Habakkuk 2:1
I will stand on my watch, and set me on the tower, and will watch to see what he will say to me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(1) The Tower.—The practice of ascending a high place to secure an extensive view suggests the figure here. (See 2Kings 9:17; 2Samuel 18:24.) In a yet bolder metaphor Isaiah represents himself as appointing a watchman, who brings reports from his tower. We need not suppose that Habakkuk literally betook himself to a solitary height to wait for a revelation. Balaam, the heathen soothsayer, did so (Numbers 23:3), but his conduct throws no light on the customs of the Jewish prophets.

What he will say unto me.—Better, what He will say in me, and what answer I shall make to my complaint: i.e., of what solution of the perplexities I am deploring, Jehovah shall make me the mouthpiece.

Habakkuk 2:1. I will stand upon my watch — The Hebrews often express one thing by a multiplicity of words, as here several expressions are used to signify the same thing, namely, watching. As the prophets were considered as watchmen, and as the watchmen were placed on high towers, and it was their duty to look around very diligently to see what messengers or enemies, or what dangers or deliverances were approaching, and to continue steadfast in their posts; so here the prophet declares that he would as diligently watch and wait for God’s answer to what he had complained of in the foregoing chapter, namely, the great success of the Chaldeans though they were guilty of greater crimes than the Jewish nation. And what I shall answer when I am reproved — Or rather, As to what I have argued, meaning the expostulations which he had uttered just before. Archbishop Newcome, who renders the verbs in the first three clauses of this verse in the past time, (namely, I stood on my watch-tower, &c.,) interprets the latter part of it thus: And I looked to see what he would speak by me, and what I should reply to my arguing with him; that is, what I should reply, “to my own satisfaction, and to that of others, as to the difficulties raised Habakkuk 1:13-17, why the idolatrous and wicked Chaldeans and their king are to be prosperous and triumphant.” 2:1-4 When tossed and perplexed with doubts about the methods of Providence, we must watch against temptations to be impatient. When we have poured out complaints and requests before God, we must observe the answers God gives by his word, his Spirit, and providences; what the Lord will say to our case. God will not disappoint the believing expectations of those who wait to hear what he will say unto them. All are concerned in the truths of God's word. Though the promised favour be deferred long, it will come at last, and abundantly recompense us for waiting. The humble, broken-hearted, repenting sinner, alone seeks to obtain an interest in this salvation. He will rest his soul on the promise, and on Christ, in and through whom it is given. Thus he walks and works, as well as lives by faith, perseveres to the end, and is exalted to glory; while those who distrust or despise God's all-sufficiency will not walk uprightly with him. The just shall live by faith in these precious promises, while the performance of them is deferred. Only those made just by faith, shall live, shall be happy here and for ever.For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth;' Notes, Isaiah 21:6; compare Isaiah 21:8, Isaiah 21:11; Micah 7:4; compare Jeremiah 6:17; Ezekiel 3:17; Ezekiel 33:7. In these passages, the idea is that of one who is stationed on an elevated post of observation, who can look over a large region of country, and give timely warning of the approach of an enemy.

The general idea of prophecy which is presented in these passages, is that of a scene which is made to pass before the mind like a picture, or a landscape, where the mind contemplates a panoramic view of objects around it, or in the distance; where, as in a landscape, objects may appear to be grouped together, or lying near together, which may be in fact separated a considerable distance. The prophets described those objects which were presented to their minds as they "appeared" to them, or as they seem to be drawn on the picture which was before them. They had, undoubtedly, an intelligent consciousness of what they were describing; they were not mad, like the priestesses of Apollo; they had a clear view of the vision, and described it as it appeared to them. Let this idea be kept in mind, that the prophets saw in vision; that probably the mode in which they contemplated objects was somewhat in the manner of a landscape as it passes before the mind, and much light and beauty will be cast on many of the prophecies which now seem to be obscure.

III. From the view which has now been taken of the nature of prophecy, some important remarks may be made, throwing additional light on the subject.

(1) It is not to be expected that the prophets would describe what they saw in all their connections and relations; see Hengstenberg, in Bib. Repos. ii. p. 148. They would present what they saw as we describe what we witness in a landscape. Objects which appear to be near, may be in fact separated by a considerable interval. Objects on the mountainside may seem to lie close to each other, between which there may be a deep ravine, or a flowery vale. In describing or painting it, we describe or paint the points that appear; but the ravine and the vale cannot be painted. They are not seen. So in a prophecy, distant events may appear to lie near to each other, and may be so described, while "between" them there may be events happy or adverse, of long continuance and of great importance.

(2) Some single view of a future event may attract the attention and engross the mind of the prophet. A multitude of comparatively unimportant objects may pass unnoticed, while there may be one single absorbing view that shall seize upon, and occupy all the attention. Thus, in the prophecies which relate to the Messiah. Scarcely any one of the prophets gives any connected or complete view of his entire life and character. It is some single view of him, or some single event in his life, that occupies the mind. Thus, at one time his birth is described; at another his kingdom; at another his divine nature; at another his sufferings; at another his resurrection; at another his glory. "The prophetic view is made up, not of one of these predictions, but of all combined;" as the life of Jesus is not that which is contained in one of the evangelists, but in all combined. Illustrations of this remark might be drawn in abundance from the prophecies of Isaiah. Thus, in Isaiah 2:4, he sees the Messiah as the Prince of Peace, as diffusing universal concord among all the nations, and putting an end to war.

In Isaiah 6:1-5, compare John 12:41, he sees him as the Lord of glory, sitting on a throne, and filling the temple. In Isaiah 7:14, he sees him as a child, the son of a virgin. In Isaiah 9:1-2, he sees him as having reached manhood, and having entered on his ministry, in the land of Galilee where he began to preach. In Isaiah 9:6-7, he sees him as the exalted Prince, the Ruler, the mighty God, the Father of eternity. In Isaiah 11 he sees him as the descendant of Jesse - a tender sprout springing up from the stump of an ancient decayed tree. In Isaiah 25:8, he sees him as destroying death, and introducing immortality; compare 1 Corinthians 15:54. In Isaiah 35:1-10 the happy effects of his reign are seen; in Isaiah 53:1-12 he views him as a suffering Messiah, and contemplates the deep sorrows which he would endure when he should die to make atonement for the sins of the world. Thus, in all the prophets, we have one view presented at one time, and another at another; and the entire prediction is made up of all these when they are combined into one.

It may be observed also of Isaiah, that in the first part of his prophecy the idea of an exalted or triumphant Messiah is chiefly dwelt upon; in the latter part, he presents more prominently the idea of the suffering Messiah. The reason may have been, that the object in the first part was to console the hearts of the nation under their deep and accumulated calamities, with the assurance that their great Deliverer would come. In the latter part, which may not have been published in his life, the idea of a suffering Messiah is more prominently introduced. This might have been rather designed for posterity than for the generation when Isaiah 54ed; or it may have been designed for the more pious individuals in the nation rather than for the nation at large, and hence, in order to give a full view of the Messiah, he dwelt then on his sufferings and death; see Hengstenberg's Christol. vol. i. pp. 153, 154.

(3) Another peculiarity, which may arise from the nature of prophecy here presented, may have been that the mind of the prophet glanced rapidly from one thing to another. By very slight associations or connections, as they may now appear to us, the mind is carried from one object or event to another; and almost before we are aware of it, the prophet seems to be describing some point that has, as appears to us, scarcely any connection with the one which he had but just before been describing. We are astonished at the transition, and perhaps can by no means ascertain the connection which has subsisted in view of the mind of the prophet, and which has led him to pass from the one to the other. The mental association to us is lost or unseen, and we deem him abrupt, and speak of his rapid transitions, and of the difficulties involved in the doctrine of a double sense. The views which I am here describing may be presented under the idea of what may be called the laws of prophetic suggestion; and perhaps a study of those laws might lead to a removal of most of the difficulties which have been supposed to be connected with the subject of a spiritual meaning, and of the double sense of the prophecies.

In looking over a landscape; in attempting to describe the objects as they lie in view of the eye - if that landscape were not seen by others for whom the description is made - the transitions would seem to be rapid, and the objects might seem to be described in great disorder. It would be difficult to tell why this object was mentioned in connection with that; or by what laws of association the one suggested by the other. A house or tree; a brook, a man, an animal, a valley, a mountain, might all be described, and between them there might be no apparent laws of close connection, and all the real union may be that they lie in the same range, in view of him who contemplates them. The "laws of prophetic suggestion" may appear to be equally slight; and we may not be able to trace them, because we have not the entire view or grouping which was presented to the mind of the prophet. We do not see the associations which in his view connected the one with the other.

To him, there may have been no double sense. He may have described objects singly as they appeared to him. But they may have lain near each other. They may have been so closely grouped that he could not separate them even in the description. The words appropriate to the one may have naturally and easily fallen into the form of appropriate description of the other. And the objects may have been so contiguous, and the transition in the mind of the prophet so rapid, that he may himself have been scarcely conscious of the change, and his narrative may seem to flow on as one continued description. Thus, the object with which he commenced, may have sunk out of view, and the mind be occupied entirely in the contemplation of that which was at first secondary. Such seems to have been, in a remarkable manner, the uniqueness of the mind of Isaiah. Whatever is the object or event with which he commences, the description usually closes with the Messiah. His mind glances rapidly from the object immediately before him, and fixes on that which is more remote, and the first object gradually sinks away; the language rises in dignity and beauty; the mind is full, and the description proceeds with a statement respecting the Prince of Peace. This is not double sense: it is rapid transition under the laws of prophetic suggestion; and though at first some object immediately before the prophet was the subject of his contemplation, yet before he closes, his mind is totally absorbed in some distant event that has been presented, and his language is designedly such as is adapted to that.

It would be easy to adduce numerous instances of the operation of this law in Isaiah. For illustration we may refer to the remarkable prophecy in Isaiah 7:14; compare Isaiah 8:8; Isaiah 9:1-7. See the notes on those passages. Indeed, it may be presented, I think, as one of the prominent characteristics of the mind of Isaiah, that in the prophetic visions which he contemplated, the Messiah always occupied some place; that whatever prophetic landscape, so to speak, passed before him, the Messiah was always in some part of it; and that consequently wherever he began his prophetic annunciations, he usually closed with a description of some portion of the doctrines, or the work of the Messiah. It is this law of the mental associations of Isaiah which gives such value to his writings in the minds of all who love the Saviour.

(4) It follows from this view of prophecy, that the prophets would speak of occurrences and events as they appeared to them. They would speak of them as actually present, or as passing before their eyes. They would describe them as being what they had seen, and would thus throw them into the past tense, as we describe what we have seen in a landscape, and speak of what we saw. It would be comparatively infrequent, therefore, that the event would be described as "future." Accordingly, we find that this is the mode actually adopted in the prophets. Thus, in Isaiah 9:6, "Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given." Isaiah 42:1, "behold my servant whom I uphold, mine elect in whom my soul delighteth." So in the description of the sufferings of the Messiah: "He is despised." "He hath no form or comeliness,: Isaiah 53:2-3. Thus, in Isaiah 14:1-8, Cyrus is addressed as if he were personally present. Frequently, events are thus described as past, or as events which the prophet had seen in vision. "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined," Isaiah 9:2.

So especially in the description of the sufferings of the Messiah: "As many were astonished at thee." "His visage was so marred." "He hath borne our griefs." "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted." "He was taken from prison." "He was cut off out of the land of the living." "He made his grave," etc. etc.; Isaiah 52:14-15; Isaiah 53:4-9. In some cases, also, the prophet seems to have placed himself in vision in the midst of the scenes which he describes, or to have taken, so to speak, a station where he might contemplate a part as past, and a part as yet to come. Thus, in Isaiah 53:1-12 the prophet seems to have his station between the humiliation of the Saviour and his glorification, in which he speaks of his sufferings as past, and his glorification, and the success of the gospel, as yet to come; compare particularly Isaiah 53:9-12. This view of the nature of prophecy would have saved from many erroneous interpretations; and especially would have prevented many of the cavils of skeptics. It is a view which a man would be allowed to take in describing a landscape; and why should it be deemed irrational or absurd in prophecy?

(5) From this view it also follows, that the prophecies are usually to be regarded as seen in space and not in time; or in other words, the time would not be actually and definitely marked. They would describe the order, or the succession of events; but between them there might be a considerable, and an unmeasured interval of time. In illustration of this we may refer to the idea which has been so often presented already - the idea of a landscape. When one is placed in an advantageous position to view a landscape, he can mark distinctly the order of the objects, the succession, the grouping. He can tell what objects appear to him to lie near each other; or what are apparently in juxtaposition. But all who look at such a landscape know very well that there are objects which the eye cannot take in, and which will not be exhibited by any description. For example, hills in the distant view may seem to lie near to each other; one may seem to rise just back of the other, and they may appear to constitute parts of the same mountain range, and yet between them there may be wide and fertile vales, the extent of which the eye cannot measure, and which the mind may be wholly unable to conjecture. It has no means of measuring the distance, and a description of the whole scene as it appeared to the observer would convey no idea of the distance of the intervals. So in the prophecies. Between the events seen in vision there may be long intervals, and the length of those intervals the prophet may have left us no means of determining. He describes the scene as it appeared to him in vision. In a landscape the distance, the length, the nature of these intervals might be determined in one of three ways:

continued...

CHAPTER 2

Hab 2:1-20. The Prophet, Waiting Earnestly for an Answer to His Complaints (First Chapter), Receives a Revelation, Which Is to Be Fulfilled, Not Immediately, Yet in Due Time, and Is Therefore to Be Waited for in Faith: The Chaldeans Shall Be Punished for Their Cruel Rapacity, nor Can Their False GodS Avert the Judgment of Jehovah, the Only True God.

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; Jer 6:17; Eze 3:17; 33:2, 3; compare 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 attention.

what he will say unto me—in answer to my complaints (Hab 1:13). 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 Jehovah" (Hab 1:12-17).Unto Habakkuk, waiting for an answer, Habakkuk 2:1, is showed that he must wait in faith, Habakkuk 2:2-4. The judgment of the Chaldeans for insatiableness, Habakkuk 2:5-8, ambition, Habakkuk 2:9-11, cruelty, Habakkuk 2:12-14, treacherous dealing, Habakkuk 2:15-17, and idolatry, Habakkuk 2:18-20.

I will stand: the first chapter ended with that difficult and perplexed question, why God suffers the wicked So long to prosper in their oppressions of the righteous? This chapter represents the prophet waiting and musing, studying with himself what account he might give to himself, and waiting what account God would give him of it. He will stand in a posture of meditating, observing, and waiting.

Upon my watch: possibly the prophet may have respect to the manner of the Jews, who in their solemn prayers and waiting on God had their stations and watches (as Buxtorf observeth in verbo rme;) in their synagogues, or at Jerusalem. But I rather think the prophet resolveth to be like one that is to be a watchman, as prophets are, Ezekiel 3:17, for the people of God. Or passively, in my watch, i.e. where my adversaries, like besieging enemies, observe and watch me. It contains his diligent and persevering expectation and observing.

And set me; fixedly and with resolution not to leave my station, as the Hebrew implieth; it is the same thing more emphatically expressed than in the word stand.

Upon the tower; either watch-tower, or besieged tower, or within a circle, out of which I will not stir till I receive an answer.

And will watch, most attentively observe, to see what he, the Lord, Habakkuk 1:12, will say unto me, or signify unto me; waiting for mine own satisfaction, and for the information of others.

And what I shall answer: there are many that are perplexed at the intricacy of providence, and some inquire to be instructed; some propose doubts and fears; and others do quarrel and perversely wrangle with God and his prophets; and how I may answer these from the word of God is that I wait for, saith our prophet.

When I am reproved; when called to give an account of the mysteriousness of providence; when either to satisfy doubters, or to silence quarrellers.

I will stand upon my watch,.... These are the words of the prophet: so the Targum introduces them,

"the prophet said;''

and this he said in character as a watchman, as all the prophets were: as a watchman takes the proper place he watches in and looks out, especially in time of danger and distress, if he can spy anyone bringing tidings, that he may receive it, and notify it to the people that have appointed him a watchman; so the prophet retired from the world, and gave himself up to meditation and prayer, and put himself in a waiting posture; looking up to the Lord, and expecting an answer to his expostulations with him, concerning the success of the enemies of God's people, and the calamities that were like to come upon them, that he might report it to them; see Isaiah 21:8,

and set me upon the tower; a place of eminence, from which he could behold an object at a distance: it signifies a strait place, in which he was as one besieged; and may be an emblem of the straits and difficulties he was in, which he wanted to be extricated out of: the thoughts of his heart troubled him; he had a great many objections that rose up in his mind against the providences that were like to attend his people; he was beset with the temptations of Satan, and surrounded with objectors to what he had delivered, concerning the Chaldeans being raised up by God to the destruction of the Jewish nation; and, amidst these difficulties, he sets himself to reading the word of God, and meditation on it, to pray to God for instruction and information in this matter; as Asaph, in a like case, went into the sanctuary of the Lord, where he got satisfaction, Psalm 73:2 as well as it may be expressive of the confidence he had in God, in his covenant and promises, which were as a fortress and strong tower to him; in short, he kept his place, he was found in the way of his duty, in the performance of his office, and was humbly and patiently waiting on God, to know more of his mind and will, and acquaint the people with it.

And will watch to see what he will say unto me; or "in me" (n); that is, what the Lord would say unto him, either outwardly by an audible voice; or inwardly by impressing things upon his mind; or in a vision by the Spirit of prophecy, as Kimchi; so David, "the Spirit of the Lord spoke by me", or "in me", 2 Samuel 23:2 he was determined to wait patiently for an answer, and to continue in the present posture, and constantly attend to every motion and dictate of the Spirit of God, and take particular notice of what should be suggested to him:

and what I shall answer when I am reproved; either by the Lord, for using so much freedom and boldness in expostulations and reasonings with him, who is under no obligation to give an account of his matters unto the children of men; or by others, how he should be able to satisfy his own mind, and remove the scruples, doubts, and objections, that arose there against the providence of God, in prospering the wicked, and afflicting the righteous, and repel the temptation he was under to quarrel with God, and arraign his proceedings; and how he should answer the objections that his people made, both against his prophecies, and the providence of God, for which they reproved him; or, however, he expected they would. The Targum is,

"and what will be returned to my request.''

(n) "in me", Pagninus, Montanus, Drusius, Tarnovius, Van Till, Burkius.

I will stand upon my {a} watch, and seat myself upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say to me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved.

(a) I will renounce my own judgment, and only depend on God to be instructed what I will answer those that abuse my preaching, and to be armed against all temptations.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1. stand upon my watch] i.e. I will take my stand upon my place of watching (Isaiah 21:8; 2 Chronicles 7:6), parallel to “and set me on a tower.” The language appears to be figurative; it is scarcely likely, though possible, that the prophet had some elevated place to which he retired to await a prophetic vision. But as a watchman looks out from his watch-tower into the distance (2 Samuel 18:24; 2 Kings 9:17), the prophet will look out for the answer or message from Heaven (Isaiah 21:8; Isaiah 21:11).

will watch to see] or, will look forth to see, as R.V.

shall answer when I am reproved] what answer I shall bring to my plea. His plea or argument is the whole scope of the preceding chapter, or at least of ch. Habakkuk 1:12-17. Comp. Job 13:6 “hear now my plea” (R.V. reasoning). Syr. reads: what answer He will give, and so many scholars. The reading gives a closer parallel to the preceding clause, but does not seem necessary; comp. Jdg 5:29 “she answered (same term as here) her own words.” Of course the answer is an inner one which the prophet shall be enabled to make to himself and his plea, hence it is called a vision (Habakkuk 2:2).

1–4. Like a watchman the Prophet looks out for an answer from Heaven to his plea

The prophet’s plea or argument is finished. The plea is that expressed in Habakkuk 1:12-17. And like a watchman looking forth from his watch-tower he will look out to see what answer he shall receive to it from Heaven (Habakkuk 2:1). He is commanded to write the answer when it is given on tablets, that all may read it easily (Habakkuk 2:2-3). It comes in the shape of a moral distinction; “His soul is puffed up in him; but the righteous shall live by his faithfulness.” The distinction carries in it its final verification in events, though this may not come at once (Habakkuk 2:4).Verses 1-3. - § 5. The prophet, waiting for an answer to his expostulation, is bidden to write the oracle in plain characters, because its fulfilment is certain. Verse 1. - Habakkuk speaks with himself, and, mindful of his office, waits for the communication which he confidently ex-poets (Jeremiah 33:3). I will stand upon my watch (Isaiah 21:6, 8). As a watchman goes to a high place to see all around and discern what is coming, so the prophet places himself apart from men, perhaps in some secluded height, in readiness to hear the voice of God and seize the meaning of the coming event. Prophets are called "watchmen" (comp. Ezekiel 3:17; Ezekiel 33:2, 6; Micah 7:4). The tower; i.e. watch tower, either literally or metaphorically, as in the first clause. Septuagint, πέτραν, "rook." What he will say unto me; quid dicatur mihi (Vulgate); τί λαλήσει ἐν ἐμοί, "what he will speak in me" (Septuagint). He watches for the inward revelation which God makes to his soul (but see note on Zechariah 2:0). When I am reproved; ad arguentem me (Vulgate); ἐπὶ τὸν ἔλεγχόν μου (Septuagint); rather, to my complaint, referring to his complaint concerning the impunity of sinners (Habakkuk 1:18-17). He waits till he hears God's voice within him what answer he shall make to his own complaint, the expostulation which he had offered to God. There is no question here concerning the reproofs which others levelled against him, or concerning any rebuke conveyed to him by God - an impression given by the Anglican Version. "Therefore wilt thou have none to cast a measure for the lot in the congregation of Jehovah." With lâkhēn (therefore) the threat, commenced with lâkhēn in Micah 2:3, is resumed and applied to individual sinners. The whole nation is not addressed in לך, still less the prophet, as Hitzig supposes, but every individual among the tyrannical great men (Micah 2:1, Micah 2:2). The singular is used instead of the plural, to make the address more impressive, that no one may imagine that he is excepted from the threatened judgment. For a similar transition from the plural to the singular, see Micah 3:10. The expression, to cast the measure begōrâl, i.e., in the nature of a lot (equivalent to for a lot, or as a lot), may be explained on the ground that the land was divided to the Israelites by lot, and then the portion that fell to each tribe was divided among the different families by measure. The words are not to be taken, however, as referring purely to the future, as Caspari supposes, i.e., to the time when the promised land would be divided afresh among the people on their return. For even if the prophet does proclaim in Micah 2:12, Micah 2:13 the reassembling of Israel and its restoration to its hereditary land, this thought cannot be arbitrarily taken for granted here. We therefore regard the words as containing a general threat, that the ungodly will henceforth receive no further part in the inheritance of the Lord, but that they are to be separated from the congregation of Jehovah.
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