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Bible Commentaries

Matthew Poole's English Annotations
on the Holy Bible
Habakkuk 1

 

 

Verse 1

HABAKKUK CHAPTER 1

Unto Habakkuk, complaining of the iniquity of the land, Habakkuk 1:14, showed the fearful vengeance by the Chaldeans, Habakkuk 1:5-11. He complaineth that vengeance should be executed by them who are far worse, Habakkuk 1:12-17.

The burden; see Nahum 1:1; to which we may here add, as proper to this time and place, that the prophet seems to speak of the grievous things here intended as a burden to himself, a trouble he did feel and groan under.

Habakkuk: here we might, as others, guess at his country, parentage, and tribe; but no certainty appears in these: his name may perhaps intimate somewhat, either actively one that embraceth, or passively one embraced, and so may refer to God, or to his people, and intimate good to a people, whom God will ere long embrace; or it may speak one that is puzzled with the intricacy of affairs, and therefore expostulateth, as Habakkuk 1:2,3.

The prophet; not he that is mentioned in the apocryphal book, but a prophet called and sent of God.

Did see; not only in the future certainty of it on others, but did also feel in the present trouble and perplexity wherewith it affected him.


Verse 2

O Lord: unto God alone he makes his application, as only able to redress all grievances.

How long! it may be some years he had preached, and in preaching had complained and cried out against wickedness.

Shall I cry, unto men in thy name, and unto thee in prayer and supplication.

And thou wilt not hear; give answer by correcting or punishing the bad, and by rescuing and delivering the good; by appearing a just Arbitrator and Judge of both.

Cry out, with submission, not murmuring, not impatient, not distrusting the justice or mercy of God. Unto thee, who art more displeased than I or any one else can be disquieted with that I complain of, who art by office and word bound to restrain violence, &c.

Of violence; the unjust and wicked oppressions which I see, others feel, and all good people are endangered by.

And thou wilt not save; by changing the bad, or restraining them, or by overthrowing them, and setting up just and upright men in their room, both in Jerusalem and in Judea, and every where else.


Verse 3

Why dost thou show me? it is a most unpleasing sight, and that which troubles me and every good man, to see unjust and injurious men without control, and unpunished, to act their iniquity; and yet, O God, thou not only permittest it to be done, but to be done in sight, and to the grief of thy servants: thus God showeth it, and it is not without just cause, though the cause be hidden.

Iniquity; men of iniquity and vanity, unrighteous toward men, and vain in their thoughts and practices of religion toward God.

And cause me to behold: this explains the former. Grievance: so it is in regard of the effect it hath upon beholders, and such as suffer by this iniquity; it is grief and sorrow to them, it is a grievance they groan under.

For spoiling, such as wasteth, and undoeth them that fall under it,

and violence, perverting judgment, and turning it into wormwood; or else it is a Hebraism, spoiling and violence, that is, most violent robbing and spoiling each other.

Are before me; every where I see it, to the breaking of mine heart.

There are that raise up strife; or, and there is strife, that is, little else but strife among men, occasioned by these oppressive practices.

And contention: so it will be a Hebraism, expressing endless contentions. It would bear, and judgment is taken away, which suits the next verse.

Why dost thou show me? it is a most unpleasing sight, and that which troubles me and every good man, to see unjust and injurious men without control, and unpunished, to act their iniquity; and yet, O God, thou not only permittest it to be done, but to be done in sight, and to the grief of thy servants: thus God showeth it, and it is not without just cause, though the cause be hidden.

Iniquity; men of iniquity and vanity, unrighteous toward men, and vain in their thoughts and practices of religion toward God.

And cause me to behold: this explains the former. Grievance: so it is in regard of the effect it hath upon beholders, and such as suffer by this iniquity; it is grief and sorrow to them, it is a grievance they groan under.

For spoiling, such as wasteth, and undoeth them that fall under it,

and violence, perverting judgment, and turning it into wormwood; or else it is a Hebraism, spoiling and violence, that is, most violent robbing and spoiling each other.

Are before me; every where I see it, to the breaking of mine heart.

There are that raise up strife; or, and there is strife, that is, little else but strife among men, occasioned by these oppressive practices.

And contention: so it will be a Hebraism, expressing endless contentions. It would bear, and judgment is taken away, which suits the next verse.


Verse 4

Therefore; because the wicked go on with impunity, and the punishment they deserve is deferred.

The law of God, given to this people by the hand of Moses, the whole law, moral, ceremonial, and judicial.

Is slacked; is slighted, weakened, and little studied, and less obeyed by all sorts.

And judgment; not only private men neglect the law, but magistrates, judges, and public officers pervert, or divert, or obstruct it also.

Doth never go forth, Heb. to the end, or, unto victory, with prevalence to restrain the unjust, and to protect the innocent, which is the end of magistracy, Romans 13:3.

The wicked; the unjust and violent man. Doth compass about; as it were besiegeth, surroundeth, with design to oppress and ruin by false witness, interest, or bribery.

Wrong judgment; perverse judgment, wherein innocence is condemned and the guilty are acquitted: so the judges are swords in the bowels, when they should be shields over the bodies of the righteous.


Verse 5

Behold ye: here God begins to answer the prophet, and calls for a very particular and exact consideration of the thing; see and ponder.

Among the heathen; what judgments, what punishments have been executed upon the heathen, for like sins.

Regard; weigh it well in all its tendency and consequence, for it is a warning to you, it assures you judgment will overtake you also. Wonder marvellously; as astonished at judgments, too great to be expressed in words, and so strange that it will seem too much to be believed.

For I, the great and glorious God, the just and supreme Judge,

will work a work; begin, continue, and finish a work; a work I am working, a work of equal severity and justice.

In your days; it shall no more be deferred, Ezekiel 7:5, &c.

Ye will not believe; you wicked violent oppressors will not believe, though the Lord by his prophets foretell it.

Told you; described how, and by whom, and when.

Behold ye: here God begins to answer the prophet, and calls for a very particular and exact consideration of the thing; see and ponder.

Among the heathen; what judgments, what punishments have been executed upon the heathen, for like sins.

Regard; weigh it well in all its tendency and consequence, for it is a warning to you, it assures you judgment will overtake you also. Wonder marvellously; as astonished at judgments, too great to be expressed in words, and so strange that it will seem too much to be believed.

For I, the great and glorious God, the just and supreme Judge,

will work a work; begin, continue, and finish a work; a work I am working, a work of equal severity and justice.

In your days; it shall no more be deferred, Ezekiel 7:5, &c.

Ye will not believe; you wicked violent oppressors will not believe, though the Lord by his prophets foretell it.

Told you; described how, and by whom, and when.


Verse 6

For lo: now the prophet declares particularly what it is that the Lord will work.

I raise up; awaken to action, animate them in it, and strengthen them to accomplish their design.

The Chaldeans, who had subdued other nations, and had already ruined the Assyrian monarchy.

Bitter; cruel, and without mercy, Jeremiah 6:23 21:7.

Hasty; speedy and quick in executing their merciless purposes, as Isaiah 5:26,27.

Which shall march, Heb.

walk without fear, and in order, as a conqueror doth in his conquests.

Through the breadth of the land; through all parts of the land, no corner shall escape his search or cruelty.

To possess; not to spoil and be gone, but to take and keep possession, as lord and proprietor in the right of conquest.

The dwelling-places; houses, towns, cities, Jerusalem itself, which they had no right to, till Jewish sins gave occasion for the dispossessing of the Jews, and the introducing of the Chaldeans.


Verse 7

They are terrible and dreadful: to affect the incredulous Jews with greater fear, it is doubled, they are of all nations most terrible; in the fierceness wherewith they assault, and cruelty with which they use their captives. Their judgment, the law they observe, is their own will, and what they please you must submit unto, nor complain of wrong done, forasmuch as they do it.

Their dignity; their authority and superiority, for which you must reverence them; the lordliness of their deportment toward you, or the right they assume to send you captives; all is from themselves, without respect to any other law or rule whatever. How miserable are you like to be, when enslaved to such a barbarous cruelty, and unbounded pride!

They are terrible and dreadful: to affect the incredulous Jews with greater fear, it is doubled, they are of all nations most terrible; in the fierceness wherewith they assault, and cruelty with which they use their captives. Their judgment, the law they observe, is their own will, and what they please you must submit unto, nor complain of wrong done, forasmuch as they do it.

Their dignity; their authority and superiority, for which you must reverence them; the lordliness of their deportment toward you, or the right they assume to send you captives; all is from themselves, without respect to any other law or rule whatever. How miserable are you like to be, when enslaved to such a barbarous cruelty, and unbounded pride!

They are terrible and dreadful: to affect the incredulous Jews with greater fear, it is doubled, they are of all nations most terrible; in the fierceness wherewith they assault, and cruelty with which they use their captives. Their judgment, the law they observe, is their own will, and what they please you must submit unto, nor complain of wrong done, forasmuch as they do it.

Their dignity; their authority and superiority, for which you must reverence them; the lordliness of their deportment toward you, or the right they assume to send you captives; all is from themselves, without respect to any other law or rule whatever. How miserable are you like to be, when enslaved to such a barbarous cruelty, and unbounded pride!


Verse 8

Their horses also are swifter; they will be sooner upon you than you think, and when once among you, they will be swifter than you can flee from, Isaiah 30:16 Lamentations 4:19.

Than the leopards; a fierce creature, ravenous as the lion, and much swifter, a watchful and sly beast, from which it is very hard to shift.

More fierce, more eager after, and more cruel to the prey, than the evening wolves; which with long fasting in the day, do come out in the evening more fierce on every thing that may be a prey for them: see Jeremiah 5:6 Ezekiel 22:27 Zephaniah 3:3.

Their horsemen; excellent riders, that can manage the speed and fierceness of these horses.

Shall spread themselves all over the land, so many shall they be, and so active, and all strong and hale, as some think the word implieth.

Shall come from far; as far from liking your customs, pitying your persons, or understanding your language, as they are far remote from your country; men that will make you pay the charge of their long and tedious journey.

They shall fly as the eagle; lest you should dream of escape by flight, your enemies (O miserable Jews) shall be so swift, you will think they flew on wings, on eagle’s wings, the swiftest of flight, and quickest in espying her prey.

That hasteth to eat; hunger makes her flight the quicker, and her seizure of the prey more bold and daring, Job 9:26 Ezekiel 17:3: so shall your enemies be to you.


Verse 9

They, Chaldeans, and in particular these fierce and swift horsemen, shall come all, with one purpose, on the same design, to enrich themselves by making a prey of all.

Their faces shall sup up as the east wind: either thus, their very countenances shall be as blasting, pestiferous, and dangerous as is the east wind in those countries; or thus, all they can sup up, or lay hold on, they will carry eastward; or thus, when you are devoured, they shall set their faces eastward to devour others in those coasts.

They shall gather the captivity; prisoners or captives, called here the captivity, to express the extremity thereof.

As the sand, both for easiness of gathering, and the multitudes of captives gathered.

They, Chaldeans, and in particular these fierce and swift horsemen, shall come all, with one purpose, on the same design, to enrich themselves by making a prey of all.

Their faces shall sup up as the east wind: either thus, their very countenances shall be as blasting, pestiferous, and dangerous as is the east wind in those countries; or thus, all they can sup up, or lay hold on, they will carry eastward; or thus, when you are devoured, they shall set their faces eastward to devour others in those coasts.

They shall gather the captivity; prisoners or captives, called here the captivity, to express the extremity thereof.

As the sand, both for easiness of gathering, and the multitudes of captives gathered.


Verse 10

They, both the king of Babylon and his soldiers, shall scoff, deride and contemn,

at the kings, which either confederated with the Jews, or else opposed the designs of the Chaldeans; as the kings of Egypt, of Tyre, &c.; or the kings of the Jews, as Jehoiachin and Zedekiah.

The princes, governors, counsellors, valiant commanders, and officers, shall be a scorn unto them, to the whole army of the Chaldeans.

They shall heap dust, and take it; by mighty mounts cast up, or by filling up the trenches about your cities and fortresses, shall master them.


Verse 11

Then: it notes both the time and cause of what happened; extraordinary successes, and a continued series of them, attending the designs and attempts of the Chaldean kings, at last made them so haughty and proud, as to trample on kings, Habakkuk 1:10; and when their pride was at this height, it stops not here.

His mind; the spirit or wind, as the Hebrew, and so some think the prophet does foretell the change of his prosperous gales, his downfall; but it is more natural to understand it of the change of mind in the prosperous Chaldean, he will think other thoughts of himself. his affairs, and of other men.

He shall pass over; break over the bounds of all sober and modest sentiments, exceed in his value of himself, and of his achievements, as Sennacherib first did, 2 Chronicles 32:17-19, and next Nebuchadnezzar, surnamed the Great, Daniel 4:29,30.

Offend: this pride was a great sin, and highly provoked God; for the insolent tyrant idolized himself.

Imputing this his power, the strength by which he had done all this great exploits, or the might and power to which he had advanced himself, unto

his god: this at first seems a little tolerable, it seems to savour somewhat of religion, yet it is a great offence thus to ascribe his grandeur to a dumb idol, but it is worse to reckon his strength to be his god, as the words will express it in the Hebrew. See Daniel 4:29,30.


Verse 12

Art thou not from everlasting? in being, thou art that God who art not like the gods of the nations, upstart and novel, but before the mountains were brought forth thou wast God; thou hast permitted, borne with, restrained, overthrown, and punished such proud, bloody, and sacrilegious wretches. In thy works of old, before this proud Chaldean monarch was thought of, thou wert as now, wonderful, just, and good, and thy saints found support in the remembrance thereof, Psalms 74:12 77:5,11 143:5 Isaiah 45:21. In covenant with thine Israel, which covenant is not of late years, it is an ancient covenant, and as it hath, it still shall be kept for our good.

O Lord; the Sovereign Lord and Ruler of the world, who only art Jehovah.

My God; Judge and Vindex by office; as Judge, engaged to defend, rescue, and avenge the oppressed; and my God or Judge. Whether the prophet speaks only in his own, or in his people’s name, he hath a respect to that peculiar relation he or they had to God, much like that Isaiah 63:19. He refers to the ancient covenant relation which God had taken them into, and implies his hope and expectation of help from God, their Judge and Vindex.

Mine Holy One; holy in thy nature, law, and government, in thy mercies, and in judgments, who dost intend to make thy holiness appear in due time by saving us; though thou seem to forget, or at least to delay the work, yet thou art the Holy One in the midst of us, Isaiah 12:6, and we wait for thee.

We, who are thine, and oppressed, threatened, and exposed to the avarice and cruelty of the Chaldean,

shall not die; be utterly cut off and destroyed, for the death of a nation is the destruction or desolation of it. Thou who hast made us thine by an everlasting covenant of mercy, wilt show us such mercy that we shall outlive the rage of our enemies.

O Lord: with humble veneration he doth look towards God, and discerneth what quieteth his spirit, and confirms his faith and patience.

Thou hast ordained, set up, maintained, and designed, them, the Chaldean kingdom, as Habakkuk 1:6.

for judgment; to execute this judgment, which is ever attempered with mercy, which ever betters, never destroys thy people: see Isaiah 10:5, &c. Babylon, as Assyria, was the rod of God’s indignation, &c.

O mighty God: this he repeats for confirmation and illustration, and intimateth God to be his people’s rock and refuge.

Thou hast established, strengthened and fortified, them for correction; to chastise and discipline, not to destroy.


Verse 13

Thou, O Lord, who hast raised and increased the Chaldean kingdom.

Art of purer; of infinite purity and holiness.

Eyes, ascribed unto God to express his knowledge; so his eves run to and fro, and his eye is upon the righteous.

Than to behold: his omniscience doth behold all things, and so David expresseth it,

Thou beholdest mischief and spite, to requite it, Psalms 10:14; but he doth not, will not, cannot, see with delight, with approbation, evil, of sin and violence.

And canst not look on iniquity; the same thing repeated to confirm us. All this the prophet doth lay down as most undoubtedly true, and on which he stays himself (though he be amazed with the darkness of providences); and by this he will repress all undue murmurings, when he debates with God about his providences: most just and holy; but why thus or thus?

Wherefore lookest; seest all the violence done, and bearest with them that do it; why doth not thy hand remove and avenge what thine eye is offended at, and thy heart abhorreth?

Them that deal treacherously; the Chaldeans, who were a perfidious nation, and ruined many by their treacheries; fraud and force were both alike to them. And it is likely they dealt very falsely with the Jews.

Holdest thy tongue; seemest unconcerned in such a degree as to be silent and say nothing.

When, or whilst; it might seem a fit season to speak, when the violent are about their violence, when the prey is between the teeth and not swallowed.

The wicked; the Chaldean, an oppressor, bloody and treacherous against men, an atheist or idolater against God.

Devoureth; swalloweth down whole, as the word imports, Numbers 16:30 Psalms 124:3. The man; the Jew, or almost every one of us, as the phrase imports.

More righteous than he: though the Jews were a very corrupt nation, yet, compared with the Chaldeans, they were the better, and of the two the Jew was the less evil. Now this riddle he desired might be unfolded, Why is the juster oppressed by the unjuster?


Verse 14

Makest; not infusing cruel, ravenous, and unsatiable appetites, but permitting them to act according to such appetite which was already in them.

Men; who should be just to all, and wrong none, who were once framed for mutual help in civil societies, and whose life should be beneficence.

As the fishes; of which the greater live on the lesser, and do greedily and all the day long feed on the smaller fry.

Of the sea; where the devourers are more for number, of greater bulk, and swallow greater numbers of the lesser.

As the creeping things; which in the waters are food for the lesser fry; so the world, like the sea, is wholly oppression.

No ruler; none to defend the weak, to restrain the mighty, and to give law to all.

Makest; not infusing cruel, ravenous, and unsatiable appetites, but permitting them to act according to such appetite which was already in them.

Men; who should be just to all, and wrong none, who were once framed for mutual help in civil societies, and whose life should be beneficence.

As the fishes; of which the greater live on the lesser, and do greedily and all the day long feed on the smaller fry.

Of the sea; where the devourers are more for number, of greater bulk, and swallow greater numbers of the lesser.

As the creeping things; which in the waters are food for the lesser fry; so the world, like the sea, is wholly oppression.

No ruler; none to defend the weak, to restrain the mighty, and to give law to all.

Makest; not infusing cruel, ravenous, and unsatiable appetites, but permitting them to act according to such appetite which was already in them.

Men; who should be just to all, and wrong none, who were once framed for mutual help in civil societies, and whose life should be beneficence.

As the fishes; of which the greater live on the lesser, and do greedily and all the day long feed on the smaller fry.

Of the sea; where the devourers are more for number, of greater bulk, and swallow greater numbers of the lesser.

As the creeping things; which in the waters are food for the lesser fry; so the world, like the sea, is wholly oppression.

No ruler; none to defend the weak, to restrain the mighty, and to give law to all.


Verse 15

They; either more generally oppressors every where, or else particularly the Chaldeans.

Take up; draw them out slily and craftily, when they are taken by his bait.

All of them without distinction, all alike, good or bad.

With the angle: it may refer to the delight these oppressors took in these courses, or to the more private way of destroying.

They catch them in their net; another method of the Chaldean rapine, like catching of fish, not singly and one by one, but destroying many together.

And gather them; as if they could never have enough, these Chaldeans do, fisher-like, drive men into their nets and snares. In their drag: this is a third way of destroying fish. The Chaldeans would use all ways to devour the Jews.

Therefore they, the greedy and cruel Chaldeans, rejoice, both in their own gain and in the Jews’ ruin.

And are glad: it is doubled to show the certainty of the thing, and probably to intimate the double joy they took in their prosperous oppression.


Verse 16

Therefore, because they prosper and thrive, in which they should see and acknowledge thy wise and mighty providence,

they sacrifice, idolize and pay Divine honours, ascribe the praise of their victories and acquired glory, unto their net; to their own contrivances, diligence, and power, as if the fisherman should make his net his god, and offer sacrifice for a good draught of fishes taken to the net that took them.

And burn incense, another part of Divine honour, and mostly used in giving thanks and praises, to their drag; to their policy and power, their own counsel conduct, and arms, expressed in the metaphor of a fisherman’s drag.

Because by them their portion, State, condition, or interest,

is fat; great and flourishing.

Their meat; the revenues of the kingdom in general, and the revenues of particular subjects, especially of the commanders and military officers, those who help to spread, draw, and empty the net.

Plenteous; abundant, that it might seem a sufficient provision, as well as a pleasant mess, sufficient for quantity as sweet in quality. It is likely these self-admirers did not only eat the fat of the land they wasted, but laid up in store for themselves.


Verse 17

Shall they? the Chaldeans, Nebuchadnezzar and his armies.

Therefore; shall former success be pledge of future? they have prospered, and they think they shall; wilt thou confirm this to them?

Empty their net; as fishermen empty the full net to fill it again, and cast out what they had taken to take in more; shall these proud and cruel Chaldeans do so still?

And not spare continually; shall they as endlessly as mercilessly waste?

To slay, murderer-like, kill,

the nations; not single persons, but whole kingdoms and people at once: wilt thou, O most just and mighty God and Judge, suffer these things always? The prophet by the question intimates to us that God most certainly will not suffer it always. The Lord will in fit time arise and break the oppressors’ arm, and save the oppressed church and people of God.

 


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Bibliography Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Habakkuk 1:4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/habakkuk-1.html. 1685.

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