Scripture reading – Habakkuk 1; Habakkuk 2


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Our chronological study of the Scriptures brings us to Habakkuk, a brief prophetic book that chronicles the musings and prophecies of Habakkuk, a contemporary of Jeremiah. Habakkuk’s lamentations over Judah’s sins and his understanding of the imminent threat of Nebuchadnezzar’s army moved the prophet to question the LORD. Only three chapters long, Habakkuk’s prophecies were an appeal to the LORD for Judah and a longing to understand His ways.  


Habakkuk 1


Why Does God Allow the Wicked to Oppress the Righteous? (Habakkuk 1:1-4)

Habakkuk 1 recounts the sins of Judah (Habakkuk 1:1-4), with the prophet pondering how long Judah would go unpunished (Habakkuk 1:2). He grieved over the people’s sins and wondered why the LORD tolerated them (Habakkuk 1:3). There was strife and unrest in the nation. When men sought justice, they found none (Habakkuk 1:3b, 4), for the wicked ruled Judah, and the judgments of the courts were twisted and unjust (Habakkuk 1:4).


God’s Answer to His Tolerance of Judah’s Sins (Habakkuk 1:5-11)

The LORD replied to Habakkuk’s questions beginning in verse 5. He said, “Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvelously” (Habakkuk 1:5a). In essence, the LORD said, Habakkuk, look around, for I will bring a terrible judgment upon Judah.

What judgment did the LORD plan for His people? He declared, “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 theirs” (Habakkuk 1:6). God had chosen Babylon to punish the nations for their wickedness, and Judah was among them.

Babylon's Dreadful Army

Nebuchadnezzar’s army was described as “terrible and dreadful” (Habakkuk 1:7). The LORD foretold that Chaldeans would come upon horses as swift and agile as leopards and the men riding them as ferocious as wolves (Habakkuk 1:8). Babylon would spread across the land like a violent horde, and gather up prisoners “as the sand” (Habakkuk 1:9). Proud and arrogant, Babylon would “scoff at the kings, And the princes shall be a scorn unto them” (Habakkuk 1:10). The nation would lay siege to strongholds, and take them (Habakkuk 1:10).

Babylon’s army would pass over Judah like the wind, and Nebuchadnezzar’s might and strength would be his god. (Habakkuk 1:11).


Why Did God Employ a Heathen Nation to Chasten Judah? (Habakkuk 1:12-17)

Habakkuk, endeavoring to make sense out of what made no sense, questioned the LORD: “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” (Habakkuk 1:12).  

The prophet wondered, LORD, are you not the Eternal One? Are you not “LORD” [Yahweh, God’s covenant name with Israel]? You are “my God” and the “Holy One” of heaven. Habakkuk understood God’s covenant with Israel and believed the nation would not perish altogether. He acknowledged the LORD had ordained Babylon to judge His people (Habakkuk 1:12). Yet, knowing the LORD is “of purer eyes than to behold evil,” he questioned why He took a wicked nation to punish His people (Habakkuk 1:13).

Habakkuk considered how Judah was like nothing but “fishes of the sea” before Babylon (Habakkuk 1:14). Continuing with the metaphor of the fish, he cried out to the LORD knowing the mistreatments Judah would suffer (Habakkuk 1:15). He understood that Babylon would rejoice in the people’s sufferings, and offer the spoils of battle to their gods (Habakkuk 1:16-17).


Habakkuk 2 – Five Woes Pronounced Against Babylon


A Vision (Habakkuk 2:1-3)

Having questioned and complained regarding the ways of the LORD and His use of the heathen to chasten Judah, the prophet waited for an answer (Habakkuk 2:1). The LORD responded to Habakkuk’s inquiry and commanded him to record a vision upon clay tablets and preserve His answer for others (like ourselves) to ponder (Habakkuk 2:2).

The immediate answer to the prophet’s questions may be summed up in one word: Wait (Habakkuk 2:3). We read, “For the vision [of God’s judgment] is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: Though it [God’s judgment] tarry, wait for it; Because it will surely come, it will not tarry” (Habakkuk 2:3).

Babylon's Drunkenness

The Insatiable Appetite of the Wicked (Habakkuk 2:4-19)

God knows men’s hearts, and the soul of Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon, though “lifted up” in pride, was “not upright” for only “the just [who obey and keep the Law and Commandments] shall live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4b).

Unlike men of faith, the Chaldeans (i.e., Babylon) were known for their drunkenness. The LORD declared, “He is a proud man, neither keepeth at home, Who enlargeth his desire as hell, And is as death, and cannot be satisfied, But gathereth unto him all nations, And heapeth unto him all people” (Habakkuk 2:5). Proud men like Nebuchadnezzar have appetites that, like hell, can never be satisfied.


Five Woes: Proud Babylon Will Be Judged (Habakkuk 2:6-19)

A series of five woes was pronounced against Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon, beginning with verse 6. The Chaldeans were blind to their wickedness, but the LORD knew their sins. He denounced Babylon and stated several grievances against that nation.

The first two woes addressed the greed and covetous spirit of the Chaldeans (Habakkuk 2:6-11). Habakkuk looked at Babylon as an unconquerable nation; however, in seventy years, that nation would be defeated by Persia in a night. The covetous nature of Babylon and its pillaging of the countries would come back to bite Babylon like a poisonous viper (Habakkuk 2:7). Its victims would turn on the nation, and Babylon would suffer the fate of its wickedness.

The third woe (Habakkuk 2:12-14) against Babylon revealed that the nation’s pride in its buildings and cities was vanity. The country was made strong by shedding its enemies’ blood. Still, all would eventually be consumed by fire (Habakkuk 2:13). As the wickedness of man and the nations is purged, the prophet foretold that “the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, As the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14).

Babylon’s enticements and allure of its neighbors with strong drink was cause for the fourth woe announced against that nation (Habakkuk 2:15-18). The Chaldeans were a drunken, violent people who took delight in making their neighbors drink and then look at “their nakedness” (i.e., shame; Habakkuk 2:15). As Babylon enticed other nations with their self-serving alliances, Habakkuk foretold they would drink from the cup of God’s wrath (Habakkuk 2:16). The cruelty the nation afflicted on others, they would themselves suffer (Habakkuk 2:17).

The final woe pronounced against Babylon was because that nation foolishly put their faith in dumb idols, which they crafted themselves and worshipped as gods (Habakkuk 2:18-19).


Closing thoughts –

Indeed, we recognize how foolish the Babylonians were in placing their faith and trust in “dumb idols” of their own making!  Imagine saying to a lifeless, breathless idol, “Arise, it shall teach!” (Habakkuk 2:19). Yet, are we any different when we place our trust in our wealth and possessions rather than the LORD?

Habakkuk began with a cry of lamentation over Judah’s sins and sufferings (Habakkuk 1:1-4), and chapter 2 ends with a reminder: God is Sovereign. The nations of our day are in chaos, and the wickedness of society might dismay us. However, remind all who know the LORD that He “is in his holy temple: Let all the earth keep silence before him” (Habakkuk 2:20).

Wait! Wait on the LORD! (2:3)

Copyright © 2024 – Travis D. Smith 

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