Habakkuk 2


The prophet, waiting for a return to his expostulation, is

answered by God that the time for the destruction of the Jewish

polity by the Chaldeans is not only fixed in the Divine

counsel, but is awfully near; and he is therefore commanded to

write down the vision relative to this appalling subject in the

most legible characters, and in the plainest language, that all

who read it with attention (those just persons who exercise an

unwavering faith in the declaration of God respecting the

violent irruption of the merciless Babylonians) may flee from

the impending vengeance, 1-4.

The fall of the Chaldeans, and of their ambitious monarch is

then predicted, 5-10;

and, by a strong and bold personification, the very stone and

wood of those magnificent buildings, which the Babylonish king

had raised by oppression and bloodshed, pronounce his wo, and

in responsive taunts upbraid him, 11, 12.

The prophet then beautifully sets forth the absolute impotence

of every effort, however well conducted, which is not in

concert with the Divine counsel: for though the wicked rage,

and threaten the utter extermination of the people of God; yet

when the SET time to favour Zion is come, the destroyers of

God's heritage shall themselves be destroyed, and "the earth

shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God, as the

waters cover the sea," 13, 14.

See Ps 102:13-16.

For the cup of idolatry which Babylon has given to many

nations, she will receive of the Lord's hand the cup of fury by

the insurrection of mighty enemies (the Medes and Persians)

rushing like wild beasts to destroy her, 15.

In the midst of this distress the prophet very opportunely asks

in what the Babylonians had profited by their idols, exposes

the absurdity of trusting in them, and calls upon the whole

world to stand in awe of the everlasting Jehovah, 16-19.


Verse 1. I will stand upon my watch] The prophets are always

represented as watchmen, watching constantly for the comfort,

safety, and welfare of the people; and watching also to receive

information from the Lord: for the prophetic influence was not

always with them, but was granted only at particular times,

according to the will of God. When, in doubtful cases, they wished

to know what God was about to do with the country, they retired

from society and gave themselves to meditation and prayer, waiting

thus upon God to hear what he would say IN them.

What he will say unto me] bi, IN me-in my understanding and


And what I shall answer when I am reproved.] What I shall say to

God in behalf of the people; and what the Lord shall command me to

say to the people. Some translate, "And what he will answer for my

conviction." Or, "what shall be answered to my pleading."

Verse 2. Write the vision] Carefully take down all that I shall


Make it plain upon tables] Write it in a full plain, legible


That he may run that readeth it.] That he who attentively

peruses it may speed to save his life from the irruption of the

Chaldeans, by which so many shall be cut off. The prophet does not

mean that the words are to be made so plain, that a man running by

may easily read them, and catch their meaning. This interpretation

has been frequently given; and it has been incautiously applied to

the whole of the Bible: "God's book is so plain, that he that runs

may read;" but it is very foolish: God never intends that his

words shall be understood by the careless. He that reads, studies,

meditates, and prays, shall understand every portion of this

sacred book that relates immediately to his own salvation. But no

trifler can understand it. If the contents of a play-bill were

to be read as many read the Bible, they would know just as much of

the one as they do of the other.

Verse 3. The vision is yet for an appointed time] The Chaldeans,

who are to ruin Judea, shall afterwards be ruined themselves: but

they must do this work before they receive their wages; therefore

the vision is for an appointed time. But at the end it shall

speak. When his work of devastation is done, his day of

retribution shall take place.

Though it tarry] Though it appear to be long, do not be

impatient; it will surely come; it will not tarry longer than the

prescribed time, and this time is not far distant. Wait for it.

Verse 4. Behold, his soul which is lifted up] Hee that presumes

on his safety without any special warrant from God, is a proud

man; and whatever he may profess, or think of himself, his mind

is not upright in him. But he that is just by faith shall live-he

that believes what God hath said relative to the Chaldeans

besieging Jerusalem, shall make his escape from the place, and

consequently shall save his life. The words in the New Testament

are accommodated to the salvation which believers in Christ shall

possess. Indeed, the just-the true Christians, who believed in

Jesus Christ's words relative to the destruction of Jerusalem,

when they found the Romans coming against it, left the city, and

escaped to Pella in Coelesyria, and did live-their lives were

saved: while the unbelieving Jews, to a man, either perished or

were made slaves. One good sense is, He that believes the promises

of God, and has found life through believing, shall live by his


Verse 5. Because he transgresseth by wine] From the present

translation, it is not easy to see either reason or meaning in the

first clause of this verse. Newcome translates, "Moreover, as a

mighty man transgresseth through wine, he is proud, and remaineth

not at rest." Houbigant thus: "For he, though he be a despiser,

and powerful, and proud, yet shall he not have rest."

Nebuchadnezzar is here represented in his usual character,

proud, haughty, and ambitious; inebriated with his successes,

and determined on more extensive conquests; and, like the grave,

can never have enough: yet, after the subjugation of many peoples

and nations, he shall be brought down, and become so despicable

that he shall be a proverb of reproach, and be taunted and scorned

by all those whom he had before enslaved.

And cannot be satisfied] When he has obtained all that is within

his reach, he wishes for more; and becomes miserable, because any

limits are opposed to his insatiable ambition. It is said of


Unus Pellaeo juveni non sufficit orbis;

AEstuat infelix angusto limite mundi.

Juv. Sat. x. 168.

One world sufficed not Alexander's mind;

Coop'd up, he seem'd on earth and seas confined.

And the poet justly ridicules him, because at last the

sarcophagus was found too large for his body!

Verse 6. Shall not all these take up a parable against him] His

ambition, derangement, and the final destruction of his mighty

empire by the Persians, shall form the foundation of many

sententious sayings among the people. "He who towered so high,

behold how low he is fallen!" "He made himself a god; behold, he

herds with the beasts of the field!" "The disturber of the peace

of the world is now a handful of dust!"

Verse 7. Shall they not rise up suddenly] Does not this refer to

the sudden and unexpected taking of Babylon by Cyrus, whose troops

entered into the city through the bed of the Euphrates, whose

waters they had diverted by another channel; so that the

Babylonians knew nothing of the matter till they saw the Persian

soldiers rise up as in a moment, in the very heart of their city?

Verse 8. For the violence of the land] Or, for the violence

done to the land of Judea, and to the city of Jerusalem.

Verse 9. An evil covetousness to his house] Nebuchadnezzar

wished to aggrandize his family, and make his empire permanent:

but both family and empire were soon cut off by the death of his

son Belshazzar, and the consequent destruction of the Chaldean


Verse 10. Hast sinned against thy soul.] Thy life is forfeited

by thy crimes.

Verse 11. The stone shall cry out of the wall, and the beam out

of the timber shall answer it.] This appears to refer to the

ancient mode of building walls; two or three courses of stone,

and then one course of timber. See 1Ki 6:36: thus was the

palace of Solomon built. The splendid and costly buildings of

Babylon have been universally celebrated. But how were these

buildings erected? By the spoils of conquered nations, and the

expense of the blood of multitudes; therefore the stones and the

timber are represented as calling out for vengeance against this

ruthless conqueror.

Verse 12. Wo to him that buildeth a town with blood] At the

expense of much slaughter. This is the answer of the beam to the

stone. And these things will refer to the vast fortunes gained,

and the buildings erected, by means of the slave-trade; where, to

a considerate and humane mind, the walls appear as if composed of

the bones of negroes, and cemented by their blood! But the

towns or houses established by this iniquity soon come to ruin;

and the fortunes made have, in most cases, become as chaff and

dust before the whirlwind of God's indignation. But where are the

dealers in the souls and bodies of men? Ask him who has them in

his keeping. He can tell.

Verse 13. The people shall labour in the very fire] All these

superb buildings shall be burnt down. See the parallel passage,

Jer 51:58, and the note there.

Shall weary themselves for very vanity?] For the gratification

of the wishes of ambition, and in buildings which shall be brought

to naught.

Verse 14. For the earth shall be filled] This is a singular and

important verse. It may be first applied to Babylon. God's power

and providence shall be widely displayed in the destruction of

this city and empire, in the humiliation of Nebuchadnezzar,

Da 4:37, and in the captivity and restoration of his people.

See Newcome, and see Isa 11:9.

Secondly. It may be applied to the glorious days of the Messiah.

The land of Judea should by his preaching, and that of his

disciples, be filled with the knowledge of God. God's great design

fully discovered, and the scheme of salvation amply explained.

Thirdly. It may be applied to the universal spread of the Gospel

over the habitable globe; when the fulness of the Gentiles should

be brought in, and the Jews gathered in with that fulness. The

earth cannot perish till every continent, island, and

inhabitant, is illuminated with the light of the Gospel.

Verse 15. Wo unto him that giveth his neighbour drink] This has

been considered as applying to Pharaoh-hophra, king of Egypt, who

enticed his neighbours Jehoiachin and Zedekiah to rebel against

Nebuchadnezzar, whereby the nakedness and imbecility of the poor

Jews was soon discovered; for the Chaldeans soon took Jerusalem,

and carried its kings, princes, and people, into captivity.

Verse 16. The cup of the Lord's right hand] Among the ancients,

all drank out of the same cup; was passed from hand to hand, and

each drank as much as he chose. The Chaldeans gave to the

neighbouring nations the cup of idolatry and of deceitful

alliance: and in return they received from the Lord the cup of

his fury. So Grotius.

Verse 17. For the violence of Lebanon] Or, the violence done to

Lebanon; to men, to cattle, to Judea, and to Jerusalem.

See the note on the parallel place, Hab 2:8. This may be a

threatening against Egypt, as the former was against Chaldea.

Verse 18. What profiteth the graven image] This is against

idolatry in general, and every species of it, as well as against

those princes, priests, and people who practice it, and encourage

others to do the same. See on the parallel passages in the margin.

Dumb idols?] elilim illemim, "dumb nothings."

This is exactly agreeable to St. Paul, 1Co 8:4, who says, "An

idol is nothing in the world." What signify the idols worshipped

by the Chaldeans, Tyrians, and Egyptians? They have not been able

to save their worshippers.

Verse 19. Wo unto him] How foolish and contemptible to worship a

thing formed by the hand of man out of wood, stone, gold, or

silver! The meanest brute is superior to them all; it breathes

and lives, but they have no breath in them. However, they are said

above to be teachers of lies; that is, they appeared to give out

oracles: but these were lies; and were not given by the statue,

but by the priest.

Verse 20. The Lord is in his holy temple] Jehovah has his

temple, the place where he is to be worshipped; but there

there is no image. Oracles, however, are given forth; and every

word of them is truth, and is fulfilled in its season. And this

temple and its worship are holy; no abomination can be practiced

there, and every thing in it leads to holiness of heart and life.

Let all the earth keep silence before him.] Let all be dumb. Let

none of them dare to open their mouths in the presence of Jehovah.

He alone is Sovereign. He alone is the arbiter of life and death.

Let all hear his commands with the deepest respect, obey them with

the promptest diligence, and worship him with the most profound

reverence. When an Asiatic sovereign goes to the mosque on any of

the eastern festivals, such as the Bairham, the deepest silence

reigns among all his retinue, viziers, foreign ambassadors, &c.

They all bow respectfully before him; but no word is spoken, no

sound uttered. It is to this species of reverence that the prophet

alludes, and with this he concludes the prophetic part of this

book. What God has threatened or promised, that he will fulfil.

Let every soul bow before him, and submit to his authority.

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