THE HABAKKUK COMMENTARY
The following commentary is from the Encyclopedia Judaica:
KITTIM...the name of a place and its inhabitants. In the table of nations Kittim is mentioned among the sons of Javan and the brothers of Elishah (Gen.10:4). Josephus (Ant.1:28) identified Kittim with Kition, or Kitti, a Phoenician city on the island of Cyprus near present-day Larnaca, an identification accepted by most scholars...
(You will recall from the earlier chapters that we have placed the original Phoenicians out beyond the Pillars of Hercules, in the Atlantic, and Josephus actually says:
"Of the three sons of Javan also, the son of Japhet, Elisa gave name to the Eliseans, who were his subjects; they are now the Aeolians. Tharsus to the Tharsians; for so was Cilicia of old called; the sign of which is this, that the noblest city they have, and a metropolis also, is Tarsus, the tau being by change put for the theta. Cethimus possessed the island Cethima; it is now called Cyprus: and from that it is that ALL ISLANDS, AND THE GREATEST PART OF THE SEA COASTS, are named Cethim (or Cyprus) by the Hebrews: and one city there is in Cyprus that has been able to preserve its denomination; it is called Citius by those who use the language of the Greeks, and has not, by the use of that dialect, escaped the name of Cethim." Josephus' Antiquities, Book I.VI.1, William Whiston Edition.
Many scholars identify Elishah with Cyprus, or with part of it, and in Ezekiel 27:6-7, Elishah is mentioned along with Kittim as a place that traded with Tyre. Kittim is used in connection with Tyre and Sidon in Isaiah 23:1,12. In these verses Kittim refers not only to a city but also to a land, and to islands (Ezek.26:7). Jeremiah 2:10 mentions the isles of Kittim AS THE SYMBOL OF THE WESTERN EXTREMITY OF THE WORLD. Apparently (the author of this article will say), the Israelites used the name Kittim to include the islands of the Aegean Sea and even the coastal areas of the Mediterranean Sea. There is no foundation for the opinion of some scholars that ancient Kittim is in Asia Minor, but various passages in the Bible indicate A CONNECTION BETWEEN KITTIM AND ASSYRIA (the original Assyria in the West; see Chapter 2). There is an obscure verse in the prophecies of Balaam, which seem to say: "Ships come from the quarter of Kittim: they subject Ashur, subject Eber. They too shall perish forever". (Num.24:24). The proximity of Kittim to Assyria in this verse seems to have been the cause of an alteration in the text of Ezek.27:6. The phrase "bat-Ashurim" in the masoretic text of this verse probably originally read "bi-t'ashurim," "with cypress(?) wood" (cf. Isa.41:19; 60:13), and it is this wood that Ezekiel describes as brought "from the coastlands of Kittim." The very obscure statement of Isaiah 23:12-13 seems to say that Assyria conquered Kittim...It is evident that Daniel's prediction, "But ships of Kittim shall come against him"...(11:30), is based upon a midrash on Balaam's words which identifies the Kittim with the Romans and Assyria with the Seleucid dynasty of Syria. The identification of Kittim with the Romans was accepted by the Jews in later generations, and served as a basis for eschatological thought in succeeding generations. In 1 Maccabees 1:1 Macedonia is called Kittim...(The author of this commentary is referring here to the connection the author of the Book of 1 Maccabees makes between the apocryphal figure of Alexander the Great and the regions of Greece and Macedonia, associating them with the land of the Chettim. He will not realize, however, the true extent of Alexander's domain, as the Hebrew scribes did--or the fact that he is one of Seven archetypal rulers who prefigure the reign of the antichrists in the last days. Thus the author of 1 Maccabees says of him: And (he) made many wars, and won many strong holds, and slew the kings of the earth. AND HE WENT THROUGH TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH, and took spoils of many nation...1 Maccabees 1:2,3. Thus the books of the Maccabees are only partly historical, and form the backdrop for the greater narrative which is mostly apocryphal and prophetic).
(1) THE WAR OF THE KITTIM...IN A NUMBER OF QUMRAN TEXTS THE KITTIM APPEAR AS THE LAST GENTILE WORLD POWER TO OPPRESS THE PEOPLE OF GOD. In the Habakkuk Commentary from cave 1 the prophet's "Chaldeans" are understood to be the Kittim, sent by God to execute His judgment on the godless rulers of Judea but destined, because of their unconscionable rapacity, to be the object of His judgment in turn. In a fragmentary commentary on Isaiah from cave 4, the advance and downfall of the Assyrians (Isa.10:22ff.) is interpreted as the "war of the Kittim:"...The "war of the Kittim" is described in detail in the War Scroll: early in this document the sons of light take the field against "the bands of th Kittim of Asshur and with them as helpers those who deal wickedly against the covenant" (1 QM 1:2) and after dealing with them proceed against the [king] of the Kittim in Egypt...While the word "king" in this last quotation is conjectural...the context suggests that this is an interpretation of "the king of the south" of Daniel 11:40. Later in the scroll, in what may be an annex to the main work, the fighting men "encamp against the king of the Kittim and the whole host of Belial." (1 QM 15:2). The "Kittim of Asshur" probably had their base in Syria; but Kittim and Asshur seem to be used interchangeably in the scroll: thus, when the sons of Belial are destroyed, "Asshur shall come to his end; none shall help him (a quotation from Dan.11:45) and the dominion of the Kittim shall pass away, that wickedness may be brought low with no survivor and that there may be no deliverance for all the sons of darkness." (1 QM 1:6ff). In such a passage Asshur (Assyria), as in Isaiah, IS PROBABLY A TERM TO DENOTE THE (LAST) OPPRESSOR OF ISRAEL, whereas Kittim indicates more precisely where this oppressor comes from...
(See Chapter 2).
(2) IN THE HABAKKUK COMMENTARY. The same conclusion is probably indicated by the evidence of the Habakkuk Commentary. THERE THE KITTIM ARE A WORLD POWER, PURSUING A CAREER OF CONQUEST AND EMPIRE FROM THE WEST. In their irresistable advance they overwhelm all who stand in their way and bring them under their own rule. They take possession of many lands and plunder the cities of the earth; they carry on negotiations with other nations in a spirit of cunning and deceit; they lay their subversive plans in advance and tolerate no opposition in carrying them to execution. Their lust for conquest is insatiable; they mock at kings and rulers; fortress after fortress falls before them. THEIR LEADERS FOLLOW ONE ANOTHER IN QUICK SUCCESSION: "they come one after another to destroy the earth." This rapid replacement happens "by the counsel of the guilty house." They exact tribute so heavy as to impoverish the lands which have to pay for it; their methods of warfare do not spare men, women, and the tiniest children. The prophet's description of the Chaldeans as catching men like fish and then paying divine honors to their nets is said to denote the Kittim's practice of offering sacrifice to their standards and worshipping their weapons. This last feature of the Kittim is reminiscent of the fact that Roman military standards were treated as sacred objects, PARTICULARLY THE EAGLE, the legendary standard, which was kept in a special shrine in the camp and was regarded as affording sanctuary... The Encyclopedia Judaica.
The following is from The Dead Sea Scriptures, by Theodor H. Gaster:
HABAKKUK, CHAPTER ONE
(4) Therefore the law is numbed. This refers to the fact that they have rejected the Torah--that is, the Law of God.
For the wicked besets the righteous...The reference (in the word 'righteous') is to the teacher who expounds the Law aright.
Therefor justice is perverted.
(5) Look ye traitors, and see: marvel and be astonished. For it is in your own days that the deed is being done. Ye do not believe when it is told. This refers to the traitors who have aligned themselves with the Man of Lies. For they did not believe what he who expounded the Law aright told them on the authority of God. It refers also to those who betrayed the new covenant, for the word rendered 'believe' also means 'keep faith' and therefore alludes to the fact that they have not kept faith with the Covenant of God, but have profaned His Holy Name. Again, it refers to future traitors--that is, to the lawless men who will betray the Covenant and not believe when they hear all the things that are to come upon the final age duly related by the priest whom God appoints to interpret in those days all the words of His servants the prophets by whom He has told of that impending disaster.
(6) For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, that wild and impetuous nation. This refers to the Kittians, who are indeed swift and mighty in war, bent on destroying peoples far and wide and subduing them to their own domination. They disposses...but do not believe in the ordinances of God. Over lowland and plain they come to smite and pillage the cities of the land. This is what the Scripture means when it speaks of them as coming to possess dwellings that are not their own.
(7) Dreadful and artful it is: out of itself proceed both its standards of justice and its (lust) for deception. This refers to the Kittians, the terror and the dread of whom are upon all the nations. Moreover, when they meet in their council, all their plans are directed to doing evil; and they behave towards all peoples with knavery and deceit.
(8, 9) Swifter than leopards are their steeds, and keener than Evening wolves. Their horsemen spread out and ride abroad: they come flying from afar like a vulture (an eagle) that hasteth to devour. They all of them come for violence: the serried mass of their faces is a veritable eastwind. This refers to the Kittians who thresh the earth with their horses and their beasts. Like a vulture they come from afar, FROM THE ISLES OF THE SEA, to devour all the nations; and they are insatiable. In the heat of fury, in searing rage, in scorching anger and with tempestuous mein they speak with all the peoples; and this is what the Scripture means when it says, the serried mass of their faces is a veritable eastwind, and they amass spoil like sand.
(10) At kings it scoffs, and lordlings are a derision unto it. This refers to the fact that they scorn the great and mock the noble, make sport of kings and princes, and scoff at any numerous people.
It derides every stronghold: piles up an earthmound and takes it. This refers to the Kittians who scorn the strongholds of the peoples and tauntingly derides them, surrounding them with a great host in order to capture them. Through alarm and terror the latter are surrendered into their hands, and they overthrow them through the iniquity of those who dwell in them.
(11) Then the wind sweeps by and passes: and another, whose might is his God, proceeds to wreak devastation. This refers to the rulers of the Kittians. In their guilt-ridden Council House (in Washington) they keep replacing those rulers one after another, and each comes in turn to destroy the earth...
(13) Why dost thou look (idly) upon traitors, and keep silent when the wicked confounds him that is more righteous than he? This refers to the house of Absalom and their cronies who kept silent when charges were levelled against the teacher who was expounding the Law aright, and who did not come to his aid against the man of lies when the latter rejected the Torah in the midst of the entire congregation.
(14-16) Thou hast made men like fishes of the sea, like crawling things, that he may have dominion over them. He takes up all of them with the angle and hauls them in his net, and gathers them in his drag. Therefore he sacrifices to his net: therefore he rejoices and makes merry; therefore too, he burns incense to his net: because thereby his portion is rich. This again refers to the Kittians. What with all their plunder, they keep increasing their wealth like a shoal of fish. And as for the statement, therefore he sacrifices unto his net and burns incense to his drag, this refers to the fact that they offer sacrifices unto their ensigns and their weapons are are objects of veneration to them...
(1, 2) I will take my stand on my watch and post myself on my tower, and scan the scene to see whereof He will denounce me and what answer I might give when He arraigns me. And the Lord took up up a word with me and said: Write the vision, and make it plain upon tablets that he may run who reads it. God told (the prophet) to write down the things that were to come upon the latter age, but He did not inform him when that moment would come to fulfilment. As to the phrase, that he who reads may run, this refers to the teacher who expounds the Law aright, for God has made him au courant with all the deeper implications of the words of His servants the prophets.
(3) For the vision is yet for the appointed time. Though it lags toward the moment, it will not be belied. This refers to the fact that the final moment may be protracted beyond anything which the prophets have foretold, for 'God moves in mysterious ways His wonders to perform.'
Though it tarry, yet await it; for it will surely come, it will not delay; This is addressed to the men of truth, the men who carry out the Law, who do not relax from serving the Truth even though the final moment be long drawn out. Assuredly all the times appointed by God will come in due course, even as He has determined in His inscrutable wisdom.
(4) Behold, his soul shall be swollen, not reduced therein. This refers to the fact that they will pile up for themselves a Double requital for their sins, and shall not be quit of judgment for them.
But the righteous through their faithfulness shall live. This refers to all Jewry (all Israel) who carry out the Law. On account of their labor and of their faith in him who expounded the Law aright, God will deliver them from the house of judgment. The Dead Sea Scriptures.