Habakkuk 1:16
Therefore they sacrifice unto their net, and burn incense unto their drag; because by them their portion is fat, and their meat plenteous.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(16) The prophet has already stated that the Chaldæan deifies his own military prowess. Of this statement the present verse is an expansion. Weapons of war may have been literally worshipped by the Babylonians. Similarly, the Sarmatians offered yearly sacrifices to a sword, as the emblem of their god of war (Clem. Alex. Protrept. 64). The Romans also sacrificed to their eagles. But probably the language is metaphorical, and we need not seek a closer illustration than that of Dr. Pusey,—“So the Times said at the beginning of the late war, ‘The French almost worshipped the mitrailleuse as a goddess.’ ‘They idolised, it would say, their invention, as if it could do what God alone could.’”

1:12-17 However matters may be, yet God is the Lord our God, our Holy One. We are an offending people, he is an offended God, yet we will not entertain hard thoughts of him, or of his service. It is great comfort that, whatever mischief men design, the Lord designs good, and we are sure that his counsel shall stand. Though wickedness may prosper a while, yet God is holy, and does not approve the wickedness. As he cannot do iniquity himself, so he is of purer eyes than to behold it with any approval. By this principle we must abide, though the dispensations of his providence may for a time, in some cases, seem to us not to agree with it. The prophet complains that God's patience was abused; and because sentence against these evil works and workers was not executed speedily, their hearts were the more fully set in them to do evil. Some they take up as with the angle, one by one; others they catch in shoals, as in their net, and gather them in their drag, their enclosing net. They admire their own cleverness and contrivance: there is great proneness in us to take the glory of outward prosperity to ourselves. This is idolizing ourselves, sacrificing to the drag-net because it is our own. God will soon end successful and splendid robberies. Death and judgment shall make men cease to prey on others, and they shall be preyed on themselves. Let us remember, whatever advantages we possess, we must give all the glory to God.Therefore they sacrifice unto their net, and burn incense unto their drag - literally he sacrifices unto his, etc. Whatever a man trusts in is his god. If a man relies to compass his end by his strength, or his wisdom, or his forethought, or his wealth, his armies or navies, these his forces are his God. So the Assyrian said Isaiah 10:13, Isaiah 10:15, "By the strength of my hand I did it; and by my wisdom, for I am prudent;" and God answered, "Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith?" The coarse forms of idolatry only embody outwardly the deep inward idolatry of the corrupt human mind. The idol is Ezekiel 14:4 "set up in the heart" first. There have not indeed been lacking savage nations, who in very deed worshiped their arms ; those of old worshiped spears as immortal gods ; Even now we are told of some North American Indians "who designate their bow and arrow as the only beneficent deities whom they know."

Among the civilized Romans, the worship of the eagles, their standards to whom they did sacrifice , was no other nor better. The inward idolatry is only a more subtle form of the same sin, the evil spirit which shapes itself in the outward show. Here the idolatry of self is meant, which did not join creatures with God as objects of worship; but denying, Him in practice or misbelief, became aged to itself . So Habakkuk had said, this his strength is his God. His idol was himself.

Because by them their portion is fat, and their meat plenteous - literally, is in the English margin, well-fed). All the choicest things of the world stood at his command, as Nebuchadnezzar boasted (Daniel 4:30, compare 22), and all the kingdoms of the world and their glory, all the knowledge and wisdom and learning of the world, and the whole world itself, were Satan's lawful prey Luke 4:6; John 12:31; Isaiah 49:24 Cyril: "Nebuchadnezzar, as by a hook and meshes and line, swept into his own land both Israel himself and other nations, encompassing them. Satan, as it were, by one line and net, that of sin, enclosed all, and Israel especially, on account of his impiety to Christ. "His food was choice." For Israel was chosen above the rest, as from a holy root, that of the fathers, and having the "law as a schoolmaster," and being called to the knowledge of the one true God. Yet he, having this glory and grace, was taken with the rest. They became his prey by error; but Israel, knowing Him who is by nature God, in an ungodly manner, slaying Him who was by nature His Begotten Son and who came as Man, were taken in his nets."

16. sacrifice unto their net—that is, their arms, power, and military skill, wherewith they gained their victories; instead of to God. Compare Hab 1:11, Maurer's interpretation. They idolize themselves for their own cleverness and might (De 8:17; Isa 10:13; 37:24, 25).

by them—by their net and dragnet.

their portion—image from a banquet: the prey which they have gotten.

Therefore, because they prosper and thrive, in which they should see and acknowledge thy wise and mighty providence,

they sacrifice, idolize and pay Divine honours, ascribe the praise of their victories and acquired glory, unto their net; to their own contrivances, diligence, and power, as if the fisherman should make his net his god, and offer sacrifice for a good draught of fishes taken to the net that took them.

And burn incense, another part of Divine honour, and mostly used in giving thanks and praises, to their drag; to their policy and power, their own counsel conduct, and arms, expressed in the metaphor of a fisherman’s drag.

Because by them their portion, State, condition, or interest,

is fat; great and flourishing.

Their meat; the revenues of the kingdom in general, and the revenues of particular subjects, especially of the commanders and military officers, those who help to spread, draw, and empty the net.

Plenteous; abundant, that it might seem a sufficient provision, as well as a pleasant mess, sufficient for quantity as sweet in quality. It is likely these self-admirers did not only eat the fat of the land they wasted, but laid up in store for themselves.

Therefore they sacrifice unto their net, and burn incense unto their drag,.... Either to their idols, to fortune and the stars, as Aben Ezra; imagining they gave them success, and prospered them in the arts and methods they used: or to their arms, as the Targum; nor was it unusual with the Heathens to worship their spears, sacrifice to them, and swear by them (g). So Justin says (h), originally the ancients worshipped spears for gods, in memory of whose religion spears are still added to the images of the gods. Lucian (i) asserts that the Scythians sacrificed to a scimitar; and Arnobius (k) says the same; and Ammianus Marcellinus (l) reports, that the Quadi worship their swords or daggers instead of gods; and that it was usual to swear by the spear is evident from others (m). Or else the sense is, they sacrificed to their own valour and courage, skill and conduct.

Because by them their portion is fat, and their meat plenteous: that is, by their angle, net, and drag; or by those things signified by them, the arts and methods they used to subdue nations, conquer kingdoms, and bring them into subjection to them; they enlarged their dominions, increased their riches and revenues, and had plenty of everything that was desirable for food and raiment, for pleasure and profit; or to gratify the most unbounded ambition, having everything that heart could wish for and desire: the allusion is to making sumptuous feasts, and rich banquets, on occasion of victories obtained.

(g) Vid. Doughtaei Analect. Sacra, p. 494, 495. (h) E Trogo, l. 43. c. 3, 4. (i) In Jupiter Tragoedus. (k) Adv. Gentes, l. 6. p. 232. (l) Hist. l. 17. (m) ', Aeschylus.

Therefore they sacrifice to their {m} net, and burn incense to their drag; because by them their portion is fat, and their food plenteous.

(m) Meaning that the enemies flatter themselves, and glory in their own strength, power, and intellect.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
16. they sacrifice unto their net] he sacrificeth. The figure of “net” and “drag” was suggested by the idea that men were reduced to the level of fishes and creeping things. The net represents the means and instruments employed by the conqueror, or that by which he subdues men. This might be more generally his prowess (Habakkuk 1:11), or more particularly his weapons. Herod. iv. 62 records that the Scythians offered a yearly sacrifice of sheep and horses to the scimitar as the symbol of Mars. It may be doubted if the prophet had any knowledge of this or if his idea is so precise. The next clause “for by them his portion is fat” might suggest that his weapons were meant; but if so his “sacrificing” to them is probably not to be taken literally. He deifies his weapons, or, if Habakkuk 1:11 be followed, the might that wields them.

Verse 16. - Therefore they sacrifice unto their net. This is spoken metaphorically, implying that the Babylonians recognized not God's hand, but attributed their success to the means which they employed (comp. ver. 11; Isaiah 10:13 etc.). There is no trace in the monuments of the Chaldeans paying divine honours to their weapons, as, accord-lug to Herodotus (4:62), the Scythians and other nations did (see Justin, 'Hist.,' 43:3; and Pusey's note here). What a man trusts in becomes a god to him. Their portion is fat; his portion is rich. He gains great wealth. Their meat plenteous; his meat dainty. He is prosperous and luxurious. Habakkuk 1:16The believing confidence expressed in this verse does not appear to be borne out by what is actually done by God. The prophet proceeds to lay this enigma before God in Habakkuk 1:13-17, and to pray for his people to be spared during the period of the Chaldaean affliction. Habakkuk 1:13. "Art Thou too pure of eye to behold evil, and canst Thou not look upon distress? Wherefore lookest Thou upon the treacherous? and art silent when the wicked devours one more righteous than he? Habakkuk 1:14. And Thou hast made men like fishes of the sea, like reptiles that have no ruler. Habakkuk 1:15. All of them hath he lifted up with the hook; he draws them into his net, and gathers them in his fishing net; he rejoices thereat, and is glad. Habakkuk 1:16. Therefore he sacrifices to his net, and burns incense to his landing net; for through them is his portion rich, and his food fat. Habakkuk 1:17. Shall he therefore empty his net, and always strangle nations without sparing?" In Habakkuk 1:13, טהור עינים, with the two clauses dependent upon it, stands as a vocative, and טהור followed by מן as a comparative: purer of eyes than to be able to see. This epithet is applied to God as the pure One, whose eyes cannot bear what is morally unclean, i.e., cannot look upon evil. The purity of God is not measured here by His seeing evil, but is described as exalted above it, and not coming at all into comparison with it. On the relation in which these words stand to Numbers 23:21, see the remarks on Habakkuk 1:3. In the second clause the infinitive construction passes over into the finite verb, as is frequently the case; so that אשׁר must be supplied in thought: who canst not look upon, i.e., canst not tolerate, the distress which the wicked man prepares for others. Wherefore then lookest Thou upon treacherous ones, namely, the Chaldaeans? They are called בּוגדים, from their faithlessly deceptive and unscrupulously rapacious conduct, as in Isaiah 21:2; Isaiah 24:16. That the seeing is a quiet observance, without interposing to punish, is evident from the parallel תּחרישׁ: Thou art silent at the swallowing of the צדיק ממּנּוּ. The more righteous than he (the ungodly one) is not the nation of Israel as such, which, if not perfectly righteous, was relatively more righteous than the Chaldaeans. This rabbinical view is proved to be erroneous, by the fact that in Habakkuk 1:2 and Habakkuk 1:3 the prophet describes the moral depravity of Israel in the same words as those which he here applies to the conduct of the Chaldaeans. The persons intended are rather the godly portion of Israel, who have to share in the expiation of the sins of the ungodly, and suffer when they are punished (Delitzsch). This fact, that the righteous is swallowed along with the unrighteous, appears irreconcilable with the holiness of God, and suggests the inquiry, how God can possibly let this be done.

This strange fact is depicted still further in Habakkuk 1:14-16 in figures taken from the life of a fisherman. The men are like fishes, whom the Chaldaean collects together in his net, and then pays divine honour to his net, by which he has been so enriched. ותּעשׂה is not dependent upon למּה, but continues the address in a simple picture, in which the imperfect with Vav convers. represents the act as the natural consequence of the silence of God: "and so Thou makest the men like fishes," etc. The point of comparison lies in the relative clause לא־משׁל בּו, "which has no ruler," which is indeed formally attached to כּרמשׂ alone, but in actual fact belongs to דּגי היּם also. "No ruler," to take the defenceless under his protection, and shelter and defend them against enemies. Then will Judah be taken prisoner and swallowed up by the Chaldaeans. God has given it helplessly up to the power of its foes, and has obviously ceased to be its king. Compare the similar lamentation in Isaiah 63:19 : "are even like those over whom Thou hast never ruled." רמשׂ, the creeping thing, the smaller animals which exist in great multitudes, and move with great swiftness, refers here to the smaller water animals, to which the word remes is also applied in Psalm 104:25, and the verb râmas in Genesis 1:21 and Leviticus 11:46. כּלּה, pointing back to the collective 'âdâm, is the object, and is written first for the sake of emphasis. The form העלה, instead of העלה, is analogous to the hophal העלה in Nahum 2:8 and Judges 6:28, and also to העברתּ in Joshua 7:7 : to take up out of the water (see Ges. 63, Anm. 4). יגרהוּ from גרר, to pull, to draw together. Chakkâh is the hook, cherem the net generally, mikhmereth the large fishing-net (σαγήνη), the lower part of which, when sunk, touches the bottom, whilst the upper part floats on the top of the water. These figures are not to be interpreted with such specialty as that the net and fishing net answer to the sword and bow; but the hook, the net, and the fishing net, as the things used for catching fish, refer to all the means which the Chaldaeans employ in order to subdue and destroy the nations. Luther interprets it correctly. "These hooks, nets, and fishing nets," he says, "are nothing more than his great and powerful armies, by which he gained dominion over all lands and people, and brought home to Babylon the goods, jewels, silver, and gold, interest and rent of all the world." He rejoices over the success of his enterprises, over this capture of men, and sacrifices and burns incense to his net, i.e., he attributes to the means which he has employed the honour due to God. There is no allusion in these words to the custom of the Scythians and Sauromatians, who are said by Herodotus (iv. 59, 60) to have offered sacrifices every year to a sabre, which was set up as a symbol of Mars. What the Chaldaean made into his god, is expressed in Habakkuk 1:11, namely, his own power. "He who boasts of a thing, and is glad and joyous on account of it, but does not thank the true God, makes himself into an idol, gives himself the glory, and does not rejoice in God, but in his own strength and work" (Luther). The Chaldaean sacrifices to his net, for thereby (בּהמּה, by net and yarn) his portion (chelqō) is fat, i.e., the portion of this booty which falls to him, and fat is his food ( בּראה is a neuter substantive). The meaning is, that he thereby attains to wealth and prosperity. In Habakkuk 1:17 there is appended to this the question embracing the thought: Shall he therefore, because he rejoices over his rich booty, or offers sacrifice to his net, empty his net, sc. to throw it in afresh, and proceed continually to destroy nations in so unsparing a manner? In the last clause the figure passes over into a literal address. The place of the imperfect is now taken by a periphrastic construction with the infinitive: Shall he constantly be about to slay? On this construction, see Ges. 132, 3, Anm. 1, and Ewald, 237, c. לא יחמול is a subordinate clause appended in an adverbial sense: unsparingly, without sparing.

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