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Habakkuk 1:13

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Thou art of purer eyes - Seeing thou art so pure, and canst not look on iniquity - it is so abominable - how canst thou bear with them who "deal treacherously, and hold thy tongue when the wicked devour the righteous?" All such questions are easily solved by a consideration of God's ineffable mercy, which leads him to suffer long and be kind. He has no pleasure in the death of a sinner.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil - The prophet repeats his complaint (as troubling thoughts are accustomed to come back, after they have been repelled,), in order to answer it more strongly. All sin is hateful in God‘s sight, and in His Holy Wisdom He cannot endure to “look toward iniquity.” As man turns away from sickening sights, so God‘s abhorrence of wrong is pictured by His not being able to “look toward it.” If He looked toward them, they must perish Psalm 104:32. Light cannot co-exist with darkness, fire with water, heat with cold, deformity with beauty, foulness with sweetness, nor is sin compatible with the Presence of God, except as its Judge and punisher. Thou canst not look. There is an entire contradiction between God and unholiness. And yet,

Wherefore lookest thou upon - viewest, as in Thy full sight make the contrast stronger. God cannot endure “to look toward” (אל ) iniquity, and yet He does not only this, but beholdeth it, contemplateth it, and still is silent), yea, as it would seem, with favor, bestowing upon them the goods of this life, honor, glory, children, riches, as the Psalmist saith Psalm 73:12; “Behold these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world, they increase in riches?” Why lookest thou upon “them that deal treacherously, holdest Thy tongue,” puttest restraint, as it were, upon Thyself and Thine own attribute of Justice, “when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he?” Psalm 143:2 “in God‘s sight no man living can be justified;” and, in one sense, Sodom and Gomorrah were less unrighteous than Jerusalem, and Matthew 10:15; Matthew 11:24; Mark 6:11; Luke 10:12 “it shall be more tolerable for them in the day of Judgment,” because they sinned against less light; yet the actual sins of the Chaldee were greater than those of Jerusalem, and Satan‘s evil is greater than that of these who are his prey.

To say that Judah was more righteous than the Chaldaean does not imply any righteousness of the Chaldaean, as the saying that (Jeremiah 31:11, Del.) “God ransomed Jacob from the hand of one stronger than he,” does not imply any strength remaining to Israel. Then, also, in all the general judgments of God, the righteous too suffer in this world, whence Abraham intercedes for Sodom, if there were but ten righteous in it; lest Genesis 18:23 “the righteous be destroyed with the wicked.” Hence, God also spared Nineveh in part as having Jonah 4:11 “more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand,” i. e., good from evil. No times were more full of sin than those before the destruction of Jerusalem, yet the fury of the Assassins fell upon the innocent. And so the words, like the voice of the souls under the Altar Revelation 6:10, become the cry of the Church at all times against the oppressing world, and of the blood of the martyrs from Abel to the end, “Lord, how long?” And in that the word “righteous” signifies both “one righteous man,” and the whole class or generation of the righteous, it speaks both of Christ the Head and of all His members in whom (as by Saul) He was persecuted. The wicked also includes all persecutors, both those who executed the Lord Christ, and those who brought His servants before judgment-seats, and who blasphemed His Name James 2:6-7, and caused many to blaspheme, and killed those whom they could not compel. And God, all the while, seemeth to look away and not to regard.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
However matters may be, yet God is the Lord our God, our Holy One. We are an offending people, he is an offended God, yet we will not entertain hard thoughts of him, or of his service. It is great comfort that, whatever mischief men design, the Lord designs good, and we are sure that his counsel shall stand. Though wickedness may prosper a while, yet God is holy, and does not approve the wickedness. As he cannot do iniquity himself, so he is of purer eyes than to behold it with any approval. By this principle we must abide, though the dispensations of his providence may for a time, in some cases, seem to us not to agree with it. The prophet complains that God's patience was abused; and because sentence against these evil works and workers was not executed speedily, their hearts were the more fully set in them to do evil. Some they take up as with the angle, one by one; others they catch in shoals, as in their net, and gather them in their drag, their enclosing net. They admire their own cleverness and contrivance: there is great proneness in us to take the glory of outward prosperity to ourselves. This is idolizing ourselves, sacrificing to the drag-net because it is our own. God will soon end successful and splendid robberies. Death and judgment shall make men cease to prey on others, and they shall be preyed on themselves. Let us remember, whatever advantages we possess, we must give all the glory to God.
Ellen G. White
The Publishing Ministry, 43.3

As the workers realize that they are in the presence of angels, whose eyes are too pure to behold iniquity, what strong restraint they will place on thoughts, words, and actions. They will be given moral strength; for the Lord says, “Them that honor Me, I will honor.” Every worker will possess a precious experience, and a power and faith that is stronger than all circumstances. They will be able to say, “The Lord is in this place.” The angels of God will be in every room. The power of an inward life will circulate through the office. There will be a power in the lives of the workers that will be felt throughout the entire institution. PM 43.3

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Ellen G. White
Prophets and Kings, 323

Inspiration declares, “The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination: how much more, when he bringeth it with a wicked mind?” Proverbs 21:27. The God of heaven is “of purer eyes than to behold evil,” and cannot “look on iniquity.” Habakkuk 1:13. It is not because He is unwilling to forgive that He turns from the transgressor; it is because the sinner refuses to make use of the abundant provisions of grace, that God is unable to deliver from sin. “The Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither His ear heavy, that it cannot hear: but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear.” Isaiah 59:1, 2. PK 323.1

Solomon had written, “Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child!” Ecclesiastes 10:16. Thus it was with the land of Judah. Through continued transgression her rulers had become as children. Isaiah called the attention of the people to the weakness of their position among the nations of earth, and he showed that this was the result of wickedness in high places. “Behold,” he said, “the Lord, the Lord of hosts, doth take away from Jerusalem and from Judah the stay and the staff, the whole stay of bread, and the whole stay of water, the mighty man, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the prudent, and the ancient, the captain of fifty, and the honorable man, and the counselor, and the cunning artificer, and the eloquent orator. And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them.” “For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen: because their tongue and their doings are against the Lord.” Isaiah 3:1-4, 8. PK 323.2

“They which lead thee,” the prophet continued, “cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.” Verse 12. During the reign of Ahaz this was literally true; for of him it is written: “He walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and made also molten images for Baalim. Moreover he burnt incense in the valley of the son of Hinnom;” “yea, and made his son to pass through the fire, according to the abominations of the heathen, whom the Lord cast out from before the children of Israel.” 2 Chronicles 28:2, 3; 2 Kings 16:3. PK 324.1

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Ellen G. White
The Great Controversy, 310

It was needful that men should be awakened to their danger; that they should be roused to prepare for the solemn events connected with the close of probation. The prophet of God declares: “The day of the Lord is great and very terrible; and who can abide it?” Who shall stand when He appeareth who is “of purer eyes than to behold evil,” and cannot “look on iniquity”? Joel 2:11; Habakkuk 1:13. To them that cry, “My God, we know Thee,” yet have transgressed His covenant, and hastened after another god, hiding iniquity in their hearts, and loving the paths of unrighteousness—to these the day of the Lord is “darkness, and not light, even very dark, and no brightness in it.” Hosea 8:2, 1; Psalm 16:4; Amos 5:20. “It shall come to pass at that time,” saith the Lord, “that I will search Jerusalem with candles, and punish the men that are settled on their lees: that say in their heart, The Lord will not do good, neither will He do evil.” Zephaniah 1:12. “I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.” Isaiah 13:11. “Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them;” “their goods shall become a booty, and their houses a desolation.” Zephaniah 1:18, 13. GC 310.1

The prophet Jeremiah, looking forward to this fearful time, exclaimed: “I am pained at my very heart.... I cannot hold my peace, because thou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war. Destruction upon destruction is cried.” Jeremiah 4:19, 20. GC 310.2

“That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of the trumpet and alarm.” Zephaniah 1:15, 16. “Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, ... to lay the land desolate: and He shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.” Isaiah 13:9. GC 310.3

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Ellen G. White
Fundamentals of Christian Education, 252

Evil does not result because of organization, but because of making organization everything, and vital godliness of little moment. When form and machinery take the pre-eminence, and a laborious task is made of carrying on the work that should be done with simplicity, evil will result, and little will be accomplished in proportion to the effort put forth. The object of organization is just the reverse of this; and should we disorganize, it would be like tearing down that which we have built up. Evil results have been seen, both in the Sabbath school work and in the missionary society, because of making much of machinery while vital experience was lost sight of. In many of the imagined improvements that have been brought in, the mold of man has been placed upon the work. In the Sabbath school, men and women have been accepted as officers and teachers, who have not been spiritually minded, and had no live interest in the work committed to their care; but matters can be set in order only through the aid of the Holy Spirit. The same evil has existed for years as now exists in our churches. Formality, pride, and love of display have taken the place of true piety and humble godliness. We might see a different order of things should a number consecrate themselves wholly to God, and then devote their talents to the Sabbath school work, ever advancing in knowledge, and educating themselves so that they would be able to instruct others as to the best methods to employ in the work; but it is not for the workers to seek for methods by which they can make a show, consuming time in theatrical performances and musical display, for this benefits no one. It does no good to train the children to make speeches for special occasions. They should be won to Christ, and instead of expending time, money, and effort to make a display, let the whole effort be made to gather sheaves for the harvest. FE 253.1

Many have seemed to think that all that was essential in Sabbath school work was to organize the school, and drill the scholars so that they would act in harmony with a set of ceremonies and forms; and that if persons could be secured as teachers, the Sabbath school would run itself. Teachers are often secured who cannot lead souls to Christ because they know not what it is to find Him precious to their own souls; but all those who do not value the soul so that they will work as Christ would have them, will scatter away from Christ. “He that [mark these words] gathereth not with Me, scattereth abroad.” If teachers have no burden to lead souls to Jesus, they will grow indifferent to the truth; they will become careless, and the atmosphere with which they surround their souls will work to scatter away from Christ. And with such elements in the Sabbath school, there will be a perpetual conflict with difficulties; for when the teachers engage in the work and have no interest in it, the pupils will partake of the same spirit. FE 254.1

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