Habakkuk Overview + 1

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Editor's Note

We’re also going to take a brief pause from our summer books (1 & 2 Chronicles) to read from some of the minor prophets that are either directly mentioned in 1 & 2 Chronicles or that lived and prophesied within the time frames of those books. 

These short prophetical books help us understand what God’s people would have been hearing (and feeling) as they lived through some tumultuous times and help add color to the historical books we’re reading over the next couple of months! 

Habakkuk Overview

Habakkuk is another one of the 17 prophetic books in the Old Testament. Considered one of the minor prophets, Habakkuk is different from his counterparts because instead of relaying a message from God, Habakkuk is delivering a message to God. This book gives us a glimpse into a prophet’s wrestling with the nature of God and the questions that are on Habakkuk’s mind. 

Habakkuk prophesied during the reign of King Jehoiakim’s reign from 609–598 B.C. To Habakkuk’s fellow believers in the one, true God, their entire world felt upside down. As a prophet in Jerusalem, Habakkuk looked around and wickedness was on full display and God seemed pretty…silent. In fact, that’s an important sticking point as we read this book: God’s silence has bewildered Habakkuk to the point that he can’t remain silent any longer. And God doesn’t shy away from Habakkuk’s questions–He answers him! 

As we read this book, let it serve as a helpful reminder to us that God’s always working in the world around us–even when He seems quiet and distant. While this book is short (only three chapters), there is much to be learned and applied for us as readers and students of God’s Word. As you’re reading, underline and/or highlight the things that stick out to you. Write questions in the margins or in a notebook and dive in headfirst looking for answers! Ask God to speak to you as we read these ancient words this week.

Read Habakkuk 1

The prophecy that Habakkuk the prophet received.

Habakkuk’s Complaint

How long, Lord, must I call for help,
    but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
    but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice?
    Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
    there is strife, and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralyzed,
    and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
    so that justice is perverted.

The Lord’s Answer

“Look at the nations and watch—
    and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
    that you would not believe,
    even if you were told.
I am raising up the Babylonians,
    that ruthless and impetuous people,
who sweep across the whole earth
    to seize dwellings not their own.
They are a feared and dreaded people;
    they are a law to themselves
    and promote their own honor.
Their horses are swifter than leopards,
    fiercer than wolves at dusk.
Their cavalry gallops headlong;
    their horsemen come from afar.
They fly like an eagle swooping to devour;
    they all come intent on violence.
Their hordes advance like a desert wind
    and gather prisoners like sand.
10 They mock kings
    and scoff at rulers.
They laugh at all fortified cities;
    by building earthen ramps they capture them.
11 Then they sweep past like the wind and go on—
    guilty people, whose own strength is their god.”

Habakkuk’s Second Complaint

12 Lord, are you not from everlasting?
    My God, my Holy One, you will never die.
You, Lord, have appointed them to execute judgment;
    you, my Rock, have ordained them to punish.
13 Your eyes are too pure to look on evil;
    you cannot tolerate wrongdoing.
Why then do you tolerate the treacherous?
    Why are you silent while the wicked
    swallow up those more righteous than themselves?
14 You have made people like the fish in the sea,
    like the sea creatures that have no ruler.
15 The wicked foe pulls all of them up with hooks,
    he catches them in his net,
he gathers them up in his dragnet;
    and so he rejoices and is glad.
16 Therefore he sacrifices to his net
    and burns incense to his dragnet,
for by his net he lives in luxury
    and enjoys the choicest food.
17 Is he to keep on emptying his net,
    destroying nations without mercy?

Go Deeper

Habakkuk wrote this book during the last years of the southern kingdom of Israel when the people had given themselves over to injustice and idolatry. These chapters were likely written after the death of King Josiah of Judah but before the destruction of Judah. Habakkuk is wrestling to believe God is good even in the midst of mass tragedy. He asks questions like, “Why isn’t God saving us from violence?” or “Why does God allow injustice?” 

If we are honest, these questions don’t sound much different than ones we ask today. Our world is full of injustice, violence, and evil. On top of that, global, up-to-the-minute media makes us hyper-aware of this evil. If we go back to the text, God’s response to Habakkuk’s questions is far from what we would expect. God certifies that He is aware of Israel’s corruption and is going to allow one of the most wicked nations of all the earth to overthrow Israel. The people of Israel who have turned from God will face their punishment from a cruel and ruthless nation. 

Let’s put ourselves in Habakkuk’s shoes for a moment. Now the question is: “Why would God use wicked people to bring holiness back to Judah?” As followers of Jesus, it makes sense for the injustice and wickedness of the world to concern and disturb us. Habakkuk shows us that we can bring our concerns to God and ask Him to bring an end to the unrighteousness. Habakkuk gives us an example of how to be brokenhearted for those who have turned from God and to petition God to make things right, even if His answer is unexpected.

Mark 9 tells a story of a young boy who is possessed by a spirit that makes him convulse and become mute. His father brings him to Jesus to see if he can be healed.

‘But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.’”
“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:22b-24)

Jesus questions the father’s faith, and the father is honest in his response. With a simple change in how we word our prayers, they become sentences of faith rather than doubt. Instead of looking at injustice and asking God “why” or “if you can,” we can rely on the hope that Jesus offers and ask God to help us have faith in those areas of doubt.


  1. What stuck out must to you in this passage? Why?
  2. What doubts do you struggle with? Have you prayed to God about them? In what ways can you turn doubtful thoughts into faithful thoughts? 
  3. What can you do to spend more time in prayer this week?

Pray This

Father, thank you for Your word and that it speaks to things we struggle with even today. Help me to be brokenhearted for sin in our world, but even more, help me know that You are righteous and that You care for us. I believe You are good; help my unbelief. Amen.

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3 thoughts on “Habakkuk Overview + 1”

  1. Ella Snodgrass

    As I read the opening questions of Habakkuk and then how God answered, I was reminded of the words from a hymn from my childhood by Maltbie D. Babcock:
    “This is my Father’s world, O let me ne’er forget
    That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
    God is the ruler yet. This is my Father’s world,
    The battle is not done; Jesus who died shall be satisfied, and earth and heaven be one.”
    What is reinforced to the reader is that every question/concern can be brought to God. We have the privilege of opening up scripture that displays God character and precepts. As we discover his answers, let our obedience sanctify us knowing he is always at work around us. When it’s difficult to trace his hand in this fallen world, we can trust his faithful heart for us. God always wins in the end!

  2. The just shall live by faith: perhaps this book was written for our learning in such a time as this.
    Romans 1:17 – “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”
    Galatians 3:11 – “But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.”
    Hebrews 10:38 – “Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, My soul shall have no pleasure in him.”
    Are we living by faith, in Awe of our God? Are we full of pride, haughtiness, and self-sufficiency, head strong strife, given to complaining about everybody else and what they are doing wrong along with moral laxity. How do we fix this? God, HIs Word, Holy Spirit discernment?

    God thank You for today, this minute. Thank You for me giving myself to You, to hear You, to talk to You often. Teach me how to walk in more of You during my working hours. Fill me thoughts of You! God I thank You for the camp going on at HC, for protection over that property as all the fun and Your Word is taught for ears to hear and hearts to understand. God also for the pastoral conference give them a breath of fresh Holy Spirit sweeping over and breathing in them in Jesus name amen

  3. I recently felt a pull to get back into reading the Old Testament and scripture in general more consistently. I work at a church in MI but follow Harris Creek’s sermons and podcasts and so when looking for a reading plan I immediately went to your website to find one and found this! I don’t know that I’ve ever even read Habakkuk and so I was excited when I saw this and excited to dive into a reading plan with this as the first thing. Thank you for these plans – one day in and I already love the structure of the plan and the lessons learned from it tonight!

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