Habakkuk 1

Verse 13. Behold, I am against thee] Assyria, and Nineveh its

capital. I will deal with you as you have dealt with others.

The voice of thy messengers] Announcing thy splendid victories,

and the vast spoils taken-shall no more be heard-thou and thy

riches, and ill-got spoils, shall perish together.




Chronological Notes relative to this Book, upon the supposition

that it was written a little before the destruction of

Jerusalem, about six hundred years before the commencement

of the Christian era.

-Year from the Creation, according to Archbishop Usher, 3404.

-Year of the Julian Period, 4114.

-Year since the Flood, 1748.

-Year since the vocation of Abram, 1321.

-Year from the foundation of Solomon's temple, 412.

-Year since the division of Solomon's monarchy into the kingdoms

of Israel and Judah, 376.

-First year of the forty-fifth Olympiad.

-Year since the destruction of the kingdom of Israel by

Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, 121.

-Year before the birth of Jesus Christ, 596.

-Year before the vulgar era of Christ's nativity, 600.

-Cycle of the Sun, 26.

-Cycle of the Moon, 10.

-Third year of AEropas, king of Macedon.

-Twentieth year of Alyattes II., king of Lydia.

-Twenty-sixth year of Cyaxares or Cyaraxes, king of Media.

-Sixth year of Agasicles, king of Lacedaemon, of the family of

the Proclidae.

-Eighth year of Leon, king of Lacedaemon, of the family of the


-Seventh year of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.

-Seventeenth year of Tarquinius Priscus, king of the Romans.

-Eleventh year of Jehoiakim, king of Judah.


The prophet enters very abruptly on his subject, his spirit

being greatly indignant at the rapid progress of vice and

impiety, 1-4.

Upon which God is introduced threatening very awful and sudden

judgments to be indicted by the ministry of the Chaldeans,


The Babylonians attribute their wonderful successes to their

idols, 11.

The prophet then, making a sudden transition, expostulates with

God (probably personating the Jews) for permitting a nation

much more wicked than themselves, as they supposed, to oppress

and devour them, as fishers and fowlers do their prey, 12-17.

We know little of this prophet; for what we find in the ancients

concerning him is evidently fabulous, as well as that which

appears in the Apocrypha. He was probably of the tribe of Simeon,

and a native of Beth-zacar. It is very likely that he lived after

the destruction of Nineveh, as he speaks of the Chaldeans, but

makes no mention of the Assyrians. And he appears also to have

prophesied before the Jewish captivity, see

Hab 1:5; 2:1; 3:2, 16-19; and therefore Abp.

Newcome thinks he may be placed in the reign of Jehoiakim,

between the years 606 B.C. and 598 B.C.

As a poet, Habakkuk holds a high rank among the Hebrew prophets.

The beautiful connection between the parts of his prophecy, its

diction, imagery, spirit, and sublimity, cannot be too much

admired; and his hymn, Hab 3:1-19, is allowed by the best judges

to be a masterpiece of its kind. See Lowth's Praelect. xxi.,



Verse 1. The burden] hammassa signifies not only the

burdensome prophecy, but the prophecy or revelation itself which

God presented to the mind of Habakkuk, and which he saw-clearly

perceived, in the light of prophecy, and then faithfully declared,

as this book shows. The word signifies an oracle or revelation in

general; but chiefly, one relative to future calamities.

Verse 2. O Lord, how long shall I cry] The prophet feels himself

strongly excited against the vices which he beheld; and which, it

appears from this verse, he had often declaimed against, but in

vain; the people continued in their vices, and God in his


Habakkuk begins his prophecy under a similar feeling, and nearly

in similar words, as Juvenal did his Satires:-

Semper ego auditor tantum?

Nunquamne reponam?

Vexatus toties rauci Theseide Codri?

Sat. i. 1.

"Shall I always be a hearer only?

Shall I never reply?

So often vexed?"

Of violence] The most unlawful and outrageous acts.

Verse 3. And cause me to behold grievance] amal,

labour, toil, distress, misery, &c., the common fruits of sin.

Verse 4. The law is slacked] They pay no attention to it; it has

lost all its vigour, its restraining and correcting power, it is

not executed; right judgment is never pronounced; and the poor

righteous man complains in vain that he is grievously oppressed by

the wicked, and by those in power and authority. That the utmost

depravity prevailed in the land of Judah is evident from these

verses; and can we wonder, then, that God poured out such signal

judgments upon them? When judgment doth not proceed from the seat

of judgment upon earth, it will infallibly go forth from the

throne of judgment in heaven.

Verse 5. Behold ye among the heathen] Instead of baggoyim,

among the nations or heathen, some critics think we should read

bogedim, transgressors; and to the same purpose the

Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic have read; and thus it is quoted

by St. Paul, Ac 13:41. But neither this, nor any tantamount

reading, is found in any of the MSS. yet collated. Newcome

translates, "See, ye transgressors, and behold a wonder, and


I will work a work in your days] As he is speaking of the

desolation that should be produced by the Chaldeans, it follows,

as Bp. Newcome has justly observed, that the Chaldeans invaded

Judah whilst those were living whom the prophet addressed.

Which ye will not believe] Nor did they, after all the

declarations of various prophets. They still supposed that God

would not give them up into the hands of their enemies, though

they continued in their abominations!

It is evident that St. Paul, in the above place, accommodates

this prediction to his own purpose. And possibly this sense might

have been the intention of the Divine Spirit when he first spoke

the words to the prophet; for, as God works in reference to

eternity, so he speaks in reference to the same; and therefore

there is an infinity of meaning in his WORD. These appear to be

the words of God in answer to the prophet, in which he declares he

will entirely ruin this wicked people by means of the Chaldeans.

Verse 6. That bitter and hasty nation] Cruel and oppressive in

their disposition; and prompt and speedy in their assaults and


Verse 7. Their judgment-shall proceed of themselves.] By

revolting from the Assyrians, they have become a great nation.

Thus, their judgment and excellence were the result of their own

valour. Other meanings are given to this passage.

Verse 8. Their horses also are swifter than the leopards] The

Chaldean cavalry are proverbial for swiftness, courage, &c. In

Jeremiah, Jer 4:13, it is said, speaking of Nebuchadnezzar, "His

chariots are as a whirlwind; his horses are swifter than eagles."

Oppian, speaking of the horses bred about the Euphrates, says,

"They are by nature warhorses, and so intrepid that neither the

sight nor the roaring of the lion appals them; and, besides, they

are astonishingly fleet."

The leopard, of all quadrupeds, is allowed to be the swiftest.

The evening wolves] The wolf is remarkable for his quick sight.

AElian says, οξυωτεστατονεστιζωονκαιμεντοικαινυκτοςκαι

σεληνηςουκουσηςοδεορα; "The wolf is a very fleet animal; and,

besides, it can see by night, even when there is no moonlight."

Some think the hyaena is meant: it is a swift, cruel, and

untameable animal. The other prophets speak of the Chaldeans in

the same way. See De 28:49; Jer 48:40; 49:22; Eze 17:5;

La 4:19.

Verse 9. Their faces shall sup up as the east wind] This may be

an allusion to those electrical winds which prevail in that

country. Mr. Jackson, in his overland journey from India, mentions

his having bathed in the Tigris. On his coming out of the river

one of those winds passed over him, and, in a moment, carried off

every particle of water that was on his body and in his bathing

dress. So, the Chaldeans shall leave no substance behind them;

their faces, their bare appearance, is the proof that nothing good

shall be left.

Shall gather the captivity as the sand.] They shall carry off

innumerable captives.

Verse 10. They shall scoff at the kings] No power shall be able

to stand before them. It will be only as pastime to them to take

the strongest places. They will have no need to build formidable

ramparts: by sweeping the dust together they shall make mounts

sufficient to pass over the walls and take the city.

Verse 11. Then shall his mind change] This is thought to relate

to the change which took place in Nebuchadnezzar, when "a beast's

heart was given to him," and he was "driven from the dwellings of

men." And this was because of his offending-his pride and

arrogance; and his attributing all his success, &c., to his idols.

Verse 12. Art thou not frown everlasting] The idols change, and

their worshippers change and fail: but thou, Jehovah, art eternal;

thou canst not change, and they who trust in thee are safe. Thou

art infinite in thy mercy; therefore, "we shall not die," shall

not be totally exterminated.

Thou hast ordained them for judgment] Thou hast raised up the

Chaldeans to correct and punish us; but thou hast not given them a

commission to destroy us totally.

Instead of lo namuth, "we shall not die," Houbigant

and other critics, with a little transposition of letters, read

El emeth, "God of truth;" and then the verse will stand

thus: "Art thou not from everlasting, O Jehovah, my God, my Holy

One? O Jehovah, GOD OF TRUTH, thou hast appointed them for

judgment." But this emendation, however elegant, is not supported

by any MS.; nor, indeed, by any of the ancient versions, though

the Chaldee has something like it. The common reading makes a very

good sense.

Verse 13. Thou art of purer eyes] Seeing thou art so pure, and

canst not look on iniquity-it is so abominable-how canst thou bear

with them who "deal treacherously, and hold thy tongue when the

wicked devour the righteous?" All such questions are easily solved

by a consideration of God's ineffable mercy, which leads him to

suffer long and be kind. He has no pleasure in the death of a


Verse 14. Makest men as the fishes of the sea] Easily are we

taken and destroyed. We have no leader to guide us, and no power

to defend ourselves. Nebuchadnezzar is here represented as a

fisherman, who is constantly casting his nets into the sea, and

enclosing multitudes of fishes; and, being always successful, he

sacrifices to his own net-attributes all his conquests to his own

power and prudence; not considering that he is only like a net

that after having been used for a while, shall at last be thrown

by as useless, or burnt in the fire.

Verse 16. They sacrifice unto their net] He had no God; he cared

for none; and worshipped only his armour and himself. King

Mezentius, one of the worst characters in the AEneid of Virgil,

is represented as invoking his own right hand and his spear in

battle. AEn. x. 773.

Dextra mihi Deus, et telum quod missile libro,

Nunc adsint.

"My strong right hand and sword, assert my stroke.

Those only gods Mezentius will invoke."


And Capaneus, in Statius, gives us a more decisive proof of this

self-idolatry. Thebaid, lib. x.

Ades, O mihi dextera tantum

Tu praeses belli, et inevitabile Numen,

Te voco, te solum Superum contemptor adoro.

"Only thou, my right hand, be my aid; I contemn the gods, and

adore thee as the chief in battle, and the irresistible deity."

The poet tells us that, for his impiety, Jupiter slew him with


This was an ancient idolatry in this country, and has existed

till within about a century. There are relics of it in different

parts of Europe; for when military men bind themselves to

accomplish any particular purpose, it is usual to lay their hand

upon their sword: but formerly they kissed it, when swearing by

it. With most heroes, the sword is both their Bible and their God.

To the present day it is a custom among the Hindoos annually to

worship the implements of their trades. See WARD.

Verse 17. And not spare continually to slay the nations?] They

are running from conquest to conquest; burning, slaying, sacking,

and slaughtering. Like the fishermen, who throw cast after cast

while any fish are to be caught, so Nebuchadnezzar is destroying

one nation after another. This last sentence explains the allegory

of the net.

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