Habakkuk's Expostulation with Jehovah on
Account of the Prevalence of Injustice: Jehovah Summons Attention to
His Purpose of Sending the Chaldeans as the Avengers. The
Prophet Complains, that These Are Worse
than Those on Whom Vengeance Was to Be Taken.
1. burden—the prophetic sentence.
2, 3. violence … Why dost thou show me
iniquity?—Similar language is used of the Chaldeans (Hab 1:9,
13), as here is used of the
Jews: implying, that as the Jews sinned by violence and
injustice, so they should be punished by violence and
injustice (Pr 1:31).
Jehoiakim's reign was marked by injustice, treachery, and bloodshed
22:3, 13-17). Therefore the
Chaldeans should be sent to deal with him and his nobles according to
their dealings with others (Hab 1:6, 10, 11, 17). Compare Jeremiah's expostulation with
Jehovah, Jer 12:1; 20:8; and Job 19:7, 8.
3. cause me to behold grievance—Maurer denies that the Hebrew verb is
ever active; he translates, "(Wherefore) dost Thou behold
(without doing aught to check) grievance?" The context favors
there are that raise up strife and
contention—so Calvin. But
Maurer, not so well, translates, "There
is strife, and contention raises itself."
4. Therefore—because Thou dost suffer
such crimes to go unpunished.
law is slacked—is chilled. It has no
authority and secures no respect.
wrong judgment proceedeth—Decisions
are given contrary to right.
5. Behold … marvellously … a
work—(Compare Isa 29:14).
Quoted by Paul (Ac 13:41).
among the heathen—In Ac 13:41, "ye despisers," from the
Septuagint. So the Syriac and Arabic versions;
perhaps from a different Hebrew reading. In the English
Version reading of Habakkuk, God, in reply to the prophet's
expostulation, addresses the Jews as about to be punished, "Behold ye
among the heathen (with whom ye deserve to be classed, and by
whom ye shall be punished, as despisers; the sense implied,
which Paul expresses): learn from them what ye refused to learn
from Me!" For "wonder marvellously," Paul, in Ac 13:41, has, "wonder and perish," which
gives the sense, not the literal wording, of the Hebrew,
"Wonder, wonder," that is, be overwhelmed in wonder. The despisers are
to be given up to their own stupefaction, and so perish. The Israelite
unbelievers would not credit the prophecy as to the fearfulness of the
destruction to be wrought by the Chaldeans, nor afterwards the
deliverance promised from that nation. So analogously, in Paul's day,
the Jews would not credit the judgment coming on them by the Romans,
nor the salvation proclaimed through Jesus. Thus the same Scripture
applied to both.
ye will not believe, though it be told
you—that is, ye will not believe now that I foretell
6. I raise up—not referring to God's
having brought the Chaldeans from their original seats to Babylonia
(see on Isa 23:13), for they had already been
upwards of twenty years (since Nabopolassar's era) in political power
there; but to His being about now to raise them up as the instruments
of God's "work" of judgment on the Jews (2Ch 36:6). The Hebrew is future, "I
will raise up."
bitter—that is, cruel (Jer 50:42; compare Jud 18:25, Margin; 2Sa 17:8).
hasty—not passionate, but
7. their judgment and … dignity …
proceed of themselves—that is, they recognize no judge
save themselves, and they get for themselves and keep their own
"dignity" without needing others' help. It will be vain for the Jews to
complain of their tyrannical judgments; for whatever the
Chaldeans decree they will do according to their own will, they will
not brook anyone attempting to interfere.
8. swifter than the leopards—Oppian [Cynegeticks, 3.76], says of the
leopard, "It runs most swiftly straight on: you would fancy it was
flying through the air."
more fierce—rather, "more keen";
evening wolves—wolves famished with
fasting all day and so most keen in attacking the fold under covert of
the approaching night (Jer 5:6; Zep 3:3; compare Ge 49:27). Hence "twilight" is termed in
Arabic and Persian "the wolf's tail"; and in French,
entre chien et loup.
spread themselves—proudly; as in Jer
50:11, and Mal 4:2, it
implies strength and vigor. So also the Arabic
cognate word [Maurer].
their horsemen … come from
far—and yet are not wearied by the long journey.
9. all for violence—The sole object of
all is not to establish just rights, but to get all they can by
their faces shall sup up as the east
wind—that is, they shall, as it were, swallow up all
before them; so the horse in Job 39:24 is said to "swallow the ground
with fierceness and rage." Maurer takes
it from an Arabic root, "the desire of their faces," that
is, the eager desire expressed by their faces. Henderson, with Symmachus and Syriac, translates, "the
as the east wind—the simoon, which
spreads devastation wherever it passes (Isa 27:8). Gesenius translates, "(is) forwards." The rendering
proposed, eastward, as if it referred to the Chaldeans' return
home eastward from Judea, laden with spoils, is improbable.
Their "gathering the sand" accords with the simoon being meant, as it
carries with it whirlwinds of sand collected in the desert.
10. scoff at … kings—as unable to
they shall heap dust, and take
it—"they shall heap" earth mounds outside, and so "take every
stronghold" (compare 2Sa 20:15; 2Ki 19:32) [Grotius].
11. Then—when elated by his
shall his mind change—He shall lose
whatever of reason or moderation ever was in him, with pride.
he shall pass over—all bounds and
restraints: his pride preparing the sure way for his destruction (Pr 16:18). The language is very similar to
that describing Nebuchadnezzar's "change" from man's heart
(understanding) to that of a beast, because of pride (see on Da 4:16; Da 4:30, 31; Da 4:33, 34). An undesigned coincidence between the two
sacred books written independently.
imputing this his power unto his
Sacrilegious arrogance, in ascribing to his idol Bel the glory that
belongs to God [Calvin]. Grotius explains, "(saying that) his power is his
own as one who is a god to himself" (compare Hab 1:16, and
Da 3:1-30). So Maurer, "He shall offend as one to whom his power is
his god" (Job 12:6; see
on Mic 2:1).
12. In opposition to the impious deifying of
the Chaldeans power as their god (Maurer, or, as the English Version, their
attributing of their successes to their idols), the prophet, in an
impassioned address to Jehovah, vindicates His being "from
everlasting," as contrasted with the Chaldean so-called "god."
my God, mine Holy One—Habakkuk speaks
in the name of his people. God was "the Holy One of Israel,"
against whom the Chaldean was setting up himself (Isa 37:23).
we shall not die—Thou, as being
our God, wilt not permit the Chaldeans utterly to destroy us.
This reading is one of the eighteen called by the Hebrews "the
appointment of the scribes"; the Rabbis think that Ezra and his
colleagues corrected the old reading, "Thou shalt not die."
thou hast ordained them for
judgment—that is, to execute Thy judgments.
for correction—to chastise
transgressors (Isa 10:5-7). But not that they may deify their own
1:11, for their power is from
Thee, and but for a time); nor that they may destroy utterly Thy
people. The Hebrew for "mighty God" is Rock (De 32:4). However the world is shaken, or man's
faith wavers, God remains unshaken as the Rock of Ages (Isa 26:4, Margin).
13. purer … than to behold
evil—without being displeased at it.
canst not look on iniquity—unjust
injuries done to Thy people. The prophet checks himself from being
carried too far in his expostulatory complaint, by putting before
himself honorable sentiments of God.
them that deal treacherously—the
Chaldeans, once allies of the Jews, but now their violent oppressors.
Compare "treacherous dealers," (Isa 21:2; 24:16). Instead of speaking evil against God,
he goes to God Himself for the remedy for his perplexity (Ps 73:11-17).
devoureth the man that is more
righteous—The Chaldean oppresses the Jew, who with all his
faults, is better than his oppressor (compare Eze 16:51, 52).
14. And—that is, And so, by
suffering oppressors to go unpunished, "Thou makest men as the fishes
… that have no ruler"; that is, no defender. All may fish in the
sea with impunity; so the Chaldeans with impunity afflict Thy people,
as these have no longer the God of the theocracy, their King, to defend
them. Thou reducest men to such a state of anarchy, by wrong going
unpunished, as if there were no God. He compares the world to the
sea; men to fishes; Nebuchadnezzar to a fisherman
15. they take up all of them—all kinds
of fishes, that is, men, as captives, and all other prey that
comes in their way.
with the angle—that is, the hook. Some
they take up as with the hook, one by one; others in shoals, as in a
"net" and "drag" or enclosing net.
therefore—because of their
they rejoice—They glory in their
crimes because attended with success (compare Hab 1:11).
16. sacrifice unto their net—that is,
their arms, power, and military skill, wherewith they gained their
victories; instead of to God. Compare Hab 1:11, Maurer's
interpretation. They idolize themselves for their own cleverness and
might (De 8:17; Isa 10:13; 37:24, 25).
by them—by their net and dragnet.
their portion—image from a banquet:
the prey which they have gotten.
17. Shall they … empty their
net?—Shall they be allowed without interruption to enjoy the
fruits of their violence?
therefore—seeing that they attribute
all their successes to themselves, and not to Thee. The answer to the
prophet's question, he by inspiration gives himself in the second