Habakkuk is three documents, written at different times and places. Most of chapter 1 was written by a young Habakkuk in Jerusalem, observing the armies of the north sweeping across the countryside, destroying, thieving, claiming other’s wealth and lives, and yet reaffirming that God’s plan was afoot. Chapter 2 records Five Woes spoken by an older Habakkuk from his new home in Assyria, speaking against those who build mansions on a hill, isolate themselves from community, amass wealth and power by squashing others, ruin the forests, kill the animals and do violence to the earth. He reminds us that such behaviors are self-defeating activities, mansions that are caskets, destruction that will come around to hurt the destroyers. Chapter 2 ends with a screed against idol worship and a promise.
There was a huge cedar forest in Lebanon. It was full of animals, deer and lions hunting them. There are beautiful poems in the ancient literature that use those deer, those lions, and those cedars as metaphors. And a poet doesn’t use a metaphorical image unless it’s familiar to the hearers.
But then something happened.
Some Native Americans believed the lunar eclipse is a greedy monster eating the moon. They built a bonfire with seaweed, hair, and human waste to make such a smell that the monster would have to hold it’s nose and spit the moon back out. Of course they wouldn’t have bothered without the hope that it’d work, otherwise it’s a pointless stink bomb. Continue reading
As the horse-mounted sword-wielding Assyrian army approached his home town, Isaiah proclaimed the words of Chapter 11 (this is the NRSV translation). He just declared that the Assyrians are at the gates; like a buzz-saw cutting down the giant trees, leaving behind dead stumps.
He tells his followers to have no fear. God is working in that bloody horror and destruction because one of those stumps isn’t dead …
Those who retreat from “the common people” to protect their ill-gotten gains, afraid of those they abused to get wealthy; we’re not impressed. Your fancy house is really your prison. You have not found life in isolation, you’ve forfeited life. The stones and plaster and woodwork of your house, the tennis courts, fancy cars, manicured sterile lawns cry out “Woe.”