2:15–17 Fourth Woe: Woe to Those Given to Intemperance and Licentiousness.

 2:15 “Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness!”— RSV “Woe to him that makes his neighbour drink of the cup of his wrath and makes them drunk …”

Having dealt with the unprincipled “power politics” of Gogue in the first three Woes, the Spirit now condemns the religious sins and delusions of Rome in the last two Woes. It is clear that Gogue will unite with the Papacy, and another “two-horned” beast “like a lamb” will emerge. The two horns represent political and religious powers similar to Charlemagne’s Holy Roman Empire. In its final development this politico-religious system is likened to a harlot astride a hideous beast having seven heads and ten horns. It is this system which is destroyed by Christ, “for he is Lord of lords and King of kings” (Rev 17:14).

The wine then, is not literal but spiritual, in its most important application. Remember that Daniel and his three friends refused the literal Babylonish wine which probably had been used as an oblation (Dan 1:16). Babylon was the “hub” of idolatry and she (like Rome) forced her religion on others (Daniel 1 and 3). The names of Daniel and his three friends were changed to celebrate the gods of Babylon. Isaiah 47:9–15 addresses Babylon and speaks of the “multitude of thy sorceries, and the great abundance of thine enchantments.”

 Jeremiah. 51:7 is substantially the same as Habakkuk 2:15 and reads, “Babylon hath been a golden cup in Yahweh’s hand, that made all the earth drunken (cp. Jer 25:15-16): the nations have drunken of her wine, therefore the nations are mad”. The wine is clearly “spiritual”. These words are taken up and applied to the false doctrines of the drunken Roman harlot. She has filled the nations with intoxicants and exposed their shame (Rev 17:4, 2; 14:8–10; 18:3, 6).

For her lies and presumption the Harlot System will be plunged into the abyss, and her deceived spiritual clients will “wonder.” But the day of Great Babylon’s fall will mean salvation to the persecuted saints, as did the day when Cyrus and Darius overthrew Babylon of old.

Notice that the shame of Great Babylon’s nakedness will be manifest and so these anticipations will be fulfilled (3:13).

2:16 “Thou art filled with shame for glory: drink thou also and let thy foreskin be uncovered: the cup of the Lords right hand shall be turned unto thee and shameful spewing shall be on thy glory.”—RSV “You will be sated with contempt instead of glory.”

At the height of a drunken orgy, to which this description applies, Babylon of old was found wanting and destroyed (Dan 5). In like fashion the “Eternal City”, upon whom countless millions of Catholics have lavished their wealth to buy divine favours in the “after life”, shall be exposed and her sins revealed. She, too, shall become an eternal ruin and have shame instead of glory (cp. Rev 14–19; 18:6).

In Philippians 3:19 we read of those “… whose glory is in their shame”. These apostates in Paul’s day boasted about things which should have been an embarrassment to them. In the day of Christ the clergy will be put to shame and even seek to conceal their identity (Zech 13:4–5).

2:17 “For the violence of Lebanon shall cover thee, and the spoil of beasts, which made them afraid, because of men’s blood, and for the violence of the land, of the city, and of all that dwell therein.”—ie. utter destruction would overtake Babylon on account of her violence. This, in fact, happened to Babylon of old, for even today the city remains “perpetual desolations” (Jer 50:13, 23; 51:39; 25:12). This same fate awaits Rome (Rev 18:16–24).

“For the violence of Lebanon shall cover thee.”

 —This appears to indicate that the utter destruction Babylon brought on Lebanon would in turn visit her (cp. Jer 22:20–23; 27:3). It is significant that the judgment of Tyre, which ruled over Lebanon, is linked with judgment on Babylon. Both cities are made types of Great Babylon by the Lord (Ezek 27:27, 33 is quoted Rev 18:3, 15–19).

2:18–20 Fifth Woe: Woe to Him Who Trusts in Idols.

 2:18 “What profiteth the graven image that the maker thereof hath graven it; the molten image, and a teacher of lies, that the maker of his work trusteth therein, to make dumb idols?”

 To the stupefying wine of false doctrine is appended its sister folly, idol worship. The obvious limitations and irony of idolatry are set forth in the form of a taunting question: “What hath the carved image profited though the fashioner thereof carved it?” (Roth). See Isa 40:19–20. As though the laborious work of the engraver gave it sanctity and power! “For the workman trusts in his own creation when he makes dumb idols.” Here the thing created is esteemed greater than the man whose intelligence formed it! This is bad logic. The maker is always greater than the thing made (cp. Heb 3:3). So why does man reverence and trust in the “work of his hands”? The words of Psa 115:8 are true, “They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them.” Read Isaiah 44:9–20, where the lack of logic of those who trust in idols and wood is graphically set forth. Paul’s argument in Acts 17:28–30 is basically the same as Habakkuk’s, namely that seeing we are intelligent beings able to think and breathe, and also are the offspring of God, man should not liken God to inanimate, dumb, unthinking wood!!

The parallel in the twentieth century is as real as it is tragic. Men claim to be wiser today than ever before and yet they have deified mammon. They have eliminated God from their minds by casting His Word behind their backs and the miracle of life on earth has been explained by mere chance! Thus to them at large God is dead and so they please themselves and “walk after their own lusts.” But this has led them to worship mammon instead of God (Matt 6:24) and no value is given to morality and character. The lesson for the sons of God is, “godliness with contentment is great gain”. If they seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, all these things will be added unto them (1 Tim 6:6–10; Matt 6:33).

On the spiritual level, Babylon of old was renowned for its idols and superstition (Dan 5:4, 23; Isa 47:9). Her trust in these profitless objects availed nothing in the day when God brought destruction upon her (Isa 46:1, 2; Dan 5). Roman Catholicism also has been renowned for the multiplicity of her idols, made to every saint and sacred object. Her deceived multitudes have swallowed her teaching and with superstitious reverence have worshipped the gods of wood and stone. In the eighth century the Roman Church upheld the worship of idols despite their being exposed as inimical to truth by Leo the Iconoclast (Image-breaker). It was this feud which led the Greeks to break with Rome and form their own Orthodox Church.

 2:19 “Woe unto him that saith to the wood, Awake; to the dumb stone, Arise, it shall teach! Behold it is laid over with gold and silver, and there is no breath (ruach—spirit)at all in the midst of it.”

 “There is no breath in the midst of it”— The inanimate nature of idols has often been appealed to so as to make men recognise their worthlessness (cp. Jer 10:14–16; Psa 115:4–7; 135:17). On Mars Hill, Paul contrasted idols with God, Who NOT ONLY LIVES, but “giveth to all life, and breath and all things” (Acts 17:25). How grievous it is to Yahweh to see His Creation worship their own creations and ignore Him!

In verse 19 the point is made that the complete coverage of the idol with gold denies the idol access to the life-giving breath outside!! So apart from the object being inert in itself, it couldn’t even breathe if it wished to!!

2:20 “But the LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.” This is the concluding statement and it rounds off God’s declarations. It stresses a sobering fact. Injustice will not prevail. Evildoers will be requited according to their deeds. Yahweh is not indifferent to the ways of men on the earth which He has made. He is in His holy temple in heaven, and it is holy because He is just. His holiness will be upheld by the righteous judgments which shall emanate from His throne when Eloah comes forth from Sinai and Teman.

Notice how His throne is always associated with holiness or righteous judgment, (Psa 96:13; 97:1–2; 98:1, 9; 99:1, 9; Rev 4:2, 8; Isa 6:1–3; Rev 15:1–8).

In the light of Yahweh’s determination to bring justice to the earth, the wisest course for men is to “break off their sins by righteousness, and their iniquities by shewing mercy to the poor” (Dan 4:27; Psa 46:10). Let men humble themselves before Yahweh and be silent.