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The Judgment Judged

In the book of Habakkuk, Babylon attacks Judah, and Habakkuk recognizes this as judgment against Judah. But since God hates wickedness, He needs to judge wicked Babylon, too. So how does God “judge the judgment”? The answer is buried in chapter 2 verse 5, and explained in the five “woes” that follow. Although it looks like Babylon is being blessed by God, receiving the land, the wealth of Judah, and the rich spoils of war, God is not blessing them; He is cursing them by means of blessings, because wine is a traitor.

Commentators get all tied up in knots when they try to figure out how in the world verse 4 relates to verse 5. They are grammatically tied together by the word “moreover”, signifying that the author thinks they are connected, but it can be difficult to see how they connect. But these verses are tightly connected, and the connection helps explain God’s plan for judging Babylon. Where the ESV translates “Behold, his soul is puffed up”, it is possible to translate the verse this way: “Behold the swollen! His desire or appetite is not upright within him.” The word translated “proud” or “puffed up” comes from a root meaning “swollen”, used to describe a hill as a “swollen” part of the ground. The word commonly translated “soul” in vs. 4 is the same word translated “greed” or “desire” in vs. 5, and can mean soul, appetite, desire, etc. If we remember that God is answering Habakkuk’s simile of the Wicked Fisherman in 1:14-17, we should notice that eating and drinking is a big part of the discussion. Habakkuk asks: “Why do the wicked get to eat the righteous? Why do they get all the rich food?” God answers: “Look at how fat they are! Their appetites are out of control!”

Now we can understand verse 5: Babylon’s appetite has run wild: not just their eating, but drinking as well – moreover, wine is a traitor! Drinking more and more seems like a good idea at the time, but you end up falling into the gutter and throwing up. We tend to think, along with Habakkuk, that judgment only means taking good things away, which is how God is judging His people Judah. But at the same time, He is judging Babylon by giving her exactly what she wants, and this is how God judges those He hates. When God hates someone, delivers them over to their evil desires, and their own indulging of their twisted appetites for sin is what destroys them. At the same time God is using Babylon to judge Judah, He is already beginning to judge Babylon as well.

—CJ

Posted on Wednesday, September 12, 2012 by CJ Bowen