Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Study of the Prophets: Habakkuk (Cont.) October 14, 2016
This week we begin with Nebuchadnezzar’s advance on Israel and insight into his personality which is typical of evil people.
Verses 2:4-5 read: “Behold, his soul is defiant; it is unsettled in him. But the righteous person shall live through his faith. The [man of] wine also act treacherously; he is and arrogant man and does not stay at home. He has widened his soul like the grave and, like death, he is not satisfied. He gathered unto himself all the nations and assembled unto himself all the peoples.”
“His soul is defiant… Rashi translates this as an expression of insolence and defiance. The soul that is wicked is continuously wrathful and aspires to destroy/conquer others. He is never satisfied with what he possesses and is therefore worthy of punishment. Radak extends this translation to Nebuchadnezzar himself and his grandson Belshazzar, who were faithless, arrogant, and fearless about G-d and His punishments.
“But the righteous person shall live through his faith.” The righteous person develops a steadfast faith over time and recognizes that everything that occurs comes from G-d. He does not take credit for his strength, success, or any merit (Metzudos). He learns to surrender himself totally to G-d, trusting G-d completely in all circumstances, and strives to follow the King’s Highway, diverting neither to the right nor the left.
“The man of wine also acts as treacherously.” This is a reference to Belshazzar, although it also refers to a character type in anyone. Belshazzar, who was the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, who, while under the influence of wine, desecrated the holy vessels of the Temple and profaned G-d’s Name (Rashi). [see Daniel 5:1-4]. This provoked G-d’s wrath and He ordered the immediate destruction of the Babylonian Empire (Malbim). G-d punishes all wicked men and Nebuchadnezzar is no exception.
“He is and arrogant man and does not stay at home.” Rashi translates “home” as “royal house.” Belshazzar’s wicked actions resulted in his death and the end of the Babylonian Empire. The royal house of Nebuchadnezzar was cut down, and he had no descendants to carry on his dynasty (Rashi). The Hebrew word used in this verse actually means “dwelling place” or “residence.” Belshazzar will no longer dwell in his palace, because his kingdom will be taken from him and given to Darius the Mede, because the Babylonian Empire was divided between the Medes and Persians as foretold in Daniel’s vision /interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.
24 Then Daniel went to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to execute the wise men of Babylon, and said to him, “Do not execute the wise men of Babylon. Take me to the king, and I will interpret his dream for him.”
25 Arioch took Daniel to the king at once and said, “I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who can tell the king what his dream means.”
26 The king asked Daniel (also called Belteshazzar), “Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?”
27 Daniel replied, “No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come. Your dream and the visions that passed through your mind as you were lying in bed are these:
29 “As Your Majesty was lying there, your mind turned to things to come, and the revealer of mysteries showed you what is going to happen. 30 As for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have greater wisdom than anyone else alive, but so that Your Majesty may know the interpretation and that you may understand what went through your mind.
31 “Your Majesty looked, and there before you stood a large statue—an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. 32 The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. 34 While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were all broken to pieces and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth.
36 “This was the dream, and now we will interpret it to the king. 37 Your Majesty, you are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; 38 in your hands he has placed all mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds in the sky. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold.
39 “After you, another kingdom will arise, inferior to yours. Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth.”
40 Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron—for iron breaks and smashes everything—and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others. 41 Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the strength of iron in it, even as you saw iron mixed with clay. 42 As the toes were partly iron and partly clay, so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle. 43 And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay.
44 “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. 45 This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands—a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces.
“The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future. The dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy.”
There are scholars who interpret the Mede-Persia rule as a single kingdom. However, the terminology in Daniel indicates a collaborative relationship between two separate kingdoms of Medio and Persia, a detailed study of which is beyond the scope of our study. I recommend researching this subject to enhance your learning experience and critical thinking skills. I present the subject in this study because it has application to our study and parallels’ Daniel’s vision/interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream alluded to directly and indirectly in Habakkuk’s prophecy.
Another translation of the phrase “He is an arrogant man and does not stay home” is provided by Radak who describes this verse as foretelling that Nebuchadnezzar will be driven from his palace; see Daniel 4:30. Nebuchadnezzar, later in his life, lost his sanity to the point where he thought he was an animal. He ate grass like an ox, washed his body with dew, and was driven from human society.
“He has widened his soul like the grave.” Habakkuk is now describing Nebuchadnezzar’s wickedness. Nebuchadnezzar’s insatiable lusts are metaphorically described as a wide grave and as the angel of death, indicating there is always room for one more. Similarly, Nebuchadnezzar was never satisfied with the nations he conquered. He always sought more of everything. Alternatively, Metzudos describes this verse as a continuation of the description of the wicked and arrogant man who deserves punishment. His lusts are insatiable and he seeks to have all subservient to him. Such people surely deserve punishment and to be brought to justice.
Next week we will begin at verse 6 where Habakkuk enumerates the punishment of the Chaldeans in general and Nebuchadnezzar specifically.
Rabbi Tamah Davis