Habakkuk 2 - Outline of Habakkuk (Book Notes menu page)
1. I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower,
and will watch to see what he will say unto me,
and what I shall answer when I am reproved.
Verse 1 is the conclusion of Habakkuk's second prayer (Hab 1:12- 2:1).
See the Book Notes for chapter 1, for comments on this verse.
2 And the LORD answered me, and said,
Write the vision, and make [it] plain upon tables,
that he may run that readeth it.
3 For the vision [is] yet for an appointed time,
but at the end it shall speak, and not lie:
though it tarry, wait for it;
because it will surely come, it will not tarry.
...the LORD answered me...-
The remainder of ch. 2 is God's answer to Habakkuk's second perplexing problem.
...Write the vision...-
Habakkuk was instructed to record the vision {ie., the prophetic oracle}, for two reasons:
  1. ...that he may run that readeth it.-
    The message was to be clearly recorded, so that messengers, subsequent to Habakkuk, would accurately declare God's Word. The messenger must know what is written before he can read it {ie., recite, call it out} to others. No one is ready to run for God, until they are prepared with His Word (2Tim 2:15; 3:16,17).
  2. ...for the vision is yet for an appointed time...-
    We are not told how long Habakkuk waited for the LORD's answer. But when the answer came, it required further waiting, because it applied to a yet future time. The message had to be written to preserve it for generations to come... especially for the generation at the "appointed time... at the end."
       God's Word is true. It will not 'lie' {HB=kazah, deceive, disappoint, fail}. In the eyes of men, the time may be long in coming. But those who trust the LORD will wait for Him to fulfill His Word, just as Habakkuk waited for, and received, God's answer. 2Pet 3:3-13
4 Behold, his soul [which] is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.
This is the key verse in Habakkuk. It is also a key to understanding God's dealings with mankind.
With very few words, this verse places every human into one of two categories, in God's view:
  • not right - The soul that is lifted up {ie., puffed up, proud} is not upright {HB=yashar, right, straight, just, lawful}.-
    The natural state of every man is self-focused pride. From our mouths, as babes, we declared our self-centered condition, with our first words 'No,' 'Me,' 'Mine...' Through the discipline and training of our elders, most of us learn to throttle our inward tendencies, so that our efforts at self-advancement are not detrimental, and may even be beneficial, to society. But inwardly, the natural man takes pride in his own way, while disregarding God's way (Prov 14:12)... Should God be impressed with me, while I am puffed up with my self-righteousness, and reject the righteousness that He has provided (Rom 10:3)? No. In my pride, I am not 'upright' in His eyes.
  • right - The just {HB=tsaddiq, righteous} shall live by his faith...-
    The last half of v.4 is quoted three times in the NT, each time with a slightly different emphasis on what it means to 'live by faith.'
    • Rom 1:16,17 - The just receive spiritual life 'by faith.'
      The natural state of every man is 'dead in trespasses and sins.' Separated by our sins from the Holy God, who alone has life in Himself, we are under the sentence of eternal death. In my natural prideful sinful state, any claim of self-righteousness falls unacceptably short of His standard. Salvation {deliverance}, from my 'not upright' condition, requires a 'righteousness from God,' for I cannot provide my own.
         God made true righteousness available to all, by means of Christ's sacrificial death to take away our sin, and by His resurrection in eternal life free of sin. This righteousness is freely imputed to all who believe God's Word, humble themselves in repentance of their sinful condition, and place their trust in the Savior. Thus, the 'just' are justified (made right in God's sight) by faith, and are no longer separated from Him (Rom 3:19-26; 5:1). Having been reconciled to the ever-living One, by faith, those who believe receive eternal life (Joh 3:16; 1Joh 5:9-12).
    • Gal 3:11 - For the just, the way of life is 'by faith.' (See Gal 3:2,3 for context.)
      The fleshly nature can neither justify itself before God, nor can it live to please Him (Rom 8:5-9). The person who has received true righteousness and eternal life, through faith in Christ, is also to live by faith in Him (Gal 2:20). The 'just' are enabled to live in a way that pleases God, not by their own fleshly abilities, but by faith in Him, who powerfully works within us by His Spirit.
    • Heb 10:35-39 - The just patiently endure difficulty, by faith.
      Confronted by persecution, personal troubles, unanswered questions, etc., the person who is confident of the certainty of God's Word, continues to serve Him, by faith. There is a blessed assurance in knowing that God's promises are sure. (See the many examples of God's people who endured by faith, in Hebrews ch. 11.) The just wait for the 'better things' which God has provided for those who trust Him.
    In summary of v.4... To those who believe God, He gives true righteousness and eternal life.
    But those, who disparage God's Word, refusing to humbly turn to Him for salvation, have chosen the way of death.
       "Without faith it is impossible to please God" (Heb 11:6). Therefore, Paul warned his hearers against the danger of unbelief (eg., in Acts 13:37-41, where the last verse quotes from Hab 1:5.)
The remainder of this chapter (Habakkuk ch.2) looks closely at the condition of the unjust, and the woeful consequences that will befall them.
5. Yea also, because he transgresseth by wine,
[he is] a proud man, neither keepeth at home,
who enlargeth his desire as hell
{HB=sheol, the grave},
and [is] as death, and cannot be satisfied,
but gathereth unto him all nations, and heapeth unto him all people:
Here are a few characteristics of one who is 'not upright,' and therefore, worthy of judgment.
Habakkuk would recognize these as applying first to Babylon (Hab 1:6,12).
  • he transgresses {ie., acts treacherously, deceitfully} by wine...-
    Habakkuk had complained that Babylon could not be trusted (1:13). Apparently, abuse of alcohol was a factor in their disregard of their agreements with other nations (cf. Prov 31:4,5), and of their eventual downfall (Jer 51:39,40; Dan 5:1-4,23,30-31).
  • he is proud {ie., arrogant} - Hab 1:6,7
  • neither keepeth at home - Not content with their own possessions,
    they were eager to conquer other nations. Hab 1:8-10
  • enlarges his desire... cannot be satisfied... heapeth unto him all people...-
    Like the grave and death, their greedy appetite was insatiable (1:14-17).
What consequences are fitting for a nation in such a condition?
Five 'woes' are proclaimed upon the wicked, in the remainder of the chapter.
6 Shall not all these take up a parable against him,
and a taunting proverb against him, and say,
Woe to him that increaseth [that which is] not his! how long?
and to him that ladeth himself with thick clay!
7 Shall they not rise up suddenly that shall bite thee, and awake that shall vex thee,
and thou shalt be for booties
{ie., booty, spoil, plunder} unto them?
8 Because thou hast spoiled many nations,
all the remnant of the people shall spoil thee; because of men's blood,
and [for] the violence of the land, of the city, and of all that dwell therein.
Woe... - {HB=hoh'ee, alas!, oh!} This is the sound of sudden and surprised realization of great loss.
  • ...to him that increases {lit., multiplies to himself} that which is not his! How long?
    The Babylonians would spoil many nations. They would violently take possessions belonging to others. But they would not hold them for long. In the meantime, the people whom they had oppressed and dispossessed would wonder: 'How long?' (Psa 6:3).
    Likewise, during the Tribulation, when God's people will suffer intense persecution under the final form of Gentile world dominion (also called 'Babylon'), the oppressed saints, will cry out 'How long...? (Rev 6:9,10)
  • ...to him that ladeth himself with 'thick clay' {HB='abtiyt, a 'heavy pledge' for a debt}...
    (The KJV rendering 'thick clay,' is from the Latin Vulgate.)
    Referring back to the Hebrew text, the NKJV renders v.6...
    Will not all these take up a proverb against him,
    And a taunting riddle against him, and say,
    'Woe to him who increases what is not his -- how long?
    And to him who loads himself with many pledges?'
    The thought is that Babylon's ill-gotten gain must be repaid with interest.
    At their soonest opportunity, the victimized nations will retake their stolen goods, and more.
    At v.7, the NKJV reads:
    Will not your creditors {lit., 'those who bite you'} rise up suddenly?
    Will they not awaken who oppress you?
    And you will become their booty {ie., their spoil}.
       [explanatory words in {brackets} supplied by the editor.]
    Babylon would reap what they had sown. Having plundered they would be plundered. Having used violence against nations, cities and peoples, they would suddenly suffer similar violence. This was fulfilled when the Medes and Persians conquered Babylon on the night of Belshazzar's drunken party, with the vessels stolen from the Temple in Jerusalem (Daniel ch. 5).
9 Woe to him that coveteth an evil covetousness to his house,
that he may set his nest on high,
that he may be delivered from the power of evil!
10 Thou hast consulted shame to thy house by cutting off many people,
and hast sinned [against] thy soul.
11 For the stone shall cry out of the wall,
and the beam out of the timber shall answer it.
ie., Woe to him that seeks gain through evil {HB=ra', hurtful, wicked} means,
in order to preserve his house {household, including family and possessions} from evil {HB=ra', hurt, harm, calamity}. Those who feather their nests with substance plucked from their neighbors, are following an ill-devised plan. While they take counsel with one another to ensure the well-being of their own family, their crimes will cause their own undoing. Rather than being exalted on high, they and their families will suffer 'shame' {ie., disappointment, be disconcerted}.
     Babylon was cutting off {destroying} other peoples to secure their own future. Some in Judah were guilty of similar selfishness (eg., Hab 1:2-4; Mic 2:1,2).
     None of the evil doers would escape the LORD's judgment. The ruins of cities and houses bore witness to their crimes. The abundance of burned timbers confirmed the witness of stones, cast down from buildings and city walls.
12 Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood, and stablisheth a city by iniquity!
13 Behold, [is it] not of the LORD of hosts that the people shall labour in the very fire,
and the people shall weary themselves for very vanity?
14 For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD,
as the waters cover the sea.
Woe to him the buildeth a town with blood... and... iniquity.
Nebuchadnezzar boasted: "Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?" (Dan 4:30). But how did he build it? By tearing down and destroying many nations and their people. In his selfish pride, Nebuchadnezzar regarded war and bloodshed as good and constructive tools for his own glory.
     Likewise, the rulers of Judah were also guilty of advancing themselves at the expense of their neighbors' lives (eg., Jer 22:11-17; Mic 3:1-3).
Behold, [is it] not of the LORD of hosts... for the earth shall be filled
with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea. (v.13,14)
The LORD of hosts {Jehovah-Sabaoth, the ever-living One who commands the armies of heaven} will deal with sinful mankind in such a way that His glory will be known throughout the earth. The LORD of hosts is the King of Glory (Psa 24:7-10), in two senses (as mentioned in the Psalm):
     (1) He is "strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle" against His foes.
     (2) He is the victorious One, who brings His hosts home with Him.
These two senses are also present, here, in v.13, because the verse can be read in two ways, depending on the placement of the italicized [bracketed] words, which were supplied by the KJV translators...
  1. Behold, is it not of the LORD...?
    Is it not of the LORD {ie., a judgment from Him}?... that unbelieving people and nations devote themselves to toil for riches (v.6,9,12) which will be burned up, and amount to nothing? (Psa 39:6; 2Pet 3:10)
       Is it not of the LORD?... that He allows wicked men to destroy one another? Is it not a principle established by the LORD, that men reap the wickedness that they sow? Yes. It is... Jam 4:1,2; Gal 6:7,8; Isa 50:11
       Is it not of the LORD?... that His glory will be known on earth, when the Messiah comes to take vengeance on His enemies, as He begins to establish His Millennial Kingdom?

    Examples of the LORD's glory in judgment...
    • Num 14:20-24 - The LORD's glory was made known in His judgment of rebellious Israelites, who died during the forty years in the wilderness, due to their unbelief.
    • Isa 63:1-6 - The glorious Judge will tread His enemies under foot,
      when He comes at the end of the Tribulation period.
    • Isa 11:4-5,9 - The Messiah's judgments (vs.4-5) precede and ensure His peace (v.9).
    • Zech 14:1-5,8-11,20-21 - He will fight Israel's enemies (v.1-5) before reigning in peace and holiness (v.8-11,20-21).
    • Joel 3:16,17; Zeph 3:8.
  2. Behold, it is not of the LORD...!
    It is not the LORD's desire for mankind to labor for things that perish, or to perish in the fires of war and judgment (2Pet 3:9).
       The glory of the LORD will be known, in the Kingdom of the Messiah, when His people will live in peace and holiness, for the purpose of serving Him. Mic 4:1-4; Psa 72:2,19; Isa 11:9; Zech 14:9-11
When the glory of the LORD is known in the earth, mankind begins to understand who He is. In the book of Ezekiel, the phrase "ye shall know that I am the LORD" occurs at least 19 times. That knowledge is revealed (1) through His judgment upon wicked men, both Jews and Gentiles (eg., Eze 6:7; 7:4,9), and also (2) through His future restoration of Israel (eg., Eze 36:36-38; 39:27-29).
15. Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink,
that puttest thy bottle to [him], and makest [him] drunken also,
that thou mayest look on their nakedness!
16 Thou art filled with shame for glory:
drink thou also, and let thy foreskin be uncovered:
the cup of the LORD'S right hand shall be turned unto thee,
and shameful spewing [shall be] on thy glory.
17 For the violence of Lebanon shall cover thee,
and the spoil of beasts, [which] made them afraid, because of men's blood,
and for the violence of the land, of the city, and of all that dwell therein.
Woe to him that giveth his neighbor drink... that thou mayest look on {ie., consider} their nakedness {ie., genital parts}...
In v.5, the abuse of alcohol was seen as a factor contributing to the self-serving conquests of one nation over another, with the consequent breakdown of international relationships. Here, it is seen as a personal tool, used purposely to initiate perverse sexual relationships.
Thou art filled with shame for glory...
Whereas the wicked take pride in their self-serving promiscuous freedoms, the LORD says the thing in which they glory is to their shame {disgrace}.
...let thy foreskin be uncovered... the cup of the LORD's right hand shall be turned unto thee...
If it was nakedness that they wanted, the LORD would uncover their 'uncircumcised' condition, by pouring the cup of His wrath upon them. Psa 75:8; Jer 25:15
     Circumcision, the symbolic cutting off of a piece of flesh, was the external mark of the LORD's covenant with Israel. The 'uncircumcised' were excluded from the covenant, and from right relationship with God. But so were the circumcised, whose hearts were not right with God (Deu 10:16; 30:6; Jer 4:4; Rom 2:28,29). To be His holy people, our inward beings must be cut-off from our fleshly sinful ways (Ex 19:5,6; cp. Titus 2:13,14; 1Pet 2:9).
     The LORD's judgment, upon those guilty of sexual perversions... especially those who professed to be His people... would bring...
...'shameful spewing' {ie., intense disgrace (an intensified form of 'shame' in v.16} upon thy glory...
...for the violence of Lebanon shall cover {or, overwhelm} thee...
This statement refers to judgment that would come upon Jerusalem. However, Judah and its capital city were under no threat from the country of Lebanon. Rather, that name is applied, here, to the Temple and its porches, which were built with timbers imported from Lebanon (1Kin 5:6; 7:2). The Temple was regarded as the 'glory' of Jerusalem. Yet, in judgment, the LORD would allow it to be violently destroyed, along with the land, the city and its people.
     From Habakkuk's perspective, this would apply to the Babylonian destruction of Solomon's Temple (in 586 BC). About a hundred years after that event, Zechariah used similar language, in foretelling the judgment upon the second Temple, by the Romans, in 70 AD (Zech 11:1-6).
...because of men's blood, and the violence of the land... city... all that dwell therein.
  • For these things, judgment would fall upon Jerusalem (Hab 1:2-4; Psa 55:2-5; Prov 28:17).
  • For these things, judgment would also come upon Babylon. The 'spoil of beasts' may refer to the other nations which would rise up to retake their spoil. v.8; Jer 50:28,29; 51:24-25,34-37
  • For these things, judgment will also overtake the final form of Gentile world dominion (also called 'Babylon'). Rev 18:20-24
18 What profiteth the graven image that the maker thereof hath graven it;
the molten image, and a teacher of lies,
that the maker of his work trusteth therein, to make dumb idols?
19 Woe unto him that saith to the wood, Awake;
to the dumb stone, Arise, it shall teach!
Behold, it [is] laid over with gold and silver,
and [there is] no breath at all in the midst of it.
Woe... [to those who trust in idols and false gods]
Babylon was an idolatrous nation.
     But under a series of ungodly kings, Israel and Judah had also turned from the LORD to serve the false gods of the heathen nations. The revival under king Josiah (about 40 years prior to Jerusalem's fall) briefly interrupted Judah's idolatrous worship. After his death, his successors turned again to idolatry.
     Today, most modern men recognize the futility of bowing to an statue of gold or silver. But to what do you devote your time and energy? What is your passion? What is your hope for the future? In what do you place your trust? Gold and silver, financial investments, technology, career, politics, possessions, sex... you name it... An idol can be anything that preoccupies your heart.
     What is your heart's desire?
The five 'Woes' pronounce the doom of self-centered men who live in pursuit of...
  1. political power and dominion (v.5-8)
  2. wealth and economic security (v.9-11)
  3. personal fame and glory (v.12-14)
  4. sexual conquests and perversions (v.15-17)
  5. fabricated gods (or, humanistic pursuits and philosophies) designed to their specifications (v.18,19)
What profit...?
The false gods which men imagine and pursue, are vanities... devoid of life and powerless to help their worshippers. In the end, those who serve them suffer profound disappointment and eternal loss.
...a teacher of lies... it shall teach...-
Those who bow down to the false gods are deceived by their own inventions. While the lifeless idols are dumb {ie., silent, speechless}, their proponents pray eloquently to them, and convincingly teach the lies, which Satan wants men to hear (1Tim 4:1). At the end of the age, such deception will characterize those who follow the future Antichrist (2The 2:3-12).
In stark contrast...
20 But the LORD [is] in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.
The LORD...- His name speaks eloquently of His eternal being.
His Hebrew name 'YHWH' (The One Who Is), identifies "Him who is, and who was, and who is to come." Rev 1:4,8
...is in His holy Temple...-
From His true Temple, in the heavens, He carefully watches over the affairs of mankind. Psa 11:4-7; 115:3; Isa 6:1
Nothing escapes His attention. No wickedness will be left unjudged.
...let all the earth keep silence before Him.
Whereas the idols are silent, as their worshippers speak lies (v.18,19),
the LORD's Word renders men speechless (eg., under His condemnation and also in amazement at His salvation; Rom 3:19-24; Isa 52:13-15), and accomplishes His purposes (Isa 55:11).
  • Man's opposition, though furious, is futile against His purposes (Psalm 2).
  • His purposes will prevail. His Truth will silence all adversaries (Zeph 1:7; Zech 1:4-6; 2:10-13).
  • Those, who trust in Him, watch and wait, in quiet expectation, for Him to fulfill His promises (v.3,4; Psa 46:10,11).

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