Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
I will stand - , i. e. I would stand now, as a servant awaiting his master,
Upon my watch - or, keep (Isa 21:8. משׁמר in the same sense Jer 51:12), and "set me (plant myself firmly) upon the tower" (literally, fenced place, but also one straitened and narrowly hemmed in), "and will watch" (it is a title of the prophets , as spying by God's enabling, things beyond human ken); I will spy out, to see a long way off, to see with the inward eye, what He will say unto me (literally, Jerome: in me); first revealing Himself in the prophets "within to the inner man;" then, through them. And what I shall answer when I am reproved , or, upon my complaint literally upon my reproof or arguing; which might mean, either that others argued against him, or that he had argued, pleaded in the name of others, and now listened to hear what God would answer in him (See Num 12:6, and at Zac 1:19), and so he, as taught by God should answer to his own plea. But he had so pleaded with God, repeatedly, why is this? He has given no hint, that any complained of or reproved him.
Theodotion: "By an image from those who, in war and siege, have the ward of the wall distributed to them, he says, I will stand upon my watch." Cyril: "It was the custom of the saints, when they wished to learn the things of God, and to receive the knowledge of things to come through His voice in their mind and heart, to raise it on high above distractions and anxieties and all worldly care, holding and keeping it unoccupied and peaceful, rising as to an eminence to look around and contemplate what the God of all knowledge should make clear to them. For He hateth the earth-bound and abject mind, and seeks hearts which can soar aloft, raised above earthly things and temporal desires." The prophet takes his stand, apart from people and the thoughts and cares of this world, on his lonely watch, as Moses on the rock, keeping himself and kept by God, and planted firm, so that nothing should move him, fenced around thought straitened in , as in a besieged camp committed to his ward, looking out from his lofty place what answer God would give as to times long distant, and what answer He should give first to himself, and to those to whom his office lay, God's people.
The answer is, that it is indeed for a long time yet. Write the vision, that it may remain for those who come after and not be forgotten, and make it plain upon the tables, whereon he was accustomed to write ; and that, in large lasting characters, that he may run that readeth it, that it may be plain to any, however occupied or in haste. So Isaiah too was commanded to write the four words, "haste-prey-speed-spoil."
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 Pe2 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" Sa1 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;" Sol 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, Ch2 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" Pe1 1:5.
This general rule the prophet goes on to apply in words which belong in part to all oppressors and in the first instance to the Chaldaean, in part yet more fully to the end and to antichrist. "Yea also, because he transgresseth by wine" (or better, "Yea, how much more, since wine is a deceiver , as Solomon says, Pro 20:1, "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging, and whosoever erreth thereby shall not be wise;" and Pro 23:32, "In the end it biteth like a serpent and pierceth like an adder;" and Hosea Hos 4:11, "Whoredom and wine and new wine take away the heart." As wine at first gladdens, then deprives of all reason, and lays a man open to any deceit, so also pride. And whereas all pride deceives, how much more , when people are either heated and excited by the abuse of God's natural gifts, or drunken with prosperity and hurried away, as conquerors are, to all excess of cruelty or lust to fulfill their own will, and neglect the laws of God and man.
Literal drunkenness was a sin of the Babylonians under the Persian rule, so that even a pagan says of Babylon, "Nothing can be more corrupt than the manners of that city, and more provided with all to rouse and entice immoderate pleasures;" and "the Babylonians give themselves wholly to wine, and the things which follow upon drunkenness." It was when flushed with wine, that Belshazzar, with his princes his wives and his concubines, desecrated the sacred vessels, insulted God in honor of his idols, and in the night of his excess "was slain." Pride blinded, deceived, destroyed him. It was the general drunkenness of the inhabitants, at that same feast, which enabled Cyrus, with a handful of men, to penetrate, by means of its river, the city which, with its provisions for many years and its impregnable walls, mocked at his siege. He calculated beforehand on its feast and the consequent dissolution of its inhabitants; but for this, in the language of the pagan historian, he would have been caught "as in a trap," his soldiery drowned.
He is a proud man, neither keepeth at home. - It is difficult to limit the force of the rare Hebrew word rendered "keep at home;" for one may cease to dwell or abide at home either with his will or without it; and, as in the case of invaders, the one may he the result of the other. He who would take away the home of others becomes, by God's Providence, himself homeless. The context implies that the primary meaning is the restlessness of ambition; which abides not at home, for his whole pleasure is to go forth to destroy. Yet there sounds, as it were, an undertone, "he would not abide in his home and he shall not." We could scarcely avoid the further thought, could we translate by a word which does not determine the sense, "he will not home," "he will not continue at home." The words have seemed to different minds to mean either; as they may . Such fullness of meaning is the contrary of the ambiguity of pagan oracles; they are not alternative meanings, which might be justified in either case, but cumlative, the one on the other. The ambitious part with present rest for future loss. Nebuchadnezzar lost his kingdom and his reason through pride, received them back when he humbled himself; Belshazzar, being proud and impenitent, lost both his kingdom and life.
Who enlargeth his desire - literally, his soul. The soul becomes like what it loves. The ambitious man is, as we say, "all ambition;" the greedy man, "all appetite;" the cruel man, "all savagery;" the vain-glorious, "all vain glory." The ruling passion absorbs the whole being. It is his end, the one object of his thoughts, hopes, fears. So, as we speak of "largeness of heart," which can embrace in its affections all varieties of human interests, whatever affects man, and "largeness of mind" uncramped by narrowing prejudices, the prophet speaks of this "ambitious man widening his soul," or, as we should speak, "appetite," so that the whole world is not too large for him to long to grasp or to devour. So the Psalmist prays not to be delivered into the murderous desire of his enemies (Psa 27:12; Compare Psa 41:3 (Psa 41:2 in English); Ezek. 26:27) (literally their soul,) and Isaiah, with a metaphor almost too bold for our language Isa 5:14, "Hell hath enlarged her soul, and opened her mouth beyond measure." It devours, as it were, first in its cravings, then in act.
As hell - which is insatiable Pro 30:15. He saith, "enlargeth"; for as hell and the grave are year by year fuller, yet there is no end, the desire "enlargeth" and becometh wider, the more is given to it to satisfy it.
And (he) is (himself) as death - o, sparing none. Our poetry would speak of a destroyer as being "like the angel of death;" his presence, as the presence of death itself. Where he is, there is death. He is as terrible and as destroying as the death which follows him.
And cannot be satisfied - Even human proverbs say (Juv. Sat. xiv. 139): "The love of money groweth as much as the money itself groweth." "The avaricious is ever needy." Ecc 5:10 : "he that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver." For these fleeting things cannot satisfy the undying soul. It must hunger still; for it has not found what will allay its cravings .
But gathereth - literally, "And hath gathered" - He describes it, for the rapidity with which he completes what he longs for, as though it were already done.
Unto him all nations, and heapeth unto him all people - One is still the subject of the prophecy, rising up at successive times, fulfilling it and passing away, Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander, Attila, Timur, Genghizchan, Hunneric, scourges of God, all deceived by pride, all sweeping the earth, all in their ambition and wickedness the unknowing agents and images of the evil One, who seeks to bring the whole world under his rule. But shall it prosper?
Shall not all these take up a parable against him, and a taunting proverb against him? - Nebuchadnezzar gathered, Dan 3:4-5, "all people, nations, and languages, to worship the golden image which he had set up." The second Babylon, pagan Rome, sought to blot out the very Christian Name; but mightier were the three children than the King of Babylon; mightier, virgins, martyrs, and children than Nero or Decius. These shall rejoice over Babylon, that, Rev 18:20, "God hath avenged them on her."
Woe to him that increaseth that which is not his! - Truly wealth ill-gotten by fraud or oppression, "is not his," who winneth it, before he had it, nor when he hath it, but a woe. It is not his; the woe is his. "Woe unto him." He shall have no joy in what he gaineth, and what he hath he shall lose.
How long? - What is the measure of thine impiety and greediness and cruelty? Yet if these are like hell, without measure, there remains another "How long?" How long will the forbearance of God endure thee, which thou art daily exhausting?
This is then the end of all. The conqueror sweeps to him "all nations" and gathereth to him "all peoples." To what end? As one vast choir in one terrible varied chant of all those thousand thousand voices, to sing a dirge over him of the judgments of God which his ill-doings to them should bring upon him, a fivefold Woe, woe, woe, woe, woe! Woe for its rapacity! Woe for its covetousness! Woe for its oppression! Woe for its insolence to the conquered! Woe to it in its rebellion against God! It is a more measured rhythm than any besides in Holy Scripture; each of the fivefold woes comprised in three verses, four of them closing with the ground, because, for. The opening words carry the mind back to the fuller picture of Isaiah. But Isaiah sees Babylon as already overthrown; Habakkuk pronounces the words upon it, not by name, but as certainly to come, upon it and every like enemy of God's kingdom. With each such fall, unto the end of all things, the glory of God is increased and made known. Having, for their own ends, been unconscious and even unwilling promoters of God's end, they, when they had accomplished it, are themselves flung away. The pride of human ambition, when successful, boasts "woe to the conquered." Since "whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth," the ungodly saying of the pagan is reversed, and it stands, "Man sympathizes with the conquering side, God with the conquered." It is a terrible thought that people should have been the instruments of God, that they should, through ambition or other ends short of God, have promoted His ends which they thought not of, and then should be "weighed in the balance and found wanting," and themselves be flung away.
Cyr: "Gentiles also departed from their worship under Satan, and having deserted him who aforetime called them, ran unto Christ. For Satan gathered what was not his; but Christ received what was His. For, as God, He is Lord of all."
And to him that ladeth himself with thick clay - It is the character of these proverbs to say much in few words, sometimes in one, and more than appears. So the word translated "thick-clay," as if it were two words, in another way means in an intensive sense, "a strong deep pledge." At best gold and silver are, as they have been called, red and white earth. Bern. Serm. 4. in Adv: "What are gold and silver but red and white earth, which the error of man alone maketh, or accounteth precious? What are gems, but stones of the earth? What silk, but webs of worms?" These he "maketh heavy upon" or "against himself" (so the words strictly mean). "For He weigheth himself down with thick clay, who, by avarice multiplying earthly things, hems himself in by the oppressiveness of his own sin, imprisons and, as it were, buries the soul, and heaps up sin as he heaps up wealth." With toil they gather what is not worthless only, but is a burden upon the soul, weighing it down that it should not rise Heavenwards, but should be bowed down to Hell. And so in that other sense while, as a hard usurer, he heaps up the pledges of these whom he oppresses and impoverishes, and seems to increase his wealth, he does in truth "increase against himself a strong pledge," whereby not others are debtors to him, but he is a debtor to Almighty God who careth for the oppressed Jer 17:11 "He that gathereth riches had not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days and at his end shall be a fool."
Shall not they rise up suddenly that shall bite thee, and awake that shall vex thee? - The destruction of the wicked is ever sudden at last. Such was the flood Luk 17:26-27, the destruction of Sodom, of Pharaoh, of the enemies of God's people through the Judges, of Sennacherib, Nineveh, Babylon by the Medes and Persians. Such shall the end be Mat 24:43-44; Mat 25:13; Luk 17:26-30; Luk 21:34-35; Th1 5:3; Pe2 3:10; Rev 16:15. As he by his oppressions had pierced others (it is the word used of the oppression of usury), so should it be done to him. "The Medes and Persians who were before subject to the Babylonian empire, and whose kings were subject to Nebuchudnezzar and his successors, rose up and awaked, i. e., stirred themselves up in the days of Belshazzar to rebel against the successors of Nebuchadnezzar which sat on his throne, like a man who awaketh from sleep." The words "awake," "arise," are used also of the resurrection, when the worm of the wicked gnaweth and dieth not (See Isa 14:11; Isa 66:24).
And thou shall be for booties unto them? - The common phrase is modified to explain the manifoldness of the plunder which he should yield. So Jeremiah Jer 50:10, "Chaldaea shall be a spoil; all that spoil her shall be satisfied, saith the Lord." See Cyr: "We may hear Him who saith Mat 12:29, 'How can one enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house.' For, as soon as He was born of the holy Virgin, He began to 'spoil his goods.' For the Magi came from the East - and worshiped Him and honored Him with gifts and became a first-fruits of the Church of the Gentiles. And being vessels of Satan, and the most honored of all his members, they hastened to Christ."
Because (or For). The prophet assigns the reason of the woes he had just pronounced. "Thou (emphatic), thou hast spoiled many nations, all the resonant of the people shall spoil thee." So Isaiah Isa 33:1, "When thou shalt cease to spoil, thou shalt be spoiled; when thou shalt make an end to deal treacherously, they shall deal treacherously with thee." Boundless as his conquests were, each remaining people, tribe, or family shall be his foe. Theodotion: "Having subdued very many, thou shalt be destroyed by few, and they who long endured thy tyranny, arising as from sleep, shall compass thy destruction; and thou shalt pay the penalty of thy countless slaughters and thy great ungodliness and thy lawless violence to cities which thou modest desolate of inhabitants." Nothing was too great or too little to escape this violence.
All the remnant - Theodotion: "As thou, invading, didst take away the things of others, in like way shall what appertaineth to thee be taken away by those who are left for vengeance." Jeremiah foretold of Elam "in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah" Jer 49:34-39 (in expansion of the prophecy in the reign of Jehoiakim) ; "Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Behold, I will break the bow of Elam, the chief of their might. And upon Elam I will bring the four winds from the four quarters of the heavens, and will scatter them toward all these winds, and there shall be no nation where the outcasts of Elam shall not come. For I will cause Elam to be dismayed before her enemies; but it shall come to pass in the latter days, that I will bring again the captivity of Elam, saith the Lord." Elam is also counted by Ezekiel Ezek. 32:17-32 among those who, together with Pharaoh, should be brought down to the grave, with Asshur, Meshech, Tabal, Edom and all the Zidonians, by the king of Babylon. They were then all which remained, Jer 39:9) of the nations which he had conquered, who should be gathered against his house.
"Because of men's blood and of the violence of" i. e., "to the land, as the violence of," i. e., "to , Lebanon," and "men's blood" is their blood which was shed. "To land, city, and all dwellers therein." Land or earth, city, are left purposely undefined, so that while that in which the offence culminated should be, by the singular, specially suggested, the violence to Judah and Jerusalem, the cruelty condemned should not be limited, to these. The violence was dealt out to the whole land or earth, and in it, to cities, and in each, one by one, to all its inhabitants. Babylon is called Jer 50:23, "the hammer of the whole earth Jer 51:7; a golden cup in the Lord's hand, that made all the earth drunken; Jer. 25 a destroying mountain, which destroyeth the whole earth; the whole earth is at rest and is quiet" Isa 14:7, after Babylon, "which made it to tremble" Isa 14:16, is overthrown.
So Satan had by violence and deceit subdued the whole earth, yet Christ made him a spoil to those whom he had spoiled, and the strong man was bound and his goods Spoiled and himself trampled underfoot. Yet here as throughout the prophets, it is a "remnant" only which is saved Cyril: "Satan too was spoiled by the remnant of the people, i. e., by those justified by Christ and sanctified in the Spirit. For the remnant of Israel was saved."
Woe to him that coveteth an evil covetousness to his house - (or, with accents, "that coveteth covetousness or unjust gain, an evil to his house.") What man coveteth seems gain, but is evil "to his house" after him, destroying both himself and his whole family or race with him . "That he may set his nest on high," as an eagle, to which he had likened the Chaldee (Hab 1:8. Compare Jer 20:16). A pagan called "strongholds, the nests of tyrants." The nest was placed "on high" which means also "heaven," as it is said, Oba 1:4, "though thou set thy nest among the stars;" and the tower of Babel was to "reach unto heaven" Gen 11:4; and the antichrist, whose symbol the King of Babylon is, Isa 14:13 says, "I will exalt my throne above the stars of God." Babylon lying in a large plain, on the sides of the Euphrates, the image of its eagle's-nest on high must be taken, not from any natural eminence, but wholly from the works of man.
Its walls, and its hanging gardens were among "the seven wonders of the world." Eye-witnesses speak of its walls, encompassing at least 100 square miles , "and as large as the land-graviat of Hesse Homberg;" those walls, 335, or 330 feet high, and 85 feet broad ; a fortified palace, nearly 7 miles in circumference; gardens, 400 Greek feet square, supporting at an artificial height arch upon arch, of "at least 75 feet," forest trees; a temple to its god, said to have been at least 600 feet high.
If we, creatures of a day, had no one above us, Nebuchadnezzars boast had been true Dan 4:30, "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?" He had built an eagle's nest, which no human arm could reach, encircled by walls which laughed its invaders to scorn, which, at that time, no skill could scale or shatter or mine. Even as one sees in a picture the vast mounds which still remain , one can hardly imagine that they were, brick upon brick, wholly the work of man.
To be delivered from the hand (grasp) of evil - that it should not be able to reach him. Evil is spoken of as a living power , which would seize him, whose grasp he would defy. It was indeed a living power, since it was the will of Almighty God, whose servant and instrument Cyrus was, to chasten Babylon, when its sins were full. Such was the counsel, what the result? The evil covetousness which he worked, brought upon him the evil, from which, in that nest built by the hard toil of his captives, he thought to deliver himself.
Thou hast consulted shame to thy house, the cutting off many people, and sinning against thy soul - The wicked, whether out of passion or with his whole mind and deliberate choice and will, takes that counsel, which certainly brings shame to himself and his house, according to the law of God, whereby, according to Exo 20:5, He "visits the iniquities of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Him," i. e., until by righteousness and restitution the curse is cut off. Pro 15:27 : "he that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house." So Jeremiah says Jer 7:19 : "Thus saith the Lord, Is it Me they are vexing? Is it not themselves, for the confusion of their faces?" i. e., with that end and object. Holy Scripture overlooks the means, and places us at the end of all. Whatever the wicked had in view, to satisfy ambition, avarice, passion, love of pleasure, or the rest of man's immediate ends, all he was doing was leading on to a further end - shame and death. He was bringing about, not only these short-lived, but the lasting ends beyond, and these far more than the others, since that is the real end of a thing which abides, in which it at last ends. He consulted to cut off many people and was thereby (though he did not know it) by one and the same act, "guilty of and forfeiting his OWN soul" Pro 8:36. The contemporaneousness of the act is expressed by the participle; the pronoun is omitted as in Hab 1:5).
For the stone shall cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber shall answer it - All things have a voice, in that they are . God's works speak that, for which He made them Psa 19:1 : "The heavens declare the glory of God." Psa 65:13 : "the valleys are clad with corn, they laugh, yea, they sing;" their very look speaks gladness. Cyril: "For the creation itself proclaims the glory of the Maker, in that it is admired as well made. Wherefore there are voices in things, although there are not words." Man's works speak of that in him, out of which and for which he made them. Works of mercy go up for a memorial before God, and plead there; great works, performed amid wrong and cruelty and for man's ambition and pride, have a voice too, and cry out to God, calling down His vengeance on the oppressor. Here the stones of the wall, whereby the building is raised, and the beam, the tye-beam, out of the timber-work wherewith it is finished, and which, as it were, crowns the work, join, as in a chorus, answering one another, and in a deep solemn wailing, before God and the whole world, together chant "Woe, Woe." Did not the blood and groans of men cry out to God, speechless things have a voice to appeal to Him (See Luk 19:40). Against Belshazzar the wall had, to the letter, words to speak.
Each three verses forming one stanza, as it were, of the dirge, the following words are probably not directly connected with the former, as if the woe, which follows, were, so to speak, the chant of these inanimate witnesses against the Chaldaeans; yet they stand connected with it. The dirge began with woe on the wrongful accumulation of wealth from the conquered and oppressed people: it continues with the selfish use of the wealth so won.
Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood, and establisheth a city by iniquity! - Nebuchadnezzar "encircled the inner city with three walls and the outer city also with three, all of burnt brick. And having fortified the city with wondrous works, and adorned the gates like temples, he built another palace near the palace of his fathers, surpassing it in height and its great magnificence." He seemed to strengthen the city, and to establish it by outward defenses. But it was built through cruelty to conquered nations, and especially God's people, and by oppression, against His holy Will. So there was an inward rottenness and decay in what seemed strong and majestic, and which imposed on the outward eye; it would not stand, but fell. Babylon, which had stood since the flood, being enlarged contrary to the eternal laws of God, fell in the reign of his son. Such is all empire and greatness, raised on the neglect of God's laws, by unlawful conquests, and by the toil and sweat and hard service of the poor. Its aggrandizement and seeming strength is its fall. Daniel's exhortation to Nebuchadnezzar Dan 4:27, "Redeem thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by showing mercy on the poor," implies that oppressiveness had been one of his chief sins.
Behold, is it not of the Lord of hosts that (the) people (nations) shall labor - o
In (for) the very fire - literally, to suffice the fire? By God's appointment, the end of all their labor is for the fire, what may suffice it to consume. This is the whole result of their labor; and so it is as if they had toiled for this; they built ceiled palaces and gorgeous buildings, only for the fire to consume them.
And the peoples shall weary themselves for very vanity - They wearied themselves, and what was their reward? What had they to suffice and fill them? "Emptiness." This is "from the Lord of hosts," whom all the armies of heaven obey and all creatures stand at His command against the ungodly, and in whose Hand are all the hosts of earth, and so the oppressor's also, to turn as He wills.
Near upon the first stage of the fulfillment, Jeremiah reinforces the words with the name of Babylon; Jer 51:58 : "Thus saith the Lord of hosts! The broad walls of Babylon, shall be utterly destroyed, and her high gates shall be burned with fire; and the people shall labor in vain (for vanity), and the folk in (for) the fire, and they shall be weary."
For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord - Habakkuk modifies in a degree the words of Isaiah which he embodies, marking that the destruction of Babylon was a stage only toward the coming of those good things which God taught His people to long for, not their very coming. All the world should be then full of the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, not, as yet, wholly of Himself Jerome: "When Babylon shall be overthrown, then shall the power of the might of the Lord be known unto all. So shall the whole earth be filled with the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the bottom of the sea. This as to the letter. But it is plain, that the Devil also and antichrist, and the perverse teaching of heretics, built a city in blood; i. e, their own Church, with the destruction of those whom they deceive ... But when they fail in the fire (either this fire which is felt, or consumed in the fire of the devil their prince, or burned up with the fire whereof the Lord says, 'I came to send a fire upon the earth,' and so brought back from their former course, and doing penitence), the whole earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord, when, at the preaching of the apostles, their 'sound shall go out into all the world,' as waters covering the sea, i. e., all the saltness and bitterness of the world which Satan had rained down and the earth had drunk, the waters of the Lord shall cover, and cause the place of their ancient bitterness not to appear."
Rup.: "'For the Spirit of the Lord filled the earth,' and when He filled it, 'the earth was filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord,' so that unlearned and ignorant men became wise and eloquent, and earthly became heavenly, yea, they who were earth became heaven, knowing the glory of the Lord, declaring the glory of God, not any how, but as waters cover the sea. Great as must be waters, which would cover the sea, or compared to which the sea were nothing, far greater is the miracle, when the abundance of heavenly wisdom, given to the simple, surpassed the sea, i. e., the wisdom of all mankind." This verse being already a received image of the spread of the gospel Isa 11:9, it would of itself be understood to include this also; but more generally, it declares how upon all the judgments of God, a larger knowledge of Him would follow Cyril: "All things are full of Christ, who is the Glory of the Father; wherefore also He said Joh 17:4, I have glorified Thee on earth, I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do."
From cruelty the prophet goes on to denounce the woe on insolence. "Woe unto him that giveth his neighbor" (to whom he owes love) drink (literally, that maketh him drink); that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also , that thou mayest look (gaze with devilish pleasure) on their nakedness." This may either be of actual insults (as in the history of Noah), in keeping certainly with the character of the later Babylonians, the last wantonness of unbridled power, making vile sport of those like himself (his neighbor), or it may be drunkenness through misery Isa 29:9 wherein they are bared of all their glory and brought to the lowest shame. The woe also falls on all, who in any way intoxicate others with flattering words or reigned affection, mixing poison under things pleasant, to bring them to shame.
Thou art filled with shame for glory - Oppressors think to make themselves great by bringing others down, to fill themselves with riches, by spoiling others. They loved shame Hos 4:8, because they loved that, which brought shame; they were filled with shame, in that they sated themselves with shamefulness, which was their shame within, before, in the just judgment of God, shame came on them from without Phi 3:19. "Their glory was in their shame." They shall be filled, yea, he says, they are already filled; they would satisfy, gorge themselves, with all their hearts' desires; they are "filled to the full," but with shame instead of glory which they sought, or which they already had. "From" and "for" a state of "glory," they were filled with contempt.
Drink thou also, and let thy foreskin be uncovered - thy shame like those whom thou puttest to shame, only the greater in being uncircumcised. "The cup of the Lord's Right Hand shall be turned (round) unto thee (or against thee)." It had gone round the circuit of the nations whom God had employed him to chasten, and now, the circle completed, it should be brought round to himself, "With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured unto you again" Mat 7:2. So Jeremiah says, Jer 25:26, "And the king of Shesbach shall drink after them;" and of Edom, Lam 4:21, "To thee also shall the cup be brought round." Thou, a man, madest man to drink of the cup of thine anger: the cup shall be brought round to thee, but not by man; to thee it shall be given by "the Right Hand of the Lord," which thou canst not escape; it shall be "the cup of the wine of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God" Rev 16:19; as Asaph had said, Psa 76:8, "There is a cup in the Lord's hand; it is full of mixture, and He poureth out therefrom; but the dregs thereof all the ungodly of the earth shall suck them out, shall drink them."
And shameful spewing shall be on thy glory - Jerome: "With the shame of thy spewing shalt thou bring up all thou hast swallowed down, and from the height of glory shalt thou be brought to the utmost ills." The shame of the ungodly cometh forth from himself; the shame he put others to is doubled upon himself; and the very means which he had used to fill himself with glory and greatness, cover the glory which by nature he had, with the deeper disgrace, so that he should be a loathsome and revolting sight to all. Man veils foul deeds under fair words; God, in His word, unveils the foulness.
For the violence of Lebanon - i. e., done to Lebanon, whether the land of Israel of which it was the entrance and the beauty (See Isa 37:24, and, as a symbol, Jer 22:6, Jer 22:23; Eze 17:3; but it is used as a symbol of Sennacherib's army, Isa 10:34, and the king of Asshur is not indeed spoken of under the name as a symbol (in Eze 21:3,) but is compared to it), or the temple (See the note at Zac 12:1), both of which Nebuchadnezzar laid waste; or, more widely, it may be a symbol of all the majesty of the world and its empires, which he subdues, as Isaiah uses it, when speaking of the judgment on the world, Isa 2:13, "It shall cover thee, and the spoil (i. e., spoiling, destruction) of beasts (the inhabitants of Lebanon) which made them afraid," or more simply, "the wasting of wild beasts shall crush , Pro 10:14; Pro 13:3; Pro 14:14; Pro 18:7) them (selves)," i. e., as it is in irrational nature, that "the frequency of the incursions of very mischievous animals becomes the cause that people assemble against them and kill them, so their (the Chaldaeans') frequent injustice is the cause that they haste to be avenged on thee" .
Having become beasts, they shared their history. They spoiled, scared, laid waste, were destroyed. "Whoso seeketh to hurt another, hurteth himself." The Chaldaeans laid waste Judea, scared and wasted its inhabitants; the end of its plunder should be, not to adorn, but to cover them, overwhelm them as in ruins, so that they should not lift up their heads again. Violence returns upon the head of him who did it; they seem to raise a lofty fabric, but are buried under it. He sums up their past experience, what God had warned them beforehand, what they had found.
What profiteth - (Hath profited) הועיל מה. Samuel warned them, "Serve the Lord with all your heart, and turn ye not aside; for (it would be) after vanities which will not profit nor deliver for they are vain:" and Jeremiah tells their past; "their prophets prophesied by Baal; and after things יועילי לא which profit not, have they gone." Elsewhere the idol is spoken of as a thing "which will not profit" (future) "My people hath changed its glory יועיל בלא for that which profiteth not," Jer 2:8, Jer 2:11. So Isaiah, "Who hath formed a god, הועיל לבלתי not to profit." Isa 44:9.10. "The makers of a graven image are all of them vanity, and their desirable things יועילו בל will not profit."
The graven image, that the maker therefore hath graven it? - What did Baal and Ashtaroth profit you? What availed it ever but to draw down the wrath of God? Even so neither shall it profit the Chaldaean. As their idols availed them not, so neither need they fear them. Sennacherib and Nebuchadnezzar were propagandists of their own belief and would destroy, if they could, all other worship, false or true : Nebuchadnezzar is thought to have set up his own image Dan. 3. Antichrist will set himself up as God Th2 2:4; Rev 13:15-17. We may take warning at least by our own sins. If we had no profit at all from them, neither will the like profit others. the Jews did, in the main, learn this in their captivity.
The molten image and teacher of lies - It is all one whether by "teacher of lies" we understand the idol , or its priest . For its priest gave it its voice, as its maker created its form. It could only seem to teach through the idol-priest. Isaiah used the title "teacher of lies," of the false prophet Isa 9:14. It is all one. Zechariah combines them Zac 10:2; "The teraphim have spoken vanity, and the diviners have seen a lie, and have had false dreams."
That the maker of his work trusteth therein - This was the special folly of idolatry. The thing made must needs he inferior to its maker. It was one of the corruptions of idolatry that the maker of his own work should trust in what was wholly his own creation, what, not God, but himself created, what had nothing but what it had from himself . He uses the very words which express the relation of man to God, "the Framer" and "the thing framed." Isa 29:16, "O your perverseness! Shall the framer be accounted as clay, theft the thing made should say of its Maker, He made me not, and the thing framed say of its Framer, He hath no hands?" The idol-maker is "the creator of his creature," of his god whom he worships. Again the idol-maker makes "dumb idols" (literally, "dumb nothings") in themselves nothings, and having no power out of themselves; and what is uttered in their name, are but lies. And what else are man's idols of wealth, honor, fame, which he makes to himself, the creatures of his own hands or mind, their greatness existing chiefly in his own imagination before which he bows down himself, who is the image of God?
But then the greater is the "Woe" to him who deceiveth by them. The prophet passes away from the idols as "nothings" and pronounces "woe" on those who deceive by them. He . first expostulates with them on their folly, and would awaken them. "What hath it profited?" (As in Psa 115:5; Co1 12:2) Then on the obstinate he denounces "woe." "Woe unto him that saith to the wood, Awake; to the dumb stone, Arise." Self-made blindness alone could, in the light of truth, so speak; but yet more lies in the emphatic word, "It." The personal pronoun stands emphatically in Hebrew; He shall teach, lo, He (this same of whom he speaks) this is It which shall teach: It, and not the living God. And yet this same It (the word is again emphatic) he points, as with the finger, to it, "behold, It is laid over with, held fast by , gold and silver," so that no voice could escape, if it had any. "And there is no breath at all in the midst of it" (Compare Jer 10:14 repeated Jer 51:17), literally "All breath, all which is breath, there is none within it;" he first suggests the thought, breath of every sort, and then energetically denies it all ; no life of any sort, of man, or bird, or beast, or creeping thing Isa 41:23; Jer 10:5; none, good or bad; from God or from Satan; none whereby it can do good or do evil; for which it should be loved or feared. Evil spirits may have made use of idols: they could not give them life, nor dwell in them.
The words addressed to it are the language of the soul in the seeming absence or silence of God (Psa 7:7; Psa 35:23; Psa 44:24; Psa 59:6; Isa 51:9; Delitszch), but mockery as spoken to the senseless stone, as Ehijah had mocked the Baal-priests, "peradventure he sleepeth and must be awaked" Kg1 18:26-27.
And now having declared the nothingness of all which is not God, the power of man or his gods, he answers again his own question, by summoning all before the presence of the majesty of God.
But the Lord - He had, in condemning them, pictured the tumult of the world, the oppressions, the violence, bloodsheddings, covetousness, insolence, self-aggrandizement of the then world-empire, and had denounced woe upon it; we see man framing his idols, praying to the lifeless stones; and God, of whom none thought, where was He? These were people's ways. "But the Lord," he joins it on, as the complement and corrective of all this confusion.
The Lord is in His holy temple - awaiting, in His long-suffering, to judge. "The temple of God" is where God enshrines Himself, or allows Himself to be seen and adored. "God is wholly everywhere, the whole of Him no where." There is no contrast between His temple on earth, and His temple in heaven. He is not more locally present in heaven than in earth. It were as anthropomorphic but less pious to think of God, as confined, localized, in heaven as on earth; because it would be simply removing God away from man. Solomon knew, when he built the temple, that "the heaven and heaven of heavens could not contain Kg1 8:27 God." The "holy temple," which could be destroyed Psa 79:1, toward which people were to pray Psa 5:7; Psa 138:2; Jon 2:4, was the visible temple Kg1 8:29-30, Kg1 8:35, Kg1 8:38, Kg1 8:42, Kg1 8:44, Kg1 8:48, where were the symbols of God's Presence, and of the stoning Sacrifice; but lest His presence should be localized, Solomon's repeated prayer is Kg1 8:30, Kg1 8:39, Kg1 8:43, Kg1 8:49, "hear Thou in heaven Thy dwelling place" Kg1 8:32, Kg1 8:34, Kg1 8:36, Kg1 8:45; "hear Thou in heaven." There is then no difference, as though in earlier books the "holy temple" meant that at Jerusalem, in the later, "the heavens?" In the confession at the offering of the "third year's tithes," the prayer is, Deu 27:15, "look down from Thy holy habitation, from heaven;" and David says, "the Lord is in His holy temple, the Lord's throne is in heaven" Psa 11:4; and, Psa 18:6, Psa 18:9 : "He heard my voice out of His temple - He bowed the heavens also and came down;" and, Psa 29:9, "In His temple doth everyone say, Glory." The simple words are identical though not in the same order as those, in which David, in the same contrast with the oppression of man, ushers in the judgment and final retribution to good and bad, by declaring the unseen presence of God upon His Throne in heaven, beholding and testing the sons of men.
In His Presence, all the mysteries of our being are solved.
The Lord is in His holy Temple - not, as the idols in temples made with hands, but revealing Himself in the visible temple (Jerome), "dwelling in the Son, by Nature and Union, as He saith Joh 14:10, "The Father who dwelleth in Me doeth the works;" in each one of the bodies and souls of the saints by His Spirit Co1 6:19, in the Blessed, in glory; in the Heavens, by the more evident appearance of His Majesty and the workings of His Power ; "everywhere by Essence, Presence, and Power, 'for in Him we live, and move, and have our being;' nowhere as confined or inclosed." Since then God is in Heaven, beholding the deeds of people, Himself Unchangeable, Almighty, All-holy, "let all the earth keep silence before Him," literally, "hush before Him all the earth," waiting from Him in hushed stillness the issue of this tangled state of being. And to the hashed soul, hushed to itself and its own thought, hushed in awe of His Majesty and "His Presence, before His face," God speaks .