Waiting for God to come1
I’m going to stand here on this tower
And wait for the LORD.
I want to know what he has to say to me,
And how he’ll answer my questions.
Get it in writing2
The LORD said:
“I want you to put this prophecy in writing.
Get it on clay tablets so it’s easy to read.
Make it easy to understand, too.
I’ll tell you later.
It’s about what’s going to happen.
But you’ll have to wait to hear it.
If the waiting drags on, linger with it.
When it comes, it’ll be on time.
Good people trust God4
A proud person isn’t a good person.
Good people get to keep their lives,
As a reward for their devotion.
Greedy people never have enough5
Wealth is dangerous.
Proud people won’t last.
They crank open their greedy mouths
Wide as a grave.
Like death, they never have enough.
They swallow nations
And collect people like trophies.
“Oh my, look at all that stuff you have.
It’s not all yours, is it?
If not, how long can you keep it?
The longer you keep it, the more you’ll owe.
7Aren’t you worried about the owners?
What’s going to happen when they come for payment?
Won’t they take everything?”
8You robbed a lot of nations.
But you left survivors, and they’re coming for you.
You killed their people
And you destroyed their cities.
That’s why they’ll come.
You’re rich with shame9
Too bad you got rich the wrong way.
Your family will be ashamed of you.
You isolate your home and add security,
Hoping to protect what you stole.
In the end, you’ll die for what you did.
11Stones in your house will cry out against you.
Rafters will testify to the evil you’ve done.
You work for nothing12
Too bad you built your city with blood,
Anchored on bedrock of injustice.
You think you’re accomplished,
But you accomplished nothing that will last.
The LORD of everyone says this:
14The world will one day honor the LORD.
Just as the ocean is full of water,
The people will be filled with awe.
You’re drunk with power15
Too bad, you get your neighbors drunk on fear
So you can see them naked
And take what you want.
There’s nothing but shame.
When it’s your turn to drink from the cup of the LORD
Your sweet pride will dissolve into bitter shame.
17What you did to the cities of Lebanon
Will come back and crush you.
You killed the people and their animals.
And you damaged their land.
Say hello to your idol18
What good is an idol?
It’s just wood,
Shaped by a sculptor,
Dipped in molten metal,
And saddled with lies.
Why trust the word of what can’t talk.
Or to a block on rock,
“Rise and shine.”
What can it say to you?
It’s locked inside a wall of gold and silver.
There’s no one breathing in there.
The LORD is here, in his sacred temple.
People in ancient times often wrote onto soft clay tablets, which they let harden. Others wrote with ink on hardened clay. Paper was still several centuries from being invented in China in about 100 AD, as far as the record reports so far. Egyptians invented paper-like papyrus in the 300s BC. It was made from the spongy pith inside reeds.
We can give Habakkuk the benefit of the doubt that he managed to do this for the people in his day. But there are a lot of unanswered questions in what follows, for Bible scholars today. Many words are difficult to interpret. It’s especially easy to see when comparing Bible translations side by side. The best of scholars are sometimes left to make their best educated guesses. See notes for verses four and five, for example.
The Hebrew word is ’ᵉmûnâ. It can mean: faithful, dependable, trustworthy, devoted, steadfast. New Testament writers, such as Paul, quote this verse to argue that people are saved because of their faith in God, not because they are Jews or because they obey all the Jewish laws: “Remember what our Bible says: good people will live because of their faith” (Romans 1:17). Paul was paraphrasing Habakkuk 2:4. Bible experts debate what Paul meant by this cryptic phrase. German scholar Martin Luther (1483-1546), a Roman Catholic monk, eventually got himself excommunicated from the church partly because of what he read into this phrase. He saw an idea that inspired a Christian protest movement that became known as the Protestant Reformation. Luther, the father of Protestant churches, said Paul seemed to be teaching that we are saved through our faith, not through obeying religious laws or by observing rituals, such as confessing sins to a priest or taking communion in a church service. Another way some read the phrase: Good (righteous) people show their faith by the way they live. Another: Good people will live because of God’s faithfulness—meaning that we can trust God to save us as he promised to do.
The Hebrew word in ancient copies of Habakkuk says “wine.” But the word in the oldest surviving document means “wealth.” This comes from a 2,000-year-old commentary on Habakkuk found among the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947. Whichever word Habakkuk intended, wine or wealth didn’t seem to be his focus. He said he quoted God talking about bad human beings—what made them bad and what would happen to them.
Literally, Sheol, a word Old Testament writers used to describe the place of the dead. It is a kind of underworld where the dead are cut off from the living—and from God—and there is no coming back.
Bible writers often use breath as a metaphor for physical life or spiritual power. “The LORD God made a man from the dust of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath that brought him to life. The man was alive” (Genesis 2:7). “When your Spirit breathes on them, they come to life. And new life appears on the earth” (Psalms 104:30).
- Sorry, there are currently no questions for this chapter.