The Book of Habakkuk
James J. Barker
INTRODUCTORY MESSAGE TO HABAKKUK
Habakkuk writes in the form
of a dialogue. There are three chapters, and the opening two chapters contain a
dialogue between the LORD and Habakkuk.
Habakkuk raises some
perplexing questions, and the LORD, recognizing the prophet’s sincerity, answers
Habakkuk wanted to know why
God permits evil, and why God would use the Babylonians, an idolatrous heathen
nation, and far more wicked than Judah, to punish
God’s answer to Habakkuk was
that He was not through with Babylon – God would surely judge Babylon
- Nothing is known of Habakkuk
outside of the book which bears his name (cf. Scofield’s introduction).
- The date of the book is
uncertain (Scofield Bible says 626 BC).
He was a contemporary of the prophet Jeremiah. The book of Habakkuk was probably
written during the time of King Josiah and his son and successor Jehoiakim.
- The northern kingdom had
already gone into captivity, and the southern kingdom was on the brink of
- King Josiah was a good king,
but after him all of the kings of Judah were
- It was a violent era. Nineveh had fallen in 612 BC under the
attack of the Babylonians led by Nabopolossar, in alliance with the Medes and
- Nebuchadnezzar defeated
Pharaoh Necho of Egypt at the Battle of Carchemish in 605 BC. King Josiah died in this famous battle.
Many scholars place the writing of Habakkuk after this
- THE PERPLEXED PROPHET WHO BROUGHT HIS PROBLEM
TO THE LORD (Chapter 1)
- THE WAITING PROPHET WHO RECEIVED THE
ANSWER FROM THE LORD (Chapter 2)
- THE REJOICING PROPHET WHO WAS
STRENGTHENED IN THE LORD (Chapter 3)
- HABAKKUK IS WONDERING (Chapter
- HABAKKUK IS WAITING (Chapter
- HABAKKUK IS WORSHIPPING (Chapter
HABAKKUK IS WAITING TO HEAR FROM GOD
- Habakkuk had a “burden”
(1:1) – “a heavy, weighty thing” (Scofield Bible, p.
- Habakkuk cried out, “O LORD,
how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! even cry out unto thee of
violence, and thou wilt not save!” (1:2).
- Habakkuk felt that God was
not responding to his prayers.
Throughout history God’s people have often felt this
- In Psalm 73:3, the Psalmist
wrote, “For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the
- It is a wonderful
psalm. The Psalmist says in verses
16 and 17, “When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me; Until I went
into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their
- He concludes the psalm by
saying, “But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in
the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works” (Ps.
- In Revelation 6:10, the
martyrs cry “with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost
Thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the
- Whenever we feel
discouraged, or that God is not responding to our prayers, we need to go to the
Word of God. “So then faith cometh
by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom.
- The Word of God strengthens
- “Thou hast given him his heart’s
desire, and hast not withholden the request of his lips” (Psalm
- “He will regard the prayer of the
destitute, and not despise their prayer” (Psalm 102:17).
- “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find;
knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and
he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” (Matthew
- “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer,
believing, ye shall receive” (Matthew
- “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do,
that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I
will do it” (John 14:13, 14).
- There are many, many other
similar promises in the Bible. We
know God hears our prayers, and we know God answers our
- But Habakkuk cried out to
God (1:2) because it seemed to him that God was not listening – “O LORD, how
long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear!”
- Habakkuk wanted to know why
God permitted evil to exist. Why
didn’t God move in judgment?
God appeared to be silent and indifferent (1:2-4).
- Today many are asking
similar questions. For example, why
did God allow those bloodthirsty Muslim terrorists to kill all those innocent
people in Mumbai, India?
- Have you ever wondered why
the newspapers refer to these terrorists as “militants” and “gunmen” and not
- Have you noticed that many
reports fail to mention that the terrorists were Muslim?
- Have you noticed that the
news media has practically ignored the terrorism in Orissa, India? Why is that? It is because Hindu fanatics have
murdered hundreds of innocent Christians, and the liberal news media is not
interested in that.
- A recent Voice of the
Martyrs newsletter (Dec. 2008) reports that 70,000 people have been left
homeless because of anti-Christian violence in Orissa. Hundreds have been killed, and thousands
have been injured.
- The Indian government has
refused to do anything about it.
They have allowed the violence and persecution of Christians to go on for
months, and according to the Voice of Martyrs, the violence has now spread to
six other states.
- The Barnabas Fund website
reports that, “Christians have been murdered, some cut to pieces and others
burnt alive…About 18,000 people have been injured, many of them severely;
numerous Christian women have been raped; some 4,400 homes have been destroyed;
300 villages have been cleansed of all Christians; and several orphanages and
hundreds of churches and church buildings have been torched and razed. Relief
camps, where Christians have fled for safety and shelter, have been attacked and
drinking water has been poisoned.”
- “Over 50,000 Christians are
thought to be homeless, and around 30,000, more than half of them children, are
hiding in the jungle, many without any food and water. Starvation is a very real
danger for many of them, especially for the children, the elderly and the sick.
Christians wanting to return to their homes have been told by the Hindu
extremists: ‘Come back as Hindu or don’t come back at all.’”
- “Many who dare to return to
their villages are forcibly converted to Hinduism. Sometimes the Hindu
extremists pour petrol over the Christians and then ask them to convert; if they
refuse they will be burnt. And
still the government shows itself reluctant to act. Although there has been talk
of banning the Bajrang Dal, one of the Hindu nationalist groups responsible for
the gruesome acts, and of imposing presidential rule over Orissa, no action has
been taken. Additional police and a helicopter have been sent to the area, which
has helped to improve conditions in at least some districts, but officials still
advise journalists and members of NGOs (non-governmental organizations) not to
go into the affected areas as they cannot provide
- I met a Christian from
Orissa when I was preaching in Makati City, Philippines in October. He was in Manila for a conference, and
he told me the Indian government would not even attempt to protect the
Christians or arrest the Hindu radicals responsible for the
- So consider this the next
time you hear someone ask, “Why does God allow this violence?” They need to read the Bible (cf. Genesis
6:5-8, 11-13; II Peter 3:3-13).
- “The law is slacked”
(1:4). We have a similar situation
today in America. Wicked judges and lawyers, as well as ignorant and foolish
juries have turned our judicial system upside down.
- Often we will hear about
some depraved criminals who rape and kill, only to discover they never should
have been out on the street in the first
- “Because sentence against an
evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is
fully set in them to do evil” (Eccl. 8:11).
HABAKKUK HEARS FROM GOD
- The apostle Paul quoted Habakkuk 1:5 in Acts 13:41, when he was preaching to the Jews in the
synagogue at Antioch in Pisidia.
wanted Habakkuk to know that rather than being indifferent or insensitive to
sin, God was raising up the Chaldeans as His instrument to chasten backslidden
Judah (1:5, 6).
Chaldeans originally were a nomadic desert tribe of Semitic origin. They were descended from Chesed, a son
of Nahor, the brother of Abraham (Gen.
Chaldeans settled in Babylonia and were referred to by Habakkuk at a time when
they were becoming the most powerful nation in the world, replacing the
Assyrians, who replaced the Egyptians,
- Though the Bible often uses
the terms Chaldeans and Babylonians interchangeably, there is a
the LORD describes the Chaldeans:
- “that bitter and hasty nation”
- “They are terrible and dreadful”
- “their judgment and their dignity shall proceed of
themselves” (1:7b). They were
- They were swift and fierce (1:8; cf. verse 6,
- They were violent
- They were proud and scornful (1:10).
- They were worshippers of false gods
- Over 800
years earlier, Moses warned the Israelites that if they departed from the LORD,
this is exactly what would happen. “The LORD shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the
earth, as swift as the eagle flieth; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not
understand” (Deut. 28:49).
HABAKKUK IS STILL WONDERING
- Although the
LORD answered Habakkuk, the prophet is still perplexed. Nevertheless, Habakkuk was a
man of great faith.
- Habakkuk believed God was
eternal. “Art thou not from
everlasting…” (1:12). God
transcends time. God is not limited
by time. God “is not hampered by
being locked into the succession of events as they occur” (John Phillips).
- Habakkuk had a personal relationship
with God – “O LORD my God…” (1:12).
- Habakkuk understood that God was
- He believed God would preserve His
people Israel – “we shall not die” (1:12).
- Habakkuk understood that God is “of
purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity”
- That is why our Lord cried out from
the cross, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46; Psalm
- “For He hath made Him to be sin for
us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (II
understood that the LORD was using the Chaldeans to correct Judah – “Thou hast
ordained them for judgment; and, O mighty God, Thou hast established them for
- But nevertheless, Habakkuk
could not understand why God would allow the wicked to devour “the man that is
more righteous than he” (1:13b).
- The Chaldeans were gathered
up their enemies like fish in a net
Habakkuk has asked some good questions (1:17). These questions have long perplexed
- Why does God tolerate evil? Answer: God is longsuffering (II
- Why doesn’t God judge the wicked? Answer: He will judge the wicked
(cf. Matthew 24 & 25; II Thess. 1:6-10; Book of Revelation,
- Why does God use wicked people to chasten others that are
less wicked? Answer: God
answers this question in Habakkuk chapter 2. In the meantime, we must remember that
“less wicked” is still wicked, and all sin must be