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Habakkuk 1:2-10


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! 1 

1:3 Why do you force me to witness injustice? 2 

Why do you put up with wrongdoing? 3 

Destruction and violence confront 4  me;

conflict is present and one must endure strife. 5 

1:4 For this reason the law lacks power, 6 

and justice is never carried out. 7 

Indeed, 8  the wicked intimidate 9  the innocent. 10 

For this reason justice is perverted. 11 

The Lord Reveals Some Startling News

1:5 “Look at the nations and pay attention! 12 

You will be shocked and amazed! 13 

For I will do something in your lifetime 14 

that you will not believe even though you are forewarned. 15 

1:6 Look, I am about to empower 16  the Babylonians,

that ruthless 17  and greedy 18  nation.

They sweep across the surface 19  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. 20 

1:8 Their horses are faster than leopards

and more alert 21  than wolves in the desert. 22 

Their horses 23  gallop, 24 

their horses come a great distance;

like a vulture 25  they swoop down quickly to devour their prey. 26 

1:9 All of them intend 27  to do violence;

every face is determined. 28 

They take prisoners as easily as one scoops up sand. 29 

1:10 They mock kings

and laugh at rulers.

They laugh at every fortified city;

they build siege ramps 30  and capture them.

1 tn Or “deliver.”

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

3 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).

4 tn Heb “are before.”

5 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”).

6 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.”

7 tn Heb “never goes out.”

8 tn Or “for.”

9 tn Heb “surround” (so NASB, NRSV).

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

11 tn Heb “comes out crooked.”

12 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.

13 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.

14 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.

15 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.”

16 tn Heb “raise up” (so KJV, ASV).

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

18 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.

19 tn Heb “the open spaces.”

20 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.

21 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).

22 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.

23 tn Or “horsemen,” “cavalry.”

24 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).

25 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.

26 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.

27 tn Heb “come.”

28 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.”

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

30 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.

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