Habakkuk 1:15
The Chaldeans bring all of them up with a hook; they catch them in their net, and gather them in their dragnet; so they are glad and rejoice.
Sermons
Dark Problems and Man's True Attitude in Relation to ThemS.D. Hillman Habakkuk 1:13-15, 17; 2:1-4
Rapacious Selfishness in PowerHomilistHabakkuk 1:14-17
Rapacious Selfishness in PowerD. Thomas Habakkuk 1:14-17
The Baits of SatanS. Baring-Gould, M. A.Habakkuk 1:14-17


And makest men as the fishes of the sea, as the creeping things, that have no ruler over them. They take up all of them with the angle, they catch them in their net, and gather them in their drag: therefore they rejoice and are glad, etc. In Nebuchadnezzar you have rapacious selfishness in power. He is here represented by implication as treating the Jewish people as a fisherman treats the fish in the sea. His aim is to catch them by "angle," "net," and "drag," and turn them to his own vile use. "These figures are not to be interpreted with such speciality as that the net and fishing net answer to the sword and bow; but the hook, the net, and the fishing net, as the things used for catching fish, refer to all the means which the Chaldeans employ in order to subdue and destroy the nations. Luther interprets it correctly. 'These hooks, nets, and fishing nets,' he says 'are nothing more than his great and powerful armies, by which he gained dominion over all lands and people, and brought home to Babylon the goods, jewels, silver and gold, interest and rent of all the world'" (Delitzsch). In these verses we have a specimen of rapacious selfishness in power. Selfishness is the root and essence of sin. All unregenerate men are therefore more or less selfish, and rapacity is an instinct of selfishness. Selfishness hungers for the things of others. Whilst this rapacious selfishness is general, mercifully it is not always in power, otherwise the world would be more of a pandemonium than it is. It is ever tyrannic and ruthless in the measure of its power. Here we find it in the power of an absolute monarchy, and it is terrible to contemplate. Four things are suggested.

I. IT PRACTICALLY IGNORES THE RIGHTS OF MAN AS MAN. "And makest man as the fishes of the sea, as the creeping things, that have no ruler over them." The Babylonian tyrant did not see in the population of Judea men possessing natural endowments, sustaining moral relationships, invested with rights and responsibilities similar to his own fellow men, but merely "fishes;" his object was to catch them and turn them to his own use. It is ever so with selfishness: it blinds man to the claims of his brother. What does the selfish landlord care for the man in the tenants and labourers on his estate? He only values them as they can subserve his interests. What does the selfish employer care for the man in those who work in his service and build up his fortune? He treats them rather as fishes to be used than as brethren to be respected. What does the selfish despot care for the moral humanity of the people over whom he sways his sceptre? He values them only as they can fight his battles, enrich his exchequer, and contribute to his pageantry and pomp. What were men to Alexander? What were men to Napoleon, etc.?

II. IT ASSIDUOUSLY WORKS TO TURN MEN TO ITS OWN USE. "They take up all of them with the angle, they catch them in their net, and gather them in their drag; therefore they rejoice and are glad." Thus they take up all of them, some with the hook one by one, others in shoals as in a net, others in a drag or enclosed net. Ah me! Human life is like a sea - deep, unresting, treacherous; and the teeming millions of men are but as fishes, the weaker devoured by the stronger.

"... the good old rule
Sufficeth them, the simple plan
That they should take who have the power,
And they should keep who can."


(Wordsworth.) The mighty ones use the hook to oppress individuals one by one, the net and the drag to carry multitudes away. To a rapacious selfishness in power the man is lost in the labourer, the clerk, the employe, the sailor, the soldier, the subject, etc. Men, what are they? To its eye they are goods, chattels, beasts of burden, "fishes" - nothing more. As the fisherman works by various expedients to catch the fish, the selfish man in power is ever active in devising the best expedients to turn human flesh to his own use.

III. IT ADORES SELF ON ACCOUNT OF ITS SUCCESS. "Therefore they sacrifice unto their net, and burn incense unto their drag; because by them their portion is fat, and their meat plenteous." They glory even in their crimes, because these result in success. They admire their own dexterity and prowess. The selfish man says to himself, "My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth" (Deuteronomy 8:17). According to the measure of a man's selfishness is his propensity to self-worship. The more selfish a merchant, a scholar, a religionist, an author, a preacher, etc., is, the more prone to praise himself for his imaginary success. Because men are everywhere selfish, they are everywhere "sacrificing unto their net, and burning incense unto their drag." The selfish statesman says, "There is no measure like mine;" the selfish sectarian, "There is no Church like mine;" the selfish author, "There is no book like mine;" the selfish preacher, "There is no sermon like mine."

"To our own nets ne'er bow we down,
Lest on the eternal shore
The angels, while our draught they own,
Reject us evermore."


(Keble.)

IV. IT REMAINS INSATIABLE, NOTWITHSTANDING ITS PROSPERITY, "Shall they therefore empty their net?" etc. An old author thus paraphrases the language: "Shall they enrich themselves and fill their own vessels with that which they have by violence and oppression taken away from their neighbours? Shall they empty their net of what they have caught, that they may cast it into the sea again to catch more? And wilt thou suffer them to proceed in this wicked course? Shall they not spare continually to slay the nations? Must the number and wealth of nations be sacrificed to their net?"

CONCLUSION. What an awful picture of the world we have here! All unregenerate men are selfish. Men are everywhere preying on men; and, alas! often those who most lament the universal selfishness are the most selfish. Like the ravenous birds which seem to bewail the sheep when dying, they are ready to pick out their eyes when their opportunity comes. "Where every man is for himself," says an old author, "the devil will have all." This selfishness is the heart of stone in humanity, which must be exchanged for a heart of flesh, or the man will be damned. What but the gospel can effect this change? Oh that those who call themselves Christians would cherish and exemplify that disinterestedness which alone gives title to the name! "I would so live," said Seneca, "as if I knew I had received my being only for the benefit of others." - D.T.







And makest men as the fishes of the sea
Homilist.
Illustrated in Nebuchadnezzar. Selfishness is the root and essence of sin. All unregenerate men are therefore more or less selfish, and rapacity is an instinct of selfishness. Selfishness hungers for the things of others.

I. IT PRACTICALLY IGNORES THE RIGHTS OF MAN AS MAN. "And makest man as the fishes of the sea, as the creeping things, that have no ruler over them." The Babylonian tyrant did not see in the population of Judea men possessing natural endowments, sustaining moral relationships, invested with rights and responsibilities similar to his own fellow-men; but merely "fishes"; — his object was, to catch them and turn them to his own use. It is ever so with selfishness: it blinds man to the claims of his brother. What does the selfish employer care for the man in those who work in his service and build up his fortune? He treats them rather as fishes to be used, than as brethren to be respected. What does the selfish despot care for the moral humanity of the people over whom he sways his sceptre? He values them only as they can fight his battles, enrich his exchequer, and contribute to his pageantry and pomp. What were men to Napoleon? etc.

II. IT ASSIDUOUSLY WORKS TO TURN MEN TO ITS OWN USE. "They take up all of them with the angle, they catch them in their net, and gather them in their drag; therefore they rejoice and are glad." Ah me! Human life is like a sea — deep, unresting, treacherous; and the teaming millions of men are but as fishes, the weaker devoured by the stronger. The mighty ones use the hook to oppress individuals one by one, the net and the drag to carry multitudes away. As the fisherman works by various expedients to catch the fish, the selfish man in power is ever active in devising the best expedients to turn human flesh to his own use.

III. IT ADORES SELF ON ACCOUNT OF ITS SUCCESS. "Therefore they sacrifice unto their net, and burn incense unto their drag; because by them their portion is fat, and their meat plenteous." Because men are everywhere selfish, they are everywhere "sacrificing unto their" net, and burning incense unto their drag. The selfish statesman says, There is no measure like mine; the selfish sectarian, There is no Church like mine; the selfish author, There is no book like mine; the selfish preacher, There is no sermon like mine.

IV. IT REMAINS UNSATIABLE NOTWITHSTANDING ITS PROSPERITY. "Shall they therefore empty their net?" etc. An old author thus paraphrases the language, "Shall they enrich themselves and fill their own vessels, with that which they have by violence and oppression taken away from their neighbours? Shall they empty their net of what they have caught, that they may cast it into the sea again to catch more? And wilt Thou suffer them to proceed in this wicked course? Shall they not spare continually to slay the nations? Must the numbers and wealth of nations be sacrificed to their net?" Conclusion — What an awful picture of the world we have here!

(Homilist.)

All sorts of baits are used to catch human souls. One of the old fathers of the Church says that Satan is the ape of God. That is, Satan imitates whatever God does, but with a different object. God uses the beautiful things He has made to draw you to Him. Satan uses the same things to lure you into his power, and draw you away from God. Since man has been in the world, he has had to work. And God has blessed work. But Satan takes work, and tries to make mischief with it. He tries to make you care for your work apart from God, and thus it is turned into dead, graceless, unprofitable work. The world — the society of your fellows — may draw the souls of those who move in it to God; for there is a great deal of good in the world. You cannot always say that this or that is bad in itself. It is bad only when Satan has put his hook through it. Consequently you must not rashly denounce an amusement or a pursuit, as bad, unless you can see the hook in it. Look at some scriptural instances of Satan's fishing. Case of Job; of David; of Judas Iscariot. As you go through life you will meet with all sorts of temptations. Temptations are Satan s baits. Then, whatever you undertake, keep God before your eyes: keep God in your thoughts. Directly you begin to lose sight of God and to forget Him — then beware! Recover yourself as quickly as you can; you have somehow got hold of a bait which Satan is pulling towards him.

(S. Baring-Gould, M. A.)

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