Habakkuk Chapter One

 

Introduction:

 

            The scripture does not tell us anything about the personal life of Habakkuk.  In the writings of the Jewish Rabbi’s they contend that he was of the tribe of Levi, the priestly tribe of Israel.  But there is no record in scripture of where he came from, or how he was chosen, other than he was a citizen the kingdom of Judah.  We do know that his prophecy follows very closely behind that of Nahum.  Nineveh and the Assyria nation were destroyed by Chaldea, better known to us as Babylon because that was it’s capital city and the origin of the people who ruled this nation.  This historic event occurred in 606 BC and the Jewish Rabbis place the writing of Habakkuk about two years later.

            Thus far we have studied Jonah and Nahum who both prophesied to Nineveh or Assyria.  Habakkuk is another of the prophets of God that was sent to a foreign nation, a nation other than the children of Israel.  Chaldea or Babylon, as a nation, an empire that ruled much of the known world, lasted only about 68 years.  It is as though they were raised up by God to punish Assyria, bring Judah into captivity and then removed from the scene of man’s history.  They were replaced by the second of the four empires found in Daniel’s prophecy (Daniel 2), the Medes and Persians.  It would almost appear that God removed them because of their wickedness and because they probably would not have been agreeable to returning Judah to Jerusalem when God was ready to end their captivity.

            While Habakkuk is similar to the other minor prophets it is also different as much of it is written as a discourse between the prophet and God.

 

Read Habakkuk 1:1-4 – Iniquity Is In The Land

 

v.1-2The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see.  2O LORD, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save!”

 

            Habakkuk begins his prophecy with a lament, a cry out unto God much like David when he seemed to be beset by enemies on every side and abandoned by God. 

 

Psalms 13:1-2How long wilt thou forget me, O LORD? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me?  2How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?

 

He sees Judah as beset by enemies on every side and forgotten by God.  Have we ever felt this way?  Perhaps this is the way we might feel in the depth of trouble.  Habakkuk is contemporary with Jeremiah, called the weeping prophet because of the book of Lamentations and because he wept over the destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity of Judah that occurred during the time of his prophecy.

 

v.3Why dost thou shew me iniquity, and cause me to behold grievance? for spoiling and violence are before me: and there are that raise up strife and contention.”

 

            Habakkuk asks God why he is showing him all of the iniquity that surrounds him.  He is deeply troubled, hates the wickedness that has become the way of Judah and fears for Jerusalem because he knows the ways of God.  We again find a parallel in the lamentation of David because in Saul’s court he is troubled by Saul and by the wickedness that he sees in the city of Jerusalem.

 

Psalms 55:9-11Destroy, O Lord, and divide their tongues: for I have seen violence and strife in the city.  10Day and night they go about it upon the walls thereof: mischief also and sorrow are in the midst of it.  11Wickedness is in the midst thereof: deceit and guile depart not from her streets.”

 

We can be sure that Habakkuk is influenced by the prophesies of Jeremiah who also brings a very similar cry to the throne of God.  Jeremiah even asks God “Was this the purpose for which I was born?”  Was it that I should witness the degradation and destruction of God’s chosen people; that I should bear the shame being part of them?”

 

Jeremiah 20:18Wherefore came I forth out of the womb to see labour and sorrow, that my days should be consumed with shame?”

 

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

 

            Even after the reigns of the good kings, such as Hezekiah and Josiah the land has once again degenerated into something like or even worse than Isaiah describes some 200 years earlier.

 

Isaiah 1:21-23How is the faithful city become an harlot! it was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers.  22Thy silver is become dross, thy wine mixed with water:  23Thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves: every one loveth gifts, and followeth after rewards: they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them.”

 

Isaiah 5:20Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”

 

            This is but one of the six woes that Isaiah spoke against Judah and one that parallels much of what we see in our own country today.  Evil has become good in the minds of too many people, and that which is good is reviled and treated as evil.  Likewise we see the darkness of sin, separation from the only source of true light, God; and that which is darkness, sin, called light or good.  In like manner bitter for sweet, etc.  Wrong judgment reigns, not only in the courts of the land but in the minds of men as well.

 

Read Habakkuk 1:5-12Chaldea – God’s Vengeance Against Judah

 

v.5Behold 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.”

 

            Habakkuk tells Judah to look out among the heathen nations that surround them and “WONDER MARVELOUSLY” because God is going to work among them.  He is going to bring one of them against Judah that is drunk on war much the same as men become drunk on strong drink or strong wine.  This prophecy is given in more detail by Jeremiah, he calls it the “WINE CUP OF FURY”:

 

Jeremiah 25:15-18 “For thus saith the LORD God of Israel unto me; Take the wine cup of this fury at my hand, and cause all the nations, to whom I send thee, to drink it.  16And they shall drink, and be moved, and be mad, because of the sword that I will send among them.  17Then took I the cup at the LORD's hand, and made all the nations to drink, unto whom the LORD had sent me:  18To wit, Jerusalem, and the cities of Judah, and the kings thereof, and the princes thereof, to make them a desolation, an astonishment, an hissing, and a curse; as it is this day;”

 

This work that God will do will be so astonishing, so great in the sight of men that they will not believe it even though they are told it by a messenger, or ambassador of God.  We find almost identical language used by Paul in his sermon to the Jewish synagogue at Antioch of Pisidia regarding their acceptance of Christ:

 

Acts 13:41Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you.

 

There are those in every age who have despised the commandments of God.   There are those who will wonder and perish because God will indeed work a work whether literally in the days while they are on earth or at the judgment.  There are those who will not believe, even though it is declared to them.

 

v.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 dwellingplaces that are not their's.”

 

            God is going to raise up the Chaldeans, a nation that He calls a “BITTER AND HASTY NATION”.  Chaldea is called this probably because they came on the world scene very quickly and through a total war, a war of complete devastation of their enemies conquered most of the known world in a very short period of time.  God used them to bring judgment against Assyria and Judah; consequently their conquests could not be stopped:

 

II Kings 24:1-2In his days Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up, and Jehoiakim became his servant three years: then he turned and rebelled against him.  2And the LORD sent against him bands of the Chaldees, and bands of the Syrians, and bands of the Moabites, and bands of the children of Ammon, and sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by his servants the prophets.”

 

            Jehoiakim was king of Judah during the time of the prophecy of Habakkuk, he paid tribute to Nebuchadnezzar for three years then he double crossed him by making a treaty with Egypt.  Consequently the fury of Nebuchadnezzar is coming against Judah.  They will march through the land and take whatever they wish as their own.

 

v.7-8They are terrible and dreadful: their judgment and their dignity shall proceed of themselves. 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.

 

            We have here the prophecy of Habakkuk but in Jeremiah we have a description of the actual events by an eye witness.  When the armies of Nebuchadnezzar came against Jerusalem the final time their king Zedekiah fled, but to no purpose:

 

Jeremiah 39:5-9But the Chaldeans' army pursued after them, and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho: and when they had taken him, they brought him up to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon to Riblah in the land of Hamath, where he gave judgment upon him.  6Then the king of Babylon slew the sons of Zedekiah in Riblah before his eyes: also the king of Babylon slew all the nobles of Judah.  7Moreover he put out Zedekiah's eyes, and bound him with chains, to carry him to Babylon.  8And the Chaldeans burned the king's house, and the houses of the people, with fire, and brake down the walls of Jerusalem.  9Then Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive into Babylon the remnant of the people that remained in the city, and those that fell away, that fell to him, with the rest of the people that remained.

 

            They caught Zedekiah at Jericho, fleeing toward Egypt, brought him back up to Nebuchadnezzar who had made his headquarters for this campaign in Hamath, a city of Syria, and there God’s final judgment was brought against Judah.  Their king was blinded, their princes and nobles that had remained in Jerusalem killed, the city burned and the third and final group of Jews that had been spared up until now carried off to Babylon.

 

v.9-10They shall come all for violence: their faces shall sup up as the east wind, and they shall gather the captivity as the sand.  10And 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.”

 

            Habakkuk continues with his prophecy regarding the end of Judah and the city of Jerusalem.  We find another record of this actual occurrence in the history of Israel recorded in II Chronicles chapter 36.  It concludes:

 

II Chronicles 36:19-20And they burnt the house of God, and brake down the wall of Jerusalem, and burnt all the palaces thereof with fire, and destroyed all the goodly vessels thereof.  20And them that had escaped from the sword carried he away to Babylon; where they were servants to him and his sons until the reign of the kingdom of Persia:

 

v.11Then shall his mind change, and he shall pass over, and offend, imputing this his power unto his god.”

 

            Habakkuk is still speaking here of Chaldea and their king Nebuchadnezzar.  Like all men when they have been allowed to conquer or overcome others he will attribute his success to his own power and might.  The rendering in the ASV here is:

 

Habakkuk 1:11Then shall he sweep by as a wind, and shall pass over, and be guilty, even he whose might is his god.”

 

He swept over the lands of Assyria, Judah, Egypt and others like the wind, conquering whomever and whatever he chose.  He then became guilty of trusting in his own ability, his own might; he made his power his God.  The king of Babylon becomes as most men would under these circumstances, even though his success was at the hand of God.  This same kind of attitude is what brought about God’s punishment of Nebuchadnezzar that we read about in Daniel 5.  The king loses his mind and spends “SEVEN TIMES”, some period of time that is not explained to us; with the beasts of the field, eating grass as they did, just as any other animal would.

 

Read Habakkuk 1:12-17 – Habakkuk’s Complaint Against God

 

v.12Art 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.”

 

            The prophet begins voicing his complaint in a manner that most of us would probably use when addressing someone who was much higher than we or whom we realized had unlimited power.  He acknowledges first of all that God is everlasting much the same as Moses did in his prayer psalm:

 

Psalms 90:2Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.”

 

This is a good pattern for us to use today as we frame the words of a prayer to God, whatever the reason.  He acknowledges also that God is holy, that in spite of the punishment that God will bring they will not die from it and that God is in charge.  He has established Chaldea as His instrument of Judah’s destruction.

 

v.13Thou 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?”

 

            Habakkuk continues in the same vein, calling attention to the fact the God cannot bear evil, or iniquity or tolerate sin.  David makes a similar declaration in:

 

Psalms 5:4-5For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee.  5The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity.”

 

Then the prophet asks God a question.  How do you look on, or not since God cannot look upon sin; when wicked people devour, destroy those that are far more righteous that they?  Chaldea will destroy Judah and bring her into captivity but Chaldea is far more wicked than Judah.  How can that be?  This is a question that has probably troubled men of all ages.  Has this question ever crossed our minds when we look out at the world around us today?  I expect that it has.  We see evil abound, nations become more wicked, devour other nations and shakes man’s faith.  We see evil fall upon good people and it shakes us even more.  There are still good people in Judah but the innocent will suffer along with the rest.

 

v.14-15And makest men as the fishes of the sea, as the creeping things, that have no ruler over them? 15They take up all of them with the angle, they catch them in their net, and gather them in their drag: therefore they rejoice and are glad.”

 

            Habakkuk uses a very similar analogy here that both Jeremiah and the prophet Amos employed.  God had said through Jeremiah that he would treat Judah as fish to be caught, or animals to be taken by hunters:

 

Jeremiah 16:16 “Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the LORD, and they shall fish them; and after will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks.”

 

He said you make men, speaking of those being conquered by those more wicked than they, as the fish of the sea to be caught with hooks, snared in nets, gathered in drag and allowing the wicked to boast and rejoice in their success.

 

v.16-17Therefore they sacrifice unto their net, and burn incense unto their drag; because by them their portion is fat, and their meat plenteous.  17Shall they therefore empty their net, and not spare continually to slay the nations?

 

            In the closing verses of this chapter the prophet explains to God, as though he needed that advice, that this causes these wicked men to sacrifice to and worship their own abilities and successes.  Israel had been warned long ago about developing this kind of a mindset.  In the parting sermon of Moses he reminds them that God has provided all of their needs, guided them, given them commandments to govern them but that they should not allow themselves to:

 

Deuteronomy 8:17And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth.”

 

And as the prophet Isaiah had recorded so many years before the king of Assyria did that very thing:

 

Isaiah 10:12-14Wherefore it shall come to pass, that when the Lord hath performed his whole work upon mount Zion and on Jerusalem, I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks.  13For he saith, By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom; for I am prudent: and I have removed the bounds of the people, and have robbed their treasures, and I have put down the inhabitants like a valiant man:  14And my hand hath found as a nest the riches of the people: and as one gathereth eggs that are left, have I gathered all the earth; and there was none that moved the wing, or opened the mouth, or peeped.

 

William L. Schwegler, Sunset church of Christ, Shreveport, Louisiana; May 17, 2009