For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
The prophet teaches here, that so remarkable would be God's judgment on the Babylonians that His name would thereby be celebrated through the whole world. There is in the verse an implied contrast; for God appeared not in His own glory when the Jews were led away into exile; the temple being demolished and the whole city destroyed; and also when the whole eastern region was exposed to rapine and plunder. When, therefore, the Babylonians were, after the Assyrians, swallowing up all their neighbours, the glory of God did not then shine, nor was it conspicuous in the world. The Jews themselves had become mute; for their miseries had, as it were, stupefied them; their mouths were at least closed, so that they could not from the heart bless God, while He was so severely afflicting them. And then, in that manifold confusion of all things the profane thought that all things here take place fortuitously, and that there is no Divine providence. God, then, was at that time hid; hence the prophet says, "Filled shall be the earth with the knowledge of God."; that is, God will again become known when, by stretching forth His hand, He will execute vengeance on the Babylonians; then will the Jews, as well other nations, acknowledge that the world is governed by God's providence, as it had been once created by Him. We now understand his meaning, and why he says that the earth would be filled with the knowledge of God's glory; for the glory of God previously disappeared from the world, with regard to the perceptions of men; but it shone forth again when God Himself had erected His tribunal by overthrowing Babylon, and thereby proved that there is no power among men which He cannot control. We have the same sentence in Isaiah 11:9. The prophet then speaks, indeed, of the Kingdom of Christ; for when Christ was openly made known to the world, the knowledge of God's glory at the same time filled the earth; for God then appeared in His own living image. But yet our prophet uses a proper language when he says that the earth shall then be filled with the knowledge of God's glory, when He should execute vengeance on the Babylonians. Hence incorrectly have some applied this to the preaching of the Gospel, as though Habakkuk made a transition from the ruin of Babylon to the general judgment. This is (surely) a strained exposition. It is, indeed, a well known mode of speaking, and often occurs in the Psalms, that the power, grace, and truth of God are made known through the world, when He delivers His people and restrains the ungodly. The same mode the prophet now adopts; and he compares his fulness of knowledge to the waters of the sea, because the sea is so deep that there is no measuring of the waters. So Habakkuk intimates that the glory of God would be so much known that it would not only fill the world, but in a manner overflow it; as the waters of the sea by their vast quantity cover the deep, so the glory of God would fill heaven and earth, so as to have no limits. If, at the same time, there be a wish to extend this sentence to the coming of Christ, I do not object; for we know that the grace of redemption flowed in a perpetual stream until Christ appeared in the world. But the prophet, I have no doubt, sets forth here the greatness of God's power in the destruction of Babylon.
( John Calvin.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.