Jesus said, ‘You will hear about wars and stories about wars. Be sure that this does not frighten you.’ (Matthew 24:6)
Habakkuk lived about 600 years B.C. (B.C. means ‘years Before Christ came to the earth’.) He lived in the country called Judah. There is a list of the kings of Judah in the notes at the beginning of Zephaniah in this set of books.
The country that ruled that part of the world until 612 *B.C. was Assyria. In 612 *B.C. a country called Babylon beat Assyria. Then the *Babylonians ruled that part of the world. Both the *Assyrians and the *Babylonians loved and obeyed false gods. Habakkuk thought that the king and other leaders of the people of Judah did not rule well. Many leaders did bad things and nothing could stop them. These leaders did very cruel things to the people in Judah. We call this ‘oppression’. These leaders did not obey the covenant that they had with God. A covenant is when two people or groups agree. Here the two are God and the people in Judah. God said that wanted to be kind to Judah’s people. They should love him and they should obey him. If they did that, he would be kind to them. But the leaders did not love and obey God. So, God said that he would punish Judah’s people. Punish means ‘hurt someone when they do something wrong’.
God chose the *Babylonians to *punish the leaders of Judah. The trouble was that they *punished the people in Judah with the leaders. Since 625 *B.C. Babylon had become a powerful country. They destroyed many countries and, in 612 *B.C., they destroyed Assyria. Then they destroyed Egypt in 605 *B.C. Later, in 586 *B.C., they destroyed Judah also. There is more about Assyria in the notes at the beginning of Nahum in this set of books.
Habakkuk did not understand this. He knew that someone must *punish Judah. But he did not know why it should be the *Babylonians. The *Babylonians were very bad and cruel people. The *Babylonians loved and obeyed false gods. In his book, Habakkuk talks to God:
· in chapter 1 he asks God a question. Would God ever answer when Habakkuk prayed to God?
· in chapter 2 he waits for God’s answer. God says that he will *punish the *Babylonians later. The whole world would see what God would do.
· in chapter 3 Habakkuk says that he believes that God will do this. God will *punish the *Babylonians and he will make Judah safe.
In this translation, words in brackets … (…..) … are not in the *Hebrew Bible. Habakkuk wrote his book in the *Hebrew language.
The Story of Habakkuk
We know very little about Habakkuk. The name means ‘he who holds somebody close to him’. Bible students think that he lived about 600 B.C. (B.C. means ‘years Before Christ came to the earth’.)
This was a very important time in the history (or story) of the *Jews. After Kings Saul, David, Solomon and Rehoboam, their country became two countries. The north part was called Israel. The south part was called Judah. About 720 *B.C. the *Assyrians destroyed the north part. This was because Israel’s people did not obey God’s rules. But the south part did not think that this would happen to them. They too did not obey God’s rules. But Habakkuk said that it would happen. He was right. In 586 *B.C. the *Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem. They took the people away to Babylon. We call this ‘the *exile’.
Habakkuk had two problems:
1) In Judah, people did not obey God’s rules. Habakkuk did not understand why God did nothing to make them obey him (Habakkuk 1:2-4).
2) God told Habakkuk that he would do something. But Habakkuk thought that this was not possible. He did not understand how God could use *wicked people (like the *Babylonians) to *punish Judah’s people. Judah’s people were not as *wicked as the *Babylonians! (See Habakkuk 1:12-17.)
We still have these problems today. Many countries say that they are Christian. But their people do not live like Christians. When we pray about this, nothing seems to happen. So many people say that God is dead! But God is not dead! He is doing something. If we wait, we will see this. Sometimes he uses people that are not Christians. They can do his work for him. Or he brings good things from the bad things that people do. God still has authority! We must believe it. Even if it does not seem that he has. This is called ‘to live by *faith’. Habakkuk 2:4 says, ‘*righteous people will live by their *faith (in God)’.
This means two things:
· they will continue to believe all through their lives that God will give them help;
· after they die on this earth, they will live with God.
At the end of his book, Habakkuk writes a psalm. A psalm is a song with music. In it, he *praises God. He also says that whatever happens, he will still *praise God. That is the message of Habakkuk to us: Whatever happens, *praise God!
Habakkuk Chapter 1
v1 (These are) the important words that Habakkuk the *prophet received (from God).
(Habakkuk has a problem.)
v2 *LORD, how long must I cry to you for help and you will not listen? (How long) must I shout aloud to you, ‘*Violence!’ and you do not make us safe?
v3 Why do you make me see things that are not right? Why do you let (people do) what is wrong? (People) destroy (things) and there is *violence everywhere. People argue and fight a lot.
v4 So the *law can do nothing and *justice never wins. There is a circle of very, very bad people round the *righteous people and *justice becomes turned round.
(The *LORD answers.)
v5 ‘Look at (all) the countries and watch. You will become very, very surprised because I will do something in your *lifetime. And you will not believe it. (You will not believe it) even when I tell you about it!
v6 I will make the *Babylonians strong. They will be cruel and they will do things fast (and without thought). They will go across the whole earth. And they will take homes that are not theirs.
v7 People will be afraid of (the *Babylonians). They will really frighten people. (The *Babylonians) will make their own rules and they will write their own *laws.
v8 Their horses will run faster than *leopards. And they (the *Babylonians) will be more cruel than *wolves in the night. Their men on horses will ride fast (and they will frighten people). The riders on horses will come from far away. They will fly as *vultures that hurry to eat (something).
v9 They will all come for *violence. Large crowds of them will come as a wind in the sandy places. They will put (as many) people into prison as (there are bits of) sand (in these places).
v10 They will say things about kings that are not kind. And they will laugh at the leaders (of the people). They will know that city walls will not keep them out. They will build earth as high as the walls and they will take (each city).
v11 Then they will rush past like the wind and they will go on (to somewhere else). They will think that their own god has made them strong.’
(Habakkuk has another problem.)
v12 *LORD, you have always been alive. (You are) my God. (You are) my *Holy God. (So) we will not die. *LORD, you have given (the *Babylonians) a job. It is to bring (us) *justice. And you, (our) Rock, have sent them to *punish us.
v13 (But) your eyes are too *holy to look at very bad (men). You cannot look at anything that is wrong. So why do you let these bad men (live)? Why do you say nothing? These bad people are killing those who are better than them.
v14 And you have made people like fishes in the sea. (You have made them) like animals that move with no rulers.
v15 (The *Babylonians) will catch all of them, with the *hooks that they use to fish with. They will catch them in their fishing *nets and they will put them in their special holding *nets. This makes them (the *Babylonians) very happy and full of pleasure.
v16 So they make *sacrifices to their *nets and they burn *incense to their special holding *nets. (They do that) because their *nets give them a good life. And so they have the best food.
v17 So will they empty their *nets always? Will they destroy countries without *mercy?
Notes on Habakkuk Chapter 1
Verses 2-4 The *prophet is writing about what happens in his own country. There is *violence. And the *law cannot do anything to stop it. More than this, ‘*justice becomes turned round’. This means that people can do wrong things. But they make it seem like they are doing good things.
Verse 5-11 The *LORD says that he will do something. He will *punish his people in Judah. But he will use the *Babylonians to do it! This will surprise people like Habakkuk. It will surprise them because the *Babylonians have false gods. They are *wicked people. There is a lot of sand in the *desert. So verse 9 means that they will put a lot of people into prison.
Verse 12 – 2:1 Habakkuk shows his surprise. Surely God cannot use people like the *Babylonians! God is *holy and clean and *righteous! Surely he cannot even look at these *wicked people! The *prophet says that he will watch for the answer. He will stand on something high, like the walls of the city (of Jerusalem) or one of its towers. A tower is a high building.
Habakkuk Chapter 2
v1 I will stand and I will watch. I will stay on the walls (of the city). I will look to see what (God) will say to me. And I will see what answer I will have for my problem.
(The *LORD answers.)
v2 Then the *LORD replied to me. And he said, ‘Write down what I will show you. Make it very clear on (the page) where you write it. Then the runner can tell (people) all about it.
v3 What I will show you must wait for the proper time. But at that time, it will happen. It will happen as I have said. It may not happen for a long time but wait for it. It will certainly happen and it will not be late.
v4 Look (at the *Babylonians). They are *proud. The things that they want are not good. But *righteous people will live by their *faith (in God).
v5 And also, *wine will destroy (Babylon). Yes, they are *proud and they never stop taking things (from people). They never have enough, as *Sheol and death (never have enough). They take people from all countries for themselves and they take people from everywhere.
v6 (The people in all these countries) will make up a song against it (Babylon). They will laugh at it and they will say bad things about it. They will say, “Some people rob other people. And they keep what they take. A sad time will come to those people. Some people get a lot of money by the very bad things that they do. (A sad time will come) to those people. They will not always be able to do this.”
v7 The people that you have taken things from will wake up. It will happen when you are not thinking about it! They will get up and they will make you afraid. Then you will be the people that they will rob!
v8 You have robbed many countries. So the people that remain will rob you. That is because you have killed people. And you have destroyed their towns and their lands. You have killed everyone that lived there.
v9 Some people get things for themselves by ways that are not honest. A sad time will come to those people. You build your homes high up so that nobody can take you to do bad things to you.
v10 You decided to kill the people from many countries. Because of this, you will be ashamed. And you will pay with your own life.
v11 Even the stones in the walls will cry. The beams that you made from wood will do it as well.
v12 A man might build a city by killing people. A man might make a town great because he has been very bad. A sad time will come to that man.
v13 The work that people do will go into the fire. The *LORD of everything has decided that it will. People in many countries will make themselves tired for nothing!
v14 But the earth will become filled with (people that) know about the *glory of the *LORD. This will be as the waters cover the sea.
v15 A sad time will come to him that gives (strong) drink to his neighbours (people that live near him). He pours out *wine until they are drunk. Then he looks at them when they have no clothes on!
v16 You will be really ashamed. Nobody will think that you are great. Then you will drink and people will see you with no clothes on! The cup in the *LORD’s right hand will come round to you. You will be ashamed. You will not remain great.
v17 The *violence that you did to Lebanon will pour over you. You will be very frightened because you killed animals. And you have killed people. And you have destroyed their towns and their lands. You have also killed everyone who lived there.
v18 An *idol is of no value. It was a man that made it! It is a copy (of a false god). It teaches (that man) things that are not true. (This is) because he is *trusting his own work. He has made *idols that cannot speak!
v19 It will be very bad for someone who says to a piece of wood, “Wake up!” He says to a stone that cannot speak, “Get up and be my guide!” Look at it (the *idol). It has gold and *silver over it but it is not alive.
v20 But the *LORD (is) in his *holy *temple. Everything in the world should be quiet in front of him.’
Notes on Habakkuk Chapter 2
Verses 2-20 The *LORD says that someone will destroy Babylon. In verse 5 we read, ‘*wine will destroy Babylon’. The Book of Daniel tells us that this really happened, about 70 years later! God may use *wicked people. But he makes sure that someone destroys their country later. Sometimes we see God use *wicked people. Then we must wait for someone to *punish them. It always happens because God has authority! ‘*Sheol and death never have enough’ in verse 5 means that people are always dying.
In this part of the book, we find 5 things that bad people (and bad countries) do:
· they rob other people, verse 6
· they are not honest, verse 9
· they kill people, verse 12
· many people become drunk, verse 15
· they have false gods, verse 18
People that do not obey God still do these things. So God will still *punish them. He may still use *wicked people to do it. But later, he will *punish those *wicked people. If we wait long enough, it will happen! We must be quiet until this happens. That is what verse 20 means.
Habakkuk Chapter 3
v1 (These are) the words that the *prophet Habakkuk prayed. (He used music called) Shigionoth.
v2 *LORD, I have heard (what people) say about you. I see the things that you have done, *LORD. Then I am afraid. (But) do them again now. Make people know (what you can do) in our *lifetime. You are angry, (but still) remember *mercy!
v3 God came from Teman. The *Holy One came from the mountain (called) Paran.
His *glory covered the skies and his *praise filled the earth.
v4 He was as bright as the sunrise. Light fell from his hands, where he hid his great power.
v5 *Plague went in front of him and *pestilence followed his feet.
v6 (God) stood and he made the earth *shake. He looked and countries were afraid. Old mountains broke into rocks and very old hills fell down. This always happens everywhere that he goes!
v7 I saw the places where Cushan lived. They were not happy. The houses of Midian were afraid.
v8 Surely you were not angry with the streams and rivers, *LORD! Surely you were not angry with the sea when you rode (through it) with horses and *chariots! You did this to win the fight.
v9 You showed (people) your bow and you got many *arrows.
You cut the earth into pieces with rivers.
v10 The mountains saw you and they *shook. Deep waters moved very fast. The sea made a loud noise and it lifted its waters high.
v11 The sun and the moon stopped moving in the skies. The light from your *arrows that were flying past (stopped them). So (also) did the light from your shining *spear.
v12 You marched through the country because you were angry. Because you were so angry, you hit (many) countries with your stick.
v13 You went out to make your people safe. You went out to save your *messiah. You beat the leader of the *wicked country. You took away his clothes from head to foot.
v14 You pushed your own *spear into his head. (You did this) when his soldiers came out to fight us. They were laughing when they came out to kill the poor people. The poor people were hiding from them.
v15 You marched through the sea with your horses. You *shook the waters.
v16 I listened and my heart was afraid. My lips *shook at the sound. My bones began to fall into pieces. My legs would not stop moving. But I will be patient. And I will wait for the very bad days that will come. They will come to the people that are attacking us.
v17 There may be:
· no flowers on the *fig tree
· no fruit on the *vines
· nothing on the trees that have fruits called olives
· no food in the fields
· no sheep in the hills
· no cows on the farms
v18 But I will still sing *praises to the *LORD! I will be happy with the God that makes me safe.
v19 The *LORD, who is my master, will make me safe. He makes my feet as the feet of a *deer so that I can climb mountains.
The music leader must use stringed instruments (things that make music).
Notes on Habakkuk Chapter 3
The book ends with a psalm (a song with music)! Habakkuk may have worked with one of the music groups in the *temple in Jerusalem. He tells them what music to use, and what *musical instruments, (verses 1 and 19). The psalm remembers what God did. He led his people out of Egypt. That was 800 years before Habakkuk. If God did great things then, he can do great things now! (That is still true for us.) The *plagues and *pestilences in verse 5 are what happened to the *Egyptians. This was when they did not obey God. The sea in verses 8 and 10 was the Red Sea. God led his people through it, and they did not even get their feet wet! Verses 6-12 describe a great storm. The ‘leader of the *wicked country’ in verse 13 was Pharaoh, King of Egypt.
All this makes Habakkuk afraid, verse 16. But he says this: Whatever happens he will still *praise the *LORD (verse 17).
He knows that God is still in authority! That is why he can still *praise God. Even when times are bad, he will be like an animal. This animal can climb mountains with no difficulty! The animal is called the deer.
Something to do
1. If you have a Bible, read Psalm 73. (It is the first Psalm in Book 3 of The Psalms.)
2. When there is war, pray to God about it. Tell him that you still have *faith in him. And look for what God is doing.
anger ~ when someone is angry they have anger.
arrows ~ sharp sticks that people shoot with bows.
as I live ~ (here) because I, God, am alive, it really will happen!
Assyrians ~ these people came from the country called Assyria.
B.C. ~ B.C. means ‘years Before Christ came to the earth’.
Baal ~ a false god; people in the countries called Judah and Israel *served him before the *Jews came.
Babylonians ~ these people came from the country called Babylon.
bitter ~ the opposite of sweet.
bow down ~ bend in front of and become the servant of.
call ~ shout out.
castle ~ a very strong building that soldiers use.
cement ~ material that people use to fasten stones together in buildings.
change ~ make a change to.
chariot ~ soldiers rode in chariots when they went to war; horses pulled the chariots.
clap ~ to hit your open hands together so that they make a noise.
comfort ~ make somebody happy and strong.
covenant ~ when two people or groups make promises to each other.
croak ~ make a noise like a *raven.
Cush ~ an old name for countries in the Nile Valley, like Egypt or Ethiopia.
cut off ~ here, it is another word for ‘destroy’.
deer ~ an animal that looks like a small cow.
descendant ~ a child, grandchild, and so on; a person in your family who lives after you are dead.
desert ~ land full of sand; it is so dry that not many plants grow there.
doorstep ~ the stone on the floor where the door is.
earthquake ~ the ground *shakes and buildings fall down.
Egyptians ~ these people came from the country called Egypt.
eschatological ~ about the end of time, when Jesus returns to earth as king.
exile ~ away from your own country.
faith in God ~ to believe that God will give you help and he will make you safe.
festival ~ a special party for music or *religion.
fig ~ a fruit.
Fish Gate ~ a place in Jerusalem.
gallop ~ run like a horse.
glory ~ it shines very much and it makes you important.
grasshopper ~ an insect that jumps.
Greek ~ a language.
harlot ~ a woman that gives sex to men for money.
Hebrew ~ the language that the *Jews spoke.
holy ~ very, very good; only God is really holy.
holy mountain ~ the mountain called *Zion in Jerusalem; they built the *temple on it.
Holy One ~ a name for God.
hook ~ bit of metal that someone bent, to catch fish.
hoot ~ make a noise like an *owl.
humble ~ humble people do not think that they are very important.
idol ~ a false god.
image ~ a picture or a copy of someone; here, a copy of a false god.
in their hearts ~ what they thought.
jealous/jealousy ~ perhaps someone else loves the person that you love; then you feel jealous; or, when you do good things for somebody that you love.
Jew ~ a person who is born from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their children.
joy ~ something that makes people very, very happy.
justice ~ when people do what is right.
law ~ the rules of a country; here, God’s rules for men and women.
lees ~ the dirt that falls under the *wine when people make *wine.
leopard ~ a very big cat that can run very fast.
lies ~ words that are not true.
lifetime ~ as long as someone lives.
lion ~ a wild animal like a very large cat.
locust ~ a large *grasshopper; locusts eat all the green plants in a place.
LORD ~ a special name for God that only his servants should use.
Lord ~ someone with authority; also a name for God. (It is not the same *Hebrew word as *LORD.)
magic ~ to make strange things happen to surprise people. These things are not usual. Magic is very bad and it is not from God. It is when people cause bad *spirits to do things for them. The *spirits do things that people cannot usually do.
melt ~ lose its shape, as when butter becomes hot.
mercy ~ to be kind to people when you do not have to be kind.
messiah ~ in the *New Testament, Jesus; in the *Old Testament, the king. They caused someone to become king by putting oil on his head. The word messiah is *Hebrew for ‘oil put on’.
musical instrument ~ something that makes music; you may hit it; you may blow in it or touch it.
net ~ bag with which people catch fish.
New Testament ~ the last part of the Bible, which the writers wrote after Christ’s birth.
Old Testament ~ the first part of the Bible, which the writers wrote before Christ’s birth.
owl ~ a big bird that catches food at night.
palace ~ a building where the king lives.
pestilence ~ bad things that are happening (bad weather or when insects attack).
plague ~ when many people become ill.
plan ~ thoughts about what to do.
play ~ story told in a special way.
poetry ~ words used in a special way.
praise ~ tell someone how great they are (or words that do it).
priest ~ a special servant of God, or a false god.
prophet ~ he or she says what God is saying; or he says what God will do.
proud ~ to think that you are important when perhaps you are not.
punish ~ hurt people because they have done bad things.
pure ~ contains only one material.
rattle ~ make a noise like bits of wood hit together many times.
raven ~ a big black bird that eats dead bodies.
rebel ~ fight against.
religion ~ way to show God that we love him.
remnant ~ a small part that remains from a larger piece.
righteous ~ very, very good; only God is really righteous.
sacrifice ~ something that people burned for their gods; usually it was animals but sometimes it was food or people.
scarlet ~ a colour like red.
scorn ~ to laugh at in a way that is not kind.
Second Quarter ~ a place in Jerusalem.
SELAH ~ a place to pray, or think; or a place to make music.
serve ~ to be servants of somebody like a king or a god.
shake ~ move something fast from one side to another and back again many times.
Sheol ~ where *Old Testament people went when they died.
shield ~ a soldier holds this over himself to stop things that would hit him.
shook ~ past of *shake.
silver ~ a metal of great value, like gold.
spear ~ a long stick with a sharp end.
spirit ~ spirits are alive, but we cannot see them. There are good spirits usually called angels. Bad spirits (also called evil spirits, or demons) do not live in God’s home now, but in the air round us. Satan (the devil) is their leader.
stolen ~ taken or robbed.
sword ~ a long, sharp knife that soldiers used.
temple ~ God’s house in Jerusalem; or the house of any god.
The Hills ~ a place in Jerusalem.
The Market ~ a place in Jerusalem.
tongue ~ our tongues in our mouths help us to speak.
tower ~ a tall building.
treasure ~ something very valuable.
tribe ~ a very large family.
trumpet ~ people blew into a trumpet; it made a noise a bit like music.
trust ~ believe that someone will be good to you; believe what someone says.
unclean ~ the opposite of clean; in Zephaniah it means ‘to do what is wrong’.
unhappy ~ the opposite of happy.
vine ~ a plant that grows a fruit called the grape.
violence ~ to be cruel and to hurt people a lot.
volcano ~ a mountain that sometimes shoots out fire and hot ash.
vulture ~ a big bird that eats dead animals.
waste ~ something that has no value or use that people throw away.
wheel ~ it goes round and round under a car, to make it go.
whip ~ something to hit people with.
wicked ~ very, very bad.
wine ~ a drink with alcohol in it; people make it from grapes (a fruit).
wolves (one is a wolf) ~ a wild animal that kills and eats other animals, including people.
Zion ~ a hill in Jerusalem; sometimes another name for Jerusalem.