The Word of the Lord to Habakkuk

Chapter 2

To Habakkuk, waiting for an answer, is shown that he must wait by faith, 1-4. The judgment upon the Chaldean for insatiableness, 5-8, for covetousness, 9-11, for cruelty, 12-14, for drunkenness, 15-17, and for idolatry, 18-20.

1 I will stand upon my watch-post and seat myself upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say to me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved.

2 And the LORD answered me and said, "Write the vision and make it plain upon tablets, so that he may run who reads it.

3 For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie. Though it may linger, wait for it, because it will surely come. It will not delay.

4 Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him, but the just shall live by his faith.

5 And also, because he transgresses by wine, he is a proud man and does not rest. He enlarges his desire as hell, and is as death and cannot be satisfied. He gathers to himself all nations and collects to himself all people.

6 Shall all these not take up a parable against him and a taunting proverb against him, and say, 'Woe to him who increases that which is not his and to him who lades himself with thick clay! How long?'

7 Shall they not rise suddenly who bite you, and awake who disturb you, and you shall be for plunder to them?

8 Because you have laid waste many nations, all the remnant of the people shall lay you waste, because of men's blood and for the violence done to the land, to the city, and to all who dwell therein.

9 Woe to him who covets an evil gain for his house to set his nest on high to be delivered from the power of evil!

10 You have devised shame to your house by cutting off many people and have sinned against your soul.

11 For the stone shall cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber shall answer it.

12 Woe to him who builds a town with blood and establishes a city by iniquity!

13 Behold, is it not from the LORD of hosts that the people labor in the fire and the people weary themselves for vanity?

14 For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.

15 Woe to him who gives his neighbor drink, pouring out your bottle to him, and also making him drunk, so that you may look at their nakedness!

16 You are filled with shame and not glory. You shall also drink and let your uncircumcision be uncovered. The cup of the LORD'S right hand shall be turned to you, and shameful vomiting shall be on your glory.

17 For the violence done to Lebanon shall overwhelm you, and the destruction of the beasts that made them afraid, because of men's blood and for the violence done to the land, to the city, and to all who dwell therein.

18 What profit is the engraved image when its maker has engraved it—the molten image and a teacher of lies—that the maker trusts in what he has formed, making mute idols?

19 Woe to him who says to the wood, 'Awake,' to the mute stone, 'Arise.' It shall teach! Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver and there is no breath at all in the midst of it.

20 But the LORD is in his holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before him."


Matthew Henry Commentary - Habakkuk, Chapter 2


John Gill's Chapter Summary:

This chapter contains an answer from the Lord to the expostulations, pleadings, and reasonings of the prophet, in the name of the people. The preparation of the prophet to receive this answer is described (verse 1); then follows the answer itself, in which he is bid to write and make plain the vision he had, that it might be easily read (verse 2); and a promise is made, that vision should still be continued to the appointed time, at which time the Messiah would come; and this the righteous man, in opposition to the vain and proud man, is encouraged to live in the faith of (verses 3-4); and then the destruction of the enemies of the people of God is threatened for their pride, ambition, covetousness, oppression, and murder (verses 5-12); which would be unavoidable (verse 13); and issue in the spread of the knowledge of the glory of God in the world (verse 14); and also the ruin of other enemies is threatened, for drawing men into apostasy, and for their violence and idolatry (verses 15-19); upon which would follow an universal silence in the earth (verse 20).

[v.1] - "what he will say to me" - Or, "what God will say to me." Reference, Psalm 85:8.

[v.2] - "so that he may run who reads it" - This passage can easily be misunderstood. The Pulpit Commentary concisely explained it like this: "everyone who reads it may run, that is, read fluently and easily." Matthew Poole gave this explanation: "that none may need to make a stop, but hold on his course; in the greatest haste of business, everyone may plainly and clearly discern what is written." John Gill explained it further (John Calvin gave a similar explanation): "may run through the whole without any difficulty, without making any stop, being written in such large capital letters; and those cut so well, and made so plain, that a man might run it over at once with ease, or even read it as he was running; nor need he stop his pace, or stand to read." Matthew Henry gave application for this passage: "Now the prophet is told to write this very plain. Note, Those who are employed in preaching the word of God should study plainness as much as may be, so as to make themselves intelligible to the meanest capacities. The things of our everlasting peace, which God has written to us, are made plain, they are all plain to him who understands (Proverbs 8:9), and they are published with authority; God himself has prefixed his imprimatur (i.e., a declaration authorizing publication of a book, or, mark of approval, endorsement) to them; he has said, Make them plain."

[v.3a] - "Though it may linger, wait for it" - Reference, Genesis 49:18.

[v.3b] - "It will not delay" - Or, "It will not be postponed."

[v.3c] - Quoted in Hebrews 10:37.

John Calvin's Prayer for Verses 1-3:

Grant, Almighty God, that as you see us laboring under so much weakness, even with our minds so blinded that our faith falters at the smallest perplexities, and almost fails altogether,— O grant that by the power of your Spirit we may be raised up above this world, and learn more and more to renounce our own counsels, and so to come to you, that we may stand fixed in our watch-tower, ever hoping, through your power, for whatever you have promised to us, though tyou should not immediately make it manifest to us that you have faithfully spoken; and may we thus give full proof of our faith and patience, and proceed in the course of our warfare, until at length we ascend, above all watch-towers, into that blessed rest, where we shall no more watch with an attentive mind, but see, face to face, in your image, whatever can be wished, and whatever is needful for our perfect happiness, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

[v.4a] - "Behold, his soul which is lifted up, is not upright in him" - An alternate rendering of this verse could be, "Behold, his soul which has fainted, is not right within him." The argument for this rendering, as said by John Owen, comes from the connection of this verse with the previous verse. In the previous verse, there is an exhortation to persevere and not give up, for the vision is said to surely come, though it may delay. Pride, or a lifted up soul, does not contrast with that. However, fainting does. If a soul faints, it has lost hope or given up (i.e., it lacks faith), and therefore, that soul is not right. This form of speech, that of contrasting statements, is common among the prophets.

[v.4b] - Quoted in Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38.

John Calvin's Prayer for Verse 4:

Grant, Almighty God, that as the corruption of our flesh ever leads us to pride and vain confidence, we may be illuminated by your word, so as to understand how great and how grievous is our poverty, and be thus taught wholly to deny ourselves, and so to present ourselves naked before you, that we may not hope for righteousness or for salvation from any other source than from your mercy alone, nor seek any rest but only in Christ; and may we cleave to you by the sacred and inviolable bond of faith, that we may boldly despise all those empty boastings by which the ungodly exult over us, and that we may also so cast ourselves down in true humility, that thereby we may be carried upward above all heavens, and become partakers of that eternal life which your only begotten Son has purchased for us by his own blood. Amen.

[v.5] - "does not rest" - That is, does not rest at home. Literally, "abide," or, "dwell." The idea is that the proud will not be satisfied to the full. From the Pulpit Commentary: "His pride is always impelling him to new raids and conquests. This is quite the character of the later Chaldeans, and is consistent with the latter part of the verse. The comparison, then, is this: As wine raises the spirits and excites men to great efforts which in the end deceive them, so pride rouses these men to go on their insatiate course of conquest, which shall one day prove their ruin."

[v.6] - "lades himself with thick clay" - From John Calvin's Commentary: "A general truth is to be drawn from this expression—that all the avaricious, the more they heap together, the more they lade themselves, and, as it were, bury themselves under a great load. Why is this? Because riches, acquired by frauds and plunders, are nothing else than a heavy and cumbrous lump of earth: for God returns on the heads of those who thus seek to enrich themselves, whatever they have plundered from others. Had they been contented with some moderate portion, they might have lived cheerfully and happily, as we see to be the case with all the godly; who though they possess but little, are yet cheerful, for they live in hope, and know that their supplies are in God's hand, and expect everything from his blessing. Hence, then, their cheerfulness, because they have no anxious fears. But those who inebriate themselves with riches, find that they carry a useless burden, under which they lie down, as it were, sunk and buried."

John Calvin's Prayer for Verses 5-6:

Grant, Almighty God, that as you deign so far to condescend as to sustain the care of this life, and to supply us with whatever is needful for our pilgrimage,— O grant that we may learn to rely on you, and so to trust to your blessing, as to abstain not only from all plunder and other evil deeds, but also from every unlawful coveting; and to continue in your fear, and so to learn also to bear our poverty on the earth, that being content with those spiritual riches which you offer to us in your gospel, and of which you make us now partakers, we may ever cheerfully aspire after that fullness of all blessings which we shall enjoin when at length we shall reach the celestial kingdom, and be perfectly united to you, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

[v.8a] - "shall lay you waste" - Or, "shall plunder you."

[v.8b] - "because of men's blood" - That is, because of the shedding of men's blood.

[v.9] - "power" - Literally, "hand."

[v.11a] - "timber" - Or, "woodwork."

[v.11b] - "answer it" - That is, witness against it.

[v.13] - "that the people labor in the fire, and the people weary themselves for vanity" - These two statements are connected in their meaning, for, to labor in the fire is to weary oneself for vanity. Matthew Henry gave a good explanation of this passage by saying, "Is it not of the Lord of hosts that the people who have labored so hard to defend that city shall labor in the very fire, shall see the out-works which they confided in the strength of set on fire, and shall labor in vain to save them? Or they, in their pursuits of worldly wealth and honor, put themselves to great fatigue, and ran a great hazard, as those who labor in the fire do. The worst that can be said of the laborers in God's vineyards is that they have borne the burden and heat of the day (Matthew 20:12); but those who are eager in their worldly pursuits labor in the very fire, make themselves perfect slaves to their lusts."

[v.14] - "For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD" - This can also be read as, "For the earth shall be filled by knowing the glory of the LORD."

John Calvin's Prayer for Verses 7-14:

Grant, Almighty God, that as we are so inclined to do wrong, that everyone is naturally disposed to consider his own private advantage,— O grant that we may confine ourselves by that restraint which you lay on us by your Prophets, so that we may not allow our coveting to break forth so as to commit wrong or iniquity, but confine ourselves within the limits of what is just, and abstain from what belongs to others: may we also so learn to console ourselves in all our distresses, that though we may be justly oppressed by the wicked, we may yet rely on your providence and righteous judgement, and patiently wait until you deliver us, and make it manifest that whatever the wicked devise for our ruin, so cleaves to themselves as to return and recoil at length on their own heads; and may we so fight under the banner of the Cross, as to possess our souls in patience, until we at length shall attain that blessed life which is laid up in heaven for us, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

[v.16] - "The cup of the LORD'S right hand shall be turned to you" - In other words, "You have made your neighbor drunk with wine and now God will do the same to you."

[v.17] - "because of men's blood" - See the note for verse 8.

[v.18a] - Reference, Isaiah 44:12-17, specifically verses 15-17.

[v.18b] - "the maker trusts in what he has formed" - Literally, "trusts the former of the form in it."

[v.19] - The English rendering of the Septuagint for the first half of this verse is, "Woe to him who says to the wood, 'Awake, arise;' and to the stone, 'Be exalted!'" Young's Literal Translation agrees with this. It says, "Woe to him who is saying to wood, 'Awake,' 'Stir up,' to a dumb stone, 'It [is] a teacher!'"

John Calvin's Prayer for Verses 15-19:

Grant, Almighty God, that as there is in us so little of right judgement, and as our minds are blind even at mid-day,— O grant, that your Spirit may always shine in us, and that being attentive to the light of your word, we may also keep to the right way through the whole course of our pilgrimage, and subject to you both ourselves and every action of our life, so that we may not be led by any allurements into the same ruin with the ungodly, who would deceive and entrap us, and who lie in wait on every side; but that being ruled by the counsel of your Spirit, we may beware of all their intrigues: and may we, especially as to our spiritual life, be so given up to you alone, as ever to keep ourselves far away from the defilements of all people, and so remain in the pure worship of your majesty, that the ungodly may never draw us away into the same delusions with themselves, by which Satan so mightily deceives them; but may we follow Him as our leader whom you would have to be our ruler, even Christ your Son, until he at length gathers us all into that celestial kingdom which he has purchased for us by his own blood. Amen.

[v.20] - Calvin's prayer for this verse is included with the first verse of the next chapter. Therefore, the prayer is in the next chapter.