Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved.
Habakkuk 2:1-3 form the introduction to the word of God, which the prophet receives in reply to his cry of lamentation addressed to the Lord in Habakkuk 1:12-17. Habakkuk 2:1. "I will stand upon my watchtower, and station myself upon the fortress, and will watch to see what He will say in me, and what I answer to my complaint. Habakkuk 2:2. Then Jehovah answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon the tables, that he may run who reads it. Habakkuk 2:3. For the vision is yet fore the appointed end, and strives after the end, and does not lie: if it tarry, wait for it; for it will come, it does not fail." Habakkuk 2:1 contains the prophet's conversation with himself. After he has poured out his trouble at the judgment announced, in a lamentation to the Lord (Habakkuk 1:12-17), he encourages himself - after a pause, which we have to imagine after Habakkuk 1:17 - to wait for the answer from God. He resolves to place himself upon his observatory, and look out for the revelation which the Lord will give to his questions. Mishmereth, a place of waiting or observing; mâtsōr, a fortress, i.e., a watch-tower or spying-tower. Standing upon the watch, and stationing himself upon the fortification, are not to be understood as something external, as Hitzig supposes, implying that the prophet went up to a steep and lofty place, or to an actual tower, that he might be far away from the noise and bustle of men, and there turn his eyes towards heaven, and direct his collected mind towards God, to look out for a revelation. For nothing is known of any such custom as this, since the cases mentioned in Exodus 33:21 and 1 Kings 19:11, as extraordinary preparations for God to reveal Himself, are of a totally different kind from this; and the fact that Balaam the soothsayer went up to the top of a bare height, to look out for a revelation from God (Numbers 23:3), furnishes not proof that the true prophets of Jehovah did the same, but is rather a heathenish feature, which shows that it was because Balaam did not rejoice in the possession of a firm prophetic word, that he looked out for revelations from God in significant phenomena of nature (see at Numbers 23:3-4). The words of our verse are to be taken figuratively, or internally, like the appointment of the watchman in Isaiah 21:6. The figure is taken from the custom of ascending high places for the purpose of looking into the distance (2 Kings 9:17; 2 Samuel 18:24), and simply expresses the spiritual preparation of the prophet's soul for hearing the word of God within, i.e., the collecting of his mind by quietly entering into himself, and meditating upon the word and testimonies of God. Cyril and Calvin bring out the first idea. Thus the latter observes, that "the watch-tower is the recesses of the mind, where we withdraw ourselves from the world;" and then adds by way of explanation, "The prophet, under the name of the watch-tower, implies that he extricates himself as it were from the thoughts of the flesh, because there would be no end or measure, if he wished to judge according to his own perception;" whilst others find in it nothing more than firm continuance in reliance upon the word of God.
(Note: Theodoret very appropriately compares the words of Asaph in Psalm 73:16., "When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me, until I entered into the sanctuaries of God, and gave heed to their end;" and observes, "And there, says the prophet, will I remain as appointed, and not leave my post, but, standing upon such a rock as that upon which God placed great Moses, watch with a prophet's eyes for the solution of the things that Iseek.")
Tsippâh, to spy or watch, to wait for the answer from God. "This watching was lively and assiduous diligence on the part of the prophet, in carefully observing everything that took place in the spirit of his mind, and presented itself either to be seen or heard" (Burk). ידבּר־בּי, to speak in me, not merely to or with me; since the speaking of God to the prophets was an internal speaking, and not one that was perceptible from without. What I shall answer to my complaint (‛al tōkhachtı̄), namely, first of all to myself and then to the rest. Tōkhachath, lit., correction, contradiction. Habakkuk refers to the complaint which he raised against God in Habakkuk 1:13-17, namely, that He let the wicked go on unpunished. He will wait for an answer from God to this complaint, to quiet his own heart, which is dissatisfied with the divine administration. Thus he draws a sharp distinction between his own speaking and the speaking of the Spirit of God within him. Jehovah gives the answer in what follows, first of all (Habakkuk 2:2, Habakkuk 2:3) commanding him to write the vision (châzōn, the revelation from God to be received by inward intuition) upon tables, so clearly, that men may be able to read it in running, i.e., quite easily.
בּאר as in Deuteronomy 27:8; see at Deuteronomy 1:5. The article attached to הלּחות does not point to the tables set up in the market-places for public notices to be written upon (Ewald), but simply means, make it clear on the tables on which thou shalt write it, referring to the noun implied in כּתב (write), though not expressed (Delitzsch). קורא בו may be explained from קרא בּספר in Jeremiah 36:13. The question is a disputed one, whether this command is to be understood literally or merely figuratively, "simply denoting the great importance of the prophecy, and the consequent necessity for it to be made accessible to the whole nation" (Hengstenberg, Dissertation, vol. i. p. 460). The passages quoted in support of the literal view, i.e., of the actual writing of the prophecy which follows upon tables, viz., Isaiah 8:1; Isaiah 30:8, and Jeremiah 30:2, are not decisive. In Jeremiah 30:2 the prophet is commanded to write all the words of the Lord in a book (sēpher); and so again in Isaiah 30:8, if כּתבהּ על־לוּח is synonymous with על־ספר חקּהּ. But in Isaiah 8:1 there are only two significant words, which the prophet is to write upon a large table after having taken witnesses. It does not follow from either of these passages, that luchōth, tables, say wooden tables, had been already bound together into books among the Hebrews, so that we could be warranted in identifying the writing plainly upon tables with writing in a book. We therefore prefer the figurative view, just as in the case of the command issued to Daniel, to shut up his prophecy and seal it (Daniel 12:4), inasmuch as the literal interpretation of the command, especially of the last words, would require that the table should be set up or hung out in some public place, and this cannot for a moment be thought of. The words simply express the thought, that the prophecy is to be laid to heart by all the people on account of its great importance, and that not merely in the present, but in the future also. This no doubt involved the obligation on the part of the prophet to take care, by committing it to writing, that it did not fall into oblivion. The reason for the writing is given in Habakkuk 2:3. The prophecy is למּועד, for the appointed time; i.e., it relates to the period fixed by God for its realization, which was then still (עוד) far off. ל denotes direction towards a certain point either of place or time. The vision had a direction towards a point, which, when looked at from the present, was still in the future. This goal was the end (הקּץ towards which it hastened, i.e., the "last time" (מועד קץ, Daniel 8:19; and עת קץ, Daniel 8:17; Daniel 11:35), the Messianic times, in which the judgment would fall upon the power of the world. יפח לקּץ, it pants for the end, inhiat fini, i.e., it strives to reach the end, to which it refers. "True prophecy is inspired, as it were, by an impulse to fulfil itself" (Hitzig). יפח is not an adjective, as in Psalm 27:12, but the third pers. imperf. hiphil of pūăch; and the contracted form (יפח for יפיח), without a voluntative meaning, is the same as we frequently meet with in the loftier style of composition. ולא יכזּב, "and does not deceive," i.e., will assuredly take place. If it (the vision) tarry, i.e., be not fulfilled immediately, wait for it, for it will surely take place (the inf. abs. בּוא to add force, and בּוא applying to the fulfilment of the prophecy, as in 1 Samuel 9:6 and Jeremiah 28:9), will not fail; אחר, to remain behind, not to arrive (Judges 5:28; 2 Samuel 20:5).
(Note: The lxx have rendered כּי בא יבא, ὅτι ἐρχόμενος ἥξει, which the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 10:37) has still further defined by adding the article, and, connecting it with μικρὸν ὅσον ὅσον of Isaiah 26:20 (lxx), has taken it as Messianic, and applied to the speedy coming of the Messiah to judgment; not, however, according to the exact meaning of the words, but according to the fundamental idea of the prophetic announcement. For the vision, the certain fulfilment of which is proclaimed by Habakkuk, predicts the judgment upon the power of the world, which the Messiah will bring to completion.)
And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.
For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.
Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.
With these verses the prophecy itself commences; namely, with a statement of the fundamental thought, that the presumptuous and proud will not continue, but the just alone will live. Habakkuk 2:4. "Behold, puffed up, his soul is not straight within him: but the just, through his faith will he live. Habakkuk 2:5. And moreover, the wine is treacherous: a boasting man, he continues not; he who has opened his soul as wide as hell, and is like death, and is not satisfied, and gathered all nations to himself, and collected all peoples to himself." These verses, although they contain the fundamental thought, or so to speak the heading of the following announcement of the judgment upon the Chaldaeans, are nevertheless not to be regarded as the sum and substance of what the prophet was to write upon the tables. For they do indeed give one characteristic of two classes of men, with a brief intimation of the fate of both, but they contain no formally rounded thought, which could constitute the motto of the whole; on the contrary, the description of the insatiable greediness of the Chaldaean is attached in Habakkuk 2:5 to the picture of the haughty sinner, that the two cannot be separated. This picture is given in a subjective clause, which is only completed by the filling up in Habakkuk 2:6. The sentence pronounced upon the Chaldaean in Habakkuk 2:4, Habakkuk 2:5, simply forms the preparatory introduction to the real answer to the prophet's leading question. The subject is not mentioned in Habakkuk 2:4, but may be inferred from the prophet's question in Habakkuk 1:12-17. The Chaldaean is meant. His soul is puffed up. עפּלה, perf. pual of עפל, of which the hiphil only occurs in Numbers 14:44, and that as synonymous with הזיד in Deuteronomy 1:43. From this, as well as from the noun עפל, a hill or swelling, we get the meaning, to be swollen up, puffed up, proud; and in the hiphil, to act haughtily or presumptuously. The thought is explained and strengthened by לא ישׁרה, "his soul is not straight." ישׁר, to be straight, without turning and trickery, i.e., to be upright. בּו does not belong to נפשׁו (his soul in him, equivalent to his inmost soul), but to the verbs of the sentence. The early translators and commentators have taken this hemistich differently. They divide it into protasis and apodosis, and take עפּלה either as the predicate or as the subject. Luther also takes it in the latter sense: "He who is stiff-necked will have no rest in his soul." Burk renders it still more faithfully: ecce quae effert se, non recta est anima ejus in eo. In either case we must supply נפשׁ אשׁר after עפּלה. But such an ellipsis as this, in which not only the relative word, but also the noun supporting the relative clause, would be omitted, is unparalleled and inadmissible, if only because of the tautology which would arise from supplying nephesh. This also applies to the hypothetical view of הנּה עפּלה, upon which the Septuagint rendering, ἐὰν ὑποστείληται, οὐκ εὐδοκεῖ ψυχή μου ἐν αὐτῶ, is founded. Even with this view nephesh could not be omitted as the subject of the protasis, and בּו would have no noun to which to refer. This rendering is altogether nothing more than a conjecture, עפל being confounded with עלף, and נפשׁו altered into נפשׁי. Nor is it proved to be correct, by the fact that the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 10:38) makes use of the words of our verse, according to this rendering, to support his admonition is to stedfastness. For he does not introduce the verse as a quotation to prove his words, but simply clothes his own thoughts in these words of the Bible which floated before his mind, and in so doing transposes the two hemistichs, and thereby gives the words a meaning quite in accordance with the Scriptures, which can hardly be obtained from the Alexandrian version, since we have there to take the subject to ὑποστείληται from the preceding ἐρχόμενος, which gives no sense, whereas by transposing the clauses a very suitable subject can be supplied from ὁ δίκαιος.
The following clause, וצדּיק וגו, is attached adversatively, and in form is subordinate to the sentence in the first hemistich in this sense, "whilst, on the contrary, the righteous lives through his faith," notwithstanding the fact that it contains a very important thought, which intimates indirectly that pride and want of uprightness will bring destruction upon the Chaldaean. בּאמוּנתו belongs to יחיה, not to צדּיק. The tiphchah under the word does not show that it belongs to tsaddı̄q, but simply that it has the leading tone of the sentence, because it is placed with emphasis before the verb (Delitzsch). אמוּנה does not denote "an honourable character, or fidelity to conviction" (Hitzig), but (from 'âman, to be firm, to last) firmness (Exodus 17:12); then, as an attribute of God, trustworthiness, unchangeable fidelity in the fulfilment of His promises (Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 33:4; Psalm 89:34); and, as a personal attribute of man, fidelity in word and deed (Jeremiah 7:28; Jeremiah 9:2; Psalm 37:3); and, in his relation to God, firm attachment to God, an undisturbed confidence in the divine promises of grace, firma fiducia and fides, so that in 'ĕmūnâh the primary meanings of ne'ĕmân and he'ĕmı̄n are combined. This is also apparent from the fact that Abraham is called ne'ĕmân in Nehemiah 9:8, with reference to the fact that it is affirmed of him in Genesis 15:6 that האמין בּיהוה, "he trusted, or believed, the Lord;" and still more indisputably from the passage before us, since it is impossible to mistake the reference in צדּיק בּאמוּנתו יחיה to Genesis 15:6, "he believed (he'ĕmı̄n) in Jehovah, and He reckoned it to him litsedâqâh." It is also indisputably evident from the context that our passage treats of the relation between man and God, since the words themselves speak of a waiting (chikkâh) for the fulfilment of a promising oracle, which is to be preceded by a period of severe suffering. "What is more natural than that life or deliverance from destruction should be promised to that faith which adheres faithfully to God, holds fast by the word of promise, and confidently waits for its fulfilment in the midst of tribulation? It is not the sincerity, trustworthiness, or integrity of the righteous man, regarded as being virtues in themselves, which are in danger of being shaken and giving way in such times of tribulation, but, as we may see in the case of the prophet himself, his faith. To this, therefore, there is appended the great promise expressed in the one word יחיה" (Delitzsch). And in addition to this, 'ĕmūnâh is opposed to the pride of the Chaldaean, to his exaltation of himself above God; and for that very reason it cannot denote integrity in itself, but simply some quality which has for its leading feature humble submission to God, that is to say, faith, or firm reliance upon God. The Jewish expositors, therefore, have unanimously retained this meaning here, and the lxx have rendered the word quite correctly πίστις, although by changing the suffix, and giving ἐκ πίστεώς μου instead of αὐτοῦ (or more properly ἑαυτοῦ: Aquila and the other Greek versions), they have missed, or rather perverted, the sense. The deep meaning of these words has been first fully brought out by the Apostle Paul (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11 : see also Hebrews 10:38), who omits the erroneous μου of the lxx, and makes the declaration ὁ δίκαιος ἐκ πίστεως ζήσεται the basis of the New Testament doctrine of justification by faith.
Yea also, because he transgresseth by wine, he is a proud man, neither keepeth at home, who enlargeth his desire as hell, and is as death, and cannot be satisfied, but gathereth unto him all nations, and heapeth unto him all people:
Habakkuk 2:5 is closely connected with Habakkuk 2:4, not only developing still further the thought which is there expressed, but applying it to the Chaldaean. אף כּי does not mean "really if" (Hitzig and others), even in Job 9:14; Job 35:14; Ezekiel 15:5, or 1 Samuel 21:6 (see Delitzsch on Job 35:14), but always means "still further," or "yea also, that;" and different applications are given to it, so that, when used as an emphatic assurance, it signifies "to say nothing of the fact that," or when it gives emphasis to the thing itself, "all the more because," and in negative sentences "how much less" (e.g., 1 Kings 8:27). In the present instance it adds a new and important feature to what is stated in Habakkuk 2:4, "And add to this that wine is treacherous;" i.e., to those who are addicted to it, it does not bring strength and life, but leads to the way to ruin (for the thought itself, see Proverbs 23:31-32). The application to the Chaldaean is evident from the context. The fact that the Babylonians were very much addicted to wine is attested by ancient writers. Curtius, for example (Habakkuk 2:1), says, "Babylonii maxime in vinum et quae ebrietatem sequuntur effusi sunt;" and it is well known from Daniel 5 that Babylon was conquered while Belshazzar and the great men of his kingdom were feasting at a riotous banquet. The following words גּבר יהיר are not the object to בּוגד, but form a fresh sentence, parallel to the preceding one: a boasting man, he continueth not. ולא introduces the apodosis to גבר יהיר, which is written absolutely. יהיר only occurs again in Proverbs 21:24, and is used there as a parallel to זד: ἀλαζών (lxx), swaggering, boasting. The allusion to the Chaldaean is evident from the relative clause which follows, and which Delitzsch very properly calls an individualizing exegesis to גבר יהיר. But looking to what follows, this sentence forms a protasis to Habakkuk 2:6, being written first in an absolute form, "He, the widely opened one, etc., upon him will all take up," etc. Hirchı̄bh naphshō, to widen his soul, i.e., his desire, parallel to pâ‛ar peh, to open the mouth (Isaiah 5:14), is a figure used to denote insatiable desire. כּשׁאול, like Hades, which swallows up every living thing (see Proverbs 27:20; Proverbs 30:15-16). The comparison to death has the same meaning. ולא ישׂבּע does not refer to מות, but to the Chaldaean, who grasps to himself in an insatiable manner, as in Habakkuk 1:6-7, and Habakkuk 1:15-17. The imperff. consecc. express the continued gathering up of the nations, which springs out of his insatiable desire.
Shall not all these take up a parable against him, and a taunting proverb against him, and say, Woe to him that increaseth that which is not his! how long? and to him that ladeth himself with thick clay!
In Habakkuk 2:6-20 the destruction of the Chaldaean, which has been already intimated in Habakkuk 2:4, Habakkuk 2:5, is announced in the form of a song composed of threatening sentences, which utters woes in five strophes consisting of three verses each: (1) upon the rapacity and plundering of the Chaldaean (Habakkuk 2:6-8); (2) upon his attempt to establish his dynasty firmly by means of force and cunning (Habakkuk 2:9-11); (3) upon his wicked ways of building (Habakkuk 2:12-14); (4) upon his base treatment of the subjugated nations (Habakkuk 2:15-17); and (5) upon his idolatry (Habakkuk 2:18-20). These five strophes are connected together, so as to form two larger divisions, by a refrain which closes the first and fourth, as well as by the promise explanatory of the threat in which the third and fifth strophes terminate; of which two divisions the first threatens the judgment of retribution upon the insatiableness of the Chaldaean in three woes (Habakkuk 2:5), and the second in two woes the judgment of retribution upon his pride. Throughout the whole of the threatening prophecy the Chaldaean nation is embraced, as in Habakkuk 2:4, Habakkuk 2:5, in the ideal person of its ruler.
(Note: The unity of the threatening prophecy, which is brought out in the clearest manner in this formal arrangement, has been torn in pieces in the most violent manner by Hitzig, through his assumption that the oracle of God includes no more than Habakkuk 2:4-8, and that a second part is appended to it in Habakkuk 2:9-20, in which the prophet expresses his own thoughts and feelings, first of all concerning king Jehoiakim (Habakkuk 2:9-14), and then concerning the Egyptians (Habakkuk 2:15-20). This hypothesis, of which Maurer observes quite correctly, Qua nulla unquam excogitata est infelicior, rests upon nothing more than the dogmatic assumption, that there is no such thing as prophecy effected by supernatural causality, and therefore Habakkuk cannot have spoken of Nebuchadnezzar's buildings before they were finished, or at any rate in progress. The two strophes in Habakkuk 2:9-14 contain nothing whatever that would not apply most perfectly to the Chaldaean, or that is not covered by what precedes and follows (compare Habakkuk 2:9 with 6b and 8a, and Habakkuk 2:10 with 5b and 8a). "The strophe in Habakkuk 2:9-11 contains the same fundamental thought as that expressed by Isaiah in Isaiah 14:12-14 respecting the Chaldaean, viz., the description of his pride, which manifests itself in ambitious edifices founded upon the ruins of the prosperity of strangers" (Delitzsch). The resemblance between the contents of this strophe and the woe pronounced upon Jehoiakim by Jeremiah in Jeremiah 12:13-17 may be very simply explained from the fact that Jehoiakim, like the Chaldaean, was a tyrant who occupied himself with the erection of large state buildings and fortifications, whereas the extermination of many nations does not apply in any respect to Jehoiakim. Lastly, there is no plausible ground whatever for referring the last two strophes (Habakkuk 2:15-20) to the Egyptian, for the assertion that Habakkuk could not pass over the Egyptian in silence, unless he meant to confine himself to the Chaldaean, is a pure petitio principii; and to any unprejudiced mind the allusion to the Chaldaean in this verse is placed beyond all possible doubt by Isaiah 14:8, where the devastation of Lebanon is also attributed to him, just as it is in Habakkuk 2:17 of our prophecy.)
Introduction of the ode and first strophe. - Habakkuk 2:6. "Will not all these lift up a proverb upon him, and a song, a riddle upon him? And men will say, Woe to him who increases what is not his own! For how long? and who loadeth himself with the burden of pledges. Habakkuk 2:7. Will not thy biters rise up suddenly, and thy destroyers wake up, and thou wilt become booty to them? Habakkuk 2:8. For thou hast plundered many nations, all the rest of the nations will plunder thee, for the blood of men and wickedness on the earth, the city, and all its inhabitants." הלוא is here, as everywhere else, equivalent to a confident assertion. "All these:" this evidently points back to "all nations" and "all people." Nevertheless the nations as such, or in pleno, are not meant, but simply the believers among them, who expect Jehovah to inflict judgment upon the Chaldaeans, and look forward to that judgment for the revelation of the glory of God. For the ode is prophetical in its nature, and is applicable to all times and all nations. Mâshâl is a sententious poem, as in Micah 2:4 and Isaiah 14:4, not a derisive song, for this subordinate meaning could only be derived from the context, as in Isaiah 14:4 for example; and there is nothing to suggest it here. So, again, melı̄tsâh neither signifies a satirical song, nor an obscure enigmatical discourse, but, as Delitzsch has shown, from the first of the two primary meanings combined in the verb לוּץ, lucere and lascivire, a brilliant oration, oratio splendida, from which מליץ is used to denote an interpreter, so called, not from the obscurity of the speaking, but from his making the speech clear or intelligible. חידות לו is in apposition to מליצה and משׁל, adding the more precise definition, that the sayings contain enigmas relating to him (the Chaldaean). The enigmatical feature comes out more especially in the double meaning of עבטיט in Habakkuk 2:6, נשׁכיך in Habakkuk 2:7, and קיקלון in Habakkuk 2:16. לאמר serves, like לאמר elsewhere, as a direct introduction to the speech. The first woe applies to the insatiable rapacity of the Chaldaean. המּרבּה לא־לו, who increases what does not belong to him, i.e., who seizes upon a large amount of the possessions of others. עד־מתי, for how long, sc. will he be able to do this with impunity; not "how long has he already done this" (Hitzig), for the words do not express exultation at the termination of the oppression, but are a sign appended to the woe, over the apparently interminable plunderings on the part of the Chaldaean. וּמכבּיד is also dependent upon hōi, since the defined participle which stands at the head of the cry of woe is generally followed by participles undefined, as though the former regulated the whole (cf. Isaiah 5:20 and Isaiah 10:1). At the same time, it might be taken as a simple declaration in itself, though still standing under the influence of the hōi; in which case הוּא would have to be supplied in thought, like וחוטא in Habakkuk 2:10. And even in this instance the sentence is not subordinate to the preceding one, as Luther follows Rashi in assuming ("and still only heaps much slime upon himself"); but is co-ordinate, as the parallelism of the clauses and the meaning of עבטיט require. The ἁπ. λεγ. עבטיט is probably chosen on account of the resemblance in sound to מכבּיד, whilst it also covers an enigma or double entendre. Being formed from עבט (to give a pledge) by the repetition of the last radical, עבטיט signifies the mass of pledges (pignorum captorum copia: Ges., Maurer, Delitzsch), not the load of guilt, either in a literal or a tropico-moral sense. The quantity of foreign property which the Chaldaean has accumulated is represented as a heavy mass of pledges, which he has taken from the nations like an unmerciful usurer (Deuteronomy 24:10), to point to the fact that he will be compelled to disgorge them in due time. הכבּיד, to make heavy, i.e., to lay a heavy load upon a person. The word עבטיט, however, might form two words so far as the sound is concerned: עב טיט, cloud (i.e., mass) of dirt, which will cause his ruin as soon as it is discharged. This is the sense in which the Syriac has taken the word; and Jerome does the same, observing, considera quam eleganter multiplicatas divitias densum appellaverit lutum, no doubt according to a Jewish tradition, since Kimchi, Rashi, and Ab. Ezra take the word as a composite one, and merely differ as to the explanation of עב. Grammatically considered, this explanation is indeed untenable, since the Hebrew language has formed no appellative nomina composita; but the word is nevertheless enigmatical, because, when heard from the lips, it might be taken as two words, and understood in the sense indicated.
In Habakkuk 2:7 the threatening hōi is still further developed. Will not thy biters arise? נשׁכיך equals נשׁכתם אתך, those who bite thee. In the description here given of the enemy as savage vipers (cf. Jeremiah 8:17) there is also an enigmatical double entendre, which Delitzsch has admirably interpreted thus: "המּרבּה," he says, "pointed to תּרבּית (interest). The latter, favoured by the idea of the Chaldaean as an unmerciful usurer, which is concentrated in עבטיט, points to נשׁך, which is frequently connected with תּרבּית, and signifies usurious interest; and this again to the striking epithet נשׁכתם, which is applied to those who have to inflict the divine retribution upon the Chaldaean. The prophet selected this to suggest the thought that there would come upon the Chaldaean those who would demand back with interest (neshek) the capital of which he had unrighteously taken possession, just as he had unmercifully taken the goods of the nations from them by usury and pawn." יקצוּ, from יקץ, they will awake, viz., מזעזעך, those who shake or rouse thee up. זעזע, pilel of זוּע, σείω, is used in Arabic of the wind (to shake the tree); hence, as in this case, it was employed to denote shaking up or scaring away from a possession, as is often done, for example, by a creditor (Hitzig, Delitzsch). משׁסּות is an intensive plural.
So far as this threat applies to the Chaldaeans, it was executed by the Medes and Persians, who destroyed the Chaldaean empire. But the threat has a much more extensive application. This is evident, apart from other proofs, from Habakkuk 2:8 itself, according to which the whole of the remnant of the nations is to inflict the retribution. Gōyı̄m rabbı̄m, "many nations:" this is not to be taken as an antithesis to kol-haggōyı̄m (all nations) in Habakkuk 2:5, since "all nations" are simply many nations, as kol is not to be taken in its absolute sense, but simply in a relative sense, as denoting all the nations that lie within the prophet's horizon, as having entered the arena of history. Through ישׁלּוּך, which is placed at the head of the concluding clause without a copula, the antithesis to שׁלּות is sharply brought out, and the idea of the righteous retaliation distinctly expressed. כּל־יתר עמּים, the whole remnant of the nations, is not all the rest, with the exception of the one Chaldaean, for yether always denotes the remnant which is left after the deduction of a portion; nor does it mean all the rest of the nations, who are spared and not subjugated, in distinction from the plundered and subjugated nations, as Hitzig with many others imagine, and in proof of which he adduces the fact that the overthrow of the Chaldaeans was effected by nations that had not been subdued. But, as Delitzsch has correctly observed, this view makes the prophet contradict not only himself, but the whole of the prophetic view of the world-wide dominion of Nebuchadnezzar. According to Habakkuk 2:5, the Chaldaean has grasped to himself the dominion over all nations, and consequently there cannot be any nations left that he has not plundered. Moreover, the Chaldaean, or Nebuchadnezzar as the head of the Chaldaean kingdom, appears in prophecy (Jeremiah 27:7-8), as he does in history (Daniel 2:38; Daniel 3:31; Daniel 5:19) throughout, as the ruler of the world in the highest sense, who has subjugated all nations and kingdoms round about, and compelled them to serve him. These nations include the Medes and Elamites ( equals Persians), to whom the future conquest of Babylon is attributed in Isaiah 13:17; Isaiah 21:2; Jeremiah 51:11, Jeremiah 51:28. They are both mentioned in Jeremiah 25:25 among the nations, to whom the prophet is to reach the cup of wrath from the hand of Jehovah; and the kingdom of Elam especially is threatened in Jeremiah 49:34. with the destruction of its power, and dispersion to all four winds. In these two prophecies, indeed, Nebuchadnezzar is not expressly mentioned by name as the executor of the judgment of wrath; but in Jeremiah 25 this may plainly be inferred from the context, partly from the fact that, according to Jeremiah 25:9, Judah with its inhabitants, and all nations round about, are to be given into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, and partly from the fact that in the list of the nations enumerated in Jeremiah 25:18-26 the king of Sesach (i.e., Babel) is mentioned as he who is to drink the cup "after them" (Jeremiah 25:26). The expression 'achărēhem (after them) shows very clearly that the judgment upon the nations previously mentioned, and therefore also upon the kings of Elam and Media, is to occur while the Chaldaean rule continues, i.e., is to be executed by the Chaldaeans. This may, in fact, be inferred, so far as the prophecy respecting Elam in Jeremiah 49:34. is concerned, from the circumstance that Jeremiah's prophecies with regard to foreign nations in Jeremiah 46-51 are merely expansions of the summary announcement in Jeremiah 25:19-26, and is also confirmed by Ezekiel 32:24, inasmuch as Elam is mentioned there immediately after Asshur in the list of kings and nations that have sunk to the lower regions before Egypt. And if even this prophecy has a much wider meaning, like that concerning Elam in Jeremiah 49:34, and the elegy over Egypt, which Ezekiel strikes up, is expanded into a threatening prophecy concerning the heathen generally (see Kliefoth, Ezech. p. 303), this further reference presupposes the historical fulfilment which the threatening words of prophecy have received through the judgment inflicted by the Chaldaeans upon all the nations mentioned, and has in this its real foundation and soil.
History also harmonizes with this prophetic announcement. The arguments adduced by Hvernick (Daniel, p. 547ff.) to prove that Nebuchadnezzar did not extend his conquests to Elam, and neither subdued this province nor Media, are not conclusive. The fact that after the fall of Nineveh the conquerors, Nabopolassar of Babylonia, and Cyaxares the king of Media, divided the fallen Assyrian kingdom between them, the former receiving the western provinces, and the latter the eastern, does not preclude the possibility of Nebuchadnezzar, the founder of the Chaldaean empire, having made war upon the Median kingdom, and brought it into subjection. There is no historical testimony, however, to the further assertion, that Nebuchadnezzar was only concerned to extend his kingdom towards the west, that his conquests were all of them in the lands situated there, and gave him so much to do that he could not possibly think of extending his eastern frontier. It is true that the opposite of this cannot be inferred from Strabo, xvi. 1, 18;
(Note: This passage is quoted by Hitzig (Ezech. p. 251) as a proof that Elam made war upon the Babylonians, and, indeed, judging from Jeremiah 49:34, an unsuccessful war. But Strabo speaks of a war between the Elymaeans (Elamites) and the Babylonians and Susians, which M. v. Niebuhr (p. 210) very properly assigns to the period of the alliance between Media (as possessor of Susa) and Babylon.)
but it may be inferred, as M. v. Niebuhr (Gesch. Assurs, pp. 211-12) has said, from the fact that according to Jeremiah 27 and 28, at the beginning of Zedekiah's reign, and therefore not very long after Nebuchadnezzar had conquered Jerusalem in the time of Jehoiachin, and restored order in southern Syria in the most energetic manner, the kings of Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre, and Zidon, entered into negotiations with Zedekiah for a joint expedition against Nebuchadnezzar. M. v. Niebuhr infers from this that troublous times set in at that period for Nebuchadnezzar, and that this sudden change in the situation of affairs was connected with the death of Cyaxares, and leads to the conjecture that Nebuchadnezzar, who had sworn fealty to Cyaxares, refused at his death to do homage to his successor; for fidelity to a father-in-law, with whose help the kingdom was founded, would assume a very different character if it was renewed to his successor. Babel was too powerful to accept any such enfeoffment as this. And even if Nebuchadnezzar was not a vassal, there could not be a more suitable opportunity for war with Media than that afforded by a change of government, since kingdoms in the East are so easily shaken by the death of a great prince. And there certainly was no lack of inducement to enter upon a war with Media. Elam, for example, from its very situation, and on account of the restlessness of its inhabitants, must have been a constant apple of discord. This combination acquires extreme probability, partly from the fact that Jeremiah's prophecy concerning Elam, in which that nation is threatened with the destruction of its power and dispersion to all four winds, was first uttered at the commencement of Zedekiah's reign (Jeremiah 49:34), whereas the rest of his prophecies against foreign nations date from an earlier period, and that against Babel is the only one which falls later, namely, in the fourth year of Zedekiah (Jeremiah 51:59), which appears to point to the fact that at the commencement of Zedekiah's reign things were brewing in Elam which might lead to his ruin. And it is favoured in part by the account in the book of Judith of a war between Nabuchodonosor (Nebuchadnezzar) and Media, which terminated victoriously according to the Rec. vulg. in the twelfth year of his reign, since this account is hardly altogether a fictitious one. These prophetic and historical testimonies may be regarded as quite sufficient, considering the universally scanty accounts of the Chaldaean monarchy given by the Greeks and Romans, to warrant us in assuming without hesitation, as M. v. Niebuhr has done, that between the ninth and twentieth years of Nebuchadnezzar's reign - namely, at the commencement of Zedekiah's reign - the former had to make war not only with Elam, but with Media also, and that it is to this eastern war that we should have to attribute the commotion in Syria.
From all this we may see that there is no necessity to explain "all the remnant of the nations" as relating to the remainder of the nations that had not been subjugated, but that we may understand it as signifying the remnant of the nations plundered and subjugated by the Chaldaeans (as is done by the lxx, Theodoret, Delitzsch, and others), which is the only explanation in harmony with the usage of the language. For in Joshua 23:12 yether haggōyı̄m denotes the Canaanitish nations left after the war of extermination; and in Zechariah 14:2 yether hâ‛âm signifies the remnant of the nation left after the previous conquest of the city, and the carrying away of half its inhabitants. In Zephaniah 2:9 yether gōi is synonymous with שׁארית עמּי, and our יתר עמּים is equivalent to שׁארית הגּוים in Ezekiel 36:3-4. מדּמי אדם: on account of the human blood unjustly shed, and on account of the wickedness on the earth (chămas with the Genesis obj. as in Joel 3:19 and Obadiah 1:10). 'Erets without an article is not the holy land, but the earth generally; and so the city (qiryâh, which is still dependent upon chămas) is not Jerusalem, nor any one particular city, but, with indefinite generality, "cities." The two clauses are parallel, cities and their inhabitants corresponding to men and the earth. The Chaldaean is depicted as one who gathers men and nations in his net (Habakkuk 1:14-17). And so in Jeremiah 50:23 he is called a hammer of the whole earth, in Jeremiah 51:7 a cup of reeling, and in Jeremiah 51:25 the destroyer of the whole earth.
Shall they not rise up suddenly that shall bite thee, and awake that shall vex thee, and thou shalt be for booties unto them?
Because thou hast spoiled many nations, all the remnant of the people shall spoil thee; because of men's blood, and for the violence of the land, of the city, and of all that dwell therein.
Woe to him that coveteth an evil covetousness to his house, that he may set his nest on high, that he may be delivered from the power of evil!
The second woe is pronounced upon the wickedness of the Chaldaean, in establishing for himself a permanent settlement through godless gain. Habakkuk 2:9. "Woe to him who getteth a godless gain for his house, to set his nest on high, to save himself from the hand of calamity. Habakkuk 2:10. Thou hast consulted shame to thy house, destruction of many nations, and involvest thy soul in guilt. Habakkuk 2:11. For the stone out of the wall will cry, and the spar out of the wood will answer it." To the Chaldaean's thirst for robbery and plunder there is attached quite simply the base avarice through which he seeks to procure strength and durability for his house. בּצע בּצע, to get gain, has in itself the subordinate idea of unrighteous gain or sinful covetousness, since בּצע denotes cutting or breaking something off from another's property, though here it is still further strengthened by the predicate רע, evil (gain). בּיתו (his house) is not the palace, but the royal house of the Chaldaean, his dynasty, as Habakkuk 2:10 clearly shows, where בּית evidently denotes the king's family, including the king himself. How far he makes בּצע for his family, is more precisely defined by לשׂוּם וגו. קנּו, his (the Chaldaean's) nest, is neither his capital nor his palace or royal castle; but the setting up of his nest on high is a figure denoting the founding of his government, and securing it against attacks. As the eagle builds its nest on high, to protect it from harm (cf. Job 39:27), so does the Chaldaean seek to elevate and strengthen his rule by robbery and plunder, that it may never be wrested from his family again. We might here think of the buildings erected by Nebuchadnezzar for the fortification of Babylon, and also of the building of the royal palace (see Berosus in Hos. c. Ap. i. 19). We must not limit the figurative expression to this, however, but must rather refer it to all that the Chaldaean did to establish his rule. This is called the setting on high of his nest, to characterize it as an emanation from his pride, and the lofty thoughts of his heart. For the figure of the nest, see Numbers 24:21; Obadiah 1:4; Jeremiah 49:16. His intention in doing this is to save himself from the hand of adversity. רע is not masculine, the evil man; but neuter, adversity, or "the hostile fate, which, so far as its ultimate cause is God (Isaiah 45:7), is inevitable and irreversible" (Delitzsch). In Habakkuk 2:10 the result of his heaping up of evil gain is announced: he has consulted shame to his house. יעץ, to form a resolution. His determination to establish his house, and make it firm and lofty by evil gain, will bring shame to his house, and instead of honour and lasting glory, only shame and ruin. קצות, which has been variously rendered, cannot be the plural of the noun קצה, "the ends of many nations," since it is impossible to attach any intelligent meaning to this. It is rather the infinitive of the verb קצה, the occurrence of which Hitzig can only dispute by an arbitrary alteration of the text in four different passages, and is equivalent to קצץ, to cut off, hew off, which occurs in the piel in 2 Kings 10:32 and Proverbs 26:6, but in the kal only here. The infinitive construct does not stand for the inf. abs., or for לקצות, exscindendo, but is used substantively, and is governed by יעצתּ, which still retains its force from the previous clause. Thou hast consulted (resolved upon) the cutting off, or destruction, of many nations. וחוטא, and sinnest against thy soul thereby, i.e., bringest retribution upon thyself, throwest away thine own life. On the use of the participle in the sense of the second person without אתּה, see at Habakkuk 1:5. חטא, with the accusative of the person, as in Proverbs 20:2 and Proverbs 8:36, instead of חטא בנפשׁו. The participle is used, because the reference is to a present, which will only be completed in the future (Hitzig and Delitzsch). The reason for this verdict, and also for the hōi which stands at the head of this strophe, follows in Habakkuk 2:11. The stone out of the wall and the spar out of the woodwork will cry, sc. because of the wickedness which thou hast practised in connected with thy buildings (Habakkuk 1:2), or for vengeance (Genesis 4:10), because they have been stolen, or obtained from stolen property. The apparently proverbial expression of the crying of stones is applied in a different way in Luke 19:40. קיר does not mean the wall of a room here, but, as distinguished from עץ, the outside wall, and עץ, the woodwork or beams of the buildings. The ἁπ. λεγ. כּפיס, lit., that which binds, from כפס in the Syriac and Targum, to bind, is, according to Jerome, "the beam which is placed in the middle of any building to hold the walls together, and is generally called ἱμάντωσις by the Greeks." The explanations given by Suidas is, δέσις ξύλων ἐμβαλλομένων ἐν τοῖς οἰκοδομήσασι, hence rafters or beams. יעננּה, will answer, sc. the stone, i.e., join in its crying (cf. Isaiah 34:14).
Thou hast consulted shame to thy house by cutting off many people, and hast sinned against thy soul.
For the stone shall cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber shall answer it.
Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood, and stablisheth a city by iniquity!
The third woe refers to the building of cities with the blood and property of strangers. Habakkuk 2:12. "Woe to him who buildeth cities with blood, and foundeth castles with injustice. Habakkuk 2:14. For the earth will be filled with knowledge of the glory of Jehovah, as the waters cover the sea." The earnest endeavour of the Chaldaean to found his dynasty in permanency through evil gain, manifested itself also in the building of cities with the blood and sweat of the subjugated nations. עיר and קריה are synonymous, and are used in the singular with indefinite generality, like קריה in Habakkuk 2:8. The preposition ב, attached to דּמים and עולה, denotes the means employed to attain the end, as in Micah 3:10 and Jeremiah 22:13. This was murder, bloodshed, transportation, and tyranny of every kind. Kōnēn is not a participle with the Mem dropped, but a perfect; the address, which was opened with a participle, being continued in the finite tense (cf. Ewald, 350, a). With Habakkuk 2:13 the address takes a different turn from that which it has in the preceding woes. Whereas there the woe is always more fully expanded in the central verse by an exposition of the wrong, we have here a statement that it is of Jehovah, i.e., is ordered or inflicted by Him, that the nations weary themselves for the fire. The ו before יינעוּ introduces the declaration of what it is that comes from Jehovah. הלוא הנּה (is it not? behold!) are connected together, as in 2 Chronicles 25:26, to point to what follows as something great that was floating before the mind of the prophet. בּדי אשׁ, literally, for the need of the fire (compare Nahum 2:13 and Isaiah 40:16). They labour for the fire, i.e., that the fire may devour the cities that have been built with severe exertion, which exhausts the strength of the nations. So far they weary themselves for vanity, since the buildings are one day to fall into ruins, or be destroyed. Jeremiah (Jeremiah 51:58) has very suitably applied these words to the destruction of Babylon. This wearying of themselves for vanity is determined by Jehovah, for (Habakkuk 2:14) the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of Jehovah. That this may be the case, the kingdom of the world, which is hostile to the Lord and His glory, must be destroyed. This promise therefore involves a threat directed against the Chaldaean. His usurped glory shall be destroyed, that the glory of Jehovah of Sabaoth, i.e., of the God of the universe, may fill the whole earth. The thought in Habakkuk 2:14 is formed after Isaiah 11:9, with trifling alterations, partly substantial, partly only formal. The choice of the niphal תּפּלא instead of the מלאה of Isaiah refers to the actual fact, and is induced in both passages by the different turn given to the thought. In Isaiah, for example, this thought closes the description of the glory and blessedness of the Messianic kingdom in its perfected state. The earth is then full of the knowledge of the Lord, and the peace throughout all nature which has already been promised is one fruit of that knowledge. In Habakkuk, on the other hand, this knowledge is only secured through the overthrow of the kingdom of the world, and consequently only thereby will the earth be filled with it, and that not with the knowledge of Jehovah (as in Isaiah), but with the knowledge of His glory (כּבוד יי), which is manifested in the judgment and overthrow of all ungodly powers (Isaiah 2:12-21; Isaiah 6:3, compared with the primary passage, Numbers 14:21). כּבוד יי is "the δόξα of Jehovah, which includes His right of majesty over the whole earth" (Delitzsch). יכסּוּ על־ים is altered in form, but not in sense, from the ליּם מכסּים of Isaiah; and יכסּוּ is to be taken relatively, since כ is only used as a preposition before a noun or participle, and not like a conjunction before a whole sentence (comp. Ewald, 360, a, with 337, c). לדער is an infinitive, not a noun, with the preposition ל; for מלא, ימּלא is construed with the accus. rei, lit., the earth will be filled with the acknowledging. The water of the sea is a figure denoting overflowing abundance.
Behold, is it not of the LORD of hosts that the people shall labour in the very fire, and the people shall weary themselves for very vanity?
For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness!
The fourth woe is an exclamation uttered concerning the cruelty of the Chaldaean in the treatment of the conquered nations. Habakkuk 2:15. "Woe to him that giveth his neighbour to drink, mixing thy burning wrath, and also making drunk, to look at their nakedness. Habakkuk 2:16. Thou hast satisfied thyself with shame instead of with honour; then drink thou also, and show the foreskin. The cup of Jehovah's right hand will turn to thee, and the vomiting of shame upon thy glory. Habakkuk 2:17. For the wickedness at Lebanon will cover thee, and the dispersion of the animals which frightened them; for the blood of the men and the wickedness on the earth, upon the city and all its inhabitants." The description in Habakkuk 2:15 and Habakkuk 2:16 is figurative, and the figure is taken from ordinary life, where one man gives another drink, so as to intoxicate him, for the purpose of indulging his own wantonness at his expense, or taking delight in his shame. This helps to explain the משׁקה רעהוּ, who gives his neighbour to drink. The singular is used with indefinite generality, or in a collective, or speaking more correctly, a distributive sense. The next two circumstantial clauses are subordinate to הוי משׁקה, defining more closely the mode of the drinking. ספּח does not mean to pour in, after the Arabic sfḥ; for this, which is another form for Arab. sfk, answers to the Hebrew שׁפך, to pour out (compare שׁפך חמתו, to pour out, or empty out His wrath: Psalm 79:6; Jeremiah 10:25), but has merely the meaning to add or associate, with the sole exception of Job 14:19, where it is apparently used to answer to the Arabic sfḥ; consequently here, where drink is spoken of, it means to mix wrath with the wine poured out. Through the suffix חמתך the woe is addressed directly to the Chaldaean himself, - a change from the third person to the second, which would be opposed to the genius of our language. The thought is sharpened by ואף שׁכּר, "and also (in addition) making drunk" (shakkēr, inf. abs.). To look upon their nakednesses: the plural מעוריהם is used because רעהוּ has a collective meaning. The prostrate condition of the drunken man is a figurative representation of the overthrow of a conquered nation (Nahum 3:11), and the uncovering of the shame a figure denoting the ignominy that has fallen upon it (Nahum 3:5; Isaiah 47:3). This allegory, in which the conquest and subjugation of the nations are represented as making them drink of the cup of wrath, does not refer to the open violence with which the Chaldaean enslaves the nations, but points to the artifices with which he overpowers them, "the cunning with which he entices them into his alliance, to put them to shame" (Delitzsch). But he has thereby simply prepared shame for himself, which will fall back upon him (Habakkuk 2:16). The perfect שׂבעתּ does not apply prophetically to the certain future; but, as in the earlier strophes (Habakkuk 2:8 and Habakkuk 2:10) which are formed in a similar manner, to what the Chaldaean has done, to bring upon himself the punishment mentioned in what follows. The shame with which he has satisfied himself is the shamefulness of his conduct; and שׂבע, to satisfy himself, is equivalent to revelling in shame. מכּבוד, far away from honour, i.e., and not in honour. מן is the negative, as in Psalm 52:5, in the sense of ולא, with which it alternates in Hosea 6:6. For this he is now also to drink the cup of wrath, so as to fall down intoxicated, and show himself as having a foreskin, i.e., as uncircumcised ( הערל from ערלה ). This goblet Jehovah will hand to him. Tissōbh, he will turn. על (upon thee, or to thee). This is said, because the cup which the Chaldaean had reached to other nations was also handed over to him by Jehovah. The nations have hitherto been obliged to drink it out of the hand of the Chaldaean. Now it is his turn, and he must drink it out of the hand of Jehovah (see Jeremiah 25:26). וקיקלון, and shameful vomiting, (sc., יהיה) will be over thine honour, i.e., will cover over thine honour or glory, i.e., will destroy thee. The ἁπ. λεγ. קיקלון is formed from the pilpal קלקל from קלל, and softened down from קלקלון, and signifies extreme or the greatest contempt. This form of the word, however, is chosen for the sake of the play upon קיא קלון, vomiting of shame, vomitus ignominiae (Vulg.; cf. קיא צאה in Isaiah 28:8), and in order that, when the word was heard, it should call up the subordinate meaning, which suggests itself the more naturally, because excessive drinking is followed by vomiting (cf. Jeremiah 25:26-27).
This threat is explained in Habakkuk 2:17, in the statement that the wickedness practised by the Chaldaean on Lebanon and its beasts will cover or fall back upon itself. Lebanon with its beasts is taken by most commentators allegorically, as a figurative representation of the holy land and its inhabitants. But although it may be pleaded, in support of this view, that Lebanon, and indeed the summit of its cedar forest, is used in Jeremiah 22:6 as a symbol of the royal family of Judaea, and in Jeremiah 22:23 as a figure denoting Jerusalem, and that in Isaiah 37:24, and probably also in Zechariah 11:1, the mountains of Lebanon, as the northern frontier of the Israelitish land, are mentioned synecdochically for the land itself, and the hewing of its cedars and cypresses may be a figurative representation of the devastation of the land and its inhabitants; these passages do not, for all that, furnish any conclusive evidence of the correctness of this view, inasmuch as in Isaiah 10:33-34, Lebanon with its forest is also a figure employed to denote the grand Assyrian army and its leaders, and in Isaiah 60:13 is a symbol of the great men of the earth generally; whilst in the verse before us, the allusion to the Israelitish land and nation is neither indicated, nor even favoured, by the context of the words. Apart, for example, from the fact that such a thought as this, "the wickedness committed upon the holy land will cover thee, because of the wickedness committed upon the earth," not only appears lame, but would be very difficult to sustain on biblical grounds, inasmuch as the wickedness committed upon the earth and its inhabitants would be declared to be a greater crime than that committed upon the land and people of the Lord; this view does not answer to the train of thought in the whole of the ode, since the previous strophes do not contain any special allusion to the devastation of the holy land, or the subjugation and ill-treatment of the holy people, but simply to the plundering of many nations, and the gain forced out of their sweat and blood, as being the great crime of the Chaldaean (cf. Habakkuk 2:8, Habakkuk 2:10, Habakkuk 2:13), for which he would be visited with retribution and destruction. Consequently we must take the words literally, as referring to the wickedness practised by the Chaldaean upon nature and the animal world, as the glorious creation of God, represented by the cedars and cypresses of Lebanon, and the animals living in the forests upon those mountains. Not satisfied with robbing men and nations, and with oppressing and ill-treating them, the Chaldaean committed wickedness upon the cedars and cypresses also, and the wild animals of Lebanon, cutting down the wood either for military purposes or for state buildings, so that the wild animals were unsparingly exterminated. There is a parallel to this in Isaiah 14:8, where the cypresses and cedars of Lebanon rejoice at the fall of the Chaldaean, because they will be no more hewn down. Shōd behēmōth, devastation upon (among) the animals (with the gen. obj., as in Isaiah 22:4 and Psalm 12:6). יחיתן is a relative clause, and the subject, shōd, the devastation which terrified the animals. The form יחיתן for יחתּן, from יחת, hiphil of חתת, is anomalous, the syllable with dagesh being resolved into an extended one, like התימך for התמּך in Isaiah 33:1; and the tsere of the final syllable is exchanged for pathach because of the pause, as, for example, in התעלּם in Psalm 55:2 (see Olshausen, Gramm. p. 576). There is no necessity to alter it into יחיתך (Ewald and Olshausen after the lxx, Syr., and Vulg.), and it only weakens the idea of the talio. The second hemistich is repeated as a refrain from Habakkuk 2:8.
Thou art filled with shame for glory: drink thou also, and let thy foreskin be uncovered: the cup of the LORD'S right hand shall be turned unto thee, and shameful spewing shall be on thy glory.
For the violence of Lebanon shall cover thee, and the spoil of beasts, which made them afraid, because of men's blood, and for the violence of the land, of the city, and of all that dwell therein.
What profiteth the graven image that the maker thereof hath graven it; the molten image, and a teacher of lies, that the maker of his work trusteth therein, to make dumb idols?
Fifth and last strophe. - Habakkuk 2:18. "What profiteth the graven image, that the maker thereof hath carved it; the molten image and the teacher of lies, that the maker of his image trusteth in him to make dumb idols? Habakkuk 2:19. Woe to him that saith to the wood, Wake up; Awake, to the hard stone. Should it teach? Behold, it is encased in gold and silver, and there is nothing of breath in its inside. Habakkuk 2:20. But Jehovah is in His holy temple: let all the world be silent before Him." This concluding strophe does not commence, like the preceding ones, with hōi, but with the thought which prepares the way for the woe, and is attached to what goes before to strengthen the threat, all hope of help being cut off from the Chaldaean. Like all the rest of the heathen, the Chaldaean also trusted in the power of his gods. This confidence the prophet overthrows in Habakkuk 2:18 : "What use is it?" equivalent to "The idol is of no use" (cf. Jeremiah 2:11; Isaiah 44:9-10). The force of this question still continues in massēkhâh: "Of what use is the molten image?" Pesel is an image carved out of wood or stone; massēkhâh an image cast in metal. הועיל is the perfect, expressing a truth founded upon experience, as a fact: What profit has it ever brought? Mōreh sheqer (the teacher of lies) is not the priest or prophet of the idols, after the analogy of Micah 3:11 and Isaiah 9:14; for that would not suit the following explanatory clause, in which עליו (in him) points back to mōreh sheqer: "that the maker of idols trusteth in him (the teacher of lies)." Consequently the mōreh sheqer must be the idol itself; and it is so designated in contrast with the true God, the teacher in the highest sense (cf. Job 36:22). The idol is a teacher of lying, inasmuch as it sustains the delusion, partly by itself and partly through its priests, that it is God, and can do what men expect from God; whereas it is nothing more than a dumb nonentity ('elı̄l 'illēm: compare εἴδωλα ἄφωνα, 1 Corinthians 12:2). Therefore woe be to him who expects help from such lifeless wood or image of stone. עץ is the block of wood shaped into an idol. Hâqı̄tsâh, awake! sc. to my help, as men pray to the living God (Psalm 35:23; Psalm 44:24; Psalm 59:6; Isaiah 51:9). הוּא יורה is a question of astonishment at such a delusion. This is required by the following sentence: it is even encased in gold. Tâphas: generally to grasp; here to set in gold, to encase in gold plate (zâhâbh is an accusative). כּל אין: there is not at all. רוּח, breath, the spirit of life (cf. Jeremiah 10:14). Habakkuk 2:18 and Habakkuk 2:19 contain a concise summary of the reproaches heaped upon idolatry in Isaiah 44:9-20; but they are formed quite independently, without any evident allusions to that passage. In Habakkuk 2:20 the contrast is drawn between the dumb lifeless idols and the living God, who is enthroned in His holy temple, i.e., not the earthly temple at Jerusalem, but the heavenly temple, or the temple as the throne of the divine glory (Isaiah 66:1), as in Micah 1:2, whence God will appear to judge the world, and to manifest His holiness upon the earth, by the destruction of the earthly powers that rise up against Him. This thought is implied in the words, "He is in His holy temple," inasmuch as the holy temple is the palace in which He is enthroned as Lord and Ruler of the whole world, and from which He observes the conduct of men (Psalm 11:4). Therefore the whole earth, i.e., all the population of the earth, is to be still before Him, i.e., to submit silently to Him, and wait for His judgment. Compare Zephaniah 1:7 and Zechariah 2:13, where the same command is borrowed from this passage, and referred to the expectation of judgment. חס is hardly an imper. apoc. of הסה, but an interjection, from which the verb hâsâh is formed. But if the whole earth must keep silence when He appears as Judge, it is all over with the Chaldaean also, with all his glory and might.
Woe unto him that saith to the wood, Awake; to the dumb stone, Arise, it shall teach! Behold, it is laid over with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in the midst of it.
But the LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.