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“Woe to you who makes his neighbors drink,
pouring out your wrath
and making them drunk,
so that you may gaze at their genitals! Bible

“makes.” The Hebrew is the verb “gives” in the Hiphil aspect (so more literally, “causes his neighbor to drink), so “makes” is appropriate (cp. ESV; NASB; NJB; NRSV. The NET has “force”).

“you who makes.” The Hebrew opens the sentence with the third person singular, “his,” and then changes to the second person, “you” (“your”). This is not uncommon in Hebrew, but it is very confusing in English. The translations have handled it in different ways. We made the whole sentence second person. The “you” in the sentence makes it very personal.

“pouring out your wrath.” This statement is seemingly unclear, but it makes perfect sense once it is understood. What is literally being poured out is the wine, but the word “wrath” is a metonymy of cause, and it gives us the selfish motive that lies behind a person making his neighbor drink. He wants to indulge his own perverted behavior at the expense of another (like sex traffickers do today), because the text says he wants to look at the persons naked body. The relation between alcohol and sex has long been known, and getting drunk lowers a person’s sexual inhibitions. It is not unlikely that that motive is mixed with other motives as well, such as the one pouring the wine may want to compromise the other person and rejoice in their being shamed. There may be other evil motives mixed in as well.

The word “wrath” is the noun chemah (#02534 חֵמָה), and it relates to the word “heat.” The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament lists its meanings as, heat, hot displeasure, indignation, anger, and wrath; but also as “poison” (thus the NASB has “venom” in this verse), and also “bottles,” which is why some versions have “bottle” or “wineskin” (cp. KJV; NIV), but most modern scholars see “wrath,” “anger,” or “venom” as the better choice here, due to other words being better choices for “wineskin.”

“genitals.” The Hebrew word is maor (#04589 מָעוֹר), which most literally means “uncircumcision,” and it is being used here as a synecdoche of the species for genital organs, male or female. For millennia people have gotten women drunk to take advantage of them sexually, and in the mind of the Author women are certainly meant to be included, which is why we went with the translation “genitals” (cp. NET. Rotherham has “their parts of shame”). Although most versions say “nakedness,” or “naked bodies,” those are euphemisms for the sake of modesty. The Hebrew text is graphic and meant to be brutally honest and even shocking.


Commentary for: Habakkuk 2:15