"there is none that grieves at thy breach;''
so the Syriac version; so far from it, that they rejoiced at it, as in a following clause:
thy wound is grievous; to be borne; the pain of it intolerable; an old obstinate one, inveterate and incurable: or, is "weak", or "sickly" (s); which had brought a sickness and weakness on the state, out of which it would never be recovered:
all that hear the bruit of thee; the fame, the report of the destruction of Nineveh, and of the ruin of the Assyrian empire, and the king of it:
shall clap the hands over thee; for joy; so far were they from lending a helping hand in the time of distress, that they clapped both hands together, to express the gladness of their hearts at hearing such news:
for upon whom hath not thy wickedness passed continually? to which of thy neighbours hast thou not been troublesome and injurious? which of them hast thou not oppressed, and used with violence and cruelty? what province or city but have felt the weight of thine hand, have been harassed with wars, and distressed with tributes and exactions? and therefore it is no wonder they rejoice at thy fall. The destruction of this city, and so of the whole empire, is placed by Dr. Prideaux in the twenty ninth year of Josiah's reign, and in the year 612 B.C.; and by what Josephus says (t) it appears to have been but a little while before Josiah was slain by Pharaohnecho, who came out with an army to Euphrates, to make war upon the Medes and Babylonians; who, he says, had overturned the Assyrian empire; being jealous, as it seems, of their growing power. Learned men justly regret the loss of the Assyriaca of Abydenus, and of the history of the Assyrians by Herodotus, who promised (u) it; but whether he finished it or no is not certain; however, it is not extant; and in one place, speaking of the Medes attacking Nineveh, and taking it, he says (w), but how they took it I shall show in another history; all which, had they come to light, and been continued, might have been of singular use in explaining this prophecy.
(r) "nulla est contractio", Junius & Tremellius, Burkius. (s) "infirmata", Pagninus, Montanus; "aegritudine plena", Vatablus; "aegra", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Drusius, Burkius. (t) Antiqu. l. 10. c. 5. sect. 1.((u) L. 1. sive Clio, c. 184. (w) Ibid. c. 106.
INTRODUCTION TO HABAKKUK
This book is called, in the Vulgate Latin and Syriac versions, "the Prophecy of Habakkuk". Of this prophet, Aben Ezra and Kimchi say, we know neither his age nor his family; which shows they paid no regard to a tradition of their nation, mentioned by some of their ancient writers (a), that he was the son of the Shunammite, whom Elisha raised from the dead; and find the etymology of his name in the words of the prophet to her, "about this season, according to the time of life, thou shalt embrace a son", 2 Kings 4:16 where the root of his name is used; and they account for the doubling of the last radical in his name, because of the two embraces of him, one by his mother, and the other by the prophet. His name indeed signifies "an embrace" (b); or, as some, "an embracer" (c); and the last letter being doubled, it is with others interpreted "the best embracer" (d); to which name his character and conduct agree; who, in the most tender manner, embraced the people of God, as parents their children, and comforted them with the assurance of their preservation, notwithstanding their captivity, and with the promise of the Messiah's coming; suggesting to them they should live by faith, to which he led them the way by his own example, Habakkuk 1:12, Habakkuk 2:3 but as this is placing him too early, to put him in the times of Elisha; so it is fixing him too late, to make him to be in the times of Daniel, and to feed him in the den of the lions, as Joseph ben Gorion (e), and the author of the apocryphal book of Bel and the Dragon, say he did, which was after the Babylonish captivity was ended; whereas it is certain this prophet prophesied of it, and must have lived some time before it; for he speaks of the Chaldeans by name coming against the Jews, and carrying them captive, Habakkuk 1:6. The learned Huetius (f), and others, think there were two prophets of this name; one of the tribe of Simeon, who lived before the captivity; and another of the tribe of Levi, who lived after it. The Jewish chronologers (g) generally place this our prophet in the times of Manasseh; with which well enough agrees the description of the times the prophet lived in, given in Habakkuk 1:2 though some think he lived in the latter times of Josiah (h), or the beginning of Jehoiakim (i); and it is probable he was a contemporary of the Prophet Jeremiah, with whom he agrees in many things, and prophesied of the same. However, there is no room to doubt of the authority of this book, being always received by the Jewish church, and agreeing with other parts of Scripture, and especially with the prophecies of Jeremiah; and may be further confirmed and established by the quotations out of it in the New Testament, as Habakkuk 1:5 in Acts 13:41 and Habakkuk 2:4 in Romans 1:17. The general design of the prophecy is to comfort the people of God under the afflictions that were coming upon them, and to encourage them to the exercise of faith and patience, in the hope and view of the coming of the Messiah. Pseudo Epiphanius (k) says that Habakkuk died two years before the people of the Jews returned from Babylon, and was honourably buried in his own native place, which he says was Bethsocher, in the tribe of Simeon. With whom Isidore (l) agrees, as to the time of his death; but the place of his birth, he says, was Bethacat; and of his death, Sabarta. Sozomen (m) reports, that, in the days of Theodosius, the grave of Habakkuk was found in Cele, formerly the city Ceila. So Eusebius says it was shown at Kela, eight miles from Eleutheropolis; though, in another place, he says it was to be seen at Gabbatha, twelve miles from the same place; which may be reconciled, by observing that it might be between them both, and be seen from each, since they were places near to each other (n). But the Cippi Hebraici (o) say it was at a place called Jakuk in Galilee, not far from Sephetta, where was an academy of the Jews; and this seems to agree with what Sanderson, a countryman of ours, as quoted by Van Till (p), observes; that in his journey from Damascus to Jerusalem, between Sephet and Chapherchittin, he found a village, in which, the Jews report, Habakkuk the prophet dwelt and died, the name of which is Jeakoke. But these things are not to be depended on.
(a) Zohar in Gen. fol. 6. 3. Vid. Shalshelet Hakabala, fol. 12. 2.((b) qwqbx "amplexus", Hillerus; "amplexatio", Hieronymus. (c) "Amplexans", ibid. (d) "Optimus amplexator", Tarnovius. (e) Hist. Heb. l. 1. c. 11. p. 35, 36. (f) Demonstr. Evangel. Prop. 4. p. 284, 301. (g) Seder Olam Rabba, p. 55. Seder Olam Zuta, p. 105. Tzemach David, fol. 15. 1. Juchasin, fol. 12. 2.((h) Bedford's Scripture Chronology, p. 674. (i) Usher. Annales Vet. Test. A. M. 3395. (k) De Prophet. Vit. & Interit. c. 18. (l) De Vit. & Mort. Sanct. c. 47. (m) Hist. Ecclesiast. l. 7. c. 29. (n) Vid. Reland. Palestina Illustrata, tom. 2. p. 772. (o) P. 63. Ed. Hottinger. (p) Habakkuk Illustratus, p. 214.
INTRODUCTION TO Habakkuk 1
In this chapter, after the inscription, in which are the title of the book, the name and character of the writer, Habakkuk 1:1, there is a complaint made by the prophet of his cry not being heard, and of salvation being deferred, which was long expected, Habakkuk 1:2 and of the wickedness of the times he lived in; of iniquity and trouble, rapine and oppression, in general; and particularly of corruption in courts of judicature, in which there were nothing but strife and contention, a dilatoriness in proceedings at law, and justice was stopped and suppressed, Habakkuk 1:3 then follows an answer to this, showing that some sore judgment, amazing and incredible, would soon be executed for such sins, Habakkuk 1:5 that the Chaldeans would be raised up and sent against the Jews, and spoil them, and carry them captive; who are described by the cruelty of their temper and disposition; by the swiftness and fierceness of their cavalry; and by their derision of kings, princes, and strong holds; and by their victories and success, which they should impute to their idols, Habakkuk 1:6 and then the prophet, in the name of the church, expresses his faith that the people of God, and his interest, would be preserved, and not perish in this calamity; which is urged from the eternity, holiness, faithfulness, and power of God, and from his design in this affliction, which was correction, and not destruction, Habakkuk 1:12 and the chapter is closed with an expostulation of the prophet with God, in consideration of his purity and holiness; how he could bear with such a wicked nation as the Chaldeans, and suffer them to devour men as fishes, in an arbitrary way, that have no ruler; catch them in their net, and insult them, and ascribe all to their own power and prudence, and think to go on continually in this way, Habakkuk 1:13.
even cry unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save! either of violence done to himself in the discharge of his office, or of one man to another, of the rich to the poor; and yet, though he cried again and again to the Lord, to check this growing evil, and deliver the oppressed out of the hands of their oppressors, it was not done; which was matter of grief and trouble to him.
"why do I see oppressors, and behold those that do the labour of falsehood?''
For spoiling and violence are before me; in my sight and presence, though a prophet, and notwithstanding all my remonstrances, exhortations, and reproofs; such were the hardness, obstinacy, and impudence of this people; to such a height and pitch of iniquity were they arrived, as to regard not the prophets of the Lord. The Targum is,
"spoilers and robbers are before me:''
or, "against me" (q), as in the text; these sins were committed against him, he was injuriously used himself; or they were done to others, contrary to his advice and persuasion:
and there are that raise up strife and contention; in the kingdom, in cities, in families; in one man, brother, friend, and neighbour, against another; which occasion lawsuits, and in them justice is not done, as follows. It may be rendered, and "there shall be and is a man of strife"; so Japhet: "and he shall raise up contention"; one man given to strife will and does use great contention in communities, civil and religious.
(q) "contra me", Pagninus, Montanus; "e regione mei", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Tarnovius.
"the law languishes;''
loses its force and vigour, and is ready to expire; which is a sad symptom of the bad estate of a commonwealth.
And judgment doth never go forth; at least not right, to the justifying of the righteous, acquitting the innocent, and giving the cause on the right side; condemning the wicked, and punishing offenders as their crime deserves: it never appears as it should do; it is either not done at all, or done badly and perversely:
for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; to hurt him or ensnare him, and by frauds and wicked artifices, and false witnesses, to carry a cause against him:
therefore wrong judgment proceedeth; the cause is given on the wrong side, against a good man, and for a wicked man; all these things the prophet saw with grief, and complained of to the Lord, from whom he has an answer in the following words:
(r) "intermittitur", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Drusius, Burkius; "est, animi deliquium pati", Tarnovius.
and wonder marvellously; or "wonder, wonder" (s); the word is repeated, to express the great admiration there would be found just reason for, on consideration of what was now doing in the world, and would be done, especially in Judea:
for I will work a work in your days, which ye will not believe, though it be told you; which was the destruction of the Jewish nation, city, and temple, by the Chaldeans, as is evident from the following words; and, though they were the instruments of it, it was the work of divine Providence; it was done according to the will of God, and by his direction, he giving success; and, being thus declared, was a certain thing, and might be depended on, nothing should hinder it; and it should be done speedily, in that generation, some then living should see it; though the thing was so amazing and incredible, that they would not believe it ever would be; partly because the Chaldeans were their good friends and allies, as they thought, as appears by Josiah's going out against the king of Egypt, when he was marching his army against the king of Babylon; and partly because they were the covenant people of God, and would never be abandoned and given up by him into the hands of another people; and therefore, when they were told of it by the prophets of the Lord, especially by Jeremiah, time after time; who expressly said the king of Babylon would come against them, and they would be delivered into the hands of the Chaldeans; yet they would give no credit to it, till their ruin came upon them, as may be observed in various parts of his prophecy. The apostle quotes this passage in the place above mentioned, and applies it to the destruction of the Jews by the Romans, for their contemptuous rejection of the Messiah and his Gospel; which yet they would not believe to the last, though it was foretold by Christ and his apostles.
(s) "et admiramini, admiramini", Vatablus, Drusius, Burkius.
that bitter and hasty nation; a cruel and merciless people in their temper and disposition: "bitter" against the people of God and true religion, and causing bitterness, calamities, and distress, wherever they came: "hasty" and precipitate in their determinations; swift and nimble in their motions; active and vigorous in the prosecution of their designs:
which shall march through the breadth of the land; or "breadths of the land" (t); through the whole world, as they were attempting to do, having subdued Syria, all Asia, and great part of Africa, through which they boldly marched, bearing down all opposition that was in their way; or through the breadth of the land of Judea, taking all the fenced cities as they went along, and Jerusalem the metropolis of it; see Isaiah 8:7,
to possess the dwellingplaces that are not theirs; the cities of Judea, and houses in them, as well as the palaces and dwellingplaces in Jerusalem, which they had no right unto, but what they got by the sword; what were the legal possessions and inheritances of others from father to son for ages past, these the Chaldeans would dispossess them of; and not only take them, and the spoil and plunder of them, for the present, but retain them in their possession, as an inheritance to be transmitted to their posterity. This may have some respect to the length of the captivity of the Jews, and their land being in the hands of their enemies for the space of seventy years.
(t) "latitudines terrae", Montanus, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator.
their judgment and their dignity shall proceed of themselves; they will not be directed and governed by any laws of God and man, but by their own; they will do according to their will and pleasure, and none will be able to gainsay and resist them; they will hear no reason or argument; their decrees and determinations they make of themselves shall be put into execution, and there will be no opposing their tyrannical measures; they will usurp a power, and take upon them an authority over others of themselves, which all must submit unto; no mercy and pity: no goodness and humanity, are to be expected from such lawless and imperious enemies.
and are more fierce than ravening wolves; which creatures are naturally fierce, and especially when they are hungry, and particularly at evening; when, having had no food all the day, their appetites are very keen, and they go in quest of their prey; and, when they meet with it, fall upon it with greater eagerness and fierceness. The Septuagint and Arabic versions render it, than the wolves of Arabia; that there are wolves very frequent in Arabia, is observed by Diodorus Siculus (f), and Strabo (g); but that these are remarkable for their fierceness does not appear; rather those in colder climates are more fierce; so Pliny (h) says, they are little and sluggish in Africa and Egypt, but rough and fierce in cold climates. It is, in the original text, "more sharp" (i); which some interpret of the sharpness of their sight. Aelianus says (k), it is a most quick and sharp sighted creature; and can see in the night season, even though the moon shines not: the reason of which Pliny (l) gives is, because the eyes of wolves are shining, and dart light; hence Aelianus (m) observes, that that time of the night in which the wolf only by nature enjoys the light is called wolf light; and that Homer (n) calls a night which has some glimmering of light, or a sort of twilight, such as the wolves can see themselves walk by, , which is that light that precedes the rising sun; and he also observes that the wolf is sacred to the sun, and to Apollo, which are the same; and there was an image of one at Delphos; and so Macrobias (o) says, that the inhabitants of Lycopolis, a city of Thebais in Egypt, alike worship Apollo and a wolf, and in both the sun, because this animal takes and consumes all things like the sun; and, because perceiving much by the quick sight of its eyes, overcomes the darkness of the night; and observes, that some think they have their name from light, though they would have it be from the morning light; because those creatures especially observe that time for seizing on cattle, after a nights hunger, when before day light they are turned out of the stables into pasture; but it is for the most part at evening, and in the night, that wolves prowl about for their prey (p); and from whence they have the name of evening wolves, to which the Chaldean horses are here compared: and yet there seems to be an antipathy between these, if what some naturalists (q) say is true; as that if a horse by chance treads in the footsteps of a wolf, a numbness will immediately seize it, yea, even its belly will burst; (This sounds like a fable. Ed.) and that, if the hip bone of a wolf is thrown under horses drawing a chariot full speed, and they tread upon it, they will stop and stand stone still, immovable: whether respect is here had to the quick sight or sharp hunger of these creatures is not easy to say; though rather, since the comparison of them is with horses, it seems to respect the fierceness of them, for which the war horse is famous, Job 39:24 and may be better understood of the sharpness of the appetite of evening wolves, when hunger bitten:
and their horsemen shall spread themselves; or be multiplied, as the Targum; they shall be many, and spread themselves all over the country, so that there will be no escaping; all will fall into their hands:
and their horsemen shall come from far; as Chaldea was reckoned from Judea, and especially in comparison of neighbouring nations, who used to be troublesome, as Moab, Edom, &c. see Jeremiah 5:15,
they shall flee as the eagle that hasteth to eat; those horsemen shall be so speedy in their march, that they shall seem rather to fly than ride, and even to fly as swift as the eagle, the swiftest of birds, and which itself flies swiftest when hungry, and in sight of its prey; and the rather this bird is mentioned, because used by many nations, as the Persians, and others, for a military sign (r).
(u) Nat. Hist. l. 8. c. 16. (w) De Vita Apollonii, l. 2. c. 7. (x) Hierozoic. par. 1. l. 3. c. 7. col. 788. (y) Pharsalia, l. 6. (z) Comment. in Hos. v. 14. fol. 10. L. (a) Hist. Animal. l. 8. c. 6. (b) In Hexaemeron. (c) De Rebus Portugall. l. 9. apud Frantz. Hist. Animal. Sacr. par. 1. 8. p. 90. (d) Damir apud Bochart, ut supra. (Hierozoic. par. 1. l. 3. c. 7. col. 788.) (e) Nat. Hist. l. 10. c. 73. (f) Bibliothec. l. 3. p. 177. (g) Geograph. l. 16. p. 534. (h) Nat. Hist. l. 8. c. 22. (i) "et acuti erunt", Montanus, Cocceius; "et acutiores", Pagninus, Calvin, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Drusius, Grotius; so Ben Melech; "et acuti sunt", Burkius. (k) De Animal. l. 10. c. 26. (l) Nat. Hist. l. 11. c. 37. (m) Ut supra. (De Animal. l. 10. c. 26.) (n) Iliad. 7. prope finem. (o) Saturnal. l. 1. c. 17. (p) "Vesper ubi e pastu vitulos ad tecta reducit, Auditisque lupos acuunt balatibus agni." Virgil. Georgic. l. 4. "Ac veluti pleno lupus insidiatus ovili Nocte super media-----", Ibid. Aeneid. l. 8. (q) Aelian. de Animal. l. 1. c. 36. Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 28. c. 20. (r) Vid. Lydium de Re Militari, l. 3. c. 7. p. 87.
their faces shall sup up as the east wind: their countenances will appear so stern and fierce, that their very looks will so frighten, as to cause men to sink and die through terror; just as herbs and plants shrivel up and wither away, when blasted by a nipping east wind. So the Targum,
"the reception or look of their faces is like to a vehement east wind.''
Some render it,
"the look or design of their faces is to the east (t);''
when the Chaldeans were on their march to Judea, their faces were to the west or south west; but then their desire and views were, that when they had got the spoil they came for, as in the preceding clause, to carry it to Babylon, which lay eastward or north east of Judea, and thither their faces looked:
and they shall gather the captivity as the sand; or gather up persons, both in Judea, and in other countries conquered by them, as innumerable as the sand of the sea, and carry them captive into their own land. Captivity is put for captives.
(s) "illa teta", Junius & Tremellius; "sub. gens", Pagninus, Piscator; "totus exercitus", Vatablus; "populus", Calvin. (t) "ad orientem", Pagninus, Montanus, Drusius; "orientem versus", Junius & Tremellius, De Dieu, Burkius; so Abarbinel.
and the princes shall be a scorn unto them; the nobles, counsellors, and ministers of state; or leaders and commanders of armies, and general officers, in whom great confidence is often put; but these the king of Babylon and his forces would mock and laugh at, as being nothing in their hands, and who would fall an easy prey to them:
they shall deride every strong hold; in Jerusalem, in the whole land of Judea, and in every other country they invade, or pass through, none being able to stand out against them:
for they shall heap dust, and take it; easily, as it were in sport, only by raising a dust heap, or a heap of dirt; by which is meant a mount raised up to give them a little rise, to throw in their darts or stones, or use their engines and battering rams to more advantage, and to scale the walls, and get possession. There are two other senses mentioned by Kimchi; as that they shall gather a great number of people as dust, and take it; or they shall gather dust to till up the trenches and ditches about the wall, that so they may come at it, and take it.
(u) "et ipse", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Drusius, Tarnovius, Grotius, Cocceius.
and he shall pass over (x), or "transgress", all bounds of modesty and sobriety, of humanity and goodness:
and offend, imputing this his power unto his god (y); this particularly will be the sin he will be guilty of, he will ascribe all his achievements to his idol Bel; or rather to himself, to his own prowess and valour, his wisdom and skill in military affairs; for so it will bear to be rendered, making "this his own power to be his god"; and perhaps the golden image Nebuchadnezzar set up to be worshipped was for himself; see Daniel 4:30. The Targum is,
"therefore, because of the lifting up of his spirit, his kingdom was removed from him; and he committed an offence, in that he multiplied glory to his idol;''
and some interpret the whole of this of the miserable condition Nebuchadnezzar was brought into, being a prophecy of it: "then shall his mind change"; his heart from man's to a beast's, Daniel 4:16, "and he shall pass over"; from all society and conversation with men, and have his dwelling with beasts, Daniel 4:31, "and offend", or rather "be punished", and become desolate and miserable, for his pride, and idolatry, and other sins: "this his power" is "his god" (z); spoken ironically; see what his power is now, being changed into a beast, which he reckoned his god, or gloried in as what he had from his god: but I rather think the whole is a continuation of his success, particularly in the land of Judea; and to be rendered, "then shall he pass through, as the wind, and shall pass over; and he shall bear the punishment of his sin, whose power is his god"; that is, the king of Babylon and his army, the Chaldeans, should pass through all nations and kingdoms that were between them and Judea, like a strong wind or whirlwind, to which they are compared, Jeremiah 4:13 and carry all before them, none being able to resist and oppose them; and should pass over rivers that lay in their way, and the boundaries of Judea, and spread themselves over the whole country; and then that country, and the inhabitants of it, should be punished for their sins, particularly for their confidence in themselves; in their wealth and riches; in their fortresses and strong towers; in their own works of righteousness; all which they made idols of, and trusted not in their God, as they ought to have done.
(w) Antiqu. l. 10. c. 9. sect. 7. (x) "transgredietur", Pagninus, Vatablus, Calvin, Drusius, Tarnovius. (y) "iste est, ejus robur fuit pro deo ejus", Gussetius. (z) "Tune immutatus est spiritu, et transiit et desolatus est, hoc robur ejus est dei ejus", De Dieu.
we shall not die; meaning not a corporeal death, for that all men die, good and bad; and this the Jews did die, and no doubt good men among them too, at the siege and taking of Jerusalem by the Chaldean army, either by famine, or pestilence, or sword: nor a death of affliction, which the people of God are subject to, as well as others; is often their case, and is for their good, and in love, and not wrath: but a spiritual death, which none that are quickened by the Spirit and grace of God ever die; though grace may be low, it is never lost; though saints may be in dead and lifeless frames, and need quickening afresh, yet they are not without the principle of spiritual life; grace in them is a well of living water, springing up to everlasting life; their spiritual life can never fail them, since it is secured in Christ: and much less shall they die the second, or an eternal death; they are ordained to eternal life; Christ is come, and given his flesh for it, that they might have it; it is in his hands for them; they are united to him, and have both the promise and pledge of it: and this may be argued, as by the prophet here, from the eternity of God, art "thou not from everlasting?" he is from everlasting to everlasting, the Ancient of days, that inhabits eternity, is, was, and is to come: therefore "we shall not die"; none of his people shall perish, because he loves them with an everlasting love; has made an everlasting choice of them; has set up Christ from everlasting as their surety and Saviour; entered into an everlasting covenant with them in Christ; is their everlasting Father, and will be their everlasting portion; is the unchangeable Jehovah, and therefore they shall not be consumed: this may be concluded from their covenant interest in God, "O Lord my God"; they are his peculiar people, given to Christ to be preserved by him, and covenant interest always continues; he that is their God is their God and guide unto death: and also from the holiness of God, "mine holy One"; who has sworn by his holiness to them, and is faithful to his covenant and promise; and is the sanctifier of them, that has sanctified or set them apart for himself; made Christ sanctification to them, and makes them holy by his Spirit and grace, and enables them to persevere in grace and holiness: moreover, this may be understood of the people of the Jews, as a church and nation; who, though they would be carried captive into Babylon, yet would still continue as such, and be returned again as such, and not die, sink, and perish; since the Messiah was to spring from them; and they might be assured of their preservation for that purpose, from the perfections of God, his covenant with them, and their relation to him: nor shall the church of Christ in any age die and perish, though in ever so low a state; a particular church may, but the interest and church of Christ in general, or his spiritual seed, never shall. This is one of the eighteen passages, as Jarchi, Kimchi, and Ben Melech observe, called "Tikkun-Sopherim", the correction of the scribes, of Ezra, and his company; it having been written, in some copies, "thou shall not die" (a); asserting the immortality of God, or his eternity to come; and that, as he was from everlasting, so he should continue to everlasting; and to this sense the Targum paraphrases the words,
"thy Word remaineth for ever;''
and so the Syriac version follows the same reading:
O Lord, thou hast ordained them for judgment: that is, the Chaldeans; either to be judged and punished themselves for their sins, as all wicked Christless sinners are, even righteously foreordained to condemnation for their sins; or rather to be the instruments of punishing the wicked among the Jews; for this purpose were these people ordained in the counsels of God, and raised up in his providence, and constituted a kingdom, and made a powerful nation:
O mighty God; or "rock" (b); the rock and refuge of his people:
thou hast established them for correction; or "founded" (c) them, and settled them as a monarchy, strong and mighty for this end, that they might be a rod in the hand of the Lord, not for destruction, but for correction and chastisement; and from hence it might be also comfortably concluded that they should not die and utterly perish.
(a) "non morieris", Vatablus, Drusius, Grotius. (b) "O rupes", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Cocceius, Van Till; "O petra", Drusius. (c) "fundasti eum", Pagninus, Montanus, Piscator, Cocceius, Van Till; "constituisti", Vatablus.
wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously; the Chaldeans, who dealt treacherously with God, by worshipping idols; and with the Jews, pretending to be their good friends and allies, when they meditated their ruin and destruction; and yet the Lord in his providence seemed to look favourably on these perfidious persons, since they succeeded in all their enterprises: this was stumbling to the prophet, and all good men; and they knew not how, or at least found great difficulty, to reconcile this to the purity and holiness of God, and to his justice and faithfulness; see Jeremiah 12:1,
and holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he? the comparison does not lie so much personally between Nebuchadnezzar and Zedekiah the last king of the Jews, whose eyes the king of Babylon put out, and whom he used in a cruel manner; who was, no doubt, comparatively speaking, a more righteous person than the Chaldean monarch was; being not the worst of the kings of Judea, and whose name has the signification of righteousness in it: but rather between the Chaldeans and the Jews; who, though there were many wicked persons among them, yet there were some truly righteous, who fell in the common calamity; and, as to the bulk of them, were a more righteous people, at the worst, than their enemies were, who devoured them, destroyed many with the sword, plundered them of their substance, and carried them captive; and the Lord was silent all this while, said nothing in his providence against them, put no stop to their proceedings; and by his silence seemed to approve of, at least to connive at, what they did; and this the prophet in the name of good men reasons with the Lord about.
as the creeping things that have no ruler over them; not the creeping things of the earth, but of the water, the lesser sort of fishes that move in the water; or those that more properly creep, as crabs, prawns, and shrimps; see Psalm 104:25 who have none to protect and defend them, and restrain others from taking and hurting them: this may seem contrary to what Aristotle (d) and Pliny (e) say of some fishes, that they go in company, and have a leader or governor; but, as Bochart (f) observes, it is one thing to be a leader of the way, a guide and director, which way to steer their course in swimming; and another thing to be as the general of an army, to protect and defend, or under whose directions they might defend themselves; such an one the prophet denies they had: and so, the prophet complains, this was the case of the Jews; they were exposed to the cruelty of their enemies, as if there was no God that governed in the world, and no providence to direct and order things for the preservation of men, and to keep good men from being hurt by evil men; or those that were weak and feeble from being oppressed by the powerful and mighty; this he reasons with the Lord about, and was desirous of an answer to it.
(d) Hist. Animal. l. 8. c. 13. (e) Nat. Hist. l. 9. c. 15. (f) Hierozoic. par. 1. l. 1. c. 6. Colossians 39.
they catch them in their net, and gather them in their drag; with the angle the fisherman catches fish one by one, but with the net great numbers; and what he misses by throwing the net, he gets by using the drag; all which may be expressive of the ways and methods used by the king of Babylon and his army, both in the times of Jeconiah, and of Zedekiah; under the former he used the net, and carried off large numbers, and with them the royal family and great substance, but left many behind; under the latter he came and swept away all, drained the land of its riches and its inhabitants:
therefore they rejoice and are glad; as fishermen do when they have good sport; so these people rejoiced in their own success, and in the calamities of their neighbours.
Because by them their portion is fat, and their meat plenteous: that is, by their angle, net, and drag; or by those things signified by them, the arts and methods they used to subdue nations, conquer kingdoms, and bring them into subjection to them; they enlarged their dominions, increased their riches and revenues, and had plenty of everything that was desirable for food and raiment, for pleasure and profit; or to gratify the most unbounded ambition, having everything that heart could wish for and desire: the allusion is to making sumptuous feasts, and rich banquets, on occasion of victories obtained.
(g) Vid. Doughtaei Analect. Sacra, p. 494, 495. (h) E Trogo, l. 43. c. 3, 4. (i) In Jupiter Tragoedus. (k) Adv. Gentes, l. 6. p. 232. (l) Hist. l. 17. (m) ', Aeschylus.