Probably around 605 B.C.
There is no “Word of the LORD” introduction for Habakkuk, no genealogy, no geographic marker. In fact, there is no mention of Judah or Jerusalem or Zion or Israel anywhere in this book. The only placement of any kind is the rise of the Chaldeans, who ruled from Babylon and had overrun Assyria, Egypt, and all their former lands.
These Chaldeans are the answer to Habakkuk’s first question, looking out on the corruption among his people, Habakkuk asks: “O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you "Violence!" and you will not save?... The wicked surround the righteous, so justice goes forth perverted.” Justice, the LORD offers, will come from the hand of these Chaldeans who “all come for violence, all their faces forward.” But this raises an even deeper question for Habakkuk: But what then is to stop the violence of the Chaldeans?
This conversation slows down in chapter 2, and after the LORD assuages Habakkuk’s fear, the prophet sets his eyes on the gathering enemy, taunting “Woe to him who heaps up what is not his own! …Will not your debtors suddenly arise? Then you will be spoil for them. …You will have shame instead of glory.”
As we’ve seen with prophets such as Jeremiah and Ezekiel, Habakkuk’s journey is intensely personal. The final chapter is Habakkuk’s psalm of response. Look for where the prophet finds encouragement and strength, and what leads to his final conclusion.
Our verse for this week is Colossians 3:23: Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.
The prophet Habakkuk. Now let’s read it!
1:1 The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet saw.
O LORD, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not hear?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
and you will not save?
Why do you make me see iniquity,
and why do you idly look at wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise.
So the law is paralyzed,
and justice never goes forth.
For the wicked surround the righteous;
so justice goes forth perverted.
“Look among the nations, and see;
wonder and be astounded.
For I am doing a work in your days
that you would not believe if told.
For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans,
that bitter and hasty nation,
who march through the breadth of the earth,
to seize dwellings not their own.
They are dreaded and fearsome;
their justice and dignity go forth from themselves.
Their horses are swifter than leopards,
more fierce than the evening wolves;
their horsemen press proudly on.
Their horsemen come from afar;
they fly like an eagle swift to devour.
They all come for violence,
all their faces forward.
They gather captives like sand.
At kings they scoff,
and at rulers they laugh.
They laugh at every fortress,
for they pile up earth and take it.
Then they sweep by like the wind and go on,
guilty men, whose own might is their god!”
Are you not from everlasting,
O LORD my God, my Holy One?
We shall not die.
O LORD, you have ordained them as a judgment,
and you, O Rock, have established them for reproof.
You who are of purer eyes than to see evil
and cannot look at wrong,
why do you idly look at traitors
and remain silent when the wicked swallows up
the man more righteous than he?
You make mankind like the fish of the sea,
like crawling things that have no ruler.
He brings all of them up with a hook;
he drags them out with his net;
he gathers them in his dragnet;
so he rejoices and is glad.
Therefore he sacrifices to his net
and makes offerings to his dragnet;
for by them he lives in luxury,
and his food is rich.
Is he then to keep on emptying his net
and mercilessly killing nations forever?