“Shall not everyone
Taunt such people,
With mocking riddles?
Let them say about them!
‘Woe to you!
You heap up
What is not your own!’
How long will you
Taken in pledge?
Will not your own creditors
Suddenly rise up?
Those who make you tremble
Will wake up.
Then you will be booty
Because you have plundered
All that survive of the peoples
Shall plunder you.
With the violence
To the earth,
Is in the cities,
As well as to all
Who live in them.”
Habakkuk has a series of taunts against the Chaldeans because of their behavior. These 5 woes or curses were delivered in mocking riddles. First of all, they have stored up things that were not their own. How long would they continue to take things as pledges for the future? Those creditors would rise up against them, and make them tremble and shake. Then, they would become the booty of the people whom they plundered. They have plundered so many countries, that the surviving countries would plunder them. There was so much violence and bloodshed in the cities where people lived. Does that sound familiar?
“Take the garment
Of one who has given surety for a stranger.
Seize the pledge given as surety for foreigners.”
This is another repetition of the same proverb in chapter 20 about pledges and sureties for loans. It seems like not a good idea to lend to strangers, especially if you are the stranger. They are able to take the garments and pledges of strangers.
“Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered.
‘Can a mortal be of use to God?
Can even the wisest be of service to him?
Is it any pleasure to the Almighty Shaddai?
Even if you are righteous,
Is it gain to him if you make your ways blameless?
Is it for your piety that he reproves you?
Does he enter into judgment with you?
Is not your wickedness great?
There is no end to your iniquities.
You have exacted pledges
From your family brothers
For no reason.
You have stripped the naked of their clothing.
You have given no water to the weary to drink.
You have withheld bread from the hungry.’”
Eliphaz reminded Job that God only punishes in a just fashion. How could he be of service to God? How could he bring pleasure to the almighty one, Shaddai? Even if he was blameless and righteous, what had he gained? However, Eliphaz said that Job’ wickedness was great. He had treated people unfairly. He then enumerated the evil things that Job had done. He exacted pledges from his family. He striped clothes to make people naked. He failed to give water and bread to the hungry and thirsty people. These were explicit things that Job had done wrong.
“Nevertheless Nicanor heard about the valor of Judas Maccabeus and his troops as well as their courage in battle for their country. He shrank from deciding the issue by bloodshed. Therefore he sent Posidonius, Theodotus, and Mattathias to give and receive pledges of friendship.”
Nicanor realized that Judas Maccabeus and his troops were courageous. He decided not to solve the issue by war. In 1 Maccabees, chapter 7, it clearly said that Nicanor was trying to deceive Judas Maccabeus. Here that is not said as 3 Seleucid military leaders, who were not mentioned in 1 Maccabees, were sent as friendly emissaries to Judas Maccabeus. One of them even has the name of Judas’ father, Mattathias.
“Judas Maccabeus sent in to the garrison whatever was necessary. However, Rhodocus, a man from the ranks of the Jews, gave secret information to the enemy. He was sought for, caught, and put in prison. The king negotiated a second time with the people in Beth-zur. He gave pledges and received theirs. Then he withdrew. He then attacked Judas Maccabeus and his men. However, he was defeated. He got word that Philip, who had been left in charge of the government, had revolted in Antioch. He was dismayed. Thus he called in the Jews. He yielded. He swore to observe all their rights as he settled with them. He offered a sacrifice, honored the sanctuary, and showed generosity to the holy place.”
This is similar to 1 Maccabees, chapter 6. Here, however, there is a Jewish traitor named Rhodocus who was imprisoned for revealing secrets to the army of Lysias and King Antiochus V. Meanwhile the king was defeated at Beth-zur. Nevertheless, the real turning point was the news that Philip in Antioch was revolting against his rule and that of Lysias. Thus he and Lysias decided to set up a peace treaty with the Jews. He let them observe all their rights, with their sanctuary and Temple.
“No man shall take a mill or an upper millstone in pledge. That would be taking a life in pledge.”
You cannot take the thing that makes bread, the millstone, from anyone, even as a pledge as collateral. To take away the bread maker you may be taking his life.