Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him,.... This and the following clause describe two sorts of persons differently affected to the Messiah, and the promise of his coming. Here it points at such as were "incredulous", as the Vulgate Latin version renders it; that disbelieved his coming, and mocked and scoffed at the promise of it; as well as those that did not believe in him when he came, though he had all the characteristics of the Messiah; and damnation was the certain consequence of their unbelief. The proud and haughty Scribes and Pharisees are here plainly described, whose minds were elated with themselves; whose hearts were like bubbles, blown up, full of wind; whose souls swelled with pride and vanity, and a high conceit of themselves; of their merit and worth; of their holiness and works of righteousness; and treated those they thought below them in these things with the utmost disdain and contempt; and trusted in themselves, and to their own righteousness, to the great neglect of the true Messiah and his righteousnessF7So Kimchi and Ben Melech observe the word has the signification of haughtiness of heart, and of pride; and Jarchi of impudence; and the Arabic word "muthaphilin", in Schindler, is rendered "despisers". . The word for "lifted up" has in it the signification of a hill, mountain, fortress, or tower; see Isaiah 32:14 as Aben Ezra observes. So R. Moses Kimchi interprets the passage,
"he whose soul is not right in him places himself in a fortress or tower, to set himself on high there from the enemy, and does not return to God, nor seek deliverance of him; but the righteous has no need to place himself on high in a fortress, for he shall live by his faith.'
Ophel was part of the hill of Zion, on which the temple was built; and Cocceius thinks there is a reference in the words to Mount Moriah, on which the temple stood: and in this sense the words aptly agree with the pharisaical Jews, who boasted of their temple, and gloried in it, and trusted in the service and sacrifices of it; and betook themselves to the observance of rites and ceremonies, and the traditions of their elders, and to their moral works of righteousness, for their justification and salvation, as their tower of safety, and place of defence; neglecting the Messiah, the Rock of salvation, the Rock of Israel, the munition of rocks, the strong hold and tower, where only safety and salvation are. The apostle, following the Greek version, renders the word in Hebrews 10:38, "if any man draw back", &c. and De DieuF8So according to Castel is "neglixit", Act. vi. 1. "substraxit se", Judg. xx. 36. and so it is used in the Alcoran, Surat. Joseph. ver. 13. and in the Arabic version of Psal. xxviii. 1. Matt. xxiii. 23. Heb. xii. 5. observes, that the word in the Arabic language signifies to neglect or withdraw the mind from a person or thing; and may be fitly applied to the same persons who neglected Christ, and the great salvation by him; hid their faces from him; would not look at him, nor converse with him, nor attend his ministry, nor suffer others to do it; they withdrew from his apostles and ministers, and the Christian churches, and persecuted them both in Judea and in the Gentile world; and many of the Jews that did make a profession, and joined themselves to Christian churches, after a time separated from them; being sensual, and not having the Spirit, went out from among them, not being truly of them, and forsook the assembling of themselves together with them; and to these the apostle applies the words in the aforementioned place. Now of every such person it may be said, "his soul is not upright in him"; either "in himself", as the Vulgate Latin version, and so Kimchi; he is not a just man, not truly upright and righteous, though he may think he is, and may be thought so by others; yet he is not in the sight of God; his heart is not sincere; he has not the truth of grace in him; a right spirit is not created and renewed in him; he never was convinced by the Spirit of God of sin and righteousness, or he would not be thus elated with himself: his soul is not upright towards God; he seeks himself, and his own applause, in all he does, and not the honour and glory of God, and the magnifying of his grace and goodness; he has no right notions of the righteousness of God, and of his holy law; nor of Christ, his person, and offices; nor indeed of himself. Or "his soul is not right in him"F9לא ישרה נפשו בו "non recta (est) anima ejus in eo", Montanus, Calvin, Drusius, Burkius. ; that is, in Christ, who was to come, nor when he was come; that is, he is not rightly, sincerely, and heartily affected to him; he has no true knowledge of him, real desire unto him, hearty affection for him, or faith in him, or regard unto him, his Gospel and his ordinances; all which was most clearly true of the carnal Jews, and is of all self-righteous persons. The apostle, in Hebrews 10:38 seems to understand it of the soul of God, that that, or he, was not affected to, and pleased with, persons of such a character and complexion; see Luke 14:11.
But the just shall live by faith; the "just" man is the reverse of the former; he is one that believed in the coming of Christ, and believed in him when come; who has no overweening opinion of himself, and of his own righteousness; nor does he trust in it for his justification before God, and acceptance with him; but in the righteousness of Christ imputed to him, from whence he is denominated a just man: and such an one "shall live", not merely a corporeal life, for righteous men die as well as others; nor an eternal life, though such shall live this life, and have it now in some sense, for this life is enjoyed not by faith, but by sight; but a spiritual life, begun in regeneration, and maintained by the Spirit and grace of God; such live a life of justification on Christ, of sanctification from him, and of communion with him; they live cheerfully, comfortably, and delightfully, a life of peace, joy, and comfort; which is greatly the sense of the word here, as in Psalms 22:26 and this is "by his faith"; his own faith, and not another's; which though for its kind is the same in all, alike precious faith, yet as to its actings is peculiar to one, and is not another's: or by the faith of God; that is, by that faith which is the gift of God, and of his operation, and has him for its object; such live by faith upon a promising God, and so live comfortably: or by the faith of Christ, promised to come in the preceding verse Habakkuk 2:3; by that faith, of which he is the object, author, and finisher: just men live not upon their faith, but by it on Christ, as crucified for them, as the bread of life, and as the Lord their righteousness; and so have joy and peace in believing. There is a different accentuation of this clause. Some put the stop after "just", and read the words, "the just, by his faith shall live"; that is, he who is a just man, in an evangelical sense, he shall live by his faith, in the sense before explained; not that he is a just man that lives righteously and unblamably before men; but who lives a life of faith on Christ, and whose hope of eternal life is not founded upon his holy life and conversation, but upon the righteousness of Christ, which he by faith lives upon; for neither eternal life, nor the hope of it, are to be ascribed to faith in itself, but to the object of it. But the most correct Hebrew copies unite, by the accent "merca", the words "by his faith", to the "just man"; and so they are to be read, "the just by his faith, he shall live"; that is, the man who is just, not by the works of the law, but by faith in the righteousness of Christ, or through the righteousness of Christ received by faith; for it is not faith itself, or the act of believing, that is a man's justifying righteousness, or is imputed to him for righteousness, or denominates him righteous, but the righteousness of Christ he lays hold on by faith; and such a man shall live both spiritually and eternally. And this manner of accenting the words is approved of by WasmuthF11Vindiciae Hebr. par. 2. c. p. 322. , and by ReinbeckF12De Accent. Hebr. p. 488, 489. So Boston. Tract. Stigmologic. p. 33, 34. . Burkius, a late annotator thinks, it might be safest to repeat the word that is controverted, and read it thus, "the just in" or "by his faith": "in" or "by his faith he shall live"; which takes in both senses, and either of which rightly explained may be admitted. Junius, with whom Van Till agrees, is of opinion that respect is had to the example of Abraham, of whom we read Genesis 15:6 and "he believed in the Lord", and "he counted it to him for righteousness"; not his faith, but the object of it, or what he believed, the promised seed. And so the ancient Jews compare this faith with Abraham's; for, mentioning the text in Genesis 15:6, say theyF13Shemot Rabba, sect. 23. fol. 107. 3. ,
"this is the faith by which the Israelites inherit, of which the Scripture says, "and the just by his faith shall live".'
And they have also a sayingF14T. Bab. Maccot, fol. 24. 1. , that the law, and all the precepts of it, delivered to Moses on Mount Sinai, are reduced by Habakkuk to one, namely this, "the just by his faith shall live"; which is true, if rightly understood; for the righteousness of Christ, the just man becomes so by, and which by faith he lives upon, is answerable to the whole law. The apostle produces this passage three times to prove that the righteousness of Christ revealed in the Gospel is to faith; that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God; that the just man shall live, and not die; shall not draw back to perdition, but believe to the saving of the soul, Romans 1:17 which shows that it belongs to Gospel times and things. The Targum of the whole is,
"behold, the wicked say all these things "shall not be", but the righteous shall remain in their truth.'
Kimchi interprets the former part of Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar his son; and the latter part of the Israelites carried into captivity with Zedekiah; but very wrongly.