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Introduction to Habakkuk


Overall Background: Habakkuk is an otherwise unknown prophet. The fact that God speaks to him about the Babylonians coming, suggests he must have been writing sometime before 605BC, the year when Nebuchadnezzar first invaded Judah, probably in the latter years of Josiah's reign.

Habakkuk is troubled by the state of the nation (Ch.1) and asks the Lord how He can put up with it. His answers shatters Habakkuk for He says He is about to bring the Babylonians to discipline Israel. Habakkuk struggles with how God can use the unrighteous. In chapter 2 the Lord simply shares that He is fully aware of the wrongs of the unrighteous. Habakkuk comes to realise that whatever appears to be going on, the Lord reigns [2.20]. In chapter 3, Habakkuk prays and acknowledges the Lord's greatness and power and concludes by declaring his trust in the Lord, come what may!]





FRAMEWORKS: Habakkuk 1: Questions and a Difficult Answer


[Preliminary Comments: This opening chapter has three simple divisions: Habakkuk's questions, the Lord's answer, and then more questions of Habakkuk.]


v.1 Habakkuk poses three questions to the Lord


v.1  The prophecy that Habakkuk the prophet received.  

v.2  How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? 

v.3 Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds.

v.4  Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted. 


[Note: Habakkuk looks at the state of his nation and asks the Lord how can He put up with it and do nothing about it.]


v.5-11 The Lord Answers – see what I'm doing


v.5 “Look at the nations and watch— and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told. 

v.6 I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwellings not their own. 

v.7 They are a feared and dreaded people; they are a law to themselves and promote their own honor. 

v.8  Their horses are swifter than leopards, fiercer than wolves at dusk. Their cavalry gallops headlong; their horsemen come from afar. They fly like an eagle swooping to devour; 

v.9  they all come intent on violence. Their hordes advance like a desert wind and gather prisoners like sand. 

v.10 They mock kings and scoff at rulers. They laugh at all fortified cities; by building earthen ramps they capture them. 

v.11 Then they sweep past like the wind and go on— guilty people, whose own strength is their god.” 


[Note: The Lord's answer is that He is about to do something about it, He's going to bring the Babylonians to discipline Israel.]


v.12-17 The troubling thoughts Habakkuk has over this answer


v.12  LORD, are you not from everlasting? My God, my Holy One, you will never die. You, LORD, have appointed them to execute judgment; you, my Rock, have ordained them to punish. 

v.13 Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves? 

v.14 You have made people like the fish in the sea, like the sea creatures that have no ruler. 

v.15 The wicked foe pulls all of them up with hooks, he catches them in his net, he gathers them up in his dragnet; and so he rejoices and is glad. 

v.16 Therefore he sacrifices to his net and burns incense to his dragnet, for by his net he lives in luxury and enjoys the choicest food. 

v.17 Is he to keep on emptying his net, destroying nations without mercy?


[Note: That answer troubles Habakkuk because he is aware that the Lord is a holy God but from what he knows of the Babylonians they are more wicked than Israel, they are violent and plunder other nations, and take people like fishermen take fish from the sea, with little regard, and they seem to keep on doing it. How can God put up with such a people, let alone use them?]


[Additional Comments: The prophet confronts a problem that troubles many. How can God put up with evil and if He comes to deal with it, how can He use other evil people to do it? But the fact is that God does use evil people in the fallen world to achieve His purposes – see Acts 2:23]




FRAMEWORKS: Habakkuk 2: The Lord is Aware, the Lord reigns


[Preliminary Comments: This chapter is simply the Lord basically responding, yes, I know ALL about them and WILL deal with them after I have used them.]


v.1 Habakkuk determines to wait on the Lord for an answer to this conundrum


v.1 I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint. 


v.2,3 The Lord answers and tells him to write what he hears of the end


v.2  Then the LORD replied: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. 

v.3  For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay. 


[Note: An example to follow when confused: wait on the Lord & listen. Speaking of ‘the end', in the light of what follows, it may simply mean the end of all things, the end of Israel before the Exile comes, or even the end of Babylon. The lack of clarity, one might suggest, is purposeful. God's ultimate message coming – wait and see, trust me!]


v.4,5 The Lord knows unrighteousness (in Babylon?) prevails


v.4  “See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright— but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness — 

v.5  indeed, wine betrays him; he is arrogant and never at rest. Because he is as greedy as the grave and like death is never satisfied, he gathers to himself all the nations and takes captive all the peoples. 


[Note: The enemy – presumably Babylon [but it can apply to all God's enemies] – are known for their pride, greed and never being satisfied with what they have. While these people always exist on this fallen world, the righteous can live [survive and continue] by their being full of faith, i.e. trusting in God.]


v.6-8 These people will be held to account and judged and mocked by onlookers


v.6 Will not all of them taunt him with ridicule and scorn, saying, “‘Woe to him who piles up stolen goods and makes himself wealthy by extortion! How long must this go on?' 

v.7 Will not your creditors suddenly arise? Will they not wake up and make you tremble? Then you will become their prey. 

v.8  Because you have plundered many nations, the peoples who are left will plunder you. For you have shed human blood; you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them. 


[Note: This surely applies to Babylon who God will hold to account for their arrogance and violence and destruction. Various follies of the wicked follow in the form of three ‘woes'.]


v.9-11 The first folly & judgment: building false security by unjust means


v.9 Woe to him who builds his house by unjust gain, setting his nest on high to escape the clutches of ruin! 

v.10 You have plotted the ruin of many peoples, shaming your own house and forfeiting your life. 

v.11 The stones of the wall will cry out, and the beams of the woodwork will echo it. 


[Note: The first of these speak to unrighteous methods of obtaining security in life, thus demeaning your reputation and bringing self-destruction.]


v.12-14 The second is using violence to establish your own security


v.12 Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by injustice! 

v.13  Has not the LORD Almighty determined that the people's labor is only fuel for the fire, that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing? 

v.14  For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea


[Note: The second, the attempt to establish yourself using violent means is doomed to incur the Lord's wrath and judgment.]


v.15-17 The third is licentiousness and debauchery


v.15 Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors, pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk, so that he can gaze on their naked bodies! 

v.16  You will be filled with shame instead of glory. Now it is your turn! Drink and let your nakedness be exposed! The cup from the LORD's right hand is coming around to you, and disgrace will cover your glory. 

v.17  The violence you have done to Lebanon will overwhelm you, and your destruction of animals will terrify you. For you have shed human blood; you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them. 


[Note: The third, a depraved and decadent lifestyle, will be overturned by the Lord's judgment coming on them]


v.18,19 In addition idolatry is condemned


v.18  “Of what value is an idol carved by a craftsman? Or an image that teaches lies? For the one who makes it trusts in his own creation; he makes idols that cannot speak. 

v.19  Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Come to life!' Or to lifeless stone, ‘Wake up!' Can it give guidance? It is covered with gold and silver; there is no breath in it.” 


[Note: The folly of idolatry also existed in Babylon and came under the Lord's scrutiny.]


v.20 Despite all this, the Lord reigns from His temple


v.20  The LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.


[Note: This final statement is always the ultimate conclusion in the face of the folly of the world.]


[Additional Comments: The chapter is the Lord's response to Habakkuk: yes, I am aware of all of the wrongs of the Babylonians and even though I am going to use them, I will hold them accountable and deal with their godless unrighteousness. In the Old Testament is the prophecy in Psa 110:1,2 that the Messiah will reign in the midst of his enemies, while 1 Cor 15 reminds us that Jesus IS still reigning [despite what the ‘world' is doing] and will continue to do so until the end that God has decreed – see 1 Cor 15:24,25. For further reflections on this see the Appendix notes on the book of Job.]






FRAMEWORKS: Habakkuk 3: A Prayer (psalm): Acceptance of the Lord's Power


[Preliminary Comments: This prayer reveals the understanding he has of the Lord's history and thus now, the trust and confidence in Him he may now have, WHATEVER is going on around him.]


v.1,2 Habakkuk prays for his people in the light of history with God


v.1 A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet. On shigionoth.  [ possibly a musical instrument, suggesting it was written to be sung]

v.2 LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, LORD. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy. 


[Note: Habakkuk knows his history, knows of God and what He has done with Israel in the past, and that has stirred a holy fear in him as he requests that the Lord will intervene for them in the present, in like manner.]


v.3-15 He recounts various events & aspect of the Lord's activity on Israel's behalf


v.3  God came from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran. [prior to the attempt to enter the Promised Land] His glory covered the heavens and his praise filled the earth. 

v.4  His splendor was like the sunrise; rays flashed from his hand, where his power was hidden. 

v.5  Plague went before him; pestilence followed his steps. 

v.6  He stood, and shook the earth; he looked, and made the nations tremble. The ancient mountains crumbled and the age-old hills collapsed— but he marches on forever. 

v.7  I saw the tents of Cushan in distress, the dwellings of Midian in anguish. 

v.8  Were you angry with the rivers, LORD? Was your wrath against the streams? Did you rage against the sea when you rode your horses and your chariots to victory? 

v.9  You uncovered your bow, you called for many arrows. You split the earth with rivers; 

v.10  the mountains saw you and writhed. Torrents of water swept by; the deep roared and lifted its waves on high. 

v.11  Sun and moon stood still in the heavens at the glint of your flying arrows, at the lightning of your flashing spear. 

v.12  In wrath you strode through the earth and in anger you threshed the nations. 

v.13  You came out to deliver your people, to save your anointed one. You crushed the leader of the land of wickedness, you stripped him from head to foot. 

v.14  With his own spear you pierced his head when his warriors stormed out to scatter us, gloating as though about to devour the wretched who were in hiding. 

v.15  You trampled the sea with your horses, churning the great waters. 


[Note: It is difficult to fit the various descriptions with Israel's history. Perhaps it is best simply said, these are all signs of the Lord's power and greatness that were manifest at various times in Israel's history.]


v.16-19 Such things bring the fear of the Lord – but also total trust


v.16 I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us. 

v.17 Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 

v.18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. 

v.19  The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.


[Note: These characteristics and acts of the Lord leave Habakkuk filled with holy awe, which means he will simply wait patiently for the Lord to do what He will in respect of His people. But at the same time Habakkuk recognises that these works of power mean that whatever seems to be going on in life around him, he will utterly trust in the Lord and praise Him and rejoice that He does all things well [implied]. God will be everything he needs.]


[Additional Comments: This final chapter reveals how the prophet has moved on from questions and doubts to a place of absolute trust in the Sovereign Lord. As he has pondered on all he knows of Israel's history and the workings of God in it, he realises he has been treading on holy ground and bows his heart in submission and total trust in the Lord. A remarkable ending.]