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Habakkuk 1:1-6, 11-13, 16-17 NOTES

Hab. 1:1-4; 2:1-4 - DONOVAN EXEGESIS:

CONTEXT:  The book of Habakkuk is composed of two complaints or laments by Habakkuk (1:2-4 and 1:12-17), two responses by Yahweh (1:5-11 and 2:2-20), and a psalm (chapter 3).

         The opening words of chapter 3 are, "A prayer of Habakkuk, the prophet, set to victorious music,"-which leads some scholars to believe that chapter 3 was added by another author later. The psalm of chapter 3 acknowledges Yahweh's great power, confesses fear at the prospect of the judgment that Yahweh has foretold, and promises to "rejoice in Yahweh" (3:18) even in the midst of terrible trouble.

The best clue we have to the time of Habakkuk's prophecy is the reference in 1:6 to the Chaldeans (also known as the Babylonians). In 626 B.C., Nabopolassar of Chaldea (the southern part of the Tigris-Euphrates region) revolted against Assyria (the northern part of the Tigris-Euphrates region) to capture the city of Babylon. He then defeated Assyria (612 B.C.) and Egypt (605 B.C), his two strongest rivals.

Nabopolassar's son, Nebuchadnezzar, attacked Jerusalem in 597 B.C. He sacked the city in 587 B.C., killing thousands, and taking most of the rest into exile. The Babylonians remained in power until they were defeated by Cyrus of Persia in 539 B.C. Cyrus allowed the Jewish exiles to return to Jerusalem and to rebuild the temple.

Habakkuk probably served as a prophet sometime after the death of the good King Josiah in 609 B.C. and prior to the sack of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. His prophecy is directed at Judah (the southern kingdom), because Israel (the northern kingdom) had been crushed by Assyria and had long since ceased to exist as an autonomous nation.


1 The pronouncement (Heb. massa)  which Habakkuk the prophet saw: 2 How long, Lord, have I called for help, And You do not hear?  I cry out to You, "Violence!"  Yet You do not save.  3 Why do You make me see disaster, And make me look at destitution?  Yes, devastation and violence are before me; Strife exists and contention arises.  4 Therefore the Law is ignored, And justice is never upheld.  For the wicked surround the righteous; Therefore justice comes out confused.

 "The oracle (massa) which Habakkuk the prophet saw" (v. 1). The word massa can mean either oracle or burden. Perhaps the meaning here is that Yahweh has burdened Habakkuk with the responsibility for seeing and promulgating an oracle (a wise saying).

This verse says that Habakkuk is a prophet. A prophet is an intermediary whose function is to proclaim the word of God. It is unusual for the superscription of a book of prophecy to identify the author as a prophet, although Haggai 1:1 and Zechariah 1:1 also do that.

"Yahweh (YHWH) how long will I cry, and you will not hear? I cry out to you "Violence!" and will you not save?" (v. 2). Verse 1 said that Habakkuk saw an oracle, so we would expect this verse to be the first part of that oracle. This verse, however, begins a lament-an expression of sorrow over a loss.

A lament might be inspired by any form of calamity, such as defeat in battle, exile, illness, or death. The purpose of the lament was typically to persuade God to provide relief from the calamitous circumstances.

This lament is inspired by violence. Has this violence been fomented by internal forces (Jewish leaders) or external forces (Babylonians). Either is possible:

  • The late King Josiah had found a copy of the law and had implemented a number of reforms to comply with the law. However, his son, Jehoiakim, who reigned from 609-598 B.C., abandoned the reforms begun by his father. The people of Judah are therefore suffering under evil leadership (2 Kings 23:37). Habakkuk might be protesting that Yahweh has neither listened to his people's cries for help nor exercised his power to save them from their leaders.
  • But Babylon has been exercising its considerable power to dominate and control Judah, so the violence of which Habakkuk speaks could be from Babylonia.

"Why do you show me iniquity, and look at perversity? For destruction and violence are before me. There is strife, and contention rises up" (v. 3). The prophet uses three couplets-wrongdoing and trouble, destruction and violence, and strife and contention-to portray the problems that he has seen. He cannot understand why Yahweh has permitted these things-has failed to take action to stop them. He expresses the kind of outrage that we would feel if we were to see a police officer standing by, doing nothing, as a crime took place right in his presence.

"Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice (mis∙pat) never goes forth; for the wicked surround the righteous (seda·qa); therefore justice (mis∙pat) goes forth perverted " (v. 4). Habakkuk portrays a scene resembling a courtroom where court officials no longer honor the law, but permit injustice to reign.

Justice (mis·pat) and righteousness (seda·qa) are related. Justice involves bringing people into a right relationship with Yahweh and each other, and these right relationships produce righteous lives. When justice is perverted, righteous people suffer.

God's law provides very specific guidance with regard to just behavior. It requires witnesses to be honest and impartial (Exodus 23:1-3, 6-8). It requires special consideration for widows, orphans, and other vulnerable people (Deuteronomy 24:17). While Israel is always tempted to define its service to God by the performance of cultic duties (ritual sacrifice, Sabbath observance, etc.), the prophets keep reminding them that justice is a basic duty of the faith community (Micah 6:8).

But the law has become slack so that the people whom it was designed to protect are suffering. Why is Yahweh allowing this to happen?


These verses are not in the lectionary, but the preacher needs to be aware of them. Verses 5-11 constitute Yahweh's response to Habakkuk's first complaint (1:2-4). Then Habakkuk issues a second complaint (1:12-17), which Yahweh will answer in chapter 2.


1  I will stand at my guard post And station myself on the watchtower; And I will keep watch to see what He will say to me, And how I may reply when I am reprimanded.  2 Then the Lord answered me and said, "Write down the vision And inscribe it clearly on tablets, So that one who reads it may run.  3 For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hurries toward the goal and it will not fail.  Though it delays, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay long.  4 "Behold, as for the impudent one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous one will live by his faith.

 "I will stand at my watch, and set myself on the ramparts, and will look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint" (v. 2.1). Habakkuk has made his point. Now he stands waiting, like a guard on the ramparts, to see how Yahweh will answer his complaints.

"Yahweh answered me, 'Write the vision, and make it plain on tablets, that he who runs may read it'" (v. 2). Yahweh orders Habakkuk to write his vision plainly on tablets. This is significant, because a written prophetic record, shared with others prior to its fulfillment, makes the prophecy testable against its subsequent fulfillment.

  • The Lord ordered Isaiah to write down prophecy "that it may be for the time to come forever and ever" (Isaiah 30:8; see also Isaiah 8:1, 16).
  • The Lord ordered Jeremiah to "take a scroll of a book, and write therein all the words that I have spoken to you against Israel, and against Judah, and against all the nations" (Jeremiah 36:2).
  • The Lord orders Habakkuk to write what he has seen on tablets. He is to write it plainly, which suggests both clear language and legible script. He is to make it so large and clear that a runner passing by can read it-a sort of mini-billboard.

"For the vision is yet for the appointed time, and it hurries toward the end, and won't prove false. Though it takes time, wait for it; because it will surely come. It won't delay" (v. 3). This is an eschatological vision-a vision to be realized in God's good time. To humans, God's time might seem slow, because "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (2 Peter 3:8). There is, therefore, a good deal of uncertainty regarding when the appointed time will come-but no uncertainty with regard to whether it will come.

"Behold, his soul is puffed up. (apal) It is not upright in him" (v. 4a). We are caught in a quandary here with regard to the issue of pride. We know that a certain kind of pride is helpful-the kind of pride that we might label self-confidence-the kind of pride that manifests itself as dignity. But we also know that pride can easily metastasize into something ugly-narcissism-vanity-conceit.  The Hebrew word that is translated "puffed up" here is apal, which suggests someone who is full of pride or presumptuous.

  • This kind of pride obstructs relationships with God, because the prideful person finds it difficult to imagine that his/her success is anything other than the result of his/her brilliance or hard work. He/she will find it difficult to comprehend that he/she should approach God on bended knee to give thanks for the gifts that God has provided.
  • This kind of pride also gets in the way of human relationships, because the prideful person preoccupation with self leaves little room for compassion or concern for others.

"but the righteous will live by his faith" (v. 4b). This phrase is quoted in three places in the New Testament, twice by the Apostle Paul (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11) and once by the author of Hebrews (10:38). It is one of the most important verses in the Old Testament because of its influence on the Apostle Paul-and later on Martin Luther.

  • The kind of faith indicated here is something more than the acknowledgement that God exists. It is the kind of faith that causes the believer to live by faith-to act in accordance with the believer's belief, even when that might not seem to serve his or her own self-interest. The person who possesses this kind of faith will be faithful even when times are tough-even when it seems that God is nowhere to be found. They do not require evidence of God's love, because they live by faith that God loves them.

Hab. 1:1-6, 11-13, 16-17 - T. Constable Exposition

l. HEADING 1:1: The pronouncement which Habakkuk the prophet saw: The writer described this book as an oracle that Habakkuk the prophet saw in a vision or dream. This burden (Heb. massa', something lifted up) was a message predicting judgment on Judah and Babylon. "Habakkuk's prophecy possesses a burdensome dimension from start to finish." [Note: Robertson, p. 135.]   We know nothing more about Habakkuk with certainty than that he was a prophet who also had the ability to write poetry (ch. 3).  "Like Haggai and Zechariah in the books that bear their names (Haggai 1:1; Zechariah 1:1) Habakkuk is called the prophet. This may mean that Habakkuk was a professional prophet on the temple staff . . ." [Note: F. F. Bruce, "Habakkuk," in The Minor Prophets, p. 842. Johannes Lindblom, Prophecy in Ancient Israel, pp. 208, 254, advanced this view. ]  These temple prophets led the people in worshipping God (cf. 1 Chronicles 25:1). [Note: On the subject of prophets who led the people in worship, see Aubrey R. Johnson, The Cultic Prophet in Ancient Israel.]  "One of the functions of temple prophets was to give responses to worshipers who came seeking divine guidance: when the problem was stated, the prophet inquired of God and obtained an answer." [Note: Bruce, p. 832.]

v. 2: How long, Lord, have I called for help, And You do not hear? I cry out to You, "Violence!"  Yet You do not save. - In prayer the prophet asked Yahweh "how long" would he have to call for help before the Lord responded (cf. Habakkuk 2:6; Exodus 16:28; Numbers 14:11). God hears all prayers because He is omniscient, but Habakkuk meant that God had not given evidence of hearing 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 (cf. Gen. 6:11; Gen. 6:13; Job 19:7). Normally where "justice" (Heb. mishpat) and "violence" (hamas) are in opposition in the Old Testament, as here, the wicked are Israelites unless they are clearly identified as being others (e.g., Exodus 23:1-9; Isaiah 5:7-15). God had apparently not heard, and He certainly had not helped the prophet.

A. Habakkuk's question about Judah 1:2-4

This section is a lament and is similar to many psalms of lament (e.g., Psalms 6:3; Psalms 10:1-13; Psalms 13:1-4; Psalms 22:1-21; Psalms 74:1-11; Psalms 80:4; Psalms 88; Psalms 89:46; cf. Jeremiah 12:4; Zechariah 1:12).


The prophet asked Yahweh two questions and received two answers.

v 3:  Why do You make me see disaster, And make me look at destitution?  Yes, devastation and violence are before me; Strife exists and contention arises. - Habakkuk wanted to know why Yahweh allowed the iniquity and wickedness that he had to observe every day to continue in Judah. Destruction, ethical wrong, strife, and contention were not only common, but they were increasing. Yet Yahweh did nothing about the situation.

▪ "Violence" (Heb. hamas) occurs six times in Habakkuk (Habakkuk 1:2-3; Habakkuk 1:9; Habakkuk 2:8; Habakkuk 2:17 [twice]), an unusually large number of times for such a short book. The Hebrew word means more than just physical brutality. It refers to flagrant violation of moral law by which someone injures his fellowman (e.g., Genesis 6:11). It is ethical wrong, and physical violence is only one manifestation of it. By piling up synonyms for injustice, Habakkuk stressed the severity of the oppression.

▪ "This is not an instance of the earthen vessel finding fault with the potter who made it-an attitude rebuked by Isaiah and Paul. It is to the one who answers back in unbelief that Paul says, 'Who indeed are you . . . to argue with God?' (Romans 9:20). But there are others who answer back in faith; their words, when they do so, are the expression of their loyalty to God." [Note: Ibid., p. 844.]

v. 4: Therefore the Law is ignored, And justice is never upheld. For the wicked surround the righteous; therefore justice comes out confused. - Since God had not intervened to stem the tide of evil, as He had threatened to do in the Mosaic Law, the Judeans were ignoring His law. They did not practice justice in their courts, the wicked dominated the righteous, and the powerful perverted justice. These conditions were common in Judah. It is clear from the Lord's reply that follows that others in the nation beside Habakkuk were praying these prayers and asking these questions. The prophet spoke for the godly remnant in Judah.

v. 5: "Look among the nations! Watch! Be horrified! Be frightened speechless!  For I am accomplishing a work in your days-You would not believe it even if you were told! - The Lord told Habakkuk and his people (plural "you" in Hebrew) to direct their attention away from what was happening in Judah to what was happening in the larger arena of ancient Near Eastern activity. They were to observe something there that would astonish them and make them marvel. They would see that God was doing something in their days that they would not believe if someone just told them about it.

▪ "The Apostle Paul, quoting from the LXX on this verse, applies the principle of God's dealings in Habakkuk's day to the situation in the church in his own day (Acts 13:41). No doubt God's work of calling the Gentiles into his church would be just as astonishing as his work of using the Babylonian armies to punish Judah." [Note: David W. Kerr, "Habakkuk," in The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p. 873.]

B. Yahweh's answer about Judah 1:5-11

Though God had not responded to the prophet's questions previously, He did eventually, and Habakkuk recorded His answer. The form of this revelation is an oracle.

▪ "The hoped-for response to a lament (cf. Habakkuk 1:2-4) would be an oracle of salvation, but here the response is an oracle of judgment." [Note: David W. Baker, Nahum, Habakkuk and Zephaniah, p. 52.]

v. 6: For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, That grim and impetuous people Who march throughout the earth, To take possession of dwelling places that are not theirs. The Lord 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. The name "Chaldeans" derives from the ruling class that lived in southern Mesopotamia and took leadership in the Neo-Babylonian Empire. The last and greatest dynasty to rule Babylon was of Chaldean origin. Thus "Chaldean" was almost a synonym for "Babylonian." The Chaldeans were Semites, descendants of Kesed, the son of Nahor, Abraham's brother (Genesis 22:22). Some modern Iraqis, especially those from southern Iraq, still identify themselves as Chaldeans. The Neo-Babylonian Empire began its rise to world domination with the accession of Nabopolassar to the throne of Babylon in 626 B.C. 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 (cf. Ezekiel 28:7; Ezekiel 30:11; Ezekiel 31:12; Ezekiel 32:12). Thus Babylonia would be the rod of God's punishment of Judah as Assyria had been His instrument of judgment of Israel.

"The seventh-century prophets depicted the Lord as the sovereign ruler over the nations." [Note: Robert B. Chisholm Jr., "A Theology of the Minor Prophets," in A Biblical Theology of the Old Testament, p. 415.]

v. 12: Are You not from time everlasting, LORD, my God, my Holy One? We will not die.  You, LORD, have appointed them to deliver judgment; And You, O Rock, have destined them to punish. Power was not Habakkuk's god; Yahweh was. - The Lord's revelation of what He was doing in the prophet's day brought confidence to his heart and praise to his lips. With a rhetorical question, Habakkuk affirmed his belief that Yahweh, his God, the Holy One, was from everlasting (or antiquity). The implication is that Yahweh is the only true God and that history was unfolding as it was because the God who created history was in charge of events (i.e., sovereign).

▪ Habakkuk believed the Judeans would not perish completely because God had promised to preserve them forever (2 Sam. 7:16). The prophet now understood that Yahweh had appointed the Babylonians 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.

C. Habakkuk's question about Babylonia 1:12-17

This section is another lament (cf. Habakkuk 1:2-4). It expresses the problem of excessive punishment.

v. 13: Your eyes are too pure to look at evil, And You cannot look at harm favorably. Why do You look favorably At those who deal treacherously?  Why are You silent when the wicked swallow up Those more righteous than they? - Because Yahweh was the Holy One, Habakkuk knew that He was too pure to look approvingly at evil nor could He favor wickedness. This was a basic tenet of Israel's faith (cf. Psalms 5:4; Psalms 34:16; Psalms 34:21). But this raised another, more serious, problem in the prophet's mind. Why did the Lord 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 they?

▪ "The prophet's first question (Habakkuk 1:2-4) 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.

▪ "It is one thing to face the problems that confront everyone who believes in a good and omnipotent God and ask why things are so, or how they can be so. It is something quite different to question the Divine goodness or justice, or the very existence of God, simply because one cannot answer these questions." [Kerr].

ll. Hab. 2:1-4 Yahweh's answer about Babylon The Lord gave Habakkuk a full answer to his question about using Babylon to judge the Israelites.

v. 1: I will stand at my guard post And station myself on the watchtower; And I will keep watch to see what He will say to me, And how I may reply when I am reprimanded. - Habakkuk compared himself to a sentinel on a city wall watching the horizon for the approach of a horseman. He purposed to watch and wait expectantly for the Lord to reply to this second question, as He had the first, so he could report it to his people (cf. Hab 3:16). He prepared himself for a discussion with the Lord about the situation as well as for the Lord's answer that he expected in a vision or dream (cf. Job 13:3; Job 23:4).

▪ "Yahweh's response to those who inquire of him is never automatic. They must be willing to wait in order to hear 'what God the LORD will speak' (Psalms 85:9 [8])." [Note: Bruce, p. 857.]

1. The introduction to the answer 2:1-3

v. 2: Then the LORD answered me and said, "Write down the vision And inscribe it clearly on tablets, So that one who reads it may run. - Yahweh did respond and told the prophet to make a permanent, easy-to-read record of the vision, which He would give him, on tablets (of clay, stone, or metal; cf. Exodus 31:18; Exodus 32:15-16; Deuteronomy 9:10; Deuteronomy 27:8). Having received and recorded the vision, Habakkuk, and other messengers, should then run to tell their fellow citizens what God's answer was. "The matter was to be made so clear that whoever read it might run and publish it." [Note: Kerr, p. 876. Cf. Daniel 12:4.] "It [the interpretation of the Lord's command here] could involve passers-by, who will be able to read the message as they go by and then pass the message on informally to those they meet, or it could mean a herald, whose specific function will be to spread the message throughout the land (so NEB, NIV)." [Note: Baker, p. 59.]

v. 3: For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hurries toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it delays, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay long. - The vision Habakkuk was about to receive concerned events to take place in the future. Though it was a prophecy that would not come to pass immediately, it would materialize eventually. Habakkuk was to wait for its fulfillment because it would indeed come at the Lord's appointed time.

▪ The writer of the Book of Hebrews quoted this verse (Hebrews 10:37). He used it to encourage his readers to persevere in their commitment to Jesus Christ since what God has predicted will eventually come to pass, which in the context of Hebrews is the Lord's return.

v. 4: "Behold, as for the impudent one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous one will live by his faith. - Proud Babylon was not right in doing what she did but was puffed up with pride and evil passions. In contrast, the righteous one will live by his faith (cf. Genesis 15:6). By implication, Babylon, the unrighteous one, would not live because she did not live by faith (trust in God) but by sight and might. She sought to gratify her ambitions by running over other people rather than by submitting to God's sovereignty.

▪ This verse appears three times in the New Testament. Paul quoted it in Rom. 1:17 and emphasized "righteous." Faith in God results in righteousness for both Jews and Gentiles. He used it again in Gal. 3:11 but to stress "live." Rather than obtaining new life by obeying the Mosaic Law, the righteous person does so by faith. In Galatians Paul was addressing Gentiles mainly. The writer of Hebrews also quoted this verse in Heb.10:38, but his emphasis was on "faith." It is faith that God will reward in the righteous. In this case the original readers were primarily Jews. In all three cases "live" has the broader reference to eternal life, but here it is mainly physical life that is in view. Thus this verse is clearly an important revelation in the Bible, even its essential message.


Hab. 1 - Extra Commentary

The prophet Habakkuk penned this book (in approximately 605 B.C.). This was about the time the Babylonians came into power. Very little is known about him, except his work in this book. The theme of the book is the mystery of providence. Habakkuk was troubled over the sinful world going unpunished.

In the Dead Sea Scrolls, Habakkuk was well preserved. Paul referred to Habakkuk (chapter 2 verse 4).

Romans 1:17 "For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith."

It was these two Scriptures which influenced Martin Luther greatly, and he started the protestant reformation.

Verses 1-4: "Burden" (Hebrew masa', "heavy load" or "oracle"), also describes the prophecies of Nahum (Nah. 1:1), and Malachi (Mal. 1:1), as that which the Lord has entrusted to His prophet. It was a sentence of divine judgment.

Habakkuk 1:1 "The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see."

"Burden" A weighty oracle of judgment (1:5-11; 2:2-20), is often depicted by this term when employed by the prophets to announce God's wrath against sin (e.g., Isa 13:1; 15:1; 17:1; 19:1 Nahum 1:1; Zech. 9:1; 12:1; Mal. 1:1).

"Did see": God's message to Habakkuk took the form of a vision.

The word "burden", lets us know that Habakkuk was troubled by what he saw around him. The statement "did see", possibly means that Habakkuk had a vision from God.

Verses 2-4: In Habakkuk's first complaint, he perceived that God appeared indifferent to Judah's sin. Jealous for His righteousness and knowing that a breach of the covenant required judgment (Deut. 28), Habakkuk questioned God's wisdom, expressing bewilderment at His seeming inactivity in the face of blatant violation of His law.

The Jews had sinned by violence and injustice and should have been punished by the same.

Verses 2-3: Violence ... iniquity ... grievance ... spoiling": Judah's society is defined with 4 terms denoting malicious wickedness by which one morally and ethically oppresses his neighbor, resulting in contention and strife.

Habakkuk 1:2 "O LORD, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! [even] cry out unto thee [of] violence, and thou wilt not save!"

"How long ... shall I cry": The phrase, reflecting the prophet's impatience, is frequently used by the psalmist to express similar thoughts of perplexity (Psalms 13:1-2; 62:3; Jeremiah 14:9; Matthew 27:46).

"And thou wilt not save": The prophet wanted a cleansing, purging, chastening, and revival among the people that would return them to righteousness.

This is a plea to God to hear his prayers. He sees the injustice around him, and does not understand why God is not punishing those involved. We have all, at some time or other, cried out "how long"?

It appears from this that Habakkuk had prayed many times to God to do something about the moral decay of Judah. It appears, that those who pretended to belong to God (Judah), had strayed very far away. And Habakkuk had prayed so much about the seriousness of the problem, he had begun to doubt that God was hearing his prayers.

Habakkuk 1:3 "Why dost thou show me iniquity, and cause [me] to behold grievance? for spoiling and violence [are] before me: and there are [that] raise up strife and contention."

That is, wicked men, and such as give a great deal of trouble, vexation, and grief to others, by seizure of property and oppression. Suggesting that he could not turn his eyes anywhere, but such persons presented themselves to his view. And that their wicked actions were performed by them openly and publicly, in the sight of all, without any shame or fear.

"For spoiling and violence are before me": In my sight and presence, though a prophet, and notwithstanding all my protests, exhortations, and reproofs. Such were the hardness, obstinacy, and impudence of this people. To such a height and pitch of iniquity were they arrived, as to regard not the prophets of the Lord.

"And there are that raise up strife and contention": In the kingdom, in cities, in families; in one man, brother, friend, and neighbor, against another. Which occasion lawsuits, and in them justice is not done, as follows. It may be rendered, and "there shall be and is a man of strife".

From this it appears that Habakkuk was in the ministry. He was like a watchman. He saw all the evil and warned the people, yet God had not punished them. He is asking God, why He allows him to see all of the wrong, if God is not going to change it.

Habakkuk is a righteous man, living in a society that has gone mad. He is questioning how God can know of these sins and abominations, and not do anything about them. I personally look at society today, and wonder why God has not thundered in judgment against our society.

This strife and contention is speaking of those rebellious who are not keeping God's law. Perhaps, those that question God's law is some who should know better, because they are the leaders of the people.

Habakkuk 1:4 "Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment doth never go forth: for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceedeth."

"Law is slacked": Literally the "law is chilled, numbed" (Gen. 45:26; Psalm 77:2). It had no respect, was given no authority. As hands rendered useless by cold, the impact and effectiveness of the law was paralyzed by the corruption of Judah's leaders (Eccl. 8:11).

Not only are the wicked people not keeping God's law, but they are attacking the righteous. They are actually opposed to those who have taken a stand for God. The law which had governed even their civil law is unequal. Habakkuk is disappointed that justice is no longer part of their society.

Verses 5-11: In response to Habakkuk's perplexity and pleading, God broke His silence, informing him that He was not indifferent to Judah's sin; but rather than revival, He was sending the "dreaded and feared" judgment (verse 7).

Habakkuk 1:5 "Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvelously: for [I] will work a work in your days, [which] ye will not believe, though it be told [you]."

"Behold ... regard ... wonder": The series of commands is plural, indicating that the wider community of Judah and Jerusalem was to take note of this imminent invasion. Paul quotes this text (in Acts. 13:41).

Up until this Scripture, Habakkuk had been complaining to God. In this Scripture, we see an answer to Habakkuk from God. Habakkuk is living for God in the middle of those who do not. During Habakkuk's lifetime, God will take care of this situation.

God will work so quickly and marvelously, that it will be difficult for Habakkuk to believe. God will use a heathen nation to bring the chastisement upon His people. Those of God's children, who are living in sin, will not expect their punishment to come through a heathen nation. God can use whoever He wants to, however.

 Verses 6-11: The prophet describes the mighty "Chaldeans" who ruled Babylon (from 625 to 539 B.C.). They were Semitic nomads who were descendants of Chesed, the son of Abraham's brother Nahor (Gen. 22:20-22).

They gradually populated southern Babylon and were under Assyrian authority until Nabopolassar destroyed Nineveh (in 612 B.C.), and founded the Neo-Babylonian Empire, which reached its greatest height under Nebuchadnezzar (see the note on Dan. 1:1).

The success of the Chaldeans is attributed to their swiftness and "violence." To "heap dust" refers to building ramparts of earth to scale the walls of the enemy cities.

"His god" is Marduk, god of war and the patron god of Babylon.

Verses 6-8: The Chaldeans (Babylonians), would come at the behest of the divine Commander. He is the Sovereign who brings this people of ruthless character and conduct to invade Judah. The Chaldeans are described as self-assured, self-sufficient, self-deified, and deadly (Jer. 51:20).

Habakkuk 1:6 "For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, [that] bitter and hasty nation, which shall march through the breadth of the land, to possess the dwelling places [that are] not theirs."

A people that were mean and low, famous only for their soothsaying, divination, and judicial astrology. But now had become a powerful and warlike people, rising up under the permission of Providence to universal monarchy, and who would quickly add Judea to their dominions.

"That bitter and hasty nation": A cruel and merciless people in their temper and disposition. "Bitter" against the people of God and true religion, and causing bitterness, calamities, and distress, wherever they came. "Hasty" and precipitate in their determinations; swift and nimble in their motions; active and vigorous in the prosecution of their designs.

"Which shall march through the breadth of the land": Or "breadths of the land". Through the whole world, as they were attempting to do, having subdued Syria, all Asia, and great part of Africa. Through which they boldly marched, bearing down all opposition that was in their way.

Or "through the breadth of the land" of Judea, taking all the fenced cities as they went along, and Jerusalem the metropolis of it (see Isa. 8:7).

"To possess the dwelling places that are not theirs": The cities of Judea, and houses in them. As well as the palaces and dwelling places in Jerusalem, which they had no right unto, but what they got by the sword. Which were the legal possessions and inheritances of others from father to son from ages past.

These the Chaldeans would take from them. And not only take them, and spoil and plunder them for the present, but retain them in their possession, as an inheritance to be transmitted to their posterity. This may have some respect to the length of the captivity of the Jews, and their land being in the hands of their enemies for the space of seventy years.

The Chaldeans are even more evil than Judah. God always begins His judgment with the house of God. It is the chastisement God has judged, that will come upon them. It is just Babylon, (Chaldeans), that it comes by. They were a very cruel army. We must remember that God sent them.

Habakkuk 1:7 "They [are] terrible and dreadful: their judgment and their dignity shall proceed of themselves."

For the fierceness of their countenances; the number and valor of their troops; the splendor of their armor; the victories they had obtained, and the cruelty they had exercised. The fame of all, which spread terror wherever they came.

"Their judgment and their dignity shall proceed of themselves": They will not be directed and governed by any laws of God and man, but by their own. They will do according to their will and pleasure, and none will be able to gainsay and resist them. They will hear no reason or argument.

Their decrees and determinations they make of themselves shall be put into execution, and there will be no opposing their tyrannical measures. They will usurp a power, and take upon them an authority over others of themselves, which all must submit unto. No mercy and pity: no goodness and humanity are to be expected from such lawless and imperious enemies.

At the time they attack Judah, they have become very powerful. There seemed to be no one who could stop them. They will not be aware that God sends them to attack Judah.

Habakkuk 1:8 "Their horses also are swifter than the leopards, and are more fierce than the evening wolves: and their horsemen shall spread themselves, and their horsemen shall come from far; they shall fly as the eagle [that] hasteth to eat."

"Evening wolves": These were wolves who had suffered hunger all day long and were forced to prowl into the night for food. Like wolves, Babylon's army displayed extraordinary stamina and an undaunted eagerness to attack for the purpose of devouring the spoils of victory.

They are a mighty world army, and they have many horses. They will sweep across this little land quickly, bringing destruction along the way. The comparison to "evening wolves" speaks of their ferocious nature.

Jeremiah 5:6 "Wherefore a lion out of the forest shall slay them, [and] a wolf of the evenings shall spoil them, a leopard shall watch over their cities: every one that goeth out thence shall be torn in pieces: because their transgressions are many, [and] their backslidings are increased."

Habakkuk 1:9 "They shall come all for violence: their faces shall sup up [as] the east wind, and they shall gather the captivity as the sand."

"They shall come all for violence": Or, "the whole of it"; the whole army of the Chaldeans, every one of them. This would be their sole view, not to do themselves justice, as might be pretended, or avenge any injuries or affronts done to them by the Jews; but purely for the sake of spoil and plunder.

"Their faces shall sup up as the east wind": Their countenances will appear so stern and fierce, that their very looks will so frighten, as to cause men to sink and die through terror. Just as herbs and plants shrivel up and wither away, when blasted by a nipping east wind.

So the Targum, "the reception or look of their faces is like to a vehement east wind". Some render it, "the look or design of their faces is to the east.

When the Chaldeans were on their march to Judea, their faces were to the west or south west. But then their desire and views were, that when they had got the spoil they came for, as in the preceding clause, to carry it to Babylon, which lay eastward or north east of Judea, and there their faces looked.

"And they shall gather the captivity as the sand": Or gather up persons, both in Judea, and in other countries conquered by them, as innumerable as the sand of the sea, and carry them captive into their own land. Captivity is used for captives.

The mention of the "east wind" is speaking of an ill wind. The "supping up" is just speaking of total destruction. The "gathering as of sand" speaks of the large number of people taken.

Romans 9:27 "Isaiah also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved:"

Habakkuk "1:10 And they shall scoff at the kings, and the princes shall be a scorn unto them: they shall deride every strong hold; for they shall heap dust, and take it."

Whether it be royal authority or physical obstacles, the Babylonian army marched forward with nothing but scorn for those in their path.

"Heap dust": Rubble and dirt piled up against the fortress or city wall as a ramp to gain entry.

The Chaldeans who came had no respect for kings, or princes. They were treated the same as all the other people. The walls, or the fortress, were no problem to them. They went through the land with such destruction they left piles of dust.

They took the valuable things and burned all the rest. They left nothing of any help to the people. They were such a powerful army, that they were almost impossible to stop. God had moved away from His people, and left them to defend themselves. They were no match (in the physical), for these Chaldeans.

Habakkuk 1:11 "Then shall [his] mind change, and he shall pass over, and offend, [imputing] this his power unto his god."

"His power unto his god": Though the Chaldeans were God's instruments of judgment, their self-sufficiency and self-adulation planted the seeds for their own destruction (described in 2:2-20), as they stood guilty of idolatry and blasphemy before the sovereign Lord.

It was God's judgment on His people that allowed this heathen army to succeed. They were so arrogant; they gave no credit to God, but instead said their false gods had helped them conquer. The sad thing about this army that came sweeping through was they went beyond the limits God had set for them.

Verses 12 - 2:1: Habakkuk, in his reaction to the perplexing revelation (verses 5-11), declared his confidence in the Lord (verse 12), then unveiled his second complaint. Namely, how could the Lord use a wicked nation (the Chaldeans), to judge a nation (Judah), more righteous than they (verses 13-17)? The prophet ended by expressing his determination to wait for an answer (2:1).

Verses 12-17: The prophet appeals to God not to "look" on Babylonia's "iniquity" approvingly, and calls on Him to judge the mighty nation that has caught the other "nations" in its fish "net."

Habakkuk 1:12 "[Art] thou not from everlasting, O LORD my God, mine Holy One? we shall not die. O LORD, thou hast ordained them for judgment; and, O mighty God, thou hast established them for correction."

"O Lord my God, mine Holy One": Although the prophet could not fully comprehend the sovereign workings of his righteous God, he expressed his complete faith and trust. As he rehearsed the unchangeable character of God as eternal, sovereign, and holy, he became assured that Judah would not be completely destroyed (Jer. 31:35-40; 33:23-26).

Under the faithful hand of God, he realized that the Chaldeans were coming to correct, not annihilate.

"O mighty God": A title for God which expresses His immovable and unshakeable character (Psalms 18:2, 31, 46; 31:2-3; 62:2, 6-7; 78:16, 20, 35).

This is a request from Habakkuk to God for the covenant people. He knows in his heart, that God will stop this onslaught, before they destroy God's people. Habakkuk is recognizing God in His might in this. He knows that God can stop this chastisement, if He will. Habakkuk is speaking for himself, and for all of the others who had not bowed their knee to Baal.

Sometimes, when the chastisement of God comes upon a people, some innocents get hurt in the process. This was the case here. Habakkuk knows they need to be chastised for their unfaithfulness to God, but he believes God will stop, before they are destroyed.

Hebrews 12:5-6 "And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:" "For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth."

Habakkuk 1:13 "[Thou art] of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, [and] holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth [the man that is] more righteous than he?"

"Thou art of purer eyes": In spite of the prophet's expressions of faith and trust, he found himself in even further perplexity. The essence of Habakkuk's next quandary is expressed in this verse. If God is too pure to behold evil, then how can He use the wicked to devour a person more righteous than they?

Would not God's use of the Chaldeans result in even greater damage to His righteous character?

Habakkuk is reminding God, that the Chaldeans (Babylonians), are eviller than God's unfaithful family. He is questioning God about using such an evil people to chastise His people. Habakkuk is reminding God, that He is holy and cannot look upon sin without destroying it.

Habakkuk is questioning the wisdom of God overlooking the Babylonian's sins, and punishing His own people who are comparatively less sinful.

Hab. 2:1-4

Habakkuk 2:1 "I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved."

"Stand upon my watch": Comparing himself to a watchman (Ezek. Chapters 3 and 33), standing as a sentinel upon the city walls, Habakkuk prepared to wait for God's answer and to ponder his reply.

Habakkuk is speaking in this verse. He is waiting to see what God will say to him. He is not shirking his duties in the meantime. He will still act as the watchman.

We see that Habakkuk separates himself from this sinful people. He goes aside, perhaps, to a place in the mountains, until he hears from God. He is expecting God to reprimand him for the questions he asked Him (in chapter 1).

Verses 2-20: In response to Habakkuk's second complain (1:12 - 2:1), the Lord announced that He would judge the Chaldeans as well for their wickedness. His reply included:

(1) The instructions to write it down, as a reminder that it would surely occur (verses 2-3);

(2) A description of the character of the wicked in comparison to the righteous (verses 4-5); and

(3) The pronouncement of 5 woes describing the Chaldeans' demise (verses 6-20).

Verses 2-3: "Write the vision": Habakkuk was to record the vision to preserve it for posterity, so that all who read it would know of the certainty of its fulfillment (similar language in Daniel 12:4, 9). The prophecy had lasting relevance and thus had to be preserved.

Although a period of time would occur before its fulfillment, all were to know that it would occur at God's "appointed time" (Isa. 13; Jer. chapters 50 and 51). Babylon would fall to the Medo-Persian kingdom of Cyrus (ca. 539 B.C.; Daniel chapter 5).

Habakkuk 2:2 "And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make [it] plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it."

"Write the vision ... upon tablets": refers to the common practice of writing public notices with such large characters on the clay tablets that someone running by could easily read them. If the notice was a warning it would also cause the reader to run quickly to prepare for what was coming.

"That he may run that readeth it": Perhaps referring;

(1) To clarity of form, so even the one who runs by it may easily absorb its meaning; or

(2) To clarity of content, so that the courier could easily transmit the message to others.

There really is no reprove in this. God does answer Habakkuk though. This is telling Habakkuk to write the very book we are reading here. The reason God wanted Habakkuk to write it down, was so future generations could draw from it.

Habakkuk is a book that many scholars have drawn from. In the earlier lesson, we mentioned the fact that Paul quoted from Habakkuk. We also mentioned that Martin Luther started the Protestant reformation after studying Habakkuk. Many have been so moved by this little book, that it encouraged them to be workers for God.

Habakkuk 2:3 "For the vision [is] yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry."

"An appointed time" indicates a specific future fulfillment of Habakkuk's prophecy of the fall of Babylon (see Daniel 5:30-31).

Every person who has a vision of a work God would have him do, could be inspired by these Words. God does things in His time, and not when we think it is time. Notice, in all of this, God does not scold him about the vision, or even the questions he has asked God.

He explains that sometimes, they do not come to pass at the time of the vision. They may happen weeks, months, or even years later. The vision is for a time God appointed. God reminds Habakkuk that he is to patiently wait on the answers to come. When the appointed time comes, they will not tarry.

Habakkuk 2:4 "Behold, his soul [which] is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith."

"His soul which is lifted up": While the context makes this an obvious reference to the Chaldeans, the passage introduces the marks which distinguish all wicked from all righteous, regardless of ethnic origin. Two opposing characteristics are here contrasted: The proud trusts in himself; and the just lives by his faith.

(1) The proud, haughty Chaldeans, who will be the victors in the forthcoming conflict; and

(2) The righteous ones of Judah who will appear to be defeated in the forthcoming conflict, but in reality, will be the victors because of their faith in the Lord.

"The just shall live by his faith" is often quoted in the New Testament in support of the doctrine of justification by faith (see Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38). Thus, this Old Testament prophecy anticipates the New Testament gospel which shall ultimately conquer the nations and bring them to Christ.

In contrast to the proud, the righteous will be truly preserved through his faithfulness to God.

This is the core of God's message to and/or through Habakkuk. Both the aspect of justification by faith, as noted by Paul's usage (in Romans 1:17 and Galatian 3:11), as well as the aspect of sanctification by faith, as employed by the writer of Hebrews (10:38), reflect the essence of Habakkuk; no conflict exists.

The emphasis in both Habakkuk and the New Testament references goes beyond the act of faith to include the continuity of faith. Faith is not a one-time act, but a way of life. The true believer, declared righteous by God, will persevere in faith as the pattern of his life (Col. 1:22-23; Heb. 3:12-14).

This statement is not just for Habakkuk, but for all of God's people. Our faith in God should not be determined by things we see with our eyes.

Hebrews 11:1 "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

Our faith in God is what separates us from the world. The world has no hope. We have hope of the resurrection. Those who have confidence in themselves are not depending on their faith in God to see them through.