“Woe to him who builds a town with blood and founds a city on iniquity! Behold, is it not from the LORD of hosts that peoples labor merely for fire, and nations weary themselves for nothing? For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:12-14)
The LORD revealed to Habakkuk a series of woes which the prophet was not only to receive but also prophesy to the people. The “five woes” is structured in five stanzas with three verses contained in each stanza. This structural form is reminiscent of the Fourth Servant Song of Yahweh (Isaiah 52:13-53:12) which we have previously studied.
Today’s text contains the third stanza, which was God’s third announcement of woe upon the Babylonians. Each woe contained a particular sin for which God judged the Chaldeans as guilty. The first sin was extortion. The second sin was exploitation. The third sin condemned Babylon for being bloodthirsty killers and despots.
I recently watched for the umpteenth time the television documentary on Nazi Germany, based upon William Shirer’s magnum opus The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. The film presentation chronicles the rise of National Socialism in Germany from the birth of Adolf Hitler to the conclusion of World War II in 1945. The viewer witnesses the heights of the Nazi’s nationalistic glory which eventually gave way to the devastating destruction of not only World War II, but also the Holocaust.
Habakkuk 2:12-14 parallels in the 7th century B.C. what many witnessed firsthand in the mid-20th century A.D. Both nations founded themselves on an insatiable thirst for power based upon the destruction of all enemies: real and perceived. Ultimately, the prophet declares that such violence and bloodshed is not glorifying to God. This truth applies to even today’s violent despots.
Habakkuk 2:13 declares “nations weary themselves for nothing.” This is comparable to Jeremiah 51:58 which says, “Thus says the LORD of hosts: The broad wall of Babylon shall be leveled to the ground, and her high gates shall be burned with fire. The peoples labor for nothing, and the nations weary themselves only for fire.”\
Habakkuk was pronouncing that nations and political philosophies come and go and eventually result in ruin. However, “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” What the fallen world presently runs from, namely the LORD, it will eventually become devoted in worship to regarding the knowledge and glory belonging only to the LORD. Isaiah 11:9 which says, “They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.”
Dr. John Walvoord writes, “God’s everlasting glory will fill the entire earth! This verse is based on the declaration in Isaiah 11:9 with only minor alterations. (The earth filled with God’s glory is also spoken of in Num. 14:21; Ps. 72:19; and Isa. 6:3.) Isaiah closed his description of the messianic kingdom (Isa. 11:1–9) by stating that the earth would be full of the knowledge of the Lord. Habakkuk stated that the earth would be filled with the knowledge of His glory. Isaiah dealt with the essence of the kingdom, Habakkuk with the establishment of the kingdom. Isaiah presented the fact, Habakkuk the act. God will overthrow and judge future Babylon (Rev. 17–18) and all ungodly powers (Rev. 19:19) represented by Babylon. The Lord’s glory (Matt. 24:30) and majesty (2 Thess. 1:9) will be made evident in the Millennium and thereby acknowledged throughout the earth.”
Do not be dismayed at the rise and fall of violent nations. The LORD is sovereign and in control. His kingdom will last forever. Are you a member of His kingdom?
May the LORD’s truth and grace be found here.
Soli deo Gloria!