Habakkuk – How God Uses Evil

May 15, 2021 version

 

Habakkuk was different than other prophets, because while they spoke for God to the people, Habakkuk spoke to God about God’s people. We know nothing of Habakkuk except what is in the book.

 

There are some similarities between Habakkuk 1:8 and Jeremiah 4:13; 5:6; and Habakkuk 2:10 with Jeremiah 51:58; and Jeremiah 2:12 with Jeremiah 22:13-17. There are similarities between Habakkuk 2:20 and Zephaniah 1:7, so some see this pointing to Habakkuk being written before these other two prophets. See the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible p.667 and New International Bible Commentary p.944 for more info.

 

Pre-Nicene and Post-Nicene writers who refer to Habakkuk

Dead Sea Scrolls (-68 A.D.) Pesher (commentary) on Habakkuk

Life of Antony (possibly by Athanasius) (356-362 A.D.)

Clement of Rome (96/98 A.D.)

Athanasius of Alexandria (367 A.D.)

Melito of Sardis (170-177/180 A.D.) (implied, with The Twelve.)

Synopsis Scripturae Sacrae (350-370 A.D.)

Theophilus of Antioch (168-181/188 A.D.)

Ephraem the Syrian (350-378 A.D.)

Irenaeus of Lyons (182-188 A.D.)

Basil of Cappadocia (357-378 A.D.) allusion

Clement of Alexandria (193-202 A.D.)

Cyril of Jerusalem (c.349-385 A.D.)

The Muratorian canon (190-217 A.D.) (partial) refers to the Old Testament scriptures

Gregory of Nazianzen (330-391 A.D.)

Tertullian (198-220 A.D.)

Amphilochius (-394 A.D.)

Origen (225-254 A.D.)

Gregory of Nyssa (c.356-397 A.D.)

Novatian (250-257 A.D.)

John Chrysostom (-407 A.D.)

Cyprian of Carthage (c.246-258 A.D.)

Jerome (373-420 A.D.)

(56 verses in Habakkuk)

 

Early manuscripts of Habakkuk

Dead Sea Scrolls (-68 A.D.) 4Q82, 4Q238 contains Habakkuk

Vaticanus (325-350 A.D.)

Nahal Hever (50 B.C.- 50 A.D.)

Sinaiticus (340-350 A.D.)

Wadi Murab’ait (c.132 A.D.)

Alexandrinus (c.450 A.D.)

 

An Outline of Habakkuk

Hab 1-2 Two baffling questions on evil

  1:2-4 First, God, why do you tolerate evil among your people?

  1:5-11 First answer (not a very comforting one)

  1:12-17 Second, why do you punish evil people with people even more evil?

  1:12-17 Second, why do you use even more wicked people to punish evil people?

  2:1-10 Second answer (God can do as He wishes, but wait until the end)

Hab 3 Keep on Rejoicing anyway: Prayer and Praise to God

  3:1-2 Habakkuk’s prayer for mercy

  3:3-15 Habakkuk’s praise of God’s majesty

  3:16-19 Habakkuk’s pledge to keep rejoicing despite the circumstances

See the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible p.668 for more info.


 

Habakkuk 1 – Two Perplexing Two Questions on Evil

 

1. In Hab 1:1-17, when was Habakkuk written?

 

 

2. In Hab 1:1, what does the name Habakkuk mean?

 

 

3. In Hab 1:1, as we do not know who Habakkuk was, for certain when it was written, why should it be in our Bible?

 

 

4. In Hab 1:2 and Ps 10:1, why does God not always seem to hear the prayers of righteous people?

 

 

5. In Hab 1:4, how was the law powerless, and how can it be powerless today?

 

 

6. In Hab 1:6, what is a “ruthless and impetuous people” or “bitter and hasty nation”?

 

 

7. In Hab 1:8, should we take this literally, that those horses were as fast a leopards?

 

 

8. In Hab 1:9, 2:8; 2:17, Gen 16:5 what exactly does the Hebrew word for violence (hamas) mean?

 

 

9. In Hab 1:11, since we are all guilty of sin, what do you think is meant by “guilty men”

 

 

10. In Hab 1:12-13, what is the tone of Habakkuk’s question?

 

 

 

11. In Hab 1:13, what exactly is moral evil?

 

 

12. In Hab 1:13, why are various modern definitions of moral evil inadequate?

 

 

13. In Hab 1:13, why does God let people sin?

 

 

14. In Hab 1:14, how are people made like the fish of the sea?

 

 

15. In Hab 1:16, how did the Babylonians sacrifice to their net, and how do people do so today?

Habakkuk 2 – Watch: The Song of Five Woes

 

1. In Hab 2:1, how should we handle it when we agonize over questions we have asked God that He has not answered yet?

 

 

2. In Hab 2:4, Rom 1:17, and Heb 10:38, what does it mean that the righteous shall live by faith?

 

 

3. In Hab 2:5, what is the relationship between pride and alcohol?

 

 

 

4. In Hab 2:6-19, what is a summary of the evils people did here?

 

 

5. In Hab 2:6-19, what is the pattern of this poetry?

 

 

6. In Hab 2:6-19, what exactly were the five woes?

 

 

7. In Hab 2:6,9,12, what do these first three (of five) woes have in common with each other?

 

 

8. In Hab 2:7, who are the creditors here?

 

 

9. In Hab 2:8, why did God let such a cruel people be successful?

 

 

10. In Hab 2:8, why does God punish the Chaldeans for being instruments of His will and [allegedly] doing what He told them to do?

 

 

11. In Hab 2:11, how did the stones and wood cry out?

 

 

 

12. In Hab 2:14, does the knowledge of the glory of the Lord differ from the knowledge of the Lord in Isa 11:9?

 

 

13. In Hab 2:19, what exactly is idolatry?

 

 

14. In Hab 2:20, since all the earth should be silent before God, why do Christians sing to Him?


 

Habakkuk 3 – Praise God, Against the Circumstances

 

1. In Hab 3, is there any evidence of the opinion that this was written by a later author than the first two chapters?

 

 

2. In Hab 3:1, what is a shigionoth?

 

 

3. In Hab 3:2, how do wrath and mercy relate?

 

 

4. In Hab 3:3, how did the omnipresent God come from Teman?

 

 

5. In Hab 3:3, where is Teman?

 

 

6. In Hab 3:3, could this be a prediction of Mohammed, as some Muslims claim?

 

 

7. In Hab 3:3 and Dt 1:1, is Mount Paran really Mecca, as some Muslims claim?

 

 

8. In Hab 3:3-15, what time period is this talking about?

 

 

9. In Hab 3:4, what is coming out of God’s hand?

 

 

10. In Hab 3:5, how does “pestilence” go before the God of love?

 

 

11. In Hab 3:6, how can hills or mountains be eternal?

 

 

12. In Hab 3:8, why is Habakkuk referring to rivers?

 

 

13. In Hab 3:13, who is the Anointed One here?

 

 

14. In Hab 3:16-19, how could Habakkuk rejoice, knowing this great destruction will occur?

 

 

15. In Hab 3:17-19, what kind of confidence can believers have here?

 

 


Habakkuk 1 – Two Perplexing Two Questions on Evil – some brief answers

 

1. In Hab 1:1-17, when was Habakkuk written?

A: The Babylonians captured Jerusalem in 597 B.C., so it was before then. Habakkuk 2:20 says “The Lord is in His holy temple, so the temple was still standing then. The prophesy about the Babylonians would be fulfilled “in your days” in Habakkuk 1:5, so it cannot have been a few decades before then. First what is not the answer, and then two choices for the answer.

Not the answer: Manasseh’s reign (697-642 B.C.) Babylon was a minor power, under the control of Assyria, who would have been the most likely threat. So, this would make Babylon’s rise a surprise. See the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible p.666,668-669 and The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.7 p. 493-494 for more info on this view. The lawlessness Habakkuk lamented would fit the early part of Manasseh’s reign, though not the latter part. However, it is hard to see how this early a date would fit “in your days”.

Around 621 B.C., a decade before Babylon and other nations overthrew Nineveh in 612 B.C.. Babylon was a power then, but the shock in Habakkuk was not that Babylon would be strong, but rather that God would use evil Babylon to capture Jerusalem. They were already said they would be strong in Habakkuk 1:6-11. However, 621 A.D, was during the reign of the good king Josiah (640-609 B.C.), and the “lawlessness” would might not fit the later part of his reign, unless it was referring to many Israelites but not the government. See the New International Bible Commentary p.943-944 for more on this view. Keil and Delitzsch’s Commentary on the Old Testament vol.10 part 2 p.51 favors either the first view or this one.

Most likely under the evil king Jehoiakim 609-597 B.C. The Babylonians were currently known to be strong as Habakkuk 1:6-11 says, times were lawless like Habakkuk 1:3-4 says, but many in Judah still had hope that the Temple would be spared again, as shown in Jeremiah 7.

The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.1506 says the most likely date is 606-604 B.C., around the time Babylon destroyed the Egyptian army at the Battle of Carchemish in 605 B.C. Either of the last two periods would make Habakkuk a contemporary of Jeremiah.

   In summary, we are not certain of the times when Habakkuk was written. Habakkuk’s message is relevant for many time periods, including today. Paul quotes Habakkuk 1:5, as a warning to the Jews in his day, in Acts 13:41.

 

2. In Hab 1:1, what does the name Habakkuk mean?

A: It comes from the Hebrew word halbaq, “to embrace” which can also mean “to wrestle”, so Habakkuk could mean “the wrestler”. Both meanings are appropriate here. There was also a household plant, called Hambaququ in Assyrian, but we don’t see much connection there.

See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.1505, the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1141-1142, and Keil and Delitzsch’s Commentary on the Old Testament vol.10 part 2 p.44 for more info.

 

3. In Hab 1:1, as we do not know who Habakkuk was, for certain when it was written, why should it be in our Bible?

A: Among other reasons, we know because Jesus authenticated the entire Old Testament. He accepted without question the Old Testament of the Jews in Palestine as shown by Matthew 5:17; 7:12; 11:13; 22:40; Luke 16:16,29,31; 18:31; 24:27.

 

4. In Hab 1:2 and Ps 10:1, why does God not always seem to hear the prayers of righteous people?

A: Rather than rejoicing in God, Habakkuk noticed how grim things looked, and so Habakkuk asked God what He is going to do about it. God does tell Habakkuk the answer in Habakkuk 1:5-11, and God eventually fulfilled the answer with the Babylonians. In general, we sometimes have to wait for God’s answer, as He does things in the timing He prefers, not our timing. However, our needing to wait upon the Lord does not make His answer less spectacular when it comes. 2 Peter 3:9 shows that God is not slow, but He might seem slow because He does not want any to perish.

 

5. In Hab 1:4, how was the law powerless, and how can it be powerless today?

A: It literally says, “the law was paralyzed/numbed”. If rulers, judges, and authorities in general ignored God’s law, then while the law has not changed in what it said, it becomes meaningless, or even a thing to be mocked in a godless society.

   Today, even secular laws can be paralyzed in the hands of corrupt officials. Once a drug dealer in Ireland, when arrested by a policemen, confidently told the policemen he would be out within a week. Within a week the drug dealer was free, and no charges were ever filed. This is NOT because of a corrupt judge. This was because of a corrupt prosecutor. If the prosecutor makes a key mistake on charges, deliberately, or else just declines to press charges then the law of the legislature is for nothing. If judges interpret a law deliberately contrary to what the legislature intended the law to mean, then the law becomes meaningless.

   See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.1509 for more info.

 

6. In Hab 1:6, what is a “ruthless and impetuous people” or “bitter and hasty nation”?

A: The Babylonians had violent impulses. They are both without mercy, and quick to strike out without mercy. The Hebrew here, hammar wehannimhar, is a slant rhyme. It expands on how they are ruthless and impetuous in Habakkuk 1:6-11. See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.7 p.502 for more info.

   As The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.1509 says, “God dropped a bombshell:” when He said He was going use the Babylonians as the instruments of accomplishing His will. It says, “The sinners of Judah were but soiled saints next to the barbaric Babylonians.”

 

7. In Hab 1:8, should we take this literally, that those horses were as fast a leopards?

A: This is poetry, and was intended by Habakkuk to be understood as such. When people say they take the Bible “literally”, they do not mean hyper-literally, but rather we take the Bible as the authors intended it to be taken.

 

8. In Hab 1:9, 2:8; 2:17, Gen 16:5 what exactly does the Hebrew word for violence (hamas) mean?

A: In Genesis 16:5 Sarai used this word when complaining to Abraham about Hagar. There is no evidence of any physical force. However, normally, it means violence, and The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.7 p.383 says it “means a defiance of the law by one too strong to be brought into account.”

 

9. In Hab 1:11, since we are all guilty of sin, what do you think is meant by “guilty men”

A: Habakkuk calls them guilty because their strength is really their only god. Yes, everyone is guilty of evil, whether they realize it or not. However, these men realized they were guilty of violence against those who were not fighting them, and they did not care that they were guilty. Today, some people try to rationalize their evil as not really evil, or justify being wicked because others were wicked to them. But some people don’t even bother; they are violent towards people  who did nothing against them at all, and they don’t care. See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.7 p.503 for more info.

 

10. In Hab 1:12-13, what is the tone of Habakkuk’s question?

A: It has not one but two different tones. First, it is extremely respectful and submissive to God. But second, it is almost as much as protest as a question. It is fine to ask God a question you are agonizing over; but even then we should be respectful. See New International Bible Commentary p.946 and the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1143 for more info.

 

11. In Hab 1:13, what exactly is moral evil?

A: Scripture does not give a concise definition, but gives many descriptions. Here are some analogies.

Evil is like a deceitful weight

Weights were important in the ancient world for measuring out grain, salt, and other items of trade. Deuteronomy 25:15 and Leviticus 19:36 allude to this when they mention a perfect and just weight. Proverbs 11:1 and Proverbs 16:11 say a just weight is the Lord’s delight. Proverbs 20:10,23 and Micah 6:11 condemn people who use diverse and deceitful weights.

   So to understand evil, we have to understand that God is good, in the sense that He, as a Holy Creator, has set the standard for measuring goodness.

Evil is like a hole in the field of goodness

People can have illusions about evil, but evil is not an illusion. People can have illusions about anything, but illusion does not remove the reality. Evil is like a hole in a farmer’s field of goodness. A hole is not a “thing” but an absence of a thing. It is not an illusion though, for people can step in hole they do not see and twist their ankles. If all goodness comes from God, a “hole of evil” is a “thing” that does not come from God.

   So to understand evil, we have to understand that God is good, in the sense that nothing is totally good except God alone. God provides goodness, and evil is a deficiency of goodness.

Evil is like a shadow

God created everything, right? If so, then did God create the shadows, too? If a shadow is where light is blocked or reduced by an object, did the light or the object create the shadow? ¾ No object, no shadow. Yet, no light no shadow, either. You might confuse a shadow with an illusion, but illusions do not affect you, except by your believing in them. Plants that need the sun die in the shadows ¾ regardless of what a person believes.

   Shadows really exist, but shadows do not have an existence independent of the light source and the object blocking the light. Evil really exists, but evil does not have an existence independent of God who is light and the source of all goodness, and beings who have the free agency to shadow God’s goodness.

   Nobody, including God, directly created evil, just as on earth nobody directly creates shadows. God did indirectly create evil, just as on earth a light indirectly creates shadows.

   So to understand evil, we have to understand that God is good, in the sense that He is the source of all goodness.

   Adamantius, writing c.300 A.D. says evil is “accidental”. While things like grammar and rhetoric have no substance of their own, but are byproducts of speaking or writing a language, evil likewise has no substance of its own but is a byproduct of turning from good. A person is “evil” because of what he is made of, but because of his actions he is designated as evil. Some actions, such as procreation, are not good or evil of themselves but depend on the context in which they are done. (Dialogue on the True Faith fourth part 9 p.137)

 

12. In Hab 1:13, why are various modern definitions of moral evil inadequate?

A: Here are some inadequate definitions.

1. “whatever I do not like.” If all described by this was evil, then what about the dentist’s drill, the surgeon’s knife, or the kid who is screaming because she has to take bad-tasting medicine? What about the contradictory situation that arises when a parent disciplines a child?

Unpleasant things can serve good purposes to:

Refine our faith. 1 Peter 1:6-7

Help us die to sin. 1 Peter 4:1

Test our faith and develop perseverance. James 1:2-4

Be used not for our sake, but for others. Colossians 1:24

Be a sign to help unbelievers. Philippians 1:28

Just comes with being a Christian. 2 Timothy 3:12; Philippians 1:29

Sometimes we can see no reason, except that our persevering glorifies God. See Job 1:8-12; 2:2-6.

2. “whatever is not good for me.” If so, what about the things a child judges are not good for him, like vegetables. What about the criminal who is jailed for the good of society, not his own good.

   Even with this view there is a problem of perspective. In 1 Corinthians 15:12-19, Paul says that what he is suffering for and preaching about is useless, and we would be the most pitiful of men, if Christ did not really rise from the dead. Paul clearly saw that what was best for both his hearers and himself would be very different if Jesus was not resurrected. In Matthew 10:39 and Mark 8:35 Jesus said, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” In other words, whoever is willing to lose his earthly life will find genuine life in eternity, and whoever lives only for this life will have lost for all eternity. So what is best for a person’s life depends on if you focus exclusively on the short-term earthly life or on the long-term eternal life.

3. “whatever does not bring about the greatest good for society.” In John 11:49-52, Caiaphas the high priest said about the plot to kill Jesus “…it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” In a strange, unintended sort of way, he was exactly right. That did not make crucifying Jesus good, though. Judas’ betrayal of Jesus was a necessary part of Christ’s death which brought about our salvation. Does that mean Judas should be our hero for being good? -Of course not. Acts 2:23 says Jesus was handed over through God’s set purpose and foreknowledge. Yet Mark 14:21 says it would have been better for Judas if he had not been born. Judas’ crime was heinous, but God used Judas’ evil choice to bring about the greatest good.

 

13. In Hab 1:13, why does God let people sin?

A: God answers this question in two parts, with a picture of the future.

1. Habakkuk 1:5-11 shows that their happiness is short-lived, for an even more ruthless people will soon conquer them. God’s toleration of sin on earth is only temporary. If we could only take to heart Psalm 39:4-5, and ask how lengthy earthly life will seem, millions of years from now, this answer would be so clear to us.

2. Habakkuk 2:1-3:16 paints a picture in words. The first part of the answer, Habakkuk 2:2-20, details the sins of the oppressors, and their fate, in this life. Aptly, Habakkuk writes that they enlarge their desires as Hell in Habakkuk 2:5. Not only will they come to ruin, but as they weary themselves in vain to feed the fire in Habakkuk 2:13, their hopes and labors will come to nothing.

   The second part of the answer, in Habakkuk 3:1-16, shifts the focus to “an appointed time” in Habakkuk 2:3, the end times and the last judgment. Many wicked do appear to live well all their life on earth, and life does not seem fair to us, if our focus is only on this life.

   David prayed to God about his own bitter feelings toward the violent and wealthy in Psalm 73. Once David entered the sanctuary in Psalm 73:17, he saw clearly the same answer Habakkuk saw. It is a certainty that God will severely punish their sin, but it is God’s discretion to punish their sins in the timing He chooses. As 1 Timothy 5:24-25 implies, some consequences of sin come sooner, and other consequences are delayed until judgment day.

   When Corrie ten Boom was in a Nazi concentration camp, a Jewish former Violin player, whose fingers were gnarled by Nazi torture, asked how Corrie’s God could let this happen. The lady was in no mood for a theological discussion. Corrie answered that she did not know. But she did know that her Savior came to earth, and He too was tortured unjustly, and that he has experienced what she experienced, and that He understands her pain. Amen!

 

14. In Hab 1:14, how are people made like the fish of the sea?

A: Habakkuk is saying that it appears people are like the fish and creeping things. They are not governed, and they have no purpose except to be caught and consumed by others. That is what the Babylonians are doing to the peoples around them, and the handwriting is on the wall; Judah’s turn will come. In verse 17 Habakkuk is comparing a fisherman emptying his net to the Babylonians slaying nations without pity.

 

15. In Hab 1:16, how did the Babylonians sacrifice to their net, and how do people do so today?

A: The Babylonians had various idols, but their national god was Marduk, later just called “Lord” or Bel. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, his “star” was Jupiter, and he would help a scepter, a bow, spear, net, or thunderbolt.

   Like other peoples, the Babylonians would pray to their god for victory. But it was not the personal appeal of Marduk that mattered, it was the victory. So, if the Babylonians were metaphorically capturing other nations in their net, they were essentially sacrificing to what gave them victory. A sacrifice can mean giving to what you are devoted to, and it can also mean something you give up that costs you something. Both cases are true here. They were very patriotic, devoted to their empire, and they sacrificed their morals and any innocence to achieve their aims.

   Nobody worships Marduk today. But many people practically worship what they see as their means to success, be it their career, money, political power, or other things.


 

 

Habakkuk 2 – Watch: The Song of Five Woes – some brief answers

 

1. In Hab 2:1, how should we handle it when we agonize over questions we have asked God that He has not answered yet?

A: Habakkuk “watched” The Hebrew word can means the action of watching and also being in the place of watching. We likewise should be “expectantly patient” for an answer. Habakkuk clung to the life buoy of Gid’s character in the chaotic storm.

   See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.1511 and The Expositor’s Bible commentary vol.7 p.508-509 for more info.

 

2. In Hab 2:4, Rom 1:17, and Heb 10:38, what does it mean that the righteous shall live by faith?

A: “By faith” is different from trusting in what you deserve, your own righteousness, by knowledge, or trusting in yourself. By faith implies an object: faith in God, and the righteous, in the Old Testament and New, live by trust and depending on God.

 

3. In Hab 2:5, what is the relationship between pride and alcohol?

A: This is not saying that proud people are more or less likely to drink. Rather,

1. As the first part of the verse shows, when a person drinks alcohol, the tongue is less restrained, and others can other hear more clearly what is on their heart.

2. As the last part of the verse shows, pride functions somewhat like a drug, and the acquiring of things that feed pride is intoxicating. Like a drug, pride can make people do very foolish things.

   People who are drunk with alcohol sometimes have inflated views of their abilities or importance, or wrongs done to them. They are slow to tell when they have been hurt. The same goes for people who are a slave to ambition or lust for power. See the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible p.670 for more info.

 

4. In Hab 2:6-19, what is a summary of the evils people did here?

A: There are four main points.

1. They built up their wealth by extortion, crime, and bloodshed (Habakkuk2:6,9,12)

2. The took pleasure in dishonoring others (Habakkuk 2:15)

3. Violence (Habakkuk 2:16)

4. Trusted in idols and their own creations (Habakkuk 2:18-19)

 

5. In Hab 2:6-19, what is the pattern of this poetry?

A: Each section of the main body has three parts:

1. The evil the people did. (Habakkuk 2:6,9,12,15)

2. Diagnosis: (Habakkuk 2:7,10,13,16)

3. Judgment (Habakkuk 2:8,11,14,16-17)

Verses 18-20 get to the heart of the matter

1. On a material level, the people were trusting in idols that teach lies.

2. On a more general level, they were trusting in their own creation and lifeless things.

3. They were looking for guidance and other things to trust in, rather than being silent before the Lord.

 

6. In Hab 2:6-19, what exactly were the five woes?

A: In all cases they had a never-ending appetite

2:6-8, Plunder from conquest

2:9-11 Coveting for your house

2:12-14 Expansion through violence

2:15-17 Humiliating neighbors

2:18-19 Appetite for other gods

 

7. In Hab 2:6,9,12, what do these first three (of five) woes have in common with each other?

A: The spoiler will be spoiled. In each case the wicked people did evil to amass wealth or protect themselves. But in fact, what they amassed will turn and harm them instead. See the Evangelical Bible Commentary p.670-671 for more info.

 

8. In Hab 2:7, who are the creditors here?

A: This is a euphemism for all of the victims whom they “borrowed” riches from. Eventually the people whom the Babylonians fought against would rise up together against her.

 

9. In Hab 2:8, why did God let such a cruel people be successful?

A: Ezekiel 7:24 says the Babylonians were among the worst of the heathen. Having the Babylonians be “successful” was not necessarily a good thing for them. In fact, one could say the Babylonians were raised up for their judgment. In contrast to them, the Aramaeans, Arabs, Sabaeans, and others never achieved the degree of success the Babylonians did, and they never suffered the destruction the Babylonians did.

   See 735 Baffling Bible Questions Answered p.213-214 for more info.

 

10. In Hab 2:8, why does God punish the Chaldeans for being instruments of His will and [allegedly] doing what He told them to do?

A: God never told the Chaldeans to invade Judah, and they did not conquer because of a desire to obey God’s commands. Instead, God, in what is called the doctrine of concurrency, used their evil desire to conquer for His good plan. God can work everything together for good for those who love Him in Romans 8:28. God uses all as a part of His plan in Ephesians 1:11 and Proverbs 16:4.

 

11. In Hab 2:11, how did the stones and wood cry out?

A: Habakkuk 2, while speaking in general to all evildoers, is speaking primarily against the Babylonians. While the stones and wood cried out as a poetic metaphor, they literally spoke to the Babylonians in Daniel 5:5-6. The night before the Medes and Persians and their allies sacked Babylon, King Belshazzar gave a great banquet, using the gold and silver goblets taken from the Temple in Jerusalem. The fingers of a human hand appeared, and they wrote on the wall the words, Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin. Daniel interpreted these words, as you can read for yourself in Daniel 5:25-28.

 

12. In Hab 2:14, does the knowledge of the glory of the Lord differ from the knowledge of the Lord in Isa 11:9?

A: Yes. Isaiah 11:9 refers to a future time in the Millennium when all the earth will know of the Lord. The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.1515 says that the phrase in Habakkuk is perhaps based on Isaiah 11:9. The difference between the two is that Isaiah focused on the essence of God’s kingdom, while Habakkuk was asking questions and receiving answers on the establishment of God’s kingdom. As a side note, Psalm 72:19, Numbers 14:21, and Isaiah 6:3 refer to the glory of the Lord filling the earth.

   1001 Bible Questions Answered p.300 points out that while more and more people are hearing the knowledge of the Lord, our truly knowing the knowledge of the glory of the Lord awaits the Millennium. Many places in the New Testament tells us to pray and yearn for Christ’s return, and His coming Kingdom should be so important in our prayers today, that in the Lord’s prayer Jesus taught all his disciples to say, “your kingdom come.…”

 

13. In Hab 2:19, what exactly is idolatry?

A: There are different kinds of idolatry, but they all have in common either a believing, trusting, or devotion to something or some one in place of God.

Believing: When you want more advice on life, where are you prone to turn? If the latest fad psychology book contradicts what the Bible says, which are you likely to believe?

Trust: When you feel concerned about your future, do you turn to the Bible and pray, or look to horoscopes and fortune-tellers?

Love and devotion: When you have idle time, where do your thoughts turn? Do they turn to worshipping and adoring God?

   While, money, romance, and others things can become implicit modern idols to people, it is much worse to explicitly worship another god.

 

14. In Hab 2:20, since all the earth should be silent before God, why do Christians sing to Him?

A: This refers to a time in the future. It might be the same as the short silence mentioned in Revelation 8:1. The Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.1590 says there are five different Hebrew words for silence. The one used here also means to “hush”.


 

Habakkuk 3 – Praise God, Against the Circumstances – some brief answers

 

1. In Hab 3, is there any evidence of the opinion that this was written by a later author than the first two chapters?

A: None, except that a commentary among the Dead Sea scrolls on Habakkuk has only chapters 1 and 2. However, it is a badly mutilated copy, so it is understandable that part of it is missing. All known copies of Habakkuk have the third chapter. Some might have thought this because in the first two chapters Habakkuk is almost drowning spiritually, while Habakkuk learns to rejoice despite the circumstances and the uncertain tomorrow. But it seems that the stark contrast is deliberate. The first two chapters almost sound like a funeral dirge. But as H.A. Ironside’s The Minor Prophets p.202 says, “Alas that so many of our hearts are so often out of tune! Only by constant self-judgment and careful walking in the Spirit shall we be maintained in suited condition to add to the sweetness of the great orchestra of the Chief Singer!” See the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible p.672-673 for more info.

 

2. In Hab 3:1, what is a shigionoth?

A: It is either a musical instrument, or possibly a style of music. We do not have any more details of the instrument today. It appears to be the plural form of Shiggaion, which Psalm 7 mentions. The New International Bible Commentary p.948 says it might mean a song with a wild, beat, or H.A. Ironside’s The Minor Prophets p.200 says “a wandering ode”. The Evangelical Commentary on the Bible p.671 says that Shiggionoth might be that the same words of the song were sung multiple times, to a different tune each time. That would be sort like our life. As believers praise God the same in different situations in life. See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.1517 for more info.

 

3. In Hab 3:2, how do wrath and mercy relate?

A: While they seem to be opposites, one cannot fully understand God’s mercy without knowing of God’s wrath. One needs to understand that God is so Holy, that sin is destroyed in His presence. God is angry at sin, yet His anger does not cloud His judgment. Even in the midst of Him seeing a depraved and sinful human race, His great love for us is still overwhelming. God delights to extend mercy, for God desires that none perish, according to Ezekiel 18:23,32 and 2 Peter 3:9.

 

4. In Hab 3:3, how did the omnipresent God come from Teman?

A: Even though God is everywhere, God can still have a localized presence. After all, Jesus was in one place at one time. God also appeared to Moses in a burning bush, which was in one place. God’s coming from Teman likely refers to a part of the Second Coming of Christ. God’s presence can be looked at in three ways: God is everywhere; Psalm 139 says there is no place on earth in the heavens or anywhere else you can get away from God. Second, God has a localized present; as we can see when Jesus walked the earth. Nothing keeps Jesus from being in one place right now. But in a third way God is present in the hearts of believers through the Holy Spirit. See also When Critics Ask p.315,36 and the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.1247 for more info.

 

5. In Hab 3:3, where is Teman?

A: In Edom, just across the Dead Sea and a little south of Judah. Ezekiel 25:13, Amos 1:12, and Obadiah 8-9 mention Teman as a part of Edom. Jeremiah 49:7,20 poetically uses Teman as a synonym for Edom. Teman was named after a chief of Edom and a grandson of Esau named Teman (Genesis 36:11,15,42 and 1 Chronicles 1:36,53). Eliphaz, in Job was a Temanite, and 1 Chronicles 1:45 says the Temanites were descendants of Esau. See also the next question.

   See the New International Bible Commentary p.949 and The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.7 p.524-525 for more info.

 

6. In Hab 3:3, could this be a prediction of Mohammed, as some Muslims claim?

A: Only Ghulat Muslims should think so, since this verse talks of “God”, not “Mohammed”. Some Ghulat Muslim sects do believe Mohammed is God, though that is heresy to Sunni Muslim ears. However, if any Sunni Muslims themselves really took this question seriously, they would have to believe Mohammed is God too, since “God came from Teman”.

   Other reasons this cannot refer to Mohammed, is that “His praise” does not refer to Mohammed, since the praise is for God.” Mount Paran is where the Israelites camped, and far from Mecca. When Cultists Ask p.89 gives essentially the same answer. See the next question and When Critics Ask p.315 for more info.

Finally, some Muslims apparently are concerned to find more continuity between Mohammed and the Bible, just as there is continuity between Jesus and the promised Messiah of the Old Testament. However, some Muslims look for it in the unlikeliest of places, Habakkuk 3:3, since they cannot find any true continuity elsewhere.

 

7. In Hab 3:3 and Dt 1:1, is Mount Paran really Mecca, as some Muslims claim?

A: No, for Paran was directly east of the Sinai Peninsula. Ishmael originally lived in the wilderness of Paran in Genesis 21:21, but his descendants were apparently not there anymore when the Israelites came. Deuteronomy 1:1-2 says the Israelites camped on the plain near Paran. It was eleven days journey for them from Mount Horeb. They spent a lot of time in Paran, as Numbers 10:12, 12:16; 13:3, and Deuteronomy 33:2 show. Numbers 13:26 shows that Kadesh, which is in the far south of Israel, is in the wilderness of Paran. David went to Paran in 1 Samuel 25:1. Hadad the Edomite fled from Edom to Egypt by way of Paran in 1 Kings 11:18.

In summary, Paran was eleven days from Mount Horeb, Kadesh was in Paran, and Paran was the place where the Israelites camped and sent spies into Canaan.

 

8. In Hab 3:3-15, what time period is this talking about?

A: Most interpret this to refer to the triumphal return of Christ in Revelation 19:11-21 or possibly Revelation 20:7-9.

 

9. In Hab 3:4, what is coming out of God’s hand?

A: Modern translations say “rays flashing/flashed from His hands” (NKJV, NIV). Exodus 34:29-30,35 also mention rays coming from Moses after he talked with God. The KJV translates this as “horns” because it was difficult for the King James version translators to translate. These rays remind one of the sky just before the dawn. The Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament vol.10 p.99-100 says these cannot be flashes of lightning, as nowhere in scripture does lightning come out of God’s hand. On the other hand, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.7 p.525-526 says that it does relate to lightning both here and in Psalm 77:17-18 . See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.1517 and the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible p.672 for more info.

 

10. In Hab 3:5, how does “pestilence” go before the God of love?

A: God has wrath as well as love. Pestilence means plague. It can be sickness, as Deuteronomy 32:24 says, or it can be “plagues” as in the plagues of Egypt in Exodus 7-11.

 

11. In Hab 3:6, how can hills or mountains be eternal?

A: The Hebrew word ’ad can mean ancient or old, as well as eternal.

 

12. In Hab 3:8, why is Habakkuk referring to rivers?

A: The Hebrew is not clear, but the meaning might ocean streams, and not freshwater rivers. God is not angry with nature, but used nature to demonstrate God’s power. God showed his power against the Nile River in Exodus 7:20-21; the Red Sea in Exodus 14:15-28; 15:8-10; Psalm 78:13, and the Jordan River in Joshua 3:14-17. See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.1517 and The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.7 p.527-528,529 for more info.

 

13. In Hab 3:13, who is the Anointed One here?

A: This is the Messiah. While it is grammatically singular, just being grammatically singular does not answer the question, because a singular word could refer to a group. However, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.1521 and the Keil-Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament vol.10 p.109 point out that in the Old Testament the term “Anointed One” was never used for the nation of Israel.

   The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.7 p.530-531 goes into more detail on that. “…and to his ‘anointed one’ (masiah, ‘Messiah’). The underlying root (msh) is applied almost invariably to an individual; only in one doubtful instance might it refer to the people as a whole (Ps 28:8-9). Most commonly it designates a king (e.g., 1 Sam 2:10; 2 Sam 23:1; Pss 18:50; 89:38,51); but it may also denote other individuals appointed to leadership, such as the high priest (e.g., Exod 40:13, 15; Lev 4:3; 6:22) and the patriarchs (1 Chron 16:22; Ps 105:16). In the present context of Exodus, it appears to refer to Moses, who, like King David, combined in himself the messianic functions of shepherd (e.g., Num 27:17; Ps 77:20), prophet (e.g., Deut 18:15; 34:10), servant of God (e.g., Exod 14:31; Num 12:7-8), and priest (Exod 6:16-26; Lev 8).”

 

14. In Hab 3:16-19, how could Habakkuk rejoice, knowing this great destruction will occur?

A: Just as those in Heaven in rejoice over Babylon’s destruction in Revelation 19:1-8. Habakkuk had no joy in the destruction itself, but could rejoice in these final signs of God’s kingdom, as well as the breaking of the power of evil on the earth. See also Hard Sayings of the Bible p.340.

 

15. In Hab 3:17-19, what kind of confidence can believers have here?

A: Paul the apostle learned the lesson of Habakkuk 3:17-18, to always rejoice, in Philippians 4:4,10-19. See H.A. Ironside’s The Minor Prophets p.185 for more info.

   We do not have confidence that catastrophe and destruction won’t come, or that we will not personally have hard times, or that we will be caught up in the hard times of a nation. Christians are not exempt from war, violence, sickness, or apparently a senseless early death. We do not have confidence that we will always be prosperous, healthy, or won’t suffer accidents or loss of family or friends. So of course, we don’t have confidence that we don’t need patience, perseverance, or being able to stand up under trial, like Job.

   But despite all of that, we still have two kinds of confidence. Ultimately, we have confidence that in the end we will dwell forever in joy in heaven. Right now, despite our need for standing up under suffering, we have confidence that God will be near us, comforting us, and understanding our pain, as Jesus Himself took the pain for our sins on the cross. So we can have confidence in tomorrow; not because we know what it will bring, but because we know that God will be there in our tomorrow, forever.

   See the New International Bible Commentary p.949-950 for more info. It mentions the hymn “Sometimes a Light Surprises” by William Cowper. Cowper struggled with depression, some suicide attempts, and spent some time in an asylum. Here are the first two stanzas for what he wrote after that.

1. Sometimes a light surprises
The Christian while he sings;
It is the Lord Who rises
With healing in His wings:
When comforts are declining,
He grants the soul again
A season of clear shining,
To cheer it after the rain

2. In holy contemplation
We sweetly then pursue
The theme of God’s salvation,
And find it ever new;
Set free from present sorrow,
We cheerfully can say,
Let the unknown tomorrow
Bring with it what it may.”

http://hymnbook.igracemusic.com/hymns/sometimes-a-light-surprises

 

by Steven M. Morrison, PhD.