THE PROUD MAN AND HIS WOES
“Yea also, because he transgresseth by wine, he is a proud man, neither keepeth at home, who enlargeth his desire as hell, and is as death, and cannot be satisfied, but gathereth unto him all nations, and heapeth unto him all people: Shall not all these take up a parable against him, and a taunting proverb against him, and say, Woe to him that increaseth that which is not his! how long? and to him that ladeth himself with thick clay! Shall they not rise up suddenly that shall bite thee, and awake that shall vex thee, and thou shalt be for booties unto them? Because thou hast spoiled many nations, all the remnant of the people shall spoil thee; because of men’s blood, and for the violence of the land, of the city, and of all that dwell therein” Habakkuk 2:5-8
The prophet has questioned God about how He could see Israel in sin and do nothing about it. God gave Habakkuk the answer, that He was going to judge Israel, and it was going to be with the ruthless, sinful Babylonian kingdom. This part shows that he is a very concerned prophet when it comes to the holiness, purity, and integrity of Mighty God.
This is shown in his plea to the Lord, “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity…” (1:13) God is professed by the prophet to be from “Everlasting”, and “Mine Holy One” – as a question.
The Holy One of Israel then shows Habakkuk what is going to happen with Babylon after they have used and abused Israel.
Nothing that goes on in the world is apart from God’s knowledge of it. It is all a part of His plan. Nothing surprises Him. He is God.
In verse 5 we find that the proud man of the kingdom of Babylon is puffed up with the pride the prophet has referenced. The desires of a proud man are not usually of the righteous nature, but are pretty selfish, and for personal gain alone.
The proud man seems to be greatly influenced by wine. I guess you could say the wine gives him the arrogance to let it be known what his genuine purpose is. He is greedy for more. In this case greedy for more land, gold, goods, and souls of men. He takes that which is not intended to be his. At the blazoned display of his arrogance he takes nations captive.
Yet, it seems a certainty that they, the nations, will taunt him, ridicule and scorn him.
This proud man has five “Woes” pronounced against him. The first says, “Woe to him who increases what is not his — how long?” It becomes clear to us that these “Woes” are against Babylon, but is there anything we can learn from them? I believe so. I will deal with the “Woes” more thoroughly in later studies on the five woes pronounced against Babylon by the prophet Habakkuk
It is also clear in looking at the first chapter that Babylon was an unrighteous nation which God was going to use to discipline the nation of Judah. In their being used by God to judge the nation, then, God would also see that the Babylonian people were also punished. There is no nation that can escape the judgment of God; especially those who unjustly put their hands on God’s people.
This “Woe” expresses coming judgment upon Babylon because of their increasing in goods which were not theirs for the express purpose of making themselves wealthy. It is actually a charge of extortion. The MacArthur Study Bible states, “…Plundering nations under threat of great bodily harm for the purpose of making themselves rich. As a result they were to become plunder for those nations who remained.” pg.1320.
Look at how this first Woe culminates into judgment upon Babylon. First of all, the ones from whom taxes were extorted will come against them. Does Babylon actually think that these people will not come to realize [awaken], and Babylon will become their booty?
The warning to Babylon is from God Himself. The people they have plundered will plunder them. There will be justice and judgment.
One of the things in the study of Scriptures is learning how to apply what you have studied to fit with your life. There is much to learn from this one “Woe”. Woe, is a warning or pronouncement of judgment. There can be an element of understanding why one would take the goods of a defeated enemy and increase their goods, but that was not to be the case with Babylon, nor is it to be with the Christian.
This first ‘Woe’ implies greed. The Christian is not to live in greed. Of course, we have the Ten Commandments, and the last one is, “Thou shalt not covet…” and it includes things as well as people. Covetousness is greed; the desire for more; it is in fact idolatry (Col. 3:5), and that made clear by writings of the New Testament. This kind of gain is usually at the expense of another party, and probably by some who cannot afford to lose it.
Be content with such things as you have. Then, you will be blessed.