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Unto Habakkuk, waiting for an answer, is shewed that he must wait by faith. The judgment upon the Chaldeans for unsatiableness, for covetousness, for cruelty, for drunkenness, and for idolatry.
Before Christ 690.
Habakkuk 2:1. I will stand upon my watch, &c.— I stood upon my watch, and continued upon the tower; and I looked to see what the Lord would say unto me, and what he would answer to my expostulation: [namely, that in the 13th and following verses of the preceding chapter, respecting the prosperity of the wicked, and of Nebuchadnezzar particularly:] Habakkuk 2:2. When the Lord answered me, &c. not shortly and enigmatically, as in Hab 2:11 of the former chapter, but openly and fully, denouncing the punishment of Nebuchadnezzar's impiety.
Habakkuk 2:3. At the end it shall speak, &c.— At the end he shall break forth, and not deceive: Though he delay, expect him; because he that cometh will came, he will not tarry.
Habakkuk 2:4. Behold, his soul, &c.— Behold, if any one draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him, &c. Houbigant however renders it, But if any one shall withdraw himself, his soul shall not overcome: but he who shall be constant [or firm in his reliance] shall live by his faith. It is the same admonition which we frequently read in Jeremiah, that if any one upon the taking of Jerusalem should withdraw himself and flee into Egypt, to escape the Chaldeans, it should not turn out prosperously to him; while they should be in safety, who, after the destruction of Jerusalem, should remain in Judaea, and continue to cultivate the lands. See Houbigant. When we come to the Epistle to the Hebrews, we shall examine in what sense this passage is quoted there.
Habakkuk 2:5-6. Yea, also, &c.— A transgressor by wine, is quite foreign to the subject; nor do the Syriac, LXX, or Arabic mention any thing of it. Houbigant renders the verse, very agreeably to the context, thus, For he, though he is a despiser, and powerful, and proud, yet shall he not have rest. After he shall have enlarged his desire as the grave, and as death, he shall not be satisfied; and after he shall have gathered to him all nations, and have heaped unto him all people. Habakkuk 2:6. For all these things they shall take up a parable, &c.—Woe to him who hath heaped together those things which were not his; and hath made his chain more thick and heavy; "has increased his power and majesty by his rapine and plunder." See his note, and the LXX.
Habakkuk 2:8. For the violence, &c.— And violence done to the land, to the city, and to all the inhabitants thereof.
Habakkuk 2:9. That he may set his nest on high— Who setteth his nest on high, that he may be delivered from evil; or be exempted, or secured from the reach of evil; that is to say, from the destruction of his city and empire, which the prophets of Israel, who were captives in his kingdom, denounced.
Habakkuk 2:11. For the stone shall cry, &c.— The answer of the beam follows in the next verse. The meaning of these figurative expressions is, that the houses and towns which have been destroyed by the Chaldeans shall cry for vengeance against the destroyers.
Habakkuk 2:13. Behold, is it not, &c.— For certainly this is from the Lord of Hosts, that the people shall take pains for the fire, and the nations shall weary themselves, &c. Houbigant.
Habakkuk 2:14. For the earth shall be filled, &c.— Or, "Shall have a full and perfect knowledge of the glory of the Lord, when Babylon shall be overthrown;" because the prophets of the Lord had foretold that destruction. God's providence in governing the world, shall conspicuously appear in the downfal of the Babylonish empire; especially as it is described in the prophets, as an earnest and type of the fall of the mystical Babylon; which will be a decisive stroke, that will thoroughly vindicate oppressed truth and innocence. See Lowth.
Habakkuk 2:15. Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink— By this neighbour, the neighbouring nations seem to be meant; whom the Chaldeans, as Grotius observes, enticed into their alliance, that they might afterwards treat them in the most ignominious manner. This particularly was the case of the king of Egypt, of whom Calmet more immediately understands it.
Habakkuk 2:16. Thou art filled with shame, &c.— Drink thou also, till thou art filled with shame instead of glory; and let, &c. For the cup of the right hand of the Lord shall come round to thee, &c. And disgrace shall succeed to thy glory. Houbigant.
Habakkuk 2:17. For the violence of Lebanon— For upon thee shall be returned the violences done in Lebanon, and the spoil of cattle, and whatever shall remain of human blood, and of the spoils of the land, &c. Houbigant. See Habakkuk 2:8.
Habakkuk 2:18. What profiteth the graven image— What, &c. when the maker thereof hath graven it? The molten image, and the doctrine of lies that he who hath formed it may have hope therein, while he maketh dumb idols? Houbigant. The prophet speaks here against idols in general, and idolatrous princes. What will they avail Nebuchadnezzar, and others like him, in the day of danger, and when the Lord ariseth to take vengeance upon them?
Habakkuk 2:19. It shall teach— Can this thing give instruction?—Behold, &c. but no breath at all in it. Houbigant, however, renders it, Wilt thou have that for an instructor, which, covered over with gold and silver, hath no breath in it?
Habakkuk 2:20. But the Lord, &c.— "The God of Israel is not like these imaginary deities: he gives law to all the earth; and all creatures ought to continue in silence with the most profound adoration and respect before his tremendous presence: he is the sovereign arbiter of their life and their death; of their destruction and their preservation." By his holy temple, is meant the heaven. Silence is a mark of respect and submission. In the eastern courts, there reigns among the guards, officers, and great men, attendant upon their princes, the most profound silence, in a grave, composed, and immoveable posture, which gives us some idea of the silence whereof Habakkuk speaks. Lord Baltimore, in his tour to the East, mentions a particular which will illustrate what has gone before. He informs us, that at the feast of the great Biram at Constantinople, the Grand Signor goes to the mosque of Sultan Ahmed. The cavalcade which issues forth from the Seraglio, on this occasion, is one of the finest sights in Europe. It confirms of the vizirs, bashaws, grandees, and all the principal civil and military persons in the city, who go to pay their respects to their emperor. They begin to come out at four o'clock in the morning, and continue so doing till about nine. When the Grand Signor appears, a deep silence is observed. The Janiffaries line the streets from the palace to the mosque; they are without any sort of arms; they stand with their hands across, and bow down to the Grand Signor and to the vizirs only, who return the salute:—but how infinitely more worthy of reverence is the great JEHOVAH!
REFLECTIONS.—1st, We have here,
1. The prophet waiting in faith for an answer to his prayer. I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, as a watchman waiting for intelligence; and will watch to see what he will say unto me, with regard to the requests that he had made, and the difficulties that he was under; and what I shall answer when I am reproved, either for the boldness of his expostulations; or how he should silence the objections of others, who might, from these melancholy appearances, argue against the providence of God. Note; (1.) When we are in perplexity, and know not how to reconcile God's providences with his promises, we must go up to the tower of prayer and meditation, and stand our ground there by faith against the assaults of temptation, looking to God for an answer of peace. (2.) When we have been with God in prayer, consulting his word, or reflecting on his dispensations, we must observe what God speaks unto us by any of these means, for our conviction, direction, encouragement, or consolation.
2. God answers him in mercy, and shews him the destruction of these merciless ravagers: for he never disappoints the expectations of his waiting people. For the comfort of the pious, he is commanded to write the vision, that it may be preserved, and handed down, unadulterated by tradition; and make it plain upon tables, which were then used for writing, and covered with wax, on which the letters were impressed; and this was to be done very plainly, and hung up in some conspicuous place, that he may run that readeth it, so legible that it might be easily read even by the most cursory look, or as one ran by it and but turned his head that way. And such should our preaching be, that the meanest capacities may comprehend it, never wishing to be admired as orators, but using all plainness of speech, that God's word may be understood. For the vision is yet for an appointed time; though it be distant, the day of its accomplishment is sure: at the end it shall speak, and not lie; the Lord will not disappoint the faith and patience of his believing people; or he will speak, who is the faithful and true witness, the prophet come to lead us into all truth. Though it, the promise, or He, the Messiah, tarry long; or at least seem to do so to those who longed for his appearing; wait for it, or Him, the fulfilment of the promise, or the coming of the Lord; because it will surely come, it will not tarry; or, for he that shall come, will come, as the apostle quotes the words, Heb 10:37 applying them to the Lord Jesus, the great hope of his people, on whom they are called to stay themselves under every afflictive dispensation. And herein the truth of grace is to be proved, Behold, his soul, which is lifted up, is not upright in him: they who despise the vision, or distrust the promise, and, instead of waiting upon God, endeavour to shift for themselves, depending on their own devices, they shew the unsoundness of their hearts. But the just shall live by faith: they who trusted God, even in the midst of their calamities, should be preserved; and in their captivity, the expectation of the Messiah should support them; and by persevering faith alone they could be saved. The words are quoted thrice by the Apostle as a proof of the great doctrine of justification by faith only; and they teach us, (1.) That no man is justified before God, by any doings or duties of his own, but by faith in Jesus. (2.) The meritorious cause of our life of grace or glory is not our faith, but the object of it, Christ Jesus—his righteous obedience unto the death of the cross.
2nd, Some commentators, supposing from the first part of this chapter which refers to Gospel-times, that the latter part goes on to describe the character of the succeeding enemies of the church, apply it to the Roman people, and especially their emperors, to whom no doubt the prophesy is very applicable; but I rather incline, with the generality, to refer it to Nebuchadnezzar and his successors in the Babylonian monarchy. See the Annotations.
1. Most heavy accusations are laid against this enemy of God's people: drunkenness and sensuality; impious pride, even to expect adoration; covetousness insatiable, injustice and oppression, the blood of innocents; ambition which knew no bounds; these and the like were the crimes with which he stood chargeable before God. Therefore,
2. Repeated woes are denounced upon him; and, when he is fallen, he will be justly insulted by those nations over whom he lorded it before. Shall not all these take up a parable against him, and a taunting proverb, pleased to behold his disgrace, and deriding his pride and presumption, and say, Woe, woe, woe unto him?
[1.] Woe to him that increaseth that which is not his, oppressing and plundering to increase his wealth: how long shall iniquity thus prevail, and the unrighteous prosper? and to him that loadeth himself with thick clay, the riches of the world being no better: and they who lade themselves with these by carking care and injustice, bring a heavy burden upon their souls, which will sink them into perdition and destruction. Shall they not rise up suddenly that shall bite thee, and awake that shall vex thee? certainly they shall. The Persians and the Medes will spoil him of the thick clay on which he doated; and thou shalt be for booties unto them. As he spoiled others, so shall they spoil him, the just retaliation for the innocent blood which he had shed, the violence that he had committed, and the cities that he had destroyed, whose inhabitants he plundered. God keeps a strict account, and in the dreadful day of judgment the black catalogue will be produced against the proud oppressor and daring sinner, to his everlasting confusion.
[2.] Woe to him that coveteth an evil covetousness to his house, insatiable after wealth, and ever grasping at more: for covetousness brings its own curse along with it, and cannot be satisfied, robbing men of all the comforts in their families which they otherwise might have enjoyed: that he may set his nest on high, raise his family to higher honour and dignity in the world; that he may be delivered from the power of evil, secured from the power of his enemies, the great evil that he dreads; though, alas! these are vain pretexts to gloss over his covetousness; and his defences but feeble against the evils that he fears. Thou hast consulted shame to thy house, by cutting off many people, fixing, by such unjust and cruel conduct, a mark of indelible infamy on his family; and hast sinned against thy soul, exposing it to God's wrath and damnation: for the stone shall cry out of the wall, if other witnesses of his guilt are wanting, and his frauds and deceits have been so managed as to escape the eye of men; and the beam out of the timber shall answer it, calling for vengeance upon the head of the unjust and the oppressor.
[3.] Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood, and stablisheth a city by iniquity, as Nebuchadnezzar had built or adorned Babylon with the spoils of conquered nations. Behold, is it not of the Lord of Hosts, that the people shall labour in the very fire, and the people shall weary themselves for very vanity? so fruitless will be all the endeavours of the Baby-lonians to preserve themselves from their enemies. For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea—when in the fall of Babylon God will be glorified, and the fame of his judgments spread into all lands. And this verse seems to look forward also to greater events than the fall of Babylon, even to the times of the Gospel, when the kingdom of darkness shall fall before the word of Jesus, and the knowledge of his glory be diffused, till at last, by his power and grace, the very ends of the earth shall remember themselves and be turned to the Lord, and all flesh shall see the salvation of our God.
3rdly, The prophet, having given us an awful description of the woes denounced on account of oppression and wrong, proceeds to shew two other causes for these woes, namely, drunkenness and idolatry.
1. Drunkenness. Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, as Belshazzar did, when he made a feast for his thousand lords, Dan 5:1 that puttest thy bottle to him, urging him to drink; and makest him drunken also. Such are factors for hell, and enemies to mankind; and though it may be called hospitality, good cheer, and giving them a hearty welcome, thus to make the glass circulate, it is indeed among the most deadly wickednesses, and will provoke the heaviest wrath of God. Woe unto the drunkards from the palace to the cottage! wrath is gone forth against them: that thou mayest look on their nakedness; draw out their secrets, expose them to ridicule, or induce them to some foolish or indiscreet act or bargain; this being the malignant view for which men often ply their neighbours with liquor; but God will be the avenger of all such. Thou art filled with shame for glory; God will render such persons vile and abhorred; drink thou also; a cup of wrath is put into his hands; the cup of the Lord's right hand shall be turned unto thee. The same vengeance which the Chaldeans had executed upon others shall return upon their own heads, when they shall be stripped naked to their shame, and, like drunkards, shameful spewing shall be on thy glory; they shall be rendered contemptible and loathsome, and all their riches and greatness be spoiled and defiled. The violence of Lebanon shall cover thee; either the same destruction as they had made in the temple of God; or this should rise up in judgment against them; or they should be hunted down as wild beasts in Lebanon: the spoil of beasts which made them afraid; once the terror of the country, but now destroyed; and this for the reasons alleged before, because of men's blood, and for the violence of the land, of the city, and of all that dwell therein.
Many apply this to Babylon mystical, the great whore that maketh all nations drunk with the wine of her fornication, whose end will be according to her works; see Revelation 18:3-6.
2. Idolatry. Babylon was full of idols; but all the gold and silver lavished upon them, or the curious sculpture, profited the maker nothing at all. Though they cried before them, Arise to help us, and expected from them directions in their emergencies; yet it was folly, nay, madness, to expect a dumb stone, a lifeless log, to teach or awake to succour them. Such expectations could only be raised by the great teacher of lies, whom these idols effectually serve; and nothing but woe can be the consequence of trusting in these lying vanities. Babylon mystical, the church of Rome, copies close after her pattern in ancient days, and has multiplied her images of gold and silver, of the Trinity, the Saviour, the Virgin Mary, of saints and angels, crowding their churches with them; where miserable devotees are seen continually kneeling before the breathless image or dumb stone. Their crafty priests, indeed, represent these as laymen's books; but God regards them with abomination, as teachers of lies. But the Lord is in his holy temple; not in idols of wood, or stone, or gold, but in heaven, beholding the hearts and ways of all the children of men; and in his church, where his special presence resides, comforting his believing people, and protecting them from their enemies. Let all the earth keep silence before him, paying him the worship due unto his name with reverence and godly fear, and never more ascribing his honour to graven images.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Habakkuk 2". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19