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Saturday, July 13th, 2024
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14
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Bible Commentaries
Habakkuk 1

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 3378. B.C. 626.

In this chapter,

(1,) The prophet complains to God of the injustice and violence practised among the Jews, and of the sufferings hereby brought upon the righteous, Habakkuk 1:1-4 .

(2,) God by him foretels the punishment of this abuse of power by the sword of war, and the desolations which the army of the Chaldeans should make among them, Habakkuk 1:5-11 .

(3,) The prophet complains of the mischief done by the Chaldeans, and prays for his own people and against their enemies, Habakkuk 1:12-17 .

Verse 1

Habakkuk 1:1. The burden The grievous calamities, or heavy judgments; which Habakkuk did see That is, foresee, and was commissioned to foretel. This burden, or prophetic vision, communicated to Habakkuk, was against the Chaldeans as well as the Jews. For while the prophet was complaining of iniquity among the Jews, 1st, God foreshows him the desolations which the Chaldeans would make in Judea and the neighbouring countries, as the ministers of divine vengeance: and, 2d, Upon the prophet’s falling into an expostulation with God about these proceedings, moved thereto probably by his compassion for his own people, God shows him the judgments which he would execute upon the Chaldeans.

Verses 2-4

Habakkuk 1:2-4. O Lord, how long shall I cry, &c. How long shall I complain unto thee of might overcoming right, and thou wilt not save or prevent it? The prophet here proposes the common objection against Providence, taken from the prosperity of the wicked, and their oppression of the righteous, which has often been a stumbling-block even to good men: see Jeremiah 12:1; Job 12:6; and Job 21:7; Psalm 37., 73. Why dost thou show me iniquity? Why hast thou caused me to live in such times of iniquity? for I see nothing but scenes of rapine, and the most unjust oppression. And there are that raise up strife, &c. Or, there is strife, and contention carries it. There is much cause for complaining, but those best skilled in the arts of contention carry the cause. Therefore the law is slacked The divine law, given us for the regulation of our conduct, hath lost its force. And judgment doth never go forth Causes remain undetermined, and justice is not duly administered. For the wicked, &c. For the wicked, by their deceitful arts, prevail against the righteous, and overpower them; therefore [rather, moreover ] wrong judgment proceedeth Not only judgment is delayed, but, what is still worse, unjust judgment is given, and causes are evidently decided in a manner quite contrary to what is equitable and just.

Verse 5

Habakkuk 1:5. Behold, &c. For a punishment of such exorbitant practices, behold, God is about to make the heathen the instruments of his vengeance. Ye among the heathen, and regard Consider and weigh it well, in its nature and consequences; for it is intended as a warning to you, and assures you that judgment will overtake you also. And wonder marvellously As astonished at judgments too great to be described, and so strange that they will appear to many, even of God’s professing people, to be incredible. For I will work a work, &c., which ye will not believe The judgment shall be such, as you despisers of God’s word will not believe to be coming upon you. These words are referred to, and indeed quoted, by St. Paul, Acts 13:41; not, however, according to the Hebrew text, but the translation of the LXX., who, instead of בגוים , begoim, among the heathen, seem to have read בגדום , begadim, despisers, or perfidious persons. This reading of the LXX. is preferred by Grotius, because, he observes, “God addresses the Jews who were despisers of his deity.”

Verse 6

Habakkuk 1:6. For lo, I raise up the Chaldeans This is spoken of as a matter of great wonder and astonishment, because the Chaldeans, in the times of Hezekiah, Manasseh, and Josiah, were allies of the Jewish nation, and seemed linked to them in the greatest friendship; so that they had no fear on that side, but all their fear was from the Egyptians. Therefore the coming of the Chaldeans into the country is spoken of here as a thing entirely new, and as if that people had been called into existence for the very purpose of punishing the Jewish nation. There is a prophecy similar to this in Isaiah, with regard to the Assyrians, in whom the Jewish nation then placed their chief confidence, and thought of nothing less than of the evils which Isaiah threatened should be brought upon them by that nation: so weak and short-sighted often is human policy! see Isaiah 7:0. That bitter and hasty nation That people cruel, in their disposition, quick in executing their purposes, and hasty in their marches, Isaiah 5:26-27; Jeremiah 5:16-17. Which shall march through the breadth of the land, to possess, &c. This is spoken of the Chaldeans extending their conquests to a vast distance from the original seat of their empire.

Verses 7-9

Habakkuk 1:7-9. Their judgment, &c., shall proceed of themselves They will judge themselves of what they shall do, without paying regard to any thing but their own will, and shall have power to put in execution whatever they resolve upon. Their horses also are swifter than the leopards “Leopards tamed and taught to hunt are, it is said, made use of [in Palestine] for hunting, and seize the prey with surprising agility. When the leopard leaps, he throws himself seventeen or eighteen feet at a time.” Harmer, 2:438. And are more fierce than the evening wolves Which, having fasted in the day, were wont to come forth in the evening fierce and ravenous. And their horsemen shall spread themselves Namely, all over the land; that is, they shall be very numerous. They shall come all for violence To enrich themselves by making a prey of all. Their faces shall sup up as the east wind They shall destroy every thing where they march, as the east wind blasts the fruits of the earth. And they shall gather the captivity [or, captives ] as the sand Not only in Judea, but in all the neighbouring countries which they conquer. Houbigant renders the clause, A burning wind goes before them, and gathers captives as the sand. They shall carry desolation, destruction, and fire, everywhere before them. The winds which blew from Arabia the Desert were extremely hot, and very dangerous, not only on account of their own heat, but on account of the dust and sand which they brought with them.

Verses 10-11

Habakkuk 1:10-11. And they shall scoff at the kings, &c. The Hebrew use the singular number here, ( He shall scoff, &c.,) as well as in the following verse, and it is to be understood of the king of Babylon, who treated the kings he conquered with scorn and contempt: so he used Zedekiah and his princes. They shall deride every strong hold They shall contemn, or count as nothing, the most strongly fortified places. They shall heap dust and take it They shall cast up mounds against them, and so take them. Then shall his mind change, and he shall pass over Rather, And shall pass over, (without the personal pronoun he,) that is, his mind shall change, and pass beyond the bounds of moderation. By this and the next clause, imputing this his power unto his god, was foretold that the king of Babylon should be made arrogant by his victories, and should impute them to the power of the false gods he worshipped. This was remarkably true of Belshazzar, Nebuchadnezzar’s successor, who, with his thousand lords, when he was drinking wine in the golden and silver vessels taken out of God’s temple, and was thereby triumphing over Jehovah and his people, praised the gods of gold and silver, &c., as the authors of their successes and victories. It was also remarkably verified in Nebuchadnezzar himself, who, as we find from Daniel 3:0., cast three otherwise innocent persons, and faithful to him, into a furnace of fire, because they would not fall down before the idol which he had set up. But Grotius, and many others, interpret the latter part of the verse thus: Saying this his strength is his god; that is, imputing all his success to his own skill and prowess; a sense of the words which answers remarkably to the character of Nebuchadnezzar, as given in the book of Daniel: see chapter Daniel 3:17, and Daniel 4:30, and Daniel 5:20. Probably the extraordinary insanity which befell Nebuchadnezzar, as the punishment of his pride and arrogance, might be also here intended in the first clause of this verse, which in the Hebrew is, Then shall his spirit change and pass over, &c. Here, then, is a remarkable proof of what the psalmist says, namely, that God understandeth our thoughts afar off: for here the alteration that should in after times be made in Nebuchadnezzar’s mind by his prosperity is expressly foretold, together with the punishment that should follow upon it.

Verse 12

Habakkuk 1:12. Art thou not, &c. Here the prophet, upon being made sensible that the king of Babylon should attribute all his victories to some false or fictitious deity, or to his own abilities, breaks out into a passionate exclamation to Jehovah, Art thou not from everlasting, O Lord my God? Art not thou he, who only hath been from everlasting; while all others that are called gods have had a beginning, and there was a time when neither they nor the men that set them up had any being? Thou, therefore, art infinitely superior, both to the most powerful men, and to all that are called gods. We shall not die We shall not utterly perish by the Chaldeans, though we shall suffer severely from them. Or, as Secker renders it, Let us not die. Thou hast ordained them for judgment Thou hast appointed the Chaldeans to execute thy judgments on sinners. And, O mighty God Whose sovereignty is unquestionable, and power irresistible; thou hast established them for correction The Hebrew is, thou hast founded them as a rock for correction, namely, of the Jewish people.

Verses 13-17

Habakkuk 1:13-17. Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil Thou art of too just and pure a nature to approve of wickedness: it must ever be an abomination to thee. Thou canst not look upon iniquity Except with infinite abhorrence. Wherefore lookest thou upon them Seemest to connive at, or dost not show any particular dislike at the violence of those idolatrous Chaldeans? And makest men as the fishes of the sea, &c. By delivering them to Nebuchadnezzar, who takes them in his net, as a fisherman takes fishes; which creatures suffer themselves to be taken without resistance, because they have no power to defend themselves. As the creeping things that have no ruler, &c. No chief to conduct or guard them. The Hebrews give the common name of reptiles to all fishes. They take up all of them with the angle The prophet, having in the preceding verse compared men to fishes, continues here, by way of metaphor, to describe the advantages which the Chaldeans gained over other nations, by the several ways used by fishermen in taking fishes, as by catching them with the angle, enclosing them in nets, and gathering them in drags. Therefore they rejoice and are glad On account of the prey they take; that is, the Chaldeans rejoice in taking a great number of captives, and gathering rich spoils, as fishermen rejoice when they catch a great number of fishes. Therefore they sacrifice unto their net, &c. They impute all their victories to their own strength and skill, or to idols of their own making, and render no acknowledgments to God for their success. Because by them their portion is fat, &c. Because by means of their victories they get abundance of rich spoil. Shall they therefore empty their net Carry away the riches and spoils of their conquests, (see 2 Kings 24:13,) in order to undertake more; just as fishermen empty their nets to fill them again. But the words may be properly rendered, Shall he therefore spread his net? in which sense the Vulgate, as also the Greek and Chaldee, here interpret the Hebrew verb ירוק , a word often used of drawing or unsheathing a sword or spear. And not spare continually to slay the nations Wilt thou suffer them to go on to make havoc continually of all other nations? Shall they never be stopped in their career?

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Habakkuk 1". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/habakkuk-1.html. 1857.
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