Habakkuk Chapter 2  PDF  MSWord

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Go to Bible: Habakkuk 2
Hab 2:1(top)
Hab 2:2(top)
Hab 2:3(top)
Hab 2:4

“the righteous person will live by his faithfulness.” The Hebrew is written in the singular. Salvation is a personal issue. No one is saved as part of a group. Each person is saved individually. This is also reflected in the Greek text of Romans 1:17, when Habakkuk is quoted there.

Hab 2:5

“wine.” This verse is very difficult in Hebrew, as the many different translations in the different English versions attest. The mention of wine in this verse seems sudden and to some commentators out of context. But history, and even the Bible (Dan. 5:1-2) testify that the Babylonians loved wine, and in their inebriated state they made many ungodly decisions, no doubt in many cases decisions that were influenced by demons. Rulers and leaders need to be especially aware of the problems that can be caused by alcohol (and drugs). Scripture says, “It is not for kings, O Lemuel, not for kings to drink wine, nor for those who rule to drink beer. Lest they drink and forget that which has been decreed, and alter the legal claim of all the afflicted people.” (Prov. 31:4-5. Cp. 1 Tim. 3:3; Titus 1:7). The Persian king Ahasuerus made a rash and unwise decision when he was drunk (Esther 1:10-11). Eventually the sin of the Babylonians for their ruthless and ungodly ways caught up with them and they suffered the consequences and were conquered by the Persians.

Hab 2:6

“and who enriches himself by keeping goods taken as a pledge.” The literal Hebrew is difficult due to the culture and idiomatic use of the language. The Hebrew text is more literally, “who makes himself heavy with heavy debts [or, the weight of pledges].

The idea is that the wealthy powerbroker makes loans and takes collateral (the NAB reads, “collateral,” while the CJB, HCSB and NRSV read, “goods taken in pledge”), but then ends up keeping the goods he has collected, making himself rich. Because the collateral he has taken are material things and have weight, the reading of the Hebrew text, “makes himself heavy with…” is very accurate. Some versions nuance the text and read “extortion” (cp. NET; NIV; NLT), but while this is easy to understand in English, it is not exactly accurate. Although extortion may well be involved in some cases, what the powerbroker is doing is closer to simple dishonest business practices. Making loans then figuring out how to keep the collateral, perhaps by charging excessive interest and claiming the loan was never really repaid.

Hab 2:7

“creditors.” The Hebrew literally reads, “those who bite you,” referring to the fact that people who have come to collect from you “bite” you. We use the same terminology today. We might says, “Those taxes took a bite out of my paycheck.”

Some versions translate this as “creditors” (cp. CJB; HCSB; NASB; NET; NIV2011; NRSV); while other versions understand this as the “debtors,” that is, those who have been taken advantage of who now rise up and attack the powerbrokers (cp. ESV; NAB; NIV84; NLT; RSV). However, historically, it was the Persians, not the other people who Babylon had conquered, who rose up and conquered the Babylonians. So while the text is not specific as to who it is who “bites” the Babylonians, it seems like the text is implying that the evil ways of the Babylonians was piling up a debt that the creditors, the Persians, came to collect and the Babylonians became their plunder.

Hab 2:8(top)
Hab 2:9(top)
Hab 2:10(top)
Hab 2:11(top)
Hab 2:12(top)
Hab 2:13

Behold, is it not from Yahweh of Armies.” In other word, “Does it not come from Yahweh…?” The NET Bible has nuanced this for clarity to “The LORD who commands armies has decreed…,” while the NLT has “Has not the LORD of Heaven’s Armies promised.” Yahweh had stated over and over that people’s evil work would not last, and in this verse, God is reminding people of that fact.

labor only to fuel the fire.” The Hebrew is more literally, “labor for the fire,” but that is unclear in English, so we nuanced it for clarity. The NET went with a much less literal reading, but it is very clear: “The nations’ efforts will go up in smoke.” All the evil work done by nations, even if it enriches them in this life, will burn up on the Day of Judgment. When the text says, “the peoples labor only to fuel the fire,” we have to know from the context that it is evil work, evil labor. This is not a general statement that people’s work on earth will not survive; good works will be rewarded while evil work will be burned up.

Hab 2:14(top)
Hab 2:15

“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.

Hab 2:16

“expose your uncircumcision.” The literal Hebrew is “be uncircumcised,” but the meaning is to show your uncircumcision to others. This would mean the genitalia would be exposed. Some English versions have “stagger,” or “stumble.” That reading comes from a few Hebrew manuscripts and the Dead Sea Scrolls, but the accepted Hebrew text makes sense in the context and has been defended by scholars.

Hab 2:17

“For the violence done to Lebanon will overwhelm you, as will the destruction of the animals that terrified them.” This seems to be a reference to the fact that when the Babylonians came through Lebanon, they cut down many of the trees and destroyed the environment the animals lived in. They would have used the wood for military purposes, from everything from carts and chariots to wood for siege works, but it is also possible that some of the wonderful wood of Lebanon was sent back to Babylon to be used in building palaces, temples, etc. They would have also hunted and ate the animals that lived there. Now the violence that they did to woods and animals will come upon them. There are places in the Bible where the leaders of Judah are compared to the cedars of Lebanon, and because of that some commentators think the whole verse refers to destruction in the Promised Land, but there is no need to apply a figurative meaning here. The literal makes perfect sense, that both Lebanon and other lands, along with Judah, are included.

Hab 2:18

“Worthless Ones.” The Hebrew is the noun eliyl (#0457 אֱלִיל), and it means “worthlessnesses” (worthless thing, worthless one), or a “non-entity.” These carved images are not real gods, they are “worthlessnesses,” good for nothing. The word eliyl was a sarcastic term God used of idols, who are not gods and are worthless, but it does not technically mean “idol.” More properly, it means “non-entities,” “worthless things,” or “worthless ones.” It is valuable to translate eliyl as “Worthless Ones” or “worthless things” in the text when the readers can see that the phrase refers to idols, but the English phrase “worthless things” is so broad that in many verses most readers would not realize that “worthless things” was a reference to idols. Nevertheless, the meaning of the Hebrew—Worthless Ones—is accurate. False gods cannot save and they don’t even help, in fact, they cause harm in many ways.

Christians should pay attention to what God is saying here. Even the pagans did not usually believe that the idol they carved out of wood or stone, or cast out of metal, was the “real god,” but they did often believe that the god inhabited the idol, and therefore the idol was more than just a representation or reminder of the god, it was some kind of embodiment of the god. And, in fact, often the “god” (a demon) did inhabit or hang around the idol in some way, and thus the idol did sometimes seem to respond to the people. The fact that demons can make inanimate objects move, make sounds, bleed or cry (history has many bleeding and/or crying statues and paintings), and seem alive in other ways has reinforced the idea that the idols are “real” gods.

Sadly, Christians sometimes behave like pagans and ascribe actual power to things that should only be used to serve as reminders. For example, a cross hung on a wall, worn around the neck, or hanging from the mirror in a car can remind us of the work of Christ, but we should never (never ever!) ascribe any kind of protective power to that cross. The cross is like an ancient idol in that it is carved out of wood or cast out of metal and is mute; it cannot speak and it cannot act or give power. It is not God, nor do God or Jesus ever give it power. Any image or object must be a reminder only!

If a person starts to ascribe the power of protection or blessing to it, that is idolatry and false worship. The cross itself has become important and powerful, instead of reminding us of Him who is important and powerful. Worse, demons, who crave the worship and attention the cross is now getting, can then be attracted to it and hang around it, bringing harm instead of blessings. And that is not only true of crosses, but can be true of any Christian symbol such as prayer hands, angel statues or pins, statues of saints or of Joseph, Mary or Jesus, and other “Christian things.” Christians must always be careful and on guard concerning the “natural attraction” that things like nice crosses, statues, and other Christian mementos can have, and take care never to let them cross over from being mere reminders to becoming idols, which happens as soon as some kind of invisible or spiritual power is ascribed to them.

Hab 2:19(top)
Hab 2:20(top)

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