Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Will stand, &c. Waiting to see what the Lord will answer to my complaint, viz., that the Chaldeans, who are worse than the Jews, and who attribute all their success to their own strength, or to their idols, should nevertheless prevail over the people of the Lord. The Lord’s answer is, that the prophet must wait with patience and faith; that all should be set right in due time; and the enemies of God and his people punished according to their deserts. (Challoner) — The prophet speaks, waiting for a further revelation, (Worthington) not seeing before the reasons of Providence in permitting the wicked to prosper. (Haydock) (Psalm lxxii. 17. — He is informed that the kings of Babylon, (ver. 5, 8.) Juda, (ver. 11) Tyre, (ver. 14) and Egypt, (ver. 18) and all who trust in idols, shall suffer, ver. 19. Hereupon the judgments of God are pronounced just. (Calmet) — Tower. Aquila, &c., “circle.” The ancient Jews say Habacuc formed a circle, out of which he would not stir till he was satisfied, (Kimchi) as Popilius did. (V. Max. vi. 4.) (Daniel xi. 29.) (Calmet)
Ver. 2. Over it. It shall be so legible (Haydock) any one may hear or take a copy. (Calmet)
Ver. 3. Slack. That which happens at the time fixed is not. (Worthington) — Hebrew, “the vision is for an appointed time.” Habacuc might live to see the conquest and downfall of Nabuchodonosor. Many think that the first and second coming of Christ (Hebrews x. 36., and Romans i. 17.) are here insinuated, as the dominion of the aforesaid king represented the slavery of mankind under the devil, and the liberty granted by Cyrus was a type of their redemption. The felicity of the Jews is the last event which the prophet specifies, and this is here the literal sense. (St. Cyril) (Calmet)
Ver. 4. Unbelieving. Protestants, “lifted up.” (Haydock) — The king’s vain projects shall fail. Roman Septuagint, “If he withdraw himself, my soul shall not have pleasure in him. But my just man shall live by my faith.” Others read with St. Paul, “my just man shall live by faith,” Hebrews x. 38. (Calmet) — The source of content arises from faith, (without which this life would be a sort of death, as the apostle and St. Augustine, Trinity xiv. 12., &c., observe) because it is the beginning of life by grace, which the works of the law could not otherwise confer, Galatians iii. (Worthington) — The Hebrew will admit the sense of the Septuagint and we ought rather to shew this in passages which the authors of the New Testament quote, than to excuse them. Here their version seems preferable to that given by moderns, ecce elata est, non recta anima ejus in eo, the drift of which who can guess? Beza has acted unfairly, “at si quis se subduxerit non est gratum animo meo;” whereas the text speaks of the “just man,” as Theophylactus observes. “Hence all who know his theological opinions, may see how suspicious his translation must be accounted.” (Pearson, pref. Sept.) (Haydock)
Ver. 5. As wine deceiveth, &c. viz., by affording only a short passing pleasure, followed by the evils and disgrace that are the usual consequences of drunkenness: so shall it be with the proud enemies of the people of God, whose success affordeth them only a momentary pleasure, followed by innumerable and everlasting evils. (Challoner) — Hebrew, “but as the proud man prevaricates in wine, he shall not succeed.” Baltassar’s reign was short. (Vatable; De Dieu.) — Nabuchodonosor saw himself reduced to the meanest condition. — Hell. He is insatiable, Proverbs xxx. 16. (Calmet) — Ęstuat infelix (Alex.) augusto limite mundi. (Juv.[Juvenal?] x.)
Ver. 6. Parable. Literally, “marvel,” or wonderful speech; parabolam. — Dark. Protestants, “a taunting proverb;” (Haydock) when Nabuchodonosor became like a beast, and his empire was soon after divided. (Calmet) — Clay. Ill-gotten goods, that like mire both burden and defile the soul. (Challoner) — Gold and silver are only a sort of earth, Job xxvi. 16., and Zacharias ix. 2. Habacuc does not even name riches, out of contempt. Some think (Calmet) that he alludes to the grave. People prayed for their deceased friend: Sit tibi terra levis. (Drusius)
Ver. 7. Bite, like worms in the grave. Cyrus will overturn the kingdom. The Rabbins pretend that Evilmerodac caused his father’s body to be cut in pieces for the crows, lest he should return again. (Calmet)
Ver. 8. Blood. For cruelty, avarice, &c., the Chaldeans shall be ruined. (Worthington) — City, different from that land of the Arabs, who dwell under tents. This city may denote Jerusalem, Babylon, &c.
Ver. 9. Wo. This is commonly understood of Nabuchodonosor; but it seems rather to designate Joakim, (Jeremias xxii. 13.) whose injustice scandalized the prophet. (Calmet)
Ver. 10. House. Thinking to establish thy family for ever, thou hast proved its ruin by avarice, &c. (Worthington) — This is applied to Nabuchodonosor, but may be as well explained of Joakim, who oppressed his people, and was cast out like an ass. (Calmet)
Ver. 11. Timber. Hebrew, “caphis (Septuagint, the insect kantharos) from the wood shall answer.” (Haydock) — The signification of the Hebrew term is unknown. It was customary to place beams of wood after some courses of stone, to strengthen the building, 3 Kings vi. 36. (Calmet) — The crimes were so crying, that if men were silent the very stones would publish them. (Menochius)
Ver. 12. Wo. This might be explained of Nabuchodonosor; but we rather understand the king of Tyre, whose pride was intolerable, Ezechiel xxviii. It seems useless to repeat so often the same threats against one king. (Calmet)
Ver. 13. Things, &c. That is, shall not these punishments that are here recorded come from the Lord upon him that is guilty of such crimes? (Challoner) or, are not these riches from the Lord? The king of Tyre thought himself a god, Ezechiel xxviii. 2. (Calmet) — People; enemies of God’s people. (Challoner) — The riches of the Tyrians shall perish, so that the troops of Nabuchodonosor shall find nothing worth their trouble. Thus all were justly punished.
Ver. 14. Sea. The land and naval forces attacked Tyre. (Calmet) — Vast multitudes came against Babylon. (Menochius) — The punishment of the wicked will cause many to adore and to fear the Lord. (Haydock)
Ver. 15. Wo. All this may refer to the king of Egypt, who deceived Joakim, Sedecias, &c. (Calmet) — Septuagint, “O, he who giveth drink to his neighbour, a cruel overthrow, and who maketh,” &c. — Nakedness. Septuagint, “caverns;” deluding him, so that his places of retreat become useless. (Haydock) — The Jews relate that Sedecias was intoxicated, and then acted with indecency. (St. Jerome) — But these accounts deserve little credit.
Ver. 16. Glory. Egypt shall suffer at last, Isaias xix. 14., Jeremias xliii., &c. It was customary to hand the cup about, Jeremias xxv. 17., and Matthew xxvi. 27. (Calmet)
Ver. 17. Libanus. That is, the iniquity committed by the Chaldeans against the temple of God, signified here by the name of Libanus. (Challoner) — Egypt had persuaded the governor of Cœlosyria and the Jews to revolt, and then abandoned them. — Beasts, which were adored in Egypt. Those who explain all of the Chaldeans are much perplexed, understanding the army of Cyrus, or the oppressed nations, or subjects to be meant. (Calmet) — And of. Hebrew, “land of the city,” as [in] ver. 8.
Ver. 18. Thing, Protestants falsely, “image.” (Haydock) — This is addressed to all idolaters.
sVer. 20. Temple. Hebrew, “palace,” or heaven. House is generally put for the temple. — Silence, out of respect, &c. The guards of the eastern princes observe the utmost silence and modesty. God is very different from idols. He is the arbiter of life and death. (Calmet) — Silence often denotes subjection, 1 Machabees i. 3. (Menochius)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
The prophet is admonished to wait with faith. The enemies of God’s people shall assuredly be punished.
1 I will stand upon my watch, and fix my foot upon the tower: and I will watch, to see what will be said to me, and what I may answer to him that reproveth me.
2 And the Lord answered me, and said: Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables: that he that readeth it may run over it.
3 For as yet the vision is far off, and it shall appear at the end, and shall not lie: if it make any delay, wait for it: for it shall surely come, and it shall not be slack.
4 Behold, he that is unbelieving, his soul shall not be right in himself: *but the just shall live in his faith.
5 And as wine deceiveth him that drinketh it: so shall the proud man be, and he shall not be honoured: who hath enlarged his desire like hell: and is himself like death, and he is never satisfied: but will gather together unto him all nations, and heap together unto him all people.
6 Shall not all these take up a parable against him, and a dark speech concerning him: and it shall be said: Wo to him that heapeth together that which is not his own? how long also doth he load himself with thick clay?
7 Shall they not rise up suddenly that shall bite thee: and they be stirred up that shall tear thee, and thou shalt be a spoil to them?
8 Because thou hast spoiled many nations, all that shall be left of the people shall spoil thee: because of men’s blood, and for the iniquity of the land, of the city, and of all that dwell therein.
9 Wo to him that gathereth together an evil covetousness to his house, that his nest may be on high, and thinketh he may be delivered out of the hand of evil.
10 Thou hast devised confusion to thy house, thou hast cut off many people, and thy soul hath sinned.
11 For the stone shall cry out of the wall: and the timber that is between the joints of the building, shall answer.
12 *Wo to him that buildeth a town with blood, and prepareth a city by iniquity.
13 Are not these things from the Lord of hosts? for the people shall labour in a great fire: and the nations in vain, and they shall faint.
14 For the earth shall be filled, that men may know the glory of the Lord, as waters covering the sea.
15 Wo to him that giveth drink to his friend, and presenteth his gall, and maketh him drunk, that he may behold his nakedness.
16 Thou art filled with shame instead of glory: drink thou also, and fall fast asleep: the cup of the right hand of the Lord shall compass thee, and shameful vomiting shall be on thy glory.
17 For the iniquity of Libanus shall cover thee, and the ravaging of beasts shall terrify them, because of the blood of men, and the iniquity of the land, and of the city, and of all that dwell therein.
18 What doth the graven thing avail, because the maker thereof hath graven it, a molten, and a false image? because the forger thereof hath trusted in a thing of his own forging, to make dumb idols.
19 Wo to him that saith to wood: Awake: to the dumb stone: Arise: can it teach? Behold, it is laid over with gold, and silver, and there is no spirit in the bowels thereof.
20 *But the Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.
4: John iii. 36.; Romans i. 17.; Galatians iii. 11.; Hebrews x. 38.
12: Ezechiel xxiv. 9.; Nahum iii. 1.
20: Psalm x. 5.