New Defender's Study Bible Notes
2:2 run that readeth it. This common saying carried two implications. First, it was to be written so large and clear that even a person hurrying by could not fail to understand. Second, it was so urgent that the reader would hasten to spread the word to others. Both should, of course, characterize our witness for God, just as it does His Word.
2:3 will not tarry. The fulfillment of God’s promises (or warnings) may seem to tarry by our reckoning. But God has an “appointed time” for their accomplishment, and we can be sure it will come on time, for He does not lie! In the New Testament, this truth which Habakkuk applied to the coming Chaldean invasion is quoted in reference to the promised return of Christ (see Hebrews 10:36-37). To us who long for His return, it may seem that He is “tarrying.” But we need rather to be patient, to “occupy” until He comes (Luke 19:13), and be ready.
2:4 live by his faith. This great truth, which under Martin Luther became the watchword of the Reformation, is quoted three times in the New Testament (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38). All three emphasized that those who are “justified” (that is, declared and made righteous in the sight of a holy God) are justified, not by the works of the law, but by faith in the Word of God and His provision for their justification through the substitutionary death and resurrection of Christ for their sins.
2:5 proud man. This statement probably was fulfilled by Nebuchadnezzar in particular (note Daniel 4:30), as well as by the Chaldeans in general. In contrast to those who “live by their faith” in God’s Word (Habakkuk 2:4), his “soul [was] lifted up” in pride, and therefore was “not upright in him.” He would come to his end at God’s time.
2:5 hell. “Hell” is sheol, the place of departed human souls, to which more are added daily. Nebuchadnezzar’s insatiable pride and ambition are thus compared picturesquely to hell itself.
2:14 earth shall be filled. Despite the Nebuchadnezzars of the world (and the Napoleons and Hitlers and other would-be world rulers), God will establish His own kingdom on earth at His appointed time (Habakkuk 2:3). Habakkuk here repeats the promise of Isaiah 11:9.
2:15 giveth his neighbor drink. This abrupt insertion almost seems out of place following the glorious promise of the preceding verse. It may have a spiritual application as a warning against the export of Babylonian false religion. But it also serves as a needed reminder to Israel (and to all people) of the judgment awaiting those who seduce others into sin, whether by strong drink or other means.
2:19 no breath at all. A woe is pronounced against those who induce others to sin (Habakkuk 2:15), and another here against those who seek knowledge and life from wood and stone. These are mere created materials, embellished a bit by men, but possess neither life nor knowledge, and so cannot impart such information to others. Man’s heart is corrupt, and so he seeks to escape his Creator; nevertheless, he must somehow seek knowledge and life beyond himself, and so tries to worship and serve the creation rather than the Creator! (Romans 1:25). This sinful ignorance is no less characteristic of modern humanistic evolutionists than it was of the ancient pantheistic evolutionists, and God has pronounced woe on all who turn to such lies.
2:20 his holy temple. This can only refer to God’s heavenly temple (Isaiah 6:1), since the earthly temple built by Solomon was about to be destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar (II Chronicles 36:19).
2:20 keep silence. Men should stand in mute humility at the very thought of the omnipotent, omniscient God. Instead they, like the pagan Babylonians and the apostate Jews, presume to disobey Him, to find substitutes for Him, to rail against Him, or more often simply to ignore Him in their own clamorous pursuit of wealth and pleasure. Soon may come the proclamation: “Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord God: for the day of the LORD is at hand” (Zephaniah 1:7).