That is the text of our first reading for this 27th Sunday in ordinary time. The Habakkuk’s book has itself a high level of complexity linked to its antiquity. That implies also the existence of several traditions of translation: Neither the Latin Vulgata, nor the Greek Septuaginta, nor the Hebrew Masoretic text, nor the Syriac Peshitta coincide among themselves for the meaning of verse 2,4, the last verse in the selected reading for today. Even if you take two English modern translations you will hardly find the common leitmotiv, specially in the first half of the verse.
If we retain the standard Masoretic text , one important reason for this divergence is that the subject of the sentence is omitted. That is why the verse 4,2 may be put in connection either with the preceding text, or with what follows, or just be considered as an isolated proverb criticising some kinds of behaviour (this last option is the way that probably follows the Septuaginta).
My personal view is that the subject of the first half of the verse has to do with the previous vision or prophecy or, more precisely, its recording on tabletts (of clay, I suppose, as the most frequent support for information in ancient Middle East). Consequently, dear readers of this blog, only for your eyes, here is my proposal:
It (the recording of the prophetic message) will excite and not please to the spirit
of a righteous person, but he (or she, the righteous man or woman) will live by virtue of the confidence on it (the message).
As you can see, pronouns in any language (either Hebrew or English) may be used as a sort of “wild card” and that lets us find new meanings in the sentence. In particular, this translation of mine has made me remember the concept about prophetic messages as usually having two “flavours” just like that story in Rev 10,9-10:
And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, “Give me the little book”. And he said unto me, “Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey.” And I took the little book out of the angel’s hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter. (KJV)
By the way, the concepts of “right”, “justice” and so on are not completely on the same signification level as the corresponding Semitic words with the root Sdq צדק
If you can read Spanish, please, look at this article for explanation
specially in page 17. But we will speak over that very same point here, in this blog… another day, if God and/or nature wish(es) so.