“The burden [oracle] which the prophet Habakkuk saw.
O Lord, how long shall I cry, and You will not hear? Even cry out to You, ‘Violence!’ and You will not save. Why do You show me iniquity, and cause me to see trouble? For plundering and violence are before me; there is strife, and contention arises. Therefore the law is powerless, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; therefore perverse judgment proceeds. Look among the nations and watch—be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told you.”
Passages From The Writings
Prophets and Psalms (P&P)
- “Justice and truth perish. Grief on the part of the Lord, and directed to the Lord.”
- “From all these passages [Habakkuk 1:3 being one of them] it may be seen what ‘vastation’ and ‘desolation’ are; and that it is not a vastation and desolation of the peoples of a land, and of cities, but of the goods and truths of the church, whence there is nothing but evils and falsities.”
“The burden [oracle] which the prophet Habakkuk saw.”
- AE 208  explains what is meant by to “bring in no burden through the gates of this city.” It means to “not admit [permit] that which is from man’s own [proprium], but that which is from the Lord.”
- AC 9254 explains that “‘burden’ signifies falsity not agreeing with the good of the church by reason of which they were about to perish.”
- AE 172 explains that “burden” is a person’s proprium, “which is to love self above God and the world above heaven, [and which] offers resistance.”
- Apocalypse Revealed (AR) 144 explains that “burden” means or represents “what they should be aware of.”
- To understand the word “oracle,” as it is used in some passages of the Word, we must refer to a description of Solomon’s temple and the word “adytum.” The adytum, or oracle, was the place where the ark was, and it represented “where the Lord is” as to His Divine Truth. (AE 638  and 700 )
“…which the prophet Habakkuk saw.”
- AC 7268 defines what a “prophet” of the Lord does. A prophet is “one who utters in a form adapted to the understanding the Divine truth which proceeds immediately from the Lord, and which transcends all understanding…a ‘prophet’ also denotes the doctrine of the church…”
- The name “Habakkuk” means to “embrace” or “ardent embrace.” Does the name “Habakkuk” have anything to do with the spiritual message? There are no references in the Writings that say what “Habakkuk” signifies or represents or denotes.
- AC 937 has a wonderful explanation of the Word and what the Lord “sees.” The Word has such great arcana as to be “inexhaustible even as to the one ten-thousandth part of it…the angels—from the Lord—can see, in illimitable variety, the whole process of regeneration, and the state of the man who is to be and who has been regenerated, while man can see scarcely anything.” Did the Lord help the prophet Habakkuk to “see” the illimitable process the people needed to experience in regeneration?
“O Lord, how long shall I cry, and You will not hear?”
- What is the prophet expressing here? Impatience, fear, anxiety, confusion, and doubt? Is Habakkuk questioning the Lord’s providential care and concern for Israel? After all, hundreds of years had passed since the prophecy of the Lord’s advent had been given, and there was no sign of the Messiah yet. Was the prophecy of the Messiah a reality? John 10:24 tells of a time when “…the Jews surrounded Him and said…‘How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.’” Revelation 6:9-10 quotes the words of those “under the altar…who had been slain for the word of God…” crying “with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, until you judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’”
- AR 327, explaining the meaning of Revelation 6:10, says that this “signifies, why is the Last Judgment delayed…and why in justice are they [who do violence to the Word] not condemned…?”
- The Lord employed the “How long” question, too. “How long, O sons of men, will you turn my glory to shame? How long will you love worthlessness and seek falsehood?” (Psalm 4:2)
“Even cry out to You, ‘Violence!’ And You will not save.”
- “A ‘voice crying’ and ‘the voice of a cry’ are common forms of expression in the Word, and are applied to every case where there is noise, tumult, or disturbance…[or] accusation.” (AC 375) To “cry” out to the Lord has a “signification of…imploration, and also interior lamentation…consequently it also denotes supplication from grief.”
- AE 734  describes “a man of violence” as those who “from a depraved intention” pervert the truths of the Word by “thinking evils in the heart…”
- “The earth is said to be…‘filled with violence’ because of…foul cupidities…‘Corrupt’ is predicated of the things of the understanding when it is desolated; ‘violence,’ of the things of the will, when vastated. Thus ‘to corrupt’ is predicated of persuasions; and ‘violence,’ of cupidities.” (AE 734 , emphasis added)
- The phrase “You will not save” is an appearance the prophet believed to be true. However, we know and can cite many passages from the Word that tell us of the Lord’s perpetual care. If the Lord, for the least of moments, were to ignore or care less for anyone, it would be all over for that person. (AC 2410) We have to see Habakkuk’s statement for what it is: a moment of finite internal anguish in which the prophet sees no hope and is grieved by his blinded understanding.
“Why do You show me iniquity, and cause me to see trouble?”
- In the positive sense, we can see “the signification of ‘showing,’ when by Jehovah, that is the Lord, as being to give perception, and as this is affected by means of influx, it denotes to inspire…” (AC 8354) We can surmise that the prophet’s being shown iniquity may represent humanity’s momentary lack of perception and lack of influx.
- “Iniquity” comes about when there is a state of lawlessness (wickedness). AC 3488  describes for us how iniquity multiplies. When the falsities of faith grow cold, this denotes “the expiring of charity, for they keep pace together; where faith is not, there charity is not, and where charity is not, faith is not; but charity is that which receives faith, and no charity is that which rejects faith; this is the origin of every falsity and every evil.”
- The prophet speaks of seeing trouble. What does this represent? “Trouble” in the positive sense “denotes labor…because it is predicated of temptations, for in these they who are tempted have labor against falsities and evils, and the angels also have labor with them to keep them in the faith, and thus in the power of conquering…” (AC 8670) For the hells, “trouble” would seem to represent their loss of power and the Lord’s conquering victory over evils and falsities.
“For plundering and violence are before me; there is strife, and contention arises.”
- “Plunder” or “plundering” has a positive and negative meaning. When the Word talks about the Lord “plundering,” it means “the rescue and deliverance of the good by the Lord.” (AC 6442) “Plundering” by the hells signifies “to destroy the doctrine.” (AC 4503) “…the cupidity of gain and avarice has within it the desire not only to possess the whole world but also to plunder and even kill everyone for the sake of gain.” (AC 4751 )
- “Violence” signifies “offering violence to the good of charity.” (AE 175 ) “Violence” in the “internal sense is bearing hatred against the neighbor.” (AC 1010)
- “Strife” occurs when the internal and external aspects of a person disagree about the ends of worship. “…for when in worship the internal man desires to regard the ends that belong to the kingdom of God, and the external man desires to regard the ends that belong to the world, there thus arises a disagreement which manifests itself in the worship…The smallest bit of such disagreement is noticed in heaven…This is what is signified by…strife…” (AC 1571)
- AC 3425-7 illustrates the nature of “contention.” What a person acknowledges for the sake of gain is denied in the external and debated in the internal. The opposites of the external and internal become involved in “contention.” Note this teaching in AC 3427: “…‘contention’ or ‘dispute’…is derived from a kindred word which means oppression and injury.”
“Therefore the law is powerless and justice never goes forth.”
- As we turn our attention to the words “law” and “power,” let’s first consider these words in the positive sense. “…all precepts, indeed the Law and the Prophets, are founded on the one Law, to love the Lord above all things and the neighbor as one’s self…” (AC 1038, emphasis added)
- If this “one Law” is voided in the will or heart, does it not make sense that “the law is powerless”? If this “one Law” is ignored in the will, does it not make sense that “justice never goes forth” from the heart? Until the internal person worships the Lord and leads the external person, law and justice are powerless forms of the one Law.
“For the wicked surround the righteous; therefore perverse judgment proceeds.”
- Hold fast to the terms “wicked” and “surround” when reading AC 830. “They, who beguile men by subtle deceit, wearing a pleasant face and manner of speech, but concealing envenomed guile within, and thus captivating men for the purpose of ruining them, are in a hell more dreadful than the hells of others, even more dreadful than the hell of murderers. They seem to themselves to live among serpents; and the more pernicious their deceit has been, the more dreadful and venomous and the more numerous the serpents appear which surround and torment them.” Wickedness hates the Lord and the neighbor. Wickedness “burns” to destroy the Lord and all those who follow Him.
- From the wicked we can expect warped judgment. The wicked cannot think clearly. The wicked twist and turn truth to their own ends.
“Look among the nations and watch—be utterly astounded!”
- AC 622 has a short, but important, explanation of the meaning of “nation.” “Here, as in other places, ‘nation’…denotes evils which are of the will or of cupidities…” Is the Lord giving us an insight as to how many evils reside in the will?
- “Watch”; “keep awake”; “be alert.” These are words used to urge us to live life according to the precepts of faith. AC 4638  prefaces this teaching with “assiduous application of life in accordance with the precepts of faith, which is ‘to watch.’”
- What revelation from the Lord will “utterly astounded” the watchful? Is it, as AC 231 describes, the great number of “nations” that “do not believe the Lord or the Word, but themselves and their own senses”? AC 232 continues, “At this day, however, it is much worse than in former times, because men can now confirm the incredulity of the senses by memory-knowledges…and this has given birth to an indescribable degree of darkness. If men knew how great the darkness from this cause is they would be astounded.”
“For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe though it were told you.”
- The “I” in this verse is the Lord. What work will the Lord do? AC 88 notes, “Hence it is evident that the new creation, or regeneration, is the work of the Lord alone.” (Emphasis added.) AC 9965 states, “the work of the Lord is salvation.” Spiritual Experiences [SE] 1639 says, “The work of the Lord is turning evil into good.” (Emphasis added.) True Christian Religion [TCR] 640 states that knowing the merit and righteousness of the Lord is impossible. But “what His merit and righteousness are must be known. The merit of the Lord…is redemption…it is described as the subjugation of the hells, the orderly arrangement of the heavens, and the subsequent establishment of a church, and thus as being a work purely Divine. It is also there shown that the Lord by means of redemption took to Himself the power to regenerate and save those who believe on Him and do His commandments; also that without this redemption no flesh could have been saved. As redemption therefore was a work purely Divine, and a work of the Lord alone, and constitutes His merit, it follows that His merit can no more be applied, ascribed, or imputed to any man than the creation and preservation of the universe.” (Emphasis added.)
- If we were able to see the full “work” of the Lord, we would be amazed. His care and detail for each moment, even the least of moments, and the series of those moments on to eternity would overwhelm us. It would be a staggering task for our finite minds to comprehend the “work” of the Infinite. And yet, we must try to grasp a piece or portion of that Divine work.
Putting It All Together
The work of regeneration seems like an awesome burden. There are so many things to watch for and to work on. The battle against hell pits us against forces that enjoy cunning and deceit. There are subtle nuances we fall prey to. Do things that seem like harmless choices turn back on us in devastating ways? We do things, for what reason, we have no idea. Our inclination is to wish for an easier way. Why doesn’t the Lord take the upper hand and simplify the whole process? Why couldn’t He make the hells go away and leave us alone? If He would only “forcefully” slap down the evil, all would quickly come around to His way of life. But He doesn’t do it that way, and consequently, strife and contention enter into our spiritual decisions. Because inequities exist, hell tempts us to believe there must not be a caring God. Evil spirits suggest that He cares little for our confusion and pain. Whatever happened to the promises in the Word that said, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”? So the temptation arises to “numb out” on spiritual issues and go with the necessities of natural living.
Our lesson from Habakkuk instructs us that ignoring our spiritual burden is not the answer. “Where faith is not, there charity is not, and where charity is not, faith is not.” (AC 3488 ) The church within every person needs growing goods and truths. Every stage of our life needs new and larger insights from the Lord. We cannot live with the goods and truths we had as children. Truth is organic and not static. Hell wants to bring us strife and contention. Hell wants to surround us with the impression that it is invincible and mightier than the Lord. Hell counts on the fact that we might wilt in the day of conflict. Hell seeks to strip us of every truth so we capitulate in the warfare against the plundering violence of disorder.
“Look among the nations and watch—be utterly astounded…” The Lord promises that He will sort through all of the affections of our lives and that He will work a work that will astound us. He will “disconnect” the maze of proprial loves that support and strengthen hell’s resolve to resist the Lord.
The work of the Lord is a work that He alone can do. His is a work of new creation (regeneration). His work is the work of salvation. The Lord’s work is to turn evil into good. The Divine work is to subjugate hell and to bring an orderly arrangement of the heavens.
There is so much more involved in the work of the Lord. We will never perceive the extent of His care and benefactions. Hell will try to discourage us. Why not? It did the same thing to many of the heroes in the Word. The Psalmist had his moments of doubt. Read Psalm 73:1-17. Listen to his words about being envious of the boastful. He speaks of the successes of the proud. He notes how their tongues speak against the Lord. He tried to be good and faithful. For his efforts, he felt plagued. When he was almost at the point of giving up, he went into the sanctuary of God; “Then I understood their end.”
The list given above about the work of the Lord is a start, and it is enough to “embrace,” to “hold on to tightly,” and to use in our “wrestling” over weighty issues. “Watch” and “be utterly astounded” with what the Lord can do and is doing for us in the burden of our spiritual growth.
Read and Review
Read the selection from P&P.
Read Habakkuk 1:1-5.
Questions To Stimulate Reflection
1. Is Habakkuk over-stating the violence, plundering, and imagined power of hell?
2. With all due respect, did you feel the urge to tell Habakkuk to get over it? We may think that things were not as bad then as they are now. He saw things regionally. With television and other instantaneous news reports, we get a global picture of how bad things are in the world.
3.Are we in bigger trouble than Habakkuk?
4.How easy is it to “numb out” the importance of spiritual growth? Do you believe that putting off spiritual growth hurts and destroys one’s inner church? How?
5.Have you experienced any astounding work of the Lord? How many more works of the Lord can you add to the partial list given in our study?
“For indeed I am raising up the Chaldeans, a bitter and hasty nation which marches through the breadth of the earth, to possess dwelling places that are not theirs. They are terrible and dreadful; their judgment and their dignity proceed from themselves. Their horses also are swifter than leopards, and more fierce than evening wolves. Their chargers charge ahead; their cavalry comes from afar; they fly as the eagle that hastens to eat. They all come for violence; their faces are set like the east wind. They gather captives like sand. They scoff at kings. And princes are scorned by them. They deride every stronghold, for they heap up earthen mounds and seize it. Then his mind changes, and he transgresses; he commits offense, ascribing this power to his god.”
Passages From The Writings
- “The Jewish church profaned all the truths and goods of the Word and of the church.”
- “…in Habakkuk…‘the Chaldeans’ denote those who are in falsity; ‘to walk in the breadths of the land,’ denotes to destroy truths, for this is predicated of the Chaldeans.”
AC 4482 [2, 3]
- “In Habakkuk…where by ‘breadths’ nothing else is signified than the truth of the church. The reason why ‘breadth’ has this signification is that in the spiritual world, or in heaven, the Lord is the center of all things, for He is the sun there. They who are in a state of good are interior in proportion to the quality and quantity of the good in which they are, and therefore ‘height’ is predicated of good. They who are in a like degree of good are also in a like degree of truth, and therefore are as it were at a distance, or, so to speak, in the same circumference, and hence ‘breadth’ is predicated of truths; and therefore when a man is reading the Word this is what the angels who are with him understand by ‘breadth.’”
AC 9487 
- “That by ‘breadth’ is signified truth, is very manifest in the following passages…Habakkuk 1:6…‘to walk in the breadths of the land,’ when said of the Chaldeans, denotes to destroy the truths of faith.”
Heaven and Hell (HH) 197 
- “Because ‘the New Jerusalem’ here signifies a new church these measures signify the things of the church, ‘length’ its good of love, ‘breadth’ truth from that good, ‘height’ good and truth in respect to degrees…That ‘breadth’ in the Word signifies truth is evident…in Habakkuk 1:6…”
- “The reason why the ‘breadth of the earth’ signifies the truth of the church, is because in the spiritual world there are four quarters, east, west, south, and north, and the east and west constitute its length, and the south and north its breadth; and because they dwell in the east and west who are in the good of love, and thence by ‘east’ and ‘west’ is signified good, therefore the same is meant by ‘length;’ and because they dwell in the south and north who are in the truths of wisdom, and thence by ‘south’ and ‘north’ is signified truth, therefore the same is meant by ‘breadth;’…” Habakkuk 1:6 is cited among many passages from the Word.
AE 799 
- “That a ‘tent’ [dwelling place] signifies the church in respect to the truths of doctrine is evident from passages in the Word where a ‘tent and tents’ are mentioned (as in…Habakkuk 1:6…).”
AC 1368 [4, 5]
- “In Habakkuk…1:6-9…The Chaldean nation is here described by many representatives that are significant of the profanations of truth in worship. Moreover, Babylon and Chaldea are described in two entire chapters in Jeremiah (chapters 50 and 51), where what is signified by each is plainly evident, namely, by Babylon the profanation of celestial things, and by Chaldea the profanation of spiritual things, in worship. From all this therefore it is evident what is signified by ‘Ur of the Chaldees,’ namely, external worship in which there is inwardly profane idolatry.”
AC 3901 [7, 8]
- “That in the opposite sense an ‘eagle’ signifies rational things that are not true, and thus false…In Habakkuk…1:6, 8…By ‘eagles’ in these passages is signified falsity induced by reasonings, which is induced from the fallacies of the senses and external appearances. That by ‘Chaldeans’ in the Prophet last cited are signified those who are in a holy external, but interiorly in falsity…also that they who vastate the church are like Babylon…that the ‘breadths of the land’ denote truths…Vastation is signified by ‘marching through the breadths of the land.’ Their ‘horses’ are their intellectual things…What the ‘eagle hastening to devour’ signifies, is evident, namely, the desolation of man in respect to truths; for the desolation of the church is there treated of…”
AC 6534 
- “…in Habakkuk…1:6, 8…the ‘Chaldeans’ denote those who are in falsities, but in externals appear to be in truths, thus the profanation of truth, and ‘Babylon’ the profanation of good…‘Going into the breadth of the earth’ denotes to destroy truths…‘the horsemen who spread themselves and come from far’ denote the things that belong to perverted understanding, thus falsities.”
- “That ‘a horse’ signifies the understanding of the Word…‘horses’ in the opposite sense signify the understanding of the Word and of truth falsified by reasonings, and likewise destroyed…Habakkuk 1:6, 8-10…in the spiritual world…‘a horse’ signifies the understanding of truth from the Word…”
AE 355 
- “In Habakkuk…1:6, 8-10…‘The Chaldeans’ mean those who profane truths and thus vastate the church, therefore they are called ‘a bitter and hasty nation, that marcheth into the breadths of the land,’ ‘breadths of the land’ meaning the truths of the church…Their lust for and dexterity in perverting truths and destroying them by reasonings from falsities altogether remote from truths are signified by, ‘her horses are lighter than leopards, and more fierce than wolves of the evening, so that her horsemen spread themselves; yea, her horsemen shall come from afar; they shall fly as an eagle that hasteth to eat.’ Lust is signified by ‘her horses are lighter than leopards,’ and dexterity by ‘her horses are more fierce than the wolves of the evening,’ and both by ‘they fly as an eagle.’ Because the lust and dexterity are for destroying truths therefore it is said, ‘she shall come wholly for violence;’ their scoffing at truths and goods is signified by ‘she shall mock at kings, and rulers shall be a derision unto her,’ ‘kings’ signifying truths, and ‘lords’ and ‘rulers’ goods.”
AE 811 
- “In Habakkuk…1:6, 9, 10…‘The Chaldeans’ signify those who destroy the truths of the church; ‘the breadths of the land’ signify the truths of the church; that they will destroy all truths by falsities is signified by ‘it shall gather captivity like the sand;’ that the truths and goods of the Word will be derided and blasphemed is signified by ‘that nation shall mock at kings, and rulers shall be a derision unto it,’ ‘kings’ signifying the truths of the Word, and ‘rulers’ its goods.”
AE 780 
- “In Habakkuk…1:8…the devastation of the church by the adulteration of truth, which is signified by the Chaldean nation, of which these things are spoken. ‘Whose horses are lighter than leopards’ signifies the eagerness to seduce by reasonings, and a consequent expertness in seducing; such eagerness and expertness are signified by their ‘lightness’ or ‘swiftness;’ ‘horses’ here signifying reasonings from the natural man. And as ‘horses’ and ‘leopards’ have a like signification it is said, ‘whose horses are lighter than leopards.’ ‘More fierce than the wolves of the evening’ signifies craftiness in deceiving by fallacies; the fallacies of the senses are here signified by ‘the wolves of the evening’ because the fallacies are from the sensual man, which in darkness sees falsities as truths. ‘So that her horsemen spread themselves’ signifies that the truths of the Word by adulteration become heresies; ‘horsemen’ signify heresies because ‘horses’ mean reasonings by which falsities are confirmed.”
- “…eagles in the opposite sense signify the knowledges of what is false, from which the understanding is perverted…Habakkuk 1:8, 9…”
AE 281 
- “…in Habakkuk…1:8, 9…‘eagle’ stands for the reasoning from falsities against truths, which is from self-intelligence.”
Please note that AE 780  and AE 811  give us the most comprehensive insight into the overall spiritual meaning of Habakkuk 1:6-11. And yet, we need to turn to derived doctrine to help us focus on certain words and phrases not explained.
“For indeed I am raising up the Chaldeans, a bitter and hasty nation…”
- The literal sense seems to imply that the Lord was calling the Chaldeans to “punish” the Israelites. It appears He was calling a bitter and nasty nation to smash their self-esteem. Let’s consider three teachings in the Arcana regarding the meaning of “I am raising up.”
- AC 1999: “True adoration or humiliation of heart, carries with it prostration to the earth upon the face before the Lord, as a gesture naturally flowing from it. For in humiliation of heart there is the acknowledgment of self as being nothing but filthiness, and at the same time the acknowledgment of the Lord’s infinite mercy toward that which is such; and when the mind is kept in these two acknowledgments, the very mind droops in lowliness towards hell, and prostates the body; nor does it uplift [rise up] until it is uplifted by the Lord. This takes place in all true humiliation, with a perception of being uplifted by the Lord’s mercy.” Question: Is the Lord describing the whole process of humiliation Israel will face through the Chaldeans that will enable Him to raise Israel up?
- AC 2857: “…the signification of ‘rising up,’…when mentioned in the Word, being some elevation…the elevation of the rational after temptation…Every temptation in which a man overcomes, elevates his mind…”
- AC 2913 : “…the new church that the Lord sets up anew when the former church expires…the raising up by the Lord of the spiritual church in general, after the former ceases or is consummated…in the process of time a church decreases and is contaminated…it recedes from charity, and produces evils and falsities…then the church is said to be laid waste and desolate…” Can we not see why the Lord needed to start the “raising up” of the church through a process of sincere humiliation and restoration?
- “…a bitter and hasty nation” refers to what was done to the Word. “‘Bitter (or bitterness) signifies what is undelightful because of adulterated truth, and therefore ‘to make bitter’ signifies to render undelightful, because what is sweet becomes bitter and thus undelightful by a mixture with something offensive…” (AE 618)
- The word “hasty” is described in AE 455  as meaning “those who readily seize upon and believe whatever is said, thus also falsities…” (Emphasis added.) Conjugial Love (CL) 305  teaches about the need for an unhurried building of conjugial love from the lowest to the highest regions so that it can be cleansed of unchaste thoughts. A “hasty” premature union may bring coldness and distaste for a partner.
“…to possess dwelling places that are not theirs.”
- “It was customary among the ancients to speak of ‘journeying’ and ‘dwelling in tents,’ by which was signified in the internal sense holy worship…Hence…‘to dwell’ signified in the internal sense to live.” (AC 1102)
- Like many of the enemies who attacked Israel, the Chaldeans picture a spiritual problem that Israel was confronting. We can conclude that Israel introduced things into the holy worship that were not from the Lord but from themselves. Their lives were not from the Lord but from themselves. The idea of possessing that which was not theirs is quite clear in the meaning of the literal sense.
“They are terrible and dreadful; their judgment and their dignity proceed from themselves.”
- AC 9348 gives us a vivid picture of the “terrible” and “dreadful” things that happen to the person who is in the love of self. “…these loves, like the unseen currents of a river, continually draw the thought and the will of man away from the Lord to self, and away from heaven to the world, thus away from the truths and goods of faith to falsities and evils. Reasonings from the fallacies of the senses are then of especial force, and also the literal sense of the Word wrongly explained and applied…‘Dread’ and ‘fear’ denote a disturbance and commotion of the mind when it hesitates between evils and goods, consequently between falsities and truths…”
- “Dignity” in the positive sense means to attribute all things to the Lord, from whom alone holy things originate. (AR 854) “Dignity” is serving the Lord and not self. (Charity 172)
“Their horses also are swifter than leopards, and more fierce than evening wolves.”
- What is meant by “horses” being “swifter” or “lighter” than leopards? The answer seems to be in degrees of intensity with which the Word is falsified. Correspondentially, swift horses signify an eagerness to seduce by reasonings; an expertise in seducing by misusing the things of the Word. (AE 355, 780 ) “Leopards,” on the other hand, signify reasonings that are discordant and yet appear as if they cohere. (AE 779, 780, 781)
- Their “horses” are more “fierce than evening wolves.” What does this teach us? “Evening” signifies “a state of waning faith and charity, which is man’s state when he comes into the exercise of his own judgment, and is extinguishing in himself the things that he imbibed in childhood…” (AE 187 )
- “Wolves” signify “those who are against innocence.” (AC 2130, 3994, 10132 ; AE 314 ) A “wolf” is one “who seizes and scatters.” (AC 6441)
- AE 780  explains that “wolves of the evening” signifies “the subtlety of deceiving by fallacies; the fallacies of the senses being here signified by the wolves of the evening because they are fallacies from the sensual man, who, being in darkness, sees falsities as truths.”
- “Wolves” are spirits who infuse despair and fear of being carried away from the rescue of the Lord. (AC 2130)
- SE 699 gives us a larger picture of the kind of despair and fear infused by “wolves.” “When I awoke, certain societies of spirits, one after another, began to declare in a singing loud voice, that the wolf had wanted to steal them away, but the Lord snatched them from the wolf, and they were restored to the Lord. On this account they rejoiced from the depths of their heart. For they had been in despair, extremely afraid that the Lord had rejected them, and that the wolves would therefore seize them and the Lord no longer wanted to keep them. They feared that there was an overabundance of spirits or angels in heaven, so that no room was left to receive more. This was the generally shared thought, which I perceived clearly.”
“Their chargers charge ahead; their cavalry comes from afar…”
- The King James Version renders this verse as “and their horsemen shall spread themselves and their horsemen shall come from afar…” This is also what the Writings have in AE 780 , and this number explains the signification as the adulteration of the Word and the spreading of heresies.
- Armies of horsemen (cavalries) signify “reasonings concerning faith alone, with which the interiors of their minds were filled, from the abundance of mere falsities of evil.” (AR 447)
“…the eagle that hastens to eat…”
- AC 3901 [7, 8] teaches us that this signifies the desolation of truths with people and the desolation of the church.
“They all come for violence; their faces are set like the east wind.”
- AC 621 teaches the following things about corruption and violence. The word “violence” has reference to “the things of the will.” The word “corruption” has reference to the desolation of “things of the understanding.” “Thus ‘to corrupt’ is predicated of persuasions; and ‘violence,’ of cupidities.”
- The “face signifies the affections…” (AC 9049) The “face signifies the interiors…” (AE 64) The “face signifies the interiors of the mind…” (HH 457)
- “East wind” has both a positive and negative sense. In the positive sense, it signifies “the good of love and of charity, [and is most gentle] because in the supreme sense the Lord is signified…but when it sinks down to the hells, it becomes harsh and severe, because it is turned into this by those who are there.” (AC 7679) This number also describes the negative “east wind” as “dry and tempestuous,” bent on destruction and eager to break things into pieces.
“They gather captives like sand.”
- Consider the meaning of being led away “captive.” AC 9164 teaches “to be led away captive” is predicated in the following circumstances: “When a man is in truth from good, then that truth in which he has the greatest faith is in the middle, next follow the truths in which he has less faith, and finally those which are of doubtful faith…But when falsity usurps the place of truth, the order is inverted, and the truths pass off to the sides, and form the circumference, while the falsities of evil occupy the middle.” (Emphasis added.)
- “…like sand” has an interesting meaning in AE 644 . “…‘sand’ signifies Divine truth received only in the memory, and somewhat therefrom in the thought, and thus in a scattered and disconnected way, because intermixed with falsities, and falsified by notions.”
- When falsity usurps the place of truth, is it any wonder that the “sand” with its scattered and disconnected notions of truth in the memory gets gathered and carried away captive?
“They scoff at kings. And princes are scorned by them.”
- Scoffing at “kings” and scorning “princes” signifies mocking the good and truths of the Word. (AE 355 ; AE 811 )
“They deride every stronghold, for they heap up earthen mounds and seize it.”
- AE 717  offers us this explanation of what “strongholds of fortresses” signify. They “signify the things of self-intelligence confirmed by the sense of the letter of the Word, which is such that when it is not interiorly understood it may be so drawn as to confirm any heresies whatever.”
- The meaning of “deride” is explained in AC 1080. “For with those who are in no charity, there is continual contempt for others, or continual derision, and on every occasion a publishing of their errors…hatred lurks in every word they utter…”
- Heaping up “earthen mounds” is perhaps captured in Bruce Rogers’ translation of CL 126 : seeking to put truth over charity (the intellect over the will) is like burying the will “in a mound of earth, so to speak, and some have…thrown dirt on them, as though on dead men, to keep them from rising again. The good of charity is…the primary thing in the church…” In AC 5567, Swedenborg describes a spirit who was bound by “no principles” approaching him with “an earthen jug in his hand…there was in the jug, from phantasy, something that would take away the understanding of those who drank.”
- AE 177 describes “earthen vessels” as signifying “the things in the natural man that are from self-intelligence, in matters of heaven and the church, and that these things are falsities…”
“Then his mind changes, and he transgresses; he commits offense, ascribing this power to his god.”
- Do we not feel and see what this closing portion of our passage means? When the mind seeks to change the true order of things—usurping truth for falsity—the mind changes. It falls into a state of derision and fault-finding. Disorder causes transgressions, offenses, and eventually the unregenerate proprium offers itself as the substitute “god.” Such is the spirit that is bound by “no principles” that brings its “earthen jug” of fantasies for us to drink. And what is the outcome? The understanding is taken away and the will buried in the mound of earth with the hope that it will never rise again.
Putting It All Together
Picture in your mind a messy liquid spill on a table top. The liquid has an acidic content and could peel the finish off the table. You quickly get a paper towel and lay it over the liquid. The absorption process begins immediately and continues until the entire paper towel is filled with the liquid. But if the towel remains on the table, it will add to the problem. The dangerous liquid now threatens a larger portion of the table top. Instead of quickly removing the problem, the paper towel has compounded the problem.
Such is the example that comes to mind regarding Israel’s profanation of “all the truths and goods of the Word and of the church.” (P&P) Their misuse of the Word and the conclusions they drew about it were spreading rapidly throughout the land, and the hearts of the people were in an “evening state,” a state “of waning faith and charity, which is man’s state when he comes into the exercise of his own judgment, and is extinguishing in himself the things that he imbibed in childhood.” (AE 187 ) The people were being led away into captivity. Spiritual truth that should have been in the center of their hearts was being pushed to the side. Evil and falsity usurped the centrality of truth, bringing the presence of “swift horses” and “evening wolves.” These spiritual enemies had a plan of “seizing and scattering” the goods and truths of the Word. The horses represent “an eagerness to seduce by reasonings” that misuse the truths of the Word. They were not only eager to seduce, they were experts in such tactics. The intent was to disconnect the Lord’s truth so that people would hastily accept and believe whatever they were told by human authority.
The swiftness of the seduction brought the people into areas that were not theirs. They were convincing themselves that they were clever, dignified, and god-like. The will was being “buried” in earthen mounds. The old ways were believed to be dead and useless. The “new” ways wanted to bury the “will” with the hope that it would not come back to life. The priests and leading thinkers offered the concept of “Out with the old ways of the Lord, and in with the new concepts of human prudence.”
To illustrate how serious Israel’s profanation of the Word was, the Lord called to their attention the Chaldeans, “a bitter and hasty” nation. The “bitter and hasty” is an important beginning in this prophecy. Israel was not honoring the conjugial principles of the conjunction of good and truth. They were forming premature unions of falsities that seemed to cohere but were dangerously discordant. Their hasty unions were bringing a coldness and distaste for the chaste ways of the Lord.
What was happening to the people of Israel? Their minds were being changed. They were becoming transgressors of the laws of the Lord. They were deriding every stronghold of spiritual truth. They were scoffing at the love of the Lord and scorning the wisdom of the Lord. Finding fault with everything the Lord did was quite prevalent among the people. Their hearts were harboring hatred toward the Lord. Israel’s offenses were dangerous, and worst of all, they ascribed all power to the “god” of their self-love.
The Lord wanted to act to save Israel. As Habakkuk continues, how will the Lord save His people? As we read on, we can be assured of one thing. His way will be loving, thorough, and saving. The preparation and the ultimate birth of the New Church is His end. What happened yesterday affects today and is a great part of eternity. The “bitter and hasty” Chaldean nation has to be exposed and overcome. That’s to be part of the process of our regeneration, too. So let’s listen, learn, and fight against the eager, expert deriders and seducers who misuse the Word. They want to bury the will in earthen vessels that take away the understanding of the Lord’s love for each one of us.
Read and Review
Read the selection from P&P.
Read Habakkuk 1:6-11.
Questions To Stimulate Reflection
- AE 355 , AE 811 , and AE 780  are key passages for understanding Habakkuk 1:6-11. You might have to read them over several times and make some notes, but if you do this, the spiritual sense will shine forth. What did you find when you read them carefully?
- What struck you in the points made about the Chaldeans, the horses, leopards, and evening wolves? They represent dexterity, expertise, lust, craftiness in deceiving by fallacies. The sensual person is “smooth” and easily led. Sensual people are in danger of believing whatever is said if it is immediately pleasing and rewarding. Don’t we do battle with these tendencies every day?
- What insights did you have regarding the scoffing, scorning, and burying of spiritual things in earthen mounds? Did you see how the natural person in us wants to bury the spiritual “will” so that it will not rise again? I felt some of this with Swedenborg’s experience of the earthen jug. To drink from it numbed the “understanding” and took away any sense of the holiness of the Word.
- Another point made in our study is the danger of “halting” between good and evil. “Limping” is another way of expressing this action. The world is pushing us to be accepting of all kinds of questionable ideas. Political correctness has taken a toll on stating convictions. We waffle on things that call for internal restraint. Divine Providence (DP) 81 and 134 are important numbers regarding the importance of developing strong and healthy internal restraints. How strong are we on internal convictions? What strengthens or weakens us?
- I know many of you are not ministers, but did you see a sermon outline pushing itself to the forefront of our attention? Could you see a lesson that you might share with a friend, students, or grandchildren?
“Are You not from everlasting, O Lord my God, my Holy One? We shall not die, O Lord, You have appointed them for judgment; O Rock, You have marked them for correction. You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness. Why do You look on those who deal treacherously, and hold Your tongue when the wicked devours a person more righteous than he? Why do You make men like fish of the sea, like creeping things that have no ruler over them? They take up all of them with a hook, they catch them in their net, and gather them in their dragnet. Therefore they rejoice and are glad. Therefore they sacrifice to their net, and burn incense to their dragnet; because by them their share is sumptuous and their food plentiful. Shall they therefore empty their net, and continue to slay nations without pity?”
Passages From The Writings
- “The Lord’s grief continued, that the evil prevail over the good, and destroy them.”
AC 991 
- “In Habakkuk…1:14…where ‘making man as the fishes of the sea’ means that he is altogether sensuous.”
- “‘Fishes’ here are for those who are in general truths, and in faith separated from charity.” This quote follows a citation of Habakkuk 1:14-16.
AE 513 
- “In Habakkuk…1:14, 15, 17…This was said of the Chaldean nation wasting and destroying the church; and the Chaldean nation signifies the profanation of truth, and the vastation of the church. ‘To make men as the fishes of the sea, and as the creeping thing that hath no ruler,’ signifies to make man so natural that his knowledges (scientifica) are devoid of spiritual truth, and his delights are devoid of spiritual good; for in the natural man there are knowledges by which come thoughts, and delights by which come affections; and if the spiritual is not dominant over these, both thoughts and affections are wandering, and thus man is destitute of the intelligence that should lead and rule. That then every falsity and every evil has power to draw them over to their side, and thus wholly destroy them, is signified by ‘Let him draw out all with the hook, and gather into his net, and afterwards slay,’ ‘to draw out’ meaning out of truth and good, ‘into his net’ meaning into falsity and evil, and ‘to slay’ meaning to destroy.”
“Are You not from everlasting, O Lord my God, my Holy One?”
- Is the purpose of this question to have us reflect on the Infinite nature of the Lord? Are we being called to think about His “everlasting” qualities so that we will remember Him as the “always,” so we might reflect that He has no beginning or end? Will the question open for us the perpetual, indestructible, and eternal essence of the Lord? This paragraph uses a repetitious format, but it is a repetition well worth presenting to the finite mind. How often does hell attempt to convince us that our “God is too small”? We need the “bigger” everlasting concepts of the Lord to quiet hell’s felonious representations of a powerless Lord.
“O Lord my God, my Holy One…”
- If you are willing to read more about the meaning of names, I’d like to recommend the following passages.
- AC 144 tells us that “…to ‘call by name’ signifies to know the quality’…”
- AC 2009 states that “…in heaven no attention is paid to any one’s name; but when any one is named, or when the word name is spoken, there is presented the idea of the person’s quality, that is, of all things…that are connected with him, and that are in him; hence in the Word ‘name’ signifies quality.” (Emphasis added.) Read this whole number. It is helpful to our understanding of the Lord’s name.
- AC 2724 notes, “For it was a common thing for the ancients to add something to the name of Jehovah, and thereby call to mind some benefit or attribute of His…”
- AC 7091  teaches that “From all this it is also evident that by ‘Jehovah’ in the Word of the Old Testament, no other is meant than the Lord, for He is called Jehovah God and the Holy One of Israel, the Redeemer, the Saviour, the Maker…” (Emphasis added.)
“We shall not die, O Lord, You have appointed them for judgment…”
- AC 198 defines what is meant by “lest ye die” as a state when “faith, or all wisdom and intelligence, would perish.” AC 494 describes death as a state when “perception” ceases to be such as it has been.
- AR 429 explains that those who “desire to die” signify those who wish to have the will and understanding closed, or shut up.
- “We shall not die, O Lord…” gives testimony that the Lord will prevent spiritual death or dying for the faithful remnant.
- For the evil, “judgment” refers to the visitation of Divine Truth to examine the quality (or lack thereof) of doctrines in their life. (AC 9905) Divine Truth will not cause “the righteous to die with the wicked….” Why? Because good cannot die. Evil can be separated from good within those who love the Lord. (AC 2254) The Lord will not let the righteous die with the wicked. Here is another quote worth remembering when we feel threatened by the hells. Those in the stream of Providence are survivors. Our life is drawn into the protecting sphere of the Lord’s love and wisdom.
“…O Rock, You have marked them for correction.”
- AC 10580 defines “rock” as signifying a “state of faith in God…”
- AC 795 : “The ‘mountain of Jehovah’ denotes the Lord with reference to the goods of love; the ‘Rock of Israel,’ the Lord with reference to the goods of charity.”
- AC 3703  notes that the Lord as “to Divine truth is called a ‘rock’…”
- AC 2832  explains that “rock” is “significative of the power of truth.”
- To gain insight into what it means to “mark them,” let’s turn to AC 396. When Jehovah set a mark on Cain, it signified “that the Lord distinguished faith in a particular manner in order that it [faith] might be preserved…”
- AE 838 describes “…the signification of a ‘mark,’ as being a sign or attestation of acknowledgment…that they are of that church…A ‘mark’ signifies a sign of acknowledgment…”
- AC 4749 has this very interesting teaching regarding “correction.” Truths from the memory-knowledges, as represented by the Ishmaelite, “cannot be corrected and made sound by any other means than by the memory-knowledges of the genuine church, thus by instruction in these.”
“You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness.”
- “Pure” signifies that which is “free from evil.” (AC 10289)
- ‘Pure” signifies that which “has been clarified from the falsities of evil.” (AC 10296)
- “…the eyes signify the Divine intellectual of the Lord.” (AC 9052)
- “By ‘eyes’ in the Word is meant the understanding, and thence, by the sight of the eyes, intelligence; therefore, when spoken of the Lord, the Divine wisdom is meant…” (AR 48)
- “Eyes” signify the understanding. (AE 68, 152)
- The Lord’s “purer eyes” could not possibly see evil. Evil has nothing to do with that which is infinite and eternal. DP 52 teaches, “The Infinite and Eternal…must needs look to what is infinite and eternal from itself in things finite.” Evil does not seek nor want infinite and eternal things. In essence, because the evil reject the Lord and His ways, they have nothing within them that would reflect the truths of the Lord. Their lives are shallow/invisible entities that thrive on finite time-and-space values.
- The same principle applies to the Lord not looking on “wickedness.” AE 653 teaches that “wickedness signifies to persist in the evils and falsities of doctrine”. AE 730  teaches that “wickedness signifies the falsification of the truths of the Word by evils that have come to be of life.” The Lord is not in, nor can He compromise with, the person who delights in the falsification of doctrine and the Word. Wickedness separates and removes itself from the presence of the Lord. It is wickedness that does not want to see the Lord.
“Why do You look on those who deal treacherously, and hold Your tongue when the wicked devours a person more righteous than he?”
- Those who “deal treacherously” with the neighbor are thoroughly described in AC 9013. Their minds are filled with deceit. They have “malice from the will with forethought or premeditation, thus from set purpose.” They do what they do from “enmity, or from hatred, or from revenge…and take delight in…destroying everything…which belongs to life from the good of faith and of charity.”
- The literal sense speaks to the attitude the natural sensual person has regarding the disasters and hardships of the world. It appears to such people that the Lord tolerates and “looks on” treachery with a sense of indifference. The natural person assumes that the Lord is cruel, unconcerned, or too busy with other things to care about the plight of the righteous. The natural person queries why bad things happen to good people. With this negative attitude, the natural person never seeks or finds answers and so solidifies his or her antagonism toward the Lord. Natural people never read or hear that the Lord is in each and every least moment of the events of our lives. Missed is the picture of Him lifting, modifying, and bringing good out of each ripple of disorder hell sends out to thwart our journey through life.
- Let’s read the literal sense again to see if a calming voice of the Lord might give us an answer. “Why do hold Your tongue when the wicked devours a person more righteous than he?”
- A “tongue” in the internal sense “signifies opinion, thus principles and persuasions…” (AC 1159)
- AE 455 [2, 3]: “In the Word, the lip, mouth, and tongue are frequently mentioned; and the lip signifies doctrine, the mouth thought, and the tongue confession…tongues signify confessions from religion and according to the tenants of religion…”
- AR 282  tells us that the “…tongue signifies doctrine…”
- What is involved in the act of devouring is explained in AC 9348. Evils are alluring and deceptive. Like an “unseen current,” they continually “draw the thought and will of man away from the Lord to self, and away from heaven to the world, thus away from the truths and goods of faith to falsities and evils.” In section 4 of AC 9348, we are taught “devour denotes to destroy truths and goods…”
“Why do You make men like fish of the sea, like creeping things that have no ruler over them? They take up all of them with a hook, they catch them in their net, and gather them in their dragnet.”
- Please go back to the Passages From The Writings section and read AC 991 , AR 405, and AE 513 .
- To these numbers, let’s add AE 802 . A “dragnet” is like a giant web, a weaving of strong twine fishermen use to allow water to pass through but not fish. “This is their web by which they induce the simple to believe that out of the treasures of wisdom or interior perception, that are stored up only with the teachers and the learned, they have brought forth clear evidences to establish the doctrine of faith separated from any manifest endeavor of man (which is the will) to do what is good. Thus for themselves and all the people of the church they give license and free rein to acting and living according to the bent and trend of all lusts; and as this dogma is pleasing to the flesh and to the eyes, the common crowd gladly receives it…[but these ideas are] conjunctions fallaciously contrived…that gush forth…in a constant stream.” (Emphasis added.)
- What do we get from this teaching? The great dragnet web of deception described here reflects the tendency to go with the crowd and end up in the web of popular opinion because it is pleasing to the flesh and the eyes.
“Therefore they sacrifice to their net, and burn incense to their dragnet; because by them their share is sumptuous and their food plentiful.”
- Is there any question about what is meant by “they sacrifice to their net”? The web of deception is so appealing to the natural person because it offers license to do whatever is pleasing and rewarding to self.
- The verse says they burn incense to their dragnet. “Burning incense upon bricks” denotes “worship from things fabricated and false…” (AC 1296)
- Their perception that they were dining sumptuously and had plenty of food was only true of the physical aspect of their lives. Spiritually, they were starving and lacking the true “bread of heaven.”
“Shall they therefore empty their net, and continue to slay nations without pity?”
- Will the sensual people get rid of their eye-pleasing and self-gratifying beliefs? Will they see and give up the worthless self-contrived concoctions of good and truth?
- Will the falsified church continue to slay nations without pity? Pity and compassion are what the Lord seeks to offer. The compassion of the Lord will be directed toward “those who are in need of good and who…long for it; and His ‘compassions,’ toward those who are in ignorance of truth and…long for it.” (AC 9182 )
Putting It All Together
P&P summarizes this section with the teaching that the Lord’s “grief continued, that the evil prevail over the good, and destroy them.” In His great love, the Lord worried and cared about what was going on in the church and in His people. Our Lord is committed to saving the lost and the confused. This is a story about His great love.
Through the words of Habakkuk, questions were posed to help the church sort through its convoluted thinking. Striking images were offered in detail. The prophecy talked about fish of the sea and creeping things with no ruler over them, of hooks, dragnets trapping people, and offerings of incense in celebration of such entrapments. Could they not look into the ways of their heart and worship and see how far they had strayed from the Lord?
The sensual church was not pursuing the good and truths of the Word. They were interested in establishing a church of comfort and simplistic ease. The hard sayings of the Word—those things that were intended to help them fight and overcome inherited tendencies toward evil—were seen as impractical, hard, threatening, and unfair teachings.
The Word of the Lord was being tailored to the popular views. Teachings were not given with the Lord in mind but were for the adulation and consensus of teachers and leaders instructing the people. The Lord grieved over this evil and the effect it was having in His church. There was no interest in the infinite and eternal things of heaven.
In the minds of the people, God was reduced to ineffective stature, and they believed He was unconcerned with the plight of the common folk and the simple-hearted. The Lord put this concept right before their eyes. He said in Habakkuk’s prophecy what was hidden within their hearts. They blamed the Lord for things that were of their own choosing.
But placed in all of these negative representations was a shinning truth: “We shall not die.” Divine Truth will not cause “the righteous to die with the wicked…” Good cannot die, and it will be separated from evil. In the end, as always, the Lord and His New Church will prevail. The mission of the New Church is eternal, and nothing will stop its fruition. Those called to the Lord and His church can say with joy: “We shall not die” in the dragnet and on the hooks of hell. We have a Leader who will not leave us nor forget us in our moments of peril. He is our eternal rock, and He has pure eyes that can see through the thickest and darkest plans of the wicked.
Read and Review
Read the selection from P&P.
Read Habakkuk 1:12-17.
Questions To Stimulate Reflection
- Did you grasp a sense of how great the Lord’s grief is for the church? What brought this home to you?
- What did the images of the hooks and dragnets show you about what hell seeks to do?
- Popular consensus can be a powerful net or web. Have you ever heard someone give in and be swayed by the thinking of someone they respected? “So-and-so is so much more educated in these matters than I am.” We have a doctrine warning us against the “persuasive faith.”
- Are there some hard teachings in the Word that bother you? Do you look for some “smooth” way to get around those “hard” doctrines?
- Have you dealt sufficiently with the world’s stated view that God is indifferent to the hurts and injustices of the innocent? Have you had a conversation with someone who wants to know why bad things happen to good people? What did they say? What did you say?
- “We will not die” is a rallying cry. Such a statement will strike terror in the heart of the hells. It seems right and useful that we carry these words in our heart when we do battle with hell. What do you think?