Habakkuk 1:2-4

Habakkuk’s Complaint

2 How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save?
3 Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds.
4 Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.

Habakkuk 1:2-4 Meaning and Commentary

INTRODUCTION TO HABAKKUK

This book is called, in the Vulgate Latin and Syriac versions, "the Prophecy of Habakkuk". Of this prophet, Aben Ezra and Kimchi say, we know neither his age nor his family; which shows they paid no regard to a tradition of their nation, mentioned by some of their ancient writers {a}, that he was the son of the Shunammite, whom Elisha raised from the dead; and find the etymology of his name in the words of the prophet to her, "about this season, according to the time of life, thou shalt embrace a son", 2Ki 4:16 where the root of his name is used; and they account for the doubling of the last radical in his name, because of the two embraces of him, one by his mother, and the other by the prophet. His name indeed signifies "an embrace" {b}; or, as some, "an embracer" {c}; and the last letter being doubled, it is with others interpreted "the best embracer" {d}; to which name his character and conduct agree; who, in the most tender manner, embraced the people of God, as parents their children, and comforted them with the assurance of their preservation, notwithstanding their captivity, and with the promise of the Messiah's coming; suggesting to them they should live by faith, to which he led them the way by his own example, Hab 1:12 Hab 2:3,4, 3:17-19 but as this is placing him too early, to put him in the times of Elisha; so it is fixing him too late, to make him to be in the times of Daniel, and to feed him in the den of the lions, as Joseph ben Gorion {e}, and the author of the apocryphal book of Bel and the Dragon, say he did, which was after the Babylonish captivity was ended; whereas it is certain this prophet prophesied of it, and must have lived some time before it; for he speaks of the Chaldeans by name coming against the Jews, and carrying them captive, Hab 1:6,9. The learned Huetius {f}, and others, think there were two prophets of this name; one of the tribe of Simeon, who lived before the captivity; and another of the tribe of Levi, who lived after it. The Jewish chronologers {g} generally place this our prophet in the times of Manasseh; with which well enough agrees the description of the times the prophet lived in, given in Hab 1:2-4 though some think he lived in the latter times of Josiah {h}, or the beginning of Jehoiakim {i}; and it is probable he was a contemporary of the Prophet Jeremiah, with whom he agrees in many things, and prophesied of the same. However, there is no room to doubt of the authority of this book, being always received by the Jewish church, and agreeing with other parts of Scripture, and especially with the prophecies of Jeremiah; and may be further confirmed and established by the quotations out of it in the New Testament, as Hab 1:5 in Ac 13:41 and Hab 2:4 in \Ro 1:17 Ga 3:11 Heb 10:38\. The general design of the prophecy is to comfort the people of God under the afflictions that were coming upon them, and to encourage them to the exercise of faith and patience, in the hope and view of the coming of the Messiah. Pseudo Epiphanius {k} says that Habakkuk died two years before the people of the Jews returned from Babylon, and was honourably buried in his own native place, which he says was Bethsocher, in the tribe of Simeon. With whom Isidore {l} agrees, as to the time of his death; but the place of his birth, he says, was Bethacat; and of his death, Sabarta. Sozomen {m} reports, that, in the days of Theodosius, the grave of Habakkuk was found in Cele, formerly the city Ceila. So Eusebius says it was shown at Kela, eight miles from Eleutheropolis; though, in another place, he says it was to be seen at Gabbatha, twelve miles from the same place; which may be reconciled, by observing that it might be between them both, and be seen from each, since they were places near to each other {n}. But the Cippi Hebraici {o} say it was at a place called Jakuk in Galilee, not far from Sephetta, where was an academy of the Jews; and this seems to agree with what Sanderson, a countryman of ours, as quoted by Van Till {p}, observes; that in his journey from Damascus to Jerusalem, between Sephet and Chapherchittin, he found a village, in which, the Jews report, Habakkuk the prophet dwelt and died, the name of which is Jeakoke. But these things are not to be depended on.

{a} Zohar in Gen. fol. 6. 3. Vid. Shalshelet Hakabala, fol. 12. 2. {b} qwqbx "amplexus", Hillerus; "amplexatio", Hieronymus. {c} "Amplexans", ibid. {d} "Optimus amplexator", Tarnovius. {e} Hist. Heb. l. 1. c. 11. p. 35, 36. {f} Demonstr. Evangel. Prop. 4. p. 284, 301. {g} Seder Olam Rabba, p. 55. Seder Olam Zuta, p. 105. Tzemach David, fol. 15. 1. Juchasin, fol. 12. 2. {h} Bedford's Scripture Chronology, p. 674. {i} Usher. Annales Vet. Test. A. M. 3395. {k} De Prophet. Vit. & Interit. c. 18. {l} De Vit. & Mort. Sanct. c. 47. {m} Hist. Ecclesiast. l. 7. c. 29. {n} Vid. Reland. Palestina Illustrata, tom. 2. p. 772. {o} P. 63. Ed. Hottinger. {p} Habakkuk Illustratus, p. 214.

\\INTRODUCTION TO HABAKKUK 1\\

In this chapter, after the inscription, in which are the title of the book, the name and character of the writer, Hab 1:1, there is a complaint made by the prophet of his cry not being heard, and of salvation being deferred, which was long expected, Hab 1:2 and of the wickedness of the times he lived in; of iniquity and trouble, rapine and oppression, in general; and particularly of corruption in courts of judicature, in which there were nothing but strife and contention, a dilatoriness in proceedings at law, and justice was stopped and suppressed, Hab 1:3,4 then follows an answer to this, showing that some sore judgment, amazing and incredible, would soon be executed for such sins, Hab 1:5 that the Chaldeans would be raised up and sent against the Jews, and spoil them, and carry them captive; who are described by the cruelty of their temper and disposition; by the swiftness and fierceness of their cavalry; and by their derision of kings, princes, and strong holds; and by their victories and success, which they should impute to their idols, Hab 1:6-11 and then the prophet, in the name of the church, expresses his faith that the people of God, and his interest, would be preserved, and not perish in this calamity; which is urged from the eternity, holiness, faithfulness, and power of God, and from his design in this affliction, which was correction, and not destruction, Hab 1:12 and the chapter is closed with an expostulation of the prophet with God, in consideration of his purity and holiness; how he could bear with such a wicked nation as the Chaldeans, and suffer them to devour men as fishes, in an arbitrary way, that have no ruler; catch them in their net, and insult them, and ascribe all to their own power and prudence, and think to go on continually in this way, Hab 1:13-17.

Habakkuk 1:2-4 In-Context

1 The prophecy that Habakkuk the prophet received.
2 How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save?
3 Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds.
4 Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.
5 “Look at the nations and watch— and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.
6 I am raising up the Babylonians,that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwellings not their own.
7 They are a feared and dreaded people; they are a law to themselves and promote their own honor.

Cross References 10

  • 1. S Psalms 6:3
  • 2. Psalms 13:1-2; Psalms 22:1-2
  • 3. Jeremiah 14:9; Zechariah 1:12
  • 4. ver 13
  • 5. S Job 9:23
  • 6. Jeremiah 20:8
  • 7. S Psalms 55:9
  • 8. Psalms 119:126
  • 9. S Isaiah 29:21
  • 10. S Job 19:7; S Isaiah 1:23; Isaiah 5:20; S Ezekiel 9:9