their judgment…: or, from them shall proceed the judgment of these, and the captivity of these
their…: or, the supping up of their faces, etc: or, their faces shall look (Heb. the opposition of their faces) toward the east
established: Heb. founded
iniquity: or, grievance
plenteous: or, dainty: Heb. fat
The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see.
Chronological Notes relative to this Book, upon the supposition
that it was written a little before the destruction of
Jerusalem, about six hundred years before the commencement
of the Christian era.
-Year from the Creation, according to Archbishop Usher, 3404.
-Year of the Julian Period, 4114.
-Year since the Flood, 1748.
-Year since the vocation of Abram, 1321.
-Year from the foundation of Solomon's temple, 412.
-Year since the division of Solomon's monarchy into the kingdoms
of Israel and Judah, 376.
-First year of the forty-fifth Olympiad.
-Year since the destruction of the kingdom of Israel by
Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, 121.
-Year before the birth of Jesus Christ, 596.
-Year before the vulgar era of Christ's nativity, 600.
-Cycle of the Sun, 26.
-Cycle of the Moon, 10.
-Third year of AEropas, king of Macedon.
-Twentieth year of Alyattes II., king of Lydia.
-Twenty-sixth year of Cyaxares or Cyaraxes, king of Media.
-Sixth year of Agasicles, king of Lacedaemon, of the family of
-Eighth year of Leon, king of Lacedaemon, of the family of the
-Seventh year of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.
-Seventeenth year of Tarquinius Priscus, king of the Romans.
-Eleventh year of Jehoiakim, king of Judah.
The prophet enters very abruptly on his subject, his spirit
being greatly indignant at the rapid progress of vice and
Upon which God is introduced threatening very awful and sudden
judgments to be indicted by the ministry of the Chaldeans,
The Babylonians attribute their wonderful successes to their
The prophet then, making a sudden transition, expostulates with
God (probably personating the Jews) for permitting a nation
much more wicked than themselves, as they supposed, to oppress
and devour them, as fishers and fowlers do their prey, 12-17.
We know little of this prophet; for what we find in the ancients
concerning him is evidently fabulous, as well as that which
appears in the Apocrypha
. He was probably of the tribe of Simeon
and a native of Beth-zacar
. It is very likely that he lived after
the destruction of Nineveh, as he speaks of the Chaldeans
makes no mention of the Assyrians
. And he appears also to have
the Jewish captivity, see Hab 1:5; 2:1; 3:2, 16-19
; and therefore Abp. Newcome
thinks he may be placed in the reign of Jehoiakim,
between the years 606 B.C. and 598 B.C.
As a poet
, Habakkuk holds a high rank among the Hebrew prophets.
The beautiful connection between the parts of his prophecy, its
diction, imagery, spirit, and sublimity, cannot be too much
admired; and his hymn, Hab 3:1-19
, is allowed by the best judges
to be a masterpiece of its kind. See Lowth's
NOTES ON CHAP. I
Verse 1. The burden
signifies not only the burdensome
prophecy, but the prophecy or revelation
God presented to the mind
of Habakkuk, and which he saw
perceived, in the light of prophecy, and then faithfully declared,
as this book shows. The word signifies an oracle
general; but chiefly, one relative to future calamities
, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! even
cry out unto thee of
violence, and thou wilt not save!
Verse 2. O Lord, how long shall I cry
] The prophet feels himself
strongly excited against the vices which he beheld; and which, it
appears from this verse, he had often declaimed against, but in
vain; the people continued in their vices, and God in his
Habakkuk begins his prophecy under a similar feeling
, and nearly
in similar words
, as Juvenal
did his Satires:-
Semper ego auditor tantum?
Vexatus toties rauci Theseide Codri?
Sat. i. 1.
"Shall I always be a hearer only?
Shall I never reply?
So often vexed?"
] The most unlawful and outrageous acts.
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.
Verse 3. And cause
me to behold grievance
labour, toil, distress, misery, &c., the common fruits of sin.
Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment doth never go forth: for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceedeth.a
Verse 4. The law is slacked
] They pay no attention to it; it has
lost all its vigour, its restraining and correcting power, it is
not executed; right judgment
is never pronounced
; and the poor righteous man
complains in vain that he is grievously oppressed by
, and by those in power and authority. That the utmost
depravity prevailed in the land of Judah is evident from these
verses; and can we wonder, then, that God poured out such signal
judgments upon them? When judgment doth not proceed
from the seat
of judgment upon earth, it will infallibly go forth
throne of judgment in heaven.
¶ Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvellously: for I
will work a work in your days, which
ye will not believe, though it be told you
Verse 5. Behold ye among the heathen
] Instead of baggoyim
among the nations
, some critics think we should read bogedim, transgressors
; and to the same purpose the Septuagint, Syriac
, and Arabic
have read; and thus it is quoted
by St. Paul
, Ac 13:41
. But neither this, nor any tantamount
reading, is found in any of the MSS. yet collated. Newcome
translates, "See, ye transgressors, and behold a wonder, and
I will work a work in your days
] As he is speaking of the
desolation that should be produced by the Chaldeans
, it follows,
as Bp. Newcome
has justly observed, that the Chaldeans invaded
those were living whom the prophet addressed.
Which ye will not believe
] Nor did they, after all the
declarations of various prophets. They still supposed that God
would not give them up into the hands of their enemies, though
they continued in their abominations!
It is evident that St. Paul, in the above place, accommodates
this prediction to his own purpose. And possibly this sense might
have been the intention of the Divine Spirit when he first spoke
the words to the prophet; for, as God works
in reference to eternity
, so he speaks
in reference to the same; and therefore
there is an infinity of meaning in his WORD. These appear to be
the words of God in answer to the prophet, in which he declares he
will entirely ruin this wicked people by means of the Chaldeans.
For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, that
bitter and hasty nation, which shall march through the breadth of the land, to possess the dwellingplaces that are
Verse 6. That bitter and hasty nation
] Cruel and oppressive in
their disposition; and prompt and speedy in their assaults and
terrible and dreadful: their judgment and their dignity shall proceed of themselves.c
Verse 7. Their judgment-shall proceed of themselves.
revolting from the Assyrians, they have become a great nation.
Thus, their judgment and excellence were the result of their own
valour. Other meanings are given to this passage.
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.d
Verse 8. Their horses also are swifter than the leopards
Chaldean cavalry are proverbial for swiftness, courage, &c. In
Jeremiah, Jer 4:13
, it is said, speaking of Nebuchadnezzar, "His
chariots are as a whirlwind; his horses are swifter than eagles." Oppian
, speaking of the horses bred about the Euphrates, says,
"They are by nature warhorses, and so intrepid that neither the
sight nor the roaring of the lion appals them; and, besides, they
are astonishingly fleet."
, of all quadrupeds, is allowed to be the swiftest
. The evening wolves
] The wolf is remarkable for his quick sight. AElian
σεληνηςουκουσηςοδεορα; "The wolf is a very fleet animal; and,
besides, it can see by night, even when there is no moonlight."
Some think the hyaena
is meant: it is a swift, cruel, and
untameable animal. The other prophets speak of the Chaldeans in
the same way. See De 28:49
; Jer 48:40; 49:22
; Eze 17:5
; La 4:19
They shall come all for violence: their faces shall sup up as
the east wind, and they shall gather the captivity as the sand.e
Verse 9. Their faces shall sup up
as the east wind
] This may be
an allusion to those electrical winds
which prevail in that
country. Mr. Jackson
, in his overland journey from India, mentions
his having bathed in the Tigris
. On his coming out of the river
one of those winds passed over him, and, in a moment, carried off
every particle of water
that was on his body and in his bathing
dress. So, the Chaldeans shall leave no substance behind them;
, their bare appearance
, is the proof that nothing good
shall be left. Shall gather the captivity as the sand.
] They shall carry off
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.
Verse 10. They shall scoff at the kings
] No power shall be able
to stand before them. It will be only as pastime
to them to take
the strongest places. They will have no need to build formidable
ramparts: by sweeping the dust
together they shall make mounts
sufficient to pass over the walls and take the city.
Then shall his
mind change, and he shall pass over, and offend, imputing
this his power unto his god.
Verse 11. Then shall
his mind change
] This is thought to relate
to the change which took place in Nebuchadnezzar, when "a beast's
heart was given to him," and he was "driven from the dwellings of
men." And this was because of his offending
-his pride and
arrogance; and his attributing all his success, &c., to his idols
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.f, g
Verse 12. Art thou not frown everlasting
] The idols change, and
their worshippers change and fail: but thou, Jehovah, art eternal
thou canst not change, and they who trust in thee are safe. Thou
art infinite in thy mercy; therefore, "we shall not die," shall
not be totally exterminated. Thou hast ordained them for judgment
] Thou hast raised up the
Chaldeans to correct and punish us; but thou hast not given them a
commission to destroy us totally.
Instead of lo namuth
, "we shall not die," Houbigant
and other critics, with a little transposition of letters, read El emeth
, "God of truth;" and then the verse will stand
thus: "Art thou not from everlasting, O Jehovah, my God, my Holy
One? O Jehovah, GOD OF TRUTH, thou hast appointed them for
judgment." But this emendation, however elegant, is not supported
by any MS.; nor, indeed, by any of the ancient versions
has something like it. The common reading makes a very
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?h
Verse 13. Thou art of purer eyes
] Seeing thou art so pure, and
canst not look on iniquity-it is so abominable-how canst thou bear
with them who "deal treacherously, and hold thy tongue when the
wicked devour the righteous?" All such questions are easily solved
by a consideration of God's ineffable mercy, which leads him to suffer long
and be kind. He has no pleasure in the death of a
And makest men as the fishes of the sea, as the creeping things, that have
no ruler over them?i
Verse 14. Makest men as the fishes of the sea
] Easily are we
taken and destroyed. We have no leader
to guide us, and no power
to defend ourselves. Nebuchadnezzar is here represented as a
fisherman, who is constantly casting his nets into the sea, and
enclosing multitudes of fishes; and, being always successful, he
sacrifices to his own net-attributes all his conquests to his own
power and prudence; not considering that he is only like a net
that after having been used for a while, shall at last be thrown
by as useless, or burnt in the fire.
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.j
Therefore they sacrifice unto their net, and burn incense unto their drag; because by them their portion is
fat, and their meat plenteous.k
Verse 16. They sacrifice unto their net
] He had no God; he cared
for none; and worshipped only his armour
. King Mezentius
, one of the worst characters in the AEneid of Virgil
is represented as invoking his own right hand
and his spear
battle. AEn. x. 773.
Dextra mihi Deus, et telum quod missile libro,
"My strong right hand and sword, assert my stroke.
Those only gods Mezentius will invoke."
, in Statius
, gives us a more decisive proof of this self-idolatry
, lib. x.
Ades, O mihi dextera tantum
Tu praeses belli, et inevitabile Numen,
Te voco, te solum Superum contemptor adoro.
"Only thou, my right hand, be my aid; I contemn the gods, and
adore thee as the chief in battle, and the irresistible deity."
The poet tells us that, for his impiety, Jupiter slew him with
This was an ancient idolatry in this country, and has existed
till within about a century. There are relics of it in different
parts of Europe; for when military men bind themselves
accomplish any particular purpose, it is usual to lay their hand
upon their sword: but formerly they kissed
it, when swearing by
it. With most heroes, the sword
is both their Bible
and their God.
To the present day it is a custom among the Hindoos
annually to worship
the implements of their trades
. See WARD.
Shall they therefore empty their net, and not spare continually to slay the nations?
Verse 17. And not spare continually to slay the nations?
are running from conquest to conquest; burning, slaying, sacking,
and slaughtering. Like the fishermen, who throw cast after cast
while any fish are to be caught, so Nebuchadnezzar is destroying
one nation after another. This last sentence explains the allegory
of the net