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The New Oxford Annotated Bible New Revised Standard Study Bible that provides essential scholarship and guidance for Bible readers.

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Commentary on Habakkuk

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1.1 : Title.

Oracle, see Nah 1.1n. The prophetsaw, Isa 1.1; Am 1.1; Nah 1.1.

1.2–2.4 : A dialogue in two cycles

( 1.2–11; 1.12–2.24 ) between the prophet and God, raising the question of the LORD's just governance of the world.

1.2–11 : The first cycle.

2–4 :

In the form of a lament (cf. Ps 3.1; 12.1; 22.1–2 ), Habakkuk protests that God neither hears nor acts to address human corruption and injustice. Although the section could be directed against a foreign nation, it seems to refer to problems in the prophet's own society: violence, strife, contention, the perversion of justice.

2 :

How long, Ps 13.1–2; 74.10 .

3 :

Jer 20.8 .

4 :

For similar prophetic complaints, see Isa 59.12–14; Jer 12.1–4 . The law becomes slack, this could refer to the reign of Jehoiakim (608–598 BCE), when the reforms of his father Josiah languished (2 Kings 23.35–37; cf. Jer 2.8 ). The law (Heb “torah”) formed the basis of Josiah's reforms.

5–11 :

The LORD replies that the Chaldeans, wicked as they are, are the instrument of divine justice (Isa 10.5; 42.24; Jer 5.14–19; 27.6–7 ).

6 :

I am rousing, Isa 9.11–12; 41.2–3 . Properly a region in southern Mesopotamia, Chaldea is the biblical term (2 Kings 25.1–13; 2 Chr 36.17; Jer 21.4; Ezek 23.23 ) for the Neo‐Babylonian empire (ca. 612–539 BCE).

1.12–2.4 : The second cycle.

1.12–2.1 :

The prophet, hardly satisfied with the proposed solution to Judah's problems—Babylon's brutal and imperial interventions—again raises a protest.

12 :

Are you not from of old, Ps 74.12 . Holy One is a common epithet for God in Isaiah ( 1.4; 5.19,24; 10.20; etc.). You shall not die, as note b indicates, ancient scribes, uncomfortable with a statement that linked God and mortality, altered the Heb text to read “We shall not die.” O Rock, as a metaphor for God, see Deut 32.4; 2 Sam 23.3; Ps 95.1; Isa 30.29 .

13 :

The heart of Habakkuk's problem (see Ps 5.4–6 ).

2.1 :

Watchpost, the prophet's role was often compared to sentry duty (Isa 21.6–12; 62.7; Ezek 3.17; 33.7; Hos 9.8 ). There may also be a connection to the priesthood, since watchpost was used to describe aspects of priestly “service” (Neh 13.14 ), including Temple guard duty (1 Chr 26.16 ).

2–4 :

The LORD replies that divine justice will come in due time; for the meantime, see v. 4.

2–3 :

The prophet is instructed to make a record of the divine response, eventually to be authenticated by events (cf. Isa 30.8 ).

2 :

Make it plain on tablets, Deut 27.8; Isa 8.1 . A runner, for the prophet as courier, see Jer 23.21 (for military and diplomatic runners, see 2 Sam 18.19–27; 2 Chr 30.6 ).

4 :

The substance of the message: The righteous survive by remaining steadfast, reliable, faithful. Here the contrast is primarily between the oppressed Judahites (the righteous) and oppressing Chaldeans (the proud). Early Christian writers quoted the second part of the verse in various contexts (Rom 1.17; Gal 3.11; Heb 10.38–39 ).

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