Our anatomy lesson from the book of Habakkuk begins with a general statement of evil. introducing the proud man, mentioned in vs.4 & vs.5.

The two words for proud are each different and there is irony and sarcasm in both their meanings. The first word, rapa, which we have seen in our last study, means the puffed one, the swelled one. One who is full of air. The second is the Hebrew word yahir, from the word har, meaning mountain. It is as if to say, “Here is the mountain coming”, when speaking of a proud person entering the room.

These are very fitting descriptions of the way God looks at the defiant individual. They are full of air and definitely not an everlasting mountain, though they think they are. Perhaps this is why the Lord laughs (Psalm 2).

Both these verses describe the condition of the evil one’s soul as not being right within him. In verse 5 we read that this one is never at rest; the Hebrew word here is yinveh from the root naveh, meaning to stay at home. This same root word is used in Exodus 15:2 when Moses is singing praises to the Lord. Here stability and peace are the anchor as opposed to the man of pride who cannot live in such a state of calm, nor praise God.

And what does this evil one do all day long? He enlarges his appetite like Sheol and like death, he is never satisfied. The word translated as appetite is the Hebrew nefesh or soul, like we find in vs.4. By using nefesh we can appreciate how low or how deep this dissatisfaction can go, to the very soul or being of the individual.

Here, in the introduction of evil’s anatomy, we find a description of the wicked one who is seemingly so sure of himself but in actual fact, his soul is in a constant state of anxiety and apprehension. It is definitely not true that the evil one is happy or content, but more importantly, they are under the watchful eye of God who restrains and limits their acts of evil.

What follows and continues until the end of chapter are five woes, each taking one step further when describing the state of the wicked. But this sequence can also act as a barometer for us during our own self-examination. This is why we are told so much about sin; it is so we can prevent it from entering us. This is why the LORD takes so much space in this short book to describe evil. In these descriptions we will recognize things that today have become so commonplace, yet these are the very things which pave the way to sheol and death.

So let us begin with the five woes. In the Hebrew this word is oye. It is a warning of impending judgment. It is also used when announcing the death of someone. So, when Habakkuk used that word oye, the people listened.

The first oye, is found in vs 6 and including vss 7-8, it describes a thief who is on a mission to get wealthy but at the expense of others. This is about selfish aspirations. Here we read: Woe to him who increases what is not his. The wicked borrows but does not give back. This is not limited to money only, but to time, services, and ideas.

What we see in this opening woe is the reversal of the commandment to love one another which is repeated at least 17 times in the New Testament, and which is at the foundation of the Mosaic Law. But the mark of the wicked is, as we see in the letters of 1John, one who entirely lacks love. Lack of love is a gage we ought to use to spot those John calls the antichrists who as John says, are already in the world. Now there is a great illustration in this section, even some sarcasm. See the words in vs.6

And he makes himself rich with loans. The Hebrew word for loan rabitit, is found just this once in the Hebrew Scriptures. This makes it hard to figure its precise and intended meaning.

The rabbis saw that rabitit is made up of two words, rab which means thick and teit which means mud. So, to accumulate loans is like covering oneself with mud. The more the loans, the more the person literally buries himself. Of course, there is nothing wrong with taking a loan that we are able to pay back, loans for a car or a house, but when it becomes impossible to pay back, then it becomes like mud all over us. No one can breathe buried in mud.

And here in the end, the creditors, neshech are seen coming to the evil. Its root is from the same word as a biter, as when a serpent bites. After this kind of description, you would borrow money or anything else for that matter, with utmost care.

The second woe is found at the start of  vs.9, and through to vs. 11 this warning speaks of covetousness. Covetousness is the satisfaction of the self, and it also stands against the very foundation of the Bible to love, help and share with one another.

While it is similar to the first woe, this one brings pride to another level, that is, to such a high degree of false security that the person has now become delusional, believing that he is immune from evil and judgment. This is a very scary thought.

It opens up with the words in vs.9a Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house to put his nest on high, that he may be delivered from the grasp of evil! See what this individual is seen building: not a fortress, not a castle, but a nest. That also is ironic when one realizes how fragile a bird’s nest really is.

And in the end, in Hab. 2:10 the Lord tells the wicked; you have sinned against your own soul, for sin will ultimately turn against the sinner himself. We know that in the eternal state, sin and the memory of it will be done away with, but for the sinner, he is seen living eternally with the consequences of his own sin.


Click here for the complete teaching: The Prophet Habakkuk Sermon 5 : “An Exposé of Evil”