Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
EARNESTLY FOR AN
WAITED FOR IN
1. stand upon . . . watch--that is, watch-post. The
prophets often compare themselves, awaiting the revelations of Jehovah
with earnest patience, to watchmen on an eminence watching with intent
eye all that comes within their view
(Isa 21:8, 11;
Eze 3:17; 33:2, 3;
Ps 5:3; 85:8).
The "watch-post" is the withdrawal of the whole soul from earthly, and
fixing it on heavenly, things. The accumulation of synonyms, "stand
upon . . . watch . . . set me upon . . .
tower . . . watch to see" implies persevering fixity of
what he will say unto me--in answer to my complaints
Literally, "in me," God speaking, not to the prophet's outward ear, but
inwardly. When we have prayed to God, we must observe what
answers God gives by His word, His Spirit, and His providences.
what I shall answer when I am reproved--what answer I am to make
to the reproof which I anticipate from God on account of the
liberty of my expostulation with Him. MAURER
translates, "What I am to answer in respect to my complaint against
2. Write the vision--which I am about to reveal to thee.
make it plain--
In large legible characters.
upon tables--boxwood tables covered with wax, on which national
affairs were engraved with an iron pen, and then hung up in public, at
the prophets' own houses, or at the temple, that those who passed might
read them. Compare
"writing table," that is, tablet.
that he may run that readeth it--commonly explained, "so
intelligible as to be easily read by any one running past"; but then it
would be, "that he that runneth may read it." The true sense is, "so
legible that whoever readeth it, may run to tell all whom he can
the good news of the foe's coming doom, and Judah's deliverance."
"many shall run to and fro," namely, with the explanation of the
prophecy, then unsealed; also,
"let him that heareth (the good news) say (to every one within his
reach), Come." "Run" is equivalent to announce the divine
as everyone who becomes informed of a divine message is bound to
run, that is, use all despatch to make it known to others
[HENDERSON]. GROTIUS, LUDOVICUS DE DIEU, and MAURER interpret it: "Run"
is not literal running, but "that he who reads it may run
through it," that is, read it at once without difficulty.
3. for--assigning the cause why it ought to be
committed to writing: because its fulfilment belongs to the future.
the vision is yet for an appointed time--
(Da 10:14; 11:27, 35).
Though the time appointed by God for the fulfilment be yet future, it
should be enough for your faith that God hath spoken it
at the end it shall speak--MAURER translates, "it pants for the
end." But the antithesis between, "it shall speak," and "not be
silent," makes English Version the better rendering. So the Hebrew is translated in
Literally, "breathe out words," "break forth as a blast."
though it tarry, wait for it--
4. his soul which is lifted up--the Chaldean's
unbelieving Jew's [HENDERSON].
is not upright in him--that is, is not accounted upright in God's
sight; in antithesis to "shall live." So
which with inspired authority applies the general sense to the
particular case which Paul had in view, "If any man draw back
(one result of being 'lifted up' with overweening arrogancy), my
soul shall have no pleasure in him."
the just shall live by his faith--the Jewish nation, as opposed
to the unbelieving Chaldean (compare
&c.; Hab 1:6,
&c.; Hab 1:13)
[MAURER]. HENDERSON'S view
is that the believing Jew is meant, as opposed to the
unbelieving Jew (compare
The believing Jew, though God's promise tarry, will wait for it; the
unbelieving "draws back," as
expresses it. The sense, in MAURER'S view, which
accords better with the context
&c.). is: the Chaldean, though for a time seeming to prosper, yet
being lifted up with haughty unbelief
(Hab 1:11, 16),
is not upright; that is, has no right stability of soul resting
on God, to ensure permanence of prosperity; hence, though for a time
executing God's judgments, he at last becomes "lifted up" so as to
attribute to his own power what is the work of God, and in this sense
becoming thereby a type of all backsliders who thereby incur God's
displeasure; as the believing Jew is of all who wait for God's
promises with patient faith, and so "live" (stand accepted)
before God. The Hebrew accents induce BENGEL to translate, "he who is just by his faith shall
live." Other manuscripts read the accents as English Version,
which agrees better with Hebrew syntax.
5. Yea also, because--additional reason why the Jews may look for God
punishing their Chaldean foe, namely, because . . . he is
a proud man--rather, this clause continues the reason for the Jews
expecting the punishment of the Chaldeans, "because he transgresseth by
wine (a besetting sin of Babylon, compare
and CURTIUS [5.1]), being a proud man."
Love of wine often begets a proud contempt of divine things, as
in Belshazzar's case, which was the immediate cause of the fall of
(Da 5:2-4, 30;
Pr 20:1; 30:9; 31:5).
enlargeth his desire as hell--the grave, or the unseen world, which
is "never full"
(Pr 27:20; 30:16;
The Chaldeans under Nebuchadnezzar were filled with an insatiable
desire of conquest. Another reason for their punishment.
6. Shall not all these--the "nations" and "peoples"
"heaped unto him" by the Chaldean.
take up a parable--a derisive song. Habakkuk follows Isaiah
in the phraseology.
against him--when dislodged from his former eminence.
Woe--The "derisive song" here begins, and continues to the end of the
chapter. It is a symmetrical whole, and consists of five stanzas, the
first three consisting of three verses each, the fourth of four verses,
and the last of two. Each stanza has its own subject, and all except the
last begin with "Woe"; and all have a closing verse introduced with
"for," "because," or "but."
how long?--how long destined to retain his ill-gotten gains? But
for a short time, as his fall now proves
[MAURER]. "Covetousness is the
greatest bane to men. For they who invade others' goods, often lose even
their own" [MENANDER].
CALVIN makes "how long?" to be the cry of those
groaning under the Chaldean oppression while it still lasted: How long
shall such oppression be permitted to continue? But it is plainly part
of the derisive song, after the Chaldean tyranny had passed away.
ladeth himself with thick clay--namely, gold and silver dug out of the
"clay," of which they are a part. The covetous man in heaping them
together is only lading himself with a clay burden, as he dares not
enjoy them, and is always anxious about them.
the Hebrew as a reduplicated single noun, and not two words, "an
accumulation of pledges"
The Chaldean is compared to a harsh usurer, and his ill-gotten
treasures to heaps of pledges in the hands of a usurer.
7. suddenly--the answer to the question, "How long?"
bite--often used of usury; so favoring
As the Chaldean, like a usurer, oppressed others, so other nations
shall, like usurers, take pledges of, that is, spoil, him.
8. the remnant of the people--Those remaining of the peoples spoiled
by thee, though but a remnant, will suffice to inflict vengeance on
the violence of the land . . . city--that is, on account of
thy violent oppression of the lands and cities of the earth
Hab 2:5, 6, 12).
The same phrase occurs in
where the "land" and "city" are Judea and Jerusalem.
9. coveteth an evil covetousness--that is, a covetousness so
surpassingly evil as to be fatal to himself.
to his house--greedily seizing enormous wealth, not merely for
himself, but for his family, to which it is destined to be fatal. The
very same "evil covetousness" that was the cause of Jehoiakim's being
given up to the Chaldean oppressor
shall be the cause of the Chaldean's own destruction.
set his nest on high--
The image is from an eagle
The royal citadel is meant. The Chaldean built high towers, like
the Babel founders, to "be delivered from the power of evil"
10. Thou hast consulted shame . . . by cutting off
literally, "Thou hast consulted shame . . . to destroy many," that is,
in consulting (determining) to cut off many, thou hast consulted shame
to thy house.
sinned against thy soul--that is, against thyself; thou art the guilty
cause of thine own ruin
(Pr 8:36; 20:2).
They who wrong their neighbors, do much greater wrong to their own
11. stone . . . cry out--personification. The very stones of thy
palace built by rapine shall testify against thee
the beam out of the timber--the crossbeam or main rafter connecting
the timbers in the walls.
shall answer it--namely, the stone. The stone shall begin and the
crossbeam continue the cry against thy rapine.
12. buildeth a town with blood--namely, Babylon rebuilt and enlarged
by blood-bought spoils (compare
13. is it not of the Lord of hosts--JEHOVAH, who has at His command
all the hosts of heaven and earth, is the righteous author of
Babylon's destruction. "Shall not God have His turn, when cruel
rapacious men have triumphed so long, though He seem now to be still?"
people . . . labour in the . . . fire
. . . weary themselves for . . . vanity--The
Chaldeans labor at what is to be food for the fire, namely, their city
and fortresses which shall be burnt.
adopts the same phraseology to express the vanity of the Chaldean's
labor on Babylon, as doomed to the flames.
14. Adapted from
Here the sense is, "The Jews shall be restored and the temple rebuilt,
so that God's glory in saving His people, and punishing their Chaldean
foe, shall be manifested throughout the world," of which the Babylonian
empire formed the greatest part; a type of the ultimate full
manifestation of His glory in the final salvation of Israel and His
Church, and the destruction of all their foes.
waters cover the sea--namely, the bottom of the sea; the sea-bed.
15. giveth . . . neighbour drink . . . puttest . . . bottle to him--literally, "skin," as the Easterns use "bottles" of skin for wine.
MAURER, from a different Hebrew root, translates, "that pourest in
thy wrath." English Version keeps up the metaphor better. It is not
enough for thee to be "drunken" thyself, unless thou canst lead others
into the same state. The thing meant is, that the Chaldean king, with
his insatiable desires (a kind of intoxication), allured neighboring
states into the same mad thirst for war to obtain booty, and then at
last exposed them to loss and shame (compare
An appropriate image of Babylon, which at last fell during a drunken
that thou mayest look on their nakedness!--with light, like Ham of
16. art filled--now that thou art fallen. "Thou art filled" indeed
(though so insatiable), but it is "with shame."
shame for glory--instead of thy former glory
drink thou also--The cup of sorrow is now in thy turn to pass to thee
thy foreskin--expressing in Hebrew feeling the most utter contempt.
So of Goliath
It is not merely thy "nakedness," as in
that shall be "uncovered," but the foreskin, the badge of thy being an
uncircumcised alien from God. The same shall be done to thee, as thou
didst to others, and worse.
cup . . . shall be turned unto thee--literally, "shall
turn itself," namely, from the nations whom thou hast made to drink it.
"Thou shalt drink it all, so that it may be turned as being
shameful spewing--that is, vomiting; namely, that of the king of
Babylon, compelled to disgorge the spoil he had swallowed. It expresses
also the ignominious state of Babylon in its calamity
"Be drunken, spew, and fall." Less appropriately it is explained
of the foe spewing in the face of the Babylonian king.
17. the violence of Lebanon--thy "violence" against "Lebanon," that
Eze 17:3, 12;
for Lebanon's cedars were used in building the temple and houses of
Jerusalem; and its beauty made it a fit type of the metropolis), shall
fall on thine own head.
cover--that is, completely overwhelm.
the spoil of beasts, which made them afraid--MAURER explains, "the spoiling inflicted on the
beasts of Lebanon (that is, on the people of Jerusalem, of which
city 'Lebanon' is the type), which made them afraid (shall cover
thee)." But it seems inappropriate to compare the elect people to
"beasts." I therefore prefer explaining, "the spoiling of beasts," that
is, such as is inflicted on beasts caught in a net, and "which makes
them afraid (shall cover thee)." Thus the Babylonians are compared to
wild beasts terrified at being caught suddenly in a net. In cruel
rapacity they resembled wild beasts. The ancients read, "the spoiling
of wild beasts shall make THEE
afraid." Or else explain, "the spoiling of beasts (the Medes and
Persians) which (inflicted by thee) made them afraid (shall in
turn cover thyself--revert on thyself from them)." This accords better
with the parallel clause, "the violence of Lebanon," that is, inflicted
by thee on Lebanon. As thou didst hunt men as wild beasts, so shalt
thou be hunted thyself as a wild beast, which thou resemblest in
because of men's blood--shed by thee; repeated from
But here the "land" and "city" are used of Judea and
Jerusalem: not of the earth and cities generally,
the violence of the land, &c.--that is, inflicted on the land by
18. The powerlessness of the idols to save Babylon from its doom is
a fitting introduction to the last stanza
which, as the former four, begins with "Woe."
teacher of lies--its priests and prophets uttering lying oracles, as
if from it.
make dumb idols--Though men can "make" idols, they cannot
make them speak.
19. Awake--Arise to my help.
it shall teach!--rather, An exclamation of the prophet,
implying an ironical question to which a negative answer must be given.
What! "It teach?" Certainly not [MAURER]. Or, "It
(the idol itself) shall (that is, ought to) teach you that it is deaf,
and therefore no God" [CALVIN]. Compare "they are
their own witnesses"
Behold--The Hebrew is nominative, "There it is"
it is laid over with gold . . . no breath . . . in the midst--Outside
it has some splendor, within none.
20. But the Lord--JEHOVAH;
in striking contrast with the idols.
in his holy temple--"His place"
The temple at Jerusalem is a type of it, and there God is to be
worshipped. He does not lie hid under gold and silver, as the idols of
Babylon, but reigns in heaven and fills heaven, and thence succors His
keep silence--in token of reverent submission and subjection to His