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Habakkuk Complains to the Lord

This is the oracle[a] that the prophet Habakkuk saw:

How long, Lord, must I cry for help?
But you do not listen!
I call out to you, “Violence!”
But you do not deliver!
Why do you force me to witness injustice?[b]
Why do you put up with wrongdoing?[c]
Destruction and violence confront[d] me;
conflict is present and one must endure strife.[e]
For this reason the law lacks power,[f]
and justice is never carried out.[g]
Indeed,[h] the wicked intimidate[i] the innocent.[j]
For this reason justice is perverted.[k]

The Lord’s Surprising Answer

“Look at the nations and pay attention![l]
You will be shocked and amazed![m]
For I will do something in your lifetime[n]
that you will not believe even though you are forewarned.[o]
Look, I am about to empower[p] the Babylonians,
that ruthless[q] and greedy[r] nation.
They sweep across the surface[s] of the earth,
seizing dwelling places that do not belong to them.
They are frightening and terrifying;
they decide for themselves what is right.[t]
Their horses are faster than leopards
and more alert[u] than wolves in the desert.[v]
Their horses[w] gallop,[x]
their horses come a great distance;
like vultures[y] they swoop down quickly to devour their prey.[z]
All of them intend[aa] to do violence;
every face is determined.[ab]
They take prisoners as easily as one scoops up sand.[ac]
10 They mock kings
and laugh at rulers.
They laugh at every fortified city;
they build siege ramps[ad] and capture them.
11 They sweep by like the wind and pass on.[ae]
But the one who considers himself a god will be held guilty.”[af]

Habakkuk Voices Some Concerns

12 Lord, you have been active from ancient times;[ag]
my sovereign God,[ah] you are immortal.[ai]
Lord, you have made them[aj] your instrument of judgment.[ak]
Protector,[al] you have appointed them as your instrument of punishment.[am]
13 You are too just[an] to tolerate[ao] evil;
you are unable to condone[ap] wrongdoing.
So why do you put up with such treacherous people?[aq]
Why do you say nothing when the wicked devour[ar] those more righteous than they are?[as]
14 You made people like fish in the sea,
like animals in the sea[at] that have no ruler.
15 The Babylonian tyrant[au] pulls them all up with a fishhook;
he hauls them in with his throw net.[av]
When he catches[aw] them in his dragnet,
he is very happy.[ax]
16 Because of his success[ay] he offers sacrifices to his throw net
and burns incense to his dragnet;[az]
for because of them he has plenty of food,[ba]
and more than enough to eat.[bb]
17 Will he then[bc] continue to fill and empty his throw net?[bd]
Will he always[be] destroy[bf] nations and spare none?[bg]
I will stand at my watch post;

I will remain stationed on the city wall.[bh]
I will keep watching so I can see what he says to me
and can know[bi] how I should answer
when he counters my argument.[bj]

The Lord Assures Habakkuk

The Lord responded:[bk]

“Write down this message.[bl]
Record it legibly on tablets
so the one who announces[bm] it may read it easily.[bn]
For the message is a witness to what is decreed;[bo]
it gives reliable testimony about how matters will turn out.[bp]
Even if the message[bq] is not fulfilled right away, wait patiently;[br]
for it will certainly come to pass—it will not arrive late.
Look, the one whose desires are not upright will faint from exhaustion,[bs]
but the person of integrity[bt] will live[bu] because of his faithfulness.[bv]
Indeed, wine will betray the proud, restless man![bw]
His appetite[bx] is as big as Sheol’s;[by]
like death, he is never satisfied.
He gathers[bz] all the nations;
he seizes[ca] all peoples.

The Proud Babylonians Are as Good as Dead

“But all these nations will someday taunt him[cb]
and ridicule him with proverbial sayings:[cc]
‘Woe to the one who accumulates[cd] what does not belong to him
(How long will this go on?)[ce]
he who gets rich by extortion!’[cf]
Your creditors will suddenly attack;[cg]
those who terrify you will spring into action,[ch]
and they will rob you.[ci]
Because you robbed many countries,[cj]
all who are left among the nations[ck] will rob you.
You have shed human blood
and committed violent acts against lands, cities,[cl] and those who live in them.
The one who builds his house by unjust gain is as good as dead.[cm]

He does this so he can build his nest way up high
and escape the clutches of disaster.[cn]
10 Your schemes will bring shame to your house.
Because you destroyed many nations, you will self-destruct.[co]
11 For the stones in the walls will cry out,
and the wooden rafters will answer back.[cp]
12 Woe to the one who builds a city by bloodshed—

he who starts[cq] a town by unjust deeds.
13 Be sure of this! The Lord of Heaven’s Armies has decreed:
The nations’ efforts will go up in smoke;
their exhausting work will be for nothing.[cr]
14 For recognition of the Lord’s sovereign majesty will fill the earth
just as the waters fill up the sea.[cs]

15 “Woe to you who force your neighbor to drink wine[ct]

you who make others intoxicated
by forcing them to drink from the bowl of your furious anger[cu]
so you can look at their naked bodies.[cv]
16 But you will become drunk[cw] with shame, not majesty.[cx]
Now it is your turn to drink and expose your uncircumcised foreskin![cy]
The cup of wine in the Lord’s right hand[cz] is coming to you,
and disgrace will replace your majestic glory!
17 For you will pay in full for your violent acts against Lebanon;[da]
terrifying judgment will come upon you
because of the way you destroyed the wild animals living there.[db]
You have shed human blood
and committed violent acts against lands, cities, and those who live in them.
18 What good[dc] is an idol? Why would a craftsman make it?[dd]
What good is a metal image that gives misleading oracles?[de]
Why would its creator place his trust in it[df]
and make[dg] such mute, worthless things?
19 Woe to the one who says to wood, ‘Wake up!’—
he who says[dh] to speechless stone, ‘Awake!’
Can it give reliable guidance?[di]
It is overlaid with gold and silver;
it has no life’s breath inside it.
20 But the Lord is in his majestic palace.[dj]
The whole earth is speechless in his presence!”[dk]

Habakkuk’s Vision of the Divine Warrior

This is a prayer of Habakkuk the prophet:[dl]

Lord, I have heard the report of what you did;[dm]
I am awed,[dn] Lord, by what you accomplished.[do]
In our time[dp] repeat those deeds;[dq]
in our time reveal them again.[dr]
But when you cause turmoil, remember to show us mercy![ds]
God comes[dt] from Teman,[du]
the Holy One[dv] from Mount Paran.[dw] Selah.[dx]
His splendor has covered the skies,[dy]
the earth is full of his glory.[dz]
His brightness will be as lightning;[ea]
a two-pronged lightning bolt flashing from his hand.[eb]
This is the outward display of his power.[ec]
Plague will go[ed] before him;
pestilence[ee] will march[ef] right behind him.[eg]
He took his battle position[eh] and shook[ei] the earth;
with a mere look he frightened[ej] the nations.
The ancient mountains disintegrated;[ek]
the primeval hills were flattened.
His are ancient roads.[el]
I saw the tents of Cushan overwhelmed by trouble;[em]
the tent curtains of the land of Midian were[en] shaking.[eo]
Was[ep] the Lord mad at the rivers?
Were you angry with the rivers?
Were you enraged at the sea?[eq]
Such that[er] you would climb into your horse-drawn chariots,[es]
your victorious chariots?[et]
Your bow is ready for action;[eu]
you commission your arrows.[ev] Selah.
You cause flash floods on the earth’s surface.[ew]
10 When the mountains see you, they shake.
The torrential downpour sweeps through.[ex]
The great deep[ey] shouts out;
it lifts its hands high.[ez]
11 The sun and moon stand still in their courses;[fa]
the flash of your arrows drives them away,[fb]
the bright light of your lightning-quick spear.[fc]
12 You furiously stomp on the earth;
you angrily trample down the nations.
13 You march out to deliver your people,
to deliver your special servant.[fd]
You strike the leader of the wicked nation,[fe]
laying him open from the lower body to the neck.[ff] Selah.
14 You pierce the heads of his warriors[fg] with a spear.[fh]
They storm forward to scatter us;[fi]
they shout with joy as if they were plundering the poor with no opposition.[fj]
15 But you trample on the sea with your horses,
on the surging, raging waters.[fk]

Habakkuk Declares His Confidence

16 I listened and my stomach churned;[fl]
the sound made my lips quiver.
My frame went limp, as if my bones were decaying,[fm]
and I shook as I tried to walk.[fn]
I long[fo] for the day of distress
to come upon[fp] the people who attack us.
17 When[fq] the fig tree does not bud,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
when the olive trees do not produce[fr]
and the fields yield no crops;[fs]
when the sheep disappear[ft] from the pen
and there are no cattle in the stalls—
18 I will rejoice because of[fu] the Lord;
I will be happy because of the God who delivers me!
19 The Sovereign Lord is my source of strength.[fv]
He gives me the agility of a deer;[fw]
he enables me to negotiate the rugged terrain.[fx]

(This prayer is for the song leader. It is to be accompanied by stringed instruments.)[fy]


  1. Habakkuk 1:1 tn See note at Isa 13:1.
  2. Habakkuk 1:3 tn Heb “Why do you make me see injustice?”
  3. Habakkuk 1:3 tn Heb “Why do you look at wrongdoing?” sn Habakkuk complains that God tolerates social injustice and fails to intervene on behalf of the oppressed (put up with wrongdoing).
  4. Habakkuk 1:3 tn Heb “are before.”
  5. Habakkuk 1:3 tn Heb “and there is conflict and strife he lifts up.” The present translation takes the verb יִשָּׂא (yisaʾ) in the sense of “carry, bear,” and understands the subject to be indefinite (“one”).
  6. Habakkuk 1:4 tn Heb “the law is numb,” i.e., like a hand that has “fallen asleep” (see Ps 77:2). Cf. NAB “is benumbed”; NIV “is paralyzed.”
  7. Habakkuk 1:4 tn Heb “never goes out.”
  8. Habakkuk 1:4 tn Or “for.”
  9. Habakkuk 1:4 tn Heb “surround” (so NASB, NRSV).
  10. Habakkuk 1:4 tn Or “righteous” (KJV, NASB, NIV, NRSV, NLT).
  11. Habakkuk 1:4 tn Heb “comes out crooked.”
  12. Habakkuk 1:5 tn Or “look among the nations and observe.” The imperatival forms in v. 5 are plural, indicating that the Lord’s message is for the whole nation, not just the prophet.
  13. Habakkuk 1:5 tn The Hebrew text combines the Hitpael and Qal imperatival forms of the verb תָּמַה (tamah, “be amazed”). A literal translation might read, “Shock yourselves and be shocked!” The repetition of sounds draws attention to the statement. The imperatives here have the force of an emphatic assertion. On this use of the imperative in Hebrew, see GKC 324 §110.c and IBHS 572-73 §34.4c.
  14. Habakkuk 1:5 tc Heb “for a work working in your days.” Following the LXX reading, some supply a first person singular pronoun with the participle פֹּעֵל (poʿel). Ellipsis of a first singular pronoun before participles is relatively rare (see GKC 360 §116.s); perhaps an original אֲנֹכִי (ʾanoki; or אֲנִי, ʾani) followed the initial כִּי (ki) and was omitted by homoioteleuton.
  15. Habakkuk 1:5 tn Heb “you will not believe when it is told.” In this context the force of כִּי (ki) may be “when,” “if,” or “even though.”
  16. Habakkuk 1:6 tn Heb “raise up” (so KJV, ASV).
  17. Habakkuk 1:6 tn Heb “bitter.” Other translation options for this word in this context include “fierce” (NASB, NRSV); “savage” (NEB); or “grim.”
  18. Habakkuk 1:6 tn Heb “hasty, quick.” Some translate here “impetuous” (so NEB, NASB, NIV, NRSV) or “rash,” but in this context greed may very well be the idea. The Babylonians move quickly and recklessly ahead in their greedy quest to expand their empire.
  19. Habakkuk 1:6 tn Heb “the open spaces.”
  20. Habakkuk 1:7 tn Heb “from him his justice, even his lifting up, goes out.” In this context שְׂאֵת (seʾet) probably has the nuance “authority.” See R. D. Patterson, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah (WEC), 150.
  21. Habakkuk 1:8 tn Heb “sharper,” in the sense of “keener” or “more alert.” Some translate “quicker” on the basis of the parallelism with the first line (see HALOT 291 s.v. חדד).
  22. Habakkuk 1:8 tn Heb “wolves of the evening,” that is, wolves that prowl at night. The present translation assumes an emendation to עֲרָבָה (ʿaravah, “desert”). On this phrase see also Zeph 3:3.
  23. Habakkuk 1:8 tn Or “horsemen,” “cavalry.”
  24. Habakkuk 1:8 tn The precise nuance of the rare verb פּוּשׁ (push) is unclear here. Elsewhere it is used of animals jumping or leaping (see Jer 50:11; Mal 4:2).
  25. Habakkuk 1:8 tn Or “eagle” (so NASB, NRSV). The term can refer to either eagles or vultures, but in this context of gruesome destruction and death “vulture” is preferred.
  26. Habakkuk 1:8 tn Heb “they fly like a vulture/an eagle quickly to devour.” The direct object “their prey” is not included in the Hebrew text but is implied, and has been supplied in the translation for clarity.
  27. Habakkuk 1:9 tn Heb “come.”
  28. Habakkuk 1:9 tn Heb “The totality of their faces is to the east” (or “is forward”). The precise meaning of the Hebrew term מְגַמַּת (megammat) is unclear. For a discussion of options see J. J. M. Roberts, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah (OTL), 93. NEB has “a sea of faces rolls on”; NIV “their hordes advance like a desert wind”; NRSV “with faces pressing forward.”
  29. Habakkuk 1:9 tn Heb “and he gathers like sand, prisoners.”
  30. Habakkuk 1:10 tn Heb “they heap up dirt.” This is a reference to the piling up of earthen ramps in the process of laying siege to a fortified city.
  31. Habakkuk 1:11 tn The precise meaning of v. 11a is uncertain. The present translation assumes the first line further describes the Babylonian hordes, comparing them to a destructive wind. Another option is to understand רוּחַ (ruakh) as “spirit,” rather than “wind,” and take the form וְאָשֵׁם (veʾashem) with what precedes (as suggested by the scribal punctuation). Repointing this form as a geminate verb from שָׁמַם (shamam, “be astonished”), one could then translate the line, “The spirit passed on and departed, and I was astonished.” In this case the line would describe the cessation of the divine revelation which began in v. 5. For a detailed defense of this view, see J. J. M. Roberts, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah (OTL), 97-100.
  32. Habakkuk 1:11 tn Heb “and guilty is the one whose strength is his god.” This assumes that אָשֵׁם (ʾashem) is a predicate adjective meaning “guilty” and that it relates to what follows.
  33. Habakkuk 1:12 tn Heb “Are you not from antiquity, O Lord?” The rhetorical question expects the answer, “Yes, of course.” The present translation reflects the force of the rhetorical question, rendering it as an affirmation. When used in a temporal sense the phrase מִקֶדֶם (miqedem) means “from antiquity, ancient times,” often referring to earlier periods in Israel’s history. See its use in Neh 12:46; Pss 74:12; 77:11; Isa 45:21; 46:10; Mic 5:2.
  34. Habakkuk 1:12 tn Heb “My God, my holy one.” God’s “holiness” in this context is his sovereign transcendence as the righteous judge of the world (see vv. 12b-13a), thus the translation “My sovereign God.”
  35. Habakkuk 1:12 tc The MT reads, “we will not die,” but an ancient scribal tradition has “you [i.e., God] will not die.” This is preferred as a more difficult reading that can explain the rise of the other variant. Later scribes who copied the manuscripts did not want to associate the idea of death with God in any way, so they softened the statement to refer to humanity.
  36. Habakkuk 1:12 tn Heb “him,” a collective singular referring to the Babylonians. The plural pronoun “them” has been used in the translation in keeping with contemporary English style.
  37. Habakkuk 1:12 tn Heb “for judgment.”
  38. Habakkuk 1:12 tn Heb “Rock” or “Cliff.” This divine epithet views God as a place where one can go to be safe from danger. The translation “Protector” conveys the force of the metaphor (cf. KJV, NEB “O mighty God”).
  39. Habakkuk 1:12 tn Heb “to correct, reprove.”
  40. Habakkuk 1:13 tn Heb “[you] are too pure of eyes.” God’s “eyes” here signify what he looks at with approval. His “eyes” are “pure” in that he refuses to tolerate any wrongdoing in his presence.
  41. Habakkuk 1:13 tn Heb “to see.” Here “see” is figurative for “tolerate,” “put up with.”
  42. Habakkuk 1:13 tn Heb “to look at.” Cf. NEB “who canst not countenance wrongdoing”; NASB “You can not look on wickedness with favor.”
  43. Habakkuk 1:13 tn Heb “Why do you look at treacherous ones?” The verb בָּגַד (bagad, “be treacherous”) is often used of those who are disloyal or who violate agreements. See S. Erlandsson, TDOT 1:470-73.
  44. Habakkuk 1:13 tn Or “swallow up.”
  45. Habakkuk 1:13 tn Heb “more innocent than themselves.”
  46. Habakkuk 1:14 tn The Hebrew word רֶמֶשׂ (remesh) usually refers to animals that creep, but here the referent seems to be marine animals that glide through the water (note the parallelism in the previous line). See also Ps 104:25.
  47. Habakkuk 1:15 tn Heb “he”; the referent (the Babylonian tyrant) has been specified in the translation for clarity (cf. NASB “The Chaldeans”; NIV “The wicked foe”; NRSV “The enemy”). Babylonian imperialism is here compared to a professional fisherman who repeatedly brings in his catch and has plenty to eat.
  48. Habakkuk 1:15 tn Apparently two different types of fishing nets are referred to here. The חֵרֶם (kherem, “throw net”) was used by fishermen standing on the shore (see Ezek 47:10), while the מִכְמֶרֶת (mikhmeret, “dragnet”) was used by men in a boat. See R. D. Patterson, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah (WEC), 165.
  49. Habakkuk 1:15 tn Heb “and he gathers.”
  50. Habakkuk 1:15 tn Heb “Therefore he is happy and rejoices.” Here two synonyms are joined for emphasis.
  51. Habakkuk 1:16 tn Heb “therefore.”
  52. Habakkuk 1:16 sn The fishing implements (throw net and dragnet) represent Babylonian military might. The prophet depicts the Babylonians as arrogantly worshiping their own power (sacrifices…burns incense, see also v. 11b).
  53. Habakkuk 1:16 tn Heb “for by them his portion is full [or, “fat”].”
  54. Habakkuk 1:16 tn Heb “and his food is plentiful [or, “fat”].”
  55. Habakkuk 1:17 tn Or “therefore.”
  56. Habakkuk 1:17 tn Heb “Will he then empty his throw net?” The words “continue to fill and” are supplied in the translation for clarification.
  57. Habakkuk 1:17 tn Or “continually.”
  58. Habakkuk 1:17 tn Heb “kill.”
  59. Habakkuk 1:17 tn Or “without showing compassion.”
  60. Habakkuk 2:1 sn Habakkuk compares himself to a watchman stationed on the city wall who keeps his eyes open for approaching messengers or danger.
  61. Habakkuk 2:1 tn The word “know” is supplied in the translation for clarification.
  62. Habakkuk 2:1 tn Heb “concerning my correction [or, “reproof”].”
  63. Habakkuk 2:2 tn Heb “the Lord answered and said.” The redundant expression “answered and said” has been simplified in the translation as “responded.”
  64. Habakkuk 2:2 tn Heb “[the] vision.”
  65. Habakkuk 2:2 tn Or “reads from.”
  66. Habakkuk 2:2 tn Heb “might run,” which here probably means “run [through it quickly with one’s eyes],” that is, read it easily.
  67. Habakkuk 2:3 tn Heb “For the vision is still for the appointed time.” The Hebrew word עוֹד (ʿod, “still”) is better emended to עֵד (ʿed, “witness”) in light of the parallelism (see the note on the word “turn out” in the following line). The “appointed time” refers to the time when the divine judgment anticipated in vv. 6-20 will be realized.
  68. Habakkuk 2:3 tn Heb “and a witness to the end and it does not lie.” The Hebrew term יָפֵחַ (yafeakh) has been traditionally understood as a verb form from the root פּוּחַ (puakh, “puff, blow”; cf. NEB “it will come in breathless haste”; NASB “it hastens toward the goal”) but recent scholarship has demonstrated that it is actually a noun meaning “witness” (cf. NIV “it speaks of the end / and will not prove false”; NRSV “it speaks of the end, and does not lie”). See J. J. M. Roberts, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah (OTL), 106. “The end” corresponds to “the appointed time” of the preceding line and refers to the time when the prophecy to follow will be fulfilled.
  69. Habakkuk 2:3 tn Heb “it”; the referent (the message) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  70. Habakkuk 2:3 tn Heb “If it should delay, wait for it.” The Hebrew word חָזוֹן (khazon, “vision, message”) is the subject of the third person verbs in v. 3 and the antecedent of the pronominal suffix in the phrase “for it.”
  71. Habakkuk 2:4 tn The meaning of this line is unclear, primarily because of the uncertainty surrounding the second word, עֻפְּלָה (ʿuppelah). Some read this as an otherwise unattested verb עָפַל (ʿafal, “swell”) from which are derived nouns meaning “mound” and “hemorrhoid.” This “swelling” is then understood in an abstract sense, “swell with pride.” This would yield a translation, “As for the proud, his desires are not right within him” (cf. NASB “as for the proud one”; NIV “he is puffed up”; NRSV “Look at the proud!”). A multitude of other interpretations of this line, many of which involve emendations of the problematic form, may be found in the commentaries and periodical literature. The present translation assumes an emendation to a Pual form of the verb עָלַף (ʿalaf, “be faint, exhausted”). (See its use in the Pual in Isa 51:20, and in the Hitpael in Amos 8:13 and Jonah 4:8.) In the antithetical parallelism of the verse, it corresponds to חָיָה (khayah, “live”). The phrase לֹא יָשְׁרָה נַפְשׁוֹ בּוֹ (loʾ yasherah nafsho bo), literally, “not upright his desire within him,” is taken as a substantival clause that contrasts with צַדִּיק (tsaddiq, “the righteous one”) and serves as the subject of the preceding verb. Here נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh) is understood in the sense of “desire” (see BDB 660-61 s.v. נֶפֶשׁ for a list of passages where the word carries this sense).
  72. Habakkuk 2:4 tn Or “righteous.” The oppressed individuals mentioned in 1:4 are probably in view here.
  73. Habakkuk 2:4 tn Or “will be preserved.” In the immediate context this probably refers to physical preservation through both the present oppression and the coming judgment (see Hab 3:16-19).
  74. Habakkuk 2:4 tn Or “loyalty”; or “integrity.” The Hebrew word אֱמוּנָה (ʾemunah) has traditionally been translated “faith,” but the term nowhere else refers to “belief” as such. When used of human character and conduct it carries the notion of “honesty, integrity, reliability, faithfulness.” The antecedent of the suffix has been understood in different ways. It could refer to God’s faithfulness, but in this case one would expect a first person suffix (the original form of the LXX has “my faithfulness” here). Others understand the “vision” to be the antecedent. In this case the reliability of the prophecy is in view. For a statement of this view, see J. J. M. Roberts, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah (OTL), 111-12. The present translation assumes that the preceding word “[the person of] integrity” is the antecedent. In this case the Lord is assuring Habakkuk that those who are truly innocent will be preserved through the coming oppression and judgment by their godly lifestyle, for God ultimately rewards this type of conduct. In contrast to these innocent people, those with impure desires (epitomized by the greedy Babylonians; see v. 5) will not be able to withstand God’s judgment (v. 4a).
  75. Habakkuk 2:5 tn Heb “Indeed wine betrays a proud man and he does not dwell.” The meaning of the last verb, “dwell,” is uncertain. Many take it as a denominative of the noun נָוָה (navah, “dwelling place”). In this case it would carry the idea, “he does not settle down,” and would picture the drunkard as restless (cf. NIV “never at rest”; NASB “does not stay at home”). Some relate the verb to an Arabic cognate and translate the phrase as “he will not succeed, reach his goal.”sn The Babylonian tyrant is the proud, restless man described in this line as the last line of the verse, with its reference to the conquest of the nations, makes clear. Wine is probably a metaphor for imperialistic success. The more success the Babylonians experience, the more greedy they become just as a drunkard wants more and more wine to satisfy his thirst. But eventually this greed will lead to their downfall, for God will not tolerate such imperialism and will judge the Babylonians appropriately (vv. 6-20).
  76. Habakkuk 2:5 tn Heb “who opens wide like Sheol his throat.” Here נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh) is understood in a physical sense, meaning “throat,” which in turn is figurative for the appetite. See H. W. Wolff, Anthropology of the Old Testament, 11-12.
  77. Habakkuk 2:5 sn Sheol is the proper name of the subterranean world which was regarded as the land of the dead. In ancient Canaanite thought Death was a powerful god whose appetite was never satisfied. In the OT Sheol/Death, though not deified, is personified as greedy and as having a voracious appetite. See Prov 30:15-16; Isa 5:14; also see L. I. J. Stadelmann, The Hebrew Conception of the World, 168.
  78. Habakkuk 2:5 tn Heb “he gathers for himself.”
  79. Habakkuk 2:5 tn Heb “he collects for himself.”
  80. Habakkuk 2:6 tn Heb “Will not these, all of them, take up a taunt against him…?” The rhetorical question assumes the response, “Yes, they will.” The present translation brings out the rhetorical force of the question by rendering it as an affirmation.
  81. Habakkuk 2:6 tn Heb “and a mocking song, riddles, against him? And one will say.”
  82. Habakkuk 2:6 tn Or “increases.”
  83. Habakkuk 2:6 tn This question is interjected parenthetically, perhaps to express rhetorically the pain and despair felt by the Babylonians’ victims.
  84. Habakkuk 2:6 tn Heb “and the one who makes himself heavy [i.e., wealthy] [by] debts.” Though only appearing in the first line, the term הוֹי (hoy) is to be understood as elliptical in the second line.
  85. Habakkuk 2:7 tn Heb “Will not your creditors suddenly rise up?” The rhetorical question assumes the response, “Yes, they will.” The present translation brings out the rhetorical force of the question by rendering it as an affirmation. sn Your creditors will suddenly attack. The Babylonians are addressed directly here. They have robbed and terrorized others, but now the situation will be reversed as their creditors suddenly attack them.
  86. Habakkuk 2:7 tn Heb “[Will not] the ones who make you tremble awake?”
  87. Habakkuk 2:7 tn Heb “and you will become their plunder.”
  88. Habakkuk 2:8 tn Or “nations.”
  89. Habakkuk 2:8 tn Or “peoples.”
  90. Habakkuk 2:8 tn Heb “because of the shed blood of humankind and violence against land, city.” The singular forms אֶרֶץ (ʾerets, “land”) and קִרְיָה (qiryah, “city”) are collective, referring to all the lands and cities terrorized by the Babylonians.
  91. Habakkuk 2:9 tn Heb “Woe [to] the one who profits unjustly by evil unjust gain for his house.” On the term הוֹי (hoy) see the note on the word “dead” in v. 6.
  92. Habakkuk 2:9 tn Heb “to place his nest in the heights in order to escape from the hand of disaster.” sn Here the Babylonians are compared to a bird, perhaps an eagle, that builds its nest in an inaccessible high place where predators cannot reach it.
  93. Habakkuk 2:10 tn Heb “you planned shame for your house, cutting off many nations, and sinning [against] your life.”
  94. Habakkuk 2:11 sn The house mentioned in vv. 9-10 represents the Babylonian empire, which became great through imperialism. Here the materials of this “house” (the stones in the walls, the wooden rafters) are personified as witnesses who testify that the occupants have built the house through wealth stolen from others.
  95. Habakkuk 2:12 tn Or “establishes”; or “founds.”
  96. Habakkuk 2:13 tn Heb “Is it not, look, from the Lord of hosts that the nations work hard for fire, and the peoples are exhausted for nothing?”
  97. Habakkuk 2:14 tn Heb “for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, just as the waters cover over the sea.”
  98. Habakkuk 2:15 tn No direct object is present after “drink” in the Hebrew text. “Wine” is implied, however, and has been supplied in the translation for clarity.
  99. Habakkuk 2:15 tc Heb “pouring out your anger and also making drunk”; or “pouring out your anger and [by] rage making drunk.” The present translation assumes that the final khet (ח) on מְסַפֵּחַ (mesappeakh, “pouring”) is dittographic and that the form should actually be read מִסַּף (missaf, “from a bowl”). sn Forcing them to drink from the bowl of your furious anger. The Babylonian’s harsh treatment of others is compared to intoxicating wine which the Babylonians force the nations to drink so they can humiliate them. Cf. the imagery in Rev 14:10.
  100. Habakkuk 2:15 sn Metaphor and reality are probably blended here. This may refer to the practice of publicly humiliating prisoners of war by stripping them naked. See J. J. M. Roberts, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah (OTL), 124.
  101. Habakkuk 2:16 tn Heb “are filled.” The translation assumes the verbal form is a perfect of certitude, emphasizing the certainty of Babylon’s coming judgment, which will reduce the majestic empire to shame and humiliation.
  102. Habakkuk 2:16 tn Or “glory.”
  103. Habakkuk 2:16 tc Heb “drink, even you, and show the foreskin.” Instead of הֵעָרֵל (heʿarel, “show the foreskin”) one of the Dead Sea scrolls has הֵרָעֵל (heraʿel, “stumble”). This reading also has support from several ancient versions and is followed by the NEB (“you too shall drink until you stagger”) and NRSV (“Drink, you yourself, and stagger”). For a defense of the Hebrew text, see P. D. Miller, Jr., Sin and Judgment in the Prophets, 63-64.
  104. Habakkuk 2:16 sn The Lord’s right hand represents his military power. He will force the Babylonians to experience the same humiliating defeat they inflicted on others.
  105. Habakkuk 2:17 tn Heb “for the violence against Lebanon will cover you.”
  106. Habakkuk 2:17 tc The Hebrew appears to read literally, “and the violence against the animals [which] he terrified.” The verb form יְחִיתַן (yekhitan) appears to be a Hiphil imperfect third masculine singular with third feminine plural suffix (the antecedent being the animals) from חָתַת (khatat, “be terrified”). The translation above follows the LXX and assumes a reading יְחִתֶּךָ (yekhittekha, “[the violence against the animals] will terrify you”; cf. NRSV “the destruction of the animals will terrify you”; NIV “and your destruction of animals will terrify you”). In this case the verb is a Hiphil imperfect third masculine singular with second masculine singular suffix (the antecedent being Babylon). This provides better symmetry with the preceding line, where Babylon’s violence is the subject of the verb “cover.” sn The language may anticipate Nebuchadnezzar’s utilization of trees from the Lebanon forest in building projects. Lebanon and its animals probably represent the western Palestinian states conquered by the Babylonians.
  107. Habakkuk 2:18 tn Or “of what value.”
  108. Habakkuk 2:18 tn Heb “so that the one who forms it fashions it?” Here כִּי (ki) is taken as resultative after the rhetorical question. For other examples of this use, see R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 73, §450.
  109. Habakkuk 2:18 tn Heb “or a metal image, a teacher of lies.” The words “What good is” in the translation are supplied from the previous parallel line. “Teacher of lies” refers to the false oracles that the so-called god would deliver through a priest. See J. J. M. Roberts, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah (OTL), 126.
  110. Habakkuk 2:18 tn Heb “so that the one who forms his image trusts in it?” As earlier in the verse, כִּי (ki) is resultative.
  111. Habakkuk 2:18 tn Heb “to make.”
  112. Habakkuk 2:19 tn The words “he who says” in the translation are supplied from the previous parallel line.
  113. Habakkuk 2:19 tn Though the Hebrew text has no formal interrogative marker here, the context indicates that the statement should be taken as a rhetorical question anticipating the answer, “Of course not!” (so also NIV, NRSV).
  114. Habakkuk 2:20 tn Or “holy temple.” The Lord’s heavenly palace, rather than the earthly temple, is probably in view here (see Ps 11:4; Mic 1:2-3). The Hebrew word קֹדֶשׁ (qodesh, “holy”) here refers to the sovereign transcendence associated with his palace.
  115. Habakkuk 2:20 tn Or “Be quiet before him, all the earth!”
  116. Habakkuk 3:1 tn The Hebrew text adds עַל שִׁגְיֹנוֹת (ʿal shigyonot, “upon [or, “according to”] shigyonot”). The meaning of this word is uncertain. It may refer to the literary genre of the prayer or to the musical style to be employed when it is sung. The NEB leaves the term untranslated; several other modern English versions transliterate the term into English, sometimes with explanatory notes (NASB, NRSV “according to Shigionoth”; NIV “On shigyonoth”).
  117. Habakkuk 3:2 tn Heb “your report,” that is, “the report concerning you.”
  118. Habakkuk 3:2 tn Heb “I fear.” Some prefer to read, “I saw, Lord, what you accomplished” (cf. NEB).
  119. Habakkuk 3:2 tn Heb “your work.”
  120. Habakkuk 3:2 tn Heb “in the midst of years.” The meaning of the phrase, which occurs only here in the OT, is uncertain (cf. NIV “in our day”; NEB, NASB “in the midst of the years”).
  121. Habakkuk 3:2 tn Heb “revive it” (i.e., “your work”).
  122. Habakkuk 3:2 tn Heb “make known.” The implied object is “your deeds”; the pronoun “them,” referring to “deeds” in the previous line, was employed in the translation to avoid redundancy. The suffix on the form חַיֵּיהוּ (khayyehu, “revive it”) does double duty in the parallelism.
  123. Habakkuk 3:2 tn Heb “in turmoil remember [to show] compassion.”
  124. Habakkuk 3:3 tn In vv. 3-15 there is a mixture of eleven prefixed verbal forms (without vav [ו] consecutive or with vav conjunctive), sixteen suffixed forms, and three prefixed forms with vav consecutive. All of the forms are best taken as indicating completed action from the speaker’s standpoint (all of the prefixed forms being regarded as preterites). The forms could be translated with the past tense, but this would be misleading, for this is not a mere recital of God’s deeds in Israel’s past history. Habakkuk here describes, in terms reminiscent of past theophanies, his prophetic vision of a future theophany (see v. 7, “I saw”). From the prophet’s visionary standpoint the theophany is “as good as done.” This translation uses the English present tense throughout these verses to avoid misunderstanding. A similar strategy is followed by the NEB; in contrast note the NIV and NRSV, which consistently use past tenses throughout the section, and the NASB, which employs present tenses in vv. 3-5 and mostly past tenses in vv. 6-15.
  125. Habakkuk 3:3 sn Teman was a city or region in southern Edom.
  126. Habakkuk 3:3 tn Or “Sovereign One.” The term קָדוֹשׁ (qadosh, “holy [one]”) here refers to God’s sovereignty. See v. 3b.
  127. Habakkuk 3:3 sn The precise location of Mount Paran is unknown, but like Teman it was located to the southeast of Israel. Habakkuk saw God marching from the direction of Sinai.
  128. Habakkuk 3:3 tn Selah. The meaning of this musical term (which also appears in vv. 9, 13, and in the Psalms as well) is unknown.
  129. Habakkuk 3:3 tn Or “heavens.”
  130. Habakkuk 3:3 tn Heb “praise.” This could mean that the earth responds in praise as God’s splendor is observed in the skies. However, the Hebrew term תְּהִלָּה (tehillah, “praise”) can stand by metonymy for what prompts it (i.e., fame, glory, deeds).
  131. Habakkuk 3:4 tc The subject, נֹגָהּ (nogah, “brightness”), is masculine but the verb is feminine. The LXX and most English translations add “his” to the subject. The verb form in the MT, an imperfect form of the stative verb הָיָה (hayah, “to be”) should always be future tense, as here in the LXX, and in English translations in the Psalms. But here most English translations use past or present. The BHS editors suggest emending the verb תִּהְיֶה (tihyeh) to the preposition and suffix תַּחְתָּיו (takhtayv) to make “[his] brightness is as lightning beneath him.” While this gets rid of the grammatical problem using similar looking consonants, it is Heb “[His] radiance is like light.” Some see a reference to sunlight, but the Hebrew word אוֹר (ʾor) here refers to lightning, as the context indicates (see vv. 4b, 9, 11). The word also refers to lightning in Job 36:32 and 37:3, 11, 15.
  132. Habakkuk 3:4 tn Heb “two horns from his hand [belong] to him.” Sharp, pointed lightning bolts have a “horn-like” appearance. The weapon of “double lightning” appears often in Mesopotamian representations of gods. See Elizabeth Van Buren, Symbols of the Gods in Mesopotamian Art (AnOr), 70-73. The term קֶרֶן (qeren), here in the dual form, commonly means “horn” but can also be used metaphorically (HALOT 1145 s.v. 4).
  133. Habakkuk 3:4 tn Heb “and there [is] the covering of his strength”; or “and there is his strong covering.” The meaning of this line is unclear. The point may be that the lightning bolts are merely a covering, or outward display, of God’s raw power. In Job 36:32 one reads that God “covers his hands with light [or, “lightning”].”
  134. Habakkuk 3:5 tn Or “goes.” The imperfect form of a dynamic verbal root may be either present or future. Here it is translated in parallel to the future tense in v. 4.
  135. Habakkuk 3:5 tn Because of parallelism with the previous line, the meaning “pestilence” is favored for רֶשֶׁף (reshef) here, but usage elsewhere suggests a destructive bolt of fire may be in view. See BDB 958 s.v. sn There are mythological echoes here, for in Canaanite literature the god Resheph aids Baal in his battles. See J. Day, “New Light on the Mythological Background of the Allusion to Resheph in Habakkuk III 5, ” VT 29 (1979): 353-55.
  136. Habakkuk 3:5 tn Or “marches.” See note 1.
  137. Habakkuk 3:5 tn Heb “will go out at his feet.”
  138. Habakkuk 3:6 tn Heb “he stood” or “took a stand.” The verb forms change to perfects and preterites in this verse, signaling past time and therefore a shift in perspective. The section starting here, the memory of the past, functions to certify the character of the future.
  139. Habakkuk 3:6 tn This verb has been traditionally understood as “measure” (from מָדַד, madad), but the immediately following context (vv. 6b-7) favors the meaning “shake” from מוּד (mud; see HALOT 555 s.v.).
  140. Habakkuk 3:6 tn Heb “he looked and made [the] nations jump back [in fear].”
  141. Habakkuk 3:6 tn Or “crumbled,” “broke into pieces.”
  142. Habakkuk 3:6 tn Heb “ancient ways [or, “doings”] are his.” The meaning of this line is unclear. Traditionally it has been translated, “his ways are eternal.” However, in this context (see vv. 3, 7) it is more likely that the line speaks of the Lord taking the same route as in the days of Moses and Deborah (see Deut 33:2; Judg 5:4). See J. J. M. Roberts, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah (OTL), 154.
  143. Habakkuk 3:7 tn Heb “under trouble I saw the tents of Cushan.”sn Cushan was located in southern Transjordan.
  144. Habakkuk 3:7 tn The prefixed verb form is understood as past habitual just as the imperfect functions in background clauses in narrative.
  145. Habakkuk 3:7 tn R. D. Patterson takes תַּחַת אֲוֶן (takhat ʾaven) in the first line as a place name, “Tahath-Aven.” (Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah [WEC], 237.) In this case one may translate the verse as a tricolon: “I look at Tahath-Aven. The tents of Cushan are shaking, the tent curtains of the land of Midian.”
  146. Habakkuk 3:8 tn The verb is a perfect form and the root is stative so it could be past or present. Most translations render it as past (e.g. NASB, NIV, ESV, KJV, NRSV), though Holman renders it present tense.
  147. Habakkuk 3:8 sn The following context suggests these questions should be answered, “Yes.” The rivers and the sea, symbolizing here the hostile nations (v. 12), are objects of the Lord’s anger (vv. 10, 15).
  148. Habakkuk 3:8 tn Heb “so that.” Here כִּי (ki) is resultative. See the note on the phrase “make it” in 2:18.
  149. Habakkuk 3:8 tn Heb “you mount your horses.” As the next line makes clear, the Lord is pictured here as a charioteer, not a cavalryman. Note NRSV here, “when you drove your horses, // your chariots to victory.”
  150. Habakkuk 3:8 tn Or “chariots of deliverance.”
  151. Habakkuk 3:9 tn Heb “[into] nakedness your bow is laid bare.”
  152. Habakkuk 3:9 tn Heb “sworn in are the arrow-shafts with a word.” The passive participle of שָׁבַע (shava’), “swear an oath,” also occurs in Ezek 21:23 ET (21:28 HT) referencing those who have sworn allegiance. Here the Lord’s arrows are personified and viewed as having received a commission which they have vowed to uphold. In Jer 47:6-7 the Lord’s sword is given such a charge. In the Ugaritic myths Baal’s weapons are formally assigned the task of killing the sea god Yam.
  153. Habakkuk 3:9 tn Heb “[with] rivers you split open the earth.” A literal rendering like “You split the earth with rivers” (so NIV, NRSV) suggests geological activity to the modern reader, but in the present context of a violent thunderstorm, the idea of streams swollen to torrents by downpours better fits the As the Lord comes in a thunderstorm the downpour causes streams to swell to river-like proportions and spread over the surface of the ground, causing flash floods.
  154. Habakkuk 3:10 tn Heb “a heavy rain of waters passes by.” Perhaps the flash floods produced by the downpour are in view here.
  155. Habakkuk 3:10 sn The great deep, which is to be equated with the sea (vv. 8, 15), is a symbol of chaos and represents the Lord’s enemies.
  156. Habakkuk 3:10 sn Lifting the hands here suggests panic and is accompanied by a cry for mercy (see Ps 28:2; Lam 2:19). The forces of chaos cannot withstand the Lord’s power revealed in the storm.
  157. Habakkuk 3:11 tn Heb “in their lofty dwelling places.”
  158. Habakkuk 3:11 tn Or “at the light of your arrows they vanish.”
  159. Habakkuk 3:11 tn Heb “at the brightness of the lightning of your spear.”
  160. Habakkuk 3:13 tn Heb “anointed one.” In light of the parallelism with “your people” in the preceding line this could refer to Israel, but elsewhere the Lord’s anointed one is always an individual. The Davidic king is the more likely referent here.
  161. Habakkuk 3:13 tn Heb “you strike the head from the house of wickedness.”
  162. Habakkuk 3:13 tn Heb “laying bare [from] foundation to neck.”
  163. Habakkuk 3:14 tn Some take “warriors” with the following line, in which case one should translate, “you pierce [his] head with a spear; his warriors storm forward to scatter us” (cf. NIV). The meaning of the Hebrew term פְּרָזוֹ (perazo), translated here “his warriors,” is uncertain.
  164. Habakkuk 3:14 tc Heb “his shafts.” Some emend to “your shafts.” The translation above assumes an emendation to מַטֶּה (matteh, “shaft, spear”), the vav-yod (ו-י) sequence being derived from an original he (ה).
  165. Habakkuk 3:14 tn Heb “me,” but the author speaks as a representative of God’s people.
  166. Habakkuk 3:14 tn Heb “their rejoicing is like devouring the poor in secret.”
  167. Habakkuk 3:15 tn Heb “the foaming of the mighty [or “many”] waters.”
  168. Habakkuk 3:16 tn Heb “my insides trembled.”
  169. Habakkuk 3:16 tn Heb “decay entered my bones.”
  170. Habakkuk 3:16 tc Heb “beneath me I shook, which….” The Hebrew term אֲשֶׁר (’asher) appears to be a relative pronoun, but a relative pronoun does not fit here. The translation assumes a reading אֲשֻׁרָי (’ashuray, “my steps”) as well as an emendation of the preceding verb to a third plural form.
  171. Habakkuk 3:16 tn The translation assumes that אָנוּחַ (’anuakh) is from the otherwise unattested verb נָוָח (navakh, “sigh”; see HALOT 680 s.v. II נוח; so also NEB). Most take this verb as נוּחַ (nuakh, “to rest”) and translate, “I wait patiently” (cf. NIV).
  172. Habakkuk 3:16 tn Heb “to come up toward.”
  173. Habakkuk 3:17 tn Or “though.”
  174. Habakkuk 3:17 tn Heb “the produce of the olive disappoints.”
  175. Habakkuk 3:17 tn Heb “food.”
  176. Habakkuk 3:17 tn Or “are cut off.”
  177. Habakkuk 3:18 tn Or “in.”
  178. Habakkuk 3:19 tn Or perhaps, “is my wall,” that is, “my protector.”
  179. Habakkuk 3:19 tn Heb “he makes my feet like those of deer.”
  180. Habakkuk 3:19 tn Heb “he makes me walk on my high places.” sn Difficult times are coming, but Habakkuk is confident the Lord will sustain him. Habakkuk will be able to survive, just as the deer negotiates the difficult rugged terrain of the high places without injury.
  181. Habakkuk 3:19 tn Heb “For the leader, on my stringed instruments.”