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Habakkuk: Chapter 1

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1 AN oracle which the prophet Habakkuk received in a vision.

2How LONG, LORD, will you be deaf to my plea? ‘Violence!’ I cry out to you, but you do not come to the rescue. 3Why do you let me look on such wickedness, why let me see such wrongdoing? Havoc and violence confront me, strife breaks out, discord arises. 4Therefore law becomes ineffective, and justice is defeated; the wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.

5Look around among the nations; see there a sight which will utterly astound you; you will not believe it when you are told what is being done in your days: 6I am raising up the Chaldaeans, that savage and impetuous nation, who march far and wide over the earth to seize and occupy what is not theirs. 7Fear and terror go with them; they impose their own justice and judgements. 8Their horses are swifter than leopards, keener than the wolves of the plain a 1:8 plain: or evening. ; their cavalry prance and gallop b and gallop: so Scroll; Heb. their cavalry. , swooping from afar like vultures to devour the prey. 9Bent on violence, their whole army advances, a horde moving onward like an east wind; they round up captives countless as the sand. 10They hold kings in derision, they make light of rulers; they laugh at every fortress and raise siege-works to capture them. 11Then they sweep on like the wind and are gone; they ascribe c 1:11 ascribe: so Scroll; Heb. are guilty. their strength to their gods.

12 LORD, are you not from ancient times my God and Holy One, who is immortal d 1:12 who is immortal: prob. original rdg; altered in Heb. to we shall not die. ? LORD, you have appointed them to execute judgement; my Rock, you have commissioned them to punish. 13Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot countenance wrongdoing. Why then do you countenance the treachery of the wicked? Why keep silent when they devour those who are more righteous? 14You have made people like the fish of the sea, like creeping creatures with no ruler over them. 15The wicked haul them up with hooks or catch them in their nets or drag them in their trawls. So they make merry and rejoice, 16offering sacrifices to their nets and burning offerings to their trawls, for it is thanks to them that they live sumptuously and enjoy rich fare. 17Are they to draw the sword e 1:17 the sword: so Scroll; Heb. the net. every day to slaughter the nations pitilessly?

Notes:

a 1:8 plain: or evening.

b and gallop: so Scroll; Heb. their cavalry.

c 1:11 ascribe: so Scroll; Heb. are guilty.

d 1:12 who is immortal: prob. original rdg; altered in Heb. to we shall not die.

e 1:17 the sword: so Scroll; Heb. the net.

Text Commentary view alone

1.1 : Title.

The meaning of the name is unknown; but some associate it with a word meaning “to embrace.” The name appears also in the apocryphal book of Bel & Snake (vv. 33–39 ).

1.2–4 : Internal discord.

The prophet complains that God has allowed lawlessness to prevail in Judah.

1.5–11 : God's solution.

The Chaldaeans: the last dynasty of Babylon and often synonymous with it. They would punish Judah for its wickedness; yet they too were wicked. This “solution” by God is able to astound and to arouse the agonized questions in the next section.

1.12–2.1 : Is God just?

The first question (v. 12 ) carries a subtle uncertainty. Is God in charge? Has God indeed appointed the Chaldeans for judgement, to punish? How can God countenance wrongdoing? How can the wicked be allowed to devour those who are more righteous? The images of fishing (vv. 14–16 ) imply the insignificance of human beings before God and God's seeming unconcern at life's tragedies.

2.1 :

The prophet sees himself as the outpost of human consciousness to pick up God's faintest message to humanity and regards himself as a responsible spokesman for humanity before God.

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