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The Book of HABAKKUK

Part 5

The LORD’S Second Reply

This section is longer than the previous one’s because God’s answer is quite comprehensive. His answer can be divided into two parts: One directed toward Habakkuk, and the other toward the nations who will attack Israel. God, in effect, was saying the following: “I am not only going to deal with Babylon but with ALL ENEMIES of my people.”[1]

Directed Toward Habakkak

 (Habakkuk 2:2-4)

First, YAHWEH directs Habakkuk to write down the revelation that its message might be spread far and wide.[2] The next verse explains the reason for this: Because this vision relates not only to the present[3] but also to the future.[4] The next few clauses give Habakkuk HIS instructions:

  • First, it relates to the COMING OF MESSIAH to set up His kingdom.[5]
  • Second, he is instructed to “wait [endure patiently] for it [the coming of Messiah]!”[6]
  • Third, he is informed of two possible responses:
    • Someone may be righteous [liked Habakkuk] – but /SHRINK BACK[7]/ from following the LORD [MESSIAH]. If that occurs, Messiah will be DISPLEASED with him.[8]
    • A righteous person could LIVE BY FAITH. This is exactly what YAHWEH was commanding Habakkuk to do – to continue living by faith. If so, he would be REWARDED.[9]

Directed Toward Israel’s Enemies

 (Habakkuk 2:5-20)

God speaks directly to His enemies in this section – which, of course, were the enemies of Israel.[10] It is divided into a series of five WOES.[11]

  1. WOE to the nation that continues to seize what is not his[12] and exacts pledges [money or property] for itself.[13] This relates to nations who have shed blood in Israel and plundered the land.[14] God will cause the other nations to rise up and oppress them in retribution for their sin.[15] [Hab 2:5-8]
  2. WOE to the nation who profits from unlawful evil gain to try to insulate itself from future disaster.[16] [Hab 2:9-11]
  3. WOE to the nation what builds cities from bloodshed.[17] Without doubt, this WOE speaks of God’s judgment on Babylon.[18] But it also speaks clearly of the END TIMES. For one thing, the term “YAHWEH of hosts [armies]” is often an eschatological [end times] term.[19] And also the phrase “the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of YAHWEH as the waters cover the seas” clearly refers to the END TIMES.[20] In other words, God is going to defend His people in regard to both Babylon and all future enemies. [Hab 2:12-14]
  4. WOE to soldiers who make the enemy drunk to humiliate and expose their nakedness.[21] Here the judgment is expressed by the phrase “the cup of YAHWEH’S right hand” – which refers to God’s wrath.[22] [Hab 2:15-17]
  5. WOE to those nations who are worshipping idols.[23] This undoubtedly speaks of Babylon and its unadulterated idolatry.[24] But this WOE also should be related to “The Day of the LORD” and END TIME judgments.[25] [Hab 2:18-20]


[1] The pattern in this chapter follows the general pattern in Scripture: JUDGMENT - first for BELIEVERS, and then for UNBELIEVERS.[Cf. Luke 19:27, 1 Pet 4:17].

[2] Hab 2:2.

[3] Hab 2:3a: “yet for an appointed time” is speaking of God’s appointed judgments on Israel and the Babylonians [Cf. Jer 8:7].

[4] Hab 2:3b: “AND is a witness to the end”. The Hebrew word קֵץ kates = end is used repeatedly in the book of Daniel to refer to the “latter times” when the Messiah will come [Cf. Dan 8:17, 19; 11:35, 40; 12:4, 9, 13]. See also Dan 10:14.

[5] Hab 2:3c.This can be demonstrated in a number of ways. First, the Hebrew can easily be translated: “If He tarries, wait for Him – He will not be late.” Second, the book of Hebrews translates it just this way (Cf. Heb 10:37).  

[6] Heb 2:3c. The Hebrew word חכה chacah  translated “wait” basically means “patiently endure” and is regularly used concerning LAST TIMES events [Cf. Isa 30:18, Zeph 3:8, Dan 12:13 etc.] And, equally importantly, it was translated by the Greek verb ὑπομένω humomeno which means “to stand one’s ground, endure” in the Septuagint [the Greek translation of the Hebrew bible]. THIS is the exact word which is picked up by the writer of Hebrews in connection with the quote from Habakkuk [Cf. Heb 10:36].

[7] Though some translations have “Behold the PROUD” instead of “Behold the ONE WHO HAS SHRUNK BACK” as we are suggesting. The difference is in two Hebrew words which look almost the same – עפל afl = proud and עלף alf = to shrink back [become weak]. [This, as you can see, involves the interchange of two letters.] But both the Septuagint [the Greek translation of the O.T.] and Hebrews 10:38 translate this word by ὑποστέλλω hupostello= to shrink back. This makes it virtually certain that a scribal error occurred [probably early] in the transmission of the text. [It could be because the scribe did not like the implication that a believer could shrink back and not be rewarded by the coming Messiah – and thus purposely changed the text.] A similar thing probably occurred in the very next verse [Hab 2:5]. In Hab 2:5 the NKJV translation reads: "it is because of WINE that a man deals treacherously....". The word found in the MT is הַיַּ֣יִן which would be translated "the wine" from the word יַיִן = wine. HOWEVER, one of the Dead Sea Scrolls [1QpHab] reads הוֹן = WEALTH. These words look almost the same so could be easily miswritten by a hasty scribe. Further, that the Babylonians were motivated by WEALTH is documented by Jer 20:5, Ezek 29:19, II Kings 25:11-17, and II Chron 36:18.

[8] Hab 2:4a. This translation is fully justified by not only the Hebrew word ישׁר yashar itself but also the translation in the book of Hebrews [Heb 10:38 and the use of εὐδοκέω eudokeo = to be well-pleased]. The word ישׁר is translated please in Judges 14:3, 7, I Sam 18:20, 26 etc. In Heb 10:38, the Greek phrase δίκαιος = the righteous one clearly indicates that a righteous person can “shrink back”. This is entirely consistent not only with the book of Hebrews but also with the entire Word of God. This simply indicates DISAPPROVAL at the JUDGMENT-SEAT OF CHRIST [Cf.Heb 10:39, 4:13; II Cor 5:10, Rom 14:10].

[9] Cf. Heb 4:3. The opposite of displeased is rewarded [see 2 Cor 5:9, Heb 12:28, 13:21]. The obvious REWARD would be to SHARE HIS RULE [Cf Luke 19:17, Matt 25:21, Heb 12:28, Rev 2:26-27, 3:21]. See also Dan 12:13.

[10] These WOES seem directed not only at Babylon [for their atrocities against Israel in Habakkuk’s day] but also at ALL ENEMIES of Israel [extending to the END TIMES]. This seems to fit the depiction of Babylon in Scripture as representing all that is an enemy of God [Cf. Rev 17:5]. Isa 13-14 calls down judgment on both literal Babylon and mystery Babylon. Jer 25:12-26 seems to do the same.

[11] These WOES seem to fit the exact order of Hab 1:5-11 [see endnotes below]. The word translated “WOE” is the Hebrew word הוֹי hoey which was used in funeral dirges [Cf. 1 Kings 13:30, Jer 22:18 etc.]. In this context it  could mean: “You’re as good as dead”.

[12] Hab 2:6a. Cf. Hab 1:6.

[13] Hab 2:6b. This WOE extends from Hab 2:6-8.

[14] Hab 2:8. Cf. Hab 1:7.

[15] The history of Babylon bears this prophecy out. Babylon was conquered [never to be restored] less than 30 years after Nebuchadnezzar died. [It was conquered by Cyrus in 539 B.C.] Its supremacy and power were short lived indeed. Babylon today stands in ruins.

[16] Cf. Hab 1:8.

[17] Cf. Hab 1:9.

[18] Comparing especially Hab 2:13 with Jer 51:58, 64.

[19] For example, Isa 2:12, 13:4, 14:24; Jer 30:8, 31:23 etc. This is because in “that day” Christ will descend with His armies and defend Jerusalem [Zech 14:1-15, Isa 31:4-9, Dan 2:34-35, Joel 3:9-17, Matt 24:30, II Thess 1:7-8, Rev 19:11-16 etc.].

[20] This has NOT OCCURRED yet in history but WILL! [Cf. Isa 11:9, Ps 72:19, Ezek 39:21, Rev 11:15, 15:4 etc.]

[21] Hab 2:15. Cf. Hab 1:10. In contrast, verse 16 suggests the UNGODLY LIFE (“uncircumcised”) of the Chaldeans [Cf. Gen 17:14, Ex 12:48, Ezek 44:9 etc. which all point out that the PEOPLE OF GOD should be circumcised].

[22] Hab 2:16. See Is. 51:17, 22; Rev. 14:10; 16:19. Cf also Rev 18:6 and END TIME Babylon’s judgment.

[23] Cf. Hab 1:11.

[24] Cf. Hab 1:11, 16. Also note Isa 21:9, Jer 50:2, 51:47; Ezek 21:21, Dan 3:1, 12.

[25] Cf Hab 2:20 in relation to Zech 1:7, 2:13. The exact translation is: “Hush ALL THE EARTH from His presence!

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