Habakkuk 1

The Word Made Fresh

1Here is an account of what the prophet Habakkuk saw:
2LORD, how long must I beg for help, and you will not listen?
How long must I cry out about violence, and you won’t save?
3Why do you insist on showing me injustice and other troubles?
Destruction and violence are all around me;
conflict and suffering are multiplied.
4The law is disregarded, and justice is never executed.
Wicked people surround the righteous,
and judgments are perverse.
5Look at the nations; what you see will astound you.
Things are being done now
that you would not believe if you were told of them.
6I am stirring up the Chaldeans who are already fierce and impatient;
they march wherever they wish to go
to seize homes that don’t belong to them.
7They are fearsome and formidable.
They follow their own rules of justice and dignity.
8Their horses run swifter than leopards.
They are fiercer than wolves hunting in the evening.
Their horses and riders come from far away
and fly like eagles, eager to devour.
9They are intent on violence.
They press onward and gather captives like grains of sand.
10They sneer at kings and make fun of rulers.
They laugh at forts and build earthen ramps to take them.
11Then they march through like the wind.
They are guilty of transgressions;
they think their god is their own might.
12But aren’t you from ancient times, my LORD God the Almighty?
You can’t be killed, but you have tagged them for judgment.
You are the Rock, and have determined that they be punished.
13Your eyes are too pure to simply look on evil;
you cannot simply look on wrongdoing.
Why would you only look at treachery
and do nothing when the wicked attack the righteous?
14You have made humans as numerous as the fish of the sea,
or like crawling creatures that have no ruler.
15They are brought up with hooks and captured in nets
amid exultation and rejoicing.
16So, people offer sacrifices and make offerings to their nets,
because they think their nets are responsible for their riches.
17Do they think they can continue forever emptying their nets,
destroying other nations without mercy?


1: Habakkuk is identified simply as “the prophet.” We can place his writing in the years leading up to the Babylonian conquest of Judah, but no more definite time or place can be discerned. He introduces his book as an oracle, an account of what he “saw”, but we shall see that it reads more like a psalm with elements of the legal debate we remember from Job.

2-4: Habakkuk begins with a complaint common to the prophets of Israel: justice is perverted in the land, and he demands to know why God hasn’t done anything about it.

5-11: God’s answer is that justice is on the way in the form of an invading army, the Chaldeans — a common reference to the Babylonians.

12-14: Habakkuk responds, and acknowledges God’s decree against Judah. But then he protests: God is eternal and almighty. Compared to God, people are like fish or insects.

15-17: So why is God calling up an enemy that treats their foes like fish to be caught in a net? Is Babylon like God?


When we question God’s reason for allowing injustice, we are asking the wrong question. Instead of asking “why does God allow this to happen,” we should ask, “how should I respond? What can I do to help those who are suffering?”