Commentary on habakkuk

Commentary on habakkuk DEFAULT

Matthew Henry :: Commentary on Habakkuk 1

An Exposition, With Practical Observations, of

The Prophecy of Habakkuk

Chapter 1

In this chapter,

  • I. The prophet complains to God of the violence done by the abuse of the sword of justice among his own people and the hardships thereby put upon many good people (v. 1-4).
  • II. God by him foretels the punishment of that abuse of power by the sword of war, and the desolations which the army of the Chaldeans should make upon them (v. 5-11).
  • III. Then the prophet complains of that too, and is grieved that the Chaldeans prevail so far (v. 12-17), so that he scarcely knows which is more to be lamented, the sin or the punishment of it, for in both many harmless good people are very great sufferers.

It is well that there is a day of judgment, and a future state, before us, in which it shall be eternally well with all the righteous, and with them only, and ill with all the wicked, and them only; so the present seeming disorders of Providence shall be set to rights, and there will remain no matter of complaint whatsoever.

Hab 1:1-4

We are told no more in the title of this book (which we have, v. 1) than that the penman was a prophet, a man divinely inspired and commissioned, which is enough (if that be so, we need not ask concerning his tribe or family, or the place of his birth), and that the book itself is the burden which he saw; he was as sure of the truth of it as if he had seen it with his bodily eyes already accomplished. Here, in these verses, the prophet sadly laments the iniquity of the times, as one sensibly touched with grief for the lamentable decay of religion and righteousness. It is a very melancholy complaint which he here makes to God,

  • 1. That no man could call what he had his own; but, in defiance of the most sacred laws of property and equity, he that had power on his side had what he had a mind to, though he had no right on his side: The land was full of violence, as the old world was, Gen. 6:11. The prophet cries out of violence (v. 2), iniquity and grievance, spoil and violence. In families and among relations, in neighbour-hoods and among friends, in commerce and in courts of law, every thing was carried with a high hand, and no man made any scruple of doing wrong to his neighbour, so that he could but make a good hand of it for himself. It does not appear that the prophet himself had any great wrong done him (in losing times it fared best with those that had nothing to lose), but it grieved him to see other people wronged, and he could not but mingle his tears with those of the oppressed. Note, Doing wrong to harmless people, as it is an iniquity in itself, so it is a great grievance to all that are concerned for God's Jerusalem, who sigh and cry for abominations of this kind. He complains (v. 4) that the wicked doth compass about the righteous. One honest man, one honest cause, shall have enemies besetting it on every side; many wicked men, in confederacy against it, run it down; nay, one wicked man (for it is singular) with so many various arts of mischief sets upon a righteous man, that he perfectly besets him.
  • 2. That the kingdom was broken into parties and factions that were continually biting and devouring one another. This is a lamentation to all the sons of peace: There are that raise up strife and contention (v. 3), that foment divisions, widen breaches, incense men against one another, and sow discord among brethren, by doing the work of him that is the accuser of the brethren. Strifes and contentions that have been laid asleep, and begun to be forgotten, they awake, and industriously raise up again, and blow up the sparks that were hidden under the embers. And, if blessed are the peace-makers, cursed are such peace-breakers, that make parties, and so make mischief that spreads further, and lasts longer, than they can imagine. It is sad to see bad men warming their hands at those flames which are devouring all that is good in a nation, and stirring up the fire too.
  • 3. That the torrent of violence and strife ran so strongly as to bid defiance to the restraints and regulations of laws and the administration of justice, v. 4. Because God did not appear against them, nobody else would; therefore the law is slacked, is silent; it breathes not; its pulse beats not (so, it is said, the word signifies); it intermits, and judgment does not go forth as it should; no cognizance is taken of those crimes, no justice done upon the criminals; nay, wrong judgment proceeds; if appeals be made to the courts of equity, the righteous shall be condemned and the wicked justified, so that the remedy proves the worst disease. The legislative power takes no care to supply the deficiencies of the law for the obviating of those growing threatening mischiefs; the executive power takes no care to answer the good intentions of the laws that are made; the stream of justice is dried up by violence, and has not its free course.
  • 4. That all this was open and public, and impudently avowed; it was barefaced. The prophet complains that this iniquity was shown him; he beheld it which way soever he turned his eyes, nor could he look off it: Spoiling and violence are before me. Note, The abounding of wickedness in a nation is a very great eye-sore to good people, and, if they did not see it, they could not believe it to be so bad as it is. Solomon often complains of the vexation of this kind which he saw under the sun; and the prophet would therefore gladly turn hermit, that he might not see it, Jer. 9:2. But then we must needs go out of the world, which there-fore we should long to do, that we may remove to that world where holiness and love reign eternally, and no spoiling and violence shall be before us.
  • 5. That he complained of this to God, but could not obtain a redress of those grievances: "Lord," says he, "why dost thou show me iniquity? Why hast thou cast my lot in a time and place when and where it is to be seen, and why do I continue to sojourn in Mesech and Kedar? I cry to thee of this violence; I cry aloud; I have cried long; but thou wilt not hear, thou wilt not save; thou dost not take vengeance on the oppressors, nor do justice to the oppressed, as if thy arm were shortened or thy ear heavy." When God seems to connive at the wickedness of the wicked, nay, and to countenance it, by suffering them to prosper in their wickedness, it shocks the faith of good men, and proves a sore temptation to them to say, We have cleansed our hearts in vain (Ps. 73:13), and hardens those in their impiety who say, God has forsaken the earth. We must not think it strange if wickedness be suffered to prevail far and prosper long. God has reasons, and we are sure they are good reasons, both for the reprieves of bad men and the rebukes of good men; and therefore, though we plead with him, and humbly expostulate concerning his judgments, yet we must say, "He is wise, and righteous, and good, in all," and must believe the day will come, though it may be long deferred, when the cry of sin will be heard against those that do wrong and the cry of prayer for those that suffer it.

Hab 1:5-11

We have here an answer to the prophet's complaint, giving him assurance that, though God bore long, he would not bear always with this provoking people; for the day of vengeance was in his heart, and he must tell them so, that they might by repentance and reformation turn away the judgment they were threatened with.

  • I. The preamble to the sentence is very awful (v. 5): Behold, you among the heathen, and regard. Since they will not be brought to repentance by the long-suffering of God, he will take another course with them. No resentments are so keen, so deep, as those of abused patience. The Lord will inflict upon them,
    • 1. A public punishment, which shall be beheld and regarded among the heathen, which the neighbouring nations shall take notice of and stand amazed at; see Deu. 29:24, 25. This will aggravate the desolations of Israel, that they will thereby be made a spectacle to the world.
    • 2. An amazing punishment, so strange and surprising, and so much out of the common road of Providence, that it shall not be paralleled among the heathen, shall be sorer and heavier than what God has usually inflicted upon the nations that know him not; nay, it shall not be credited even by those that had the prediction of it from God before it comes, or the report of it from those that were eye-witnesses of it when it comes: You will not believe it, though it be told you; it will be thought incredible that so many judgments should combine in one, and every circumstance so strangely concur to enforce and aggravate it, that so great and potent a nation should be so reduced and broken, and that God should deal so severely with a people that had been taken into the bond of the covenant and that he had done so much for. The punishment of God's professing people cannot but be the astonishment of all about them.
    • 3. A speedy punishment: "I will work a work in your days, now quickly; this generation shall not pass till the judgment threatened be accomplished. The sins of former days shall be reckoned for in your days; for now the measure of the iniquity is full," Mt. 23:36.
    • 4. It shall be a punishment in which much of the hand of God shall appear; it shall be a work of his own working, so that all who see it shall say, This is the Lord's doing; and it will be found a fearful thing to fall into his hands; woe to those whom he takes to task!
    • 5. It shall be such a punishment as will typify the destruction to be brought upon the despisers of Christ and his gospel, for to that these words are applied Acts 13:41, Behold, you despisers, and wonder, and perish. The ruin of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans for their idolatry was a figure of their ruin by the Romans for rejecting Christ and his gospel, and it is a very marvellous thing, and almost incredible. Is there not a strange punishment to the workers of iniquity?
  • II. The sentence itself is very dreadful and particular (v. 6): Lo, I raise up the Chaldeans. There were those that raised up a great deal of strife and contention among them, which was their sin; and now God will raise up the Chaldeans against them, who shall strive and contend with them, which shall be their punishment. Note, When God's professing people quarrel among themselves, snarl at, and devour one another, it is just with God to bring the common enemy upon them, that shall make peace by making a universal devastation. The contending parties in Jerusalem were inveterate one against another, when the Romans came and took away their place and nation. The Chaldeans shall be the instruments of the destruction threatened, and, though themselves acting unrighteously, they shall execute the righteousness of the Lord and punish the unrighteousness of Israel. Now, here we have,
    • 1. A description of the people that shall be raised up against Israel, to be a scourge to them.
      • (1.) They are a bitter and hasty nation, cruel and fierce, and what they do is done with violence and fury; they are precipitate in their counsels, vehement in their passions, and push on with resolution in their enterprises; they show no mercy and they spare no pains. Miserable is the case of those that are given up into the hand of these cruel ones.
      • (2.) They are strong, and therefore formidable, and such as there is no standing before, and yet no fleeing from (v. 7): They are terrible and dreadful, famed for the gallant troops they bring into the field (v. 8); their horses are swifter than leopards to charge and pursue, and more fierce than the evening wolves; and wolves are observed to be the most ravenous towards the evening, after they have been kept hungry all day, waiting for that darkness under the protection of which all the beasts of the forest creep forth,Ps. 104:20. Their squadrons of horse shall be very numerous: "Their horse-men shall spread themselves a great way, for they shall come from far, from all parts of their own country, and shall be dispersed into all parts of the country they invade, to plunder it, and enrich themselves with the spoil of it. And, in making speed to spoil, they shall hasten to the prey (as those, Isa. 8:1, margin), for they shall fly as the eagle towards the earth when she hastens to eat and strikes at the prey she has an eye upon."
      • (3.) Their own will is a law to them, and, in the fierceness of their pursuits, they will not be governed by any laws of humanity, equity, or honour: Their judgment and their dignity shall proceed of themselves,v. 7. Appetite and passion rule them, and not reason nor conscience. Their principle is, Quicquid libet, licet-My will is my law. And, Sic volo, sic jubeo; stat pro ratione voluntas-This is my wish, this is my command; it shall be done because I choose it. What favour can be hoped for from such an enemy? Note, Those who have been unjust and unmerciful, among whom the law is slacked, and judgment doth not go forth, will justly be paid in their own coin and fall into the hands of those who will deal unjustly and unmercifully with them.
    • 2. A prophecy of the terrible execution that shall be made by this terrible nation: They shall march through the breadth of the earth (so it may be read); for in a little time the Chaldean forces subdued all the nations in those parts, so that they seemed to have conquered the world; they overran Asia and part of Africa. Or, through the breadth of the land of Israel, which was wholly laid waste by them. It is here foretold,
      • (1.) That they shall seize all as their own that they can lay their hands on. They shall come to possess the dwelling-places that are not theirs, which they have no right to, but that which their sword gives them.
      • (2.) That they shall push on the war with all possible vigour: They shall all come for violence (v. 9), not to determine any disputed right by the sword, but, right or wrong, to enrich themselves with the spoil. Their faces shall sup up as the east wind; their very countenances shall be so fierce and frightful that a look will serve to make them masters of all they have a mind to; so that they shall swallow up all, as the east wind nips and blasts the buds and flowers. Their faces shall look towards the east (so some read it); they shall still have an eye to their own country, which lay eastward from Judea, and all the spoil they seize they shall remit thither.
      • (3.) That they shall take a vast number of prisoners, and send them into Babylon: They shall gather the captivity as the sand for multitude, and shall never know when they have enough, as long as there are any more to be had.
      • (4.) That they shall make nothing of the opposition that is given to them, v. 10. Do the distressed Jews depend upon their great men to make a stand, and with their wisdom and courage to give check to the victorious arms of the Chaldeans? Alas! they will make nothing of them. They shall scoff (he shall, so it is in the original, meaning Nebuchadnezzar, who being puffed up with his successes, shall scoff) at the kings and commanders of the forces that think to make head against him; and the princes shall be a scorn to them, so unequal a match shall they appear to be. Do they depend upon their garrisons and fortified towns? He shall deride every stronghold, for to him it shall be weak, and he shall heap dust, and take it; a little soil, thrown up for ramparts, shall serve to give him all the advantage against them that he can desire; he shall make but a jest of them, and a sport of taking them.
      • (5.) By all this he shall be puffed up with an intolerable pride, which shall be his destruction (v. 11): Then shall his mind change for the worse. The spirit both of the people and of the king shall grow more haughty and insolent. Those that will not be content with their own rights will not be content when they have made themselves masters of other people's rights too; but as the condition rises the mind rises too. This victorious king shall pass over all the bounds of reason, equity, and modesty, and break through all their bonds, and thereby he shall offend, shall make God his enemy, and so prepare ruin for himself by imputing this his power to his god, whereas he had it from the God of Israel. Bel and Nebo were the gods of the Chaldeans, and to them they gave the glory of their successes; they were hardened in their idolatry, and blasphemously argued that because they had conquered Israel their gods were too strong for the God of Israel. Note, It is a great offence (and the common offence of proud people) to take that glory to ourselves, or to give it to gods of our own making, which is due to the living and true God only. These closing words of the sentence give a glimpse of comfort to the afflicted people of God; it is to be hoped that they will change their minds, and grow better, and ripen for deliverance; and they did so. However, their enemies will change their minds, and grow worse, and ripen for destruction, which will inevitably come in God's due time; for a haughty spirit, lifted up against God, goes before a fall.

Hab 1:12-17

The prophet, having received of the Lord that which he was to deliver to the people, now turns to God, and again addresses himself to him for the ease of his own mind under the burden which he saw. And still he is full of complaints. If he look about him, he sees nothing but violence done by Israel; if he look before him, he sees nothing but violence done against Israel; and it is hard to say which is the more melancholy sight. His thoughts of both he pours out before the Lord. It is our duty to be affected both with the iniquities and with the calamities of the church of God and of the times and places wherein we live; but we must take heed lest we grow peevish in our resentments, and carry them too far, so as to entertain any hard thoughts of God, or lose the comfort of our communion with him. The world is bad, and always was so, and will be so; it is out of our power to mend it; but we are sure that God governs the world, and will bring glory to himself out of all, and therefore we must resolve to make the best of it, must be ourselves better, and long for the better world. The prospect of the prevalence of the Chaldeans drives the prophet to his knees, and he takes the liberty to plead with God concerning it. In his plea we may observe,

  • I. The truths which he lays down, which he resolves to abide by, and with which he endeavours to comfort himself and his friends, under the growing threatening power of the Chaldeans; and they will furnish us with pleasing considerations for our support in the like case.
    • 1. However it be, yet God is the Lord our God, and our Holy One. The victorious Chaldeans impute their power to their idols, but we are taught to tell them that the God of Israel is the true God, the living God,Jer. 10:10, 11.
      • (1.) He is Jehovah, the fountain of all being, power, and perfection. Our rock is not as theirs.
      • (2.) "He is my God." He speaks in the people's name; every Israelite may say, "He is mine. Though we are thus sore broken, and all this has come upon us, yet have we not forgotten the name of our God, nor quitted our relation to him, yet have we not disowned him, nor hath he disowned us, Ps. 44:17. We are an offending people; he is an offended God; yet he is ours, and we will not entertain any hard thoughts of him, nor of his service, for all this."
      • (3.) "He is my Holy One." This intimates that the prophet loved God as a holy God, loved him for the sake of his holiness. "He is mine because he is a Holy One; and therefore he will be my sanctifier and my Saviour, because he is my Holy One. Men are unholy, but my God is holy."
    • 2. Our God is from everlasting. This he pleads with him: Art thou not from everlasting, O Lord my God? It is matter of great and continual comfort to God's people, under the troubles of this present life, that their God is from everlasting. This intimates,
      • (1.) The eternity of his nature; if he is from everlasting, he will be to everlasting, and we must have recourse to this first principle, when things seen, which are temporal, are discouraging, that we have hope and help sufficient in a god that is not seen, that is eternal. "Art thou not from everlasting, and then wilt thou not make bare thy everlasting arm, in pursuance of thy everlasting counsels, to make unto thyself an everlasting name?"
      • (2.) The antiquity of his covenant: "Art thou not from of old, a God in covenant with thy people" (so some understand it), "and hast thou not done great things for them in the days of old, which we have heard with our ears, and which our fathers have told us of; and art thou not the same God still that thou ever wast? Thou art God, and changest not."
    • 3. While the world stands God will have a church in it. Thou art from everlasting, and then we shall not die. The Israel of God shall not be extirpated, nor the name of Israel blotted out, though it may sometimes seem to be very near it; like the apostles (2 Co. 6:9), chastened, and not killed; chastened sorely, but not delivered over to death,Ps. 118:18. See how the prophet infers the perpetuity of the church from the eternity of God; for Christ has said, Because I live, and therefore as long as I live, you shall live also,Jn. 14:19. He is the rock on which the church is so firmly built that the gates of hell shall not, cannot, prevail against it. We shall not die.
    • 4. Whatever the enemies of the church may do against her, it is according to the counsel of God, and is designed and directed for wise and holy ends: Thou hast ordained them; thou hast established them. It was God that gave the Chaldeans their power, made them a formidable people, and in his counsel determined what they should do, nor had they any power against his Israel but what was given them from above. He gave them their commission to take the spoil and to take the prey,Isa. 10:6. Herein God appears a mighty God, that the power of mighty men is derived from him, depends upon him, and is under his check; he says concerning it, Hitherto shall it come, and no further. Those whom God ordains shall do no more than what God has ordained, which is a great comfort to God's suffering people. Men are God's hand, the rod in his hand, Ps. 17:14. And he has ordained them for judgment, and for correction. God's people need correction, and deserve it; they must expect it; they shall have it; when wicked men are let loose against them, it is not for their destruction, that they may be ruined, but for their correction, that they may be reformed; they are not intended for a sword, to cut them off, but for a rod, to drive out the foolishness that is found in their hearts, though they mean not so, neither does their heart think so,Isa. 10:7. Note, It is matter of great comfort to us, in reference to the troubles and afflictions of the church, that, whatever mischief men design to them, God designs to bring good out of them, and we are sure that his counsel shall stand.
    • 5. Though the wickedness of the wicked may prosper for a while, yet God is a holy God, and does not approve of that wickedness (v. 13): Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil. The prophet, observing how very vicious and impious the Chaldeans were, and yet what great success they had against God's Israel, found a temptation arising from it to say that it was vain to serve God, and that it was indifferent to him what men were. But he soon suppresses the thought, by having recourse to his first principle, That God is not, that he cannot be, the author or patron of sin; as he cannot do iniquity himself, so he is of purer eyes than to behold it with any allowance or approbation; no, it is that abominable thing which the Lord hates. He sees all the sin that is committed in the world, and it is an offence to him, it is odious in his eyes, and those that commit it are thereby made obnoxious to his justice. There is in the nature of God an antipathy to those dispositions and practices that are contrary to his holy law; and, though an expedient is happily found out for his being reconciled to sinners, yet he never will, nor can, be reconciled to sin. And this principle we must resolve to abide by, though the dispensations of his providence may for a time, and in some instances, seem to be inconsistent with it. Note, God's connivance at sin must never be interpreted into a giving countenance to it; for he is not a God that has pleasure in wickedness,Ps. 5:4, 5. The iniquity which, it is here said, God does not look upon, may be meant especially of the mischief done to God's people by their persecutors; though God sees cause to permit it, yet he does not approve of it; so it agrees with that of Balaam (Num. 23:21), He has not beheld iniquity against Jacob, nor seen, with allowance, perverseness against Israel, which is very comfortable to the people of God, in their afflictions by the rage of men, that they cannot infer God's anger from it; though the instruments of their trouble hate them, it does not therefore follow that God does; nay, he loves them, and it is in love that he corrects them.
  • II. The grievances he complains of, and finds hard to reconcile with these truths: "Since we are sure that thou art a holy God, why have atheists temptation given them to question whether thou art so or no? Wherefore lookest thou upon the Chaldeans that deal treacherously with thy people, and givest them success in their attempts upon us? Why dost thou suffer thy sworn enemies, who blaspheme thy name, to deal thus cruelly, thus perfidiously, with thy sworn subjects, who desire to fear thy name? What shall we say to this?" This was a temptation to Job (ch. 21:7; 24:1), to David (Ps. 73:2, 3), to Jeremiah, ch. 12:1, 2.
    • 1. That God permitted sin, and was patient with the sinners. He looked upon them; he saw all their wicked doings and designs, and did not restrain nor punish them, but suffered them to speed in their purposes, to go on and prosper, and to carry all before them. Nay, his looking upon them intimates that he not only gave them no check or rebuke, but that he gave them encouragement and assistance, as if he smiled upon them and favoured them. He held his tongue when they went on in their wicked courses, said nothing against them, gave no orders to stop them. These things thou hast done, and I kept silence.
    • 2. That his patience was abused, and, because sentence against these evil works and workers was not executed speedily, therefore their hearts were the more fully set in them to do evil.
      • (1.) They were false and deceitful, and there was no credit to be given them, nor any confidence to be put in them. They deal treacherously; under colour of peace and friendship, they prosecute and execute the most mischievous designs, and make no conscience of their word in any thing.
      • (2.) They hated and persecuted men because they were better than themselves, as Cain hated Abel because his own works were evil and his brother's righteous. The wicked devours the man that is more righteous than he, for that very reason, because he shames him; they have an ill will to the image of God, and therefore devour good men, because they bear that image. Though many of the Jews were as bad as the Chaldeans themselves, and worse, yet there were those among them that were much more righteous, and yet were devoured by them.
      • (3.) They made no more of killing men that of catching fish. The prophet complains that, Providence having delivered up the weaker to be prey to the stronger, they were, in effect, made as the fishes of the sea,v. 14. So they had been among themselves, preying upon one another as the greater fishes do upon the less (v. 3), and they were made so to the common enemy. They were as the creeping things, or swimming things (for the word is used for fish,Gen. 1:20), that have no ruler over them, either to restrain them from devouring one another or to protect them from being devoured by their enemies. They are given up to the Chaldeans as fish to the fishermen. Those proud oppressors make no conscience of killing them, any more than men do of pulling fish out of the water, so small account do they make of human lives. They make no difficulty of killing them, but do it with as much ease as men catch fish, that make no resistance, but are unguarded and unarmed, and it is rather a pastime than any pains to take them. They make no distinction among them, but all is fish that comes to their net; and they reckon every thing their own that they can lay their hands on. They have various ways of spoiling and destroying, as men have of taking fish. Some they take up with the angle (v. 15), one by one; others they catch in shoals, and by wholesale, in their net, and gather them in their drag, their enclosing net. Such variety of methods have they to destroy those by whom they hope to enrich themselves.
      • (4.) They gloried in what they got, and pleased themselves with it, though it was got dishonestly: Their portion is fat, and their meat plenteous; they prosper in their oppression and fraud; they have a great deal, and it is of the best; their land is good, and they have abundance of it. And therefore,
        • [1.] They have great complacency in themselves, and are very pleasant; they live merrily (v. 15): Therefore they rejoice and are glad, because their wealth is great, and their projects succeed for the increase of it, Job 31:25. Soul, take thy ease,Lu. 12:19.
        • [2.] They have a great conceit of themselves, and are great admirers of their own ingenuity and management: They sacrifice to their own net, and burn incense to their own drag; they applaud themselves for having got so much money, though ever so dishonestly. Note, There is a proneness in us to take the glory of our outward prosperity to ourselves, and to say, My might, and the power of my hands, have gotten me this wealth,Deu. 8:17. This is idolizing ourselves, sacrificing to the dragnet, because it is our own, which is as absurd a piece of idolatry as sacrificing to Neptune or Dagon. That which makes them adore their net thus is because by it their portion is fat. Those that make a god of their money will make a god of their drag-net, if they can but get money by it.
  • III. The prophet, in the close, humbly expresses his hope that God will not suffer these destroyers of mankind always to go on and prosper thus, and expostulates with God concerning it (v. 17): "Shall they therefore empty their net? Shall they enrich themselves, and fill their own vessels, with that which they have by violence and oppression taken away from their neighbours? Shall they empty their net of what they have caught, that they may cast it into the sea again, to catch more? And wilt thou suffer them to proceed in this wicked course? Shall they not spare continually to slay the nations? Must the numbers and wealth of nations be sacrificed to their net? As if it were a small thing to rob men of their estates, shall they rob God of his glory? Is not God the king of nations, and will he not assert their injured rights? Is he not jealous for his own honour, and will he not maintain that?" The prophet lodges the matter in God's hand, and leaves it with him, as the psalmist does. Ps. 74:22, Arise, O God! Plead thy own cause.

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Best Resources on Habakkuk

The book of Habakkuk examines injustice from the experience of a righteous person crying out to God for a remedy. God responds to the prophet: Be patient, observant, and steady in your faith, for my judgment will happen at the appointed time. God’s response allows Habakkuk to rejoice in God’s saving power—even while struggling with a question that every generation asks: Why is evil allowed to thrive? The answer is profound yet difficult: Trust God because He is both powerful and just.

Faithlife Study Bible, Lexham Press

O. Palmer Robertson, New International Commentary on the Old Testament (NICOT), Eerdmans, 1990, 384 pp.

In this commentary, Robertson combines the insights of biblical theology with a keen awareness of the age in which we live. After first dealing with the relevant background issues of Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah—redemptive-historical setting, theological perspective, date and authorship, and so on—Robertson applies the care and precision of an exegete and the concern of a pastor to his verse-by-verse exposition of each book. The result is a relevant confrontation with the ancient call to repentance and faith—a confrontation greatly needed in today’s world.

  • Level: Intermediate
  • Type: Expository

Kenneth L. Barker and Waylon Bailey, New American Commentary (NAC), B&H, 1999, 320 pp.

There are all kinds of evil that permeate this world. During Old Testament times, God sent his prophets to speak against this evil. These books also show us how God deals with wickedness but also makes glad the hearts who trust in him. The goal of this commentary is for the reader to see the parts (each verse) as well as the whole (the passage).

  • Level: Intermediate
  • Type: Expository

James K. Bruckner, NIV Application Commentary (NIVAC), Zondervan, 2004, 368 pp.

The prophetic books of Jonah, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah are brief but powerful. They comfort us with the assurance that, when nothing in this life makes sense, God is still in control. They toughen our faith in the face of the world’s ugly realities. And they reveal the complexities of humans in relation to God. Jonah ran from his divine commission. Habakkuk questioned God concerning his ways. Repenting under Jonah’s message, the city of Nineveh ultimately backslid and reaped the doom prophesied by Nahum. And Zephaniah’s remnant depicts a faith that remains faithful. We needn’t look too hard to find our own world and concerns mirrored in these books.

  • Level: Intermediate
  • Type: Devotional

David W. Baker, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (TOTC), InterVarsity Press, 1988, 98 pp.

Nahum’s prophecy of Nineveh’s coming destruction. Habakkuk’s probing dialogue with the Lord of Israel. Zephaniah’s warning to Jerusalem’s last great king. The texts of these minor but important prophets receive a fresh and penetrating analysis in this introduction and commentary. David W. Baker considers each book’s historical setting, composition, structure, and authorship, as well as important themes and issues. Each book is then expounded passage by passage in the concise and informative style that has become the hallmark of the Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries.

  • Level: Basic
  • Type: Devotional

J. J. M. Roberts, Old Testament Library (OTL), Westminster John Knox Press, 1991, 224 pp.

This commentary builds on the work of previous scholarship and addresses contemporary issues. It gives serious attention to questions of textual criticism, philology, history, and Near Eastern backgrounds and is sensitive to the literary conventions characteristic of the prophetic literature of the Old Testament. The book is an earnest attempt to hear the message of the ancient prophets, a message that remains relevant today.

  • Level: Basic
  • Type: Devotional

See all commentaries on Habakkuk at

Best Books on Habakkuk

The Triumph of Faith in Habakkuk
The Triumph of Faith in Habakkuk

Donald E. Gowan offers new insights into what may be the Old Testament’s earliest treatment of the problem of suffering: the book of Habakkuk. “That small, obscure part of the Old Testament tucked away somewhere in the middle of the minor prophets,”—as Gowan put it—Habakkuk has been a middle child of too many Bible students’ non-attention. Yet Gowan makes no claim that this book should be more central than it has been. Instead, he shows his own personal, pastoral, and scholarly involvement with this powerful tract. After an introductory chapter, the author examines each of Habakkuk’s three sections. Gowan offers his own translation of the text, applying a critical approach and providing a decisive commentary.

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Sheffield Old Testament Guides: Zephaniah, Habakkuk and Joel
Sheffield Old Testament Guides: Zephaniah, Habakkuk and Joel

The author begins this guide with an introduction and explains that he presents these three prophetic books in what he believes to be their chronological sequence rather than canonical order. Part One examines the book of Zephaniah by describing the contents, portraying Zephaniah the person, explaining the historical background and criticisms, and illustrating the message of Zephaniah. Part Two is devoted to the book of Habakkuk, listing the contents, explaining the history of criticism of the book, illuminating the details of the prophet and his times, and analyzing the theology and function of the book. Part Three is a treatment of the book of Joel. Mason here presents the contents of the book of Joel, then discusses the various possible meanings of the plague of locusts which is such a prominent feature of Joel. He then looks at the questions of the unity and the dating of the book and its parallels with other Old Testament materials.

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A Handbook on the Book of Habakkuk
A Handbook on the Book of Habakkuk

What if you were responsible for translating God's Word into a language that never had a Bible before? Can you imagine the burden you would feel to do a good job? God takes his Word pretty seriously, and you would certainly do everything in your power to make sure that you were not putting words into God's mouth but that you were providing a text that clearly communicated God's Word as closely to the original as possible. This challenge to understand the heart of the original Scriptures to put the original text into a new language was the impetus for the United Bible Societies to create handbooks for Bible translators working on this very thing. The United Bible Societies' Handbook Series is a comprehensive verse-by-verse guide to understanding exactly what is being communicated by the author in the original Scriptures.

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Forms of the Old Testament Literature Series: Minor Prophets, Part 2 (FOTL)
Forms of the Old Testament Literature Series: Minor Prophets, Part 2 (FOTL)

In this volume, Floyd presents a complete form-critical analysis of the last six books in the Minor Prophets: Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. By looking carefully at the literary genre and internal structure of each book, Floyd uncovers the literary conventions that help shape the composition of these prophetic books in their final form. His approach yields fresh views of how the parts of each book fit together to make up the whole—particularly with respect to Nahum, Haggai, and Malachi—and provides a basis for reconsidering how each book is historically related to the time of the prophet for whom it is named. This work will be useful to scholars because it advances the discussion regarding the holistic reading of prophetic books and useful to pastors and students because it shows how analysis of literary form can lead to a more profound understanding of the messages of the Minor Prophets.

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Forms of the Old Testament Literature Series: Minor Prophets, Part 2 (FOTL)
Forms of the Old Testament Literature Series: Minor Prophets, Part 2 (FOTL)

In this volume, Floyd presents a complete form-critical analysis of the last six books in the Minor Prophets: Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. By looking carefully at the literary genre and internal structure of each book, Floyd uncovers the literary conventions that help shape the composition of these prophetic books in their final form. His approach yields fresh views of how the parts of each book fit together to make up the whole—particularly with respect to Nahum, Haggai, and Malachi—and provides a basis for reconsidering how each book is historically related to the time of the prophet for whom it is named. This work will be useful to scholars because it advances the discussion regarding the holistic reading of prophetic books and to pastors and students because it shows how analysis of literary form can lead to a more profound understanding of the messages of the Minor Prophets.

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See more books on Habakkuk

Best Courses on Habakkuk

Mobile Ed: OT204 Social World of the Old Testament (4 hour course)
Mobile Ed: OT204 Social World of the Old Testament (4 hour course)

In an age of international travel and migration, we’re familiar with people who look, sound, eat, and believe differently than we do. To become friends, it’s helpful to understand where they come from and how they do things differently, or the same, as we do. In the same way it is necessary to understand someone who comes from a different place than we do, how much more necessary is it to understand someone who is from not only a different geographical place but also a different time than we are? The Old Testament starts at the beginning of the world. This course will undertake the task of crossing the bridges of geography, climate, time, and a landscape unknown to us: ancient Israel. Throughout the course, David W. Baker will address aspects of life from our own culture and time, as well as family structure and societal systems from ancient Israelite life. As we Learn more about the social world of the Old Testament, we will be struck not only by our differences but also by our common humanity and that we share the same dreams, hopes, and fears as they did.

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Mobile Ed: BI205 Old Testament Exegesis: Understanding and Applying the Old Testament (15 hour course)
Mobile Ed: BI205 Old Testament Exegesis: Understanding and Applying the Old Testament (15 hour course)

Embark on a journey of OT Hebrew exegesis with Jason DeRouchie. The books of the OT were the only Scriptures Jesus had. It was books like Genesis, Deuteronomy, Isaiah, and Psalms that shaped Jesus’ upbringing and that guided his life in ministry as the Jewish Messiah. It was these Scriptures that Jesus identified as God’s Word and he considered to be authoritative; it was these Scriptures he believed called people to know and believe in God and guarded them against doctrinal error and hell. This course will give you the tools you need to access meaning in the OT, then apply it to your life. It will help you to grow in reading God’s living Word for depth and not just distance.

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Mobile Ed: OT203 Literary World of the Old Testament (6 hour course)
Mobile Ed: OT203 Literary World of the Old Testament (6 hour course)

Join David W. Baker on a whirlwind tour to explore the Old Testament from many different angles and how it relates to ancient Near Eastern literature. From creation accounts and stories of destruction to Wisdom Literature, discover different biblical literary genres that have parallels in ancient Near Eastern literature. Explore extrabiblical historical texts that mention key events and figures from the Old Testament. Understand how Israel fits into and is impacted by its ancient Near Eastern environment but also how it is separate and unique, mainly on a theological level but also by its distinct worldview.

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Mobile Ed: OT102 Introducing the Old Testament: Its Poetry and Prophecy (6 hour course)
Mobile Ed: OT102 Introducing the Old Testament: Its Poetry and Prophecy (6 hour course)

This course provides a practical foundation for reading the poetry and prophecy of the Old Testament. Dr. David Baker begins by discussing poetic writing in general, then the elements specific to both Hebrew and English poetry. Applying these elements to the text, he examines the content, structure, and themes of the Psalms, Proverbs, Lamentations, Job, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs. Dr. Baker then turns to the prophetic books, providing historical background, theological motifs, and the structure and content of specific books. He shows that these ancient messages remain relevant in modern life.

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Commentary on Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4

When have the sainted people to whom you preach ever heard a sermon based on God’s timeless word to Habakkuk? This week is their chance. Do not let them down.

The Message of the Book
When a lectionary-based pastor preaches on a book like Habakkuk, the challenge is really to preach the whole book, rather than just one passage. The reason for this is that the majority of faithful Christians do not know enough about the book to be able to contextualize a sermon on just a portion of the book.

So what is the message of the whole book? The message of Habakkuk can be summed up in the confession of faith that culminates this week’s lesson:  “the righteous live by their faith” (2:4). The challenge of preaching Habakkuk is unfolding the meaning of this confession. And the shape of the whole of the book provides an argument that defines who the righteous are and what faith in the one, living, true God looks like.

An aside:  As the scholar Jerome Creach has convincingly argued (see his book The Destiny of the Righteous in the Psalms), the term “righteous” is not first-and-foremost a moral term.  Rather, it is first of all a relational term.  The righteous are those who are dependent on God (and thus, because they know they are dependent, they trust in God’s laws and follow them). The wicked, on the other hand, feel free to violate God’s laws and their neighbor’s needs, because they do not rely on God.

The Shape of the Book(for more on this, see Richard Nysse’s fine article on Habakkuk at

1.  The book opens with a lament, which is the first portion of this week’s lesson.  In this lament, the prophet asks God why life inside of the kingdom of Judah is so unjust. The lament functions as a condemnation of God’s people, who have not lived up to the vocation of being the Lord’s people. The lament can be summarized in verse 4, which involves a pun on the important Hebrew term mishpat. Because the law depends on human agents to function well, the law has become slack. For this reason, “justice (mishpat) never prevails. The wicked surround the righteous–therefore judgment (mishpat) comes forth perverted.”
The term mishpat can mean either justice (the abstract concept) or judgment (a particular legal decision).  But because the wicked outmaneuver the righteous, the individual decisions (mishpat) actually create injustice (non-mishpat, so to speak).

The prophet’s lament is thus a condemnation of God’s people.

2.  The Lord then answer’s the prophet’s lament in 1:5-11. In this answer, the Lord says  in response to the people’s injustice, he is sending “the Chaldeans” (the Babylonians–the time period here is around 600 B.C.E.) as an act of judgment. It might be helpful to remind people at this point that the anger of God is not the opposite of God’s love, but an expression of God’s love. God punishes those who oppress because God loves the oppressed.

3.  The prophet responds to this message of judgment from God with a renewed lament (1:12-17). The gist of the renewed lament is:  “Wait a second, God, isn’t that worse?”  Habakkuk protests that God’s act of judgment is even more unjust than the injustice God is supposed to be punishing. After this second lament, Habakkuk vows to wait and hear “what he will answer concerning my complaint” (2:1).

4.  Habakkuk then receives a second answer from the Lord–an answer in which the Lord promises a vision (4:2). But the vision does not come right away. God promises that a vision will eventually come, but until the vision comes, God says, “The righteous live by their faith” (4:4). That is, to live as one of God’s righteous people means to live as those who have been promised a vision, but who have not yet received it.  Do not give up. Keep faith. It may seem that the vision is slow to come, but the righteous (those who rely on God) trust that the vision will come.

5.  The vision eventually comes in chapter 3.  And when it does come, it is terrifying (see 3:3-16). It is a vision of the advent of an unfathomably holy Lord, who will not be domesticated to human expectations!

6.  The book of Habakkuk then ends with a song of thanksgiving in response to this vision.  This song is a second picture of what the life of faith is like.  The righteous, because they rely on God, do not rejoice only when the barns are full, when the fields are teeming with live stock, and when the orchards blossom. Because the righteous rely on God, they trust in and rejoice in the Lord at all times:

       Though the fig tree does not blossom,
               and no fruit is on the vines;
       though the produce of the olive fails,
               and the fields yield no food;
       though the flock is cut off from the fold,
               and there is no herd in the stalls,
       yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
               I will exult in the God of my salvation.

An Old Testament Theology of the Cross
In essence, the book of Habakkuk proclaims an Old Testament version of the theology of the cross. It says God is not found only (or even primarily) in the high points.  Rather, God meets us in our suffering.

The book provides two pictures of the life of faith.  The first is that the righteous live now in light of the promise they have received. God has promised the vision.  We live now in full faith that it will come. Yes, when we look around now, we see a world in which all too often “the wicked surround the righteous.”  But we trust that God’s vision is coming.

The second picture of the life of faith is that of a soul rejoicing in God’s blessings, even when the barns, branches, and pastures are empty.  It is a picture of a heart that loves God, rather than merely in the blessings God gives–of a heart that rejoices in God the giver, rather than merely in the gifts of God.  It is a picture of one who knows life will inevitably bring low moments. And that these low moments are not signs that God has abandoned us. The righteous trust that God will in fact find us in our suffering.

One Hour. One Book: Habakkuk

The prophet Habakkuk lived at the end of the seventh century during the period of time when the Assyrian empire was faltering and the Babylonian empire was on the rise (625-605). He likely prophesied between 609 and 605, during the reign of the Judean king Jehoiakim in the last days of Assyria's long period of imperial dominance. The book of Habakkuk has a unique structure among the prophetic books with its inclusion of prophetic dialogues with God and its inclusion of a complete psalm. As his book reveals, Habakkuk understands why God is punishing his disobedient people, but he does not understand why God is using a wicked nation as his instrument of judgment. The book deals with this question and the required response of faithful trust in God. There are a number of helpful commentaries on the Book of Habakkuk, and the following are five of the best.


1. O. Palmer Robertson -- The Books of Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah (New International Commentary on the Old Testament, 1990).

Readers of this blog will notice that my top 5 suggestions for Habakkuk commentaries is identical to my top 5 suggestions for Nahum commentaries. As mentioned previously, Robertson is very helpful at explaining the larger theological themes found within these books. Highly recommended.


2.Thomas E. McComiskey -- The Minor Prophets (2009 [1992]).

The commentary on Habakkuk in this volume was written by F.F. Bruce, who is always insightful. The commentary is technical and requires some knowledge of Hebrew. It is very helpful.


3.David W. Baker -- Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 1988).

For those seeking an introductory level commentary on Habakkuk, the best one available is the volume in the Tyndale series by David W. Baker. Although very brief, it does communicate the main ideas very well.


4. Kenneth L. Barker and Waylon Bailey -- Micah Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah (New American Commentary, 1998).

At about the same level of difficulty as the NICOT volume, the volume in the NAC series by Barker and Bailey is also a helpful commentary. It is also just as accessible as the NICOT volume. It is not quite as helpful as the NICOT volume, however, on theological issues.


5. Ralph Smith-- Micah-Malachi (Word Biblical Commentary, 1984).

Ralph Smith's commentary on the last seven books of the Minor Prophets is not nearly as helpful as Douglas Stuart's commentary on the first five Minor Prophets in the same commentary series, but it is still worth consulting.

Runners Up:

There are a number of other helpful commentaries on the Book of Habakkuk. At an introductory level are the works by John Mackay, James Montgomery Boice, David Prior, and Walter Chantry. Pastors will find the NIVAC commentary by James Bruckner useful. At a more advanced level is the work by Francis Andersen.

Other "Top 5 Commentaries" blog posts:

OLD TESTAMENT:Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra & Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi

NEW TESTAMENT:The Gospel of Matthew, The Gospel of Mark, The Gospel of Luke, The Gospel of John, Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians & Philemon, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, The Pastoral Epistles, Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter & Jude, The Epistles of John, Revelation


Habakkuk commentary on

It is a very foolish fancy of some of the Jewish rabbin that this prophet was the son of the Shunamite woman that was at first miraculously given, and afterwards raised to life, by Elisha (2 Kgs. 4:18-37), as they say also that the prophet Jonah was the son of the widow of Zarephath, which Elijah raised to life. It is a more probable conjecture of their modern chronologers that he lived and prophesied in the reign of king Manasseh, when wickedness abounded, and destruction was hastening on, destruction by the Chaldeans, whom this prophet mentions as the instruments of God’s judgments; and Manasseh was himself carried to Babylon, as an earnest of what should come afterwards. In the apocryphal story of Bel and the Dragon mention is made of Habakkuk the prophet in the land of Judah, who was carried thence by an angel to Babylon, to feed Daniel in the den; those who give credit to that story take pains to reconcile our prophet’s living before the captivity, and foretelling it, with that. Huetius thinks that that was another of the same name, a prophet, this of the tribe of Simeon, that of Levi; others that he lived so long as to the end of that captivity, though he prophesied of it before it came. And some have imagined that Habakkuk’s feeding Daniel in the den is to be understood mystically, that Daniel then lived by faith, as Habakkuk had said the just should do; he was fed by that word, Hab. 2:4. The prophecy of this book is a mixture of the prophet’s addresses to God in the people’s name and to the people in God’s name; for it is the office of the prophet to carry messages both ways. We have in it a lively representation of the intercourse and communion between a gracious God and a gracious soul. The whole refers particularly to the invasion of the land of Judah by the Chaldeans, which brought spoil upon the people of God, a just punishment of the spoil they had been guilty of among themselves; but it is of general use, especially to help us through that great temptation with which good men have in all ages been exercised, arising from the power and prosperity of the wicked and the sufferings of the righteous by it.

Habakkuk Part 1

About Habakkuk


Do Not Be Afraid

Jesus said, ‘You will hear about wars and stories about wars. Be sure that this does not frighten you.’ (Matthew 24:6)


An EasyEnglish Bible Version and Commentary (1200 word vocabulary) on the Book of Habakkuk.

Gordon Churchyard

Words that are in boxes are from the Bible.


Habakkuk lived about 600 years *BC (*BC means ‘years Before Christ came to the earth’.) He lived in the country called Judah.

The country that ruled that part of the world until 612 *BC was Assyria. In 612 *BC a country called Babylon beat Assyria. Then the *Babylonians ruled that part of the world. Both the *Assyrians and the *Babylonians loved and obeyed false gods.

Habakkuk thought that the king and other leaders of the people of Judah did not rule well. Many leaders did bad things and nothing could stop them. These leaders did very cruel things to the people in Judah. We call this ‘oppression’.

These leaders did not obey the *covenant that they had with God. A *covenant is when two people or groups agree. Here the two are God and the people in Judah. God said that wanted to be kind to Judah’s people. They should love him and they should obey him. If they did that, he would be kind to them. But the leaders did not love and obey God. So, God said that he would *punish Judah’s people. *Punish means ‘hurt someone when they do something wrong’.

God chose the *Babylonians to *punish Judah. Since 625 *BC Babylon had become a powerful country. They destroyed many countries and, in 612 *BC, they destroyed Assyria. Then they destroyed Egypt in 605 *BC Later, in 586 *BC, they destroyed Judah also.

Habakkuk did not understand this. He knew that someone must *punish Judah. But he did not know why it should be the *Babylonians. The *Babylonians were very bad and cruel people. The *Babylonians loved and obeyed false gods.

In this translation, words in brackets … (…) … are not in the *Hebrew Bible. Habakkuk wrote his book in the *Hebrew language.

We know very little about Habakkuk. The name means ‘he who holds somebody close to him’. Bible students think that he lived about 600 *BC (*BC means ‘years Before Christ came to the earth’.)

This was a very important time in the history (or story) of the *Jews. After Kings Saul, David, Solomon and Rehoboam, their country became two countries. The north part was called Israel. The south part was called Judah. About 720 *BC the *Assyrians destroyed the north part. This was because Israel’s people did not obey God’s rules. But the south part did not think that this would happen to them. They too did not obey God’s rules. But Habakkuk said that it would happen. He was right. In 586 *BC the *Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem. They took the people away to Babylon. We call this ‘the *exile’.

Habakkuk had two problems:

1) In Judah, people did not obey God’s rules. Habakkuk did not understand why God did nothing to make them obey him (Habakkuk 1:2-4).

2) God told Habakkuk that he would do something. But Habakkuk did not understand how God could use *wicked people (like the *Babylonians) to *punish Judah’s people. Judah’s people were not as *wicked as the *Babylonians! (See Habakkuk 1:12-2:1.)

We still have these problems today. Many say that they are Christian. But they do not live like Christians. When we pray about this, nothing seems to happen.

So many people say that God is dead! But God is not dead! He is doing something. If we wait, we will see this. Sometimes he uses people that are not Christians. They can do his work for him. Or he brings good things from the bad things that people do. God still has authority! We must believe it. Even if it does not seem that he has. This is called ‘to live by *faith’. Habakkuk 2:4 says, ‘*righteous people will live by their *faith (in God)’.

This means two things:

·          they will continue to believe all through their lives that God will give them help;

·          after they die on this earth, they will live with God.

Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11 and Hebrews 10:37-38 tell us more about living by *faith.

At the end of his book, Habakkuk writes a psalm. A psalm is a song with music. In it, he *praises God. He also says that whatever happens, he will still *praise God. That is the message of Habakkuk to us: Whatever happens, *praise God!

v1 (These are) the important words that Habakkuk the *prophet received (from God).

(Habakkuk has a problem.)

v2 *LORD, how long must I cry to you for help and you will not listen? (How long) must I shout aloud to you, ‘*Violence!’ and you do not make us safe?

v3 Why do you make me see things that are not right? Why do you let (people do) what is wrong? (People) destroy (things) and there is *violence everywhere. People argue and fight a lot.

v4 So the *law can do nothing and *justice never wins. There is a circle of very, very bad people round the *righteous people and *justice becomes turned round.

(The *LORD answers.)

v5 ‘Look at (all) the countries and watch. You will become very, very surprised because I will do something in your *lifetime. And you will not believe it. (You will not believe it) even when I tell you about it!

v6 I will make the *Babylonians strong. They will be cruel and they will do things fast (and without thought). They will go across the whole earth. And they will take homes that are not theirs.

v7 People will be afraid of (the *Babylonians). They will really frighten people. (The *Babylonians) will make their own rules and they will write their own *laws.

v8 Their horses will run faster than *leopards. And they (the *Babylonians) will be more cruel than *wolves in the night. Their men on horses will ride fast (and they will frighten people). The riders on horses will come from far away. They will fly as *vultures that hurry to eat (something).

v9 They will all come for *violence. Large crowds of them will come as a wind in the sandy places. They will put (as many) people into prison as (there are bits of) sand (in these places).

v10 They will say things about kings that are not kind. And they will laugh at the leaders (of the people). They will know that city walls will not keep them out. They will build earth as high as the walls and they will take (each city).

v11 Then they will rush past like the wind and they will go on (to somewhere else). They will think that their own god has made them strong.’

(Habakkuk has another problem.)

v12 *LORD, you have always been alive. (You are) my God. (You are) my *Holy God. (So) we will not die. *LORD, you have given (the *Babylonians) a job. It is to bring (us) *justice. And you, (our) Rock, have sent them to *punish us.

v13 (But) your eyes are too *holy to look at very bad (men). You cannot look at anything that is wrong. So why do you let these bad men (live)? Why do you say nothing? These bad people are killing those who are better than them.

v14 And you have made people like fish in the sea. (You have made them) like animals that move with no rulers.

v15 (The *Babylonians) will catch all of them, with the *hooks that they use to fish with. They will catch them in their fishing *nets and they will put them in their special holding *nets. This makes them (the *Babylonians) very happy and full of pleasure.

v16 So they make *sacrifices to their *nets and they burn *incense to their special holding *nets. (They do that) because their *nets give them a good life. And so they have the best food.

v17 So will they empty their *nets always? Will they destroy countries without *mercy?

Verses 2-4 The *prophet is writing about what happens in his own country. There is *violence. And the *law cannot do anything to stop it. More than this, ‘*justice becomes turned round’. This means that people can do wrong things. But they make it seem like they are doing good things.

Verse 5-11 The *LORD says that he will do something. He will *punish his people in Judah. But he will use the *Babylonians to do it! This will surprise people like Habakkuk. It will surprise them because the *Babylonians have false gods. They are *wicked people.

There is a lot of sand in the *desert. So verse 9 means that they will put a lot of people into prison.

Verse 12–2:1 Habakkuk shows his surprise. Surely God cannot use people like the *Babylonians! God is *holy and clean and *righteous! Surely he cannot even look at these *wicked people! The *prophet says that he will watch for the answer. He will stand on something high, like the walls of the city (of Jerusalem) or one of its *towers. A *tower is a high building.

v1 I will stand and I will watch. I will stay on the walls (of the city). I will look to see what (God) will say to me. And I will see what answer I will have for my problem.

(The *LORD answers.)

v2 Then the *LORD replied to me. And he said, ‘Write down what I will show you. Make it very clear on (the page) where you write it. Then the runner can tell (people) all about it.

v3 What I will show you must wait for the proper time. But at that time, it will happen. It will happen as I have said. It may not happen for a long time but wait for it. It will certainly happen and it will not be late.

v4 Look (at the *Babylonians). They are *proud. The things that they want are not good. But *righteous people will live by their *faith (in God).

v5 And also, *wine will destroy (Babylon). Yes, they are *proud and they never stop taking things (from people). They never have enough, as *Sheol and death (never have enough). They take people from all countries for themselves and they take people from everywhere.

v6 (The people in all these countries) will make up a song against it (Babylon). They will laugh at it and they will say bad things about it. They will say, “Some people rob other people. And they keep what they take. A sad time will come to those people. Some people get a lot of money by the very bad things that they do. (A sad time will come) to those people. They will not always be able to do this.”

v7 The people that you have taken things from will wake up. It will happen when you are not thinking about it! They will get up and they will make you afraid. Then you will be the people that they will rob!

v8 You have robbed many countries. So the people that remain will rob you. That is because you have killed people. And you have destroyed their towns and their lands. You have killed everyone that lived there.

v9 Some people get things for themselves by ways that are not honest. A sad time will come to those people. You build your homes high up so that nobody can take you to do bad things to you.

v10 You decided to kill the people from many countries. Because of this, you will be ashamed. And you will pay with your own life.

v11 Even the stones in the walls will cry. The beams that you made from wood will do it as well.

v12 A man might build a city by killing people. A man might make a town great because he has been very bad. A sad time will come to that man.

v13 The work that people do will go into the fire. The *LORD of everything has decided that it will. People in many countries will make themselves tired for nothing!

v14 But the earth will become filled with (people that) know about the *glory of the *LORD. This will be as the waters cover the sea.

v15 A sad time will come to him that gives (strong) drink to his neighbours (people that live near him). He pours out *wine until they are drunk. Then he looks at them when they have no clothes on!

v16 You will be really ashamed. Nobody will think that you are great. Then you will drink and people will see you with no clothes on! The cup in the *LORD’s right hand will come round to you. You will be ashamed. You will not remain great.

v17 The *violence that you did to Lebanon will pour over you. You will be very frightened because you killed animals. And you have killed people. And you have destroyed their towns and their lands. You have also killed everyone who lived there.

v18 An *idol is of no value. It was a man that made it! It is a copy (of a false god). It teaches (that man) things that are not true. (This is) because he is *trusting his own work. He has made *idols that cannot speak!

v19 It will be very bad for someone who says to a piece of wood, “Wake up!” He says to a stone that cannot speak, “Get up and be my guide!” Look at it (the *idol). It has gold and *silver over it but it is not alive.

v20 But the *LORD (is) in his *holy *temple. Everything in the world should be quiet in front of him.’

Verses 2-20 The *LORD says that someone will destroy Babylon. In verse 5 we read, ‘*wine will destroy Babylon’. The Book of Daniel tells us that this really happened (Daniel chapter 5), about 70 years later! God may use *wicked people. But he makes sure that someone destroys their country later.

Sometimes we see God use *wicked people. Then we must wait for someone to *punish them. It always happens because God has authority!

‘*Sheol and death never have enough’ in verse 5 means that people are always dying.

In this part of the book, we find 5 things that bad people (and bad countries) do:

·          they rob other people, verse 6

·          they are not honest, verse 9

·          they kill people, verse 12

·          many people become drunk, verse 15

·          they have false gods, verse 18

People that do not obey God still do these things. So God will still *punish them. He may still use *wicked people to do it. But later, he will *punish those *wicked people. If we wait long enough, it will happen! We must be quiet until this happens. That is what verse 20 means.

v1 (These are) the words that the *prophet Habakkuk prayed. (He used music called) Shigionoth.

v2 *LORD, I have heard (what people) say about you. I see the things that you have done, *LORD. Then I am afraid. (But) do them again now. Make people know (what you can do) in our *lifetime. You are angry, (but still) remember *mercy!

v3 God came from Teman. The *Holy One came from the mountain (called) Paran.


His *glory covered the skies and his *praise filled the earth.

v4 He was as bright as the sunrise. Light fell from his hands, where he hid his great power.

v5 *Plague went in front of him and *pestilence followed his feet.

v6 (God) stood and he made the earth *shake. He looked and countries were afraid. Old mountains broke into rocks and very old hills fell down. This always happens everywhere that he goes!

v7 I saw the places where Cushan lived. They were not happy. The houses of Midian were afraid.

v8 Surely you were not angry with the streams and rivers, *LORD! Surely you were not angry with the sea when you rode (through it) with horses and *chariots! You did this to win the fight.

v9 You showed (people) your bow and you got many *arrows.


You cut the earth into pieces with rivers.

v10 The mountains saw you and they *shook. Deep waters moved very fast. The sea made a loud noise and it lifted its waters high.

v11 The sun and the moon stopped moving in the skies. The light from your *arrows that were flying past (stopped them). So (also) did the light from your shining *spear.

v12 You marched through the country because you were angry. Because you were so angry, you hit (many) countries with your stick.

v13 You went out to make your people safe. You went out to save your *messiah. You beat the leader of the *wicked country. You took away his clothes from head to foot.


v14 You pushed your own *spear into his head. (You did this) when his soldiers came out to fight us. They were laughing when they came out to kill the poor people. The poor people were hiding from them.

v15 You marched through the sea with your horses. You *shook the waters.

v16 I listened and my heart was afraid. My lips *shook at the sound. My bones began to fall into pieces. My legs would not stop moving. But I will be patient. And I will wait for the very bad days that will come. They will come to the people that are attacking us.

v17 There may be:

·        no flowers on the *fig tree

·        no fruit on the *vines

·        nothing on the trees that have fruits called olives

·        no food in the fields

·        no sheep in the hills

·        no cows on the farms

v18 But I will still sing *praises to the *LORD! I will be happy with the God that makes me safe.

v19 The *LORD, who is my master, will make me safe. He makes my feet as the feet of a *deer so that I can climb mountains.

The music leader must use stringed instruments (things that make music).

The book ends with a psalm (a song with music)! Habakkuk may have worked with one of the music groups in the *temple in Jerusalem. He tells them what music to use, and what *musical instruments, (verses 1 and 19).

The psalm remembers what God did. He led his people out of Egypt. That was 800 years before Habakkuk. If God did great things then, he can do great things now! (That is still true for us.)

The *plagues and *pestilences in verse 5 are what happened to the *Egyptians. This was when they did not obey God.

The sea in verses 8 and 10 was the Red Sea. God led his people through it, and they did not even get their feet wet! Verses 6-12 describe a great storm.

The ‘leader of the *wicked country’ in verse 13 was Pharaoh, King of Egypt.

All this makes Habakkuk afraid, verse 16. But he says this: Whatever happens he will still *praise the *LORD (verse 17).

He knows that God is still in authority! That is why he can still *praise God. Even when times are bad, he will be like an animal. This animal can climb mountains with no difficulty! The animal is called the deer.

1. If you have a Bible, read Psalm 73. (It is the first Psalm in Book 3 of The Psalms.)

2. When there is war, pray to God about it. Tell him that you still have *faith in him. And look for what God is doing.

arrows ~ sharp sticks that people shoot with bows.

Assyrians ~ these people came from the country called Assyria.

BC ~ BC means ‘years Before Christ came to the earth’.

Babylonians ~ these people came from the country called Babylon.

chariot ~ soldiers rode in chariots when they went to war; horses pulled the chariots.

covenant ~ when two people or groups make promises to each other.

deer ~ an animal that looks like a small cow.

desert ~ land full of sand; it is so dry that not many plants grow there.

Egyptians ~ these people came from the country called Egypt.

exile ~ away from your own country.

faith in God ~ to believe that God will give you help and he will make you safe.

fig ~ a fruit.

glory ~ it shines very much and it makes you important.

Hebrew ~ the language that the *Jews spoke.

holy ~ very, very good; only God is really holy.

Holy One ~ a name for God.

hook ~ bit of metal that someone bent, to catch fish.

idol ~ a false god.

incense ~ something that gives a sweet smell when it burns. The *Jews used it to show their love to God in the temple in Jerusalem.

Jew ~ a person who is born from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their children.

justice ~ when people do what is right.

law ~ the rules of a country or God’s rules for men and women.

leopard ~ a very big cat that can run very fast.

lifetime ~ as long as someone lives.

LORD ~ a special name for God that only his servants should use.

mercy ~ to be kind to people when you do not have to be kind.

messiah ~ in the *New Testament, Jesus; in the *Old Testament, the king. They caused someone to become king by putting oil on his head. The word messiah is *Hebrew for ‘oil put on’.

musical instrument ~ something that makes music; you may hit it; you may blow in it or touch it.

net ~ bag with which people catch fish.

New Testament ~ the last part of the Bible, which the writers wrote after Christ’s birth.

Old Testament ~ the first part of the Bible, which the writers wrote before Christ’s birth.

pestilence ~ bad things that are happening (bad weather or when insects attack).

plague ~ when many people become ill.

praise ~ tell someone how great they are (or words that do it).

prophet ~ he or she says what God is saying; or he says what God will do.

proud ~ to think that you are important when perhaps you are not.

punish ~ hurt people because they have done bad things.

righteous ~ very, very good; only God is really righteous.

sacrifice ~ something that people burned for their gods; usually it was animals but sometimes it was food or people.

SELAH ~ a place to pray, or think; or a place to make music.

shake ~ move something fast from one side to another and back again many times.

Sheol ~ where *Old Testament people went when they died.

shook ~ past of *shake.

silver ~ a metal of great value, like gold.

spear ~ a long stick with a sharp end.

temple ~ God’s house in Jerusalem; or the house of any god.

tower ~ a tall building.

trust ~ believe that someone will be good to you; believe what someone says.

vine ~ a plant that grows a fruit called the grape.

violence ~ to be cruel and to hurt people a lot.

vulture ~ a big bird that eats dead animals.

wicked ~ very, very bad.

wine ~ a drink with alcohol in it; people make it from grapes (a fruit).

wolves (one is a wolf) ~ a wild animal that kills and eats other animals, including people.

© 2007-2020, MissionAssist

This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level A (1200 words)

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Habakkuk 1 – The Prophet’s Problem

A. The first problem: “How long, O LORD?”

1. (1) Habakkuk and his burden.

The burden which the prophet Habakkuk saw.

a. The prophet Habakkuk: We don’t know much about the prophet Habakkuk from any other book in the Bible. Since he prophesied the coming Babylonian army and its destruction of Judah, he prophesied some time before that invasion. Many think that Habakkuk ministered sometime during the reign of King Johoiakim, perhaps around the year 607 B.C.

i. It’s hard to say with certainty when Habakkuk prophesied. Since he speaks of God raising up the Babylonians (Habakkuk 1:6), we can guess that he wrote in the 25-year period between the time when Babylon conquered Nineveh and the Assyrian Empire (612 B.C.) and the time when Babylon conquered Jerusalem (587 B.C.).

ii. We don’t know how old Habakkuk was when he gave this prophecy, but it is likely that he lived during the time of godly king Josiah (640 to 609 B.C.) and then gave this prophecy during the reign of one of Josiah’s successors. Habakkuk knew what it was like to live during a time of revival, and then to see God’s people and the nation slip into lethargy and sin. “Habakkuk had a problem. He had lived through a period of national revival followed by a period of spiritual decline” (Boice).

b. The burden which the prophet Habakkuk saw: Habakkuk had a burden – not only in the sense of a message from God, but also in the sense of a heavy weight. It was heavy in its content, because Habakkuk announced coming judgment on Judah. It was also heavy in its source, because Habakkuk deals with tough questions he brings to God and God’s answer to those questions.

i. The name Habakkuk is derived from the Hebrew verb “embrace.” His name probably means, “He Who Embraces” or “He Who Clings.” It is an appropriate name for both the prophet and the book, because Habakkuk comes to a firm faith through grappling with tough questions.

ii. The prophet: “This title is rare in book headings (see Haggai 1:1; Zechariah 1:1), and is taken by some to indicate that Habakkuk was a professional prophet, one who earned his living serving as a prophet at the Temple or court, unlike Amos (cf. Amos 7:14)” (Baker).

2. (2-4) Habakkuk asks God why He seems to delay judgment.

O LORD, how long shall I cry,
And You will not hear?
Even cry out to You, “Violence!”
And You will not save.
Why do You show me iniquity,
And cause me to see trouble?
For plundering and violence are before me;
There is strife, and contention arises.
Therefore the law is powerless,
And justice never goes forth.
For the wicked surround the righteous;
Therefore perverse judgment proceeds.

a. Even cry out to You, “Violence” and You will not save: Habakkuk looked at the violence and injustice around him in the nation of Judah. He wondered where God was, and why God did not set things right.

b. Why do You show me iniquity, and cause me to see trouble? This was and is an excellent question. Why does God allow us to see iniquity and trouble, in our self or in others?

i. Why God allows us to see iniquity in our self:

· To keep us humble.

· To keep us submissive to Him in the hour of trouble.

· To make us value salvation all the more.

ii. Why God allows us to see iniquity in others:

· To show us what we might have been ourselves.

· To make us see the wickedness of sin, that we might pass by it and hate it, and not indulge in it ourselves.

· To make us admire the grace of God when He saves sinners.

· To set us more earnestly to work that God can use us to save others and extend God’s kingdom. “Ah, my brethren, we need to know more of the evil of men, to make us more earnest in seeking their salvation; for if there be anything in which the Church is lacking more than in any other matter, it is in the matter of earnestness” (Spurgeon).

c. Iniquity… trouble… plundering and violence… strife… contention… the law is powerless… justice never goes forth… perverse judgment proceeds: Habakkuk saw trouble and sin everywhere, from personal relationships to the courts of law. This distressed him so much that he cried out to God and asked God why He didn’t bring judgment and immediately correct things.

i. Habakkuk dealt with the questions that come up when someone really believes God, yet looks around and sees that the world doesn’t seem to match up with how God wants it. Habakkuk saw this – especially remembering the prior times of revival under King Josiah – and asked, “LORD, why are you allowing this?”

ii. “This prophecy deals with the problems created by faith; and with the Divine answers to the questions which express those problems.” (Morgan)

B. God’s answer to the first problem.

1. (5-6) God’s astounding work: bringing the Babylonians to judge Judah.

“Look among the nations and watch–
Be utterly astounded!
For I will work a work in your days
Which you would not believe,
Though it were told you.
For indeed I am raising up the Chaldeans,
A bitter and hasty nation
Which marches through the breadth of the earth,
To possess dwelling places that are not theirs.”

a. Be utterly astounded: God told the troubled prophet, “Don’t worry about it. Look at the surrounding nations and from them will come a nation that will be My instrument of judgment on sinful Judah.”

b. I will work a work in your days which you would not believe: We understand the idea of something “too good to be true,” but that isn’t what God meant here. This was something “too bad to be true,” a work of judgment so astounding that Habakkuk would have a hard time believing it.

c. I am raising up the Chaldeans: When the Babylonians (the Chaldeans) eventually came against Judah, they came as sent by the LORD. It wasn’t that they themselves did not want to come, but God allowed their sinful desire to conquer Judah to come to fruition. If God had not allowed them to do it, they never could have conquered Judah and exiled God’s people out of the Promised Land.

2. (7-11) The strength and speed of the Babylonian army.

“They are terrible and dreadful;
Their judgment and their dignity proceed from themselves.
Their horses also are swifter than leopards,
And more fierce than evening wolves.
Their chargers charge ahead;
Their cavalry comes from afar;
They fly as the eagle that hastens to eat.
They all come for violence;
Their faces are set like the east wind.
They gather captives like sand.
They scoff at kings,
And princes are scorned by them.
They deride every stronghold,
For they heap up earthen mounds and seize it.
Then his mind changes, and he transgresses;
He commits offense,
Ascribing this power to his god.”

a. They are terrible and dreadful: Habakkuk wondered where God’s judgment was against sinful Judah. The LORD told him that the judgment would indeed come, and when it came through the Babylonians it would be terrible and dreadful.

b. He commits offense, ascribing this power to his god: When the Babylonians would come and overwhelm the land of Judah, they would wrongly give the credit to their false gods. The LORD knew and said they would do this before it ever happened.

C. The second problem: “Why do it this way, O LORD?”

1. (12-17) Habakkuk wonders why God would use a nation more wicked than Judah to bring judgment on Judah.

Are You not from everlasting,
O LORD my God, my Holy One?
We shall not die.
O LORD, You have appointed them for judgment;
O Rock, You have marked them for correction.
You are of purer eyes than to behold evil,
And cannot look on wickedness.
Why do You look on those who deal treacherously,
And hold Your tongue when the wicked devours
A person more righteous than he?
Why do You make men like fish of the sea,
Like creeping things that have no ruler over them?
They take up all of them with a hook,
They catch them in their net,
And gather them in their dragnet.
Therefore they rejoice and are glad.
Therefore they sacrifice to their net,
And burn incense to their dragnet;
Because by them their share is sumptuous
And their food plentiful.
Shall they therefore empty their net,
And continue to slay nations without pity?

a. Why do You look on those who deal treacherously: Habakkuk was first troubled that there was no judgment against Judah; God answered by telling him judgment was on the way. Then Habakkuk was troubled by the agent of judgment, the Babylonians – who were an even more wicked people than the people of Judah.

i. It would be like crying out to God about the state of the church in America, and hearing God respond by saying, “I’ll fix the problem by a enemy invasion of America.” We might say, “Wait a minute LORD – the problem is bad, but Your cure is worse than the disease!”

ii. Some people face crisis times like this all the wrong way. They withdraw from the church and from fellowship and they pull back into a little spiritual corner. Others give up on God altogether. Lloyd-Jones guides us to a better response:

· Stop to think – before talking about it, think about it.

· Restate basic principles – As you think about the problem, don’t begin with the problem. Go back further to basic principles about God and His dealing with man.

· Apply the principles to the problem – now, think about your problem in light of these basic principles.

· Commit the matter to God in faith – whether you know what to do or not.

b. You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness: This is even more problematic to Habakkuk because he knew the character of God. Since he understood the holy character of God, he was more troubled than ever as to why God would judge wicked Judah by exalting even more wicked Babylon.

c. Shall they therefore empty their net, and continue to slay nations without pity? Habakkuk wondered how long God would allow the Babylonians to continue their cruel conquest of nations. It was as if God’s people were conquered as easily as fish in a net.

i. “Easily we are taken and destroyed. We have no leader to guide us, and no power to defend ourselves. Nebuchadnezzar is here represented as a fisherman, who is constantly casting nets into the sea, and enclosing multitudes of fishes; and being always successful, he sacrifices to his own net.” (Clarke)

2. (2:1) Habakkuk resolutely waits for God’s reply.

I will stand my watch
And set myself on the rampart,
And watch to see what He will say to me,
And what I will answer when I am corrected.

a. And watch to see what He will say to me: Habakkuk has raised two important questions to God, yet he asked both with a proper attitude. He anticipated an answer from God and was willing to watch – that is, wait for it. Often when we question God we don’t expect Him to answer, but Habakkuk did. Other times we not only expect God will answer, but we demand that He answer, and answer according to our schedule. Habakkuk approached this with the correct attitude.

i. “How often God’s answers come, and find us gone! We have waited for a while, and, thinking there was no answer, we have gone our way but as we have turned the first corner the post has come in. God’s ships touch at our wharves; but there is no one to unload them… It is not enough to direct your prayer unto God; look up, and look out, until the blessing alights on your head.” (Meyer)

b. And what I will answer when I am corrected: Habakkuk’s attitude was also right because he expected God to correct him. From this we see that Habakkuk didn’t ask God this question because he thought God was wrong and had to explain Himself. He asked it because he knew that he was wrong and he needed to be corrected. His questions were his invitation to God saying, “God, I don’t understand what you are doing, but I know that you are right in all things. Please speak to me and correct me.”

©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission


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