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Habakkuk 1:5-11

Context
The Lord Reveals Some Startling News

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

You will be shocked and amazed! 2 

For I will do something in your lifetime 3 

that you will not believe even though you are forewarned. 4 

1:6 Look, I am about to empower 5  the Babylonians,

that ruthless 6  and greedy 7  nation.

They sweep across the surface 8  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. 9 

1:8 Their horses are faster than leopards

and more alert 10  than wolves in the desert. 11 

Their horses 12  gallop, 13 

their horses come a great distance;

like a vulture 14  they swoop down quickly to devour their prey. 15 

1:9 All of them intend 16  to do violence;

every face is determined. 17 

They take prisoners as easily as one scoops up sand. 18 

1:10 They mock kings

and laugh at rulers.

They laugh at every fortified city;

they build siege ramps 19  and capture them.

1:11 They sweep by like the wind and pass on. 20 

But the one who considers himself a god will be held guilty.” 21 

1 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.

2 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.

3 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.

4 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.”

5 tn Heb “raise up” (so KJV, ASV).

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

7 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.

8 tn Heb “the open spaces.”

9 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.

10 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).

11 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.

12 tn Or “horsemen,” “cavalry.”

13 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).

14 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.

15 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.

16 tn Heb “come.”

17 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.”

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

19 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.

20 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.

21 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.



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