The Woe of Indulgence: The Enlargement of Desire

Yea also, because he transgresseth by wine, he is a proud man, neither keepeth at home, who enlargeth his desire as hell, and is as death, and cannot be satisfied, but gathereth unto him all nations, and heapeth unto him all people:

— Habakkuk 2:5

This first woe is summarized in the words, “who enlargeth his desire as hell . . . but gathereth unto him all nations, and heapeth unto him all people.” Note that although this description fits the idea of covetousness, I am calling this woe the woe of indulgence. You can covet that pack of Double Stuf Oreos in the grocery as you pass them by. You can also buy them, take them home, and indulge in your desire for Oreos. Whereas covetousness is a desire, indulgence is an enlargement of desire and the yielding to desire. Covetousness is a matter of heart and mind. Indulgence is acting upon those covetous desires of the heart and mind.

“Shall not all these take up a parable against him, And a taunting proverb against him, and say, Woe to him that increaseth that which is not his! how long? And to him that ladeth himself with thick clay! Shall they not rise up suddenly that shall bite thee, And awake that shall vex thee, And thou shalt be for booties unto them? Because thou hast spoiled many nations, All the remnant of the people shall spoil thee; Because of men’s blood, and for the violence of the land, Of the city, and of all that dwell therein.”
—Habakkuk 2:6–8

Woe to him that increaseth that which is not his!

Proud Babylon thought to submit to no one. Who could stand before his might? Verses 9–11 do indicate that he was covetous, but the broader picture paints a portrait of a man who shamelessly heaps up treasures just because he can. He gathers the nations as helpless rodents, not because they are of any value to him but merely because he has the power. Babylon is said to increase “that which is not his.” One way of looking at this is to acknowledge that Babylon was taking possessions from individuals leading their own God-ordained lives. Many lives were destroyed at the hand of the Chaldeans. Ambitions and hopes were crushed. Just as how the act of a bully forcefully robbing a child of their lunch money doesn’t make the lunch money his, the possessions which Babylon violently stole from Israel never truly belonged to Babylon. The Lord gave the land of Canaan to Israel.

At the same time, the possessions stolen by Babylon were never truly his because, in the words of David, “The earth is the LORD’s, and the fulness thereof; The world, and they that dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1). Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, was but a steward of what God gave into his hand.

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