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Habakkuk 2:5-13

Context

2:5 Indeed, wine will betray the proud, restless man! 1 

His appetite 2  is as big as Sheol’s; 3 

like death, he is never satisfied.

He gathers 4  all the nations;

he seizes 5  all peoples.

The Proud Babylonians are as Good as Dead

2:6 “But all these nations will someday taunt him 6 

and ridicule him with proverbial sayings: 7 

‘The one who accumulates what does not belong to him is as good as dead 8 

(How long will this go on?) 9 

he who gets rich by extortion!’ 10 

2:7 Your creditors will suddenly attack; 11 

those who terrify you will spring into action, 12 

and they will rob you. 13 

2:8 Because you robbed many countries, 14 

all who are left among the nations 15  will rob you.

You have shed human blood

and committed violent acts against lands, cities, 16  and those who live in them.

2:9 The one who builds his house by unjust gain is as good as dead. 17 

He does this so he can build his nest way up high

and escape the clutches of disaster. 18 

2:10 Your schemes will bring shame to your house.

Because you destroyed many nations, you will self-destruct. 19 

2:11 For the stones in the walls will cry out,

and the wooden rafters will answer back. 20 

2:12 The one who builds a city by bloodshed is as good as dead 21 

he who starts 22  a town by unjust deeds.

2:13 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. 23 

1 tn 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.”

sn 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).

2 tn 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.

3 sn 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.

4 tn Heb “he gathers for himself.”

5 tn Heb “he collects for himself.”

6 tn 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.

7 tn Heb “and a mocking song, riddles, against him? And one will say.”

8 tn 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.

9 tn This question is interjected parenthetically, perhaps to express rhetorically the pain and despair felt by the Babylonians’ victims.

10 tn 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.

11 tn 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.

sn 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.

12 tn Heb “[Will not] the ones who make you tremble awake?”

13 tn Heb “and you will become their plunder.”

14 tn Or “nations.”

15 tn Or “peoples.”

16 tn 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.

17 tn Heb “Woe [to] the one who profits unjustly by evil unjust gain for his house.” On the term הוֹי (hoy) see the note on the word “dead” in v. 6.

18 tn Heb “to place his nest in the heights in order to escape from the hand of disaster.”

sn 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.

19 tn Heb “you planned shame for your house, cutting off many nations, and sinning [against] your life.”

20 sn 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.

21 tn On the term הוֹי (hoy) see the note on the word “dead” in v. 6.

22 tn Or “establishes”; or “founds.”

23 tn Heb “Is it not, look, from the Lord of hosts that the nations work hard for fire, and the peoples are exhausted for nothing?”



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