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Habakkuk 2:13

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

The people shall labor in the very fire - All these superb buildings shall be burnt down. See the parallel passage, Jeremiah 51:58; (note), and the note there.

Shall weary themselves for very vanity? - For the gratification of the wishes of ambition, and in buildings which shall be brought to naught.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Behold, is it not of the Lord of hosts that (the) people (nations) shall labor - o

In (for) the very fire - literally, to suffice the fire? By God‘s appointment, the end of all their labor is for the fire, what may suffice it to consume. This is the whole result of their labor; and so it is as if they had toiled for this; they built ceiled palaces and gorgeous buildings, only for the fire to consume them.

And the peoples shall weary themselves for very vanity - They wearied themselves, and what was their reward? What had they to suffice and fill them? “Emptiness.” This is “from the Lord of hosts,” whom all the armies of heaven obey and all creatures stand at His command against the ungodly, and in whose Hand are all the hosts of earth, and so the oppressor‘s also, to turn as He wills.

Near upon the first stage of the fulfillment, Jeremiah reinforces the words with the name of Babylon; Jeremiah 51:58: “Thus saith the Lord of hosts! The broad walls of Babylon, shall be utterly destroyed, and her high gates shall be burned with fire; and the people shall labor in vain (for vanity), and the folk in (for) the fire, and they shall be weary.”

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The prophet reads the doom of all proud and oppressive powers that bear hard upon God's people. The lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, are the entangling snares of men; and we find him that led Israel captive, himself led captive by each of these. No more of what we have is to be reckoned ours, than what we come honestly by. Riches are but clay, thick clay; what are gold and silver but white and yellow earth? Those who travel through thick clay, are hindered and dirtied in their journey; so are those who go through the world in the midst of abundance of wealth. And what fools are those that burden themselves with continual care about it; with a great deal of guilt in getting, saving, and spending it, and with a heavy account which they must give another day! They overload themselves with this thick clay, and so sink themselves down into destruction and perdition. See what will be the end hereof; what is gotten by violence from others, others shall take away by violence. Covetousness brings disquiet and uneasiness into a family; he that is greedy of gain troubles his own house; what is worse, it brings the curse of God upon all the affairs of it. There is a lawful gain, which, by the blessing of God, may be a comfort to a house; but what is got by fraud and injustice, will bring poverty and ruin upon a family. Yet that is not the worst; Thou hast sinned against thine own soul, hast endangered it. Those who wrong their neighbours, do much greater wrong to their own souls. If the sinner thinks he has managed his frauds and violence with art and contrivance, the riches and possessions he heaped together will witness against him. There are not greater drudges in the world than those who are slaves to mere wordly pursuits. And what comes of it? They find themselves disappointed of it, and disappointed in it; they will own it is worse than vanity, it is vexation of spirit. By staining and sinking earthly glory, God manifests and magnifies his own glory, and fills the earth with the knowledge of it, as plentifully as waters cover the sea, which are deep, and spread far and wide.
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