The people of Judah had grown wicked, violent, and corrupt. There was no justice in the land that was supposed to be known by God’s name. Habakkuk couldn’t take it anymore. These people shouldn’t be allowed to disregard God’s law. Surely God would set things right.
So Habakkuk pleads with God, asking Him to save Judah from her own wickedness. God answers, but not in the way Habakkuk expected.
To judge Judah’s wickedness, God says He will hand them over to the Chaldeans: a nation even more wicked, violent, and corrupt.
Then Habakkuk asks, “Why are You silent when the wicked swallow up those more righteous than they (Hab 1:13)? Will they continually slay nations without sparing (Hab 1:17)?”
But God is way ahead of Habakkuk. The Lord shows him that something else is in store for the Chaldeans (Babylonians)—justice:
- The Babylonians looted many nations, but the remaining ones will loot them (Hab 2:8).
- The Babylonians cut off other families so that they could secure their own empire, but soon the work of their hands will cry out against them (Hab 2:9–10).
- The Babylonians built their cities with bloodshed, but their work will be for nothing (Hab 2:12–13).
- The Babylonians disgraced the nations around them, but the Lord will disgrace them (Hab 2:15–16).
- The Babylonians crafted idols and then called on them, but all the earth will be silent before the Lord (Hab 2:18–20).
When Habakkuk sees God’s master plan, he can only worship. God will correct Judah. God will punish Babylon. But most importantly, God will be known in all the earth (Hab 2:14).
Theme verse of Habakkuk
“Your eyes are too pure to approve evil,
And You can not look on wickedness with favor.
Why do You look with favor
On those who deal treacherously?
Why are You silent when the wicked swallow up
Those more righteous than they?” —Habakkuk, to God (Hab 1:13)
Habakkuk’s role in the Bible
Habakkuk is the eighth of the Minor Prophets, the last 12 books of the Old Testament. When God had a message for the people, He spoke through the prophets. His word came in visions, oracles, dreams, parables, and the like.
In Deuteronomy, God had promised to bless Israel if they loved and obeyed Him, and punish Israel if they chose to go their own way. Later, Israel divided into two kingdoms: the Northern Kingdom kept the name Israel, and the Southern Kingdom was named Judah. Israel turned from God, ignored His prophets, and worshiped idols, and so God handed them over to the Assyrians (2 Ki 17:7).
And Judah followed Israel’s example (2 Ki 17:19), so God would bring a similar fate upon them. But this time, He would discipline them through the Babylonians. Habakkuk saw this happen in his own lifetime (Hab 1:5).
But Habakkuk doesn’t stop at Judah’s punishment. Like Nahum, Habakkuk foresees God’s judgment on those who oppress other nations and lead them into wickedness. Habakkuk speaks of Babylon’s fall: an event which the prophet Daniel witnesses.
Habakkuk isn’t a well-known (or often read) book of the Bible, but it contains one of the most important lines in church history: “The righteous will live by his faith” (Hab 2:4). Paul quotes Habakkuk in his letters to the Romans and Galatians when he explains how faith and God’s justice work together (Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11).
Like Daniel, Habakkuk comforts us with a message of God’s sovereignty. God is in control, and He uses the kingdoms of this world to accomplish His purposes. Daniel says it best: “It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings” (Da 2:21).
Quick outline of Habakkuk
- Habakkuk asks when God will judge Judah (Hab 1:1–4)
- God will judge Judah with the Chaldeans (Hab 1:5–11)
- Habakkuk asks why God would use the wicked Chaleans (Hab 1:12–17)
- God pronounces judgment on the Chaldeans (Hab 2)
- Habakkuk responds with a song of worship (Hab 3)