The Habakkuk Scroll
Part I - The Kittim
This scroll is an expository on events to come at the end of days. The discourse centers around the activities of the Kittim, and the role of the Teacher of Righteousness.
The prophet complains:
Yahweh, how long shall I cry for help, and thou wilt not hear? Or cry to thee 'Violence!' and thou wilt not save?
I have known Habakkuk for many years. I have read this statement many times. Only now, with deteriorating world conditions, has this struck home so personally. How long will we cry to our God for help, and ask him if he does not see the violence of the world? When will he intervene with his saving act?
Here are the opening remarks of the scroll. I offer two translations in order to compare. Sometimes they differ dramatically.
Martinez and Tigchelaar
Parry and Tov
|2 The interpretation of this concerns the beginning of the generation||2. This refers to the entreaty of the latter generation|
3 ... which will come upon them
|3. All the events to come upon them|
|4 ... they will shout against||4. they cried out for|
|5 ... Hab 1:3a Why do you show me misdeeds and do you behold toil ? Blank||5. injustice? Why do You let me see such wickedness, why do You behold such turmoil? (1:3a)|
|6 The interpretation of this ... of God with persecution and betrayal .||6. The meaning is that God beheld tyranny and treason.|
|7 Hab 1:3b You set destruction and violence in front of me. Blank||7. Robbery and injustice are in front of me. (1:3b) vacat|
|8 The interpretation of this ... robbery of ... and brawls||8. The meaning is that they will rob wealth And there is strife|
|9 ... argument and they think destruction||9. and contention rises up. Its meaning is contention and he reckoned it|
|10 ... Hab 1:4a For the Law falls into abeyance .||10. Therefore Law declines,|
The events come in the last generation. Tyranny and treason are everywhere. Destruction and violence surround on all sides. Strife and contention beset everyone. The Truth declines and falls into abeyance. (The translators cannot resist understanding torah, the Truth, as Law, from their habitual reading of the Old Testament.)
Can we understand that Truth is no longer in the world? Can we understand what this means for mankind? Only God's saving act will restore.
The ancient Dead Sea Expositors at Qumran then enter into a detailed explanation of the meaning of Habakkuk, Chapters One and Two.
Although the scroll was somewhat damaged we can gain a substantial idea of the intent of those Expositors. The main failure for us modern readers is that the translators failed to recognize the import of the passages, and therefore could not give us devout translations. I shall further develop the exposition to show its meaning for us in these last days.
In Gen 10:4 and 1 Chron 1:7 the Kittim are identified as the sons of Javan, hence grandsons of Noah. Javan is thought to represent Greece and the Greeks, including Asia Minor. The name Yawan and Yawanim is translated Greece in Isa 66:19; Ezek 27:13; Dan 8:21; 10:20; Joel 3:6. The name occurs not only in the Semitic dialects, but in Sanskrit. It is found in Assyrian linguistic relics as Yavnan or Yunan, as well as on Egyptian monuments as Uoinim, Ionians, thus showing that the designation was anciently in common use throughout the Near East. Although clearly assigned to the Ionians of Asia Minor this name seems to have been also given to the Macedonians, Achaians, and Baeotians, all understood as part of the Greeks. (Note here the linguistic similarity between the well know traditional Ionians that has come down to us through the Indo-European languages, and the Yawan of the Semitic.)
Since the Kittim are the sons of Javan they would then be part of Greece. 1 Maccabees 1:1 states, Alexander, son of Philip the Macedonian, who came from the land of Kittim. The name Kittim is often understood to mean exclusively Cyprus but this is false. The Kittim are found in Isa 23:1, 12 and Daniel 11:30, where the name is translated Cyprus in most versions. However in these prophecies Kittim does not refer to Cyprus. See discussion below.
Josephus in his Antiquities 1:6:1 states:
Note that the word Cethim should be pronounced as Kethim. English transformed the K's into C's centuries ago.
Josephus may not have had his historical facts correct. The plural termination denotes a people who migrated from Phoenicia to Cyprus and founded the town of Citium (Kitium), the modern Chitti. Cyprus was in close relations with Tyre, (Isa 23:1,12; Ezek 27:6), as can also be seen from Phoenician inscriptions still extant. We must remember that Phoenicia was Semitic, linguistically close cousin to the Hebrew people. The name Citium (Kitium) was borrowed from the Semitic Kittim. Josephus understood that the Hebrews also applied the name to sea coasts along the northern shores of the Mediterranean, not only to the Greek homelands, but to all those regions colonized by the Greeks.
In Numbers 24:23-24 Kittim has a more serious meaning. The prophet Balaam gave a pronouncement that carries implications for us today:
And he took up his parable and said, Alas, who shall live when God does this?
And ships from the coast of Kittim shall afflict Asshur and shall afflict Eber, and also he shall perish forever.
If Balaam gave his prophecy, and if it was recorded prior to the breakup of the Kingdom around 700 BC, we would expect use of the terms Asshur and Eber, terms familiar to the people of those times. The use of these names dates the prophecy.
The city of Asshur was located on the Tigris river but symbolized the Assyrian empire. Sometimes Asshur denotes the land (Gen 2:4; 25:18; 2 Kings 15:29; 17:6; 18:1; Isa 7:18; Hos 7:11; 9:3; 10:6; Mic 5:6; Zeph 2:13; Zech 10:10), and at other times the people (Isa 19:23; 23:13; 30:31; 31:8; Ps 83:9; Ezek 27:23; 32:22; Hos 14:4) of Assyria.
Interpretation of the word Eber has produced much discussion. The ancient sources differ greatly. The Septuagint renders the verse thus: Kai exeleusetai ek cheiroon Kitiaioon kai kakoosousin Assour kai kakoosousin Ebraious, kai autoi homothumadon apolountai: And he shall come forth from the hands of Kittiaeans, and they shall afflict the Assyrians, and shall afflict the Hebrews, and themselves shall perish together. The Vulgate translates it: Venient in trieribus de Italia, superabunt Assyrios vastabuntque Hebraeos: They shall come in triremes from Italy; they shall vanquish the Assyrians, and devastate the Hebrews, etc. The Arabic and Syriac versions of the Old Testament translate the word Eber as Hebrews also. As a name for the Hebrews, it would have symbolized the combined kingdom of the Jews and the northern tribes of Israel.
When the Vulgate gave this translation it was making an erroneous assumption of the meaning of the name Kittim, believing it meant Rome. But the intent of the Balaam prophecy shows that the Kittim of some future time would be destroyed also, as well as the Assyrians and the Hebrews. When such prophecy is assigned to Italy, (Rome), it is misplaced, as I shall show.
What event in world affairs would bring about the destruction of the Assyrians, now Iraq and Iran, the land of Israel, and the Kittim? If the Kittim were intended to refer to a nation from the west, then it might mean more than the Greeks. If so, the prophecy carries vast implications.
Isa 23:1 — The burden of Tyre: Howl, ye ships of Tarshish; for it is laid waste, so that there is no house, no entering in. From the land of Kittim it is revealed to them.
The destruction will be revealed to them. Tyre will be laid waste by the Kittim. Tarshish probably was a generic designation for ancient Phoenicia, a name still preserved in the modern town in Lebanon.
Isa 23:9-12 — Yahweh of hosts has purposed it, to stain the pride of all glory, to bring into contempt all the honorable of the earth. Pass through thy land as the Nile, O daughter of Tarshish; there is no restraint any more. He has stretched out his hand over the sea, he has shaken the kingdoms: Yahweh has given commandment concerning Canaan, to destroy the strongholds thereof. And he said, Thou shalt no more rejoice, O thou oppressed virgin daughter of Sidon: arise, pass over to Kittim; even there thou shall have no rest.
Canaan, the land of modern Israel, will be destroyed. The daughter of Tarshish shall see no restraint from destruction; the virgin daughter of Sidon shall seek help from the Kittim, but shall see no succor from them.
Dan 11:30-31— For ships of Kittim shall come against him, and he shall be afraid and withdraw, and shall turn back and be enraged and take action against the holy covenant. He shall turn back and give heed to those who forsake the holy covenant. Forces from him shall appear and profane the temple and fortress, and shall take away the continual burnt offering. And they shall set up the abomination that makes desolate.
Here we see that forces (or ships) from Kittim shall come against this powerful king (or nation). He shall be afraid of the Kittim and shall withdraw. He shall be enraged because of the threat from the Kittim, and shall take action against the "holy covenant." He shall give heed to those who advise action against the "holy covenant." Then they shall use that most devastating of all modern weapons, the abomination that makes all things desolate, nuclear weapons. But the Kittim will strike against them.
Chapter 11 from Daniel may be the most tantalizing, frustrating, and mysterious prophecy of the Bible. It is cast in intense metaphors that have defied penetration, although a multitude of expositors have tried to see through the symbology. Only now, with unfolding world developments, do we have a better hold on this revelation. We see startling parallels to Iran and the United States today.
We also meet the Kittim in the prophet Jeremiah. Once again the prophecy carries vast implications, Jer 2:9-10.
Kedar is well known in the Old Testament. He was a son of Ishmael. The name also referred to the settlement in the Syrian Desert named after him, Gen 17:20 and Gen 25:13-18. He was understood as comprising all the desert lands from Egypt to Assyria, including Jordan, Arabia, Syria, and Iraq. In Psalms 120:5 the writer is strongly complaining about living among those who hate, the people of Kedar. They shall experience burning coals. In the Songs of Solomon, 1:5-6, we are told how dark the people of Kedar were. We find this dark or black assignment in other biblical passages. Ezek 27:21 mentions Kedar, in the midst of all those raising a lament over the destruction of Tyre, a global catastrophe. Thus Kedar symbolized all the Arab people, now the Muslim nations of that region.
Jeremiah was referring back to a time when the people of Israel were still the twelve tribes. He described the contemptible manner of their behavior against Yahweh, who had guarded and cared for them as they came out of Egypt, and settled them in the promised land. But now charges would be brought against their children's children for all their rebellion against Him. The reader should observe Kedar closely. The reader should cross over to the coasts of Kittim and take a look. Was there anything ever like this to be seen? Now the people of Arabia would be destroyed along with the Kittim.
As I showed above the Kittim are sometimes identified as Rome, but this assignment is inferred from misinterpretation and from modern godless theories of the meaning of the passages. From some of the biblical passages the name Kittim was understood as a general epithet for western nations. We can see from the above discussion that the Kittim must mean something other than the ancient Greek lands, or the northern shores of the Mediterranean. Biblical prophecy carries other meaning to the name Kittim.
The interpretation given to us by the writers of the Dead Sea Scrolls is specific about a different assignment for the Kittim other than ancient Greece.
The word Kittim is employed nine times in the Habakkuk DSS commentary. Because the presentation is on the end-of-days, most everyone understands that it could not refer to any historic country or place. We find such passages as:
. . . traitors in the last days, Col II, 5-6.
However, in the last days their riches and their loot will be given into the hands of the army of the Kittim, Col IX, 6-7.
(The words for "last days" are 'achariyth yom, Strong's numbers 319 and 3117.)
Here the assignment of the Kittim is dramatically different from the old traditional Greek assignment. Anyone living around the time of Jesus would naturally understand the assignment of Kittim to the Greeks, or the northern shores of the Mediterranean. Instead, here they are identified as Chaldeans, a cruel and determined people, or a wild and impetuous nation, or a bitter and hasty nation, depending upon the translation of the words. See Hab 1:6-7. This assignment certainly is not to some Gentile Greek nation, but to a Semitic nation. The Chaldeans were brothers to the Jews, in language and culture. When the Jews of the sixth century BC were deported to ancient Babylon they could easily assimilate to the language of the Chaldeans since it was so similar to Hebrew. As example, the Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon of the Old Testament by Heinrich Friedrich Wilhelm Gesenius, 1786–1842, is a classic in biblical studies, showing the close relationship between the two languages.
The question before us is why the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Habakkuk scroll in particular, would make this dramatic change in ethnographic assignment.
From the time of the Babylonian conquest down to the time of Jesus the terms Chaldea and Babylon were synonymous, regardless of the history of their individual national development. For example, in Ezek 12:13 we find the expression I will bring him to Babylonia, the land of the Chaldeans and in Ezek 23:15 we find the statement all of them looked like Babylonian chariot officers, natives of Chaldea.
On the basis of this identity we can read either Chaldea or Babylon, since the labels were interchangeable.
have identified prophetic Babylon as the United States. See my work
The Habakkuk scroll designation of the Kittim is to the United States, and its impact on world destiny. Active on this scene is the Teacher of Righteousness. The Kittim and the Teacher of Righteousness cannot be separated in their functional role in the last days.