Habakkuk 1
Barnes' Notes
Introduction to Habakkuk

Habakkuk is eminently the prophet of reverential, awe-filled faith. This is the soul and center of his prophecy. One word alone he addresses directly to his people. It is of marvel at their lack of faith Habakkuk 1:5. "Behold among the heathen and gaze attentively, and marvel, marvel; for I am working a work in your days; ye will not believe, when it is declared unto you." He bids them behold, and gaze, for God is about to work in their own days; he bids them prepare themselves to marvel, and marvel on; for it was a matter, at which political wisdom would stagger; and they, since they did not have faith, would not believe it. The counterpart to this, is that great blessing of faith, which is the key-stone of his whole book Habakkuk 2:4 : "the just shall live by his faith."

Isaiah had foretold to Hezekiah that his treasures would be carried to Babylon, his sons would be eunuchs in the palace of its king Isaiah 39:6-7. He had foretold the destruction of Babylon and the restoration of the Jews Isaiah 12:1-6; Isaiah 13; Isaiah 47:1-15. Prophecy in Habakkuk, full as it is, is almost subordinate. His main subject is, that which occupied Asaph in Psalm 73, the afflictions of the righteous amid the prosperity of the wicked. The answer is the same - the result of all will be one great reversal, the evil drawing upon themselves evil, God crowning the patient waiting of the righteous in still submission to His holy will. "The just shall live by his faith," occupies the same place in Habakkuk, as "I know that my Redeemer liveth," does in Job JObadiah 19:25, or Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel, and after that receive me into glow, in Asaph Psalm 73:24.

His first subject is, faith struggling under the oppressive sight of the sufferings of the good from the bad within God's people; the second subject is the suffering at the hands of those who are God's instruments to avenge that wickedness. The third subject , that of his great hymn, is faith, not jubilant until the end, yet victorious, praying, believing, seeing in vision what it prays for, and triumphing in that, of which it sees no tokens, whose only earnest is God's old loving-kindnesses to His people, and His Name, under which He had revealed Himself, "He Who Is," the Unchangeable.

The whole prophecy is, so to speak, a colloquy between the prophet and God. He opens it with a reverential, earnest, appeal to God, like that of the saints under the heavenly Altar in the Book of Revelation Rev 6:10, "How long?" The prophet had prayed to God to end or mitigate the violence, oppressions, strife, contention, despoiling, powerlessness, of the law, crookedness of justice, entrapping of the righteous by the wicked Habakkuk 1:2-4. God answers Habakkuk 1:6-11, that a terrible day of retribution was coming, that He Himself would raise up the Chaldees, as the instruments of His chastisements, terrible, self-dependent, owning no law or authority but their own will, deifying their own power, sweeping the whole breadth of the land, possessing themselves of it, taking every fenced city, and gathering captives as the sand. This answers one-half of Habakkuk's question, as to the prosperity of the wicked among his people. It leaves the other half, as to the condition of the righteous, unanswered, for such scourges of God swept away the righteous with the wicked. Habakkuk then renews the question as to them. But, just Asaph began by declaring his faith Psalm 73:1, "All-good is God to Israel," the true Israel, the pure of heart, so Habakkuk: "Israel would not die, because He, their God, is Unchangeable Habakkuk 1:12. "Art not Thou of old, O Lord, my God, my holy One? We shall not die; Thou, O Lord, hast set him (the Aramaic) for judgment, and Thou, O Rock, hast founded him to chasten." Then he appeals to God, "Why then is this? "Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil - wherefore keepest Thou silence, when the wicked devoureth him who is more righteous than he?" This closes the first chapter and the first vision, in which he describes, with the vividness of one who saw it before him, the irresistible invasion of the Chaldaeans. Israel was meshed as in a net; should that net be emptied Habakkuk 1:17?

Habakkuk 2 exhibits the prophet waiting in silent expectation for the answer. This answer too dwells chiefly on those retributions in this life, which are the earnest of future judgments, the witness of the sovereignty of God. But although in few words, it does answer the question as to the righteous, that he has abiding life, that he lives and shall live. God impresses the importance of the answer in the words Habakkuk 2:2, "Write the vision" i. e., the prophecy, "and make it plain on the tables," whereon the prophet was accustomed to write , "that he may run who reads it." He says also, that it is for a time fixed in the mind of God, and that however, in man's sight, it might seem to linger, it would not be anything behind the time Habakkuk 2:3. Then he gives the answer itself in the words Habakkuk 2:4, "Behold his soul which is puffed up is not upright in him; and the just shall live by his faith."

The swelling pride and self-dependence of the Chaldee stands in contrast with the trustful submission of faith. Of the one God says, it has no ground of uprightness, and consequently will not stand before God; of faith, he says, the righteous shall live by it. But the life plainly is not the life of the body. For Habakkuk's ground of complaint was the world-wasting cruelty of the Chaldees. The woe on the Chaldee which follows is even chiefly for bloodshed, in which the righteous and the wicked are massacred alike. The simple word, shall live, is an entire denial of death, a denial even of any interruption of life. It stands in the same fullness as those words of our Lord John 14:19, "because I live, ye shall live also." The other side of the picture, the fall of the Yet it is manifestly intensive. It most resembles Chaldees, is given in greater fullness, because the fulfillment of God's word in things seen was the pledge of the fulfillment of those beyond the veil of sense and time. In a measured dirge he pronounces a five-fold woe on the five great sins of the Chaldees, their ambition Habakkuk 2:5, Habakkuk 2:8, covetousness Habakkuk 2:9-11, violence Habakkuk 2:12-14, insolence Habakkuk 2:15-17, idolatry Habakkuk 2:18-20. It closes with the powerlessness of the Chaldee idols against God, and bids the whole world be hushed before the presence of the One God, its Maker, awaiting His sentence.

Then follows the prayer , that God would revive His work for Israel, which now seemed dead. He describes the revival as coming, under the images of God's miraculous deliverances of old. The division of the Red Sea and the Jordan, the standing-still of the sun and moon under Joshua, are images of future deliverances; all nature shakes and quivers at the presence of its Maker. Yet not it, but the wicked were the object of His displeasure. The prophet sees his people delivered as at the Red Sea, just when the enemy seemed ready to sweep them away, as with a whirlwind. And, in sight of the unseen, he closes with that wondrous declaration of faith, that all nature should be desolate, all subsistence gone, everything, contrary to God's promises of old to His people, should be around him," and I will rejoice in the Lord, I will exult for joy in the God of my salvation."

This prophecy is not less distinct, because figurative. Rather it is the declaration of God's deliverance of His people, not from the Chaldees only, but at all times. The evil is concentrated in one Evil one, who stands over against the One anointed. "Thou art gone forth for the salvation of Thy people; for salvation with Thine anointed One. Thou crushedst the head out of the house of the wicked One, laying bare the foundation unto the neck," i. e., smiting the house at once, above and below; with an utter destruction. It belongs then the more to all times, until the closing strife between evil and good, Christ and Antichrist, the ἄνομος anomos and the Lord. It includes the Chaldee, and each great Empire which opposes itself to the kingdom of God, and declares that, as God delivered His people of old so He would unto the end.

It may be that Habakkuk chose this name to express the strong faith, whereby he embraced the promises of God. At least, it means one who "strongly enfolds."

Also, perhaps it is on account of the form in which his prophecy is cast, as being spoken (with the exception of that one verse) to God or to the Chaldaean, not to his own people, that he added the title of Prophet to his name. "The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see" (Habakkuk 1:1, add Habakkuk 3:1). For, however the name "prophet" includes all to whom revelations from God came, it is nowhere, in the Old Testament, added as the name of an office to any one, who did not exercise the practical office of the Prophet. Our Lord quotes David as the Prophet Matthew 13:35, and God says to Abimelech of Abraham Genesis 20:7, He is a Prophet, and, in reference to this, the Psalmist speaks of the Patriarchs, as Prophets Psalm 105:14-15. "He reproved kings for their sakes, saying, Touch not Mine anointed and do My prophets no harm," and Hosea speaks of Moses as a prophet Hosea 12:13, and Peter says of David, Acts 2:30, "He being a prophet." But the title is nowhere in the Old Testament added to the name as it is here, Habakkuk the prophet, and as it is elsewhere Samuel the prophet 2 Chronicles 35:18, the prophet Gad, 1 Samuel 22:5, Nathan the prophet 1 Kings 1:32, Ahijah the prophet 1 Kings 11:29, the prophet Jehu 1 Kings 16:7, 1 Kings 16:12, Elijah the prophet 1 Kings 18:36, Elisha the prophet 2 Kings 6:12, Shemaiah the prophet 2 Chronicles 12:5, the prophet Iddo, 2 Chronicles 13:22, the prophet Obed 2 Chronicles 15:8, Isaiah the prophet 2 Kings 19:2; 2 Kings 20:1, Jeremiah the prophet Jeremiah 28:6; Jeremiah 36:26; 2 Chronicles 36:12, Haggai the prophet Ezra 5:1; Ezra 6:14, unless any have exercised the prophetic office. The title of the Prophet is not, in the Old Testament, added to the names of Jacob or even of Moses or David or Solomon or Daniel, although they all prophesied of Christ.

Since Holy Scripture often conveys so much incidentally, it may be that a large range of ministerial office is hinted in the words "write on the tables;" for "the tables" must have been well-known tables, tables upon which prophets (as Isaiah) and probably Habakkuk himself was accustomed to write. The writing of a few emphatic unexplained words in a public place, which should arouse curiosity, or startle passers-by, would be in harmony with the symbolical actions, enjoined on the prophets and used by them. The "Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin," had, from their mysteriousness, an impressiveness of their own, apart from the miracle of the writing.

The words appended to the prophecy, "to the chief singer," (as we should say, "the leader of the band" ') "with or on my stringed instruments," imply, not only that the hymn became part of the devotions of the temple, but that Habakkuk too had a part in the sacred music which accompanied it. The word so rendered, neginothui, could only mean my stringed instrument's, or "my song accompanied with music," as Hezekiah says Isaiah 38:20, "we will sing my songs on the stringed instruments, nenaggen neginothai." But in Habakkuk's subscription, "To the chief musician binginothai," neginoth can have no other meaning than in the almost identical inscription of Psalms Psa 4:1-8; Psalm 6:1-10; Psalm 54:1-7; Psalm 55; Psalm 61:1-8; Psalm 67:1-7; Psalm 76:1-12, "To the chief musician binginoth," nor this any other than with stringed instruments, "instruments struck with the hand." (Coll. 1 Samuel 17:16, 1 Samuel 17:23; 1 Samuel 18:10; 1 Samuel 19:9; 2 Kings 3:15). The addition, "with my stringed instruments," shows that Habakkuk himself was to accompany his hymn with instrumental music, and since the mention of the chief musician marks out that it was to form part of the temple-service, Habakkuk must have been entitled to take part in the temple-music, and so must have been a Levite. The Levitical order then had its prophet, as the sacerdotal in Jeremiah and Ezekiel. The tradition in the title to Bel and the Dragon, whatever its value, agrees with this ; "from the prophecy of Ambakum, son of Jesus, of the tribe of Levi."

This, however, does not give us any hint as to the time when Habakkuk prophesied. For, bad as were the times of Manasseh and Amon, their idolatry consisted in associating idols with God, setting them up in His courts, bringing one even into His temple 2 Kings 21:7, not in doing away His service. They set the two services, and the two opinions 1 Kings 18:21, side by side, adding the false, but not abolishing the true, "consenting to differ," leaving to the worshipers of God their religion, while forcing them to endure, side by side, what seemed an addition, but what was, in fact, a denial. Habakkuk then might have been allowed to present his hymn for the temple-service, while the king placed in the same temple the statue of Astarte, and required its devil's worship to be carried on there. The temple was allowed to go into some degree of decay, for Josiah had it repaired; but we read only of his removing idols, 2 Kings 23:6, not or his having to restore the disused service of God. Of Ahaz it is recorded, that 2 Chronicles 28:24 he shut up the doors of the house of the Lord, which Hezekiah had to open 2 Chronicles 29:3. Nothing of this sort is told of Manasseh and Amon.

Habakkuk, however, has two hints, which determine his age within a few years. He says that the invasion of the Chaldaeans was to be in the days of those to whom he speaks; "in your days" Habakkuk 1:5. Accordingly, he must have spoken to adults, many of whom would survive that invasion of Nebuchadnezzar, in the 4th year of Jehoiakim 605 b.c. He can hardly have prophesied before 645 b.c., about the close of Manasseh's reign; for at this date, those who were 20 at the time of the prophecy, would have been 60, at the time of its commenced fulfillment at the battle of Carchemish. On the other hand, in that he speaks of that invasion as a thing incredible to those to whom he was speaking, he must have prophesied before Babylon became independent by the overthrow of Nineveh, 625 b.c. For when Babylon had displaced Nineveh, and divided the Empire of the East with Media and Egypt, it was not a thing incredible, that it would invade Judah in their own days, although it was beyond human knowledge to declare that it certainly would. The Babylonian Empire itself lasted only 89 years; and, to human sight, Judah had as much or more to fear from Egypt as from Babylon. The Median Empire also might as well have swallowed up Judah for the time, as the Babylonian.

The relation of Zephaniah to Habakkuk coincides with this. Zephaniah certainly adopted the remarkable words Then when a writer, who uses much the language of those before him, has an idiom which occurs once beside in Holy Scripture, there being many other expressions, which might equally have been used, any one unbiased would think that he adopted the language of the other. Stahelin admits the connection, but inverts the argument, contrary to the character of both prophets), literally Zephaniah 1:7, "Hush at the presence of the Lord God," from Habakkuk's fuller form; Habakkuk 2:20, "the Lord is in His holy temple; hush at His presence all the earth!"

But Zephaniah prophesied under Josiah, before the destruction of Nineveh b.c. 625, which he foretold Zephaniah 2:13. Habakkuk was also, at latest, an earlier contemporary of Jeremiah who, in one place, at least, in his earlier prophecies, used his language as he does so often, of set purpose, that of the prophets before him, in order to show that the fullness of their prophecies was not yet exhausted. But Jeremiah began to prophesy in the 13th year of Josiah 629 b.c. Jeremiah 1:2; Jeremiah 25:3 Habakkuk, on the other hand, joins himself on with the old prophets and Psalms by the employment of language of Isaiah (Habakkuk 2:14, is from Isaiah 11:9; the form of Habakkuk 1:5 seems suggested by Isaiah 29:9; the standing on the watch-tower Habakkuk 2:1, occurs in Isaiah 21:8; the writing on tables occurs in Isaiah 8:1; Isaiah 30:8, and Habakkuk 2:2; the imagery, "he bath enlarged his desire as hell," Habakkuk 2:5, was probably suggested by Isaiah 5:14. Havernick Symb. ad defend. authentiam vat. Ies. c. 13 - xiv. 23. p. 37ff in Delitzsch Hab. p. viii) and perhaps of Micah (Habakkuk 2:12, and Micah 3:10), by the use of language of Deuteronomy (From Deuteronomy 32-33. See below), and by the expansion of a Psalm of Asaph in his own Psalm (Psalm 77:17-21, in Habakkuk 3:10-15), but does not systematically renew their prophecies like Jeremiah or Zephaniah

The ministry then of Habakkuk falls in the latter half of the reign of Manasseh or the earlier half of that of Josiah (for the reign of Amon, being of two years only, is too short to come into account), and there is no decisive evidence for either against the other. In the reign of Manasseh, we are expressly told, that there were prophets, sent to foretell a destruction of Jerusalem as complete as that of Samaria, on account of the exceeding wickedness, into which Manasseh seduced his people. "The Lord spake by His servants, the prophets, saying, Because Manasseh king of Judah hath done these abominations, and hath made Judah also to sin with his idols. Therefore, thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Behold, I am bringing such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whosoever heareth of it, both his ears shall tingle. And I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria and the plummet of the house of Ahab; and I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down; and I will forsake the remnant of their inheritance, and deliver them into the baud of their enemies, and they shall become a prey and spoil to all their enemies" 2 Kings 21:11-14.

The sinful great men of Manasseh's and Amon's court and judicature are but too likely to have maintained their power in the early years of the reign of Josiah. For a boy of eight years old (at which age Josiah succeeded his father) 2 Kings 22:1; 2 Chronicles 34:1 could, amid whatsoever sense of right and piety, do little to stem the established wrong and ungodliness of the evil counsellors and judges of his father and grandfather. The sins, which Jeremiah denounces, as the cause of the future captivity of Jerusalem, are the very same, of which Habakkuk complains, "oppression, violence, spoil" Zephaniah 1:9. Jeremiah speaks, in the concrete, of total absence of right judgment (Jeremiah 6:19. "My law they have despised it;" Jeremiah 5:28. "they have not judged the cause, the cause of the fatherless, and they prosper; and the judgment of the poor have they not judged.") as Habakkuk, in the abstract, of the powerlessness of the law (Habakkuk 1:4, "the law is chilled, and judgment will never go forth; for the wicked encompasseth the just; therefore judgment goeth forth perverted.") Zephaniah gives the like picture of those earlier years under Josiah (Zephaniah 1:9. where he too foretells the punishment of those, "which fill their masters' houses with violence and deceit" and Zephaniah 3:1-4).

But Habakkuk's description would not suit the later years of Josiah, when judgment and justice were done. "Did not thy father," Jeremiah appeals to Jehoiakim, Jeremiah 22:15-16, "eat and drink, and do judgment and justice, and then it was well with him; he judged the cause of the poor and needy, then it was well with him; was not this to know Me? saith the Lord." (Dr. Davidson rightly says, "the spoiling and violence, there Habakkuk 1:2-3 depicted, refer to the internal condition of the theocracy, not to external injuries" (p. 305); but then he contradicts himself and Jeremiah when he says (p. 305) following Ewald (Proph. ii. 30), "The safest conclusion respecting the time of the prophet, is that he lived in the time of Jehoiakim (606-604 B. C), when the kingdom of Judah was in a good moral condition, justice and righteousness having entered into the life of the people after Josiah's reforms, and idolatry having almost disappeared.") But while there is nothing to preclude his having prophesied in either reign, the earliest tradition places him in the close of the reign of Manasseh .

Modern critics have assigned an earlier or later date to Habakkuk, accordingly as they believed that God did, or did not, reveal the future to man, that there was or was not, superhuman prophecy. Those who denied that God did endow His prophets with knowledge above nature, fell into two classes;

(1) Such as followed Eichhorn's unnatural hypothesis, that prophecies were only histories of the past, spoken of, as if it were still future, to which these critics gave the shameless title of "vaticinia post eventum." . These plainly involved the prophets in fraud.

(2) These who laid down that each prophet lived at a time, when he could, with human foresight, tell what would happen. Would that those who count certainty, as to even a near future, to be so easy a thing, would try their hands at predicting the events of the next few years or months, or even days and, if they fail, acknowledge God's Truth! This prejudice, that there could be no real prophecy, ruled, for a time, all German criticism. It cannot be denied, that "the unbelief was the parent of the criticism, not the criticism of the unbelief." It is simple matter of history, that the unbelief came first; and, if men, a priori, disbelieved that there could be prophecy, it must needs be a postulate of their criticism, that what seemed to be prophecy could not have belonged to a date, when human foresight did not suffice for positive prediction. I will use the words of Delitzsch rather than my own;

"The investigation into the age of Habakkuk could be easily and briefly settled, if we would start from the prejudice, which is the soul of modern criticism, that a prediction of the future, which rested, not on human inferences or on a natural gift of divination, but on supernatural illumination, is impossible. For since Habakkuk foretold the invasion of the Chaldees, he must, in such ease, have come forward at a time, at which natural acuteness could, with certainty, determine bcforehand that sad event; accordingly in or after the time of the battle of Carchemish in the 4th year of Jehoiakim Jeremiah 46:2 606 b.c. In this decisive battle, Nebuchadnezzar defeated Pharaoh Necho, and it was more than probable that the king of Babylon would now turn against Judea, since Jehoiakim, the son of Josiah, had been set on the throne by Pharaoh Necho 2 Kings 23:34-35, and so held with Egypt. And this is in reality the inference of modern critics.

They bring the Chaldaeans so close under the eyes of the prophet, that he could, by way of nature, foresee their invasion; and so much the closer under his eyes, the more deeply the prejudice, that there is no prophecy in the Biblical sense of the word, has taken root in them, and the more consistently they follow it out. "Habakkuk prophesied under Jehoiakim, for," so Jager expresses himself, "since Jehoiakim was on the side of the Egyptians, it was easy to foresee, that; etc." Just so Ewald; "One might readily be tempted to think, that Habakkuk wrote, while the pious king Josiah was still living; but since the first certain invasion of the Chaldaeans, of which our account speaks 2 Kings 24:1, falls within the reign of king Jehoiakim, somewhat between 608-604 b.c. we must abide by this date."

Hitzig defines the dates still more sharply, according to that principle of principles, to which history with its facts must adapt itself unconditionally. "The prophet announces the arrival of the Chaldaeans in Judea, as something marvelous." Well then, one would imagine, that it would follow from this, that at that time they had not yet come. But no! "Habakkuk," says Hitzig, "introduces the Chaldaeans as a new phenomenon, as yet entirely unknown; he prophesied accordingly at their first arrival into Palestine. But this beyond question falls in the reign of Jehoiakim 2 Kings 24:2. In Jehoiakim's fourth year, i. e., 606, they had fought the battle at Carchemish; in 605 the Chaldaean army seems to have been on its march; the writing of Habakkuk is placed most correctly in the beginning of the year 604 a.d., accordingly, at the time, when the Chaldaeans were already marching with all speed straight on Jerusalem, and (as Hitzig infers from Habakkuk 1:9) after they had come down from the North along the coast, were now advancing from the West, when they, as Ewald too remarks (resting, like Maurer on Habakkuk 1:2-4) , "already stood in the holy land, trampling everything under foot with irresistible might, and allowing their own right alone to count as right."

Holding fast to that naturalist a priori, we go yet further. In Habakkuk 2:17, the judgment of God is threatened to the Chaldaean, on account of the violence practiced on Lebanon, and the destruction of its animals. Lebanon is, it is said, the holy land; the animals, its inhabitants: in Habakkuk 3:14, Habakkuk 3:17, the prophet sees the hostile hordes storming in: the devastation wrought through the war stands clearly before his eyes. This is not possible, unless the Chaldaean were at that time already established in Judaea. However, then, c. i. was written before their invasion, yet c. ii., iii. must have been written after it. "Wherefore," says Maurer, "since it is evident from Jeremiah 46:2; Jeremiah 36:9, that the Chaldaeans came in the year b.c. 605, in the 9th month of the 5th year of the reign of Jehoiakim, it follows that c. i. was written at that very time, but c. ii. iii. at the beginning of 604 b.c., the 6th of Jehoiakim."

"Turn we away from this cheap pseudo-criticism, with its ready-made results, which sacrifices all sense for historical truth to a prejudice, which it seems to have vowed not to allow to be shaken by anything. It seeks at any cost to disburden itself of any prophecy in Scripture, which can only be explained through supernatural agency; and yet it attains its end, neither elsewhere nor in our prophet. Habakkuk 2 contains a prediction of the overthrow of the Chaldaean empire and of the sins whereby that overthrow was effected, which has been so remarkably confirmed by history even in details, that that criticism, if it would be true to its principles, must assume that it was written while Cyrus, advancing against Babylon was employed in punishing the river Gyndes by dividing it off into 360 channels." This major premiss, "there can be no super-human prediction of the future" (in other words, "Almighty God, if He knows the future, cannot disclose it!") still lurks under the assumptions of that modern school of so-called criticism.

It seems to be held no more necessary, formally to declare it, than to enounce at full length any axiom of Euclid. Yet it may, on that very ground, escape notice, while it is the unseen mainspring of the theories, put forth in the name of criticism. "That Habakkuk falls at a later time," says Stahelin, "is clear out of his prophecy itself; for he speaks of the Chaldaeans, and the controversy is only, whether he announces their invasion, as Knobel, Umbreit, Delitzsch, Keil hold, or presupposes it, as Ewald, Hitzig, E. Meier maintain. To me the first opinion appears the right, since not only do Habakkuk 1:5 ff plainly relate to the future, but the detailed description of the Chaldaeans points at something which has not yet taken place, at something hitherto unknown, and the terror of the prophet in announcing their coming, Habakkuk 1:12 ff, recurs also Habakkuk 3:1, Habakkuk 3:16-17; and so, I think, that the time of Habakkuk's activity may be p aced very soon after the battle of Carchemish, in the first half of the reign of Jehoiakim, and so his prophecy as contemporary with Jeremiah 25." "Habakkuk," says DeWette, "lived and prophesied in the Chaldee period. It is, however, matter of dispute at what point of time in this period he lived. Habakkuk 1:5. ff clearly points to its beginning, the reign of Jehoiakim. Even Habakkuk 3 seems to require no later point of time, since here the destruction of Judah is not yet anticipated. He was then Jeremiah's younger contemporary. Rightly do Perschke, Ranitz, Stickel, Knobel, Hitzig, Ewald, let the prophet prophesy a little before the invasion of the Chaldaeans in Judah, which the analogy of prophecy favors;" for prophecy may still be human at this date, since so far it foretells only, what any one could foresee. A prophet of God foretells, these critics admit, an invasion which all could foresee, and does not foretell, what could not humanly be foreseen, the destruction of Jerusalem. The theory then is saved, and within these limits Almighty God is permitted to send His prophet. Condescending criticism!

Mostly criticism kept itself within these limits, and used nothing more than its axiom, "there was no prophecy." The freshness and power of prophetic diction in Habakkuk deterred most from that other expedient of picking out some two or three words as indicative of a later style. Stahelin however says; "His language too, although on the whole pure and without Aramaisms," (truly so! since there is not even an alleged or imagined Aramaism in his prophecy,) "still betrays, in single cases, the later period." And then he alleges that:

(1) that one verb only occurs beside in the Books of Kings and in Ezekiel;

(2) that another word with the exception of Nahum, occurs only in Jeremiah and Malachi;

(3) that the image of the cup of destiny only occurs in prophecies subsequent to Jeremiah.

A marvelous precision of criticism, which can infer the date of a book from the facts:

(1) that a verb, formed from a noun, occurs four times only in Holy Scripture, in 2 Kings, Habakkuk, and Ezekiel, whereas the noun from which it is derived occurs in a Psalm, which fits no later time than David's; Psalm 44:14,

(2) that a word, slightly varied in pronunciation from a common Hebrew word occurs only in Nahum, Habakkuk, Jeremiah, and Malachi, once in each, when that word is the basis of the name of the river Pishon, mentioned in Genesis, and Stahelin himself places Nahum in the reign of Hezekiah; or,

(3) that no prophet before Jeremiah speaks of the image of the" cup of destiny," whereas the portion given by God for good (David, Psalm 11:6; Asaph, Psalm 75:8) or for ill (David. Psalm 16:5; Psalm 23:5), occurs under that same image in Psalms of David and Asaph; and if the question is to be begged as to the date of Isaiah 51:17, Isaiah 51:22, the corresponding image of "drinking wine, of reeling," occurs in a Psalm of David (Psalm 60:5 (Psalm 60:3 in English)) and being drunk, but not with wine" is imagery of an earlier chapter in Isaiah; Isaiah 29:9, the image occurs fully in Obadiah Oba 1:16.

Such criticism is altogether childish. No one would tolerate it, except that it is adduced to support a popular and foregone conclusion. It would be laughed to scorn, were it used by believers in revelation. In the small remains of the Hebrew Scriptures and language, an induction, if it is to be of any value, must be very distinct. The largeness of Greek literature enables critics to single out Homeric, Herodotean, Eschylean, Pindaric words. In Hebrew we meet with hapax legomena (unique occurrences) in perhaps every prophet, in many Psalms; but it requires far more than the occurrence of the word in one single place, to furnish any even probable inference, that it was framed by the Prophet or Psalmist himself. Still less can it be inferred safely that because, in the scanty remains of Hebrew, a word does not occur before, for example, a certain historical book, it did not exist before the date of that book.

Rather the occurrence of any word in language so simple as that of the historical books, is an evidence that it did exist and was in common use at the time. Poets and orators coin words, in order to give full expression for their thoughts. The characteristic of the sacred historians, both of the Old and New Testament, is to relate the facts in most absolute simplicity. It would be a singular "history of the Hebrew language," which should lay down as a principle, that all those are later words, which do not happen to occur before the books of Kings, Habakkuk, or any other prophet, whom this criticism is pleased to rank among the later books. What are we to do with Habakkuk's own hapax legomena? Granted, that he framed some of them, yet it is impossible that he framed them all. As specimens of the results of such a critical principle, that words, occurring for the first time in any book, are characteristic of the date of that word, let us only take roots beginning with "s."

Had then the Hebrew no name for "nails" (as distinct from hooks, pegs,) as Ecclesiastes and Isaiah 41? Or had they none for ceiling a building before the book of Kings; although the ark had a third story, and Lot speaks of "the shadow of my roof?" Or had they none for a "decked vessel" before Jonah although the Indian names of Solomon's imports show that Ophir, whither his navy sailed, was in India, Ophir itself being Abhira in the province of Cutch? Or had they no name for "divided opinions" before Elijah? (1 Kings 18:21. As "branches," first occurs in Isaiah, Isaiah 17:6; Isaiah 27:10; Isaiah 10:33; Ezekiel 31:5-6, Ezekiel 31:8) Seed shed, which sprang up in the second year, was known in the Pentateuch but that of the third year would, on that hypothesis, remain unknown until Hezekiah; nor did the Hebrews express to "drag along the ground," until Hushai , and, after him, Jeremiah. They had no name for winter, as distinct from autumn, until the Canticles Sol 2:11, and, but for the act of the Philistines in stopping up Genesis 26:15, Genesis 26:18. Abraham's wells, it might have been said that Hebrew had no word for this act, until the time of Jehoshaphat .

Or as to the criticism itself, קלס qâlas is to be a later word, because, except in that Psalm of the sons of Korah, it occurs first in the history of Elisha 2 Kings 2:23. Perhaps it is so rare (and this may illustrate the history of Elisha) because, as used, it seems to have been one of the strongest words in the language for "derision;" at least the verb is used in an intensive form only, and always of strong derision. But then, did the old Hebrews never use derision? Happy exception for one nation, if they never used it wrongly or had no occasion to use it rightly! Yet even though (by a rare exception) Ewald allows the second Psalm to be David's (Job, however, being placed about the 7th century b.c.) the evidence for לעג lâ‛ag, as strong a word, would be of the time of David . "Scorning" "scoffing," (unless Psalm 1:1-6 is allowed to be David's) did not begin until Soloman's time "Mocking" was yet later As belongs to a rude people, insult was only shown in acts, of which התעלל is used and from those simple times of the Patriarchs, they had no stronger word than "to laugh at." For this is the only word used in the Pentateuch

But to what end all this? To prove that Habakkuk had no superhuman knowledge of what he foretold? Prophecy occupies, as I said, a subordinate place in Habakkuk. He renews the "burden" of former prophets, both upon his own people and upon the Chaldaeans; but he does not speak even so definitely as they. His office is rather to enforce the connection of sin and punishment: he presupposes the details, which they had declared. Apart from those chapters, which pseudo-criticism denies to Isaiah (Isaiah 13; Isaiah 14:1-23; Isaiah 40 ff), on account of the distinctness of the temporal prophecies, Isaiah had, in plainest words, declared to Hezekiah the carrying away of all the royal treasures to Babylon, and that his off-spring should be eunuchs there; Isaiah 39:6-7, Micah had declared not only the complete desolation of Jerusalem Micah 3:12, but that the people should be Micah 4:10 "carried to Babylon, and there delivered, there redeemed from the hands of the enemy."

In the 13th year of Josiah, 628 b.c., and so, three years before the fall of Nineveh, while Babylon was still dependent on Nineveh and governed by a viceroy, and while Nabopolassar was still in the service of the king of Nineveh, Jeremiah foretold, that Jeremiah 1:14-16 "evil should break forth from the North upon all the inhabitants of the land, and all the families of the kingdoms of the North shall come and set every one his throne at the entering of the gates of Jerusalem and against all the walls thereof round about and against all the cities of Judah," to execute the judgments of God against them for their wickedness. This was his dirge over his country for 23 years (Jeremiah 25:3, see also Jeremiah 5:15-17; Jeremiah 6:1, Jeremiah 6:22-25; Jeremiah 10:22. Also in the collection of all his prophecies from the time of Josiah, which God commanded him to make in the 4th year of Jehoiakim, Jeremiah 36:2, Jeremiah 36:29, he provides them also with a saving against idolatry (in Chaldee) for their use in their captivity in Chaldaea. Jeremiah 10:11) ere yet there was a token of its fulfillment.

Babylon had succeeded to Nineveh in the West and Southwest, and Judah had fallen to the share of Babylon; but the relation of Josiah to Nabopolassar was of a tributary sovereign, which rebellion only could disturb. The greater part of Nabopolassar's 21 year's reign are almost a blank . Chastisement had come, but from the South, not from the North. Eighteen years had passed away, and Josiah had fallen, in resisting Pharaoh-Necho in discharge of his fealty to the king of Babylon. Pharaoh-Necho had taken away one king of Judah, Jehoahaz, the people's choice, whose continued fealty to Babylon represents their minds, and had set up another, Jehoiakim. For three years Judah's new allegiance was alloweth to continue. Who, but God, could tell the issue of the conflict of those two great armies at Carchemish? Egypt with her allies, the Ethiopians, Phut and Lud, were come, rising up like a flood Jeremiah 46:8-9, covering the earth with her armies, as her rivers, when swollen, made her own land one sea.

Necho had apparently in his alliance all the kings of the countries West of the Euphrates: for to them all, in connection with Egypt and subordinate to her, does Jeremiah at that moment give to drink the cup of the wrath of God; to Jeremiah 25:19-24. Pharaoh king of Egypt, and his servants and his princes and all his people, and all the mingled people (his auxiliaries) and all the kings of the land of Uz, and all the kings of the land of the Philistines and Ashkelon and Azzah and Ekron and the remnant of Ashdod; Edom and Moab and the children of Ammon; and all the kings of Tyrus, and all the kings of Zidon and the kings of the isle beyond the sea (probably Caphtor Jeremiah 47:4, or Crete, or Cyprus) Dedan and Tema and Buz, and those whose hair is shorn (Arabians) and all the kings of Arabia and all the kings of the mingled people that dwell in the desert, and all the kings of Zimri . It was a mighty gathering.

All the kings of Elam, all the kings of the Medes, all the kings of the North far and near, all was hostile to Babylon; for all were to drink of the cup beforehand, at the hands of the king of Babylon, and then the king of Sheshach (Babylon) was to drink after them. Necho was one of the most enterprising monarchs . Nabopolassar had shown no signs of enterprise. Nebuchadnezzar, the first and last conqueror of the Babylonian empire, though the alliance with Media and his father's empire had been cemented by his marriage, had, as far as we know, remained inactive during 20 years of his father's life . He was as yet untried. So little did he himself feel secure as to his inheritance of the throne, even after his success at the head of his father's army, that his rapid march across the desert, with light troops, to secure it, and its preservation for him by the chief priest, are recorded in a very concise history .

Neither Egypt nor Jehoiakim foresaw the issue. Defeat taught neither. Two voices only gave, in God's name, one unheeded warning. Pharaoh Hophra, the Apries of Herodotus, succeeded Pharaoh Necho in his self-confidence, his aggressions, his defeat. "I am against time," God says Ezekiel 29:3, "Pharaoh, king of Egypt, the great dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers, which hath said, My river is mine own and I have made it for myself." "It is said," relates Herodotus (Herodotus ii. 16), "that Apries believed that there was not a god which could east him down from his eminence, so firmly did he think that he had established himself in his kingdom."

For a time, Nebuchadnezzar must have been hindered by Eastern wars, since, on Jehoiakim's rebellion and perjury, he sent only bands of the Chaldees, with bands of tributary nations, the Syrians, Moabites, Ammonites, against him 2 Kings 24:2. But not in his time only, even after the captivity under his son Jehoiachin and his men of might 2 Kings 24:14-16, the conviction that Nebuchadnezzar could be resisted, still remained in the time of Zedekiah both in Egypt and Judah. Judah would have continued to hold under Babylonia that same position toward Egypt which it did under Persia, only with subordinate kings instead of governors. Apart from God's general promise of averting evil on repentance, Jeremiah, too, expressly tells Israel Jeremiah 4:1, "If thou wilt put away thine abominations out of My sight, thou shalt not remove;" (Jeremiah 7:7, add Jeremiah 17:25-26; Jeremiah 22:2-5), "Then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, forever and ever."

And "in the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim," Jeremiah 26:1, (Jeremiah 26:12, add Jeremiah 26:2-3), "The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and against this city all the words which ye have heard. Therefore, now amend your ways and your doings and obey the voice of the Lord your God, and the Lord will repent Him of the evil that He hath pronounced against you." Still later, to Zedekiah Jeremiah 27:11, "The nations that bring their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him, "them will I let remain still in their own land, saith the Lord; and they shall till it and dwell therein" Jeremiah 35:15. "I have sent unto you all My servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them, saying, Return ye now every man from his evil way and amend your doings, and go not after other gods to serve them, and ye shall dwell in the land which I have given to you and to year fathers." Even on the very verge of the capture of Jerusalem, Jeremiah promised to Zedekiah Jeremiah 38:17, "If thou wilt go forth to the king of Babylon's princes; - this city shall not be burned with fire."

Pharaoh Hophra was still strong enough to raise the siege of Jerusalem, when invested by the Chaldaean army Jeremiah 37:5. Jeremiah had the king, his princes, his prophets, all the people of the land against him, because he prophesied that Jerusalem should be burned with fire, that those already taken captives should not return, until the whole had been carried away, and the seventy yearn of captivity were accomplished Jeremiah 25:11-12; Jeremiah 29:10. The warning and the promise of Jeremiah's inaugural vision had its accomplishment (Jeremiah 1:18-19, renewed Jeremiah 15:20). "I have made thee a defensed city, and an iron pillar, and brazen walls, against the king of Judah, against the princes thereof and against the people 'of the land; and they shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the Lord, to deliver thee." Had it been matter of human foresight, how was it, that all nations, all their politicians, all their wise men, all their prophets, all Judah, kings, priests, princes, people, were blinded (as in Him of Whom Jeremiah was a shadow,) and Jeremiah alone saw? "Vaticinia post eventum" are, in one sense, easy; namely, to imagine, after an event has taken place, that one could have foreseen it.

And yet who, after the retreat to Corunna, could have foreseen the victories of the Peninsular war? Or, when that tide of 647,000 men was roiling on toward Russia, who could imagine that only a small fraction of those hosts should return, that they should capture Moscow, but find it a tomb; and hunger and cold, reaching at last to 36 degrees below Zero, should destroy more than the sword? "What was the principal adversary of this tremendous power? By whom was it checked and resisted and put down? By none and by nothing but the direct and manifest interposition of God."

The distinctness and perseverance of the prophecy are the more remarkable, because the whole of the greatness of the Chaldaean empire was that of one man. Assyria, in this one case, overreached itself in its policy of transporting conquered populations. It had, probably to check the rebellions of Babylon, settled there a wild horde, which it hoped would neither assimilate with its people, nor itself rebel. Isaiah relates the fact in simple words Isaiah 23:13. Behold the land of the Chaldaeans; this people was not; the Assyrian founded, not that it should cease to be, it for them that dwelt in the wilderness. This does not seem to me necessarily to imply, that the wild people, for whom Assyria founded it, were Chaldaeans or Kurds, whom the king of Assyria had brought from their Northern dwellings in the Carduchaean mountains near Armenia, where Sennacherib conquered.

Isaiah simply uses the name, the land of the Chaldaeans, as does Jeremiah (Jeremiah 24:5; Jeremiah 50:8, Jeremiah 50:25; Jeremiah 51:4; and, united with the name Babylon, Jeremiah 25:12; Jeremiah 50:1, Jeremiah 50:45; Ezekiel 12:13, as Isaiah does Chasdim alone, Isaiah 48:14, Isaiah 48:20) after him, as the name of Babylonia; the ward Babylonia, had it existed, might have been substituted for it. Of this, he says, that it was not, i. e., was of no account but that Assur founded it for wild tribes, whom he placed there. Whence he brought those tribes, Isaiah does not say. Aeschylus (although indeed in later times) as well as Isaiah and Jeremiah, speak of the population of Babylon, as mingled of various nations; and the language is too large to be confined simply to its merchant-settlers. In Aeschylus "the all-mingled crowd," which "it sends out in long array," are its military contingents. it is its whole population, of which Isaiah and Jeremiah say, it will flee, each to his own land Isaiah 13:14 "It (Babylon) shall be as a chased roe, and as a sheep which no man gathereth; they shall, every man, turn to his own people, and flee every man to his own land. For fear of the oppressing sword they shall turn every one to his people: Jeremiah 50:16. And they shall flee, every one to his own land."

Thus, Babylonia received that solid accession of strength which ultimately made it a powerful people, 60 years before the beginning of the reign of Josiah; its ancient and new elements would take some time to blend: they did not assume importance until the capture of Nineveh; nor had Judah any reason to dread anything from them, until itself rebelled, early in the reign of Jehoiakim. But 18 years before the death of Josiah, while Judah was a trusted and faithful tributary kingdom, Jeremiah foretold that evil should come upon them from the North, i. e., as he himself explains it, from the Chaldees .

Even then if Habakkuk were brought down to be a contemporary of Jeremiah, still in the 13th year of Josiah, there was nothing to fear. Judah was not in the condition of an outlying country, which Babylonian ambition might desire to reduce into dependence on itself. It was already part of the Babylonian empire, having passed into it, in the partition with Assyria, and hall no more to fear from it, than any of the conquered nations of Europe have now from those who have annexed them, unless they rebel. God alone knew the new ambition of the kings of the smitten and subdued Egypt, their momentary success, Josiah's death, Judah's relapse into the old temptation of trusting in Egyypt - all, condilions of the fulfillment of Habakkuk's and Jeremiah's prophecies. Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre, Zidon, sent embassadors to Zedekiah, to concert measures of resistance against Nebachadnezzar; Jeremiah 27:3, they were encouraged by their Jeremiah 27:9, diviners, dreamers, enchanters, sorcerers, which spoke to them, ye shall not serve the king of Babylon. One alone told them that resistance would but bring upon them destruction, that submission was their only safety; there was prophecy against prophecy, (Jeremiah 5:12-14; Jeremiah 14:14-16; Jeremiah 23:16-17, Jeremiah 23:21, Jeremiah 23:25-27, Jeremiah 23:30 ff; Jeremiah 27:14-18; 28), among these nations, in Jerusalem, in Babylon Jeremiah 29:8-9, Jeremiah 29:15, Jeremiah 29:21, Jeremiah 29:24; the recent knowledge of the political aspect of Babylon deterred not the false prophets there; all, with one voice, declared the breaking the yoke of the king of Babylon: Jeremiah only saw, that they were framing for themselves Jeremiah 28:13-14 yokes of iron. Had Jehoiakim or Zedekiah, their nobles, and their people possessed that human foresight which that pseudo-critical school holds to be so easy, Judah had never gone into captivity to Babylon. But He Who fashioneth the heart of man knoweth alone the issue of the working of those hearts, which He overrules.

From the necessity of its case, the pseudo-critical school lowers down the words, in which Habakkuk declares the marvelousness of the event which he foretells, and the unbelief of his people. "Look well," he bids them, "marvel ye, marvel on; for I will work a work in your days which ye will not believe, when it shall be told you." It is "something which had not hitherto been, something hitherto unknown," says Stahelin . Yet things hitherto unknown, are not therefore incredible. "It is clear from the contents," says Bleek "that the Chaldees had at that time already extended to the West their expeditions of conquest and destruction, and on the other side, that this had only lately begun and that they were not yet come to Judah and Jerusalem, so that here they were hitherto little known." "The appearance of the Chaldees as world-conquerors was, in Judah, then a quite new phenomenon," says Ewald . "The description of the Chaldees altogether is of such sort, that they appear as a people still little known to the Jews," says Knobel . "That which is incredible for the people consists therein, that God employs just the Chaldees, such as they are described in what follows, for the unexpected chastisement of Israel," says even Umbreit .

What was there incredible, that, when the king of Jerusalem had revolted from Babylon, and had sided with Egypt, its chief enemy, the Chaldaeans, should come against it? As soon might it be said to be incredible that France should invade Prussia, when its hundred thousands were on their march toward the Rhine. During the reign of Manasseh it was incredible enough, that any peril should impend from Babylon; for Babylon was still subordinate to Assyria: in the early years of Josiah it was still incredible, for his 31 years were years of peace, until Pharaoh Necho disputed the cis-Euphratensian countries with Babylon. When the then East and West came to Carehemish, to decide whether the empire should be, with the East or with the West, nothing was beyond human foresight but the result. Expectation lately hung suspended, perplexed between the forces of Europe. None, the most sagacious, could predict for a single day.

Men might surmise; God only could predict. For 23 years Jeremiah foretold, that the evil would come from the North, not from the South. The powers were well-balanced. Take Habakkuk's prophecy as a whole - not that the Chaldaeans should invade Judaea (which in Jehoiakim's time was already certain) but that Egypt should be a vain help, and that the Chaldaeans should mesh its people like the fishes of the sea, yet they should still have to disgorge them, because God's judgment would come upon them also. This too were incredible. Incredible it was to the kings, the wise, the politicians, the political prophets of Judaea, that Jerusalem itself should be taken. Incredible it was, and there was much human reason for the incredulity. Egypt and Assyria had been matched during centuries. Until the Sargonides, Egypt had, during centuries, the unbroken advantage. But the Sargonides had passed away.

Yet Chaldaea had not, alone, prevailed against Assyria. Why should the yet untried Babylonian be so certain of success, when the whole West of the Euphrates was banded together against him, and fought within their own ground? The kings of Elam add the kings of the Medes Jeremiah 25:25 were now, as under Cyrus, enemies of Babylon. Babylon had enemies before and behind. But God had raised up Nebuchadnezzar to be the hammer of the whole earth Jeremiah 50:23 and had given those cis-Euphratensian lands which leagued against him into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant, God says Jeremiah 27:6-7, and all nations shall serve him and his son and his son's son, until the very time of his land come; and then many nations and great kings shall serve themselves of him. Whence this combination of almost superhuman but short-lived might, this certainty of wide sway down to the third generation, this certainty of its cessation afterward?

There was no time for decay. Alexander's empire was yet more short-lived, but it was divided among his successors. Alexander had, by his genius, founded his own empire, which the able generals, whom he had trained, divided among themselves. In the Chaldaean empire, we have an enterprising conspirator, who seizes an occasion, but does little beside which is recorded, nothing alone, nothing, beside that first grasp at power, for himself. He appears only as the ally of Media: (Herodotus i. 74) then a son, a world-wide conqueror, with a genius for consolidating the empire which he inherited, forming an impregnable city, which should also be a province, filling his empire with fortresses , but leaving none after him to maintain what he had so consolidated. By whom could this be foreknown save by Him, with Whom alone it is, to root out and to pull down and to destroy and to throw down, to build and to plant? Jeremiah 1:10)

It has been common to praise the outside of Habakkuk's prophecy, the purity of his language, the sublimity of his imagery. Certainly it is, humanly speaking, magnicent: his measured cadence is impressive in its simplicity. He too has words and forms, which are unique to him among the remains of Hebrew. But his eminence is rather the condensed thought, expressed often in the simplest words; as when, having carried on the tide of victory of the Chaldaean to its height, everything human subdued before him, all resistance derided, he gathers up his fall and its cause in those eight words Habakkuk 1:11, "Then sweeps-he-by, wind, and-passes, and-is-guilty; this his-strength (is) his-god." Yet more striking is the religious greatness, in which he sums up the meaning of all this oppressiveness of man Habakkuk 1:12. "Thou, Lord, has placed him for judgment, and, O Rock, has founded him to correct." Or, take the picture, prolonged relatively to his conciseness, of the utter helplessness of God's people, meshed, hooked, dragged in their net; their captors worshiping the instrument of their success, revelling in their triumph, and then the sudden question Habakkuk 1:17, "Shall they therefore empty their net?" He waits to hear the answer from God. Or, again, the antiphonal dirge of the materials of the blood-built city over him Habakkuk 2:11. Or the cutting off of every stay, sustenance, hope, promise of God, and, amid this universal crash, what does he? It is not as the heathen , "fearless will the ruins strike him:" but, Habakkuk 3:10, "And I," as if it were the continuance and consequence of the failure of all human things; "I would exult in the Lord, I would bound for joy in the God of my salvation." His faith triumphs most, when all, in human sight, is lost.

"Ill which Thou blessest is most good,

And unblest good is ill;

And all is right which seems most wrong,

So it be Thy sweet Will."

The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see.
The burden - On the word "burden" see the note at Nahum 1:1.

Which Habakkuk the prophet did see - The prophet's name signifies "strong embrace." The word in its intensive form is used both of God's enfolding the soul within His tender supporting love , and of man clinging and holding fast to divine wisdom Proverbs 4:8. It fits in with the subject of his prophecy, faith, cleaving fast to God amid the perplexities of things seen. Dion.: "He who is spiritually Habakkuk, cleaving fast to God with the arms of love, or enfolding Him after the manner of one holily wrestling, until he is blessed, enlightened, and heard by Him, is the seer here." "Let him who would in such wise fervidly embrace God and plead with Him as a friend, praying earnestly for the deliverance and consolation of himself and others, but who sees not as yet, that his prayer is heard, make the same holy plaint, and appeal to the clemency of the Creator." (Jer. Abarbanel has the like: "He strengthens himself in pleading his cause with God as to the prosperity of Nebuchadnezzar as if he were joined with God for the cause of his people" Preface to Ezekiel). "He is called 'embrace' either because of his love to the Lord; or because he engages in a contest and strife and (so to speak) wrestling with God." For no one with words so bold ventured to challenge God to a discussion of His justice and to say to Him, "Why, in human affairs and the government of this world is there so great injustice?"

The prophet - The title, "the prophet," is added only to the names of Habakkuk, Haggai, Zechariah. Habakkuk may have added it to his name instead because he prominently expostulates with God, like the Psalmists, and does not speak in the name of God to the people. The title asserts that he exercised the pastoral office of the prophets, although not directly in this prophecy.

Did see - Cyril: "God multiplied visons, as is written Hosea 12:10, and Himself spoke to the prophets, disclosing to them beforehand what should be, and all but exhibiting them to sight, as if already present. But that they determined not to speak from their own, but rather transmit to us the words from God, he persuades us at the outset, naming himself a prophet, and showing himself full of the grace belonging thereto."

O LORD, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save!
O Lord, how long shall I cry - Literally, "how long have I cried so intensely to Thee?" Because it is always the cry of the creature to the One who alone can hear or help - its God. Of this cry the Prophet expresses that it had already lasted long. In that long past he had cried out to God but no change had come. There is an undefined past, and this still continues.

How long - as Asaph cries, "how long hast Thou been," and, it is implied, wilt Thou be "wroth against the prayer of Thy people?" as we should say," how long shall Thy wrath continue?" The words which the prophet uses relate to domestic strife and wrong between man and man; violence, iniquity, strife, contention Habakkuk 1:3, nor are any of them used only of the oppression of a foreign enemy. Also, Habakkuk complains of injustice too strong for the law, and the perversion of justice Habakkuk 1:4. And upon this, the sentence is pronounced. The enemy is to be sent for judgment and correction Habakkuk 1:12. They are then the sins of Judah which the prophet rehearses before God, in fellow-suffering with the oppressed. God answers that they shall be removed, but by the punishment of the sinners.

Punishment does not come without sin, nor does sin endure without punishment. It is one object of the Old Testament to exhibit the connection between sin and punishment. Other prophets, as commissioned by God, first denounced the sins and then foretold the punishment of the impenitent. Habakkuk appeals to God's justice, as requiring its infliction. On this ground too this opening of the prophecy cannot be a complaint against the Chaldees, because their wrong would be no ground of the punishment which the prophet denounced, but the punishment itself, requiting wrong to man through human wrong.

Cyril: "The prophet considers the person of the oppressed, enduring the intolerable insolence and contumely of those accustomed to do wrong, and very skillfully doth he attest the unutterable lovingkindness of God, for he exhibits Him as very forbearing, though accustomed to hate wickedness, but that He doth not immediately bring judgment upon the offenders, he showed clearly, saying that so great is His silence and long-suffering, that there needeth a strong cry, in that some practice intolerable covetousness against others, and use an unbridled insolence against the weak, for his very complaints of God's endurance of evil attest the immeasurable loving kindness of God."

Cyril: "You may judge hence of the hatred of evil among the saints. For they speak of the woes of others as their own. So saith the most wise Paul 2 Corinthians 11:29, who is weak and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? and bade us Romans 12:15 weep with those who weep, showing that sympathy and mutual love are especially becoming to the saints."

The prophet, through sympathy or fellow-suffering with the sufferers, is as one of them. He cries for help, as himself needing it, and being in the misery, in behalf of which he prays. He says, "How long shall I cry?" standing, as it were, in the place of all, and gathering all their cries into one, and presenting them before God. It is the cry, in one, of all which is wronged to the God of Justice, of all suffering to the God of love. "When shall this scene of sin, and confusion, and wrong be at an end, and the harmony of God's creation be restored? How long shall evil not exist only, but prevail?" It is the cry of the souls under the altar Revelation 6:10, "How long, O Lord, Holy and True, dost Thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?" It is the voice of the oppressed against the oppressor; of the Church against the world; weary of hearing the Lord's Name blasphemed, of seeing wrong set up on high, of holiness trampled underfoot. It is in its highest sense His Voice, who, to sanctify our longings for deliverance, said in the days of His Flesh Psalm 22:2, "I cry in the daytime, but Thou hearest not."

Even cry out - aloud (it is the cry of anguish) Dion.: "We cry the louder, the more we cry from the heart, even without words; for not the moving of the lips, but the love of the heart sounds in the ears of God."

Even cry out unto Thee. - Whether as an exclamation or a continuance of the question, How long? The prophet gathered in one the prolonged cry of past and future. He had cried out; he should cry on, "Violence." He speaks as if the one word, jerked out, as it were, wrung forth from his inmost soul, was, "Violence," as if he said this one word to the God of justice and love.

Why dost thou shew me iniquity, and cause me to behold grievance? for spoiling and violence are before me: and there are that raise up strife and contention.
Why dost Thou shew me iniquity, and cause me to behold - , or rather, "Why beholdest Thou grievance?" God seemed to reverse what He had said by Balaam Numbers 23:21, "He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, and hath not seen grievousness in Israel"; and in the Psalms Psa 10:14, "Thou hast seen, for thou (emphatic) beholdest grievousness and wrong, to put it in Thy hand," i. e., Thou layest it up in Thy hand, to cast it back on the head of the evildoer. Now He seemed to behold it and leave it unpunished, which yet Habakkuk says to God below, He could not do Habakkuk 1:13; "Thou canst not look upon iniquity." What then did this mean? What was the solution?

All forms and shapes of sin are multiplied; oppressive "violence" , such as "covered the earth" before the flood, and brought it down; which Nineveh had to put away Jonah 3:8, and it was spared; "iniquity," i. e., what is unequal and contrary to truth, falsehood.

Grievance - literally, burdensome wearisome "toil"; "spoiling," or open robbery; "strife and contention," both through perversion of the law and, without it, through endless jarrings of man with man. Sin recoils on the sinner. So what he beholds is not "iniquity" only, but (in the same word) "vanity"; "grievance"; which is a burden both to him who suffers, and yet more to him who inflicts it. For nothing is so burdensome as sin, nothing so empty as wickedness. And while to him who suffers, the suffering is temporal, to him who inflicts it, it is eternal. And yet the prophet and whose prays against ungodliness, "must commiserate him who doth wrong yet more, since they hurt what is most precious, their own soul, and that eternally" . All then is full of evil. Wherever the prophet looks, some fresh violence is before him; it confronts him on every side; "strife hath arisen" , come up, exists where it was not before; "contention lifteth itself" on high, bowing down all beside.

Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment doth never go forth: for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceedeth.
Therefore - i. e., Because God seemed not to awake to avenge His own cause, people promised themselves that they might sin on with impunity. Sin produces sin, and wrong produces wrong; it spreads like an infectious disease, propagating itself, and each, to whom it reaches, adds to its poison. At last, it reached those also, who should be in God's stead to restrain it. The divine law itself is silenced, by the power of the wicked, by the sin of the judge, the hopelessness of all. When all around is evil, even those not yet lost are tempted to think; "Why should I be other than they? What evil befalls them? Why stand alone?" Even a Psalmist Psalm 73:15, Psalm 73:12-13 speaks as if tempted to "speak even as they. These are the ungodly who prosper in the world; they increase in riches; verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency;" and Solomon Ecclesiastes 8:11, "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil."

The law is slacked - literally "is chilled" (as we say, "is paralyzed"), through lack of the fire of love. This is what our Lord says Matthew 24:12, Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. The divine law, the source of all right, being chilled in people's hearts, "judgment," i. e., the sentence of human justice, as conformed to divine justice, "doth never go forth." Human sense of right is powerless, when there is not the love of God's law. It seems always ready to act, but always falls short, like an arrow from an unstrung bow. The man seems always about to do right; he judges, sees, aright - all but does it - yet, at last, he always fails. "It goes not forth. The children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth" Isaiah 37:3.

For the wicked doth compass about the righteous, laying snares for him, as the Jews for our Lord; evil is too strong for a weak will to do right, and overbears it. Pilate sought in many ways, how he might deliver Jesus, yet he finally did deliver Christ into their hands.

Therefore wrong judgment proceedeth - literally, "judgment proceedeth wrested." He had said, "it never goes forth;" never, that is, in its true character; for, when it does "go forth," it is distorted. Dion.: "For gifts or favor or fear or hate the guiltless are condemned trod the guilty acquitted, as saith the Psalmist Psalm 82:2, 'How long will ye judge unjustly and accept the persons of the ungodly?'" Theoph.: "'Judgment goes forth perverted' in the seat of man's judgment (the soul), when, bribed by the pleasures of sense, it leans to the side of things seen, and the ungodly one, the rebel angel, besets and overpowers him who has the sense of right; for it is right that things seen should give way to things unseen 2 Corinthians 4:18; 'for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.'" Why then all this? And how long? Why does God bring it before him and He who "is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, behold grievance," which His Holy Eyes could not endure? Neither the unseen presence of God nor the mission of the prophet checks. If he rebukes, no one hearkened; if he intercedes for sinners, or against sin, God made as though He would not hear. God answers that, though to man's impatience the time seems long, judgment shall come, and that, suddenly and speedily. While the righteous is enquiring, "how long?" and the wicked is saying Matthew 24:48, "My Lord delayeth His coming," He is come, and seen in the midst of them.

Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvellously: for I will work a work in your days, which ye will not believe, though it be told you.
Behold ye among the heathen - The whole tone of the words suddenly changes. The Jews flattered themselves that, being the people of God, He would not fulfill His threats upon them. They had become like the pagan in wickedness; God bids them look out among them for the instrument of His displeasure. It was an aggravation of their punishment, that God, who had once chosen them, would now choose these whom He had not chosen, to chasten them. So Moses had foretold; Deuteronomy 32:21, "They have moved Me to jealousy by that which is not God; they have provoked Me to anger with their vanities; and I will move them to jealousy with not-a-people, I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation." There were no tokens of the storm which should sweep them away, yet on the horizon. No forerunners yet. And so He bids them gaze on among the nations, to see whence it should come. They might have expected it from Egypt. It should come whence they did not expect, with a fierceness and terribleness which they imagined not.

Regard - look narrowly, weigh well what it portends.

And wonder marvelously - literally, "be amazed, amazed." The word is doubled to express how amazement should follow upon amazement; when the first was passing away, new source of amazement should come; for .

I will work a work in your days, which ye will not believe, though it be told you. - So incredible it will be, and so against their wills! He does not say, "ye would not believe if it were told you;" much less "if it were told you of others;" in which case the chief thought would be left unexpressed. No condition is expressed. It is simply foretold, what was verified by the whole history of their resistance to the Chaldees until the capture of the city; "Ye will not believe, when it shall be told you." So it ever is. Man never believes that God is in earnest until His judgments come. So it was before the flood, and with Sodom, and with Lot's sons-in-law; so it was with Ahab and Jezebel; so with this destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldaeans, and what is shadowed forth, by the Romans. So Jeremiah complained Jeremiah 5:12, "They have belied the Lord, and said, it is not He; neither shall evil come upon us; neither shall we see sword nor famine," and Jeremiah 20:7-8, "I am in derision daily; everyone mocketh me. For since I spake, I cried out, I cried violence and spoil; because the word of the Lord was made a reproach unto me, and a derision daily;" and Isaiah Isa 53:1, "Who hath believed our report?" and John the Immerser speaks as though it were desperate Matthew 3:7; "O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" and our Lord tells them Matthew 23:38; Luke 13:35, "Your house is left unto you desolate."

And yet they believed not, but delivered Him up to be put to death, lest that should be, which did come, because they put Him to death John 11:48. "If we let Him thus alone, all people will believe on Him; and the Romans shall come, and take away both our place and nation." Therefore, Paul applies these words to the Jews in his day, because the destruction of the first temple by Nebuchadnezzar was an image of the destruction of the second temple (which by divine appointment, contrary to man's intention, took place on the same day ), and the Chaldaeans were images of the Romans, that second Babylon, pagan Rome; and both foreshowed the worse destruction by a fiercer enemy - the enemy of souls - the spiritual wasting and desolation which came upon the Jew first, and which shall come on all who disobey the gospel. So it shall be to the end. Even now, the Jews believe not, whose work their own dispersion is; His, who by them was crucified, but who has "all power in heaven and in earth" Matthew 28:18. The Day of Judgment will come like a thief in the night to those who believe not or obey not our Lord's words.

For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, which shall march through the breadth of the land, to possess the dwellingplaces that are not theirs.
For lo - So God announces a future, in which His Hand shall be greatly visible, whether more or less distant. In His sight it is present.

I raise up - God uses the free will and evil passions of people or devils to His own ends; and so He is said to "raise up" those whom He allows to be stirred up against His people, since the events which His Providence permits, favor their designs, and it rests with Him to withhold them. They lift themselves up for some end of covetousness or pride. But there is a higher order of things, in which God orders their actions to fulfill His righteousness by their iniquities.

The Chaldaeans, that bitter - מר. In Judges 18:25; 2 Samuel 17:8, the less concise נפשׁ מר.

And hasty nation - נמהר as Isaiah 32:4. Jerome: "To its might and warlike boldness almost all the Greeks who have written histories of the barbarians, witness."

Which shall march through the breadth of the land - rather, "the earth," literally "to the breadths of the earth," reaching to its whole length and breadth, all its dimensions as in the description of Gog and Magog Revelation 20:8-9, "the number of whom is as the sand of the sea; and they went up on the breadth of the earth; unhindered, not pent up, but spreading abroad, where they will, over the whole earth." All before it, is one wide even plain which it overspreads and covers, like a flood, and yet is not spent nor exhausted.

To possess the dwelling-places that are not theirs - As God's people had done, so should it be done to them. Spoiling and violence within Habakkuk 1:2-4 attract oppression from without. The overcharged atmosphere casts down the lightning upon them. They had expelled the weak from their dwelling Micah 2:9; others shall possess theirs. Yet this scourge too shall pass by, since, although the Chaldaean did God's Will, He willed it not, but His own (See Isaiah 10:6-7). The words, "not theirs," literally, "not to him" stand with a mysterious fullness of meaning. The dwelling places not being his by right, shall not remain his, although given to him, while God wills.

They are terrible and dreadful: their judgment and their dignity shall proceed of themselves.
They are terrible - איום 'âyôm occurs here only and Sol 6:4, Sol 6:10, compared with the "bannered host," but the root is common in אימה 'ēymâh.

And dreadful - He describes them, first in themselves, then in act. They are terrible, and strike fear through their very being, their known character, before they put it forth in act.

Their judgment and their dignity shall proceed of themselves. - Judgment had gone forth in God's people wrested Habakkuk 1:4; now shall it go forth against them at the mere will of their master, who shall own no other rule or Lord or source of his power. His own will shall be his only law for himself and others. His elevation is too is, in his own thought, from himself. He is self-sufficing; he holds from no other, neither from God nor man. His "dignity" is self-sustained; His "judgment" is irresponsible, as if there were none Ecclesiastes 5:8 higher than he. He has, like all great world-powers, a real dignity and majesty. He infuses awe. The dignity is real but faulty, as being held independently of God. This is a character of antichrist Daniel 11:36; 2 Thessalonians 2:4, a lawless insolence, a lifting up of himself.

Their horses also are swifter than the leopards, and are more fierce than the evening wolves: and their horsemen shall spread themselves, and their horsemen shall come from far; they shall fly as the eagle that hasteth to eat.
Their horses are swifter - literally, lighter, as we say "light of foot"

Than leopards - The wild beast intended is the panther, the lightest, swiftest, fiercest, most bloodthirsty of beasts of prey "It runs most swiftly and rushes brave and straight. You would say, when you saw it, that it is borne through the air." Cyril: "It bounds exceedingly and is exceedingly light to spring down on whatever it pursues."

More fierce - o

Than the evening wolves - Compare Jeremiah 5:6, i. e., than they are when fiercest, going forth to prey when urged to rabidness by hunger the whole day through. Such had their own judges been Zephaniah 3:3, and by such should they be punished. The horse partakes of the fierceness of his rider in trampling down the foe .

Their horsemen shall spread themselves - literally, widespread are their horsemen

And their horsemen from far shall come - Neither distance of march shall weary them, nor diffusion weaken them. So should Moses' prophecy be again fulfilled (Deuteronomy 28:49-50, מרחוק occurs in both.) "The Lord shall raise against thee a nation from far, from the ends of the earth, as the eagle flieth; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand; a nation of fierce countenance, which shall not regard the person of the old, nor show favor to the young."

They shall fly as the eagle that hasteth - literally, hasting

To eat - Jerome: "not to fight, for none shall withstand; but with a course like the eagle's, to whom all fowl are subdued, hasting but to eat." Behold, Jeremiah says of Nebuchadnezzar Jeremiah 48:40, he shall fly as an eagle and spread his wings over Moab; and, he repeats the words Jeremiah 49:22, over Bozrah. Our pursuers, Jeremiah says Lamentations 4:19, are swifter than the eagles of the heavens. Ezekiel likens him to Ezekiel 17:3 "a great eagle with great wings full of feathers;" in Daniel's vision he is Daniel 7:4 "a lion with eagle's wings."

They shall come all for violence: their faces shall sup up as the east wind, and they shall gather the captivity as the sand.
They shall come all for violence - "Violence" had been the sin of Judah Habakkuk 1:3-4, and now violence shall be her punishment. It had been ever before the prophet; all were full of it. Now should violence be the very end, one by one, of all the savage horde poured out upon them; they all, each one of them come for violence.

Their faces shall sup up as the east wind - קדומה occurs else only in Ezekiel 11:1, and Ezekiel 11:16 times in Ezekiel 40-48 of the ideal city and temple as "Eastwards." But except in the far-fetched explanation of Abarb (mentioned also by Tanchum) that they ravaged, not to settle but to return home with their booty, "Eastwards" would have no meaning. Yet "forwards" is just as insulated a rendering as that adopted by John and D. Kimchi, A. E. Rashi, Oh. Sip., Sal. B. Mel. Arab Tr. (following Jonathan) "the East-wind; קדומה standing as a metaphor instead of a simile the הbeing regarded as paragogic, as in לילה. So also Symmachus ἄνεμος καύσων anemos kausōn. Jerome: "ventus urens.") "As at the breath of the burning wind all green things dry up, so at sight of these all shall be wasted." They shall sweep over everything impetuously, like the east wind, scorching, blackening, blasting, swallowing up all, as they pass over, as the East wind, especially in the Holy Land, sucks up all moisture and freshness.

And they shall gather the captivity - i. e., the captives

As the sand - countless, as the particles which the East wind raises, sweeping over the sand-wastes, where it buries whole caravans in one death.

And they shall scoff at the kings, and the princes shall be a scorn unto them: they shall deride every strong hold; for they shall heap dust, and take it.
And they - literally, "he," the word stands emphatically, he, alone against all the kings of the earth

Shall scoff at the kings - and all their might taking them away or setting them up at his pleasure and caprice, subduing them as though in sport

And princes - literally, grave and majestic

Shall be a scorn unto them - i. e. him. Compare Job 41:29. So Nebuchadnezzar bound Jehoiakim 2 Chronicles 36:6; Daniel 1:2 "in fetters to carry him to Babylon;" then, on his submission made him for three years a tributary king 2 Kings 24:1, then on his rebellion sent bands of Chaldees and other tributaries against him 2 Kings 24:2; and then, or when Nebuchadnezzar took Jehoiachin, Jeremiah's prophecy was fulfilled, that he should "be buried with the burial of an ass, dragged and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem Jeremiah 22:19, his dead body cast out in the day to the heat and in the night to the frost" Jeremiah 36:30. On the one hand, the expression "slept with his fathers" does not necessarily imply that Jehoiakim died a peaceful death, since it is used of Ahab 1 Kings 22:40 and Amaziah 2 Kings 14:20, 2 Kings 14:22 (in the other, Jeremiah's prophecy was equally fulfilled, if the insult to his corpse took place when Nebuchadnezzar took away Jehoiachin three months after his father's death. See Daniel. Josephus attributes both the death and disgrace to Nebuchadnezzar: Ant. x. 6. 3), then Nebuchadnezzar took away Jehoiachin; then Zedekiah. He had also many kings captive with him in Babylon. For on his decease Evil-Merodach brought Jehoiachin out of his prison after 27 years of imprisonment, "and set his throne above the throne of the kings that were with him in Babylon" 2 Kings 25:27-28. Daniel says also to Nebuchadnezzar Daniel 2:37-38; Daniel 4:22, "Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power and strength and glory. And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of heaven hath He given into thine hand and hath made thee ruler over all."

They (he) shall deride every strong hold - as, aforetime, when God helped her, Jerusalem laughed the Assyrian to scorn Isaiah 38:22.

For they (he) shall heap dust, and take it - as Nebuchadnezzar did Tyre, whose very name (Rock) betokened its strength. Jerome: "He shall come to Tyre, and, casting a mound in the sea, shall make an island a peninsula, and, amid the waves of the sea, land shall give an entrance to the city."

The mount, or heaped-up earth, by which the besiegers fought on a level with the besieged, or planted their engines at advantage, was an old and simple form of siege, especially adapted to the great masses of the Eastern armies. It was used in David's time 2 Samuel 20:15; and by the Assyrians 2 Kings 19:32, Egyptians Ezra 17:17, Babylonians (Jeremiah 6:6; Jeremiah 32:24; Jeremiah 33:4; Ezekiel 4:2; Ezekiel 21:22 (Ezekiel 21:27 in Hebrew), Ezekiel 26:8), and afterward, the Persians (Herodotus i. 162). Here he describes the rapidity of the siege. To heap up dust and to capture were one and the same thing.

It needed no great means; things slight as the dust sufficed in the hands of those employed by God. Portion by portion 2 Kings 24:7, "the King of Babylon took; all that pertained to the king of Egypt, from the river of Egypt unto the river Euphrates."

Then shall his mind change, and he shall pass over, and offend, imputing this his power unto his god.
Then shall his mind change - or, better, "Then he sweeps by, חלף châlaph is used of the overflowing of a river, Isaiah 8:8, of a wind chasing, Isaiah 21:1, of the invisible presence of God passing by, Job 9:11, or a spirit, Job 4:15, of the swift passing of our days, like ship or eagle, Job 10:26, of idols utterly passing away. Isaiah 2:18, of rain past and gone, Sol 2:11. It is, together with עבר ‛âbar, used of transgressing God's law Isaiah 24:5. It is always intransitive, except as piercing the temples of man Judges 5:26, or himself Job 20:24.

A wind - רוח rûach, metaphor for simile, as Psalm 11:1; Psalm 22:14; (13 English) Psalm 90:4; Job 24:5; Isaiah 51:12)

And passes - עבר ‛âbar "pass over" (with חלף châlaph, as here,), Isaiah 8:8; Nahum 1:8; Habakkuk 3:10; "transgress," passim; "pass away," Psalm 37:6; Job 34:29; Nahum 1:12)

And is guilty; this his strength is his god - The victory was completed, all resistance ended. He sweeps by, as his own Euphrates, when over-filled by the swelling Isaiah 8:8 of all its tributary streams, riseth up over all its banks, and overwhelms all where it passes; as a wind which sweepeth Isaiah 21:1 over the desert: and passes over all bounds and laws, human and divine, and is guilty and stands guilty before God, making himself as God.

This his power is his god - God had said to Israel Exodus 6:7, "I will be to thee God." The Chaldaean virtually said, "this my strength is to me my god." This Nebuchadnezzars own words speak Daniel 4:30; "Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty?" And the statue which was to be worshipped, was, very probably, of himself, as the intoxication of pride has made other pagan kings or conquerors, Alexander or Darius. Belshazzar said Isaiah 14:14, "I will be like the Most High," and the prince of Tyre said Ezekiel 28:2, "I am a god, and antichrist shall "exalt himself above all that is called god, and, as God, sit in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is god" 2 Thessalonians 2:4. Such is all pride. It sets itself in the place of God, it ceases to think of itself as God's instrument, and so becomes a god to itself, as though its eminence and strength were its own, and its wisdom were the source of its power (See Ezekiel 28:2-5), and its will the measure of its greatness. The words, with a divine fullness, express severally, that the king Shall sweep along, shall pass over all bounds and all hindrances, and shall pass away, shall be guilty and shall bear his guilt ; and so they comprise in one his sin and his punishment, his greatness and his fall. And so, 40 years afterward Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel 5:19-20. "whom he would, he slew; and whom he would, he kept alive; and whom he would, he set up; and whom he would, he put down; but when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him;" Daniel 4:31, "there fell a voice from heaven, The kingdom is departed from thee; and Belshazzar; Daniel 5:23, Daniel 5:30, "in the same night that he lifted up himself against the Lord of heaven, was slain."

Art thou not from everlasting, O LORD my God, mine Holy One? we shall not die. O LORD, thou hast ordained them for judgment; and, O mighty God, thou hast established them for correction.
The prophet, having summed up the deeds of the enemy of God in this his end, sets forth his questions anew. He had appealed against the evil of the wicked of his people; he had been told of the vengeance by the Chaldaeans (Heading of Habakkuk 1). But the vengeance is executed by them who are far worse. How then? The answer is: "Wait to the end, and thou shalt see." What remains are the triumphs of faith; the second chapter closes with the entire prostration of the whole world before God, and the whole prophecy with joyous trust in God amid the entire failure of all outward signs of hope. Here, like the Psalmists (Asaph, Psalm 73 Ethan Psalm 76:1-12) and Jeremiah Jer 12:1, he sets down at the very beginning his entire trust in God, and so, in the name of all who at any time shall be perplexed about the order of God's judgments, asks how it shall be, teaching us that the only safe way of enquiring into God's ways is by setting out with a living conviction that they, Psalm 25:10, are "mercy and truth." And so the address to God is full of awe and confidence and inward love. For "God placeth the oil of mercy in the vessel of trustfulness."

Art Thou not - (the word has always an emphasis) "Thou" and not whatsoever or whosoever it be that is opposed to Thee (be it Nebuchadnezzar or Satan).

From everlasting - literally, from before? See the note at Micah 5:2. Go back as far as man can in thought - God was still before; and so, much more before any of His creatures, such as those who rebel against Him.

O Lord - it is the proper name of God, Revelation 1:8, "Which is and Which was and Which is to come" - I am, the Unchangeable; my God, i. e., whereas his own might is (he had just said) the pagan's god, the Lord is his;

Mine Holy One - one word, denoting that God is his God, sufficeth him not, but he adds (what does not elsewhere occur) "mine Holy One" in every way, as hallowing him and hallowed by him. Dion.: "Who hallowest my soul, Holy in Thine Essence, and whom as incomparably Holy I worship in holiness." All-Holy in Himself, He becometh the Holy One of him to whom He imparteth Himself, and so, by His own gift, belongeth, as it were, to him. The one word in Hebrew wonderfully fits in with the truth, that God becomes one with man by taking him to Himself. It is fall of inward trust too, that he saith, "my God, my Holy One," as Paul saith, Galatians 2:9, "Who loved me, and gave Himself for me," i. e., as Augustine explains it , "O Thou God Omnipotent, who so carest for every one of us, as if Thou caredst for him only; and so for all, as if tbey were but one." The title, "my Holy One," includes his people with himself; for God was his God, primarily because he was one of the people of God; and his office was for and in behalf of his people.

It involves then that other title which had been the great support of Isaiah , by which he at once comforted his people, and impressed upon them the holiness of their God, the holiness which their relation to their God required, the Holy One of Israel. Thence, since Habakkuk 54ed, for his people with himself, on this relation to God, as my God, my Holy One, and that God, the Unchangeable; it follows," We shall not die." There is no need of any mark of inference, "therefore we shall not die." It is an inference, but it so lay in those titles of God, "He Is, My God, My Holy One," that it was a more loving confidence to say directly, we shall not die. The one thought involved the other. God, the Unchangeable, had made Himself their God. It was impossible, then, that lie should cast them off or that they should perish.

We shall not die, is the lightning thought of faith, which flashes on the soul like all inspirations of God, founded on His truth and word, but borne in, as it were, instinctively without inference on the soul, with the same confidence as the Psalmist says Psalm 118:18, "The Lord hath chastened me sore; but He hath not given me over unto death;" and Malachi Mal 3:6, "I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed." Jerome: "Thou createdst us from the beginning; by Thy mercy we are in being hitherto." Thy "gifts and calling are without repentance." Romans 11:29 "did we look to his might; none of us could withstand him. Look we to Thy mercy, Thine alone is it that we live, are not slain by him, nor led to deeds of death." O Lord, again he repeats the Name of God, whereby He had revealed Himself as their God, the Unchangeable; "Thou, whose mercies fail not, hast ordained them for judgment," not for vengeance or to make a full end, or for his own ends and pleasure, but to correct Thine own Jeremiah 10:24; Jeremiah 30:11 in measure, which he, exceeding, sinned (See Isaiah 10:5; Isaiah 47:6; Zechariah 1:15).

And O mighty God - literally, Rock. It is a bold title. "My rock" is a title much used by David , perhaps suggested by the fastnesses amid which he passed his hunted life, to express that not in them but in His God was his safety. Habakkuk purposely widens it. He appeals to God, not only as Israel's might and upholder, but as the sole Source of all strength, the Supporter of all which is upheld , and so, for the time, of the Chaldaean too. Hence, he continues the simple image: "Thou hast founded him" . "Thou hast made him to stand firm as the foundation of a building;" to reprove or set before those who have sinned against Thee, what they had done. Since then God was the Rock, who had founded them, from Him Alone had they strength; when He should withdraw it, they must fall. How then did they yet abide, who abused the power given them and counted it their own? And this the more, since ...

Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he?
Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil - The prophet repeats his complaint (as troubling thoughts are accustomed to come back, after they have been repelled,), in order to answer it more strongly. All sin is hateful in God's sight, and in His Holy Wisdom He cannot endure to "look toward iniquity." As man turns away from sickening sights, so God's abhorrence of wrong is pictured by His not being able to "look toward it." If He looked toward them, they must perish Psalm 104:32. Light cannot co-exist with darkness, fire with water, heat with cold, deformity with beauty, foulness with sweetness, nor is sin compatible with the Presence of God, except as its Judge and punisher. Thou canst not look. There is an entire contradiction between God and unholiness. And yet,

Wherefore lookest thou upon - viewest, as in Thy full sight make the contrast stronger. God cannot endure "to look toward" (אל) iniquity, and yet He does not only this, but beholdeth it, contemplateth it, and still is silent), yea, as it would seem, with favor , bestowing upon them the goods of this life, honor, glory, children, riches, as the Psalmist saith Psalm 73:12; "Behold these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world, they increase in riches?" Why lookest thou upon "them that deal treacherously, holdest Thy tongue," puttest restraint , as it were, upon Thyself and Thine own attribute of Justice, "when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he?" Psalm 143:2 "in God's sight no man living can be justified;" and, in one sense, Sodom and Gomorrah were less unrighteous than Jerusalem, and Matthew 10:15; Matthew 11:24; Mark 6:11; Luke 10:12 "it shall be more tolerable for them in the day of Judgment," because they sinned against less light; yet the actual sins of the Chaldee were greater than those of Jerusalem, and Satan's evil is greater than that of these who are his prey.

To say that Judah was more righteous than the Chaldaean does not imply any righteousness of the Chaldaean, as the saying that (Jeremiah 31:11, Del.) "God ransomed Jacob from the hand of one stronger than he," does not imply any strength remaining to Israel. Then, also, in all the general judgments of God, the righteous too suffer in this world, whence Abraham intercedes for Sodom, if there were but ten righteous in it; lest Genesis 18:23 "the righteous be destroyed with the wicked." Hence, God also spared Nineveh in part as having Jonah 4:11 "more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand," i. e., good from evil. No times were more full of sin than those before the destruction of Jerusalem, yet the fury of the Assassins fell upon the innocent. And so the words, like the voice of the souls under the Altar Revelation 6:10, become the cry of the Church at all times against the oppressing world, and of the blood of the martyrs from Abel to the end, "Lord, how long?" And in that the word "righteous" signifies both "one righteous man," and the whole class or generation of the righteous, it speaks both of Christ the Head and of all His members in whom (as by Saul) He was persecuted. The wicked also includes all persecutors, both those who executed the Lord Christ, and those who brought His servants before judgment-seats, and who blasphemed His Name James 2:6-7, and caused many to blaspheme, and killed those whom they could not compel. And God, all the while, seemeth to look away and not to regard.

And makest men as the fishes of the sea, as the creeping things, that have no ruler over them?
And makest men as the fishes of the sea - mute, helpless, in a stormy, restless element, no cry heard, but themselves swept away in shoals, with no power to resist.

As the creeping things - whether of the land (as it is mostly used), or the sea Psalm 104:25. Either way, it is a contemptuous name for the lowest of either.

That have no ruler over them - none to guide, order, protect them, and so a picture of man deprived of the care and providence of God.

They take up all of them with the angle, they catch them in their net, and gather them in their drag: therefore they rejoice and are glad.
They take up all of them - (literally "he taketh up all of it") the whole race as though it were one,

With an angle; they catch them - literally, he sweepeth it away

In their (his) net - One fisherman is singled out who partly by wiles (as by the bait of "an angle"), partly by violence (the net or drag) sweeps away and gathers as his own the whole kind. Nebuchadnezzar and the Chaldaeans are herein a faint image of Satan, who casts out his baits and his nets in the stormy sea of this life, taking some by individual craft, sweeping others in whole masses, to do evil; and whoso hath no ruler, and will not have Christ to reign over him Luke 19:4, he allures, hurries, drags away as his prey. Jerome: "Adam clave to his hook, and he drew him forth out of Paradise with his net; and covered him with his drags, his varied and manifold deceits and guiles. And "by one many became sinners," and in Adam we 'all died,' and all saints afterward were with him alike cast out of Paradise. And because he deceived the first man, he ceaseth not daily to slay the whole human race."

Therefore they sacrifice unto their net, and burn incense unto their drag; because by them their portion is fat, and their meat plenteous.
Therefore they sacrifice unto their net, and burn incense unto their drag - literally he sacrifices unto his, etc. Whatever a man trusts in is his god. If a man relies to compass his end by his strength, or his wisdom, or his forethought, or his wealth, his armies or navies, these his forces are his God. So the Assyrian said Isaiah 10:13, Isaiah 10:15, "By the strength of my hand I did it; and by my wisdom, for I am prudent;" and God answered, "Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith?" The coarse forms of idolatry only embody outwardly the deep inward idolatry of the corrupt human mind. The idol is Ezekiel 14:4 "set up in the heart" first. There have not indeed been lacking savage nations, who in very deed worshiped their arms ; those of old worshiped spears as immortal gods ; Even now we are told of some North American Indians "who designate their bow and arrow as the only beneficent deities whom they know."

Among the civilized Romans, the worship of the eagles, their standards to whom they did sacrifice , was no other nor better. The inward idolatry is only a more subtle form of the same sin, the evil spirit which shapes itself in the outward show. Here the idolatry of self is meant, which did not join creatures with God as objects of worship; but denying, Him in practice or misbelief, became aged to itself . So Habakkuk had said, this his strength is his God. His idol was himself.

Because by them their portion is fat, and their meat plenteous - literally, is in the English margin, well-fed). All the choicest things of the world stood at his command, as Nebuchadnezzar boasted (Daniel 4:30, compare 22), and all the kingdoms of the world and their glory, all the knowledge and wisdom and learning of the world, and the whole world itself, were Satan's lawful prey Luke 4:6; John 12:31; Isaiah 49:24 Cyril: "Nebuchadnezzar, as by a hook and meshes and line, swept into his own land both Israel himself and other nations, encompassing them. Satan, as it were, by one line and net, that of sin, enclosed all, and Israel especially, on account of his impiety to Christ. "His food was choice." For Israel was chosen above the rest, as from a holy root, that of the fathers, and having the "law as a schoolmaster," and being called to the knowledge of the one true God. Yet he, having this glory and grace, was taken with the rest. They became his prey by error; but Israel, knowing Him who is by nature God, in an ungodly manner, slaying Him who was by nature His Begotten Son and who came as Man, were taken in his nets."

Shall they therefore empty their net, and not spare continually to slay the nations?
Shall they therefore empty their net, and not spare continually to slay the nations? - The prophet, like Isaiah Isa 18:4-5, stands at the very last point, before the fury and desire of the enemy was fulfilled. People, like fish, were gathered together for a prey; he who had taken them was rejoicing and exulting beforehand in his booty; his portion and meat were the choice of the earth; the prophet leeks on, as it were, and beholds the net full; there is but one step more; "Shall he empty it? Shall he then devour those whom he has caught? and so cast his emptied net again unceasingly, pitilessly, to slay the nations?" This question he answers in the next chapter - A Deliverer will come!

Notes on the Bible by Albert Barnes [1834].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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