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The oracle that the prophet Habakkuk saw.


The Prophet’s Complaint


O L ord, how long shall I cry for help,

and you will not listen?

Or cry to you “Violence!”

and you will not save?


Why do you make me see wrongdoing

and look at trouble?

Destruction and violence are before me;

strife and contention arise.


So the law becomes slack

and justice never prevails.

The wicked surround the righteous—

therefore judgment comes forth perverted.



Look at the nations, and see!

Be astonished! Be astounded!

For a work is being done in your days

that you would not believe if you were told.


For I am rousing the Chaldeans,

that fierce and impetuous nation,

who march through the breadth of the earth

to seize dwellings not their own.


Dread and fearsome are they;

their justice and dignity proceed from themselves.


Their horses are swifter than leopards,

more menacing than wolves at dusk;

their horses charge.

Their horsemen come from far away;

they fly like an eagle swift to devour.


They all come for violence,

with faces pressing forward;

they gather captives like sand.


At kings they scoff,

and of rulers they make sport.

They laugh at every fortress,

and heap up earth to take it.


Then they sweep by like the wind;

they transgress and become guilty;

their own might is their god!



Are you not from of old,

O L ord my God, my Holy One?

You shall not die.

O L ord, you have marked them for judgment;

and you, O Rock, have established them for punishment.


Your eyes are too pure to behold evil,

and you cannot look on wrongdoing;

why do you look on the treacherous,

and are silent when the wicked swallow

those more righteous than they?


You have made people like the fish of the sea,

like crawling things that have no ruler.



The enemy brings all of them up with a hook;

he drags them out with his net,

he gathers them in his seine;

so he rejoices and exults.


Therefore he sacrifices to his net

and makes offerings to his seine;

for by them his portion is lavish,

and his food is rich.


Is he then to keep on emptying his net,

and destroying nations without mercy?


The Prophet turns his discourse to the Jews, after having related the private colloquy, in which he expostulated with God for having so patiently borne with the obstinate wickedness of the nation. Being now as it were furnished with God’s command, (as the case really was,) he performs the office of a herald, and proclaims an approaching destruction. He indeed adopts a preface, which ought to have awakened drowsy and careless minds. He says—look, see, be astonished, be astonished; these repetitions do not a little increase the alarm; he twice bids them to see, and he twice exhorts them to be astonished, or to wonder. He then briefly proclaims the judgement of God, which he afterwards more fully describes. We now, then, perceive the object of the Prophet, and the manner in which he proceeds with his subject.

And he bids those among the nations to behold, as though he had said, that they were unworthy to be taught in the school of God; he therefore appointed other masters for them, even the Chaldeans, as we shall presently see. He might have said—look to God; but as the Prophet had so long spent his labor in vail and without profit while teaching them, he sets over them the Chaldeans as teachers. Behold, he says, ye teachers among the Gentiles. There is here indeed an implied contrast, as thought he said—“God has hitherto often recalled you to himself, and has offered himself to you, but ye have refused to look to him; now then, as he is wearied with exercising patience so long, he appoints for you other teachers; learn now from the Gentiles what ye leave hitherto refused to learn from the holy mouth of God himself”.

The Greek translators no doubt read בגורים, for their version is—“Behold, ye despisers.” 1010     This may perhaps be considered one of the very few instances in which the Septuagint seems to have retained the true reading without the countenance of a single MS.; for the word “despisers” is more suitable to the context. The very same word is found in the 13th verse of this chapter. The omission is very trifling, only of the letter [ד], and Paul in quoting this passage, in Acts 13:41, retains this word, while in the other clauses he departs from the Septuagint, and comes nearer to the Hebrew text. Pocock thought that [בגוים] is a noun from the Arabic [בגא], which means to be unjust or injurious; and thus the Hebrew is made the same with the Septuagint, and St. Paul, καταφρονηται, despisers—the insolent; but the former supposition seems the more probable—that the letter [ד] has been omitted. Dathius renders the word “perfidi—perfidious,” and Newcome “transgressors.”—Ed. But in Hebrew there is no ambiguity as to the word.

He afterwards adds—And wonder ye, wonder 1111     This is the proper rendering, and not as in our version. It is not the usual mode in Hebrew to enhance the meaning by connecting two verbs together; but the two other verbs here are in the imperative mood, only the first is in Niphal and the other in Kal. Parkhurst very properly renders them, and be ye astonished, wonder, etc. The repetition, says Drusius, is for the sake of emphasis.—Ed. By these words the prophets express how dreadful God’s judgement would be, which would astonish the Jews themselves. Had they not been extremely refractory they might have quietly received instruction, for God would have addressed them by his prophets, as though they had been his own children. They might thus, with composed minds, have listened to God speaking to them; but the time was now come when they were to be filled with astonishment. We hence see that the Prophet meant this in a few words—that there would be a new mode of teaching, which would overwhelm the unwilling with astonishment, because they would not endure to be ruled in a gentle manner, when the Lord required nothing from them but to render themselves teachable.

After having said that God’s judgement would be dreadful, he adds that it was nigh at hand—a work, he says, will he work in your days, etc. They had already been often warned of that vengeance, but as they had for a long time disregarded it, they did ever remain sunk in their own self-delusions, like men who are wont to protract time and hunt on every side for some excuse for indulging themselves. So then when the people became hardened against all threatening, they thought that God would ever bear with them; hence the Prophet expressly declares, that the execution of that which they regarded as a fable was near at hand—He will work, he says, this work in your days

He then subjoins—ye will not believe when it shall be told you; that is, God will execute such a punishment as will be incredible and exceed all belief. The Prophet no doubt alludes to the want of faith in the people, and indirectly reproves them, as though he said—“Ye have hitherto denied faith to God’s word, but ye shall at length find that he has told the truth; and this ye shall find to your astonishment; for as his word has been counted by you incredible, so also incredible shall be his judgement.” In short, the Prophet intimates this—that though the Prophets had been derided by the Jews, and despised as inventors of fables, yet nothing had been said by them which would not be fully accomplished. This reward then was to be paid to all the unbelieving; for God would in the most dreadful manner avenge their impiety, so that they should themselves be astonished and become an astonishment to others. We now perceive what the Prophet meant by saying that the Jews would not believe the work of God when told them, that is, the vengeance which he will presently describe.

This passage is quoted by Paul, and is applied to the punishment then awaiting the Jews; for Paul, after having offered Christ to them, and seeing that many of them regarded the preaching of Gospel with scorn, added these words—“see,” he said, “and be astonished, for God will work a work in your days which ye shall not believe.” Paul at the same time made a suitable application of the Prophet’s words; for as God had once threatened his people by his Prophet Habakkuk, so he was still like himself; and since had so severely vindicated the contempt of his law as to his ancient people, he could not surely bear with the impiety of that people whom he found to have acted so malignantly and so ungratefully, yea so wantonly and perversely, as to reject his grace; for this was the last remedy for the Jews. No wonder then that Paul set before them this vengeance, when the Jews of his time persisted through their unbelief to reject Christ. Now follows the explanation -

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