About this book
Habakkuk lived about 600 years BC. He lived in the country called Judah. Here is a list of the kings of Judah at that time:
640 - 639 :: Amon
639 - 609 :: Josiah
609 :: Jehoahaz
609 - 598 :: Jehoiakim
598 :: Jehoiachin
597 - 586 :: Zedekiah
The country that ruled that part of the world until 612 BC was Assyria. In 612 BC, a country called Babylon beat Assyria. Then the Babylonians ruled that part of the world. Both the Assyrians and the Babylonians loved and worshipped false gods. Habakkuk thought that the king and other leaders of the people in Judah did not rule well. Many leaders did bad things and nothing could stop them. These leaders did very cruel things to the people in Judah. These leaders did not obey the covenant that they had with God. A covenant is when two people or groups agree. Here the two are God and the people in Judah. God said that he would be kind to the people in Judah. They promised to love God and to obey him. But the leaders did not love and obey God. So, God said that he would punish Judah’s people.
God chose the Babylonians to punish the leaders of Judah. The trouble was that they punished the people in Judah with the leaders. Starting in about 625 BC, Babylon had become a powerful country. They destroyed many countries and, in 612 BC, they destroyed Assyria. Then they destroyed Egypt in 605 BC. Then, in 586 BC, they destroyed Judah too. There is more about Assyria in our commentary on Nahum, Habakkuk and Zephaniah. That commentary is called ‘The Problem of Assyria’.
Habakkuk could not understand why God had chosen the Babylonians. He knew that someone must punish Judah. But he did not know why it should be the Babylonians. The Babylonians were very bad and cruel people. The Babylonians loved and worshipped false gods. In his book, Habakkuk talks to God:
· In chapter 1, he asks God a question. Would
God ever answer when Habakkuk prayed to him?
· In chapter 2, he waits for God’s answer. God says that he will punish the Babylonians later. The whole world would see what God would do.
· In chapter 3, we read something else. Habakkuk believes that God will punish the Babylonians. And he believes that God will make Judah safe.
The Story of Habakkuk
We know very little about Habakkuk. The name means ‘he who holds somebody close to him’. Bible students think that he lived about 600 BC.
This was a very important time for the Jews. After the kings called Saul, David and Solomon, their country became two countries. The north part was called Israel. The south part was called Judah. About 720 BC, the Assyrians destroyed the north part. That was because Israel’s people did not obey God’s rules. But the south part did not think that this would happen to them. They too did not obey God’s rules. And Habakkuk said that it would happen to them. He was right. In 586 BC, the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem. They took the people away to Babylon. We call this ‘the exile’.
Habakkuk had two problems:
1) In Judah, many people did not obey God’s rules. Habakkuk did
not understand why God did not make them obey
him (Habakkuk 1:2-4).
2) God told Habakkuk about something that he would do. But Habakkuk did not think that it was possible. He did not understand how God could use wicked people (like the Babylonians) to punish Judah’s people. Judah’s people were not as wicked as the Babylonians! (See Habakkuk 1:12-17.)
God still has authority today. It may not always seem to us that he has authority. But we must believe that he does have it. Then we say that we are ‘living by faith’. Habakkuk 2:4 says, ‘righteous people will live by their faith in God’.
That means two things:
· They will continue to believe
that God will help them.
· After they die on this earth,
they will live with God.
At the end of his book, Habakkuk writes a psalm. A psalm is a song with music. In it, he praises God. He also says this: Whatever happens, he will still praise God. That is the message of Habakkuk: God knows what he is doing. But he does not always do what we might want him to do. But, whatever happens, praise God!
1 These are the important words that Habakkuk the prophet received (from God).
Habakkuk has a problem
2 LORD, how long must I cry to you for help and you will not listen? How long must I shout aloud to you, ‘Violence!’ and you do not make us safe?
3 Why do you cause me to see things that are not right? Why do you let people do what is wrong? People destroy things and there is violence everywhere. People argue and fight a lot.
4 So the law can do nothing and justice never wins. There is a circle of very, very bad people round the righteous people and judges give the wrong answers.
The LORD answers
5 ‘Look at other countries and watch. You will become very, very surprised because of the things that I will do during your lifetime. And you will not believe it. You will not believe it even when I tell you about it!
6 I will make the Babylonians strong. They will be cruel and they will do things fast and without thought. They will go across the whole earth. And they will take homes that are not theirs.
7 People will be afraid of them. They will really frighten people. The Babylonians will make their own rules and they will write their own laws.
8 Their horses will run faster than leopards. And they will be more cruel than wolves in the night. Their men on horses will ride fast (and they will frighten people). The riders on horses will come from far away. They will fly as vultures that hurry to eat something.
9 They will all come for violence. Large crowds of them will come like a wind in the places where there is a lot of sand. They will put as many people into prisons as there are bits of sand in those places.
10 They will say things that are not kind about
kings. And they will say that the leaders of the people are silly. They will know
that city walls will not keep them out. They will build earth as high as the
walls and they will get into each city.
11 Then they will rush past like the wind and they
will go on to somewhere else. They will think that their own god has made them
Habakkuk has another problem
12 LORD, you have always been alive. You are my very holy God, so we will not die. LORD, you have given a job to the Babylonians. It is to bring justice to us. You are like our rock, but you have sent them to punish us.
13 But your eyes are too holy to look at very bad men. You cannot look at anything that is wrong. So why do you let these bad men live? Why do you say nothing? These bad people are killing those who are better than them.
14 And you have made people like fishes in the sea. You
have made them like animals that move with no rulers.
15 The Babylonians will catch all of them, with the hooks that they use to fish with. They will catch them in their fishing nets and they will put them in their special holding nets. This makes the Babylonians very happy and it gives a lot of pleasure to them.
16 So they give sacrifices to their nets and they burn incense to their special holding nets. They do that because they catch a lot of fish in their nets. And so they have the best food.
17 So will they pour fish out of their net always? Will they destroy countries without mercy?
Notes on Chapter 1
Verses 2-4 The prophet is writing about what happens in his own country. There is violence. And the law cannot do anything to stop it. More than that, ‘judges give the wrong answers’. People do wrong things. But the judges say that they are doing good things.
Verse 5-11 The LORD says that he will do something. He will punish his people in Judah. But he will use the Babylonians to do it! This will surprise people like Habakkuk. It will surprise them because the Babylonians have false gods. They are wicked people. There is a lot of sand in the desert. So ‘as there are bits of sand’ in verse 9 means that there are a lot of them.
Verse 12 - 2:1 Habakkuk shows his surprise. He cannot believe that God can use people like the Babylonians! God is holy and clean and very, very good! Habakkuk cannot believe that God can even look at these very bad people! The prophet says that he will watch for the answer. He will stand on something high, like the walls of the city of Jerusalem or one of its towers. A tower is a high building.
Habakkuk waits for an answer
1 I will stand and I will watch. I will stay on the
walls (of the city). I will look to see what God will say to me. And I will see
what answer I will have for my problem.
The LORD answers
2 Then the LORD replied to me. And he said, ‘Write down what I will show to you. Make it very clear on the page where you write it. Then the runner can tell people all about it.
3 What I will show to you must wait for the proper
time. But at that time, it will happen. It will happen as I have said. It may
not happen for a long time but wait for it. It will certainly happen and it
will not be late.
4 Look, the Babylonians are proud. The things that they want are not good. But righteous people will live by their faith in God.
5 And also, wine will destroy Babylon. Yes, they are proud and they never stop taking things from people. They never have enough, as Sheol and death never have enough. They take people from all countries for themselves and they take people from everywhere.
6 The people in all those countries will write a
song that is against Babylon. They will say that its people are silly. And they
will say other bad things about it. They will say, “Some people rob other
people. And they keep what they take. A sad time will come to those people.
Some people get a lot of money by the very bad things that they do. A sad time
will come to those people. They will not always be able to do those things.”
7 The people that you people in Babylon have taken
things from will wake up. It will happen when you are not thinking about it!
They will get up and they will make you afraid. Then you will be the people
that they will rob!
8 You have robbed many countries. So the people who remain
will rob you. That is because you have killed people. And you have destroyed
their towns and their lands. You have killed everyone who lived there.
9 Some people get things for themselves by ways that
are not fair. A sad time will come to those people. You build your homes high
up so that nobody can take you to do bad things to you.
10 You decided to kill the people from many
countries. Because of that, you will be ashamed. And you will pay with your own
11 Even the stones in the walls will cry. The beams
that you made from wood will do it as well.
12 A man might build a city because he kills people.
A man might make a town great because he has been very bad. A sad time will come
to that man.
13 The work that people do will go into the fire. The LORD of everything has decided that it will. People in many countries will make themselves tired for nothing!
14 But the earth will become filled with people who know about the glory of the LORD. This will be as the waters cover the sea.
15 A sad time will come to him who gives strong drink to his neighbours. He pours out wine until they are drunk. Then he looks at them when they have no clothes on!
16 You will be really ashamed. Nobody will think that you are great. Then you will drink and people will see you with no clothes on! The cup in the LORD’s right hand will come round to you. You will be ashamed. You will not always be great.
17 The violence that you did to Lebanon will cover you. You will be very frightened because you killed animals. And you have killed people. And you have destroyed their towns and their lands. You have also killed everyone who lived there.
18 An idol cannot do anything. It was a man who made it! It is a copy of a false god. It teaches him things that are not true. That is because he is trusting his own work. He has made idols that cannot speak!
19 It will be very bad for someone who says to a piece of wood, “Wake up!” He says to a stone that cannot speak, “Get up and be my guide!” Look at it! It has gold and silver over it but it is not alive.
20 But the LORD is in his holy temple. Everything in the world should be quiet in front of him.’
Notes on Chapter 2
Verses 2-20 The LORD says that someone will destroy Babylon. In verse 5 we read, ‘wine will destroy Babylon’. The Book of Daniel tells us that this really happened, about 70 years later! God may use bad people. But he makes sure that someone punishes them later. It always happens because God has
authority! ‘Sheol and death never have enough’ in verse 5 means this: People are always dying.
In chapter 2, we read 5 things that bad people (and bad
They rob other people, verse 6.
They are not fair, verse 9.
They kill people, verse 12.
· Many people become drunks, verse 15.
They have false gods, verse 18.
People who do not obey God do those things. So God will punish them. He may use bad people to do it. But after some time, he will punish those bad people. If we wait, it will happen! We must be quiet until it happens. That is what verse 20 means.
1 These are the words that the prophet Habakkuk prayed. He used music called Shigionoth.
2 LORD, I have heard what people say about you. I see the things that you have done, LORD. Then I am afraid. But do them again now. Cause people to know what you can do in our lifetime. You are angry, but still remember mercy!
3 God came from Teman. The Holy God came from the mountain called Paran.
His glory covered the skies and his praise filled the earth.
4 He was as bright as the sunrise. Light fell from
his hands, where he hid his great power.
5 Plague went in front of him and pestilence followed his feet.
6 (God) stood and he caused the earth to shake. He looked and countries were afraid. Old mountains broke into rocks and very old hills fell down. That always happens everywhere that he goes!
7 I saw the places where Cushan lived. The people
there were not happy. The people who live in the houses of Midian were afraid.
8 I do not think that you were angry with the streams and rivers, LORD! You rode through the sea with horses and chariots! But I do not think that you were angry with the sea. You did that to win the fight.
9 You showed people your bow and you asked for many arrows.
You cut the earth into pieces with rivers.
10 The mountains saw you and they shook. Deep waters moved very fast. The sea made a loud noise and it lifted its waters high.
11 The sun and the moon stopped moving in the skies. The light from your arrows that were flying past and the light from your shining spear stopped them.
12 You marched through the country because you were
angry. Because you were so angry, you hit the people in many countries with
13 You went out to make your people safe. You went out to save the person whom you have anointed. You beat the leader of the wicked country. You took away his clothes from head to foot.
14 You, LORD, pushed your own spear into his head. You did that when his soldiers came out to fight us. They were laughing when they came out to kill the poor people. The poor people were hiding from them.
15 You marched through the sea with your horses. You shook the waters.
16 I listened and my heart was afraid. My lips shook at the sound. My bones began to fall into pieces. My legs would not stop moving. But I will be patient. And I will wait for the very bad days that will come. They will come to the people who are attacking us.
17 There may be:
· no flowers on the fig tree
· no fruit on the vines
· nothing on the trees that have fruits called
· no food in the fields
· no sheep in the hills
· no cows on the farms
18 but I will still sing praises to the LORD! I will be happy with the God that makes me safe.
19 The LORD, who is my master, will make me safe. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer so that I can climb mountains.
The music leader must use things that have strings to make music.
Notes on Chapter 3
The book ends with a psalm (a song with music)! Habakkuk may have worked with one of the music groups in the temple in Jerusalem. He tells them what music to use, and what musical-instruments, (verses 1 and 19). The psalm remembers what God did. He led his people out of Egypt. That was 800 years before Habakkuk. If God did great things then, he can do great things now! The plagues and pestilences in verse 5 are what happened to the Egyptians. That was when they did not obey God. The sea in verses 8 and 10 was the Red Sea. God led his people through it, and their feet did not even get wet! Verses 6-12 describe a great storm. The ‘leader of the wicked country’ in verse 13 was Pharaoh, King of Egypt.
All this makes Habakkuk afraid, verse 16. But he says this: Whatever happens he will still praise the LORD (verse 17).
He knows that God is still in authority! That is why he will still praise the LORD. Even when bad things are happening, Habakkuk will be like an animal. This animal can climb mountains with no difficulty! The animal is called the deer.
- to put oil on a person to show that God has chosen
- sharp sticks that people shoot with bows.
- people who came from the country called Assyria.
- people who lived in Babylon.
- 600 BC means 600 years before Jesus came to earth,
and so on.
- soldiers rode in chariots when they went to war;
horses pulled them.
- an animal that looks like a small cow; it can climb
- land full of sand; it is so dry that not many plants
- people who lived in the country called Egypt.
- away from your own country.
- faith in God
- to believe that God will help you; to
believe that he will keep you safe.
- a fruit.
- it shines very much and it makes you important.
- the language that the Jews speak.
- completely good and having nothing bad.
- bit of metal that someone bent, to catch fish.
- a false god; it is like an animal or a person but
you make it out of wood or out of other material.
- something that gives a nice smell when it burns; the Jews used it to show love to God in the temple; but sometimes people burned it for false gods.
- a person who is born from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
and their children.
- person with authority to say what is right or wrong; person who has authority to punish people who do wrong things.
- when people do what is right.
- the rules of a country; or, God’s rules for people.
- a very big cat that can run very fast.
- as long as someone lives.
- a special name for God that only his servants
- to be kind to people when you do not have to be kind.
- something that makes music; you may hit
it; you may touch it or you may use your mouth to make music with it.
- a person who lives near you.
- bag that people catch fish with; it has holes in it,
so it lets water go through but not fish.
- Old Testament
- the first part of the Bible, which the
writers wrote before Christ’s birth.
- bad things that happen (illnesses, very bad weather
or attacks by insects).
- when many people become ill.
- tell someone how great they are (or words that do
- he or she says what God is saying; or he says
what God will do.
- to think that you are important when perhaps you are
- hurt people because they have done bad things.
- very, very good; only God is really righteous.
- something that people burned for their gods;
usually animals but sometimes people or food.
- a place in a song to pray, or to think; or a place
to make music.
- to move something fast from one side to another
and back again many times; or something that does that itself is shaking.
- where Jews said that you went after death.
- past of shake.
- a white metal; it shines and it is very valuable.
- a long stick with a sharp end. Soldiers used
spears to fight.
- a very thin line of material; some things that
can make music have them; you pull the lines to make music.
- God’s house in Jerusalem; or the house of any
- believe that someone will be good to you; believe
what someone says.
- a plant that grows a fruit called the grape.
- when someone is cruel and hurts people a lot.
- a big bird that eats dead animals.
- very, very bad.
- a drink with alcohol in it; people make it from fruits
- a wolf is a wild animal that eats other animals.
- what we should do when we are with God; to give
thanks to God; we usually worship together with other people; we pray and we sing;
to bend down to God or to a false god; to show God that he is great and that we
love him very much.
© Wycliffe Associates (UK), 1997-2014
This version published November 2014
The translated Bible text has been through Advanced Checking.