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The Old Testament | The Books of the Minor Prophets


Things to know

Where does the book begin?

The book begins with a protest from Habakkuk. This was before the army of Babylon came to Judah.

Places to go

Habakkuk complained
Habakkuk 1:1-4

God answered
Habakkuk 1:5-11

Habakkuk complained again
Habakkuk 1:12-17

The righteous* shall live by faith*
Habakkuk 2:1-4

Habakkuk sang
Habakkuk 3:17-19

Where does the book end?

The book ends some time after this, before Babylon destroyed Jerusalem.

People to know


The Story of Habakkuk

This book opens with the words of the prophet* Habakkuk. He looked at the people in Judah. And what he saw made him unhappy. He looked about and saw that his own people were not following God. They did not listen to God’s words from the prophets*. They did not obey God’s law. Many people were acting in evil* ways. So, Habakkuk called out to God. He asked God why he allowed this. He wanted to know when God would do something about it.

We do not know just what Habakkuk saw. Was it the sin* of his own people? Or was it the awful cruelty of an outside enemy? But we know that the people that wanted to follow God were not well cared for. So he complained to God. How long would you let your people suffer? How long would you let these wicked people do wicked things before you stop them?

God interrupted Habakkuk’s cry and answered him. God said, in effect, ‘A work is being done that many will not believe when they hear of it‘. [1] God wanted Habakkuk to look more closely at what he saw. God was already at work. God was doing something then and he would do something in the future. God was at work even when Habakkuk could not see him.

Then God told what his ‘work’ would be. God would not allow the sin* of the people to continue. He was going to send a great and terrible army against Habakkuk’s own people. This was the way he would judge them for the evil* they had done. [2] But Habakkuk was not happy to hear this news. The nations around them were more evil* than the people of Judah. How could God use a nation that was more evil* than Judah to punish them?

God told him the answer. Evil* men and powerful nations would come and go. But the Lord* would see to it that they received the wages of their wicked actions. [3] God had set a time when he would come in great glory* and bring salvation* to those who trusted* him. When he heard this, Habakkuk did not want to wait for God’s time. He called on God to do it in his own day.

‘I stand in wonder of your work, O LORD. Lift them up in our day, in our time make them known.’ [4]

Habakkuk wanted God to act then. But after God spoke to him, he was willing to ‘wait patiently’ [5] because the Lord* was his strength. God was his joy. [6] The final lesson of the book is for God’s people. They must wait patiently on the Lord*. God is already at work. The faithful* can see his hand in the events about them. Their task is to wait for God’s appointed time and to delight in his salvation*.

Like many of the words of the prophets*, this was a message to the people in Habakkuk’s day. But this was also a message to people in the future. Luke used God’s words to Habakkuk. He said that this ‘work’ God was doing also spoke of the coming of the Messiah* and his death on the cross*. [7]

One of the most important parts of the book are found in these words. ‘The righteous* shall live by faith.’ [8] The people who live for God must trust* him. The writers of the New Testament* understood this well. That is why they used this verse so often in their letters. [9]


[1] Habakkuk 1:5

[2] Habakkuk 1:6-12

[3] Habakkuk 2:5-19

[4] Habakkuk 3:3-15

[5] Habakkuk 3:16b

[6] Habakkuk 3:18

[7] Acts 13:41

[8] Habakkuk 2:4

[9] See Romans 1:17Galatians 3:11Hebrews 10:8

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