Habakkuk 1:3
Why do you show me iniquity, and cause me to behold grievance? for spoiling and violence are before me: and there are that raise up strife and contention.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(3) Why dost thou shew me iniquity? . . .—Better, Why dost thou show me distress and look upon grievance; oppression and violence are before me; and there is strife, and contention exalts itself.” The question, “Why dost thou . . . look upon grievance?” is illustrated by Habakkuk 1:13, “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil.” Grievance, or “trouble wilfully caused.” Heb. âmâl, associated again with âven, a term of similar import, in Psalm 10:7; Psalm 55:11.

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.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.

3. cause me to behold grievance—Maurer denies that the Hebrew verb is ever active; he translates, "(Wherefore) dost Thou behold (without doing aught to check) grievance?" The context favors English Version.

there are that raise up strife and contention—so Calvin. But Maurer, not so well, translates, "There is strife, and contention raises itself."

Why dost thou show me? it is a most unpleasing sight, and that which troubles me and every good man, to see unjust and injurious men without control, and unpunished, to act their iniquity; and yet, O God, thou not only permittest it to be done, but to be done in sight, and to the grief of thy servants: thus God showeth it, and it is not without just cause, though the cause be hidden.

Iniquity; men of iniquity and vanity, unrighteous toward men, and vain in their thoughts and practices of religion toward God.

And cause me to behold: this explains the former. Grievance: so it is in regard of the effect it hath upon beholders, and such as suffer by this iniquity; it is grief and sorrow to them, it is a grievance they groan under.

For spoiling, such as wasteth, and undoeth them that fall under it,

and violence, perverting judgment, and turning it into wormwood; or else it is a Hebraism, spoiling and violence, that is, most violent robbing and spoiling each other.

Are before me; every where I see it, to the breaking of mine heart.

There are that raise up strife; or, and there is strife, that is, little else but strife among men, occasioned by these oppressive practices.

And contention: so it will be a Hebraism, expressing endless contentions. It would bear, and judgment is taken away, which suits the next verse.

Why dost thou show me? it is a most unpleasing sight, and that which troubles me and every good man, to see unjust and injurious men without control, and unpunished, to act their iniquity; and yet, O God, thou not only permittest it to be done, but to be done in sight, and to the grief of thy servants: thus God showeth it, and it is not without just cause, though the cause be hidden.

Iniquity; men of iniquity and vanity, unrighteous toward men, and vain in their thoughts and practices of religion toward God.

And cause me to behold: this explains the former. Grievance: so it is in regard of the effect it hath upon beholders, and such as suffer by this iniquity; it is grief and sorrow to them, it is a grievance they groan under.

For spoiling, such as wasteth, and undoeth them that fall under it,

and violence, perverting judgment, and turning it into wormwood; or else it is a Hebraism, spoiling and violence, that is, most violent robbing and spoiling each other.

Are before me; every where I see it, to the breaking of mine heart.

There are that raise up strife; or, and there is strife, that is, little else but strife among men, occasioned by these oppressive practices.

And contention: so it will be a Hebraism, expressing endless contentions. It would bear, and judgment is taken away, which suits the next verse. Why dost thou show me iniquity, and cause me to behold grievance?.... That is, wicked men, and such as give a great deal of trouble vexation, and grief to others, by their rapine and oppression; suggesting that he could not turn his eyes any where, but such persons presented themselves to his view; and that their wicked actions were performed by them openly and publicly, in the sight of all, without any shame or fear. So the Targum,

"why do I see oppressors, and behold those that do the labour of falsehood?''

For spoiling and violence are before me; in my sight and presence, though a prophet, and notwithstanding all my remonstrances, exhortations, and reproofs; such were the hardness, obstinacy, and impudence of this people; to such a height and pitch of iniquity were they arrived, as to regard not the prophets of the Lord. The Targum is,

"spoilers and robbers are before me:''

or, "against me" (q), as in the text; these sins were committed against him, he was injuriously used himself; or they were done to others, contrary to his advice and persuasion:

and there are that raise up strife and contention; in the kingdom, in cities, in families; in one man, brother, friend, and neighbour, against another; which occasion lawsuits, and in them justice is not done, as follows. It may be rendered, and "there shall be and is a man of strife"; so Japhet: "and he shall raise up contention"; one man given to strife will and does use great contention in communities, civil and religious.

(q) "contra me", Pagninus, Montanus; "e regione mei", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Tarnovius.

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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
3. shew me iniquity] cause me to see iniquity. God by His interposition might have checked the iniquity; by His refraining the continuance of it is virtually due to Him. One thing pains the prophet—that he has to behold iniquity; and another perplexes him—that God, the Righteous One, brings him into such a trial, or leaves him in it. The Hebrew mind was the more profoundly agitated by the moral anomalies in the world, because it could not help ascribing them directly to God, Who was the immediate cause of all things. The feeling is often expressed in Job, e.g. Job 23:16-17.

The term “iniquity” is used both of physical evil, “affliction” (Jeremiah 4:14; Job 5:6), and moral evil, “wickedness”; here of the latter, as generally, e.g. in the common phrase “workers of iniquity.”

cause me to behold grievance] and dost look upon trouble. The term grievance or trouble (Habakkuk 1:13 R.V. perverseness), properly “labour,” toil, has also the double sense of misery, pain, sorrow, travail (Isaiah 53:11), or mischief, wrongdoing (Psalm 7:15; Psalm 94:20; Isaiah 59:4). The latter half of the verse “spoiling and violence” is in favour of understanding all the terms not so much of evils suffered as of evils inflicted. The prophet is perplexed because God looks on unconcerned when men perpetrate wrong.

spoiling and violence are before me] The words again combined, Jeremiah 6:7; Jeremiah 20:8; Ezekiel 45:9; Amos 3:10. The term “spoiling” means violent mishandling when used of a person, destruction or devastation when said of a thing. Isaiah 13:6; Job 5:21-22; Hosea 7:13; Psalm 12:6. With “before me” comp. Jeremiah 6:7.

there are that raise up strife] Rather as R.V.: and there is strife, and contention riseth up (for Heb. constr. cf. Psalm 89:9). This is the condition of things that has come about and prevails. The terms “strife” and “contention” certainly suggest animosities between members of the same community rather than injuries inflicted on a subject people by their conquerors. The conquerors of Israel did not mix among the inhabitants or interfere with individual persons, they merely demanded political subjection and tribute, and the latter they collected not from the people but from their rulers. Comp. the use of the two words in Jeremiah 15:10.Verse 3. - Why dost thou show me - Why dost thou let me see daily with my own eyes - iniquity abounding, the very evil which Balaam says (Numbers 23:21) the Lord had not found in Israel? Cause me to behold grievance. This should be, Dost thou look upon perverseness? He asks how God can look on this evil and leave it unpunished. The LXX. and the Vulgate translate the word amal "trouble," or "labour;" Keil, "distress." In this case it means the trouble and distress which a man inflicts on others, as wrong doing seems to be generally spoken cf. Spoiling and violence are before me. "Spoiling" is robbery that causes desolation. "Violence" is conduct that wrongs one's neighbour. The two words are often joined; e.g. Jeremiah 6:7; Amos 3:10. Vulgate, praedam et injustitiam. These are continually coming before the prophet's eyes. There are that raise up strife and contention; better, there is strife, and contention is raised. This refers to the abuse of the Law by grasping, quarrelsome nobles. Septuagint, "Against me judgment hath gone, and the judge receiveth bribes." So the Syriac and Arabic. The Vulgate gives, Factum est judicium, et contradictio potentior, where judicium is used in a bad sense. This judicial interposition on the part of God is occasioned by the sin of Israel. Micah 1:5. "For the apostasy of Jacob (is) all this, and for the sins of the house of Israel. Who is Jacob's apostasy? is it not Samaria? And who Judah's high places? is it not Jerusalem? Micah 1:6. Therefore I make Samaria into a stone-heap of the field, into plantations of vines; and I pour her stones into the valley, and I will lay bare her foundations. Micah 1:7. And all her stone images will be beaten to pieces, and all her lovers' gifts be burned with fire, and all her idols will I make into a waste: for she has gathered them of prostitute's hire, and to prostitute's hire shall they return." "All this" refers to the coming of Jehovah to judgment announced in Micah 1:3, Micah 1:4. This takes place on account of the apostasy and the sins of Israel. ב (for) used to denote reward or wages, as in 2 Samuel 3:27 compared with 2 Samuel 3:30. Jacob and Israel in Micah 1:5 are synonymous, signifying the whole of the covenant nation, as we may see from the fact that in Micah 1:5 Jacob and not Israel is the epithet applied to the ten tribes in distinction from Judah. מי, who? - referring to the author. The apostasy of Israel originates with Samaria; the worship on the high places with Jerusalem. The capitals of the two kingdoms are the authors of the apostasy, as the centres and sources of the corruption which has spread from them over the kingdoms. The allusion to the bâmōth of the illegal worship of the high places, which even the most godly kings were unable to abolish (see at 1 Kings 15:14), shows, moreover, that פּשׁע denotes that religious apostasy from Jehovah which was formally sanctioned in the kingdom of the ten tribes by the introduction of the calf-worship. But because this apostasy commenced in the kingdom of the ten tribes, the punishment would fall upon this kingdom first, and Samaria would be utterly destroyed. Stone-heaps of the field and vineyard plantations harmonize badly, in Hitzig's view: he therefore proposes to alter the text. But there is no necessity for this. The point of comparison is simply that Samaria will be so destroyed, that not a single trace of a city will be left, and the site thereof will become like a ploughed field or plain. השּׂדה is added to עי, a heap of ruins or stones, to strengthen it. Samaria shall become like a heap, not of ruins of building stones, but of stones collected from the field. למטּעי כרם, i.e., into arable land upon which you can plant vineyards. The figure answers to the situation of Samaria upon a hill in a very fruitful region, which was well adapted for planting vineyards (see at Amos 3:9). The situation of the city helps to explain the casting of its stones into the valley. Laying bare the foundations denotes destruction to the very foundation (cf. Psalm 137:7). On the destruction of the city all its idols will be annihilated. Pesı̄lı̄m, idols, as in Isaiah 10:10; not wooden idols, however, to which the expression yukkattū, smitten to pieces, would not apply, but stone idols, from pâsal (Exodus 34:1). By the lovers' gifts ('ethnân, see at Hosea 9:1) we are to understand, not "the riches of the city or their possessions, inasmuch as the idolaters regarded their wealth and prosperity as a reward from their gods, according to Hosea 2:7, Hosea 2:14" (Rashi, Hitzig, and others), but the temple gifts, "gifts suspended in the temples and sacred places in honour of the gods" (Rosenmller), by which the temple worship with its apparatus were maintained; so that by 'ethnân we may understand the entire apparatus of religious worship. For the parallelism of the clauses requires that the word should be restricted to this. עצבּים are also idolatrous images. "To make them into a waste," i.e., not only to divest them of their ornament, but so utterly to destroy them that the place where they once stood becomes waste. The next clause, containing the reason, must not be restricted to the ‛ătsabbı̄m, as Hitzig supposes, but refers to the two clauses of the first hemistich, so that pesı̄lı̄m and ‛ătsabbı̄m are to be supplied as objects to qibbâtsâh (she gathered), and to be regarded as the subject to yâshūbhū (shall return). Samaria gathered together the entire apparatus of her idolatrous worship from prostitute's gifts (the wages of prostitution), namely, through gifts presented by the idolaters. The acquisition of all this is described as the gain of prostitute's wages, according to the scriptural view that idolatry was spiritual whoredom. There is no ground for thinking of literal wages of prostitution, or money which flowed into the temples from the voluptuous worship of Aphrodite, because Micah had in his mind not literal (heathenish) idolatry, but simply the transformation of the Jehovah-worship into idolatry by the worship of Jehovah under the symbols of the golden calves. These things return back to the wagers of prostitution, i.e., they become this once more (cf. Genesis 3:19) by being carried away by the enemies, who conquer the city and destroy it, and being applied to their idolatrous worship. On the capture of cities, the idols and temple treasures were carried away (cf. Isaiah 46:1-2; Daniel 1:3).
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