Habakkuk 1


Like other Old Testament prophets, what we know about Habakkuk is very limited, in fact we know almost nothing. We do know that his name means, ‘to embrace’ or ‘to hold on’ and he was probably a Levite who was a member of the Levitical choir, Habakkuk 3:19.

His ministry probably spanned the reigns of Josiah, 640-609 B.C., Jehoahaz, 609 B.C., and Jehoiakim, 609-598 B.C., with the prophecy set in Jehoiakim’s reign around 605 B.C.

There is a saying that says, ‘a good man is hard to keep down’, but a better saying would be, ‘hopeful people are hard to keep down.’ Habakkuk was one of those people, he was a faithful man who loved God and his people.

He questioned God and complained to God, not out of anger, but out of deep compassion for his people and what was going on around him. He teaches us that it’s not wrong to question God, in fact, God wants us to ask questions. His work coincided with Jeremiah and Zephaniah.

The Date

The book was probably written around 605 B.C. The reason for this date is because around 610 B.C. this is the time of the Babylonians or Chaldeans.

We know that in 614 B.C. Nabopolassar married his son Nebuchadnezzar to Ametius the Median Princess, and so, joined the Medians. In 612 B.C. Nineveh was destroyed and in 605 B.C. the Babylonian Kingdom under Nebuchadnezzar grew to its fullest extent and power. It was at his death the Babylonian Kingdom fell. And so, Habakkuk was probably written when Babylon would have been at her prime.


God is going to use the Chaldeans to bring about judgment on Judah. The Chaldeans refer to the Babylonian empire which overthrew the Assyrian empire in 612 B.C. and defeated Pharaoh Necho of Egypt at Carchemish in 605 BC. Pharaoh Necho also defeated and killed King Josiah of Judah at the battle of Megiddo, 2 Kings 23:29 / 2 Chronicles 35:20. After these victories, Judah was at the mercy of the Chaldeans.

Josiah had repented of the idol worship of Judah, but the reformation of Josiah had proved ineffective to stop the evil and disobedience of the nation of Judah.

Now God must punish them, and so, He’s stirring up and going to the Chaldeans to punish His people, just like He used the Assyrians to punish the Northern Kingdom, 722/21 B.C.

God had allowed the Assyrians to conquer the Northern Kingdom of Israel, this was during Habakkuk’s ministry, and now He’s brought the threat of the Babylonians to the Southern Kingdom.

The Book

The theme is the book is simply this, ‘the supremacy of God’s judgement on the wicked’.

The book itself is unique in that it takes the form of a dialogue between Habakkuk and God. It concerns the Southern kingdom of Judah. We can’t say if it was specifically spoken to the people, but it was certainly recorded for the people.


Habakkuk’s First Complaint. Habakkuk 1:1-4 God Answers Habakkuk. Habakkuk 1:5-11 Habakkuk’s Second Complaint. Habakkuk 1:12-2:1 God Answers Habakkuk. Habakkuk 2:2-2:20 Prayer in song by Habakkuk. Habakkuk 3

Habakkuk’s First Complaint

‘The prophecy that Habakkuk the prophet received. How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore, the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.’ Habakkuk 1:1-4

The KJV uses the word ‘burden’ instead of the word ‘prophecy’ and notice that this burden was given to Habakkuk himself, not to God’s people. He was given the burden as a way of offering complaints to God concerning all the suffering His people were going through because of their own unbelief.

In the context of this suffering, what we need to remember is that God’s people are suffering simply because they rejected God, rejected His laws and oppressed the poor among themselves. God had told them and warned them if they turned away from Him, then He would turn them over to the nations.

Habakkuk’s first question to God is simply this, why are the wicked people not punished?

He’s been praying a long time and he thinks God doesn’t hear him. To him, it looks as though God is inactive. He seems to be looking at things from a human perspective and he seems to expect a human reaction from God.

Habakkuk needed to understand that God was working on His timetable, not man’s, and God’s ways are different from man’s ways, Isaiah 55:8-9. God was going to allow this to go on until He purified His people through captivity so that the promises which were made to Abraham could be fulfilled, Genesis 12:1-3.

Habakkuk speaks up on behalf of the few righteous people who haven’t given up on God or turned away from Him. He’s speaking mainly to his own people, he recognises that they’re surrounded by injustice, oppression, wickedness and bribery.

Habakkuk outlines the sins of the nation:

1. Destruction, there’s no respect for property.

2. Violence against other people.

3. Strife, arguing and conflict.

Because of these sins, the law has lost its authority and its application and people don’t want to live up to the law anymore, there’s no longer any justice. The righteous are kept down, being oppressed and people don’t want any do-gooders around to change anything.

God’s Answer

‘Look at the nations and watch—and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told. I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwellings not their own. They are a feared and dreaded people; they are a law to themselves and promote their own honour. Their horses are swifter than leopards, fiercer than wolves at dusk. Their cavalry gallops headlong; their horsemen come from afar. They fly like an eagle swooping to devour; they all come intent on violence. Their hordes advance like a desert wind and gather prisoners like sand. They mock kings and scoff at rulers. They laugh at all fortified cities; by building earthen ramps they capture them. Then they sweep past like the wind and go on—guilty people, whose own strength is their god.’ Habakkuk 1:5-11

God’s answer to Habakkuk’s question is simply this, ‘I’m working on it, you may not see it, but trust Me, I’m working’. Revelation 6:10-11.

God is directly involved in the Babylonians growing in strength to dominate the world, although Nebuchadnezzar thought he did it all by himself, Daniel 4:30. The world and everything in it are under God’s control.

God made the Babylonians ruthless and impetuous, they were colonists and uncontrollable. They had a well-trained army who were bent on evil. They were valiant warriors with no respect for other nations. They were a guilty people who had great confidence in their own ability. Judgement would come from Babylon.

And just like many people today, ‘self’ was their god and millions of people worship themselves daily. Christians too, can at times, be so inwardly looking, that they are absolutely selfish, they think of no one but themselves, Philippians 2:4.

God is the One who is raising up the Babylonians. It was Nabopolassar’s son, Nebuchadnezzar, who succeeded his father as king of Babylon, and it was during this time that Habakkuk made his complaints to God concerning the suffering of God’s people.

The Babylonians were so full of pride that they became a law unto themselves, invading nation after nation as their gods directed them.

They were like ‘leopards’ waiting patiently to conquer the nations, they were like fierce ‘wolves’, as they ravaged anyone they conquered and they were like, the ‘eagle’, eager to sweep down to capture their prey. They were like the ‘desert wind’, they would come and take God’s people into captivity and leave the land a dry derelict place.

They would build ramps against the cities they conquered, and no one could stop them. if they could capture and conquer the Assyrian capital city of Nineveh, then no nation was too big for them.

They trusted in their own strength but what they didn’t know is that God was using them, God was going to use them to bring about judgment on Judah. They gave their own gods all the credit when in reality it was all God’s doing, God was working in and through them to bring about His purpose.

When we look at Habakkuk’s first complaint to God, and when we read God’s answer to His complaint, it’s easy to see that he doesn’t understand why God would work through the evil Babylonians in order to oppress His own people.

Habakkuk’s Second Complaint

‘LORD, are you not from everlasting? My God, my Holy One, you will never die. You, LORD, have appointed them to execute judgment; you, my Rock, have ordained them to punish. Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves? You have made people like the fish in the sea, like the sea creatures that have no ruler. The wicked foe pulls all of them up with hooks, he catches them in his net, he gathers them up in his dragnet; and so, he rejoices and is glad. Therefore, he sacrifices to his net and burns incense to his dragnet, for by his net he lives in luxury and enjoys the choicest food. Is he to keep on emptying his net, destroying nations without mercy?’ Habakkuk 1:12-17

Habakkuk’s second question is simply this, how can you punish unrighteous Judah with more unrighteous Babylon?

It’s almost as though he’s saying to God, ‘you cannot get your holy hands dirty’. Habakkuk saw the righteousness of God, but it blinded him to the truth that God could indeed get involved with the Babylonians and raise those people to the power that He did.

Habakkuk’s faith in God is evident here, he knows God’s people wouldn’t be wiped out of existence, like so many other nations before. He knows His people would continue, regardless of the suffering that they would endure at the hands of the Babylonians. He knows that God had raised up the Babylonians in order to discipline His people.

God is so holy, He cannot look at anything which is unholy and so Habakkuk is asking God, ‘how could you look to an unholy nation like Babylon to accomplish your work of disciplining your holy nation?’

Judah as a nation had seriously become unrighteous and it was because of their unrighteousness that God allowed the Babylonians to destroy Jerusalem and the temple.

It’s a sad truth that even though some of Judah were righteous, they too would have to suffer the consequences along with the unrighteous.

Imagine the fisherman returning from a good day’s catch, he unloads the fish and piles them up, this is God’s people, caught, helpless and thrown into a pile.

The ‘net’ is the Babylonian gods to whom they give credit, but as I mentioned earlier they didn’t realise that it was God who was working in and through them to accomplish His purpose.

Habakkuk saw Judah just below Babylon on his scale of badness, how can you look upon those people God! Look at what they do! He described people of the world as fish and Babylon as fishermen, they use hooks, then nets, then dragnets, which shows progression. Then comes the sacrifices and it’s clear they worship materialism, always wanting more.

And so, Habakkuk’s second question is about to be answered, how long will you use these people?


As Christians, we think we see God’s heart so clearly but sometimes we’re blinded because we don’t see or don’t want to see the coming future judgement for some, that is Hell, it exists, and people need to know that it’s real.

There are times when we may not see God at work but whenever we’re tempted to think God isn’t working, we need to remember that God isn’t indifferent, He isn’t inactive.

We must remember that God doesn’t create evil, but He does use evil to accomplish His will, we see this in the Babylonians, and we see this in the New Testament with Judas, Pilate and the Jewish leaders.

People do ask, why does God create so much suffering and pain in the world?

And the answer is, He doesn’t, if people are honest enough with themselves, they will see that all the wars, oppression and suffering are usually done by the hands of men, but God allows it to happen, why?

Who knows! Maybe He wants the created to know that He is the Creator and they need to turn to Him in obedience, Psalm 81:12 / Romans 1:24-25.

Go To Habakkuk 2