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Habakuk 2:4-5


2:4 Look, the one whose desires are not upright will faint from exhaustion, 1 

but the person of integrity 2  will live 3  because of his faithfulness. 4 

2:5 Indeed, wine will betray the proud, restless man! 5 

His appetite 6  is as big as Sheol’s; 7 

like death, he is never satisfied.

He gathers 8  all the nations;

he seizes 9  all peoples.

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[2:4]  1 tn The meaning of this line is unclear, primarily because of the uncertainty surrounding the second word, עֲפְּלָה (’apÿlah). Some read this as an otherwise unattested verb עָפַל (’afal, “swell”) from which are derived nouns meaning “mound” and “hemorrhoid.” This “swelling” is then understood in an abstract sense, “swell with pride.” This would yield a translation, “As for the proud, his desires are not right within him” (cf. NASB “as for the proud one”; NIV “he is puffed up”; NRSV “Look at the proud!”). A multitude of other interpretations of this line, many of which involve emendations of the problematic form, may be found in the commentaries and periodical literature. The present translation assumes an emendation to a Pual form of the verb עָלַף (’alaf, “be faint, exhausted”). (See its use in the Pual in Isa 51:20, and in the Hitpael in Amos 8:13 and Jonah 4:8.) In the antithetical parallelism of the verse, it corresponds to חָיָה (khayah, “live”). The phrase לֹא יָשְׁרָה נַפְשׁוֹ בּוֹ (loyoshrah nafsho bo), literally, “not upright his desire within him,” is taken as a substantival clause that contrasts with צַדִּיק (tsadiq, “the righteous one”) and serves as the subject of the preceding verb. Here נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh) is understood in the sense of “desire” (see BDB 660-61 s.v. נֶפֶשׁ for a list of passages where the word carries this sense).

[2:4]  2 tn Or “righteous.” The oppressed individuals mentioned in 1:4 are probably in view here.

[2:4]  3 tn Or “will be preserved.” In the immediate context this probably refers to physical preservation through both the present oppression and the coming judgment (see Hab 3:16-19).

[2:4]  4 tn Or “loyalty”; or “integrity.” The Hebrew word אֱמוּנָה (’emunah) has traditionally been translated “faith,” but the term nowhere else refers to “belief” as such. When used of human character and conduct it carries the notion of “honesty, integrity, reliability, faithfulness.” The antecedent of the suffix has been understood in different ways. It could refer to God’s faithfulness, but in this case one would expect a first person suffix (the original form of the LXX has “my faithfulness” here). Others understand the “vision” to be the antecedent. In this case the reliability of the prophecy is in view. For a statement of this view, see J. J. M. Roberts, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah (OTL), 111-12. The present translation assumes that the preceding word “[the person of] integrity” is the antecedent. In this case the Lord is assuring Habakkuk that those who are truly innocent will be preserved through the coming oppression and judgment by their godly lifestyle, for God ultimately rewards this type of conduct. In contrast to these innocent people, those with impure desires (epitomized by the greedy Babylonians; see v. 5) will not be able to withstand God’s judgment (v. 4a).

[2:5]  5 tn Heb “Indeed wine betrays a proud man and he does not dwell.” The meaning of the last verb, “dwell,” is uncertain. Many take it as a denominative of the noun נָוָה (navah, “dwelling place”). In this case it would carry the idea, “he does not settle down,” and would picture the drunkard as restless (cf. NIV “never at rest”; NASB “does not stay at home”). Some relate the verb to an Arabic cognate and translate the phrase as “he will not succeed, reach his goal.”

[2:5]  sn The Babylonian tyrant is the proud, restless man described in this line as the last line of the verse, with its reference to the conquest of the nations, makes clear. Wine is probably a metaphor for imperialistic success. The more success the Babylonians experience, the more greedy they become just as a drunkard wants more and more wine to satisfy his thirst. But eventually this greed will lead to their downfall, for God will not tolerate such imperialism and will judge the Babylonians appropriately (vv. 6-20).

[2:5]  6 tn Heb “who opens wide like Sheol his throat.” Here נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh) is understood in a physical sense, meaning “throat,” which in turn is figurative for the appetite. See H. W. Wolff, Anthropology of the Old Testament, 11-12.

[2:5]  7 sn Sheol is the proper name of the subterranean world which was regarded as the land of the dead. In ancient Canaanite thought Death was a powerful god whose appetite was never satisfied. In the OT Sheol/Death, though not deified, is personified as greedy and as having a voracious appetite. See Prov 30:15-16; Isa 5:14; also see L. I. J. Stadelmann, The Hebrew Conception of the World, 168.

[2:5]  8 tn Heb “he gathers for himself.”

[2:5]  9 tn Heb “he collects for himself.”

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