IN THE FORM OF A COLLOQUY

                   BETWEEN THE PROPHET AND GOD. 



The inscription of the book.  (v. 1)


1  The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see.” The burden (see note on

Nahum 1:1). The prophet (ch. 3:1). This title, which is added in the inscriptions only

to the names of Haggai and Zechariah, and cursorily to that of Jeremiah (46, 47., 50.),

implies that he exercised the practical office of prophet, and was well known; and,

appended it here on account of the form in which his prophecy is cast, as being

addressed almost entirely to God or the Chaldeans, not to his own people. Did see.

In prophetic vision (see note on Amos 1:1).



                                                A Prophet’s Burden (v. 1)




Ø      His name. Habakkuk — “Embracing,” which might signify either “one

                        who embraces” or “one who is embraced.” Accepting the former sense,

                        Luther notes the suitability of the prophet’s name to his office. “He

                        embraces his people (in his prophecy), and takes them to his arms; i.e. he

                        comforts them, and lifts them up as one embraces a poor weeping child or

                        man, to quiet it with the assurance that, if God will, it shall be better

                        soon;” though probably the name rather points to the character of the

                        prophet’s faith, which cleaved fast to the Lord amid the perplexity of

                        things seen.


Ø      His person. A Jewish prophet, belonging to the tribe of Levi, and

                        officially qualified to take part in the liturgical service of the temple

                        (ch. 3:19). Beyond this nothing is known of his history, the Jewish

                        legends concerning him being absolutely worthless.


Ø      His date. Uncertain. Before the arrival of the Chaldeans in Judah (v. 6),

      and therefore before the third year of Jehoiakim (Daniel 1:1); but

                        whether in the reign of Manasseh or in that of Josiah, or in

                        that of Jehoiakim, is open to debate. That the Assyrians are not

                        mentioned as a power seems to indicate that by this time Nineveh had

                        fallen (B.C. 606), which speaks for the third of the above dates; that the

                        predicted judgment (v. 5) was to be so unlikely as barely to be credible

                        favors a time while Babylon was yet subject to Assyria, and therefore a

                        date in the reign of Manasseh. The moral and spiritual degeneracy of the

                        age in which Habakkuk lived (vs. 1-4) harmonizes less with the reign of

                        Josiah than with that of Manasseh or Jehoiakim. The latter is supported by

                        the fact that the Chaldeans appear to be depicted as already on their march

                        (v. 6); the former by the circumstance that the judgment is represented as

                        not immediately at hand, but only as certain to happen in the days of

                        those to whom the prophet spoke (v. 5).




Ø      Its contents. As Nahum had predicted the destruction of Nineveh and the

                        Assyrian power, which had carried the ten tribes into captivity (II Kings

                        17:6), so Habakkuk declares:


o       the judgment about to come upon the degenerate nation of Judah

                                    through the instrumentality of the Chaldeans; and


o       the overthrow of the Chaldeans for their insatiableness, ambition,

                                    cruelty, treachery, and idolatry.


Ø      Its form. In the first two chapters the prophet sets forth his message in

                        the form of a conversation between himself and Jehovah, the prophet

                        addressing Jehovah in the language of complaint (vs. 1-4) and challenge

                        (vs. 12-17), and Jehovah in return replying to his complaint (vs. 5-11)

                        and to his challenge (ch. 2:2-19). In the third chapter Habakkuk

                        appends a prayer, which begins by supplicating mercy for the afflicted

                        people of God (ch. 3:1-2), and quickly passes into a sublime

                        description of Jehovah’s coming in the glory of the Almighty

                        (ibid. vs. 3-11) for the destruction of his foes (ibid. vs. 12-15) and the

                        salvation of His people and His anointed (v.13).  The whole of the

                        prophecy has an ideal stamp. Not even Judah and Jerusalem are

                        mentioned, and the Chaldeans who are mentioned by name are simply

                        introduced as the existing possessors of the imperial power of the world,

                        which was bent upon the destruction of the kingdom of God, or

                        as the sinners who swallow up the righteous man.


Ø      Its style. The lofty sublimity of this brief composition, as regards both

                        thought and expression, has been universally recognized. His language is

                        classical throughout.   His view and mode of presentation bear the seal of

                        independent force and finished beauty. Habakkuk bears not

                        merely the prophet’s mantle, but also the poet’s wreath adorns his

                        honorable head. He is a Jeremiah and an Asaph in one. As regards

                        force and fullness of conception and beauty of expression, he was

                        certainly one of the most important among the prophets of the Old



Ø      Its origin. No more in his case than in Nahum’s was this political

                        foresight, but inspiration. If this prophecy proceeded from the age of

                        Manasseh, political foresight is simply out of the question as its

                        explanation; if from the first years of Jehoiakim, it will be time enough to

                        admit that political foresight could certainly predict a Babylonian invasion

                        at a year’s distance when it has been shown that modern statesmen can

                        infallibly tell what shall be on the morrow. And, of course, if political

                        foresight could not certainly predict the Babylonian invasion at one year’s

                        distance, still less could it announce a Babylonian overthrow at a distance

                        of more than half a century. Political foresight, then, being an insufficient

                        hypothesis, Divine inspiration should be frankly admitted. Like Nahum,

                        Habakkuk “saw” the burden he delivered. In the New Testament the

                        book is cited as inspired (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Acts 13:40-41;

                        Hebrews 10:38).


  • Learn:


Ø      That future events are known to God — Divine foreknowledge.

Ø      That God can reveal these to men, should He so please —

      “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God:  but the

      things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children

      for ever, that we may do ALL THE WORDS OF THIS LAW.”

      (Deuteronomy 29:29)

Ø      That those whom God selects to be His messengers nevertheless

      retain their individual and characteristic modes of thought and

      expression — inspiration not mechanical or uniform.  “….no

      prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.  For

      the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man:  but

      holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”

            (II Peter 1:20-21)


In vs. 2-4, the prophet complains to God of the iniquity of his own nation, and its



2 “O LORD, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! even cry out

unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save!”  Shall I cry; Septuagint,

κέκραξομαι kekraxomai -  The Hebrew is taken to imply that the prophet had

long been complaining of the moral depravity of Judah, and calling for help

against it.  And thou wilt not hear! The continuance of evil unchecked is an

anomaly in the prophet’s eye; and, putting himself in the position of the

righteous among the people, he asks how long this is to last. Even cry out

unto thee of violence; better, I cry out unto thee, Violence. A similar

construction is found in Job 19:7; Jeremiah 20:8. “Violence”

includes all manner of wrong done to one’s neighbor. Septuagint,

Βοήσομαι πρὸς σὲ ἀδικούμενος Boaesomai pros se adikoumenos

I will cry unto thee being wronged, as if the wrong was done to the prophet

himself. So the Vulgate, Vociferabor ad te vim patiens. But Habakkuk doubtless

speaks in the person of the righteous, grieved at the wickedness he sees around,

and the more perplexed as the Law led him to look for temporal rewards and

punishments, if in the case of individuals, much more in that of the chosen

nation (Leviticus 26., passim).



                                    The Lamentation of a Good Man (v. 2)



            for himself, but as the representative of the godly remnant of Judah,

            Habakkuk expostulates with Jehovah concerning the wickedness of the

            times in which he lived. The picture he sets before Jehovah is one of deep

            national corruption, such as existed in the days of Jehoiakim (Jeremiah

            20:8; 22:3, 13-17). A picture of wickedness.


Ø      Great.


o       Violence was abroad, as it had been in the days before the Flood

                                    (Genesis 6:11), in the time of David (Psalm 55:9), and even later

                                    in the reigns of Jotham and Ahaz (Micah 2:2; 6:12), practicing

                                    spoliation, causing distress, and producing devastation, as it did

                                    in the long past era of the patriarch of Uz (Job 24:l-12), evoking

                                    strife and contention, perhaps partly through the natural resistance

                                    of good men defending their property, but just as likely through

                                    the spoliators quarrelling over their prey, leading to deceit and

                                    treachery in order to gain its unhallowed end, “the wicked

                                    compassing about the righteous,” and “plotting against the just”

                                    (Psalm 37:12).


o       Iniquity abounded (Matthew 24:12), and that amongst a people

      whose ideal vocation was holiness (Numbers 23:21); immoralities

      whose source was a perverse heart (Matthew 15:19); such

      practices as were inconsistent with the professions and privileges

      of those who did them; iniquity, or that which was unequal, and

      therefore contrary to LAW and TRUTH!


o       The Law of God was fallen into disrespect. The Torah, or Divine,

                                    revealed Law, which was meant to be the soul, the heart of

                                    political, religious, and domestic life, was slacked; it was

                                    benumbed or chilled, paralyzed through the moral and

                                    spiritual apathy of the nation, which gave it no response and

                                    yielded to it no obedience.


o       Human justice was perverted. Because men’s hearts had

                                    declined from the love of God, and had ceased to respect His

                                    Law, judgment seldom or never proceeded forth against evil

                                    doers; or, if it did, it went forth perverted. When criminals were

                                    brought to trial, they could always secure a verdict in their favor.


Ø      Public. It was not merely a degeneracy, eating its way secretly into the

                        vitals of the nation; the disease had already come to the surface. Vice and

                        irreligion were not practiced in private. Iniquity flaunted its robes openly

                        in the eyes of passers by. The prophet saw it, looked upon it, felt himself

                        surrounded by it. Spoiling and violence were before him; and sinners of

                        every description around him.


Ø      Presumptuous. It was wickedness perpetrated, not merely against God’s

                        Law, but by God’s covenanted people, in the face of remonstrances from

                        God’s prophets, and under the eye of God Himself. The prophet states

                        that Jehovah as well as he had beheld the wickedness complained of.


Ø      Ingrained. It was not a sudden outburst of moral and spiritual

                        corruption, but a long continued and deeply rooted manifestation of

                        national degeneracy, which had often sent the prophet to his knees,

                        and caused him to cry for Divine interposition.




Ø      A frequent phenomenon. During the long antediluvian period Jehovah,

                        apparently without concern, allowed mankind to degenerate; though He

                        saw that the Wickedness of man was great in the earth (Genesis 6:5), it

                        was not till one man only remained righteous before Him that He

                        interposed with the judgment of a flood. From the era of the Flood

                        downwards He “suffered all nations to walk in their own ways”

                        (Acts 14:16). Job (Job 34:12) observed this to be the method of the

                        Divine procedure in his day, Asaph in his (Psalm 50:21), Habakkuk in his;

                        and today nothing can be more apparent than that it is not a necessary

                        part of Heaven’s plan that “sentence against an evil work” should be

                        executed speedily.”  (Ecclesiastes 8:11)


Ø      A perplexing mystery. That God cannot be indifferent to sin, to the

                        wickedness of nations or to the transgressions of individuals, is self-

                        evident; otherwise He could not be God (Psalm 11:7; 111:9; 145:17;

                                                Isaiah 57:15; I Peter 1:15; Revelation 4:8). But that, loving

                        righteousness and hating iniquity, He should seem to make no effort to

                        protect, vindicate, strengthen, and diffuse the one, or to punish, restrain,

                        and overthrow the other, — this is what occasions trouble to religious

                        souls reflecting on the course of providence (Job 21:7; Psalm 73:2).

                        The solution of the problem can only be that, on the one hand, He deems

                        it better that righteousness should be purified, tested, and established by

                        contact with evil, while, on the other hand, it seems preferable to His

                        wisdom and love that wickedness should have free scope to reveal its

                        true character, and ample opportunity either to change its mind or to

                        justify ITS FINAL OVERTHROW!   





Ø      Strange. Habakkuk had cried long and earnestly to Jehovah about the

                        wickedness of his countrymen. If rivers of waters ran not down his eyes

                        because they kept not Jehovah’s Law, as the psalmist tells us was the

                        case with him (Psalm 119:136), and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 9:1) wished

                        that it could have been with him, long processions of groanings ascended

                        from his bosom to the throne of God on that very account. Doubtless,

                        also, he expostulated with Jehovah about His seeming indifference,

                        saying, “How long, O Lord, will this wickedness prevail? and how

                        long wilt thou be silent?” Yet was there “no voice, nor any that

                        answered him,” any more than if he bad been a worshipper of Baal

                        (I Kings 18:26); and this although Jehovah was preeminently the

                        Hearer of prayer (Psalm 65:2), and had invited His people to call

                        upon Him in the day of trouble (ibid. ch. 50:15).


Ø      Common. It is not wicked men alone whose prayers are denied — men

                        like Saul (I Samuel 28:6), and the inhabitants of Judah in the days of

                        Isaiah (Isaiah 1:15) and of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 11:14), but good

                        men like Job (Job 30:20) and David (Psalm 22:2) as well. As the

                        Syro-Phoenician woman cried after Jesus, and was answered never a

                        word (Matthew 15:23), so many prayers ascend from the hearts of

                        God’s people to which, for a time at least, no response returns.


Ø      Valuable. Fitful to test the faith and sincerity of the petitioner, it is also

                        admirably calculated to teach him the sovereignty of God in grace as

                        well as in nature, to show him that, while God distinctly engages to

                        answer prayer, He undertakes to do so only in His own time and way.


  • Learn:


Ø      That no good man can be utterly indifferent to the moral and spiritual

                        character of the age in which he lives.

Ø      That good men should bear the highest interests of their country before

                        God upon their hearts in prayer.

Ø      That good men should never lose faith in two things:

o       that God is on the side of righteousness, even when iniquity

      appears to triumph; and

o       that God hears their prayers, even when He delays to answer

      or appears to deny them.


3 “Why dost thou shew me iniquity, and cause me to behold

grievance? for spoiling and violence are before me: and there are

that raise up strife and contention.” Why dost thou show me Why dost thou

let me see daily with my own eyes — iniquity abounding, the very evil which

Balaam says (Numbers 23:21) the Lord had not found in Israel? Cause me to

behold grievance. This should be, Dost thou look upon perverseness? He

asks how God can look on this evil and leave it unpunished. The Septuagint and

the Vulgate translate the word amal “trouble,” or “labor;” Keil,

“distress.” In this case it means the trouble and distress which a man inflicts

on others, as wrong doing seems to be generally spoken of. Spoiling and

violence are before me. “Spoiling” is robbery that causes desolation.

“Violence” is conduct that wrongs one’s neighbor. The two words are

often joined; e.g. Jeremiah 6:7; Amos 3:10. Vulgate, praedam et

injustitiam. These are continually coming before the prophet’s eyes. There

are that raise up strife and contention; better, there is strife, and

contention is raised. This refers to the abuse of the Law by grasping,

quarrelsome nobles. Septuagint, “Against me judgment hath gone, and the

judge receiveth bribes.” So the Syriac and Arabic. The Vulgate gives,

Factum est judicium, et contradictio potentior, where judicium is used in a

bad sense.


4 “Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment doth never go forth: for

the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore wrong

judgment proceedeth.” Therefore. Because God has not interfered to put

an end to this iniquity, or because of the want of righteous judges, the following

consequences ensue. The Law is slacked. The Law. Torah, the revealed

code which governed the moral, domestic, and political life, “is chilled,” is

benumbed (Genesis 45:26), is no longer of any force or efficacy, is

become a dead letter. Διασκέδασται Diaskedastai - is dispersed (Septuagint);

lacerate est (Vulgate). Judgment doth never go forth; i.e. right is powerless, as if

it had never been; justice never shows itself in such a case. Septuagint, οὐ

διεξάγεται εἰς τέλος ou diexagetai eis telos -  proceedeth not effectually;  so the

Vulgate.  Doth compass about. In a hostile sense, with threats and

treachery (Judges 20:43; Psalm 22:13). Septuagint, καταδυναστεύει

katadunasteuei -  prevails; Vulgate, praevalet adversus. Therefore.

Because the righteous are unable to act as they desire, being opposed by

the wicked. Wrong judgment proceedeth; rather, judgment goeth forth

perverted. Right, or what is so called, when it does come forth, is

distorted, wrested, so as to be right no more.



The Elegy (vs. 2-4)


In this brief and plaintive strain we have —



INIQUITY. Whatever may have been the exact date of this prophecy, it is

clear that the writer stood connected with the close of the kingdom of

Judah, the eve of the Captivity, and that he presents to us, in a few graphic

touches, a vivid description of the depravity then prevailing in the land. He

bitterly laments over:


Ø      The insecurity of property. “Spoiling and violence are before me” (v.3).

Ø      The strifes of parties and factions. “And there are that raise up strife and contention” (v. 3).

Ø      Laxity in the administration of the Law. “The Law is slacked, and

                        judgment doth never go forth” (v. 4).

Ø      The good suffering unjustly at the hands of the evil. “The wicked doth

                        compass about the righteous “ (v. 4).

Ø      The openness and audacity of wrong doers in this evil course. He

                        speaks of all this iniquity as being patent to the observer. Sometimes,                                  “vice, provoked to shame, borrows the color of a virtuous deed;” but in                            this instance there Has no attempt at concealment or disguise, and no                             sense of shame. “Spoiling and violence are before me (v. 3).




is undoubtedly the happy life (Psalm 1:1). Still, it is not always

sunshine, even with the good. There are times in their experience when the

sky becomes overcast, and when they become depressed and sad at heart.

Although possessing “the firstfruits of the Spirit,” the pledge and the

earnest of the enjoyment at length of a fullness of blessing, they often

groan within themselves” (Romans 8:23). And a very large ingredient

in the cup of sorrow the good have to drink is that occasioned by

beholding the blighting effects of sin. As they witness men unprincipled in

their dealings, impure in their speech, dishonorable in their transactions,

and as they note the pernicious influence and effects of such conduct, their

hearts are rendered sad, and they are constrained to long ardently for the

time when sin shall be completely vanquished, when it shall be banished

from this fair universe of God, and when there shall come in all its

perfection the reign of truth and righteousness, peace and love. This spirit

runs through the prophet’s mournful strain (vs. 2-4). “And the Lord said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem,

and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry

for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.”  Ezekiel 9:4.

We recognize it also in the words of David, “Oh let the wickedness of the wicked!” etc. (Psalm 7:9), and of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 14:8-9), and impelled

by it many are crying today, “Why is his chariot so long in coming? Why

tarry the wheels of his chariot?”  (Judges 5:28)



APPEAL TO GOD IN PRAYER. (v. 2.) The seer did not question the

Divine rectitude, but his spirit was perturbed at the delay, and he yearned

with a holy impatience for the vindication of the honor of his God. And

under such conditions no course is so commendable as that of pouring our

plaint into the ear of Infinite Love. Prayer at such seasons will be found



Ø      In tranquillizing the spirit, quieting and subduing agitation, and

                        imparting a sense of restfulness and peace.

Ø      In linking our human weakness to God’s almighty strength, and thus

                        fitting us for reviewed service to Him. “Toil, pain, doubt, terror,

                        difficulty, — all retreat before the recognition of a great life purpose                                  wrought out in entire dependence upon Heaven.”

Ø      In causing light to shine through the dark cloud of mystery, helping us

      to understand the Divine plan (Psalm 73:16-20), and so preparing the

                        way for our exchanging the mournful elegy for the rapturous melody of

                        thankful and adoring praise.



     The Cry of a Good Man under the Perplexing Procedure of God.

                                                (vs. 1-4)


“The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see. O Lord, how long shall

I cry, and thou wilt not hear! even cry out unto thee of violence, and thee

wilt not save!” etc. Of Habakkuk nothing is known for certainty. The fifth

and sixth verses of the first chapter tell us that he prophesied before that

series of invasions by the Chaldeans which ended in the destruction of

Jerusalem and the captivity of the people — probably between 640 and 610

years before Christ. He was therefore contemporary with Jeremiah and

Zephaniah. The book treats of the wickedness of the Jews, the infliction of

punishment upon the Chaldeans, and the destruction of the latter in their

turn. It has also a splendid ode, composed by the prophet in anticipation of

their deliverance from Babylonish captivity. His work is quoted by the

apostles (Hebrews 10:37-38; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Acts 13:41),

hence it was regarded as having Divine authority. His

style, in dignity and sublimity, is not surpassed by any of the Hebrew

prophets. He is original. His utterances are bold and animated; his

descriptions graphic and pointed. The lyric ode contained in the third

chapter is esteemed by most biblical critics as one of the most splendid and

magnificent in the whole compass of Hebrew poetry. The prophet sets

forth the cause of the Chaldean invasion, and the great wickedness that

abounded in the Jewish nation during his time. This was the burden of his

discourse. “The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see.” What was

the burden? The heavy judgments impending over his nation. He saw it like

a mountain with his prophetic eye; nay, he felt it as a mountain on his heart.

This doom hanging over the Jewish people was indeed an intolerable

weight. The text contains the cry of a good man under the perplexing

procedure of God “O Lord, how long shall I cry!” There seem to be

two elements in his perplexity.



Lord, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear!” Under the pressure of

the burden” that was resting on his heart, viz. the moral corruption and

the coming doom of his country, it would seem that he had often cried

unto the Almighty and implored His interposition; but no answer had come.

How often have good men in every age felt that God disregarded their

supplications! They cried and cried, but no answer came. The heavens

seemed like brass; the oracles were hushed. It was thus with the Syro-

Phoenician woman. Christ for a time not only treated her application with

seeming indifference, but He even repulsed her. Why are not the prayers of

good men immediately answered? In reply to this question three undoubted

facts should be borne in mind.


Ø      That importunity of soul is necessary to qualify for the appreciation of

                        the mercies sought. It is not until a man is made to feel the deep necessity

                        of a thing that he values it when it comes. If we obtained from the

                        Almighty what we required by one cry, or even by a series of mere formal

                        applications, the boon would be of doubtful service; it would scarcely be

                        appreciated, and would fail to fire the soul with the sentiments of devout

                        gratitude and praise. It is not what God gives a man that does him good; it

                        is the state of mind in which it is received that transmutes it either into a

                        blessing or a curse. “How long shall I cry!” How long? Until the sense of

                        need is so intensified as to qualify for the reception and due appreciation                            of the blessing.


Ø      That the exercise of true prayer is in itself the best means of spiritual

                        culture. Conscious contact with God is essential to moral excellence. You

                        must bring the sunbeam to the seed you have sown, if you would have the

                        seed quickened and developed; and you must bring God into conscious

                        contact with your powers, if you would have them vivified and brought

                        forth into strength and perfection. True prayer does this; it is the soul

                        realizing itself in the presence of Him “who quickeneth all things.”


Ø      That prayers are answered where there is no bestowment of the blessing

                        invoked. We know not what to pray for; and were we to have what we

                        seek, we might be ruined. Acquiescence in the Divine will is the highest

                        answer to all true prayer. Christ prayed that the cup should pass from                                Him.  It did not pass from Him; but, instead, there came to Him the spirit                             of acquiescence in the Divine will: “Not my will, but thine be done.”

                        This is all we want. Acquiescence in the Divine will is the moral                                          perfection, dignity, and blessedness of all creatures in the universe. With                                  these facts let us not be anxious about the apparent disregard of God to

                        our prayers.



OF SOCIETY. “Why dost thou show me iniquity, and cause me to behold

grievance? for spoiling and violence are before me: and there are that raise

up strife and contention. Therefore the Law is slacked, and judgment doth

never go forth: for the wicked cloth compass about the righteous; therefore

wrong judgment proceedeth.” The rendering of Delitzsch is both faithful

and forceful, “Why dost thou let me see mischief, and thou lookest upon

distress? Devastation and violence are before me; there arises strife, and

contention lifts itself up. Therefore the Law is benumbed, and justice

comes not forth forever: for sinners encircle the righteous man: therefore

justice goes forth perverted.” The substance of this is the old complaint,

“Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they

happy that deal very treacherously?” (Jeremiah 12:1). Two facts should

be set against this complaint.


Ø      The good have the best of it, even in this life. Goodness is its own

                        reward. Take two men — one who enjoys the love and fellowship of God,

                        but who is destitute of this world’s good and lives in poverty; the other, in

                        whose heart reign the elements of wickedness, but who has an abundance

                        of the things of this life. Ask which of the two is the happier. The former,

                        without doubt. Benevolence is the fountain of happiness, and selfishness

                        the fountain of misery in both worlds. In this world give me poverty and

                        piety rather than riches with wickedness.


Ø      That the evil will have the worst of it in the next life. There is no doubt

                        about this. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus teaches this. (Luke                               16:19-31)  “When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the                              workers of iniquity do flourish, it is that they shall be destroyed

                        forever (Psalm 92:7).


CONCLUSION. Pray on, brother. “Pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17)

Thy prayers are not lost. Let not God’s apparent disregard to the supplications of His

people and the moral condition of society perplex thy judgment and disturb

thy peace. Wait the great explaining day. “What thou knowest not now

thou shalt know hereafter.”  (John 13:7)


To this appeal God answers that He will send the Chaldeans

to punish the evil doers with a terrible vengeance; but these, His

instruments, shall themselves offend by pride and impiety.  (vs. 5-11)


5 “Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder

marvelously: for I will work a work in your days which ye will not

believe, though it be told you.” Behold ye among the heathen; the nations.

God, in answer, bids the prophet and His people look among the nations for

those who shall punish the iniquities of which he complains. I will use a heathen

nation, He says, as my instrument to chastise the sinners in Judaea; and you shall

see that I have not disregarded the evil that is rife among you. Some

commentators suppose that the impious are addressed; but Habakkuk

spoke in the name and person of the righteous, and to them the answer

must be directed. The Septuagint,  gives, Ιδετε, οἱ καταφρονηταί - Idete,

hoi kataphronaetai -  Behold, ye despisers, which is justifiable. Paul quotes the

Greek Version, Acts 13:41, in his sermon at Antioch in the Jewish synagogue,

warning those who despised the gospel.   This was sufficiently close to the Hebrew

for his purpose. And regard, and wonder marvelously. They are to wonder

because the work is as terrible as it is unexpected. The Septuagint (quoted by

St. Paul, loc. cit.) adds, καὶ ἀφανίσθητεkai aphanisthaete - and perish, or rather,

“be stupefied by astonishment,” die of amazement. I will work; I work. The

pronoun is not expressed, but must be supplied from v. 6. It is God who

sends the avengers. In your days. The prophet had asked (v. 2), “How

long?” The answer is that those now living should see the chastisement.

Which ye will not believe. If ye heard of it as happening elsewhere, ye would

not give credit to it; the punishment itself and its executors are both unexpected

(compare Lamentations 4:12).


6 “For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, which shall

march through the breadth of the land, to possess the dwelling places that are

not theirs.” The executors of the Divine vengeance are now plainly

announced. I raise up. God does it; He uses the power and passion of men

to work out His designs (I Kings 11:14, 23; Amos 6:14). The Chaldeans; Kasidim.

By this appellation the prophets signify the soldiers or inhabitants of Babylon, which

won its independence and commenced its wonderfully rapid career of conquest after

the fall of Nineveh, between B.C. 626 and 608. At the time when Habakkuk wrote

the Chaldeans had not appeared in Judaea, and no apprehension of danger from

them was entertained. Bitter and hasty. The former epithet refers to their cruelty

and ferocity (compare Isaiah 14:6; Jeremiah 6:23; 50:42). They are called “hasty,”

as being vehement and impetuous in attack and rapid in movement. Which shall

march through the breadth of the land; which marcheth through the breadths

of the earth. The statement explains the general character of the Chaldeans, and

points to the foreign conquests of Nebuchadnezzar.  Septuagint., Τὸ πορευόμενον

ἐπὶ τὰ πλάτη τῆς γῆς  - To poreuomenon epi platae taes gaesthat march through

the breadth of the earth (compare Revelation 20:9).


7 “They are terrible and dreadful: their judgment and their dignity

shall proceed of themselves.”  They. The Hebrew is singular throughout. The

disposition of the people, as of one man, is depicted. Terrible; exciting terror, as

Song of Solomon 6:4, 10. Their judgment and their dignity shall

proceed of themselves; his judgment and his eminence are from himself.

The Septuagint  translates the two nouns κρίμα krima - judgment and λῆμμα

laemma - dignity:  Vulgate, judicium and onus. The meaning is that the Chaldeans

own no master, have no rule of right but their own will, attribute their glory and

superiority to their own power and skill (compare Daniel 4:30). They are like

Achilles in Horace, ‘Ep. ad Pison.,’ 121, etc. —


                        Impiger, iracundus, inexorabilis, acer,

                        Jura neget sibi nata, nihil non arroget armis.”


Hitzig quotes AEschyl. ‘Prom.,’ 186, Παρ ἑαυτῷ τό δίκαιον ἔχων – Par heauto to

dikaion echon -  Holding as justice what he deemeth so.


8 “Their horses also are swifter than the leopards, and are more fierce

than the evening wolves: and their horsemen shall spread

themselves, and their horsemen shall come from far; they shall fly

as the eagle that hasteth to eat.”  Their horses, etc. Jeremiah (4:13) compares

their horses to eagles (compare Job 39:19, etc.). The punishment predicted in

Deuteronomy 28:49, etc., is to come upon the Jews. We often read of

the cavalry and chariots of the Chaldeans (Jeremiah 4:29; 6:23; Ezekiel 23:23-24).

Evening wolves. Wolves that prowl for food in the evening, and are then fiercest

(Jeremiah 5:6; Zephaniah 3:3). Septuagint (with a different pointing), “wolves of

Arabia.”   Their horsemen shall spread themselves. The verb is also rendered,

“bear themselves proudly,” or “gallop.” Septuagint, ἐξιππάσονται exippasontai.  

The Anglican Version seems correct implying that the cavalry, like Cossacks or

Uhlans, swept the whole country for plunder. The verbs throughout vs. 8-11

should be rendered in the present tense. From far. From Babylonia (Isaiah 39:3).

The preceding clause was of general import; the present one refers to the invasion

of Judaea. As the eagle. This is a favorite comparison of Jeremiah, as quoted above

(compare also Jeremiah 48:40; 49:22; Lamentations 4:19).


9 “They shall come all for violence: their faces shall sup up as the east wind, and

they shall gather the captivity as the sand.”  They shall come all for violence.

All, every one of the invaders, come for violence — to repay that violence of which

Habakkuk complained (v. 2). Septuagint, Συντέλεια εἰς ἀσεβεῖς ἥξειSunteleia eis

asebeis haexei - An end shall come upon the impious; Vulgate, Omnes ad praedam

venient. Their faces shall sup up as the east wind. The word translated “shall sup up”

occasions perplexity, being an ἅπαξ λεγόμενον (of one time use in the Bible). The

Anglican rendering is virtually supported by other versions, e.g. Symmachus,

Chaldee, and Syriac. The Vulgate, too, gives, facies eorum ventus urens, which

Jerome explains, “As at the blast of a burning wind all green things dry up, so at

the sight of these men all shall be wasted.” This is the meaning of the

Anglican Version, which, however, might be improved thus: The aspect of

their faces is as the east wind. The Revisers have, Their faces are set

eagerly as the east wind, which does not seem very intelligible. Other

renderings are, “the endeavor,” or “desire of their faces is directed to the

east,” or “forwards.” (This rendering has the support of Orelli and others.)

“The crowd of their faces,” as equivalent to “the multitude of the army”

which is not a Hebrew phrase found elsewhere. Septuagint, ἀνθεστηκότας

anthestaekotas - (agreeing with ἀσεβεῖς asebeisungodly - in the first clause)

προσώποις αὐτῶν ἐξεναντίας prosopois auton exenantias -  resisting with their

adverse front.  The effects of the east wind are often noted in Scripture; e.g.

Genesis 41:6, 23; Job 27:21; Hosea 13:15. They shall gather the captivity as the

 sand. “He collects the captives as sand” — a hyperbolical expression to denote

the numbers of captives and the quantity of booty taken. The mention of the

east wind brings the thought of the terrible simoom, with its columns of sand.


10 “And they shall scoff at the kings, and the princes shall be a scorn

unto them: they shall deride every strong hold; for they shall heap

dust, and take it.”  And they shall scoff, etc.; it, or he, scoffeth at kings. The

Chaldean nation makes light of the power and persons of kings. Compare

Nebuchadnezzar’s treatment of Jehoiakim (II Chronicles 36:6; II Kings 24:1,3;

Jeremiah 22:19) and Jehoiachin (II Kings 24:12, 15).  They shall deride every

strong hold. The strongest fortress is no impediment to them. They shall heap

dust. This refers to the raising of a mound or embankment for the purpose of

attacking a city (compare II Samuel 20:15; II Kings 19:32; 25:1). In the Assyrian

monuments one often sees representations of these mounds, or of inclined planes

constructed to facilitate the approach of the battering ram.



The Doom of a Nation of Conventional Religionists.  (vs. 5-10)


“Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvelously: for I

will work a work in your days, which ye will not believe, though it be told

you. For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation; which

shall march through the breadth of the land,” etc. In these verses we have

the doom of a nation of conventional religionists. The Jews were such a

nation; they prided themselves in the orthodoxy of their faith, in the

ceremonials of their worship, in the polity of their Church. “To them

pertained the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of

the Law, and the service of God, and the promises” (Romans 9:4). But

they had now become abhorrent to their Maker. He was weary of them,

and He threatens them with a terrible doom; the doom was so terrible that

ye will not believe, though it be told you.” The doom threatened was

terrible in many respects.



WICKED NATION. “I will work a work in your days, which ye will not

believe, though it be told you. For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter

and hasty nation, which shall march through the breadth of the land, to

posen the dwelling places that are not theirs.” Nabopolassar had already

destroyed the mighty empire of Assyria, and founded the Chaldeo-

Babylonian rule. He had made himself so formidable that Necho found it

necessary to march an army against him, in order to check his progress;

and, though defeated at Megiddo, he had, in conjunction with his son

Nebuchadnezzar, gained a complete victory over the Egyptians at

Carehemish. These events were calculated to alarm the Jews, whose

country lay between the dominions of the two contending powers; but,

accustomed as they were to confide in Egypt and in the sacred localities of

their own capital (Isaiah 31:1; Jeremiah 7:4), and being in alliance

with the Chaldeans, they were indisposed to listen to, and treated with the

utmost incredulity, any predictions which described their overthrow by that

people. Observe that God employs wicked nations as His instruments.

“Lo, I raise up the Chaldeans.” “I will work a work,” He says; but how?

By the Chaldeans. How does He raise up wicked nations to do His work?


Ø      Not instigatingly. He does not inspire them with wicked passions

                        necessary to qualify them for the infernal work of violence, war, rapine,

                        bloodshed. God could not do this. The diabolic passions are in them.


Ø      Not coercively. He does not force them to it; in no way does He interfere

                        with them. They are the responsible party. They go forth on the bloody

                        message with a consciousness of freedom. How, then, does He “raise”                               them up? He permits them. He could prevent them; but He allows them.                                 He gives them life, capacity, and opportunities; but He does not inspire or                                coerce them. Now, would not the fact that the destruction of the Israelites                            would come upon them from a heathen nation, a nation which they                                     despised, make it all the more terrible?




Ø      The violence would be uncontrolled. “Their judgment and their dignity

                        shall proceed of themselves.” They recognize no authority, and proudly

                        spurn the dictates of others. They recognize no judge save themselves,

                        and they get for themselves their own dignity, without needing others’

                        help. It will be vain for the Jews to complain of their tyrannical judgments,

                        for whatever the Chaldeans decree they will do according to their own                               will: they will not brook any one attempting to interfere.


Ø      The violence would be rapid and fierce. “Their horses are swifter than

                        the leopards.” A naturalist says of the leopard that it runs most swiftly,

                        straight on, and you would imagine it was flying through the air. “More

                        fierce than the evening wolves.” These ravenous beasts, having skulked                              all the day away from the light of heaven, get terribly hungry by the night,                               and come forth with a fierce voracity. Like the swift leopards and the                               ravenous wolves, we are here told, these Chaldeans would come forth.                              Yes, and swifter and more ravenous than the wolves, like the hungry eagle                         on its pinions that hasteth to eat.” What a terrible description of their                                doom.  Alas! into what a monster sin has transformed man! He becomes              leopard, wolf, eagle, etc.



faces shall sup up as the east wind, and they shall gather the captivity as the

sand. And they shall scoff at the kings, and the princes shall be a scorn unto

them: they shall deride every stronghold; for they shall heap dust, and take

it.” As the east wind, they would sweep through the country, like the

simoom, spreading devastation wherever it passed; and like that wind

would bear away the Jews into captivity, thick as the sand. “They shall

scoff at the kings, and the princes shall be a scorn unto them.” They would

regard all the great magnates of Judaea with a haughty contempt, and treat

them with derision. And so would they be in their bloody expedition. They

would regard their very conquering power as their god, and worship their



CONCLUSION. All this was to come upon a nation of conventional

reglionists. All peoples whose religion is that of profession, letter, form,

ceremony, are exposed to a doom as terrible as this.


11 “Then shall his mind change, and he shall pass over, and offend,

imputing this his power unto his God.”  Then shall his mind change;

Τότε μεταβαλεῖ τὸ πνεῦμαTote metabalei to pneumathen he sweeps by

like the wind (Septuagint); Tunc mutabitur spiritus (Vulgate). From the ease

and extent of his conquests the Chaldean gains fresh spirit. But it is best to

translate differently, Then he sweepeth on as a wind. The Chaldean’s inroad is

compared to a tempestuous wind, which carries all before it. And he shall

pass over. This is explained to mean, he exceeds all limits in his arrogancy,

or he passes onward through the land. The former interpretation regards

what is coming, the latter keeps to the metaphor of the wind. And offend.

He is guilty, or offends, as the next clause explains, by attributing his

success to his own prowess and skill. Thus the prophet intimates that the

avenger himself incurs God’s displeasure, and will suffer for it. Septuagint,

καὶ ἐξιλάσεταιkai exilasetaiand indeed guilty.  Imputing this his

power unto his god; more literally, this his power is his god; Revised

Version, even he whose might is his god. He defies the Lord, and makes

his might his god. (For such pride and self-glorification, compare Isaiah

14:13; 47:7, etc.; Daniel 4:30.) Thus Mezentius, the despiser of the

gods, speaks in Virgil, ‘AEn.,’ 10:773 —


            Dextra mihi deus et telum, quod missile libro,

            Nunc adsint!”


Compare  Statius, ‘Theb.,’ 3:615 —


            Virtus mihi numen, et ensis, Quem teneo.”



                                                Judgment on the Wing (vs. 5-11)




Ø      Its subjects. The land and people of Judah (v. 6). These, though Jehovah’s

      covenanted people, had declined from His worship, departed

                        from His ways, dishonored His Name. It was in the covenant that, under

                        such circumstances, they should be chastised (II Samuel 7:14; Psalm

                        89:30-32); and Jehovah is never unmindful of His covenant

                        engagements (Psalm 111:5), if men are of theirs (II Timothy 2:12-13).


Ø      Its Author. Jehovah. “The Judge of all the earth” (Genesis 18:25),

                        “His eyes behold and His eyelids try the children of men” (Psalm 11:4),

                        communities and nations no less than individuals (Psalm 67:4). As

                        justice and judgment are the habitation of his throne” (Psalm 89:14),

                        soall His ways are judgment” (Deuteronomy 32:4), and “the works of

                        His hands are verity and judgment” (Psalm 111:7). As the least

                        significant occurrence (Matthew 10:29), so the most momentous,

                        cannot happen without the Divine permission. The Supreme is behind all

                        second causes. He regulates the rise and fall of nations and kings (Job

                        12:23; Psalm 75:7), the ebb and flow of ocean (Job 38:11), the

                        movements of the heavenly bodies (Job 38:31-33), the growth and

                        decay of flowers (Isaiah 40:7). When Nineveh is overthrown and

                        Babylon raised up, Jehovah, unseen but all-powerful, is the prime

                        Mover.  When Judah or Israel is chastised, it is Jehovah s hand that

                        holds the rod.


Ø      Its certainty. Being matter of clear and definite promise on the part of

                        Jehovah: “I will work a work;” “Behold, I raise up the Chaldeans.” So

                        certain is Jehovah’s future judgment of His enemies (Malachi 3:5;

                                                Acts 17:31). This, like that, has no basis but Jehovah’s announcement.

                        That this will not fail may be inferred from the accomplishment of that.


Ø      Its vicinity. Close at hand. “Behold, I work a work in your days”

                        obviously meant that within a generation at furthest the Divine stroke

                        should descend on Judah, and that every person in the nation should

                        regard it as near. In the same way are Christians directed to think of

                        the judgment of the great day as at hand (James 5:9; I Peter 4:7;

                        Revelation 22:12), though of that day and of that hour knoweth no

                        man (Mark 13:32) more than this, that it is certain (Job 21:30;

                                                Psalm 1:4; Daniel 7:10; Matthew 25:32; Hebrews 9:27).


Ø      Its strangeness. It should be both startling and incredible.


o       Startling. As to its Author, Jehovah; as to the quarter whence it

      should proceed, from among the heathen; as to the power by

      which it should be inflicted, the Chaldeans, when they might

      rather have expected the Assyrians (if Habakkuk prophesied

      under Manasseh) or the Egyptians (if he flourished in the first

      years of Jehoiakim); as to the suddenness with which it should

      spring forth, there being at the time when Habakkuk wrote

                                    no tokens of its coming discernible on the horizon. So will

                                    the judgment of the great day surprise the ungodly world

                                    and a sleeping Church (Matthew 24:27-44; 25:6;

                                    I Thessalonians 5:2-3; Revelation 16:15).


o       Incredible. So unlikely did a Chaldean invasion of Judaea seem,

      that Jehovah felt nothing but an actual experience of the same

      would ever convince His people of it. A simple fore-announcement

      of it would not suffice to carry conviction of its reality to their

      mind, although, of course, it should. That this was true, the

      reception accorded to Jeremiah’s prediction of Nebuchadnezzar’s

      appearance before Jerusalem showed (Jeremiah 5:12; 20:7-8;

      26:8-11).   Up to the moment when the Chaldean armies arrived

      neither Jehoiakim nor his people would allow that a Chaldean

      conquest was so much as possible. Events, however, proved

      them to be in error.  So the antediluvians knew not till the Flood

      came and TOOK THEM ALL AWAY  (Matthew 24:39). So shall

      the coming of the Son of man be (II Peter 3:1-10).


  • ITS INSTRUMENT INDICATED. (vs. 6-11.) This was the

            Chaldean or Babylonian power, at the time subject to Assyria, and not

            risen to the ascendency it afterwards enjoyed under Nebuchadnezzar and

            his successors. The prophet depicts it when raised up, not only into a

            nation, but against Judah by a sevenfold characteristic.


Ø      Its natural disposition. He calls it “a bitter and hasty nation,” i.e. fierce

                        and rough, heedless and rash, and represents it as marching through the

                        breadth of the earth, impelled by covetousness, and making a way for

                        itself by sheer brute force and violence — taking possession of dwelling

                        places not its own.


Ø      Its formidable appearance. “They are,” or he, i.e. the nation, is,

      terrible and dreadful,” by its very name and much more by its

      aspect and actions inspiring terror in the breasts of beholders.


Ø      Its presumptuous self-sufficiency. “Their judgment and dignity

      proceed from themselves;” i.e. conscious of its own strength,

      it determines for itself its own rule of right, and ascribes to itself

      its elevation above the other nations of the earth. This putting of self

      instead of God in the place of honor and seat of authority is the

      essence of all sin. Wicked men walk after the counsels and in the

       imaginations of their own evil hearts (Jeremiah 7:24), and are prone

      to arrogate to themselves what should be rendered to God, viz. the

      glory of their successful achievements (Deuteronomy 8:17; Judges 7:2).


Ø      Its military strength.


o       Its horses swifter than leopards, lighter of foot than panthers,

      which spring with the greatest rapidity on their prey, and fiercer

      than evening wolves, or wolves going forth at eventide after

      having fasted all day — an emblem of ferocity applied to the

      judges of Judah (Zephaniah 3:3).


o       Its horsemen or warriors coming from afar and spreading

      themselves abroad — “Neither distance of march shall weary

      nor diffusion weaken them — darting upon its foes like an eagle

      hasting to devour, a bird to which Nebuchadnezzar is compared

      (Jeremiah 48:40; Lamentations 4:19; Ezekiel 17:3; Daniel 7:4).


o       Both bent upon violence and having their faces set eagerly as

      the east wind, i.e. either set towards the front with determination,

      or like the east wind for devastation. Thus the characteristics of

      Babylonian warfare were — swiftness of movement,

      simultaneousness of action in the different parts of the army,

      unanimity of purpose, determination and ferocity, qualities the

                                    existence of which in them the monuments sufficiently attest.


Ø      Its warlike achievements.


o       The deportation of subjected populations. “They gather captives

      as the sand,” i.e. countless as the particles which the east wind

      raises, sweeping over the sand wastes, where it buries whole

      caravans in one death.


o       The defiance of all opposition. “Yea, he scoffeth at kings, and

      princes are a derision unto him.” So Nebuchadnezzar did with

      Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah (II Kings 24:15; 25:6-7;

      II Chronicles 36:5-21).


o       The capture of every stronghold. No fortress could withstand the

                                    Babylonian conqueror. Not even Tyre, whose very name (Rock)

                                    betokened its strength. The most impregnable garrison seemed

                                    only to require that he should heap up a little dust against it,

                                    and it was taken.


o       Its daring impiety. Rushing on like a swollen torrent, like his

      own Euphrates when it overflows its banks, sweeping across

      the land like a tempestuous wind over the sandy desert, it

      overleaps all barriers and restraints both Divine and human,

      and stands convicted before God as a guilty transgressor.


o       Its shameless blasphemy. The culmination at once of its offence

      and of its guilt is that it deifies its own might, saying, “Lo, this

      my strength is my god!” Such was the spirit of Nebuchadnezzar

      (Daniel 4:30) and of Belshazzar (Isaiah 14:14); such will be that

      of the future antichrist (II Thessalonians 2:4).


  • Learn:


Ø      That if God’s people sin they must look for chastisement

                        (Deuteronomy 11:28; Psalm 89:32).

Ø      That if God’s people are chastised for their offences, God’s

      enemies cannot hope to escape punishment for theirs (I Peter 4:17-18).

Ø      That God can always lay His hand upon an instrument wherewith to

                        inflict punishment upon His people (Isaiah 10:5).

Ø      That wicked men and nations whom God employs in the execution

      of His judgments do not thereby escape responsibility for their own

      actions (Isaiah 10:12).

Ø      That the deification of self is the last delusion of a foolish heart

                        (Genesis 3:5).



The Divine Working against Evil and Its Doers (vs. 5-11)


We have expressed here God’s response to the impassioned appeal

addressed to Him by His servant. There is much that is suggestive in these

words as bearing upon the Divine working against those who practice sin

and who persist in its commission. Note:



PREVAILING UNGODLINESS. The seer had asked, “How long?” (v.2).

He was impatient of delay. But whilst there is this lingering on the part

of God, so that “judgment against an evil work is not executed speedily”

(Ecclesiastes 8:11), this is owing to the Divine long suffering and

patience, and does not arise from indifference and unconcern being

cherished by the Most High in reference to iniquity. Wrong doing is ever

before Him, is closely observed by Him. It is the source of displeasure to

Him who is perfect in purity, and the requital of it will assuredly be

experienced by transgressors. Though it may tarry, it will surely come.

(ch. 2:3) “I will work a work,” etc. (v. 5).





RIGHTEOUSNESS. The verses contain a wonderfully graphic account of

the Chaldeans who were to be the instruments of the Divine chastisement

of Judah (compare with them Isaiah 14:6, 16-17), and whilst in reading

them, so vivid is the portrayal, that we seem to see the Chaldean horsemen

sweeping through the land like the simoom, causing death and desolation

to follow in their track, we also have presented to us certain traits most

clearly indicative of their gross wickedness.


Ø      Their proud ambition to possess the dwelling places that were

                        not theirs (v. 6);

Ø      their fierceness and cruelty (ver. 7);

Ø      their self-sufficiency (ver. 7);

Ø      their scorn and contempt. (v. 10) and their blasphemy (v.11);


all pass in review before us. And these were chosen to be the executors

of the Divine judgments! “For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans (v. 6). The

meaning is that God, in His providence, would permit “that bitter and hasty

nation to be a scourge to His chosen people on account of their

transgression. The Chaldeans, in seeking their own ends, should be made

to fulfil the Divine behests. Man is wondrously free to act; and he often

does act without any regard to truth and righteousness. The world, indeed,

is full of evil doers acting according to their own devices; but “He that

sitteth in the heavens” is guiding and directing all to the accomplishment of

His own high purposes and to the fulfilment of His holy and gracious will.




was at this time in close alliance with the Chaldean state, an alliance so

close and friendly that the Hebrew politicians had no fear of its rupture.

Yet it was in this wholly unexpected form that the Divine judgment was to

come upon them. The Chaldeans in whom they trusted, on whom they

leaned, were to give the death blow to the dynasty of David.  All the

material and moral forces of the universe are under THE DIVINE

CONTROL and in ways and by means little anticipated His retributions

often overtake His adversaries.




ACKNOWLEDGMENT FROM MAN. (v. 5.) The retributions have to

light upon them ere they will believe. “They cry, Peace and safety: till

sudden destruction comes upon them” (I Thessalonians 5:3). So has it

been in the past, and so, upon the authority of Christ, will it be in the future

(Matthew 24:27-29). Still, amidst this unconcern and unbelief, the duty

of the messenger of God is clear. He must “cry aloud.” He must bid men

behold,” “regard,” and “wonder,” and then, “whether they hear or

forbear  (Ezekiel 2:5,7); “he has delivered his soul.”


In vs. 12-17, the prophet, in reply, beseeches the Lord not to

suffer His people to perish, seeing that He has deigned to be in covenant

with them, but to remember mercy even during the affliction at the hand of

their rapacious enemies.


12 “Art thou not from everlasting, O LORD my God, mine Holy One?

we shall not die. O LORD, thou hast ordained them for judgment;

and, O mighty God, thou hast established them for correction.”

Habakkuk calls to mind God’s immutability and His covenant

with Israel. Art thou not from everlasting, etc.? An affirmative answer is

expected. This is one ground of confidence in the corrective nature of the

chastisement. God is Jehovah, the covenant God, who has been in personal

relation to Israel from time immemorial, and is HIMSELF ETERNAL!

Mine Holy One. He speaks in the person of the righteous people, and He refers to

God’s holiness as a second ground of hope, because, although God must

punish sin, He will not let the sacred nation, the chosen guardian of the

faith, perish utterly. And then he expresses this confidence: We shall not

die. We shall be chastened, but not killed. The Masorites assert that the

present reading is a correction of the scribes for “thou wilt not die,” which

the prophet wrote originally, and which was altered for reverence’ sake.

But this is a mere assumption, incapable of proof. Its adoption would be an

omission of the very consolation to which the prophet’s confidence leads.

Thou hast ordained them (him) for judgment. Thou hast appointed the

Chaldean to execute thy corrective punishment on Israel (compare Jeremiah 46:28).

Others take the meaning to be — Thou hast predestined the Chaldean to be judged

and punished This is not so suitable in this place. O mighty God; Hebrew, O Rock

an appellation applied to God, as the sure and stable Resting place and Support

of His people  (Deuteronomy 32:4, 15, 37; Psalm 18:2, 31:3; Isaiah 17:10).

Thou hast established them (him) for correction. Thou appointedst the

Chaldean, or madest him strong, in order to correct thy people. He is, like

the Assyrian, the rod of God’s anger (Isaiah 10:5). Septuagint, Απλασέ με τοῦ

ἐλέγχειν παιδείαν αὐτοῦ - Aplase me tou elegchein paideian autou -  He formed

me to prove his instruction. This, says St. Jerome, is spoken in the person of the

prophet announcing his call and office.



The Inspiration of Hope (v.12)


Hope is the expectation of future good. The cherishing of this spirit, even

as it respects the affairs of everyday life, yields strength and courage, whilst

the centering this in the glorious realities God has revealed imparts joy and

gladness to the heart. To the man of piety hope is the helmet, serving as a

protection and defense in the day of conflict, and the anchor rendering his

spirit peaceful and secure amidst the storms of life.






Ø      The seer directed his thoughts to the contemplation of the character of

                        his God. Two aspects of this were vividly present to his mind.


o       Gods eternal duration. “Art thou not from everlasting?” (v. 12).

o       His infinite purity. “Mine Holy One” (ibid.).


Ø      Associated with these thoughts concerning God in the mind of the

                        prophet we have the recognition of the relationship sustained by this

                        Eternal and Holy One to Himself and the nation whose interests lay near

                        and pressed with such weight upon His heart. He and his people were the

                        chosen of Heaven. God had entered into covenant relations with them.

                        They had been the objects of His ever gracious care and providential

                        working. He had not dealt thus with any other people. They could call

                        Him theirs. “O Lord my God, mine Holy One” (ibid.).


Ø      And by associating together these thoughts of God and of His

                        relationship to His people he gathered, in the troublous times upon which

                        he had fallen, the inspiration of hope. One great difficulty with him arose

                        from the threatened extinction of his nation. He had mourned over the

                        national guilt, and had sought earnestly in prayer the Divine interposition.

                        The response, however, to his impassioned cry unto God was different

                        from what he had expected. The revelation made to him of the                                `            approaching Chaldean invasion of his country seemed to carry with it the                           complete annihilation of the national anticipations, and the utter desolation                and extinction of those who had been specially favored of God. Surely,

                        thought he, this cannot be. God is eternal; his purposes must be fulfilled.

                        Then “we shall not die” (v. 12). God is holy. Then evil cannot ultimately

                        be victorious. It could only be for chastisement and correction that the

                        threatened trials should come. “O Lord, thou hast ordained them for

                        judgment; and, O mighty God, thou hast established them for                                            correction” (ibid.). And by such reasoning hope became the balm of                               healing to his troubled heart, the bow of promise cast across his

                        stormiest cloud, the bright star kindled in his darkest sky.





Jehovah is “from everlasting.” He is “the eternal God;” hence, OUR

IMMORTAL DESTINY!   “We shall not die, but live.”  (Psalm 118:17)

Surely the Divine Father will not allow His children to fade away and be no more. Certainly, He whose tender love to His children the love of human parents so faintly images, will not dwell through the eternal ages and “leave himself childless when time shall such”


“Souls that of his own good life partake,

He loves as his own self; dear as his eye

They are to him; he’ll never them forsake;

When they shall die, then God Himself shall die;

They live, they live in blest eternity.”

(Henry More.)


It may be said that this reasoning, however concise and seemingly

conclusive, is after all based upon probability. We grant it, and whilst

refusing to undervalue its worth, we thankfully turn even from these

beautiful words of the noble prophet, “Art thou not from everlasting, O

Lord my God, mine Holy One? we shall not die,” and fix our thoughts

upon the assurances, so authoritative and so certain, of THE

WORLD’S REDEEMER!  “Let not your heart be troubled, ye

believe in God, believe also in me” etc. (John 14:1-8); “I am

the Resurrection and the life.  He that believeth in me, though

he were dead, yet shall he live:  And whosoever liveth and

believeth in me shall never die!  Believest thou this?”  

(John 11:25-26); “Because I live, ye shall live also” (John 14:19)



The Benefits of Life’s Adversities.  (v. 12)


“O Lord, thou hast ordained them for judgment; and, O mighty God, thou

hast established them for correction.” This is a second inference drawn by

the prophet.  He not only inferred, from what he knew of the Divine

character, that his people should not be utterly destroyed by the adversities

which were about to overtake them — “We shall not die” — but also that

these coming judgments should be made to work for their good. “O Lord,

thou hast ordained,” etc.  God’s chastisements are not directed to

the overthrow but to the salvation of those upon whom they are inflicted.

He chastens men sore, but does not give them over unto death. The dark

scenes through which the frail and erring children of men are led are

designed to contribute to their good. How? Well, they operate in various



















suffering considered in itself is not good, yet instrumentally it is desirable,

and, if we are rightly exercised by it, will help us to attain unto a holier

and more heavenly life. So David (Psalm 119:71, 67). So Manasseh

(II Chronicles 33:11-13). It is because we are so slow to learn the lessons our

sorrows are intended to teach us that it is “through much tribulation” that

we are to enter the kingdom prepared for the saints of God. We need these

threshings of the inner spiritual man in order that the chaff may be

separated from the wheat, and we become thus prepared for the heavenly

garner. (Matthew 3:12)  Let us accept all our griefs as precious tokens of the Divine Father’s love, and make them our convoy to bear us up to Him.


13 “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on

iniquity: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously,

and holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is

more righteous than he?” Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil

(compare v.3). God cannot look with complacency on evil (Psalm 5:5-6).

Iniquity; Septuagint, πόνους ὀδύνηςponous odunaes - labors of pain.

Injustice and the distress occasioned by it. God’s holiness cannot endure the

sight of wickedness, nor His mercy the sight of man’s misery. And yet He

permits these evil men to afflict the holy seed. This is the prophet’s perplexity,

which he lays before the Lord. Them that deal treacherously. The Chaldeans,

so called from their faithless and rapacious conduct (Isaiah 21:2; 24:16).

More righteous. The Israelites, wicked as they were, were more righteous than

the Chaldeans (compare Ezekiel 16:51, etc.).  Delitzsch and Keil think that the

persons intended are the godly portion of Israel, who will suffer with the guilty.



     The Eternity, Providence, and Holiness of Jehovah.  (vs. 12-13)


“Art thou not from everlasting, O Lord my God, mine Holy One? we shall

not die. O Lord, thou hast ordained them for judgment; and, O mighty

God, thou hast established them for correction,” etc. In this passage the

prophet refers to the eternity, the providence, and the holiness of the

Jehovah of the Jewish people.



PRESERVATION. “Art thou not from everlasting, O Lord, my God, mine

Holy One? we shall not die.” However terrible and prostrating the Divine

threatenings may sound, the prophet draws consolation and hope from the

holiness of the faithful covenant God, that Israel will not perish, but that

the judgment will be only a severe chastisement. “Art thou not

from everlasting?” The interrogatory does not imply doubt on his part. The

true God is essentially eternal; He “inhabiteth eternity.” He is without

beginning, without succession, without end. The loftiest thoughts of the

loftiest intelligence are lost in the idea of His eternity. From His eternity the

prophet argues that His people will not perish: “We shall not die.” There is

force in this argument. His people live in Him. Their life is hid in God, and

so long as He endures they may hope to continue. Christ said to His

disciples, “Because I live, ye shall live also.”  (John 14:19)  Man’s immortality

is not in himself, but in God. If He has purposed that we shall live forever,

He is eternal, and will never change His mind or die.



“O Lord, thou hast ordained them for judgment; and, O mighty God, thou

hast established them for correction.”  Jehovah, for judgment thou hast

appointed it, and, O Rock, thou hast founded it for chastisement.”

Whatever evil of any kind, from any quarter, comes upon the

loyal servants of God, comes not by accident; it is under the direction of

the All-wise and the All-beneficent. These Chaldeans could not move

without Him, nor could they strike one blow without His permission; they

were but the rod in His hand. All the most furious fiends in the universe are

under His direction. He says, concerning the mighty tide of wicked

passions, “Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further.”  (Job 38:11)  Is not this

a source of comfort under suffering and oppression? Whatever mischief men design to inflict upon His people, He purposes to bring good out of it:

(Romans 8:28) and His counsel shall stand.



PERPLEXITY. “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not

look on iniquity: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal

treacherously, and boldest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man

that is more righteous than he?” Jehovah is the Holy One. His holiness is

essential, underived, indestructible, reflected in all consciences. He is of

purer eyes than to behold evil.” His eyes do behold iniquity. There is no

sin that comes not within His glance. What the prophet means, I presume, is

— Thou art of “purer eyes” than to behold iniquity with satisfaction. It is

that “abominable thing” which God hates (Jeremiah 44:4). Now, this holiness was the occasion of perplexity to the prophet. As if he had said, “Since thou art

holy, why allow such abominations to take place? why permit wicked men

to work such iniquities, and to inflict such suffering upon the righteous?”

This has always been a source of perplexity to good men. That a holy God,

who has the power to prevent such iniquities, should allow them to occur,

abound, and continue, is one of the great mysteries of life.


CONCLUSION. Let us, in all our troubles, like the prophet, look to the

Everlasting One, and hold firmly the conviction that, notwithstanding the

abounding of evil in the world, He is the Holy One, and is of “purer eyes”

than to approve of wickedness,


“Courage, brother, do not stumble;

   Though thy path be dark as night

There’s a star to guide the humble;

   Trust in God, and do the right.


“Let the road be rough and dreary,

   And its end far out of sight;

Foot it bravely, strong or weary:

   Trust in God, and do the fight.


“Perish policy and cunning,

   Perish all that fears the light;

Whether losing, whether winning,

   Trust in God, and do the right,


“Trust no party, sect, or faction;

   Trust no leaders in the fight;

But in every word and action

   Trust in God, and do the right.


“Simple rule and safest guiding,

   Inward peace and inward might,

Star upon our path abiding:

   Trust in God, and do the right.


“Some will hate thee, some will love thee,

   Some will flatter, some will slight;

Cease from man, and look above thee:

   Trust in God, and do the right.”

                                                                                (Norman McLeod.)


14 “And makest men as the fishes of the sea, as the creeping things,

that have no ruler over them?”  The prophet appeals movingly to God by

mentioning the indignity with which the people are treated. As the fishes of the sea.

Dumb and helpless, swept off by the fisherman. That have no ruler ever them.

None to guide and protect them (compare Proverbs 6:7; 30:27). So the Jews seem

to be deprived of God’s care, and left to be the prey of the spoiler, as if of

little worth, and no longer having God for their King (compare Isaiah 63:19,

Revised Version). The “creeping things” are worms, or small fish (Psalm 104:25).


15 “They take up all of them with the angle, they catch them in their

net, and gather them in their drag: therefore they rejoice and are

glad.”  They take up all men with the angle; he bringeth up all

together with the hook (Amos 4:2) The net. Any kind of net.

Septuagint, ἄμφίβληστνον -  amphiblaestnon - cast net.” The drag (σαγήνη

sagaenae - dragnet).  At their own pleasure, unhindered, the Chaldeans make

whole nations their prey, their fishing implements being their armies, with which

they gather unto themselves countries, peoples, and booty.


16 “Therefore they sacrifice unto their net, and burn incense unto their

drag; because by them their portion is fat, and their meat plenteous.”

Therefore they sacrifice unto their net. This is spoken metaphorically,

implying that the Babylonians recognized not God’s hand, but attributed

their success to the means which they employed (compare v.11; Isaiah 10:13 etc.).

There is no trace in the monuments of the Chaldeans paying divine honors to

their weapons, as, according to Herodotus (4:62), the Scythians and other nations

did (see Justin, ‘Hist.,’ 43:3). What a man trusts in becomes a god to him.

Their portion is fat; his portion is rich. He gains great wealth. Their

meat plenteous; his meat dainty. He is prosperous and luxurious.



The Pride of Human Sufficiency (v.12)


The reference is to the Chaldeans. They would, in due course, invade

Judah, and should be successful in their invasion. The “sinful nation”

should fall into their hands as fish into the net of the angler; and,

intoxicated by their success, they should congratulate themselves upon

their achievements and adore their military prowess and skill, and their

weapons of war, as though these had won the victory. “Therefore they

sacrifice,” etc. (v. 16). They would be lifted up with the pride of human

sufficiency. Observe:





Ø      Temporal success is thus gainful. The age in which we live is an age of

                        earnest toil, of restless activity. It is becoming more and more felt that a

                        man cannot expect to make headway apart from continuous, energetic

                        work. And this is a healthy “sign of the times.” It reminds us that life is                              too valuable a gift to be frittered away. It contrasts, strikingly and                                             pleasingly, with those periods in which ease, luxury, and sloth were                                    deified and adored. There is dignity in labor. The danger lies in the

                        non-recognition of God as the Bestower of the prosperity secured,

                        and in ascribing the success achieved wholly to ourselves. The true

                        spirit is that which prompts the acknowledgment, “All things come

                        of thee” (I Chronicles 29:14). The Lord is “Giver of all.” Success is                                    sometimes achieved by bad men. By fraud, oppression, reckless                                                speculation, and by taking mean advantage, “the portion” of such is                            “made fat” and “their meat plenteous;” and in such cases all this is                           through the all-wise although often inscrutable permission of the

                        Most High.


Ø      Spiritual success is also thus gained. In holy service we are but the

                        instruments employed by God. The power is His, and the honor should

                        all be laid at His feet. Baxter, when complimented at the close of his                                   career upon the usefulness of his writings, said, “I was but a pen in the                           hand of my God, and what honor is due to a pen?”




OF HUMAN SUFFICIENCY. “Therefore they sacrifice unto their net,”

etc. (v. 16). “They say in their heart, My power and the might of mine

hand hath gotten me this wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:17). So Pharaoh

said, “My river is mine own, and I have made it for myself” (Ezekiel

29:3). So Nebuchadnezzar said, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have

built,” etc. (Daniel 4:30). Pusey refers in illustration of this to certain

North American Indians, “who designate their bow and arrow as the only

beneficent deities whom they know;” to the Romans sacrificing to their

military standards; and to the French referred to in the Times during the

Franco-German War as “almost worshipping the mitrailleuse as a goddess.”

And this is still our peril. Because our possibilities are so great, we think

that we can win all blessings for ourselves. Everywhere we see the worship

of our human powers and means — the workman worshipping the strength

of his arm and the deftness of his fingers, the man of business worshipping

his skill and acuteness, and the man of science, human knowledge. Nor is

the Church of God free from this spirit: for there is far too much of trusting

to forms and ceremonies, to worldly alliances, to machinery and

organization, as though these were the great essentials, and far too little of

the hills whence cometh her help.  (Psalm 121:1-2)




Ø      It reveals self-ignorance. For no one who really understands himself

                        could possibly cherish this spirit.

Ø      It leads to oppression. The man who has exalted notions of his own

                        powers and doings is likely to be proud and overbearing in his

                        conduct towards others.

Ø      It is offensive to God. “He resisteth the proud, but giveth grace

      unto the humble” (James 4:6). “In all our ways, therefore, let us    acknowledge Him” (Proverbs 3:6) and as we prosper in our course

      ascribe the success gained to HIS FAVOR AND BLESSING!

       In the language of Keble, let us say — .


            “Should e’er thy wonder working grace

                 Triumph by our weak arm,

             Let not our sinful fancy trace

               Aught human in the charm:


            “To our own nets ne’er bow we down,

               Lest on the eternal shore

            The angels, while our draught they own,

               Reject us evermore.”


17 “Shall they therefore empty their net, and not spare continually to

slay the nations?”  Shall they therefore empty their net? Because they have had

this career of rapine and conquest, shall God allow them to continue it?

Shall they be permitted to be continually emptying their net in order to fill

it again? The idea is that they carried off their booty and captives and

secured them in their own territory, and then set out on new expeditions to

acquire fresh plunder. The question is answered in the next chapter, where

the judgment on the Chaldeans is pronounced. And not spare continually

to slay the nations? And cease not to send forth his armies and to found

his empire in the blood of conquered nations. The Septuagint and Vulgate

have no interrogation, the assertion being made by way of expostulation.





The Triumph of Faith (vs. 12-17)   


  • HABAKKUK’S GOD. (vs. 12-13)


Ø      Eternal. From everlasting Psalm 93:2), and therefore to everlasting

(ibid. ch. 90:1); hence immutable (Malachi 3:6), without variableness

or shadow cast by turning (James 1:17), in respect of His being

(I Timothy 1:17), character (Isaiah 63:16; Psalm 111:3), purpose

(Job 23:13), and promise (Hebrews 6:17).


Ø      Holy. In Himself the absolutely and the only stainless One (Exodus

15:11; Isaiah 6:3), and in all His self-manifestations (Job 34:10), in

His ways and works (Psalm 145:17) as well as words (Psalm 33:4),

equally immaculate, and necessarily so, since an unholy Divinity could not

be supreme, He is “of purer eyes than to behold evil,” and “cannot look

upon iniquity” with indifference, and far less with favour (Psalm 5:4;

Jeremiah 44:4).


Ø      Omniscient. Inferred from the fact that He beheld all the evil that was

done beneath the sun, both in Judah by His own people (v. 3) and among

the nations by the Chaldeans (v. 13). Omniscience a necessary attribute

of the Supreme, and one much emphasized in Scripture (Proverbs 15:3;

Job 28:24; II Chronicles 16:9; Jeremiah 32:19; Hebrews 4:13).


Ø      Omnipotent. This implied in His supremacy over the nations, raising up

one power (the Chaldeans) and putting down another (Judah), giving the

peoples into Nebuchadnezzar’s net, and again hurling down

Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson from his seat of power. Also suggested by the

designation “Rock,” given Him by Habakkuk, who meant thereby to teach

the strength and steadfastness of Jehovah in comparison with the idols of

the heathen, and His ability to shelter and defend those who trusted in Him (Deuteronomy 32:4,15,18,30-31, 37; [I highly recommend Acts 17 Dwight Moody Sermon – The Great Redemption – this website –

CY – 2015] Psalm 18:2; 28:1; 31:3, etc.).


Ø      Gracious. He was such a God as had entered into covenant with the

prophet, who accordingly styled Him “my God,” “mine Holy One.” “My” is faith’s response to God’s grace in offering Himself to man as a God

(Exodus 20:2).


  • HABAKKUK’S PERPLEXITY. (vs. 13-17.)


Ø      A great mystery.


o       Concerning Judah. Why God, being what He was, from everlasting, holy, etc., should suffer His people, who with all their faults were more righteous than their oppressors, to be trodden down, butchered, and driven off into captivity by the Chaldeans! Why, when He saw them humiliated and destroyed, He held His peace! Strange inconsistency of the human heart, especially when touched by grace. A little before (v. 3) the prophet had

been concerned at God’s silence about the wickedness of Judah; now, when God has spoken of raising up against that wickedness the Chaldean army, he is troubled that God should allow such cruelty to be perpetrated against the people of whom he had complained.


o       Concerning the Chaldeans. Why God, being what He was, unchangeably pure and just as well as resistlessly powerful, should permit the heathen warrior to work such havoc among the nations of the earth, to practice such deception towards and cruelty, against them (v.13), to angle them up like fishes out of the sea or catch them in His net (v. 15), to deprive them of their heads by carrying away their kings, and so to make them like the finny tribes that have no rulers over them (v. 14); and not only so, but

to exult in his conquests and depredations, as if these were exclusively the result of his own power and skill; to “sacrifice unto his net, and burn incense unto his drag” (v. 16), thus making might his god (v. 11), and practically deifying himself.


Ø      An old problem. Habakkuk’s perplexity was the same which from time

immemorial has troubled thoughtful men, the dark enigma of providence

why good men should so frequently be crushed by misfortune, and

wicked men so often crowned with prosperity. This mystery was a source

of anxiety to Job (12:6; 21:7-13), David (Psalm 17:14-15), Asaph (Psalm 73:1-13), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 12:1), the Preacher (Ecclesiastes 7:15; 8:14), in the olden times; has caused much stumbling to good men since, and probably will do so while the world lasts.


Ø      A valuable discipline. Distressing as this mystery is, it is nevertheless

not without its uses to such as are exercised thereby. It assists them to

understand the sovereignty of God, that He giveth not account of any of His matters (Job 33:13); to realize their own limited and imperfect vision,

which can only see in part, not in whole (Job 37:21; I Corinthians 13:9), only the middle and neither the beginning nor the end of God’s work in providence; to cultivate those virtues of patience, humility, trustfulness,

which are essential elements in all true goodness (Psalm 37:3-5); and to

seek their portion in God Himself (Psalm 16:5) rather than in earthly

things (Psalm 17:14), in the future world rather than in the present life

(Colossian 3:2).


  • HABAKKUK’S CONSOLATION. (vs. 12-17.)


Ø      Concerning the righteous.


o       Jehovah being what He is, it was impossible His people should be

either cut or cast off. Habakkuk argued that Judah could not perish — “We shall not die” — because God lived and was holy. Jehovah sustained the argument by answering, in Malachi 3:6, “I am the Lord,! change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed;” and Christ acknowledged its validity when He said to His disciple, “Because I live, ye shall live also” (John 14:19). This implies not exemption from physical suffering or death, as doubtless many Judaeans perished in the Chaldean conquest, but protection from that future and eternal death which is the last penalty of

unrepented and unforgiven sin. This the main consolation of a believer under suffering, that his covenant God hath said, “My mercy will I keep for him forevermore” (Psalm 89:28), and that Christ hath declared, “My sheep shall never perish” (John 10:28).


o       This being so, their sufferings must be designed only for their

correction, not for their destruction, and accordingly should be regarded rather as fatherly chastisements than as penal inflictions. Habakkuk perceived that the Chaldean had been “ordained for judgment” and “raised up for correction,” not commissioned for extermination. So the Christian discerns that “tribulation worketh patience,” etc. (Romans 5:3); that “our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding, EVEN AN ETERNAL WEIGHT OF GLORY (II Corinthians 4:17); that present chastisements are intended for our future profit, “that we might be partakers of His holiness” (Hebrews 12:10), and that they might yield to us “the peaceable fruits of righteousness” (ibid v. 11); and in short, that suffering is the royal road to moral and spiritual perfection (ibid. 2:10).


Ø      Concerning the wicked. Jehovah being what He is, the wicked cannot be

allowed to go on always as they are. “Shall he,” the Chaldean, “therefore

empty his net” to fill it again? Is this process of angling and dragging for

men and nations to go on forever? Shall he “not spare to slay the nations

continually? the prophet asks; meaning by the question, “No, verily, this

must come to an end.” And those who have reflected deepest on the

problem have perceived that, at the longest, THE TRIUMPH OF THE

WICKED IS SHORT!  (Job 20:5; Psalm 37:35-36; 73:18-20), and that their experience of prosperity, however long it may be, will only in the end aggravate their misery, unless before the end they repent of their

wickedness, and turn to God in faith, humility, love, and righteousness.

“The immortal gods,” wrote Julius Caesar, in his ‘Gallic War’ (1:14), “are

accustomed, the more heavily to pain by reverse of fortune those of whom

for their wickedness they wish to be avenged, to grant to them in the mean

while a larger sham of prosperity and a longer period of impunity.”


  • Learn


Ø      That the good man’s best comfort in affliction and stay in adversity is

THE CHARACTER OF GOD!   (Deuteronomy 33:27; Isaiah 52:21;

II Corinthians 1:3).

Ø      That with God silence is not to be understood as equivalent to consent

(Psalm 50:21).

Ø      That it is God’s custom to make men reap as they have sown, to reward

perverseness with perverseness, and iniquity with iniquity (Psalm18:26; Matthew 7:2; Galatians 6:7).

Ø      That governments tend to the good order of society, and are to be

respected and obeyed even when not perfect (Romans 13:1-2).

That the reign of wickedness will one day terminate (Psalm 145:20;

 I Corinthians 15:25).



Rapacious Selfishness in Power  (vs. 14-17)


And makest men as the fishes of the sea, as the creeping things, that have

no ruler over them. They take up all of them with the angle, they catch

them in their net, and gather them in their drag: therefore they rejoice and

are glad,” etc. In Nebuchadnezzar you have rapacious selfishness in power.

He is here represented by implication as treating the Jewish people as a

fisherman treats the fish in the sea. His aim is to catch them by “angle,”

net,” and “drag,” and turn them to his own vile use. These figures are not

to be interpreted with such speciality as that the net and fishing net answer

to the sword and bow; but the hook, the net, and the fishing net, as the

things used for catching fish, refer to all the means which the Chaldeans

employ in order to subdue and destroy the nations. Luther interprets it

correctly. ‘These hooks, nets, and fishing nets,’ he says ‘are nothing more

than his great and powerful armies, by which he gained dominion over all

lands and people, and brought home to Babylon the goods, jewels, silver

and gold, interest and rent of all the world. In these verses we

have a specimen of rapacious selfishness in power. Selfishness is the root

and essence of sin. All unregenerate men are therefore more or less selfish,

and rapacity is an instinct of selfishness. Selfishness hungers for the things

of others. Whilst this rapacious selfishness is general, mercifully it is not

always in power, otherwise the world would be more of a pandemonium

than it is. It is ever tyrannic and ruthless in the measure of its power. Here

we find it in the power of an absolute monarchy, and it is terrible to

contemplate. Four things are suggested.



“And makest man as the fishes of the sea, as the creeping things, that have

no ruler over them.” The Babylonian tyrant did not see in the population of

Judea men possessing natural endowments, sustaining moral relationships,

invested with rights and responsibilities similar to his own fellow men, but

merely “fishes;” his object was to catch them and turn them to his own use.

It is ever so with selfishness: it blinds man to the claims of his brother.

What does the selfish landlord care for the man in the tenants and laborers

on his estate? He only values them as they can subserve his interests. What

does the selfish employer care for the man in those who work in his service

and build up his fortune? He treats them rather as fishes to be used than as

brethren to be respected. What does the selfish despot care for the moral

humanity of the people over whom he sways his scepter? He values them

only as they can fight his battles, enrich his bank account, and contribute

to his pageantry and pomp. What were men to Alexander? What were men to

Napoleon, etc.?



“They take up all of them with the angle, they catch them in their net, and

gather them in their drag; therefore they rejoice and are glad.” Thus they

take up all of them, some with the hook one by one, others in shoals as in a

net, others in a drag or enclosed net. Ah me! Human life is like a sea —

deep, unresting, treacherous; and the teeming millions of men are but as

fishes, the weaker devoured by the stronger.


“… the good old rule

Sufficeth them, the simple plan

That they should take who have the power,

And they should keep who can.”



The mighty ones use the hook to oppress individuals one by one, the net

and the drag to carry multitudes away. To a rapacious selfishness in power

the man is lost in the laborer, the clerk, the employe, the sailor, the

soldier, the subject, etc. Men, what are they? To its eye they are goods,

chattels, beasts of burden, “fishes” — nothing more. As the fisherman

works by various expedients to catch the fish, the selfish man in power is

ever active in devising the best expedients to turn human flesh to his own




they sacrifice unto their net, and burn incense unto their drag; because by

them their portion is fat, and their meat plenteous.” They glory even in

their crimes, because these result in success. They admire their own

dexterity and prowess. The selfish man says to himself, “My power and the

might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:17).

According to the measure of a man’s selfishness is his propensity to

self-worship.  (Is not this the base of the “secular humanist” of the

21st century? – CY – 2015)   The more selfish a merchant, a scholar,

a religionist, an author, a preacher, etc., is, the more prone to praise

himself for his imaginary success. Because men are everywhere selfish,

they are everywhere “sacrificing unto their net, and burning incense unto

their drag.” The selfish statesman says, “There is no measure like mine;” the selfish sectarian, “There is no Church like mine;” the selfish author, “There

is no book like mine;” the selfish preacher, “There is no sermon like mine.”


“To our own nets ne’er bow we down,

   Lest on the eternal shore

The angels, while our draught they own,

   Reject us evermore.”




PROSPERITY, “Shall they therefore empty their net?” etc. An old author

thus paraphrases the language: “Shall they enrich themselves and fill their

own vessels with that which they have by violence and oppression taken

away from their neighbors? Shall they empty their net of what they have

caught, that they may cast it into the sea again to catch more? And wilt

thou suffer them to proceed in this wicked course? Shall they not spare

continually to slay the nations? Must the number and wealth of nations be

sacrificed to their net?”


CONCLUSION. What an awful picture of the world we have here! All

unregenerate men are selfish. Men are everywhere preying on men; and,

alas! often those who most lament the universal selfishness are the most

selfish. Like the ravenous birds which seem to bewail the sheep when

dying, they are ready to pick out their eyes when their opportunity comes.

“Where every man is for himself,” says an old author, “the devil will have

all.” This selfishness is the heart of stone in humanity, which must be

exchanged for a heart of flesh, or the man will be damned. What but the

gospel can effect this change? Oh that those who call themselves Christians

would cherish and exemplify that disinterestedness which alone gives title

to the name! “I would so live,” said Seneca, “as if I knew I had received

my being only for the benefit of others.”



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