Habakkuk 2:18
What profits the graven image that the maker thereof has graven it; the molten image, and a teacher of lies, that the maker of his work trusts therein, to make dumb idols?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(18-20) Woe on him who neglects Jehovah to worship dumb idols of his own making.

(18) A teacher of lies.—Not the false prophet, but the idol itself, as pointing out false ways in opposition to God, the teacher of truth.

That the maker . . .—Better, that he who frames his image trusts in it, so as to make dumb idols. Dumb nothings is, perhaps, the literal translation of elîlîm illmîm, and the words are chosen for their similarity of sound.

Habakkuk 2:18-19. What profiteth the graven image — The last sin that the prophet takes notice of, for which God would execute his judgments upon Babylon, is idolatry. Compare Jeremiah 50:2; and Jeremiah 51:44; Jeremiah 51:47. But what he says was not intended to be confined to Nebuchadnezzar and the idols of Babylon: it is equally applicable to idols in general. What will they avail their worshippers in the day of danger, and when the Lord ariseth to take vengeance on them? The molten image, and a teacher of lies — Rather, a molten image, teaching lies. This was a very proper epithet for the image of an idol; because the worshippers of them thought that a deity, or a divine power, resided in them, when there was no such thing; and that God was like the work of men’s hands. That the maker of his work trusteth therein — Or, that the maker trusteth in his work; that any one should be so unreasonable and foolish as to trust in that as a god which he has made and fashioned with his own hands! To make him dumb idols — Which have mouths and speak not; which can neither hear nor answer his prayers, nor do him good or harm. Behold, it is laid over with gold and silver — They are beautified with a great deal of cost, on purpose to delude their ignorant worshippers, and make them fancy some divinity lodges within them. And there is no breath at all, &c. — They are altogether without life, sense, and motion.2:15-20 A severe woe is pronounced against drunkenness; it is very fearful against all who are guilty of drunkenness at any time, and in any place, from the stately palace to the paltry ale-house. To give one drink who is in want, who is thirsty and poor, or a weary traveller, or ready to perish, is charity; but to give a neighbour drink, that he may expose himself, may disclose secret concerns, or be drawn into a bad bargain, or for any such purpose, this is wickedness. To be guilty of this sin, to take pleasure in it, is to do what we can towards the murder both of soul and body. There is woe to him, and punishment answering to the sin. The folly of worshipping idols is exposed. The Lord is in his holy temple in heaven, where we have access to him in the way he has appointed. May we welcome his salvation, and worship him in his earthly temples, through Christ Jesus, and by the influence of the Holy Spirit.What profiteth - (Hath profited) הועיל מה. Samuel warned them, "Serve the Lord with all your heart, and turn ye not aside; for (it would be) after vanities which will not profit nor deliver for they are vain:" and Jeremiah tells their past; "their prophets prophesied by Baal; and after things יועילי לא which profit not, have they gone." Elsewhere the idol is spoken of as a thing "which will not profit" (future) "My people hath changed its glory יועיל בלא for that which profiteth not," Jeremiah 2:8, Jeremiah 2:11. So Isaiah, "Who hath formed a god, הועיל לבלתי not to profit." Isaiah 44:9.10. "The makers of a graven image are all of them vanity, and their desirable things יועילו בל will not profit."

The graven image, that the maker therefore hath graven it? - What did Baal and Ashtaroth profit you? What availed it ever but to draw down the wrath of God? Even so neither shall it profit the Chaldaean. As their idols availed them not, so neither need they fear them. Sennacherib and Nebuchadnezzar were propagandists of their own belief and would destroy, if they could, all other worship, false or true : Nebuchadnezzar is thought to have set up his own image Daniel 3. Antichrist will set himself up as God 2 Thessalonians 2:4; Revelation 13:15-17. We may take warning at least by our own sins. If we had no profit at all from them, neither will the like profit others. the Jews did, in the main, learn this in their captivity.

The molten image and teacher of lies - It is all one whether by "teacher of lies" we understand the idol , or its priest . For its priest gave it its voice, as its maker created its form. It could only seem to teach through the idol-priest. Isaiah used the title "teacher of lies," of the false prophet Isaiah 9:14. It is all one. Zechariah combines them Zechariah 10:2; "The teraphim have spoken vanity, and the diviners have seen a lie, and have had false dreams."

That the maker of his work trusteth therein - This was the special folly of idolatry. The thing made must needs he inferior to its maker. It was one of the corruptions of idolatry that the maker of his own work should trust in what was wholly his own creation, what, not God, but himself created, what had nothing but what it had from himself . He uses the very words which express the relation of man to God, "the Framer" and "the thing framed." Isaiah 29:16, "O your perverseness! Shall the framer be accounted as clay, theft the thing made should say of its Maker, He made me not, and the thing framed say of its Framer, He hath no hands?" The idol-maker is "the creator of his creature," of his god whom he worships. Again the idol-maker makes "dumb idols" (literally, "dumb nothings") in themselves nothings, and having no power out of themselves; and what is uttered in their name, are but lies. And what else are man's idols of wealth, honor, fame, which he makes to himself, the creatures of his own hands or mind, their greatness existing chiefly in his own imagination before which he bows down himself, who is the image of God?

18. The powerlessness of the idols to save Babylon from its doom is a fitting introduction to the last stanza (Hab 2:19), which, as the former four, begins with "Woe."

teacher of lies—its priests and prophets uttering lying oracles, as if from it.

make dumb idols—Though men can "make" idols, they cannot make them speak.

Here the prophet removes the confidences of Babylon; she would boast of her gods, and depend on them, but this will be vain and unprofitable, it is not imaginable that these idols should help these persons.

The graven image; carved in wood, or stone, for of such materials did these idolmakers sometimes make their gods.

The maker: it is brutish folly in any one to value, or desire to be helped, by such lifeless idols, but it is greatest folly for him that makes the image, that remember how it was hewed, plead, tumbled about, and all this without the least degree of sense or feeling of what it suffered; and can that be sensible of my sorrows which feels not any thing itself?

The molten image; idols made of gold or silver, or any other rustle metal, were framed out of the metal first melted, and are therefore called molten images.

A teacher of lies; but whether graven or molten, yet all such images are but teachers of lies, Jeremiah 10:8,14. They withdraw the mind from God, our true and only helper, and bewitch men to trust to idols, in which is no help, which ever proved lies to all that trusted on them.

That the maker; who knows, for he saw that there was no life, strength, or wisdom in one or other; it is shameless in any, but most in him that made the idol, to worship his own work, and rely upon that which he knows hath no eyes, or hands, or ears, but what his tool framed for it.

His work; his own work, and yet his god! the product of his art, and yet the hope of his soul! O brutish folly, self-contradiction!

Trusteth therein; resteth confident of defence, and rescue from evil, by it.

Dumb idols; which neither can answer a question, nor give a direction in a strait; can neither promise good to a friend, nor denounce a threat against an enemy. What profiteth the graven image that the maker thereof hath graven it,.... The graven images the church of Rome enjoins the worship of; the images of the Trinity, of Christ, of the Virgin Mary, of angels and saints departed, and which are still continued since the Reformation; but of what profit and advantage are they? they may be profitable to the graver, who is paid for graving them; and the metal or matters of which they are made, if sold, and converted to another use, may turn to account; but as deities, and worshipped as such, they are of no profit to them that worship them; they can not hear their prayers, nor answer them; can not bestow any favours on them, and deliver them out of any distress; and particularly can not save them from the judgments before denounced:

the molten image, and a teacher of lies: nor is a molten image any ways profitable, which is made of liquid matter, gold or silver melted and poured into a mould, from whence it receives its form: it may be profitable to the founder, and the metal to the owner, if put to another use; but, as a god, is of no service; and both the graven and molten image, the one and the other, each of then is "a teacher of lies", and so unprofitable; if they are laymen's books, as they are said to be, they do not teach them truth; they do not teach them what God is in his nature and perfections; what Christ is in his person and offices; what angels are, who are incorporeal; nor the saints, they neither describe the shape and features of their body, nor express their characters, minds, or manners; they teach men to believe lies, and to worship false deities, as they are. So the Targum renders it, a false deity; which imposes on men, and therefore cannot profit them: or this may be understood of an idolatrous priest, as Aben Ezra; as the idol itself cannot profit, so neither can the priest that teaches men such lies as to worship the idol, and put trust in it:

that the maker of his work trusteth therein, to make dumb idols? or, "whilst making dumb idols" (m); which is great stupidity indeed! that while a man is graving an image, or casting an idol, which are lifeless senseless things, that can neither move nor speak, yea, are his workmanship, yet puts his trust and confidence in them, that they can do him service he needs, help him in distress, and save him out of his troubles; what profit can be expected from these, though ever so nicely framed, when he considers they are of his own framing, and that they are idols, which are nothing in the world, as the word (n) here used signifies; and dumb ones, which can give no answer to the requests of their votaries? The Targum is,

"idols in whom there is no profit.''

(m) "faciendo idola muta", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Vatablus. (n) "dii nihili", Drusius.

What profiteth the graven {p} image that its maker hath engraved it; the molten image, and a teacher of lies, that the maker of his work trusteth in it, to make dumb idols?

(p) He shows that the Babylonian gods could not help them at all, for they were but blocks or stones. See Geneva Jer 10:8

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
18–20. Fifth woe: the irrational idolatries of the Chaldean. Isaiah 19:1; Isaiah 21:918. What profiteth the graven image?] The idea that the idols do not profit, i.e. save or deliver, is often expressed; 1 Samuel 12:21; Isaiah 44:10; Jeremiah 2:8; Jeremiah 2:11; Jeremiah 16:19. Comp. Isaiah 46; Jeremiah 10.

and a teacher of lies] Here the “teacher” is the idol itself, not its priest or prophet as in Isaiah 9:15, because the priest or prophet only expressed the indications or intimations given by the god. These intimations are called “lies,” Zechariah 10:2. The term teacher occurs in the name Oak Moreh (Genesis 12:6), which was probably a “talking oak,” in which a deity resided and from which (whether through its rustling or otherwise, cf. 2 Samuel 5:24) oracles were drawn. Deuteronomy 11:30; cf. Jdg 9:37, the oak of the Meonenim (augurs).Verses 18-20. - 12. The fifth woe: for their idolatry. Verse 18. - The final woe is introduced by an ironical question. The Chaldeans trusted in their gods, and attributed all their success to the divine protection; the prophet asks - What good is this trust? What profiteth the graven image? (comp. Isaiah 44:9, 10; Jeremiah 2:11). What is the good of all the skill and care that the artist has lavished on the idol? (For "graven" or "molten," see note on Nahum 1:14.) And a (even the) teacher of lies. The idol is so termed because it calls itself God and encourages its worshippers in lying delusions, in entire contrast to Jehovah who is Truth. From some variation in reading the LXX. gives, φαντασίαν ψευδῆ, and Jerome, "imaginem falsam" (comp. Jeremiah 10:14). Trusteth therein. The prophet derides the folly which supposes that the idol has powers denied to the man who made it (Isaiah 29:16). Dumb idols; literally, dumb nothings. So 1 Corinthians 12:2, εἴδωλα τὰ ἄφωνα (comp. 1 Corinthians 10:19; Psalm 115:5, etc.). There is a paronomasia in the Hebrew, elilim illemim. Third strophe. - Micah 3:9. "Hear this, I pray, O he heads of the house of Jacob, and princes of the house of Israel, who abhor right, and bend all that is straight. Micah 3:10. Building Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with wickedness. Micah 3:11. Their heads, they judge for reward; and their priests, they teach for hire; and their prophets, they divine for money, and lean upon Jehovah, saying, Is not Jehovah among us? evil will not come upon us." With the words "Hear this, I pray," the address returns to its starting-point in Micah 3:1, but only to announce to the leaders of the people the threat of punishment for which the way has been prepared by Micah 3:2-7. To this end their God-forgetting conduct is briefly summed up once more in Micah 3:10, Micah 3:11. The summons to hear is really attached to the end of Micah 3:8. They are to hear the sin of Jacob (Micah 3:9-11); but they are also to hear the punishment for their sin, to which the word "this" points. The civil rulers only are addressed in Micah 3:9, - namely, those who were charged with the administration of justice and of the affairs of the state, but who did the very opposite, who abhorred justice, and made the straight crooked, because they passed sentence for bribes (Micah 3:11). They thereby build Zion with blood, etc., i.e., obtain the means of erecting splendid buildings by cruel extortions, and partly also by actual judicial murders, as Ahab (1 Kings 21 compared with Micah 6:16), and after him Jehoiakim, had done (Jeremiah 22:13-17). The Chaldeans built with blood in a different sense (Habakkuk 2:12). The participle bōneh (building) is also in apposition to râ'shē bēth (heads of the house, etc.), and the singular without the article is to be taken collectively. They do not, however, truly build the city by this, they simply labour for its destruction (Micah 3:12). But before saying this, Micah once more sums up briefly all the sins of the leading ranks. The teaching of the priests for reward refers to the fact that they had to give instruction as to the ritual requirements of the law, and were to do this gratuitously (cf. Leviticus 10:11; Deuteronomy 17:11; Deuteronomy 33:10), and that in disputed cases the judges were to pronounce sentence accordingly. At the same time, these men (not the prophets merely, but also the priests and the heads of the nation as the administrators of justice) placed their reliance upon Jehovah, upon the assurance that He was in the midst of them enthroned in His temple at Jerusalem, and that He would protect the city and its inhabitants from misfortune, without ever reflecting that Jehovah as the Holy One demands sanctification of life, and exterminates the sinners out of His people.
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