"We will not die." While Habakkuk is horrified by the punishment for
Judah revealed to him, he also believes God's promises that Israel will
never be fully destroyed.
"while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves" - but
why that Chaldeans, who seem even more wicked that Judah?
"like sea creatures with no ruler" - there is no organized resistance to
the Chaldeans annexation of nation after nation.
"slay nations" - while warfare was the leading cause of death for males
in the empire, the purpose was to assimilate the people into Babylonian
culture - not kill them. We saw this close up in Daniel.
Having asked his question, Habakkuk watches for the answer.
The Proud Man and the Five Woes
While the preceding description was clearly about the Chaldeans, and
Nebuchadnezzar in particular, the description of the "proud man" and
the Five Woes is more variously interpreted as:
The Assyrians (assumes an earlier time of writing).
Mystery Babylon of the Future
If the Shoe Fits ...
"it testifies of the end" - supports the Mystery Babylon theory.
"The righteous shall live by his faithfulness". The KJV and other
translations say "faith", but this is the only place where this Hebrew word
is translated as such. The justification for translating it so
here is that Habakkuk is written in poetry. The first part of the
couplet is "Look at the proud, his soul is not upright" - and the
second part contrasts it with, "but the righteous shall live by faith".
Faithfulness or obedience is the evidence of a living faith, for "faith without
works is dead". But translating literally as "faithfulness" could ironically
seem to be a point of pride for the "righteous". There are good reasons
for both translations.
"wine betrays" - just as chemical addiction gradually takes over
the brain, so pride becomes an addiction that consumes the victim.
"Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied."
"He gathers all nations to himself and collects all the peoples as his own." -
describes Nebuchadnezzar - but also a great many modern regimes.
"Will not all these take up a taunt" - supports the Chaldean theory,
as the fall of Babylon was of a very different character than the fall
of Assyria. The new Persian rulers replaced Babylon more through
popular disaffection than through warfare.
The First Woe - Wealth through Debt
"Woe to him who amasses what is not his and makes himself rich with many loans!
How long will this go on?" Oh my, talk about the shoe fitting. So
what do we have to look forward to?
"Because you have plundered many nations, the remnant of the people will
The Second Woe - Unjust Gain
"Woe to him who builds his house by unjust gain." The motivation for the unjust
gain is key: "to place his nest on high and escape the hand of disaster!"
This is Mammon worship - putting your trust in money to deliver you, rather
than the Creator of all Wealth.
"Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed" - the spoils of war seem
profitable. God even calls the spoils of Egypt "payment" for Nebuchadnezzar's
seige of Tyre to execute God's judgment.
The idea that destruction creates wealth is a persistent one.
It has been called in modern time the "Broken Window Theory".
"the labor of the people only feeds the fire" - this is the fundamental
fallacy of the broken window theory. War and other destructive behaviour
may increase wealth for a few - but destroys far more.
In God's kingdom, "They will neither harm nor destroy on all My holy mountain,
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the sea is full of
water." Isaiah 11:9