has been supplied in the translation for clarity.are as good as dead ▼ –
you who make others intoxicated by forcing them to drink from the bowl of your furious anger, ▼
▼ Heb “pouring out your anger and also making drunk”; or “pouring out your anger and [by] rage making drunk.” The present translation assumes that the final khet (ח) on מְסַפֵּחַ (misapeakh, “pouring”) is dittographic and that the form should actually be read מִסַּף (missaf, “from a bowl”).▼
so you can look at their genitals. ▼
▼ Heb “their nakedness,” a euphemism.▼
▼ Metaphor and reality are probably blended here. This may refer to the practice of publicly humiliating prisoners of war by stripping them naked. See J. J. M. Roberts, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah (OTL), 124.
16 But you will become drunk ▼
▼ Heb “are filled.” The translation assumes the verbal form is a perfect of certitude, emphasizing the certainty of Babylon’s coming judgment, which will reduce the majestic empire to shame and humiliation.with shame, not majesty. ▼
▼ Or “glory.”
Now it is your turn to drink and expose your uncircumcised foreskin! ▼
▼ Heb “drink, even you, and show the foreskin.” Instead of הֵעָרֵל (he’arel, “show the foreskin”) one of the Dead Sea scrolls has הֵרָעֵל (hera’el, “stumble”). This reading also has support from several ancient versions and is followed by the NEB (“you too shall drink until you stagger”) and NRSV (“Drink, you yourself, and stagger”). For a defense of the Hebrew text, see P. D. Miller, Jr., Sin and Judgment in the Prophets, 63–64.
The cup of wine in the Lord’s right hand ▼
▼ The Lord’s right hand represents his military power. He will force the Babylonians to experience the same humiliating defeat they inflicted on others.is coming to you,
and disgrace will replace your majestic glory!
17 For you will pay in full for your violent acts against Lebanon; ▼
▼ Heb “for the violence against Lebanon will cover you.”
terrifying judgment will come upon you because of the way you destroyed the wild animals living there. ▼
▼ The Hebrew appears to read literally, “and the violence against the animals [which] he terrified.” The verb form יְחִיתַן (yekhitan) appears to be a Hiphil imperfect third masculine singular with third feminine plural suffix (the antecedent being the animals) from חָתַת (khatat, “be terrified”). The translation above follows the LXX and assumes a reading יְחִתֶּךָ (yekhittekha, “[the violence against the animals] will terrify you”; cf. NRSV “the destruction of the animals will terrify you”; NIV “and your destruction of animals will terrify you”). In this case the verb is a Hiphil imperfect third masculine singular with second masculine singular suffix (the antecedent being Babylon). This provides better symmetry with the preceding line, where Babylon’s violence is the subject of the verb “cover.”▼
▼ The language may anticipate Nebuchadnezzar’s utilization of trees from the Lebanon forest in building projects. Lebanon and its animals probably represent the western Palestinian states conquered by the Babylonians.
You have shed human blood
and committed violent acts against lands, cities, and those who live in them.
18 What good ▼
▼ Or “of what value.”is an idol? Why would a craftsman make it? ▼
▼ Heb “so that the one who forms it fashions it?” Here כִּי (ki) is taken as resultative after the rhetorical question. For other examples of this use, see R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 73, #450.
What good is a metal image that gives misleading oracles? ▼
▼ Heb “or a metal image, a teacher of lies.” The words “What good is” in the translation are supplied from the previous parallel line. “Teacher of lies” refers to the false oracles that the so-called god would deliver through a priest. See J. J. M. Roberts, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah (OTL), 126.
Why would its creator place his trust in it ▼
▼ Heb “so that the one who forms his image trusts in it?” As earlier in the verse, כִּי (ki) is resultative.
and make ▼
▼ Heb “to make.”such mute, worthless things?
19 The one who says to wood, ‘Wake up!’ is as good as dead ▼ –
he who says ▼
▼ The words “he who says” in the translation are supplied from the previous parallel line.to speechless stone, ‘Awake!’
Can it give reliable guidance? ▼
▼ Though the Hebrew text has no formal interrogative marker here, the context indicates that the statement should be taken as a rhetorical question anticipating the answer, “Of course not!” (so also NIV, NRSV).
It is overlaid with gold and silver;
it has no life’s breath inside it.
20 But the Lord is in his majestic palace. ▼
The whole earth is speechless in his presence!” ▼
▼ Or “Be quiet before him, all the earth!”
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