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Habakkuk 1:12-17

Habakkuk Voices Some Concerns

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

my sovereign God, 2  you are immortal. 3 

Lord, you have made them 4  your instrument of judgment. 5 

Protector, 6  you have appointed them as your instrument of punishment. 7 

1:13 You are too just 8  to tolerate 9  evil;

you are unable to condone 10  wrongdoing.

So why do you put up with such treacherous people? 11 

Why do you say nothing when the wicked devour 12  those more righteous than they are? 13 

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

like animals in the sea 14  that have no ruler.

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

he hauls them in with his throw net. 16 

When he catches 17  them in his dragnet,

he is very happy. 18 

1:16 Because of his success 19  he offers sacrifices to his throw net

and burns incense to his dragnet; 20 

for because of them he has plenty of food, 21 

and more than enough to eat. 22 

1:17 Will he then 23  continue to fill and empty his throw net? 24 

Will he always 25  destroy 26  nations and spare none? 27 

1 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.

2 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.”

3 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.

4 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.

5 tn Heb “for judgment.”

6 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”).

7 tn Heb “to correct, reprove.”

8 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.

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

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

11 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.

12 tn Or “swallow up.”

13 tn Heb “more innocent than themselves.”

14 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.

15 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.

16 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.

17 tn Heb “and he gathers.”

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

19 tn Heb “therefore.”

20 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).

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

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

23 tn Or “therefore.”

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

25 tn Or “continually.”

26 tn Heb “kill.”

27 tn Or “without showing compassion.”

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