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Five Woes Against Tyrants: Woe #3

Habakkuk 2:6-19 – Part 4

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.

Third Woe: Habakkuk 2:12-14

Woe to him who builds a town with blood
    and founds a city on iniquity!
Behold, is it not from the Lord of hosts
    that peoples labor merely for fire,
    and nations weary themselves for nothing?
 For the earth will be filled
    with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord
    as the waters cover the sea.”
–Habakkuk 2:12-14 (ESV)

The Woe Against Building Towns with Blood

The third woe oracle, continuing to build off the first two, focuses on building towns and the Babylonian empire with the injustice and bloodshed of people. Snyman states that “despite so much effort put into building enterprises by means of forced labor, which has resulted in the deaths of many, it will not last.”[1] Cities built with blood is not from God and woe to them for God says they will not last!

McGee writes: “This was the method of destruction that built Babylon. They became rich by warfare. My friend, if you stand back and look at the history of mankind, you come to the conclusion that he must be insane the way that he has lived on this earth. And, actually, he is insane – insane with a sinful nature so that he can’t even direct his path. He thinks he is right in what he does. People have never waged war without thinking they were doing the right thing. We see here God’s condemnation of Babylon, but it can be stretched out and brought up to date and fitted like a glove on any modern nation you choose.” 

God’s woe to Babylon is true for any nation build and forged from the injustice and bloodshed of people!

Their Work is in Vain

Woe to such a nation! All of their efforts at building their empire is in vain because God says he will make it go up in smoke. All of their building efforts only add fuel to the flames that will consume them. Woe to any nation who builds their towns with the blood of others for their work is in vain. Without God all of our work is in vain and all is meaningless as Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes.

A Glimpse of Better Times Ahead

From God’s view, ‘the nations exhaust themselves for nothing.  Woe to the people’s labor! It will just go up in flame and come to naught. In contrast to this, a far greater day is mentioned here. A day when exploitation, violence and injustice are no more! It is a day when the whole earth is filled with the knowledge and glory of God! The third woe oracle ends with a statement about the majesty and glory of a sovereign God in verse 14. This verse states, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord’s glory, as the waters cover the sea (HCSB).” The same statement is made in Isaiah 11:9 regarding the Assyrians. Just as God intervened to deliver his people from the Assyrians, so he will deliver them against the Babylonians. God was aware and active in the time of the Assyrians and so he will be throughout the time of the Babylonians because His sovereign majesty fills the earth, and He is God over all people and all nations.

The future that awaits

When Jesus returns and sets up His kingdom. In these first three woes, God says “Woe to the plunderer! Woe to those who become rich and famous through unjust means! Woe to those who build their cities with the blood of others! But there is a better future coming! God said, “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and  its people a joy. I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people;  the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more   Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days  , or an old man who does not live out his years; he who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth; he who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed. They will build houses and dwell in them;  they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat.  For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people;  my chosen ones will long enjoy the works of their hands. They will not toil in vain or bear children doomed to misfortune  ; for they will be a people blessed by the LORD, they and their descendants with them. Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent’s food.  They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain  ,” says the LORD. (  Isaiah 65:17-25  

God sees what is going on throughout the entire Earth

One of Habakkuk’s claims against God was that God did not see what was going on. God makes it clear that He is not only aware of what is taking place in Judah, but throughout the entire earth. Barker states, “God works in the world to accomplish his purpose, but God’s purpose goes beyond simply punishing the wicked. God desires that all the world know him. From the very beginning of Israel’s history as a people, God declared his intention for all the world to know him (Exodus 19:4-6).”[2]

There is Coming a Day

I’m reminded of the old song by Sue C. Smith, Kenna Turner West, and Jason Cox:

There is coming a day
When no heartaches shall come
No more clouds in the sky
No more tears to dim the eyes
Only speaks forever more
On that healthy golden shore
What a day, glorious day that will be

What a day that will be
When my Jesus i shall see
When I look upon His face
The one who saved me by His grace
When he takes me by his hand
And lead me to the promise land
What a day, glorious day that will be

There’ll be no sorrows there,
No more pain to dim the eye
No more sickness no pain
And No more parting over there
And forever I shall be with one who died for me
What a day, glorious day that will be

What a day that will be
When my Jesus i shall see
When i look upon his face
The one who saved me by His grace
When he takes me by his hand
And lead me to the promise land
What a day, glorious day that will be

[1] Snyman, Nahum, Habakkuk and Zephaniah, 75.[2] Barker, The New American Commentary, 313

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 see more deeply into the heart of God regarding injustice. God is not petty or obsessive. He does not value justice simply for the sake of having orderliness. 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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