Habakkuk 1:10
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.
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(10) Kings and princes are deposed or enthroned at the invader’s pleasure. Thus Nebuchadnezzar set Jehoiakim as a tributary sovereign on the throne of Jerusalem and three years later deposed his son and successor Jehciaohin and made Zedekiah king.

For they shall heap dust, and take it.—This means that they shall besiege and carry all strongholds by means of the mounds of earth commonly used in sieges. These mounds were employed either to place the besieger on a level with the besieged, and so facilitate the operations of siege engines, or to form an inclined plane, up which the besieger might march his men, and so take the place by escalade. We find they were used by the Egyptians (Ezekiel 17:17) and the Assyrians (2Kings 19:32), as well as by the Babylonians (Jeremiah 6:6, and passim). They are mentioned as employed by the Spartan king Archidamus in the celebrated siege of Platæa in B.C. 429 (Thucydides, lib. 2). In the present passage the term “dust” is used to indicate these mounds of earth, as expressing the contemptuous ease with which the invader effects his capture of strongholds.

Habakkuk 1:10-11. And they shall scoff at the kings, &c. — The Hebrew use the singular number here, (He shall scoff, &c.,) as well as in the following verse, and it is to be understood of the king of Babylon, who treated the kings he conquered with scorn and contempt: so he used Zedekiah and his princes. They shall deride every strong hold — They shall contemn, or count as nothing, the most strongly fortified places. They shall heap dust and take it — They shall cast up mounds against them, and so take them. Then shall his mind change, and he shall pass over — Rather, And shall pass over, (without the personal pronoun he,) that is, his mind shall change, and pass beyond the bounds of moderation. By this and the next clause, imputing this his power unto his god, was foretold that the king of Babylon should be made arrogant by his victories, and should impute them to the power of the false gods he worshipped. This was remarkably true of Belshazzar, Nebuchadnezzar’s successor, who, with his thousand lords, when he was drinking wine in the golden and silver vessels taken out of God’s temple, and was thereby triumphing over Jehovah and his people, praised the gods of gold and silver, &c., as the authors of their successes and victories. It was also remarkably verified in Nebuchadnezzar himself, who, as we find from Daniel 3., cast three otherwise innocent persons, and faithful to him, into a furnace of fire, because they would not fall down before the idol which he had set up. But Grotius, and many others, interpret the latter part of the verse thus: Saying this his strength is his god; that is, imputing all his success to his own skill and prowess; a sense of the words which answers remarkably to the character of Nebuchadnezzar, as given in the book of Daniel: see chapter Daniel 3:17, and Daniel 4:30, and Daniel 5:20. Probably the extraordinary insanity which befell Nebuchadnezzar, as the punishment of his pride and arrogance, might be also here intended in the first clause of this verse, which in the Hebrew is, Then shall his spirit change and pass over, &c. Here, then, is a remarkable proof of what the psalmist says, namely, that God understandeth our thoughts afar off: for here the alteration that should in after times be made in Nebuchadnezzar’s mind by his prosperity is expressly foretold, together with the punishment that should follow upon it.

1:1-11 The servants of the Lord are deeply afflicted by seeing ungodliness and violence prevail; especially among those who profess the truth. No man scrupled doing wrong to his neighbour. We should long to remove to the world where holiness and love reign for ever, and no violence shall be before us. God has good reasons for his long-suffering towards bad men, and the rebukes of good men. The day will come when the cry of sin will be heard against those that do wrong, and the cry of prayer for those that suffer wrong. They were to notice what was going forward among the heathen by the Chaldeans, and to consider themselves a nation to be scourged by them. But most men presume on continued prosperity, or that calamities will not come in their days. They are a bitter and hasty nation, fierce, cruel, and bearing down all before them. They shall overcome all that oppose them. But it is a great offence, and the common offence of proud people, to take glory to themselves. The closing words give a glimpse of comfort.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."

10. scoff at … kings—as unable to resist them.

they shall heap dust, and take it—"they shall heap" earth mounds outside, and so "take every stronghold" (compare 2Sa 20:15; 2Ki 19:32) [Grotius].

They, both the king of Babylon and his soldiers, shall scoff, deride and contemn,

at the kings, which either confederated with the Jews, or else opposed the designs of the Chaldeans; as the kings of Egypt, of Tyre, &c.; or the kings of the Jews, as Jehoiachin and Zedekiah.

The princes, governors, counsellors, valiant commanders, and officers, shall be a scorn unto them, to the whole army of the Chaldeans.

They shall heap dust, and take it; by mighty mounts cast up, or by filling up the trenches about your cities and fortresses, shall master them.

And they shall scoff at the kings,.... Or, "he shall" (u), Nebuchadnezzar king of the Chaldeans, and the army with him; who would make a jest of kings and their armies that should oppose them, as being not at all a match for them; as the kings of Judah, Jehoiakim and Zedekiah, they carried captive, and all others confederate with them, in whom they trusted, as the king of Egypt particularly; and which is observed to show the vanity of trusting in princes for safety; though it may also include all other kings the Chaldeans fought against, and the kingdoms they invaded and subdued:

and the princes shall be a scorn unto them; the nobles, counsellors, and ministers of state; or leaders and commanders of armies, and general officers, in whom great confidence is often put; but these the king of Babylon and his forces would mock and laugh at, as being nothing in their hands, and who would fall an easy prey to them:

they shall deride every strong hold; in Jerusalem, in the whole land of Judea, and in every other country they invade, or pass through, none being able to stand out against them:

for they shall heap dust, and take it; easily, as it were in sport, only by raising a dust heap, or a heap of dirt; by which is meant a mount raised up to give them a little rise, to throw in their darts or stones, or use their engines and battering rams to more advantage, and to scale the walls, and get possession. There are two other senses mentioned by Kimchi; as that they shall gather a great number of people as dust, and take it; or they shall gather dust to till up the trenches and ditches about the wall, that so they may come at it, and take it.

(u) "et ipse", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Drusius, Tarnovius, Grotius, Cocceius.

And they shall scoff at the kings, and the princes shall be a scorn to them: they shall deride every strong hold; for they shall heap {h} dust, and take it.

(h) They will cast up mounds against it.

10. shall scoff at the kings] he scoffeth at kings. The Chaldean is referred to. All the verbs in the verse should be in the present: are a scorn, he derideth, he heapeth up.

shall heap dust] he heapeth up. The phrase refers to the dykes or “mounts” which the besiegers cast up in order to be on a level with the walls of the besieged fortress and command them, 2 Samuel 20:15; Jeremiah 32:24. The ease and rapidity of the Chaldean operations is forcibly expressed. Nothing can withstand their impetuosity. Kings with their armies who might oppose them, and fortresses which might arrest their progress, they laugh at.

Verse 10. - And they shall scoff, etc.; it, or he, scoffeth at kings. The Chaldean nation makes light of the power and persons of kings. Compare Nebuchadnezzar's treatment of Jehoiakim (2 Chronicles 36:6; 2 Kings 24:1, 3; Jeremiah 22:19) and Jehoiachin (2 Kings 24:12, 15). They shall deride every strong hold. The strongest fortress is no impediment to them. They shall heap dust. This refers to the raising of a mound or embankment for the purpose of attacking a city (comp. 2 Samuel 20:15; 2 Kings 19:32; 2 Kings 25:1). In the Assyrian monuments one often sees representations of these mounds, or of inclined planes constructed to facilitate the approach of the battering ram (see Bonomi, 'Nineveh and its Palaces,' pp. 181, 188, etc.; Layard, 'Nineveh,' etc., 2:369). Habakkuk 1:10Announcement of this work. - Habakkuk 1:6. "For, behold, I cause the Chaldaeans to rise up, the fierce and vehement nation, which marches along the breadths of the earth, to take possession of dwelling-places that are not its own. Habakkuk 1:7. It is alarming and fearful: its right and its eminence go forth from it. Habakkuk 1:8. And its horses are swifter than leopards, and more sudden than evening wolves: and its horsemen spring along; and its horsemen, they come from afar; they fly hither, hastening like an eagle to devour. Habakkuk 1:9. It comes all at once for wickedness; the endeavour of their faces is directed forwards, and it gathers prisoners together like sand. Habakkuk 1:10. And it, kings it scoffs at, and princes are laughter to it; it laughs at every stronghold, and heaps up sand, and takes it. Habakkuk 1:11. Then it passes along, a wind, and comes hither and offends: this its strength is its god." הנני מקים, ecce suscitaturus sum. הנּה before the participle always refers to the future. הקים, to cause to stand up or appear, does not apply to the elevation of the Chaldaeans into a nation or a conquering people, - for the picture which follows and is defined by the article הגּויו וגו presupposes that it already exists as a conquering people, - but to its being raised up against Judah, so that it is equivalent to מקים עליכם in Amos 6:14 (cf. Micah 5:4; 2 Samuel 12:11, etc.). Hakkasdı̄m, the Chaldaeans, sprang, according to Genesis 22:22, from Kesed the son of Nahor, the brother of Abraham; so that they were a Semitic race. They dwelt from time immemorial in Babylonia or Mesopotamia, and are called a primeval people, gōI mē‛ōlâm, in Jeremiah 5:15. Abram migrated to Canaan from Ur of the Chaldees, from the other side of the river (Euphrates: Genesis 11:28, Genesis 11:31, compared with Joshua 24:2); and the Kasdı̄m in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel are inhabitants of Babel or Babylonia (Isaiah 43:14; Isaiah 47:1; Isaiah 48:14, Isaiah 48:20; Jeremiah 21:9; Jeremiah 32:4, Jeremiah 32:24, etc.; Ezekiel 23:23). Babylonia is called 'erets Kasdı̄m (Jeremiah 24:5; Jeremiah 25:12; Ezekiel 12:13), or simply Kasdı̄m (Jeremiah 50:10; Jeremiah 51:24, Jeremiah 51:35; Ezekiel 26:29; Ezekiel 23:16). The modern hypothesis, that the Chaldaeans were first of all transplanted by the Assyrians from the northern border mountains of Armenia, Media, and Assyria to Babylonia, and that having settled there, they afterwards grew into a cultivated people, and as a conquering nation exerted great influence in the history of the world, simply rests upon a most precarious interpretation of an obscure passage in Isaiah (Isaiah 23:18), and has no higher value than the opinion of the latest Assyriologists that the Chaldaeans are a people of Tatar origin, who mingled with the Shemites of the countries bordering upon the Euphrates and Tigris (see Delitzsch on Isaiah 23:13). Habakkuk describes this people as mar, bitter, or rough, and, when used to denote a disposition, fierce (mar nephesh, Judges 18:25; 2 Samuel 17:8); and nimhâr, heedless or rash (Isaiah 32:4), here violent, and as moving along the breadths of the earth (ἑπὶ τὰ πλάτη τῆς γῆς, lxx: cf. Revelation 20:9), i.e., marching through the whole extent of the earth (Isaiah 8:8): terram quam late patet (Ros.). ל is not used here to denote the direction or the goal, but the space, as in Genesis 13:17 (Hitzig, Delitzsch). To take possession of dwelling-laces that are not his own (לא־לו equals אשׁר לא־לו), i.e., to take possession of foreign lands that do not belong to him. In Habakkuk 1:7 the fierce disposition of this people is still further depicted, and in Habakkuk 1:8 the violence with which it advances. אים, formidabilis, exciting terror; נורא, metuendus, creating alarm. ממּנּוּ וגו, from it, not from God (cf. Psalm 17:2), does its right proceed, i.e., it determines right, and the rule of its conduct, according to its own standard; and שׂאתו, its eminence (Genesis 49:3; Hosea 13:1), "its δόξα (1 Corinthians 11:7) above all other nations" (Hitzig), making itself lord through the might of its arms. Its horses are lighter, i.e., swifter of foot, than panthers, which spring with the greatest rapidity upon their prey (for proofs of the swiftness of the panther, see Bochart, Hieroz. ii. p. 104, ed. Ros.), and חדּוּ, lit., sharper, i.e., shooting sharply upon it. As qâlal represents swiftness as a light rapid movement, which hardly touches the ground, so châda, ὀξὺν εἶναι, describes it as a hasty precipitate dash upon a certain object (Delitzsch). The first clause of this verse has been repeated by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 4:13), with the alteration of one letter (viz., מנּשׁרים for מנּמרים). Wolves of the evening (cf. Zephaniah 3:3) are wolves which go out in the evening in search of prey, after having fasted through the day, not "wolves of Arabia (ערב equals ערב, lxx) or of the desert" (ערבה Kimchi).

Pâshū from pūsh, after the Arabic fâš, med. Ye, to strut proudly; when used of a horse and its rider, to spring along, to gallop; or of a calf, to hop or jump (Jeremiah 50:11; Malachi 4:2). The connection between this and pūsh (Nahum 3:18), niphal to disperse or scatter one's self, is questionable. Delitzsch (on Job 35:15) derives pūsh in this verse and the passage cited from Arab. fâš, med. Vav, in the sense of swimming upon the top, and apparently traces pūsh in Nahum 3, as well as pash in Job 35:15, to Arab. fšš (when used of water: to overflow its dam); whilst Freytag (in the Lexicon) gives, as the meaning of Arab. fšš II, dissolvit, dissipavit. Pârâshı̄m are horsemen, not riding-horses. The repetition of פּרשׁיו does not warrant our erasing the words וּפשׁוּ פּרשׁיו as a gloss, as Hitzig proposes. It can be explained very simply from the fact, that in the second hemistich Habakkuk passes from the general description of the Chaldaeans to a picture of their invasion of Judah. מרחוק , from afar, i.e., from Babylonia (cf. Isaiah 39:3). Their coming from afar, and the comparison of the rushing along of the Chaldaean horsemen to the flight of an eagle, points to the threat in Deuteronomy 28:49, "Jehovah shall bring against thee a nation from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth," which is now about to be fulfilled. Jeremiah frequently uses the same comparison when speaking of the Chaldaeans, viz., in Jeremiah 4:13; Jeremiah 48:40; Jeremiah 49:22, and Lamentations 4:19 (cf. 2 Samuel 1:23). The ἁπ. λεγ. מגמּה may mean a horde or crowd, after the Hebrew גם werbeH , and the Arabic jammah, or snorting, endeavouring, striving, after Arab. jmm and jâm, appetivit, in which case גמם would be connected with גמא, to swallow. But the first meaning does not suit פּניהם קדימה, whereas the second does. קדימה, not eastwards, but according to the primary meaning of קדם, to the front, forwards. Ewald renders it incorrectly: "the striving of their face is to storm, i.e., to mischief;" for qâdı̄m, the east wind, when used in the sense of storm, is a figurative expression for that which is vain and worthless (Hosea 12:2; cf. Job 15:2), but not for mischief. For ויּאסף, compare Genesis 41:49 and Zechariah 9:3; and for כּחול, like sand of the sea, Hosea 2:1. In Habakkuk 1:10 והוּא and הוּא are introduced, that the words בּמּלכים and לכל־מבצר, upon which the emphasis lies, may be placed first. It, the Chaldaean nation, scoffs at kings and princes, and every stronghold, i.e., it ridicules all the resistance that kings and princes offer to its advance, by putting forth their strength, as a perfectly fruitless attempt. Mischâq, the object of laughter. The words, it heaps up dust and takes it (the fortress), express the facility with which every fortress is conquered by it. To heap up dust: denoting the casting up an embankment for attack (2 Samuel 20:15, etc.). The feminine suffix attached to ילכּדהּ refers ad sensum to the idea of a city (עיר), implied in מבצר, the latter being equivalent to עיר מבצר in 1 Samuel 6:18; 2 Kings 3:19, etc. Thus will the Chaldaean continue incessantly to overthrow kings and conquer kingdoms with tempestuous rapidity, till he offends, by deifying his own power. With this gentle hint at the termination of his tyranny, the announcement of the judgment closes in Habakkuk 1:11. אז, there, i.e., in this appearance of his, as depicted in Habakkuk 1:6-10 : not "then," in which case Habakkuk 1:11 would affirm to what further enterprises the Chaldaeans would proceed after their rapidly and easily effected conquests. The perfects חלף and ויּעבור are used prophetically, representing the future as occurring already. חלף and עבר are used synonymously: to pass along and go further, used of the wind or tempest, as in Isaiah 21:1; here, as in Isaiah 8:8, of the hostile army overflowing the land; with this difference, however, that in Isaiah it is thought of as a stream of water, whereas here it is thought of as a tempest sweeping over the land. The subject to châlaph is not rūăch, but the Chaldaean (הוּא, Habakkuk 1:10); and rūăch is used appositionally, to denote the manner in which it passes along, viz., "like a tempestuous wind" (rūăch as in Job 30:15; Isaiah 7:2). ואשׁם is not a participle, but a perfect with Vav rel., expressing the consequence, "and so he offends." In what way is stated in the last clause, in which זוּ does not answer to the relative אשׁר, in the sense of "he whose power," but is placed demonstratively before the noun כּחו, like זה in Exodus 32:1; Joshua 9:12-13, and Isaiah 23:13 (cf. Ewald, 293, b), pointing back to the strength of the Chaldaean, which has been previously depicted in its intensive and extensive greatness (Delitzsch). This its power is god to it, i.e., it makes it into its god (for the thought, compare Job 12:6, and the words of the Assyrian in Isaiah 10:13). The ordinary explanation of the first hemistich is, on the other hand, untenable (then its courage becomes young again, or grows), since רוּח cannot stand for רוּחו, and עבר without an object given in the context cannot mean to overstep, i.e., to go beyond the proper measure.

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