The first woe pronounced on them in this song (vs 6 “taunt”) describes them as being covetous. Notice the speaker (which doesn’t appear to be God although He obviously inspired it or Habakkuk though he wrote it down) in verse pronounces the woe on “him who heaps up what is not his own”. Obviously, underlying the boldness of taking something that doesn’t belong to you and the covetousness to desire it is a pride that says you have a right to it. J. Vernon McGee observes, rightly, that God intended for people to work for what they get. So, when these Babylonian conquerors took what was not theirs they were enriching themselves from someone else’s labors. Now, we’re not talking about management where you direct someone else to do work, we talking about piracy where you take what belongs to someone else.
When the Babylonians would conquer a nation or town, they would take spoils—food, clothes, people, cattle, land. Because the Babylonian empire was the first real world empire, they had amassed lots of loot from lots of people and left those people with nothing. They not only took their stuff but they also required tribute (vs 6 “loads himself with pledges”). So not only did they take your land, they required you to farm it and pay them with your crops from your land. While I don’t know how much they made the conquered people give them in tribute, in whatever form it was they took it, it seems clear that they enriched themselves while they impoverished the people they subjugated.
|Oh, hai. We iz here for teh party, k?|
However, as we read verses 7 and 8, we are reminded of a universal principal. If you plant corn, you will end up one day reaping a crop and it won’t be a crop of watermelons. You reap what you sow. Because the Babylonians had taken so much from so many, they would eventually suffer retribution because of the number of people they had stolen from. In fact, we read in Daniel chapter 5 where the Babylonians were conquered (while having a wild party, I might add) by the Persian empire who dammed up the river that ran through the capital city and walked right into the middle of it—probably one of the easiest military victories ever.
Because the Babylonians were prideful, they felt like they had a right to take what wasn’t theirs. That pride led them to a swift defeat as they tried to bully one nation too many. God’s justice on their sin was swift. Let’s take that as a warning against pride in our heart should we see it there.