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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Habakkuk 1:12



Are You not from everlasting, O LORD, my God, my Holy One? We will not die. You, O LORD, have appointed them to judge; And You, O Rock, have established them to correct.

Adam Clarke Commentary

Art thou not frown everlasting - The idols change, and their worshippers change and fail: but thou, Jehovah, art eternal; thou canst not change, and they who trust in thee are safe. Thou art infinite in thy mercy; therefore, "we shall not die," shall not be totally exterminated.

Thou hast ordained them for judgment - Thou hast raised up the Chaldeans to correct and punish us; but thou hast not given them a commission to destroy us totally.

Instead of נמות לא lo namuth, "we shall not die," Houbigant and other critics, with a little transposition of letters, read אמת אל El emeth, "God of truth;" and then the verse will stand thus: "Art thou not from everlasting, O Jehovah, my God, my Holy One? O Jehovah, God of Truth, thou hast appointed them for judgment." But this emendation, however elegant, is not supported by any MS.; nor, indeed, by any of the ancient versions, though the Chaldee has something like it. The common reading makes a very good sense.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Habakkuk 1:12". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

The prophet, having summed up the deeds of the enemy of God in this his end, sets forth his questions anew. He had appealed against the evil of the wicked of his people; he had been told of the vengeance by the Chaldaeans (Heading of Psalm 76:1-12) and Jeremiah Jeremiah 12:1, he sets down at the very beginning his entire trust in God, and so, in the name of all who at any time shall be perplexed about the order of God‘s judgments, asks how it shall be, teaching us that the only safe way of enquiring into God‘s ways is by setting out with a living conviction that they, Psalm 25:10, are “mercy and truth.” And so the address to God is full of awe and confidence and inward love. For “God placeth the oil of mercy in the vessel of trustfulness.”

Art Thou not - (the word has always an emphasis) “Thou” and not whatsoever or whosoever it be that is opposed to Thee (be it Nebuchadnezzar or Satan).

From everlasting - literally, from before? See the note at Micah 5:2. Go back as far as man can in thought - God was still before; and so, much more before any of His creatures, such as those who rebel against Him.

O Lord - it is the proper name of God, Revelation 1:8, “Which is and Which was and Which is to come” - I am, the Unchangeable; my God, i. e., whereas his own might is (he had just said) the pagan‘s god, the Lord is his;

Mine Holy One - one word, denoting that God is his God, sufficeth him not, but he adds (what does not elsewhere occur) “mine Holy One” in every way, as hallowing him and hallowed by him. Dion.: “Who hallowest my soul, Holy in Thine Essence, and whom as incomparably Holy I worship in holiness.” All-Holy in Himself, He becometh the Holy One of him to whom He imparteth Himself, and so, by His own gift, belongeth, as it were, to him. The one word in Hebrew wonderfully fits in with the truth, that God becomes one with man by taking him to Himself. It is fall of inward trust too, that he saith, “my God, my Holy One,” as Paul saith, Galatians 2:9, “Who loved me, and gave Himself for me,” i. e., as Augustine explains it, “O Thou God Omnipotent, who so carest for every one of us, as if Thou caredst for him only; and so for all, as if tbey were but one.” The title, “my Holy One,” includes his people with himself; for God was his God, primarily because he was one of the people of God; and his office was for and in behalf of his people.

It involves then that other title which had been the great support of Isaiah, by which he at once comforted his people, and impressed upon them the holiness of their God, the holiness which their relation to their God required, the Holy One of Israel. Thence, since Habakkuk lived, for his people with himself, on this relation to God, as my God, my Holy One, and that God, the Unchangeable; it follows,” We shall not die.” There is no need of any mark of inference, “therefore we shall not die.” It is an inference, but it so lay in those titles of God, “He Is, My God, My Holy One,” that it was a more loving confidence to say directly, we shall not die. The one thought involved the other. God, the Unchangeable, had made Himself their God. It was impossible, then, that lie should cast them off or that they should perish.

We shall not die, is the lightning thought of faith, which flashes on the soul like all inspirations of God, founded on His truth and word, but borne in, as it were, instinctively without inference on the soul, with the same confidence as the Psalmist says Psalm 118:18, “The Lord hath chastened me sore; but He hath not given me over unto death;” and Malachi Malachi 3:6, “I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” Jerome: “Thou createdst us from the beginning; by Thy mercy we are in being hitherto.” Thy “gifts and calling are without repentance.” Romans 11:29 “did we look to his might; none of us could withstand him. Look we to Thy mercy, Thine alone is it that we live, are not slain by him, nor led to deeds of death.” O Lord, again he repeats the Name of God, whereby He had revealed Himself as their God, the Unchangeable; “Thou, whose mercies fail not, hast ordained them for judgment,” not for vengeance or to make a full end, or for his own ends and pleasure, but to correct Thine own Jeremiah 10:24; Jeremiah 30:11 in measure, which he, exceeding, sinned (See Isaiah 10:5; Isaiah 47:6; Zechariah 1:15).

And O mighty God - literally, Rock. It is a bold title. “My rock” is a title much used by David, perhaps suggested by the fastnesses amid which he passed his hunted life, to express that not in them but in His God was his safety. Habakkuk purposely widens it. He appeals to God, not only as Israel‘s might and upholder, but as the sole Source of all strength, the Supporter of all which is upheld, and so, for the time, of the Chaldaean too. Hence, he continues the simple image: “Thou hast founded him”. “Thou hast made him to stand firm as the foundation of a building;” to reprove or set before those who have sinned against Thee, what they had done. Since then God was the Rock, who had founded them, from Him Alone had they strength; when He should withdraw it, they must fall. How then did they yet abide, who abused the power given them and counted it their own? And this the more, since …

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Habakkuk 1:12". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

Habakkuk 1:12

Art Thou not from everlasting, O Lord my God, mine Holy One?
we shall not die.

The Christian conception of immortality

We know” that this prophet was inspired, from the profound moral insight and far-reaching spiritual vision revealed in his utterance. His words are his only credentials, but they are amply sufficient. The prophecy dates near the close of the seventh or the beginning of the sixth century, b.c. The circumstances of Habakkuk’s time largely determined the contents as well as the form of his prophecy. What were these circumstances? On the one hand grave disappointment in the development of his own nation. The hope centring in Josiah was dispelled by his death in ill-advised battle. Simultaneously the power of Assyria waned, and the power of Babylon grew. The politician’s despair is the prophet’s opportunity, and grandly does Habakkuk rise to the occasion. The prophet saw that though Babylon was a hindrance to Judah’s political emancipation, yet it was one of the necessary agents of its moral deliverance. Chaldea is to this extent God’s agent, that it will compel Judah to fall back upon its religion and its God. Because the Eternal God is holy, Judah cannot die. The argument deals, strictly speaking, only with the persistence and decay of earthly societies and kingdoms. The life which is inferred from ethical kinship with God is victorious national life. The individual counterpart of the prophet’s argument is given by our Saviour in His inspiring words, “Because I live, ye shall live also.” The relation of the principle to the individual, and individual immortality is, no doubt, more subtle and complicated, especially with regard to the negative results of the principle; but there is a wide field of positive conclusions, where the argument is quite as strong and clear and inspiring in the case of the individual as of the nation, and this profounder and richer application has been fully made in the New Testament. Indeed the whole progress of revelation has been the unfolding of old principles into ampler significance rather than the addition of new ones. In the New Testament the individual is emphasised, and all ethical and religions considerations are first of all studied in reference to the individual. There is a little danger nowadays of losing sight of the individual again, of going back to the old world immature conceptions of society, in which the individual lay latent in the mass. This is a mistake. We shall not create an ideal society by accomplishing superficial reformations in the mass; we must be ever searching through the mass for the individual. The religion of Christ is primarily for the individual. Primarily, therefore, in the application of the Divine message, we have to deal with the spirit of man in its individual relation to God.

I. The spiritual man’s conviction of immortality. The Scriptures nowhere assert the general principle of human immortality. There is certainly no clear indication of conditional immortality. The biblical revelation of immortality is in part bright and clear as the noonday, in part obscure and shadowy. We must not confound the method of Plato and Butler with the biblical method. One thing is clear. As man is, like God, an essentially ethical being, he cannot be destroyed by a merely physical change like death. The sense of spiritual kinship with God gradually compelled the personal conviction of immortality. The revelation has always come in the intense individual conviction, “I live in God, and so live for ever.” The manifest aim of revelation has been to develop the Christian consciousness, not to satisfy all our curiosity about the eternal future. It is sometimes said that the only certain proof of immortality is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is correct, if it is carefully stated. It is correct, when the resurrection of Christ completes the Christian consciousness, and is vitally related to it. Paid argues thus, “If the resurrection of Christ be not a historic fact, then the deepest and noblest spiritual consciousness of men is a vanity and a falsehood, for that depends upon and demands a risen Christ.” The Christ within me is the final assurance of life and immortality.

II. The christian contents of this conviction. It is a conviction, not of mere continued existence, but of eternal life, rich and varied in its content, a life filled to overflowing with the fulness of the Eternal.

1. The Christian conviction of immortality involves the assurance of a great increase and expansion of life after death. This assurance of expansion of life does not imply a breach of continuity between this life and the next.

2. The contents of this conviction include the resurrection of the body. Scepticism on this subject has arisen from supposed intellectual difficulties which have been allowed to obscure the utterance of the living voice of the Christ-spirit within. The denial of the resurrection of the body is virtually a denial of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Are there then no difficulties? None at all, except those created by superficial theories of the resurrection. The continuity and redemption of our wonderful complex life will be complete. (John Thomas, M. A.)

The eternity, providence, and holiness of Jehovah

I. The prophet regards the eternity of Jehovah as an argument for their preservation. “Art Thou not from everlasting?” The interrogatory does not imply doubt on his part. The true God is essentially eternal, He “inhabiteth eternity.” From His eternity the prophet argues that His people will not perish,--“we shall not die.” There is force in this argument. His people live in Him. Christ said to His disciples, “Because I live, ye shall live also.” Man’s immortality is not in himself, but in God.

II. He regards His providence as a source of comfort. “O Lord, Thou hast ordained them for judgment; and, O Mighty God, Thou hast established them for correction.” “Jehovah, for judgment Thou hast appointed it, and, O Rock, Thou hast founded it for chastisement” (Delitzsch). Whatever evil of any kind, from any quarter, comes upon the loyal servants of God, comes not by accident: it is under the direction of the All-wise and the All-beneficent. These Chaldeans could not move without Him, nor could they strike one blow without His permission; they were but the rod in His hand. All the most furious fiends in the universe are under His direction. Whatever mischief men design to inflict upon His people, He purposes to bring good out of it; and His counsel shall stand.

II. He regards His holiness as an occasion for perplexity. “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity: wherefore lookest Thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest Thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he?” Jehovah is the Holy One. As if he had said, Since Thou art holy, why allow such abominations to take place? why permit wicked men to work such iniquities, and to inflict such suffering upon the righteous? This has always been a source of perplexity to good men. (Homilist.)

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Habakkuk 1:12". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

"Art not thou from everlasting, O Jehovah my God, my Holy One? we shall not die. O Jehovah, thou hast ordained him for judgment; and thou, O Rock, hast established him for correction."

The last paragraph of Habakkuk 1 (Habakkuk 1:12-17) is to be understood in connection with what has preceded.

Question: Habakkuk asked God, "How long" would the wickedness of Judea be tolerated? (Habakkuk 1:2-4).

Answer: God's reply (Habakkuk 1:6-11) was the revelation that a vicious new world-state would soon arise and destroy both Assyria and Judah.

This answer did not completely solve the problem as it was understood by Habakkuk. The destruction of Assyria which had already been revealed through other prophets by the Lord was welcome news indeed; but the answer God gave in Habakkuk 1:6-11 was a vision of another Assyria, a variation of the same old disaster. This meant that there was to be no permanent improvement of life upon earth. Furthermore, the evil states used by God in the punishment of his people, were even more wicked than the ones punished. How could the holy and righteous God do such a thing? The faithful prophet, perplexed though he was, did not complain about God to men, but brought his perplexity and doubt to God himself and waited patiently for the answer (Habakkuk 2:1f).

The complete answer to the theological problems raised by Habakkuk and thoughtful men of all ages was not given all at once to any single prophet, but "line upon line, here a little and there a little, precept upon precept, line upon line" throughout the ages, all of the holy prophets participating in the giving of the total answer.

Despite the fact of many mysteries yet remaining, the Christian students of the present age may clearly discern the broad outlines of the total purpose of God in his government of human affairs. A brief statement of that appears thus:

"In that rebellion of the human race in Eden, the whole human family rebelled against God and chose the service of the devil.

"God had already given the sentence for such conduct. `In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.'

"God neither repealed, commuted, nor changed that penalty. It still stands, and it will be executed upon Adam and Eve in the person of their total posterity `in that day,' interpreted to mean this current dispensation of God's mercy. The sole survivors of that eventual punishment will be the true people of God.

"God deferred the penalty of death upon humanity in order to prevent the frustration of his purpose of redeeming unto himself a people from among the posterity of Adam.

"The continuity of Adam's race upon earth in a confirmed state of rebellion against God necessarily entails the proliferation of injustice, tyranny, war and bloodshed in perpetuity. The Lord warned that `wars and rumors of wars' would not be the sign of the approaching end of the world. These shall continue until God's purpose is achieved and the state of human rebellion has attained a condition requiring the execution of the long-deferred penalty of death for all men. That must be identified as the time of the Second Advent of Christ and the final judgment.

"The prospect is therefore not a bright one; but what else could be expected by a Creaturehood in rebellion against its Creator? There was no justice or reason in Habakkuk's bold arraignment of God. Troubles ahead for God's people? Certainly! But what else could reasonably be expected by citizens of the kind of world in which we live."SIZE>

That there are problems for the devout believer in such considerations as these is evident. Hailey paraphrased Habakkuk's complaint thus: "How can Jehovah, a righteous God, use a wicked nation like the Chaldeans?"[24] "The answer is given in Habakkuk 2:1-4."[25] The answer, more fully given in the passage cited, was simply that God knows what he is doing, that the whole chain of events is related ultimately "to the end, the appointed time" when God will summarize and conclude his Operation Adam.

"Art not thou from everlasting...?" In this, Habakkuk already had the essential element in the answer which he sought. Of course, God is indeed from everlasting.

"We shall not die..." The meaning of the Hebrew here (Masoretic text) is that, "Since Jehovah ever has been and ever shall be, he will in some way spare Judah from total destruction."[26] The Eternal will not be frustrated in his purpose of redemption. Here indeed is the anchor of the soul, sure and certain throughout all time to Eternity.

"Ordained him for judgment ... established him for correction ..."

The answer in this is, "Yes." Indeed God was using powers like those of both Assyria and Babylon to achieve his purpose on earth. Such powers are God's battle-ax (Jeremiah 51:20,21) and God's razor (Isaiah 7:20), in that latter passage the king of Assyrian being identified as the razor.

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James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Habakkuk 1:12". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Art thou not from everlasting, O Lord my God, mine holy One?.... The prophet, foreseeing these calamities coming upon his nation and people, observes some things for their comfort in this verse; and expostulates with God in the following verses Habakkuk 1:13 about his providential dealings, in order to obtain an answer from him, which might remove the objections of his own mind, and those of other good men he personates, raised against them; being stumbled at this, that wicked men should be suffered to succeed and prosper, and the righteous should be afflicted and distressed by them: but for his own present consolation, and that of others, in a view of the worst that should befall them, he strongly asserts,

we shall not die; meaning not a corporeal death, for that all men die, good and bad; and this the Jews did die, and no doubt good men among them too, at the siege and taking of Jerusalem by the Chaldean army, either by famine, or pestilence, or sword: nor a death of affliction, which the people of God are subject to, as well as others; is often their case, and is for their good, and in love, and not wrath: but a spiritual death, which none that are quickened by the Spirit and grace of God ever die; though grace may be low, it is never lost; though saints may be in dead and lifeless frames, and need quickening afresh, yet they are not without the principle of spiritual life; grace in them is a well of living water, springing up to everlasting life; their spiritual life can never fail them, since it is secured in Christ: and much less shall they die the second, or an eternal death; they are ordained to eternal life; Christ is come, and given his flesh for it, that they might have it; it is in his hands for them; they are united to him, and have both the promise and pledge of it: and this may be argued, as by the prophet here, from the eternity of God, art "thou not from everlasting?" he is from everlasting to everlasting, the Ancient of days, that inhabits eternity, is, was, and is to come: therefore "we shall not die"; none of his people shall perish, because he loves them with an everlasting love; has made an everlasting choice of them; has set up Christ from everlasting as their surety and Saviour; entered into an everlasting covenant with them in Christ; is their everlasting Father, and will be their everlasting portion; is the unchangeable Jehovah, and therefore they shall not be consumed: this may be concluded from their covenant interest in God, "O Lord my God"; they are his peculiar people, given to Christ to be preserved by him, and covenant interest always continues; he that is their God is their God and guide unto death: and also from the holiness of God, "mine holy One"; who has sworn by his holiness to them, and is faithful to his covenant and promise; and is the sanctifier of them, that has sanctified or set them apart for himself; made Christ sanctification to them, and makes them holy by his Spirit and grace, and enables them to persevere in grace and holiness: moreover, this may be understood of the people of the Jews, as a church and nation; who, though they would be carried captive into Babylon, yet would still continue as such, and be returned again as such, and not die, sink, and perish; since the Messiah was to spring from them; and they might be assured of their preservation for that purpose, from the perfections of God, his covenant with them, and their relation to him: nor shall the church of Christ in any age die and perish, though in ever so low a state; a particular church may, but the interest and church of Christ in general, or his spiritual seed, never shall. This is one of the eighteen passages, as Jarchi, Kimchi, and Ben Melech observe, called "Tikkun-Sopherim", the correction of the scribes, of Ezra, and his company; it having been written, in some copies, "thou shall not die"F1לא תמות "non morieris", Vatablus, Drusius, Grotius. ; asserting the immortality of God, or his eternity to come; and that, as he was from everlasting, so he should continue to everlasting; and to this sense the Targum paraphrases the words,

"thy Word remaineth for ever;'

and so the Syriac version follows the same reading:

O Lord, thou hast ordained them for judgment: that is, the Chaldeans; either to be judged and punished themselves for their sins, as all wicked Christless sinners are, even righteously foreordained to condemnation for their sins; or rather to be the instruments of punishing the wicked among the Jews; for this purpose were these people ordained in the counsels of God, and raised up in his providence, and constituted a kingdom, and made a powerful nation:

O mighty God; or "rock"F2צור "O rupes", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Cocceius, Van Till; "O petra", Drusius. ; the rock and refuge of his people:

thou hast established them for correction; or "founded"F3יסדתו "fundasti eum", Pagninus, Montanus, Piscator, Cocceius, Van Till; "constituisti", Vatablus. them, and settled them as a monarchy, strong and mighty for this end, that they might be a rod in the hand of the Lord, not for destruction, but for correction and chastisement; and from hence it might be also comfortably concluded that they should not die and utterly perish.

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Gill, John. "Commentary on Habakkuk 1:12". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

[Art] thou not from everlasting, O LORD my God, my Holy One? we shall not k die. O LORD, thou hast ordained them for judgment; and, O mighty God, thou hast established them for correction.

(k) He assures the godly of God's protection, showing that the enemy can do no more than God has appointed, and also that their sins require such a sharp rod.

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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Habakkuk 1:12". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

In opposition to the impious deifying of the Chaldeans power as their god (Maurer, or, as the English Version, their attributing of their successes to their idols), the prophet, in an impassioned address to Jehovah, vindicates His being “from everlasting,” as contrasted with the Chaldean so-called “god.”

my God, mine Holy One — Habakkuk speaks in the name of his people. God was “the Holy One of Israel,” against whom the Chaldean was setting up himself (Isaiah 37:23).

we shall not die — Thou, as being our God, wilt not permit the Chaldeans utterly to destroy us. This reading is one of the eighteen called by the Hebrews “the appointment of the scribes”; the Rabbis think that Ezra and his colleagues corrected the old reading, “Thou shalt not die.”

thou hast ordained them for judgment — that is, to execute Thy judgments.

for correction — to chastise transgressors (Isaiah 10:5-7). But not that they may deify their own power (Habakkuk 1:11, for their power is from Thee, and but for a time); nor that they may destroy utterly Thy people. The Hebrew for “mighty God” is Rock (Deuteronomy 32:4). However the world is shaken, or man‘s faith wavers, God remains unshaken as the Rock of Ages (Isaiah 26:4, Margin).

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This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.

Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Habakkuk 1:12". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". 1871-8.

Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament

On this threatening announcement of the judgment by God, the prophet turns to the Lord in the name of believing Israel, and expresses the confident hope that He as the Holy One will not suffer His people to perish. Habakkuk 1:12. “Art Thou not from olden time, O Jehovah, my God, my Holy One? We shall not die. Jehovah, for judgment hast Thou appointed it; and, O Rock, founded it for chastisement.” However terrible and prostrating the divine threatening may sound, the prophet draws consolation and hope from the holiness of the faithful covenant God, that Israel will not perish, but that the judgment will be only a severe chastisement.

(Note: “Therefore,” says Calvin, “whoever desires to fight bravely with the ungodly, let him first settle the matter with God Himself, and, as it were, confirm and ratify that treaty which God has set before us, namely, that we are His people, and He will be a God to us in return. And because God makes a covenant with us in this manner, it is necessary that our faith should be well established, that we may go forth to the conflict with all the ungodly.”)

The supplicatory question with which he soars to this hope of faith is closely connected with the divine and threatening prophecy in Habakkuk 1:11. The Chaldaean's god is his own strength; but Israel's God is Jehovah, the Holy One. On the interrogative form of the words (“art Thou not?”), which requires an affirmative reply, Luther has aptly observed that “he speaks to God interrogatively, asking whether He will do this and only punish; not that he has any doubt on the subject, but that he shows how faith is sustained in the midst of conflicts, - namely, that it appears as weak as if it did not believe, and would sink at once, and fall into despair on account of the great calamity which crushes it. For although faith stands firm, yet it cracks, and speaks in a very different tone when in the midst of the conflict from what it does when the victory is gained.” But as the question is sure to receive an affirmative reply, the prophet draws this inference from it: “we shall not die,” we Thy people shall not perish. This hope rests upon two foundations: viz., (1) from time immemorial Jehovah is Israel's God; and (2) He is the Holy One of Israel, who cannot leave wickedness unpunished either in Israel or in the foe. This leads to the further conclusion, that Jehovah has simply appointed the Chaldaean nation to execute the judgment, to chastise Israel, and not to destroy His people. The three predicates applied to God have equal weight in the question. The God to whom the prophet prays is Jehovah, the absolutely constant One, who is always the same in word and work (see at Genesis 2:4); He is also Elohai, my , i.e., Israel's, God, who from time immemorial has proved to the people whom He had chosen as His possession that He is their God; and קדשׁי , the Holy One of Israel, the absolutely Pure One, who cannot look upon evil, and therefore cannot endure that the wicked should devour the righteous (Habakkuk 1:13). לא נמוּת is not a supplicatory wish: Let us not die therefore; but a confident assertion: “We shall not die.”

(Note: According to the Masora, לא נמוּת stands as תקון סופרים , i.e., correctio scribarum for לא תמוּת , thou wilt not die. These tikkune sophrim , however, of which the Masora reckons eighteen, are not alterations of original readings proposed by the sophrim , but simply traditional definitions of what the sacred writers originally intended to write, though they afterwards avoided it or gave a different turn. Thus the prophet intended to write here: “Thou (God) wilt not die;” but in the consciousness that this was at variance with the divine decorum, he gave it this turn, “We shall not die.” But this rabbinical conjecture rests upon the erroneous assumption that מקּדם is a predicate, and the thought of the question is this: “Thou art from of old, Thou Jehovah my God, my Holy One,” according to which לא תמוּת would be an exegesis of מקּדם , which is evidently false. For further remarks on the tikkune sophrim , see Delitzsch's Commentary on Hab. l.c. , and the Appendix. p. 206ff.)

In the second half of the verse, Y e hōvâh and tsūr (rock) are vocatives. Tsūr , as an epithet applied to God, is taken from Deuteronomy 32:4, Deuteronomy 32:15, Deuteronomy 32:18, and Deuteronomy 32:37, where God is first called the Rock of Israel, as the unchangeable refuge of His people's trust. Lammishpât , i.e., to accomplish the judgment: comp. Isaiah 10:5-6, where Asshur is called the rod of Jehovah's wrath. In the parallel clause we have להוכיח instead: “to chastise,” namely Israel, not the Chaldaeans, as Ewald supposes.

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Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Habakkuk 1:12". 1854-1889.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Art thou not from everlasting, O LORD my God, mine Holy One? we shall not die. O LORD, thou hast ordained them for judgment; and, O mighty God, thou hast established them for correction.

Shall not die — Be utterly destroyed.

Ordained — Set up, and designed.

Them — The Chaldean kingdom.

For judgment — To execute this judgment, which is tempered with mercy.

For correction — To chastise, not to destroy.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Habakkuk 1:12". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". 1765.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

The Prophet now exulting, according to what all the faithful feel, shows the effect of what he has just mentioned; for as ungodly men wantonly rise up against God, and, while Satan renders them insane, throw out swelling words of vanity, as though they could by speaking confound earth and heaven; so also the faithful derive a holy confidence from God’s word, and set themselves against them, and overcome their ferocity by the magnanimity and firmness of their own minds, so that they can intrepidly boast that they are happy and blessed even in the greatest miseries.

This then is what the prophet means when he adds—Art not thou our God? The question is much more emphatical than if he had simply declared that the true God was worshipped in Judea, and would therefore be the protector of that nation; for when the Prophet puts a question, he means, according to what is commonly understood in Hebrew, that the thing admits of no doubt. “What! art not thou our God?” We hence see that there is a contrast between the wicked and impious boastings in which the profane indulge, and the holy confidence which the faithful have, who exult in their God. But that the discourse is addressed to God rather than to the ungodly is not done without reason, for it would have been useless to contend with the wicked. This is indeed sometimes necessary, for when the reprobate openly reproach God we cannot restrain ourselves; nor is it right that we refrain from testifying that we regard all their slanders as of no account; but we cannot so courageously oppose their audacity as when we have the matter first settled between us and God, and be able to say with the Prophets—“Thou art our God.” Whosoever then would boldly contend with the ungodly must first have to do with God, and confirm and ratify as it were that compact which God has proposed to us, even that we are his people, and that he in his turn will be always our God. As then God thus covenants with us, our faith must be really made firm, and then let us go forth and contend against all the ungodly. This is the order which the Prophet observes here, and what is to be observed by us—Art not thou our God?

He also adds—long since, מקדם, mekodam, by which word the Prophet invites the attention of the faithful to the covenant which God had made, not yesterday nor the day before that, with his people, but many ages before, even 400 years before he redeemed their fathers from Egypt. Since then the favor of God to the Jews had been confirmed for so long a time, it is not without reason that the Prophet says here—Thou art our God from the beginning; that is, “the religion which we embrace has been delivered to us by thy hands, and we know that thou art its author; for our faith recumbs not on the opinion of men, but is sustained by thy word. Since, then, we have found so often and in so many ways, and for so many years, that thou art our God, there is now no room for doubt.” (17)

He then subjoins—we shall not die. What the Jews say of this place, that it had been corrected by the scribes, seems not to me probable; for the reason they give is very frivolous. They suppose that it was written lo tamut, Thou diest not, and that the letter nun had been introduced, “we shall not die,” because the expression offended those scribes, as though the Prophet compared God to men, and ascribed to him a precarious immortality; but they would have been very foolish critics. I therefore think that the word was written by the Prophet as we now read it, Thou art our God, we shall not die. Some explain this as a prayer—“let us not die;” and the future is often taken in this sense in Hebrew; but this exposition is not suitable to the present passage; for the Prophet, as I have already said, rises up here as a conqueror, and disperses as mists all those foolish boastings of which he had been speaking, as though he said—“we shall not die, for we are under the protection of God.”

I have already explained why he turns his discourse to God: but this is yet the conclusion of the argument,—that as God had adopted that people, and received them into favor, and testified that he would be their defender, the Prophet confidently draws this inference,—that this people cannot perish, for they are preserved by God. No power of the world, nor any of its defences, can indeed afford us this security; for whatever forces may all mortals bring either to protect or help us, they shall all perish together with us. Hence, the protection of God alone is that which can deliver us from the danger of death. We now perceive why the Prophet joins together these two things, “Thou art our God,” and “We shall not die;” nor can indeed the one be separated from the other; for when we are under the protection of God, we must necessarily continue safe and safe for ever; not that we shall be free from evils, but that the Lord will deliver us from thousand deaths, and ever preserve our life in safety. When only he affords us a taste of eternal salvation, some spark of life will ever continue in our hearts, until he shows to us, when at length redeemed, as I have already said, from thousand deaths, the perfection of that blessed life, which is now promised to us, but as yet is looked for, and therefore hid under the custody of hope.

Art not thou from of old, O Jehovah,
my God! My holy one, we shall not die.

The reason for which he calls him “holy” will appear from what the next verse contains. The Prophet seems to sustain himself by two considerations—that Jehovah was the God of Israel, and that he was a holy God. When he says “we shall not die,” he means, no doubt, as Marckius observes, that the people as a nation would not be destroyed, for he had prophesied of their subjugation and captivity by the Chaldeans. What he had in view was the Church of God, respecting which promises had been made.—Ed.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Habakkuk 1:12". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Habakkuk 1:12 [Art] thou not from everlasting, O LORD my God, mine Holy One? we shall not die. O LORD, thou hast ordained them for judgment; and, O mighty God, thou hast established them for correction.

Ver. 12. Art not thou from everlasting, O Lord my God] Art thou not Jehovah the unchangeable, and shall we, poor sons of Jacob, be utterly consumed by these Chaldees? Malachi 3:6. Art not thou my God, my Iudex et Vindex, who hast hitherto judged and revenged my cause? and wilt thou now abandon me to the fury of such an enemy? Art not thou mine Holy One, whom I have hitherto sanctified in mine heart and life, Isaiah 5:16, and whom I have avouched for mine, Deuteronomy 26:17, devoting myself wholly to thy fear and service? Art thou not all this, and more than this, saith the prophet, in the name and behalf of the Church here? Well, then,

We shall not die] I am confident, and dare be bold to say it. Lo, here the triumph of faith and the top gallant of it, "We shall not die" (saith she), abruptly, but sweetly, that is sure enough. She drinks to the disconsolate soul in a cup of Nepenthes, and saith, Courage, my heart! Why art thou cast down, O my soul! and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God. If he be everlasting, so shalt thou; if he be thy God, and thine Holy One, thine in an inviolable covenant, in a league defensive and offensive, shalt thou die? Lo tamuth, Thou shalt not die (so some say this text was anciently read), Lo Namuth, We will not die. So the Church promiseth herself upon the former promises; and such an answer she receiveth in her own heart to her former prayers. And whereas it might be objected that they were likely to be little better than dead in the Babylonish captivity (for Morris habet vices quae trahitur vita gemitibus, an afflicted life is a lifeless life), the prophet answereth:

O Lord, thou hast ordained them for judgment] i.e. The Chaldeans (our oppressors), for punishment, for destruction, to burn thy rod, when thou hast therewith whipped thy children. See Exodus 9:16.

And, O mighty God (Heb. O rock), thou hast established them for correction] Heb. Thou hast founded them, sc. thy people Israel; thou hast thereunto appointed them, 1 Thessalonians 3:3, thou hast both founded and fitted them for thy fatherly chastisements, who are therefore chastened of the Lord, that they may not be condemned with the world. See here the different kinds and ends of good and bad men’s sufferings. It hath been noted before that Almighty God, as he is Piorum rupes, a rock of refuge to the truly religious, so he is Reorum scopulus, a rock of revenge to dash in pieces the impenitent; as Valerius. Maximus saith of Lucius Cassius’s tribunal.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Habakkuk 1:12". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Habakkuk 1:12. Art thou not from everlasting, O Lord For thou, O Lord, my God, the holy God, the God of truth, thou hast of old ordained him to judgment: thou hast made him a strong enemy, that thou mightest correct him. Houbigant.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Habakkuk 1:12". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Art thou not from everlasting? in being, thou art that God who art not like the gods of the nations, upstart and novel, but before the mountains were brought forth thou wast God; thou hast permitted, borne with, restrained, overthrown, and punished such proud, bloody, and sacrilegious wretches. In thy works of old, before this proud Chaldean monarch was thought of, thou wert as now, wonderful, just, and good, and thy saints found support in the remembrance thereof, Psalms 74:12 77:5,11 143:5 Isaiah 45:21. In covenant with thine Israel, which covenant is not of late years, it is an ancient covenant, and as it hath, it still shall be kept for our good.

O Lord; the Sovereign Lord and Ruler of the world, who only art Jehovah.

My God; Judge and Vindex by office; as Judge, engaged to defend, rescue, and avenge the oppressed; and my God or Judge. Whether the prophet speaks only in his own, or in his people’s name, he hath a respect to that peculiar relation he or they had to God, much like that Isaiah 63:19. He refers to the ancient covenant relation which God had taken them into, and implies his hope and expectation of help from God, their Judge and Vindex.

Mine Holy One; holy in thy nature, law, and government, in thy mercies, and in judgments, who dost intend to make thy holiness appear in due time by saving us; though thou seem to forget, or at least to delay the work, yet thou art the Holy One in the midst of us, Isaiah 12:6, and we wait for thee.

We, who are thine, and oppressed, threatened, and exposed to the avarice and cruelty of the Chaldean,

shall not die; be utterly cut off and destroyed, for the death of a nation is the destruction or desolation of it. Thou who hast made us thine by an everlasting covenant of mercy, wilt show us such mercy that we shall outlive the rage of our enemies.

O Lord: with humble veneration he doth look towards God, and discerneth what quieteth his spirit, and confirms his faith and patience.

Thou hast ordained, set up, maintained, and designed, them, the Chaldean kingdom, as Habakkuk 1:6.

for judgment; to execute this judgment, which is ever attempered with mercy, which ever betters, never destroys thy people: see Isaiah 10:5, &c. Babylon, as Assyria, was the rod of God’s indignation, &c.

O mighty God: this he repeats for confirmation and illustration, and intimateth God to be his people’s rock and refuge.

Thou hast established, strengthened and fortified, them for correction; to chastise and discipline, not to destroy.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Habakkuk 1:12". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

12. The prophet begins with an expression of confidence in his God. A better arrangement of the words would be: —

Art not thou from everlasting, O Jehovah?

My God, my Holy One, not shall we die!

The first line is not an expression of despondency or doubt, but a rhetorical question to pave the way for the expression of confidence in the second line.

From everlasting — Literally, from aforetime. The Hebrew word denotes an ancient period rather than eternity in the modern sense of that term; it is used often of the Mosaic age or other periods in Israel’s past (compare Micah 7:20; Psalms 44:1); even of a former period in a single lifetime (Job 29:2). The exact meaning in a given passage must be determined from the context. Allusion is frequently made to the eternity of Jehovah as a ground of confidence in him (Deuteronomy 33:27; Isaiah 40:28; Psalms 90:2). The English versions arrange the words differently; and some commentators understand them as equivalent to “Art not thou from everlasting my Holy One, O Jehovah, my God?” This arrangement gives to the words a meaning different from that which is indicated above. According to it the prophet is the spokesman of the people, expressing their confidence based not upon Jehovah’s eternity but upon the fact that he has been from everlasting the Holy One of Israel (see on Hosea 11:9), a title of Jehovah very common in Isaiah. As the holy one he is bound to sweep away the wicked Chaldeans.

We shall not die — We shall not be utterly annihilated by the foe which is to be raised up (Habakkuk 1:6). The everlasting God will somehow preserve his people.

According to Jewish tradition “we shall not die” is an emendation of the scribes for “thou (Jehovah) shalt not die.” To speak of Jehovah in connection with death, even to deny his dying, was considered blasphemy by the scribes, therefore they changed the original into the present reading. If the second person is original the second line becomes simply a reiteration of the thought of the first line. The eighteen emendations of the scribes mentioned in Jewish tradition still present difficulties; in the present passage the Masoretic text is preferable. 12b passes to the complaint. Jehovah being the Holy One, his appointment of the godless Chaldeans as instruments of judgment creates a moral difficulty.

For judgment… for correction — Either to execute judgment upon him and to administer correction to him, or, perhaps better, that he may execute punishment upon Judah and the other nations.

The perplexity caused by the appointment alluded to in 12b is further described in Habakkuk 1:13. Can the exaltation of a wicked and violent nation be harmonized with the belief in a holy and pure God? The present attitude seems to contradict the prophet’s conception of the divine character. He has always thought of God as too pure to look upon moral evil and perverseness; since he now selects the most wicked nation as his executioner, the prophet feels justified in challenging Jehovah to defend himself.

Deal treacherously — The Chaldeans are unscrupulous, treacherous, and tyrannical. Is it right for Jehovah to look upon them with favor? Is it right that he should remain silent while they practice wickedness?

The man… more righteous than he — With all their wickedness the people of Jehovah are better than the Chaldeans. How, then, can Jehovah justify himself for making the present choice? The same perplexed questioning is continued in Habakkuk 1:14. Wherefore does Jehovah permit the outrages of the Chaldeans?

Makest men as the fishes of the sea — Defenseless, without rights, readily taken by the skillful fisherman.

As the creeping things — Despised, and without a protector to take an interest in their well-being.

That have no ruler over them — The relative is to be taken with “fishes” and with “creeping things.” They scatter in every direction when danger approaches; no ruler or commander directs their movements. So the nations are reduced to a state of confusion when they learn of the approach of the Chaldeans (compare Isaiah 10:13-14). Jehovah controls the movements of the Chaldeans, and is in a sense responsible for their conduct; but if they have gone beyond the divine commission (Isaiah 47:6-7; compare Isaiah 10:7) why does he not interfere?

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Habakkuk 1:12". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Power was not Habakkuk"s god; Yahweh was. The Lord"s revelation of what He was doing in the prophet"s day brought confidence to his heart and praise to his lips. With a rhetorical question, Habakkuk affirmed his belief that Yahweh, his God, the Holy One, was from everlasting (or antiquity). The implication is that Yahweh is the only true God and that history was unfolding as it was because the God who created history was in charge of events (i.e, sovereign).

Habakkuk believed the Judeans would not perish completely because God had promised to preserve them forever ( 2 Samuel 7:16). The prophet now understood that Yahweh had appointed the Babylonians to judge the sinful Judeans. The God who had been a rock of security and safety for His people throughout their history had raised up this enemy to correct His people, not to annihilate them.

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Habakkuk 1:12". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Habakkuk 1:12. Art thou not, &c. — Here the prophet, upon being made sensible that the king of Babylon should attribute all his victories to some false or fictitious deity, or to his own abilities, breaks out into a passionate exclamation to Jehovah, Art thou not from everlasting, O Lord my God? Art not thou he, who only hath been from everlasting; while all others that are called gods have had a beginning, and there was a time when neither they nor the men that set them up had any being? Thou, therefore, art infinitely superior, both to the most powerful men, and to all that are called gods. We shall not die — We shall not utterly perish by the Chaldeans, though we shall suffer severely from them. Or, as Secker renders it, Let us not die. Thou hast ordained them for judgment — Thou hast appointed the Chaldeans to execute thy judgments on sinners. And, O mighty God — Whose sovereignty is unquestionable, and power irresistible; thou hast established them for correction — The Hebrew is, thou hast founded them as a rock for correction, namely, of the Jewish people.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Habakkuk 1:12". Joseph Benson's Commentary. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Die? We hope that this scourge will not entirely ruin us. --- Correction, like Pharao, Exodus ix. 16.

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Habakkuk 1:12". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

Art Thou not . . . ? Note the change of subject, as shown in the Structure above.

God. Hebrew. Elohim. App-4.

we shall not die. This is one of the eighteen emendations of the Sopherim (see App-33), which they say they made because it was considered offensive to say this of Jehovah; hence, the one word of the primitive text "who diest not" was changed to "who die not" (rendered in Authorized Version, Revised Version, and American Revised Version, "we shall not die"). This is the only one of the eighteen emendations which the Revised Version and American Revised Version notice, and speak of it in the margin as "an ancient Jewish tradition", whereas a list of such emendations is given in the Massorah. The change from the second person to the first did more than avoid the supposed irreverent expression; it transferred to mortal men the truth which, apart from resurrection, pertains to God alone, "Who only hath immortality" (1 Timothy 6:16). Compare 1 Corinthians 15:53, 1 Corinthians 15:54.

O mighty God = O Rock. Compare Deuteronomy 32:4, Deuteronomy 32:15, Deuteronomy 32:18, Deuteronomy 32:30; 1 Samuel 2:2. 2 Samuel 23:3. Psalms 18:2, Psalms 18:31, Psalms 18:46; Psalms 19:14, &c.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Habakkuk 1:12". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Art thou not from everlasting, O LORD my God, mine Holy One? we shall not die. O LORD, thou hast ordained them for judgment; and, O mighty God, thou hast established them for correction.

Art thou not from overlasting. In opposition to the impious deifying of the Chaldeans' power as their god (Maurer, or, as the English version, their attributing of their successes to their idols), the prophet, in an impassioned address to Yahweh, vindicates His being "from everlasting," as contrasted with the Chaldean so-called "god."

O Lord my God, mine Holy One? Habakkuk speaks in the name of his people. God was "the Holy One of Israel," against whom the Chaldean was setting up himself (Isaiah 37:23).

We shall not die - Thou, as being our God, wilt not permit the Chaldeans utterly to destroy us. This reading is one of the 18 called by the Hebrews 'the appointment of the scribes;' the Rabbis think that Ezra and his colleagues corrected the old reading [ lo' (Hebrew #3808) taamuwt (Hebrew #4191), 'thou shalt not die', into [ lo' (Hebrew #3808) namuwt] 'we shall not die,' But there is no authority for the so-called old reading proposed by the Rabbis.

Thou hast ordained them for judgment - i:e., to execute thy judgments.

And, O mighty God - literally, 'O Rock' [ tsuwr (Hebrew #6696)] (Deuteronomy 32:4, "He is the rock;" margin, Isaiah 26:4, 'In the Lord Yahweh is the Rock of ages').

Thou hast established them for correction - to chastise transgressors (Isaiah 10:5-7, "O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger ... howbeit he meaneth not so"). But in using them as His rod for correction, God does not mean that they should deify their own power (Habakkuk 1:11; because their power is from Him, and only for a time); nor that they may destroy utterly His people. However the world is shaken, or man's faith wavers, God remains unshaken as "the Rock of ages."

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Habakkuk 1:12". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(12) We shall not die—i.e., God’s people may suffer, but shall not be obliterated, shall not be “given over unto death.” The rest of the verse runs literally, Jehovah, for judgment hast Thou appointed him, and O Rock, for chastisement hast Thou founded him. “Him,” means, of course, the Chaldæan invader, whom Habakkuk regards as raised up only to be God’s instrument of correction. The term “Rock” has been paraphrased in the Authorised Version. Used absolutely, it occurs as a Divine title in Deuteronomy 32:4. Generally it is qualified in some way, as “my rock,” “our rock,” “rock of salvation” &c.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Habakkuk 1:12". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Art thou not from everlasting, O LORD my God, mine Holy One? we shall not die. O LORD, thou hast ordained them for judgment; and, O mighty God, thou hast established them for correction.
thou not
Deuteronomy 33:27; Psalms 90:2; Isa:; 57:15; Lamentations 5:19; Micah 5:2; 1 Timothy 1:17; 6:16; Hebrews 1:10-12; 13:8; Revelation 1:8,11
Isaiah 43:15; 49:7; Acts 3:14
3:2; Psalms 118:17; Isaiah 27:6-9; Jeremiah 4:27; 5:18; 30:11; 33:24-26; 46:28; Ezekiel 37:11-14; Amos 9:8,9
thou hast ordained
2 Kings 19:25; Psalms 17:13; Isaiah 10:5-7; 37:26; Jeremiah 25:9-14; Ezekiel 30:25
mighty God
Heb. Rock.
Deuteronomy 32:4,30,31; 1 Samuel 2:2; Psalms 18:1
Heb. founded. for.
Isaiah 27:9,10; Jeremiah 30:11; 31:18-20; 46:28; Hebrews 12:5,6

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Habakkuk 1:12". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge".

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