Habakkuk 2:5

5 Moreover, wealth is treacherous; the arrogant do not endure. They open their throats wide as Sheol; like Death they never have enough. They gather all nations for themselves, and collect all peoples as their own.

Habakkuk 2:5 Meaning and Commentary

Habakkuk 2:5

Yea also, because he transgresseth by wine
Or rather, "how much less" or "more F15, wine dealing treacherously": or "a man of wine", as Aben Ezra supplies it; that is, a winebibber, as Kimchi and Ben Melech interpret it: and the sense in connection with the preceding verse ( Habakkuk 2:4 ) is, if a Jew, elated with his works of righteousness, his soul is not right in him, "how much less" a drunken, treacherous, proud, and ambitious heathen? if the Scribes and Pharisees, who expected the coming of the Messiah, yet withdrew from him, and opposed themselves unto him when come, "how much more" will such persons set themselves against him and his interest, thus described? by whom are meant, not the Babylonian monarchs, Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar and the Chaldeans, as usually interpreted, though there are many things in the account applicable to them; but this is breaking the thread of the prophecy, which carries on the account of the enemies of Christ, and of his kingdom, from his first to his second coming; whereas to interpret this prophecy of the Chaldeans is to go back to times before the first coming of Christ; nor does it seem necessary to say anything more concerning them, since the people of God might be satisfied that these would be in their turn destroyed, and they delivered from them; and that they, the Jews, could not be cut off as a people, since the promise of the Messiah, as springing from them, is firmly established; and it is so strongly asserted, that he should come at the appointed time, and not tarry: after which the prophet goes on to observe two different sorts of people among the Jews; one sort proud and vain glorious, who opposed themselves to Christ when he came; the other sort true believers in him, who lived by faith upon him: so things would stand among the Jews when Christ came, and so they did; there was a separation among them on his account: next the prophet proceeds to observe another sort of enemies to Christ and his interest among the heathens, which was not to be wondered at, and therefore introduced by a comparative particle, "how much more" or "less"; and who must be removed to make way for his kingdom and glory in the latter day, manifestly pointed at in ( Habakkuk 2:14 Habakkuk 2:20 ) now who can these be but the Romans, both Pagan and Papal in succession? and with these and their rulers, civil and ecclesiastical, do the characters given as well agree as with the Babylonian monarchy, and the Chaldeans, or better and therefore, after Cocceius and Van Till I shall choose to interpret the whole of them; and it is well known that several of the Roman emperors were greatly given to luxury and intemperance, the first character they stand described by in the text. Tiberius was greatly addicted to this vice; and, because of his greediness after wine F16, used to be called Biberius Caldius Mero, instead of Tiberius Claudius Nero; his successor Caligula spent the immense riches Tiberius had gathered together in less than a year's time in luxury and intemperance {q}; and Claudius, that succeeded him, scarce ever went out of his doors but he was drunk F18; and Nero, who came after him to the empire, was of unusual luxury and sumptuousness, as the historian says F19; he used to keep on his banquets from the middle of the day to the middle of the night F20; to say nothing of Domitian, Commodus, and other emperors that followed after them: and these men were deceitful and treacherous, both to their friends and enemies; and it is no wonder that such as these should oppose themselves to the kingdom and interest of Christ, as they did. Kimchi interprets this of Nebuchadnezzar; and Jarchi of Belshazzar; and most interpreters think it refers to his drinking in the vessels of the temple, ( Daniel 5:2 Daniel 5:3 ) : [he is] a proud man;
the Roman emperors were excessively proud, like the unjust judge, neither feared God, nor regarded man; nay, set up themselves for gods, and required divine worship to be given them. Caius Caligula claimed divine majesty to himself, and set himself up to be worshipped among his brother gods; he built a temple to his own deity, and appointed priests and sacrifices; and placed a golden image of himself in it, and clothed it every day with such a garment as he himself wore F21; he also set up his own image in the temple at Jerusalem. Nero suffered himself to be called lord and god by Tiridates king of the Armenians, with bended knees, and hands lift up to heaven. Domitian and Aurelianus took the same titles as Nero did; and Dioclesian would be worshipped as a god, and called himself the brother of the sun and moon; and no marvel that such men as these should be enemies to Christ, and persecutors of his people: neither keepeth at home;
or "dwells not in the fold" F23; in the sheepfold of Christ, in his church, being none of his sheep, an alien from the commonwealth of Israel; and so it denotes a infidel, an heathen; a fit character for the Pagan emperors, who had no habitation in the house of God. Kimchi interprets it of Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom not being continued; or of his being driven from his habitation, his palace, from among men, to live with beasts; but it is the character, and not the punishment, of the person that is here pointed at: who enlargeth his desire as hell, and [is] as death, and cannot be
death and the grave, though such vast numbers are continually slain by the one, and laid in the other, yet are never satisfied; see ( Proverbs 27:20 ) ( Proverbs 30:15 Proverbs 30:16 ) . This describes the insatiable thirst of the Roman emperors after honour, riches, and universal monarchy; who were never satisfied with what they obtained: but gathereth unto him all nations, and heapeth unto him all
that is, subdued them, and made them provinces of the Roman empire, and tributary to it, even almost all the then known world; hence the Roman empire is called the whole world, ( Luke 2:1 ) so Agrippa, in his orations to the Jews, mentions all nations as subject to the Romans F24.


F15 (yk Paw) "quanto magis", Calvin, Drusius, Tarnovius, Cocceius, Van Till, Burkius.
F16 Suetonius in Vita Tiberii, c. 42.
F17 Ib. Vita Caligulae, c. 37.
F18 Ib. Vita Claudii, c. 33.
F19 Eutrop. Hist. Rom. l. 7.
F20 Suetonius in Vita Neronis, c. 27.
F21 Suetonius in Vita Caligulae, c. 22.
F23 (hwny alw) "qui non habitat; quod de mansionibus ovium imprimius dicitur", Cocceius; "qui non inhabitat grata", Van Till.
F24 Apud Joseph de Bello Jud. l. 2. c. 16. sect. 4.

Habakkuk 2:5 In-Context

3 For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.
4 Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith.
5 Moreover, wealth is treacherous; the arrogant do not endure. They open their throats wide as Sheol; like Death they never have enough. They gather all nations for themselves, and collect all peoples as their own.
6 Shall not everyone taunt such people and, with mocking riddles, say about them, "Alas for you who heap up what is not your own!" How long will you load yourselves with goods taken in pledge?
7 Will not your own creditors suddenly rise, and those who make you tremble wake up? Then you will be booty for them.

Footnotes 1

  • [a]. Other Heb Mss read [wine]
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.