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Arno C. Gaebeleinn

(C) In the Public Domain

                        THE PROPHET HABAKKUK


     There is a very interesting diversity among these minor prophets. 
Hosea starts with the command of the Lord for a symbolical action to
show Israel her spiritual whoredoms. Joel plunges in at once to describe
the judgment of the land by the locusts and leads on to the day of the
Lord. Amos begins with the announcement of the judgment of the
surrounding nations, while Obadiah is chiefly concerned with the
judgment of Edom. Jonah is different from all the rest in his miraculous
experience, while Micah has a character of his own. Nahum, as we saw,
has the one great message of the doom of Nineveh, and brings comfort to
God's people. Habakkuk again is different from all the rest. In nature
God displays as Creator a wonderful diversity, and so in His revelation
His Spirit uses every instrument in His own way, as it pleases Him.

     Of Habakkuk the same holds good as with most of the other minor
prophets; we know nothing of the particulars of his life. It does not
matter much. God knows these holy men, whom He called to make known His
will and the future, and He has kept the record of their lives, as He
keeps the record of all of our lives.

     His name means "to embrace," but it has the double meaning "to
embrace" and "being embraced." He embraced his own people and embraced
God in prayer, then "being embraced"--God answered him. Dr. Martin
Luther gave a very striking definition of his name, which cannot be
improved upon. "Habakkuk signifies an embracer, or one who embraces
another, takes him into his arms. He embraces his people, and takes them
to his arms, i.e., he comforts them and holds them up, as one embraces a
weeping child, to quiet it with the assurance that if God wills it shall
soon be better."

     It has been assumed that he probably sprang, like Jeremiah and
Ezekiel, from a priestly family, for at the end of the great ode, at the
conclusion of the book, he states--"to the chief singer on my stringed
instruments," from which we may gather that he was officially qualified
to take part of the temple service. But Isaiah 38:20 seems to contradict

     An apocryphal book, "Bel and the Dragon," states that Habakkuk was
miraculously transported to Daniel, who had been cast a second time to
the lions by Cyrus. This and other legends are without any foundation at
all, and need not be examined, for they are worthless.

                        The Date of Habakkuk

     As it is with Nahum, so it is with Habakkuk, the superscription
does not fix a definite date, but the contents of the book do not leave
us in doubt about the time when this man of God prophesied.

     In the sixth verse of the opening chapter we read, "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." He therefore prophesied at the time when the Chaldeans, or
as they are also called the Babylonians, were coming into power, and
soon to be used against the house of Judah, as the Assyrian was used in
judgment with the house of Israel. He prophesied during the reign of
Josiah, that is at the very close of his reign, and a few years before
Nineveh was destroyed, which elevated the Babylonians to the place of
prominence. Some have put the date into the reign of Manasseh, the
father of Josiah, but this is too early. Josiah died on the battlefield,
and after his son Jehoahaz had reigned three months, Pharaoh-necho, who
had slain Josiah, made Eliakim, the son of Josiah, king over Judah, and
gave him the name of Jehoiakim. (See 2 Kings 23:28-37.)

                       The Message of Habakkuk

     The language which Habakkuk used is extremely beautiful. Professor
Delitzsch speaks of it as follows: "His language is classical throughout,
full of rare and select turns and words, which are to some extent
exclusively his own, whilst his view and mode of presentation bear the
seal of independent force and finished beauty. Notwithstanding the
violent rush and lofty soaring of the thoughts, his prophecy forms a
finely organized and artistically rounded whole. Like Isaiah, he is,
comparatively speaking, much more independent of his predecessors, both
in contents and form, than any of the other prophets." "Everything
reflects the time when prophecy was in its greatest glory, when the
place of the sacred lyrics, in which the religious life had expressed
itself, was occupied, through a still mightier inter-position on the
part of God, by prophetic poetry with its trumpet voice." Much in his
message is in the form of communion with the Lord. He begins with the 
familiar heart-cry, "O LORD, how long shall I cry?" He receives an
answer, which announces the coming of the Chaldeans, to which again the
prophet replies. Then he said, "I will stand upon my watch, and will set
me upon the tower, and will watch and see what He will say unto me"
(chapter 2). Then he receives another answer. The judgment of Judah by
the Chaldeans as well as the overthrow of the Chaldeans, on account of
the deification of their power, is the prophetic message with which he

     Sublime is the great lyric ode contained in the third chapter,
which begins with a prayer (chapter 3). It is one of the greatest
descriptions of the theophany, the coming of the Lord, which the Spirit
of God has given. He comes in glory and in wrath; the wicked are
overthrown, His people are saved. It waits for its great fulfillment
when our Lord Jesus Christ shall be revealed from heaven in flaming fire
with His holy angels.

                       The Division of Habakkuk

     The division is very simple. Chapter 1 forms the first part and
gives the coming invasion of Judah by the Chaldeans. In chapter 2 the
"woe" is pronounced upon the Chaldeans and their destruction is
predicted. The third chapter contains the vision of the coming of the
Lord, with which all the ungodly world powers terminate, and the
dominion of the Gentiles ends.

     Inasmuch as the Authorized Version contains numerous incorrect
renderings, we give a complete text in a metric version.

                        THE PROPHET HABAKKUK

                              CHAPTER 1

 1.  The burden, which Habakkuk the prophet saw.
 2.  How long, O LORD, must I cry
     And Thou hearest not?
     I cry to Thee; Violence!
     And Thou dost not help.
 3.  Why dost Thou show me iniquity,
     And cause me to behold grievance?
     Oppression and violence are before me;
     There is strife, and contention ariseth.
 4.  Therefore the law is slacked;
     And justice doth never go forth
     For the wicked compass about the righteous;
     Therefore justice goes forth perverted.
 5.  Behold ye among the nations and regard,
     And wonder marvellously;
     For I work a work in your days
     Which ye will not believe, though it were told.
 6.  For behold! I raise up the Chaldeans,
     That bitter and impetuous nation,
     Which march through the breadth of the earth.
     To possess dwelling-places that are not theirs.
 7.  They are terrible and dreadful,
     Their judgment and dignity proceed from themselves.
 8.  Swifter than leopards are their horses,
     And fiercer than the evening wolves.
     Their horsemen shall spread themselves,
     And their horsemen shall come from afar.
     They fly like an eagle hastening to devour.
 9.  All of them come for violence;
     The host of their faces is forward;
     And they gather captives like the sand.
10.  Yea, he scoffeth at kings,
     And princes are a derision unto him.
     He laughs at every stronghold
     For he heapeth up earth and taketh it.
11.  Then he sweepeth by as a tempest
     And shall pass over and be guilty,
     He whose might is his god.
12.  Art Thou not from Everlasting,
     Jehovah, my God, my Holy One?
     We shall not die!
     Jehovah! Thou has appointed them for judgment;
     And Thou, O Rock! Thou has established him for chastisement.
13.  Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil;
     Thou canst not look upon injustice.
     Why lookest Thou upon the treacherous?
     Why art Thou silent when the wicked destroys
     The man that is more righteous than he?
14.  And Thou makest men like fishes of the sea,
     Like reptiles that have no ruler.
15.  All of them he lifts up with the hook,
     He catcheth them in His net
     And gathers them in his drag;
     Therefore he rejoices and is glad.
16.  Therefore he sacrificeth to his net,
     And burneth incense to his drag,
     Because by them his portion is rich,
     And his food plenteous.
17.  Shall he, therefore, empty his net,
     And spare not to slay the nations continually?

                              CHAPTER 2

 1.  I will stand upon my watch,
     And set me upon the tower,
     And I will wait to see what He will say to me,
     And what I shall answer as to my complaint.
 2.  And Jehovah answered me and said:
     Write the vision and make it plain on tablets,
     That he may run that reads it.
 3.  For the vision is yet for the appointed time,
     And it hastens to the end, and shall not lie;
     Though it tarry, wait for it;
     Because it will surely come, it will not tarry.
 4.  Behold the proud:
     His soul is not right within him;
     But the just shall live by faith.
 5.  And moreover, wine is treacherous;
     A haughty man, that keepeth not at home:
     Who enlargeth this desire as Sheol,
     As death he is and cannot be satisfied,
     And gathereth all nations to himself
     And heapeth unto him all peoples.
 6.  Will not all these take up a song against him?
     And a taunting proverb against him, and say:
     Woe to him who increaseth what is not his own!
     How long?
     And that ladeth himself with pledges.
 7.  Will not thy biters rise up suddenly,
     And those awake that shall shake thee violently?
     And thou wilt become a prey to them.
 8.  Because thou hast plundered many nations,
     All the remnant of the peoples shall plunder thee;
     Because of men's blood, and for the violence done to the land,
     To the city and all that dwell therein.
 9.  Woe to him that procureth a wicked gain for his house,
     To set his nest on high,
     To secure himself from the hand of disaster.
10.  Thou has devised shame for thy house,
     By cutting off many peoples, and sinning against thyself.
11.  For the stone crieth out from the wall,
     And the beam out of the wood-work answers it.
12.  Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood,
     And founds a city by iniquity.
13.  Behold is it not from Jehovah of hosts,
     That the peoples labor for the fire,
     And the nations weary themselves for vanity?
14.  For the earth shall be filled
     With the knowledge of the glory of Jehovah,
     As the waters cover the sea.
15.  Woe to him that giveth his neighbor to drink,
     Pouring out thy fury, and also making drunk,
     In order to look upon their nakedness.
16.  Thou art filled with shame instead of glory,
     Drink thou also, and be like the uncircumcised:
     The cup of Jehovah's right hand shall be turned to thee,
     And vile shame shall be upon thy glory.
17.  For the violence done to Lebanon shall cover thee,
     And the destruction of wild beasts which made them afraid,
     Because of the blood of men, and the violence done to the land,
     To the city and all that dwell therein.
18.  What profiteth a graven image, that its maker has carved?
     The molten image, and the teacher of lies,
     That the maker of his image trusts therein, to make dumb idols?
19.  Woe to him that saith to the wood, Awake;
     To the dumb stone, Arise!
     Shall it teach? Behold it is overlaid with gold and Silver;
     And there is no breath in its inside.
20.  But Jehovah is in His holy temple.
     Let all the earth be silent before Him.

                              CHAPTER 3

 1.  A prayer of Habakkuk, the prophet, set to Shigionoth.
 2.  O Jehovah! I have heard the report of Thee. I am afraid!
     O Jehovah! revise Thy work in the midst of the years;
     In the midst of the years make it known;
     In wrath remember mercy.
 3.  God cometh from Teman,
     And the Holy One from Mount Paran.--Selah.
     His glory covereth the heavens,
     And the earth is full of His glory.
 4.  His brightness is like the sun;
     Rays are streaming from His hand;
     And there is the hiding of His power.
 5.  Before Him goeth the pestilence;
     And fiery bolts follow His feet.
 6.  He standeth and measureth the earth;
     He looketh and maketh nations tremble;
     The everlasting mountains are broken to pieces;
     The eternal hills sink down:
     His goings are as of old.
 7.  I saw the tents of Cushan in trouble;
     The tent-curtains of Midian are trembling.
 8.  Was it against the rivers Thou wert displeased, O Jehovah?
     Was Thine anger against the rivers?
     Was Thy fury against the sea?
     That Thou didst ride upon Thy horses,
     In Thy chariots of victory?
 9.  Thy bow is made completely bare;
     Rods (of chastisement are sworn by Thy Word,
     Thou cleavest the earth with rivers.
10.  The mountains saw Thee, and trembled;
     The flood of waters passeth over;
     The deep uttereth its voice,
     And lifteth up its hands on high.
11.  The sun and moon stood still in their habitation;
     At the light of Thine arrows, which flew,
     At the slinging of Thy glittering spear.
12.  In wrath Thou marchest through the earth;
     In fury Thou treadest down the nations.
13.  Thou goest forth for the salvation of Thy people,
     For the salvation of Thine anointed;
     Thou dashest in pieces the head out of the house of the wicked,
     Laying bare the foundation even to the neck--Selah.
14.  Thou piercest with his own staves the chief of his warriors.
     That rush on like a whirlwind to scatter me;
     Their rejoicing is to devour the poor secretly.
15.  Thou treadest upon the sea with Thine horses,
     The swelling of mighty waters.
16.  I heard, and my bowels trembled;
     My lips quivered at the sound;
     Rottenness entered my bones;
     And I trembled in my place,
     That I might rest in the day of trouble
     When he that approaches the nation presseth upon it.
17.  For though the fig tree shall not blossom,
     Neither shall fruit be in the vines;
     The fruit of the olive tree fails
     And the fields shall yield no food;
     The flock shall be cut off from the fold,
     And there shall be no cattle in the stalls.
18.  Yet I will rejoice in Jehovah,
     I will joy in the God of my salvation.
19.  Jehovah, the Lord, is my strength,
     And makes my feet like the hinds',
     And will make me to walk upon mine high places.
     (For the Chief Musician, on my stringed instruments.)

                      Analysis and Annotations

                              CHAPTER 1

        The Judgment of Judah Through the Chaldeans Announced

     1. The prophet's cry to Jehovah (1:1-4)
     2. The answer (1:5-11)
     3. The prophet's plea (1:12-17)

     Verses 1-4. The prophet begins his message with a prayer-cry to
Jehovah. He whose name is "the embracer" embraces the Lord and cries to
Him on account of the conditions prevailing in Judah. The Spirit of God
stirred up the heart of Habakkuk on account of the moral conditions
in Judah. He is jealous for Jehovah's glory, which manifested itself in
hating the evil. "There is no prophetic delivery among the twelve lesser
books more peculiar and characteristic than that of Habakkuk. It has no
longer the occupation with the enemy as its main feature, although the
enemy is referred to; but for its prominent topic we find the soul of
the prophet, as representing the faithful among Judah, brought into deep
exercise, and indeed a kind of colloquy between God Himself and the
prophet, so as to set out not only that which gave him trouble of heart,
but also divine comfort, as well as into exulting hope into which he was
led by the communications of the Spirit of God."

     Like Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, Habakkuk is deeply stirred on
account of the declension among the people of God, and that led him to
cry to Jehovah, to tell Him all about it. He begins with "How long, O
LORD." It is the cry of the saints of God in all generations. We, too,
in the midst of the increasing apostasy, the perilous times, cry to Him,
"How long, O Lord." He had cried and there seemed to be no answer.
Heaven was silent. And with him the righteous among the Jews had cried
for help and for a change of conditions, under which they were suffering
affliction. Wickedness and violence were evident on all sides. Strife
and contention were the continued order of things. They injured each
other wherever they could. The law of God was completely flouted; there
was no more justice, and the wicked compassed about the righteous.

     Verses 5-11. Jehovah speaks and answers the complaint of His
servant. He is going to raise up the Chaldeans to chastise His wayward
people. The Lord is calling on His people, that they should see now what
He was going to do. "Behold ye among the nations, and regard, and wonder
marvellously; for I work a work in your days, which ye will not believe
though it were told you." The meaning is that they should look around
among the nations, the faithless ones among the Jews, and see how the
storm would gather and ultimately break over the head of the house of
Judah. He would work a judgment work, which they would not believe, it
would be an unparalleled occurrence, amazing and terrible. This passage
is quoted by the Apostle Paul in Acts 13:41 and applied to the
unbelievers and despisers of the gospel. In the quotation the Spirit of
God led the Apostle to omit the address to the nations, and substituted
for it "Ye despisers." While in Habakkuk's day God was about to work a
work of judgment, which the unbelievers would not believe when they
heard of it, we note that Paul preached the gospel; he has reference to
speaking to the Jews in the synagogue; preached the gospel unto them,
and they did not believe. Then He worked a work which they would not
believe, in sending that gospel far hence to the Gentiles (Acts 28)
while the unbelieving Jews would be dispersed among the nations.

     In verse 6 the instrument of chastisement is announced, and
afterward described. A new power would arise, the Chaldeans. They would
make an invasion, and possess dwelling places which were not theirs,
that is, they would set out for a widespread conquest and take away the
dwelling place of Judah. They were to be the instrument in the hand of
God to mete out judgment to the Jews and humble them, as well as other
nations. The Chaldeans, called in Hebrew Hakhadsim were of Semitic
origin, springing from Kesed, the son of Nahor, and brother of Abraham
(Gen. 22:22). Jeremiah, who also announced the Chaldean invasion, speaks
of them in the following manner: "Lo, I will bring a nation upon you
from afar, O house of Israel, saith the LORD, it is a mighty nation,
an ancient nation, a nation whose language thou knowest not, neither
understandest what they say. Their quiver is an open sepulchre, they are
all mighty men. And they shall eat up thine harvest, and thy bread,
which thy sons and thy daughters should eat, they shall eat up thy
flocks and thine herds, they shall eat up thy vines and thy fig trees;
they shall impoverish thy fenced cities, wherein thou trustest, with the
sword. Nevertheless, in those days, saith the LORD, I will not make an
end of you" (Jer. 5:15-18). Their terrible onslaught is here compared to
the swiftness of the leopards, their fierceness with the prowling
evening wolves, and their horsemen in their dash with the eagle's flight.
They come for violence and know no defeat, for their faces are always
forward. They make prisoners like the sand, and mock all attempts to
check their advance; kings and princes are ridiculed and all strongholds
are quickly reduced.

     But as he is victorious the Chaldean becomes proud and forgets that
he was but used as an instrument in the hand of God to deal with those
who had done evil. As a result, they imputed their power to their own
god, and do not give God the honor and the glory. His own might is his
god. Then comes the day when the Lord takes the Chaldean in hand for
judgment and deals with him, as He dealt with other nations.
Nebuchadnezzar, the first great king of Babylon, after his humiliating
experience, acknowledged the God of heaven, but his grandson Belshazzar
praised the Babylonian idol-gods, at his licentious feast, dishonoring
the temple vessels. Then followed the judgment of the Chaldeans in the
overthrow of Babylon.

     Verses 12-17. The prophet had listened to the terrible announcement
from the lips of Jehovah, what was to befall his nation. How it must
have shocked the man of God! But he knows the comfort and expresses it
in faith at once. "Art Thou not from everlasting, O Jehovah, my God, my
Holy One? we shall not die!" He knows Jehovah as the faithful God, the
covenant-keeping God. Such a God will surely not permit the nation, to
whom He has pledged His Word, to be wiped out. His faith lays hold on
that and he realizes that the Lord is using this enemy for correction,
to chastise His people. And furthermore in his plea he says, "Thou art
of purer eyes than to behold evil, Thou canst not look upon injustice."
Would He, the righteous God, look on unconcerned at the wicked deeds of
the Chaldeans? Can He remain silent to all their deeds of violence? If
such is the case, the prophet asks next, "Why lookest Thou upon the
treacherous; why art Thou silent when the wicked destroys?" It is the
voice of the godly remnant here, seen suffering with the nation. It
brings before us the same question concerning the suffering of the

     The Chaldean took men as if they were fishes, as a fisherman puts
out the net and the drag, so they catch men by the net and the drag.
Gathering in the people with their wealth, he rejoices and is glad. Then
the prophet takes up the statement given by the Lord that the Chaldean
would offend, and fall by his pride, and the worship of his false gods,
he sacrifices to his net; he burns incense; he makes the thing which
prospers him his idol, his god. Is this then to go on continually? Shall
he who empties his net, and throws it out to catch more, to do this
again with the nations forever?

     Such was the plea of Habakkuk, after the announcement of the coming
chastisement of the Jews by the Chaldeans. He knows that the affliction
could not continue forever, for God is a covenant-keeping God, and of
purer eyes than to behold evil, a holy and a righteous God.

                              CHAPTER 2

       The Ungodliness of the Chaldeans and Their Destruction

     1. The waiting prophet and the message he received (2:1-4)
     2. The five-fold woe upon the Chaldeans (2:5-20)

     Verses 1-4. It seems there was no immediate answer to the plea of
the prophet. He then speaks to himself and expresses his attitude. "I
will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and I will wait to
see what He will say to me, and what I shall answer as to my complaint."
He watches like a sentinel upon a watchtower for the answer the Lord
will give him. It does not mean that the prophet actually ascended a
tower, but he expresses his innermost attitude by the symbol of the
watchman. He remained silent and eagerly looked for the reply.

     How long he waited is not stated. But the answer came, for the Lord
never disappoints His inquiring and waiting servants. He is told to
write the vision and make it plain upon the tablets, that he may run
that readeth it. Thus the Lord spoke to him and gave him the vision,
which he was to write in plain characters upon tablets. The effect
should be not that he that runneth may read (as it is sometimes
misquoted) but that he that readeth may run. The prophetic Word is
always plain. It is far from being the deep and complicated portion of
God's truth that some make it, but it needs an ear opened by the Spirit
of God. Prophecy believed is a great stimulating agent to Christian
service, even as it is stated here, that the reader of the vision runs
to spread the message.

     In the next place we hear of the certainty of
 the vision. It is for the appointed time. It hastes toward the end, and
shall not lie. The prophet is commanded to wait for it, though it tarry, and then receives the
assurance that it will surely
come and not tarry. These are important instructions by which many a
believer might profit. God has an appointed time for all His purposes
and their fulfillment. He cannot be hastened, for His schedule was made
before the foundation of the world. When the appointed time comes all
visions will be accomplished. It hastens toward the end. That end is the
end of the times of the Gentiles, which began with the rising of the
Babylonians, and the first great king, Nebuchadnezzar, the golden head
in the prophetic image of Daniel 2. When the end of the times of the
Gentiles comes, the world-power then, final Babylon as revealed in the
last book of the Bible, will be judged and the Lord will be manifested
in all His glory. The prophet's business is, as well as that of every
believer, to wait for it and not be disturbed if there is delay, for the
assurance is given that it will surely come and not tarry. And here
faith can rest.

     Part of this is quoted in the Epistle to the Hebrews. "For yet a
little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry"
(Heb. 10:37). From this quotation we learn that the vision which will
surely come is a person, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the center of
every vision and without Him there is no vision. The Septuagint
translation is the same: "If He tarry wait for Him, for coming He will
come and not delay."

     In the fourth verse, which may properly be taken to be the opening
statement for the vision which follows, the all importance of faith in
the vision is made known. The proud one who is mentioned must primarily
be applied to the haughty Chaldean, but it is equally true of the
unbelieving, proud Jew, and of the nominal Christian. The proud, the
puffed up one, his soul is not right within him, and God resisteth the
proud, while he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

     "But the just shall live by faith." Criticism has not left this
matchless sentence untouched. The higher critic Davidson labors to show
that the Hebrew word for faith (Emunoh) means faithfulness, dealing in
faithfulness in money matters, that is, one who deals honestly.
According to his statement the verse means if an Israelite, or anybody
else, does right he will live. But in Genesis we read, "Abraham believed
the LORD and He counted it to him for righteousness." As every
intelligent Christian knows, there was no law then, and the New
Testament in the testimony of the Holy Spirit makes it plain that this
is the gospel of grace in which the ungodly are justified; justified by
faith. Interesting is the quotation of the sentence "the just shall live
by faith" in the three passages of the New Testament Epistles.

     Romans 1:17 quotes this sentence. In this passage the emphasis is
upon the word "just." The theme of Romans is the righteousness of God,
at least in the opening chapters. It shows how a person, a lost and
guilty sinner, becomes righteous, and as such is saved. "For by grace
are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift
of God: not of works, lest any man should boast."

     In Galatians 3:11 the emphasis is upon the word "faith." "But no
man is justified by the law in the sight of God, as it is evident: for,
the just shall live by faith."

     In Hebrews 10:38 the emphasis is upon "live." "For yet a little
while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Now the
just shall live by faith, but if any man draw back, My soul shall have
no pleasure in him."

     Verses 5-20. The Lord uncovers the wicked conditions prevailing
among the Chaldeans. God had allowed the people whom He loved to be
chastised by an evil instrument; they were to be crushed by injustice
and by the actions of the cruel invader. But the character and conduct
of the oppressor, the Chaldeans, was not unknown to Him, as the prophet
expressed it, "Who is of purer eyes than to behold evil." And now the
righteous Lord announces the five-fold woe upon the wicked world-power.
While all this applies primarily to the Chaldean, it is likewise a
prophecy concerning the future. The world powers remain the same to the
end of the times of the Gentiles. It was true then, as it is true now,
and will be true in the future throughout this present age, "The world
lieth in the Wicked One." There is no improvement to be looked for among
the world powers, and as we have seen so frequently in the study of the
prophets, the end of the age brings still greater opposition and
defiance of God, with a corresponding moral decline. We see therefore in
these verses a description of the world conditions down to its very end. The word
"wine" does not need to be interpreted in a literal way, though
drunkenness was one of the sins of the Babylonians. They were inflamed
with an ambition for conquest, as a drunken man is inflamed with wine.
This intoxication made them treacherous, haughty, restless: like death,
which is never satisfied, so they are never satisfied; constantly
pressing on they spoil the nations, gather prisoners, and act in
violence. How can God permit this to go unjudged?

     Then follows a taunting song in verses 6-7. Divine retribution is
coming for them. The spoiler is going to be spoiled. It is the
retribution which may be read in all history, which still continues, for
of nations it is true as of individuals, "Whatsoever a man soweth that
shall he also reap."

     The second woe is on account of their covetousness and their self
aggrandizement. Like Edom, they were possessed by an abominable pride to
make their nest high, they imagine self-security, thinking they can
avert "the power of evil." But their proud plans were to result in shame;
their security would end in collapse and confusion. It is well known how
Nebuchadnezzar manifested this spirit. One day this proud monarch walked
in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon. "The king spake and said, Is
not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom,
by the might of my power and for the honor of my majesty?" The
humiliation which came upon the king is prophetic. Thus the Lord will
humble the proud world-power into the dust (Dan. 4).

     Then comes a third woe. Verses 12-14 are of special interest, for
they give us a picture of a godless civilization and its appointed end.
Their cruel oppression, their ungodly gains, had built up a magnificent
city. Excavations have shown what a marvelous civilization was in force
when Babylon was mistress of the world. But the foundations of it all
were iniquity and the blood of victims. Is it any better today? We have
seen the top-notch of a boasted civilization, steeped in iniquity and
defiance of God, suddenly collapsing and producing a war of horrors and
cruelty which makes the conquests and atrocities of the Chaldeans pale
into insignificance.

     And how true it is today, "The peoples labor for the fire, the
nations weary themselves for vanity." The day is approaching when this
civilization will be swept away, and before the better things come, the
kingdom is established and He reigns whose right it is, there will be
the fires of judgment. And after that it will be true, as it cannot be
true before, "The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory
of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea."

     The fourth woe shows the corruption which held sway in the
Babylonian empire. Drunkenness here is a figure of the utter
prostration of the nations which the Chaldeans had conquered; they
stripped them in their wicked endeavors of all they possessed. They
spread a shameless dissolution in every direction. For this they will
have to drink the cup of fury from the hand of the Lord, and shall be
covered with vile shame, so that their glory will be blotted out.

     The fifth woe is on account of their idolatry. They worshipped wood
and stone. Nebuchadnezzar set up his golden image in the plain of Dura
and demanded worship for it. The spiritual Babylon, Rome, is a
well-organized system of idolatry which goes on undiminished. Finally
the age ends in idolatry, for the image of the beast of Revelation 13 is
still future.

     "But the LORD is in His holy temple; let all the earth keep silence
before Him." First, by way of contrast, their idols are dumb; Jehovah,
the God of Israel, is the living God. He is in His holy temple; from
there He takes notice of the doings of men. He is the Sovereign, the
only Potentate; the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted
as the small dust of the balance (Isa. 40:15). "It is He that sitteth
upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as
grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and
spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in" (Isa. 40:22).

     But this closing verse of the chapter of woe has a prophetic
meaning. When at last the world-power is dethroned, when the Lord
returns, He will take His place as King of Kings. He will be in His holy
temple, and then all the earth will keep silence before Him.

                              CHAPTER 3

              The Vision of the Coming of the Lord

     1. The prophet's prayer (3:1-2)
     2. The coming of the Lord for judgment and redemption (3:3-15)
     3. The effect upon the prophet (3:16-19)

     Verses 1-2. Once more we hear the voice of the man of God in prayer.
Shigionoth is the plural of Shiggaion, and is found in the
superscription of Psalm 7. Its meaning is "loud crying." The connection with the seventh Psalm
is interesting. In that Psalm God appeared to David as the God of
judgment, the righteous God who must save His righteous people and
condemn the wicked. (See Annotations on Psalm 7.) The prophet had
listened to the message and penned it as we have it in the preceding
chapter. It struck terror to his heart and he trembled. Therefore he
pleads for a revival of the Lord's work in the midst of the years. He
must have taken a hasty glance over the past history of his people, how
God had worked in their behalf in Egypt, redeemed them, led them forth,
and the many evidences of the display of His power in behalf of the
elect nation. And now, in the midst of years, he asks a revival of this
work, the interposition of Jehovah, that He may be known in His power.
The text is often quoted in pleading a revival among the dead conditions
of Christendom. But it is a revival of the work of the Lord in a very
different sense of the word, as we have indicated.

     He knows that wrath is on the way. Not only wrath for the Chaldeans,
but for his people, that the unbelieving, the apostates, would also have
to face the judgment. Therefore he pleads, "In wrath remember mercy."
Such is the way of God always. Judgment is His strange work, and mercy
is mingled with His judgments. It will be so in connection with the
winding up of this present age, when judgment wrath sweeps over the
earth, and especially Israel's land; He then will have mercy upon His
people. The time of wrath will be His time of mercy, the covenant
mercies promised to Israel. "Thou shalt arise and have mercy upon Zion,
for the time to favor her, yea, the set time, is come." And when will
that be? When the Lord shall build up Zion; He shall appear in His glory
(Psa, 102:13-16).

     The great inspired ode which follows is one of the greatest
sections of prophecy. It is a wonderful theophany the Spirit of God
describes. Wrath and mercy are manifested, so that it is an answer to
the prophet's plea. "In wrath remember mercy."

     It has been said, "The poet describes a great storm, advancing from
the south, the region of Paran and Sinai. In the dark storm clouds he
conceives Jehovah to be concealed; the lightning flashes which illumine
heaven and earth disclose glimpses of the dazzling brightness
immediately about him; the earth quakes, the hills sink, and the
neighboring desert tribes look on
in dismay" (Canon Driver). Thus higher criticism, reduces one of the
sublimest inspired prophecies, concerning the future appearing of the
Lord, to the level of poetry.

     The great description of His coming must be linked with similar
prophecies (Deut. 33:2; Psa. 18:8-19, 33, 34; Psa. 68:8, 34; Psa.
77:17-20). The great ode, cast in the form of a Psalm, begins with the
statement that God cometh from Teman and the Holy One from Mount Paran.
Moses in his prophetic blessing also begins with a similar declaration.
"The LORD came from Sinai, and rose from Seir unto them; He shined from
Mount Paran, and He came with the thousands of His saints (angels); from
His right hand went a fiery law for them." Just as He was manifested
when He had redeemed them out of Egypt, and constituted them His Kingdom
people at Sinai (Exodus 19), so will He appear again to deliver the
remnant of His people from the dominion of the world-power, and judge
them as He judged Egypt. He comes from the direction of Edom, for Teman
is the southern district of Idumea, while Paran is more southward.
Isaiah also beheld him advancing from the same direction. "Who is this
that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah?" (Isa. 63:1-6).
It is unfortunate that the Authorized Version has "God came from Teman," when it is "God cometh,"
not a past but a future event. After this opening statement the first
Selah is put. This means to pause and to lift up. We are to pause and
meditate, and then to lift up our hearts and voices in praise and
thanksgiving. It is found seventy-one times in the Psalms and three
times in this chapter of Habakkuk.

     His glory covers the heavens, while the earth is filled with His
praise. Heaven and earth reflect the glory of the Coming One. How all
this corresponds with the divine statements concerning His coming in the
New Testament does not need to be pointed out. He comes in power and
great glory, in the clouds of heaven, as Daniel beheld Him in the night
vision, and as our Lord testified Himself. Brightness fills the sky as
He appears in person, while out of His hand glory rays emanate, the
hiding of His power. The picture is evidently taken from the rising sun,
which shoots forth great rays, heralding its ascending. As Delitzsch
remarks, "His hand" means in a general sense, as signifying the hand
generally, and not a single hand only. May we not have here a hint of
His hands pierced once, but now emanating glory? Before Him goes the
pestilence, indicating the trouble which precedes His coming, when the
four apocalyptic riders bring war, famine, pestilence, and death in
judgment for this earth.

     With the sixth verse He draws nearer. Up to this point in the
theophany He is described as coming forth, like the sun out of His
chamber, heaven and earth reflecting His glory, but now He stands and
measures the earth; He looks and the nations tremble, while all creation
is affected, and earthquakes shake down the mountains.

     Then the prophet sees the tents of Cushan in affliction and the
curtains of Midian tremble. Cushan means the Ethiopians, and the
Midianites inhabited the Arabian coast along the Red Sea. The past is
seen as a prophecy of the future. As He once came at Sinai, when the
mountains shook and the hills trembled, and as once the tidings of the
Red Sea disaster inspired terror among the neighboring nations, so will
it be, only on a larger scale, when He comes in great power and glory.

     The verses which follow (verses 8-15) are in the form of an address
to God. The rivers and the seas, and the mountains feel His wrath;
they represent symbolically the nations and the world-powers. He is seen
marching in anger through the earth and in His fury treading down the
nations. It is a majestic picture the Spirit of God gives of that coming
day of wrath and judgment.

     But while He comes thus, executing wrath and judgment upon the
ungodly, He comes in mercy. He goes forth for the salvation of His
people, for the salvation of Thine anointed, that is, the elect nation
and the God-fearing, waiting remnant of the last days (Psa. 105:15). And
there will be on the earth in that day the head of the house of the
wicked, the ungodly head, the man of sin, the heading up of all apostasy
and opposition to God. His doom is predicted in verse 13, followed by
another Selah, like verses 3 and 9.

     Verses 16-19. The prophet now speaks of his own feeling, which
reflects the feeling of the godly among the Jews when this great
theophany becomes history. There is fear and trembling in view of the
coming tribulation. When he heard it he trembled; he is completely
prostrated. He desires rest in the day of trouble, the day when the
final enemy of God's people marches through the land. Then faith is
triumphant, and in one of the most magnificent outbursts the prophet
declares his confidence in his God (verse 17). Such will be the faith of
the godly who pass through the time of great trouble. Finally he
rejoices in the God of his salvation and declares his hope that his feet
will be like hinds' feet to escape to the high places. Even so the
remnant of Israel will be delivered. We leave the application to the
Church-saints with the reader.

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