Art thou not frown everlasting - The idols change, and their worshippers change and fail: but thou, Jehovah, art eternal; thou canst not change, and they who trust in thee are safe. Thou art infinite in thy mercy; therefore, "we shall not die," shall not be totally exterminated.
Thou hast ordained them for judgment - Thou hast raised up the Chaldeans to correct and punish us; but thou hast not given them a commission to destroy us totally.
Instead of נמות לא lo namuth, "we shall not die," Houbigant and other critics, with a little transposition of letters, read אמת אל El emeth, "God of truth;" and then the verse will stand thus: "Art thou not from everlasting, O Jehovah, my God, my Holy One? O Jehovah, God of Truth, thou hast appointed them for judgment." But this emendation, however elegant, is not supported by any MS.; nor, indeed, by any of the ancient versions, though the Chaldee has something like it. The common reading makes a very good sense.
The prophet, having summed up the deeds of the enemy of God in this his end, sets forth his questions anew. He had appealed against the evil of the wicked of his people; he had been told of the vengeance by the Chaldaeans (Heading of Psalm 76:1-12) and Jeremiah Jeremiah 12:1, he sets down at the very beginning his entire trust in God, and so, in the name of all who at any time shall be perplexed about the order of God‘s judgments, asks how it shall be, teaching us that the only safe way of enquiring into God‘s ways is by setting out with a living conviction that they, Psalm 25:10, are “mercy and truth.” And so the address to God is full of awe and confidence and inward love. For “God placeth the oil of mercy in the vessel of trustfulness.”
Art Thou not - (the word has always an emphasis) “Thou” and not whatsoever or whosoever it be that is opposed to Thee (be it Nebuchadnezzar or Satan).
From everlasting - literally, from before? See the note at Micah 5:2. Go back as far as man can in thought - God was still before; and so, much more before any of His creatures, such as those who rebel against Him.
O Lord - it is the proper name of God, Revelation 1:8, “Which is and Which was and Which is to come” - I am, the Unchangeable; my God, i. e., whereas his own might is (he had just said) the pagan‘s god, the Lord is his;
Mine Holy One - one word, denoting that God is his God, sufficeth him not, but he adds (what does not elsewhere occur) “mine Holy One” in every way, as hallowing him and hallowed by him. Dion.: “Who hallowest my soul, Holy in Thine Essence, and whom as incomparably Holy I worship in holiness.” All-Holy in Himself, He becometh the Holy One of him to whom He imparteth Himself, and so, by His own gift, belongeth, as it were, to him. The one word in Hebrew wonderfully fits in with the truth, that God becomes one with man by taking him to Himself. It is fall of inward trust too, that he saith, “my God, my Holy One,” as Paul saith, Galatians 2:9, “Who loved me, and gave Himself for me,” i. e., as Augustine explains it, “O Thou God Omnipotent, who so carest for every one of us, as if Thou caredst for him only; and so for all, as if tbey were but one.” The title, “my Holy One,” includes his people with himself; for God was his God, primarily because he was one of the people of God; and his office was for and in behalf of his people.
It involves then that other title which had been the great support of Isaiah, by which he at once comforted his people, and impressed upon them the holiness of their God, the holiness which their relation to their God required, the Holy One of Israel. Thence, since Habakkuk lived, for his people with himself, on this relation to God, as my God, my Holy One, and that God, the Unchangeable; it follows,” We shall not die.” There is no need of any mark of inference, “therefore we shall not die.” It is an inference, but it so lay in those titles of God, “He Is, My God, My Holy One,” that it was a more loving confidence to say directly, we shall not die. The one thought involved the other. God, the Unchangeable, had made Himself their God. It was impossible, then, that lie should cast them off or that they should perish.
We shall not die, is the lightning thought of faith, which flashes on the soul like all inspirations of God, founded on His truth and word, but borne in, as it were, instinctively without inference on the soul, with the same confidence as the Psalmist says Psalm 118:18, “The Lord hath chastened me sore; but He hath not given me over unto death;” and Malachi Malachi 3:6, “I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” Jerome: “Thou createdst us from the beginning; by Thy mercy we are in being hitherto.” Thy “gifts and calling are without repentance.” Romans 11:29 “did we look to his might; none of us could withstand him. Look we to Thy mercy, Thine alone is it that we live, are not slain by him, nor led to deeds of death.” O Lord, again he repeats the Name of God, whereby He had revealed Himself as their God, the Unchangeable; “Thou, whose mercies fail not, hast ordained them for judgment,” not for vengeance or to make a full end, or for his own ends and pleasure, but to correct Thine own Jeremiah 10:24; Jeremiah 30:11 in measure, which he, exceeding, sinned (See Isaiah 10:5; Isaiah 47:6; Zechariah 1:15).
And O mighty God - literally, Rock. It is a bold title. “My rock” is a title much used by David, perhaps suggested by the fastnesses amid which he passed his hunted life, to express that not in them but in His God was his safety. Habakkuk purposely widens it. He appeals to God, not only as Israel‘s might and upholder, but as the sole Source of all strength, the Supporter of all which is upheld, and so, for the time, of the Chaldaean too. Hence, he continues the simple image: “Thou hast founded him”. “Thou hast made him to stand firm as the foundation of a building;” to reprove or set before those who have sinned against Thee, what they had done. Since then God was the Rock, who had founded them, from Him Alone had they strength; when He should withdraw it, they must fall. How then did they yet abide, who abused the power given them and counted it their own? And this the more, since
These anxious questionings were voiced by the prophet Habakkuk. Viewing the situation of the faithful in his day, he expressed the burden of his heart in the inquiry: “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 show me iniquity, and cause me to behold grievance? for spoiling and violence are before me: and there are that raise up strife and contention. Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment doth never go forth: for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceedeth.” Habakkuk 1:2-4. PK 385.1
God answered the cry of His loyal children. Through His chosen mouthpiece He revealed His determination to bring chastisement upon the nation that had turned from Him to serve the gods of the heathen. Within the lifetime of some who were even then making inquiry regarding the future, He would miraculously shape the affairs of the ruling nations of earth and bring the Babylonians into the ascendancy. These Chaldeans, “terrible and dreadful,” were to fall suddenly upon the land of Judah as a divinely appointed scourge. Verse 7. The princes of Judah and the fairest of the people were to be carried captive to Babylon; the Judean cities and villages and the cultivated fields were to be laid waste; nothing was to be spared. PK 385.2
Confident that even in this terrible judgment the purpose of God for His people would in some way be fulfilled, Habakkuk bowed in submission to the revealed will of Jehovah. “Art Thou not from everlasting, O Lord my God, mine Holy One?” he exclaimed. And then, his faith reaching out beyond the forbidding prospect of the immediate future, and laying fast hold on the precious promises that reveal God's love for His trusting children, the prophet added, “We shall not die.” Verse 12. With this declaration of faith he rested his case, and that of every believing Israelite, in the hands of a compassionate God. PK 386.1Read in context »