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Hab 1:1 The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see.
Ver. 1. The burden ] The prophetic burden, saith the Chaldea paraphrast; the burdenous prophecy, saith Tremellius. See Trapp on " Mal 1:1 "
Which Habakkuk the prophet did see ] Amplexator ille, That embracer (so some interpret his name), yea, Optimus Amplexator (as they gather from the last radical emphatically doubled), That best embracer. Et carte omen habet nomen, He hath not his name for nought; for (as Luther writeth) in this prophecy he loveth and huggeth his afflicted countrymen; he helps and solaces them, as the mother doth her crying babe, to still it. Jerome and others make Habakkuk to signify Luctatorem amplex stringentem, a wrestler, that, by closing, strives to prevail; that, by might and slight, seeks to get the better. Such a one was Jacob, whose wrestling was by weeping, and his prevailing by praying, Hosea 12:4 . Such another was Habakkuk, who argueth earnestly with God about the state of his people, and prayeth ardently for them; not doubting but that the Lord would "preserve the faithful, and plentifully reward the proud doer," Psalms 31:23 . A prophet he is here styled, and a seer, and that is all is said of him; nothing of his pedigree, or time of prophesying; that the word (and not the man) might be glorified, Acts 13:47 . Regis epistolis acceptis, saith Gregory; when a king’s letters are brought to his subjects, it is a ridiculous thing for them to inquire with what pen they were written; it is the matter must be minded: so here. A prophet Habakkuk was; and is therefore to be received into our hearts, if we look for a prophet’s reward. He received heavenly visions, whereunto therefore we must not be disobedient, Acts 26:19 . That memorable sentence of his, "The just shal1 live by faith," is more than once made use of by St Paul, in that weighty business of justification, Rom 1:17 Galatians 3:11 , which proves the canonical authority of this prophecy. The precise time when it was uttered is not known. In the days of Manasseh most think; but some are of the opinion in Josiah’s time rather, or not long before; because he foretelleth the Babylonish captivity, and seemeth to agree with Jeremiah in many things. Sure it is, that this prophet lived not after the captivity, Hab 1:6-7 as Epiphanius and Jerome would have it; grounding upon those Apocryphal additions to Daniel, which either are false, or else there were two Habakkuks.
Hab 1:2 O LORD, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! [even] cry out unto thee [of] violence, and thou wilt not save!
Ver. 2. O Lord, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear? ] Lo, this is the confidence of a good conscience towards God, 1 Peter 3:21 , when it is parleying with him by prayers and bold intercessions ( εντευξεις ), 1 Timothy 2:1 , it dare plead, as Jeremiah 12:1 , and interrogate, as Rom 8:33-35 Isaiah 63:15 , and expostulate, as David often: when God seems to be asleep, he wakes him; when to delay, he quickens him; when to have lost his wonted kindness, he finds it for him; so doth Habakkuk here; for he knew he might do it. See his holy boldness beneath, Habakkuk 1:12 , and learn to continue instant in prayer, Romans 12:12 , crying, Quousque Domine? How long, Lord? This was Mr Calvin’s motto, ever in his mouth, as Deo gratias grace to God, was in Austin’s.
Even cry out unto thee of violence ] i.e. Of all sorts of heinous sins, which I have long cried out upon, and sought by preaching and prayer to redress, but cannot; so incorrigibly flagitious are they grown, that I have now no other way left, but to turn them over to thee, with a Non convertentur, They will not be converted. Shall they still "escape by iniquity? in thine anger cast down the people, O God," Psalms 56:7 , and let them feel the power of thy wrath that will not submit to the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thus the holy prophet Elijah-like, Rom 11:2 maketh intercession to God against Israel (when once incorrigible, uncurable), for whose souls’ health he would have spent and been spent, Impendam et expendar.
Hab 1:3 Why dost thou shew me iniquity, and cause [me] to behold grievance? for spoiling and violence [are] before me: and there are [that] raise up strife and contention.
Ver. 3. Why dost thou show me iniquity? &c. ] These were Hazaels to Habakkuk’s eyes, he could not see them with dry eyes, he could not but vex his righteous soul from day to day, as Lot did at Sodom, with their unlawful deeds, 2 Peter 2:8 , privately committed (as here in their common commerce), and publicly, as in the next words, in courts and consistories; for all was out of order.
And cause me to behold grievance ] Molestation and mischief done to those that would live peaceably in the land, Psalms 7:14 ; Psalms 7:16 ; Psalms 94:20 ; Psa 55:11 to the poor that are fallen into their nets, debts, bonds, and mortgages, Psalms 10:9 . It is as if the prophet should say, Why dost thou not punish these enormous practices, but suffer evildoers to abuse thy longsufferance, to thy dishonour? Averroes, the philosopher, drew an argument from God’s patience to deny his providence. But what saith Austin? Some wicked God punisheth here, lest his providence, and but some, lest his patience and promise of judgment, should be called in question.
For spoiling and violence are before me ] E regione mei vastatio et violentia, so that I cannot look beside them, I cannot but complain of them. Elijah and Jeremiah were more passionate, 1 Kings 19:4 ; 1 Kings 19:10 ; 1 Kings 19:14 Jeremiah 15:10 ; Jeremiah 20:14 .
And there are that raise up strife and contention ] These are Satan’s seeds men, and kindling coals. He is an unquiet spirit, and strives to make others so; loves to fish in troubled waters, doth all he can to set one man against another, that he may prey upon both; as the master of the pit suppeth upon the bodies of those cocks whom he hath set to kill one another. Be not mischief maker, seeds men of sedition.
Hab 1:4 Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment doth never go forth: for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceedeth.
Ver. 4. Therefore the law is slacked ] Defluit lex. An elegant metaphor from the pulse, which, in a dying man, beateth faintly. The law is the pulse of the commonwealth. If it stir not at all, the commonwealth is dead. If it have but slow motion, the commonwealth is weak. But if it keep an equal course, the commonwealth is in good constitution. Lex lux, the law is a light, saith Solomon; but the deluge of sin had well nigh put out this light in Israel; who was now grown in a manner lawless, through long impunity.
And judgment doth never go forth ] Or, it goeth not forth to the utmost, to victory; it is not carried on to a right upshot, as the Septuagint and Latin render it, Usque ad finem, εις τελος .
For the wicked doth compass about the righteous ] As a crown compasseth the head; he surroundeth and circumventeth him to his hurt. "The children of this world are wiser in their generation," &c. The Midianites outwitted the Israelites, Numbers 25:18 . The Pharisees hemmed in our Saviour to insnare him; but were disappointed.
Therefore wrong judgment proceedeth ] Distorted judgment. So Ezekiel 9:9 , the city was full of Mutteh, that is, of ( mishpat din mitteh, as Kimchi expoundeth it, κατα προσκλισιν ), judgment turned from the bias; the balance of justice was tilted on the one side, 1 Timothy 5:21 . A judge is to retain the decency and gravity of the law; to do nothing of partiality or popularity; to proceed, not according to opinion or appearance; but as a just law is a heart without affection, an eye without lust, a mind without passion, &c., so should he. Else wrong and wrested judgment will soon proceed, to the prejudice of the righteous.
Hab 1:5 Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvellously: for [I] will work a work in your days, [which] ye will not believe, though it be told [you].
Ver. 5. Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvellously ] Heb. Wonder, wonder. This is God’s answer to the former expostulation, which he disliketh not, but encourageth the rest of his people to the like holy boldness. It containeth a promise to the prophet and the rest that were like affected, that he would shortly vindicate his glory and be avenged of the wicked, though he bore long with them. This that he may the better assure, he proceedeth by an elegant climax, wherein his speech getteth ground and ariseth higher and higher, that the despisers might be the more affected. "Behold, ye despisers," so St Paul after the Septuagint (whose translation he here followeth as most received, and most making for his purpose), Acts 13:41 , the sense being one and the same.
For I will work a work in your days ] This phrase noteth the strong intention of God upon it; as Jeremiah 18:18 , to devise devices, noteth strong plotting to mischief the prophet. So Christ is said to work a work, John 5:36 . Many do rather play their works than work them. This is not God-like. He is serious and thorough in his works.
Which ye will not believe, though it be told you ] But put off all, as those in the Gospel did, with a God forbid; and so go on in sin, till wrath come upon you to the utmost. To this day we cannot get men to believe the truth of God’s judgments, while they hang in the threatenings; but one put-off or another they get, through self-delusion, or obstinace of heart, Lamentations 3:65 , next unto which followeth, Thy curse upon them.
Hab 1:6 For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, [that] bitter and hasty nation, which shall march through the breadth of the land, to possess the dwellingplaces [that are] not theirs.
Ver. 6. For lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation ] The Chaldeans were anciently the philosophers of the Babylonians: Babylon was a province of the Assyrian empire; but not the same with Nineveh (only walled about by Semiramis, and by her called Babylon), as Suidas noteth. Nineveh was the metropolis, Babylon ruled by prefects. One of whom, viz. Merodach-Baladan, rebelling against Esarhaddon, King of Nineveh, translated the whole kingdom to the Babylonians, using the help and counsel of the Chaldeans, famous for their wisdom and authority; which yet was not done without the Lord, who then stirred them up, and now sent them against the Jews, to avenge the quarrel of his covenant. In like manner God hath in these last times raised up the Turks, "that bitter and hasty nation," bitter and bloody, hasty and headlong, υηδεν αναβαλλομενην , pursuing their victories and subduing in a short time many nations and kingdoms to their empire. Hence the Jews are in the former verse called upon to view among the heathen what havoc the Chaldeans had made; that is, should shortly make by overrunning Syria, the greater part of all Asia, and some part also of Africa. In the greatness of the Turkish empire is swallowed up at this day both the name and empire of the Saracens, the most glorious empire of the Greeks, the renowned kingdoms of Macedonia, Peloponnesus, Epirus, Bulgaria, Servia, Bosnia, Armenia, Cyprus, Syria, Egypt, Judaea, Tunis, Algiers, Media, Chaldea, with a great part of Hungary; as also of the Persian kingdom, and all the Churches and places so much spoken of in Scripture (the Roman only excepted, which yet he daily threateneth), and, in brief, so much in Christendom, as far exceedeth that which is thereof at this day left. In fine, no part of the world is left untouched by the Ottoman monarchy but America only; not more happy in her rich mines than in that she is so far from so great and dangerous an enemy. The King of Spain, of all other princes, Mahometan or Christian, that border upon the Turk, is best able to wage war with him. How far and with what bitterness and haste he hath carried on his Catholic monarchy is better known than that it need here to be related. Queen Elizabeth put a stop to him. Captain Drake and his soldiers, when they took Saint Domingo, A.D. 1585 (where his arms were to be seen in the townhall with this inscription, Non sufficit orbis The world is not enough), derided his avarice and ambition; but the poor Indies groan heavily under his cruelty: and Grynaeus commenting upon these words, "that bitter and hasty nation," Tribuuntur illis duo, saith he, Two things are here attributed to the Chaldees’ bitterness and swiftness in undertaking and despatching conquests: quibus dotibus Iberos nostra aetate praeditos, proh dolor, experimur, this by woeful experience we find today too much verified of the Spaniards.
Hab 1:7 They [are] terrible and dreadful: their judgment and their dignity shall proceed of themselves.
Ver. 7. They are terrible and dreadful ] Or horrible, such as were those giants called Emims, Deu 2:10-11 Genesis 14:5 , and far more formidable than that disputant at Paris, who would needs be styled horribilis Sophista, the horrible Sophister, non minorem eam appellationem ratus (saith Vires) quam Africani aut Asiatici, taking it for as great an honour as to be a conqueror.
Their judgment and their dignity shall proceed of themselves ] i.e. They shall do as they list; their lust shall be their law, Pellitur e medio sapientia, vi geritur res. See Psalms 12:4-5 Exodus 5:2 . These Chaldeans will be their own carvers; ministering law according to their own pleasures. The honour also and dignity of this nation (now base and obscure) shall grow up and appear. Ipsa sibi iudicabit, et decretum suum exequetur: vel ex decreto sue exequetur. So Symmachus.
Hab 1:8 Their horses also are swifter than the leopards, and are more fierce than the evening wolves: and their horsemen shall spread themselves, and their horsemen shall come from far; they shall fly as the eagle [that] hasteth to eat.
Ver. 8. Their horses also are swifter than the leopards ] Or panthers, famous for their swiftness; whence the proverb, Panthera velocior (see Plin. i. 10, viii. 17). The horse is so swift in service that the Persians (as Pausanias hath it) dedicated him to their god, the Sun; as the swiftest creature to the swiftest god, ωσπερ το ταχιστον τω ταχυτατω θεων . See Job 41:20 Proverbs 21:31 .
And are more fierce than the evening wolves ] Heb. More sharp-set, after that they have been held hunger bitten and empty all the day long. See Virg. Aeneid. ix. 59, &c.; Oppian. i. 3. Homo homini lupus, One man (left to himself) is a wolf, nay, a devil to another. The metaphor is here taken from sharpest swords, which quickly cut.
And their horsemen shall spread themselves ] With incredible swiftness, which in war is most necessary and useful, as Julius Caesar experienced, and we in our late commotions.
And their horsemen shall come from far ] The Jews were secure of the Chaldeans, as being far remote; but that shall be no hindrance.
They shall fly as the eagle that hasteth to eat ] In singulis verbis pondus est, saith Drusius, here each word hath its weight; for he that hasteth on his way is said to fly, and the eagle is swifter of flight than any bird, and especially when she hasteth to eat, Job 9:26 . Of the eagle’s swiftness why and whence, see Ambrose, Hexam. l. i. c. 14.
Hab 1:9 They shall come all for violence: their faces shall sup up [as] the east wind, and they shall gather the captivity as the sand.
Ver. 9. They shall come all for violence ] That by force and violence they may carry all before them. Fit via vi, Cedit viribus aequum. They are set upon it, and will have it so.
Their faces shall sup up as the east wind ] That ventus urens et exsiccans, they shall blast all they look upon; Euroclydon-like, they shall overturn all, Acts 27:14 . Navigantium pestem, the mariner’s misery, Pliny calleth this wind, for the hurt it doeth by sea. Some read it, their faces shall look towards the east, viz. towards Babylon, whither they carry the booty they get.
And they shall gather the captivity as the sand ] So many shall be their captives, and so little accounted for as the dust or sand they tread upon. Thus the Turks carry out of Hungary and other Christian countries near unto them innumerable booties and captives, fifteen thousand at a time. And so the Spaniards, when they had taken the island Hispaniola, in the Indies, within a few months they rid it clean of the inhabitants and natives, while they gathered unto themselves captives and slaves.
Hab 1:10 And they shall scoff at the kings, and the princes shall be a scorn unto them: they shall deride every strong hold; for they shall heap dust, and take it.
Ver. 10. And they shall scoff at the kings ] Heb. He shall scoff, i.e. Nebuchadnezzar shall, and that not once only, but often; shall make a practice of it, as the Hebrew word signifieth. Hithpael notat assiduam illusionem. Thus Adonibezek dealt by the kings he took, the Philistines by Saul, 1 Samuel 31:8-10 , Nebuchadnezzar by Zedekiah, Jer 25:1-38 Jeremiah 29:1-32 2 Kings 25:1-30 ; as also by the kings of Egypt, Tyre, Arabia, and others whom he had taken, and used them, haply, as Tamerlane did Bajazet, or those other captive kings whom he caused as horses to draw his chariot. How much better Evilmerodach, who (mindful of the instability of all human affairs) lifted up the head and spoke to the heart of his prisoner, Jehoiachin, King of Judah, Jeremiah 52:31 ; Cyrus, who honoured his captive Croesus, and made him of his council (neither was he less enriched by the good counsel Croesus gave him, than by all the wealth he had from him); our Edward III, who having the King of Scotland and the French king his prisoners here in England both together at one time, gave them stately entertainment, and made them princely pastime, by holding royal jousts in Smithfield for their delight!
And the princes shall be a scorn unto them ] Through the just judgment of God, "who scorneth the scorners," Proverbs 3:34 , that is, saith Rabbi Levi, facit ut aliis sint ludibrio, he maketh others mock them in their misery who in prosperity scoffed at those that were better than they. "Now therefore be ye not mockers, lest your bands be made strong," &c., Isaiah 28:22 .
They shall deride every stronghold ] As that which cannot long hold out against their assault. How should they, when God breaketh the bars and setteth open the gates to them? Amos 1:5 ; Amo 9:3 Proverbs 21:30 .
For they shall heap dust, and take it ] i.e. By casting up mounts and ramparts, take it with as much ease as if they were in sport. The Turks have their Asapi, or common soldiers, of whom they make no great reckoning, but to blunt the swords of their enemies and to fill up ditches with their dead bodies, that they may the better come at the town or fort which they would take.
Hab 1:11 Then shall [his] mind change, and he shall pass over, and offend, [imputing] this his power unto his god.
Ver. 11. Then shall his mind change ] For the worse, in peius proficiet; his good and his blood shall rise together, as the proverb hath it; he shall be puffed up with his victories.
“ Luxuriant animi rebus plerunque secundis. ”
Pride compasseth prosperous persons as a chain, Psalms 73:5-6 Job 15:25-27 ; their hearts are lifted up with their successes, as a boat that riseth with the rising of the water. Evagrius noteth it for a special commendation of Mauricius the emperor, that notwithstanding his great prosperity he retained his ancient piety.
And he shall pass over ] Or transgress all the bounds of modesty. Pride was anciently portrayed with three crowns on her head. Upon the first was written Transcendo, upon the second Non obedio, upon the third Perturbo. David calleth wicked men effractores, breachmakers.
And offend, imputing this his power to his god ] Bel, or Jupiter Belus. This was a wickedness with a witness; thus to transfer the glory of victory due to God alone upon an idol. When Nebuchadnezzar offended in this sort God turned him a grazing till he had learned better, Daniel 4:37 . For, be the gods of the heathen good fellows, saith one; the true God is a jealous God, and will not share his glory with another, Isaiah 42:8 .
Habakkuk 1:12 [Art] thou not from everlasting, O LORD my God, mine Holy One? we shall not die. O LORD, thou hast ordained them for judgment; and, O mighty God, thou hast established them for correction.
Ver. 12. Art not thou from everlasting, O Lord my God ] Art thou not Jehovah the unchangeable, and shall we, poor sons of Jacob, be utterly consumed by these Chaldees? Malachi 3:6 . Art not thou my God, my Iudex et Vindex, who hast hitherto judged and revenged my cause? and wilt thou now abandon me to the fury of such an enemy? Art not thou mine Holy One, whom I have hitherto sanctified in mine heart and life, Isaiah 5:16 , and whom I have avouched for mine, Deuteronomy 26:17 , devoting myself wholly to thy fear and service? Art thou not all this, and more than this, saith the prophet, in the name and behalf of the Church here? Well, then,
We shall not die ] I am confident, and dare be bold to say it. Lo, here the triumph of faith and the top gallant of it, "We shall not die" (saith she), abruptly, but sweetly, that is sure enough. She drinks to the disconsolate soul in a cup of Nepenthes, and saith, Courage, my heart! Why art thou cast down, O my soul! and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God. If he be everlasting, so shalt thou; if he be thy God, and thine Holy One, thine in an inviolable covenant, in a league defensive and offensive, shalt thou die? Lo tamuth, Thou shalt not die (so some say this text was anciently read), Lo Namuth, We will not die. So the Church promiseth herself upon the former promises; and such an answer she receiveth in her own heart to her former prayers. And whereas it might be objected that they were likely to be little better than dead in the Babylonish captivity (for Morris habet vices quae trahitur vita gemitibus, an afflicted life is a lifeless life), the prophet answereth:
O Lord, thou hast ordained them for judgment ] i.e. The Chaldeans (our oppressors), for punishment, for destruction, to burn thy rod, when thou hast therewith whipped thy children. See Exodus 9:16 .
And, O mighty God (Heb. O rock), thou hast established them for correction] Heb. Thou hast founded them, sc. thy people Israel; thou hast thereunto appointed them, 1 Thessalonians 3:3 , thou hast both founded and fitted them for thy fatherly chastisements, who are therefore chastened of the Lord, that they may not be condemned with the world. See here the different kinds and ends of good and bad men’s sufferings. It hath been noted before that Almighty God, as he is Piorum rupes, a rock of refuge to the truly religious, so he is Reorum scopulus, a rock of revenge to dash in pieces the impenitent; as Valerius. Maximus saith of Lucius Cassius’s tribunal.
Habakkuk 1:13 [Thou art] of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, [and] holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth [the man that is] more righteous than he?
Ver. 13. Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil ] sc. With patience, and without punishing it. This I am right sure of; and therefore cannot but conclude that thou wilt take an order with our oppressors, thou wilt one day pay them home, for the new and the old, though for a time they ruffle and revel in our ruins. God, as he is ολοφθαλμος , All-eye, neither can we be at any time from under his view; so εχει θεος εκδικον ομμα , he hath a holy eye that cannot behold evil and bear with it. Hence that of Joshua to the people, Joshua 24:19 , "Ye cannot serve the Lord," sc. unless ye first throw all your lusts out of service: "for he is a holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your trangressions nor your sins." Now, therefore, if Cave, spectat Cato, was such a forcible watchword among the Romans, and a retentive from evil; Take heed, Cato sees you, and will punish you; how much more should this prevail with Christians, Cave, videt Dominus, Take heed, the Lord beholdeth!
“ Ne pecces, Deus ipse videt, bonus Angelus astat. ”
Surely, as they were wont to say at Rome concerning cowards, that they had nothing Roman in them; so may it be said of such as stand not in awe of God’s pure eyes and dreadful presence, that they have nothing Christian in them, whatever they pretend; since it is every godly man’s care and comfort to be in the fear of the Lord all the day, to walk evermore in the sense of his presence and light of his countenance.
And canst not look on iniquity ] Heb. And to look on iniquity thou canst not do it. Lo, this is one of those things that God cannot do; as he cannot lie, he cannot die, he cannot deny himself; so here, he cannot look on iniquity, sc. with approbation or delight. He cannot but hate it; and (as the next thing to hatred is revenge) he cannot but punish it, such is the holiness of his nature, Psalms 5:4-6 . He hateth sin naturally, as we hate poison for itself; and therefore let it be in a toad or in a prince’s cabin, we hate it still. Nevertheless, it must be remembered for our comfort, that, like as we hate poison in a toad, but pity it in a man, because in the one it is their nature, in the other their disease; so sin maketh wicked men the object of God’s hatred, but the saints of his pity; and accordingly, he chastiseth the one, but plagueth the other.
Wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously ] And yet, such is thy tolerance, seemest to take no notice of their trespasses and treacheries; which I am sure thou hatest with a perfect hatred. Here then the prophet, disceptat potius secum, quam cum ipso Deo, saith Calvin, contesteth rather with himself than with God about the ordering of things here below. He doth not question the Divine providence, because good men suffer, bad men prosper, as Aristotle did. He doth not say with Pompey, when discomfited by Caesar, that there was a mist, at least, over the eye of providence; so blaming the sun because of the soreness of his own blear eyes. He doth not impatiently cry out with Brutus, defeated, ω τλημων αρετη , O wretched virtue, or, O hard fortune. But he modestly expostulated with the Lord about his proceedings, having before justified him; and now dareth not reprehend what he cannot yet so fully comprehend; but, putting his mouth in the dust, concludeth with David, after some conflict with his own doubtings, "I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness" ( non ad exitium, sed ad exercitium, not for destruction but for disciple, and that thou mightest be true to my soul) "hast afflicted me," Psalms 119:75 .
And holdest thy tongue ] And so, by silence, seemest to consent (as the civilian’s rule is qui tacet, consentire videtur ), but thou seemest so only, Psa 50:21 Or, art thou deaf? Not so neither, Psalms 50:3 .
When the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he ] i.e. The Chaldees destroy the Jews, which were some of them better than they; and the rest were therefore the worse, because they ought to have been better. The truth is, none are so bad as they that either have been good and are not; or that might have been better, but would not.
Hab 1:14 And makest men as the fishes of the sea, as the creeping things, [that have] no ruler over them?
Ver. 14. And makest men as the fishes of the sea ] That are easily drawn out with hook or net. So doth Nebuchadnezzar, with little ado, bring whole nations under his power and pleasure. Here, therefore, saith Drusius, Nebuchadnezzar is the fisher, the world is the sea, men are the fishes, the armies and arts of the Chaldees are called the net, drag, hook, to the which Nebuchadnezzar ascribed his victories, and not to God. Whereas he should have written upon them, as the ancients did upon their greatest exploits, Yεος, Yεος , and have said, as Titus did, when some cried him up for his sacking the city of Jerusalem; I only lent mine hand to God, who did the work by me (Pausan.).
As the creeping things ] Or, the lesser fishes; for in the sea also are creeping things innumerable, Psa 104:25 Leviticus 11:46 .
That have no ruler over them ] To right and revenge them; and are therefore devoured, the lesser by the greater, without remedy. And what will men imagine, but that thy people have no ruler over them, no God to take care of their comfort, or to protect them from their enemies? How will they conclude them to be in as bad condition as those of Brazil, who are said to be Sine rege, sine lege, sine fide, &c. Or, the old Nomades, sub regno Cyclopico?
Hab 1:15 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.
Ver. 15. They take up all of them with the angle ] No less than all will serve their turns or satisfy their ambition; as we read of Alexander, who wept that there was but one world for him to conquer; Julius Caesar, who would be aut Caesar, aut nullus; either Caesar or nothing, this Nebuchadnezzar in the text, fitly compared to a greedy fisherman, who could wish to enclose and catch all the fishes in the river. Covetousness is boundless; and ambition rideth without reins. The curse of unsatisfiableness, the disease of a spiritual dropsy, is upon all carnal hearts; so that though one man should engross a monopoly of all the wealth in the world, and heap up his hoards and his honours to the stars, yet would his heart be as hungry after more as if he had nothing.
Therefore they rejoice and are glad ] This is worse than all the rest, that they please and applaud themselves in their wickedness, that they hug and stroke themselves on the head, as Doeg did, Psalms 52:2 , and those Sodomites, Isaiah 3:9 . This shows that men are arrived at that dead and dedolent disposition spoken of Ephesians 4:19 , and are even straddling over hell’s mouth, which gapeth for them.
Hab 1:16 Therefore they sacrifice unto their net, and burn incense unto their drag; because by them their portion [is] fat, and their meat plenteous.
Ver. 16. Therefore they sacrifice to their net ] Thus wicked men grow worse and worse; their sin is infinite; what marvel, then, if their punishment be also infinite in hell? To all other their iniquities these Chaldeans add this of abominable idolatry, they sacrifice to themselves, as Sejanus did, Seianus sibi sacrificabat (Dio), to their net, drag, &c., that is, to their weapons, as Ajax called his sword his god; and thanked it for all his brave achievements. And as Mezentius (another atheist) is brought in, saying;
“ Dextra mlhi Deus, et telum quod missile libro. ”
So Sesostris, King of Egypt (in Samson’s days), would needs be called κοσμοκρατωρ , lord of the whole world; and when he had conquered any country he caused these words to be engraven there upon marble pillars, This country I gained by mine own strength ( τοις ωμοισιν εμοισιν εκτησαμην . Herod. l. 2). So Antiochus (that little antichrist) is said to worship his god Mauzzim, that is, his forces and armies, Daniel 11:38 . It was Nebuchadnezzar that was here pointed at; and how he deified himself and his own doings, see Isa 10:13 Daniel 4:26 .
And burn incense to their drags ] While they ascribe to the instrument that which is due to God alone, the chief agent. Hold out, net, said they; well done, drag, &c. Hoc ego primus vidi, said Zabarell, Hoc ego feci, saith another. But what saith Luther? By men’s boasting in this sort, Haec ego feci, haec ego feci, they become nothing better than mere faeces, dregs and lees.
Because by them their portion is fat ] "By them," that is, by their net and drag, they think that their condition is well mended, and their meat is fat, opimus et optimus, abundant and good. God (the giver of all this) is not in all their thoughts; but as the moon, the fuller it is of light the further it gets from the sun, the fountain of her light, so deal men with God.
Hab 1:17 Shall they therefore empty their net, and not spare continually to slay the nations?
Ver. 17. Shall they therefore empty their net ] That they may fill it again anew, and so draw to themselves, as to a pond or pool, the wealth and power of the whole east? Interrogatio precationis speciem habet, saith Gualther. This question is an effectual prayer; and it is as if the prophet should thus say, If, as hitherto, thou go on to wink at their wickedness, O God, will they not grow more audacious every day, and mischievous to mankind? Arise, therefore, O Lord of recompences, to the help of thy people. Set up and show thyself above the heathen, that they may know themselves to be but men.
And not spare continually to slay the nations ] q.d. This cannot hold long; and that it may not, is mine earnest suit and supplication. Lord, when thou makest inquisition for blood, remember their blood guiltiness, and forget not the cry of the humble, Psalms 9:12 . These cruel Chaldeans do not only subjugate, but slay, not a few, but whole nations and that continually, and that without mercy. Is it not high time for thee to set to thy hand, O preserver of men, &c. Note the prophet’s ardency in prayer; and learn of him to get upon the battlements, and look up, to see what comes of it, Habakkuk 2:1 . This was also David’s practice, Psalms 5:3 , where he useth the selfsame military word, atsappeh; importing that he would be as a spy upon a tower, to see whether he prevailed with God, whether he got the day.
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Habakkuk 1". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28