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Bible Commentaries
Habakkuk 1

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-17

Habakkuk 1:1 . The burden, the prophecy, which Habakkuk the prophet saw. Here he opens his commission, as divinely inspired with vision, and invested with a charge which he must deliver. God laid the burden of Israel, and of all the surrounding nations on his prophets, as he now charges ministers with the cure of souls.

Habakkuk 1:2 . Oh Lord, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear. Manasseh continued to shed innocent blood, from one end of Jerusalem to the other. 2 Kings 21:16. Among the judges and rulers, there is not one man that executes judgment and maintains truth. Jeremiah 5:1. Cruelties and violence cry to heaven, and thou art as a man astounded.

Habakkuk 1:5 . Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvellously. God is about to destroy your country, and to burn your temple, by your allies and protectors, the Chaldeans; a visitation you disbelieve and despise, though the whole succession of prophets declare it. St. Paul, according to the divine light given him by the Lord, foresaw that the same events would happen to Jerusalem by the Romans; and that the christians would escape by believing the word of the Lord, partly by dispersion, as stated in Acts 8:4; and partly by flight, at an interval when the Roman legions were called off from the siege.

The learned Dr. Pocock, an oriental traveller, remarks here, that St. Luke cites the version of the LXX. “Behold, ye despisers, and wonder and perish,” a reading agreeable to the present Hebrew copy. The word בגוים bagojim, which we translate “among the heathen,” is derived from baga, which in Arabic imports to be proud or scornful. On the adjection, “wonder and perish,” which sense the learned author proves, the word Tamah will fully admit. Archbishop Newcome therefore, before he gave a bye blow at St. Paul, should have more fully considered the text. It has some appearance of indecency to say, that “St. Paul plainly accommodates this passage to his own purpose.” Does the primate wish to associate St. Paul with the unitarians,

Who play with scriptures at their ease, And make them speak just what they please?

Habakkuk 1:6 . Lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, as stated in Isaiah 10:0. Jeremiah 4:0. Zephaniah 1:0. They are described as bitter and unrelenting in slaughter, and as spreading with velocity through all the land. Their horses are swifter than leopards, and the riders fiercer than the evening wolves, when hunger impels them to hunt. The Arabian horses have ever been admired for fleetness, and the swift-footed dromedary is a proverb in the east. When trained as post-dromedaries, they are reported to run a hundred and fifty miles in a day.

Habakkuk 1:9 . Their faces shall sup up as the east wind. This hot wind evaporates all moisture, and blisters the faces of the people, which they endeavour to avoid by putting their faces to the ground. It greatly parches the verdure. Psalms 48:7. Jeremiah 4:11.

Habakkuk 1:16 . They sacrifice to their net. They ascribe all their martial prowess to themselves, and all the glory of conquests to their gods. This is a maritime proverb. The lot of Simeon was on the coast of the Philistines, where the adage was in use.


The first essays of a young prophet are warm and zealous, like the first sermons of Paul at Damascus. Seeing his country full of crimes, and the louring clouds about to burst, he cries to his God, with expostulations, Why dost thou show me iniquity? Why are the horrors of war ever before me? A land lost in wickedness, a land devoted to the sword. Had the prophet felt otherwise, he had been unworthy of his ministry.

The portrait of the Chaldean invasion, a great and martial empire, the terror of the world, is painted in more enlivened figures than in other prophets. The king, a lion in war, making all his soldiers heroes; their cavalry flying like eagles, their engineers despising strongholds, their princes victorious in every battle, derided all kings and mocked at all gods. Their character more ferocious than lions, leopards, and wolves, conquered the nations by the terror of their name; and gathered captives like the dust to re-people depopulated lands. This portrait, so terrific, Habakkuk presented to his countrymen to bring them to repentance.

Seeing no peace on earth, nothing but the full triumph of idolatry, where could a conscious mind go but to his God? Art not thou from everlasting, oh Lord my God, my Holy One. We shall not all die; thou wilt save a remnant to declare thy righteousness and truth to future generations. Thou art of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. Why then art thou silent? Why are the armies of Chaldea allowed to enclose thy people as fishes in a net? They fill their net; they continually slay thy people with an unrelenting arm. I will watch, and await thine answer, in all the paths of vigilance and duty.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Habakkuk 1". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/habakkuk-1.html. 1835.
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