The Commentary on Habakkuk
Habakkuk asks God a further question: "Why do you allow those who have despised the Laws to go unpunished?"
God's reply is to show that in the past He has punished them and will continue to do so in the future. He proves this by citing examples.
At the time David appointed Zadoc and Abiathar as priests. His sons were also made priests.
The founder of the Hasmonean dynasty was Mattathias, a priest. Therefore, the rulers in the Davidic line and the Hasmonean line were all priests. It is as priests, rather than rulers, that they are referred to in the Commentary.
A wicked priest is a ruler who punished those seeking to prevent his wrongdoing.
"This concerns the Wicked Priest who was called by the name of truth when he first arose. But when he ruled over Israel his heart became proud and he forsook God and betrayed the precepts for the sake of riches."
The Wicked Priest is Solomon
Wicked because he exiled a Chief Priest, Abiathar. "Initially he loved the Lord". He excelled all kings of the earth in riches, "When he was old he went after Ashtoroth and after Milcom. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.
His punishment: For David's sake Solomon was spared but he was told that "his son would have all Israel torn out of his hands except for the tribe of Judah" because of his wickedness.
"This concerns the Priest who rebelled against the precepts of God...his chastisement by means of the judgment of wickedness. And they inflicted horrors of evil diseases and took vengeance upon his body".
The Priest is Jehoram
He "walked in the ways of the Kings of Israel and he led Judah into unfaithfulness" and was warned in a letter from Elijah that "he would have a severe sickness with a disease of the bowels".
His punishment: "The Lord smote him in his bowels with an incurable disease and at the end of two years his bowels came out because of the disease and he died in great agony."
"This concerns the last priests of Jerusalem who shall amass money and wealth by plundering the people. But in the last days their riches and booty shall be delivered into the hands of the army of the Kittim".
*Note: From that point the future tense is used.*
The last priests of Jerusalem were the kings of Judah before Zedekiah that "they broke God's covenant with your fathers that at the end of six years each of you must set free the fellow Hebrew who has been sold to you and has served you six years you must set him free from you service but you fathers did not listen to me or incline their ears to me".
The Punishment: "The treasures of the King and his princes all of these he (the King of the Chaldeans) brought to Babylon".
"Concerns the Wicked Priest whom God delivered into the hands of his enemies because of the iniquity committed against the Teacher of Righteousness and the men of his Council that he might be humbled by means of a destroying scourge in bitterness of soul because he had done wickedly to His elect".
The Wicked Priest is Manasseh
Wicked because he had Isaiah put to death. "He seduced Judah and its inhabitants so they did more evil than the nations whom God had destroyed".
The Punishment: "The King of Assyria took him with hooks and bound him with fetters and brought him to Babylon"
"And when he was in distress he entreated the favour of the Lord (see his prayer in Apochrypha) and he humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers".
"Concerns the priest who...that its stones might be laid in oppression and the beam of its woodworking robbery".
The Priest is Zedekiah
Zedekiah made a covenant to free all the Hebrew slaves with six years serviture but "then profaned God's name by taking them back into subjugations to be his slaves" (Jeremiah)
The Punishment: "The Chaldeans slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes and put out his eyes and took him to Babylon".
"Concerns the condemned House whose judgment God will pronounce in the midst of many people. He will bring him thence to judgment and will declare him guilty in the midst of them with fire and brimstone".
The Condemned House is Judah
Jeremiah warned the people repeatedly not to resist the Chaldean invasion because it was God's punishment for their wrongdoing. By ignoring these warnings Judah became the condemned house.
Another possibility is that God's condemnation stemmed from the reign of Manasseh who "seduced the people to do more evil than the nations had done whom the Lord destroyed before the people of Israel".
As a result God told them He would "cast off the remnant of His heritage and give them into the hands of their enemies."
"Concerns the Spouter of Lies who led many astray that he might build his city of vanity with blood and raise a congregation in deceit, causing many thereby to perform a service of vanity for the sake of its glory and to be pregnant with works of deceit, that their labour might be for nothing and that they might be punished with fire who vilified and outraged the Elect of God."
The Spouter of Lies is Jason
Jason, brother of Onias, the legitimate High Priest, "labored underhand" to replace Onias. He was successful and "brought the nation to the Greek fashion and increasing of heathenish manners" and the people "no longer setting by the honors of their fathers but liking the glory of the Grecians best of all".
This so angered God that He brought the Seleucid invaders to punish the people. "They took the spoils of the city and then set the city on fire" and "the people fled and the city became a habitation of strangers".
Jason had to flee from city to city pursued by all men "and died in a foreign land" with none to mourn for him nor any solemn funerals, nor sepulcher with his fathers."
"Concerns the Wicked Priest who pursued the Teacher of Righteousness to the house of his exile that he might confuse him with his venomous fury and at the time appointed for rest, for the Day of Atonement, he appeared before them to confuse them on the Day of Fasting, their Sabbath of repose."
The Wicked Priest is Menelaus
The Teacher of Righteousness is Onias. Onias, the legitimate High Priest who accused Menelaus of stealing, and was forced to flee for his life..
At the instigation of Menelaus, the Seleucids under Andronicus pursued Onias, tricked him into leaving his sanctuary and killed him.
The Seleucids were punished when their general Nicanor decided to attack Judas forces "on the Sabbath day."
The night before the battle Judas had a vision in which "Onias appeared and prayed for the Jews" and "there appeared a man with grey hairs and exceeding glorious" who proved to be Jeremiah who "holding forth his right hand gave Judas a sword of gold "saying it was a gift of God to wound his adversaries.
In the battle Judas forces "slew no less that 35,000 men and when the battle was over...Nicanor lay dead."
Menelaus' punishment was meted out by Antiochus, who blamed him for the Jewish rebellion and had him taken up to a tower full of ashes into which "men thrust him to his death."
"Concerns the Priest whose ignomy was greater than his glory...He walked in the ways of drunkenness that he might quench his thirst. But the cup of the wrath of God will confuse him."
The Priest is Alexander Jannius
In his military campaigns he had great success but his glory was tarnished by his treatment of the people. He was reviled for trying to go beyond his rights by performing the sacrificial rites. In retaliation "he slew about 6000 of them". Later he killed "no fewer than 50,000 of them. He continued to commit atrocities against his people until his death.
Punishment: Eventually "he fell into a distemper of hard drinking and had a quartan ague which held him for three years before his death".
Concerns the Wicked Priest, inasmuch as he shall be paid his reward which he himself tendered to the poor. For Lebanon is the Council of the Community and the beasts are the simple of Judah who keep the Law.
The Wicked Priest is Aristobolus
Wicked because Aristobolus, a Sadducee, seized the High Priesthood from Hyrcanus, a Pharisee, who fearing for his life fled the country.
Later Hyrcanus returned with an army and besieged Aristobolus forces who had taken refuge in the temple. He killed the priests who were carrying out their rituals and in the ensuing fighting killed some 12,000 of their countrymen.
Aristobolus' punishment was death by poisoning.
"Concerns the City of Jerusalem where the Wicked Priest committed abominable deeds and defiled the temple of God. The "violence done to the land" concerns the cities of Judah where he robbed the poor of their possessions."
The Wicked Priest is Antigonus
Wicked because he "cut off the ears" of the legitimate High Priest, Hyrcanus, so he could never again hold office because of the blemish.
With the help of the Parthians, Antigonus was able to rule for a short while before Herod, with the help of the Romans, bottled them up in Jerusalem where "they betook themselves to plundering and fell upon the houses of those that had fled and upon the king's palace and spared nothing" including the cloisters which he had banned.
Antigonus was taken away from Jerusalem in bonds to Antony, "there did the axe bring him to his end".
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