The Book of Habakkuk Chapter 1

Jul 24th, 2009 | By | Category: Habakkuk, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

The Book of Habakkuk Chapter 1


The Book of Habakkuk was probably written during the reign of King Jehoiakim and after the Book of Nahum. More specifically, Habakkuk was written 15 to 20 years before 606 BC, which would be in the range of 621–626 BC.

The name “Habakkuk” means “wrestle, wrestling”—hence the mental and moral struggle presented in Habakkuk’s prophecy. (The verbal form of the word has to do with “cling” or “clasp.”) As we proceed, we will see that the perspective of Habakkuk’s prophecy is that of the Great Company. Therefore, by extension, the Book of Habakkuk pertains to the mental and moral struggle or condition of the Great Company, a righteously inclined class who will have problems after the Little Flock is off the earthly scene.

The Book of Habakkuk is most famous for a Scripture quoted several times in the New Testament: “The just shall live by his faith” (Hab. 2:4). See Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, and Hebrews 10:38. There is a lot behind Habakkuk’s statement that the just shall live by faith.

Bible Students consider the most unusual text in Habakkuk to be Habakkuk 2:2,3, “And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it [seems to] tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.”

Another unusual text in this book is Habakkuk 3:17–19, “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls; Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments.” The explanation of this text, applies to the Great Company. It gives the sentiments and declarations of the Great Company when they are strengthened after the Church is complete, after Babylon has fallen, after they have suffered shame and sadness because they missed the chief prize, and after the governments have fallen. In other words, the Book of Habakkuk presents and/or expresses the apprehension, the testing of faith, and the trials of the Great Company after the Church is gone.

Of course the Prophet Habakkuk wrote about conditions in his day and in 606 BC in the type, but the antitype pertains to the Great Company in the near future. Reprint article No. 622 entitled “Habakkuk’s Prophecy,” a one-page article, discusses the book as a whole.

Hab. 1:1 The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see.

Verse 1 is a subtitle, as it were, for the entire Book of Habakkuk: “The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see.” The message begins abruptly with verse 2.

Hab. 1:2 O LORD, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save!

In verses 2–4 the prophet described his feelings and experiences at the time he gave this message. That time was shortly before judgment was to be executed upon Judah and Jerusalem in 606 BC by the Babylonians (called the Chaldeans in the Book of Habakkuk).

A turbulent picture is being described of evil conditions surrounding the righteous continually. The message  begins with “O LORD, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear!” Habakkuk witnessed all the spoiling, violence, strife, contention, slackness of the Law, the wicked encompassing the righteous, wrong judgment, etc.—in short, a condition of lawlessness.

This situation was also Lot’s experience in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, which were destroyed because of iniquity. Wickedness was everywhere. Lot’s righteous soul was vexed daily by the evil conditions he saw (2 Pet. 2:8). He was extricated from Sodom just as the city was going to be destroyed, being yanked out at the last minute. In antitype, the Little Flock will not be on the scene at this time, for just as Abraham saw the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah from afar, so the Little Flock will witness the destruction of Christendom from heaven.

At this time of evil, prophesied by Habakkuk, the nominal churches will already have been destroyed. Hence there will be no religious restraints and also no political restraints, for the governments, too, will have fallen. Anarchy and confusion will prevail. Habakkuk 2:1–4 describes a watchman who was to write the vision on tables: “I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved.”

Let us consider the words of verse 2 again: “O LORD, how long shall I cry, … and thou wilt not save!” Habakkuk expressed the feelings of the righteous class, who were perplexed and bewildered by what they saw and the slow response of God to correct the situation. Iniquity was abounding. “Why didn’t God stop it?” was their question.

As mentioned in the Introduction, Habakkuk 3:17,18 reveals the thinking of the Great Company class in the future after Christendom, including the governments, is destroyed. Chapter 1 also gives the sentiments of the Great Company, who will be perplexed by evil so great that the very survival of humanity is threatened with extinction. Matthew 24:22 adds, “Except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved.” These texts are describing the great Time of Trouble.

Hab. 1:3 Why dost thou show me iniquity, and cause me to behold grievance? For spoiling and violence are before me: and there are that raise up strife and contention.

Hab. 1:4 Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment doth never go forth: for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceedeth.

Even the Great Company class, let alone the Little Flock, must feel grieved about evil. Jesus and the Little Flock love righteousness and hate iniquity, and Lot was vexed. If the consecrated remaining after the Little Flock are gone are not greatly disturbed by the evil conditions, their destiny will not be life. The Great Company class will mourn the conditions and wonder why God does not stop them.

When mystic Babylon falls, God will miraculously preserve the Great Company class who are forced out. The truly consecrated will be kept alive for further experiences and development by God’s mercy so that they will, hopefully, get life. They must wash their robes white in the blood of the Lamb. The class of truly consecrated who are forced out of Babylon when the system falls will be less informed than the remaining consecrated in the Bible Student movement, who will be blessed with the mantle of Elijah that falls on them. By far, the greater number of the Great Company at the end of the age will come out of Babylon when it falls, as compared with those who are left in the Bible Student movement after the feet members go beyond the veil. Those who leave Babylon as it falls—the vast majority—will be less informed. Hence they will be puzzled as to why God is permitting the evil conditions. Those with a present-truth background have been specially blessed to understand this philosophy. Therefore, Habakkuk was expressing the view of the preponderant number of the Great Company at the very end of the age. They will be praying earnestly for instruction.

Verse 4 says the evil will be all pervasive because “the law is slacked.” The Torah is a compendium of principles, and these righteous principles are supposed to be in our civil law, for American and English law are an offshoot of the Mosaic Law. The law will be “slacked” in the sense that it is not being carried out or enforced because unrighteousness and lawlessness prevail.

“Judgment [justice] doth never go forth: for the wicked [the vast majority] doth compass about the righteous.” If the majority follow libertine ways, how can the minority control the evil? They cannot, even though righteous laws are in the books. Technically speaking, all are condemned except those in Christ, for “none [are] righteous, no, not one” (Rom. 3:10). It is true that there are some nice people in the world with good sentiments, but they are a minority. “Therefore wrong [wrested] judgment proceedeth.”

“The wicked doth compass about [beset] the righteous.” When Lot was in his home, the wicked inhabitants of Sodom surrounded his house. Lot’s two guests would not have gotten out safely except they were angels. Sodom, from which Lot (the Great Company) was miraculously delivered, pictures Christendom. And so in antitype, when the wicked beset the righteous, the wicked will be the majority and they will prevail. Back there homosexuality and sodomy with animals were flagrant sins of the majority. Similarly, the great majority in the future will practice evil without restrictions.

IMPORTANT: If faithful, we will not be here when this evil condition exists, when the great tribulation occurs. We should pray to escape this trouble. “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man” (Luke 21:36).

Hab. 1:5 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.

The unusual “work” that God “will work” is that He will raise up His Great Army to do a destructive work on Christendom. This evil class will be allowed not merely to providentially exist but to have sufficient freedom to do their evil work of destruction.

“And the LORD shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp is very great: for he is strong that executeth his word: for the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; and who can abide it?” (Joel 2:11).

The Prophet Habakkuk had a dual role. Sometimes he expressed himself as the Great Company will see matters, but at other times he expressed himself as a seer, as a prophet.

When he prophesied, he also took the role as if he were living at that future time.

Hab. 1:6 For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, which shall march through the breadth of the land, to possess the dwellingplaces that are not theirs.

In the type the destruction by the Chaldeans from the north was a pending situation. Verses 6–11 give insight into the characteristics of the enemy. The antitypical “Chaldeans” were described by the Pastor as communists, anarchists, nihilists, and socialists; that is, the Chaldeans constitute the Lord’s Great Army.

Q: “Babylon” is usually defined as the religious system in antitype. Does the term “Chaldeans” make the difference?

A: Here the Babylonians are the attackers. As such, they represent a nonreligious element that tears down the status quo. When Babylon itself is being besieged, then the term represents Christendom. The Chaldeans are related to Babylon.

Q: Based on recent events in Europe, is the Pastor’s definition of the Chaldeans as “communists” accurate?

A: He did not just say communism but included anarchists, nihilists, and socialists. The Latin nihil means “nothing,” and nihilists do not believe in any kind of government. They want to remain without any government so that they can exploit and kill or be killed. Anarchists tear down the current system but do not know what they will put in its place; they simply want something to replace the former. They are dissatisfied and want to get rid

of the current government and start fresh, but they have no plans. Despite what has happened to the USSR, many are still communists at heart. There are also many socialists around the world who are discontented.

Democracy is slow in getting things done, whereas communists in power just go ahead and do what they want. Gog and Magog will still come down from the north and will embrace nations at large.

Verse 6 describes the Lord’s Great Army as a “bitter and hasty [fierce and tempestuous] nation,” a very cruel people. Before them it will be like the Garden of Eden; behind them, a burning devastation—complete desolation. They will devour as they go along. They will “march through the breadth of the land, to possess the dwellingplaces that are not theirs.”

Comment: The Revised Standard Version has “earth” in verse 6: ““For lo, I am rousing the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, who march through the breadth of the earth, to seize habitations not their own.” That term shows a worldwide condition.

Hab. 1:7 They are terrible and dreadful: their judgment and their dignity shall proceed of themselves.

“Their judgment and their dignity shall proceed of themselves”; that is, they will not be curbed by any religious sentiments. When the nominal system is destroyed, there will be nothing to curb mankind, only their own personal thinking. All religions will be destroyed including Islam—and governments too. There will be no coordinated thinking, and each person will do as he pleases. This condition will be anarchy.

Hab. 1:8 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.

When we consider the meaning of this prophecy as a whole, the violence is seen to be literal. Many will literally be slain—worldwide. The great time of tribulation is a worldwide time of violence that will end in Jacob’s Trouble.

From this standpoint the “horses” are the means of travel. The statement “they shall fly as the eagle that hasteth to eat” emphasizes the swiftness of the travel. Armaments and the means of travel are greatly advanced since the Prophet Habakkuk’s day. Nations stockpile weapons of various kinds and armored tanks, and when anarchy occurs, the stockpile will be raided. Lawlessness and violence will prevail when there are no organized churches or armies or police forces. Instead the “army” will be composed of marauding terrorist bands—lawless bands that have the weaponry of modern warfare. They will be “more fierce than the evening wolves,” which hunt in packs at night.

“Their horsemen shall come from far.” The words “from far” suggest that the climactic end will occur in Israel. Gog will come to Israel from afar while the anarchy is occurring in all other nations.

Hab. 1:9 They shall come all for violence: their faces shall sup up as the east wind, and they shall gather the captivity as the sand.

The “east wind,” sometimes called the sirocco, is a dry, hot, withering wind that causes sandblasting (it collects a lot of sand and blows it).

“They [the Chaldeans] shall gather the captivity as the sand.” In Jacob’s Trouble there will be a captivity in which half of the inhabitants of Jerusalem are taken into exile (Zech. 14:2).

The Chaldeans will take booty including some of the people; the remainder will be destroyed, made into a wilderness. The booty will also be food, gold, silver, etc. “As the sand” implies the booty will accumulate.

The Great Company will go off the scene just before Jacob’s Trouble occurs. When Gog invades the Holy Land, the fallen angels will materialize en masse, and one of their first objectives will be to destroy the Great Company, the righteous class. Thus in a very short time, the calling of all the consecrated will be finished. “Flesh and blood,” including the Great Company, cannot enter the Kingdom of God (1 Cor. 15:50). As a group, they will have to lose their lives at a specific time for a precise ending. The next objective of the fallen angels will be Israel. (The fallen angels hate all those connected with God’s plan.) God will then intervene in a battle royal. “Though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee” saith the Lord (Jer. 30:11).

Q: How will the fallen angels get rid of the Great Company? What instrument will be used?

A: Just themselves and violence. Remember, governments will be gone at that time. Prior to the Flood the fallen angels took whatever wives they chose. In the future, they will just as easily kill off the Great Company. Also, prior to the mass materializations there will be partial or individual materializations to effect or be lying wonders while the feet members are still here.

Comment: Similarly, when Michael stands up, no being(s) will be able to stop him.

Reply: Exactly. And that is why Michael’s standing up is still future.

Hab. 1:10 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.

The pronoun “they” refers to the Chaldeans, who prefigure the Lord’s Great Army. The Chaldean area today is Iraq. In fact, Saddam Hussein even wanted to rebuild Babylon, and some Iraqis in this country (in the Midwest) call themselves Chaldeans.

The Lord’s Great Army will pull down the governments, and this verse shows a real arrogance and disdain for law and authority. “They shall scoff at the kings, and the princes shall be a scorn unto them.” The Lord’s Great Army will not be part of the Establishment either religiously or politically. Rather, they will be an outside, rebellious, disenchanted group. Moreover, they are described in Scripture as God’s battle ax or hammer, for His providences will favor circumstances for the development of this element for the purpose of pulling down the established order (Isa. 10:15; Jer. 50:23). God will not sanction or approve of this class in either morals or character, but He will approve of the destructive work they accomplish.

“They shall heap dust, and take it” as they “deride every strong hold [or fortress].” This portion of verse 10 refers to tactics used in olden times. No matter how strong the fortress wall, the enemy (in this case the Lord’s Great Army) will devise a way to override it.

Nothing will stop them. The “dust” alludes to making a ramp to get over the wall. Sometimes battering rams were used in the past—or a siege tower or fire or a siege. The Lord’s Great Army will be like locusts, climbing over everything in their way. Nothing will deter their onward march. The word “take” means “capture.” The Lord’s Great Army will capture every stronghold.

Hab. 1:11 Then shall his mind change, and he shall pass over, and offend, imputing this his power unto his god.

The Revised Standard Version correctly has “their” and “they” as pronouns, referring to the Chaldeans, the Lord’s Great Army. “Then they sweep by like the wind and go on, guilty men, whose own might is their god!” Gog’s mind will change when hooks are put in their nose to pull them back (Ezek. 38:4). After destroying the Vatican and while battering Europe, Gog will turn toward Israel. Their “own might” (RSV) will be their god. We are reminded of the Daniel 11:38 description of Napoleon: “But in his estate shall he honour the God of forces: and a god whom his fathers knew not shall he honour with gold, and silver, and with precious stones, and pleasant things.” The “God of forces” refers to military might.

Hab. 1:12 Art thou not from everlasting, O LORD my God, mine Holy One? we shall not die. O LORD, thou hast ordained them for judgment; and, O mighty God, thou hast established them for correction.

Verse 12, a paragraph break, starts to express thoughts of the Great Company, a righteous class who will be puzzled over events that are happening. These thoughts continue through verse 17. In seeing the Lord’s Great Army, an irreligious and powerful force, tear down government and religious institutions (the old order), the Great Company will have mixed experiences: disappointment and chagrin followed by strengthening, then questioning, again strengthening, questioning, etc.

“We shall not die [as new creatures].” The Great Company from a present-truth background, as well as the Great Company from Babylon, will feel that there is still hope— that they can get life as spirit beings and not go into extinction (Second Death). The words “we shall not die” thus indicate a strengthening experience.

“O LORD, thou hast ordained them [the Lord’s Great Army] for judgment [to do a destroying work].” The Great Company will then understand that the trouble is a part of God’s plan.

“O mighty God, thou hast established them for correction.” The King James margin has “O Rock.” A rock is a symbol of stability. Accordingly, the Great Company will realize that God’s omnipotence is not at all threatened by the Time of Trouble, that the lawlessness has been providentially overruled for correction and judgment.

Hab. 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?

Comment: Verse 12 indicates the Great Company has some understanding, but now they question why the trouble is not being stopped. Such contradictions exist in our very nature. We may profess one thing, but our words and/or actions may be inconsistent at times with that profession.

Reply: The conditions of lawlessness will be a test upon this righteous class. They will waver back and forth on certain issues. They will have ups and downs, highs and lows.

Comment: It is a blessing to know in advance that both the Little Flock and the Great Company will have alternating discouraging and strengthening experiences. If we have some foreknowledge of these experiences, then when we are discouraged, it will be of some comfort to know the Lord will help us.

Reply: Yes, to know the end of a matter and the details has definite instructional value. We will see more opposite experiences later in Habakkuk.

Verse 13 expresses questions asked all down the age, but conditions will be exacerbated and intensified in the future. It is one thing to see the Lord’s Great Army pull down that which is old and effete and unjust and corrupt, but it is another matter to see this lawless element encroach upon a “righteous” class.

Hab. 1:14 And makest men as the fishes of the sea, as the creeping things, that have no ruler over them?

The Great Company class continue to question. Unsuspecting fish (people) are taken suddenly in the net by the Lord’s Great Army. When the Great Company see noble people and things being taken, they will ask, “Why doesn’t God stop the trouble?” (Eventually, the Great Company will get the oil of understanding and zeal, as shown in the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins in Matthew Chapter 25.)

“That have no ruler over them.” In the anarchy the people will crave leadership and order and instruction and help, but there will be no one. These conditions will eventually help the Great Company to wash their robes (Rev. 7:14). Instead of inspecting others, they will begin to be introspective. They will have to search their own hearts.

Hab. 1:15 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.

The Lord’s Great Army, the ones casting in the net, will rejoice and be glad. They will have no moral restraints and will go after all, good and bad, and will be happy with their seeming success in exploiting others and with force being their god.

Hab. 1:16 Therefore they sacrifice unto their net, and burn incense unto their drag; because by them their portion is fat, and their meat plenteous.

The Lord’s Great Army will worship “their net,” their weapons, their own powers, as the reason for their success. As anarchy interrupts the food supplies, the Lord’s Great Army will enrich themselves with the spoils of others—worldwide. They will march through the lands, taking what they want. Before them is the Garden of Eden; behind them is a desolate wilderness of looting, burning, and extinction. Remember, there will be no police or fire departments at this time.

Hab. 1:17 Shall they therefore empty their net, and not spare continually to slay the nations?

Verse 17 is a rhetorical question. The answer is obvious: No! The Lord’s Great Army will be insatiable; they will know no end. As soon as they empty the net, they will cast it in again and again and again for more and more spoil. This element has existed all down the age, taking advantage of situations until they are stopped, but here the condition is so prevalent that only divine power will be able to stop them.

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  1. I read the vision written on tables. I read the passages about the king, and i read and understood chapter three of habbakkuk and what the poetry meant.

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