corner graphic

Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Habakkuk 1:13



Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, And You can not look on wickedness with favor. Why do You look with favor On those who deal treacherously? Why are You silent when the wicked swallow up Those more righteous than they?

Adam Clarke Commentary

Thou art of purer eyes - Seeing thou art so pure, and canst not look on iniquity - it is so abominable - how canst thou bear with them who "deal treacherously, and hold thy tongue when the wicked devour the righteous?" All such questions are easily solved by a consideration of God's ineffable mercy, which leads him to suffer long and be kind. He has no pleasure in the death of a sinner.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Habakkuk 1:13". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil - The prophet repeats his complaint (as troubling thoughts are accustomed to come back, after they have been repelled,), in order to answer it more strongly. All sin is hateful in God‘s sight, and in His Holy Wisdom He cannot endure to “look toward iniquity.” As man turns away from sickening sights, so God‘s abhorrence of wrong is pictured by His not being able to “look toward it.” If He looked toward them, they must perish Psalm 104:32. Light cannot co-exist with darkness, fire with water, heat with cold, deformity with beauty, foulness with sweetness, nor is sin compatible with the Presence of God, except as its Judge and punisher. Thou canst not look. There is an entire contradiction between God and unholiness. And yet,

Wherefore lookest thou upon - viewest, as in Thy full sight make the contrast stronger. God cannot endure “to look toward” (אל ) iniquity, and yet He does not only this, but beholdeth it, contemplateth it, and still is silent), yea, as it would seem, with favor, bestowing upon them the goods of this life, honor, glory, children, riches, as the Psalmist saith Psalm 73:12; “Behold these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world, they increase in riches?” Why lookest thou upon “them that deal treacherously, holdest Thy tongue,” puttest restraint, as it were, upon Thyself and Thine own attribute of Justice, “when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he?” Psalm 143:2 “in God‘s sight no man living can be justified;” and, in one sense, Sodom and Gomorrah were less unrighteous than Jerusalem, and Matthew 10:15; Matthew 11:24; Mark 6:11; Luke 10:12 “it shall be more tolerable for them in the day of Judgment,” because they sinned against less light; yet the actual sins of the Chaldee were greater than those of Jerusalem, and Satan‘s evil is greater than that of these who are his prey.

To say that Judah was more righteous than the Chaldaean does not imply any righteousness of the Chaldaean, as the saying that (Jeremiah 31:11, Del.) “God ransomed Jacob from the hand of one stronger than he,” does not imply any strength remaining to Israel. Then, also, in all the general judgments of God, the righteous too suffer in this world, whence Abraham intercedes for Sodom, if there were but ten righteous in it; lest Genesis 18:23 “the righteous be destroyed with the wicked.” Hence, God also spared Nineveh in part as having Jonah 4:11 “more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand,” i. e., good from evil. No times were more full of sin than those before the destruction of Jerusalem, yet the fury of the Assassins fell upon the innocent. And so the words, like the voice of the souls under the Altar Revelation 6:10, become the cry of the Church at all times against the oppressing world, and of the blood of the martyrs from Abel to the end, “Lord, how long?” And in that the word “righteous” signifies both “one righteous man,” and the whole class or generation of the righteous, it speaks both of Christ the Head and of all His members in whom (as by Saul) He was persecuted. The wicked also includes all persecutors, both those who executed the Lord Christ, and those who brought His servants before judgment-seats, and who blasphemed His Name James 2:6-7, and caused many to blaspheme, and killed those whom they could not compel. And God, all the while, seemeth to look away and not to regard.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Habakkuk 1:13". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

Habakkuk 1:13

Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look upon iniquity.

The holiness of God

There is in our Maker a purity of nature, and an essential sort of holiness which render Him incapable of enduring sin in any person, or under any circumstances. I believe this is the very foundation of all religious feeling whatever. The true fear of God is the fear of His holiness.

1. This is no contradiction to the character in which God is exhibited to us in the Gospel, as a God of love. But we must notice the limits under which the love of God must be taken in application to ourselves. Only in the Gospel is it revealed.

2. God has always shown a sort of instinctive abhorrence of sin, which no worth of the individual sinner could induce Him to overcome. This holiness of God is opposed to sin in every form and degree. There is nothing in man which can reconcile the nature of God to sin. Is sin regarded by us, as we must know and believe it is regarded by God? (H. Raikes, A. M.)

The holiness of God

I. His holiness is universally manifest.

1. It is manifest to man.

(1) In law. The principles of His moral law are holy, just, and good.

(2) In providence. Justice is but holiness in action, and through all ages God has expressed His abhorrence of sin in the judgments He has inflicted.

(3) In Christ. He sent His Son into the world. What for? “To put away sin.” To cleanse humanity by His self-sacrificing life.

(4) In conscience. The moral constitution of man, which recoils from the wrong and sympathises with the right, manifests God’s holiness. There is no room for man, then, to doubt God’s holiness.

2. It is manifest to angels. They live in its light. They are adorned with its beauties, they are inspired with its glories, and their anthem is, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.”

3. It is manifest to the lost. They are bound to exclaim, “Just and right are Thy ways, Thou King of saints.”

II. His holiness is eternally original. The holiness of all holy intelligences is derived from Him.

III. His holiness is gloriously effulgent. “He is glorious in holiness.” He is light, in Him there is no darkness at all.

IV. His holiness is absolutely standard. It is that to which the holiness of all other beings must come, and by which it must be tested. The law is, we are “ to be holy as He is holy.” But how can fallen man be raised to this standard of holiness? Here is the answer, and the only satisfactory answer: “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,” etc. (Homilist.)

Wherefore lookest Thou upon them that deal treacherously?--

Things that suggest mistrust of God

St. Hierom’s opinion is that the name Habakkuk is derived from a word that signifies embracing, and may imply the embraces of a wrestler, who clasps his arms about the person he contends with. In this chapter we have the prophet contending with no less an antagonist than the great God, and upon no lower subject than His holiness, justice, and goodness. Is it not a very bold and daring thing for a creature thus to arraign the justice of His Creator? The father fore-mentioned explains that the prophet in his own person represents the frailty and impatience of man. We understand Habakkuk to be really saying, “True it is, O Lord, we are a very wicked and sinful people; but yet not so bad as the tyrannous Nebuchadnezzar, and his idolatrous Chaldeans. How then can it be consistent with Thy justice and hatred to sin, to permit the greater sinners to prosper in their oppression of the less, of those that are better than themselves?” “Why dost Thou favour them in their treacherous enterprises?” The words of the text contain an expostulation with God, concerning that seemingly strange dispensation of His providence in suffering the wicked to prosper and thrive, and that by the afflictions and oppressions of the righteous.

I. The ground and occasion of this expostulation of the text. Good men cannot oppress, or take indirect methods to thrive; they have a God above, and a conscience within, which overawe them, and will not suffer them to do it. Nor can they be supposed to use such means as may effectually secure them from the violences and oppressions of others; for the good man, charitably measuring others by himself, does not stand upon a constant guard, nor use preventive methods to keep off those injuries that he is not apprehensive of. But a bad man has none of those restraints of God, or conscience, or charity, to hinder him from falling upon the prey that lies exposed to him. It is not then to be wondered at that “those who deal treacherously prosper,” or “that the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he.”

II. Inquire into the objections that are made against God’s permission hereof. How comes it to pass that God does not interpose, that He does not hinder the evil and defend the good? This has been a stumbling-block in all ages. It was to holy Job; to Jeremiah; and to Asaph. It is a great argument of the atheists to banish the belief of a God and His providence out of the world. They say, If God would hinder them but cannot, then is He not omnipotent; if He can, but will not, then is He not just and good; so that either His power, or His justice and goodness, must be given up; or else those attributes must be salved by the imperfection of His knowledge. But the true notion of God is a Being infinite in all perfections, and therefore he that is defective in knowledge can no more be God than he that is not infinite in power, justice, or goodness. And so they would dispute God out of being.

III. Vindicate the Divine providence by showing the weakness of these objections. It may be very consistent with the justice and goodness of God to permit these things. The objection is built upon the contrary supposition.

1. It is not inconsistent with God’s justice and goodness to suffer good men to be afflicted in this world, because--

(1) Afflictions are not always punishments, but means whereby God does a great deal of good and benefit to them that are exercised with them. He weans them from the world, reduces them (leads them back) when they are going astray, tries and proves their faith, patience, submission, resignation, etc.

2. Supposing afflictions to be punishments, the best men will find failings and sins enough in themselves to make the punishment reasonable. They may well think God good and merciful in thus chastising them.

3. He has appointed a day wherein He will abundantly recompense all the troubles and sorrows and sufferings of pious men with joys unspeakable.

4. It is not inconsistent with God’s justice and goodness to suffer bad men to be prosperous here.

(1) Prosperity is not always a blessing. If the impunity of the wicked be their hardening and judgment, it is certainly not unjust with God to suffer it.

(2) There is hardly any man so bad but has something of good in him, by which he is useful and serviceable to the world. For God to reward the natural or moral goodness of otherwise bad men, with outward temporal blessings, is agreeable to His rule of rewarding every one according to his works.

(3) It cannot argue want of justice or goodness in God to try all means to reduce wholly wicked men and make them better.

(4) There is a day of retribution coming.

5. It is not inconsistent with God’s justice and goodness to suffer bad men to be the instruments whereby good men are afflicted. If a thing has to be done, and is right to do, it cannot matter whether the agent employed is good or bad, so long as he is efficient for the work. And can the good be employed in many of these judgments, or calamities, or wrongs? If God may work by such things, He must use the sort of people who can do them. Inferences--

1. This subject gives us an irrefragable assurance of a future judgment and state.

2. Learn not to “love the world, nor the things of the world.”

3. The facts dwelt on should excite and inflame our desires and longings after the other world, where the wicked shall be made miserable, and the good man happy.

4. Learn not to think hardly of God, nor to envy wicked men when He permits them to persecute His Church, and to triumph in the miseries and ruin of His best servants. (W. Talbot, D. D.)

“Wait, and you will see”

Linnell, the artist, had a commission to paint a picture, for which he was to receive £1000. Not wishing any one to inspect it until perfected, he veiled it when not working at it, and wrote over it in Latin, “Wait, and you will see.” The final issue of much of God’s work is now hidden from us, but assured that, even in times of affliction, God is acting wisely, we must wait until He is pleased to let us see the finished glory of His work. (Gates of Imagery.)

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Habakkuk 1:13". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

"Thou that art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and that canst not look on perverseness, wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and boldest thy peace when the wicked swalloweth up the man that is more righteous than he?"

How can the holy and good God permit the wicked to swallow the people who, however sinful, are yet better than the destroyer? The answer to this lies in the truth that the redemption of anyone on earth was related to the fidelity and perseverance of a remnant of Israel until, in the fullness of time, the Messiah would be delivered upon the earth. Furthermore, the wickedness of Israel had reached a degree that threatened the achievement of that goal; and it was the utmost necessity of preserving a remnant of Israel to remain faithful to God that resulted in their destruction, judged a necessity by the Lord. God does not view righteousness and wickedness in relative degrees. The wickedness of states like Assyria and Babylon make no real difference anyway; they were members of rebellious mankind organized and arrayed against God; but Israel was the Covenant people. That made all the difference. "It is an invariable law of God that the righteous must suffer along with the guilty."[27] This is not due to any action of God, but to the wicked rebellion of Adam and Eve that gave their posterity this type of world. The only alternative possible would be that of the total destruction of mankind, but that would frustrate, partially, the purpose of redemption.

"The man that is more righteous ..." Some have supposed that this spoke of the relative righteousness of Judah as a whole and that of the Babylonians, and this certainly may be true, for it was a fact. The forthcoming invaders would be worse than "the evening wolves" who were Judah's judges (Zephaniah 3:3); but despite this, it is very likely that "the righteous remnant" constituting the true Israel of God in all ages was the group referred to here. Deane, Keil, and Delitzsch believed that, "The persons intended are the godly portion of Israel." [28]

A very significant thing in this question on Habakkuk's part was thus cited by Jamieson, "Instead of speaking evil against God, he went to God himself for the remedy of his perplexity."[29]

Copyright Statement
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 1:13". "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

Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look upon iniquity,.... The Lord with his eyes of omniscience beholds all things good and evil, and all men good and bad, with all their actions; but then he does not look upon the sins of men with pleasure and approbation; since they are contrary to his nature, repugnant to his will, and breaches of his righteous law: and though sin in general may be included here, yet there seems to be a particular respect had to the "evil" or injury done by the Chaldeans to the Jews, in invading their land, spoiling their substance, and slaying their persons; and to the "iniquity", labour, or grievance, by which may be meant the oppression and violence the same people exercised upon the inhabitants of Judea; which, though permitted by the Lord, could not be well pleasing in his sight. The Targum interprets it of persons, workers of evil, and workers of the labour of falsehood; see Psalm 5:4,

wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously; the Chaldeans, who dealt treacherously with God, by worshipping idols; and with the Jews, pretending to be their good friends and allies, when they meditated their ruin and destruction; and yet the Lord in his providence seemed to look favourably on these perfidious persons, since they succeeded in all their enterprises: this was stumbling to the prophet, and all good men; and they knew not how, or at least found great difficulty, to reconcile this to the purity and holiness of God, and to his justice and faithfulness; see Jeremiah 12:1,

and holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he? the comparison does not lie so much personally between Nebuchadnezzar and Zedekiah the last king of the Jews, whose eyes the king of Babylon put out, and whom he used in a cruel manner; who was, no doubt, comparatively speaking, a more righteous person than the Chaldean monarch was; being not the worst of the kings of Judea, and whose name has the signification of righteousness in it: but rather between the Chaldeans and the Jews; who, though there were many wicked persons among them, yet there were some truly righteous, who fell in the common calamity; and, as to the bulk of them, were a more righteous people, at the worst, than their enemies were, who devoured them, destroyed many with the sword, plundered them of their substance, and carried them captive; and the Lord was silent all this while, said nothing in his providence against them, put no stop to their proceedings; and by his silence seemed to approve of, at least to connive at, what they did; and this the prophet in the name of good men reasons with the Lord about.

Copyright Statement
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855

Gill, John. "Commentary on Habakkuk 1:13". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

than to behold evil — without being displeased at it.

canst not look on iniquity — unjust injuries done to Thy people. The prophet checks himself from being carried too far in his expostulatory complaint, by putting before himself honorable sentiments of God.

them that deal treacherously — the Chaldeans, once allies of the Jews, but now their violent oppressors. Compare “treacherous dealers,” (Isaiah 21:2; Isaiah 24:16). Instead of speaking evil against God, he goes to God Himself for the remedy for his perplexity (Psalm 73:11-17).

devoureth the man that is more righteous — The Chaldean oppresses the Jew, who with all his faults, is better than his oppressor (compare Ezekiel 16:51, Ezekiel 16:52).

Copyright Statement
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
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 1:13". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". 1871-8.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

The Prophet here expostulates with God, not as at the beginning of the chapter; for he does not here, with a holy and calm mind, undertake the defense of God’s glory, but complains of injuries, as men do when oppressed, who go to the judge and implore his protection. This complaint, then, is to be distinguished from the former one; for at the beginning of the chapter the Prophet did not plead his own cause or that of the people; but zeal for God’s glory roused him, so that he in a manner asked God to take vengeance on so great an obstinacy in wickedness; but he now comes down and expresses the feelings of men; for he speaks of the thoughts and sorrows of those who had suffered injuries under the tyranny of their enemies.

And he says, O God, thou art pure in eyes, thou lookest not on evil. Some render the verb טהור, theur in the imperative mood, clear the eyes; but they are mistaken; for the verse contains two parts, the one contrary to the other. The Prophet reasons from the nature of God, and then he states what is of an opposite character. Thou, God, he says, art pure in eyes; hence thou canst not look on evil; it is not consistent with thy nature to pass by the vices of men, for every iniquity is hateful to thee. Thus the Prophet sets before himself the nature of God. Then he adds, that experience is opposed to this; for the wicked, he says, exult; and while they miserably oppress the innocent, no one affords any help. How is this, except that God sleeps in heaven, and neglects the affairs of men? We now then understand the Prophet’s meaning in this verse. (20)

By saying that God is pure in eyes, he assumes what ought to be deemed certain and indubitable by all men of piety. But as God’s justice does not always appear, the Prophet has a struggle; and he shows that he in a manner vacillated, for he did not see in the state of things before him what yet his piety dictated to him, that is, that God was just and upright. It is indeed true, that the second part of the verse borders on blasphemy: for though the Prophet ever thought honourably and reverently of God, yet he murmurs here, and indirectly charges God with too much tardiness, as he connived at things, while he saw the just shamefully oppressed by the wicked. But we must notice the order which the Prophet keeps. For by saying that God is pure in eyes, he no doubt restrains himself. As there was danger lest this temptation should carry him too far, he meets it in time, and includes himself, in a manner, within this boundary—that we ought to retain a full conviction of God’s justice. The same order is observed by Jeremiah when he says, ‘I know, Lord, that thou art just, but how is it that the ungodly do thus pervert all equity? and thou either takest no notice, or dost not apply any remedy. I would therefore freely contend with thee.’ The Prophet does not immediately break out into such an expression as this, “O Lord, I will contend with thee in judgement:” but before he mentions his complaint, knowing that his feelings were strongly excited, he makes a kind of preface, and in a manner restrains himself, that he might check that extreme ardor which might have otherwise carried him beyond due bounds; “Thou art just, O Lord,” he says. In a similar manner does our prophet speak here, Thou art pure in eyes, so as not to behold evil; and thou canst not look on trouble

Since, he says, thou canst not look on trouble, we find that he confirms himself in that truth—that the justice of God cannot be separated from his very nature: and by saying, לא תוכל, la tucal, “thou canst not,” it is the same as though he had said, “Thou, O Lord, art just, because thou art God; and God, because thou art just.” For these two things cannot be separated, as both the eternity, and the very being of God, cannot stand without his justice. We hence see how strenuously the Prophet struggled against his own impetuosity, so that he might not too much indulge himself in the complaint, which immediately follows.

For he then asks, according to the common judgement of the flesh, Why dost thou look on, when the ungodly devours one more just than himself? The Prophet here does not divest God of his power, but speaks in doubt, and contends not so much with God as with himself. A profane man would have said, “There is no God, there is no providence,” or, “He cares not for the world, he takes his pleasure in heaven.” But the Prophet says, “Thou seest, Lord.” Hence he ascribes to God what peculiarly belongs to him—that he does not neglect the world which he has created. At the same time he here inclines two ways, and alternates; Why does thou look on, when the ungodly devours one more just than himself? He says not that the world revolves by chance, nor that God takes his delight and ease in heaven, as the Epicureans hold; but he confesses that the world is seen by God, and that he exercises care over the affairs of men: notwithstanding, as he could not see his way clear in a state of things so confused, he argues the point rather with himself than with God. We now see the import of this sentence. The Prophet, however, proceeds—

Purer are thine eyes than to behold evil,
And to look on wickedness thou art not able:
thenlookest thou on the perfidious,
And art still when the wicked swallows up
One more righteous than himself?
And makest man to be like the fish of the sea,
Like the reptile which has no ruler?

“Evil” means here wrong, injustice; the corresponding clause is “the wicked” swallowing up or oppressing his better. The Jews were bad, but better than the Chaldeans. “Wickedness,” [ עמל ], is such a mischief as is done through treachery: hence in the next line, which, according to the style of the Prophets, corresponds with this, “the perfidious” are mentioned, improperly rendered “plunderers” by Henderson, and “transgressors” by Newcome. The Chaldeans had been the allies of the Jews.

With respect to the reptile or the crawling fish, such as keep to the bottom of the waters, why is it said to be without a ruler? Is it more insulated and less gregarious, so to speak, than other fish? If so, “without a ruler” has an obvious meaning.—Ed.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Calvin, John. "Commentary on Habakkuk 1:13". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Habakkuk 1:13 [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?

Ver. 13. Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil] sc. With patience, and without punishing it. This I am right sure of; and therefore cannot but conclude that thou wilt take an order with our oppressors, thou wilt one day pay them home, for the new and the old, though for a time they ruffle and revel in our ruins. God, as he is ολοφθαλμος, All-eye, neither can we be at any time from under his view; so εχει θεος εκδικον ομμα, he hath a holy eye that cannot behold evil and bear with it. Hence that of Joshua to the people, Joshua 24:19, "Ye cannot serve the Lord," sc. unless ye first throw all your lusts out of service: "for he is a holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your trangressions nor your sins." Now, therefore, if Cave, spectat Cato, was such a forcible watchword among the Romans, and a retentive from evil; Take heed, Cato sees you, and will punish you; how much more should this prevail with Christians, Cave, videt Dominus, Take heed, the Lord beholdeth!

Ne pecces, Deus ipse videt, bonus Angelus astat.

Surely, as they were wont to say at Rome concerning cowards, that they had nothing Roman in them; so may it be said of such as stand not in awe of God’s pure eyes and dreadful presence, that they have nothing Christian in them, whatever they pretend; since it is every godly man’s care and comfort to be in the fear of the Lord all the day, to walk evermore in the sense of his presence and light of his countenance.

And canst not look on iniquity] Heb. And to look on iniquity thou canst not do it. Lo, this is one of those things that God cannot do; as he cannot lie, he cannot die, he cannot deny himself; so here, he cannot look on iniquity, sc. with approbation or delight. He cannot but hate it; and (as the next thing to hatred is revenge) he cannot but punish it, such is the holiness of his nature, Psalms 5:4-6. He hateth sin naturally, as we hate poison for itself; and therefore let it be in a toad or in a prince’s cabin, we hate it still. Nevertheless, it must be remembered for our comfort, that, like as we hate poison in a toad, but pity it in a man, because in the one it is their nature, in the other their disease; so sin maketh wicked men the object of God’s hatred, but the saints of his pity; and accordingly, he chastiseth the one, but plagueth the other.

Wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously] And yet, such is thy tolerance, seemest to take no notice of their trespasses and treacheries; which I am sure thou hatest with a perfect hatred. Here then the prophet, disceptat potius secum, quam cum ipso Deo, saith Calvin, contesteth rather with himself than with God about the ordering of things here below. He doth not question the Divine providence, because good men suffer, bad men prosper, as Aristotle did. He doth not say with Pompey, when discomfited by Caesar, that there was a mist, at least, over the eye of providence; so blaming the sun because of the soreness of his own blear eyes. He doth not impatiently cry out with Brutus, defeated, ω τλημων αρετη, O wretched virtue, or, O hard fortune. But he modestly expostulated with the Lord about his proceedings, having before justified him; and now dareth not reprehend what he cannot yet so fully comprehend; but, putting his mouth in the dust, concludeth with David, after some conflict with his own doubtings, "I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness" ( non ad exitium, sed ad exercitium, not for destruction but for disciple, and that thou mightest be true to my soul) "hast afflicted me," Psalms 119:75.

And holdest thy tongue] And so, by silence, seemest to consent (as the civilian’s rule is qui tacet, consentire videtur), but thou seemest so only, Psalms 50:21 Or, art thou deaf? Not so neither, Psalms 50:3.

When the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he] i.e. The Chaldees destroy the Jews, which were some of them better than they; and the rest were therefore the worse, because they ought to have been better. The truth is, none are so bad as they that either have been good and are not; or that might have been better, but would not.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Trapp, John. "Commentary on Habakkuk 1:13". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

Sermon Bible Commentary

Habakkuk 1:13

The absolute holiness of God is a truth of both natural and revealed religion. We could not worship one who was not supremely holy. Every reason we have for believing in God at all is a reason for attributing this character to Him. The words of our text are an appeal to God on the ground of His holiness; an appeal to Him to explain what seemed inconsistent with this. It is the old, old problem. Why does God tolerate the existence, even permit the triumph, of the wicked? The holiness of His personal character must be offended at them; the righteousness of His rule demands their exposure and defeat; and yet again and again we see them prosperous. The results which are brought by the rule of God in a mingled world, where sin is allowed to display itself, are just the ends which a Holy Being would delight to secure.

I. Consider the imperfect holiness of good men. It cannot be said of any one of us that we are of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. Some evils we cannot bear to see; but there are others of which we are very tolerant. There are few ways of bringing the evil of sin home to us more effective than making us see sin in others, and feel the bitterness of sin at the hands of others. The ungodly Jews were to learn, by the invasion of the still more ungodly Chaldeans, what a hateful thing ungodliness really was.

II. Consider the partiality of our appeals to the holiness of God. Personal antipathy wonderfully sharpens our sense of wickedness, and personal liking equally dulls our apprehension of the Divine judgment. God is wholly free from this disturbing partiality. What seems to us tolerance of evil, or indifference towards us, is often but the patience of wisdom working for ends which our partiality will not let us see.

III. The Divine method of rebuking evil is another thing to be considered. His method is to let wickedness expose and punish itself; and this it is sure ultimately to do.

IV. We have not a true conception of the holiness of God when we view it as impulsive merely; it bears the sight of evil in confidence of overcoming it. To overcome evil, and turn it into penitence and faith and love, is the object of Him who is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity, when He endures the contradiction of sinners against Himself, and holds His peace in presence of unrighteousness.

A. Mackennal, Sermons from a Sick Room, p. 29.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Habakkuk 1:13". "Sermon Bible Commentary".

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae



Habakkuk 1:13. Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity.

MEN do not sufficiently contemplate the character of God. The Psalmist, speaking of some in his day, says, “These things thou hast done; and I kept silence: and thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself [Note: Psalms 50:21.].” In like manner, we, if we do not see hefore our eyes some visible displays of God’s displeasure, are ready to imagine that he will suffer our iniquities to pass unpunished. But, whoever he be that commits sin, whether he be an avowed enemy of God, or one that is numbered amongst his people, let him know that “God is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look upon iniquity” but with the utmost abhorrence. Primarily, these words have respect to the Chaldeans, who were about to invade Jud ζa, and to execute upon the whole Jewish nation the most fearful vengeance [Note: Compare ver. 2, 3. where the very same terms are used.]. In reference to them, the prophet calls upon the holy God to arise and vindicate the cause of his people. But the words of my text contain a general truth, which it becomes us all most seriously to consider.

Let me then shew you,

I. What evidence God has given us of this truth—

If we look into the Holy Scriptures, we shall find them full of this truth. “Holiness” is that perfection which, above all others, is celebrated in heaven [Note: Isaiah 6:3.] — — — and in which God is pre-eminently glorious [Note: Exodus 15:11.].” But not to enumerate passages expressive of this truth, let one suffice: “Thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee. The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity [Note: Psalms 5:4-5.].” It is by an appeal to facts that I propose to establish the truth before us. See how God has manifested it,

1. In a way of judgment—

[Go back to the very fall of man in Paradise. An offence was committed; an offence against a merely positive command; and which therefore had in it no intrinsic evil, except as a violation of, what I may call, an arbitrary appointment. Yet behold, on account of that one offence were our first parents, and all their posterity, consigned to death; yea, and the whole creation also, rational and irrational, animate and inanimate, was subjected to a curse.

Go on to the time of Noah, when, for the sins of men, the whole world, with every living creature, was overwhelmed with one universal deluge; one single family alone, with a small selection of the brute creation, being saved.

Go on to Sodom and Gomorrha, and to all the cities of the plain; and see them destroyed by fire and brimstone from heaven; not so much as a new-born infant being spared, or any, except righteous Lot and his two daughters. Are these no evidences of the truth before us? Methinks they declare, in language that cannot be mistaken, God’s hatred of sin, and his determination to punish it to the uttermost.

Behold, at a later period, Achan keeping for himself a wedge of gold, and a Babylonish garment, which ought to have been destroyed. No one was robbed; and the offence was not known to any human being; but yet, on account of that, did God leave for a season all the whole nation, and never return to them in mercy, till the offender was sought out and punished with death.

A terrible act of vengeance also was executed on Uzzah, who, to keep the ark from falling, inadvertently stretched out his hand, and touched it; he himself not being of the Levites, who alone were authorized to touch it. Say, brethren, is not God a holy God? and is not sin, of what kind soever it be, “that abominable thing which he hates?”

Take but one more instance; that of David numbering the people. For that one offence were seventy thousand of his subjects slain. What further proof can any man desire of God’s irreconcileable abhorrence of all sin?]

2. In a way of mercy—

[When the whole human race were involved in Adam’s guilt and misery, God could no more look upon them with the smallest measure of complacency. Before he could cast an eye of love upon so much as one single soul, its sins must all be expiated; and a perfect righteousness must be given to it; and its every desire must be renewed. But how could all this be effected? It could be effected only through the mediation of God’s only dear Son, and by the operation of his own Almighty and eternal Spirit. To exercise mercy, was God’s desire: and that he might exercise it in consistency with his own immaculate holiness, he determined to give his only-begotten Son, that through him, and in his sacred person, his hatred of sin might be made manifest; and to give his Holy Spirit also, that, through his effectual agency, his love of holiness might be displayed. Tell me, then, whether this does not confirm the declaration in my text? To all eternity, God will not look upon any sinner that is not washed in the blood of Christ, and clothed in his unspotted righteousness: nor will he ever look on one who is not “renewed in the spirit of his mind,” and transformed by the Holy Ghost into that very image of the Deity which sin has effaced.

Verily, let these things be considered; and you will say, that “God is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look upon iniquity:” for when sin was found upon his only dear Son, and that only by imputation, the cup of God’s indignation must be drunk by him, even to the very dregs: nor, till that was done, should any soul of man find mercy at his hands.]

This truth being so clear, let us consider,

II. What lessons it inculcates on every one of us—

Of the admiration which this sublime character of the Deity demands, I shall forbear to speak. I will notice only those more plain and obvious duties, which are of prime importance to every child of man. This view, then, of God’s holiness, may teach us all,

1. To repent of our former sins—

[Who is there that has not, in instances without number, grieved and offended this holy God? — — — Look back, my brethren, upon your lives, from the earliest childhood even to the present hour, and consult the records of conscience; and then say, whether God can ever look on you but with just and holy indignation? — — — O that all of us were duly sensible of our transgressions, and were humbled before God on account of them! To hope for mercy without deep contrition is in vain. We might as well hope that God should cease to exist: for whilst he continues a holy Being, he never can behold but with anger an impenitent transgressor. He tells us plainly, that, “except we repent, we must all perish [Note: Luke 13:5.];” and it is “the broken and contrite heart alone that he will not utterly despise [Note: Psalms 51:17.].”]

2. To flee to the Lord Jesus Christ for refuge—

[Christ is the city of refuge appointed for sinful man: and to him must every human being flee, if ever he would escape the sword of Divine vengeance. As for repentance, though it be necessary to prepare the soul for pardon, it can never of itself obtain pardon. Whole rivers of tears could never wash away so much as one single sin. Nothing but that which satisfied Divine justice can ever obtain for us the remission of any sin whatever — — — Indeed, Brethren, “no man can come unto the Father but by Christ:” “nor is there any name given under heaven but his, whereby any man can be saved.” Bring then your sins to Christ, and lay them upon his sacred head, as the high-priest laid the sins of all Israel on the head of the scape-goat. Take also to yourselves his perfect righteousness, that in that you may “stand before God without spot or blemish.” In that way you may hope for acceptance with a holy God: but in no other way shall any soul of man come up with acceptance before him — — —]

3. To implore of God the sanctifying influences of his Holy Spirit—

[To your latest hour will you find, that, in some respect or other, “the law of sin which is in your members will prevail over the better law of your minds,” and bring defilement on your souls. In truth, if you be not upheld continually by the Spirit of God, there is not any sin into which you may not relapse. Your own wisdom will not suffice to keep you from temptation; nor will your own strength suffice to preserve you from falling by it. A new-born infant does not more need to be carried in its mother’s arms, than you do to be upheld continually by the Spirit of the Living God. Be earnest, then, in crying to God for help: for it is through the Spirit alone that you can mortify the deeds of the body, or bring forth the fruits of righteousness to the honour of your God, And do not presume on God’s past mercy to you: for it is an unalterable truth, that “God cannot behold evil:” and, “if you indulge iniquity in your heart, God neither will, nor can, regard you.” To be accepted of him, “you must be holy, even as he is holy.”]

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Habakkuk 1:13". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Thou, O Lord, who hast raised and increased the Chaldean kingdom.

Art of purer; of infinite purity and holiness.

Eyes, ascribed unto God to express his knowledge; so his eves run to and fro, and his eye is upon the righteous.

Than to behold: his omniscience doth behold all things, and so David expresseth it,

Thou beholdest mischief and spite, to requite it, Psalms 10:14; but he doth not, will not, cannot, see with delight, with approbation, evil, of sin and violence.

And canst not look on iniquity; the same thing repeated to confirm us. All this the prophet doth lay down as most undoubtedly true, and on which he stays himself (though he be amazed with the darkness of providences); and by this he will repress all undue murmurings, when he debates with God about his providences: most just and holy; but why thus or thus?

Wherefore lookest; seest all the violence done, and bearest with them that do it; why doth not thy hand remove and avenge what thine eye is offended at, and thy heart abhorreth?

Them that deal treacherously; the Chaldeans, who were a perfidious nation, and ruined many by their treacheries; fraud and force were both alike to them. And it is likely they dealt very falsely with the Jews.

Holdest thy tongue; seemest unconcerned in such a degree as to be silent and say nothing.

When, or whilst; it might seem a fit season to speak, when the violent are about their violence, when the prey is between the teeth and not swallowed.

The wicked; the Chaldean, an oppressor, bloody and treacherous against men, an atheist or idolater against God.

Devoureth; swalloweth down whole, as the word imports, Numbers 16:30 Psalms 124:3. The man; the Jew, or almost every one of us, as the phrase imports.

More righteous than he: though the Jews were a very corrupt nation, yet, compared with the Chaldeans, they were the better, and of the two the Jew was the less evil. Now this riddle he desired might be unfolded, Why is the juster oppressed by the unjuster?

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Habakkuk 1:13". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Because Yahweh was the Holy One, Habakkuk knew that He was too pure to look approvingly at evil nor could He favor wickedness. This was a basic tenet of Israel"s faith (cf. Psalm 5:4; Psalm 34:16; Psalm 34:21). But this raised another, more serious, problem in the prophet"s mind. Why did the Lord then look approvingly on the treachery of the Babylonians? Why did He not reprove them and restrain them when the Babylonians slew people who were more righteous than they?

The prophet"s first question ( Habakkuk 1:2-4) arose out of an apparent inconsistency between God"s actions and His character. He was a just God, but He was allowing sin in His people to go unpunished. His second question arose out of the same apparent inconsistency. Yahweh was a just God, but He was allowing terrible sinners to succeed and even permitted them to punish less serious sinners. These questions evidenced perplexed faith rather than weak faith. Clearly Habakkuk had strong faith in God, but how God was exercising His sovereignty baffled him.

"It is one thing to face the problems that confront everyone who believes in a good and omnipotent God and ask why things are Song of Solomon , or how they can be so. It is something quite different to question the Divine goodness or justice, or the very existence of God, simply because one cannot answer these questions." [Note: Kerr, p875.]

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Habakkuk 1:13". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Look, with approbation (Calmet) or connivance.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Habakkuk 1:13". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

Thou art, &c. Note the Fig, Synchoresis (App-6).

evil. Hebrew. ra"a". App-44.

iniquity = perverseness, or wrong. Hebrew. "amal. App-44. Not the same word as in Habakkuk 1:3, or Habakkuk 2:12.

the wicked = a lawless one. Hebrew. rasha". App-44. Looking forward to the Antichrist.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Habakkuk 1:13". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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?

Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil - without being displeased at it.

And canst not look on iniquity - unjust injuries done to thy people. The prophet checks himself from being carried too far in his expostulatory complaint, by putting before himself honourable sentiments of God.

Wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously - the Chaldeans, once allies of the Jews, but now their violent oppressors (cf. "treacherous dealers," Isaiah 21:2; Isaiah 24:16). Instead of speaking evil against God, he goes to God Himself for the remedy for his perplexity (Psalms 73:11-17).

And holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he? - the Chaldean oppresses the Jew, who, with all his faults, is better than his oppressor (cf. Ezekiel 16:51-52).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Habakkuk 1:13". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(13) The prophet’s confidence is tempered, however, with anxious fear. Why does not God show plainly that He authorises this visitation? The triumph of this godless invader appears to impugn God’s majesty.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Habakkuk 1:13". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

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?
Job 15:15; Psalms 5:4,5; 11:4-7; 34:15,16; 1 Peter 1:15,16
or, grievance. wherefore.
Psalms 10:1,2,15; 73:3; Jeremiah 12:1,2
Isaiah 21:2; 33:1
Esther 4:14; Psalms 35:22; 50:3,21; 83:1; Proverbs 31:8,9; Isaiah 64:12
the wicked
3,4; 2 Samuel 4:11; 1 Kings 2:32; Psalms 37:12-15,32,33; 56:1,2; Acts 2:23; 3:13-15

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Habakkuk 1:13". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge".

To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology