See Lesson, Prophet, the.
See Lesson, Minor prophets, and their messages.
HABAKKUK: The name probably means "the one who
embraces". Nothing is known of his family.
"Now while Nahum looked at the latter day deliverance of
Israel through the fall of Nineveh, Habakkuk contemplated the same consummation
through the typical fall of Nebuchadnezzar's Dynasty. He saw Babylon in the
plenitude of its power. Success would intoxicate the Golden Head, whose spirit
would change, and he would transgress and offend by imputing his power to his
own strength. And while Babylon triumphed, he saw that Israel and the nations
were enclosed in its net, being subjected thereby to spoliation and great
distress. He was desirous to know what all this would result in. He therefore
besought Jehovah to reveal to him what the end would be. His petition was
granted, and the consummation was represented to him in a vision, which is to
speak 'at the end.' He saw in that epoch, which is termed 'the Day of Trouble,'
a chief of nations, proud, covetous, rapacious, and impious, as Belshazzar; who
will not confine himself to his own territories, but will enlarge his desire as
the grave, and will be as death, which cannot be satisfied, but will gather to
his throne all nations, and laden himself with all people as with thick clay. He
saw this Power in vision execrated in its time as the spoiler of the nations,
and the violator of the land of Israel, Jerusalem, and its inhabitants...
Habakkuk saw that 'the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of
Jehovah as the waters cover the sea' [Hab 2:14]; but he saw also that this could
not be the character of the times until this Clay-Power should be removed out of
the way. It was accordingly shown to him that the power should be broken by
certain who should 'rise up suddenly' and 'awake'; and that the sleepers who
shall awake to life and stand upon their feet for action, shall bite, and vex,
and spoil him. These are the Saints he saw in vision..." (Eur).
Vv 2-4: This section is a lament and is similar to many psalms
of lament (eg, Psa 6:3; 10:1-13; 13:1-4; 22:1-21; 74:1-11; 80:4; 88; 89:46; cp
Jer 12:4; Zec 1:12; Rev 6:10).
HOW LONG, O LORD, MUST I CALL FOR HELP, BUT YOU DO NOT
LISTEN?: In prayer the prophet asked Yahweh "how long" would he have to call
for help before the Lord responded (cp Hab 2:6; Exo 16:28; Num 14:11). God hears
all prayers because He is omniscient, but Habakkuk meant that God had not given
evidence of hearing it by responding to his prayer. He had cried out to the Lord
reminding Him of the violence that he observed in Judah, but the Lord had not
provided deliverance (cp Gen 6:11,13; Job 19:7). God had apparently not heard,
and He certainly had not helped the prophet.
"Habakkuk is a book in which a man, the prophet, asked
questions and received answers. Note, for example, Hab 1:2, which voices the
prophet's initial question. Then turn to Hab 3:19, which gives his final
affirmation after having received answers. The contrast between these verses is
startling. It is a contrast between a wail of despair and a shout of confidence.
GCM observed, 'From the affirmation of faith's agnosticism we come to the
affirmation of agnosticism's faith.'
"This is the story of Habakkuk. At the beginning we hear a
believer questioning God. The prophet's problem was why God was not doing what
He promised to do, specifically delivering His people from the violence with
which the Babylonians were threatening them. Every believer faces the same
problem sooner or later. Circumstances challenge the promises of God, and we
wonder why God does not do something about the situation. Habakkuk wondered how
God could use a more wicked nation, Babylon, to disciple the wicked
"The key verse, Hab 2:4, is similar to the constricted part of
an hour-glass. Everything that precedes it leads up to it, and everything that
follows it results from it. It is like a doorway through which everything in the
book passes" (Const).
WHY DO YOU TOLERATE WRONG?: Destruction, ethical wrong,
strife, and contention were not only common, but they were increasing, yet
Yahweh did nothing about the situation. The obvious import of this v is that
Habakkuk himself was both seeing and suffering this wrong.
THE LAW IS PARALYZED: Or "slacked" (AV). The LXX has
"ye slackers", and so Paul quotes in Acts 13:41: "you scoffers -- or despisers".
These words were spoken to Jews, not Gentiles.
LOOK AT THE NATIONS AND WATCH -- BE UTTERLY AMAZED. FOR I
AM GOING TO DO SOMETHING IN YOUR DAYS THAT YOU WOULD NOT BELIEVE, EVEN IF YOU
WERE TOLD: Even though this passage is used (Acts 13:41) to speak of the
call of the Gentiles, God is here telling the prophet that He is going to use
the evil Babylonians (v 6) to punish Judah: a very different kind of "call"
"The Jews of Habakkuk's day did not believe that God would
allow the Gentiles to overrun their nation (cp Jer 5:12; 6:14; 7:1-34; 8:11; Lam
4:12; Amos 6). Yet their law and their prophets warned them that this could
happen (cp Deu 28:49-50; 1Ki 11:14, 23; Jer 4; 5:14-17; 6:22-30; Amos
I AM RAISING UP THE BABYLONIANS, THAT RUTHLESS AND
IMPETUOUS PEOPLE, WHO SWEEP ACROSS THE WHOLE EARTH TO SEIZE DWELLING PLACES NOT
THEIR OWN: Yahweh urged the prophet and his people to see that He was in the
process of raising up the Chaldeans as a force and power in their world (cp,
generally, Dan 4:17). The Neo-Babylonian Empire began its rise to world
domination with the accession of Nabopolassar to the throne of Babylon in 626
BC. This aggressive king stimulated the Babylonians to become a ruthless and
impetuous nation that had already marched through the ancient Near East and
conquered several neighboring nations (cp Eze 28:7; 30:11; 31:12;
THAT RUTHLESS AND IMPETUOUS PEOPLE: The ferocity and
cruelty of the Chaldeans were proverbial: Isa 14:6; Jer 6:23; 50:42.
THEY ARE A LAW TO THEMSELVES: They lived by rules that
they made rather than those that were customary at the time. Similarly the Third
Reich called error truth and right wrong to suit its own purposes.
THEIR HORSES ARE SWIFTER THAN LEOPARDS: "I find the
following concerning the horse in symbol in Daubuz. He says: 'The horse was of
old used only for warlike expeditions, and not barely to ride, draw, and drudge,
as it is now practised with us. Hence, in that noble description of the horse,
in Job 39:18-25, there is no notice taken of any quality of his but what relates
to war. So that the horse is the symbol of war and conquest.' When, therefore,
the Spirit saith in Zec 10:3, 'Yahweh Tz'vaoth hath visited his flock the House
of Judah, and hath made them as his goodly horse in the battle,' the meaning is,
that he will ride them as their Commander-in-Chief, and make them conquerors
over his enemies, glorious and successful.
"Thus in Psa 45:5 'rechav', to ride, is rendered in the LXX by
'basileuein', to reign. And in several other places to ride, signifies to have
dominion... As a horse is warlike, so he is also a swift creature, and is
therefore not only the symbol of conquest, but also of the speediness of it
(Joel 2:4; Jer 4:13)" (Eur).
WOLVES AT DUSK: "Evening wolves" (AV). Or, "wolves of
Arabia" (LXX)! "The evening wolf, infuriated by a day of hunger, was fiercer and
more ravenous than he would have been in the morning. May not the furious
creature represent our doubts and fears after a day of distraction of mind,
losses in business, and perhaps ungenerous tauntings from our fellow men? How
our thoughts howl in our ears, 'Where is now thy God?' How voracious and greedy
they are, swallowing up all suggestions of comfort, and remaining as hungry as
before. Great Shepherd, slay these evening wolves, and bid Thy sheep lie down in
green pastures, undisturbed by insatiable unbelief" (CHS).
THEY ALL COME BENT ON VIOLENCE: The Babylonians loved
violence. The faces of their warriors showed their love for battle as they moved
irresistibly forward in conquest.
THEIR HORDES ADVANCE LIKE A DESERT WIND AND GATHER
PRISONERS LIKE SAND: They were as effective at collecting captives from
other countries as the sirocco winds from the East were at driving dust before
them (cp Jer 18:17; Eze 17:10; 19:12; Jon 4:8). This enemy was advancing like a
whirlwind gathering captives as innumerable as the sand.
THEY DERIDE KINGS AND SCOFF AT RULERS: The kings and
rulers of the lands they overran were no threat to them.
THEY LAUGH AT ALL FORTIFIED CITIES: Treating them
contemptuously (cp 2Ki 25:7; Isa 37:12,13).
THEY BUILD EARTHEN RAMPS AND CAPTURE THEM: They heaped
up rubble to conquer fortifications; they did not need special machines but used
whatever they found to build siege ramps to conquer them (cp 2Ki 19:32; Eze
GUILTY MEN, WHOSE OWN STRENGTH IS THEIR GOD: As long as
the Babylonians were simply doing God's will -- even if it involved punishing
the people of God -- then they were safe. But when and if they worshiped
themselves and their own power (which was, of course, inevitable), then Yahweh
promised to hold them guilty because they were denying the one true God. Cp the
pride of Nebuchadnezzar in Dan 4:30: "Is not this the great Babylon I have built
as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my
WE WILL NOT DIE: That is, not die eternally and as a
nation! Habakkuk believed the Judeans would not perish completely because God
had promised to preserve them forever (2Sa 7:16). The prophet now understood
that Yahweh had appointed the Babylonians (as He had the Assyrians earlier: Isa
10:5) to judge the sinful Judeans. The God who had been a rock of security and
safety for His people throughout their history had raised up this enemy to
correct His people, not to annihilate them.
YOUR EYES ARE TOO PURE TO LOOK ON EVIL: Cp Job 15:15;
Psa 5:4,5; 34:15,16; 1Pe 1:15,16.
WHY THEN DO YOU TOLERATE THE TREACHEROUS? WHY ARE YOU
SILENT WHILE THE WICKED SWALLOW UP THOSE MORE RIGHTEOUS THAN THEMSELVES?:
Why did Yahweh then look approvingly on the treachery of the Babylonians? Why
did He not reprove them and restrain them when the Babylonians slew people who
were more righteous than themselves?
The prophet's first question (vv 2-4) arose out of an apparent
inconsistency between God's actions and His character. He was a just God, but He
was allowing sin in His people to go unpunished. His second question arose out
of the same apparent inconsistency. Yahweh was a just God, but He was allowing
terrible sinners to succeed and even permitted them to punish less serious
sinners. These questions evidenced perplexed faith rather than weak faith.
Clearly Habakkuk had strong faith in God, but how God was exercising His
sovereignty baffled him.
YOU HAVE MADE MEN LIKE FISH IN THE SEA, LIKE SEA CREATURES
THAT HAVE NO RULER: Big fish eat little fish, and bigger fish eat the big
fish. The same thing was happening in Habakkuk's world. Babylon was gobbling up
the smaller nations, and Yahweh was not intervening in the process to establish
THE WICKED FOE PULLS ALL OF THEM UP WITH HOOKS, HE CATCHES
THEM IN HIS NET, HE GATHERS THEM UP IN HIS DRAGNET: Babylon was like a
fisherman who took other nations captive with hook and net and rejoiced over his
good catch. Babylonian monuments depict the Chaldeans as having driven a hook
through the lower lip of their captives and stringing them single file, like
fish on a string (W. Rudolph). This was an Assyrian tradition that the
Babylonians continued. In another Babylonian relief, the Chaldeans pictured
their major gods dragging a net in which their captured enemies squirmed
(Laetsch). The Babylonians even gave credit to the tools they used to make their
impressive conquests rather than to Yahweh (cp v 11). They had as little regard
for human life as fishermen have for fish. That God would allow this to continue
seemed blatantly unjust to the prophet.
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:
"Idolatry is not limited to those who bring sacrifices or burn incense to
inanimate objects. People of position, power, and prosperity often pay homage to
the business or agency that provided them their coveted status. It becomes their
constant obsession, even their 'god' " (Blue, cited in Const).
IS HE TO KEEP ON EMPTYING HIS NET, DESTROYING NATIONS
WITHOUT MERCY?: Habakkuk concluded his question by asking the Lord if the
Babylonians would continue to carry on their evil practices without sparing
anyone. Yahweh's policy of not interfering with Babylon's wickedness baffled
Habakkuk more than His policy of not interfering with Judah's wickedness. It was
Yahweh using a nation that practiced such excessive violence to judge the sins
of His people that Habakkuk could not understand.