Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
ACCOUNT OF THE
CHALDEANS AS THE
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
Jehoiakim's reign was marked by injustice, treachery, and bloodshed
(Jer 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
not so well, translates, "There is strife, and contention raises
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
Quoted by Paul
among the heathen--In
"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
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 it.
6. I raise up--not referring to God's having brought the
Chaldeans from their original seats to Babylonia (see on
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
The Hebrew is future, "I will raise up."
bitter--that is, cruel
hasty--not passionate, but "impetuous."
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"; literally, "sharp."
evening wolves--wolves famished with fasting all day and so most keen
in attacking the fold under covert of the approaching night
Hence "twilight" is termed in Arabic and Persian "the
wolf's tail"; and in French, entre chien et loup.
spread themselves--proudly; as in
and Mal 4:2,
it implies strength and vigor. So also the Arabic cognate
their horsemen . . . come from far--and yet are not wearied by the
9. all for violence--The sole object of all is not to establish just
rights, but to get all they can by violence.
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
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 aspect."
as the east wind--the simoon, which spreads devastation wherever it
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
10. scoff at . . . kings--as unable to resist them.
they shall heap dust, and take it--"they shall heap" earth mounds
outside, and so "take every stronghold" (compare
11. Then--when elated by his successes.
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
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 4:30, 31;
Da 4:33, 34).
An undesigned coincidence between the two sacred books written
imputing this his power unto his god--
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
and Da 3:1-30).
So MAURER, "He shall offend as one to whom his
power is his god"
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
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
for correction--to chastise transgressors
But not that they may deify their own power
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
However the world is shaken, or man's faith wavers, God remains
unshaken as the Rock of Ages
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
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 successes.
they rejoice--They glory in their crimes because attended with success
16. sacrifice unto their net--that is, their arms, power, and military
skill, wherewith they gained their victories; instead of to God. Compare
MAURER'S interpretation. They idolize themselves
for their own cleverness and might
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 chapter.