“The book of Habakkuk was really a song that was written by the prophet Habakkuk. He was living in Judah during the final days of the southern kingdom in the late seventh century. He was probably a contemporary of Jeremiah, but Jeremiah prophesied after Habakkuk. Rather than strictly prophesying to the people of Judah, this book is more of a lament to the LORD concerning the sin that was in Judah. It is intensely personal, as the prophet grappled with the question “Why doesn’t God do something?” The northern kingdom [10 tribed House of Israel] had already fallen to the Assyrians, and it looked like the southern kingdom would be spared the same fate. And yet, Judah had a succession of evil kings including Manasseh, the worst of all; and it seemed like God didn’t care. As Habakkuk cried out to God to ask Him why He didn’t do something to judge the wickedness, the LORD told him that He was preparing the Babylonians to come down to judge Israel [Judah, Israel was gone, deported to Assyria in 721BC]. This really upset Habakkuk because the Babylonians were even worse than the Jews. So again, he asked God, “Why the Babylonians?” God’s response was that He would deal with them later. After wrestling with the questions as to why God was allowing the spiritual decline, Habakkuk ultimately placed his trust in the LORD and sang praises to God for His goodness and faithfulness. Though he didn’t’ have all the answers to his questions, he trusted in God and rested in worship, knowing that the future was in God’s hands. The name “Habakkuk” means “embrace”; and it is as if Habakkuk, after expressing his frustration and asking his questions, ended up falling into the embrace of a God who can be trusted. The key verse of this book is probably Habakkuk 2:4, which declares “But the just shall live by his faith.” This verse is quoted three times in the New Testament, in what are probably the three heaviest doctrinal books of the Bible (Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38)… [The Word For Today Bible (NKJV), p.1182, Introduction to Habakkuk]
Habakkuk’s reference to the Babylonians shows the Babylonians had already militarily achieved their independence from Assyria, and Nabopolassar is already on the throne as of 622BC. His forces, combined with the Black Sea Scythians (as just seen in Will Durant’s quote in the last book) finally sacked Nineveh in 612BC. A residual Assyrian force along with Assyria’s last emperor was defeated at Haran. Josiah had just been killed by Pharaoh Necho II’s forces, which were coming north to try to assist the Assyrians. Josiah had tried to stop the Egyptian forces and Necho II (see http://www.unityinchrist.com/kings/6.html). Four years later in 605BC Babylonians forces under Nabopolassar’s son Nebuchadnezzar II crushed the last Assyrian forces and their Egyptian allies at Carchemish on the Euphrates. Egypt then retreated, leaving Judah under Babylonian dominion. Thus Habakkuk’s book should have been written no later than 605BC, and was probably written between 608-605BC. 607 to 606 is probably the date for Habakkuk.
Basic Theme: The wicked do not succeed---and that all, good and bad can’t avoid God’s discipline (cf. Hebrews 12:3-11). The book was addressed to the people of Judah back then, but its message richly applies to our day as well. The evils in Judah’s society back then are yet again with us in our society too. The warning of judgment for this is clearly given in Habakkuk, and we need to heed it. But also there is duality in Habakkuk, then and end-times as well. This is clearly demonstrated in Habakkuk 2:14, a clear prophecy pointing to the Millennial Kingdom of God.
Habakkuk’s 1st Question: Why this lack of justice, why the rampant crime and injustice?
Verses 1-4, “The burden which the prophet Habakkuk saw. 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.” i.e. ‘The law is powerless.’ Now God’s code of law, as set up in Exodus through Deuteronomy, was a perfect set of laws, designed to maintain a healthy society…allowing our basic tenants of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ to flourish in ancient Israelite society. Even our own society mirrors the law found in Exodus through Deuteronomy (although not perfectly). But how can they fail? Lately our western democracies, especially in the United States, have been passing reams of new restrictive laws, intruding on our personal liberties guaranteed in our Constitution. Why? It is an attempt to reign in the rampant lawlessness and crime which has been occurring and escalating in our societies at an alarming rate. Restrictive laws are passed, our jails and prisons swell, our courtrooms are swamped---and yet the crime and lawlessness doesn’t abate and diminish. God gave Israel a perfect set of laws. It was so perfect he told them not to add to or diminish them in any way. They are so perfect that Jesus at his return will govern the nations of the world with them. Then how can these laws fail??? It is when the people abandon God, put God out of their lives, and it is when the leaders and judges pervert justice, failing to administer the laws properly and without partiality, it is then that the law fails. Primarily it is those, back in Habakkuk’s time, and now, who run the system who are ultimately to blame for its failure. Then once society as a whole has become lawless, it’s too late, you’re on a downward spiral. ‘How does God correct such a societal condition like this once it’s out of control? That seems to be what Habakkuk is asking God. He’s also asking God, ‘Why don’t you do something to stop this?’ God will then give Habakkuk his solution to the problem. He will not like the solution, and neither will we or those in our English-speaking nations, nor the world in general.
God Responds to Habakkuk’s 1st Question
Verses 5-11, “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 to 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. 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.” God’s message is directed to a faithless generation who won’t believe his words, even though Habakkuk believes what God is revealing to him. It is an awful solution to the problem, but a necessary one. Habakkuk is somewhat taken aback by God’s revealed solution. Our generation today, since the 1960s, has become a God-rejecting atheistic society, one which has been removing God and his Word and all mention of the name of Jesus Christ from our public buildings, schools and courtrooms. With our new standard of ‘right and wrong’ being whatever an individual wants it to be, is it any wonder our society (and that of Judah back then) has become lawless---requiring more and more restrictive laws to go on the books, which do nothing to alleviate the problem? God’s solution is not pretty, but it’s necessary. What does a good parent do to a child that won’t listen? God is a good parent, not a bad parent.
Who were the Chaldeans? In the days of Assyria’s rule over much of the Middle East, the Chaldean people (Akkadians) had moved south from the region around Armenia, into the region of Babylonia. What resulted was a mixture of Babylonians and Chaldeans, with the Chaldeans gaining supremacy, leading to the formation of the neo-Babylonian Empire under Nabopolassar, who ended up, with Scythian aid, destroying the Assyrian Empire between 612 and 609BC. But as we’ve seen throughout the Minor Prophets, most of these prophecies which have had a historic fulfillment are prototypes for a greater end-time fulfillment. Many of the descendants of the Babylonians---the original Chaldeans---ended up in Italy and the region of southern Europe. They will, as they already have previously in recent history, unite with the modern-day Assyrians in northwest Europe to form the final revival of the Holy Roman Empire that the Bible calls “Babylon the Great” (cf. Revelation 13, 17 and 18). This final Babylon, much of it being racially Chaldean, most definitely fits God’s description given to Habakkuk. This coming empire, mirroring Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian Empire, will someday soon sweep into end-time Israel and Judah. Those who survive will be taken captive into slavery over in Europe somewhere.
Habakkuk’s 2nd Question
Verses 12-17, “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 of them their share is sumptuous and their food plentiful. Shall they therefore empty their net, and continue to slay nations without pity?” It pleases Habakkuk to learn from God that he’s going to act on the conditions in Judah he can’t help but notice. He knew the Law of God, he could plainly see society around him was so far from it that Judah’s society had become just plain evil. But when Habakkuk learns who God was going to use, those who were in his eyes more evil than Judah, he balked, and questioned God on the wisdom of this, ‘Why the Babylonians?’ he was asking. This appears to be talking about the Babylonians and not Judah.
Habakkuk Stops Questioning God
Verses 1-3, “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. Then the LORD answered me and said: ‘Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time; but at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.” In verse 1 of Habakkuk chapter 2 he stops questioning God and recommits himself to the job of transmitting God’s Word to the people of Judah. From here on chapter 2 gives us God’s answer to Habakkuk’s 2nd question. God essentially tells Habakkuk to post what he says on a big billboard, broadcast God’s message abroad, everyone needs to read this. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do with Jesus’ Gospel message and Bible truths? We’re not supposed to just keep them to ourselves, inside our own exclusive church-clubs. He’s standing watch, like a watchman, which in Ezekiel 33 we’re told to be to our people, the nations we live in. In verse 3 God tells Habakkuk, ‘Look, this isn’t going to happen overnight, it’s going to take a little while to come to pass. Judging this was probably 608-605BC, Jerusalem didn’t fall to Nebuchadnezzar’s armies until 586BC. The surrounding nation of Judah fell around 589BC.
Song Against Babylon
Verses 4-5, “Behold the proud, his soul is not upright in him; but the just shall live by faith. Indeed, because he transgresses by wine, he is a proud man, and he does not stay at home, because he enlarges his desire as hell, and he is like death, and cannot be satisfied, he gathers himself all nations and heaps up for himself all peoples.” The “proud” mentioned in verse 4 refers to the Babylonians, proud in their military conquests. This song is going to run through the cursed life of the militaristic proud. God shows that even though the wicked appear to triumph, he is working out their own special judgment (cf. Psalm 37, read it, it is very encouraging). Verse 5 shows their transgression begins with wine, giving them a contempt for things divine. Just look at what a wine party did for Belshazzar and Babylon (cf. Daniel 5:2-4). In the duality seen in Habakkuk and all the Minor Prophets this drunkenness through wine consumption is symbolic too, figuratively representing Babylon the Great’s immorality, getting drunk on the wine of the blood of the saints (cf. Revelation 17:2).
The Song Begins, 1st Stanza
This song of Habakkuk has five stanzas, and each stanza has its own subject. First stanza, Verses 6-8, “Will not all these take up a proverb against him, and a taunting riddle against him, and say, Woe to him who increases what is not his---how long? And to him who loads himself with many pledges? Will not your creditors rise up suddenly? Will they not awaken who oppress you? And you will become their booty, because you have plundered many nations, all the remnant of the people shall plunder you, because of men’s blood and the violence of the land and the city, and of all who dwell in it.” Subject: God condemns Babylon’s aggression, thievery and bloodshed.
Verses 9-11, “Woe to him who covets evil gain for his house, that he may set his nest on high, that he may be delivered from the power of disaster! You give shameful counsel to your house, cutting off many peoples, and sin against your soul. For the stone will cry out from the wall, and the beam and timbers will answer it.” This is a condemnation over Babylon’s covetousness and attempt to build its empire through the wealth of others whom they’ve conquered. They’ll get it back on their heads. This also aptly pictures the Romish system during the Tribulation, Babylon the Great.
Verses 12-14, “Woe to him who builds a town with bloodshed, who establishes a city by iniquity! Behold, is it not the LORD of hosts that the peoples labor to feed the fire, and nations weary themselves in vain? For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” God condemns Babylon for building her empire via bloodshed and lawlessness. At the end of the stanza God pictures the spread of the knowledge of the LORD over the entire world---as the waters cover the sea, which occurs during the Millennial Kingdom of God after Jesus Christ returns to earth. This shows the duality of Habakkuk and the prophecies the LORD gave him to write down.
Verses 15-17, “Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbor, pressing him to your bottle, even to make him drunk, that you may look on their nakedness! You are filled with shame instead of glory. You also---drink! And be exposed as uncircumcised! The cup of the LORD’s right hand will be turned against you, and utter shame will be on your glory. For the violence done to Lebanon will cover you, and the plunder of beasts which made them afraid, because of men’s blood and the violence of the land and the city, and of all who dwell in it.” First thing is God condemns people who were making drunkards out of others, especially to expose their nakedness. This is an obvious thing all men who pick up women in bars, clubs and cocktail lounges know, that after a few drinks, the morals of the ‘young lady’ drop, and then her clothes drop. I guess the Babylonians were big on this, and big on wine, as seen in a previous stanza. The Bible teaches extreme moderation in alcohol consumption, not abstinence. Jesus drank wine. But if you’re having a problem with it, stop drinking, as it has now become a salvation issue. This condemns the inhumanity of the evil Babylonian’s system---then historically, and prophetically during the Tribulation (cf. Revelation 17:1-2). Whatever Babylon has done will be done back to them.
Verses 18-20, “What profit is the image, that its maker should carve it, the molded image, a teacher of lies, that the maker of its mold should trust in it, to make mute idols? Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Awake!’ to silent stone, ‘Arise, it shall teach!’ Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, yet in it there is no breath at all. But the LORD is in his holy Temple, let all the earth keep silence before him.” This stanza condemns Babylon’s idolatry. The Babylonian Mystery Religion was extant then, and even now exists, syncretized into ‘Gentile Christianity’ (see http://www.biblebelievers.com/babylon/00index.htm).
Verse 1, “A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet on Shigionoth.” This is a prayer set up as a psalm. The word “shigionoth”, the plural of “shiggaion” …according to Adam Clarke’s commentary “The word shiggayon comes from shagah, ‘to wander,’ a wandering song.” It would seem this is a musical instruction, for this poem, from a verbal root ‘to reel’ or ‘to err,’ pointing to an irregular rhythmic hymn in Temple worship. Don’t forget, Habakkuk was a Levite in the musical section of the Temple.
Verse 2, “O LORD, I have heard your speech and was afraid; O LORD, revive your work in the midst of years! In the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy.” Habakkuk is sobered and reveals his deep concern for those who are about to experience God’s judgment, the House of Judah, and yes, the Babylonians too.
Verses 3-15 review God’s awesome accomplishments of the past. These historic events are meant to show what God’s anger---currently hidden from the physical universe---can be like. Some of this definitely appears to be 2nd Coming of Christ in description too. Verses 3-15, “God came from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. His brightness was like the light; he had rays flashing from his hand, and there his power was hidden. Before him went pestilence, and fever followed at his feet. He stood and measured the earth; he looked and startled the nations. And everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills bowed. His ways are everlasting. I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction; the curtains of the land of Midian trembled. O LORD, were you displeased with the rivers, was your anger against the rivers, was your wrath against the sea, that you rode on your horses, your chariots of salvation? Your bow was made ready; oaths were sword over your arrows. You divided the earth with rivers. The mountains saw you and trembled; the overflowing of the water passed by. The deep uttered its voice, and lifted its hands on high. The sun and moon stood still in their habitation; at the light of your arrows they went, at the shining of your glittering spear. You marched through the land in indignation; you trampled the nations in anger. You went forth for the salvation of your people. For salvation with your Anointed. You struck the head from the house of the wicked. By laying bare from foundation to neck. Selah You thrust through with his own arrows the head of his villages. They came out like a whirlwind to scatter me; their rejoicing was like feasting on the poor in secret. You walked through the sea with your horses, through the heap of great waters.”
Verses 16-20, “When I heard, my body trembled; my lips quivered at the voice; rottenness entered my bones; and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble. When he comes up to the people, he will invade them with his troops. Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls---yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength; he will make my feet like deer’s feet, and he will make me walk on my high hills. To the Chief Musician. With my stringed instruments.” Great fear, causing Habakkuk to tremble, overtook him when he realized the people have to face God’s power coming up against them. Then in verses 17-19 Habakkuk says though all this happens (and essentially ‘though I have to live through all this’), I will have faith in my God (verse 19).