1The oracle which Habakkuk the prophet received in a vision.
Habakkuk’s First Complaint
2How long, O Lord, must I cry for help#The prophet complains about God’s apparent disregard for Judah’s internal evils in language that echoes the preaching of prophets like Amos, Isaiah, and Jeremiah.
and you do not listen?#a. [1:2] Ps 13:2.
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
and you do not intervene?
3Why do you let me see iniquity?
why do you simply gaze at evil?
Destruction and violence are before me;#b. [1:3] Ez 45:9.
there is strife and discord.
4This is why the law is numb#The law is numb: because the Lord has been silent, the Law, whether in the form of the scroll found in the Temple in the time of Josiah (2 Kgs 22) or in the form of divine instruction given by priests and prophets, has proved ineffective and so appeared to be cold, unreceptive, and powerless. For the Law to be credible, the Lord must see to it that the wicked are punished and the just rewarded.
and justice never comes,
For the wicked surround the just;#c. [1:4] Is 29:20–21.
this is why justice comes forth perverted.
5#Habakkuk interprets the Babylonian defeat of Egypt at Carchemish (605 B.C.) as the answer to his complaint: the Lord will send the Chaldean empire against Judah as punishment for their sins. Look over the nations and see!
Be utterly amazed!
For a work is being done in your days
that you would not believe, were it told.#d. [1:5] Acts 13:41.
6For now I am raising up the Chaldeans,#e. [1:6] Jer 32:28.
that bitter and impulsive people,
Who march the breadth of the land
to take dwellings not their own.
7They are terrifying and dreadful;
their right and their exalted position are of their own making.
8Swifter than leopards are their horses,
and faster than desert wolves.
Their horses spring forward;
they come from far away;
they fly like an eagle hastening to devour.
9All of them come for violence,
their combined onslaught, a stormwind
to gather up captives like sand.
10They scoff at kings,
They laugh at any fortress,
heap up an earthen ramp, and conquer it.
11Then they sweep through like the wind and vanish—
they make their own strength their god!#The primary aim of military campaigns by ancient Near Eastern rulers was usually the gathering of spoils and the collection of tribute rather than the annexation of territory. However, in the eighth century B.C., the Assyrians began to administer many conquered territories as provinces.
Habakkuk’s Second Complaint
12Are you not from of old, O Lord,
my holy God, immortal?#f. [1:12] Ps 90:2.
Lord, you have appointed them for judgment,#Appointed them for judgment: this complaint is directed against the violent Babylonians, the very nation God chose to punish Judah.
O Rock,#Rock: an ancient title celebrating the Lord’s power and fidelity; cf. Dt 32:4; Is 26:4; 30:29; Ps 18:3, 32, 47; 95:1. you have set them in place to punish!
13Your eyes are too pure to look upon wickedness,
and the sight of evil you cannot endure.
Why, then, do you gaze on the faithless in silence
while the wicked devour those more just than themselves?
14You have made mortals like the fish in the sea,
like creeping things without a leader.
15He#He: the Babylonian king (cf. vv. 6, 13), who easily conquers other nations and treats them as objects for his entertainment and enrichment. brings them all up with a hook,
and hauls them away with his net;
He gathers them in his fishing net,
and then rejoices and exults.
16Therefore he makes sacrifices to his net,#He makes sacrifices to his net: the leader attributes victory to the military weapons he wields; he and his weapons have won victory, not any god.
and burns incense to his fishing net;
For thanks to them his portion is rich,
and his meal lavish.
17Shall they, then, keep on drawing his sword
to slaughter nations without mercy?