Habakkuk 1 – Wrong Judgment Prevails & Assyria from the Neo-Assyrian Period Forward

As they say, whoever they are, “All good things must come to an end.”  Nothing in our life lasts forever, everything, not just empires, are either replaced or destroyed, and that includes life.

But in Your world “All good things are forever and fantastic!”

“And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and he their God.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.  And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.

And he said unto me, it is done.  I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.  I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.

He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.

But the fearful and unbelieving and the abominable and murderers and whoremongers and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Rev 21:3-8).

Chapter one talks about burdens/pronouncements of the Ancient World, so tomorrow let’s take a quick look at…

Habakkuk 1
Wrong Judgment Prevails

 

Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he became king, and reigned for eleven years to 598 BC and was succeeded by his son Jeconiah, (also known as Jehoiachin), who reigned for only three months

1 The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see.

“Burden” – or “oracle,” such as the two found here (vv. 5-11, 2:2-20).  Oracles were frequently received in visions.  The Hebrew word for “burden’ or “pronouncement” often refers to revelations containing warnings of impending doom.

“Habakkuk” – the name is probably Babylonian and refers to a king of garden plant.

2 O LORD, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! Even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save!

1:2-2:20 – a dialogue between the prophet and God.  The basic theme age-old: Why does evil seem to go unpunished?  Why does God not respond to prayer?

“Violence” – verses 2-4 virtually groan with painful words like this one.  At this time Judah was probably under King Jehoiakim, who was ambitious, cruel and corrupt.  Habakkuk describes the social corruption and spiritual apostasy of Judah in the late 7th century B.C.

3 Why dost thou shew me iniquity, and cause me to behold grievance? For spoiling and violence are before me: and there are that raise up strife and contention.

“Cause me to behold grievance” – the prophet was amazed that God seemed to condone cruelty and violence.

4 Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment doth never go forth: for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceedeth.

“Law is slacked…judgment doth never go forth’ – because wealthy landowners controlled the courts through bribery.

5 Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvelously: for I will work a work in your days, which ye will not believe, though it be told you.

2 Kings 24:1,6,8a,10-17
During Jehoiakim’s reign, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon attacked. Jehoiakim was his subject for three years, but then he rebelled against him.

“Will not believe” – to the people of Judah it was incredible that God would give them over to the arrogant Babylonians.  The phrase identifies the human condition: willful disbelief that God will do anything.

6 For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, which shall march through the breadth of the land, to possess the dwelling places that are not theirs.

The apostate nation of Judah is to be punished by an invasion of the Babylonians, a powerful people who regained their independence from Assyria in 626 B.C., destroyed Assyrian power completely in 612-605 B.C., and flourished until 539 B.C.  In this context, the Chaldeans are synonymous with the newly resurgent Babylonians.

7 They are terrible and dreadful: their judgment and their dignity shall proceed of themselves.

8 Their horses also are swifter than the leopards, and are more fierce than the evening wolves: and their horsemen shall spread themselves, and their horsemen shall come from far; they shall fly as the eagle that hasteth to eat.

The speed with which Babylon conquered her enemies had become proverbial.  Habakkuk’s vocabulary and ingenuity in using analogy in these verses are energetic, vivid and effective.  He establishes his own identity within the prophetic community with his unique, descriptive words.

9 They shall come all for violence: their faces shall sup up as the east wind, and they shall gather the captivity as the sand.

10 And they shall scoff at the kings, and the princes shall be a scorn unto them: they shall deride every strong hold; for they shall heap dust, and take it.

Jehoiachin, King of Judah, was taken into exile with about 10,000 of his people. All this is confirmed by an archaeological discovery of cuneiform tablets.

One of them – popularly called the Babylonian Chronicle – tells of Nebuchadnezzar’s attack, the capture of Jehoiachin and how Nebuchadnezzar “appointed a king of his own choice” to rule in Judah – just as the Scripture says he did (II Kings 24:16,17).

11 Then shall his mind change and he shall pass over, and offend, imputing this his power unto his god.

“Imputing this his power unto his god” – the Babylonians were so proud and confident of their military might that it had virtually become their god.

12 Art thou not from everlasting, O LORD my God, mine Holy One? We shall not die. O LORD, thou hast ordained them for judgment; and, O mighty God, thou hast established them for correction.

Habakkuk cannot see the justice in Judah’s being punished by an even more wicked nation, and thinks that the Babylonians surely would not be allowed to conquer Judah complete.

“Thou has ordained them” – Habakkuk recognizes Babylon as God’s agent of judgment.

13 Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he?

A classic statement of the problem of evil within the context of Israel’s faith: Why does evil appear to flourish unchecked by a just and holy God?

This is one of the tablets found near the Ishtar Gate. Four of these tablets list rations of oil and barley given to various individuals—including the deposed King Jehoiachin—by Nebuchadnezzar from the royal storehouses, dated five years after Jehoiachin was taken captive.

One tablet reads:
“10 (sila of oil) to the king of Judah, Yaukin; 2 1/2 sila (oil) to the offspring of Judah’s king; 4 sila to eight men from Judea.” Another reads, “1 1/2 sila (oil) for three carpenters from Arvad, 1/2 apiece; 11 1/2 sila for eight wood workers from Byblos. . .; 3 1/2 sila for seven Greek craftsman, 1/2 sila apiece; 1/2 sila to the carpenter, Nabuetir; 10 sila to Ia-ku-u-ki-nu, the son of Judah’s king[1]; 2 1/2 sila for the five sons of the Judean king.”

Notice how much more Jehoiachin got than everyone else. Obviously he had the king’s favor.

14 And makest men as the fishes of the sea, as the creeping things, that have no ruler over them?

15 They take up all of them with the angle; they catch them in their net, and gather them in their drag: therefore they rejoice and are glad.

“They catch them in their net” – Babylon’s victims are as powerless as fish swimming into a net.  Mesopotamian reliefs portray, in symbolic fashion, conquering rulers capturing the enemy in fishnets.

16 Therefore they sacrifice unto their net, and burn incense unto their drag; because by them their portion is fat, and their meat plenteous.

Their violent behavior is bad enough, but their pagan faith simply defies understanding to the believing Habakkuk.  Honesty is the measure of any true relationship, and Habakkuk has been honest with his Lord.  His words are not words of unbelief; rather, they are words of disbelief.  He cannot understand why God would use the cruel Babylonians.

17 Shall they therefore empty their net, and not spare continually to slay the nations?

Assyria from
the Neo-Assyrian Period Forward

Neo-Assyrian Period (c. 934-612 B.C.)

This statue of King Ashurnasirpal II (883-859 BC) was placed in the Temple of Ishtar Sharrat-niphi. It was designed to remind the goddess Ishtar of the king’s piety.

It is made of magnesite, and stands on a pedestal of a reddish stone. These unusual stones were probably brought back from a foreign campaign. Kings often boasted of the exotic things they acquired from abroad, not only raw materials and finished goods but also plants and animals.

Ashur-dan II returned stability to Assyria and reclaimed western territory lost to the Arameans. The next two kings reconsolidated and expanded the state. Military outposts were established throughout the empire to replenish troops on campaign.

Ashurnasirpal II (884-859 B.C.) built a new capital at Calah – later Nimrud. He marched north to the Zagros Mountains and west to Syria-Palestine, exacting tribute and subjecting defeated peoples to forced labor in Calah.

His son Shalman-eser III (859-824 B.C.) continued to expand the empire north and west. His annals record a conflict involving a coalition often kings, including Ahab of Israel, who provided 2,000 chariots and several thousand soldiers for the battle of Qarqar in 853 B.C.

Shalmaneser, unable to defeat the coalition, returned to engage these nations again during subsequent years. Eventually Jehu of Israel paid tribute to the Assyrian king, as depicted on the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III. 

On the southern front Shalmaneser assisted the Babylonian king in dispelling Aramean invaders. Toward the end of Shalmaneser’s reign Assyria began to decline due to internal revolutions. For 80 years after his death, Assyrian kings attempted to retain control over outlying territories.

Statue of Shalmaneser III at Istanbul
His reign is significant to the Bible (See: Hebrew Bible / Old Testament) because two of his monuments name Biblical figures.

The Black Obelisk names Jehu son of Omri and the Kurkh Monolith names king Ahab in reference to the Battle of Karkar.

The famous queen Semiramis (read under the picture.  Those aren’t my words and I don’t necessarily agree with them, but I most certainly do not disagree) ruled Assyria during the minority of her son, Adad-narari III (810-782 B.C.), who in turn subjugated Damascus; received tribute from nearby kings, including Israel’s Joash; and was recognized as sovereign by the Chaldean tribes.

Tiglath-Pileser III (744-727 B.C.) strengthened royal authority and regained lost Syrian territories. He continued his march through Syria and Palestine down to Egypt, receiving tribute from Damascus, Byblos, Tyre and Samaria (cf. 2 Chr 28:19-21).

When Damascus and Samaria rebelled Tiglath-Pileser quelled the uprising, making them vassal states (cf. 2 Kgs 15:30). He installed an appointee as king of Babylonia, later taking that throne himself.

During the short reign of Shalmaneser V (726-722 B.C.), Samaria was besieged. Assyrian records attribute Samaria’s capitulation to Shalmaneser V or to Sargon II (722-705 B.C.).

Most likely the fall of Samaria was a foregone conclusion when Shalmaneser was assassinated and Sargon II usurped the throne in 722 B.C. Massive deportation of Israelites to Assyria followed.

Sargon II gained control of Syria- Palestine, defeating a coalition of Syrians and Egyptians at Qarqar in 720 B.C. From 720 to 710 he also fought against and eventually prevailed over the Babylonian king Marduk-apal-iddina (Merodach-Baladan of Isa 39:1).

Battle of Qarqar:
one of the fights during the Assyrian king Šalmaneser III’s campaign against the city states of Syria. The main source is the Kurkh Stela, which has become famous because it mentions king Ahab of Israel.

Sargon’s son Sennacherib (701-681 B.C.) is famous for his siege of Jerusalem. Hezekiah of Judah was encouraged to rebel against Assyria on the basis of reunion strength. Egypt, however, was soundly defeated by Sennacherib, who then pressed against Hezekiah. Jerusalem, thought besieged, miraculously escaped defeat (2 Kgs 18-19).

Sennacherib destroyed Babylon in 689 B.C., but was assassinated by two of his sons and succeeded by another son, Esarhaddon.  Under Esarhaddon (680-669 B.C.) the Egyptian army was defeated, after which Egypt was ruled by Assyrian-appointed governors.

With most of Syria-Palestine submissive, Esarhaddon rebuilt Babylon and oversaw extensive work in Nineveh, Asshur and Calah. Before his death in 660 B.C. he required his officials to swear allegiance to his son Ashurbanipal.

Esarhaddon conferred the Babylonian throne, however, upon another son, Shamash-shuma-ukin.

Ashurbanipal focused on Egypt, which was attempting to regain independence.  Although Memphis and Thebes were captured in 663 B.C., Egypt was freed from Assyrian domination when troubles in other parts of the empire required Ashurbanipal’s attention.

Civil war broke out between Ashurban-ipal and his brother Shamash-Shuma-ukin in 652 B.C.  Ashurbanipal emerged victorious four years later after a long siege of Babylon.

Although Assyria emerged as victor, it never recovered from the drain on its military and recourses.  Ashhurbanipal’s successors were unable to restore the empire’s greatness.

Nabopolassar of Babylonian retrieved much territory from Assyria during the latter portion of the 7th century because and the Babylonians and Medes invaded the heartland, capturing Asshur in 614 B.C.

In 612, the Assyrian capital of Nineveh fell following a short siege.  Although Ashur-ubalit II attempted to rule an independent Assyrian state from Harran, he was no match for Babylonian and her allies. 

The once formidable Assyrian Empire had come to a decisive end.

There she stands on her island in New York Harbor holding her torch of freedom;
Americans believe she is the symbol of their liberty in the Land of the Free. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Statue of Liberty was given to America by French Freemasons, her mirror image stands on an island in the River Seine in Paris.

These two statues are representations of Queen Semiramis, with the rays of the Sun around her head. Placing a crown of rays about the head was a way of showing sun worship. She is not holding the torch of liberty, but the torch of the illuminated ones, the ruling Elite. The Statue of Liberty is a symbol which says: ‘We control you and we are telling you so, but you are too stupid to see it’!

…Oracles of the Ancient World.