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Bible Study, The Minor Prophets: Habakkuk

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Posted on CCPC's website 2022

The Minor Prophets Study Index page.

      This is a long term, in depth, wide focus study of the Minor Prophets, drawing as much from the history of their times as possible, as well as looking at the original language of the prophet.
      For this book we'll open with the end of chapter 2....
"The Lord is in His holy temple;
      let all the earth be silent before Him."

      Again, we know nothing about the prophet other than his name, there is no tribal affiliation or home town named. And with Habakkuk, there is no meaning associated with the name, as it appears to not be a Hebrew word, but is instead Akkadian in which the word is a plant which may have been a perfume component.
      He does appear in an apocryphal section of Daniel called "Bel (Ba'al) and the Dragon" which places him in Jerusalem, then he is 'teleported' by an angel to take food to Daniel while he is in the lion's den, but the story is baseless, only appearing several hundred years after the fact.
      The idea that because chapter three is presented as a chanted prayer, or psalm, that he was a musician from the tribe of Levi is unfounded speculation as other people sang, played 'stringed instruments', and prayed.
      In short, the only thing we know about Habakkuk is that that name used in 1 : 1 and 3 : 1.

Chapter 1
      "ham mas sa" (burden) which saw "ha baq quq" the prophet.

      The translations have this one. The theme is the despair that GOD is not hearing the pleas of His people in times of need.
      The verse is an echo from Psalm 13.

      why do you show me "'a wen" (iniquity / wickedness) and "we 'a mal" (trouble / mischief)?
      The question is then restated asking why he's shown "se sod" (destruction) and "we ha ma" (violence), and "rib" (controversy / dissent) and "u ma do wn" (strife / contention) rise?

      Paraphrase: In such conditions the Law (both the Mosaic law and the 'laws of men') is impotent, the wicked outnumber the righteous, and the justice that does happen is corrupt.

      Sounds familiar, no?

      The Speaker changes.
      'look around and be utterly amazed', for "po 'al" (I will work) "po 'el" (a work) "bi me kem " (in your time), which you wouldn't believe if you just heard about it.

      A look at the "hak kas dim" (Chaldeans).
      They were a small part of the larger later Babylonian empire, based south of the city and primary homeland, in some ways they came to dominate the so called "Neo-Babylonian empire" just as Greece dominated Rome. The reason the term Chaldean is appropriate is that the later kings were descended from the royal family of the Chaldean kingdom that had come to power before the Assyrians dominated the area. So one of the names that float around the history of the later kingdom among those trying to justify their claim to the throne is Nebuchadnezzar. The most famous of their line.
      The "New Babylon", which had been part of the coalition of subjugated countries that usurped Assyria in about 626 ruled until it too, was defeated by Cyrus the Great and his friends in about 539 BC.
      This verse's description of them being "bitter" fits what is known historically about them, as is the line about their marching around taking other people's lands. So if you need an army of mercenaries to overthrow a kingdom, Chaldea might be a good place to start looking.

      The speaker changes again.
      "'a yom" (awesome) and "we no w ra" ('to be fearful of' / dreadful) He is, of Himself ....
      this is an echo of the identity of YHWH from Exodus 3 "I Am who I Am".
      ..... "mis pa tow" (judgment) and "u se 'e tow" (majesty / dignity / authority) "ye se" (goes forth).

8 and 9
      The subject changes back to our new friends from out of town. Beginning with an appreciation of their horses. It concludes with a bit about how the vultures follow their army. Something mentioned in Homer's "Iliad", see link below.
      There's a reason the carrion fowl and wild dogs followed these armies, nine explains it.

10 and 11
      An explanation and discussion. The "he" in this statement is YHWH. And He has a very low opinion of human rulers.
      Think back to what God had Samuel tell the people a king would do to them in 1 Samuel 8 beginning at about verse 6. Including taking their children to serve him, and taking their best fields, and their animals. Which all came to pass.
      Then a human king will change his mind and does evil and claims "The Divine Right of Kings". Which also came to pass. See an academic brief on that idea linked below.

      The speaker changes again.
      Are you not from "miq qe dem" (aforetime (literally: 'before time'), 'ancient'), YHWH "'elohay" "qe do si" (holy / holy one)? "lo na mut" (not to die). (period)
(There is some discrepancy between the various translations as to who is the one not dying here. It COULD refer to YHWH as He is Eternal, it could also refer to those that believe in Him, such as the prophet who just proclaimed Him his "Holy One". And it is possible, in the poetic Hebrew, that it does mean both. We now return you to verse 12 already in progress.)
      YHWH, "le mis pat" (justice / judgment) "sam tow" (set / put 'in place'), "we sur" ('and' rock) "le ho w ki ah" (for rebuke / reprove 'correction') "ye sad tow" ('they were' founded)

      Habakkuk is still talking about YHWH.
      "te ho wr" (purity / pureness) "'e na yim" (eyes / sight) "'e na yim" (see / saw (includes 'observe')) evil, "we hab bit" (look upon) "'a mal" (trouble / labor) not "tu kal" (can not (or) could -or- able (or) unable) - why do you look on those who "bo wg dim" ((various forms of) treacherous), "ta ha ris" (remain silent) "be bal la'" (devours / swallows) the wicked "sad diq" (a just / righteous 'man') than they are.

14 - 16
      the translations did good with the fish

      The image is that people are nothing but a school of fish, without direction or purpose, waiting to be caught.

      The prophet asks a question that is not directly answered.

Chapter 2

      The prophet says he's going to stand on the fortified wall of the city and watch until God answers.

      HE does.
      YHWH says "write".

      We've seen orders from above like this before, most famously in Revelation.

      The verse emphatically states that the vision is for an appointed time. And if it seems that it 'tarries', we are to remember who's in charge.

      Paraphrase: The proud is not upright in his soul, but the righteous live by faith.

      because by wine "bow ged" (deals deceitfully), a man "ya hir" (proud / haughty), and not "yin weh" (staying home), because "hir hib" (enlarges) "kis 'o wl" (Sheol / abode of the dead), he is like death and can not be satisfied, he gathers all nations and all peoples.

6 and 7
      paraphrased: take these proverbs and satirical riddles against him, and say woe to him who increases by dishonesty, and loads himself with "'ab tit" (much debt).
      continues: your creditors will wake up and get together and you and everything you own will be theirs.

      The word at the end of 7 is "lim sis so wt" which is used for the the 'spoils of war' and 'plunder', while some of the translations thought the lenders were pirates and used 'booty'. It works.

      Because you have "sal lo w ta" (preyed on / despoiled (includes 'captured and looted')) many nations, many shall despoil the remnant of people "mid de me" ('because of the blood' (this phrase means 'innocent blood')), and the "wa ha mas" (violence / maliciousness) "'e res" (territory / land (earth)), and the city, and everybody in it

      woe to "bo se a' " (dishonest gain / greed) "be sa" (unjust profit) "le be tow" (his house / household), that "la sum" (he might place 'himself') "bam ma ro wm" (an elevated place), "qin now" (nest (bird's nest)) "bam ma ro wm" (rescued / delivered) from the hand of "ra'" (evil / calamity)

      "ya 'as ta" (advise / counsel) "bo set" (shame / shameful) "le be te ka" (your house) "qe so wt" (cut off) people many, "we ho w te" (sin / uncleanness) "nap se ka" (soul / person / life)

      The translations have the building stones shrieking and the wooden beams answering, that's good, they do.

      This 'woe' sounds a lot like the 'woe' in verse 9. Except now instead of a 'house' it is a 'city'.

      paraphrase: didn't YHWH say that the labor of people is fuel for the fire? they tire themselves out for no reason.

      This is one of the best images from the Book of the Twelve. Paraphrased:
      For the Earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Glory of YHWH, as the waters cover the sea.

      woe to him, "mas qeh" (gives drink to (implies 'booze')) "re 'e hu" (another / neighbor) "me sap pe ah" (attaching / joining them) to your bottle, "sak ker" (to get them intoxicated) that you may "hab bit" ('see them') "me 'o w re hem" (naked / vulnerable)

      For some reason the NAS adds 'venom' to their drink, there's no venom in the Hebrew, the 1560, or the 1611.

      "sa ba' ta" ('you are' full of) "qa lo wn" (dishonor / disgrace) "mik ka bo wd" (honor / glory). "se teh" (drink) also you, "we he 'a rel" ('be exposed' as uncircumcised)....
      paraphrase: the palm of YHWH's right hand will be turned against you and shame will be your glory.
      Basically, the Lord will put his hand up in His line of sight so He doesn't have to look at them.

      the violence done to Lebanon will cover you, and "we sod" (destruction, etc) "beasts / animals), "ye hi tan" (dismayed / terrified), "mid de me" (because of the blood) of men and the violence of the land, and the city and all who dwell in it.
      The end of this verse is a rephrasing of earlier statements, done for emphasis. It works.

18 - 19
      This is still God speaking. He is asking what good are idols made by men. Mute images molded (which implies cast from molten metal) or carved (wood or stone). And the 'teacher of lies' that trusts in their maker.
      Then there is the final 'woe'. This one is for those that 'talk to idols' and tell them to wake up and speak. That while the idol is gilt with gold, it is still dead.

      YHWH is in His Holy Temple. "has" (keep silent) "mip pa nah" (before Him) "kal - ha 'a res" (all the earth (the planet and everything on it)).

      The verse does not specify if this is the Temple in Jerusalem, or the one in Heaven. And it doesn't matter. … … …. IT is wherever HE is!

Chapter 3

      Habakkuk prays...
      "Shigionoth", the only other use of this term is in Psalm 7. It is a musical term of uncertain meaning, perhaps indicating a type of song that changes tempo and expression.

      YHWH, "sa ma' ti" (I heard 'and listened') "sim 'a ka" (your report (as in: statements)), "ya re ti" ('godly fear and awe' / reverent fear) YHWH, Your "pa 'a le ka" (deeds / works) in the "sa nim" (years / time) "hay ye hu" (make alive / nourish / revive), (the 'time' phrase is repeated) "to w di a" (know / known) "be ro gez" (turmoil / excited rage) "ra hem" (compassion / 'deep' love) "zakar" (remember / 'bring to mind').

3 and 4
      Discussion: Teman is south of Israel in the land of Edom. Paran is in Sinai. These are areas the nation passed through during the Exodus. Remember that, it is used a couple more times.
      Selah is the musical rest seen in Psalms and other places, such as later in this chapter.
      The prophet praises the glory and majesty of God stating that His glory covers the heavens and the Earth is full of his praise.
      "we no gah" (His brightness / shining) "ka 'o wr" (light 'of day'), "qar nar yim" ('projections' (the word is for 'horns') "mi ya dow" (hand (implies strength / power) His, and there was "heb yo wn" (hidden (as in 'intentionally concealed)) "'uz zoh" (strength)

      In front of Him goes "da ber" (pestilence), and follows "re sep" (flames) at His feet.

      Even the NIV misses this one.
      He stood (the word is "way mo ded" (and measured (surveyed)) (not 'shook' that's later)), He looked and "way yat ter" ( "'makes them jump up'" ) the 'foreign' nations, "way yit po se su" (scattered / broken to pieces) mountains everlasting, and "sa hu" (bowed / prostrated) "gib 'o wt" (hills) "'o w lam" (everlasting). His ways are everlasting.

      In "'awen" (iniquity / wickedness) ...
      Cushan / Cush was one of the first powers that ruled over Israel, see Judges 3.
      Midian is a land far south of Israel along the Red Sea. It may be the same place Moses fled to when wanted for murder in Exodus 2.

      The translations are good with the rivers, to a point, the word is "ha rim" (river). The question was about God's anger with the sea? Then you see this....
      "tir kab" (ride) "su se ka" (horse) and "mar ke bo te ka" (chariot) "ye su 'ah" (salvation)

      'bow and arrows'? That is what is in the Hebrew: "qas te ka" "mat to wt" and it uses the term "se bu 'o wt" (oath) as a modifier for the readied weapon of His word.
      Then comes a statement that: 'with rivers you divided the land'

10 and 11
      Summary: The mere sight of YHWH's weapons....

"GOD's weapons?" a sidenote:
      We are used to His Word being called 'a sword'. In the Apocalypse of John we see a pruning hook in use by Christ, and in other sections, foreign powers were used as a weapon. But in this section, we've already seen God deploying a 'bow and arrow', and now we see Him with a "ha ni ti ka" (spear (especially the 'spear head'))
      In reality, HE does NOT need a weapon, of any sort, ever. But to human understanding, especially in the visions of the Minor Prophets when rendered into poetry... they give God a Weapon.
end note
      .... the sight of these weapons causes earthly geological features, as well as the sun and moon, to react.

      On a related note: "be za 'am" (indignation) ... "be 'ap" (anger), GOD is quite probably has those against 'the nations'.
      But. The active verbs are "tis 'ad" (march) and "ta dus" ('stomp on'), but HE most likely doesn't do those.
      Again, this is written to humans by a human, we have to understand it in terms we are familiar with.

      Discussion: the term here is “le ye sa'” which is correctly translated as 'salvation', “me si he ka” is 'anointed', the statement is that salvation was an active act by GOD for His People through His Anointed One. Another active act is coming up:
      ….. You “ma has ta” (shatter / shattered) the head of the house “ra sa'” (wicked), “'a ro wt” (exposing / uncovering) from foundation to “saw war” (neck).
      “Selah” (selah)

      “na qab ta” (puncture) ('with' arrows / staff) the head of “pe ra zaw” (villages). “yis 'a ru” (storm / stormed) “la·ha·pi·se·ni” (literally: 'break into pieces and scatter'), “'a li su tam” ('their' exultation) as “le 'e koi” (eat / devour / consume) “'a ni” (poor / humble / lowly) “bam mis tar” ('in' secret / hiding)
      Once again a Minor Prophet takes out the drum of 'social justice' and pounds on it for awhile. Here he is equating the 'heads' of villages with those that 'consume' the poor (as we saw in Joel).
      As to where the various translations came up with some of the terms they use in this verse, as well as those before and after it, well, we'll let the reader speculate on that one.

      The image in the verse is GOD leading a march of chariots through the sea, and the mud at the bottom. Most commentators take this as the prediction of a future 'Exodus' of the people.

      paraphrase: When Ol Habbie heard The Voice.... he fell apart.

      summary: Famine.

      And yet in YHWH “'e' lo w zah” ('I will) exult / jubilant / etc), “'a gi lah” (rejoice) “be lo he” (GOD (a form of Elohim) of my “yis 'i” (salvation)

      It is worth mentioning that Saint Jerome, in about 400 AD, rendered this phrase into Latin for the Vulgate as "in Deo Iesu meo” which is directly translated as 'in God my Jesus', which is also used in 1 Corinthians 1 : 4, where talking about Jesus by that name makes sense. It doesn't in Habakkuk which was written somewhere around 600 years before John broke The Silence. See link below.

      GOD is my strength....
      summary: 'He will make me recreate that opening scene from The Sound of Music'.
      The last words of the book indicate that this chapter is a hymn 'psalm' to be sung to a stringed instrument.

end Habakkuk

Selected Sources for this book:


The Chaldeans

A PDF about: Have Vultures Left The Battlefield? Scavengers And War In Greek Historiography

OVERVIEW: divine right of kings


NOTE: The Bible Study Lesson presented above is posted as a reference document to begin a conversation of the topic. And that's it. Please accept it at such.

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