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Habakkuk 1

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Habakkuk Complains to the Lord

1:1 The following is the message 1  which God revealed to Habakkuk the prophet: 2 

1:2 How long, Lord, must I cry for help?

But you do not listen!

I call out to you, “Violence!”

But you do not intervene! 3 

1:3 Why do you force me to witness injustice? 4 

Why do you put up with wrongdoing? 5 

Destruction and violence confront 6  me;

conflict is present and one must endure strife. 7 

1:4 For this reason the law lacks power, 8 

and justice is never carried out. 9 

Indeed, 10  the wicked intimidate 11  the innocent. 12 

For this reason justice is perverted. 13 

The Lord Reveals Some Startling News

1:5 “Look at the nations and pay attention! 14 

You will be shocked and amazed! 15 

For I will do something in your lifetime 16 

that you will not believe even though you are forewarned. 17 

1:6 Look, I am about to empower 18  the Babylonians,

that ruthless 19  and greedy 20  nation.

They sweep across the surface 21  of the earth,

seizing dwelling places that do not belong to them.

1:7 They are frightening and terrifying;

they decide for themselves what is right. 22 

1:8 Their horses are faster than leopards

and more alert 23  than wolves in the desert. 24 

Their horses 25  gallop, 26 

their horses come a great distance;

like a vulture 27  they swoop down quickly to devour their prey. 28 

1:9 All of them intend 29  to do violence;

every face is determined. 30 

They take prisoners as easily as one scoops up sand. 31 

1:10 They mock kings

and laugh at rulers.

They laugh at every fortified city;

they build siege ramps 32  and capture them.

1:11 They sweep by like the wind and pass on. 33 

But the one who considers himself a god will be held guilty.” 34 

Habakkuk Voices Some Concerns

1:12 Lord, you have been active from ancient times; 35 

my sovereign God, 36  you are immortal. 37 

Lord, you have made them 38  your instrument of judgment. 39 

Protector, 40  you have appointed them as your instrument of punishment. 41 

1:13 You are too just 42  to tolerate 43  evil;

you are unable to condone 44  wrongdoing.

So why do you put up with such treacherous people? 45 

Why do you say nothing when the wicked devour 46  those more righteous than they are? 47 

1:14 You made people like fish in the sea,

like animals in the sea 48  that have no ruler.

1:15 The Babylonian tyrant 49  pulls them all up with a fishhook;

he hauls them in with his throw net. 50 

When he catches 51  them in his dragnet,

he is very happy. 52 

1:16 Because of his success 53  he offers sacrifices to his throw net

and burns incense to his dragnet; 54 

for because of them he has plenty of food, 55 

and more than enough to eat. 56 

1:17 Will he then 57  continue to fill and empty his throw net? 58 

Will he always 59  destroy 60  nations and spare none? 61 

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1 tn Heb “The burden” (so KJV, ASV). The Hebrew term מַשָּׂא (masa’), usually translated “oracle” (NAB, NEB, NASB, NIV, NRSV) or “utterance” (BDB 672 s.v. III מַשָּׂא), in prophetic literature is a technical term introducing a message from the Lord (see Zech 9:1; 12:1; Mal 1:1). Since it derives from a verb meaning “to carry,” its original nuance was that of a burdensome message, that is, one with ominous content.

2 tn Heb “The message [traditionally, “burden”] which Habakkuk the prophet saw.”

3 tn Or “deliver.”

4 tn Heb “Why do you make me see injustice?”

5 tn Heb “Why do you look at wrongdoing?”

sn Habakkuk complains that God tolerates social injustice and fails to intervene on behalf of the oppressed (put up with wrongdoing).

6 tn Heb “are before.”

7 tn Heb “and there is conflict and strife he lifts up.” The present translation takes the verb יִשָּׂא (yisa’) in the sense of “carry, bear,” and understands the subject to be indefinite (“one”).

8 tn Heb “the law is numb,” i.e., like a hand that has “fallen asleep” (see Ps 77:2). Cf. NAB “is benumbed”; NIV “is paralyzed.”

9 tn Heb “never goes out.”

10 tn Or “for.”

11 tn Heb “surround” (so NASB, NRSV).

12 tn Or “righteous” (KJV, NASB, NIV, NRSV, NLT).

13 tn Heb “comes out crooked.”

14 tn Or “look among the nations and observe.” The imperatival forms in v. 5 are plural, indicating that the Lord’s message is for the whole nation, not just the prophet.

15 tn The Hebrew text combines the Hitpael and Qal imperatival forms of the verb תָּמַה (tamah, “be amazed”). A literal translation might read, “Shock yourselves and be shocked!” The repetition of sounds draws attention to the statement. The imperatives here have the force of an emphatic assertion. On this use of the imperative in Hebrew, see GKC 324 §110.c and IBHS 572-73 §34.4c.

16 tc Heb “for a work working in your days.” Following the LXX reading, some supply a first person singular pronoun with the participle פֹּעֵל (poel). Ellipsis of a first singular pronoun before participles is relatively rare (see GKC 360 §116.s); perhaps an original אֲנֹכִי (’anoki; or אֲנִי, ’aniy) followed the initial כִּי (ki) and was omitted by homoioteleuton.

17 tn Heb “you will not believe when it is told.” In this context the force of כִּי (ki) may be “when,” “if,” or “even though.”

18 tn Heb “raise up” (so KJV, ASV).

19 tn Heb “bitter.” Other translation options for this word in this context include “fierce” (NASB, NRSV); “savage” (NEB); or “grim.”

20 tn Heb “hasty, quick.” Some translate here “impetuous” (so NEB, NASB, NIV, NRSV) or “rash,” but in this context greed may very well be the idea. The Babylonians move quickly and recklessly ahead in their greedy quest to expand their empire.

21 tn Heb “the open spaces.”

22 tn Heb “from him his justice, even his lifting up, goes out.” In this context שְׂאֵת (sÿet) probably has the nuance “authority.” See R. D. Patterson, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah (WEC), 150.

23 tn Heb “sharper,” in the sense of “keener” or “more alert.” Some translate “quicker” on the basis of the parallelism with the first line (see HALOT 291 s.v. חדד).

24 tn Heb “wolves of the evening,” that is, wolves that prowl at night. The present translation assumes an emendation to עֲרָבָה (’aravah, “desert”). On this phrase see also Zeph 3:3.

25 tn Or “horsemen,” “cavalry.”

26 tn The precise nuance of the rare verb פָּוַשׁ (parash) is unclear here. Elsewhere it is used of animals jumping or leaping (see Jer 50:11; Mal 4:2).

27 tn Or “eagle” (so NASB, NRSV). The term can refer to either eagles or vultures, but in this context of gruesome destruction and death “vulture” is preferred.

28 tn Heb “they fly like a vulture/an eagle quickly to devour.” The direct object “their prey” is not included in the Hebrew text but is implied, and has been supplied in the translation for clarity.

29 tn Heb “come.”

30 tn Heb “The totality of their faces is to the east” (or “is forward”). The precise meaning of the Hebrew term מְגַמַּת (megammat) is unclear. For a discussion of options see J. J. M. Roberts, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah (OTL), 93. NEB has “a sea of faces rolls on”; NIV “their hordes advance like a desert wind”; NRSV “with faces pressing forward.”

31 tn Heb “and he gathers like sand, prisoners.”

32 tn Heb “they heap up dirt.” This is a reference to the piling up of earthen ramps in the process of laying siege to a fortified city.

33 tn The precise meaning of v. 11a is uncertain. The present translation assumes the first line further describes the Babylonian hordes, comparing them to a destructive wind. Another option is to understand רוּחַ (ruakh) as “spirit,” rather than “wind,” and take the form וְאָשֵׁם (vÿashem) with what precedes (as suggested by the scribal punctuation). Repointing this form as a geminate verb from שָׁמַם (shamam, “be astonished”), one could then translate the line, “The spirit passed on and departed, and I was astonished.” In this case the line would describe the cessation of the divine revelation which began in v. 5. For a detailed defense of this view, see J. J. M. Roberts, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah (OTL), 97-100.

34 tn Heb “and guilty is the one whose strength is his god.” This assumes that אָשֵׁם (’ashem) is a predicate adjective meaning “guilty” and that it relates to what follows.

35 tn Heb “Are you not from antiquity, O Lord?” The rhetorical question expects the answer, “Yes, of course.” The present translation reflects the force of the rhetorical question, rendering it as an affirmation. When used in a temporal sense the phrase מִקֶדֶם (miqedem) means “from antiquity, ancient times,” often referring to earlier periods in Israel’s history. See its use in Neh 12:46; Pss 74:12; 77:11; Isa 45:21; 46:10; Mic 5:2.

36 tn Heb “My God, my holy one.” God’s “holiness” in this context is his sovereign transcendence as the righteous judge of the world (see vv. 12b-13a), thus the translation “My sovereign God.”

37 tc The MT reads, “we will not die,” but an ancient scribal tradition has “you [i.e., God] will not die.” This is preferred as a more difficult reading that can explain the rise of the other variant. Later scribes who copied the manuscripts did not want to associate the idea of death with God in any way, so they softened the statement to refer to humanity.

38 tn Heb “him,” a collective singular referring to the Babylonians. The plural pronoun “them” has been used in the translation in keeping with contemporary English style.

39 tn Heb “for judgment.”

40 tn Heb “Rock” or “Cliff.” This divine epithet views God as a place where one can go to be safe from danger. The translation “Protector” conveys the force of the metaphor (cf. KJV, NEB “O mighty God”).

41 tn Heb “to correct, reprove.”

42 tn Heb “[you] are too pure of eyes.” God’s “eyes” here signify what he looks at with approval. His “eyes” are “pure” in that he refuses to tolerate any wrongdoing in his presence.

43 tn Heb “to see.” Here “see” is figurative for “tolerate,” “put up with.”

44 tn Heb “to look at.” Cf. NEB “who canst not countenance wrongdoing”; NASB “You can not look on wickedness with favor.”

45 tn Heb “Why do you look at treacherous ones?” The verb בָּגַד (bagad, “be treacherous”) is often used of those who are disloyal or who violate agreements. See S. Erlandsson, TDOT 1:470-73.

46 tn Or “swallow up.”

47 tn Heb “more innocent than themselves.”

48 tn The Hebrew word רֶמֶשׂ (remesh) usually refers to animals that creep, but here the referent seems to be marine animals that glide through the water (note the parallelism in the previous line). See also Ps 104:25.

49 tn Heb “he”; the referent (the Babylonian tyrant) has been specified in the translation for clarity (cf. NASB “The Chaldeans”; NIV “The wicked foe”; NRSV “The enemy”). Babylonian imperialism is here compared to a professional fisherman who repeatedly brings in his catch and has plenty to eat.

50 tn Apparently two different types of fishing nets are referred to here. The חֵרֶם (kherem, “throw net”) was used by fishermen standing on the shore (see Ezek 47:10), while the מִכְמֶרֶת (mikhmeret, “dragnet”) was used by men in a boat. See R. D. Patterson, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah (WEC), 165.

51 tn Heb “and he gathers.”

52 tn Heb “Therefore he is happy and rejoices.” Here two synonyms are joined for emphasis.

53 tn Heb “therefore.”

54 sn The fishing implements (throw net and dragnet) represent Babylonian military might. The prophet depicts the Babylonians as arrogantly worshiping their own power (sacrifices…burns incense, see also v. 11b).

55 tn Heb “for by them his portion is full [or, “fat”].”

56 tn Heb “and his food is plentiful [or, “fat”].”

57 tn Or “therefore.”

58 tn Heb “Will he then empty his throw net?” The words “continue to fill and” are supplied in the translation for clarification.

59 tn Or “continually.”

60 tn Heb “kill.”

61 tn Or “without showing compassion.”



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