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Habakkuk 1:9

9. They shall come all for violence: their faces shall sup up as the east wind, and they shall gather the captivity as the sand.

9. Tota (semper de ipsa gente loquitur, hoc est. totus ipse populus) ad praedam venict; occursus vultus ipsorum (jam in plurali numera loquitar) ventus orientalis, et colliget quasi arenam captivitatem.


By saying that they would come to the prey, he means that they would have no trouble or labor, for they would be victorious before they had any contest, or had any war with their enemies. The meaning then is, that the Chaldeans would not come to spend much time in warfare, as when there is a strong power to resist; but that they would only come for the booty, for the Jews would be frightened, and instantly submit themselves. And by these words the Prophet intimates, that there would be neither strength nor courage in a people so refractory: for God thus debilitates the hearts of those who fiercely resist his word. Whenever, then, men become strong against God, he so melts their hearts, that they cannot resist their fellow-mortals; and thus he mocks their confidence, or rather their madness. Lest then the Jews should still harbor any hope from the chance of war, the Prophet says that the Chaldeans would only come for the prey, for all would become subject to them.

He afterwards adds, that the meeting of their faces would be like the oriental wind. The word גמה, gime, means what is opposite; and its derivative signifies meeting or opposition (occursus.) We indeed know that the east wind was very injurious to the land of Judea, that it dried up vegetation, yea, that it consumed as it were the whole produce of the earth. The violence of that wind was also very great. Hence whenever the Prophets wished to express a violent impetuosity, they added this comparison of the east wind. It was therefore the same as though the Prophet had said that the Jews would now in vain flatter themselves; for as soon as they perceived the blowing of the east wind, they would flee away, knowing that they would be wholly unable to stand against it. 1515     This clause has been variously interpreted. The Targum, Vulgate, and Symmachus, countenance the view given here. There is no help from the Septuagint, as no sense is given. The word [מגמח], only found here, is rendered by Symmachus, προσοψις, sight, aspect. Targum explains it by a word which signifies “front.” Henderson and Lee regard this as its meaning. Others, as Newcome and Drusius render it, supping up, or absorption, and derive it from [גמא], to drink up, to absorb; and they regard the idea to be, that the very presence of the Chaldeans would absorb every thing like a scorching wind. But “the supping up of their faces shall be as the east wind,” which is Newcome’s version, is an odd phrase. The last word has [ה] affixed to it, which is never the case when it means the east wind. It is by all admitted, that “towards the east” is its proper construction. Hence the most probable rendering of this passage is, “The aspect of their faces shall be towards the east;” and with this corresponds what follows, that they should “gather captives as the sand;” that is, that they might carry them away to the place where they turned their faces.
   The version of Henderson, which is essentially that of Symmachus, is the following,—

   The aspect of their faces is like the east wind.

   He owns the difficulty as to the last word, and views it here as in an irregular form. Dathius gives this paraphrase,—

   It will have its face direct towards the east.

   He says that the word [קדום], by itself never means the pestilential wind from the east; but that when it means this, it has another word attached to it.—Ed.

Hence follows what is added by the Prophets, He shall gather the captivity like the sand; that is, the king of Babylon shall without any trouble subdue all the people, and collect captives innumerable as the sand; for by the sand of the sea is meant an immense number of men. In short, the Prophet shows that the Jews were already conquered; because their striving and their contest had been with God, whom they had so often and so obstinately provoked; and also, because God had chosen for himself such servants as excelled in quickness, and power, and cruelty. This is the sum of the whole. He afterwards adds—

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