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Commentary of The Book of Habakkuk

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A Commentary of the Book of Habakkuk - Chapter 1


Preliminary note: The first word in the book of the prophet Habakkuk is often translated as saying or burden. We list for the reader at the beginning of our commentary all the other variants, thus indicating that the Hebrew words can have a wide range of meaning and therefore a translator is constantly compelled to choose from the selection the closest variant, knowing full well that this will pick out only one aspect.   

   H4853 מַּשָּׂא֙ massa', noun, masculine.
   1. a burden,
   2. specifically: tribute, honor, homage,
   3. abstractly: a burden-bearer, bearer's wages,
   4. figurative: an utterance, a saying,
   5. chiefly: doom, calamity, bad end, ruin, damnation,   
   6. especially: a chant, singing,
   7. spiritual: a desire, lust, passion, longing.


The Hebrew word “Massa” forms the throughout the motif of the book. In verse 1, as an overture as it were, all seven variations (see above) sound at once, in order to then in the course with one or the other variation paint out the dialogue and also the events in the background. Not the Lord, it is Habakkuk who introduces the dialogue. With questions he assails God, who tells him in veiled speeches in the verses 5 to 11 the source of all evil. In the third section of the first chapter, verses 12 to 17, Habakkuk follows up with further questions embedded in deep knowledge of the nature of God and revealing some understanding of the dramatic events taking place around him. Chapter 2 remains reserved for the visionary vision. The judge shows the causes, announces the judgment that he always justifies with the addition of testimonies and provides a preview of the restoration of justice. If God still tells veiled in the second chapter, he reveals things in the New Testament and explains them with Acts 13 and the book of Revelation and with other scriptures of the New Testament. The book obviously has a distinctive reference to the New Testament. As Habakkuk already announced in chapter 2.1, he deals with the vision in the third chapter. He still seems disturbed, if not confused. In this agitated state it breaks out from his deepest innermost, formulates in arhythmic words his pent-up emotions. Overflowing heart and soul'; he Simple forgot to call his song a psalm?

Who was Habakkuk?

Of course, he was a prophet, but who were his parents, where did he live and, above all, at what time did he live? To be precise, we do not know. All we know of Habakkuk is his name and the book named after him. All extra-biblical traditions about the prophet belong to the realm of speculation. And yet, one thing we can deduce and that is when Habakkuk must have lived, because he prophesied about the coming exile and that began in 606/605 B.C. But we do know something else about him and that seems to have predestined him as a prophet: Habakkuk had a close relationship with God. I wonder if it was always like that? How does one arrive at such a relationship and how can I recognize this in myself and others?

Division of the book

Habakkuk begins with the word “HaMassa” (Ha is the article), whose numerous translation variants could give the chapters the appropriate headings, because Massa means not only burden, chapter 1, but also disaster, destruction, chapter 2, and then also song, chapter 3. In the first chapter the burden and affliction of the prophet are emphasized, in the second chapter disaster and destruction over the enemies, and in the third chapter Habakkuk sings a moving restless wandering song.

Habakkuk, Chapter 1 - The Burden    

The first verse, as said before, can be considered as the heading of the first chapter, but just as the overall heading of the book: "The saying which Habakkuk the prophet beheld." The book begins with the word "saying." At this point more aptly translated as load or burden. The burden the prophet speaks of and how he is freed from it is shown to him by God in a vision in chapter 2.   

The name Habakkuk means double embrace. We know such a scene when friends embrace each other and express that they are closely connected and familiar with each other. Such a bond has a name in the New Testament: Philadelphia. In it can be seen how sweet it is when brothers dwell together in one accord. Honest and sincere relationship with God brings about a sincere and cordial relationship between brothers, who then even become one's friends.

From the words of the prophet we learn: He feels secure in the arms of the Lord and that they belong together forever. In chapter 1:12 he formulates his firm confidence: "We shall not die." This phrase also has its New Testament counterpart, also expressed in just one word: Blessedness. In the New Testament, it is used to denote eternal life, as in Heb. 1:14: "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for the sake of those who are to inherit blessedness? The arms of the Lord are also a protective wall against the enemies for the prophet in the dangerous times. A truly blissful knowledge, deeply engraved in Habakkuk's heart. Nevertheless, he is most violently aroused: "How long, Lord, have I cried out and you do not hear. I cry out to you: violence! And you do not save." (verse 2) How long will Habakkuk cry out? We will learn the details in chapter 2.

In verse 3, he immediately pushes with the next question: Why do you let me see disaster? For a person like Habakkuk, the things he sees and experiences can be nothing but unbearable. The past crisis gave us a vague idea of things to come. Exactly what those things are, we also learn in chapter 2. The question period is far from over: "And (you Lord) look upon travail?" God sees evil, the prophet well knows, but wonders why the Lord is silent. Habakkuk does not let up and so he names four cruel things to the Lord: desolation, violence, quarrels and strife. With four terms he summarizes in his own words the circumstances and the events that God deals with in chapter 1,5-11 by telling him the cause of the evil and presenting it in detail in the vision, chapter 2.

Verse 4: Therefore the law becomes powerless, and justice never comes forth; for the lawless man surrounds the righteous: therefore justice comes forth perverted. The law becomes powerless. Of what law does Habakkuk speak? The Hebrew word for law is Torah. It is usually used to refer to the five books of Moses, but not only, and many readers may not know this. The first time the word is found is in Genesis 26:5, there God speaks to Isaac and tells him that Abraham obeyed the Torah of the Lord. It is a different Torah, different from the one from Sinai. Now Torah literally means instruction, teaching rule or law. The word root explains how the Torah is transmitted: flowing like water, raining, laying or throwing (especially with an arrow) i.e. shooting; figuratively also: pointing to something, like aiming with a finger, i.e. teaching. Abraham was taught by God and that by the Torah of the Lord. As we will see, this must also apply to the Torah of which Habakkuk speaks. From the texts of the prophet and their parallels in the New Testament it will become clear. Habakkuk is truly a prophet of God, for his book consistently points to the New Testament. Both parts of the Bible are in agreement, singing the same song.

If Habakkuk laments the powerless law, it can also be applied to the law in our so-called liberal democracies. During the twenty-twenty crisis in Germany - nothing, nothing - the fundamental rights were suspended under the pretext of a deadly pandemic, of which the WHO announced in a report after almost three years that it was a moderately severe flu. They knew it before and even the announcement is a lie, because what does medium severe mean, if 97% of the population do not even notice the pandemic and in the first year according to the German Federal Statistical Office and the statistics of the European Momo in 2020 a significant under-mortality was documented. God punishes them lie, if one wants to see it.

Let us not rely on the written law, because it is not only increasingly rendered powerless, it is twisted by all means. Well, verses 5 to 11 do not only explain the basic evil and its source, they are also the prelude to the coming events, which are specified, judged and authenticated in the second chapter. In verse 6, the Lord begins to describe the originator of it all, but in veiled speech. Only in the New Testament he/it is revealed.

Verse 5: Behold among the nations, and look, and be astonished; for I work a work in your days, ye would not believe it if it were told. What is this work of which the Lord speaks and then works it himself and those do not believe it even if he tells them? From the Old Testament, it becomes difficult to answer the question. But because the Lord Jesus revealed it in the Apostle Paul, Paul quotes Hab.1,5 at the appropriate time, namely in Acts 13:41 and applies it to those Jews in Antioch of Pisidia who resisted him most fiercely and then also initiated a persecution against him and Barnabas.  

The quotation gives us another indication of the Lord's work in those days. Despite threats and persecution, it accomplishes great things. Acts 13:48: But when those from the nations heard it, they rejoiced and glorified the word of the Lord; and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. Do we hear it? Those who believe are ordained to eternal life. Prophetically, it points to the uncountable multitude mentioned in Revelation. One of the elders asks John: Who are these, and whence have they come? John answers: My Lord, you know. And the elder does indeed know, for he replies: These are they which come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.  

In Acts 13 the tribulation is indicated, which is caused by Jews and is first directed against Jews, like against Paul and Barnabas, and afterwards against all who remain firm in the faith in Jesus. These are the ones who will walk in white robes. Rev. 7:13 Millions of people came out of the great tribulation. This reveals an important piece of the puzzle in Habakkuk 2, which we will discuss later. Let us not forget, revelation means unveiling. There are always things revealed that are hidden in the Old Testament, that are only told about in a veiled way.

Verse 6: For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, the fierce and impetuous people who roam the breadths of the earth to take possession of dwellings that do not belong to them. The LORD will awaken the Chaldeans to let them do what? To pass through the broad of the earth, to take possession of dwellings that do not belong to him, and to devour. The Chaldeans are thieves, for they make wide and take possession of what is not theirs. For how long? Only for a short time. The Chaldeans are robbers, that is, by force and threats of murder they seize the property of others. For how long? Only for a short time. And they are murderers, for they devour their prey like eagles. For how long? Until they themselves are eaten.

Who are the Chaldeans? For this we look at a few passages. The first time the country is mentioned is in Genesis 11:28: And Haran (Abraham's brother) died before the face of Tarah his father, in the land of his birth, at Ur in Chaldea. Abraham therefore came from Chaldea, today's southern Iraq. Later he moved to the north, to Charan (meaning desolate): And the Lord said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto the land which I will show thee. Abraham, therefore, although now dwelling in Charan, still stayed in his native land, which means we must also assign the north to the land of the Chaldeans. Thus we would have described not only the size of the country, also the Chaldeans are identified with it. This people has already been roaming the earth for quite some time to seize foreign possessions. In the letter to the Hebrews, the apostle Paul reminds us that they endured the dispossession, which must have been some time ago, with joy. For you have both shown participation to the captives and received the robbery of your goods with joy, knowing that you have for yourselves a better and lasting possession. Heb. 10:34.

The word Chaldea also has synonyms, which are Babel or Babylon. This can be explained by the titles of Cyrus, who was both king of Persia, Ezra 4:3, and king of Babylon, Ezra 5:13. Cyrus himself goes further, for he said, "The God of heaven has given me all the kingdoms of the earth." Now we know that strictly speaking it was not all the kingdoms of the earth. But from a prophetic point of view, there is a system that has ruled over the whole earth for centuries and is called Babylon in Revelation, a spiritual system that we find by name 12 times in the New Testament, just as the word Chaldea is mentioned 12 times, but in the Old Testament. In the next verse we get to know the system and the spirit behind it.

Verse 7: It is terrible and awful; its right and majesty proceed from it. The word "terrible" is a tris legomenon, that is, it occurs three times in the Bible, twice in the Song of Songs and once here in Hab.1:7. If the Chaldeans, that is the whore of Babylon, are also terrible, the war bands of the Shulamith, the true bride, are more terrible and will destroy the Chaldeans at the end of the great tribulation. Now we look at Babylon's right and majesty. The Hebrew word mishpat (right) is used to describe 1. a judicial judgment and 2. it refers to a human or divine law or even privilege, whether a legal or customary special right. Well, where is there such a thing, special rights for Babylon? Obviously and in all mouth. Now we come to her extraordinary majesty. The Hebrew word describes an elevation or a leprous scab. That leprosy in the Bible consistently stands for sin, which can be seen by everyone, should be common knowledge.

Verse 8: And faster than leopards are his horses, and swifter than evening wolves; and his riders dash along, and his riders come from afar, flying in like an eagle hastening to feed. For a reliable interpretation of the verse one pays attention above all to the comparison of the speeds, the leopard comes along with approx. 60 km/h, the horse is up to 70 km/h fast and the wolf makes it on approx. 65 km/h, but the eagle overtakes them all. Loosely it travels with 120 km/h in the horizontal, if it is not straight on a walk, with flabby 50 km/h. In the nosedive, however, it takes off, racing 320 km/h towards its prey. For interpretation, two important distinctions must be made: 1. horses are flight animals, the other three are predators, and 2. only horses are suitable for riding. Furthermore, we should keep in mind their range. Horses are found on all five continents, the leopard only in Africa and in the southern semicircle of Asia. The wolf's range extends across the northern United States, large areas of Canada, and parts of Europe and Asia. The eagles are found distributed by species on all five continents.

Now to the prey pattern of the three predators.
Leopards hunt steppe animals, such as gazelles and antelopes, wolves mainly roe deer, stags, fallow deer. The eagles can attack now and then also already sometimes high-spiritedly a lion. The Chaldeans of Babylon mainly, but not only, target gazelles and deer, which we also find described in the Song of Songs. They stand metaphorically for Jews and Christians who have a love relationship with Jesus: "My beloved is like a gazelle or a young deer," she, the Sulamite, says.  Not only does she compare her beloved to a gazelle, but he also takes up the image when he gushes over her, "Your two breasts are like a twin pair of young gazelles."

Horses metaphorically stand predominantly for war in the Bible, the most famous of which are associated with the four apocalyptic horsemen. The white rider is considered the most mysterious, because its interpretations are controversial. You can find our understanding here. About the war, which the other three bring, there is agreement, only the when, about that again the spirits of the scholars divide. Job 39 describes a fearless warhorse that will take on any opponent, so, as mentioned earlier, the war armies of heaven, riding white horses, will crush the armies of Satan at the end of the three and a half year tribulation.

Verse 9: They come to violence all of them; the striving of their faces is forward, and captives they gather together like sand. None of them shows the slightest mercy, all of them, but really all of them, come as doers of violence and they gather the prisoners together like sand. The Holocaust was already cruel, but this spectacle surpasses everything that has gone before. Why is the image of sand taken up? God once told Abraham that his seed will be as great in quantity as the sand by the sea. The sand is used to describe the faithful of the earth who, after the Rapture of the Stars, will be mercilessly murdered by the Chaldeans from Babylon. We will elaborate on the word violence below, when we take a closer look at the vision of the second chapter.

Verse 10: And it mocks kings, and princes are a laughingstock to it; it laughs at every fortress, and pours up earth and takes it. Louder and louder becomes their disgusting talk. Whom do these actually mock, whom do the Chaldeans mock? They let off about kings and princes, focus their mockery on them, in addition the respectful and nefarious ones have positioned themselves. They do not do their mockery with the rulers of this earth, their verbal derailments apply to those of Rev. 1,6, whom God has made kings and priests long ago and whom they blaspheme already today. The reliability of our interpretation is explained by the Hebrew word prince. They are not called Sar, which would be the usual term for prince, God uses the Hebrew word Chasan at this point. This word is used to describe honorable and also publicly honored persons, such as honest pastors, faithful judges, clean reporters, and many more. The honored ones of the Jews and "Greeks" are publicly mocked, the Chasan discredited by lies, also by Jews. In German we have a descriptive term for it: Rufmord! And they commit it especially in Germany. It is not a few Chasan who are exposed to the evil hostilities. Examples: Olaf Latzel, pastor; Prof. Dr. Sucharit Bakhdi, physician; Hans-Georg Maaßen, former president of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution; Prof. Dr. Stefan Hockertz, immunologist, pharmacologist; Christian Dettmar, family judge in Weimar; Dr. Wolfgang Wodarg, physician and SPD politician; Stefan Magnet, editor-in-chief of Auf1-TV, and that is only the beginning.

Verse 11: Then it goes on like the wind, and goes on and goes into debt: this his power is his God! When it says in this verse: "This his power is his God," the power points to the power of Satan, which will give to the one who will seize everything and kill an uncountable multitude, because they have previously made their clothes white in the blood of the Lamb. "We will not die," Habakkuk calls out to them, or as American Christians put it, "You can't kill a Christian, you only can change his address." Habakkuk speaks of the eternal life of the overcomers. Many will recognize the evil one late, but then flee and plead to their advocate, Jesus Christ. The assurance is also offered for the last days, which can take effect today. Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord - Jesus Christ - shall be saved.

Verse 12: "Are you not of old, Yahweh, my God, my Holy One?" We come to the most important question of all with this question, for it touches on our personal relationship with God. When Habakkuk asks, are you not of old Yahweh my God? Then he goes back in thought to the time when he came to know God. We may assume that from childhood he learned from his parents and they endeared the Lord to him. And from his youth, he certainly belonged to those who witnessed to Jesus and cultivated their relationship with Him. But now his question reveals self-doubt. He is in a crisis. In times of crisis it is important to recall all the arguments, to go through all the facts again, because the Christian faith is not based on assumptions or speculations, but on facts. This faith must be strengthened and not weakened by depressive moods, especially when you not only hear about the storms, but they come upon you.

God seems to be silent at this time because neighbors, friends and brothers may be afflicted or even killed. There is a very effective remedy for doubt: go out, witness to your Lord, intercede for your neighbor in need, cultivate the relationship with your friend and stand by your brother. Fellowship and relationship are the key words, if you live in them, they will strengthen you and soon the joy of the Lord will gird you, it will be a protection against all evil that desires to take root in you.   

And most surely, then the confession will come over the lips of the many others, "Thou Lord hast set the Chaldeans for judgment - for lawless ones - and O Rock, appointed for chastening - for those who are to be saved -" The many who will then wash their robes in the blood of the Lamb, understanding the global assaults of the Chaldeans coming in waves, grasp that God has appointed the Babylonians to rebuke the upright, that they may escape the judgment of eternal damnation and be given eternal life by the Judge of all the earth.

Note: In the twelfth verse, the trinity of God is implied. Habakkuk says: Are you not of old 1. Yahweh, 2. Elohay, and 3. Kadoshi. The name Yahweh here stands for the Son, Elohay for the Father, and Kadoshi for the Holy Spirit.

Verse 13: You are too pure of eyes to see evil, and you are not able to look at hardship. Why do you watch robbers, keep silent when the lawless devours the one who is more righteous than he? Jesus once said about the eyes: "The lamp of the body is your eye; if your eye is clear, your whole body is light; but if it is evil, your body is dark. And because God is light and there is no darkness in him, the lawless one forms a contrast; by his eyes it can be seen that there is only darkness in him. Now God does not like to see people struggling in vain, although sincere, but not yet having heard and understood the truth. Also for this the judgment serves, many Muslims will recognize that the God of the Bible does not lie, is not deceitful, he always says the truth. They will realize: Jesus is the true Messiah, who really died 2000 years ago. But Habakkuk also deals with the senseless toil of the lawless. Everything they gather will not be for them. Will God really stand idly by and watch their depredations? In chapter 2 we find out.

Verse 14: And make men like the fish of the sea, like the worm that has no ruler? I have a question about the question: Why does God make people like fish that have no ruler? Maybe you'll figure it out yourself. We thought about it for a long time and researched it, also because fish and worms have a common characteristic and we had to find that out. At this point briefly the hint: What the Elberfelder and Martin Luther translated as Gewürm (creeping things) is an attempt to somehow get a handle on the Hebrew word Remes - רֶמֶשׂ. The word root might bring us a little closer to the solution.

   H7430 רָמַשׂ ramas - verb
   1. to glide quickly, i.e., to crawl or move with short steps.
   2. to swarm (by analogy).

The common feature could be the verb to swarm. Among land animals, there are no crawling or fast-sliding animals that form swarms, but fish do, such as sardines or herring. The following video explains vividly why people are made into fish. The predators then have it easier. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-PaxdJoOEIU. Now we are still looking for the Remes (worms?) Verse 15: He lifts them all up with his rod, he draws them in with his net, and gathers them into his yarn; therefore he rejoices and exults. He, the chief of the Chaldeans, is both angler and fisherman. With bait he lures the fish, pulls them up with the rod and thus kills both, the worm and the fish. The perverse thing about him, he rejoices in it. He then catches the mass of fish, the sardines, with a trawl net. Verse 16: Therefore he sacrifices to his net - the death - and smokes to his yarn - the death - because by them his part is fat and his food is feisty.

Thinking in opposites. The faith in Jesus is also the faith in eternal life. The faith of religions is a faith that leads to eternal death. Verse 17: Should he therefore empty his net, and constantly set out to murder nations relentlessly? How does he murder? The Hebrew cherem - חרם - for net explains itself, for its word root says: 1. to set apart, 2. to devote to religious purposes, 3. to devote to destruction, and 3: to get a flat nose. The word root is חרם. It is pronounced charam and is related to haram from Arabic, which is also used to declare food pure. Now we can answer the question: How does he murder? In that a person devotes himself to religious rites by secluding himself - charam - he gives himself to spiritual slaughter and is dead, spiritually dead or, as charam can also be translated:  Getting a flat nose.

The last question: "Should he therefore empty his net and constantly set out to slaughter nations relentlessly? This question is answered in the vision of the second chapter.

Berlin, June 13, 2023

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