Friday, November 4, 2016

Complete Jeremiah


Image result for prophet jeremiah

 

by

 

 Damien F. Mackey

 

 

 

Part One: The Name

 

 

 

 

The obscure prophet Habakkuk is identified in this series as the far better known Jeremiah.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Habakkuk the prophet” (חֲבַקּוּק הַנָּבִיא) (Habakkuk 1:1) is perfectly matchable, I think, with the great Jeremiah, as to:

 

  • his era (Part Two);
  • his geographical location (Part Three);
  • his status or office (Part Four);
  • his style and content (Part Five)

 

but, obviously, his name (Part One) is quite different from that of Jeremiah (יִרְמְיָהוּ).

The name, Habakkuk - which I am always in danger of misspelling - strikes me as being a most unusual one. Consequently, I am happy to learn that it may actually have been a foreign name, despite it often being taken for a Hebrew word meaning “embrace”.

According to J. Roberts (Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah: A Commentary, p. 86): “Habakkuk appears to derive from Akkadian ḫabbaququ, the name of a plant”.

Another commentator, puzzling over who the most obscure Habakkuk may have been, goes so far as to suggest that he was “an Akkadian by birth” (http://www.arlev.co.uk/habakkuk.htm):

 

2. Who was Habakkuk?

 

The easiest answer to the question posed by the header above is that your guess is as good as anybody else’s! There’s simply not enough reliable information concerning the man for us to justify more than a tentative guess - indeed, most of our guesses are so misleading simply because they’re based upon suppositions which are unprovable.


First and foremost, though, we know that Habakkuk was regarded as a prophet (Hab 1:1, 3:1) even though this superscription is more likely to have been written by a later copyist as an explanation of who the person was. There’s no reason to doubt it, however, even though his method of pronouncement to the nation wasn’t by the mouth but through the pen (Hab 2:2).


If he was, indeed, a prophet who declared God’s word to the nation, it seems surprising that only one pronouncement and one prayer have been recorded for us - but the reason could be simply that this message (Habakkuk chapters 1-2) was the only one which he was instructed to record so that it’s the only one which survives.


Having noted that Habakkuk was a prophet, we can say almost nothing more about him - he appears on the scene of Jewish history with neither father nor mother, nor even the location in the land where he lived (though we normally assume that, as his message was to the land of Judah, he must have been a resident there - his name may indicate otherwise).

We don’t know his occupation (though many have speculated that he was one of the Levites or priests in the Temple in Jerusalem because the final chapter of the Book was put to music - this means no more than we might say a poet was a rock musician because one of their writings was taken by a band and developed into a song! There is another note in one of the manuscripts of the apocryphal Bel and the Dragon - mentioned below - that he was a son of Joshua who was, himself, a Levite), how long he lived or, as we discussed in the previous section, we can’t be sure about when he lived and in what reign he prophesied.


Habsmith gives a fairly wide range of the opinions of commentators down through the ages, each of which seem to be able to be disregarded with a fair amount of certainty. Habakkuk’s name, also, is fairly unusual in that it doesn’t appear to be Hebraic (though Zondervan is certain that it is) and is more likely to be Akkadian (according to Habbaker), a word used


‘...for some plant or fruit tree’


even though Habsmith notes that some of the ancient rabbis associated his name with the Hebrew for ‘embrace’ - it could even have been an assumed name which lent the message further significance or importance and which, because we don’t live in the same culture, is lost on us.


Habbaker goes on to state that Akkadian speakers were


‘...intimately involved in the life of Israel at this period’


but his reference to his notes further on in the Book don’t exist! If this could be conclusively shown, it might even be possible to tentatively suggest that Habakkuk was an Akkadian by birth and that, having thrown in his lot with the people of God, was now being used by Him to speak to the nation. However, Habsmith is probably correct when he concludes only that it would


‘...indicate a high degree of foreign influence on Israel [sic ‘Judah’] at that time’


something which appears to have been true throughout the period which began with king Solomon and his ‘import’ of many foreign wives with their servants and cultures. In a recent Biblical Archaeology Review article (‘Biblical Detective work identifies the Eunuch’ in the March/April 2002 edition), it’s also pointed out that the word translated by the RSV as ‘chamberlain’ is


‘...a loan word...from Akkadian...’

 

which further demonstrates that during the reign of Josiah, Akkadian terms had begun to become a part of the Hebrew language, showing that to be called by an Akkadian name as Habakkuk was wouldn’t have been thought to have been out of place.

[End of quote]

 

My suggestion

 

Habakkuk was the foreign name by which this Hebrew prophet (I think, Jeremiah) was known amongst the Chaldeans. For instance, he emerges again in “Bel and the Dragon”, when Daniel, in Babylon, was languishing in the lions’ den (Daniel 14:33-34): “The prophet Habakkuk was in Judea. He mixed some bread in a bowl with the stew he had boiled, and was going to bring it to the reapers in the field, when an angel of the Lord told him, ‘Take the meal you have to Daniel in the lions’ den at Babylon’.”

Now, Jeremiah was known to the Chaldeans, known to, for instance:

 

“Nebuzaradan, commander of the imperial guard” (Jeremiah 40:1-5):  

 

The word came to Jeremiah from the Lord after Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard had released him at Ramah. He had found Jeremiah bound in chains among all the captives from Jerusalem and Judah who were being carried into exile to Babylon. When the commander of the guard found Jeremiah, he said to him, ‘The Lord your God decreed this disaster for this place. And now the Lord has brought it about; he has done just as he said he would. All this happened because you people sinned against the Lord and did not obey him. But today I am freeing you from the chains on your wrists. Come with me to Babylon, if you like, and I will look after you; but if you do not want to, then don’t come. Look, the whole country lies before you; go wherever you please’. However, before Jeremiah turned to go, Nebuzaradan added, ‘Go back to Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, whom the king of Babylon has appointed over the towns of Judah, and live with him among the people, or go anywhere else you please’.

 

Known even to the king himself:

 

Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon” (Jeremiah 39:11-12):

 

Now Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had given these orders about Jeremiah through Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard: ‘Take him and look after him; don’t harm him but do for him whatever he asks’.

 

Given virtual carte blanche by the Chaldean king, it appears.

This Jeremiah was no mean person!

Now, it is only to be expected that the Chaldeans, who liked to apply Mesopotamian (Akkadian; Sumerian; Babylonian) names to the Hebrews (Daniel and his three friends were given such names, which generally had no likeness to their original Hebrew ones, Daniel 1:7), would have applied a, say, Akkadian, name to the well-known Jeremiah as well.

I suggest, therefore, that the name they gave to Jeremiah was the Akkadian, ḫabbaququ (Habakkuk), a name that was apparently superscripted on to this record (Book of Habakkuk) of the prophet’s writings.

 

 

 

 

Part Two: The Era

(i) in Book of Habakkuk

 

 

 

“Habakkuk was a contemporary of Jeremiah, who also warned that an invading country (Chaldea) would serve as the divine instrument against Judah (compare Habakkuk 1:6ff with Jeremiah 6:22-23)”.

 

Introduction

 

There are two biblical (at least, Catholic Bible) documents that are relevant to the prophet Habakkuk and the historical era to which he belonged. And these two are quite separate in time.

The better known of these is (i) the Book of Habakkuk, the subject of this present article.

The other one, usually termed “apocryphal”, is found in (ii) Daniel 14, “Bel and the Dragon”.  This latter one (ii) will be examined in the article to follow this one.

 

Habakkuk and the Chaldeans

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“This chronology places Habakkuk shortly after Nahum,

and makes him also a contemporary of Jeremiah”.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

The general opinion about our prophet appears to be along the lines that “Habakkuk was a contemporary of Jeremiah, who also warned that an invading country (Chaldea) would serve as the divine instrument against Judah (compare Habakkuk 1:6ff with Jeremiah 6:22-23)” http://biblescripture.net/Habakkuk.html

It is a view shared by, for instance, R. Murphy (O.P.), in his article “Habakkuk”, written for The Jerome Biblical Commentary (1968). Fr. Murphy is, however, somewhat tentative, and he complicates the matter unnecessarily, I think (in the face of Habakkuk 1:6, see below), by entertaining the possibility that “the Assyrians”, or even “King Jehoiakim of Judah”, may have been “the oppressor” intended by the prophet (Murphy, 18:34):

 

Uncertainty still prevails regarding the circumstances surrounding the prophecy of Habakkuk and whether the oppressor was the Assyrians, the Chaldeans, or King Jehoiakim of Judah (609-598), under whom the deplorable practices of Manasseh’s reign had been resumed (cf. Jer. 22:13-17). On the whole, the Chaldeans are most probable, being named (1:6) as God’s instruments for the chastisement of his people; it is against them that Yahweh will take the field. One might date the prophecy between the defeat of Neco by Nebuchadnezzar at Carchemish (605) and the siege of Jerusalem (597). This chronology places Habakkuk shortly after Nahum, and makes him also a contemporary of Jeremiah.

[End of quote]

 

Habakkuk 1:6: ‘For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, who march through the breadth of the earth, to possess the dwelling places that are not theirs’.

Murphy will cross-reference various parts of the Book of Habakkuk with passages to be found in the Book of Jeremiah, further encouraging me in my view that Habakkuk was Jeremiah.

Now, I have discovered a 2004 article in which a plausible attempt has been made to locate the writings of the prophet Jeremiah according to their proper chronological order, with dates. (http://nabataea.net/jeremiah.html):

 

The Chronology of Jeremiah

(and the Lachish Letters)

 

When I compare Fr. Murphy’s Habakkukian cross-references with Jeremiah, I get - in relation to the above-mentioned Jeremian chronology, a range from 627-593 BC. This is somewhat longer than Murphy’s estimated 605-597 BC, which (given Habakkuk’s reference to the Chaldeans in 1:6) I would prefer. It is all fairly clear cut.

 

Part Two: The Era

(ii) in Book of Daniel

 

 

“Then the angel of the Lord took [Habakkuk] by the crown of his head and carried him by his hair; with the speed of the wind he set him down in Babylon, right over the den”.

 

Daniel 14:36

 

 

Introduction

 

What has so far been a fairly straightforward road towards the realisation of my suspicion that the ‘little known’ Habakkuk was none other than the great prophet Jeremiah hits a bit of a chronological road block here in this Daniel 14 account of the obscure prophet.

Habakkuk, whose name I have suggested (Part One) was simply a foreign Mesopotamian one as typically applied by the Chaldeans to the Hebrews (and others) - and so applied to Jeremiah who was well-known to the Chaldeans - conveniently was found to belong firmly to the era of the prophet Jeremiah (Part Two (i)).

But now, with the introduction of our second text pertaining to Habakkuk, the Septuagint’s “Bel and the Dragon” of Daniel 14, we are suddenly pitched into quite a later era, after that of the Chaldeans: the era of Medo-Persia. The Persian king Cyrus, who is the ruler involved in this tale (Daniel 14:1), is generally considered to have begun to reign as Great King in 539 BC.

That is almost half a century after the Fall of Jerusalem (587 BC, conventional dating)!

Could Jeremiah still have been alive and active at this late time (as Habakkuk)? My answer to this is ‘yes’, but it can only be realised with a strangling of the conventional chronology.

 

Tracking Jeremiah

 

We tend to lose all trace of Jeremiah, qua Jeremiah, shortly after the catastrophic fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of its Temple by the Chaldean army of king Nebuchednezzar II. The prophet will be, against his will, taken to Egypt (Jeremiah 43) where some think he died (https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jeremiah-Hebrew-prophet): “According to a tradition that is preserved in extrabiblical sources, he was stoned to death by his exasperated fellow countrymen in Egypt”.

Though some think he later went to Babylon (and perhaps to Palestine again even after that) http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8586-jeremiah “... he remained until that country [Egypt] was conquered by Nebuchadnezzar and he was carried to Babylon (Seder 'Olam R. xxvi.; comp. Ratner's remark on the passage, according to which Jeremiah went to Palestine again)”.

According to yet another view, Jeremiah ultimately went to Ireland, there to set up the throne of Judah https://www.cai.org/bible-studies/what-happened-jeremiah-and-his-company Each to his own. What I do like, however, about this particular article is that it has appreciated that Jeremiah still had work to do, over and beyond his quite pessimistic rôle as far as it is recorded in the Book of Jeremiah:

 

When Jeremiah was still a child (JEREMIAH 1:6), God told him what his commission was going to be (JEREMIAH 1:10): “See, I have this day set thee over the NATIONS and over the KINGDOMS, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, TO BUILD AND TO PLANT.”

It is interesting to note here several things: Firstly, Jeremiah was set NOT ONLY OVER ONE NATION BUT OVER NATIONS AND KINGDOMS - clearly NOT ONLY Judah. Secondly, his job was both to destroy AND TO PLANT. It is clear that the rooting out, pulling down and destroying happened in Judah. There was not much left after the Babylonians had destroyed the city of Jerusalem and led the people away into captivity. But WHERE DID THE BUILDING AND PLANTING HAPPEN? It could not have happened in Judah - as the Jews only returned 70 years later from their Babylonian captivity when Jeremiah was no longer around!! And even though other people came to live in Palestine, you could certainly not call that a planting and building process OF NATIONS AND KINGDOMS BY JEREMIAH?

 

“Jeremiah was no longer around” after the Babylonian Captivity, we read here.

Well, according to my revised chronology, the prophet Jeremiah, though admittedly very old, was still alive then. Indeed, he had to be to complete the original assignment given him by the Lord, “to build and to plant”.

Most relevant to all of this, too, is my view that the biblical king Cyrus (the ruler when Habakkuk was angelically transported to Babylon) was the same as Darius the Mede, and that Daniel’s imprisonment in the den of lions, now by Darius (Daniel 6:1-28), now by Cyrus, was simply the one same event, under the one same king. See my:

 

Was Daniel Twice in the Lions' Den?

 


 

With the assistance of what we know about the geography of Habakkuk - albeit meagre, but sufficient - and presuming that Habakkuk was Jeremiah, then we can properly GPS the movements of Jeremiah, from Judah to Egypt (Book of Jeremiah), and back to Judah (Daniel 14:33): “Now the prophet Habakkuk was in Judea; he had made a stew and had broken bread into a bowl, and was going into the field to take it to the reapers”. Then, for the first time - and not until the reign of Cyrus - to Babylon (cf. 14:1, 35): “Habakkuk said, ‘Sir, I have never seen Babylon, and I know nothing about the den’.” Then, immediately back to Judah (14:39): “So Daniel got up and ate. And the angel of God immediately returned Habakkuk to his own place”.

And it was there, in Jerusalem, that the aged prophet would continue his mission.

Meanwhile, in Babylon, there was probably no prophet other than Jeremiah with whom Daniel would, at this particular point in time (Darius/Cyrus), have wished to confer (Daniel 9:1-2):

 

In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans; In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.

 

 

 

Jeremiah’s Age

 

So, how old would Jeremiah have been when the exiles returned in the first year of king Cyrus?

According to my drastically revised Chaldean and Medo-Persian history, Nebuchednezzar II was succeeded by his son, Evil-Merodach, who was the “Belshazzar” of the Book of Daniel. Conventional neo-Babylonian history adds to these three more kings, who are actually duplicates, even triplicates of these.

And Belshazzar was succeeded by Darius the Mede, who was Cyrus. 

Say Jeremiah was about 17 (as a na’ar נַעַר, Jeremiah 1:6) when called by the Lord. Jeremiah 1:1-2: “The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at Anathoth …. The word of the Lord came to him in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah … of Judah”. Twenty-three years later (cf. Jeremiah 25: 1, 3) was the first year of Nebuchednezzar.

Jeremiah was about 40.

He would thus have been in his mid-eighties when the exiles returned (43 Nebuchednezzar; approximately 3 Belshazzar; 1st year of Darius/Cyrus). Jeremiah’s 40 + 43 + 3 = 86.

That is quite reasonable.

 

Who was he after the Exile?

 

There is only one thing left to decide.

If Jeremiah did indeed continue on into, say, his eighties, and continued to prophesy even after the Jews had returned from Babylon, then who was he?

We do not find any prophet named Jeremiah, or even his alter ego (as I think), Habakkuk, prophesying at this late time.

I shall attempt to answer this in Part Two (iii).

 

 

Part Two: The Era

(iii) post-exilic activity

 

 

 

 

“This title (han-nâbî) is applied only to Habakkuk, Haggai, and Zechariah”.

 

 

 

According to Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers with regard to the superscription, Habakkuk 1:1: “This title (han-nâbî) is applied only to Habakkuk, Haggai, and Zechariah”.


With Habakkuk looming in this series as an alter ego of the great prophet Jeremiah himself, and with the likelihood – yea, necessity – that Jeremiah had continued his mission to Judah right into the post-exilic era of Medo-Persia, then the most obvious post-exilic identification of Jeremiah would be as the prophet Haggai. That is, Jeremiah = Habakkuk = Haggai.

“The name Haggai is assigned to only one person in the Bible …”,


according to which (Abarim) the meaning of the name is not definite: “The name Haggai is quite possibly derived from the Hebrew verb חגג (hagag), meaning to celebrate …”.

Haggai (חַגַּי), one of the three biblical names whose owner is thus designated “the prophet” (הַנָּבִיא) han-nâbî, now becomes the logical choice for post-exilic Jeremiah via Habakkuk.

Habakkuk, as we know from Daniel 14, lived during post-exilic times. He bears the same prophetic status as does Haggai, whose singular name is probably now to be regarded as simply an hypocoristicon of the foreign name Habakkuk.

Both names, Haggai and Habakkuk, commence with a chet.

Haggai, or Chaggai, may perhaps be rendered Chaqqai = Cha(ba)qqu(k) (Habakkuk).

Now, Haggai was to do what Jeremiah had been told to do at the very beginning of his vocation (Jeremiah 1:9), “to build and to plant”. To build the new Temple of Yahweh in fact. Thus Haggai 1:8: “‘Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my House, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored’, says the Lord”.

Though Haggai’s style would generally be considered inferior to that of Jeremiah, qua Jeremiah, that fact is well explained here (http://biblehub.com/topical/h/haggai.htm):

 

Haggai's style is suited to the contents of his prophecies. While he is less poetical than his predecessors, yet parallelism is not altogether wanting in his sentence (Haggai 2:8). Compared with the greater books of prophecy, his brief message has been declared "plain and unadorned," "tame and prosaic"; yet it must be acknowledged that he is not wanting in pathos when he reproves, or in force when he exhorts. Though he labors under a poverty of terms, and frequently repeats the same formulas, yet he was profoundly in earnest, and became the most successful in his purpose of all his class. He was especially fond of interrogation. At best we have only a summary, probably, of what he actually preached.

 

[End of quote]

 

If the “King Darius”, in whose “second year” is contained the entire short career of Haggai, qua Haggai, is a Persian king who came after Darius/Cyrus, then this would further extend the age of Jeremiah, well beyond the mid-eighties that I previously estimated for him as Habakkuk. Haggai 1:1: “In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest”.

But Haggai, perhaps as Habakkuk, perhaps as Jeremiah, may force us further to re-evaluate the kings and chronology of Medo-Persian history.

 

Part Three (i): The Geography

 

 

We know at least that, before the incident of the lions’ den during the reign of king Cyrus, Habakkuk had never actually been to Babylon (Daniel 14:35):

 


‘Sir, I have never seen Babylon, and I do not know the den!’

 

 

Really, the geography of our prophet has already been discussed by now, in Part Two (ii), in the section “Tracking Jeremiah”.

The prophet Jeremiah we found, typically stationed in Judah, was removed to Egypt against his will after the Chaldeans, under king Nebuchednezzar II, had taken the city of Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple of Yahweh.

Traditions about what became of Jeremiah after this are hazy and conflicting: e.g., martyred in Egypt; taken to Babylon afterwards by a Nebuchednezzar victorious over Egypt; returning to Palestine.

Thanks to our connection of Jeremiah with Habakkuk, that I think has become increasingly more likely as this series has progressed - though that is up to scholars to determine - I suggest that we can be more definite than these traditions about the fate of Jeremiah after Egypt. And it was a good one.

Jeremiah eventually, after his sojourn in Egypt, returned to Judah (Judea).

There we find him later, in the reign of king Cyrus, as Habakkuk (Daniel 14: 33-34): “The prophet Habakkuk was in Judea. He mixed some bread in a bowl with the stew he had boiled, and was going to bring it to the reapers in the field, when an angel of the Lord told him, ‘Take the meal you have to Daniel in the lions’ den at Babylon’.”

After his brief flight upon angelic wings to Babylon, to visit Daniel, the prophet returned to his usual abode of Judah.

For Jeremiah, whose prophetic work during the Chaldean period had been largely the negative one (Jeremiah 1:10): ‘See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow …’, he would finally now, in the Medo-Persian period, be able to realise its positive aspect, ‘to build and to plant’.

And he was to do this, as I have suggested, under the guise of Haggai (and still in Judah).

The prophet Haggai had urged the Jews (Haggai 1:7):

 

‘Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my House,

so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored’, says the Lord.

 

 

Part Three (ii):

The Status or Office

 

 

 

Are “priest” and “prophet” common to Habakkuk

as well as to his proposed alter ego, Jeremiah?

 

 

 

Jeremiah, we are specifically told, was a priest (Jeremiah 1:1): “The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin”.

And he was also most definitely a prophet (1:5):Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations’.

 

Habakkuk was clearly a prophet (Habakkuk 1:1): “The prophecy that Habakkuk the prophet received”.

And commentators think that Habakkuk may also have been a priest. For example, we read this at: https://www.insight.org/resources/bible/the-minor-prophets/habakkuk:

“Habakkuk also could have been a priest involved with the worship of God at the temple. This assumption is based on the book’s final, psalm-like statement: “For the choir director, on my stringed instruments” (Habakkuk 3:19)”. And again:

 

We know little of Habakkuk beyond the two mentions of his name in this book of prophecy. Both times, he identified himself as “Habakkuk the prophet” (Habakkuk 1:1; 3:1), a term that seems to indicate Habakkuk was a professional prophet. This could mean that Habakkuk was trained in the Law of Moses in a prophetic school, an institution for educating prophets that cropped up after the days of Samuel (1 Samuel 19:20; 2 Kings 4:38).

 

Fr. R. Murphy (O.P.) has written similarly in “Habakkuk” (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, 1968, 18:34): “From the liturgies (e.g., 1:2-2:4) some have deduced that he was a member, possibly a leader, of the Temple choir …”.

According to a Septuagint (LXX) tradition found in the title to Daniel’s Bel and the Dragon, Habakkuk was of the tribe of Levi. Commenting on this tradition, we read the following https://bible.org/seriespage/2-habakkuk

 

Was Habakkuk, then, a Levite?237 Was he at least a prophet of the cultus, as many (e.g., Humbert, Lindblom) confidently affirm?238 Though the scriptural evidence indicates that Levites functioned in a musical ministry in the Temple (1 Chron. 6:31-48; 15:16-24; 16:4-6, 37, 41-42; 23:5; 25:1-8), a fact that accords well with the musical notations in chap. 3, and although the Scriptures attest the existence of prophets who were also priests (e.g., Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zephaniah),239 a lack of proof makes it impossible to say more than that Habakkuk was a prophet who likely lived in Judah in the seventh century B.C. and who was burdened by what he perceived to be the divine indifference to the moral decay and spiritual apostasy that surrounded him (1:2-4).

 

Further on here we read:

 

Occasion, Purpose, And Teachings

 

…. The book also rehearses Habakkuk’s theophanic experience that came as a climax to his spiritual wrestling and the prophet’s victorious movement from a position of questioning God to one of casting himself upon his Redeemer. If Habakkuk was also a Levite or in some way connected with the Temple cultus, the book’s final prayer and theophany were of such a magnitude to Habakkuk personally that he set them down in words and form intended for use in Temple worship. In any event, the whole prophecy is designed to serve as an exemplary testimony of God’s continued concern for His people and His dealings in the affairs of all mankind.

 

According to Fr. Murphy again (op. cit., ibid.): “… [Habakkuk] certainly … was a deep thinker and a man of considerable literary skill, a “wrestler with God” (Jerome)”.

Further to this, we read https://bible.org/seriespage/2-habakkuk

 

2. Habakkuk


 

Occasion, Purpose, And Teachings

 

If the above conclusions with regard to the date and authorship of Habakkuk’s prophecy are more or less accurate, the book has its origin in recounting the prophet’s intense personal experience with God. Specifically it records Habakkuk’s spiritual perplexities as to God’s seeming indifference in an era of moral decay and spiritual apostasy, and God’s patient responses to his prophet. The book also rehearses Habakkuk’s theophanic experience that came as a climax to his spiritual wrestling and the prophet’s victorious movement from a position of questioning God to one of casting himself upon his Redeemer. If Habakkuk was also a Levite or in some way connected with the Temple cultus, the book’s final prayer and theophany were of such a magnitude to Habakkuk personally that he set them down in words and form intended for use in Temple worship. In any event, the whole prophecy is designed to serve as an exemplary testimony of God’s continued concern for His people and His dealings in the affairs of all mankind.

 

In God’s answers to Habakkuk, He gives him wise insight into the basic issues of life for individuals and societies:259 wealth is not in itself wrong, but unjust gain will not be tolerated (2:6-11); civic growth and prosperity are not condemnable but cannot be accomplished at the expense of mankind’s rights (2:14-20); the misuse of another person to gain one’s own ends is despicable (2:15-17). The individual is also reminded that anything he puts ahead of God’s rightful place as the center of his life is idolatry (2:18-20). This last point serves as the culminating observation to a discussion of the spiritual and social evils for which Babylon must be judged and touches upon another major theme in the book—the problem of evil:

Thus the problem of the book is the problem of evil—in world history, in the church, in the human heart, the realization that every human “solution” contains the seed of its own dissolution and often only exacerbates the problem.... Pagan dualism and fatalism could (and can) always attribute the problem to other “gods” or inscrutable forces immanent in the universe, but a monotheistic belief in one righteous and holy God must somehow reconcile the continued power of evil with His governance—and perhaps ultimately with His very existence.260

 

Did Jeremiah, too, wrestle with God?

Yes, according to this piece:


 

3.  Jeremiah: A Prophet Wrestles with God….

 

The Reading: Jeremiah 12:1-5; 15:15-20; 17:14-18; 20:7-9 Jeremiah Complains to God (Jer 12:1-3)


 

12You will be in the right, O LORD, when I lay charges against you; but let me put my case to you.

Why does the way of the guilty prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive?

2 You plant them, and they take root;

they grow and bring forth fruit; you are near in their mouths

yet far from their hearts.

3 But you, O LORD, know me;

You see me and test me—my heart is with you.

Pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, and set them apart for the day of slaughter….

 

God Replies to Jeremiah (Jer 12:5)


 

5 If you have raced with foot-runners and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses?

and if in a safe land you fall down,

how will you fare in the thickets of the Jordan?

 

Finally, a brief consideration again of Haggai, with whom we have also sought to identify Jeremiah/Habakkuk.

Only one person is named in Jeremiah’s ancestry. He was “Jeremiah son of Hilkiah”. Habakkuk, however - Haggai, however - is provided with no genealogy at all.

So we cannot do any ancestral comparisons.

 

Haggai, too, was clearly a prophet (Haggai 1:1): “In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai …”. Moreover, as we learned in Part Two (iii), from Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers with regard to “the prophet” (הַנָּבִיא) in Habakkuk 1:1: “This title (han-nâbî) is applied only to Habakkuk, Haggai, and Zechariah”.

And, just as in the case of Habakkuk, “[Haggai] may have been a priest4”:


 

4 Baldwin writes, According to an early Christian tradition Haggai was a priest and was buried with honour near the sepulchers of the priests. The fact that in the Versions certain Psalms are attributed to Haggai may add support to his priestly lineage. The LXX, for example, prefaces Psalms 138 and 146-149 with the names Haggai and Zechariah, indicating perhaps that they were responsible for the recension from which the Greek translation was being made. Hebrew tradition on the other hand did not reckon Haggai among the priests, and the modern Rabbi Eli Cashdan writes: 'Evidently he was not of the priestly tribe, seeing that he called on the priests of his day for a ruling on levitical uncleanness (ii.II).' The point is hardly proved on this evidence, however (Joyce G. Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi: An Introduction & Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 28).

 

Part Three (iii):

The Style and Content

 

“Habakkuk is intensely occupied with the problem of evil,

the perennial stumbling block for all thoughtful men”.

 

 

 

Introduction

 

Just like the prophet Job before him, Habakkuk will agonise over certain actions on the part of God that do not seem worthy of his holiness or of his justice.

Fr. R. Murphy (O.P.) writes of the prophet’s great consternation in his article, “Habakkuk” (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, 1968, 18:34):

 

…. Judah had sinned, but why should God, the holy one whose eyes are too pure to gaze upon evil, have chosen to punish evil-doers with those who are more wicked than themselves? Can it be that the Lord is on the side of injustice? He is intensely occupied with the problem of evil, the perennial stumbling block for all thoughtful men.

 

[End of quote]

 

‘How long, Lord, must I call for help,

but you do not listen?

Or cry out to you, “Violence!”

but you do not save?

Why do you make me look at injustice?

Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?’

 

Habakkuk 1:2-3

 

And Jeremiah 47:6: “Ah, sword of the LORD! How long till you are quiet? Put yourself into your scabbard; rest and be still!”

Rabbi Moshe Reiss has written of “Jeremiah, the Suffering Prophet” in somewhat Habakkukian terms http://www.moshereiss.org/articles/09_jeremiah.htm

 

Jeremiah suffers from existential pain and loneliness; feels truly alone in the world. As a human being he reacts to the seeming injustice of his position. Believing in a God of justice he feels like Job, his theological successor [sic].  Both tried to understand a world that is not just.  12 ‘Why do the wicked succeed and all those who commit evil flourish’? (12:1) Despite God, by definition being right ‘You have to be in the right O Lord . . . nevertheless I will bring certain cases to Your attention (12:1). If God is justice then Jeremiah has a right to accuse Him. ‘Should evil be awarded with good. I speak for good’ (18:20). They ‘build a trap for me . . . they wish my death’ (18:22-23). As Job (and Jesus) he accuses God of having forsaken him. ‘For You have filled me with gloom [and are] ‘as undependable waters’ (15:17-18). God’s first response to Jeremiah’s addresses his complaint about his family and neighbors (11:18-20). Stop talking to them, ‘I will bring evil to the men of Anatoth’ (11:23).  ‘O Lord You have seduced me, and I am seduced; You have raped me and I am overcome’ 13. . . Daily I have been an object of ridicule . .  the word of the Lord has become for a constant source of shame’ (20:7-8).  The term used by Jeremiah as translated by A.J. Heschel is ‘raped by God’ is extraordinary. 14 As Job becomes a public spectacle 15  so with Jeremiah.

[End of quote]

 

Justice, a constant theme throughout the books of Jeremiah and Job, and in the Book of Habakkuk, gets picked up later in that most famous of Platonic dialogues, The Republic, which I believe was influenced, in part, by the Book of Job:

 

Prophet Daniel and 'Plato'

 


 

Plato and Likely Borrowings

from the Book of Job

 

There can be a similarity in thought between Plato and the Jewish sages, but not always a similarity in tone. Compared with the intense atmosphere of the drama of the Book of Job, for instance, Plato’s Republic, and his other dialogues, such as the Protagoras, brilliant as they are, come across sometimes as a bit like a gentlemen’s discussion over a glass of port. W. Guthrie may have captured something of this general tone in his Introduction to Plato. Protagoras and Meno (Penguin, 1968), when he wrote (p. 20):

 

… a feature of the conversation which cannot fail to strike a reader is its unbroken urbanity and good temper. The keynote is courtesy and forbearance, though these are not always forthcoming without a struggle. Socrates is constantly on the alert for the signs of displeasure on the part of Protagoras, and when he detects them, is careful not to press his point, and the dialogue ends with mutual expressions of esteem. ….

[End of quote]


Compare this gentlemanly tone with e.g. Job’s ‘How long will you torment me, and break me in pieces with words? These ten times you have cast reproach upon me; are you not ashamed to wrong me?’ (19:1-3), and Eliphaz’s accusations of the holy man: ‘Is not your wickedness great? There is no end to your iniquities [which supposed types of injustice on the part of Job Eliphaz then proceeds to itemise]’ (22:5).

 

In Plato’s dialogues, by contrast, we get pages and pages of the following sort of amicable discussion taken from the Republic (Bk. 2, 368-369):

 

[Socrates] ‘Justice can be a characteristic of an individual or of a community, can it not?’

 

[Adeimantus] ‘Yes’.

 

[Socrates] ‘And a community is larger than an individual?’

 

[Adeimantus] ‘It is”.

 

[Socrates] ‘We may therefore find that the amount of justice in the larger entity is greater, and so easier to recognize. I accordingly propose that we start our enquiry …’.

 

[Adeimantus] ‘That seems a good idea’, he agreed.

 

….

 

 

 

Though Protagoras is a famous Sophist, whose maxim “Man is the measure of all things, of those that are that they are, and of those that are not that they are not” (Plato’s Theaetetus 152) I have often quoted in a philosophical context {– and also in}:

 

The Futile Aspiration to Make ‘Man the Measure of All Things’

 


 

this Protagoras may actually be based upon - according to my new estimation of things - the elderly Eliphaz of the Book of Job. Whilst Eliphaz was by no means a Sophist along the Greek lines, he was, like Protagoras with Socrates, largely opposed to his opponent’s point of view. And so, whilst the God-fearing Eliphaz would never have uttered anything so radical or atheistic as “man is the measure of all things”, he was however opposed to the very Job who had, in his discussion of wisdom, spoken of God as ‘apportioning out by measure’ all the things that He had created (Job 28:12, 13, 25).

 

Now, whilst Protagoras would be but a pale ghost of the biblical Eliphaz, some of the original (as I suspect) lustre does still manage to shine through - as with Protagoras’s claim that knowledge or wisdom was the highest thing in life (Protagoras 352C, D) (cf. Eliphaz in Job 22:1-2). And Guthrie adds that Protagoras “would repudiate as scornfully as Socrates the almost bestial type of hedonism advocated by Callicles, who says that what nature means by fair and right is for the strong man to let his desires grow as big as possible and have the means of everlastingly satisfying them” (op. cit., p. 22).

 

Eliphaz was later re-invented (I think) as Protagoras the Sophist from Abdera, as a perfect foil to Socrates (with Job’s other friends also perhaps emerging in the Greek versions re-cast as Sophists). Protagoras stated that, somewhat like Eliphaz, he was old enough to be the father of any of them. “Indeed I am getting on in life now – so far as age goes I might be the father of any one of you …” (Protagoras 317 C). That Eliphaz was old is indicated by the fact that he was the first to address Job and that he also refered to men older than Job’s father (Job 15:10). Now, just as Fr. R. MacKenzie (S.J.) in his commentary on “Job”, in The Jerome Biblical Commentary, tells of Eliphaz’s esteem for, and courtesy towards, Job (31:23):

 

Eliphaz is presumably the oldest of the three and therefore the wisest; he is certainly the most courteous and the most eloquent. He has a genuine esteem for Job and is deeply sorry for him. He knows the advice to give him, the wisdom that lays down what he must do to receive relief from his sufferings.

 

[End of quote],

 

so does Guthrie, reciprocally (I suggest), say: “Protagoras – whom [Socrates] regards with genuine admiration and liking” (op. cit., p. 22).

 

But, again, just as the righteous Job had scandalised his friends by his levity, according to St. Thomas Aquinas (“Literal Exposition on Job”, 42:1-10), “And here one should consider that Elihu had sinned out of inexperience whereas Job had sinned out of levity, and so neither of them had sinned gravely”, so does Guthrie use this very same word, “levity”, in the context of an apparent flaw in the character of Socrates (ibid., p. 18):

 

There is one feature of the Protagoras which cannot fail to puzzle, if not exasperate, a reader: the behaviour of Socrates. At times he treats the discussion with such levity, and at other times with such unscrupulousness, that Wilamowitz felt bound to conclude that the dialogue could only have been written in his lifetime. This, he wrote, is the human being whom Plato knew; only after he had suffered a martyr’s death did the need assert itself to idealize his character.

 

[End of quote]

 

Job’s tendency towards levity had apparently survived right down into the Greek era. Admittedly, the Greek version does get much nastier in the case of Thrasymachus, and even more so with Callicles in the Gorgias, but in the Republic at least it never rises to the dramatic pitch of Job’s dialogues with his three friends. Here is that least friendly of the debaters, Thrasymachus, at his nastiest (Republic, Bk. I, 341):

 

[Socrates] Well, said I, ‘so you think I’m malicious, do you Thrasymachus?’

 

[Thrasymachus] ‘I certainly do’.

 

[Socrates] ‘You think my questions were deliberately framed to distort your argument?’

 

[Thrasymachus] ‘I know perfectly well they were. But they won’t get you anywhere; you can’t fool me, and if you don’t you won’t be able to crush me in argument’.

 

[Socrates] ‘My dear chap, I wouldn’t dream of trying’, I said ….

 

Socrates and Plato are similarly (like the Sophists) watered down entities by comparison with the Middle Eastern originals. Such is how the Hebrew Scriptures end up when filtered through the Greeks, [and, in the case of Plato, perhaps through the Babylonians before the Greeks, hence a double filtering]. Even then, it is doubtful whether the finely filtered version of Plato that we now have could have been written by pagan Greeks. At least some of it seems to belong clearly to the Christian era, e.g. “The just man … will be scourged, tortured, and imprisoned … and after enduring every humiliation he will be crucified” (Republic, Bk. 2, 362).

I submit that this statement would not likely have been written prior to the Gospels.


“Plato and Porphyry each made certain statements which might have brought them both to become Christians if they had exchanged them with one another”, wrote St. Augustine (City of God, XXII, 27).

 

What is clear is that the writings of Plato as we now have them had reached an impressive level of excellence and unparalleled literary sophistication.

 

* * * * *

 

A Common Source

 

The Book of Job is often considered to be the most like the Book of Jeremiah (and Lamentations), the two perhaps having :”a common source”:


 

Both Jeremiah and Job contend with their sense of loneliness and betrayal by cursing the day of their birth. This particular parallel may serve as a key case test for establishing the relationship between Jeremiah and Job …. Most believe that Jeremiah and Job are drawing on a common source or generic template ....

 

Habakkuk, too, seems to have imbibed from that “source”. I take some random sections from


 

…. the problem of the book is the problem of evil—in world history, in the church, in the human heart, the realization that every human “solution” contains the seed of its own dissolution and often only exacerbates the problem.... Pagan dualism and fatalism could (and can) always attribute the problem to other “gods” or inscrutable forces immanent in the universe, but a monotheistic belief in one righteous and holy God must somehow reconcile the continued power of evil with His governance—and perhaps ultimately with His very existence.260

 

1:2

עַד־אָנָה (“how long”): The interrogative adverb אָן (“where”) with augmented ָה ( a‚) is often combined with עַד (“for”) to form, as here, a compound interrogative particle of time (cf. Ex. 16:28; Num. 14:11; Josh. 18:3; Jer. 47:6). Here it introduces the prophet’s invocation.

1:2-3 The cry “Violence” and the need for divine help are reminiscent of Job’s lament (Job 9:7). Jeremiah (Jer. 6:7; 20:8) also complains of the violence and destruction of Judahite society, a charge echoed by Ezekiel (Ezek. 45:9).

In any case Habakkuk takes his place beside many others, such as Job (Job 7:16-21; 9:21-24; 12:4-6; 21:1-16; 24:1-16, 21-25; 27:1-12), the psalmist Asaph (Ps. 73), Jeremiah (Jer. 11:18-19; 12:1-4; 15:15-18; 17:15-18; 20:7-18), and Malachi (Mal. 2:17), who questioned God as to His fairness in handling the problems of evil and injustice. Like these other questioners, Habakkuk will be shown the necessity of resting fully in God (Hab. 2:4, 20).

 

Nevertheless, Habakkuk ends his complaint with a renewed statement of his confidence in God (2:1). He also reports his intention to assume the role of a watchman. As the city watchman manned his post atop the walls to look for the approach of danger (Ezek. 33:2-6) or a messenger (2 Sam. 18:24-28; Isa. 21:6-8; 52:7-10), or to keep watch over current events (1 Sam. 14:16-17; 2 Kings 9:17-20), so the OT prophet looked for the communication of God’s will to the waiting people (Jer. 6:17; Ezek. 3:16-21; 33:7-9; Hos. 9:8). Habakkuk would assume the role of a prophetic watchman, taking his post on the ramparts* to watch* for the Lord’s reply. The word “watch” suggests an active, earnest waiting for the Lord’s message; the “ramparts” (cf. 2 Chron. 8:5; 11:5) imply that just as the civil watchman assumed a particular post on the city wall (cf. Nah. 2:1 [HB 2:2]), so the prophet had his assigned post of responsibility (cf. Jer. 1:17-19; Amos 3:6-7).

שָׁמֵן and בְּרִאָה both mean “fat.” The translations “abundant” and “plenteous” are ad sensum. These adjectives testify to the luxurious lifestyle of the Chaldeans gained as a result of their rapacious looting. The NJB not inappropriately translates: “For by these they get a rich living and live off the fat of the land.” Though the root שָׁמֵן can be employed to describe God-given prosperity (Isa. 30:23; Ezek. 34:14), like its companion adjective (cf. the masc. sing. form בָּרִיא in Ps. 73:4) it can be employed with regard to the wicked who have gained their riches through ungodly living (Jer. 5:26-28; Ezek. 34:16).

Habakkuk was told to write* the issue of the divine reply upon tablets*. If Habakkuk was literally to write down the divine dispatch, the question arises as to its extent. Various suggestions have been offered, some identifying the text of the message with v. 4 (Craigie, Feinberg), some with vv. 4b-5 (Brownlee, Humbert), others with all of vv. 4 and 5 (Ward), and still others deciding that the length of the communication is uncertain (e.g., Laetsch).341

To reach a final solution one must consider the word “tablets.” Though these could be viewed as large stones, such as in the case of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 24:12; see Additional Notes), the author could intend small tablets of whatever material.342 That the word is plural could suggest multiple copies to be hand carried by men serving as heralds that others might hear the message (cf. Jer. 51:59-64). That the heralds would carry a written dispatch rather than an oral communication would emphasize the seriousness of the divine directive. If this was the case, the message was doubtless a short one, probably encompassing no more than v. 4. But to whom would these dispatches be carried? Would they go to Judah’s leaders (cf. Jer. 36), or perhaps to foreign nations (cf. Isa. 30:8)? Lack of clarity as to this latter question warns against too quickly adopting the idea of heralds carrying several tablets.

The message was to be written plainly* so that those who passed by* might be able to understand it and bear the news to others. Though the figure of reading and running may indicate the activity of a prophet (Keil) or may simply intend that all who pass by may read it (S. R. Driver, Feinberg, Laetsch), it raises again the possibility of the literary motif of a herald “whose role would thus be to ‘run with the message’ (cf. 1 Sam. 4:12; 2 Sam. 18:19-27; Esther 3:13, 15; 8:10, 14; Jer. 51:31).”343 That the text reads “he who reads it may run” rather than “he who runs may read” favors strongly the motif of the herald (NIV). But because not only Habakkuk but all who read God’s communication were to serve as heralds, all three of these views are in a sense complementary, the figure of the herald being adopted in order that prophets and all others might understand God’s Word and carry it on to others. The message was for all.

….

 

 

The verse proceeds with a reference to the Chaldeans’ building projects. An implied comparison with the eagle is probably intended. If so, just as an eagle seeks security by building his nest on the upper-most cliffs, so the Chaldeans will raise high—that is, strengthen mightily—their fortifications (cf. Jer. 49:16; Obad. 4). Although Nebuchadnezzar mentions such fortifying work elsewhere, it was particularly true of Babylon, which he enclosed with two massive walls, the outermost of which was surrounded by a moat on its east side that stretched westward to the Euphrates on the city’s northern and southern sides.

 

Jeremiah’s words reinforce those of Habakkuk:

The arrogant one will stumble and fall

and no one will help her up;

I will kindle a fire in her towns

that will consume all who are around her.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

This is what the LORD Almighty says:

“Babylon’s thick wall will be leveled

and her high gates set on fire;

the peoples exhaust themselves for nothing,

the nations’ labor is only fuel for the flames.”


 

 

As invective turns to threat (v. 16) the allegory depicts the giver of the drink as one who is forced to imbibe of his own drink and suffer the disgrace of exposure. Several familiar biblical motifs and expressions are contained in vv. 15-16. The cup as a motif of judgment is well attested elsewhere (e.g., Pss. 11:6; 75:8 [HB 75:9]; Isa. 51:17, 22; Jer. 25:15-28; 49:12; Ezek. 23:31-34). Particularly enlightening for the understanding of Habakkuk’s fourth woe is Jeremiah’s use of the cup to portray God’s relation with Babylon (Jer. 51:6-8). For Jeremiah, Babylon is God’s cup, a golden cup (cf. Daniel’s head of gold, Dan. 2:36-38), which in God’s hand had passed on His judgment to the nations. Those who drink of that cup lose all sense of perspective and become oblivious to the danger they are in. But Babylon will become a broken cup, for she will be smashed and never repaired.

Habakkuk makes the same point, although the image is slightly different. The Chaldean will be God’s cup of judgment (cf. 1:5-11), but rather than being conscious of his privileged responsibility, the Chaldean will use his position to take advantage of others and enslave them politically and economically.

 

The image of shame is heightened by the double figure of drunkenness and nakedness (cf. Gen. 9:21-23). The first is condemned both by our Lord (Luke 21:34) and elsewhere in the Scriptures (e.g., Eph. 5:18). Nakedness is likened to a shameful thing (cf. Gen. 2:25 with 3:7), and he who was stripped of clothing felt degraded (2 Sam. 10:4; Ezek. 16:39; 23:29). Both figures are used elsewhere to symbolize divine judgment (Nah. 3:5, 11). All three symbols occur together in Lam. 4:21 where Jeremiah portrays the Israelites’ taunt of Edom. That nation, which had so often taken advantage of Israel’s misfortune, will be given the cup of judgment, become drunk, and be stripped naked.

 

By the violence done to Lebanon some understand a figurative reference to Israel’s own land. Thus Armerding remarks: “Lebanon” is used as a symbol of Israel (2 Kings 14:9; cf. Jer. 22:6, 23) and more specifically of Israel as a victim of Babylonian aggression (Ezek. 17:3).”424 But a literal interpretation is not impossible. The Mesopotamian kings had boasted of their exploitation of the forests of Lebanon since the earliest days.425

 

The noun שֹׁד … is used of great devastation or destruction. It occurs at times with שֶׁבֶר … “breaking/shattering”; Isa. 51:19; 60:18; Jer. 48:35), such as in depicting the work of evil men (Isa. 59:7). Sóo„d is also parallel to עָמָל ( àa„ma„l, “trouble”) used of the dangers in associating with the wicked (Prov. 24:2). As is the case here, sŒo„d parallels ָָחמָס ( h£a„ma„s, “violence,”) in Ezek. 45:9; Amos 3:10. Jeremiah would later echo Habakkuk’s complaint with regard to the social injustice in his country (Jer. 6:7; 20:8). Habakkuk is thus assured that if the agent of God’s judgment perpetrates the same wickedness he has been sent to punish, he too must receive the just judgment of God.

 

 

 

2:15 †Three main suggestions have been given for the form חֲמָתְךָ (“your wrath”). (1) The translation just given (cf. RSV) takes the noun as ֵֵחמָה (“[burning] anger,” “rage,” from יַַָחם, “be hot”). (2) Some who follow this understanding of the origin of the noun suggest that it should be translated “venom” (NASB) or “poison” (NJB) as in Deut. 32:24; Job 6:4; Ps. 140:4. (3) Others believe that the word intended is ֵֵחמֶת (“wineskin,” NIV; cf. KJV, NKJV).430 In view of the association of drinking, wrath, and cup in the OT (e.g., Isa. 51:17, 22; Jer. 25:15), the first alternative appears to be the best here. Moreover, such a view harmonizes well with a similar picture of Babylon’s judgment in Jer. 51:7-8.

 

†The problem concerning ֲֲחמָתְךָ is complicated further by controversy over the previous מְסַפֵּחַ. Some take the word to be from the root סָפַח (“join,” “attach to”; cf. Ethiopic saˆfh£a, “become broad/wide”433), deciding for a meaning “mix in” (NASB) or “press/put to” (NKJV, KJV). Others favor the idea “pour out” (NIV, NJB), סָפַח being compared with the Arabic safah£a (“pour out”).434 Still a third proposal is to emend the word to מִסַּף (“from/of the cup/bowl,” KB-3, RSV).435 Despite the uncertainty, I have followed Armerding, the NIV, and the NJB in choosing the second alternative because of the common OT usage of wrath being poured out (e.g., 2 Chron. 12:7; 34:21; Ps. 79:6; Jer. 7:20; 42:18; Ezek. 7:8; 9:8).436

†Still another perplexity arises in the next phrase, וְאַף שַׁכֵּר (“and also getting him drunk”). The conjunctive particle has been rendered as “even” (NASB), “till” (NIV), or “until” (NJB). Armerding offers the novel suggestion that the phrase “can be interpreted as a parallel noun in the accusative case, meaning ‘and (with) anger.’“437 This idea has the advantage of scriptural precedent in that both terms in this verse ( ֵֵחמָה and אַף) would then be words for anger that are said to be poured out (cf. Jer. 10:25; Lam. 4:11). The two even occur together at times (e.g., Jer. 7:20). Moreover, both appear together in a context of God’s judgment that also uses the figure of getting the nations drunk (Isa. 63:1-6).438

Exegesis and Exposition

The condemnation of idolatry here is in harmony with that found in the other OT prophets (cf. Isa. 44:9-20; Jer. 5:7; 44:1-8; Hos. 8:4). The judgment of Babylon and its gods announced previously by Isaiah (Isa. 21:9) is repeated by Jeremiah (Jer. 50:2; 51:47-48, 52-53).

The invective and threat against Babylon (v. 19) thus have more than sufficient cause. Since the Chaldeans worshiped gods of their own creation (v. 18) rather than the Creator, controller, and consummator of history, their condemnation is certain. This is their most besetting sin. Because the Chaldeans worshiped self and their own selfish artifices, they will plot against the peoples around them. Their feigned friendship with them will only be a pretext to indulge their own perverted lusts. Further, they will go on to plunder the nations so that lands, cities, and their inhabitants will feel the crush of their violent oppression. The verdict is final. Habakkuk can be assured that the Chaldeans will be judged, for they will violate the standards of God (cf. vv. 4-5).

Verse 20 also has another application. Because the idolatry that leads to the neglect and rejection of God is a universal problem, all the earth is to be silent before the living God. None is to assert his independence from God but rather should worship Him in humble submission (Jer. 10:1-10), letting Him be God of the whole life (Pss. 63:1-4 [HB 63:2-5]; 73:23-28).

 

Still a third term for idol ( אֱלִילִים) occurs here. This word lays stress on its value, for it is denounced as an empty or worthless thing. H. Preuss suggests that the word

was created as a disparaging pun on and as a diminutive of ‘el or ‘elohim (Ps. 97:7) (“little god, godling”). This helped to bring about a conscious antithesis between áelil and áel, “the Strong One.” Furthermore, it is likely that the noun áelil is intentionally reminiscent of the adj. ‘elil, “weak, insignificant, worthless,” which we also encounter in contexts where the speaker uses scornful words (Job 13:4; Jer. 14:14; cf. Zec. 11:17; also Sir. 11:3).454

 


 


The Second Line


The chief points of contention in the second line of Hab. 2:4 revolve around (1) the precise meaning of עַדִּיק ( s£addîq, “righteous/just”) and (2) the meaning and syntactical relationship of the following בֶּאֱמוּנָתוֹ ( beá e†mu‚na„to‚, “by his faith[fulness]).” Complicating both problems is the reading of the line in the LXX and its subsequent use by the NT writers.

As for the first problem, words derived from עדק have varied meanings. The root itself appears to mean “be straight” and is largely employed in situations that denote conformity to a standard (i.e., straightness).482 Thus the root and its word group are often used of God’s activities and man’s relation to God. In accordance with His righteous scrutiny God takes note of all people in their activities (Amos 5:4-7, 14; 6:12) and punishes the sin of His own (Dan. 9:14) and of all people (Ps. 9:8 [HB 9:9]). By His righteous judgment He vindicates His own (Judg. 5:11; Isa. 54:17; Mic. 7:9) and brings them salvation/deliverance (Isa. 45:21; 46:12-13), ultimately through His Righteous One (Jer. 23:6; 33:18).483

 

Habakkuk’s prayer would be answered according to the terms of Israel’s covenant with God (Deut. 4:25-31) and also the prophecies of Jeremiah (Jer. 25:1-11; 29:10-14; cf. 2 Chron. 36:22; Ezra 1;1; Dan. 9:2). His prayer and its realization stand as an earnest of God’s future gathering of His people in redemptive power (Deut. 30:1-3; Ezek. 36:24-38; 37:21-28; Amos 9:14-15; Mic. 4:6; Zeph. 3:20; Zech. 10:5-12).

 

 

God is seen by His enemies not as Yahweh, Israel’s covenant God, but as Eloah, the Creator (Deut. 32:15) and Lord of the earth (Pss. 18:31 [HB 18:32]; 114:7). God is also declared to be the Holy One (Isa. 63), the one who convicts of sin and judges the world (Lev. 19:1; 20:7; Jer. 50:29; 51:5), but who is Israel’s Redeemer (Isa. 41:14; 43:1-3). The one whom Habakkuk had addressed in his second perplexity (Hab. 1:12) is the sovereign, holy God who had come long ago in all His glory.

 

 

When he was informed of God’s intention to use the godless Chaldeans to bring judgment to His people (1:5-11), Habakkuk was all the more perplexed (1:12-2:1). The words of the ancient epic poem that he now considers remind him of the just nature of God. Though the Lord may employ nations and people of all sorts to do His bidding, He will ultimately deal with them on their own merits (cf. Isa. 24:1-6; 63:1-6; Jer. 50:9-13; Hos. 1:4; Nah. 3:4). Further, He will deal with them according to their troubling of His people Israel (cf. Gen. 12:3; Isa. 26:12-20; Joel 3:1-8 [HB 4:1-8]; Obad. 14-15; Zeph. 2:10).

 

God’s indignation against the nations in this regard can mean the deliverance of His own people, as here. Indeed, salvation/deliverance was at the heart of the epic cycle concerning the Exodus (Ex. 15:2). God redeems His people out of Egypt (Ex. 15:1-10, 14-18; Hab. 3:12-15), carries them to Sinai where He reveals Himself to them (Ex. 15:11-13), and then, as their triumphant Redeemer, goes before them both to demonstrate His redemptive power to the nations and to bring His people victoriously into the land (Deut. 33:2-3; Judg. 5:4-5; Pss. 18:7-15 [HB 18:8-16]; 68:7-8 [HB 68:8-9]; 77:16-19 [HB 77:17-20]; 144:5-6; Hab. 3:3-11). That Exodus theme is perpetuated throughout the OT (e.g., Num. 23:21-24; 24:8-9, 17-19; Deut. 4:35-40; Josh. 23:3-6), especially among the prophets who build upon it in looking forward to the final salvation of Israel in a future day (e.g., Isa. 10:20-22; 25:9; 35:4; 41:11-16; 43:1-13; 49:8-26; 50:11; 52:7-10; 54:6-10; Jer. 23:5-8; 32:37-44; Ezek. 34:11-16; 36:24-38; 37:21-28; Hos. 2:14-3:5; Joel 2:31-32 [HB 3:4-5]; Amos 9:11-15; Obad. 17; Mic. 2:12-13; 4:1-7; 5:5-15; Nah. 1:13-15; Zeph. 3:8-20; Hag. 2:23; Zech. 14:3; Mal. 4:5-6).

 

 

The salvation of God’s anointed* is singled out for particular attention. Although historically the term here probably has reference to Moses, it can be applied also to the ruling member of the Davidic line, whose future coming was recorded by Moses (cf. Gen. 49:10; Num. 24:19). David understood his role as God’s anointed (2 Sam. 7:8-29; 23:1-7), and the Scriptures from his time forward proclaim the inviolability of the far-reaching provisions in the Davidic Covenant (cf. Pss. 2; 45:2-7; 89:3-4, 19-24, 27-37 [HB 89:4-5, 20-25, 28-38]; 110; Jer. 33:19-26; Ezek. 34:20-31) that will find their ultimate realization in Israel’s Messiah (Isa. 42:1-7; 48:16-17; 49:1-7; 52:13-53:12; Jer. 23:5-8; Ezek. 37:24-28; Zech. 9:9; cf. Isa. 61:1-2 with Luke 4:18-19; see further Luke 1:68-78; Acts 2:29-36; 3:24-26; 15:16-17; Rev. 11:15).

 

In addition, the fig tree and the vine had spiritual significance, for they symbolized the blessing of God upon an obedient people (cf. Hos. 2:12; Amos 4:9 with 1 Kings 4:25 [HB 5:5]; 2 Kings 18:31; see also Ps. 105:33; Isa. 36:16; Jer. 5:17; 8:13; Joel 2:19, 24; Hag. 2:19; Zech. 3:10). Likewise, olive oil and the grain of the field (as well as the cattle) were objects of God’s blessing (cf. Num. 18:12; Deut. 7:13; 11:14; 28:51; 2 Kings 18:32; Jer. 31:12; Joel 2:19; Hag. 1:11). עֹאן and בָּקָר are often used together to represent the totality of cattle, both small and large.626 Thus the failure of all these resources had serious economic and spiritual ramifications.

 

שְׁדֵמוֹח (“fields”): Although the plural is twice used of terraced lands (2 Kings 23:4; Jer. 31:40), it was also employed with grapes and vines in Deut. 32:32; Isa. 16:8, so that “vineyard” is a likely possibility not only in these passages but also in Hab. 3:17. But the following אֹכֶל (“food”) makes a final decision difficult. I have retained the traditional denotation “fields.”

 

 

Most distinctive of all, however, is that, while vv. 2, 16-19 contain themes and phrases that may be indebted to the material contained in vv. 3-15, they are written in a poetic style largely representative of the classical language and themes of the Psalter and prophets (cf. v. 2 with Pss. 44:1 [HB 44:2]; 85:4-7 [HB 85:5-8]; 102:12-13; Isa. 54:8; v. 16 with Ps. 37:7; v. 17 with Jer. 5:17; Joel 1:10- 12; Amos 4:9; vv. 18-19 with Pss. 27:1; 46:1-5 [HB 46:2-6]; 97:12). On the other hand, vv. 3-15 reflect Israel’s earliest poetry (cf. v. 3 with Judg. 5:4; Ps. 68:7 [HB 68:8]; v. 5 with Deut. 33:2-3; vv. 10- 11 with Judg. 5:4-5; Pss. 18:7-15 [HB 18:8-16]; 68:7-8 [HB 68:8-9]; 77:16-19 [HB 77:17-20]; 144:5-6; vv. {1.269}12-15 with Ex. 15:6-10, 14-18).639 In addition, as noted in the introduction under Literary Context, this section is filled with archaic grammatical elements, poetic devices, and themes such as that of the chariot warrior baring his bow.640

 

 

The prophet Habakkuk, who I think is perfectly matchable with the great Jeremiah, would therefore be the latter in his later mission of ‘building and planting’ (also as Haggai), which positive mission could not be activated until the post-exilic phase, the Medo-Persian rule.

 

Part Four: As Zechariah

 

“This title (han-nâbî) is applied only to Habakkuk, Haggai, and Zechariah”.

 

With Habakkuk now identified as (Jeremiah =) Haggai, then it would be a neat completion if also Zechariah (of the same title as Habakkuk and Haggai) could be an additional alter ego.    

 

 

 

Apart from the shared title, there are a few points to recommend this further identification, (Habakkuk = Jeremiah = Haggai) = Zechariah.

But there are also certain problems with it.

What follows here will thus be a brief and tentative beginning, for further elaboration later.

 

In Favour

 

To identify Jeremiah with Zechariah would immediately solve this most vexed of scriptural problems: https://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=6&article=658

 

Who was Matthew Quoting?


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http://ap.lanexdev.com/user_images/image/rr/2011/Quoting-Matthew-DM-&-EL2.pngAfter reporting in his gospel account about Judas’ suicide and the purchase of the potter’s field, Matthew quoted from the prophets as he had done many times prior to chapter 27. He wrote: “Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, ‘And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the value of Him who was priced, whom they of the children of Israel priced, and gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me’ ” (27:9-10). For centuries, these two verses have been contemplated by Christians and criticized by skeptics. The alleged problem with this passage, as one modern-day critic noted, is that “this is not a quote from Jeremiah, but a misquote of Zechariah” (Wells, 2001). Skeptics purport that Matthew misused Zechariah 11:12-13, and then mistakenly attributed the quotation to Jeremiah. Sadly, even some Christians have advocated this idea (see Cukrowski, et al., 2002, p. 40). What can be said of the matter?

“What can be said of the matter” is that Matthew was quoting Jeremiah, but in the latter’s post-exilic guise as Zechariah.

And it would also serve to fill out the duration of the ministry of the prophet Haggai, which, according to estimates based upon the Book of Haggai alone, “was short, lasting only four months” (http://www.bible-studys.org/Bible%20Books/Haggai/Book%20of%20Haggai.html)

However, the prophet was old at this stage, anyway, by my estimations, so his post-exilic ministry must of necessity have been rather brief.

Now, just as we found with the prophet Habakkuk, with Haggai, “… it is possible that [Zechariah] was a priest2” (https://bible.org/article/introduction-book-zechariah).

Jeremiah we know to have been both priest and prophet.

Ezra 5:1 would now read as connected with a waw (וּ): “Now Haggai the prophet even Zechariah the prophet …”.

And so my explanation would enable for the integration of Haggai 1:1: “In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai …”, with Zechariah 1:1: “In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah …”. Etc.

The same prophet, operating in the very same regnal year!

It might also explain why Haggai (= Habakkuk) is accorded no genealogy, since Zechariah (1:1) will go on to supply that lack, “… Zechariah, son of Berekiah, the son of Iddo …”.

 

Problematical

 

To identify Jeremiah with Zechariah would mean having to cope with an additional Hebrew name for the prophet. I have already loaded down Jeremiah with the additional names of Habakkuk and Haggai, but Habakkuk is easily explained as a foreign (Akkadian) name given to Jeremiah presumably by the Chaldeans. Haggai I take to be a hypocoristicon of Habakkuk. It was not uncommon, however, for Israelites to acquire a new name at a turning point in their lives – the well-known example of Jacob to Israel, for instance.

And I have previously identified:  

 

Prophet Nahum as Tobias-Job Comforted

 


 

Another problem with my reconstruction is that, whilst Jeremiah-as-Habakkuk in the time of king Cyrus is reasonable (I have estimated Jeremiah by now to be in his mid-eighties), to stretch the prophet further to embrace Haggai/Zechariah, presumably in a later Persian phase again, would make him extremely old.

This matter, involving as it does, a fairly substantial renovation of Medo-Persian history, will need to be left to another time.

But what I am very excited about is that Zechariah 1:12, situated as it is still “in the second year of Darius” (v. 7), speaks of the culmination then of Jeremiah’s 70 years: “Then the angel of the LORD said, ‘LORD Almighty, how long will you withhold mercy from Jerusalem and from the towns of Judah, which you have been angry with these seventy years?’”

That is perfectly in accord with my revised chronology of Chaldean-Medo/Persian history.

It goes like this:

 

By “the first year of Nebuchadnezzar”, 23 (of the 70) years had already elapsed (Jeremiah 25:1-3):

 

The word came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah in the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, which was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. So Jeremiah the prophet said to all the people of Judah and to all those living in Jerusalem: For twenty-three years—from the thirteenth year of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah until this very day—the word of the Lord has come to me and I have spoken to you again and again, but you have not listened.

 

Cf. v. 11, “seventy years”.

 

Nebuchednezzar reigned for 43 years. 23 + 43 = 66 years.

Evil-merodach, as Belshazzar (my revision), reigned for about 3 years. 69 years.

Darius the Mede = Cyrus finally allows the Temple to be rebuilt in his Year 1.

69 + 1 = 70.

So, in Year 2 the author of Zechariah can appropriately refer to “these seventy years”.

 

 

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