Habakkuk 2 Study Notes


2:1 Habakkuk braced himself for God’s response. Hebrew tokachath (“reproof, reprimand”) is probably stronger than the word complaint suggests: The prophet had presumed to correct God. Alternatively, it may refer to God’s reproof of Habakkuk: “[his] reproof of me.” The Syriac translation (see textual footnote) preserves another text for 2:1b that is possibly the original reading: “What he will reply about my reproof [of him].”

2:2-3 God replied that the vision must be written down clearly for—in spite of Habakkuk’s objections—the vision of the Babylonian invasion would come true.

2:4-5 The arrogant Babylonians were just as wicked as Habakkuk supposed. Yet v. 4b says righteous people such as Habakkuk must exercise faith in God’s goodness despite his use of evil Babylon. This is similar to the answer Job received from God (Jb 38-41). God does not have to explain himself to humans. We must let God be God and trust in his goodness even when we find his ways difficult to understand. Verse 4 conveys the central message of the book. The NT cites it to show how the Christian life from beginning to end is based on faith (Rm 1:17; Gl 3:11; Heb 10:38).


Hebrew pronunciation [chah MAHS]
CSB translation violence
Uses in Habakkuk 6
Uses in the OT 60
Focus passage Habakkuk 2:8,17

This root is slightly attested outside Hebrew. The noun usually denotes physical violence (Ezk 7:23). It suggests crimes (Jdg 9:24) or violent wrong (1Ch 12:17). Chamas provoked the flood (Gn 6:13). It describes suffering that involves elements of violence (Gn 16:5). It appears (7x) with shod (“destruction,” Am 3:10). Chamas functions adjectivally as violent (Is 59:6), vicious (Gn 49:5), or malicious (Ex 23:1), and adverbially as violently (Ps 25:19). A malicious witness falsely accuses another (Dt 19:16). The verb chamas (8x) means do violence. Priests did violence to the law by disregarding and failing to teach it (Ezk 22:26). God wrecked the temple by destroying it (Lm 2:6). One harms himself (Pr 8:36) and wrongs (Jb 21:27) or brutalizes others (Jr 22:3). Vines drop unripe grapes (Jb 15:33). The passive phrase body exposed is literally “heels having endured violence”; it indicates physical abuse (Jr 13:22).

2:6-8 Even though God used Babylon to punish Judah, Babylon would not go unpunished. Five woes in conjunction with taunt (or “proverb”) are pronounced upon them. Babylon’s plunder from the nations is like a debt from creditors that they must eventually repay.

2:9-14 Babylon built its house (empire, v. 9) with stolen stones and its rafters from stolen lumber. This involved the bloodshed and injustice of slave labor. God in his glory would make it all fuel for the fire when Persia toppled Babylon in 539 BC.

2:15-17 Babylon’s shameless perversity foisted upon its neighbors such as Lebanon (whose famous forests provided much of the stolen lumber of v. 11) would come back in the form of violence against itself. By degrading and humiliating conquered peoples, the invaders sought to break their will and render them incapable of further resistance.

2:18-20 Though the Babylonians attributed their strength to their god Marduk (see note at 1:10-11), their god was only a lifeless idol, a piece of wood or stone, but the Lord lives and will have the last word. There is an allusion here (Wake up! . . . Come alive!) to Egyptian and Mesopotamian rituals that were used to consecrate new idols. Called the “opening of the mouth,” these rituals were supposed to prepare the idol for habitation by the god. These verses recall Is 46:1-7 and Jr 10:1-10