Habakkuk 1: Introduction to the Prophet’s Writing

(17 verses, 2:43 to read)


What I am about to READ

  • Since this is the first chapter of Habakkuk, this section will be devoted to a brief introduction of the prophet and his writings.
  • Habakkuk’s prophetic ministry probably took place during the end of Josiah’s reign in Jerusalem (he reigned about 640-609 B.C.), during the brief reign of Johoahaz (he reigned for a very short time, about 609 B.C.), and into the reign of Jehoiakim (he reigned from around 609-598 B.C.). This is after the fall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C. at the hands of the Assyrians, and before the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in about 587 B.C. This book may have been written about 605 B.C., which was a time of rapid expansion for the Babylonian Empire under Nebuchadnezzar II.
  • The book begins with a back and forth exchange between the prophet and God (1:2-2:5). Habbakuk’s complaints may serve as an aid to Christians today in their struggle with answering why a loving God would allow such evil in the world. The remainder of chapter 2 contains promises of the Lord’s destruction of the wicked. Chapter 3 is Habakkuk’s prayer, which is in the style of a psalm.

MARK (An outline of Habakkuk 1) 

  • v. 1- The superscription or title of the book
  • vv. 2-4 Habakkuk’s first complaint
  • vv. 5-11 the Lord’s response to Habakkuk
  • vv. 12-17 Habakkuk’s second complaint


  • Habakkuk’s complaint begins by calling out to the Lord for deliverance from the evil that surrounds him. Notice his complaint is that the “law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth.” This seems to indicate that this complaint is really against the King of Judah, who has completely ignored the Lord’s Word. This has some implications for us when our rulers ignore the natural law that God has put into place to curb outward evil in the world. Habakkuk’s complaint also seems to blame God for His apparent unwillingness to correct this problem.
  • The Lord responds by telling Habakkuk that He is raising up the Babylonians (here, there are called the Chaldeans) to bring an end to the wickedness in Judah. Notice there is condemnation of the Babylonians in this passage, however, as God says they are idolaters in v. 11. This is a foreshadowing of the fall of Babylon. It is also a demonstration of how God uses one evildoer to punish another. Formerly, He had used the Philistines and Assyrians to punish the Israelites, and after the ascension of our Lord, He used the Romans, all despite their paganism worship of false gods.
  • Habakkuk’s second complaint again asks God why He appears to stand idly by as the ungodly torment the righteous. This is the “crux theologorium” or the “theologian’s cross.” How is it that wickedness seems to prevail against righteousness in this world? A number of the psalms echo similar complaints. We are left asking the same question. Jesus takes up this question in Luke 13:1-5, as He addresses the pilgrims slaughtered by Pilate in the temple during a time of sacrifice. The response from Jesus is that we are to repent of our sins, lest we perish. We must recognize that all wickedness in the world is a result of the fall and of our own sins as well. By our repentance, we turn to God alone for salvation.
  • This will lead to God’s majestic declaration in Habakkuk 2:4, “The righteous shall live by his faith.” This is a verse picked up by St. Paul in his epistles, which tells us that God is working to bring an end to the evil of the world. This ultimately took place in the crucifixion of Jesus, whereby He defeated the devil. We now live in a period of God’s grace toward us sinners, that we may turn to Him and receive salvation through faith in Christ. We do not look, then, to the outward circumstances of our lives to know if God loves us, but we look to the cross. There, Jesus suffered–the righteous for the unrighteous–that we might become the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. Our suffering in this life is joined to the suffering of Jesus, which conforms us to His image and kills in us all sin and evil desires until we close our eyes in this life or until Christ returns to rescue us from this vale of tears.


  • Prayer: Hear my prayer, O Lordlet my cry come to you! Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress! Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call! Amen (Ps. 102:1-2)

Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Post below, or join the conversation in our Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/dailybiblemeditation/

-Rev. Jordan McKinley, pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church, Vallonia, IN

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