John Calvin, Commentary on Habakkuk

Commentaries on the Twelve Minor Prophets by John Calvin.

Now first translated from the original Latin, by the Rev. John Owen,
vicar of Thrussington, Leicestershire.

Volume Fourth. Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai

WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, 1950, Michigan.
Printed in the United States of America.

Printed in the United States of America

Translator's Preface

The present Volume, though it contains the Works of THREE PROPHETS,
is yet considerably smaller in size than the preceding Volumes; but
the last will more than compensate for this deficiency.
    The two first Prophets, HABAKKUK and ZEPHANIAH, lived before
the Captivity; and the other, HAGGAI, began his prophetic office
about sixteen years after the return of the great body of the people
from Babylon by the permission given them by King Cyrus.
    It is commonly thought that HABAKKUK prophesied after
ZEPHANIAH, though placed before him in our Bibles. The reign of
JEHOIAKIM is assigned as his age, about 608 years before Christ,
while Zephaniah performed his office in the reign of JOSIAH, about
30 years earlier. Like the other prophets he is mainly engaged in
reproving the extreme wickedness of the people, on account of which
he denounces on them the judgements of God, while he gives
occasional intimations of a better state of things, and affords some
glimpses of the blessings of the gospels.
    In the first CHAPTER he begins with a complaint as to the
oppression which he witnessed, foretells the dreadful invasion of
the CHALDEANS, describes the severity which would be exercised by
them, and appeals to God on the subject. In the second he waits for
an answer, receives it, and predicts the downfall of the Chaldeans,
and refers to blessings in reserve for God's people. The third
contains what is called the "Prayer of Habakkuk," an ode of a
singular character, in which he briefly describes, for the
encouragement of the faithful, the past interpositions of God on
behalf of his people, and concludes with expressing a full and
joyful confidence in God, notwithstanding the evils which were
coming on the nation.
    "The style of HABAKKUK", says Bishop Lowth, "is poetical,
especially in his Ode, which may justly be deemed one of the most
complete of its kind." And in describing the character of this ode
he says - "The Prophet indeed embellishes the whole of this poem
with a magnificence equal to its commencement, selecting from so
great an abundance of wonderful events the grandest, and setting
them forth in the most splendid dress, by images and figures, and
the most elevated diction; the high sublimity of which he augments
and enhances by the elegance of a remarkable conclusion: so that
hardly any thing of this kind would be more beautiful or more
perfect than this poem, were it not for one or two spots of
obscurity which are to be found in it, occasioned, as it seems, by
its ancientness."
    ZEPHANIAH was in part contemporary with JEREMIAH, that is,
during the former portion of the reign of JOSIAH. He foretells the
FALL OF NINEVEH, (ch. 2: 13,) and mentions "the remnant of Baal,"
(ch. 1: 4,) two things which prove that he prophesied during the
former half of that king's reign; for NINEVEH was destroyed about
the sixteenth year of his reign, and it was after that time that the
worship of Baal was demolished by that king.
    The sins of THE JEWS and their approaching judgements occupy
the first Chapter. The second contains an exhortation to Repentance,
encouraged by a promise of protection during the evils that God
would bring on neighbouring nations. In the third the Prophet
particularises the sins of JERUSALEM, announces its punishment, and
then refers to the future blessings which God would freely confer on
His Church.
    The style of ZEPHANIAH has been represented as being in some
parts prosaic; and Lowth says that "he seems to possess nothing
remarkable or superior in the arrangement of his matter or in the
elegance of his diction." But it is Henderson's opinion that "many
of the censures that have been passed on his language are either
without foundation or much exaggerated." He appears to be as poetic
in his ideas as most of the Prophets, and in the manner in which he
arranges them, though he deals not much in parallelisms, which
constitute a prominent feature in Hebrew poetry.
    The matters handled by the Prophet are said by Marckius to be
"most worthy of God, whether we regard His serious reproofs or His
severe threatening, or His kind warnings, or His gracious promises,
which especially appertain to the dispensation of the New Testament.
In all these particulars he not only agrees with the other prophets,
but also adopts their expressions." He then gives the following
examples: -
    Ch. 1: 6 compared with Jer. 15: 6.
    Ch. 1: 15 compared with Joel 2: 1, 2.
    Ch. 1: 18 compared with Ezek. 7: 19, and Jer. 4: 27.
    Ch. 2: 8, 9 compared with Jer. 48: 2, and Ezek. 25: 1.
    Ch. 3: 3, 4 compared with Ezek. 22: 26, 27, 28, &c.
    It does not appear at what time HAGGAI returned from exile,
though probably at the first return of the Jews under ZERUBBABEL,
before Christ 536. But he did not commence his prophetic office till
about sixteen years after; and he delivered what his Book contains
in the space of three months. His messages, which are five, are very
short; and hence some have concluded that they are but summaries of
what he had delivered.
    Much of this Book is historical, interspersed with what is
conveyed in a poetic style. The Prophet, in the first Chapter,
remonstrates with the people, who were very attentive to their own
private concerns, but neglected to build the Lord's Temple; he
refers to the judgements with which they had been visited on this
account, encourages them to undertake the work, and promises them
the favour of God; and then he tells us of his success. In the
second Chapter he removes an apparent ground of discouragement, the
temple then in building being not so splendid as the former, and
promises an additional glory to it, evidently referring to the
Gospel times. He then warns them against relaxing in their work and
thinking it enough merely to offer sacrifices, assures them of God's
blessing, and concludes with a special promise to Zerubbabel.
    What Lowth says of this Prophet's style, that "it is altogether
prosaic," is not strictly true; for there are some parts highly
poetical. See ch. 1: 6, and from 8 to 11 inclusive. "The style of
HAGGAI," observes Henderson, "is not distinguished by any peculiar
excellence; yet he is not destitute of pathos and vehemence, when
reproving his countrymen for their negligence, exhorting them to the
performance of duty."
    Though in some instances our COMMENTATOR may not give the
precise import of a passage, yet he never advances but what is
consistent with Divine Truth, and always useful and practical, and
often what betokens a profound acquaintance with the operations of
the human mind under the various trials and temptations which we
meet with in this life; so that the observations made are ever
interesting and instructive. CALVIN never deduces from a passage
what is in itself erroneous or unsound, though in all cases he may
not deduce what the text may legitimately warrant. There is,
therefore, nothing dangerous in what he advances, though it may not
be included in the passage explained. But for the most part his
application of doctrine is what may be fully justified, and is often
very striking, and calculated to instruct and edify.
    Some may think that our Author does not always give that full
range of meaning to the promises and predictions which he explains.
A reason for this may probably be found in the fact, that most of
the Commentators who had preceded him had indulged in very great
extravagancies on the subject; and a reaction generally drives men
to an opposite extreme. But it is very seldom that CALVIN can be
justly charged with a fault of this kind; for, entertaining the
profoundest veneration for the Word of God, he strictly followed
what he conceived the words imported, and what he apprehended to be
the general drift of a passage. Possibly, in the estimation of those
who possess a very vivid imagination, he may be thought to have kept
too closely to what the text and the context require; but in
explaining the Divine Oracles, nothing is more to be avoided than to
let loose the imagination, and nothing is more necessary than to
possess a sound judgement, and to exercise it in the fear of God,
and with prayer for His guidance and direction.
                                            J. O.
    October 1848.

The Commentaries of John Calvin on the Prophet Habakkuk

Calvin's Preface to Habakkuk.

    Now follows THE PROPHET HABAKKUK; but the time in which he
discharged his office of a Teacher is not quite certain. The
Hebrews, according to their usual manner, unhesitatingly assert that
he prophesied under the king MANASSEH; but this conjecture is not
well founded. We are however led to think that this prophecy was
announced when the contumacy of the people had become irreclaimable.
It is indeed probable, from the complaint which we shall have
presently to notice, that the people had previously given many
proofs of irremediable wickedness. To me it appears evident that the
Prophet was sent, when others had in vain endeavoured to correct the
wickedness of the people. But as he denounces an approaching
judgement on the CHALDEANS, he seems to have prophesied either under
Manasseh or under the other kings before the time of ZEDECHIAH; but
we cannot fix the exact time.
    The substance of the Book may be thus stated: - In the First
chapter he complains of the rebellious obstinacy of the people, and
deplores the corruptions which then prevailed; he then appears as
the herald of God, and warns the Jews of their approaching ruin; he
afterwards applies consolation, as God would punish the Chaldeans
when their pride became intolerable. In the second chapter he
exhorts the godly to patience by his own example, and speaks at
large of the near ruin of Babylon; and in the third chapter, as we
shall see, he turns to supplication and prayer.
    We shall now come to the words.

Commentaries on the Prophet Habakkuk

Chapter 1.

Lecture One Hundred and Sixth.

Habakkuk 1:1
The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see.

    The greater part of interpreters refer this burden to the
Chaldeans and the monarchy of Babylon; but of this view I do not
approve, and a good reason compels me to dissent from their opinion:
for as the Prophet addresses the Jews, and without any addition
calls his prophecy a burden, there is no doubt but that he refers to
them. Besides, their view seems wholly inconsistent, because the
Prophet dreads the future devastation of the land, and complains to
God for allowing His chosen and elect people to be so cruelly
treated. What others think is more correct - that this burden
belonged to the Jews.
    What the Prophet understood by the word "masa" has been
elsewhere stated. Habakkuk then reproves here his own nation, and
shows that they had in vain disdainfully resisted all God's
prophets, for they would at length find that their threatening would
be accomplished. The burden, then, which the Prophet Habakkuk saw,
was this - That God, after having exercised long forbearance towards
the Jews, would at length be the punisher of their many sins. It now
follows -

Habakkuk 1:2,3
O LORD, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! [even] cry out
unto thee [of] violence, and thou wilt not save!
Why dost thou shew me iniquity, and cause [me] to behold grievance?
for spoiling and violence [are] before me: and there are [that]
raise up strife and contention.

    As I have already reminded you, interpreters think that the
Prophet speaks here of future things, as though he had in his view
the calamity which he afterwards mentions; but this is too strained
a meaning; I therefore doubt not but that the Prophet expostulates
here with God for so patiently indulging a reprobate people. For
though the Prophets felt a real concern for the safety of the
people, there is yet no doubt but that they burned with zeal for the
glory of God; and when they saw that they had to contend with
refractory men, they were then inflamed with a holy displeasure, and
undertook the cause of God; and they implored His aid to bring a
remedy when the state of things had become desperate. I therefore
consider that the Prophet here solicits God to visit these many sins
in which the people had hardened themselves. And hence we conclude
that he had previously exercised his office of a teacher; for it
would have been otherwise improper for him to begin his work with
such a complaint and expostulation. He had then by experience found
that the people were extremely perverse. When he saw that there was
no hope of amendment, and that the state of things was becoming
daily worse, burning with zeal for God, he gave full vent to his
feelings. Before, then, he threatens the people with the future
vengeance of God, he withdraws himself, as it were, from intercourse
with men, and in private addresses God himself.
    We must bear this first in mind, that the Prophet relates here
the secret colloquy he had with God: but it ought not to be ascribed
to an unfeeling disposition, that in these words he wished to hasten
God's vengeance against his own kindred; for it behaved the Prophet
not only to be solicitous for the salvation of the people, but also
to feel a concern for the glory of God, yea, to burn with a holy
zeal. As, then, he had in vain laboured for a length of time, I
doubt not but that, being as it were far removed from the presence
of all witnesses, he here asks God, how long he purposed thus to
bear with the wickedness of the people. We now apprehend the design
of the Prophet and the import of his words.
    But he says first, How long, Jehovah, shall I cry, and thou
hearest not? How long shall I cry to thee for violence, that is, on
account of violence, and thou savest not? We hence learn, that the
Prophet had often prayed God to correct the people for their
wickedness, or to contrive some means to prevent so much
licentiousness in sinning. It is indeed probable that the Prophet
had prayed as long as there was any hope; but when he saw that
things were past recovery, he then prayed more earnestly that God
would undertake the office of a judge, and chastise the people. For
though the Prophet really condoled with those who perished, and was
touched, as I have said, with a serious concern for their public
safety, he yet preferred the glory of God: when, therefore, he saw
that boldness in sin increased through impunity, and that the Jews
in a manlier mocked God when they found that they could sin without
being punished, he could not endure such unbridled wantonness.
Besides, the Prophet may have spoken thus, not only as expressing
his own feeling, but what he felt in common with all the godly; as
though he had undertaken here a public duty, and utters a complaint
common to all the faithful: for it is probable that all the godly,
in so disordered a state of things, mourned alike. How long, then,
shall I cry? How long, he says, shall I cry on account of violence?
that is, When all things are in disorder, when there is now no
regard for equity and justice, but men abandon themselves, as it
were with loose reins, unto all kinds of wickedness, how long, Lord,
wilt thou take no notice? But in these words the Prophet not only
egresses his own feelings, but makes this kind of preface, that the
Jews might better understand that the time of vengeance was come;
for they were become not only altogether intolerable to God, but
also to his servants. God indeed had suspended his judgement, though
he had been often solicited to execute it by his Prophet. It hence
appears, that their wickedness had made such advances that it would
be no wonder if they were now severely chastised by the Lord; for
they had by their sins not only provoked him against them, but also
all the godly and the faithful.
    He afterwards adds, how long wilt thou show me iniquity, and
make me to see trouble? Here the Prophet briefly relates the cause
of his indignation, - that he could not, without great grief, yea,
without anguish of mind, behold such evils prevailing among God's
chosen people; for they who apply this to the Chaldeans, do so
strainedly, and without any necessity, and they have not observed
the reason which I have stated - that the Prophet does not here
teach the Jews, but prepares them for a coming judgement, as they
could not but see that they were justly condemned, since they were
proved guilty by the cry and complaints made by all the godly.
    Now this passage teaches us, that all who really serve and love
God, ought, according to the Prophet's example, to burn with holy
indignation whenever they see wickedness reigning without restraint
among men, and especially in the Church of God. There is indeed
nothing which ought to cause us more grief than to see men raging
with profane contempt for God, and no regard had for his law and for
divine truth, and all order trodden under foot. When therefore such
a confusion appears to us, we must feel roused, if we have in us any
spark of religion. If it be objected, that the Prophet exceeded
moderation, the obvious answer is this, - that though he freely
pours forth his feelings, there was nothing wrong in this before
God, at least nothing wrong is imputed to him: for wherefore do we
pray, but that each of us may unburden his cares, his griefs, and
anxieties, by pouring them into the bosom of God? Since, then, God
allows us to deal so familiarly with him, nothing wrong ought to be
ascribed to our prayers when we thus freely pour forth our feelings,
provided the bridle of obedience keeps us always within due limits,
as was the case with the Prophet; for it is certain that he was
retained under the influence of real kindness. Jeremiah did indeed
pray with unrestrained fervour (Jer. 15: 10): but his case was
different from that of our Prophet; for he proceeds not here to an
excess, as Jeremiah did when he cursed the day of his birth, and
when he expostulated with God for being made a man of contention.
But our Prophet undertakes here the defence of justice; for he could
not endure the law of God to be made a sport, and men to allow
themselves every liberty in sinning.
    We now, then, see that the Prophet can be justly excused,
though he expostulates here with God, for God does not condemn this
freedom in our prayers; but, on the contrary, the end of praying is,
that every one of us pour forth, as it is said in the Psalms, his
heart before God. As, then, we communicate our cares and sorrows to
God, it is no wonder that the Prophet, according to the manner of
men, says, Why dost thou show me iniquity, and make me to see
trouble? Trouble is to be taken here in an active sense, and the
verb "tabit" has a transitive meaning. Some render it, Why dost thou
look on trouble? as though the Prophet indignantly bore the
connivance of God. But the context necessarily requires that this
verb should be taken in a transitive sense. "Why dost thou show me
iniquity?" and then, "and makest me to look on violence?" He says
afterwards, in the third place, in my sight is violence. But I have
said, that the word trouble is to be taken actively; for the prophet
means not that he was worn out with weariness, but that wicked men
were troublesome to the good and the innocent, as it is usually the
case when a freedom in sinning prevails.
    And why, he says, are violence and plunder in my sight? and
there is he who excites, &c.? The verb "nasa" means not here to
undertake, as some render it; but, on the contrary, to raise. Others
render it, "Who supports," but this is frigid. Therefore the
translation which I have stated is the most suitable - And why is
there one who excites strife and contention?
    But the Prophet here accuses them only of sins against the
second table of the law: he speaks not of the superstitions of
people, and of the corrupted worship of God; but he briefly says,
that they had no regard for what was just and right: for the
stronger any one was, the more he distressed the helpless and the
innocent. It was then for this reason that he mentioned iniquity,
trouble, plunder, violence, contention, strife. In short, the
Prophet here deplores, that there was now no equity and no brotherly
kindness among the people, but that robberies, rapines, and
tyrannical violence prevailed everywhere. It follows -

Habakkuk 1:4
Therefore the law is slacked, and judgement doth never go forth: for
the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore wrong
judgement proceedeth.
    The Prophet confirms here what I have already said, and brings
an excuse for his zeal; he proves that he was not without reason led
to so great a warmth; for he saw that the law of God was trodden as
it were under foot; he saw men so hardened in every kind of sin,
that all religion and the fear of God had nearly been extinguished.
Hence I have already said, that the Prophet was not here impelled by
a carnal passion, as it often happens to us, when we defend
ourselves from wrongs done to us; for when any one of us is injured,
he immediately becomes incensed, while, at the same time, we suffer
God's law to be a sport, His whole truth to be despised, and
everything that is just to be violated. We are only tender on what
concerns us individually, and in the meantime we easily forgive when
God is wronged, and His truth despised. But the Prophet shows here
that he was not made indignant through a private feeling, but
because he could not bear the profanation of God's worship and the
violation of His holy law.
    He therefore says, that the law was dissolved or weakened, as
though he said that God's law had no longer any authority or regard.
Let us hence learn to rouse up ourselves, for we are very frigid,
when the ungodly openly despise and even mock God. As, then, we are
too unconcerned in this respect, let us learn, by the Prophet's
example, to stimulate ourselves. For even Paul also shows, in an
indirect way, that there is just reason for indignation - 'Be ye
angry,' he says, 'and sin not,' (Eph. 4: 26); that is, every one
ought to regard his own sins, so as to become an enemy to himself;
and he ought also to feel indignant whenever he sees God offended.
    This rule the Prophet now follows, Weakened, he says, is the
law. We know that when a sinful custom prevails, there is but little
authority in what is taught: nor are human laws only despised when
men's audacity breaks through all restraints, but even the very law
of God is esteemed as nothing; for they think that everything
erroneously done, by the consent of all, is lawful. We now then see
that the Prophet felt great anguish of mind, like holy Lot (Gen.
19.), when he saw every regard for God almost extinct in the land,
and especially among the chosen people, whom God had above all
others consecrated to himself.
    He then adds, judgement goes not forth perpetually. Absurdly do
many regard this as having been said in the person of foolish men,
who think that there is no such thing as divine providence, when
things in the world are in a disordered state: but the Prophet
simply says, that all justice was suppressed. We have nearly the
very same complaint in Isa. 59: 4. He then says, that judgement did
not go forth perpetually, because the ungodly thought that no
account was to be given by them. When, therefore, any one dared to
say a word against them, they immediately boiled with rage, and like
wild beasts fiercely attacked him. All then were silent, and nearly
made dumb, when the ungodly thus prevailed and gathered boldness
from the daily practice of licentiousness. Hence, 'Go forth
perpetually does not judgement;' that is, "O Lord, things are now
past hope, and there appears to be no end to our evils, except thou
comest soon and applies a remedy beyond what our flesh can
conceive." For the wicked, he says, surround the righteous; that is,
when there was any one who continued to retain some regard for
religion and justice, immediately the wicked rose up against him on
every side and surrounded him before and behind; so it happened,
that no one dared to oppose the torrent, though frauds, rapines,
outrages, cruelty, and even murders everywhere prevailed; if any
righteous men still remained, they dared not come forth into the
public, for the wicked beset them on all sides.
    He afterwards adds, Therefore perverted judgement goes forth.
The Prophet now rises higher, that even the rulers themselves
increased the rage for evils, and as it were supplied fuel to their
wickedness, as they confounded all distinction between right and
wrong: for the Prophet speaks not here of private wrongs which any
one might have done, but he speaks of the very rulers, as though he
said, "There might have been one remedy, the judges might have
checked so great an audacity; but they themselves stretch out their
hands to the wicked and help them." Hence the tribunals, which ought
to have been sacred, were become as it were dens of thieves. The
word "mishpat" is taken properly in a good sense: Is not judgement
then a desirable thing? Yes, but the Prophet says, that it was
perverted. It was then by way of concession that judgement is
mentioned; for he afterwards adds a word to it, by which he shows
that the administration of the laws was evil and injurious: for when
any one oppressed had recourse to the assistance of the laws, he was
plundered. In short, the Prophet means, that all things in private
and in public were corrupt among the people. It now follows -

Habakkuk 1:5
Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvellously:
for [I] will work a work in your days, [which] ye will not believe,
though it be told [you].

    The Prophet turns his discourse to the Jews, after having
related the private colloquy, in which he expostulated with God for
having so patiently borne with the obstinate wickedness of the
nation. Being now as it were furnished with God's command, (as the
case really was,) he performs the office of a herald, and proclaims
an approaching destruction. He indeed adopts a preface, which ought
to have awakened drowsy and careless minds. He says - look, see, be
astonished, be astonished; these repetitions do not a little
increase the alarm; he twice bids them to see, and he twice exhorts
them to be astonished, or to wonder. He then briefly proclaims the
judgement of God, which he afterwards more fully describes. We now,
then, perceive the object of the Prophet, and the manner in which he
proceeds with his subject.
    And he bids those among the nations to behold, as though he had
said, that they were unworthy to be taught in the school of God; he
therefore appointed other masters for them, even the Chaldeans, as
we shall presently see. He might have said - "look to God;" but as
the Prophet had so long spent his labour in vail and without profit
while teaching them, he sets over them the Chaldeans as teachers.
Behold, he says, ye teachers among the Gentiles. There is here
indeed an implied contrast, as thought he said - "God has hitherto
often recalled you to himself, and has offered himself to you, but
ye have refused to look to him; now then, as he is wearied with
exercising patience so long, he appoints for you other teachers;
learn now from the Gentiles what ye leave hitherto refused to learn
from the holy mouth of Cod himself".
    The Greek translators no doubt read "begodim", for their
version is - "Behold, ye despisers." But in Hebrew there is no
ambiguity as to the word.
    He afterwards adds - And wonder ye, wonder. By these words the
prophets express how dreadful God's judgement would be, which would
astonish the Jews themselves. Had they not been extremely refractory
they might have quietly received instruction, for God would have
addressed them by his prophets, as though they had been his own
children. They might thus, with composed minds, have listened to God
speaking to them; but the time was now come when they were to be
filled with astonishment. We hence see that the Prophet meant this
in a few words - that there would be a new mode of teaching, which
would overwhelm the unwilling with astonishment, because they would
not endure to be ruled in a gentle manner, when the Lord required
nothing from them but to render themselves teachable.
    After having said that God's judgement would be dreadful, he
adds that it was nigh at hand - a work, he says, will he work in
your days, &c. They had already been often warned of that vengeance,
but as they had for a long time disregarded it, they did ever remain
sunk in their own self-delusions, like men who are wont to protract
time and hunt on every side for some excuse for indulging
themselves. So then when the people became hardened against all
threatening, they thought that God would ever bear with them; hence
the Prophet expressly declares, that the execution of that which
they regarded as a fable was near at hand - He will work, he says,
this work in your days.
    He then subjoins - ye will not believe when it shall be told
you; that is, God will execute such a punishment as will be
incredible and exceed all belief. The Prophet no doubt alludes to
the want of faith in the people, and indirectly reproves them, as
though he said - "Ye have hitherto denied faith to God's word, but
ye shall at length find that he has told the truth; and this ye
shall find to your astonishment; for as his word has been counted by
you incredible, so also incredible shall be his judgement." In
short, the Prophet intimates this - that though the Prophets had
been derided by the Jews, and despised as inventors of fables, yet
nothing had been said by them which would not be fully accomplished.
This reward then was to be paid to all the unbelieving; for God
would in the most dreadful manner avenge their impiety, so that they
should themselves be astonished and become an astonishment to
others. We now perceive what the Prophet meant by saying that the
Jews would not believe the work of God when told them, that is, the
vengeance which he will presently describe.
    This passage is quoted by Paul, and is applied to the
punishment then awaiting the Jews; for Paul, after having offered
Christ to them, and seeing that many of them regarded the preaching
of Gospel with scorn, added these words - "see," he said, "and be
astonished, for God will work a work in your days which ye shall not
believe." Paul at the same time made a suitable application of the
Prophet's words; for as God had once threatened his people by his
Prophet Habakkuk, so he was still like himself; and since had so
severely vindicated the contempt of his law as to his ancient
people, he could not surely bear with the impiety of that people
whom he found to have acted so malignantly and so ungratefully, yea
so wantonly and perversely, as to reject his grace; for this was the
last remedy for the Jews. No wonder then that Paul set before them
this vengeance, when the Jews of his time persisted through their
unbelief to reject Christ. Now follows the explanation -

Habakkuk 1:6
For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, [that] bitter and hasty nation,
which shall march through the breadth of the land, to possess the
dwellingplaces [that are] not theirs.

    This verse is added by the Prophet as an explanation; for it
was not enough to speak generally of God's work, without reminding
them that their destruction by the Chaldeans was nigh at hand. He
does not indeed in this verse explain what would be the character of
that judgement which he had mentioned in the last verse; but he will
do this in what follows. Now the Prophets differ from Moses in this
respect, for they show, as it were by the finger, what he threatened
generally, and they declare the special judgements of God; as it is
indeed evident from the demonstrative adverb, "Behold." How
necessary this was, we may gather from the perverseness of that
people; for how distinctly soever the Prophets showed to them God's
judgements, so that they saw them with their eyes, yet so great was
their insensibility, that they despised denunciations so apparent.
What, then, would have been done, if the Prophets had only said in
general, 'God will not spare you!' This, then, is the reason why the
Prophet, having spoken of God's terrible vengeance, now declares in
express terms, that the Chaldeans were already armed by Him to
execute His judgement. The rest we leave for tomorrow.


Grant, Almighty God, that as our sins cry continually to heaven,
each of us may turn to repentance, and by condemning ourselves of
our own accord may anticipate thy judgement, and thus stir up
ourselves to repentance, that being received into favour, we may
find thee, whom we have provoked to take vengeance, to be indeed our
Father: and may we be so preserved by thee in this world, that
having at length put off all our vices, we may attain to that
perfection of purity, to which thou invites us; and thus lead us
more and more to thyself by thy Spirit, and separate us from the
corruptions of this world, that we may glorify thee before men, and
be at last made partakers of that celestial glory which has been
purchased for us by the blood of thy only begotten Son. Amen.

Lecture One Hundred and Seventh.
    In the lecture of yesterday the Prophet began to show from whom
the Jews were to expect the vengeance of God, even from the
Chaldeans, who would come, not by their own instinct, but by the
hidden impulse of God. God indeed testifies that he should be the
author of this war, and that the Chaldeans would fight, as it were,
under his auspices. I am he, he says, who excites, &c. Then by
calling the Chaldeans a bitter and hasty nation, he intended
seriously to terrify the Jews, who had heedlessly despised all
threatenings. It was not indeed a subject of praise to the
Chaldeans, that they were bitter and impetuous: but the Lord could
turn these vices to a good purpose, inasmuch as he elicits light
from darkness. When, therefore, we read that the Chaldeans were
bitter, and also hasty, God thus intimates that he can employ the
vices of men in executing his judgements, and yet contract hence no
spot nor blemish; for we cannot possibly pollute him with our filth,
as he scatters it far away by the brightness of his justice and
    He afterwards adds, They shall march through the latitudes of
the earth, to possess habitations not their own. He means that there
would be no obstacles in the way of the Chaldeans, but that they
would spread themselves over the whole earth, and occupy regions far
remote. For they who fear, dare not thus disperse themselves, but,
on the contrary, they advance cautiously with a collected army; but
those, who have already obtained victory, march on to lay waste the
land. This is what the Prophet says the Chaldeans would do.
    The meaning is - that they would not come to carry on an
uncertain warfare, but that they would enjoy a victory; for they
would by an impetuous course fill the land, so as to occupy tents or
habitations not their own. It was indeed a matter of blame in the
Chaldeans, that they thus made inroads on their own neighbours: but,
as I have said, God intended only to fill the Jews with terror,
because he found that all threatenings were despised. He therefore
meant to show how terrible the Chaldeans would be, and he confirms
the same in the next verse.

Habakkuk 1:7
They [are] terrible and dreadful: their judgement and their dignity
shall proceed of themselves.

    By saying that the Chaldeans would be terrible and dreadful, he
praises not their virtues; but, as I have already reminded you, he
shows that they would be prepared to do his service by executing his
vengeance: and he so regulated his judgement, that he used their
cruelty for a good purpose. Thus we see that the worst of men are in
God's hand, as Satan is, who is their head; and yet that God is not
implicated in their wickedness, as some insane men maintain; for
they say - That if God governs the world by his providence, he
becomes thus the author of sin, and men's sins are to be ascribed to
him. But Scripture teaches us far otherwise, - that the wicked are
led here and there by the hidden power of God, and that yet the
fault is in them, when they do anything in a deceitful and cruel
manner, and that God ever remains just, whatever use he may make of
instruments, yea, the very worst.
    But when the Prophet adds, that its judgement would be from the
nation itself, he means that the Chaldeans would act according to
their own will. When any one indeed obeys laws, and willingly
submits to them, he will freely allow either judges or umpires in
case of a dispute; but he who will have all things done according to
his own purpose repudiates all judges. The Prophet therefore means,
that the Chaldeans would be their own judges, so that the Jews or
others would complain in vain for any wrongs done to them. "They
shall be," he says, "their own judges, and shall execute judgement,
for they will not accept any arbitrators." The word judgement, taken
in a good sense, is put here for law (jus); as though he said,
"Whatever the Chaldeans will claim for themselves, theirs shall it
be; for no one will dare to interfere, and they will not submit to
the will of others; but their power shall be for law, and their
sword for a tribunal." We now understand the Prophet's meaning; and
we must ever bear in mind what I have already said, - That God had
no participation in these vices; but it was necessary that the
stubbornness of an irreclaimable people should be thus corrected, or
at least broken down. The Lord in the meantime could use such
instruments in such a way as to preserve some moderation in his
judgements. It follows -

Habakkuk 1:8
Their horses also are swifter than the leopards, and are more fierce
than the evening wolves: and their horsemen shall spread themselves,
and their horsemen shall come from far; they shall fly as the eagle
[that] hasteth to eat.
    The design of these figurative expressions is the same. The
Prophet had spoken of the cruelty of those enemies whom the Jews
despised: he now adds, that they would be so active as to surpass in
velocity both leopards and eagles, or to be at least equal to them.
He then says first, that their horses would be swifter then
leopards. The Jews might have eluded his threatenings, or at least
have cherished their insensibility by a vain confidence, as we see
how this vice prevails in the world; for they might have thought
thus within themselves, "The Chaldeans are far away, and the danger
of which the Prophet speaks cannot be so near at hand." Hence he
declares that their horses would be swifter than leopards.
    He then adds, that they would be fiercer than the evening
wolves. The wolf is a rapacious animal; and when he ranges about all
the day in vain seeking what he may devour, then in the evening
hunger kindles his rage. There is, therefore, nothing more dreadful
than hungry wolves. But, as I have said, except they find some prey
about the evening, they become the more furious. We shall meet with
the same simile in Zeph. 3. We now see the drift of the Prophet's
    He adds that their horsemen would be numerous. He now sets
forth their power, lest the Jews should have recourse to vain hopes,
because they might obtain some help either from the Egyptians or
other neighbours. The Prophet shows that all such hopes would be
wholly vain; for had they gathered auxiliaries from all quarters,
still the Chaldeans would exceed them in power and number.
    He afterwards says, that their horsemen would come from a
distance. Though they should have a long journey, yet weariness
would not hinder and delay them in coming from a remote part. The
toil of travelling would not weaken them, until they reached Judea.
How so? Because it will fly, he says, (he speaks throughout of the
nation itself,) as an eagle hastening to devour. This metaphor is
also most suitable to the present purpose; for it signifies, that
wherever the Chaldeans saw a prey, they would instantly come, as an
eagle to any carcass it may observe. Let the distance be what it
may, as soon as it sees a prey, it takes a precipitate flight, and
is soon present to devour; for the rapidity of eagles, as it is well
known, is astonishing.
    We now see that what we learn from the Prophet's words is
substantially this, - that God's judgement ought to have been
feared, because he purposed to employ the Chaldeans as his servants,
whose cruel disposition and inhumanity would be dreadful: he also
shows that the Chaldeans would be far superior in power and number;
and in third place he makes it known, that they would possess an
astonishing rapidity, and that though length of journey might be
deemed a hindrance, they would yet be like eagles, which come like
an arrow from heaven to earth, whenever a prey is observed by them.
And eagles are not only rapid in their flight, but they possess also
sharpness of sight; for we know that the eyes of eagles are
remarkably keen and strong: and it is said that they cast away their
young, if they find that they cannot look steadily at the sun; for
they regard them as spurious. The Prophet then intimates that the
Chaldeans would from a distance observe their prey: as the eagles,
who are endued with incredible quickness of sight, see from mid air
every carcass lying on the ground; so also would the Chaldeans
quickly discover a prey, and come upon it in an instant. Let us

Habakkuk 1:9
They shall come all for violence: their faces shall sup up [as] the
east wind, and they shall gather the captivity as the sand.

    By saying that they would come to the prey, he means that they
would have no trouble or labour, for they would be victorious before
they had any contest, or had any war with their enemies. The meaning
then is, that the Chaldeans would not come to spend much time in
warfare, as when there is a strong power to resist; but that they
would only come for the booty, for the Jews would be frightened, and
instantly submit themselves. And by these words the Prophet
intimates, that there would be neither strength nor courage in a
people so refractory: for God thus debilitates the hearts of those
who fiercely resist his word. Whenever, then, men become strong
against God, he so melts their hearts, that they cannot resist their
fellow-mortals; and thus he mocks their confidence, or rather their
madness. Lest then the Jews should still harbour any hope from the
chance of war, the Prophet says that the Chaldeans would only come
for the prey, for all would become subject to them.
    He afterwards adds, that the meeting of their faces would be
like the oriental wind. The word "gamah" means what is opposite; and
its derivative signifies meeting or opposition (occursus.) We indeed
know that the east wind was very injurious to the land of Judea,
that it dried up vegetation, yea, that it consumed as it were the
whole produce of the earth. The violence of that wind was also very
great. Hence whenever the Prophets wished to express a violent
impetuosity, they added this comparison of the east wind. It was
therefore the same as though the Prophet had said that the Jews
would now in vain flatter themselves; for as soon as they perceived
the blowing of the east wind, they would flee away, knowing that
they would be wholly unable to stand against it.
    Hence follows what is added by the Prophets, He shall gather
the captivity like the sand; that is, the king of Babylon shall
without any trouble subdue all the people, and collect captives
innumerable as the sand; for by the sand of the sea is meant an
immense number of men. In short, the Prophet shows that the Jews
were already conquered; because their striving and their contest had
been with God, whom they had so often and so obstinately provoked;
and also, because God had chosen for himself such servants as
excelled in quickness, and power, and cruelty. This is the sum of
the whole. He afterwards adds -

Habakkuk 1:10
And they shall scoff at the kings, and the princes shall be a scorn
unto them: they shall deride every strong hold; for they shall heap
dust, and take it.
    The Prophet concludes the subject which he has been hitherto
pursuing. He says that the Chaldeans would not come to engage in a
doubtful war, but only to triumph over conquered nations. We indeed
know that the Jews, though not excelling either in number or in
riches, were yet so proud, that they looked down, as it were, with
contempt on other nations, and we also know, that they vainly
trusted in vain helps; for as they were in confederacy with the
Egyptians, they thought themselves to be beyond the reach of danger.
Hence the Prophet says, that kings and princes would be only a sport
to the Chaldeans, and their fortresses would be only a derision to
them. How so? For they will gather dust, he says; that is, will make
a mound of the dust of the earth, and will thus penetrate into all
fortified cities.
    In short the Prophet intended to cut off every hope from the
Jews, that they might humble themselves before God; or he intended
to take away every excuse if they repented not, as it indeed
happened; for we know that they did not repent notwithstanding these
warnings, until vengeance at length fully overtook them. He then
adds -

Habakkuk 1:11
Then shall [his] mind change, and he shall pass over, and offend,
[imputing] this his power unto his god.

    The Prophet now begins to give some comfort to the faithful,
lest they should succumb under so grievous evils. He has hitherto
directed his discourse to that irreclaimable people, but he now
turns to the remnant; for there were always among them some of the
faithful, though few, whom God never neglected; yea, for their sake
often he sent his prophets; for though the multitude derived no
benefit, yet the faithful understood that God did not threaten in
vain, and were thus retained in his fear. This was the reason why
the prophets were wont, after having spoken generally, to come down
to the faithful, and as it were to comfort them apart and privately.
And this difference ought to be noticed, as we have said elsewhere;
for when the prophets denounce God's wrath, the discourse then is
directed indiscriminately to the whole body of the people; but when
they add promises, it is then as though they called the faithful to
a private conference, and spake in their ear what had been committed
to them by the Lord. The truth might have been useful to all, had
they returned to a right mind; but as almost the whole people had
hardened themselves in their vices, and as Satan had rendered stupid
the minds and hearts of nearly all, it behaved the Prophet to have a
special regard to the chosen of God. We now then apprehend his
    And he says - now he will change his spirit. He bids the
faithful to entertain hope, because the Chaldeans, after having
poured forth all their fury, will be punished by the Lord for their
arrogance, for it will be intolerable. This may indeed seem frigid
to ungodly men; for what wonder is it that the Chaldeans, after
having obtained so many victories, should grow haughty and exult in
their success, as is commonly the case? But as this is a fixed
principle with us, that men's pride becomes intolerable to God when
they extremely exult and preserve no moderation - this is a very
powerful argument - that is, that whosoever thus raises his horns
shall suddenly be laid prostrate by the Lord. And Scripture also
ever sets this before us, that God beats down supercilious pride,
and does this that we may know that destruction is nigh all the
ungodly, when they thus grow violently mad, and know not that they
are mortals. It was then for this reason that the Prophet mentions
what he says here; it was that the faithful might hope for some end
to the violence of their enemies, for God would check their pride
when they should transgress. But he says - then He will change his
spirit; not that there was before any humility in the Chaldeans, but
that success inebriated them, yea, and deprived them of all reason.
And it is a common thing that a person who has fortune as it were in
his hand, forgets himself, and thinks himself no longer a mortal.
Great kings do indeed confess that they are men; but we see how
madness lays hold on them; for, as I have said, being deluded by
prosperity, they deem themselves to be nothing less than gods.
    The Prophet refers here to the king of Babylon and all his
people. He will change, he says, his spirit; that is, success will
take away from him whatever reason and moderation he had. Now since
the proud betray themselves and their disposition when fortune
smiles on them, let us learn to form our judgement of men according
to this experiment. If we would judge rightly of any man we must see
how he bears good and bad fortune; for it may be that he who has
borne adversity with a patient, calm and resigned mind, will
disappoint us in prosperity, and will so elate himself as to be
wholly another man. The Prophet then does not without reason speak
of a change of spirit; for though the Chaldeans were before proud,
they were not so extremely haughty as when their pride passed all
bounds, after their many victories. He will change then his spirit;
not that the Chaldeans were another kind of people, but that the
Lord thus discovered their madness which was before hid.
    He then adds - he will pass over. The Prophet intended to
express that when the Lord suffered the Chaldeans to rule far and
wide, a way was thus opened for his judgements, which is far
different from the judgement of the flesh. For the more power men
acquire the more boldness they assume; and it seemed to tend to the
establishing of their power that they knew how to use their success.
But the Lord, as I have said, was secretly preparing a way to
destroy them, when they thus became proud and passed all bounds;
hence the Prophet does not simply condemn the haughtiness and pride
of the Chaldeans, but shows that a way is already open, as it were,
for God's judgement, that he might destroy them, inasmuch as they
would render themselves intolerable.
    He afterwards adds - and shall act impiously. The verb "asham"
I refer to the end of the verse - where he ascribes his power to his
own god. And the Prophet adds this explanation, in order that the
Jews might know what kind of sin would be the sin of the king of
Babylon. He then charges him with sacrilege, because he would think
that he had become the conqueror of Judea through the kindness of
his idol, so that he would make nothing of the power and glory of
the true God. Since then the Babylonian would transfer God's glory
to his own idol, his own ruin would be thus made ripe; for the Lord
would undertake his own cause, and execute vengeance on such a
sacrilege; for he speaks here no doubt of the Babylonian, and
according to his view, when he says -
    This his strength is that of his god; but were any inclined to
explain this of the true God, as some do, he would make a harsh and
a forced construction; for the Babylonians did not worship the true
God, but were devoted, as it is well known, to their own
superstitions. The Prophet then no doubt makes known here to the
faithful the pride with which the Babylonians would become elated,
and thus provoke God's wrath against themselves; and also the
sacrilegious boasting in which they would indulge, ascribing the
victories given them to their own idols, which could not be done
without daring reproach to the true God. It now follows -

Habakkuk 1:12
[Art] thou not from everlasting, O LORD my God, mine Holy One? we
shall not die. O LORD, thou hast ordained them for judgement; and, O
mighty God, thou hast established them for correction.

    The Prophet now exulting, according to what all the faithful
feel, shows the effect of what he has just mentioned; for as ungodly
men wantonly rise up against God, and, while Satan renders them
insane, throw out swelling words of vanity, as though they could by
speaking confound earth and heaven; so also the faithful derive a
holy confidence from God's word, and set themselves against them,
and overcome their ferocity by the magnanimity and firmness of their
own minds, so that they can intrepidly boast that they are happy and
blessed even in the greatest miseries.
    This then is what the prophet means when he adds - Art not thou
our God? The question is much more emphatical than if he had simply
declared that the true God was worshipped in Judea, and would
therefore be the protector of that nation; for when the Prophet puts
a question, he means, according to what is commonly understood in
Hebrew, that the thing admits of no doubt. "What! art not thou our
God?" We hence see that there is a contrast between the wicked and
impious boastings in which the profane indulge, and the holy
confidence which the faithful have, who exult in their God. But that
the discourse is addressed to God rather than to the ungodly is not
done without reason, for it would have been useless to contend with
the wicked. This is indeed sometimes necessary, for when the
reprobate openly reproach God we cannot restrain ourselves; nor is
it right that we refrain from testifying that we regard all their
slanders as of no account; but we cannot so courageously oppose
their audacity as when we have the matter first settled between us
and God, and be able to say with the Prophets - "Thou art our God."
Whosoever then would boldly contend with the ungodly must first have
to do with God, and confirm and ratify as it were that compact which
God has proposed to us, even that we are his people, and that he in
his turn will be always our God. As then God thus covenants with us,
our faith must be really made firm, and then let us go forth and
contend against all the ungodly. This is the order which the Prophet
observes here, and what is to be observed by us - Art not thou our
    He also adds - long since, "mikedem", by which word the Prophet
invites the attention of the faithful to the covenant which God had
made, not yesterday nor the day before that, with his people, but
many ages before, even 400 years before he redeemed their fathers
from Egypt. Since then the favour of God to the Jews had been
confirmed for so long a time, it is not without reason that the
Prophet says here - Thou art our God from the beginning; that is,
"the religion which we embrace has been delivered to us by thy
hands, and we know that thou art its author; for our faith recumbs
not on the opinion of men, but is sustained by thy word. Since,
then, we have found so often and in so many ways, and for so many
years, that thou art our God, there is now no room for doubt."
    He then subjoins - we shall not die. What the Jews say of this
place, that it had been corrected by the scribes, seems not to me
probable; for the reason they give is very frivolous. They suppose
that it was written "lo tamut", Thou diest not, and that the letter
"nun" had been introduced, "we shall not die," because the
expression offended those scribes, as though the Prophet compared
God to men, and ascribed to him a precarious immortality; but they
would have been very foolish critics. I therefore think that the
word was written by the Prophet as we now read it, Thou art our God,
we shall not die. Some explain this as a prayer - "let us not die;"
and the future is often taken in this sense in Hebrew; but this
exposition is not suitable to the present passage; for the Prophet,
as I have already said, rises up here as a conqueror, and disperses
as mists all those foolish boastings of which he had been speaking,
as though he said - "we shall not die, for we are under the
protection of God."
    I have already explained why he turns his discourse to God: but
this is yet the conclusion of the argument, - that as God had
adopted that people, and received them into favour, and testified
that he would be their defender, the Prophet confidently draws this
inference, - that this people cannot perish, for they are preserved
by God. No power of the world, nor any of its defences, can indeed
afford us this security; for whatever forces may all mortals bring
either to protect or help us, they shall all perish together with
us. Hence, the protection of God alone is that which can deliver us
from the danger of death. We now perceive why the Prophet joins
together these two things, "Thou art our God," and "We shall not
die;" nor can indeed the one be separated from the other; for when
we are under the protection of God, we must necessarily continue
safe and safe for ever; not that we shall be free from evils, but
that the Lord will deliver us from thousand deaths, and ever
preserve our life in safety. When only he affords us a taste of
eternal salvation, some spark of life will ever continue in our
hearts, until he shows to us, when at length redeemed, as I have
already said, from thousand deaths, the perfection of that blessed
life, which is now promised to us, but as yet is looked for, and
therefore hid under the custody of hope.


Grant, Almighty God, that since thou settest around us so many
terrors, we may know that we ought to be roused, and to resist the
sloth and tardiness of our flesh, so that thou mayest fortify us by
a different confidence: and may we so recomb on thine aid, that we
may boldly triumph over our enemies, and never doubt, but that thou
wilt at length give us the victory over all the assaults of Satan
and of the wicked; and may we also so look to thee, that our faith
may wholly rest on that eternal and immutable covenant, which has
been confirmed for us by the blood of thy only Son, until we shall
at length be united to him who is our head, after having passed
through all the miseries of the present life, and having been
gathered into that eternal inheritance, which thy Son has purchased
for us by his own blood. Amen.

Lecture One hundred and Eighth.

    We began yesterday to explain the words of the Prophet, by
which he encouraged himself and the faithful, and obtained support
under circumstances bordering on despair; for he turned to God, when
he saw the wicked, not only elated with prosperity, but also pouring
forth blasphemies against the living God. The Prophet then says,
that those who are under God's protection shall not perish. Of this
he felt assured within himself. The declaration, as I have said, is
much more striking, as the Prophet turns all his thoughts towards
God, than if he had publicly and loudly declared what he testified,
as it were, in a private conference.
    But it was not without reason that he said, "Thou, my God, my
holy one;" as though he had said, "I trust in thee, inasmuch as I am
one of thy chosen people." He does not indeed speak here in his own
private name, but includes with himself the whole Church; for this
privilege belonged to all the children of Abraham, as they had been
set apart by the gratuitous adoption of God, and were a royal
priesthood. This is the reason why the Prophet says, Thou, my God,
my holy one. For the Jews were wont thus to call God, because they
had been chosen from the rest of the world. And their holiness was,
that God had deigned to take them as his people, having rejected
others, while yet there was by nature no difference between them.
    There is, moreover, much weight in the words which follow,
Jehovah! for judgement has thou set him. This temptation ever occurs
to us, whenever we strive to put our trust in God - What does this
mean? for God now forsakes us, and exposes us to the caprice of the
wicked they are allowed to do what they please, and God interferes
not. How, then, can we cherish hope under these perplexities?" The
Prophet now sets up a shield against this temptations - "Thou," he
says, "hast appointed him for judgement." For he ascribes it to
God's providence, that the Assyrians had with so much wantonness
wasted the land, or would waste it when they came; for he speaks of
things yet future - "Thou," he says, "hast appointed him for
    This is a truth much needed: for Satan darkens, as with clouds,
the favour of God, when any adversity happens to us, and when God
himself thus proves our faith. But adversities are as it were
clouds, excluding us from seeing God's fervour, as the light of the
sun appears not to us when the sky is darkened. If, indeed, the mass
of evils be so great and so thick, that our minds are overwhelmed,
they are not clouds, but the thick darkness of night. In that case
our faith cannot stand firm, except the providence of God comes to
our view, so that we may know, in the midst of such confusion, why
he permits so much liberty to the wicked, and also how their
attempts may turn out, and what may be the issue. Except then we be
fully persuaded, that God by his secret providence regulates all
these confusions, Satan will a hundred times a day, yea every
moment, shake that confidence which ought to repose in God. We now
see how opportunely the Prophet adds this clause. He had said, "Art
not thou our God? we shall not die." He now subjoins this by way of
anticipation, "The Assyrians indeed do lay waste thy land as with an
unbridled wantonness, they plunder thy people, and with impunity
slay the innocent; but, O Lord, this is not done but by thy
permission: Thou overrules all these confused proceedings, nor is
all this done by thee without a cause. Thou, Jehovah, hast for
judgement appointed him. - Judgement is to be taken for
    But the Prophet repeats the same thing, and, being strong, thou
hast for correction established him. Some render "tsor" strong, in
the accusative case, and give a twofold explanation. One party apply
the term to the Jews, who were to be subdued by hard means, since
they were so refractory; and hence they think that the Jews are
called strong, because they were like stones. Others give this
meaning, Thou hast made him strong to correct; that is, Thou hast
given him strength, by which he will chastise us. But as this is one
of God's titles, I doubt not but that the two clauses correspond. He
now, then, gives this name to God. Having given him his name as an
eternal God, Thou, Jehovah, &c.; he now calls him strong. He puts
"tsor" to correspond with Jehovah; and then to correct, to
correspond with judgement. We hence see how well the whole context
agrees, and how the words answer, the one to the other. Then it is,
Thou, strong one, hast established him to correct. But why does the
Prophet call him strong? though this title, as I have said, is
commonly ascribed to God, yet the Prophet, I have no doubt, had
regard to the circumstances at the time. It is indeed difficult to
retain this truth, - that the world is ruled by the secret counsel
of God, when things are turned upside down: for the profane then
glamour against God, and charge him with listlessness; and others
cry out, that all things are thus changed fortuitously and at
random; and hence they call fortune blind. It is then difficult, as
I have said, to retain a fast hold on this truth. The Prophet,
therefore, in order to support his own weakness, sets before himself
this title of God, Thou, the strong God, or the rock, &c.; for
"tsor" means properly a rock, but it is to be taken here for God of
strength. Why? "Behold, we indeed see revolutions, which not only
make our faith to totter, but also dissipate as it were all our
thoughts: but how much soever the world revolve in confusion, yet
God is a rock; His purpose fails not, nor wavers; but remains ever
firm." We now then see why the Prophet calls God strong.
    "Thou the strong one," he says, "hast established him." He
expresses more by the word established, than in the first clause:
for he prepared himself with firmness against continued evils, in
case God (as it might be easily conjectured) would not give
immediate relief to his people, but add calamities to calamities.
Should God then join evils to evils, the Prophet prepares himself
for perseverance; "Thou," he says, "the strong one hast established
him;" that is, "Though the Assyrian should not only like a whirlwind
or a violent tempest rush upon us, but also continue to oppress us,
as though he were a pestilence attached to the land, or some fixed
mountain, yet thou, Lord, hast established him." For what purpose?
to correct. But the Prophet could not have said this, had he not
known that God justly chastised his people. Not only for his own
sake did he say this; but he intended also, by his own example, to
lead the faithful to make the same holy and pious confession.
    The two clauses of this sentence then are these, that though
the Assyrian would rage with unbridled wantonness, like a cruel wild
beast, he would yet be restrained by the hidden power of God, to
whom it peculiarly belongs to overrule by his secret providence the
confusions of this world. This is one thing. The Prophet also
ascribes justice to God's power, and thus confesses his own guilt
and that of the people; for the Lord would justly use so severe a
scourge, because the people needed such a correction. Let us now go
on -

Habakkuk 1:13
[Thou art] of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on
iniquity: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously,
[and] holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth [the man that is]
more righteous than he?

    The Prophet here expostulates with God, not as at the beginning
of the chapter; for he does not here, with a holy and calm mind,
undertake the defence of God's glory, but complains of injuries, as
men do when oppressed, who go to the judge and implore his
protection. This complaint, then, is to be distinguished from the
former one; for at the beginning of the chapter the Prophet did not
plead his own cause or that of the people; but zeal for God's glory
roused him, so that he in a manner asked God to take vengeance on so
great an obstinacy in wickedness; but he now comes down and
expresses the feelings of men; for he speaks of the thoughts and
sorrows of those who had suffered injuries under the tyranny of
their enemies.
    And he says, O God, thou art pure in eyes, thou lookest not on
evil. Some render the verb "tahor" in the imperative mood, clear the
eyes; but they are mistaken; for the verse contains two parts, the
one contrary to the other. The Prophet reasons from the nature of
God, and then he states what is of an opposite character. Thou, God,
he says, art pure in eyes; hence thou canst not look on evil; it is
not consistent with thy nature to pass by the vices of men, for
every iniquity is hateful to thee. Thus the Prophet sets before
himself the nature of God. Then he adds, that experience is opposed
to this; for the wicked, he says, exult; and while they miserably
oppress the innocent, no one affords any help. How is this, except
that God sleeps in heaven, and neglects the affairs of men? We now
then understand the Prophet's meaning in this verse.
    By saying that God is pure in eyes, he assumes what ought to be
deemed certain and indubitable by all men of piety. But as God's
justice does not always appear, the Prophet has a struggle; and he
shows that he in a manner vacillated, for he did not see in the
state of things before him what yet his piety dictated to him, that
is, that God was just and upright. It is indeed true, that the
second part of the verse borders on blasphemy: for though the
Prophet ever thought honourably and reverently of God, yet he
murmurs here, and indirectly charges God with too much tardiness, as
he connived at things, while he saw the just shamefully oppressed by
the wicked. But we must notice the order which the Prophet keeps.
For by saying that God is pure in eyes, he no doubt restrains
himself. As there was danger lest this temptation should carry him
too far, he meets it in time, and includes himself, in a manner,
within this boundary - that we ought to retain a full conviction of
God's justice. The same order is observed by Jeremiah when he says,
'I know, Lord, that thou art just, but how is it that the ungodly do
thus pervert all equity? and thou either takest no notice, or dost
not apply any remedy. I would therefore freely contend with thee.'
The Prophet does not immediately break out into such an expression
as this, "O Lord, I will contend with thee in judgement:" but before
he mentions his complaint, knowing that his feelings were strongly
excited, he makes a kind of preface, and in a manner restrains
himself, that he might check that extreme ardour which might have
otherwise carried him beyond due bounds; "Thou art just, O Lord," he
says. In a similar manner does our prophet speak here, Thou art pure
in eyes, so as not to behold evil; and thou canst not look on
    Since, he says, thou canst not look on trouble, we find that he
confirms himself in that truth - that the justice of God cannot be
separated from his very nature: and by saying, "lo tuchal", "thou
canst not," it is the same as though he had said, "Thou, O Lord, art
just, because thou art God; and God, because thou art just." For
these two things cannot be separated, as both the eternity, and the
very being of God, cannot stand without his justice. We hence see
how strenuously the Prophet struggled against his own impetuosity,
so that he might not too much indulge himself in the complaint,
which immediately follows.
    For he then asks, according to the common judgement of the
flesh, Why dost thou look on, when the ungodly devours one more just
than himself? The Prophet here does not divest God of his power, but
speaks in doubt, and contends not so much with God as with himself.
A profane man would have said, "There is no God, there is no
providence," or, "He cares not for the world, he takes his pleasure
in heaven." But the Prophet says, "Thou seest, Lord." Hence he
ascribes to God what peculiarly belongs to him - that he does not
neglect the world which he has created. At the same time he here
inclines two ways, and alternates; Why does thou look on, when the
ungodly devours one more just than himself? He says not that the
world revolves by chance, nor that God takes his delight and ease in
heaven, as the Epicureans hold; but he confesses that the world is
seen by God, and that he exercises care over the affairs of men:
notwithstanding, as he could not see his way clear in a state of
things so confused, he argues the point rather with himself than
with God. We now see the import of this sentence. The Prophet,
however, proceeds -

Habakkuk 1:14,15
And makest men as the fishes of the sea, as the creeping things,
[that have] no ruler over them?
They take up all of them with the angle, they catch them in their
net, and gather them in their drag: therefore they rejoice and are

    He goes on, as it has been said, in his complaint; and by a
comparison he shows that the judgement would be such as though God
turned away from men, so as not to check the violence of the wicked,
nor oppose his hand to their wantonness, in order to restrain them.
Since, then, every one would oppress another as he exceeded him in
power, and would with increased insolence rise up against the
miserable and the poor, the Prophet compares man to the fish of the
sea, - "What can this mean?" he says. "For men have been created
after God's image: why then does not some justice appear among them?
When one devours another, and even one man oppresses almost the
whole world, what can be the meaning of this? God seems to sport
with human affairs. For if he regards men as his children, why does
he not defend them by his power? But we see one man (for he speaks
of the Assyrian king) so enraged and so cruel, as though the rest of
the world were like fish or reptiles." Thou makes men, he says, like
reptiles or ashes; and then he adds, He draws up the whole by his
hook, he collects them into his drag, he gathers then into his net,
he exults.
    We now see what the Prophet means - that God would, as it were,
close his eyes, while the Assyrians wantonly laid waste the whole
world: and when this tyranny should reach the holy land, what else
could the faithful think but that they were forsaken by God? And
there is nothing, as I have already said, more monstrous, than that
iniquitous tyranny should thus prevail among men; for they have all,
from the least to the greatest, been created after God's image. God
then ought to exercise peculiar care in preserving mankind; his
paternal love and solicitude ought in this respect to appear
evident: but when men are thus destroyed with impunity, and one
oppresses almost all the rest, there seems indeed to be no divine
providence. For how will it be that he will care for either birds,
or oxen, or asses, or trees, or plants, when he will thus forsake
men, and bring no aid in so confused a state? We now understand the
drift of what the Prophet says.
    But yet he does not, as I have already said, take away from God
his power, nor does he here rail against fortune, as many cavillers
do. Thou makest men, he says: he ascribes to God what cannot be
taken from him, - that he governs the world. But as to God's
justice, he hesitates, and appeals to God. Though the Prophet seems
here to rush headlong like insane men; yet if we consider all
things, we shall see that he strenuously contended with his
temptations, and even in these words some sparks at least of faith
will shine forth, which are sufficient to show to us the great
firmness of the Prophet. For this especially is worthy of being
noticed, - that the Prophet turns himself to God. The Epicureans,
when they glamour against God, for the most part, seek the ear of
the multitude; and so they speak evil of God and withdraw themselves
at a distance from him; for they do not think that he exercises any
care over the world. But the Prophet continually addresses God. He
knew then that God was the governor of all things. He also desires
to be extricated from thoughts so thorny and perplexing; and from
whom does he seek relief? From God himself. When the profane
wantonly deride God, they indulge themselves, and seek nothing else
but to become hardened in their own impious conjectures: but the
Prophet comes to God himself, "How does this happen, O Lord?" As
though he had said,
    "Thou sees how I am distracted, and also held fast bound -
distracted by many absurd thoughts, so that I am almost confounded,
and held fast bound by great perplexities, from which I cannot
extricate myself. Do thou, O Lord, unfold to me these knots, and
concentrate my scattered thoughts, that I may understand what is
true, and what I am to believe; and especially remove from me this
doubt, lest it should shake my faith; O Lord, grant that I may at
length know and fully understand how thou art just, and overrules,
consistently with perfect equity, those things which seem to be so
    It also happens sometimes that the ungodly, as it were, openly
revile God, a satanic rage having taken possession on them. But the
case was far different with the Prophet; for finding himself
overwhelmed and his mind not able to sustain him under so heavy
trials, he sought relief, and as we have said, applied to God
    By saying, He therefore rejoices add exults, he increases the
indignity; for though the Lord may for a time permit the wicked to
oppress the innocent, yet when he finds them glorying in their vices
and triumphing, so great a wantonness ought the more to kindle his
vengeance. That the Lord then should still withhold himself, seems
indeed very strange. But the Prophet proceeds -

Habakkuk 1:16
Therefore they sacrifice unto their net, and burn incense unto their
drag; because by them their portion [is] fat, and their meat

    The Prophet confirms the closing sentence of the last verse;
for he explains what that joy was of which he had spoken, even the
joy by which the wicked, as it were, designedly provoke God against
themselves. It is indeed an abominable thing when the ungodly take
delight in their vices; but it is still more atrocious when they
deride God himself. Such, then, is the account now added by the
Prophet, as though he had said, "Not only do the ungodly felicitate
themselves while thou sparest them, or for a time bearest with them;
but they now rise up against thee and deride all thy majesty, and
openly blaspheme against heaven itself; for they sacrifice to their
own net, and offer incense to their drag." By this metaphor the
Prophet intimates, that the wicked do not only become hardened when
they succeed in their vices, but that they also ascribe to
themselves the praise of justice; for they consider that to be
rightly done which has been attended with success. They thus
dethrone God, and put themselves in his place. We now then see the
Prophet's meaning.
    But this passage discovers to us the secret impiety of all
those who do not serve God sincerely and with an honest mind. There
is indeed imprinted on the hearts of men a certain conviction
respecting the existence of a God; for none are so barbarous as not
to have some sense of religion: and thus all are rendered
inexcusable, as they carry in their hearts a law which is sufficient
to make them a thousand times guilty. But at the same time the
ungodly, and those who are not illuminated by faith, bury this
knowledge, for they are enveloped in themselves: and when some
recollection of God creeps in, they are at first impressed, and
ascribe some honour to him; but this is evanescent, for they soon
suppress it as much as they can; yea they even strive to extinguish
(though they cannot) this knowledge and whatever light they have
from heaven. This is what the Prophet now graphically sets forth in
the person of the Assyrian king. He had before said, "This power is
that of his God." He had complained that the Assyrians would give to
their idols what was peculiar to God alone, and thus deprive him of
his right: but he says now, that they would sacrifice to their own
drag, and offer incense to their net. This is a very different
thing: for how could they sacrifice to their idols, if they ascribed
to their drag whatever victories they had gained? Now, by the words
drag and net, the Prophet means their efforts, strength, forces,
power, counsels, and policies as they call them, and whatever else
there be which profane men arrogate to themselves. But what is it to
sacrifice to their own net? The Assyrian did this, because he
thought that he surpassed all others in craftiness, because he
thought himself so courageous as not to hesitate to make war with
all nations, regarding himself well prepared with forces and
justified in his proceedings; and because he became successful and
omitted nothing calculated to ensure victory. Thus the Assyrian, as
I have said, regarded as nothing his idols; for he put himself in
the place of all the gods. But if it be asked whence came his
success, we must answer, that the Assyrian ought to have ascribed it
all to the one true God: but he thought that he prospered through
his own velour. If we refer to counsel, it is certain that God is he
who governs the counsels and minds of men; but the Assyrian thought
that he gained everything by his own skill. If, again, we speak of
strength, whence was it? and of courage, whence was it, but from
God? but the Assyrian appropriated all these things to himself. What
regard, then, had he for God? We see how he now takes away all
honour even from his own idols, and attributes everything to
    But this sin, as I have already said, belongs to all the
ungodly; for where God's Spirit does not reign, there is no
humility, and men ever swell with inward pride, until God thoroughly
cleanse them. It is then necessary that God should empty us by his
special grace, that we may not be filled with this satanic pride,
which is innate, and which cannot by any means be shaken off by us,
until the Lord regenerates us by his Spirit. And this may be seen es
specially in all the kings of this world. They indeed confess that
kings rule through God's grace; and then when they gain any victory,
supplications are made, vows are paid. But were any one to say to
those conquerors, "God had mercy on you," the answer would be,
"What! was then my preparation nothing? did I not provide many
things beforehand? did I not attain the friendship of many? did I
not form confederacies? did I not foresee such and such
disadvantages? did I not opportunely provide a remedy?" In a word,
they sacrifice apparently to God, but afterwards they have a regard
mainly to their drag and their net, and make nothing of God. Well
would it be were these things not so evident. But since the Spirit
of God sets before us a lively image of the fact, let us learn what
true humility is, and that we then only have this, when we think
that we are nothing, and can do nothing, and that it is God alone
who not only supports and continues us in life, but also governs us
by his Spirit, and that it is he who sustains our hearts, gives
courage, and then blesses us, so as to render prosperous what we may
undertake. Let us hence learn that God cannot be really glorified,
except when men wholly empty themselves.
    He then adds, because in (or by) them is his fat portion and
his rich meat. Though some render "beri'ah" choice meat, and others,
fat meat, I yet prefer the meaning of rich: His meat then will be
rich. The Prophet intimates here that men are so blinded by
prosperity that they sacrifice to themselves, and hence the more
deserving of reproof is their ingratitude; for the more liberally
God deals with us the more reason, no doubt, there is why we ought
to glorify him. But when men, well supplied and fully satisfied,
thus swell with pride and sacrifice to themselves, is not their
impiety in this manner more completely discovered? But the Prophet
not only proves that the Assyrians abused God's bounty, but he shows
in their person what is the disposition of the whole world. For when
men accumulate great wealth, and pile up a great heap from the
property of others, they become more and more blinded. We hence see
that we ought justly to fear the evil of prosperity, lest our
fatness should so increase that we can see nothing; for the eyes are
dimmed by excessive fatness. Let this then be ever remembered by us.
The Prophet then concludes his discourse: but as one verse of the
first chapter only remains, I shall briefly notice it.

Habakkuk 1:17
Shall they therefore empty their net, and not spare continually to
slay the nations?

    This is an affirmative question, "Shall they therefore;" which,
however, requires a negative answer. Then all interpreters are
mistaken; for they think that the Prophet here complains, that he
presently extends his net after having made a capture, but he rather
means, "Is he ever to extend his net?" that is, "How long, O Lord,
wilt thou permit the Assyrians to proceed to new plunders, so as to
be like the hunter, who after having taken a boar or a stag, is more
eager, and immediately renews his hunting; or like the fisherman,
who having filled his little ship, with more avidity pursues his
vocation? Wilt thou, Lord, he says, suffer the Assyrians to become
more assiduous in their work of destruction?" And he shows how
unworthy they were of God's forbearance, for they slew the nations.
"I speak not here," he says, "either of fish or of any other animal,
nor do I speak of this or that man, but I speak of many nations. As
these slaughters are thus carried on through the whole world, how
long, Lord, shall they be unpunished? for they will never cease." We
now see the purport of the Prophet's complaint; but we shall find in
the next lecture how he recovers himself.


Grant, Almighty God, that as it cannot be but that, owing to the
infirmity of our flesh, we must be shaken and tossed here and there
by the many turbulent commotions of this world, - O grant, that our
faith may be sustained by this support - that thou art the governor
of the world, and that men were not only once created by thee, but
are also preserved by thy hand, and that thou art also a just judge,
so that we may duly restrain ourselves; and though we must often
have to bear many insults, let us yet never fail, until our faith
shall become victorious over all trials, and until we, having passed
through continued succession of contests, shall at length reach that
celestial rest, which Christ thy Son has obtained for us. Amen.

Chapter 2.

Lecture One Hundred and Ninth.

Habakkuk 2:1
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.

    We have seen in the first chapter that the Prophet said in the
name of all the faithful. It was indeed a hard struggle, when all
things were in a perplexed state and no outlet appeared. The
faithful might have thought that all things happened by chance, that
there was no divine providence; and even the Prophet uttered
complaints of this kind. He now begins to recover himself from his
perplexities; and he ever speaks in the person of the godly, or of
the whole Church. For what is done by some interpreters, who confine
what is said to the prophetic office, I do not approve; and it may
be easy from the contempt to learn, that the Prophet does not speak
according to his private feeling, but that he represents the
feelings of all the godly. So then we ought to collect this verse
with the complaints, which we have before noticed; for the Prophet,
finding himself sinking, and as it were overwhelmed in the deepest
abyss, raises himself up above the judgement and reason of men, and
comes nearer to God, that he might see from on high the things which
take place on earth, and not judge according to the understanding of
his own flesh, but by the light of the Holy Spirit. For the tower of
which he speaks is patience arising from hope. If indeed we would
struggle perseveringly to the last, and at length obtain the victory
over all trials and conflicts, we must rise above the world.
    Some understand by tower and citadel the Word of God: and this
may in some measure be allowed, though not in every respect
suitable. If we more fully weigh the reason for the metaphor, we
shall be at no loss to know that the tower is the recess of the
mind, where we withdraw ourselves from the world; for we find how
disposed we are all to entertain distrust. When, therefore, we
follow our own inclination, various temptations immediately lay hold
on us; nor can we even for a moment exercise hope in God: and many
things are also suggested to us, which take away and deprive us of
all confidence: we become also involved in variety of thoughts, for
when Satan finds men wandering in their imaginations and blending
many things together, he so entangles them that they cannot by any
means come nigh to God. If then we would cherish faith in our
hearts, we must rise above all these difficulties and hindrances.
And the Prophet by tower means this, that he extricated himself from
the thoughts of the flesh; for there would have been no end nor
termination to his doubts, had he tried to form a judgement
according to his own understanding; I will stand, he says, on my
tower, I and I will set myself on the citadel. In short, the
sentence carries this meaning - that the Prophet renounced the
judgement of men, and broke through all those snares by which Satan
entangles us and prevents us to rise above the earth.
    He then adds, I will watch to see what he may say to me, that
is, I will be there vigilant; for by watching he means vigilance and
waiting, as though he had said, "Though no hope should soon appear,
I shall not despond; nor shall I forsake my station; but I shall
remain constantly in that tower, to which I wish now to ascend: I
will watch then to see what he may say to me." The reference is
evidently to God; for the opinion of those is not probable, who
apply this "saying" to the ministers of Satan. For the Prophet says
first, 'I will see what he may say to me,' and then he adds, 'and
what I shall answer.' They who explain the words 'what he may say,'
as referring to the wicked who might oppose him for the purpose of
shaking his faith, overlook the words of the Prophet, for he speaks
here in the singular number; and as there is no name expressed, the
Prophet no doubt meant God. But were the words capable of admitting
this explanation, yet the very drift of the argument shows, that the
passage has the meaning which I have attached to it. For how could
the faithful answer the calumnies by which their faith was assailed,
when the profane opprobriously mocked and derided them - how could
they satisfactorily disprove such blasphemies, did they not first
attend to what God might say to them? For we cannot confute the
devil and his ministers, except we be instructed by the word of God.
We hence see that the Prophet observes the best order in what he
states, when he says in the first place, 'I will see what God may
say to me;' and in the second place, 'I shall then be taught to
answer to my chiding;' that is, "If the wicked deride my faith, I
shall be able boldly to confute them; for the Lord will suggest to
me such things as may enable me to give a full answer." We now
perceive the simple and real meaning of this verse. It remains for
us to accommodate the doctrine to our own use.
    It must be first observed, that there is no remedy, when such
trials as those mentioned by the Prophet in the first chapter meet
us, except we learn to raise up our minds above the world. For if we
contend with Satan, according to our own view of things, he will a
hundred times overwhelm us, and we can never be able to resist him.
Let us therefore know, that here is shown to us the right way of
fighting with him, when our minds are agitated with unbelief, when
doubts respecting God's providence creep in, when things are so
confused in this world as to involve us in darkness, so that no
light appears: we must bid adieu to our own reason; for all our
thoughts are nothing worth, when we seek, according to our own
reason, to form a judgement. Until then the faithful ascend to their
tower and stand in their citadel, of which the Prophet here speaks,
their temptations will drive them here and there, and sink them as
it were in a bottomless gulf. But that we may more fully understand
the meaning, we must know, that there is here an implied contrast
between the tower and the citadel, which the Prophet mentions, and a
station on earth. As long then as we judge according to our own
perceptions, we walk on the earth; and while we do so, many clouds
arise, and Satan scatters ashes in our eyes, and wholly darkens our
judgement, and thus it happens, that we lie down altogether
confounded. It is hence wholly necessary, as we have before said,
that we should tread our reason under foot, and come nigh to God
    We have said, that the tower is the recess of the mind; but how
can we ascend to it? even by following the word of the Lord. For we
creep on the earth; nay, we find that our flesh ever draws us
downward: except then the truth from above becomes to us as it were
wings, or a ladder, or a vehicle, we cannot rise up one foot; but,
on the contrary, we shall seek refuges on the earth rather than
ascend into heaven. But let the word of God become our ladder, or
our vehicle, or our wings, and, however difficult the ascent may be,
we shall yet be able to fly upward, provided God's word be allowed
to have its own authority. We hence see how unsuitable is the view
of those interpreters, who think that the tower and the citadel is
the word of God; for it is by God's word, as I have already said,
that we are raised up to this citadel, that is, to the safeguard of
hope; where we may remain safe and secure while looking down from
this eminence on those things which disturb us and darken all our
senses as long as we lie on the earth. This is one thing.
    Then the repetition is not without its use; for the Prophet
says, On my tower will I stand, on the citadel will I set myself. He
does not repeat in other words the same thing, because it is
obscure; but in order to remind the faithful, that though they are
inclined to sloth, they must yet strive to extricate themselves. And
we soon find how slothful we become, except each of us stirs up
himself. For when any perplexity takes hold on our minds, we soon
succumb to despair. This, then, is the reason why the Prophet, after
having spoken of the tower, again mentions the citadel.
    But when he says, I will watch to see, he refers to
perseverance; for it is not enough to open our eyes once, and by one
look to observe what happens to us; but it is necessary to continue
our attention. This constant attention is, then, what the Prophet
means by watching; for we are not so clear-sighted as immediately to
comprehend what is useful to be known. And then, though we may once
see what is necessary, yet a new temptation can obliterate that
view. It thus happens, that all our observations become evanescent,
except we continue to watch, that is, except we persevere in our
attention, so that we may ever return to God, whenever the devil
raises new storms, and whenever he darkens the heavens with clouds
to prevent us to see God. We hence see how emphatical is what the
Prophet says here, I will watch to see. The Prophet evidently
compares the faithful to watchmen, who, though they hear nothing,
yet do not sleep; and if they hear any noise once or twice, they do
not immediately sound an alarm, but wait and attend. As, then, they
who keep watch ought to remain quiet, that they may not disturb
others, and that they may duly perform their office; so it behaves
the faithful to be also tranquil and quiet, and wait patiently for
God during times of perplexity and confusion.
    Let us now inquire what is the purpose of this watching: I will
watch to see, he says, what he may say to me. There seems to be an
impropriety in the expression; for we do not properly see what is
said. But the Prophet connects together here two metaphors. To speak
strictly correct, he ought to have said, "I will continue attentive
to hear what he may say;" but he says, I will watch to see what he
may say. The metaphor is found correctly used in Psal. 85: 8, "I
will hear what God may say; for he will speak peace to his people."
There also it is a metaphor, for the Prophet speaks not of natural
hearing: "I will hear what God may speak," what does that hearing
mean? It means this, "I will quietly wait until God shows his
favour, which is now hid; for he will speak peace to his people;"
that is, the Lord will never forget his own Church. But the Prophet,
as I have said, joins together here two metaphors; for to speak, or
to say, means no other thing than that God testifies to our hearts,
that though the reason for his purpose does not immediately appear
to us, yet all things are wisely ruled, and that nothing is better
than to submit to his will. But when he says, "I will see, and I
will watch what he may say," the metaphor seems incongruous, and yet
there appears a reason for it; for the Prophet intended to remind
us, that we ought to employ all our senses for this end, - to be
wholly attentive to God's word. For though one may be resolved to
hear God, we yet find that many temptations immediately distract us.
It is not then enough to become teachable, and to apply our ears to
hear his voice, except also our eyes be connected with them, so that
we may be altogether attentive.
    We hence see the object of the Prophet; for he meant to express
the greatest attention, as though he had said, that the faithful
would ever wander in their thoughts, except they carefully
concentrated both their eyes and their ears, and all their senses,
on God, and continually restrained themselves, lest vagrant
speculations or imaginations should lead them astray. And further,
the Prophet teaches us, that we ought to have such reverence for
God's word as to deem it sufficient for us to hear his voice. Let
this, then, be our understanding, to obey God speaking to us, and
reverently to embrace his word, so that he may deliver us from all
troubles, and also keep our minds in peace and tranquillity.
    God's speaking, then, is opposed to all the obstreperous
clamours of Satan, which he never ceases to sound in our ears. For
as soon as any temptation takes place, Satan suggests many things to
us, and those of various kinds: - "What will you do? what advice
will you take? see whether God is propitious to you from whom you
expect help. How can you dare to trust that God will assist you? How
can he extricate you? What will be the issue?" As Satan then
disturbs us in various ways, the Prophet shows that the word of God
alone is sufficient for us all, then, who indulge themselves in
their own counsels, deserve to be forsaken by God, and to be left by
him to be driven up and down, and here and there, by Satan; for the
only unfailing security for the faithful is to acquiesce in God's
    But this appears still more clear from what is expressed at the
close of the verse, when the Prophet adds, and what I may answer to
the reproof given me; for he shows that he would be furnished with
the best weapons to sustain and repel all assaults, provided he
patiently attended to God speaking to him, and fully embraced his
word: "Then," he says, "I shall have what I may answer to all
reproofs, when the Lord shall speak to me". By "reproofs," he means
not only the blasphemies by which the wicked shake his faith, but
also all those turbulent feelings by which Satan secretly labours to
subvert his faith. For not only the ungodly deride us and mock at
our simplicity, as though we presumptuously and foolishly trusted in
God, and were thus over-credulous; but we also reprove ourselves
inwardly, and disturb ourselves by various internal contentions; for
whatever comes to our mind that is in opposition to God's word, is
properly a chiding or a reproof, as it is the same thing as if one
accused himself, as though he had not found God to be faithful. We
now, then see that the word "reproof" extends farther than to those
outward blasphemies by which the unbelieving are wont to assail the
children of God; for, as we have already said, though no one
attempted to try our faith, yet every one is a tempter to himself;
for the devil never ceases to agitate our minds. When, therefore,
the Prophet says, what I may answer to reproof, he means, that he
would be sufficiently fortified against all the assaults of Satan,
both secret and external, when he heard what God might say to him.
    We may also gather from the whole verse, that we can form no
judgement of God's providence, except by the light of celestial
truth. It is hence no wonder that many fall away under trials, yea,
almost the whole world; for few there are who ascend into the
citadel of which the Prophet speaks, and who are willing to hear God
speaking to them. Hence, presumption and arrogance blind the minds
of men, so that they either speak evil of God who addresses them, or
accuse fortune, or maintain that there is nothing certain: thus they
murmur within themselves, and arrogate to themselves more than they
ought, and never submit to God's word. Let us proceed, -

Habakkuk 2:2,3
And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make [it]
plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.
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 Prophet now shows by his own example that there is no fear
but that God will give help in time, provided we bring our minds to
a state of spiritual tranquillity, and constantly look up to him:
for the event which the Prophet relates, proves that there is no
danger that God will frustrate their hope and patience, who lift up
their minds to heaven, and continue steadily in that attitude.
Answer me, he says, did Jehovah, and said. There is no doubt but
that the Prophet accommodates here his own example to the common
instruction of the whole Church. Hence, by testifying that an answer
was given him by God, he intimates that we ought to entertain a
cheerful hope, that the Lord, when he finds us stationed in our
watch-tower, will in due season convey to us the consolation which
he sees we need.
    But he afterwards comes to the discharge of his prophetic
office; for he was bid to write the vision on tables, and to write
it in large letters, that it might be read, and that any one,
passing by quickly, might be able by one glance to see what was
written: and by this second part he shows still more clearly that he
treated of a common truth, which belonged to the whole body of the
Church; for it was not for his own sake that he was bid to write,
but for the edification of all.
    Write, then, the vision, and mace it plain; for "ba'ar"
properly means, to declare plainly. Unfold it then, he says, on
tables, that he may run who reads it; that is, that the writing may
not cause the readers to stop. Write it in large characters, that
any one, in running by, may see what is written. Then he adds, for
the vision shall be for an appointed time.
    This is a remarkable passage; for we are taught here that we
are not to deal with God in too limited a manner, but room must be
given for hope; for the Lord does not immediately execute what he
declares by his mouth; but his purpose is to prove our patience, and
the obedience of our faith. Hence he says, the vision, is for a
time, and a fixed time: for "mo'ed" means a time which has been
determined by agreement. But as it is God who fore appoints the
time, the constituted time, of which the Prophet speaks, depends on
his will and power. The vision, then, shall be for a time. He
reproves here that immoderate ardour which takes hold on us, when we
are anxious that God should immediately accomplish what he promises.
The Prophet then shows that God so speaks as to be at liberty to
defer the execution of his promise until it seems good to him.
    At the end, he says, it will speak. In a word, the Prophet
intimates, that honour is to be given to God's word, that we ought
to be fully persuaded that God speaks what is true, and be so
satisfied with his promises as though what is promised were really
possessed by us. At the end, then, it will speak and it will not
lie. Here the Prophet means, that fulfilment would take place, so
that experience would at length prove, that God had not spoken in
vain, nor for the sake of deceiving; but yet that there was need of
patience; for, as it has been said, God intends not to indulge our
fervid and importunate desires by an immediate fulfilment, but his
design is to hold us in suspense. And this is the true sacrifice of
praise, when we restrain ourselves, and remain firm in the
persuasion that God cannot deceive nor lie, though he may seem for a
time to trifle with us. It will not, then, lie.
    He afterwards adds, If it will delay, wait for it. He again
expresses still more clearly the true character of faith, that it
does not break forth immediately into complaints, when God connives
at things, when he suffers us to be oppressed by the wicked, when he
does not immediately succour us; in a word, when he does not without
delay fulfil what he has promised in his word. If, then, it delays,
wait for it. He again repeats the same thing, coming it will come;
that is, however it may be, God, who is not only true, but truth
itself, will accomplish his own promises. The fulfilment, then, of
the promise will take place in due time.
    But we must notice the contrariety, If it will delay, it will
come, it will not delay. The two clauses seem to be contrary the one
to the other. But delay, mentioned first, has a reference to our
haste. It is a common proverb, "Even quickness is delay to desire."
We indeed make such haste in all our desires, that the Lord, when he
delays one moment, seems to be too slow. Thus it may come easily to
our mind to expostulate with him on the ground of slowness. God,
then, is said on this account to delay in his promises; and his
promises also as to their accomplishment may be said to be delayed.
But if we have regard to the counsel of God, there is never any
delay; for he knows all the points of time, and in slowness itself
he always hastens, however this may be not comprehended by the
flesh. We now, then, apprehend what the Prophet means.
    He is now bidden to write the vision, and to explain it on
tables. Many confine this to the coming of Christ; but I rather
think that the Prophet ascribes the name of vision to the doctrine
or admonition, which he immediately subjoins. It is indeed true,
that the faithful under the law could not have cherished hope in God
without having their eyes and their minds directed to Christ: but it
is one thing to take a passage in a restricted sense as applying to
Christ himself, and another thing to set forth those promises which
refer to the preservation of the Church. As far then as the promises
of God in Christ are yea and amen, no vision could have been given
to the Fathers, which could have raised their minds, and supported
them in the hope of salvation, without Christ having been brought
before them. But the Prophet here intimates generally, that a
command was given to him to supply the hearts of the godly with this
support, that they were, as we shall hereafter more clearly see, to
wait for God. The vision, then, is nothing else than an admonition,
which will be found in the next and the following verses.
    He uses two words, to write and to explain; which some pervert
rather than rightly distinguish: for as the Prophets were wont to
write, and also to set forth the summaries or the heads of their
discourses, they think that it was a command to Habakkuk to write,
that he might leave on record to posterity what he had said; and
then to publish what he taught as an edict, that it might be seen by
the people passing by, not only for a day or for a few days. But I
do not think that the Prophet speaks with so much refinement: I
therefore consider that to write and to explain on tables mean the
same thing. And what is added, that he may run who reads it, is to
be understood as I have already explained it; for God intended to
set forth this declaration as memorable and worthy of special
notice. It was not usual with the Prophets to write in long and
large characters; but the Prophet mentions here something peculiar,
because the declaration was worthy of being especially observed.
What is similar to this is said in Isaiah 8: 1, 'Write on at table
with a man's pen.' By a man's pen is to be understood common
writing, such as is comprehended by the rudest and the most
ignorant. To the same purpose is what God bids here his servant
Habakkuk to do. Write, he says how? Not as Prophecies are wont to be
written, for the Prophets set before the people the heads of their
discourses; but write, he says, so that he who runs may read, and
that though he may be inattentive, he may yet see what is written;
for the table itself will plainly show what it contains.
    We now see that the Prophet commends, by a peculiar eulogy,
what he immediately subjoins. Hence this passage ought to awaken all
our powers, as God himself testifies that he announces what is
worthy of being remembered: for he speaks not of a common truth; but
his purpose was to reveal something great and unusually excellent;
as he bids it, as I have already said, to be written in large
characters, so that those who run might read it.
    And by saying that the vision is yet for a time, he shows, as I
have briefly explained, what great reverence is due to heavenly
truth. For to wish God to conform to our rule is extremely
preposterous and unreasonable: and there is no place for faith, if
we expect God to fulfil immediately what he promises. It is hence
the trial of faith to acquiesce in God's word, when its
accomplishment does in no way appear. As then the Prophet teaches
us, that the vision is yet for a time, he reminds us that we have no
faith, except we are satisfied with God's word alone, and suspend
our desires until the seasonable time comes, that which God himself
has appointed. The vision, then, yet shall be. But we are inclined
to reduce, as it were, to nothing the power of God, except he
accomplishes what he has said: "Yet, yet," says the Prophet, "the
vision shall be;" that is, "Though God does not stretch forth his
hand, still let what he has spoken be sufficient for you: let then
the vision itself be enough for you; let it be deemed worthy of
credit, so that the word of God may on its own account be believed;
and let it not be tried according to the common rule; for men charge
God with falsehood, except he immediately yields to their desires.
Let then the vision itself be counted sufficiently solid and firm,
until the suitable time shall come." And the word "mo'ed" ought to
be noticed; for the Prophet does not speak simply of time, but, as I
have already said, he points out a certain and a preordained time.
When men make an agreement, they on both sides fix the day: but it
would be the highest presumption in us to require that God should
appoint the day according to our will. It belongs, then, to him to
appoint the times, and so to govern all things, that we may approve
of whatever he does.
    He afterwards says, And it will speak at the end, and it will
not lie. The same is the import of the expression, it will speak at
the end; that is, men are very perverse, if they wish God to close
his mouth, and if they wish to deny faith to his word, except he
instantly fulfil what he speaks. It will then speak; that is, let
this liberty of speaking be allowed to God. And there is always an
implied contrast between the voice of God and its accomplishment;
for we are to acquiesce in God's word, though he may conceal his
hand: though he may afford no proof of his power, yet the Prophet
commands this honour to be given to his word. The vision, then, will
speak at the end.
    He now expresses more clearly what he had before said of the
preordained time; and thus he meets the objections which Satan is
wont to suggest to us: "How long will that time be delayed? Thou
indeed namest it as the preordained time; but when will that day
come?" "The Lord," he says, "will speak at the end;" that is,
"Though the Lord protracts time, and though day after day we seem to
live on vain promises, yet let God speak, that is, let him have this
honour from you, and be ye persuaded that he is true, that he cannot
disappoint you; and in the meantime wait for his power; wait, so
that ye may yet remain quiet, resting on his word, and let all your
thoughts be confined within this stronghold - that it is enough that
God has spoken. The rest we shall defer until to-morrow.

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou sees us labouring under so much
weakness, yea, with our minds so blinded that our faith falters at
the smallest perplexities, and almost fails altogether, - O grant
that by the power of thy Spirit we may be raised up above this
world, and learn more and more to renounce our own counsels, and so
to come to thee, that we may stand fixed in our watch tower, ever
hoping, through thy power, for whatever thou hast promised to us,
though thou shouldst not immediately make it manifest to us that
thou hast 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 thine image, whatever can be wished, and whatever is
needful for our perfect happiness, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Lecture One Hundred and Tenth.

    The Prophet taught us yesterday, that we ought to allow God his
right of speaking to us, and of sustaining us by his own word, until
the ripe time shall come, when he shall really fulfil what he has
promised. Then an exhortation follows, added at the close of the
verse - that we are to exercise patience; and the Apostle also,
referring to this passage in Heb. 10: 38, makes a similar
application. He indeed quotes what we shall find in the next verse,
'The just by his faith shall live;' but he had in view the whole
context; and at the same time he reminds us of the Prophet's object
here in exalting the authority of God's word. The exhortation, then,
is briefly this - that though God may keep us in suspense, we yet
ought not to cast away hope, for he knows when it is expedient for
us that he should stretch forth his hand. And as there are two
clauses, as I said yesterday, which seem at first sight to be
inconsistent the one with the other, the Prophet very fitly joins
them together, and considers them to be in perfect harmony; for
though God may appear to delay, yet he is not slower than what is
necessary and expedient. Let us then be fully persuaded that there
is in God prudence and wisdom enough to assist us as soon as it may
be needful. The Prophet now reminds us that it is no wonder if God
seems to us to delay, for we are too hasty in our desires. Let
therefore this fervour be restrained, so that we may subject our
feelings to the providence and purpose of God. Let us now proceed -

Habakkuk 2:4
Behold, his soul [which] is lifted up is not upright in him: but the
just shall live by his faith.

    This verse stands connected with the last, for the Prophet
means to show that nothing is better than to rely on God's word, how
much soever may various temptations assault our souls. We hence see
that nothing new is said here, hut that the former doctrine is
confirmed - that our salvation is rendered safe and certain through
God's promise alone, and that therefore we ought not to seek any
other haven, where we might securely sustain all the onsets of Satan
and of the world. But he sets the two clauses the one opposed to the
other: every man who would fortify himself would ever be subject to
various changes, and never attain a quiet mind; then comes the other
clause - that man cannot otherwise obtain rest than by faith.
    But the former part is variously explained. Some interpreters
think the word "upelah" to be a noun, and render it elevation, which
is not unsuitable; and indeed I hesitate not to regard this as its
real meaning, for the Hebrews call a citadel "ophel", rightly
deriving it from "aphal" to ascend. What some others maintain, that
it signifies to strengthen, is not well founded. Some again give
this explanation - that the unbelieving seek a stronghold for
themselves, that they may fortify themselves; and this makes but
little difference as to the thing itself. But interpreters vary, and
differ as to the meaning of the sentence; for some substitute the
predicate for the subject, and the subject for the predicate, and
elicit this meaning from the Prophet's words - "Every one whose mind
is not at ease seeks a fortress, where he may safely rest and
strengthens himself;" and others give this view - "He who is proud,
or who thinks himself well fortified, shall ever be of an unquiet
mind." And this latter meaning is what I approve, only that I retain
the import of the word "upelah" as though it was said - "where there
is an elation of mind there is no tranquillity."
    Let us see first what their view is who give the other
explanation. They say that the unbelieving, being obstinate and
perverted in their minds, ever seek where they may be in safety, for
they are full of suspicions, and having no regard to God they resort
to the world for those remedies, by which they may escape evils and
dangers. This is their view. But the Prophet, as I have already
said, does here, on the contrary, denounce punishment on the
unbelieving, as though he had said - "This reward, which they have
deserved, shall be repaid to them - that they shall always torment
themselves." The contrast will thus be more obvious; and when we say
that God punishes the unbelieving, when he suffers them to be driven
here and there, and also harasses their minds with various
tormenting thoughts, a more fruitful doctrine is elicited. When
therefore the Prophet says that there is no calmness of mind
possessed by those who deem themselves well fortified, he intimates
that they are their own executioners, for they seek for themselves
many troubles, many sorrows, many anxieties, and contrive and mingle
together many designs and purposes; now they think of one thing,
then they turn to another; for the Hebrews say that the soul is made
right when we acquiesce in a thing and continue in a tranquil state
of mind; but when confused thoughts distract us, then they say that
our soul is not right in us. We now perceive the real meaning of the
    Behold, he says: by this demonstrative particle he intimates
that what he teaches us may be clearly seen if we attend to daily
events. The meaning then is, that a proof of this fact exists
evidently in the common life of men - that he who fortifies himself,
and is also elated with self confidence, never finds a tranquil
haven, for some new suspicion or fear ever disturbs his mind. Hence
it comes that the soul entangles itself in various cares and
anxieties. This is the reward, as I have said, which is allotted by
God's just judgement to the unbelieving; for God, as he testifies by
Isaiah, offers to us rest; and they who reject this invaluable
benefit, freely offered to them by God, deserve that they should not
only be tormented in one way, but be also harassed by endless
agitations, and that they should also vex and torment themselves. It
is indeed true that he who is fortified may also acquiesce in God's
word; but the word "upelah" refers to the state of the mind.
Whosoever, then, swells with vain confidence, when he finds that he
has many auxiliaries according to the flesh, shall ever be agitated,
and will at length find that there is nowhere rest, except the mind
recumbs on God's grace alone. We now understand the import of this
    It follows, but the just shall live by his faith. The Prophet,
I have no doubt, does here place faith in opposition to all those
defences by which men so blind themselves as to neglect God, and to
seek no aid from him. As men therefore rely on what the earth
affords, depending on their fallacious supports, the Prophet here
ascribes life to faith. But faith, as it is well known, and as we
shall presently show more at large, depends on God alone. That we
may then live by faith, the Prophet intimates that we must willingly
give up all those defences which are wont to disappoint us. He then
who finds that he is deprived of all protections, will live by his
faith, provided he seeks in God alone what he wants, and leaving the
world, fixes his mind on heaven.
    As "emunah" is in Hebrew truth, so some regard it as meaning
integrity; as though the Prophet had said, that the just man has
more safety in his faithfulness and pure conscience, than there is
to the children of this world in all those munitions in which they
glory. But in this case they frigidly extenuate the Prophet's
declaration; for they understand not what that righteousness of
faith is from which our salvation proceeds. It is indeed certain
that the Prophet understands by the "emunah" that faith which strips
us of all arrogance, and leads us naked and needy to God, that we
may seek salvation from him alone, which would otherwise be far
removed from us.
    Now many confine the first part to Nebuchadnezzar, but this is
not suitable. The Prophet indeed speaks to the end of the chapter of
Babylon and its ruin; but here he makes a distinction between the
children of God, who cast all their cares on him, and the
unbelieving, who cannot go forth beyond the world, where they seek
to be made secure, and gather hence their defences in which they
confide. And this is especially worthy of being observed, for it
helps us much to understand the meaning of the Prophet; if this part
- "Behold the proud, his soul is not right in him," be applied to
Nebuchadnezzar, the other part will lose much of its import; but if
we consider that the Prophet, as it were, in these two tablets,
shows what it is to glory in our own powers or in earthly aids, then
what it is to repose on God alone will appear much more clear, and
this truth will with more force penetrate into our minds; for we
know how much such comparisons illustrate a subject which would be
otherwise obscure or less evident. For if the Prophet had only
declared that our faith is the cause of life and salvation, it might
indeed be understood; but as we are disposed to entertain worldly
hopes, the former truth would not have been sufficient to correct
this evil, and to free our minds from all vain confidence. But when
he affirms that all the unbelieving are deceived, while they fortify
or elate themselves, be cause God will ever confound them, and that
though no one disturbs them outwardly, they will yet be their own
tormentors, as they have nothing that is right, nothing that is
certain; when therefore all this is said to us, it is as though God
drew us forcibly to himself, while seeing us deluded by the
allurements of Satan, and seeing us too inclined to be taken with
deceptions, which would at length lead us to destruction.
    We now, then, perceive why Habakkuk has put these two things in
opposition the one to the other - that the defences of this world
are not only evanescent, but also bring always with them many
tormenting fears - and then, that the just lives by his faith. And
hence also is found a confirmation of what I have already touched
upon, that faith is not to be taken here for man's integrity, but
for that faith which sets man before God emptied of all good things,
so that he seeks what he needs from his gratuitous goodness: for all
the unbelieving try to fortify themselves; and thus they strengthen
themselves, thinking that anything in which they trust is sufficient
for them. But what does the just do? He brings nothing before God
except faith: then he brings nothing of his own, because faith
borrows, as it were, through favour, what is not in man's
possession. He, then, who lives by faith, has no life in himself;
but because he wants it, he flies for it to God alone. The Prophet
also puts the verb in the future tense, in order to show the
perpetuity of this life: for the unbelieving glory in a shadowy
life; but the Lord will at last discover their folly, and they
themselves shall really know that they have been deceived. But as
God never disappoints the hope of his people, the Prophet promises
here a perpetual life to the faithful.
    Let us now come to Paul, who has applied the Prophet's
testimony for the purpose of teaching us that salvation is not by
works, but by the mercy of God alone, and therefore by faith. Paul
seems to have misapplied the Prophet's words, and to have used them
beyond what they import; for the Prophet speaks here of the state of
the present life, and he has not previously spoken of the celestial
life, but exhorted, as we have seen, the faithful to patience, and
at the same time testified that God would be their deliverer; and
now he adds, the just shall live by faith, though he may be
destitute of all help, and though he may be exposed to all the
assaults of fortune, and of the wicked, and of the devil. What has
this to do, some one may say, with the eternal salvation of the
soul? It seems, then, that Paul has with too much refinement
introduced this testimony into his discussion respecting gratuitous
justification by faith. But this principle ought ever to be
remembered - that whatever benefits the Lord confers on the faithful
in this life, are intended to confirm them in the hope of the
eternal inheritance; for however liberally God may deal with us, our
condition would yet be indeed miserable, were our hope confined to
this earthly life. As God then would raise up our minds to the hopes
of eternal salvation whenever he aids us in this world, and declares
himself to be our Father; hence, when the Prophet says that the
faithful shall live, he certainly does not confine this life to so
narrow limits, that God will only defend us for a day or two, or for
a few years; but he proceeds much farther, and says, that we shall
be made really and truly happy; for though this whole world may
perish or be exposed to various changes, yet the faithful shall
continue in permanent and real safety. Hence, when Habakkuk promises
life in future to the faithful, he no doubt overleaps the boundaries
of this world, and sets before the faithful a better life than that
which they have here, which is accompanied with many sorrows, and
proves itself by its shortness to be unworthy of being much desired.
    We now perceive that Paul wisely and suitably accommodates to
his subject the Prophet's words - that the just lives by faith; for
there is no salvation for the soul except through God's mercy.
    Quoting this place in Rom. 1: 17, he says that the
righteousness of God is in the gospel revealed from faith to faith,
and then adds, "As it is written, The just shall live by faith."
Paul very rightly connects these things together that righteousness
is made known in the Gospel - and that it comes to us by faith only;
for he there contends that men cannot obtain righteousness by the
law, or by the works of the law; it follows that it is revealed in
the Gospel alone: how does he prove this? By the testimony of the
Prophet Habakkuk - "If by faith the just lives, then he is just by
faith; if he is just by faith, then he is not so by the works of the
law." And Paul assumes this principle, to which I have before
referred - that men are emptied of all works, when they produce
their faith before God: for as long as man possesses anything of his
own, he does not please God by faith alone, but also by his own
    If then faith alone obtains grace, the law must necessarily be
relinquished, as the apostle also explains more clearly in the third
chapter of the Epistle to the Galatians: 'That righteousness,' he
says, 'is not by the works of the law, is evident; for it is
written, The just shall live by faith, and the law is not of faith.'
Paul assumes that these, even faith and law, are contrary, the one
to the other; contrary as to the work of justifying. The law indeed
agrees with the gospel; nay, it contains in itself the gospel. And
Paul has solved this question in the first chapter of the Epistle to
the Romans, by saying, that the law cannot assist us to attain
righteousness, but that it is offered to us in the gospel, and that
it receives a testimony from the law and the Prophets. Though then
there is a complete concord between the law and the gospel, as God,
who is not inconsistent with himself, is the author of both; yet as
to justification, the law accords not with the gospel, any more than
light with darkness: for the law promises life to those who serve
God; and the promise is conditional, dependent on the merits of
works. The gospel also does indeed promise righteousness under
condition; but it has no respect to the merits of works. What then?
It is only this, that they who are condemned and lost are to embrace
the favour offered to them in Christ.
    We now then see how, by the testimony of our Prophet, Paul
rightly confirms his own doctrine, that eternal salvation is to be
attained by faith only; for we are destitute of all merits by works,
and are constrained to stand naked and needy before God; and then
the Lord justifies us freely.
    But that this may be more evident, let us first consider why
men must come altogether naked before God; for were there any
worthiness in them, the Lord would by no means deprive them of such
an honour. Why then does the Lord justify us freely, except that he
may thereby appear just? He has indeed no need of this glory, as
though he could not himself be glorified except by doing wrong to
men. But we obtain righteousness by faith alone for this reason,
because God finds nothing in us which he can approve, or what may
avail to obtain righteousness. Since it is so, we then see that to
be true which the Holy Spirit everywhere declares respecting the
character of men. Men indeed glory in a foolish conceit as to their
own righteousness: but all philosophic virtues, as they call them,
which men think they possess through free-will, are mere fumes; nay,
they are the delusions of the devil, by which he bewitches the minds
of men, so that they come not to God, but, on the contrary,
precipitate themselves into the lowest deep, where they seek to
exalt themselves beyond measure. However this may be, let us be
fully convinced, that in man there is not even a particle either of
rectitude or of righteousness; and that whatever men may try to do
of themselves, is an abomination before God. This is one thing.
    Now after God has stretched forth his hand to his elect, it is
still necessary that they should confess their own want and
nakedness, as to justification; for though they have been
regenerated by the Spirit of God, yet in many things they are
deficient, and thus in innumerable ways they become exposed to
eternal death in the sight of God; so that they have in themselves
no righteousness. The Papists differ from us in the first place,
imagining as they do, that there are certain preparations necessary;
for that false notion about free-will cannot be eradicated from
their hearts. As then they will have man to be endued with free-
will, they always connect with it some power, as though they could
obtain grace by their own doings. They indeed confess that man of
himself can do nothing, except by the helping grace of God; but in
the meantime they blend, as I have said, their own fictitious
preparations. Others confess, that until God anticipates us by his
grace, there is no power whatever in free-will; but afterwards they
suppose that free-will concurs with God's grace, as it would be by
itself inefficient, except received by our consent. Thus they always
reserve for men some worthiness; but a greater difference exists as
to the second subject: for after we have been regenerated through
God's grace, the Papists imagine that we are justified by the merits
of works. They confess, that until God anticipates us by his grace,
we are condemned and cannot attain salvation except through the
assisting grace of God; but as soon as God works in us, we are then,
they say, able to attain righteousness by our own works.
    But we object and say, that the faithful, after having been
regenerated by the Spirit of God, do not fulfil the law: they allow
this to be true, but say that they might if they would, for that God
has commanded nothing which is above what men are capable of doing.
And this also is a most pernicious error. They are at the same time
forced to confess, that experience itself teaches us that no man is
wholly free from sin: then some guilt always remains. But they say,
that if we kept half the law, we could obtain righteousness by that
half. Hence, if one by adultery offended God and thus becomes
exposed to eternal death, and yet abstains from theft, he is just,
they say, because he is no thief. He is an adulterer, it is true;
but he is yet just in part, because he keeps a part of the law; and
they call this partial righteousness. But God has not promised
salvation to men, except they fully and really fulfil whatever he
has commanded in his law. For it is not said, "He that fulfil a part
of the law shall live;" but he who shall do these things shall live
in them. Moses does not point out two or three commandments, but
includes the whole law (Lev. 18: 5.) There is also a declaration
made by James, 'He who has forbidden to commit adultery, has also
forbidden to steal: whosoever then transgresses the law in one
particular, is a transgressor of the whole law' (James 2: 8, 11): he
is then excluded from any hope of righteousness. We hence see that
the papists are most grossly mistaken, who imagine, that men, when
they keep the law only in part, are just.
    Were there indeed any one found who strictly kept God's law, he
could not be counted just, except by virtue of a promise. And here
also the Papists stumble, and are at the same time inconsistent with
themselves; for they confess that merits do not obtain righteousness
for men by their own intrinsic worth, but only by the covenant of
the law. But as soon as they have said this, they immediately forget
themselves, and say what is contrary, like men carried away by
passion. Were then the Papists to join together these two things -
that there is no righteousness except by covenant, and that there is
a partial righteousness they would see that they are inconsistent:
for where is this partial righteousness? If we are not righteous
except according to the covenant of the law, then we are not
righteous except through a full and perfect observance of the law.
This is certain.
    They go astray still more grievously as to the remission of
sins; for as it is well known, they obtrude their own satisfactions,
and thus seek to expiate the sins of men by their own merits, as
though the sacrifice of Christ was not sufficient for that purpose.
Hence it is that they will not allow that we are gratuitously
justified by faith; for they cannot be brought to acknowledge a free
remission of sins; and except the remission of sins be gratuitous,
we must confess that righteousness is not by faith alone, but also
by merits. But the whole Scripture proves that expiation is nowhere
else to be sought, except through the sacrifice of Christ alone.
This error, then, of the Papists is extremely gross and false. They
further err in pleading for the merits of works; for they boast of
their own inventions, the works of supererogation, or as they call
them, satisfactions. And these meritorious works, under the Papacy,
are gross errors and worthless superstitions, and yet they toil in
them and lacerate themselves, nay, they almost wear out themselves.
If they mutter many short prayers, if they run to altars and to
various churches, if they buy masses, in a word, if they accumulate
all these fictitious acts of worship, they think that they merit
righteousness before God. Thus they forget their own saying, that
righteousness is by covenant; for if it be by covenant, it is
certain that God does not promise it to fictitious works, which men
of themselves invent and contrive. It then follows, that what men
bring to God, devised by themselves, cannot do anything towards the
attainment of righteousness.
    There is also another error which must be noticed, for in good
works they perceive not those blemishes which justly displease God,
so that our works might be deservedly condemned were they strictly
examined and tried. The Papists rightly say, that we are not
justified by the intrinsic worthiness of works, but afterwards they
do not consider how imperfect our works are, for no work proceeds
from mortal man which can fully answer to what God's covenant
requires. How so? For no work proceeds from the perfect love of God,
and where the perfect love of God does not exist, there is
corruption there. It hence follows, that all our works are polluted
before God; for they flow not except from the impure fountain of the
heart. Were any to object and say, that the hearts of men are
cleansed by the regeneration of the Spirit, we allow this; but at
the same time much filth always remains in our hearts, and it ought
to be sufficient for us to know that nothing is pure and genuine
before God except where the perfect love of him exists.
    As, then, the Papists are blind to all these things, it is no
wonder that they with so much hostility contend with us about
righteousness, and can by no means allow that the righteousness of
faith is gratuitous, for from the beginning this figment about free-
will has been resorted to - "if men of themselves come to God, then
they are not freely justified." They, then, as I have said, imagine
a partial righteousness, they suppose the deficiency to be made up
by satisfactions, they have also, as they say, their devotions, that
is, their own contrived modes of worship. Thus it comes, that they
ever persuade themselves that the righteousness of man, at least in
part, is made up by himself or by works. They indeed allow that we
are justified by faith, but when it is added, by faith alone, then
they begin to be furious; but they consider not that righteousness,
if obtained by faith, cannot be by works, for Paul, as I have shown
above, reasons from the contrary, when he says, that righteousness,
if it be by the works of the law, is not by faith, for faith, as it
has been said, strips man of everything, that he may seek of God
what he needs. But the Papists, though they think that man has not
enough for himself, do not yet acknowledge that he is so needy and
miserable, that righteousness must be sought in God alone. But yet
sufficiently clear is the doctrine of Paul, and if Paul had never
spoken, reason itself is sufficient to convince us that men cannot
be justified by faith until they cast away every confidence in their
own works, for if righteousness be of faith, then it is of grace
alone, and if by grace alone, then it cannot be by works. It is
wholly puerile in the Papists to think, that it is partly by grace
and partly by the merits of works; for as salvation cannot be
divided, so righteousness cannot be divided, by which we attain
salvation itself. As, then, faith acquires for us favour before God,
and by this favour we are counted just, so all works must
necessarily fall to the ground, when righteousness is ascribed to


Grant, Almighty God, that as the corruption of our flesh ever leads
us to pride and vain confidence, we may be illuminated by thy 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 thee, that we may not hope for righteousness or for
salvation from any other source than from thy mercy alone, nor seek
any rest but only in Christ; and may we cleave to thee 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 thine only begotten Son has purchased for us by
his own blood. Amen.

Lecture One Hundred and Eleventh.

    We yesterday compared this passage of Habakkuk with the
interpretation of Paul, who draws this inference, that we are
justified by faith without the works of the law, because the Prophet
teaches us that we are to live by faith, for the way of life and of
righteousness is the same, inasmuch as life is not to be otherwise
sought by us than through the paternal favour of God. This then is
our life - to be united to God; but this union with God cannot be
hoped for by us while he imputes sins to us; for as he is just and
cannot deny himself, iniquity must be ever hated by him. Then as
long as he regards us as sinners, he must necessarily hold us as
hateful to him. Where the hatred of God is, there is death and ruin.
It then follows, that we can have no hope of life until we be
reconciled to God, and there is no other way by which God can
restore us to favour, but by regarding and counting us as just. It
hence follows, that Paul reasons correctly, when he leads us from
life to righteousness; for they are two things which are connected
and inseparable.
    Hence the error of the Papists comes to light, who think that
to be justified is nothing else but to be renewed in righteousness,
in order that we may lead a pious and a holy life. Hence their
righteousness is a quality. But Paul's view is very different, for
he connects our justification and salvation together, inasmuch as
God cannot be propitious to us without being reconciled to us. And
how is this done even by not imputing to us our sins. Hence they
speak correctly and truly express what the Holy Spirit everywhere
teaches us, who call it imputative righteousness, for they thus show
that it is not a quality, but, on the contrary, a relative
righteousness, and therefore we said yesterday that he who lives by
faith derives life from another, and that every one who is just by
faith, is just through what is not in himself, even through the
gratuitous mercy of God.
    We now then see how suitably Paul joins righteousness with
life, and adduces the Prophet's testimony to prove gratuitous
justification, who affirms that we are to live by faith. But it is
no wonder that the Papists go in so many ways astray in this
instance, for they even differ with us in the meaning of the word
faith. Hence it is that they so obstinately deny that we are
justified by faith alone. They are forced, as we have said
yesterday, to admit the righteousness of faith; but the exclusive
particle they cannot endure; for they imagine that it is a moulded
faith that justifies, and this moulded or formed faith is piety, or
the fear of God. And by calling faith unformed they seem to think
that we can embrace the promises of God without the fruit of
regeneration, which is very absurd, as though faith were not the
peculiar gift of the Spirit, and a pledge of our adoption. But these
are principles of which the Papists are wholly ignorant; for they
are given up to a reprobate mind, so that they stumble at the very
first elements of religion.
    But it is sufficient for us, in order to understand this
passage, to know that we live by faith; for our life is a shadow or
a passing cloud; and hence our only remedy is to seek life from God
alone. And how does God communicate this life to us? even by
gratuitous promises which we embrace by faith; hence salvation is by
faith. Now, salvation cannot be ascribed to faith and to works too;
for faith refers the praise for life and salvation to God alone, and
works show that something is due to man. Faith, then, as to
justification, entirely excludes all works, so that they come to no
account before God; and hence I have said that salvation is by
faith; for we are accepted of God by gratuitous remission of sins.
The union of God with us is true and real salvation; but no one can
be united to God without righteousness, and there is found in us no
righteousness; hence God himself freely imputes it to us; and as we
are justified freely, so our salvation is said to be gratuitous.
    I will not now repeat what may be said of justification by
faith; for it is better to proceed with the Prophet's subject, only
it may be necessary to add two things to what has been said. The
Prophet testified to the men of his age that salvation is by faith;
it then follows that they had regard to Christ; for without relying
on a mediator they could not have trusted in God. For as our
righteousness is said to be the remission of sins, so a sacrifice
must necessarily intervene, by which God is pacified, so as not to
impute our sins. They had indeed their sacrifices according to the
law; but these were to direct their minds to Christ; for they were
by no means acceptable to God, except through that Mediator on whom
our faith at this day is founded. There is also another thing: the
Prophet, by distinctly expressing that the just live by faith,
clearly shows, that through the whole course of this life we cannot
be deemed just in any other way than by a gratuitous imputation. He
does not say that the children of Adam, born in a state exposed to
eternal death, do recover life by faith; but that the just, who are
now endued with the true fear of God, live by faith; and thus
refuted is the romance about initial justification. Let us now then
proceed -

Habakkuk 2:5
Yea also, because he transgresseth by wine, [he is] a proud man,
neither keepeth at home, who enlargeth his desire as hell, and [is]
as death, and cannot be satisfied, but gathereth unto him all
nations, and heapeth unto him all people:

    The Prophet has taught us that a tranquil state of mind cannot
be otherwise had than by recumbing on the grace of God alone; and
that they who elate themselves, and fly in the air, and feed on the
wind, procure for themselves many sorrows and inquietudes. But he
now comes to the king of Babylon, and also to his kingdom; for in my
judgement he speaks not only of the king, but includes also that
tyrannical empire with its people, and represents them as a great
company of robbers. He then says in short, that though the
Babylonians, like drunken men, hurried here and there without any
control, yet God's vengeance, by which they were to be brought to
nothing, was nigh at hand. What ever therefore the Prophet subjoins
to the end of the chapter tends to confirm his doctrine, which we
have already explained - that the just shall live by faith. We
cannot indeed be fully convinced of this except we hold firmly this
principle - that God cares for us, and that the whole world is
governed by his providence; so that it cannot be but that he will at
length check the wicked, and punish their sins, and deliver the
innocent who call upon him. Unless this be our conviction, there can
be no benefit derived from our faith; we might indeed be a hundred
times deceived; for experience teaches us that the hopes of men, as
long as they are fixed on the earth, are vain and delusive, as they
are only mere imaginations. Except then God governs the world there
is no salvation to the faithful; for God in that case would delude
them with vain promises, and they would flatter themselves with an
empty prospect, or hope for that which is not. Hence the Prophet
shows how it is that the just shall live by faith; and that is
because the Lord will defend all who call upon him, and that
inasmuch as he is the just Judge of all the world, he will finally
execute judgement on all the wicked, though for a time they act
wantonly, and think that they shall escape punishment, because God
does not execute upon them immediate vengeance. We now perceive the
design of the Prophet.
    As to the words, these two particles, "aph ki", when joined
together, amplify the meaning; and some render them - "how much
more;" others take them as a simple affirmative, and render them
"truly." I approve of a middle course, and render them "yea, truly;"
(etiam certe;) and they are so taken as I think, in Gen. 3: 1, Satan
thus asked the woman - yea, truly! Est-ce pour vrai? for the
question is that of one doubting, and yet it refers to what is
certain, - "How comes it that God should interdict the eating of the
fruit? yea, is it so truly? can it be so? So it is in this place,
yea, truly, says the Prophet. That it is an amplification may be
gathered from the context. He had said before that they who elevate
themselves, or seem to themselves to be well fortified, are fearful
in their minds, and driven backwards and forwards. He now advances
another step - that when men are borne along by unrestrained
wantonness, and promise themselves all things, as though there was
no God, they surpass even the drunken, being hurried on by blind
cupidity. When therefore men thus abandon themselves, can they
escape the judgement of God? Far less bearable is such a madness
than that simple arrogance of which he had spoken in the last verse.
Thus then are the two verses connected together, - "Yea, truly, he
who in his pride is like a drunken man, and restrains not himself,
and who is even like to wild beasts or to the grave, devouring
whatever meets them - he surely will not at length be endured by
God." Vengeance, then, is nigh to all the proud, who are cruelly
furious, passing all bounds and without any fear.
    But interpreters differ as to the import of the words which
follow. Some render "boged" to deceive, and it means so in some
places; and they render the clause thus - "Wine deceives a proud
man, and he will not dwell." This is indeed true, but the meaning is
strained; I therefore prefer to follow the commonly received
interpretation - that the proud man transgresses as it were through
wine. At the same time I do not agree with others as to the
expression "transgressing as through wine." Some give this version -
"Man addicted to wine or to drunkenness transgresses;" and then they
add - "a proud man will not inhabit;" but they pervert the sentence,
and mangle the words of the Prophet; for his words are - By wine
transgressing the proud man: he does not say that a man addicted to
wine transgresses; but he compares the proud to drunken men, who,
forgetting all reason and shame, abandon themselves unto all that is
disgraceful; for the drunken distinguishes nothing, and becomes like
a brute animal, so that he shuns nothing that is base and
unbecoming. This is the reason why the Prophet compares proud men to
the drunken, who transgress through wine, that is, who observe no
moderation, but indulge themselves in excesses. We now then
understand the real meaning of the Prophet, which many have not
    As to the word "inhabiting" I take it in a metaphorical sense,
as signifying to rest or to continue in the same place. The drunken
are borne along by a certain excitement; so they do not restrain
themselves, for they have no power over their feet or their hands:
but as wine excites them, so they ramble here and there like insane
persons. As then such an unruly temper lays hold on and bewilders
drunken men, so the Prophet very aptly says that the proud man never
    And the reason follows, (provided the meaning be approved,)
because he enlarges as the grave his soul he is like to death. This
is then the insatiableness which he had mentioned - that the proud
cannot be satisfied, and therefore include heaven and earth and sea
within the compass of their desires. Since then they thus run here
and there, it is no wonder that the Prophet says that they do not
rest. He enlarges then as the grave his soul; and then he adds - he
heaps together, or congregates, or collects to himself all nations,
and accumulates to himself all people; that is, the proud man keeps
within no moderate limits; for though he were able to make one heap
of all nations, he would yet think that not enough, like Alexander,
who wept because he had not then enjoyed the empire of the whole
world; and had he enjoyed it his tears would not have been dried;
for he had heard that, according to the opinion of Democritus, there
were many worlds. What did he mean? even this "Were I to obtain the
empire of the world, I should still be poor; for if there are more
worlds I should still wish to devour them all." These proud men
surpass every kind of drunkenness.
    We now apprehend the meaning of the words; and though they
contain a general truth, yet the Prophet no doubt applies them to
the king of Babylon and to all the Chaldeans; for as it has been
said, he includes the whole nation. He shows then here, that the
Chaldeans were much worse and less excusable than those who with
great fierceness elated themselves, for their rage carried them
farther, as they wished to swallow up the whole world. But in order
to express this more fully, he says that they were like drunken men;
and he no doubt indirectly derides here the counsels of princes, who
think themselves to be very wise, when either by deceit they oppress
their neighbours, or by artful means seize for themselves on the
lands of others, or by some contrivance, or even by force of arms,
take possession of them. As princes take wonderful delight in their
iniquities, so the Prophet says that they are like drunken men who
transgress by wine, that is, who are completely overcome by
excessive drinking; and at the same time he shows the cause of this
drunkenness by mentioning the words "beger yahir", "proud man." As
then they are proud, so all their crafts are like the freaks of
drunkenness, that is, furious, as when a man is deprived of reason
by wine. Having thus spoken of the Babylonians he immediately adds -

Habakkuk 2:6
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

    Now at length the Prophet denounces punishment on the
Babylonian king and the Chaldeans; for the Lord would render them a
sport to all. But some think that a punishment is also expressed in
the preceding verse, such as awaits violent robbers, who devour the
whole world. But I, on the contrary, think that the Prophet spoke
before of proud cruelty, and simply showed what a destructive evil
it is, being an insatiable cupidity; and now, as I have stated, he
comes to its punishment; and he says first, that all the people who
had been collected as it were into a heap, would take up a parable
or a taunt, in order to scoff at the king of Babylon. When therefore
the Chaldeans should possess the empire of almost the whole world,
and subject to their power all their neighbouring nations, all these
would at length take up against them parables and taunts; and what
would be said everywhere would be this - Woe to him who increases
and enriches himself by things not his own. How long? that is, Is
this to be perpetual? All then who thus increase themselves heap on
themselves thick clay, by which they shall at last be overthrown.
    With regard to the words, "mashal" is a short saying or a pithy
sentence, and worthy to be remembered, as we have noticed elsewhere.
Some render it parable. As to the word "melitsah", it probably
signifies a scoff or a taunt, by which any one is reproved; for it
comes from "luts", which means to laugh at one or to deride him. It
is indeed true, that the Hebrews call a rhetorician or an
interpreter "melits"; and hence some render "melitsah"
interpretation; but it is not suitable to this passage; for the
Prophet speaks here of taunts that would be cast against the king of
Babylon. For as he had as with an open mouth swallowed up all, so
also all would eagerly prick him with their goads, and disdainfully
deride him. The word he afterwards adds "chidot", is to be read, I
have no doubt, in the genitive case. I therefore do not approve of
adding a copulative, as many do, and read thus - "a taunt and an
enigma." This word comes from the verb "chud", which is to speak
enigmatically; hence "chidot" are enigmas, or metaphors, or obscure
sentences; and we know that when we wish to touch a man to the
quick, there is more sharpness when we use an obscure word, which
contains a metaphor or ambiguity, or something of this kind. It is
not therefore without reason that the Prophet calls taunts, enigmas,
"chidot", that is, obscure words, which bite or prick men sharply,
as it were with goads. Hence in all scoffs a figurative language
ought to be used; and except the expression be ambiguous or
alliterative, or, in short, contain such metaphors as it is not
necessary to recite here, there would be in it no beauty, no
aptness. When therefore men wish to form biting taunts, they obscure
what might be plainly said by some indirect metaphor; and this is
the reason why the Prophet speaks here of a taunt that is
enigmatical, for it is on that account more severe.
    And he shall say. There is a change of number in this verb, but
it does not obscure the sense. The particle "hoy" may be rendered
"woe;" or it may be an exclamation, as when one is attracted by some
particular sight, caca or sus; and so it is taken often by the
Hebrews, and the context seems to favour this meaning, for "woe"
would be frigid. When the Prophets pronounce a curse on the wicked,
it is no doubt a dreadful threat; but what is found here is a taunt,
by which the whole world would deride those haughty tyrants who
thought that they ought to have been worshipped as gods. Ho! they
say, where is he who multiplies himself by what belongs to another?
and then, How long is this to be? even such accumulate on themselves
thick clay; that is, they sink themselves in deep caverns, and heap
on themselves mountains, by which they become overwhelmed. We now
understand the meaning of the Prophet's words.
    What seems here to be the singing of triumph before the victory
is no matter of wonder; for our faith, as it is well known, depends
not on the judgement of the flesh, nor regards what is openly
evident; but it is a vision of hidden things, as it is called in
Heb. 11: 1, and the substance of things not seen. As then the
firmness of faith is the same, though what it apprehends is remote,
and as faith ceases not to see things hidden, - for through the
mirror of God's word it ascends above heaven and earth, and
penetrates into the spiritual kingdom of God, - as faith, then,
possesses a view so distant, it is not to be wondered that the
Prophet here boldly triumphs over the Babylonians, and now
prescribes a derisive song for all nations, that the proud, who had
previously with so much cruelty exalted themselves, might be scoffed
at and derided.
    But were any to ask, whether it be right to assail even the
wicked with scoffs and railleries, the question is unsuitable here;
for the Prophet does not here refer to what is lawful for the
faithful to do, but speaks only of what is commonly done by men: and
we know that it is almost natural to men, that when those whom they
had feared and dared not to blame as long as they were in power, are
overthrown, they break forth against them not only with many
complaints and accusations, but also with wanton rudeness. As, then,
it usually happens, that all triumph over fallen tyrants, and throw
forth their taunts, and all seek in this way to bite, the Prophet
describes this regular course of things. It is not, however, to be
doubted, but that he composed this song according to the nature of
the case, when he says, that they were men who multiplied their own
by what belonged to others; that is, that they gathered the wealth
of others. It is indeed true, that many things are commonly spread
abroad, for which there is no reason nor justice; but as some
principles of equity and justice remain in the hearts of men, the
consent of all nations is as it were the voice of nature, or the
testimony of that equity which is engraven on the hearts of men, and
which they can never obliterate. Such is the reason for this saying;
for Habakkuk, by introducing the people as the speakers, propounded,
as it were, the common law of nature, in which all agree; and that
is, - that whosoever enriches himself by another's wealth, shall at
length fall, and that when one accumulates great riches, these will
become like a heap to cover and overwhelm him. And if any one of us
will consult his own mind, he will find that this is engraven on his
very nature.
    How, then, does it happen, that many should yet labour to get
for themselves the wealth of others, and strive for nothing else
through their whole life, but to spoil others that they may enrich
themselves? It hence appears that men's minds are deprived of reason
by sottishness, whenever they thus addict themselves to unjust gain,
or when they give themselves loose reins to commit frauds,
robberies, and plunders. And thus we perceive that the Prophet had
not without reason represented all the proud and the cruel as
    Then follow the words, "ad matay", how long? This also is the
dictate of nature; that is, that an end will some time be to unjust
plunders, though God may not immediately check plunderers and wicked
men, who proceed and effect their purposes by force and slaughters,
and frauds and evil-doings. In the mean time the Prophet also
intimates, that tyrants and their cruelty cannot be endured without
great weariness and sorrow; for indignity on account of evil deeds
kindles within the breasts of all, so that they become wearied when
they see that wicked men are not soon restrained. Hence almost the
whole world sound forth these words, How long, how long? When any
one disturbs the whole world by his ambition and avarice, or
everywhere commits plunders, or oppresses miserable nations, - when
he distresses the innocent, all cry out, How long? And this cry,
proceeding as it does from the feeling of nature and the dictate of
justice, is at length heard by the Lord. For how comes it that all,
being touched with weariness, cry out, How long? except that they
know that this confusion of order and justice is not to be endured?
And this feeling, is it not implanted in us by the Lord? It is then
the same as though God heard himself, when he hears the cries and
greenings of those who cannot bear injustice.
    But let us in the meantime see that no one of us should have to
say the same thing to himself, which he brings forward against
others. For when any avaricious man proceeds through right or wrong,
as they say, when an ambitious man, by unfair means, advances
himself, we instantly cry, How long? and when any tyrant violently
oppresses helpless men, we always say, How long? Though every one
says this as to others, yet no one as to himself. Let us therefore
take heed that, when we reprove injustice in others, we come without
delay to ourselves, and be impartial judges. Self love so blinds us,
that we seek to absolve ourselves from that fault which we freely
condemn in others. In general things men are always more correct in
their judgement, that is, in matters in which they themselves are
not concerned; but as soon as they come to themselves, they become
blind, and all rectitude vanishes, and all judgement is gone. Let us
then know, that this song is set forth here by the Prophet, drawn,
as it were, from the common feeling of nature, in order that every
one of us may put a restraint on himself when he discharges the
office of a judge in condemning others, and that he may also condemn
himself, and restrain his desires, when he finds them advancing
beyond just bounds.
    We must also observe what he subjoins, - that the avaricious
accumulate on themselves thick clay. This at first may appear
incredible; but the subject itself plainly shows what the Prophet
teaches here, provided our minds are not so blinded as not to see
plain things. Hardly indeed an avaricious man can be found who is
not a burden to himself, and to whom his wealth is not a source of
trouble. Every one who has accumulated much, when he comes to old
age, is afraid to use what he has got, being ever solicitous lest he
should lose any thing; and then, as he thinks nothing is sufficient,
the more he possesses the more grasping he becomes, and frugality is
the name given to that sordid, and, so to speak, that servile
restraint within which the rich confine themselves. In short, when
any one forms a judgement of all the avaricious of this world, and
is himself free from all avarice, having a free and unblessed mind,
he will easily apprehend what the Prophet says here, - that all the
wealth of this world is nothing else but a heap of clay, as when any
one puts himself of his own accord under a great heap which he had
collected together.
    Some refer this to the walls of Babylon, which were built of
baked bricks, as it is well known; but this is too farfetched.
Others think that the Prophet speaks of the last end of us all; for
they who possess the greatest riches, being at last thrown into the
grave, are covered with earth: but this also is not suitable here,
any more than when they apply it to Nebuchadnezzar, that is, to that
sottishness by which he had inebriated himself almost through his
whole life; or when others apply it to Belshazzar, his grandson,
because when he drank from the sacred vessels of the temple, he
uttered slanders and blasphemies against God. These explanations are
by no means suitable; for the Prophet does not here speak of the
person of the king alone, but, as it has been solid, he, on the
contrary, summons to judgement the whole nation, which had given
itself up to plunders and frauds and other evil deeds.
    Then 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.
Whence 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 they who inebriate
themselves with riches, find that they carry a useless burden, under
which they lie down, as it were, sunk and buried.
    Grant, Almighty God, that as thou deignest 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
thee, and so to trust to thy blessing, as to abstain not only from
all plunder and other evil deeds, but also from every unlawful
coveting; and to continue in thy fear, and so to learn also to bear
our poverty on the earth, that being content with those spiritual
riches which thou offerest to us in thy gospel, and of which thou
makes us now partakers, we may ever cheerfully aspire after that
fulness of all blessings which we shall enjoin when at length we
shall reach the celestial kingdom, and be perfectly united to thee,
through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Lecture One Hundred and Twelfth.

Habakkuk 2:7
Shall they not rise up suddenly that shall bite thee, and awake that
shall vex thee, and thou shalt be for booties unto them?

    The Prophet proceeds with the subject which we have already
begun to explain; for he introduces here the common taunts against
the king of Babylon and the whole tyrannical empire, by which many
nations had been cruelly oppressed. He therefore says that enemies,
who should bite him, would suddenly and unexpectedly rise up. Some
expound this of worms, but not rightly: for God not only inflicted
punishment on the king when dead, but he intended also that there
should be on earth an evident and a memorable proof of his vengeance
on the Babylonians, by which it might be made known to all that
their cruelty could not be suffered to go unpunished.
    The words, Shall not they rise suddenly, are emphatical, both
as to the question and as to the word, "peta", suddenly. We indeed
know that interrogations are more common in Hebrew than in Greek and
Latin, and that they are stronger and more forcible. Our Prophet
then speaks of what was indubitable. He adds, suddenly; for the
Babylonians, relying on their own power, did not think that any evil
was nigh them; and if any one dared to rise up against them, this
could not have been so sudden, but they could have in time resisted
and driven far away every danger. They indeed ruled far and wide;
and we know that the wicked often sleep when they find themselves
fortified on all sides. But the Prophet declares here that evil was
nigh them, which would suddenly overwhelm them. It now follows -

Habakkuk 2:8
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.

    The Prophet here expresses more clearly why the Babylonians
were to be so severely dealt with by Cod. He shows that it would be
a just reward that they should be plundered in their turn, who had
previously given themselves up to plunder, violence, and cruelty.
Since, then, they had exercised so much inhumanity towards all
people, the Prophet intimates here that God could not be deemed as
treating them cruelly, by inflicting on them so severe a punishment:
he also confirms the former truth, and recalls the attention of the
faithful to the judgement of God, as a main principle to be
remembered; for when things in the world are in a state of
confusion, we despond, and all hope vanishes, except this comes to
our mind - that as God is the judge of the world it cannot be
otherwise but that at length all the wicked must appear before his
tribunal, and give there an account of all their deeds; and
Scripture, also, is wont to set God before us as a judge, whenever
the purpose is to allay our troubles. The Prophet now does the same
thing: for he says, that robbers should soon come upon the
Babylonians, who would plunder them; for God, the judge of the
world, would not at last suffer so many plunders to be unpunished.
    But it was everywhere known that the Babylonians had, beyond
all bounds and moderation, given themselves up to plunder, so that
they spared no nations. Hence ho says, because thou hast plundered
many nations; and on this he enlarges; because the Babylonians had
not only done wrongs to a few men, or to one people, but had marched
through many countries. As, then, they had taken to themselves so
much liberty in doing evil, the Prophet draws this conclusion - that
they could not escape the hand of God, but that they were at length
to find by experience that there was a God in heaven, who would
repay them for their wrongs.
    He says also, Spoil thee shall the remnant of all people. This
admits of two expositions; it may mean, that the people, who had
been plundered by the Chaldeans, would take revenge on them: and he
calls them a remnant, because they were not entire; but yet he
intimates that they would be sufficient to take vengeance on the
Babylonians. This view may be admitted, and yet we may suppose, that
the Prophet takes in other nations, who had never been plundered; as
though he had said - "Thou hast indeed spoiled many nations; but
there are other nations in the world whom thy cruelty could not have
reached. All the people then who remain in the world shall strive to
outdo one another in attacking thee; and canst thou be strong enough
to resist so great a power?" Either of these views may be admitted;
that is, that in the wasted and plundered countries there would be
still a remnant who would take vengeance, - or that the world
contained other people who would willingly undertake this cause and
execute vengeance on the Babylonians; for God would by his secret
influence fulfil by their means his purpose of punishing them.
    He then adds, on account of man's blood; that is, because thou
hast shed innocent blood, and because thou hast committed many
plunders; for thou hast not only injured a few men, but thy
daringness and cruelty have also extended to many nations. He indeed
mentions the earth, and also the city. Some confine these words to
the land of Judea and to Jerusalem, but not rightly; for the Prophet
speaks here generally; and to the land, he joins cities and their
    But this verse contains a truth which applies to all times. Let
us then learn, during the licentious success of tyrants, to raise up
our minds to heaven's tribunal, and to nourish our patience with
this confidence, that the Lord, who is the judge of the world, will
recompense these cruel and bloody robbers, and that the more
licentious they are, the heavier judgement is nigh them; for the
Lord will awaken and raise up as many to execute vengeance as there
are men in the world, who by shedding blood will inflict punishment,
though they may not intend to fulfil his purpose. God can indeed (as
it has been often observed) execute his judgements in a wonderful
and sudden manner. Let us hence also learn to restrain our evil
desires; for none shall go unpunished who will allow themselves to
injure their brethren; though they may seem to be unpunished for a
time, yet God, who is ever the same, will at length return on their
heads whatever they have devised against others, as we shall
presently see again. He now adds -

Habakkuk 2:9
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

    Habakkuk proceeds in exciting the king of Babylon by taunts;
which were not scurrilous jests, but contained serious threatening;
for, as it has been already said, the Prophet here introduces indeed
the common people, but in that multitude we are to recognise the
innumerable heralds of God's vengeance: and hence he says, Woe to
him who coveteth, &c.; or we may say, Ho! for it is a particle of
exclamation, as it has been said: Ho! thou, he says, who covetest an
evil covetousness to thy house, and settest on high thy nest: but
what shall happen? The next verse declares the punishment.
    The clause, Woe to him who covets an evil covetousness to his
house, may be read by itself, - that this cupidity shall be
injurious to his house; as though he had said, "Thou indeed wouldest
provide for thy house by accumulating great riches; but thy house
shall find this to be evil and ruinous. So the word "ra'ah", evil,
might be referred to the house; but the verse is best connected by
reading the whole together; that is, that the Babylonians not only
provided for themselves, while they with avidity plundered and
collected much wealth from all quarters; but that they wished also
to make provisions for their sons and grandsons: and we also see,
that avarice has this object in view; for they who are anxiously
bent on the accumulation of riches do not only regard what is
needful for themselves to pass through life, but also wish to leave
their heirs rich. Since then the avaricious are desirous of
enriching for ever their houses, the prophet, deriding this madness,
says, Woe to him who covets an evil covetousness to his house; that
is, who wishes not only to abound and be satiated himself, but also
to supply his posterity with abundance.
    He adds another vice, which is almost ever connected with the
former - that he may set, he says, his nest on high; for the
avaricious have a regard to this - to fortify themselves; for as an
evil conscience is always fearful, many dangers come across their
minds - "This may happen to me," and then, "My wealth will procure
for me the hatred and envy of many. If then some danger be at hand,
I shall be able to redeem my life many times;" and he also adds,
"Were I satisfied with a moderate portion, many would become my
rivals; but when my treasures surpass what is common, then I shall
be as it were beyond the reach of men; and when others envy one
another, I shall escape." So the avaricious think within themselves
when they are ardently bent on accumulating riches, and form for
themselves a great heap like a nest; for they think that they are
raised above the world, and are exempt from the common lot of men,
when surrounded by their riches.
    We now then see what the Prophet means: Woe, he says, to him
who wickedly and intemperately covets. And why does he so do? To
enrich his posterity. And then he adds, to him who covets that he
may set his nest on high; that is, that he may by wealth fortify
himself, that he may be able to drive away every danger, and be thus
exempt from every evil and trouble. And he adds, that he may deliver
himself from the power of evil; he expresses now more clearly what I
have said - that the rich are inebriated with false confidence, when
they surpass all others; for they think not themselves to be
mortals, but imagine that they have another life, as though they had
a world of their own, free from all dangers. But while the
avaricious thus elevate themselves by a proud confidence, the
Prophet derides their madness. He then subjoins their punishment -

Habakkuk 2:10
Thou hast consulted shame to thy house by cutting off many people,
and hast sinned [against] thy soul.

    The Prophet again confirms the truth, that those who count
themselves happy, imagining that they are like God, busy themselves
in vain; for God will turn to shame whatever they think to be their
glory, derived from their riches. The avaricious indeed wish, as it
appears from the last verse, to prepare splendour for their
posterity, and they think to render illustrious their race by their
wealth; for this is deemed to be nobility, that the richer any one
is the more he excels, as he thinks, in dignity, and the more is he
to be esteemed by all. Since, then, this is the object of almost all
the avaricious, the Prophet here reminds them, that they are greatly
deceived; for the Lord will not only frustrate their hopes, but will
also convert their glory into shame. Hence he says, that they
consult shame to their family.
    He includes in the word consult, all the industry, diligence,
skill, care, and labour displayed by the avaricious. We indeed see
how very sagacious they are; for if they smell any gain at a
distance, they draw it to themselves, night and day they form new
designs, that they may circumvent this person and plunder that
person, and accumulate into their heap whatever money they can find,
and also that they may join fields to fields, built great palaces,
and secure great revenues. This is the reason why the Prophet says,
that they consult shame. What is the object of all their designs?
for they are, as we have said, very sharp and keen-sighted, they are
also industrious, and torment themselves day and night with
continual labour; for what purpose are all these things? even for
this, that their posterity may be eminent, that their nobility may
be in the mouth of all, and spread far and wide. But the Prophet
shows that they labour in vail; for God will turn to shame whatever
they in their great wisdom contrived for the honour of their
families. The more provident then the avaricious are, the more
foolish they are, for they consult nothing but disgrace to their
    He adds, though thou cuttest off many people. This seems to
have been expressed for the sake of anticipating an objection; for
it might have seemed incredible that the Babylonians should form
designs disgraceful to their posterity, when their fame was so
eminent, and Babylon itself was like an idol, and the king was
everywhere regarded with great reverence and also fear. Since then
the Babylonians had made such advances, who could have thought it
possible that what the Prophet declares here should take place? But,
as I have already said, he meets these objections, and says, "Though
the Babylonians shall conquer many enemies, and overthrow strong
people, yet this will be of no advantage to them; nay, even that
will turn out to their disgrace which they think will be to their
    To the same purpose is what he adds, thou hast sinned against
thy soul. Some give this version, "Thou hast sinned licentiously" or
immoderately; others, "Thy soul has sinned," but these pervert the
Prophet's meaning; for what he intended was nothing else but the
evils which the avaricious and the cruel bring on themselves, and
which will return on their own heads. When therefore the Babylonians
contrived ruin for the whole world, the Prophet predicts that an
end, very different from what they thought, would be to them: thou
hast sinned, he says, against thine own soul; that is, the evil
which thou didst prepare to bring on others, shall be made by God to
fall on thine own head.
    And this kind of declaration ought to be carefully noticed;
that is, that the ungodly, while they trouble all, and harass all,
while they torment one, plunder another, oppress another, do always
sin against their own souls; that is, they do not cause so such loss
and sorrow to others as to themselves: for the Lord will make the
evil they intend for others to return on themselves. He does not
speak here of guilt, but of punishment, when he says, "Thou hast
sinned against thy soul;" that is, thou shalt receive the reward due
to all thy sins. We now then see what the Prophet means. It now
follows -

Habakkuk 2:11-13
11 For the stone shall cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the
timber shall answer it.
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?

    There is here introduced by the Prophet a new personification.
He had before prepared a common song, which would be in the mouth of
all. He now ascribes speech to stones and wood, of which buildings
are formed. The stone, he says, shall cry from the wall, and the
wood from the chamber; that is, there is no part of the building
that will not cry out that it was built by plunder, by cruelty, and,
in a word, by evil deeds. The Prophet not only ascribes speech to
wood and stone, but he makes them also respond one to the other as
in a chorus, as in lyrics there are voices which take up the song in
turns. The stone, he says, shall cry from the wall, and the wood
shall respond to it from the chamber; as though he said, "There will
be a striking harmony in every part of the building; for the wall
will begin and will utter its song, 'Behold I have been built by
blood and by iniquity;' and the wood will utter the same, and will
cry, 'Woe;' but all in due order; there will be no confused noise,
but as music has distinct sounds, so also the stones will respond to
the wood and the wood to the stones, so that there may be, as they
say, corresponding voices."
    The stone, then, from the wall shall cry, and the wood shall
answer - what will it answer? - Woe to him who builds a city by
blood, and who adorns his city by iniquity. By blood and by iniquity
he understands the same thing; for though the avaricious do not kill
innocent men, they yet suck their blood, and what else is this but
to kill them by degrees, by a slow tormenting process? For it is
easier at once to undergo death than to pine away in want, as it
happens to helpless men when spoiled and deprived of all their
property. Wherever there is wanton plundering, there is murder
committed in the sight of God; for as it has been said, he who
spares not the helpless, but drinks up their blood, doubtless sins
no less than if he were to kill them.
    But if this personification seems to any one strange, he must
consider how incredible seemed to be what the Prophet here teaches,
and how difficult it was to produce a conviction on the subject. We
indeed confess that God is the judge of the world; nay, there is no
one who does not anticipate his judgement by condemning avarice and
cruelty; the very name of avarice is infamous and hated by all: the
same may be said of cruelty. But yet when we see the avaricious in
splendour and in esteem, we are astounded, and no one is able to
foresee by faith what the Prophet here declares. Since, then our
dullness is so great, or rather our sottishness, it is no wonder
that the Prophet should here set before us the stones and the wood,
as though he said, "When all prophecies and all warnings become
frigid, and God himself obtains no credit, while openly declaring
what he will do, and when his servants consume their labour in vain
by warning and crying, let now the stones come forth, and be
teachers to you who will not give ear to the voice of God himself,
and let the wood also cry out in its turn." This, then, is the
reason why the Prophet introduces here mute things as the speakers,
even to awaken our insensibility.
    Then he adds, Shall it not be, behold, from Jehovah of hosts?
Some give a wrong version, "Is not this," as though "hinne" were put
here instead of a pronoun demonstrative; but they extenuate and
obscure the beauty of the expression; nay, they pervert the meaning
of the Prophet: for when he says, "hinne", behold, he refers not to
what he had said, nor specifies any particular thing, and yet he
shows, as it were by the finger, the judgement of God, which he bids
us to expect; as though he said, "Shall not God at length have his
turn, when the avaricious and the cruel have obtained their triumphs
in the world, and darkened the minds and thoughts of all, as though
no account were to be given by them before the tribunal of God?
Shall not God sometime show that it is his time to interpose?" When,
therefore, he says, Shall it not be, behold, from Jehovah? it is an
indefinite mode of speaking; he does not say, This or that shall be
from the God of hosts; but, Shall it not be, behold, from Jehovah of
hosts? that is, God seems now indeed to rest, and on this account
men indulge themselves with greater boldness; but he will not always
remain still, Shall not God then come forth, who seems now to be
unconcerned? Something there will at length be from the God of
hosts. And the demonstrative particle confirms the same thing:
Behold, he says, as though he would show to the faithful as in a
picture the tribunal of God, which cannot be seen by us now but by
faith. He says, Behold, will not there be something from the God of
hosts? that is, Will not God at length stretch forth his hand, to
show that he is not unconcerned, but that he cares for the affairs
of men? In a word, by this mode of speaking is pointed out to us the
change, which we are to hole for, inasmuch as it cannot be soon
    Hence he concludes, The people, then, labour in the fire, and
the people weary themselves in vain. To labour in the fire means the
same thing as to take in hand an unprofitable work, the fruit of
which is immediately consumed. Some say that people labour in the
fire, because Babylon had been built by a great number of men, and
at length perished by fire; but this explanation seems far-fetched.
I take a simpler view - that people labour in the fire, like him who
performs a work, and a fire is put under it and consumes it; or like
him, who with great labour polishes his own work, and a fire is
prepared, which destroys it while in the hands of the artifices. For
it is certain that the Prophet repeats the same thing in another
form, when he says,  "bediy-rik", with vanity, or for vanity. We now
then apprehend his object.
    We may here collect a useful doctrine - that not only the fruit
of labour shall be lost by all who seek by wicked means to enrich
themselves, but also that were the whole world favourable and
subservient to them, the whole would yet be useless; as it happened
to the king of Babylon, though he had many people ready to obey him.
But the Prophet derides all those great preparation; for God had
fire at hand to consume whatever they had so eagerly contrived who
wished to spend all their labour to please one man. He at length
adds -

Habakkuk 2:14
For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the
LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
    The Prophet briefly teaches us here, that so remarkable would
be God's judgement on the Babylonians that his name would thereby be
celebrated through the whole world. But there is in this verse an
implied contrast; for God appeared not in his own glory when the
Jews were led away into exile; the temple being demolished and the
whole city destroyed; and also when the whole easterly regions was
exposed to rapine and plunder. When therefore the Babylonians were,
after the Assyrians, swallowing up all their neighbours, the glory
of God did not then shine, nor was it conspicuous in the world. The
Jews themselves had become mute; for their miseries had, as it were,
stupefied them; their mouths were at least closed, so that they
could not from the heart bless God, while he was so severely
afflicting them. And then, in that manifold confusion of all things,
the profane thought that all things here take place fortuitously,
and that there is no divine providence. God then was at that time
hid: hence the Prophet says, Filled shall be the earth with the
knowledge of God; that is, God will again become known, when by
stretching forth his hand he will execute vengeance on the
Babylonians; then will the Jews, as well as other nations,
acknowledge that the world is governed by God's providence, as it
had been once created by him.
    We now understand the Prophet's meaning, and why he says, that
the earth would be filled with the knowledge of God's glory; for the
glory of God previously disappeared from the world, with regard to
the perceptions of men; but it shone forth again, when God himself
had erected his tribunal by overthrowing Babylon, and thereby proved
that there is no power among men which he cannot control. We have
the same sentence in Isaiah 11: 9. The Prophet there speaks indeed
of the kingdom of Christ; for when Christ was openly made known to
the world, the knowledge of God's glory at the same time filled the
earth; for God then appeared in his own living image. But yet our
Prophet uses a proper language, when he says that the earth shall
then be filled with the knowledge of God's glory, when he should
execute vengeance on the Babylonians. Hence incorrectly have some
applied this to the preaching of the gospel, as though Habakkuk made
a transition from the ruin of Babylon to the general judgement: this
is a strained exposition. It is indeed a well-known mode of
speaking, and often occurs in the Psalms, that the power, grace, and
truth of God are made known through the world, when he delivers his
people and restrains the ungodly. The same mode the Prophet now
adopts; and he compares this fulness of knowledge to the waters of
the sea, because the sea, as we know, is so deep, that there is no
measuring of its waters. So Habakkuk intimates, that the glory of
God would be so much known that it would not only fill the world,
but in a manner overflow it: as the waters of the sea by their vast
quantity cover the deep, so the glory of God would fill heaven and
earth, so as to have no limits. If, at the same time, there be a
wish to extend this sentence to the coming of Christ, I do not
object: for we know that the grace of redemption flowed in a
perpetual stream until Christ appeared in the world. But the
Prophet, I have no doubt, sets forth here the greatness of God's
power in the destruction of Babylon.
Grant, Almighty God, that as we are so inclined to do wrong, that
every one is naturally disposed to consider his own private
advantage - O grant that we may confine ourselves by that restraint
which thou layest on us by thy 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 thy providence and
righteous judgement, and patiently wait until thou deliverest us,
and makes 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.

Lecture One Hundred and Thirteenth.

Habakkuk 2:15,16
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!
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.

    This passage, in which the Prophet condemns the king of Babylon
for his usual practice of rendering drunk his friends, is frigidly
interpreted by most expounders. It has been already often said how
bold the Jews are in contriving what is fabulous; when nothing
certain occurs to them, they divine this or that without any
discrimination or shame. Hence they say, that Nebuchadnezzar was
given to excess, and led all whom he could into a participation of
the same vice. They also think that his associates were captive
kings, as though he bid them for the sake of sport to be brought to
his table, and by drinking to their health, forced them to
intoxication, that he might laugh at them when they made themselves
base and ridiculous. But all this is groundless; for there is no
history that relates any such thing. It is, however, easy to see
that another matter is here treated of by the Prophet; for he does
not speak of the king only, but he refers to the whole empire. I
therefore doubt not but that this whole discourse, in which the
Babylonian king is condemned for making drunk his associates or
friends, is metaphorical or allegorical. But before I proceed
further on the subject, I shall say something as to the words; for
the meaning of the Prophet will thereby be made more evident.
    Woe, he says, to him who gives his friend drink; then he adds,
"mesapeach chamatcha", "who joinest and bottle." "Chamah" is taken
in Hebrew for a bottle; and we know, and it is sufficiently evident
from Scripture, that the Jews used bottles of skin, as there are
casks and larger vessels with us. Since, then, they put their wine
into bottles, these were often taken for their cups, as it is in our
language, when one says, Des flacons, des bouteilles. Hence some
give this explanation - that the king of Babylon brought forth his
flagons, that he might force to intoxication, by excessive drinking,
those who could not and dared not to resist his will. But others
render "chamah" wrath, with a preposition understood: and in order
that nothing may be understood, some render the participle,
"mesapeach" "displaying," that is, "his fury." But as "chamah" means
to be hot, we may, therefore, properly give this version, "Uniting
thy heat;" that is, "It is not enough for thee to inebriate others,
except thou implicates them with thyself." We now perceive the
meaning of this phrase. He adds, And thou also dost inebriate. We
may hence learn that the Prophet had no other thing in view, but to
show that the king of Babylon sought for himself many associates in
his intemperance or excess: at the same time he takes, as I have
said, excess in a metaphorical sense. I shall presently explain more
fully what all this means; but now we only expound the words. And
thou, he says, dost also inebriate: the particle "af" as it is well
known, is laid down for the sake of amplifying. After having said,
Thou unitest thy heat; that is, thou exhales thine intemperance, so
that others also contract the same heat with thyself, he immediately
adds, Thou inebriatest them. It follows, that their nakedness may be
made olden; that is, that they may disclose themselves with shame.
The following verse I shall defer until we shall see more clearly
what the Prophet had in view.
    As I have already said the Prophet charges the Babylonian king
with having implicated neighbouring kings in his own evil desires,
and with having in a manner inebriated them. He indeed compares the
insatiable avarice of that king to intemperance; for as it is the
object of drunken men not to drink what may suffice them, but to
glut themselves with wine, so also when avarice is dominant in the
hearts of men, they are seized with a certain kind of fury, like a
person who has an immoderate love for wine. This is the reason for
the metaphor; for the Babylonian king, when he thirsted for the
blood of men, and also for wealth and kingdoms, led into the same
kind of madness many other kings; for he could not have succeeded
except he had allured the favour of many others, and deceived them
with vain expectations. As a person who gives himself up to drinking
wishes to leave associates, so Habakkuk lays the same thing to the
charge of the king of Babylon; for being himself addicted to
insatiable avarice, he procured associates to be as it were his
guests, and quaffed wine to them, that is, elicited their cupidity,
that they might join him in his wars; for each hoped for a part of
the spoil after victory. Since, then, he had thus blinded many
kings, they are said to have been inebriated by him. We indeed know
that such allurements infatuate the minds and hearts of men; for
there is no intoxication that stultifies men more than that eager
appetite by which they devour both lands and seas.
    We now then apprehend what the Prophet meant - that the
Babylonian king not only burnt with his own avarice, but kindled
also, as it were, a flame in others, like drunken men who excite one
another. As then he had thus inflamed all the neighbouring kings to
rush headlong without any consideration and without any shame, like
a person suffocated and overcome by excessive drinking; so the
Prophet designates this inflaming as quaffing wine to them.
    And this metaphor ought to be carefully observed; for we see at
this day as in a mirror what the Prophet teaches here. For all the
great princes, when they devise any plans of their own, send their
ambassadors here and there, and seek to involve with themselves
other cities and princes; and as no one is willing to endanger
himself without reason, they set forth many fallacious allurements.
And when any city fears a neighbouring prince, it will seek to
fortify itself by a new protection; so a treaty, when offered,
becomes like a snare to it. And then when any inferior prince wishes
to enlarge his borders, or to revenge himself, he willingly puts on
arms, nay, anxiously, that he may be able, by the help of a greater,
to effect his purpose, which he could not otherwise accomplish. Thus
we see that dukes and counts, as they are called, and free cities,
are daily inebriated. They who are chief kings, abounding in wine,
that is, full of many vain promises, give to drink, as it were with
full flagons, bidding wine to be brought forth on a well furnished
table - "I will make thine enemy to give way to thee, and thou shalt
compel him according to thy wish, and when I shall obtain the
victory a part of the spoil shall be allotted to thee; I desire
nothing but the glory. With regard to you, the free cities, see, ye
tremble continually; now if you lie under my shadow, it will be the
best security for you." Such quaffing is to be found at this day
almost throughout the whole of Europe.
    Then the Prophet does not without reason commemorate this vice
in the king of Babylon - that he made those associates drunk whom he
had bound to himself by perfidious treaties; for as it has been
said, there is no intoxication so dangerous as this madness; that
is, when any one promises this or that to himself, and imagines what
does not exist. Hence he not only says, that the Babylonian king
gave drink to his friends, but also that he joined his bottles; as
though he had said that he was very liberal, nay, prodigal, while
seeking associates in his intemperance; for if one condition did not
suffice, another was added - "Behold, my king is prepared; but if he
is not enough another will be joined with him." They thus then join
together their heat. If we take "chamah" for a bottle, then to join
together their bottles would mean, that they accumulated promises
until they inebriated those whom they sought to deceive. But if the
other interpretation be more approved, which I am disposed to
follow, then the meaning would be - They join together their own
heat, that is, they implicate others with themselves; as they burn
themselves with insatiable cupidity, so they spread this ardour far
and wide, so that the desires of many become united.
    He afterwards adds - that thou mayest see their nakedness. It
was not indeed an object to the king of Babylon to disclose the
reproach of all those whom he had induced to take part in his wars;
but we know that great kings are wont to neglect their friends, to
whom at first they promise every thing. When a king wishes to entice
to himself a free city or an inferior prince, he will say - "See, I
seek nothing but to be thy friend". We indeed see how shamefully
they perjure themselves; nor is it enough for them to utter these
perjuries in their courts; but not many years pass away before our
great kings make public their abominable perjuries; and it appears
immediately afterwards that they thus seek, without any shame, to
mock both God and all mankind. After testifying that they seek
nothing except to defend by their protection what is right and just,
and to resist the tyranny and pride of others, they immediately draw
back when anything adverse afterwards happens, and the city, which
had hoped everything from so liberal a king, is afterwards forced to
submit and to agree with its enemies, and to manage matters anyhow;
thus its nakedness is disclosed. In the same manner also are
inferior princes deprived of their power. And to whom is this to be
imputed but to the principal author? For when any one, for the sake
of ambition or avarice, leads others to inconvenience or to damage,
he may justly and correctly be said to disclose their nakedness. We
now apprehend the Prophet's real meaning, which interpreters have
not understood. I come now to the next verse -
    He says that he is satiated with shame instead of glory. Some
give this rendering - "Thou art satiated with shame more than
glory;" but this does not suit the passage; for the Prophet does not
mean that the Babylonian king was satiated with his own reproach,
but rather with that of others. Secondly, the particle "mem" is not
put here in a comparative sense, but the clause is on the contrary
to be understood thus - "By thy glory, or, on account of thy glory,
thou art satiated with shame". It must also in the third place be
observed, that punishment is not what the Prophet describes in these
words; for it immediately follows - "shteh gam attah", "drink thou
also." He comes now to punishment. By saying, then, that the king of
Babylon was satiated with shame on account of glory, it is the same
as though he had said, that while he was intent on increasing his
own glory he brought all others to shame. It is indeed the common
game of great kings, as it has been said, to enlarge their own power
at the expense and loss of others. They would, indeed, if they
could, render their friends safe; but when any one loses ground in
their favour they neglect him. We see how at this day great kings,
raising great armies, shed innocent blood. When a slaughter is made
in war they express their grief, but it is only on account of their
own glory or advantage. They will in words profess that they
sympathise with the miserable men who faithfully spent their life
for them, but they have for them no real concern. As, then, great
kings draw human blood, and care nothing when many perish for their
sake, the Prophet justly says, That the king of Babylon was satiated
with shame on account of glory; that is, that while he was seeking
his own glory he was satiated with the reproaches of many; for many
perished on his account, many had been robbed of their power, or
were afterwards to be robbed - for the Prophet refers not here to
what had taken place, but he speaks of things future; and the past
tense of verbs was intended to express certainty; and we know that
this was a common mode of speaking with the Prophets.
    He now adds - drink thou also. We hence see that the king of
Babylon was secure as long as he remained untouched, though his
alliance and friendship had proved ruinous to many. As long then as
his kingdom flourished, the king of Babylon cared but little for the
losses of others. Hence the Prophet says - "Thou shalt also drink;
thou thinkest that others only shall be punished, as though thou
were not exposed to God's judgement; but thou shalt come in thy turn
and drink;" - in what way? He speaks here allegorically of the
vengeance which was nigh the king of Babylon - "Thou, also," he
says, "shalt drink and become a reproach," or, shalt be uncovered.
    The word "arel" means in Hebrew the foreskin; and the
foreskinned, or uncircumcised, was the name given to the profane and
the base, or the contaminated; and hence many give this rendering -
"Thou also shalt become ignominious;" but others express more
clearly the Prophet's meaning by this version- "Thou shalt be
uncovered." Yet their opinion is not amiss who think that there is
here a change of letters, that "he'arel" is put for "hera'el"; and
"ra'al" means to be cast asleep; and it well suits a drunken man to
say that he is stupefied. But as the Prophet had spoken of
nakedness, I retain the word as it is; and thus the two clauses will
correspond - Then thou shalt drink and be uncovered.
    Then follows the explanation - Poured forth into thee shall be
the cup of Jehovah's right hand; that is, "the Lord shall in his
time be thy cup-bearer; as thou hast inebriated many nations, and
under the pretence of friendship hast defrauded those who, being
bound to thee by treaties, have been ruined; so the Lord will now
recompense thee with the reward which thou hast deserved: As thou
hast been a cup-bearer to others, so the Lord will now become thy
cup-bearer, and will inebriate thee, but after another manner." We
indeed know what the Scripture everywhere means by the cup of God's
hand - even vengeance of every kind. God strikes some with giddiness
and precipitates them, when deprived of all humanity, into a state
of madness; others he infatuates by insensibility; some he deprives
of all understanding, so that they perceive nothing aright; against
others he rouses up enemies, who treat them with cruelty. Hence the
Lord is said to extend his cup to the wicked whenever he takes
vengeance on them.
    Therefore he adds - the reproach of spewing shall be on thy
glory. The word "kikalon" is a compound. We have already seen that
"kalon" is shame; and now he speaks of shameful spewing. And this
may be referred to the king of Babylon - that he himself would
shamefully spew out what he had before intemperately swallowed down;
or it might be fitly applied to his enemies - that they would spew
in the face of the king of Babylon.
    The end of which Habakkuk speaks, awaits all tyrants, who
disturb the world by their cupidity. Ambition does indeed so
infatuate them, that they neither spare human blood, nor hesitate to
endanger their nearest and most friendly associates. Since then an
insatiable thirst for glory thus inflames them, the Prophet justly
allots to them this reward - that they shall receive filthy and
shameful spewing instead of that glory, in seeking which they
observed no limits. Let us now proceed -

Habakkuk 2:17
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

    We may hence easily learn, that the Prophet has not been
speaking of drunkenness, but that his discourse, as we have
explained, was metaphorical; for here follows a reason, why he had
denounced such a punishment on the king of Babylon, and that was,
because he had exercised violence, not only against all nations
indiscriminately, but also against the chosen people of God. He had
before only set forth in general the cruelty with which the king of
Babylon had destroyed many nations; but he now speaks distinctly of
the Jews, in order to show that God would in a peculiar manner be
the avenger of that cruelty which the Chaldeans had employed towards
the Jews, because the Lord had taken that people under his own
protection. Since then the king of Babylon had assailed the children
of God, who had been adopted by him, and whose defender he was, he
denounces upon him here a special punishment. We thus see that this
discourse is properly addressed to the Jews; for he intended to
bring them some consolation in their extreme evils, so that they
might strengthen their patience; for they were thereby made to see
that the wrongs done to them were come to a reckoning before God.
    By Libanus then we are to understand either Judea or the
temple; for Libanus, as it is well known, was not far from the
temple; and it is elsewhere found in the same sense. But if any
extends this to the land of Judea, the meaning will be the same;
there will be but little or no difference as to the subject that is
handled. Because the violence then of Libanus shall overwhelm thee.
    Then come the words, the pillaging of beasts. Interpreters
think that the Chaldeans and Assyrians are here called "behemot",
beasts, as they had been savage and cruel, like wild beasts, in
laying waste Judea; but I rather understand by the beasts of Libanus
those which inhabited that forest. The Prophet exaggerates the
cruelty of the king of Babylon by this consideration, that he had
been an enemy to brute beasts; and I consider the pronoun relative
"asher", which, to be understood before the verb "yechitan", which
may be taken to mean, to tear, or to frighten, Some give this
rendering, "The plundering of beasts shall tear them;" as though he
had said, "The Babylonians are indeed like savage beasts, but they
shall be torn by their own plundering:" but another sense will be
more suitable that the plundering of beasts, which terrified them,
shall overwhelm thee; for the same verb, "yachas" shall cover or
overwhelm the king of Babylon, is to be repeated here. He adds at
last the clause, which was explained yesterday. We now perceive the
meaning of the Prophet to be - that the king of Babylon would be
justly plundered, because he had destroyed the holy land and
iniquitously attacked God's chosen people, and had also carried on
his depredations through almost the whole of the Easter world. It
now follows -

Habakkuk 2:18
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?

    The Prophet now advances farther, and shows that whatever he
had predicted of the future ruin of Babylon and of its monarchy,
proceeded from the true God, from the God of Israel: for it would
not have been sufficient to hold, that some deity existed in heaven,
who ruled human affairs, so that it could not be, but that tyrants
would have to suffer punishment for their cruelty. We indeed know
that such sayings as these were everywhere common among heathen
nations - that justice sits with Jupiter - that there is a Nemesis -
that there is Divine vengeance. Since then such a conviction had
ever been imprinted on the hearts of men, it would have been a
frigid and almost an empty doctrine, had not the Prophet introduced
the God of Israel. This is the reason why he now derides all idols,
and claims for God the government of the whole world, and clearly
shows that he speaks of the Jews, because they worshipped no
imaginary gods, as the heathen nations, but plainly understood him
to be the creator of heaven and earth, who revealed himself to
Abraham, who gave his law by the hand of Moses. We now perceive the
Prophet's design.
    As then the king of Babylon did himself worship his own gods,
the Prophet dissipates that vain confidence, by which he might be
deceived and deceive others. Hence he says, What avails the graven
image? He speaks here contemptuously of images formed by men's
hands. And he adds a reason, because the maker has graven it, he
says. Interpreters give a sense that is very jejune, as though the
Prophet had said, "What avails a graven image, when it is graven or
melted by its artifices?" But the Prophet shows here the reason why
the worship of idols is useless, and that is, because these gods are
made of dead materials. And then he says, "What deity can the
artifices produce?" We hence see that a reason is given in these
words, and therefore we may more clearly render them thus - "What
avails the graven image, when the framer has graven it?" that is,
since the graven image has its origin from the hand and skill of
man, what can it avail? He then adds, he has formed a molten image;
that is, though the artifices has given form to the metal, or to the
wood, or to the stone, yet he could not have changed its nature. He
has indeed given it a certain external appearance; but were any one
to ask what it is, the answer would surely be, "It is a graven
image." Since then its nature is not changed by the work of man, it
evidently appears, how stupid and mad must all those be who put
their trust in graven images.
    He then adds, and a teacher of falsehood. He added this clause,
because men previously entertain false notions, and dare not to form
a judgement on the matter itself. For, how comes it that a piece of
wood or a stone is called a god? Had any one asked the sages at Rome
or at Athens, or in other cities, who thought all other nations
barbarous, What is that? on seeing a Jupiter made of silver; or of
wood, or of stone, the answer would have been, "It is Jupiter, it is
God." But how could this be? It is a stone, a piece of wood, or of
silver. They would yet have asserted that it was God. Whence came
this madness? Even from this, because men were bewitched, so that
seeing they saw not; they wilfully closed their eyes, and resolved
to be blind, being unwilling to understand. This is the reason why
the Prophet, by way of anticipation, says, the artificer has formed
- what has he formed? a graven image and a teacher of falsehood. The
material remains the same, but a false notion prevails, for men
think idols to be gods. How come they to think so? It is no doubt
the teaching of falsehood, a mere illusion. He then confirms the
same thing; the fashioner, or the artificer, he says, trusts in his
own work, or in what he has formed. How is this? Must they not be
void of sense and reason who trust in lifeless things? "The
workman," as Isaiah says, "will take his instruments, will form an
idol, and then he will bow the knee, and call it his god; yet it is
the work of his own hands." What! art not thou thyself a god? thou
knowest thine own frailty, and yet thou createst new gods! Even in
this manner does the Prophet confirm what he had previously said,
that men are extremely stupid, nay, that they are seized with
monstrous sottishness, when they ascribe a kind of deity to wood, or
to a stone, or to metal. How so? because they are, he says, false
    And he adds, that he may make dumb idols. He again repeats what
he had said, - that the nature of the material is not changed by
men's workmanship, when they form to themselves gods either from
wood or from stone. How so? because they cannot speak. To the same
purpose is what immediately follows; the next verse must therefore
be added. We shall afterwards say something more on the general

Habakkuk 2:19
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.

    He pursues, as I have said, the same subject, and sharply
inveighs against the sottishness of men, that they call on wood and
stone, as though there were some hidden power in them. They say to
the wood, Awake; for they implored help from their idols. Shall it
teach? Some render it thus as a question; but I take it in a simpler
form, "It will teach;" that is, "It is a wonder that ye are so
wilfully foolish; for were God to send to you no Prophet, were there
no one to instruct you, yet the wood and the stone would be
sufficient teachers to you: ask your idols, that is, ascertain
rightly what is in them. Doubtless, the god that is made of wood or
of stone, sufficiently declares by his silence that he is no god.
For there is no motion in wood and stone. Where there is no vigour
and no life, is it not right to feel assured, that there is no
deity? There are, indeed, many creatures endued with feeling and
motion; but the God who gives power, and motion, and feeling to the
whole world, and to all its parts, does he not surpass in these
respects all his creatures? Since, then, wood and stone are silent,
they are teachers sufficient for you, provided ye be apt scholars."
    We hence see how the Prophet in this way amplifies the
insensibility of men; for they did not perceive what was quite
manifest. The design of what follows is the same. Behold, it is
covered over with gold and silver; that is, it is made splendid: for
idolaters think that their gods are better when adorned with gold
and silver; but yet there is no breath in the midst of them. "Look,"
he says, "within; look within, and ye shall see that they are dead."
The rest we shall dilate on to-morrow.


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 thy Spirit may always shine in us, and that being attentive to
the light of thy word, we may also keep to the right way through the
whole course of our pilgrimage, and subject to thee 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 thy Spirit, we may beware of all their
intrigues: and may we, especially as to our spiritual life, be so
given up to thee alone, as ever to keep ourselves far away from the
defilements of all people, and so remain in the pure worship of thy
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 thou wouldst have to be our
ruler, even Christ thy Son, until he at length gathers us all into
that celestial kingdom which he has purchased for us by his own
blood. Amen.

Lecture One Hundred and Fourteenth.

    We said yesterday, that the Prophet speaks now of idols, that
he might deprive the king of Babylon of his vain confidence: for
though heathens claim everything to themselves and to their own
powers, yet their superstition in some measure dementates them.
Hence the Prophet shows, that that tyrant in vain trusted in his
idols, since they were things of nought. But the reasons by which he
refutes idolatry ought to be noticed: he says, that the artifices,
who formed gods, were not able to change the nature of the material,
for the wood remained wood, and stone continued to be stone, and
that the workmen and artifices in forming it did nothing more than
make a molten image. The material then remained still the same. As
to the image itself, the Prophet says, that it was mere falsehood
and deception; yea, that gods made of wood or of silver, or of any
other material, were instructors and teachers of falsehood, for they
allured simple souls: and Satan spread his snares before men, when
he set before their eyes these visible figures, and persuaded them
that they contained something divine. Then this reasoning of the
Prophet ought to be carefully observed; for he reminds us, that
fictitious gods are made of lifeless and perishable materials, and
that images are only the juggleries of Satan.
    That saying of Gregory is common among the Papists, that images
are the books of the ignorant; for such was his answer to Serenus,
bishop of Marseilles, who turned out images from all the churches
(Lib. 9, Epist. 9.) He said that he approved of his object, in
wishing to correct the superstition which prevailed among the
people, but that he had done what was not right in wholly taking
away images, the books of the ignorant. But let us consider whether
more faith is due to Gregory, a man imbued with many errors, (as
that age was very corrupt), or to the Prophet Habakkuk, and also to
Jeremiah, who announces nearly the same sentiment. Though, then,
there is some speciousness in idols, yet the Prophet here reminds us
that they are nothing but the impostures of Satan; for they teach
falsehood. The reason also that is given is deserving of notice -
that the workmen put their hope in what they themselves have formed.
And it is indeed a thing most preposterous, that a mortal man should
form his own god, and then imagine that something divine is enclosed
in the very form, for deity is not in the material. The material is
disregarded when unformed; but not so when it attains a beautiful
shape. While the tree grows, while it produces flowers and fruit, it
is deemed, as it really is, a dead thing; but when a piece of it is
formed in the figure of a man, it is believed to be a god! But it is
extremely absurd to suppose that the hand of the artifices gives
deity to a dead material; for the wood is dead, and nothing is
perceived but the shape given to it by man. Since, then, the
artifices trusts in what he has formed, it is what seems beyond
anything strange. It is hence quite evident, that men are wholly
demented by the devil, when they worship their own workmanship.
    But now, in order to press the matter more fully on idolaters,
the Prophet upbraids them for calling on the wood and on the stone
to awake. It is certain, that when idolaters bow the knee before
what they have themselves formed, they still imagine that there are
celestial gods; but when before a figure of wood or stone they call
upon God, it is the same thing as though they expected help from the
wood and stone; for the question is not here what idolaters imagine,
but the thing itself is to be regarded; and this is what the Prophet
most fully and plainly condemns. Since, then, the superstitious are
wont to address their prayers to wood and stone, he says, that they
make to themselves gods, to whom they sacrifice. And the Prophet
rightly refers in express terms to this kind of service; for the
chief sacrifice which God bids to be offered to him, and demands
from us, is to call on him; for we thus testify that life and all
things belonging to salvation are found alone in him. Since, then,
the majesty of God appears especially from having this testimony
borne to him, that he is the fountain of life and of all blessings,
every one who prostrates himself before a stone or wood, and
implores the aid of a visible god, transfers, no doubt, the glory of
the eternal God to a dead piece of wood or to a stone. If, then, we
wish to be free from every superstition, let us remember this truth,
that then only we have the only true God, when we direct our prayers
and supplications to him alone, or, in a word, when we call on him
alone. When we have recourse to dead idols, God is deprived of his
own right. We may call him God a hundred times, but we give him an
empty title, and one of no value, except we pray to him alone.
    The Prophet, in the last place, derides the madness of men, by
saying that the very idols teach: for, as it was said yesterday, the
clause is not to be read as a question, as some do; but in order
more sharply to reprove the stupidity of men, the Prophet says,
"Doubtless the very figures themselves, except ye are wholly
senseless, will teach you." He had before said, it is true, that
they were the teachers of falsehood and vanity; but he speaks now of
another kind of teaching, that if men wisely attended to the thing
itself, they might soon learn from a mere view of their gods, that
they were most palpably the deceits of Satan; for if any one looked
on the idols with a clear eye, he would see that they were a dead
material, and would see that great wrong is done to God by
transforming him into a likeness of what is dead.
    We now understand the Prophet's meaning, when he says, That
idols themselves are sufficient, and more than sufficient teachers,
when men are teachable, and lend an attentive ear. He means not, as
it was said yesterday, that idols teach fallaciously to the
destruction of men, while something divine is ascribed to them; but
he says that they teach, if any one of a sane mind, and free from
error, comes to view the idol, and forms a judgement of the thing
itself. But superstition occupies the minds of men; and hence it is
that all become the scholars of Satan, and no one applies his mind
to understand the doctrine he mentions here. In short, idols teach
naturally, and they teach through the artifice and delusion of
Satan. They teach naturally; for by their silence they show that
they are not gods, inasmuch as there is no strength in them. They
teach, also, by the artifice of the devil; for they are made to
claim a kind of divinity, and thus dazzle the minds of men, who are
already corrupted by their own delusions. To the first teaching, of
which the Prophet now speaks, none apply their minds; for almost all
renounce nature wholly: this only lays hold on them - that idols are
gods; for they make an image of the heavenly and eternal God, from
whom we are at a great distance, and who does not otherwise descend
to us, except through visible representations!
    The same truth the Prophet confirms when he says, that though
these gods are covered over with gold and silver, there is no breath
in them, or in the midst of them. In short, he means that they are
mere masks; for no divinity can be without life. As then idols are
dead things, it follows that they are the most palpable impostures
of Satan, by which he fascinates the minds of men, when they thus
devote themselves to dead things.
    Moreover, whatever is here said against idols, most certainly
applies to the superstitions of popery. They deny that they give
divine honours to their idols; but let us consider what the Prophet
says. They indeed sacrifice to gold and silver, and then bend their
knees before their images, and do not think that God is near them,
except in these figures. Let them show, then, that the Prophet
reasons here foolishly, or let them be held guilty according to the
declaration, as it were, of the Holy Spirit, when they thus present
their prayers before idols. It now follows -

Habakkuk 2:20
But the LORD [is] in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence
before him.

    After having taught us that the Babylonians were deceived in
expecting any help from their idols, and were deluded by Satan,
Habakkuk now recalls the attention of the faithful to the only true
God; for it would not have been enough to take away from the
Babylonians the false confidence which they had in their idols,
except the Israelites, on the other hand, trusting in the grace of
the true God, were fully persuaded that God was on their side, as he
had taken them under his protection.
    And we ought carefully to observe this order; for we see that
many boldly deride all the superstitions which prevail in the world,
and at the same time daringly and with cyclopic fury despise the
true God. How many are at this day either Epicureans or Lucianians,
who prate jestingly and scoffingly against the superstitions of the
papacy, but in the meantime they are not influenced by any fear of
God? If, however, we are to choose one of two evils, superstition is
more tolerable than that gross impiety which obliterates every
thought of a God. It is indeed true, that the more the superstitious
toil in their delusions, the more they provoke God's wrath against
them; for they transfer his glory to dead things; but yet they
retain this principle - that honour and worship are due to God: but
the profane, in whom there is no religion whatever, not only change
God from what he is, but also strive as far as they can to reduce
him to nothing. Hence I have said, that the order which the Prophet
observes here ought to be maintained. For, after having overturned
the false illusions of the devil, by which he deludes the
superstitious, by setting before them a mere shadow in the place of
the true God, he now sets up the true worship of the only true God.
Then the Prophet has hitherto been endeavouring to subvert
superstitions, but he now builds up: for except God, when idols are
pulled down, ascends his own tribunal, and shines there as supreme
according to his right, it would be better, at least it would be
more tolerable, as I have said, that superstitions should be left
    He now says that God is in his own temple or palace: this word
is often taken for heaven, but is applied to the sanctuary. Many
consider that the reference is made to heaven; as though the Prophet
had said, that the true God, who is the artificer and creator of
heaven and earth, is not to be seen in a visible form, nor covered
over with gold and silver, nor represented by wood or stone; but
that he rules in heaven, and fills heaven with his infinite glory
and this view is by no means unsuitable. But as he here specially
addresses the Jews, it seems to me more probable that he speaks of
the temple, where God then designed to be worshipped, and sacrifices
to be offered to him for it would not have been sufficient to set
God, the creator of heaven and earth, in opposition to the
superstitions of all the nations; but it was also necessary to
introduce the contrast between the God of Israel and all those gods
who then had obtained a name and reputation in the world, as they
had been formed by the will of men. The God of Israel was indeed the
creator of heaven and earth; but he had made himself known by his
law, he had revealed himself to men, so that his majesty was not
hidden; for when we speak of God, we are lost except he comes to us,
and in a manner exhibits himself to us; for the capacity of our
understanding is not so great that it can penetrate above all
heavens. Hence the majesty of God is in itself incomprehensible to
us; but he makes himself known by his works and by his word. Now as
the Israelites worshipped, and surely knew that they worshipped the
only true God, the Prophet here rightly confirms them in the hope
they derived from the teaching of the law - that God was their
Father, inasmuch as he had adopted them. If any prefer to take the
word for heaven, I do not object; and that meaning, as I have said,
is not unsuitable. But as the Prophet seems to me to have a special
vies to his own people, to whom he was appointed a teacher; it is
more probable that the word, temple or palace, is here to be
understood of the sanctuary.
    If any raises the objection that there is then no difference
between the God of Israel and the gods of the Gentiles, for he also
dwells in an earthly habitation, the answer is obviously this - that
though God is said to dwell between the cherubim, he has not been
represented by an image, as though he had anything like to wood or
stone, or possessed any likeness to human bodies. All these
delusions were banished from the Temple; for he commanded his
worshipers to look up to heaven. There was an intervening veil, that
the people might understand that they could not otherwise come to
God than through that celestial model, the anti types of which they
saw in the altar of incense, in the altar on which they sacrificed,
in the table of the shewbread, in short, in all other services of
the Temple. And there is another difference to be noticed; for
though there was there the golden altar, though there was there the
ark of the covenant, and the altar on which the victims were
immolated, yet inscribed on all these typical representations was
the word of God, by which alone true religion was to be
distinguished from all false inventions. For whatever specious
appearance of reason may therefore be in fictitious modes of
worship, men have no authority to render them lawful; but so much
reverence is due to the only true word of God, that it ought to
overrule all other reasons. And besides, this word, as I have hinted
already, did not retain the Jews in these delusions, but elevated
their minds to heaven. We now then see that there was a wide
difference between the Temple which was at Jerusalem, and the
temples which the superstitious had then built for themselves
throughout the world; for God ruled over the Jews, so that they
could not have been deluded. And at this day, where the word of God
shines among us, we can follow it with safety. And, further, God did
spiritually draw to himself his own servants, though he employed, on
account of their ignorance, certain outward elements. Hence the
Prophet justly says, that God was in his palace or his Temple; for
the Israelites knew of a certainty that they did not worship a
fictitious God, since in his law he had revealed himself to them,
and had chosen the sanctuary, where he intended to be worshipped in
a typical, and yet in a spiritual manner.
    He then adds, Let all the earth be silent before him. Habakkuk,
no doubt, commends the power of God, that the Israelites might
proceed with alacrity in their religious course, knowing it to be a
sufficient security to be under the protection of the only true God,
and that they might not seek after the superstitions of the nations,
nor be carried here and there, as it often happens, by vain desires.
Keep silence, then, he says, let all the earth. He shows that though
the Israelites might be far inferior to the Babylonians and other
nations, and be far unequal to them in strength, military art,
forces, and, in short, in all things of this kind, yet they would be
always safe under the guardianship of God; for the Lord was able to
control whatever power there might be in the world.
    We now see what the Prophet had in view: for he does not here
simply exhort all people to worship God, but shows, that thought men
may grow mad against him, he yet can easily by his hand subjugate
them; for after all the tumults made by kings and their people, the
Lord can, by one breath of his mouth, dissipate all their attempts,
however furious they may be. This, then, is the silence of which the
Prophet now speaks. But there is another kind of silence, and that
is, when we willingly submit to God; for silence in this respect is
nothing else but submission: and we submit to God, when we bring not
our own inventions and imaginations, but suffer ourselves to be
taught by his word. We also submit to him, when we murmur not
against his power or his judgements, when we humble ourselves under
his powerful hand, and do not fiercely resist him, as those do who
indulge their own lusts. This is indeed, as I have said, a voluntary
submission: but the Prophet here shows that there is power in God to
lay prostrate the whole world, and to tread it under his feet,
whenever it may please him; so that the faithful have nothing to
fear, for they know that their salvation is secured; for though the
whole world were leagued against them, it yet cannot resist God. Now
follows a prayer: -

Chapter 3.

Habakkuk 3:1
A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet upon Shigionoth.

    There is no doubt but that the Prophet dictated this form of
prayer for his people, before they were led into exile, that they
might always exercise themselves in the study of religion. We indeed
know that God cannot be rightly and from the heart worshipped but in
faith. Hence, in order to confine the dispersed Israelites within
due limits, so that they might not fall away from true religion, the
Prophet here sets before them the materials of faith, and stimulates
them to prayer: and we know, that our faith cannot be supported in a
better way than by the exercise of prayer.
    Let us then bear in mind, that the way of fostering true
religion, prescribed here to the miserable Israelites while
dispersed in their exile, was to look up to God daily, that they
might strengthen their faith; for they could not have otherwise
continued in their obedience to God. They would, indeed, have wholly
fallen away into the superstitions of the Gentiles, had not the
memory of the covenant, which the Lord had made with them, remained
firm in their hearts: and we shall presently see that the Prophet
lays much stress upon this circumstance.
    He calls it his own prayer, not because he used it himself
privately, or composed it for himself, but that the prayer might
have some authority among the people; for they knew that a form of
prayer dictated for them by the mouth of a Prophet, was the same as
though the Spirit itself was to show them how they were to pray to
God. The name, then, of Habakkuk is added to it, not because he used
it himself, but that the people might be more encouraged to pray,
when they knew that the Holy Spirit, through the Prophet, had become
their guide and teacher.
    There is some difficulty connected with the word "shigyonot".
The verb "shagag" or "shagah" means, to act inconsiderately; and
from "shagah" is derived to "shigyon". Many render it, ignorance;
some, delight. Some think it to be the beginning of a song; others
suppose it to be a common melody; and others, a musical instrument.
Thus interpreters differ. In the seventh Psalm David, no doubt,
calls either a song or some musical instrument by the word
"shigyon". Yet some think that David bears testimony there to his
own innocency; and that, as he was not conscious of having done
wrong, his own innocency is alone signified by the title: but this
is a strained view. The word is taken in this place, almost by
common consent, for ignorances: and we know that the Hebrews
denominate by ignorances all errors or falls which are not grievous,
and such things as happen through inadvertence; and by this word
they do not extenuate their faults, but acknowledge themselves to be
inconsiderate when they offend. Then "shigyon" is no excusable
ignorance, which men lay hold on as a pretext; but an error of folly
and presumptions, when men are not sufficiently attentive to the
word of God. But perhaps the word "shigyonot", being here in the
plural number, ought to be taken for musical instruments. Yet as I
would not willingly depart from a received opinion, and as there is
no necessity in this case to constrain us to depart from it, let us
follows what had been already said, - that the Prophet dictates here
for his people a form of prayer for ignorances, that is, that they
could not otherwise hope for God's forgiveness than by seeking his
favour. And how can we be reconciled to God, except by his not
imputing to us our sins?
    But the Prophet, by asking for the pardons of ignorances, does
not omit more grievous sins; but intimates that though their
conscience does not reprove men, they are yet not on that account
innocent and without guilt; for they often inconsiderately fall, and
their faults are not to be excused for inadvertence. It is, then,
the same thing as though the Prophet reminded his own people, that
there was no remedy for them in adversity but by fleeing to God, and
fleeing as suppliants, in order to solicit his forgiveness; and that
they were not only to acknowledge their more grievous sins, but also
to confess that they were in many respects guilty; for they might
have fallen through error a thousand times, as we are inconsiderate
almost through the whole course of our life. We now, then, perceive
what this word means, and why the Prophet spoke rather of ignorances
than of other sins. But I shall not proceed farther now, as there is
some other business.


Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast deigned to make thyself known
to us by thy word, and as thou elevates us to thyself in a way
suitable to the ignorance of our minds, - O grant, that we may not
continue fixed in our stupidity, but that we may put off all
superstitions, and also renounce all the thoughts of our flesh, and
seek thee in the right way; and may we suffer ourselves to be so
ruled by thy word, that we may purely and from the heart call upon
thee, and so rely on thine infinite power, that we may not fear to
despise the whole world, and every adversity on the earth, until,
having finished our warfare, we shall at length be gathered into
that blessed rest, which thine only-begotten Son has procured for us
by his own blood - Amen.

Lecture One Hundred and Fifteenth.

Habakkuk 3:2
O LORD, I have heard thy speech, [and] was afraid: O LORD, revive
thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make
known; in wrath remember mercy.

    The Prophet says here, in the name of the whole people, that he
was terrified by the voice of God, for so I understand the word,
though in many places it means report, as some also explain it in
this place. But as the preaching of the Gospel is called in Isa. 53
"shemu'ah", report, it seems to me more suitable to the present
passage to render it the voice of God; for the general sentiment,
that the faithful were terrified at the report of God, would be
frigid. It ought rather to be applied to the Prophecies which have
been already explained: and doubtless Habakkuk did not intend here
to speak only in general of God's power; but, as we have seen in the
last lecture, he humbly confesses the sins of the people, and then
prays for forgiveness. It is then not to be doubted but that he says
here, that he was terrified by the voice of God, that is, when he
heard him threatening punishment so grievous. He then adds, Revive
thy work in the middle of the years, and make it known. At last, by
way of anticipation, he subjoins, that God would remember his mercy,
though justly offended by the sins of the people.
    But by saying, that he feared the voice of God, he makes a
confession, or gives an evidence of repentance; for we cannot from
the heart seek pardon, unless we be first made humble. When a sinner
is not displeased with himself, and confesses not his guilt, he is
not deserving of mercy. We then see why the Prophet speaks here of
fear; and that is, that he might thus obtain for himself and for
others the favour of God; for as soon as a sinner willingly condemns
himself, and does not do this formally, but seriously from the
heart, he is already reconciled to God; for God bids us in this way
to anticipate his judgement. This is one thing. But if it be asked,
for what purpose the Prophet heard God's voice; the obvious answer
is, - that as it is not the private prayer of one person, but of the
whole Church, he prescribes here to the faithful the way by which
they were to obtain favour from God, and turn him to mercy; and that
is, by dreading his threatening and by acknowledging that whatever
God threatened by his Prophets was near at hand.
    Then follows the second clause, Jehovah! in the middle of the
years revive thy work. By the work of God he means the condition of
his people or of the Church. For though God is the creator of heaven
and earth, he would yet have his own Church to be acknowledged to
be, as it were, his peculiar workmanship, and a special monument of
his power, wisdom, justice, and goodness. Hence, by way of eminence,
he calls here the condition of the elect people the work of God; for
the seed of Abraham was not only a part of the human race, but was
the holy and peculiar possession of God. Since, then, the Israelites
were set apart by the Lord, they are rightly called his work; as we
read in another place, "The work of thine hands thou wilt not
despise," Ps. 138: 8. And God often says, "This is my planting,"
"This is the work of my hands," when he speaks of his Church.
    By the middle of the years, he means the middle course, as it
were, of the people's life. For from the time when God chose the
race of Abraham to the coming of Christ, was the whole course, as it
were, of their life, when we compare the people to a man; for the
fulness of their age was at the coming of Christ. If, then, that
people had been destroyed, it would have been the same as though
death were to snatch away a person in the flower of his age. Hence
the Prophet prays God not to take away the life of his people in the
middle of their course; for Christ having not come, the people had
not attained maturity, nor arrived at manhood. In the middle, then,
of the years thy work revive; that is, "Though we seem destined to
death, yet restore us." Make it known, he says, in the middle of the
years; that is, "Show it to be in reality thy work."
    We now apprehend the real meaning of the Prophet. After having
confessed that the Israelites justly trembled at Cod's voice, as
they saw themselves deservedly given up to perdition, he then
appeals to the mercy of God, and prays God to revive his own work.
He brings forward here nothing but the favour of adoption: thus he
confesses that there was no reason why God should forgive his
people, except that he had been pleased freely to adopt them, and to
choose them as his peculiar people; for on this account it is that
God is wont to show his favour towards us even to the last. as,
then, this people had been once chosen by God, the Prophet records
this adoptions, and prays God to continue and fulfil to the end what
he had begun. With regard to the half course of life, the comparison
ought to be observed; for we see that the race of Abraham was not
chosen for a short time, but until Christ the Redeemer was
manifested. Now we have this in common with the ancient people, that
God adopts us, that he may at length bring us into the inheritance
of eternal life. Until, then, the work of our salvation is
completed, we are, as it were, running our course. We may therefore
adopt this form of prayer, which is prescribed for us by the Holy
Spirit, - that God would not forsake his ohm work; in the middle of
our course.
    What he now subjoins - in wrath remember mercy, is intended to
anticipate an objection; for this thought might have occurred to the
faithful - "there is no ground for us to hope pardon from God, whom
we have so grievously provoked, nor is there any reason for us to
rely any more on the covenant which we have so perfidiously
violated." The Prophet meets this objection, and he flees to the
gracious favour of God, however much he perceived that the people
would have to suffer the just punishment of their sins, such as they
deserved. He then confesses that God was justly angry with his
people, and yet that the hope of salvation was not on that account
closed up, for the Lord had promised to be propitious. Since God
then is not inexorable towards his people - nay, while he chastises
them he ceases not to be a father; hence the Prophet connects here
the mercy of God with his wrath.
    We have elsewhere said that the word wrath is not to be taken
according to its strict sense, when the faithful or the elect are
spoken of; for God does not chastise them because he hates them;
nay, on the contrary, he thereby manifests the care he has for their
salvations. Hence the scourges by which God chastises his children
are testimonies of his love. But the Scripture represents the
judgement with which God visits his people as wrath, not towards
their persons but towards their sins. Though then God shows love to
his chosen, yet he testifies when he punishes their sins that
iniquity is hated by him. When God then comes forth as it were as a
judge, and shows that sins displease him, he is said to be angry
with the faithful; and there is also in this a reference to the
perceptions of men; for we cannot, when God chastises us, do
otherwise than feel the accusations of our own conscience. Hence
then is this hatred; for when our conscience condemns us we must
necessarily acknowledge God to be angry with us, that is with
respect to us. When therefore we provoke God's wrath by our sins we
feel him to be angry with us; but yet the Prophet collects together
things which seem wholly contrary - even that God would remember
mercy in wrath; that is, that he would show himself displeased with
them in such a way as to afford to the faithful at the same time
some taste of his favour and mercy by finding him to be propitious
to them.
    We now then perceive how the Prophet had joined the last clause
to the foregoing. Whenever, then, the judgement of the flesh would
lead us to despair, let us ever set up against it this truth - that
God is in such a way angry that he never forgets his mercy - that
is, in his dealings with his elect. It follows -

Habakkuk 3:3
God came from Teman, and the Holy One from mount Paran. Selah. His
glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise.
    This verse interpreters explain in two ways. Some construe the
verb in the future tense in the past time - "God went forth from
Teman, and the holy one from mount Paran;" for a verb in the past
tense follows. But others consider it to be in the optative mood -
"May God come, or go forth, from Teman, and the holy one from mount
Paran;" as though the Prophet prayed God to come as the defender of
his people from mount Sinai, where the law was promulgated and the
covenant ratified, which God had formerly made with Abraham and his
posterity. I rather subscribe to their opinion who think that the
manifestation of God, by which he had testified that he was the
guardian of that people, is repeated by the Prophet. As, then, God
had so made known his glory on mount Sinai, that it was evident that
that nation was under his protection, so the Prophet, with the view
of strengthening himself and others, records what was well known
among the whole people - that is, that the law was given on mount
Sinai, which was a testimony of singular favour; for God then by a
new pledge testified, that the covenant formerly made with Abraham
was firm and inviolable. The reason why Habakkuk does not mention
mount Sinai, but Teman and Paran, seems to some to be this - because
these mountains were nearer the Holy Land, though this view, I fear,
will appear too refined; I therefore take this simple view - that
instead of mentioning mount Sinai, he paraphrastically designates it
by mount Paran and the desert of Teman. Some suppose these to be two
mountains; but I know not whether Teman ought to be understood only
as a mountain; it seems on the contrary to have been some large
tract of country. It was a common thing among the Jews to add this
name when they spoke of the south, as many nations were wont to give
to winds the names of some neighbouring places; so when the Jews
wished to designate a wind from Africa, they called it Teman. "It is
a Teman wind;" and so when they spoke of the south, they said Teman.
    However this may be, it is certain that the desert of Teman was
nigh to Sinai, and also that mount Paran was connected with that
desert. As then they were places towards the south, and nigh to
mount Sinai, where the law had been proclaimed, the Prophet records
here, in order to strengthen the faith of the whole people, that God
had not in vain gone forth once from Teman, and there appeared in
his celestial power; for God then openly showed, that he took under
his guardianship the children of Abraham, and that the covenant
which he had formerly made with him was not vain or of no effect.
Since, then, God had testified this in so remarkable and wonderful a
manner, the Prophet brings forward here that history which tended
especially to confirm the faith of the godly - "God went forth once
from Teman, and the holy one from mount Paran."
    For it was not God's will that the memory of that manifestation
should be obliterated; but he had once appeared with glory so
magnificent, that the people might feel assured that they would ever
be safe, for they were protected by God's hand, and that full of
power, as the fathers had once known by manifest and visible
evidences; and hence the Prophet represents God's going forth from
mount Paran as a continued act, as though he rendered himself
visible chiefly from that place. Nor is this representation new; for
we see, in many other places, a living picture, as it were, set
before the eyes of the faithful, in order to strengthen them in
their adversity, and to make them assured that they shall be safe
through God's presence. The Lord, indeed, did not daily fulminate
from heaven, nor were there such visible indications of his presence
as on mount Sinai; but it behaved the people to feel assured that he
was the same God who had given to their fathers such clear evidence
of his power, and that he is also at this time, and to the end of
the world, endued with the same power, though it be not rendered
    We now then apprehend the design of the Prophet: God then came
from Teman, and the holy one from mount Paran. We must also observe,
that the minds of the godly were recalled to the spectacle on mount
Sinai, when they were drawn away into exile, or when they were in
the power of their enemies. They might indeed have then supposed,
that they were wholly forsaken. Obliterated then must have been the
memory of that history, had not this remedy been introduced. It is,
therefore, the same as though the Prophet had said - "Though God now
hides his power, and gives no evidence of his favour, yet think not
that he formerly appeared in vain to your fathers as one clothed
with so great a power, when the law was proclaimed on mount Sinai.
It follows -

Habakkuk 3:4
And [his] brightness was as the light; he had horns [coming] out of
his hand: and there [was] the hiding of his power.

    He confirms the declaration which I have explained that God,
when he intended his presence to be made known to his people, gave
evidences of his wonderful power, capable of awakening the minds of
all. He then says, that the brightness was like light. By the word
"'or" is doubtless meant the light, which diffuses itself through
the whole world, and proceeds from the sun. Then he says, that the
brightness which appeared on mount Sinai was equal to the light of
the sun, capable of filling the whole world. He adds, that horns
were to him from the hand. Some render it, splendour; but "keren"
properly means a horn, and "keranayim" is here in the dual number:
it is therefore more probable, that the Prophet ascribes horns to
God, carried in both hands; and it more corresponds with what
immediately follows, that "there was the hiding of his strength," or
that "there was his power hidden." They who render the word,
splendours, think that what had been said is repeated, that is, that
the brightness was like light; but they are mistaken, for we may
collect from the verse that two different things are expressed by
the Prophet: he first speaks of the visible form of God; and then he
adds his power, designating it metaphorically by horns, which is
common in Scripture. Indeed this mode of speaking occurs often. He
then says, that God came armed with power, when he gave the law to
his people; for he bore horns in his hands, where his strength was
    As to the word hidings, some indeed give this refined view,
that God then put forth his strength, which was before hidden. But
this is a very strained explanation. To me it seems evident, that
the Prophet in the first place says, that God's glory was
conspicuous, capable of irradiating the whole world like the light
of the sun; and he then adds, that this splendour was connected with
power, for God carried horns in both his hands, where his strength
was laid: and he says, that it was hid, because God did not intend
to make known his power indiscriminately throughout the world, but
peculiarly to his own people; as it is also said in Ps. 31: 20, that
"the greatness of his goodness is laid up for the faithful alone,
who fear and reverence him." As then it is said, that the goodness
of God is laid up for the faithful, for they enjoy it as children
and members of the household; so also the power of God is said to be
laid up, because he testifies that he is armed with power to defend
his Church, that he may render safe the children of Abraham, whom he
has taken under his protection. It afterwards follows -

Habakkuk 3:5
Before him went the pestilence, and burning coals went forth at his

    The Prophet repeats here, that God came armed to defend his
people, when he went forth from Teman; for he connects with it here
the deliverance of the people. He does not indeed speak only of the
promulgation of the law, but encourages all the godly to confidence;
for God, who had once redeemed their fathers from Egypt, remained
ever like himself, and was endued with the same power.
    And he says, that before God's face walked the pestilence; this
is to be referred to the Egyptians; and that ignited coal proceeded
from his feet. Some render "reshef" exile; but its etymology
requires it to be rendered burning or ignited coal, and there is no
necessity to give it another meaning.
    The import of the whole is - that Cod had put to flight all the
enemies of his people; for we know that the Egyptians were smitten
with various plagues, and that the army of Pharaoh was drowned in
the Red Sea. Hence, the Prophet says, that God had so appeared from
Teman, that the pestilence went before him, and then the ignited
coal; in short, that the pestilence and ignited coal were God's
officers, which were ready to perform his commands: as when a king
or a judge, having attendants, commands them to put this man in
prison, and to punish another in a different way; so the Prophet,
giving us a representation of God, says, that all kinds of evils
were ready to obey his orders, and to destroy his and their enemies.
He does not then intend here to terrify the faithful in mentioning
the pestilence and the ignited coal; but, on the contrary, to set
before their eyes evidences of God's power, by which he could
deliver them from the hand of their enemies, as he had formerly
delivered their fathers from Egypt. By God's feet, he then means his
going forth or his presence; for I do not approve of what some have
said, that ignited coals followed, when pestilence had preceded; for
both clauses are given in the same way. It follows -

Habakkuk 3:6
He stood, and measured the earth: he beheld, and drove asunder the
nations; and the everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual
hills did bow: his ways [are] everlasting.

    He says that God possessed every power to subdue the earth to
himself, and that he could at his will destroy it, yea, dissolve
mountains as veil as nations. Some of the Jews understood this of
the ark, which stood at that time in Gilead. They then suppose that
the Prophet meant this in short - that when God chose a place for
the ark of the covenant in Gilgal, that he determined then what he
would do, and that he then in his secret counsel divided the land,
so that each should have his portion by lot. This, it is true, was
accomplished shortly after, for Joshua, as we know, divided it by
lot between the tribes. But what the Jews affirm of the ark seems to
me strained and frigid. Habakkuk, on the contrary, means by the word
stand, that God was openly conspicuous, like him who assumes an
erect posture, so that he is seen at a distance. In this sense we
are to take the expression that God stood.
    The measuring, of the earth is not to be confined to Judea, but
is to be extended to the whole world. God, he says, has measured the
earth. To measure the earth is what properly belongs to a sovereign
king; and it is done that he may assign to each his portion. Except
God, then, had a sovereign right over the earth and the whole world,
Habakkuk would not have ascribed to him this office; and this we
learn from the verse itself, for he immediately subjoins, that the
nations, as it were, melted away, that the mountains were destroyed,
that the hills were bowed down.
    We hence see that by earth we are not to understand Judea only,
but the whole world; as though he had said, that when God appeared
on mount Sinai, he made it fully evident that the earth was under
his power and authority, so that he could determine whatever he
pleased, and prescribe limits to all nations. For he does not speak
of God here as having, like a surveyor, a measuring line; but he
says, that he measured the earth as one capable even then of
changing the boundaries of the whole world; nay, he intimates that
it was he himself who had at first created the earth and assigned it
to men. It is indeed true that the nations did not then melt away,
nor were the mountains demolished, nor the hills bowed down; but the
Prophet simply means, that God's power then appeared, which was
capable of shaking the whole world.
    But he calls these the mountains of eternity and the hills
ages, which had been from the beginning fixed on their own
foundations. For if an earthquake happens on a plain, it seems less
wonderful; and then if any of those mountains cleave, which are not
so firmly fixed, it may be on account of some hollow places; for
when the winds fill the caverns, they are forced to burst, and they
cleave the mountains and the earth. But the Prophet relates an
unusual thing, and wholly different from the ordinary course of
nature - that the mountains of eternity, which had been from the
beginning, and had remained without any change, were thus demolished
and bowed down. In short, the Prophet intended by all means to raise
up to confidence the minds of the godly, so that they should become
fully persuaded that God's power to deliver them would be the same
as that which their fathers had formerly experienced; for there is
no other support under adverse, and especially under despairing
circumstances, than that the faithful should know that they are
still under the protection of that God who has adopted them. This is
the reason why the Prophet amplifies, in so striking a manner, on
the subject of God's power.
    And hence also he subjoins, that the ways of ages are those of
God. Some render the clause, "the ways of the world." The word
"olam" however, means properly an age, or perpetual time. The
Prophet, I have no doubt, means by ways of ages, the wonderful means
which God is wont to adopt for the defence of his Church; for we are
ever wont to reduce God's wonder to our own understanding, while it
is his purpose to perfect, in a manner that is wonderful, the work
of our salvation. Hence the Prophet bids the faithful here to raise
upwards their thoughts, and to conceive something greater of God's
power than what they can naturally comprehend. If we take the ways
of eternity in this sense, then they are to be understood as in
opposition to those means which are known and usual. They are his
daily ways, when the sun rises and sets, when the spring succeeds
the winter, when the earth produces fruit; though even these are so
many miracles, yet they are his common ways. But God has ways of
eternity that is he has means unknown to us by which he can deliver
us from death, whenever it may please him.
    But yet, if any prefer taking the ways of eternity as
signifying the continued power of God, which has ever appeared from
the beginning, the sense would be appropriate and not less useful:
for it especially avails to confirm our faith, when we consider that
God's power has ever been the same from the creation of heaven and
earth, that it has never been lessened or undergone any change.
Since, then, God has successively manifested his power through all
ages, we ought hence to learn that we have no reason to despair,
though he may for a time conceal his hand; for he is not on that
account deprived of his right. He ever retains the sovereignty of
the world. We ought, then, to be attentive to the ways of ages, that
is, to the demonstration of that power, which was manifested in the
creation of the world, and still continues to be manifested. It
follows -

Habakkuk 3:7
I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction: [and] the curtains of the
land of Midian did tremble.

    The Prophet relates here, no doubt, whatever might bring
comfort to the miserable Jews, as they thought themselves rejected
and in a manner alienated from God. Hence the Prophet mentions here
other deliverances, which were clear evidences of God's constant
favour towards his chosen people. He had hitherto spoken of their
redemption, and he will presently return to the same subject: but he
introduces here other histories; as though he had said, that it was
not only at one time that God had testified how much he loved the
race of Abraham, and how inviolable was the covenant he had made;
but that he had given the same testimonies at various times: for as
he had also defended his people against other enemies, the
conclusion was obvious, that God's hand was thus made manifest, that
the children of Abraham might know that they were not deceived, when
they were adopted by him.
    Hence Habakkuk mentions the tents of Cushan as another evidence
of God's power in preserving his people, and the curtains of Midian;
for we know how wonderful was the work, when the Jews were delivered
by the hand of Gideon; and the same was the case with respect to the
king of Chosen.
    We now, then, understand the design of the Prophet: for as he
knew that the time was near when the Jews might succumb to despair
in their great adversities, he reminds them of the evidences of
God's favour and power, which had been given to their fathers, that
they might entertain firm hope in time to come, and be fully
persuaded that God would be their deliverer, as he had been formerly
to their fathers.


Grant, Almighty God, that as we have a continual contest with
powerful enemies, we may know that we are defended by thine hand,
and that even thou art fighting for us when we are at rest; so that
we may boldly contend under thy protection, and never be wearied,
nor yield to Satan and the wicked, or to any temptations; but firmly
proceed in the course of our warfare: and however much thou mayest
often humble us, so as to make us to tremble under thine awful
judgement, may we yet never cease to entertain firm hope, since thou
hast once promised to be to us an eternal Father in thine eternal
and only-begotten Son, but being confirmed by the invincible
constancy of faith, may we so submit ourselves to thee, as to bear
all our afflictions patiently, till thou gatherest us at length into
that blessed rest, which has been procured for us by the blood of
thine own Son. Amen.

Lecture One Hundred and Sixteenth.

    We said yesterday that the Prophet spoke of the king of Chusan
and of the Midianites, in order to strengthen the minds of the
godly, and to set before their eyes the continued aid of God, so
that they might venture to feel assured that he would not act
otherwise towards the Church to the end of the world, then what he
had done from the beginning. The meaning, then, is sufficiently
evident. We must now consider the words.
    Some understand by the word, "awen" nothing, or vanity; as
though the Prophet had said, that the tells of Cushan had been
reduced to nothing: but another sense is more probable; I have seen
the tents of Cushan on account of his iniquity; that is, the reward
which God had repaid, for the iniquity of the king of Cushan had
been made manifest. The Prophet says that he had seen it, because it
was evident and known to all. We now perceive what is meant that God
had been a just judge against the army of Cushan; for as they had
unjustly assailed the Israelites, so a just reward was rendered to
them. The account of this we have in Judg. 3. Chusan, the king of
Mesopotamia, had well-nigh destroyed the Israelites, when the Lord
put him to flight with all his forces. Some render the words, "The
tents of Ethiopia," as though it was written Chus; but this is
strained, and contrary to the rules of grammar; and besides, the
following clause confirms what I have said; for the Prophet mentions
the slaughter with which God destroyed the Midianites, who had also
nearly overwhelmed the miserable people. He says that their curtains
trembled, or their dwellings: for God, without the hand or sword of
men, drove them into such madness, that they slew one another, as
the sacred history testifies. See Judg. 6. and 7. It now follows -

Habakkuk 3:8
Was the LORD displeased against the rivers? [was] thine anger
against the rivers? [was] thy wrath against the sea, that thou didst
ride upon thine horses [and] thy chariots of salvation?

    The Prophet here applies the histories to which he has already
referred, for the purpose of strengthening the hope of the faithful;
so that they might know these to be so many proofs and pledges of
God's favour towards them, and that they might thus cheerfully look
for his aid, and not succumb to temptation in their adversities.
When he asks, was God angry with the rivers and the sea, he no doubt
intended in this way to awaken the thoughts of the faithful, that
they might consider the design of God in the works which he had
already mentioned; for it would have been unreasonable that God
should show his wrath against rivers and the sea; why should he be
angry with lifeless elements? The Prophet then shows that God had
another end in view when he dried the sea, when he stopped the
course of Jordan, and when he gave other evidences of his power.
Doubtless God did not regard the sea and the rivers; for that would
have been unreasonable. It then follows that these changes were
testimonies of God's favour towards his Church: and hence the
Prophet subjoins, that God rode on his horses, and that his chariots
were for salvation to his people. We now perceive the Prophet's
meaning, which interpreters have not understood, or at least have
not explained.
    We now, then, see why the Prophet puts these questions: and a
question has much more force when it refers to what is in no way
doubtful. What! can God be angry with rivers? Who can imagine God to
be so unreasonable as to disturb the sea and to change the nature of
things, when a certain order has been established by his own
command? Why should he dry the sea, except he had something in view,
even the deliverance of his Church? except he intended to save his
people from extreme danger, by stretching forth his hand to the
Israelites, when they thought themselves utterly lost? He therefore
denies, that when God dried the Red Sea, and when he stopped the
flowing of Jordan, he had put forth his power against the sea or
against the river, as though he was angry with them. The design of
God, says the Prophet, was quite another; for God rode on his
horses, that is, he intended to show that all the elements were
under his command, and that for the salvation of his people. That
God, then, might be the redeemer of his Church, he constrained
Jordan to turn back its course, he constrained the Red Sea to make a
passage for his miserable captives, who would have otherwise been
exposed to the slaughter of their enemies. There was indeed no hope
of saving Israel, without a passage being suddenly opened to them
through the Red Sea.
    Hence all these miracles were designed to show that God had
become the redeemer of his Church, and had put forth his power for
the salvation of those whom he had taken under his protection: and
it is easy from this fact to conclude, that the same help ought to
be expected from God by posterity; for God was not induced by some
sudden impulse to change the nature of things, but exhibited a proof
of his favour: and his grace is perpetual, and flows in an even
course, though not according to the apprehension of men; for it
suffers some interruptions, because God exercises the faithful under
the cross; yet his goodness never ceases. It hence follows that the
faithful are to entertain hope; for God, when he pleases, and when
he sees it expedient, will really show the same power which was
formerly exhibited to the fathers. It now follows -

Habakkuk 3:9
Thy bow was made quite naked, [according] to the oaths of the
tribes, [even thy] word. Selah. Thou didst cleave the earth with
    The Prophet explains the same thing more clearly in this verse
- that the power of God was formerly manifested for no other reason
but that the children of Abraham might be taught to expect from him
a continued deliverance: for he says that the bow of God was made
bare. By the "bow," he means also the sword and other weapons; as
though he had said, that God was then armed, as we have found
declared before. God therefore was then furnished with weapons, and
marched to the battle, having undertaken the cause of his chosen
people, that he might defend them against the wicked. Since it was
so, we hence see that these miracles were not to avail only for one
period, but were intended perpetually to encourage the faithful to
look ever for the aid of God, even in the midst of death; for he can
find escapes, though they may not appear to us.
    We now see the import of the text; but he emphatically adds,
The oaths of the tribes; for hereby he more fully confirms that God
had not then assisted the children of Abraham, so as to discard them
afterwards; but that he had really proved how true he was in his
promises; for by the oaths of (or to) the tribes he means the
covenant that God had made not only with Abraham, but also with his
posterity for ever. He puts oaths in the plural number, because God
had not only once promised to be a God to Abraham and to his seed,
but had often repeated the same promise, in order that faith might
be rendered more certain, inasmuch as we have need of more than one
thing to confirm us. For we see how our infirmity always vacillates,
unless God supplies us with many props. As, then, God had often
confirmed his servant Abraham, the Prophet speaks here of his oaths:
but then as to the substance, the oath of God is the same; which
was, that he had taken the race of Abraham under his protection, and
promised that they should be to him a peculiar people, and,
especially, that he had united the people under one head; for except
Christ had been introduced, that covenant of God would not have been
ratified nor valid. As, then, God had once included every thing when
he said to Abraham, "I am God Almighty, and I shall be a God to you
and to your children;" it is certain that nothing was added when God
afterwards confirmed the faith of Abraham: but yet the Prophet does
not without reason use the plural number; it was done, that the
faithful might recomb with less fear on God's promise, seeing, that
it had been so often and by so many words confirmed.
    He calls them too the oaths to the tribes: for though God had
spoken to Abraham and afterwards to Moses, yet the promise was
deposited in the hands of Abraham, and of the patriarchs, and
afterwards in those of Moses, that the people might understated that
it belonged equally to them; for it would have been no great matter
to promise what we read of to a few men only. But Abraham was as it
were the depository; and it was a certain solemn stipulation made
with his whole race. We hence see why the Prophet here mentions the
tribes rather than Abraham, or the patriarchs or Moses. He had
indeed a special regard to those of his own time, in order to
confirm them, that they might not doubt but that God would extend to
them also the same power. How so? Because God had formerly wrought
in a wonderful manner for the deliverance of his people. Why? That
he might prove himself to be true and faithful. In what respect?
Because he had said, that he would be the protector of his people;
and he did not adopt a few men only, but the whole race of Abraham.
Since it was so, why should not his posterity hope for that which
they knew was promised to their fathers? for the truth of God can
never fail. Though many ages had passed away, the faith of his
people ought to have remained certain, for God intended to show
himself to be the same as he had been formerly known by their
    He afterwards adds "omer", which means a word or speech; but it
is to be taken here for a fixed and an irrevocable word. The word,
"omar", he says; that is, as they say, the word and the deed: for
when we say, that words are given, we often understand that those
who liberally promise are false men, and that we are only trifled
with and disappointed when we place confidence in them. But the
term, word, is sometimes taken in a good sense. "This is the word,"
we often say, when we intend to remove every doubt. We now then
perceive what the Prophet meant by adding "omer", the word. "O Lord,
thou hast not given mere words to and people; but what has proceeded
from thy mouth has been found to be true and valid. Such, therefore,
is and faithfulness in thy promises, that we ought not to entertains
the least doubt as to the event. As soon as thou givest to us any
hope, we ought to feel assured of its accomplishment, as though it
were not a word but the exhibition of the thing itself." In short,
by this term the Prophet commends the faithfulness of God, lest we
should harbour doubts as to his promises.
    He then says, that by rivers had been cleft the earth. He
refers, I doubt not, to the history we read in Num. 14; for the
Lord, when the people were nearly dead through thirst, drew forth
water from the rock, and caused a river to flow wherever the people
journeyed. As then he had cleft the earth to make a perpetual course
for the stream, and thus supplied the people in dry places with
abundance of water, the Prophet says here, that the earth had been
cleft by rivers or streams. It was indeed but one river; but he
amplifies, and justly so, that remarkable work of God. He afterwards
adds -

Habakkuk 3:10
The mountains saw thee, [and] they trembled: the overflowing of the
water passed by: the deep uttered his voice, [and] lifted up his
hands on high.

    Habakkuk proceeds with the history of the people's redemption.
We have said what his object was, even this that the people, though
in an extreme state of calamity, might yet entertain hope of God's
favour; for he became not a Redeemer to the race of Abraham for one
time, but that he might continue the same favour to them to the end.
    He says that mountains had seen and grieved. Some explain this
allegorically of kings, and say, that they grieved when envy preyed
on them: but this view is too strained. The Prophet, I have no
doubt, means simply, that the mountains obeyed God, so as to open a
way for his people. At the same time, the verb "chul" signifies not
only to grieve, but also to bring forth, and then to fall and to
abide in the same place. We might then with no less propriety read
thus - see thee did the mountains, and were still, or fell down;
that is, they were subservient to thy command, and did not intercept
the way of thy people. I think the real meaning of the Prophet to
be, that God had formerly imprinted on all the elements evident
marks of his paternal favour, so that the posterity of Abraham might
ever confide in him as their deliverer in all their distresses: and
even the context requires this meaning; for he subjoins -
    The stream or the inundation of waters, &c.: and this second
part cannot be explained allegorically. We then see, that the import
of the words is - That God removed all obstacles, so that neither
mountains, nor waters, nor sea, nor rivers, intercepted the passage
of the people. He says now, that the inundation of waters had passed
away. This applies both to Jordan and to the Red Sea; for God
separated the Red Sea, so that the waters stood apart, contrary to
the laws of nature, and the same thing happened to Jordan; for the
flowing of the water was stayed, and a way was opened, so that the
people passed over dryshod into the land of Canaan. Thus took place
what is said by the Prophet, the stream of waters passed away. We
indeed know that such is the abundance of waters in the sea and in
the rivers, that they cannot be dried up: when therefore waters
disappear, it is what is beyond the course of nature. The Prophet,
therefore, records this miracle, that the faithful might know, that
though the whole world were resisting, their salvation would still
be certain; for the Lord can surmount whatever impediments there may
    He then ascribes life to waters; for he says, that the abyss
gave its voice, and also, that the deep lifted up its hands; or that
the abyss with uplifted hands was ready to obey God. It is a
striking personification; for though the abyss is void of
intelligence, and it cannot speak, yet the Prophet says, that the
abyss with its voice and uplifted hands testified its obedience,
when God would have his people to pass through to the promised land.
When anxious to testify our obedience, we do this both with our
voice and in our gesture. When any one is willing to do what is
commanded, he says, "Here I am," or "I promise to do this." As,
then, servants respond to others, so the Prophet says, that a voice
was uttered by the abyss. The abyss indeed uttered no voice; but the
event itself surpassed all voices. Now when a whole people meet
together, they raise their hands; for their consent cannot be
understood except by the outstretching of the hands, and hence came
the word hand-extending, "cheirotonia". This similitude the Prophet
now takes, and says, that the abyss raised up its hands; that is,
shows its consent by this gesture. As when men declare by this sign
that they will do what they are bidden; so also the abyss lifted up
its hands. If we read, The deep raised up its hands, the sense will
be the same. Let us proceed -

Habakkuk 3:11
The sun [and] moon stood still in their habitation: at the light of
thine arrows they went, [and] at the shining of thy glittering

    Here the Prophet refers to another history; for we know that
when Joshua fought, and when the day was not long enough to slay the
enemies, the day was prolonged according to his prayer, (Josh. 10:
12.) He seems indeed to have authoritatively commanded the sun to
stay its course: but there is no doubt, but that having been
answered as to his prayer, when he expressed this, he commanded the
sun, as he did, through the secret impulse of the Holy Spirit: and
we know that the sun would not have stopped in its course, except
the moon also was stayed. There must indeed have been the same
action as to these two luminaries.
    Hence Habakkuk says, that the sun and moon stood still in their
habitation; that is, that the sun then rested as it were in its
dwelling. When it was hastening in its course, it then stood still
for the benefit of God's people. The sun then and the moon stood, -
How? At the light of thy arrows shall they walk. Some refer this to
the pillar of fire, as though the Prophet had said, that the
Israelites walked by that light, by which God guided them: but I
doubt not but that this is said of the sun. The whole sentence is
thus connected - that the sun and moon walked, not as from the
beginning, but at the light of God's arrows; that is, when instead
of God's command, which the sun had received from the beginning as
its direction, the sun had God's arrows, which guided it, retarded
its course, or restrained the velocity which it had before. There is
then an implied contrast between the progress of the sun which it
had by nature to that day, and that new direction, when the sun was
retained, that it might give place to the arrows of God, and to the
sword and the spear; for by the arrows and the spear he means
nothing else but the weapons of the elect people; for we know, that
when that people fought under the protection of God, they were armed
as it were from above. As then it is said of Gideon, "The sword of
God and of Gideon;" so also in this place the Prophet calls whatever
armour the people of Israel had, the arrows of God and his spear;
for that people could not move - no, not a finger's breadth -
without the command of God. The sun then was wont before to regard
the ordinary command, of which we read in Genesis; but it was then
directed for another purpose: for it had regard to the arrows of God
flying on the earth as lightning; and it had regard to the arrows,
as though it stood astonished and dared not to advance. Why? because
it behoved it to submit to God while he was carrying on war. We now
then perceive how much kindness is included in these words.
    What, therefore, we have already referred to, ought to be borne
in mind - that in this place there is no frigid narrative, but such
things are brought before the faithful as avail to confirm their
hope, that they may feel assured, that the power of God is
sufficient for the purpose of delivering them; for it was for this
end that he formerly wrought so many miracles. It follows -

Habakkuk 3:12
Thou didst march through the land in indignation, thou didst thresh
the heathen in anger.

    The Prophet relates here the entrance of the people into the
land of Canaan, that the faithful might know that their fathers
would not have obtained so many victories had not God put forth the
power and strength of his hand. Hence he says, that God himself had
trampled on the land in anger. For how could the Israelites have
dared to attack so many nations, who had lately come forth from so
miserable a bondage? They had indeed been in the desert for forty
years; but they were always trembling and fearful, and we also know
that they were weak and feeble. How then was it, that they overcame
most powerful kings? that they made war with nations accustomed to
war? Doubtless God himself trod down the land in his wrath, and also
threshed the nations: as it is said in Ps. 44: 5, "It was not by
their own sword that they got the land of Canaan; neither their own
power, nor their own hand saved them; but the Lord showed favour to
them, and became their Deliverer." Justly then does the Prophet
ascribe this to God, that he himself walked over the land; for
otherwise the Israelites would never have dared to move a foot.
Doubtless, they could never have been settled in that land, had not
God gone before them. Hence when God did tread on the land in his
anger, then it became a quiet habitation to the children of Abraham;
warlike nations were then easily and without much trouble conquered
by the Israelites, though they were previously very weak.
    We now see, that the Prophet sets forth here before the eyes of
the people their entrance into the land, that they might know that
God did not in vain put to flight so many nations at one time; but
that the land of Canaan might be the perpetual inheritance of his
chosen people.
    The Prophet changes often the tenses of the verbs,
inconsistently with the common usage of the Hebrew language; but it
must be observed, that he so refers to those histories, as though
God were continually carrying on his operations; and as though his
presence was to be looked for in adversities, the same as what he
had granted formerly to the fathers. Hence the change of tenses does
not obscure the sense, but, on the contrary, shows to us the design
of the Prophet, and helps us to understand the meaning. It follows
at length -

Habakkuk 3:13
Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people, [even] for
salvation with thine anointed; thou woundedst the head out of the
house of the wicked, by discovering the foundation unto the neck.

    The Prophet applies again to the present state of the people
what he had before recorded - that God went forth with his Christ
for the salvation of his people. Some consider that there is
understood a particle of comparison, and repeat the verb twice, "As
thou didst then go forth for the deliverance of thy people, so now
wilt thou go forth for the deliverance of thy people with thy
Christ." But this repetition is strained. I therefore take the words
of the Prophet simply as they are - that God went forth for the
deliverance of his people. But when God's people are spoken of,
their gratuitous adoption must ever be remembered. How was it that
the children of Abraham became the peculiar people of God? Did this
proceed from any worthiness? Did it come to them naturally? None of
these things can be alleged. Though then they differed in nothing
from other nations, yet God was pleased to choose them to be a
people to himself. By the title, the people of God, is therefore
intimated their adoption. Now this adoption was not temporary or
momentary, but was to continue to the end. Hence it was easy for the
faithful to draw this conclusion - that they were to hope from God
the same help as what he had formerly granted to the fathers.
    Thou wentest forth, he says, for the salvation, for the
salvation of thy people. He repeats the word salvation, and not
without reason; for he wished to call attention to this point, as
when he had said before - that God had not in vain manifested, by so
many miracles, his power, as though he were angry with the sea and
with rivers, but had respect to the preservation of his people.
Since then the salvation of the Church has ever been the design of
God in working miracles, why should the faithful be now cast down,
when for a time they were oppressed by adversities? for God ever
remains the same: and why should they despond, especially since that
ancient deliverance, and also those many deliverances, of which he
had hitherto spoken, are so many evidences of his everlasting
covenant. These indeed ought to be connected with the word of God;
that is, with that promise, according to which he had received the
children of Abraham into favour for the purpose of protecting them
to the end. "For salvation, for salvation," says the Prophet, and
that of his elect people.
    He adds, with thy Christ. This clause still more confirms what
Habakkuk had in view - that God had been from the beginning the
deliverer of his people in the person of the Mediator. When God,
therefore, delivered his people from the hand of Pharaoh, when he
made a way for them to pass through the Red Sea, when he redeemed
them by doing wonders, when he subdued before them the most powerful
nations, when he changed the laws of nature in their behalf - all
these things he did through the Mediator. For God could never have
been propitious either to Abraham himself or to his posterity, had
it not been for the intervention of a Mediator. Since then it has
ever been the office of the Mediator to preserve in safety the
Church of God, the Prophet takes it now for granted, that Christ was
now manifested in much clearer light than formerly; for David was
his lively image, as well as his successors. God then gave a living
representation of his Christ when he erected a kingdom in the person
of David; and he promised that this kingdom should endure as long as
the sun and moon should shine in the heavens. Since, then, there
were in the time of Habakkuk clearer prophecies than in past times
respecting the eternity of this kingdom, ought not the people to
have taken courage, and to have known of a certainty that God would
be their Deliverer, when Christ should come? We now then apprehend
the meaning of the Prophet. But I cannot now go farther; I shall
defer the subject until tomorrow.


Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast so often and in such various
ways testified formerly how much care and solicitude thou hast for
the salvation of those who rely and call on thee, - O grant, that we
at this day may experience the same: and though thy face is justly
hid from us, may we yet never hesitate to flee to thee, since thou
hast made a covenant through thy Son, which is founded in thine
infinite mercy. Grant then, that we, being humbled in true
penitence, may so surrender ourselves to thy Son, that we may be led
to thee, and find thee to be no less a Father to us than to the
faithful of old, as thou everywhere testifies to us in thy word,
until at length being freed from all troubles and dangers, we come
to that blessed rest which thy Son has purchased for us by his own
blood. Amen.

Lecture One Hundred and Seventeenth.

    We explained yesterday why the Prophet says that God went forth
for the salvation of the elect people with his Christ. His purpose
was to confirm still more the faithful in the hope of their
deliverance; for God is not only the same, and never changes his
purpose, but the same Mediator also performs his office, through
whom the people were formerly preserved. We must also notice this
difference, to which I referred yesterday; for as God had then more
clearly manifested Christ, with more cheerfulness it behaved the
faithful to go on, as they had so remarkable a pledge of God's
favour, inasmuch as God had promised that the kingdom of God would
be for ever.
    He adds, that wounded was the head from the house of the
wicked; that is, that there was no power which had not been laid
prostrate by God for the sake of his people; and we know that all
the great kings were formerly destroyed, in order that favour might
be shown to God's people. The other comparison seems different, and
yet its object is the same - that God had made bare the foundation
to the neck; that is, that he had destroyed from the roots his
enemies; for by foundation he means, in a metaphorical sense,
whatever stability there was in these enemies, and that this was
torn up and overthrown to the very neck, that is, to the very
summit; for the body of men, we know, is covered from the neck to
the feet. And he says that their houses, that is their families,
were made bare to the neck, for the Lord had destroyed them all from
the bottom to the top. We now understand what the Prophet meant.
    As to the word "selah", I have hitherto said nothing; but I
shall now briefly refer to what the Hebrew interpreters think. Some
explain it by "le'olam", " for ever;" and by "'od we'od" "yet and
yet;" as though, when this word is inserted, the Holy Spirit
pronounced what is to be for ever. Others render it by "amen", as
though God testified that what is said is true and indubitable. But
as it never occurs except in this song and in the Psalms, and does
not always comport with what they say, that is, that it denotes
certainty or perpetuity, I prefer embracing the opinion of those who
think that it refers to singing, and not to things. And what they
add is also probable, if we regard its etymology, for the word means
to raise or to elevate; and it was therefore put down to remind the
singers to raise their voice. But as it is a thing of no great
importance, it is enough shortly to state what others think. Let us
now go on -

Habakkuk 3:14
Thou didst strike through with his staves the head of his villages:
they came out as a whirlwind to scatter me: their rejoicing [was] as
to devour the poor secretly.

    At the beginning of this verse the Prophet pursues the same
subject - that God had wounded all the enemies of his people; and he
says that the head of villages or towns had been wounded, though
some think that "perizim" mean rather the inhabitants of towns; for
the Hebrews call fortified towns or villages "perizot", and the word
is commonly found in the feminine gender; but as it is here a
masculine noun, it is thought that it means the inhabitants. At the
same time this does not much affect the subject; for the Prophet
simply means, that not only things had been overthrown by God's
hand, but also all the provinces under their authority; as though he
had said that God's vengeance, when his purpose was to defend his
people, advanced through all the villages and through every region,
so that not a corner was safe. But we must also notice what follows
- with his rods. The Prophet means that the wicked had been smitten
by their own sword. Though the word rods is put here, it is yet to
be taken for all kinds of instruments or weapons; it is the same as
though it was said that they had been wounded by their own hands.
    We now perceive the import of this clause - that God not only
put forth his strength when he purposed to crush the enemies of his
people, but that he had also smitten them with infatuation and
madness, so that they destroyed themselves by their own hands. And
this was done, as in the case of the Midianites, who, either by
turning their swords against one another, fell by mutual wounds, or
by slaying themselves, perished by their own hands. (Judg. 7: 2.) We
indeed often read of the wicked that they ensnared themselves, fell
into the pit which they had made, and, in short, perished through
their own artifices; and the Prophet says here that the enemies of
the Church had fallen, through God's singular kindness, though no
one rose up against them; for they had transfixed or wounded
themselves by their own staff. Some read - "Thou hast cursed his
sceptres and the head of his villages;" but the interpretation which
I have given is much more appropriate.
    He adds, that they came like a whirlwind. It is indeed a verb
in the future tense; but the sentence must be thus rendered - "When
they rushed as a whirlwind to cast me down, when their exultation
was to devour the poor in their hiding-places." It is indeed only a
single verb, but it comes from "se'ar", which means a whirlwind, and
we cannot render it otherwise than by a paraphrase. They rushed, he
says, like a whirlwind. The Prophet here enlarges on the subject of
God's power, for he had checked the enemies of his people when they
rushed on with so much impetuosity. Had their advance been slow God
might have frustrated their attempts without a miracle, but as their
own madness rendered them precipitate, and made them to be like a
whirlwind, God's power was more clearly known in restraining such
violence. We now understand the import of what is here said; for the
Prophet's special object is not to complain of the violent and
impetuous rage of enemies, but to exalt the power of God in checking
the violent assaults of those enemies whom he saw raging against his
    He subjoins, their exultation was to devour the poor. He
intimates that there was nothing in the world capable of resisting
the wicked, had not God brought miraculous help from heaven; for
when they came to devour the poor, they came not to wage war, but to
devour the prey like wild beasts. Then he says, to devour the poor
in secret. He means, that the people of God had no strength to
resist, except help beyond all hope came from heaven.
    The import of the whole is - that when the miserable Israelites
were without any protection, and exposed to the rage and cruelty of
their enemies, they had been miraculously helped; for the Lord
destroyed their enemies by their own swords; and that when they
came, as it were to enjoy a victory, to take the prey, they were
laid prostrate by the hand of God: hence his power shone forth more
brightly. It follows -

Habakkuk 3:15
Thou didst walk through the sea with thine horses, [through] the
heap of great waters.

    Some read, "Thou hast trodden thy horses in the sea;" but it is
a solecism, that is quite evident. Others, "Thou hast trodden in the
sea by thy horses." But what need is there of seeking such strained
explanations, since the verb "darach" means to go or to march? The
Prophet's meaning is by no means doubtful - that God would make a
way for himself in the sea, and on his own horses. How? even when
great waters were gathered into a mass. The Prophet again refers to
the history of the passage through the Red Sea; for it was a work of
God, as it has been said, worthy of being remembered above all other
works: it is therefore no wonder that the Prophet dwells so much in
setting forth this great miracle. Thou then didst make a way for thy
horses - where? in the sea; which was contrary to nature. And then
he adds, The heap of waters: for the waters had been gathered
together, and a firm and thick mass appeared, which was not
according to nature; for we know that water is a fluid, and that
hardly a drop of water can stand without flowing. How then was it
that he stopped the course of Jordan, and that the Red Sea was
divided? These were evidences of God's incomprehensible power, and
rightly ought these to have added courage to the faithful, knowing,
as they ought to have done, that nothing could have opposed their
salvation, which God was not able easily to remove, whenever it
pleased him. It follows -

Habakkuk 3:16
When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice:
rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I
might rest in the day of trouble: when he cometh up unto the people,
he will invade them with his troops.

    Those interpreters are mistaken in my view, who connect the
verb, "I have heard," with the last verse, as though the Prophet had
said, that he had conceived dread from those evidences of God's
power: for the Prophet had no occasion to fear in regarding God as
armed with unexpected power for the salvation of his people; there
was no reason for such a thing. Hence these things do not agree
together. But he returns again to that dread which he had
entertained on account of God's voice in those terrific threatening
which we before referred to. We must always bear in mind the
Prophet's design - that his object was to humble the faithful, that
they might suppliantly acknowledge to God their sins and solicit his
forgiveness. His purpose also was to animate them with strong hope,
that they might nevertheless look for deliverance. He had already
said at the beginning, "Lord, I have heard thy voice; I feared." He
now repeats the same thing: for if he had spoken only of that
terrific voice, the faithful might have been overwhelmed with
despair; he therefore wished opportunely to prevent this evil, by
interposing what might have comforted them. For this reason he
recited these histories, by which God had proved that he was armed
with invincible power to save his Church. Having done this, he
applies his general doctrine to present circumstances, and says, "I
have heard." What had he heard? even those judgements with which God
had determined to visit the contumacy of his people. Since, then,
God had threatened his people with a horrible destruction, the
Prophet says now, that he had heard and trembled, so that he had
been confounded. He speaks in the singular number; but this was
done, as we have said, because he represented the whole people, as
was the case before (which escaped my notice) when he said, his
enemies came like whirlwind to cast him down; for certainly he did
not then speak of himself but of the ancient people. As, then, the
Prophet here undertakes the cause of the whole Church, he speaks as
though he were the collective body of the people: and so he says
that he had heard; but the faithful speak here as with one mouth,
that they had heard, and that their inside trembled.
    Some read, "I was dismayed, or I feared, and my inside trembled
at his voice." He takes "kol", voice, not for report, but, as it has
been said, for threatening. The faithful, then, declare here, that
they dreaded the voice of God, before he had executed his
judgements, or before he inflicted the punishment which he had
threatened. He says, quiver did my lips. The verb "tsalal" means
sometimes to tingle, and so some render it here, "Tingle did my
lips;" but this is not suitable, and more tolerable is the rendering
of others, "Palpitate did my lips." The Hebrews say that what is
meant is that motion in the lips which fear or trembling produces. I
therefore render the words, "quiver did my lips;" as when one says
in our language, Mes levres ont barbate; that is, when the whole
body shakes with trembling, not only a noise is made by the clashing
of the teeth, but an agitation is also observed in the lips.
    Enter, he says, did rottenness into my bones and within myself
I made a noise, (it is the verb "ragaz" again,) or I trembled. No
doubt the Prophet describes here the dread, which could not have
been otherwise than produced by the dreadful vengeance of God. It
hence follows that he does not treat here of those miracles which
were, on the contrary, calculated to afford an occasion of rejoicing
both to the Prophet and to the whole of the chosen people; but that
the vengeance of God, such as had been predicted, is described here.
    He now adds, That I may rest in the day of affliction. There
seems to be here an inconsistency - that the Prophet was affected
with grief even to rottenness, that he trembled throughout his
members with dread, and now that all this availed to produce rest.
But we must inquire how rest is to be obtained through these
trepidations, and dreads, and tremblings. We indeed know that the
more hardened the wicked become against God, the more grievous ruin
they ever procure for themselves. But there is no way of obtaining
rest, except for a time we tremble within ourselves, that is, except
God's judgement awakens us, yea, and reduces us almost to nothing.
Whosoever therefore securely slumbers, will be confounded in the day
of affliction; but he who in time anticipates the wrath of God, and
is touched with fear, as soon as he hears that God the judge is at
hand, provides for himself the most secure rest in the day of
affliction. We now then see, that the right way of seeking rest is
set forth here by the Prophet, when he says, that he had been
confounded, and that rottenness had entered into his bones that he
could have no comfort, except he pined away as one half-dead: and
the design of the Prophet, as I have already said, was to exhort the
faithful to repentance. But we cannot truly and from the heart
repent, until our sins become displeasing to us: and the hatred of
sin proceeds from the fear of God, and that sorrow which Paul
regards as the mother of repentance. (2 Cor. 7: 10.)
    This exhortation is also very necessary for us in the present
day. We see how inclined we are by nature to indifference; and when
God brings before us our sins, and then sets before us his wrath, we
are not moved; and when we entertain any fear, it soon vanishes. Let
us, then, know that no rest can be to us in the day of distress,
except we tremble within ourselves, except dread lays hold on all
our faculties, and except all our soul becomes almost rotten. And
hence it is said in Ps. 4: 4, "Tremble, and ye shall not sin." And
Paul also shows that the true and profitable way of being angry is,
when one is angry with his sins (Eph. 4: 26,) and when we tremble
within ourselves. In the same manner does the Prophet describe the
beginnings of repentance, when he says, that the faithful trembled
in their bowels, and were so shaken within, that even their lips
quivered, and, in short, (and this is the sum of the whole,) that
all their senses felt consternation and fear.
    He says, When he shall ascend: he speaks, no doubt, of the
Chaldeans; When therefore the enemy shall ascend against the people,
that he may cut them off: for "gadah" or "gud" means to cut off, and
it means also to gather, and so some render it, "that he may gather
them:" but the other meaning is better, "when the enemy shall
ascend, that he may cut them off." If one would have the word God to
be understood, I do not object: for the Prophet does not otherwise
speak of the Chaldeans than as the ministers and executioners of
God's wrath.
    In short, he intimates, that they who had been moved and really
terrified by God's vengeance, would be in a quiet state when God
executed his judgements. How so? because they would calmly submit to
the rod, and look for a happy deliverance from their evils; for
their minds would be seasonably prepared for patience, and then the
Lord would also console them, as it is said in Ps. 51: 17, that he
despises not contrite hearts. When, therefore, the faithful are in a
suitable time humbled, and when they thus anticipate the judgement
of God, they then find a rest prepared for them in his bosom. It
follows -

Habakkuk 3:17,18
Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither [shall] fruit [be]
in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields
shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and
[there shall be] no herd in the stalls:
Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my

    The Prophet declares now at large what that rest would be of
which he had spoken; it would be even this - that he would not cease
to rejoice in God, even in the greatest afflictions. He indeed
foresees how grievous the impending punishment would be, and he
warns also and arouses the faithful, that they might perceive the
approaching judgement of God. He says, Flourish shall not the fig,
and no fruit shall be on the vines; fail shall the olive. First, the
fig shall not flourish; then, the fields shall produce nothing; and
lastly, the cattle and the sheep shall fail. Though the figs produce
fruit without flowering, it is not yet an improper use of "parach",
which means strictly to bud. He means that the desolation of the
land was nigh at hand, and that the people would be reduced to
extreme poverty. But it was an instance of rare virtue, to be able
to rejoice in the Lord, when occasions of sorrow met him on every
    The Prophet then teaches us what advantage it is to the
faithful seasonably to submit to God, and to entertain serious fear
when he threatens them, and when he summons them to judgement; and
he shows that though they might perish a hundred times, they would
yet not perish, for the Lord would ever supply them with occasions
of joy, and would also cherish this joy within, so as to enable them
to rise above all their adversities. Though, then, the land was
threatened with famine, and though no food would be supplied to
them, they would yet be able always to rejoice in the God of their
salvation; for they would know him to be their Father, though for a
time he severely chastised them. This is a delineation of that rest
of which he made mention before.
    The import of the whole is - "Though neither the figs, nor the
vines, nor the olives, produce any fruit, and though the field be
barren, though no food be given, yet I will rejoice in my God;" that
is, our joy shall not depend on outward prosperity; for though the
Lord may afflict us in an extreme degree, there will yet be always
some consolation to sustain our minds, that they may not succumb
under evils so grievous; for we are fully persuaded, that our
salvation is in God's hand, and that he is its faithful guardian. We
shall, therefore, rest quietly, though heaven and earth were rolled
together, and all places were full of confusion; yea, though God
fulminated from heaven, we shall yet be in a tranquil state of mind,
looking for his gratuitous salvation.
    We now perceive more clearly, that the sorrow produced by the
sense of our guilt is recommended to us on account of its advantage;
for nothing is worse than to provoke God's wrath to destroy us; and
nothing is better than to anticipate it, so that the Lord himself
may comfort us. We shall not always escape, for he may apparently
treat us with severity; but though we may not be exempt from
punishment, yet while he intends to humble us, he will give us
reasons to rejoice: and then in his own time he will mitigate his
severity, and by the effects will show himself propitious to us.
Nevertheless, during the time when want or famine, or any other
affliction, is to be borne, he will render us joyful with this one
consolation, for, relying on his promises, we shall look for him as
the God of our salvation. Hence, on one side Habakkuk sets the
desolation of the land; and on the other, the inward joy which the
faithful never fail to possess, for they are upheld by the perpetual
favour of God. And thus he warns, as I have said, the children of
God, that they might be prepared to bear want and famine, and calmly
to submit to God's chastisements; for had he not exhorted them as he
did, they might have failed a hundred times.
    We may hence gather a most useful doctrine, - That whenever
signs of God's wrath meet us in outward things, this remedy remains
to us - to consider what God is to us inwardly; for the inward joy,
which faith brings to us, can overcome all fears, terrors, sorrows
and anxieties.
    But we must notice what follows, In the God of my salvation:
for sorrow would soon absorb all our thoughts, except God were
present as our preserver. But how does he appear as such to the
faithful? even when they estimate not his love by external things,
but strengthen themselves by embracing the promise of his mercy, and
never doubt but that he will be propitious to them; for it is
impossible but that he will remember mercy even while he is angry.
It follows -

Habakkuk 3:19
The LORD God [is] my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds'
[feet], and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the
chief singer on my stringed instruments.

    He confirms the same truth, - that he sought no strength but in
God alone. But there is an implied contrast between God and those
supports on which men usually lean. There is indeed no one, who is
not of a cheerful mind, when he possesses all necessary things, when
no danger, no fear is impending: we are then courageous when all
things smile on us. But the Prophet, by calling God his strength,
sets him in opposition to all other supports; for he wishes to
encourage the faithful to persevere in their hope, however
grievously God might afflict them. His meaning then is, - that even
when evils impetuously rage against us, when we vacillate and are
ready to fall every moment, God ought then to be our strength; for
the aid which he has promised for our support is all-sufficient. We
hence see that the Prophet entertained firm hope, and by his example
animated the faithful, provided they had God propitious, however
might all other things fail them.
    He will make, he says, my feet like those of hinds. I am
inclined to refer this to their return to their own country, though
some give this explanation, - "God will give the swiftest feet to
his servants, so that they may pass over all obstacles to destroy
their enemies;" but as they might think in their exile that their
return was closed up against them, the Prophet introduces this most
apt similitude, that God would give his people feet like those of
hinds, so that they could climb the precipices of mountains, and
dread no difficulties: He will then, he says, give me the feet of
hinds, and make me to tread on my high places. Some think that this
was said with regard to Judea, which is, as it is well known,
mountainous; but I take the expression more simply in this way, -
that God would make his faithful people to advance boldly and
without fear along high places: for they who fear hide themselves
and dare not to raise up the head, nor proceed openly along public
roads; but the Prophet says, God will make me to tread on any high
    He at last adds, To the leader on my beatings. The first word
some are wont to render conqueror. This inscription, To the leader,
"lamenatseach", frequently occurs in the Psalms. To the conqueror,
is the version of some; but it means, I have no doubt, the leader of
the singers. Interpreters think that God is signified here by this
title, for he presides over all the songs of the godly: and it may
not inaptly be applied to him as the leader of the singers, as
though the Prophet had said, - "God will be a strength to me; though
I am weak in myself, I shall yet be strong in him; and he will
enable me to surmount all obstacles, and I shall proceed boldly, who
am now like one half-dead; and he will thus become the occasion of
my song, and be the leader of the singers engaged in celebrating his
praises, when he shall deliver from death his people in so wonderful
a manner." We hence see that the connection is not unsuitable, when
he says, that there would be strength for him in God; and
particularly as giving of thanks belonged to the leader or the chief
singer, in order that God's aid might be celebrated, not only
privately but at the accustomed sacrifices, as was usually the case
under the law. Those who explain it as denoting the beginning of a
song, are extremely frigid and jejune in what they advance; I shall
therefore pass it by.
    He adds, on my beatings. This word, "neginot", I have already
explained in my work on the Psalms. Some think that it signifies a
melody, others render it beatings (pulsationes) or notes (modos;)
and others consider that musical instruments are meant. I affirm
nothing in a doubtful matter: and it is enough to bear in mind what
we have said, - that the Prophet promises here to God a continual
thanksgiving, when the faithful were redeemed, for not only each one
would acknowledge that they had been saved by God's hand, but all
would assemble together in the Temple, and there testify their
gratitude, and not only with their voices confess God as their
Deliverer, but also with instruments of music, as we know it to have
been the usual custom under the Law.


Grant, Almighty God, that as we cease not daily to provoke thy wrath
against us, and as the hardness and obstinacy of our flesh is so
great, that it is necessary for us to be in various ways afflicted,
- O grant, that we may patiently bear thy chastisements, and under a
deep feeling of sorrow flee to thy mercy; and may we in the meantime
persevere in the hope of that mercy, which thou hast promised, and
which has been once exhibited towards us in Christ, so that we may
not depend on the earthly blessings of this perishable life, but
relying on thy word may proceed in the course of our calling, until
we shall at length be gathered into that blessed rest, which is laid
up for us in heaven, through Christ one Lord. Amen.