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Five Woes Against Tyrants: Woe #2

Habakkuk 2:6-19 – Part 3

In this next section of our journey through the book of Habakkuk, five woes are pronounced against the tyrants that take Judah captive. We will provide a short introduction in this post and address each woe in a separate post.

Note: We encourage you to click the link above and read the section in Habakkuk this post will discuss prior to reading the post.

Second Woe: Habakkuk 2:9-11

“Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house,
    to set his nest on high,
    to be safe from the reach of harm!
10 You have devised shame for your house
    by cutting off many peoples;
    you have forfeited your life.
11 For the stone will cry out from the wall,
    and the beam from the woodwork respond.”

–Habakkuk 2:9-11 (ESV)

The Woe Against Becoming Rich & Famous by Unjust Means

In the second woe oracle, God address the unjust methods the Babylonians used to gain the wealth and fame. This woe builds on the theme of the first oracle against plundering and taking what did not rightfully belong to them. The Babylonians built their fortunes and power structures on unjust gain that they thought would bring them safety and security. Additionally, they built their “nest way up high.” God pronounces a woe against those what would seek to feather their own nest by exploiting others thinking that they would be so high that they would be beyond the reach of problems or ruin. The imagery is that of an eagle that has built its nest so high there is no chance of any predators to bring about their ruin. This gives the idea that the Babylonians felt they were invincible and untouchable. However, the higher one is, the harder the fall.

Woe! No place is out of reach of God’s justice

Thomas writes: There is no high place that can avoid the long arm of God’s justice, and so this woe mocks the depraved rationality of the Babylonians… What seems to be profitable proves to be, in God’s economy, profitless because it works on evil gains. What seems to secure safety is, in God’s estimation, an exposed sanctuary destined for sacking. Babylon’s line of thought on security and well-­ being is doomed to fail because it is founded on exploitation and greed.[1]  

Woe to Riches gained through exploitation and taxes

While plundering involved taking by force, this second woe oracle addressed their fraudulent and exploitative methods to increase their wealth through levying high tribute taxes on the nations they conquered. However, the security they expected these tributes to bring would be reversed when they are conquered, and the same tributes are levied on them. Proverbs 1:18-19 says, “but they set an ambush to kill themselves; they attack their own lives. Such as the paths of all who make profit dishonestly; it takes the lives of those who receive it (HCSB).” The wealth they achieve through their dishonest gain is the equivalent of sinning against themselves and is therefore, self-defeating.

Woe! Their schemes will bring shame

God says that all of their schemes will bring them nothing but shame. Since they destroyed many nations, God declares they will self-destruct. Rather than building security and strength, their actions will bring about their own destruction.

In verse 11, God says, “For the stones will cry out form the wall, and the rafters will answer them from the woodwork (HCSB).” The walls and rafters that were built with their ill-gotten wealth will serve as a witness and testimony against them. The safety and security those walls should have brought will again be reversed as they are destroyed in due time. Barker writes, “When people built their wealth by unjust gain, even the building materials that housed their fortunes would cry out for justice. God is concerned with people. He cares for the needy of the land, reaching down even to the son of the handmaid, the lowest rung of society. Shame on those who oppress people, taking advantage of others in order to pile up unjust wealth.”[2]

Lesson from the Woe: Greed and Unjust gain will not go unjudged

Scriptures tells us that those that have been exploited will eventually rise up against those feathering their own nest at the expense of others. In the book of James, we find that the greed and unjust gain will not go unjudged. James 5:1-5 says:  “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you” (ESV).

All will be brought down to the same level

Those who gained their riches, fame, and fortune by exploiting others do not have much to look forward to. Revelation 6:15-16 says, “Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.”

The only thing awaiting people who exploit others and get rich through illicit means is the hand of the Almighty Sovereign God who will bring about their shame.

[1] Thomas, Habakkuk, 126-127.
[2] Barker, New American Commentary, 310. 

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