Habakkuk 1:5
Behold you among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvelously: for I will work a work in your days which you will not believe, though it be told you.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(5-11) Jehovah’s answer to Habakkuk’s complaint. These disorders are to be punished by an invasion of Chaldæaus. The appearance, character, and operations of these invaders are described.

(5) Among the heathen.—These words are emphatic. They imply—Jehovah will no longer manifest Himself among His chosen people, but among the Gentiles. Let them look abroad, and they shall see Him using the Chaldæans as His instrument for their own chastisement. They are to “wonder,” not at God’s choice of an agent, but at the consequences of the visitation, which resulted in the sack of the Temple, and the deportation of 10,000 captives; a work which the Jews might well not have credited, though it were told them. The words “among the heathen” (bag-gôyim) were, probably, misread by the LXX. translators bôgdîm. Hence the translation, Καταϕρονηταί, “ye despisers.” In Acts 13:41 St. Paul is represented as citing the verse in its LXX. form, as a warning to his Jewish hearers at Antioch. This citation, of course, gives no authority whatever to the variant. Nor is it certain that St. Paul did not actually quote the Hebrew form of the verse, which would seem more appropriate to the circumstances than the other. (Comp. Acts 13:42; Acts 13:46 seq.). That St. Luke should substitute the Greek variant is intelligible enough.

Habakkuk 1:5. Behold, &c. — For a punishment of such exorbitant practices, behold, God is about to make the heathen the instruments of his vengeance. Ye among the heathen, and regard — Consider and weigh it well, in its nature and consequences; for it is intended as a warning to you, and assures you that judgment will overtake you also. And wonder marvellously — As astonished at judgments too great to be described, and so strange that they will appear to many, even of God’s professing people, to be incredible. For I will work a work, &c., which ye will not believe — The judgment shall be such, as you despisers of God’s word will not believe to be coming upon you. These words are referred to, and indeed quoted, by St. Paul, Acts 13:41; not, however, according to the Hebrew text, but the translation of the LXX., who, instead of בגוים, begoim, among the heathen, seem to have read בגדום, begadim, despisers, or perfidious persons. This reading of the LXX. is preferred by Grotius, because, he observes, “God addresses the Jews who were despisers of his deity.”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.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.

5. Behold … marvellously … a work—(Compare Isa 29:14). Quoted by Paul (Ac 13:41).

among the heathen—In Ac 13:41, "ye despisers," from the Septuagint. So the Syriac and Arabic versions; perhaps from a different Hebrew reading. In the English Version reading of Habakkuk, God, in reply to the prophet's expostulation, addresses the Jews as about to be punished, "Behold ye among the heathen (with whom ye deserve to be classed, and by whom ye shall be punished, as despisers; the sense implied, which Paul expresses): learn from them what ye refused to learn from Me!" For "wonder marvellously," Paul, in Ac 13:41, has, "wonder and perish," which gives the sense, not the literal wording, of the Hebrew, "Wonder, wonder," that is, be overwhelmed in wonder. The despisers are to be given up to their own stupefaction, and so perish. The Israelite unbelievers would not credit the prophecy as to the fearfulness of the destruction to be wrought by the Chaldeans, nor afterwards the deliverance promised from that nation. So analogously, in Paul's day, the Jews would not credit the judgment coming on them by the Romans, nor the salvation proclaimed through Jesus. Thus the same Scripture applied to both.

ye will not believe, though it be told you—that is, ye will not believe now that I foretell it.

Behold ye: here God begins to answer the prophet, and calls for a very particular and exact consideration of the thing; see and ponder.

Among the heathen; what judgments, what punishments have been executed upon the heathen, for like sins.

Regard; weigh it well in all its tendency and consequence, for it is a warning to you, it assures you judgment will overtake you also. Wonder marvellously; as astonished at judgments, too great to be expressed in words, and so strange that it will seem too much to be believed.

For I, the great and glorious God, the just and supreme Judge,

will work a work; begin, continue, and finish a work; a work I am working, a work of equal severity and justice.

In your days; it shall no more be deferred, Ezekiel 7:5, &c.

Ye will not believe; you wicked violent oppressors will not believe, though the Lord by his prophets foretell it.

Told you; described how, and by whom, and when.

Behold ye: here God begins to answer the prophet, and calls for a very particular and exact consideration of the thing; see and ponder.

Among the heathen; what judgments, what punishments have been executed upon the heathen, for like sins.

Regard; weigh it well in all its tendency and consequence, for it is a warning to you, it assures you judgment will overtake you also. Wonder marvellously; as astonished at judgments, too great to be expressed in words, and so strange that it will seem too much to be believed.

For I, the great and glorious God, the just and supreme Judge,

will work a work; begin, continue, and finish a work; a work I am working, a work of equal severity and justice.

In your days; it shall no more be deferred, Ezekiel 7:5, &c.

Ye will not believe; you wicked violent oppressors will not believe, though the Lord by his prophets foretell it.

Told you; described how, and by whom, and when. Behold ye among the heathen, and regard,.... This is the Lord's answer to the prophet's complaint, or what he directs him to say to the Jews, guilty of the crimes complained of, which should not go long unpunished; and who are called upon to look around them, and see what was doing among the nations; how the king of Babylon had overturned the Assyrian empire, and was going from place to place, subduing one nation after another, and their turn would be quickly: for these words are not addressed to the heathen, to stir them up to observe what was doing, or about to be done, to the Jews; but to the Jews themselves, to consider and regard the operations of the Lord, and the works of his providence among the nations of the earth. These words are differently rendered in the Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic versions, and which better agree with the quotation of them by the apostle; see Gill on Acts 13:41,

and wonder marvellously; or "wonder, wonder" (s); the word is repeated, to express the great admiration there would be found just reason for, on consideration of what was now doing in the world, and would be done, especially in Judea:

for I will work a work in your days, which ye will not believe, though it be told you; which was the destruction of the Jewish nation, city, and temple, by the Chaldeans, as is evident from the following words; and, though they were the instruments of it, it was the work of divine Providence; it was done according to the will of God, and by his direction, he giving success; and, being thus declared, was a certain thing, and might be depended on, nothing should hinder it; and it should be done speedily, in that generation, some then living should see it; though the thing was so amazing and incredible, that they would not believe it ever would be; partly because the Chaldeans were their good friends and allies, as they thought, as appears by Josiah's going out against the king of Egypt, when he was marching his army against the king of Babylon; and partly because they were the covenant people of God, and would never be abandoned and given up by him into the hands of another people; and therefore, when they were told of it by the prophets of the Lord, especially by Jeremiah, time after time; who expressly said the king of Babylon would come against them, and they would be delivered into the hands of the Chaldeans; yet they would give no credit to it, till their ruin came upon them, as may be observed in various parts of his prophecy. The apostle quotes this passage in the place above mentioned, and applies it to the destruction of the Jews by the Romans, for their contemptuous rejection of the Messiah and his Gospel; which yet they would not believe to the last, though it was foretold by Christ and his apostles.

(s) "et admiramini, admiramini", Vatablus, Drusius, Burkius.

Behold ye among the nations, and regard, and wonder marvellously: for I will work a work in your days, which {d} ye will not believe, though it be told you.

(d) As in times past you would not believe God's word, so you will not now believe the strange plagues which are at hand.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
5. behold ye among the heathen] among the nations. For “among the nations” Sept. read “ye despisers” (bgdm for bgym), and part of the phrase “wonder marvellously” they translated “and perish.” With this translation the “despisers” addressed are the wrongdoers of Habakkuk 1:1-4.

I will work a work] R.V. marg. one worketh a work, a construction equivalent to the pass., a work is wrought; Isaiah 21:11 “one calleth unto me out of Seir.” This is not very natural. Though the omission of pron. “I” is perhaps without parallel, A.V. is more probable. So Sept. The rendering he worketh would be more according to usage, but the connexion with Habakkuk 1:6 is then broken.

ye will not believe] Perhaps: ye would not believe though it were told you, i.e. in other circumstances—unless you saw it.

5–11. The answer of God to the Prophet’s complaint

The wrongs complained of will bring their punishment. The Lord raiseth up the Chaldeans, a bitter and hasty nation. They are irresistible; they laugh at kings, and fortresses they heap up dust and take.Verses 5-11. - § 3. To this appeal answers that he will send the Chaldeans to punish the evil doers with a terrible vengeance; but rinse, his instruments, shall themselves offend by pride and impiety. Verse 5. - Behold ye among the heathen; the nations. God, in answer, bids the prophet and his people look among the nations for those who shall punish the iniquities of which he complains. I will use a heathen nation, he says, as my instrument to chastise the sinners in Judaea; and you shall see that I have not disregarded the evil that is rife among you. Some commentators suppose that the impious are addressed; but Habakkuk spoke in the name and person of the righteous, and to them the answer must be directed. The LXX, gives, Ιδετε, οἱ καταφρονηταί, "Behold, ye despisers," which is justifiable. St. Paul quotes the Greek Version, Acts 13:41, in his sermon at Antioch in the Jewish synagogue, warning those who despised the gospel This was sufficiently close to the Hebrew for his purpose. And regard, and wonder marvellously. They are to wonder because the work is as terrible as it is unexpected. The LXX. (quoted by St. Paul, loc. cit.) adds, καὶ ἀφανίσθητε, "and perish," or rather, "be stupefied by astonishment," die of amazement. I will work; I work. The pronoun is not expressed, but must be supplied from ver. 6. It is God who sends the avengers. In your days. The prophet had asked (ver. 2), "How long?" The answer is that those now living should see the chastisement (see Introduction, § III.). Which ye will not believe. If ye heard of it as happening elsewhere, ye would not give credit to it; the punishment itself and its executors are both unexpected (comp. Lamentations 4:12). The judgment will not stop at Samaria, however, but spread over Judah. The prophet depicts this by saying that he will go about mourning as a prisoner, to set forth the misery that will come upon Judah (Micah 1:8, Micah 1:9); and then, to confirm this, he announces to a series of cities the fate awaiting them, or rather awaiting the kingdom, by a continued play upon words founded upon their names (Micah 1:10-15); and finally he summons Zion to deep mourning (Micah 1:16). Micah 1:8. "Therefore will I lament and howl, I will go spoiled and naked: I will keep lamentation like the jackals, and mourning like the ostriches. Micah 1:9. For her stripes are malignant; for it comes to Judah, reaches to the gate of my people, to Jerusalem." על־זאת points back to what precedes, and is then explained in Micah 1:9. The prophet will lament over the destruction of Samaria, because the judgment which has befallen this city will come upon Judah also. Micah does not speak in his own name here as a patriot (Hitzig), but in the name of his nation, with which he identifies himself as being a member thereof. This is indisputably evident from the expression אילכה שׁילל וערום, which describes the costume of a prisoner, not that of a mourner. The form אילכה with י appears to have been simply suggested by אילילה. שׁילל is formed like הידד in Isaiah 16:9-10, and other similar words (see Olshausen, Gramm. p. 342). The Masoretes have substituted שׁלל, after Job 12:17, but without the slightest reason. It does not mean "barefooted," ἀνυπόδετος (lxx), for which there was already יחף in the language (2 Samuel 15:30; Isaiah 20:2-3; Jeremiah 2:25), but plundered, spoiled. ערום, naked, i.e., without upper garment (see my comm. on 1 Samuel 19:24), not merely vestitu solido et decente privatus. Mourners do indeed go barefooted (yâchēph, see 2 Samuel 15:30), and in deep mourning in a hairy garment (saq, 2 Samuel 3:31; Genesis 37:34, etc.), but not plundered and naked. The assertion, however, that a man was called ̀ârōm when he had put on a mourning garment (saq, sackcloth) in the place of his upper garment, derives no support from Isaiah 20:2, but rather a refutation. For there the prophet does not go about ‛ârōm veyâchēph, i.e., in the dress of a prisoner, to symbolize the captivity of Egypt, till after he has loosened the hairy garment (saq) from his loins, i.e., taken it off. And here also the plundering of the prophet and his walking naked are to be understood in the same way. Micah's intention is not only to exhibit publicly his mourning fore the approaching calamity of Judah, but also to set forth in a symbolical form the fate that awaits the Judaeans. And he can only do this by including himself in the nation, and exhibiting the fate of the nation in his own person. Wailing like jackals and ostriches is a loud, strong, mournful cry, those animals being distinguished by a mournful wail; see the comm. on Job 30:29, which passage may possibly have floated before the prophet's mind. Thus shall Judah wail, because the stroke which falls upon Samaria is a malignant, i.e., incurable (the suffix attached to מכּותיה refers to Shōmerōn, Samaria, in Micah 1:6 and Micah 1:7. For the singular of the predicate before a subject in the plural, see Ewald, 295, a, and 317, a). It reaches to Judah, yea, to Jerusalem. Jerusalem, as the capital, is called the "gate of my people," because in it par excellence the people went out and in. That עד is not exclusive here, but inclusive, embracing the terminus ad quem, is evident from the parallel "even to Judah;" for if it only reached to the border of Judah, it would not have been able to come to Jerusalem; and still more clearly so from the description in Micah 1:10. The fact that Jerusalem is not mentioned till after Judah is to be interpreted rhetorically, and not geographically. Even the capital, where the temple of Jehovah stood, would not be spared.
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