For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, which shall march through the breadth of the land, to possess the dwellingplaces that are not theirs.— Habakkuk 1:6
The name, Chaldean, refers to what secular historians call Neo-Babylonian. The Chaldeans were a semi-nomadic tribe south of Babylon until they took over Babylon and established it as the capital of their empire. One of these Chaldeans, Nebuchadnezzar (called Nebuchadnezzar II in history), conquered Assyria and began what secular history calls “the golden age of Babylon.” In the book of Daniel, the term Chaldean refers to wise men and astrologers who were Chaldean in ethnicity. In the book of Habakkuk, we will refer to the Chaldeans as the Babylonians under king Nebuchadnezzar.
In Hebrew, the name “Chaldean” means “clod-breakers.” Just so happens, when I get done with this post, I will be breaking clod myself. I have a garden I want to plant, and I have to first break up the clods. You can’t just go out to an unworked field, sow seed, and expect to have a fruitful crop. You must first break up the clods. As we have mentioned in the introduction to this book, it is not clear exactly when this book was written. We’ve set it in the years 609-605 BC. Prior to the defeat of the Egyptians at Carchemish in 605 BC at the hands of the Chaldeans, the people of Judah probably weren’t too worried about the Chaldeans. But when the Lord pronounced this judgment, the people of Judah heard that the “Clod-breakers” were coming to possess the dwellingplaces. They were told these “Clod-breakers” are terrible and dreadful. To the Jew, the “Clod-breakers” signified destruction. When one tills up a plot of land for a garden, the rocks are dug up, the clods of grass are busted up, and dirt is turned over. It is a very violent process. Every part of the plot must be moved and refined. There was nothing positive to this in the eyes of the people of Judah. Habakkuk didn’t like the sound of this either. But though the “Clod-breakers” signified destruction to Judah, this was God’s way of cultivating His people. During the 70-year captivity in Babylon, the land of Israel had rest (2 Chronicles 36:21). The Lord also used this time to heal His people.
“10 For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. 11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. 12 Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. 13 And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. 14 And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.” – Jeremiah 29:10-14
He dealt with Israel harshly. Though the Chaldeans signified terror and destruction to the people of Judah, they were God’s means of cleansing and growth. The Lord says in Revelation 3:19, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” In Hebrews 12:5-8 we also read,
“5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: 6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? 8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.” – Hebrews 12:5-8
The Lord chastens His children. Don’t despise this chastening. With earthly eyes Habakkuk could not comprehend why God would use the “Clod-breakers” to judge His people. When Habakkuk was able to finally see with a spiritual perspective, He was able to say, “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord . . . The LORD God is my strength. . .”
So… I’m off to be a Chaldean for the day to break up some clods for my garden!