John Calvin, Commentary on Habakkuk 
Commentaries on the Twelve Minor Prophets by John Calvin. 
Now first translated from the original Latin, by the Rev. John Owen, 
vicar of Thrussington, Leicestershire. 
Volume Fourth. Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai 
WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, 1950, Michigan. 

Printed in the United States of America. 

Translator's Preface 
The present Volume, though it contains the Works of THREE PROPHETS, 
is yet considerably smaller in size than the preceding Volumes; but 
the last will more than compensate for this deficiency. 
    The two first Prophets, HABAKKUK and ZEPHANIAH, lived before 
the Captivity; and the other, HAGGAI, began his prophetic office 
about sixteen years after the return of the great body of the people 
from Babylon by the permission given them by King Cyrus. 
    It is commonly thought that HABAKKUK prophesied after 
ZEPHANIAH, though placed before him in our Bibles. The reign of 
JEHOIAKIM is assigned as his age, about 608 years before Christ, 
while Zephaniah performed his office in the reign of JOSIAH, about 
30 years earlier. Like the other prophets he is mainly engaged in 
reproving the extreme wickedness of the people, on account of which 
he denounces on them the judgements of God, while he gives 
occasional intimations of a better state of things, and affords some 
glimpses of the blessings of the gospels. 
    In the first CHAPTER he begins with a complaint as to the 
oppression which he witnessed, foretells the dreadful invasion of 
the CHALDEANS, describes the severity which would be exercised by 
them, and appeals to God on the subject. In the second he waits for 
an answer, receives it, and predicts the downfall of the Chaldeans, 
and refers to blessings in reserve for God's people. The third 
contains what is called the "Prayer of Habakkuk," an ode of a 
singular character, in which he briefly describes, for the 
encouragement of the faithful, the past interpositions of God on 
behalf of his people, and concludes with expressing a full and 
joyful confidence in God, notwithstanding the evils which were 
coming on the nation. 
    "The style of HABAKKUK", says Bishop Lowth, "is poetical, 
especially in his Ode, which may justly be deemed one of the most 
complete of its kind." And in describing the character of this ode 
he says - "The Prophet indeed embellishes the whole of this poem 
with a magnificence equal to its commencement, selecting from so 
great an abundance of wonderful events the grandest, and setting 
them forth in the most splendid dress, by images and figures, and 
the most elevated diction; the high sublimity of which he augments 
and enhances by the elegance of a remarkable conclusion: so that 
hardly any thing of this kind would be more beautiful or more 
perfect than this poem, were it not for one or two spots of 
obscurity which are to be found in it, occasioned, as it seems, by 
its ancientness." 
    ZEPHANIAH was in part contemporary with JEREMIAH, that is, 
during the former portion of the reign of JOSIAH. He foretells the 
FALL OF NINEVEH, (ch. 2: 13,) and mentions "the remnant of Baal," 
(ch. 1: 4,) two things which prove that he prophesied during the 
former half of that king's reign; for NINEVEH was destroyed about 
the sixteenth year of his reign, and it was after that time that the 
worship of Baal was demolished by that king. 
    The sins of THE JEWS and their approaching judgements occupy 
the first Chapter. The second contains an exhortation to Repentance, 
encouraged by a promise of protection during the evils that God 
would bring on neighbouring nations. In the third the Prophet 
particularises the sins of JERUSALEM, announces its punishment, and 
then refers to the future blessings which God would freely confer on 
His Church. 
    The style of ZEPHANIAH has been represented as being in some 
parts prosaic; and Lowth says that "he seems to possess nothing 
remarkable or superior in the arrangement of his matter or in the 
elegance of his diction." But it is Henderson's opinion that "many 
of the censures that have been passed on his language are either 
without foundation or much exaggerated." He appears to be as poetic 
in his ideas as most of the Prophets, and in the manner in which he 
arranges them, though he deals not much in parallelisms, which 
constitute a prominent feature in Hebrew poetry. 
    The matters handled by the Prophet are said by Marckius to be 
"most worthy of God, whether we regard His serious reproofs or His 
severe threatening, or His kind warnings, or His gracious promises, 
which especially appertain to the dispensation of the New Testament. 
In all these particulars he not only agrees with the other prophets, 
but also adopts their expressions." He then gives the following 
examples: - 
    Ch. 1: 6 compared with Jer. 15: 6. 
    Ch. 1: 15 compared with Joel 2: 1, 2. 
    Ch. 1: 18 compared with Ezek. 7: 19, and Jer. 4: 27. 
    Ch. 2: 8, 9 compared with Jer. 48: 2, and Ezek. 25: 1. 
    Ch. 3: 3, 4 compared with Ezek. 22: 26, 27, 28, &c. 
    It does not appear at what time HAGGAI returned from exile, 
though probably at the first return of the Jews under ZERUBBABEL, 
before Christ 536. But he did not commence his prophetic office till 
about sixteen years after; and he delivered what his Book contains 
in the space of three months. His messages, which are five, are very 
short; and hence some have concluded that they are but summaries of 
what he had delivered. 
    Much of this Book is historical, interspersed with what is 
conveyed in a poetic style. The Prophet, in the first Chapter, 
remonstrates with the people, who were very attentive to their own 
private concerns, but neglected to build the Lord's Temple; he 
refers to the judgements with which they had been visited on this 
account, encourages them to undertake the work, and promises them 
the favour of God; and then he tells us of his success. In the 
second Chapter he removes an apparent ground of discouragement, the 
temple then in building being not so splendid as the former, and 
promises an additional glory to it, evidently referring to the 
Gospel times. He then warns them against relaxing in their work and 
thinking it enough merely to offer sacrifices, assures them of God's 
blessing, and concludes with a special promise to Zerubbabel. 
    What Lowth says of this Prophet's style, that "it is altogether 
prosaic," is not strictly true; for there are some parts highly 
poetical. See ch. 1: 6, and from 8 to 11 inclusive. "The style of 
HAGGAI," observes Henderson, "is not distinguished by any peculiar 
excellence; yet he is not destitute of pathos and vehemence, when 
reproving his countrymen for their negligence, exhorting them to the 
performance of duty." 
    Though in some instances our COMMENTATOR may not give the 
precise import of a passage, yet he never advances but what is 
consistent with Divine Truth, and always useful and practical, and 
often what betokens a profound acquaintance with the operations of 
the human mind under the various trials and temptations which we 
meet with in this life; so that the observations made are ever 
interesting and instructive. CALVIN never deduces from a passage 
what is in itself erroneous or unsound, though in all cases he may 
not deduce what the text may legitimately warrant. There is, 
therefore, nothing dangerous in what he advances, though it may not 
be included in the passage explained. But for the most part his 
application of doctrine is what may be fully justified, and is often 
very striking, and calculated to instruct and edify. 
    Some may think that our Author does not always give that full 
range of meaning to the promises and predictions which he explains. 
A reason for this may probably be found in the fact, that most of 
the Commentators who had preceded him had indulged in very great 
extravagancies on the subject; and a reaction generally drives men 
to an opposite extreme. But it is very seldom that CALVIN can be 
justly charged with a fault of this kind; for, entertaining the 
profoundest veneration for the Word of God, he strictly followed 
what he conceived the words imported, and what he apprehended to be 
the general drift of a passage. Possibly, in the estimation of those 
who possess a very vivid imagination, he may be thought to have kept 
too closely to what the text and the context require; but in 
explaining the Divine Oracles, nothing is more to be avoided than to 
let loose the imagination, and nothing is more necessary than to 
possess a sound judgement, and to exercise it in the fear of God, 
and with prayer for His guidance and direction. 
                                            J. O. 
    October 1848. 
The Commentaries of John Calvin on the Prophet Habakkuk 
Calvin's Preface to Habakkuk. 
    Now follows THE PROPHET HABAKKUK; but the time in which he 
discharged his office of a Teacher is not quite certain. The 
Hebrews, according to their usual manner, unhesitatingly assert that 
he prophesied under the king MANASSEH; but this conjecture is not 
well founded. We are however led to think that this prophecy was 
announced when the contumacy of the people had become irreclaimable. 
It is indeed probable, from the complaint which we shall have 
presently to notice, that the people had previously given many 
proofs of irremediable wickedness. To me it appears evident that the 
Prophet was sent, when others had in vain endeavoured to correct the 
wickedness of the people. But as he denounces an approaching 
judgement on the CHALDEANS, he seems to have prophesied either under 
Manasseh or under the other kings before the time of ZEDECHIAH; but 
we cannot fix the exact time. 
    The substance of the Book may be thus stated: - In the First 
chapter he complains of the rebellious obstinacy of the people, and 
deplores the corruptions which then prevailed; he then appears as 
the herald of God, and warns the Jews of their approaching ruin; he 
afterwards applies consolation, as God would punish the Chaldeans 
when their pride became intolerable. In the second chapter he 
exhorts the godly to patience by his own example, and speaks at 
large of the near ruin of Babylon; and in the third chapter, as we 
shall see, he turns to supplication and prayer. 
    We shall now come to the words.

(Calvin... on Habakkuk)

Continued in Part 1...

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