2:9-11 Second Woe: Woe to Those Moved by Greed and Covetousness

 2:9 “Woe to him that coveteth an evil covetousness to his house, that he may set his nest on high, that he may be delivered from the power of evil!”

 These words apply to:-

  1. The Chaldean exploitation and deportation of Yahweh’s Temple treasures to augment the glory of his kingdom (cp 2 Kings 25:13–17).
  2. The Roman Harlot’s immense wealth which has been accumulated from the nations deceived by her religious pretence (Rev 18:11–16; 13:14).
  3. Gogue’s extortion of her satellites. The terms of the prophecy are highly instructive for they provide an index to the political conditions of our times from Yahweh’s view-point. The Gogian dictator will arise with Papal blessing and weld Europe and the East into one. “These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast. These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful” (Rev 17:13–14).

“That he may set his nest on high, that he may be delivered from the power of evil!”. RSV “to be safe from the reach of harm”. The same figure is used in Numbers 24:21. The object of Gogue’s and Catholicism’s oppression has been self-aggrandisement and security. They have—and will—trample under foot the principles of God and the rights of men to set their nest in an impregnable place like the eagle (1:8). Like Babylon, with its tremendous fortifications and immense walls, the power of Gentilism seems set for perpetuity. But as Babylon collapsed according to the edict of God, so also will the might of the nations. Consider Babylon’s great walls and splendour prior to its destruction (Isa 13:19; Dan 4:30) and also Rome’s boast of being no widow (Isa 47:7–9; Rev 18:7–8).

2:10 “Thou hast consulted shame to thy house by cutting off many people, and hast sinned against thy soul (nephesh).” RSV “You have forfeited your life.” The intention of evil doers is to establish their house at the expense of others, but the justice of God will turn the tables and, as they sow, so shall they reap. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” is the uncompromising law of God (Ezek 18:4). Hence to devise and execute evil against others not only invades their rights and trespasses God’s law, but also seals one’s own doom.

Hence Korah, Dathan and Abiram, by devising evil against Moses, “sinned against their own souls” (Num 16:38; Prov 20:2). Shame was to be their reward instead of the glory they coveted.

2:11 “For the stone shall cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber shall answer it.”RSV “and the beam from the woodwork respond.” Roth “Surely the stone out of the wall will make outcry, and the tie out of the timber answer it.” The idea is the same as in verse 7, the rebellion of those oppressed. The figure of Babylon building a house with ill-gotten gain is continued from v9 (also in v12). Babylon (like Rome of old, and Gogue) had built its house from materials plundered in conquests and by using the forced labour of captives. In the day of his calamity those plundered are going to cry out, rebel and demand restoration. In this way he has “consulted shame to his house”. Whereas he had much afore-time, he will then have nothing and be stripped naked.

The saints and martyrs who have endured religious persecution by the drunken Harlot of the seven hills, have “cried out” to God for vengeance. When Rome falls they will be given rulership and power and Rome will pass into shame and eternal oblivion (Rev 6:9–10; 14:8–12; 18:6; 20:4).

2:12-14 Third Woe: Woe to Those Whose Power is Built on Violence and Iniquity.

 2:12 “Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood, and stablisheth a city by iniquity!Roth “Perversity”. Not only had the Chaldean slaughtered many and plundered their riches but also had taken large numbers captive to be used as slaves to build his empire (2 Kings 24:13-16). The “craftsmen and smiths” and the “strong and apt for war” were taken captive and by their skills the glory of Babylon was increased.

2:13 “Behold, is it not of the LORD of hosts that the people shall labour in the very fire, and the people shall weary themselves for very vanity?” The consensus of translators agrees with the sense of the AV (Compare RSV, RV, Roth, LXX). The answer to the question of verse 13 is “Yes”. Yahweh does permit proud empire builders to proceed. But their labours are vain in the light of His ultimate purpose with the earth—to destroy all that man has built and flood it with His glory alone as completely as the waters cover the sea. The emphasis in verse 13 is on the word “very”. This word stresses the utter futility of all human plans which do not take Yahweh into account: it is as if one laboured in a consuming fire (RSV, Roth “for the fire”), or expended energy and wearied themselves for no result! All the cunning and learning of man, all his great accomplishments in science, building, medicine, space or whatever, will mean absolutely nothing in the day when the Lord Jesus comes.

Vanity and vexation of spiritwill crown all human endeavour. This also was the conclusion of Solomon, the greatest empire builder to be king in Jerusalem and he exhorts us to do something which is not vain, “Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecc 1:1–2; 12:8, 13). Our labour in Christ is not a “labour in the fire” and we are wise if we abound in the work of the Lord, “forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor 15:58; 2 Cor 4:16–18).

Yahweh of hosts” – “Yahweh Sabaoth” is the militant title of God and is here used to emphasise His determination not to permit evil to prevail (cp. its use in Rom 9:29; Jas 5:4).

2:14 “For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” The labour of men is vain in the light of Yahweh’s planned ultimate triumph in all the earth. In the meantime, however, evil doers are permitted, albeit under His control. It was Yahweh who was raising up the Chaldeans (1:5–11). He permits a state of evil to exist for the refinement of His saints and the development of a people for His Name who will, by their appreciation of His righteousness gained in an evil day, be equipped to reign for Him in the day when His power overthrows the tyrants of the earth (cp Rom 8:20; 9:22-24).

The purpose of Yahweh is concisely stated in verse 14, namely, to bring about a state of affairs on earth in which glory shall be to Him alone in all that is done (cp. Num 14:21—the purpose sealed by an oath; Isa 6:3; 11:10).