Habakkuk 2:6
Shall not all these take up a parable against him, and a taunting proverb against him, and say, Woe to him that increases that which is not his! how long? and to him that lades himself with thick clay!
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(6-20) The destruction of the Chaldæans has hitherto been only implied. It is now plainly foretold in a denunciatory song, put into the mouths of the invader’s victims. In this song there are five strophes, of three verses each, 6-8; 9-11; 12-14; 15-17; 18-20.

(6-8) Woe on the reckless rapacity which has spared neither life nor property.

(6) How long?i.e., how long shall this continual annexation be witnessed?

That ladeth himself with thick clay.—Better, That accumulates to himself usury. So the Targum. The rendering “thick clay” originates in a false etymology of the word abtêt, which the student will find in Rashi’s Commentary. For the true derivation see Fürst’s Lexicon.

Habakkuk 2:6. Shall not these take up a parable against (or, concerning) him, and a taunting proverb — A parable, or proverb, signifies a metaphorical or figurative saying, out of the common way. And say, Wo to him that increaseth, &c. — Wo to him that is still increasing his own dominions, by invading those of his neighbours. How long? — Namely, will he be permitted to do this? Surely he will not be suffered to continue to act thus, without some remarkable check from Providence: and so what he thus increases will not be his, or for himself, (for so the words in the former part of the sentence may be translated,) but for the Medes and Persians, who shall conquer him, and enrich themselves with his spoils: see the following verse. And to him that ladeth himself with thick clay — Gold and silver, so called, being nothing originally but earth, or clay, and what should not turn to his benefit, but rather be his burden; adding weight to his sins and punishment.2:5-14 The prophet reads the doom of all proud and oppressive powers that bear hard upon God's people. The lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, are the entangling snares of men; and we find him that led Israel captive, himself led captive by each of these. No more of what we have is to be reckoned ours, than what we come honestly by. Riches are but clay, thick clay; what are gold and silver but white and yellow earth? Those who travel through thick clay, are hindered and dirtied in their journey; so are those who go through the world in the midst of abundance of wealth. And what fools are those that burden themselves with continual care about it; with a great deal of guilt in getting, saving, and spending it, and with a heavy account which they must give another day! They overload themselves with this thick clay, and so sink themselves down into destruction and perdition. See what will be the end hereof; what is gotten by violence from others, others shall take away by violence. Covetousness brings disquiet and uneasiness into a family; he that is greedy of gain troubles his own house; what is worse, it brings the curse of God upon all the affairs of it. There is a lawful gain, which, by the blessing of God, may be a comfort to a house; but what is got by fraud and injustice, will bring poverty and ruin upon a family. Yet that is not the worst; Thou hast sinned against thine own soul, hast endangered it. Those who wrong their neighbours, do much greater wrong to their own souls. If the sinner thinks he has managed his frauds and violence with art and contrivance, the riches and possessions he heaped together will witness against him. There are not greater drudges in the world than those who are slaves to mere wordly pursuits. And what comes of it? They find themselves disappointed of it, and disappointed in it; they will own it is worse than vanity, it is vexation of spirit. By staining and sinking earthly glory, God manifests and magnifies his own glory, and fills the earth with the knowledge of it, as plentifully as waters cover the sea, which are deep, and spread far and wide.Shall not all these take up a parable against him, and a taunting proverb against him? - Nebuchadnezzar gathered, Daniel 3:4-5, "all people, nations, and languages, to worship the golden image which he had set up." The second Babylon, pagan Rome, sought to blot out the very Christian Name; but mightier were the three children than the King of Babylon; mightier, virgins, martyrs, and children than Nero or Decius. These shall rejoice over Babylon, that, Revelation 18:20, "God hath avenged them on her."

Woe to him that increaseth that which is not his! - Truly wealth ill-gotten by fraud or oppression, "is not his," who winneth it, before he had it, nor when he hath it, but a woe. It is not his; the woe is his. "Woe unto him." He shall have no joy in what he gaineth, and what he hath he shall lose.

How long? - What is the measure of thine impiety and greediness and cruelty? Yet if these are like hell, without measure, there remains another "How long?" How long will the forbearance of God endure thee, which thou art daily exhausting?

This is then the end of all. The conqueror sweeps to him "all nations" and gathereth to him "all peoples." To what end? As one vast choir in one terrible varied chant of all those thousand thousand voices, to sing a dirge over him of the judgments of God which his ill-doings to them should bring upon him, a fivefold Woe, woe, woe, woe, woe! Woe for its rapacity! Woe for its covetousness! Woe for its oppression! Woe for its insolence to the conquered! Woe to it in its rebellion against God! It is a more measured rhythm than any besides in Holy Scripture; each of the fivefold woes comprised in three verses, four of them closing with the ground, because, for. The opening words carry the mind back to the fuller picture of Isaiah. But Isaiah sees Babylon as already overthrown; Habakkuk pronounces the words upon it, not by name, but as certainly to come, upon it and every like enemy of God's kingdom. With each such fall, unto the end of all things, the glory of God is increased and made known. Having, for their own ends, been unconscious and even unwilling promoters of God's end, they, when they had accomplished it, are themselves flung away. The pride of human ambition, when successful, boasts "woe to the conquered." Since "whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth," the ungodly saying of the pagan is reversed, and it stands, "Man sympathizes with the conquering side, God with the conquered." It is a terrible thought that people should have been the instruments of God, that they should, through ambition or other ends short of God, have promoted His ends which they thought not of, and then should be "weighed in the balance and found wanting," and themselves be flung away.

Cyr: "Gentiles also departed from their worship under Satan, and having deserted him who aforetime called them, ran unto Christ. For Satan gathered what was not his; but Christ received what was His. For, as God, He is Lord of all."

And to him that ladeth himself with thick clay - It is the character of these proverbs to say much in few words, sometimes in one, and more than appears. So the word translated "thick-clay," as if it were two words, in another way means in an intensive sense, "a strong deep pledge." At best gold and silver are, as they have been called, red and white earth. Bern. Serm. 4. in Adv: "What are gold and silver but red and white earth, which the error of man alone maketh, or accounteth precious? What are gems, but stones of the earth? What silk, but webs of worms?" These he "maketh heavy upon" or "against himself" (so the words strictly mean). "For He weigheth himself down with thick clay, who, by avarice multiplying earthly things, hems himself in by the oppressiveness of his own sin, imprisons and, as it were, buries the soul, and heaps up sin as he heaps up wealth." With toil they gather what is not worthless only, but is a burden upon the soul, weighing it down that it should not rise Heavenwards, but should be bowed down to Hell. And so in that other sense while, as a hard usurer, he heaps up the pledges of these whom he oppresses and impoverishes, and seems to increase his wealth, he does in truth "increase against himself a strong pledge," whereby not others are debtors to him, but he is a debtor to Almighty God who careth for the oppressed Jeremiah 17:11 "He that gathereth riches had not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days and at his end shall be a fool."

6. Shall not all these—the "nations" and "peoples" (Hab 2:5) "heaped unto him" by the Chaldean.

take up a parable—a derisive song. Habakkuk follows Isaiah (Isa 14:4) and Micah (Mic 2:4) in the phraseology.

against him—when dislodged from his former eminence.

Woe—The "derisive song" here begins, and continues to the end of the chapter. It is a symmetrical whole, and consists of five stanzas, the first three consisting of three verses each, the fourth of four verses, and the last of two. Each stanza has its own subject, and all except the last begin with "Woe"; and all have a closing verse introduced with "for," "because," or "but."

how long?—how long destined to retain his ill-gotten gains? But for a short time, as his fall now proves [Maurer]. "Covetousness is the greatest bane to men. For they who invade others' goods, often lose even their own" [Menander]. Calvin makes "how long?" to be the cry of those groaning under the Chaldean oppression while it still lasted: How long shall such oppression be permitted to continue? But it is plainly part of the derisive song, after the Chaldean tyranny had passed away.

ladeth himself with thick clay—namely, gold and silver dug out of the "clay," of which they are a part. The covetous man in heaping them together is only lading himself with a clay burden, as he dares not enjoy them, and is always anxious about them. Lee and Fuller translate the Hebrew as a reduplicated single noun, and not two words, "an accumulation of pledges" (De 24:10-13). The Chaldean is compared to a harsh usurer, and his ill-gotten treasures to heaps of pledges in the hands of a usurer.

Shall not? the prediction is moulded thus in a question, to give it emphasis, and make it more affective.

All these, who have been oppressed, contumeliously used, and perfidiously deceived; all the people who have feared the power and policy of Babylon.

Take up a parable; turn him and his state into a by-word and scorn.

Against him; the king of Babylon, awhile since the terror, now the scorn of nations.

Taunting; short, but smart, wounding scoffs; and whereas men usually bewail and condole the mishaps of great, brave, and just kings or kingdoms, all people shall exult and triumph in the miseries of this oppressive, luxurious, and base kingdom.

Woe! either it is a threat of like vengeance on all such transgressors, or it may be a publishing the miseries come upon Babylon.

To him that increaseth; by rapine, frauds, and injurious dealings multiplieth his treasures, as the king of Babylon did.

Not his; it was not his though he had it; it was not his right though it was in his possession. Or else thus, one misery of the Babylonians shall be, they increase wealth, but not for themselves, but for the Medes and Persians.

How long? this seems to be the sigh of the oppressed, who think it long ere the oppressor fall.

To him that ladeth himself; woe to him that is a burden to others, while he burdens himself with amassed treasures gathered by extortion and grievous, unjust taxes!

With thick clay; gold and silver, so called to lower the over-value of them, and perhaps to mind the tyrant of a clay-bed. Shall not all these take up a parable against him,.... A proverbial expression, a short sentence, a laconic speech, delivered in a few words, which contains much in them concerning the vices of these emperors, and imprecating judgments upon them for them; took up and expressed by the nations brought into subjection unto them, and especially by the Christians in those nations spoiled and persecuted by them:

and a taunting proverb against him; or, "whose explanation are riddles to him" (y); the proverb, when explained, would be a riddle to him, which he could not understand, nor would give any credit to; taking it not to belong to him or them, and in which they had no concern; though afterwards would find they had, to their great mortification:

and say, Woe to him that increaseth that which is not his! substance or goods, not his own, as the Targum explains it; which they had no right unto, nor property in, but were another's; and therefore guilty of great injustice in taking it from them, and might justly expect vengeance would pursue them for it; such were the goods they spoiled the Christians of for not worshipping their idols, and for professing and abiding by the Christian religion:

how long? that is, how long shall they go on increasing their substance by such unjust and unlawful methods? how long shall they keep that which they have so unjustly got? this suggests as if it was a long time, which, as Cocceius observes, does not so well agree with the Babylonian as the Roman empire, which stood much longer:

and to him that ladeth himself with thick clay: such is gold and silver, no other than yellow and white dust and dirt; and may be called clay, because dug out of the earth, as that; and as clay is defiling, so are gold and silver, when ill gotten, or ill used, or the heart set too much upon them; and as that is very ponderous and troublesome to carry, so an abundance of riches bring much care with them, and often are very troublesome to the owners of them, and frequently hinder their sleep, rest, and ease; and as clay when it sticks to the heels hinders walking, so riches, when the affections are too much set on them, are great obstacles in the way of true religion and godliness; hence our Lord observes, "how hard it is them, that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God", Mark 10:24 they are even a weight, a clog to good men. The phrase seems to point at the meanness of them, as well as the hurt that sometimes comes by them, and the contempt they should be had in, in comparison of the true riches; hence, agreeable to this way of speaking, a good man Drusius makes mention of used to call gold "yellow earth": and a certain Greek writer (z) says gold is ashes, and so is silver. The word used is a compound; and, as Kimchi observes, signifies an abundance of riches; but our countryman Mr. Fuller (a) chooses rather to render it an "abundance of pledges"; and thinks it has respect to the many pledges which the person here spoken of, by whom he supposes is meant the Babylonian monarch, had in an unjust manner took of several nations, and heaped up like an usurer; and which should in due time be taken from him, by those whom he had plundered of them: but this expresses the greedy desire of the Romans after money, as well as the unlawful methods they took to acquire wealth, and the vast sums they became masters of, so that they were even loaded with it; but, getting it in an unrighteous manner, it brought the curses and imprecations of the people upon them, especially those they defrauded of it. Joseph Kimchi, as his son David observes, interprets it,

"he shall make thick clay lie heavy on his grave;''

and it was a custom with the Romans, as Drusius (b) relates, that when one imprecated evil upon another, he used to wish a heavy load of earth upon him, that is, when he was dead; as, on the contrary, when one was wished well after death, it was desired he might have a light earth upon him: so Julian the emperor, speaking of Constantius, says (c),

"when he is become happy, or departs out of this life, may the earth be light upon him;''

which is wishing all felicity, and freedom from punishment; whereas the contrary, to have a load of earth or thick clay, is an imprecation of the heaviest punishment.

(y) "et interpretationem aenigmata ei", Drusius, Burkius; "et interpretatio erit aenigmata ipsi", Cocceius; "cujus explicatio illi erit aenigmatum loco", Van Till. (z) , , Naumachius apud Grotium in loc. (a) Miscel. Sacr. l. 5. c. 8. (b) Observat. l. 15. c. 18. (c) Epist. Hermogeni, Ephesians 23. p. 141.

Shall not all these take up a parable against him, and a taunting proverb against him, and say, Woe to him that increaseth that which is not his! {f} how long? and to him that ladeth himself with thick clay!

(f) Signifying that all the world will wish the destruction of tyrants, and that by their oppression and covetousness, they heap but upon themselves more heavy burdens: for the more they get, the more are they troubled.

6–8. First woe: the Chaldean lust of conquest

6. Shall not all these] i.e. all the nations whom he has drawn into his net, and heaped together as his own possession.

take up a parable] The word may mean originally a saying containing a comparison or similitude; in a wider sense, a figurative speech or song. For the phrase “take up a parable” cf. Numbers 23:7; Numbers 23:18; Job 27:1.

taunting proverb against him] Or, in regard to him. Taunting proverb is lit. an enigma, riddles, Proverbs 1:6; Psalm 49:4; Daniel 8:23. Both words suggest a song or poem with concealed taunting allusions.

increaseth that which is not his] The reference is to his insatiable lust of conquest and robbery of the nations.

that ladeth himself with thick clay] and that ladeth himself with pledges. That which he compels the nations to give him or takes from them by force is compared to pledges which he heaps up upon himself. The day will come when their restitution shall be exacted of him. Job 20:10; Job 20:15; Job 20:20. The rendering “thick clay” is obtained by taking the word “pledges” as a compound; cf. Exodus 19:9, thick cloud.

6–20. Five woes pronounced against the Chaldean From the mouth of the nations whom he has desolated

Habakkuk 2:5 does not belong to the vision Habakkuk 2:4, but forms the transition to the taunting proverb taken up against the Chaldean by the nations. This proverb is in the form of a prophecy in which woes are pronounced on the lust of conquest, rapacity, selfish pride and idolatry of the people, and their ruin is predicted, for their vices carry in them their own recompense. The woes are five in number, beginning with Habakkuk 2:6; Habakkuk 2:9; Habakkuk 2:12; Habakkuk 2:15; Habakkuk 2:18. Though the nations take up the woes, as the passage proceeds the prophet himself appears to speak.Verses 6-8. - § 8. The destruction of the Babylonians is announced by the mouth of the vanquished nations, who utter five woes against their oppressor. The first woe: for their rapacity. Verse 6. - All these. All the nations and peoples who have been subjugated and barbarously treated by the Babylonians (comp. Isaiah 14:4). A parable. A sententious song (see note on Micah 2:4). A taunting proverb. The Anglican Version combines the two Hebrew words, which stand unconnected, into one notion. So the Vulgate, loquelam aenigmatum. The latter of the two generally means "riddle," "enigma;" the other word (melitzah) is by some translated, "a derisive satirical song," or "an obscure, dark saying;" but, as Keil and Delitzsch have shown, is better understood of a bright, clear, brilliant speech. So the two terms signify "a speech containing enigmas," or a song which has double or ambiguous meanings (comp. Proverbs 1:6). Septuagint, Πρόβλημα εἰς διήγησις, αὐτοῦ. Woe (Nahum 3:1). This is the first of the five "woes," which consist of three verses each, arranged in strophical form. Increaseth that which is not his. He continues to add to his conquests and possessions, which are not his, because they are acquired by injustice and violence. This is the first denunciation of the Chaldeans for their insatiable rapacity. How long? The question comes in interjectionally - How long is this state of things to continue unpunished (comp. Psalm 6:3; Psalm 90:13)? That ladeth himself with thick clay; Septuagint, βαρύνων τὸν κλοιὸν αὐτοῦ στιβαρῶς, "who loadeth his yoke heavily;" Vulgate, aggravat contra se densum lutum. The renderings of the Anglican and Latin Versions signify that the riches and spoils with which the conquerors load themselves are no more than burdens of clay, which are in themselves worthless, and only harass the bearers. The Greek Version seems to point to the weight of the yoke imposed by the Chaldeans on them; but Jerome explains it differently, "Ad hoc tantum saevit ut devoret et iniquitatis et praedarum onere quasi gravissima torque se deprimat." The difficulty lies in the ἄπαξ λεγόμενον αβτιτ, which forms an enigma, or dark saying, because, taken as two words, it might pass current for "thick clay," or "a mass of dirt," while regarded as one word it means "a mass of pledges," "many pledges." That the latter is the signification primarily intended is the view of many modern commentators, who explain the clause thus: The quantity of treasure and booty amassed by the Chaldeans is regarded as a mass of pledges taken from the conquered nations a burden of debt to be discharged one day with heavy retribution. Pusey, "He does in truth increase against himself a strong pledge, whereby not others are debtors to him, but he is a debtor to Almighty God, who careth for the oppressed (Jeremiah 17:11)." Such conduct as this must be followed by banishment from the land. Micah 2:10. "Rise up, and go; for this is not the place of rest: because of the defilement which brings destruction, and mighty destruction. Micah 2:11. If there were a man, walking after wind, who would lie deceit, 'I will prophesy to thee of wine and strong drink,' he would be a prophet of this people." The prophet having overthrown in Micah 2:7-9 the objection to his threatening prophecies, by pointing to the sins of the people, now repeats the announcement of punishment, and that in the form of a summons to go out of the land into captivity, because the land cannot bear the defilement consequent upon such abominations. The passage is based upon the idea contained in Leviticus 18:25, Leviticus 18:28, that the land is defiled by the sins of its inhabitants, and will vomit them out because of this defilement, in connection with such passages as Deuteronomy 12:9-10, where coming to Canaan is described as coming to rest. זאת (this) refers to the land. This (the land in which ye dwell) is not the place of rest (hammenūchâh, as in Zechariah 9:1 and Psalm 132:14). If "this" were to be taken as referring to their sinful conduct, in the sense of "this does not bring or cause rest," it would be difficult to connect it with what follows, viz., "because of the defilement;" whereas no difficulty arises if we take "this" as referring to the land, which the expression "rise up and go" naturally suggests. טמאה equals טמאה, defilement; תּחבּל is to be taken in a relative sense, "which brings destruction," and is strengthened by לחבל, with an explanatory ו: and indeed terrible destruction. חבל, perditio; and נמרץ as in 1 Kings 2:8. The destruction consists in the fact that the land vomits out its inhabitants (Leviticus 18:25). Such prophecies are very unwelcome to the corrupt great men, because they do not want to hear the truth, but simply what flatters their wicked heart. They would like to have only prophets who prophesy lies to them. הולך רוּח, walking after the wind; the construction is the same as הולך צדקות in Isaiah 33:15, and rūăch is a figure signifying what is vain or worthless, as in Isaiah 26:18; Isaiah 41:29, etc. The words אטּיף לך וגו are the words of a false prophet: I prophesy to thee with regard to wine. The meaning is not "that there will be an abundant supply of wine," or "that the wine will turn out well" (Rosenmller and others); but wine and strong drink (for shēkhâr, see Delitzsch on Isaiah 5:11) are figures used to denote earthly blessings and sensual enjoyments, and the words refer to such promises as Leviticus 26:4-5, Leviticus 26:10, Deuteronomy 28:4, Deuteronomy 28:11, Joel 2:24; Joel 3:18., which false prophets held out to the people without any regard to their attitude towards God. "This people," because the great men represent the nation. With this explanation pointing back to Micah 2:6, the threatening is brought to a close.
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