1 The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see

Set in the southern kingdom of Judah during the late seventh century BC

The burden — The Hebrew massa is from the root nasa "to lift," and therefore implies something which is heavy, but which rests upon one, and therefore is something to be lifted up. It is a load to be borne, and in this context suggests a heavy prophetic oracle.

Habakkuk — His name means Embracer, or Wrestler. He embraced the truth with zeal; and he wrestled in faith with the problem that faced him.

The prophet — The Hebrew nabi signifies to boil or bubble over. Gesenius suggests that it is taken from the metaphor of a fountain bursting forth from the heart of a man into whom Yahweh has poured His spirit (cp. Psa. 45:1 mg; Prov. 1:23).

The Greek form of the word is interesting. "Prophet" is compounded of two parts: pro, "for," and phet, the messenger or interpreter of the divine will. It suggests the proclamation of the will of Yahweh, as well as declaring His future purposes. It implies the "forth-telling" of divine requirements; as well as the "fore-telling" of the divine purpose (cp. Exod.4:16; 7:1).

When the spirit took possession of a person, the impulse to speak was irresistible.

The Christadelphian Expositor

2 O Yahweh, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save!

Habakkuk has waited for deliverance for the faithful remnant but there seems to be no end to the suffering of the righteous and prosperity of the wicked. His dispair has been prolonged. He pleads for intervention but "how long" must he wait for a sign of deliverance. His name means embrace. We think of Jacob who wrestled with an angel. Habbakuk appears to display a similar disposition.

3 Why dost thou shew me iniquity, and cause me to behold grievance? for spoiling and violence are before me: and there are that raise up strife and contention. 

4 Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment doth never go forth: for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceedeth.

In v3 moral corruption vexes righteous Habbakuk and subverts the just and holy law of Moses. There is no justice and the law is perverted. The rulers have failed to ensure the welfare of the people

And I said, Hear, I pray you, O heads of Jacob,

And ye princes of the house of Israel;

Is it not for you to know judgment?

Who hate the good, and love the evil - Micah 3: 1,2


Evil Does Not Go Unpunished, Nor Virtue Unrewarded

5 Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvellously: for I will work a work in your days, which ye will not believe, though it be told you.

... cited by Paul to the unbelieving Jews in Acts 13:41*

6 For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, which shall march through the breadth of the land, to possess the dwelling places that are not theirs.

7 They are terrible and dreadful: their judgment and their dignity shall proceed of themselves.

8 Their horses also are swifter than the leopards, and are more fierce than the evening wolves: and their horsemen shall spread themselves, and their horsemen shall come from far; they shall fly as the eagle that hasteth to eat.

9 They shall come all for violence: their faces shall sup up as the east wind, and they shall gather the captivity as the sand.

10 And they shall scoff at the kings, and the princes shall be a scorn unto them: they shall deride every strong hold; for they shall heap dust, and take it.

11 Then shall his mind change, and he shall pass over, and offend, imputing this his power unto his god.

12 Art thou not from everlasting, O Yahweh my Elohim, mine Holy One? we shall not die. O Yahweh, thou hast ordained them for judgment; and, O mighty Tzur [Rock], thou hast established them for correction.

The prophet again appeals to Yahweh, since the invader is oppressive, idolatrous and cruel. He pleads for the correction of Israel, and not for their destruction, a sentiment continued by the apostle Paul (Rom. 9:3; 10:1).*


13 Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he?

14 And makest men as the fishes of the sea, as the creeping things, that have no ruler over them?

15 They take up all of them with the angle, they catch them in their net, and gather them in their drag: therefore they rejoice and are glad.

16 Therefore they sacrifice unto their net, and burn incense unto their drag; because by them their portion is fat, and their meat plenteous.

17 Shall they therefore empty their net, and not spare continually to slay the nations?