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Bible Commentaries
Habakkuk 2

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Verse 1

Habakkuk Goes to Stand on His Guard Post

After Habakkuk’s second complaint it remains quiet for a while. There does not come, like the first time, an immediate answer from the LORD. That does not bring Habakkuk to despair, but he goes to stand on his guard post. He speaks of “my guard post”, by which he indicates that it is a place he personally occupies. A guard post is an elevation from where the surroundings can be searched for danger. For us this means that we must be elevated above the circumstances, close to God, so that we can see things from His perspective and understand His work.

Habakkuk takes that elevated place in order to look forward expectantly to the answer God is going to give. This is the appropriate attitude when we have asked for something. Hurried as we are often, we take little or no time and make little or no effort to climb on the guard post and wait for God’s answer. But perseverance must have a perfect result. If we do not get the answer, then we keep looking forward to it. Otherwise God’s answer may come and we do not see it. Let us look up and see, as Habakkuk does. He is waiting for the dawn of a new day in which God will work. He looks forward to light in the dark circumstances in which he is.

God does not so much take away our worries and difficulties, but He adds something to our lives. He brings light into our lives in the Person of the Lord Jesus. He comes in our circumstances. Then the problems do not disappear, but they will look different. We, too, have to be open to God’s voice to notice what He is going to say to us personally in connection with all the questions that His ways raise in us. And to God’s answer, in which a correction may lie, a reaction will come from our side, a reaction that God also expects. When that attitude is there, God continues speaking in Habakkuk 2:2. There will be more communications.

It is not about a literal guard post, but about standing at a height through which someone is lifted up above earthly events and brought into connection with heaven and Him Who thrones there. Prophets are more often called guardians (Isaiah 21:8; Isaiah 21:11; Jeremiah 6:17; Ezekiel 3:17; Ezekiel 33:2-Leviticus :). They must look at the unrighteousness among the people and warn of the doom that is to come. In this spirit of attentiveness, the prophet is ready to receive the answer.

We must learn to wait. Our impatience counts time we have to wait as lost time. This is not the case with Habakkuk. “What He would speak to [or: in] me” means that the speaking of God to the prophet is done by an inner, not externally audible, voice. With the answer God gives him, the prophet can reply to his reproof (Habakkuk 1:13-Esther :) for himself and that he can also communicate to others.

Verse 2

The Vision Must Be Recorded

Habakkuk receives answer from the LORD. How long he has waited, is not said. The answer comes in a vision, an inner perceptible revelation of God. He receives a visible message. That answer is not only for him, but also for others, that is for the people. That is why he is commissioned to record the vision. He must not write this vision down on paper, but inscribe it on stone tablets.

By recording it, the vision will be preserved for the future, and by inscribing it, it will be indelible and will not be lost (Isaiah 30:8; Exodus 17:14; Psalms 102:18; Jeremiah 30:2). At the same time, the vision does not become dependent on people’s memory. The reason for writing it down is given in Habakkuk 2:3.

It must also be recorded clearly (cf. Deuteronomy 27:8). The message is so important, that any misunderstanding or careless passing must be excluded. The fact that it must be readable for someone who runs by quickly has to do with the short time that remains before fulfillment comes. Whoever reads it must pass it on. It is a message of joy for Israel. After all, the downfall of the enemy means the deliverance of Israel.

In the answer we see some important principles:
1. The vision or the prophecy must be clearly announced.
2. Everything will remain a vision for a certain time, that is, for the time being unfulfilled.
3. During this time, the man of the world will grow in his pride and thereby become ripe for the judgment of God.
4. During this time, the righteous will live by his faith.
5. At the appointed time, determined by God, the announced vision will be fulfilled. It is therefore rewarding to wait for this goal to come to pass.

Verse 3

The Appointed Time

“The vision is yet for the appointed time” means that deliverance will not come immediately, but that patience is needed. But it is certain that it will come. God will make the vision of the extermination of the disciplinary rod, Babylon, reality. After seventy years, Babylon will be conquered by the Medes and the Persians. God’s intention cannot be hastened or delayed. It will be fulfilled at the “appointed time”.

The appointed time is also the designated end time. That is “the goal”. This is the double bottom of the prophecy. “The goal” has a deeper meaning than just a short-term event. It is about the coming of Christ and the establishment of the realm of peace (Habakkuk 2:14). This is apparent from the quotation of the last part of this verse in the letter to the Hebrews (Hebrews 10:37). There it appears that this verse is about the second coming of Christ. God has appointed a time for the second coming of Christ, who will fulfill all promises. We see here that Jesus Christ is the content of the vision.

“Though it tarries” is quoted in Hebrews 10 from the Septuagint and changed to “for yet in a very little while”. The “vision” makes the believer today look forward to Him, to His coming, as an event that is near. When He returns, He will rectify everything. In the end time, the wicked will be judged and the people will be restored and the righteous will be rewarded (2 Thessalonians 1:7-Judges :). If the answer tarries, it is because the perseverance must have “a perfect work” (James 1:4).

Deliverance does not come a moment later than the moment that God, in His wisdom, has established for it. In that time of waiting, it appears that the righteous lives by his faith, that is, by his faith that he puts on God. We see that in the following verse.

Verse 4

The Proud One and the Righteous

Habakkuk 2:2 is about the power of the vision, Habakkuk 2:3 is about the certainty of it. Habakkuk 2:4 shows the importance of faith in case the fulfilment of the vision is delayed. If it is necessary to wait, it is reason for faith to prove itself as the assurance of what is hoped for (Hebrews 11:1). This can only be done by those who are engaged with Him Who is the center of prophecy, which is Christ.

In this verse we have subdivided humanity into two groups, that is, as God sees it. This is the answer to the struggle of the prophet described in Habakkuk 1:12-17. The first part of this verse concerns the proud, puffed up, overconfident Chaldean. God knows his inner self. Yet God uses him.

“His soul” refers above all to his greed and desires. What he covets does not come from honest desires, but from a depraved, disingenuous, crooked mind. An arrogant man is never sincere. What is said of this man – we can, for example think of Belsazar (Daniel 5:22-Hosea :) – is also generally applicable to every individual who lives in unbelief.

The second part of the verse applies to the righteous, which is the believer in Israel. He will live by his faith, which is his trust in God (Genesis 15:6; 2 Chronicles 20:20; Isaiah 7:9). The righteous stands in sharp contrast to the proud one. The righteous lives by his faith and his faith brings him to humility before God. Habakkuk does not need to doubt that the pride of the Chaldean will work his own destruction, while the God-fearing constantly looks up to the LORD and will live.

The righteous can, through his faith, live in a world full of iniquity, addressing his questions to God, going his way trusting Him, even though the situation around him does not change. Only when the Lord Jesus returns will He set everything right. Until then, the believer lives by his faith.

Paul is such a reader and runner of whom it is about in Habakkuk 2:2. He has read the answer and passed it on to the believer and to the sinner. He quotes this Habakkuk 2:4
1. in the letter to the Romans (Romans 1:17),
2. in the letter to the Galatians (Galatians 3:11) and
3. in the letter to the Hebrews (Hebrews 10:37).
We see that each time a different accent is placed.

1. In Romans 1 he answers with this verse the question of Job: How can a man be righteous with God (Job 9:2)? The answer is that it is possible through the work of redemption accomplished by Christ. Christ has done everything to exterminate the guilt. Whoever believes this, is a righteous one who can live by his faith. The emphasis here is on the righteous. Here we see how a statement from this little book Habakkuk is of fundamental importance for the justification by God in the gospel. Righteousness is not a process, but a final act with a lasting result.

2. Galatians 3 is about faith versus works of the law. Paul quotes this verse of Habakkuk to show that it is impossible to obtain life on the basis of works of the law. Law and faith have no interface whatsoever. The accent here is on faith. Only through faith in God and His Christ is it possible to live as a righteous one.

3. In Hebrews 10 it is, as the context shows, about the contrast between life and death or shrinking back to destruction. The warning is not to shrink back and to perish, but to live by faith. All the faith heroes of the following chapter, Hebrews 11, have lived by faith. The emphasis here is on living in view of the better fatherland.

As long as the prophetic word has not yet been fulfilled and it is still chaos in the world, the God-fearing has only one hold and that is faith. It is about practical faith to live on earth. Faith is the unshakeable trust in the faithfulness of God that He will fulfill His promises (Psalms 89:33-Nahum :). Faith submits to God in confidence, while the Chaldean is puffed up and trusts in himself.

Verse 5

The Proud Man Has No Success

This verse connects to Habakkuk 2:4, which in its direct application refers to Belsazar. Here the description continues. Belsazar devotes to wine (Daniel 5:1-Numbers :). This clouds his thinking and leads him to faithlessness. Wine does not give its drinker the desired joy and strength, but leads him to a certain downfall (Proverbs 23:31-Jonah :). In his pride he thinks he rules over everything, but he will not succeed in holding on to his position.

The Babylonians are as insatiable as Sheol and death that swallows its victims with their throats open. They are as insatiable in attracting and subjugating “all nations” as death is in drawing all men to itself (Proverbs 30:15-Nehemiah :). In his incessant yearning for more, he “collects to himself all peoples” (cf. Ecclesiastes 5:10). Behind this proud, arrogant glutton rises the figure of the wicked in the end times, the beast coming up out of the sea (Revelation 13:1-2 Samuel :).

Verses 6-8

Taunt-Song, Mockery, Insinuations – First “Woe”

In the form of a taunt-song, the downfall of Babylon is described in Habakkuk 2:6-Proverbs :. In Habakkuk 2:6 “all of these”, that is the nations, speak. They express themselves in a taunt-song. The song is prophetic in content and has validity for all times and nations (cf. Micah 2:4; Isaiah 14:4).

A “taunt-song” and “mockery” are actions of people who enjoy mocking others. “Insinuations” are a veiled form of mockery, which must be deciphered. The enigma lies in the fact that it applies to Babylon, but then to the Medes and then to the Greeks and so on. All nations will not only ridicule Babylon, but also use him as an example to point out to others what will happen to those who have no respect for God or their fellow human beings.

The song has five stanzas. Each stanza contains a “woe to him”. The first four begin with it; in the fifth stanza it is in another place (Habakkuk 2:6; Habakkuk 2:9Habakkuk 2:12; Habakkuk 2:15Habakkuk 2:19). Each stanza consists of three verses. There is also a further explanation which is started with “because” or “for”.

The first ‘woe’ comes over him because of the appropriation of goods that do not belong to him. It concerns his looting and plundering. It is the sin of greed, of not being satisfied with what one has. We live in the time when the realm of the beast, that is the united Europe, is taking more and more shape. It is a realm of violence that appropriates what does not belong to it.

“For how long?” is again the question of the tormented soul. The answer to this question is: seventy years. All those from whom Babylon has enriched himself will turn against him (Habakkuk 2:7). Then Babylon himself is the booty of the nations it has exploited. It is conquered by the Medes and the Persians.

The reason for the foregoing is given in Habakkuk 2:8. The surrounding nations will strike Babylon and shake it empty. Babylon will be measured with the same standard of measure they have measured (Matthew 7:2).

Verses 9-11

Second “Woe”

The second ‘woe’ comes over Babylon because of his greed and self-exaltation. After the plunder and looting of the ‘woe’ of the previous verses, the ‘evil gain’ is a natural successor, by which he wants to ensure his house of steadfastness and durability (Habakkuk 2:9). ‘Gain’ is here negative, it is ‘evil gain’, because that gain has been unlawfully, in an evil way, obtained.

Babylon has used his loot to secure himself in such a way that he thinks he is inviolable and unreachable to evil, no matter from which side it may come. Nobody can approach him. He thinks in his pride that he will stay out of the grip of evil. He considers his rule as impregnable as an eagle’s nest on high. Building his nest on high characterizes the high-flying thoughts of the heart. With this arrogant attitude and his fortress built high up, Babylon resembles Edom who also felt safe at an impregnable height (Obadiah 1:3-Numbers :).

By “his house” (Habakkuk 2:9) and “your house” (Habakkuk 2:10) is meant the dynasty of Nebuchadnezzar, which includes the royal family, including the king. Just as an eagle builds his nest high up to protect it from destruction (Job 39:27), so the Chaldean tries to raise and strengthen his kingdom through robbery and looting so that his family cannot be taken away from him.

By wickedness Babylon dug the grave of his own structure (Habakkuk 2:10). What he means as strengthening himself will become a disgrace to him. Everything that is directed against God will return on him like a boomerang (Jeremiah 7:19). Whatever the wicked has in mind to satisfy his ambition, greed, pleasure, or whatever desire, the only thing this selfish pursuit leads to is shame and death.

God, however, says: “He who sins against me injures himself; All those who hate me love death” (Proverbs 8:36). This applies to a great extent to Babylon. The judgment that afflicts him is the counterpart of the judgments he himself has brought on others. Whatever a man sows, he will reap.

Even the inanimate things will accuse Babylon of blood guilts and sin and testify of his wicked actions (Habakkuk 2:11; cf. Luke 19:40). Likewise with all the works of God: they have a voice and witnesses of Him by Whom they were created. Similarly, all the works of a man have a voice and testify of him who created them or used them. The crying of the stone is because of the crimes committed in order to build with them. The stones cry out for revenge (cf. Genesis 4:10), because they have been robbed or bought with robbed money in order to build. The answer of the rafter has the meaning of agreeing to the cry of the stone.

Verses 12-14

Third “Woe”

The third ‘woe’ comes over Babylon because of the oppression of conquered peoples. The striving of Babylon to establish his kingdom permanently through sinful gain is also shown in the building of cities with the blood and sweat of subdued peoples (Habakkuk 2:12). The material with which Babylon builds his cities is obtained by bloodshed. Prisoners are used in its construction.

The result of the history of man does not lie in the events themselves, but in the revealed intention of “the LORD of hosts” Who directs the events (Habakkuk 2:13). He is the cause of the fact that all the edifices which have come into being in this way will not last.

The fact that He presents Himself here as “the LORD of hosts”, means that all the hosts in heaven and earth are at His service, they are under His authority. He is the Supreme Commander over all created powers, but especially over Israel. Everything that stands up against Him is judged by Him. Babylon will experience it when its kingdom finds its end through fire. All his work is in vain. “Toil for fire” means that their hard labor that consumed the forces with which they built the city, all that hard labor and its results will turn out to be fuel for the fire that will consume them. Nothing remains of it (Jeremiah 51:58).

Unlike Habakkuk 2:13, what does remain is what comes in its place: the kingdom of God (Habakkuk 2:14). When all human hostile powers are wiped out, the kingdom of God and of His Christ will replace all kingdoms. As a result, the earth will be filled “with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD” (Numbers 14:21; Isaiah 11:9). “The waters” that “covers the sea” is a picture of the overwhelming fullness, in its length, breadth and depth.

God’s intention when He created the earth was that it would reflect His glory. His glory later filled the tabernacle and the temple, His dwelling place on earth. Soon the whole earth will be His dwelling place. Everything on earth will then be in complete agreement with Him, so that He can rest again in His works. He will then be praised forever (Psalms 72:19).

Verses 15-17

Fourth “Woe”

From cruelty in the third ‘woe’, the prophet in the fourth ‘woe’ about Babylon moves to his shameless treatment of his “neighbors”, whom he should love. Drunkenness makes shameless (Habakkuk 2:15; Genesis 9:21). Babylon gets the nations drunk to let his lusts run wild.

God will make Babylon drunk and strip him of all feelings of shame and make him naked and take away all honor (Habakkuk 2:16; Jeremiah 25:15). Babylon is given the cup to drink that he has given others to drink, that he may also lie down drunk. This cup is given to him by the LORD. Jeremiah also speaks of the cup of the LORD, which is full of his wrath, and which he gives the nations to drink (Jeremiah 25:26).

The “utter disgrace” can also be translated by “disgraceful vomit”. This shows that everything that they have swallowed in their voracity comes out again as vomit. What was their glory then, will now be covered with this vomit. Thus the LORD will cause Babylon to wallow like a drunk in his own vomit, which will be a disgusting and nauseating sight.

They deforested Lebanon in the north, where they entered the country, making it bare and bald through their military campaigns (Habakkuk 2:17). They killed the animals that were there. Land, city and inhabitants in Habakkuk 2:8 refer to the nations, while here Judah and Jerusalem with its inhabitants are meant. Babylon has caused a massacre there. But the violence he has inflicted on others will return on his own head, so that he will be covered up underneath.

Verses 18-19

Fifth “Woe”

The fifth and final ‘woe’ comes over Babylon because of the greatest of all sins: idolatry. This “woe” is pronounced in the second part of this stanza (Habakkuk 2:19). This evil is focused directly against the LORD Himself. The LORD is replaced by a self-made image.

To powerfully indicate its utter worthlessness, the prophet asks what use an idol has (Habakkuk 2:18; Isaiah 44:9-2 Samuel :; Jeremiah 2:11). Of course, an idol is of no use at all. The idol is “a carved” image that teaches lies. The idol is a “a teacher of falsehood” who promotes to his worshipers the delusion that he is God and can do what can be expected of the true God, while it is a void idol. How foolish it is to rely on something made by one’s own hands.

An idol can be so overlaid with all earthly riches, it is and remains a dead thing, there is no life in it and life never comes into it (Habakkuk 2:19). Such a god can do nothing for anyone. It is supreme foolishness to call to dead matter in the expectation that there will be a reaction. Even worse is that by such worship of an idol the true God is denied. God does not give His glory to anyone else. He who despises Him will be despised by Him (1 Samuel 2:30). He pronounces His “woe” on those who call on an idol.

Verse 20

Be Silent Before God

After the song, the contrast suddenly comes out of Habakkuk’s mouth. Habakkuk has become a different person. He has been impressed by everything he has seen and heard about Who God is. The word “but” with which he begins, points to the contrast that exists between the idols and the living God, Who sees and rules everything. He is not hidden behind gold and silver, but alive in heaven, “His holy temple”, ready and willing to help His people.

He is the Almighty One in Whose presence it is appropriate to remain silent with reverence (Zechariah 2:13; Zephaniah 1:7), in the awareness that He makes the judgment go forth. This applies to the whole earth, for He is the God of “all the earth”. Silence is due to Him because of His impressive majesty. It suits man to be silent before God. What He has to say is more important than what we have to say. Habakkuk especially calls on the proud braggarts to keep their mouths shut before that majesty.

Job is also silent when he comes face to face with God and proclaims: “I lay my hand on my mouth” (Job 40:4). He becomes silent before God. Then God can speak to him. He is an example to us in this. When we become silent before God, He can answer our questions.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Habakkuk 2". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/habakkuk-2.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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