Habakkuk's dialogue with Deity
1st March 2008, hej
1) Evil verus God
Habakkuk is told of the triumph of the knowledge of He Who Will Be Mighty Ones on the earth.
According to Unger (1957), we know nothing of Habakkuk's life. It is thought he belonged to one of the Levitical families charged with producing the music for the temple, as he addresses his song to the “chief singer on stringed instruments” (3:19). Unger quotes two likely dates as being in the latter part of Josiah's reigh 625-608 BC or the early part of Jehoichim 608-597BC. Both dates place him about the beginning of Nebuchadnezzar's reign, and the expansion of the Babylonian power. To place Habakkuk in context, he follows Isaiah, and was contemporary with Jeremiah and Joel. He preceeds Daniel and Ezekiel.
Habakkuk records a conversation between himself and Yahweh and at the conclusion of this record he pens a prophetic prayer of praise to be made a song for Israel.
Just as his contemporary Jeremiah laments the state of the nation, so does Habakkuk.
Yahweh, how long will I cry, and you will not hear? I cry out to you "Violence!" and will you not save? Why do you show me iniquity, and look at perversity? For destruction and violence are before me. There is strife, and contention rises up. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth; for the wicked surround the righteous; therefore justice goes forth perverted. (World English Bible, Hab 1:1-4).
The answer given is clear and unambigious: Yahweh is working among the Nations, though it is only evident to those who know and watch.
Look among the nations, watch, and wonder marvelously; for I am working a work in your days, which you will not believe though it is told you. For, behold, I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, that march through the breadth of the earth, to possess dwelling places that are not theirs. (WEB, Hab 1:5-6).
Certainly the rapid rise in power and expansion of territory under Nebuchadnezzar would be a 'wonder'. It is remarkable even to us in the era which has seen the rise and fall of such systems as the Nazis and Soviets.
Habakkuk, of course, quite rightly points out that these Chaldeans are pagans who subcribe their power to inanimate objects. As an aside Habakkuk notices the effect of this form of judgement is that it seems as if man is like the beasts of the field, with no ruler. It seems as if Yahweh is not in control, though Habakkuk knows He is.
You who have purer eyes than to see evil, and who cannot look on perversity, why do you tolerate those who deal treacherously, and keep silent when the wicked swallows up the man who is more righteous than he, and make men like the fish of the sea, like the creeping things, that have no ruler over them? (WEB, Hab 1:13-14).
In effect Habakkuk is asking the reason for the tolerance of evil on earth, and the reason for suffering.
2) Why is there suffering?
The answer from Yahweh is a comfort to us. Suffering is but for a short time, and those that 'see' will wait know it. Yahweh answered Habakkuk for us also,
For the vision is yet for the appointed time, and it hurries toward the end, and won't prove false. Though it takes time, wait for it; because it will surely come. It won't delay. Behold, his soul is puffed up. It is not upright in him, but the righteous will live by his faith. (WEB, Hab 2:3-4).
We are told quite simply that the evil of mankind is not of Yahweh. That evil is the outworking of mankind's own greed and ambition.
Behold, isn't it of Yahweh of Armies that the peoples labor for the fire, and the nations weary themselves for vanity? (WEB, Hab 2:13)
Instead the plan and purpose is:
For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of Yahweh, as the waters cover the sea. (WEB, Hab 2:14).
The purpose is that the current evil would, for those who wait for it, be replaced with the knowledge of the glory of Yahweh. That this knowledge of Yahweh would fill the earth entirely. We know from other scripture how this is to be done. They shall hear a word to walk in it (Isaiah 30:21) and preachers will be sent to speak the Word (Romans 10:10-18).
To emphasise the point of the control Yahweh has, Yahweh points out to Judah that they will soon experience the invasion that Lebanon had experienced. Their violence would be punished by violence. And those who trust in their idols would be shown their idol was vanity. They would see the power of Yahweh, who before things happened told them (Isaiah 42:9).
Woe to him who says to the wood, 'Awake!' or to the mute stone, 'Arise!' Shall this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in its midst. But Yahweh is in his holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before him!" (WEB, Hab 2:19-20).
As yet Yahweh is not his His Holy Temple, and the earth is not 'silent' or obedient before Him. This is a picture of the future. This answer must have satisfied Habakkuk's concerns as the next chapter is a prayer of thanks.
3) Habakkuk's Prophecy
Habakkuk puts his prayer of thanks to music, so we can be certain it was to be used to teach others. This prayer is quite a remarkable prophecy using much of the imagery they would have been familiar with from the well known work of Isaiah some 100 or so years before. This prayer also has parrallels with other prophecies.
We will consider the following verse by verse: (all quotes are from the World English Bible. WEB):
Hab 3:2 Yahweh, I have heard of your fame. I stand in awe of your deeds, Yahweh. Renew your work in the midst of the years. In the midst of the years make it known. In wrath, you remember mercy.
This shows the respect all servants of Yahweh should have when they consider the work Yahweh has with the nations and us. That though there is judgement, there is mercy for the individual. Consider also our Lord's prayer, “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed (or make Holy) be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” Asking for Yahweh's “will to be done” resembles the request of Him to “renew your work”. And as we know this work is to make a “people for the name” (Deut 28:10, 2 Sam 7:23, Amos 9:12, Acts 15:14) or to “make holy” the Name.
Hab 3:3 God came from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah. His glory covered the heavens, and his praise filled the earth.
Note the strange beginning to this part of the prayer with the “Selah” or pause to consider after it. What does it mean to say 'the Mighty Ones came from Teman and the Holy One from Mt Paran'? We are told the Holy One is Jesus (Psalm 16:10, Acts 13:35-36). What does Habakkuk want us to consider? Where have we read something similar? It seems Habakkuk is quoting Moses.
This is the blessing, with which Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before his death. He said, “Yahweh came from Sinai, And rose from Seir to them. He shone forth from Mount Paran. He came ten thousands of holy ones. At his right hand was a fiery law for them. Yes, he loves the people. All his saints are in your hand. They sat down at your feet; Everyone shall receive of your words.” (WEB Deut 33:1-3)
Or perhaps Habakkuk is quoting Deborah's song of victory:
Yahweh, when you went forth out of Seir, when you marched out of the field of Edom, the earth trembled, the sky also dropped. Yes, the clouds dropped water. The mountains quaked at the presence of Yahweh, even Sinai, at the presence of Yahweh, the God of Israel. (Jdg 5:4-5)
We could miss the point of these two songs if we think Moses and Deborah were being poetic regarding the Manifestation at Mt Sinai, but we have Jude to tell us they are both referring to Enoch's prophecy. Jude shows us in referring to the prophecy of Enoch that Moses, Deborah and Habbakuk refer to a future event.
And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying,
Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him. (KJV, Jude 1:14-15)
Jude is quite clearly speaking of a judgement after his own day. A future Judgement by Jesus coming with Angels (Mighty Ones) “in flaming fire taking vengeance” is confirmed by Paul (2 Thess 2:5-10). And to confirm this we have Isaiah who writes of one who is to come from Edom.
Who is this who comes from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this who is glorious in his clothing, marching in the greatness of his strength? "It is I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save." Why are you red in your clothing, and your garments like him who treads in the wine vat? "I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the peoples there was no man with me: yes, I trod them in my anger, and trampled them in my wrath; and their lifeblood is sprinkled on my garments, and I have stained all my clothing. For the day of vengeance was in my heart, and the year of my redeemed is come. (Isaiah 63:1-4)
This is speaking of a day of one mighty to Save (Yah shall Save – Yahshua- Jesus) in Judgement. We are told Jesus will carry out this work also in Psalm 68 (Compare Ephesians 4:8).
The chariots of God are tens of thousands and thousands of thousands. The Lord is among them, from Sinai, into the sanctuary. You have ascended on high. You have led away captives. You have received gifts among men, yes, among the rebellious also, that Yah God might dwell there. (Psa 68:17-18).
Hab 3:4 His splendor is like the sunrise. Rays shine from his hand, where his power is hidden.
Habakkuk is still thinking of Moses' words for he repeats the idea of shining forth and a rising sun. It is interesting that Edom is to the East of Israel, so when Jesus comes with his saints from the East it will be as a “rising”. David prophesies of one comming who,
“rules over men righteously, who rules in the fear of God, He shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun rises, a morning without clouds, When the tender grass springs out of the earth, Through clear shining after rain (2Sa 23:3-4).
The coming of Yahshua and the saints is put again as coming from the sunrising in Revelation. The Euphrates (or Ottoman Turk's power) was dried up so that:
The way may be made ready for the Kings that come from the Sunrising (Rev 16:12).
Interestingly it is from the East that the 'King of the North' in his military campaign in 'the latter days' hears bad tidings.
He(the king of the North) shall enter also into the glorious land (Israel), and many countries shall be overthrown; but these shall be delivered out of his hand: Edom, and Moab...
But news out of the East and out of the north shall trouble him; and he shall go forth with great fury to destroy and utterly to sweep away many. (Dan 11:41-44)
The accuracy of a mere geographical allusion of the prophets fits with a comment made in the very specific blow by blow account of Armageddon as seen by Daniel. Also Edom escapes, acording to Daniel's aside, and it is from the direction of Edom that Messiah comes. And that is astounding.
Hab 3:5 Plague went before him, and pestilence followed his feet.
We are given more detail of this plague by Zechariah, writing some 100 years later, who says it is a wasting (Zech 14:12).
Hab 3:6 He stood, and shook the earth. He looked, and made the nations tremble. The ancient mountains were crumbled. The age-old hills collapsed. His ways are eternal.
Note the equation that shaking the earth is making the nations tremble. In scripture the 'Earth' is equated to the people. This is chapter about politics – All nations will understand their power is nothing, so they fear. Now mountains being on the earth are therefore prominent nations. Ancient mountains crumbling equals ancient nations falling or losing their power.
Hab 3:7 I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction. The dwellings of the land of Midian trembled.
This is a very specific prophecy. We are given a glimpse of the future. Cushan is Ethiopia, or the southern area of Egypt. Later Ezekiel tells us that Ethiopia will indeed be involved in the battle for Israel in the 'latter days'. Yet they do not prosper for at the time of the shining forth they are in affliction. And Midian being quite close to Paran would see the action first.
Hab 3:8 Was Yahweh displeased with the rivers? Was your anger against the rivers, or your wrath against the sea, that you rode on your horses, on your chariots of salvation?
There is no reason why Yahweh would be displeased with natural rivers, they just do a job they were designed to do. So here we must understand that Rivers mean Nations. Pharoah's army is described as a river in Jeremiah 4:7 and in Ezekiel 32:2 the military campaigns are “fouling the rivers”. Compare this language to Isaiah 17:12-14 quoted below where the people of the nations are described as the “rushing of many waters”.
Ah, the uproar of many peoples, who roar like the roaring of the seas; and the rushing of nations, that rush like the rushing of mighty waters! The nations will rush like the rushing of many waters: but he will rebuke them, and they will flee far off, and will be chased like the chaff of the mountains before the wind, and like the whirling dust before the storm. (Isa 17:12-13)
In Isaiah 18:2,7 the nations that come against Israel in the latter days are specifically described as 'rivers'. Habakkuk is referring to Isaiah's imagery.
Hab 3:9-10 You uncovered your bow. You called for your sworn arrows. Selah. You split the earth with rivers. The mountains saw you, and were afraid. The storm of waters passed by. The deep roared and lifted up its hands on high.
The use of the word 'bow' connects with the chariot of the previous verse. The image is of rivers (peoples) and mountains (nations) being conquered (in battle).
Hab 3:11 The sun and moon stood still in the sky, at the light of your arrows as they went, at the shining of your glittering spear.
This refers to Joshua's battle for Gibeon where the sun and moon stood still as Yahweh fought (Josh 10:13). So the sun may literally stand still on that day. However, the sun also stands for political leaders and the moon for religious leaders (Gen 37:9, Rev 6:12,8:12,12:1) Moses in his prophetic Song refers to 'arrows' in speaking of Judgement also (Deut 32:42).
Hab 3:12 You marched through the land in wrath. You threshed the nations in anger.
We have seen this description already in Isaiah 63, where the Saviour comes from Edom. The land that is marched through is therefore the Land Israel. The imagery of 'threshing' is used in Micah 4:12-13 where the nations seek to control Zion are 'threshed'. Jesus also uses an image of harvest as judgement in his parable of the wheat and tares (Matt 13). Joel also uses the idea of harvest to describe a battle where the gentiles are judged in the Valley of Jehoshaphat (Joel 3:13). Joel shows us that Land of Israel is the area of the last battle where, as Habbakuk says, Yahweh will 'thresh' the nations. The image of judgement as harvest re-occurs in Revelation 14 (as an aside, this is a precursor to the use of the Hebrew place name 'Armageddon' as the location of the battle ushering in the final vial. Based on Joel 3, 'Armageddon' could be rendered a 'heap of sheaves in a valley').
Hab 3:13 You went forth for the salvation of your people, for the salvation of your anointed. You crushed the head of the land of wickedness. You stripped them head to foot. Selah.
This verse is worthy of thought and consideration as 'Selah' says. This verse says Yahweh or, He Who Will Be, goes “forth” to save His people and this is equated to saving/delivering His anointed/Messiah. In what way would Messiah require delivering? Is not Messiah himself saviour? If we consider that the result of this battle is the final deliverance of all, including Jesus himself, then we see that Jesus with the saints in multitudinous manifestation must themselves be delivered first. The vanquishing of the 'head' is the vanquishing of the human powers on the earth to be replaced by divine governance under Messiah.
A good explanation is that this salvation is a stage, where there is a period of rule by Jesus until all is subdued and Yahweh reigns “all in all”(1Corinthians 15:21-28). A way to envision events is to see the parallel of Yeshua's (Jesus') future victory in Joshua's (Heb: Yeshua's) victory at Gibeon where it is recorded “Yahweh fought for Israel” (Josh 10:14). In fighting for Messiah and the saints, Yahweh delivers or saves them.
The nature of the salvation is clearer when we consider the careful use of the phrase “crushing the head”. In the prophecy of Eve, the 'seed of the woman' was to crush the 'head' of the 'seed of the serpent'. Jesus as the seed of the woman will crush the 'head' or the power of the people of the 'land of wickedness'.
Hab 3:14 You pierced the heads of his warriors with their own spears. They came as a whirlwind to scatter me, gloating as if to devour the wretched in secret.
As suggested in the previous verse the deliverance of Messiah is required because “they” come to oppose and fight Messiah, not willing to relinquish political control. Would the Papacy give up its power? Of course not! The interesting thing is that Yahweh will use their own weapons to destroy the people that come against Him to fight.
Hab 3:15 You trampled the sea with your horses, churning mighty waters.
Again reference to the “sea” and the sea here must be the multitdudes that come to fight Messiah as natural horses can not trample sea or churn mighty waters.
Hab 3:16-17 I heard, and my body trembled. My lips quivered at the voice. Rottenness enters into my bones, and I tremble in my place, because I must wait quietly for the day of trouble, for the coming up of the people who invade us. For though the fig tree doesn't flourish, nor fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive fails, the fields yield no food; the flocks are cut off from the fold, and there is no herd in the stalls:
This last section returns to the situation in Habakkuk's day. Habakkuk accepts with faith that Yahweh will do as He said he would and send the invaders, and he fears this. Both the vine and the fig tree are symbols of Israel. Compared this to the Prophet Joel's description of the invasion (Joel 1:7-12) and Jesus use of the fig tree (Mark 11-13-21 cp Luke 13:6-8, Luke 21:9) and vine (John 15:1-5). Paul uses the Olive tree as an image of Israel also with wild olives being the Gentiles (Romans 11:17-24). Habakkuk is also referencing the curse of disobedience Moses recorded (Deut. 28:25,30,31,38-40)
Hab 3:18-19 yet I will rejoice in Yahweh. I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! Yahweh, the Lord, is my strength. He makes my feet like deer's feet, and enables me to go in high places.
The conclusion speaks of assurance of personal salvation. We, like Habakkuk, look for the future 'high' places. The time of peace where all the earth will be full of the knowledge of Yahweh – as the waters now cover the sea.