Strong & McClintock Cyclopedia
[many Habak’kuk] (Heb. Chabakkuk’, חֲבִקּוּק, embrace; Sept. Α᾿μβακούμ, Vulg. Habacuc; Jerome, Praef. in Habakkuk translates περίληψις, and Suidas πατὴρ ἐγέρσεως; other Graecized and Latinized forms are Α᾿ββακούμ, Α᾿μβακούκ, Ambacnum, Abacuc, etc.), the eighth in order of the twelve minor prophets (q.v.) of the Old Testament.
1. As to the name, besides the above forms, the Greeks, not only the Sept. translators, but the fathers of the Church, probably to make it more sonorous, corrupt it into Α᾿ραβακούκ, Α᾿ραβακούρω, or, as Jerome writes, Α᾿βακούρω, and only one Greek copy, found in the library of Alcala, in Spain, has Α᾿ββακούκ, which seems to be a recent correction made to suit the Hebrew text. The Heb. word may denote, as observed by Jerome, as well a “favorite” as a “struggler.” Abarbanel thinks that in the latter sense it has allusion to the patriotic zeal of the prophet fervently contending for the welfare of his country: but other prophets did the same; and in the former and less distant signification, the name would be one like Theophilus, “a friend of God,” which his parents may have given him for a good omen. Luther took the name in the active sense, and applied it to the labors and writings of the man, thus: “Habakkuk had a proper name for his office; for it signifies a man of heart, one who is hearty towards another and takes him into his arms. This is what he does in his prophecy; he comforts his people and lifts them up, as one would do with a weeping child or man, bidding him be quiet and content, because, please God, it would yet be better with him.” But all this is speculation. See Keil and Delitzsch, Comment. ad cap. 1, 1.
2. Of the facts of this prophet’s birth-place, parentage, and life we have only apocryphal and conflicting accounts (see Delitzsch, De Habacuci vita et cetate, Lips. 1842, 1844). The Rabbinical tradition that Habakkuk was the son of the Shunammite woman whom Elisha restored to life is repeated by Abarbanel in his commentary, and has no other foundation than a fanciful etymology of the prophet’s name, based on the expression in 2Ki_4:16. Equally unfounded is the tradition that he was the sentinel set by Isaiah to watch for the destruction of Babylon (comp. Isa_21:16 with Hab_2:1). In the title of the history of Bel and the Dragon, as found in the Sept. version in Origen’s Tetrapla, the author is called “Habakkuk, the son of Joshua, of the tribe of Levi.” Some have supposed this apocryphal writer to be identical with the prophet (Jerome, Promen. in Dan.). The psalm in ch. 3 and its title are thought to favor the opinion that Habakkuk w-as a Levite (Delitzsch, Habakkuk, p. 3). Pseudo-Epiphanius (2, 240, De Vitis Prophetamum) and Dorotheus (Chronicles Pasch. p. 150) say that he was of Βηθζοκήρ or Βηθιτουχάρ (v.r. Βηδζοκήρ, Βιδζεχάρ) (Bethacat, Isid. Hispal. c. 47), of the tribe of Simeon. This may have been the same as Bethzacharias, where Judas Maccabaus was defeated by Antiochus Eupator (1Ma_6:32-33). The same authors relate that when Jerusalem was sacked by Nebuchadnezzar, Habakkuk fled to Ostracine, and remained there till after the Chaldeans had left the city, when he returned to his own country, and died at his farm two years before the return from Babylon, B.C. 538. It was (during his residence in Judea that he is said to have carried food to Daniel in the den of lions at Babylon. This legend is given in the history of Bel and the Dragon, and is repeated by Eusebins, Bar Hebraeus, and Eutychius. It is quoted from Joseph ben- Gorion (B. J. 11, 3) by Abarbanel (Comm. on Hab.), and seriously refuted by him on chronological grounds. The scene of the event was shown to mediaeval travelers on the road from Jerusalem to Bethlehem (Early Travels in Palestine, p. 29). Habakkuk is said to have been buried at Ceila, in the tribe of Judah, eight miles east of Eleutheropolis (Eusebius, Onomasficon, s.v.); where, in the days of Zebenus, bishop of Eleutheropolis, according to Nicephorus (H. k. 12, 48) and Sozomen (H. E. 7, 28), the remains of the prophets Habakkuk and Micah were both discovered. Iabbinical tradition, however, places his tomb at Chukkok, of the tribe of Naphthali, now called Jakuk.
The burden] the oracle. Comp. Hab_2:6 “take up” a proverb. Num_23:7; Isa_14:4. See Nah_1:1.
did see] Comp. Isa_2:1 “the word that Isaiah saw”; Isa_13:1 “the oracle which Isaiah did see.” Amo_1:1; Mic_1:1. In the early times of prophecy the ecstasy or exalted condition of mind was more usual and the things revealed to the prophet were seen by him. Thus Micaiah ben Jimlah said: “I saw all Israel scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd” 1Ki_22:17; 1Ki_22:19. In later times these terms “see,” “vision” and the like, which had been formed in the early period, continued to be retained, and any revelation was called a “vision,” and “see” was employed of the act of receiving a revelation, even when it was a word (Isa_2:1). On the name Habakkuk see Introduction.
2–4. The Prophet’s complaint that he has long cried out against evils unheard
2. how long shall I cry] lit. shall I have cried? Exo_10:3; Exo_16:28; Psa_80:4. The prophet’s cry extends back into the past. But though he has been long crying he has received no answer from Heaven; the evil proceeds unchecked, even unregarded of God (Hab_1:3).
wilt not hear] dost not hear.
even cry out unto thee of violence] I cry out unto thee of violence (or, Violence! this being the word which forms his cry). Job_19:7; Jer_20:8. The term “violence” is equivalent to wrong, injury, whether accompanied with force or not, Gen_16:5.
wilt not save] dost not save, or, give deliverance, Psa_18:41 (Heb. 42). The cry of wrong and injury though long continued has evoked no interposition of God, nor been met with any help. The prophet seems certainly to complain not only of injury which he sees around him, but which he suffers (Job_19:7; Jer_20:8). But it may be a question when he says “I” whether he does not make himself one with some class in Israel, namely, the godly, who are wronged by the wicked, or with Israel as a people, which suffers injury at the hands of a foreign oppressor.
shew me iniquity] cause me to see iniquity. God by His interposition might have checked the iniquity; by His refraining the continuance of it is virtually due to Him. One thing pains the prophet—that he has to behold iniquity; and another perplexes him—that God, the Righteous One, brings him into such a trial, or leaves him in it. The Hebrew mind was the more profoundly agitated by the moral anomalies in the world, because it could not help ascribing them directly to God, Who was the immediate cause of all things. The feeling is often expressed in Job, e.g. Job_23:16-17.
The term “iniquity” is used both of physical evil, “affliction” (Jer_4:14; Job_5:6), and moral evil, “wickedness”; here of the latter, as generally, e.g. in the common phrase “workers of iniquity.”
cause me to behold grievance] and dost look upon trouble. The term grievance or trouble (Hab_1:13 R.V. perverseness), properly “labour,” toil, has also the double sense of misery, pain, sorrow, travail (Isa_53:11), or mischief, wrongdoing (Psa_7:15; Psa_94:20; Isa_59:4). The latter half of the verse “spoiling and violence” is in favour of understanding all the terms not so much of evils suffered as of evils inflicted. The prophet is perplexed because God looks on unconcerned when men perpetrate wrong.
spoiling and violence are before me] The words again combined, Jer_6:7; Jer_20:8; Eze_45:9; Amo_3:10. The term “spoiling” means violent mishandling when used of a person, destruction or devastation when said of a thing. Isa_13:6; Job_5:21-22; Hos_7:13; Psa_12:6. With “before me” comp. Jer_6:7.
there are that raise up strife] Rather as R.V.: and there is strife, and contention riseth up (for Heb. constr. cf. Psa_89:9). This is the condition of things that has come about and prevails. The terms “strife” and “contention” certainly suggest animosities between members of the same community rather than injuries inflicted on a subject people by their conquerors. The conquerors of Israel did not mix among the inhabitants or interfere with individual persons, they merely demanded political subjection and tribute, and the latter they collected not from the people but from their rulers. Comp. the use of the two words in Jer_15:10.
law is slacked] lit. numbed, rigid, i.e. motionless, paralysed and ineffectual. The term “law” (torah) means properly divine instruction given orally at the mouth of the priest (Jer_18:18; Mal_2:6-7); then also that given orally by the prophet (Isa_1:10), and more generally any oral instruction (Pro_1:8; Pro_6:20). In a wider sense it is divine instruction regarding any subject, particularly matters of ritual; then specially of the law of Moses in Deuteronomy, and finally of the whole Pentateuch. In some cases the word seems generalized to mean the revelation as a whole communicated to Israel, particularly as being essentially the true knowledge of the true God, which it is the mission of Israel the servant of the Lord to impart to the nations, Isa_42:4; cf. Isa_49:6, Isa_51:4. Parallel to the word in this use is the term “judgment,” e.g. Isa_42:3-4 “till he have set judgment in the earth, and the isles shall look unto his torah.” See next clause.
judgment doth never go forth] The word “never” does not seem anywhere to mean “at no time,” “on no occasion,” it appears always to refer to the future, e.g. Psa_10:11; Isa_13:20; Amo_8:7. The words must therefore be rendered: and judgment shall never go forth—a sense unsuitable to the connexion.
It is probable that the word has here some modified meaning, and that the sense is akin to Isa_42:3 “judgment unto truth,” or, according to truth, paraphrased “unto victory” Mat_12:20. “Law” here hardly means the specific decision of the priest on particular questions, nor “judgment” the sentence of the magistrate in particular causes; rather the sense is: law, i.e. moral (social) law (Amo_2:4; Hos_4:6) is paralysed and cannot assert its validity, and judgment, i.e. “right,” comes not forth in its fulness, but is seen maimed. Others, as Wellhausen, take law and judgment in the sense they have in Isaiah 40 seq., of the true religion of Jehovah, and consider the prophet’s complaint to be that the predominance of the heathen powers represses the true religion and prevents its expansion and effectiveness. This sense is less in harmony with the other statements of the passage.
the wicked doth compass about the righteous] Unlike its use in Psa_142:7 “compass” is employed here in a hostile sense, to hem in, so as to impair one’s liberties and just rights (Job_3:23). Both “righteous” and “wicked” are collective terms, referring to classes. The antithesis was used not only of two classes in Israel (Isa_3:10-11; Isa_5:23; Isa_11:4; Zep_1:3), but particularly in later times “wicked” was used of the heathen nations and “righteous” of Israel. The antithesis is taken in the latter sense here by those who consider Hab_1:1-4 to refer to heathen oppressions, cf. Hab_1:13.
wrong judgment proceedeth] As R.V.: therefore judgment goeth forth perverted, i.e. “right,” the good cause of the righteous, fails to prevail.
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 LXX, gives, Ἴδετε, οἱ καταφρονηταί, “Behold, ye despisers,” which is justifiable. St. Paul quotes the Greek Version, Act_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 marvellously. They are to wonder because the work is as terrible as it is unexpected. The LXX. (quoted by St. Paul, loc. cit.) adds, καὶ ἀφανίσθητε, “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 Act_13:6. It is God who sends the avengers. In your days. The prophet had asked (Act_13:2), “How long?” The answer is that those now living should see the chastisement (see Introduction, § III.). 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 (comp. Lam_4:12).
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 (1Ki_11:14, 1Ki_11:23; Amo_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 tall 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 (comp. Isa_14:6; Jer_6:23; Jer_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. LXX; Τὸ πορευόμενον ἐπὶ τὰ πλάτη τῆς γῆς (comp. Rev_20:9).
12. The words down to “die” must form two lines and cannot be divided at “Holy One.” Most naturally thus:
Art not thou from everlasting, O Jehovah!
My God, mine Holy One, we shall not die!
Others make the division at “my God.” The word “everlasting” again Deu_33:27. The eternity of their God is often a ground of confidence to Israel; Isa_40:28, “an everlasting God is Jehovah, he fainteth not neither is weary.” Cf. Psa_90:2, “from everlasting to everlasting thou art God.”
we shall not die] This is said half in supplication, half in assurance; Psa_118:17; cf. 1Sa_20:14. Comp. the assurance “shall live” ch. Hab_2:4. The accumulation of divine names shews the earnestness and importunity of the prophet. According to Jewish tradition “we shall not die” is a tikkun (emendation) of the sopherim (scribes) for thou shall not die (diest not). Opinions differ as to who the “scribes” are. Some consider that the original authors are meant, in which case the tikkun would be a second thought of the writer. What occurred to him to say first was “thou diest not,” but reverence restrained him from bringing the ideas of death and God together, and he said “we shall not die.” We are not informed how this interesting process in the prophet’s mind became known to after-times. Obviously this is not the real account of the matter, which is not easy to give. No doubt, however, these so-called emendations—there are eighteen of them—were either (1) real corrections by the scribes, i.e. copyists or editors of the sacred books; or (2) they are no emendations at all, but the original text; the supposed readings which they are said to have supplanted being mere fancies of Jewish scholars as to what might have been written. Possibly they are partly of the one class and partly of the other. In the present passage Sept. agrees with Heb., but in another, Job_7:20, it exhibits the supposed original reading: “I am become a burden unto Thee” (Heb. unto myself).
ordained them for judgment] lit. him, i.e. the Chaldean. The prophet proceeds in the same tone of half prayer, half confidence, struck in “we shall not die,” explaining to himself and venturing to suggest before God what must be the meaning of the Chaldean’s supremacy and oppression—he is not meant to cause Israel to perish, only to execute God’s temporary judgment upon it. Ewald takes the other possible view, viz. that it is the Chaldean himself who is appointed to be judged and receive punishment. This view is less natural in the connexion.
O mighty God … correction] and O Rock thou hast appointed him for correction—to be the instrument of chastising Israel. The term Rock is used of God, Deu_32:4; Deu_32:18; Deu_32:30-31; 1Sa_2:2, 2Sa_22:32; 2Sa_23:3; cf. Gen_49:24.
Strong & McClintock Cyclopedia
(תיקון סופרים), or Emendations of the Scribes, refer to eighteen alterations which the scribes decreed should be introduced into the text,. in order to remove anthropomorphisms and other indelicate expressions. These eighteen emendations, or י ח מלין, are as follows, according to the order of the Hebrew Bible, Gen_18:22, where, for the original reading, עודני עמד לפני אברה ויהוה, “and Jehovah still stood before Abraham,” is now substituted, by the decree of the scribes =Tikkûn Sopherima, ואברהם עודנו עמד לפני יהוה, “and Abraham still stood before Jehovah,” because it appeared offensive to say that the Deity stood before Abraham.
2. Num_11:15, where Moses addresses God, “Kill me, I pray thee… that I may not see thy evil” (ברעתֶךָ), i.e. the punishment wherewith thou visitest Israel, is altered to “that I may not see my evil” (ברעתי), because it might seem as if evil were ascribed to the Deity.
3, 4. Num_12:12, where the original reading, “Let her not be as one dead who proceeded from the womb of our mother (אמנו), and half of our flesh (בשרנו) be consumed,” is changed to “Let her not be as one dead- born, which when it proceeds from the womb of its mother (אמו) has half of its flesh (בשרו) consumed.”
5. 1 Samuel 3, 13, where the original, “for his sons cursed God” (אלהים) — the Sept. has it still θεόν is altered to “for his sons cursed themselves” (להם), because it was too offensive to say that Eli’s sons cursed God without being reprimanded by their father.
6. 2Sa_16:12,where “will God see with his eye” (בעיני) is made to read “will God look at my affliction” (בעוני). The Seventy probably read בעניי, for they translate ἐν τῇ ταπεινσώει μου.
7. 1Ki_12:16, where “to his God (לאלהיי), O Israel… and Israel went to their God” (לאלהיו)is given “to your tents (לאהלי)ִ… to their tents” ( לאהליו), because the separation of Israel from the house of David was regarded as a necessary transition to idolatry; it was looked upon as leaving God and the sanctuary for the worship of idolatry in tents.
8. 2Ch_10:16 concerns the parallel passage, which is similarly altered for the same reason.
9. Jer_2:11, where “my glory” (כבודי) reads “their glory” (כבודו), because it was too offensive to say that God’s glory was changed for an idol.
10. Eze_8:17,where “my nose” ( אפי) is changed into “their nose” (אפם);
11. Hos_4:7, where the same change is made as in Hos_9:12. Hab_1:12, where “thou diest not” ( לא תמות) is converted into “we shall not die” (לא נמות).
13. Zec_2:12, where “mine eye” ( עיני) is varied by his eye” (עינו), to avoid too gross an anthropomorphism.
14. Mal_1:13, where “you make me” (עיתי) is changed to “you make it” (אותי); reason as in 13.
15. Psa_106:20, where the same alteration is made as in 9 and 11.
16. Job_7:20, where “a burden to thee” (עלי)ִ is changed to” to myself” (עלי). That עליwִas the Original reading we see also from the Sept. εἰμὶ δὲ ἐπὶ σοὶ φορ τίον.
17. Job_32:3, where “they condemned God” (אלהי את) is altered to they “condemned Job” (את איוב).
18. Lam_3:19, where “and thy soul will mourn over me” (ותשיח עלי נִפְשֶךָ) reads “and my soul is humbled within me” (ותשוּח עלי נִפְשַי), because of the remark that God will mourn.
These eighteen decrees of the Sopherim are enumerated in the Massora Magna on Numbers 1, 1, and on Psa_106:20; they are also given in the book Ochlah ve-Ochath, p. 37, 113 (ed. Frensdorff, Hanover, 1864). The whole question on these Tikkûn Sopherim is discussed by Pinsker in Kherem Chemed, 9:53 sq. (Berlin, 1856); Geiger, Urschrift und Uebersetzungen der Bibel, p. 308 sq. (Breslau, 1857); Wedell, De Emendationibus a Sopherim in Libris Sacris Veteris Testamenti Propositis (Vratislavise, 1869). SEE OCLAH. (B. P.)
The Prophet here expostulates with God, not as at the beginning of the chapter; for he does not here, with a holy and calm mind, undertake the defense of God’s glory, but complains of injuries, as men do when oppressed, who go to the judge and implore his protection. This complaint, then, is to be distinguished from the former one; for at the beginning of the chapter the Prophet did not plead his own cause or that of the people; but zeal for God’s glory roused him, so that he in a manner asked God to take vengeance on so great an obstinacy in wickedness; but he now comes down and expresses the feelings of men; for he speaks of the thoughts and sorrows of those who had suffered injuries under the tyranny of their enemies.
And he says, O God, thou art pure in eyes, thou lookest not on evil. Some render the verb טהור, theur in the imperative mood, clear the eyes; but they are mistaken; for the verse contains two parts, the one contrary to the other. The Prophet reasons from the nature of God, and then he states what is of an opposite character. Thou, God, he says, art pure in eyes; hence thou canst not look on evil; it is not consistent with thy nature to pass by the vices of men, for every iniquity is hateful to thee. Thus the Prophet sets before himself the nature of God. Then he adds, that experience is opposed to this; for the wicked, he says, exult; and while they miserably oppress the innocent, no one affords any help. How is this, except that God sleeps in heaven, and neglects the affairs of men? We now then understand the Prophet’s meaning in this verse.
By saying that God is pure in eyes, he assumes what ought to be deemed certain and indubitable by all men of piety. But as God’s justice does not always appear, the Prophet has a struggle; and he shows that he in a manner vacillated, for he did not see in the state of things before him what yet his piety dictated to him, that is, that God was just and upright. It is indeed true, that the second part of the verse borders on blasphemy: for though the Prophet ever thought honourably and reverently of God, yet he murmurs here, and indirectly charges God with too much tardiness, as he connived at things, while he saw the just shamefully oppressed by the wicked. But we must notice the order which the Prophet keeps. For by saying that God is pure in eyes, he no doubt restrains himself. As there was danger lest this temptation should carry him too far, he meets it in time, and includes himself, in a manner, within this boundary—that we ought to retain a full conviction of God’s justice. The same order is observed by Jeremiah when he says, ‘I know, Lord, that thou art just, but how is it that the ungodly do thus pervert all equity? and thou either takest no notice, or dost not apply any remedy. I would therefore freely contend with thee.’ The Prophet does not immediately break out into such an expression as this, “O Lord, I will contend with thee in judgement:” but before he mentions his complaint, knowing that his feelings were strongly excited, he makes a kind of preface, and in a manner restrains himself, that he might check that extreme ardor which might have otherwise carried him beyond due bounds; “Thou art just, O Lord,” he says. In a similar manner does our prophet speak here, Thou art pure in eyes, so as not to behold evil; and thou canst not look on trouble
Since, he says, thou canst not look on trouble, we find that he confirms himself in that truth—that the justice of God cannot be separated from his very nature: and by saying, לא תוכל, la tucal, “thou canst not,” it is the same as though he had said, “Thou, O Lord, art just, because thou art God; and God, because thou art just.” For these two things cannot be separated, as both the eternity, and the very being of God, cannot stand without his justice. We hence see how strenuously the Prophet struggled against his own impetuosity, so that he might not too much indulge himself in the complaint, which immediately follows.
For he then asks, according to the common judgement of the flesh, Why dost thou look on, when the ungodly devours one more just than himself? The Prophet here does not divest God of his power, but speaks in doubt, and contends not so much with God as with himself. A profane man would have said, “There is no God, there is no providence,” or, “He cares not for the world, he takes his pleasure in heaven.” But the Prophet says, “Thou seest, Lord.” Hence he ascribes to God what peculiarly belongs to him—that he does not neglect the world which he has created. At the same time he here inclines two ways, and alternates; Why does thou look on, when the ungodly devours one more just than himself? He says not that the world revolves by chance, nor that God takes his delight and ease in heaven, as the Epicureans hold; but he confesses that the world is seen by God, and that he exercises care over the affairs of men: notwithstanding, as he could not see his way clear in a state of things so confused, he argues the point rather with himself than with God. We now see the import of this sentence.
Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil – The prophet repeats his complaint (as troubling thoughts are accustomed to come back, after they have been repelled,), in order to answer it more strongly. All sin is hateful in God’s sight, and in His Holy Wisdom He cannot endure to “look toward iniquity.” As man turns away from sickening sights, so God’s abhorrence of wrong is pictured by His not being able to “look toward it.” If He looked toward them, they must perish Psa_104:32. Light cannot co-exist with darkness, fire with water, heat with cold, deformity with beauty, foulness with sweetness, nor is sin compatible with the Presence of God, except as its Judge and punisher. Thou canst not look. There is an entire contradiction between God and unholiness. And yet,
Wherefore lookest thou upon – viewest, as in Thy full sight make the contrast stronger. God cannot endure “to look toward” (אל) iniquity, and yet He does not only this, but beholdeth it, contemplateth it, and still is silent), yea, as it would seem, with favor , bestowing upon them the goods of this life, honor, glory, children, riches, as the Psalmist saith Psa_73:12; “Behold these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world, they increase in riches?” Why lookest thou upon “them that deal treacherously, holdest Thy tongue,” puttest restraint , as it were, upon Thyself and Thine own attribute of Justice, “when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he?” Psa_143:2 “in God’s sight no man living can be justified;” and, in one sense, Sodom and Gomorrah were less unrighteous than Jerusalem, and Mat_10:15; Mat_11:24; Mar_6:11; Luk_10:12 “it shall be more tolerable for them in the day of Judgment,” because they sinned against less light; yet the actual sins of the Chaldee were greater than those of Jerusalem, and Satan’s evil is greater than that of these who are his prey.
To say that Judah was more righteous than the Chaldaean does not imply any righteousness of the Chaldaean, as the saying that (Jer_31:11, Del.) “God ransomed Jacob from the hand of one stronger than he,” does not imply any strength remaining to Israel. Then, also, in all the general judgments of God, the righteous too suffer in this world, whence Abraham intercedes for Sodom, if there were but ten righteous in it; lest Gen_18:23 “the righteous be destroyed with the wicked.” Hence, God also spared Nineveh in part as having Jon_4:11 “more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand,” i. e., good from evil. No times were more full of sin than those before the destruction of Jerusalem, yet the fury of the Assassins fell upon the innocent. And so the words, like the voice of the souls under the Altar Rev_6:10, become the cry of the Church at all times against the oppressing world, and of the blood of the martyrs from Abel to the end, “Lord, how long?” And in that the word “righteous” signifies both “one righteous man,” and the whole class or generation of the righteous, it speaks both of Christ the Head and of all His members in whom (as by Saul) He was persecuted. The wicked also includes all persecutors, both those who executed the Lord Christ, and those who brought His servants before judgment-seats, and who blasphemed His Name Jam_2:6-7, and caused many to blaspheme, and killed those whom they could not compel. And God, all the while, seemeth to look away and not to regard.
Habakkuk speaks with himself, and, mindful of his office, waits for the communication which he confidently ex-poets (Jer_33:3). I will stand upon my watch (Isa_21:6, Isa_21:8). As a watchman goes to a high place to see all around and discern what is coming, so the prophet places himself apart from men, perhaps in some secluded height, in readiness to hear the voice of God and seize the meaning of the coming event. Prophets are called “watchmen” (comp. Eze_3:17; Eze_33:2, Eze_33:6; Mic_7:4). The tower; i.e. watch tower, either literally or metaphorically, as in the first clause. Septuagint, πέτραν, “rook.” What he will say unto me; quid dicatur mihi (Vulgate); τί λαλήσει ἐν ἐμοί, “what he will speak in me”. He watches for the inward revelation which God makes to his soul (but see note on Zec_2:1-13 :0). When I am reproved; ad arguentem me (Vulgate); ἐπὶ τὸν ἔλεγχόν μου; rather, to my complaint, referring to his complaint concerning the impunity of sinners (Hab_1:1-17 :18-17). He waits till he hears God’s voice within him what answer he shall make to his own complaint, the expostulation which he had offered to God. There is no question here concerning the reproofs which others levelled against him, or concerning any rebuke conveyed to him by God—an impression given by the Anglican Version.
stand upon my watch] i.e. I will take my stand upon my place of watching (Isa_21:8; 2Ch_7:6), parallel to “and set me on a tower.” The language appears to be figurative; it is scarcely likely, though possible, that the prophet had some elevated place to which he retired to await a prophetic vision. But as a watchman looks out from his watch-tower into the distance (2Sa_18:24; 2Ki_9:17), the prophet will look out for the answer or message from Heaven (Isa_21:8; Isa_21:11).
will watch to see] or, will look forth to see, as R.V.
shall answer when I am reproved] what answer I shall bring to my plea. His plea or argument is the whole scope of the preceding chapter, or at least of ch. Hab_1:12-17. Comp. Job_13:6 “hear now my plea” (R.V. reasoning). Syr. reads: what answer He will give, and so many scholars. The reading gives a closer parallel to the preceding clause, but does not seem necessary; comp. Jdg_5:29 “she answered (same term as here) her own words.” Of course the answer is an inner one which the prophet shall be enabled to make to himself and his plea, hence it is called a vision (Hab_2:2).
Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown
Write the vision — which I am about to reveal to thee.
make it plain — (Deu_27:8). In large legible characters.
upon tables — boxwood tables covered with wax, on which national affairs were engraved with an iron pen, and then hung up in public, at the prophets’ own houses, or at the temple, that those who passed might read them. Compare Luk_1:63, “writing table,” that is, tablet.
that he may run that readeth it — commonly explained, “so intelligible as to be easily read by any one running past”; but then it would be, “that he that runneth may read it.” The true sense is, “so legible that whoever readeth it, may run to tell all whom he can the good news of the foe’s coming doom, and Judah’s deliverance.” Compare Dan_12:4, “many shall run to and fro,” namely, with the explanation of the prophecy, then unsealed; also, Rev_22:17, “let him that heareth (the good news) say (to every one within his reach), Come.” “Run” is equivalent to announce the divine revelation (Jer_23:21); as everyone who becomes informed of a divine message is bound to run, that is, use all dispatch to make it known to others [Henderson]. Grotius, Ludovicus De Dieu, and Maurer interpret it: “Run” is not literal running, but “that he who reads it may run through it,” that is, read it at once without difficulty.
For the vision is yet for an (the) appointed time – o Not for the present, but to develop itself in the course of time, down to a season which God only knows; as it is subsequently repeated (Dan_11:27, for it is for the appointed time, Dan_11:35), “for the end is yet for the appointed time Dan_8:19; for it is for the appointed time of the end;” and is explained Dan_10:1, Dan_10:14, “for the vision is yet for the days Dan_8:26; for it is for many days Eze_12:27; the house of Israel say, The vision that he seeth, is for many days and he prophesieth of the times far off;” yet it should haste toward the end, toward its fulfillment, so that, if it is not at once fulfilled, it should be surely waited for. Theodotion: “It shall certainly be; not in vain hath it been shewn, but as certainly to be. For whatever hath been shown to come and to be, will come and be.”
But at the end it shall speak – o (or it breatheth, hasteth to the end), not simply “to its own fulfillment,” but to that time of the end which should close the period assigned to it, during which it should continually be putting itself forth, it should come true in part or in shadow, gleams of it should here and then part the clouds, which, until the end, should surround and envelop it.
Being God’s truth, he speaks of it as an animate living thing, not a dead letter, but running, hasting on its course, and accomplishing on its way that for which it was sent. The will and purpose of God hasteth on, though to man it seemeth to tarry; it can neither be hurried on, nor doth it linger; before “the appointed time” it cometh not; yet it hasteth toward it, and “will not be behindhand” when the time comes. It does not lie, either by failing to come, or failing, when come, of any jot or tittle. “Though it tarry or linger” , continually appearing, giving signs of itself, yet continually delaying its coming, “wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not be behindhand” , when the time comes, Rev_22:7, “He cometh quickly” also, as He saith; because, from Dion.: “though the delay of His coming and of the fulfillment of the vision seem long, yet, in comparison with eternity, it is very short. In His first coming, He taught why God permitteth these things; in the second coming, He shall teach by experience, how good it it is for the good to bear the persecution of the evil; whence Peter also has to say 2Pe_3:9, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness.” The words seem to belong, in the first instance, to the vision itself; but the vision had no other existence or fulfillment than in Him who was the Object of it, and who, in it, was foreshadowed to the mind. The coming of the vision was no other than His coming.
The waiting, to which he exhorts, expresses the religious act, so often spoken of Psa_33:20; Isa_8:17; Isa_30:18; Isa_64:3; Zep_3:8; Dan_12:12; Psa_106:13, of waiting for God, or His counsel, or His promised time. The sense then is wholly the same, when Paul uses the words of the coming of our Lord Himself, Heb_10:37, “Yet a little while, and He that shall come, will come and will not tarry.” Paul, as well as Habakkuk, is speaking of our Lord’s second coming; Paul, of His Coming in Person, Habakkuk, of the effects of that Coming ; but both alike of the redressing of all the evil and wrong in the world’s history, and the reward of the faithful oppressed. At His first coming He said, Joh_12:31, “Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out.” He came to “put down the mighty from their seat, and to exalt the humble and meek Luk_1:52;” but much more in the second coming, when “He shall come to judge the world with righteousness and the people with His truth” Psa_46:1-11 :13, and to “reward every man according to his works” Mat_16:27. At all times He seemeth continually to linger, to give signs of His coming, yet He cometh not; when the appointed season shall come, He shall be found not to be later than His word. Yea, all time shall shrink up into a little moment in the presence of a never-ending ever-present eternity.
Cyril: “Having named no one expressly, he says, wait for him, wait for him although delaying, and halt not in thy hope, but let it be rooted and firm, even if the interval be extended. For the God of all seemeth to suggest to the mind of the prophet, that He who was foretold would surely come, yet to enjoin on him to wait for Him on account of the interval. He who believeth My word shall possess life, for this is the reward of these who honor God, and a good reward of His benevolence. He who admitteth faith and love to dwell in his heart hath as a requital, unaging life and forgiveness of sins and sanctification by the Spirit.” Alb.: “He shall live; for, God is not the God of the dead but of the living Mat_22:32, “Whoso liveth and believeth in Me, shall never die” Joh_11:26.
It will not lie – God vouchsafes to speak of Himself, as we should be ashamed to speak of one whom we love, teaching us that all doubts question His truth Num_23:19 “God is not a man, that He should lie: hath He said and shall He not do it?” “The strength of Israel shall neither lie nor repent” 1Sa_15:29. “God that cannot lie promised before the world began” Tit_1:2 Therefore, it follows, “wait for Him,” as Jacob says, Gen_49:18, “I have waited for Thy salvation, O Lord.”
Behold, his soul which is lifted up – literally, swollen
Is not upright in him – The construction is probably that of a condition expressed absolutely. Lo, swollen is it, not upright is his soul in him. We should say, “His soul, if it be swollen , puffed up, is not upright in him.” The source of all sin was and is pride. It is especially the sin of all oppressors, of the Chaldee, of antichrists, and shall be of the antichrist. It is the parent of all heresy, and of all corruption and rejection of the gospel. It stands therefore as the type of all opposed to it. Of it he says, it is in its very inmost core (“in him”) lacking in uprightness. It can have no good in it, because it denies God, and God denies it His grace. And having nothing upright in it, being corrupt in its very inmost being, it cannot stand or abide. God gives it no power to stand. The words stand in contrast with the following, the one speaking of the cause of death, the other of life. The soul, being swollen with pride, shuts out faith, and with it the Presence of God. It is all crooked in its very inner self or being. Paul gives the result, Heb_10:39, “if any man draw back, my soul hath no pleasure in him.” The prophet’s words describe the proud man who stunts aloof from God, in himself; Paul, as he is in the Eyes of God. As that which is swollen in nature cannot be straight, it is clean contrary that the soul should be swollen with pride and yet upright. Its moral life being destroyed in its very inmost heart, it must perish.
Alb.: “Plato saith, that properly is straight, which being applied to what is straight, touches and is touched everywhere. But God is upright, whom the upright soul touches and is touched everywhere; but what is not upright is bent away from God, Psa_73:1. “God is good unto Israel, the upright in heart;” Son_1:4, “The upright love thee;” Isa_26:7, “The way of the just is uprightness, Thou, most Upright, doth weigh the path of the just.”
But the just shall live by his faith – The accents emphasize the words , “The just, by his faith he shall live.” They do not point to an union of the words, “the just by his faith.” Isaiah says that Christ should “justify” many by the knowledge of Himself,” but the expression, “just by his faith,” does not occur either in the Old or New Testament. In fact, to speak of one really righteous as being “righteous by his faith” would imply that people could be righteous in some other way. “Without faith,” Paul says at the commencement of his Old Testament pictures of giant faith, Heb_11:6, “it is impossible to please God.” Faith, in the creature which does not yet see God, has one and the same principle, a trustful relying belief in its Creator. This was the characteristic of Abraham their father, unshaken, unswerving, belief in God who called him, whether in leaving his own land and going whither he knew not, for an end which he was never to see; or in believing the promise of the son through whom theft Seed was to be, in whom all the nations of the world should be blessed; or in the crowning act of offering that son to God, knowing that he should receive him back, even from the dead.
In all, it was one and the same principle. According to Gen_15:6, “His belief was counted to him for righteousness,” though the immediate instance of that faith was not directly spiritual. In this was the good and bad of Israel. Exo_4:31 : “the people believed.” Exo_14:31 : “they believed the Lord and His servant Moses.” Psa_106:12 : “then believed they His word, they sang His praise.” This contrariwise was their blame Deu_1:32 : “In this ye did not believe the Lord.” Deu_9:23 : “ye rebelled against the commandment of the Lord your God, and believed Him not, nor hearkened to His voice.” Psa_106:21, Psa_106:24 : “they forgat God their Saviour; they despised the pleasant land, they believed not His word.” And God asks, Num_14:11, “How long will it be, ere this people belove Me, for all the signs which I have shown among them?” Psa_78:21-22 : “anger came upon Israel, because they believed not in God, and in His salvation trusted not.”
Psa_78:32 : “for all this they sinned still, and believed not His wondrous works.” Even of Moses and Aaron God assigns this as the ground, why they should not bring His people into the land which He gave them, Num_20:20, “Because ye believed Me not, to sanctify Me in the eyes of the children of Israel” (at Meribah). This was the watchword of Jehoshaphat’s victory, 2Ch_20:20, “Believe in the Lord your God and ye shall be established; believe His prophets, so shall ye prosper.” This continued to be one central saying of Isaiah. It was his own commission to his people; Isa_6:9, “Go and say to this people; hear ye on, and understand not; see ye on and perceive not.” In sight of the rejection of faith, he spake prominently of the loss upon unbelief; Isa_7:9, “If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established;” and, Isa_53:1, “Who hath believed our report?” he premises as the attitude of his people toward him, the Center of all faith – Jesus. Yet still, as to the blessings of faith, having spoken of Him, Isa_28:16, “Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone,” he subjoins, “he that believeth in Him shall not make haste.”
So it had been the keynote of Habakkuk to his people, “Ye will not believe when it is declared unto you.” Here he is told to declare contrariwise the blessing on belief. “The just shall live by his faith.” The faith, then, of which Habakkuk speaks, is faith, in itself, but a real, true confiding faith. It is the one relation of the creature to the Creator, unshaken trust. The faith may vary in character, according as God reveals more or less of Himself, but itself is one, a loving trust in Him, just as He reveals Himself. Lap. (in Rom_1:17): “By this faith in God, each righteous person begins to live piously, righteously, holily, peacefully and divinely, and advanceth therein, since in every tribulation and misery, by this faith and hope in God he sustains, strengthens, and increases this life of the soul. He says then, “the just lives by faith,” i. e., the unbelieving and unrighteous displeases God, and consequently will not live by the true, right, peaceful and happy life of grace, present righteousness, and future glory because God is displeased with him, and He places his hopes and fears, not in God, but in human beings and man’s help and in created things. But the righteous who believeth in God shall live a right, sweet, quiet, happy, holy, untroubled life, because, fixed by faith and hope in God who is the true Life, and in God’s promises, he is dear to God, and the object of His care.
“This sentence, ‘the just shall live by faith,’ is universal, belonging at once to Jews and Christians, to sinners who are first being justified, as also to those who are already justified. For the spiritual life of each of these begins, is maintained and grows through faith. When then it is said, ‘the just shall live by his faith,’ this word, his, marks the cause, which both begins and preserves life. The just, believing and hoping in God, begins to live spiritually, to have a soul right within him, whereby he pleases God; and again, advancing and making progress in this his faith and hope in God, therewith advances and makes progress in the spiritual life, in rightness and righteousness of soul, in the grace and friendship of God, so as more and more to please God.”
Most even of the Jewish interpreters have seen this to be the literal meaning of the words. It stands in contrast with, illustrates and is illustrated by the first words, “his soul is swollen, is not upright in him.” Pride and independence of God are the center of the want of rightness; a steadfast cleaving to God, whereby “the heart” (as Abraham’s) “was stayed on God,” is the center and cause of the life of the righteous. But since this stayedness of faith is in everything the source of the life of the righteous, then the pride, which issues in want of rightness of the inmost soul, must be a state of death. Pride estranges the soul from God, makes it self-sufficing, that it should not need God, so that he who is proud cannot come to God, to be by Him made righteous. So contrariwise, since by his faith doth the righteous live, this must be equally true whether he be just made righteous from unrighteous, or whether that righteousness is growing, maturing, being perfected in him.
This life begins in grace, lives on in glory. It is begun, in that God freely justifies the ungodly, accounting and making him righteous for and through the blood of Christ; it is continued in faith which worketh by love; it is perfected, when faith and hope are swallowed up in love, beholding God. In the Epistles to the Romans Rom_1:17 and the Galatians Gal_3:11 Paul applies these words to the first beginning of life, when they who had before been dead in sin, began to live by faith in Christ Jesus who gave them life and made them righteous. And in this sense he is called “just,” although before he comes to the faith he is unjust and unrighteous, being unjustified. For Paul uses the word not of what he was before the faith, but what be is, when he lives by faith. Before, not having faith, he had neither righteousness nor life; having faith, he at once has both; he is at once “just” and “lives by his faith.” These are inseparable. The faith by which he lives, is a living faith, Gal_5:6, “faith which worketh by love.” In the Epistle to the Hebrews, Heb_10:38, Paul is speaking of their endurance in the faith, once received, whose faith is not shaken by the trial of their patience. They who look on beyond things present, and fix their minds steadfastly on the Coming of Christ, will not suffer shipwreck of their faith, through any troubles of this time. Faith is the foundation of all good, the beginning of the spiritual building, whereby it rests on The Foundation, Christ. “Without faith it is impossible to please God,” and so the proud cannot please Him. Through it, is union with Christ and thereby a divine life in the soul, even a life, Gal_2:20, “through faith in the Son of God,” holy, peaceful, self-posessed Luk_21:19, enduring to the end, being “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” 1Pe_1:5.