15 “Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors,
pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk,
so that he can gaze on their naked bodies!
16 You will be filled with shame instead of glory.
Now it is your turn! Drink and let your nakedness be exposed!
The cup from the Lord’s right hand is coming around to you,
and disgrace will cover your glory.
17 The violence you have done to Lebanon will overwhelm you,
and your destruction of animals will terrify you.
For you have shed human blood;
you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them.
(Habakkuk 2:15-17 NIV)
Today we see the fourth of five woes pronounced upon the Babylonians. The woe summarized? Inhumane treatment of others.
The Lord uses the idea of alcohol and drunkenness to convey the woe. However, the message is not about alcohol – the message is an allegory. There is certainly a face value lesson about alcohol here, but the real lesson the Lord is talking about is the inhumane way the Babylonians treated their captives.
The NIV translation does not express the full understanding of verse 15. The NASB version captures more of the details of what the Lord describes:
“Woe to you who make your neighbors drink,
Who mix in your venom even to make them drunk
So as to look on their nakedness!
(Habakkuk 2:15 NASB)
This is not a friendly or neighborly offer to share a drink and conversation. This is forcing the other person to drink. And the intent is evil, as the drink is poisoned with another substance that renders the person unable to defend or protect themselves. In our modern era, we might refer to the drink being “spiked” or “drugged”; This practice is premeditated and evil and often leads to “date rape”, giving unfair advantage to the perpetrator over their victim.
Again, the Lord is using this graphic depiction as an allegory, to describe the way the Babylonians treat their captives.
The Babylonians would take over a region, then summarily strip and plunder the region and its inhabitants of all their resources, thus exposing its “nakedness”. This included financial resources, natural resources, cultural resources. Anything that had value in the Babylonians’ eyes.would be carried off, leaving the people and land desolate.
The Lord is saying that however the Babylonians treated their captives is how they will be treated. The Lord is now the one forcing the Babylonians to drink the same drink they forced on others. The Lord will now expose the shame of the Babylonians to the world.
In verse 17, the Lord says even the forests of Lebanon (known for its huge cedar trees) cry out against the Babylonians, as they cut down the trees for the lumber, stripping the land. And the Lord said that not only the forests of Lebanon would cry out against the Babylonians. The animals that lived in the forests (both wild and domesticated) would also echo their cries against their captors, as the Babylonians would plunder these animals for their own feasting and enjoyment.
The Lord recaps the sins of the Babylonians in the second half of verse 17: Violence (bloodshed) to the people, the desolation of the land, the cities (dwellings), and the inhabitants thereof.
What is the response to such terrible acts of injustice? Should they fight back? Should they resist? Should they demand justice and try to bring their captors to court?
The Lord stated our focus in a little phrase in verse 4: “the righteous shall live by faith”. When we focus on the Lord, despite all the terrible things going on around us, He will take care of the rest. He will see that justice is served.
As one has said, “Until the Lord is all we have, we don’t realize that the Lord is all we need.”