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Bible Commentaries
Habakkuk 1

Coke's Commentary on the Holy BibleCoke's Commentary



Unto Habakkuk, complaining of the iniquity of the land, is shewed the fearful vengeance by the Chaldeans: he complaineth that vengeance should be executed by them who are far worse.

Before Christ 690.

Verse 1

Habakkuk 1:1. The burden, &c.— The sentence, or prophesy. The prophet in the first four verses inveighs against the irregularities of Judah; and in the 6th verse he speaks of the coming of the Chaldeans into the country as of a thing entirely new; and as if those people had been called into existence for the very purpose of punishing the Jewish nation. See Calmet.

Verse 3

Habakkuk 1:3. And there are that raise up strife, &c.— And there is strife; and contention carries it.

Verse 4

Habakkuk 1:4. And judgment doth never go forth, &c.— And judgment goeth not forth to victory or perfection, for the wicked overbeareth the righteous. Houbigant. See Isaiah 42:3.

Verse 5

Habakkuk 1:5. Behold ye, &c.—though it be told you See and behold, ye despisers, and wonder and perish; for, &c.—when it is told. Houbigant. So also the LXX, and Acts 13:41.

Verse 6

Habakkuk 1:6. That bitter and hasty nation That swift nation, which shall hasten its pace, and shall march, &c. Houbigant.

Verse 7

Habakkuk 1:7. Their judgment, &c.— They give to themselves their own judgments, and their own auguries. The meaning is, that the Chaldeans plunder whatever they deem in their own judgments proper to be theirs, and esteem their own will in the place of auguries and omens. Houbigant.

Verse 9

Habakkuk 1:9. Their faces shall sup, &c.— A burning wind goes before them, and gathers captives as the sand. Houbigant. They shall carry desolation, destruction, and fire every where 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. See Jeremiah 4:11; Jeremiah 18:17. Ezekiel 17:10; Ezekiel 19:12.

Verse 10

Habakkuk 1:10. And they shall scoff, &c.— And he shall scoff at kings, and princes will be a jest with him; he will but laugh at every strong hold; for he will heap up the dust, (or raise a mound) and take it.

Verse 11

Habakkuk 1:11. Then, &c.— Then shall his spirit be changed, and he shall depart, and become guilty, who confided in his god. The prophet here foretels the wonderful change which was to happen to Nebuchadnezzar; who was to have the heart of a beast, and to become guilty; to be punished for his pride, to depart from his palace, and to dwell in the fields. See Houbigant.

Verse 12

Habakkuk 1:12. Art thou not from everlasting, O Lord For thou, O Lord, my God, the holy God, the God of truth, thou hast of old ordained him to judgment: thou hast made him a strong enemy, that thou mightest correct him. Houbigant.

Verse 14

Habakkuk 1:14. And makest men, &c.— By delivering them to Nebuchadnezzar, who takes them in his net as a fisherman takes fishes. These creatures suffer themselves to be taken without resistance, because they have no power to defend themselves; no chief to conduct or guard them; as reptiles, who have no protector or guardian. The Hebrews give the common name of reptiles to all fishes. See Calmet.

Verse 15

Habakkuk 1:15. Therefore they rejoice and are glad Therefore he rejoices and triumphs. The whole verse may he rendered in the singular number.

Verse 16

Habakkuk 1:16. Therefore, &c.— Therefore will he sacrifice to his net, and burn incense to his drag; because by them is his portion fat, and his meat delicious. The meaning is, that he attributes all his good success to his valour, his courage, his conduct, and good fortune; or else to that god, whose statue he erected in the plains of Dura. See Daniel 3:1.

Verse 17

Habakkuk 1:17. Shall they therefore, &c.— Therefore he continually maketh his net empty [in order to be fed with that delicious food], and spareth not to slay the nations. Houbigant. Others render it, Shall he therefore draw out his net, and that continually, to slay the nations, and without mercy?

REFLECTIONS.—1st, This prophesy is called a burden, as it contains a heavy threatening of wrath for provoking iniquities.

1. The prophet bewails the miserable state of the land, where violence raged, iniquity reigned with impunity, rapine and injustice appeared without a veil; and while families and neighbours were set at variance by those who raise up strife and contention, the kingdom was torn with intestine divisions, fomented by the wicked, who loved to fish in these troubled waters. The law is slacked, has lost all its vigour; and judgment doth never go forth against the offenders, who are emboldened to commit every crime by this neglect: but, though the guilty escape, the innocent are persecuted; for the wicked doth compass about the righteous, confederate to oppress the few faithful, and pervert justice; therefore wrong judgment proceedeth; the just are condemned, while the criminals are acquitted. And when wickedness is thus prevalent in a nation, ruin cannot be far off.

2. The prophet bewails his own unhappy fate, condemned to dwell in the sight of such abominations, which grieved his righteous soul; and, though an importunate advocate with God, no answer was given him. O Lord, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear? even cry unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save! Notwithstanding all his prayers, no stop was put to the abounding ungodliness; and on this account he expostulates, lest it should seem as if the Lord had forsaken the earth, when wickedness thus prospered. Note; (1.) When we can do no more for sinners, it becomes us still to pray for them. (2.) Gracious souls, while they are in the world, must bear this burden, of seeing and hearing abominations which grieve their spirits: but yet a little while, and they shall be released, and go where the wicked cease from troubling. (3.) It has been a trial to many a good man's faith to behold prosperous iniquity; but we shall shortly see God justified in all his works and ways.

2nd, Though God bears long with the impenitent, he will not bear always.
1. He gives them notice of a terrible judgment ready to descend upon them. Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, see what fearful work God is doing among them; and Israel's turn would shortly come; and wonder marvel-lously, astonished at the desolations which are wrought in the earth: for I will work a work in your days, which ye will not believe, though it be told you; which was the destruction of the Jewish nation, with their cities, and the temple at Jerusalem, which the Chaldeans, under the divine direction, would accomplish; and this within the present age; so that many then alive should see what the people of the Jews in general, notwithstanding all the prophetic warnings, treated as utterly incredible. The apostle applies this to the despisers of Christ and his Gospel, whose destruction, terrible and sure, approaches, notwithstanding their insensibility and presumption.

2. He describes the dreadful ravages which the Chaldeans should make among them. Raised up at God's call, and sent to execute his vengeance, they should come to seize by conquest the dwelling-places which are not theirs; and, among other victims to their ambition, Judaea shall be subdued by them. They are described as a bitter and hasty nation, cruel and merciless in their dispositions, inveterate in their enmities, and rapid in executing their enterprises: they are terrible and dreadful; the fame of their victories is spread, and their fierce look injects dismay into their enemies: their judgment and their dignity shall proceed of themselves; their will is their rule, imperious in their commands, and strangers to the laws of clemency, equity, and humanity. Their cavalry, swifter than the leopards, and more fierce than the evening wolves, shall charge, pursue, and bear down all opposition, plundering and devouring the country, spreading themselves on every side, and hasting from their own distant land with such velocity as the eagle darteth on his prey. They shall come all for violence, purely to ravage and spoil: their faces shall sup up as the east-wind, blasting all before them, leaving the land bare; or their faces shall look towards the east, designing to transfer their spoil and captives thither, which they collect innumerable as the sand. They shall scoff at the kings of Judah, with their nobles and confederates; deriding every strong-hold, as unable to resist their victorious arms: for they shall heap dust and take it; so easily will their mounts be raised by their numerous pioneers. Then shall his mind change: the king of Babylon, grown haughty by success, shall meditate new conquests; and he shall pass over all bounds of reason and equity, and shall offend by new acts of cruelty and injustice, imputing this his power unto his god, ascribing his success to his idol deities. Or the words may be understood as predicting Nebuchadnezzar's punishment. His mind shall change from a man to a beast, and he shall pass over from the society of men to dwell in the desert, and be punished for his pride and wickedness, for making this his power his god, as if he were a divinity, and possessed omnipotence. (See the Annotations.) Note; (1.) It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of despotic tyrants. (2.) Success often ministers fuel for pride; and many by prosperity have their minds changed for the worse.

3rdly, The judgments ready to come upon the people distressed the prophet, as their sins had done before; seeing that the righteous, as well as the wicked, would be involved therein; he therefore flies to God in prayer, and expostulates with him on these afflictive dispensations, that he may obtain an answer to satisfy his own mind, and those who, like him, approved still their fidelity to God.
1. He professes his own unshaken faith in God, under every circumstance of distress and difficulty. Art thou not from everlasting? thou art the same unchangeable Jehovah; O Lord, my God, in whose favour he had an assured interest; mine holy One, whose dispensations, however dark to us, are perfectly righteous and true; who is holy essentially, and the author of all holiness to others: we shall not die; however threatening the judgments, the nation shall not utterly be extirpated: though the Chaldeans threatened high, they were but instruments in God's hand: O Lord, thou hast ordained them for judgment, to punish the wicked, O mighty God, whose power can overrule all the purposes of men; thou hast established them for correction; to destroy the impenitent from the face of the earth, and to chasten thy children for good, that they may not be delivered unto death; this being the gracious design of God in all the afflictions that he sends upon genuine believers, and which should be their comfort under them. Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity; not that God's eye is not in every place; but he doth not approve of wickedness, it is his abhorrence; nor can he see the afflictions of his believing people, and the iniquity of their oppressors, with connivance or satisfaction; and to these principles he resolved to adhere, however appearances might seem to contradict them. Note; (1.) Sound and well-established principles are the great support in time of trial. (2.) God's permission of wickedness does not imply his approbation; nor is the evil that he suffers his believing people to undergo any mark of his displeasure; but contrariwise, because they are sons, he chastiseth them with the rod of men.

2. He begs a solution of his difficulties under the present distressful scene before him, when piety was oppressed, and wickedness triumphant: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, giving them success in their perfidious designs, and holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he? as the Chaldeans did the Jews; and God's silence distressed the prophet and other good men, how to reconcile this with their general principles; because they did not sufficiently look to that great day of retribution, when every thing shall be fully balanced. And makest men as the fishes of the sea; seeming to shew no more care towards men in general, and his own people in particular, than over the fishes, where the weaker are a prey to the strong, and whoever will may take them in their net, as the creeping things, that have no ruler over them to protect and defend them. Thus helpless were they before their enemies, as if God had forsaken the earth, and left the good a prey to the wicked, and the weak a spoil to the strong; to be caught as easily as fish with the angle; and by a variety of means, by the net or drag, to be seized and destroyed without concern: yea, to be a sport and pastime to their murderers, as fishermen rejoice and are glad when their net is filled. Therefore they sacrifice to their own net, and burn incense unto their own drag, applaud themselves in their own contrivances, and the success of them, because by them their portion is fat, and their meat plenteous; they thus enlarged their wealth, and were enabled to live more luxuriously; and this was their happiness. Shall they therefore empty their net, and not spare continually to slay the nations? shall they go on successfully from nation to nation, murdering and plundering at their pleasure? Will a righteous God permit this? he leaves the matter with the Lord, and in faith and hope is enmboldened to expect his interposition. Note; (1.) Whatever difficulties occur in the divine providence, we must cast our care upon God, and wait patiently for his salvation. (2.) Ambitious princes make no more account of men than of fishes, and rejoice in battles gained at the expence of multitudes of lives; but God will reckon such conqueror, as the most bloody murderers of mankind.

Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Habakkuk 1". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/habakkuk-1.html. 1801-1803.
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