Habakkuk 1


One of the 12 minor prophets of the Old Testament, Habakkuk is suspected to have lived around 600 BC.  His identity is unknown except that he may well have been one of the “many prophets, prophesying unto the people that they must repent, or the great city Jerusalem must be destroyed.” (1 Ne. 1:4). 

The Apocrypha suggests he is a contemporary of Daniel, which is a bit too late given the content of Habakkuk’s prophecy.  The apocryphal story is a cute fable, created centuries after Daniel’s time (see Doctrine and Covenants 91):

   Now the prophet Habakkuk was in Judea, and he had cooked a stew and crumbled bread into a bowl, and was going into the field to carry it to the reapers, when the angel of the Lord said to Habakkuk,

   “Carry the dinner that you have to Babylon, to Daniel, in the lions’ den.” 

   And Habakkuk said,

   “Sir, I have never seen Babylon, and I do not know the den.” 

   Then the angel of the Lord took hold of the crown of his head, and lifted him up by his hair and with the speed of the wind set him down in Babylon, right over the den. 

   And Habakkuk shouted, “Daniel! Daniel! Take the dinner which God has sent you.” And Daniel said, “you have remembered me, O God, and have not forsaken those who love you.” Then Daniel arose and ate. And the angel of God immediately put Habakkuk back in his own place again.  (Apocrypha, The Story of Bel and the Dragon 1:33-39)

Habakkuk is also found in the Dead Sea Scrolls.  In this case, a long commentary about the first two chapters of Habakkuk is related to the political situation of the day (1st century BC).  Applying the scripture to the Romans instead of the Babylonians, the commentary “offers clear proof of how prophetic works were read and studied within a Jewish group that lived in the late Maccabean period in the 1st c. BCE as works that contain information about the life of their community for readers rather than arcane reports of past historical periods.”  (The Jewish Study Bible, ed. by A Berlin & MZ Brettler [New York, Oxford University Press, 2nd ed., 2014], 1215) This proves that the Dead Sea Scroll community likened the scriptures unto themselves that it might be for their profit and learning (1 Ne. 19:23).

Habakkuk 1:1-4 The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see

A burden, in this sense, is a prophecy of destruction for a certain people.  Isaiah chapters 13-23 and many Ezekiel chapters follow this prophetic pattern.  The chapter opens with the prayer of the Habakkuk, who is grieved with the violence, iniquity, strife, and contention he sees in Jerusalem and asks, “O, Lord, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear!”  Sounds like another prophet who said, “O God, where art thou? . . . How long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye, yea thy pure eye, behold from the eternal heavens the wrongs of thy people and of thy servants, and thine ear be penetrated with their cries?”  (D&C 121:1-2) The righteous struggle to understand how God can withhold judgment—how He can allow wickedness to rule as long as He does.

Habakkuk 1:5 I will work a work in your days, which ye will not believe

Verses 2-4 represent Habakkuk’s plea; verses 5-11 give us the Lord’s response.  The answer, in modern parlance, is “Oh, I am aware of what is going on and you’re not going to believe what I am going to do about it!” If we liken the scriptures to our day, we can hear the Lord telling us, “I will work a work in your days, which ye will not believe”—even a marvelous work and a wonder. 

Russell M. Nelson

Our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, will perform some of His mightiest works between now and when He comes again. We will see miraculous indications that God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, preside over this Church in majesty and glory. But in coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost. (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2018/04/revelation-for-the-church-revelation-for-our-lives?lang=eng)

Habakkuk 1:6-11 the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation . . . are terrible and dreadful . . . They shall come all for violence

The Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BC should be very familiar to every student of the Old Testament. 


Jeremiah was in prison . . . and proclaimed aloud . . . that they should be destroyed; and he foretold that if any one stayed in the city, he should certainly perish by one of these ways,—either be consumed by the famine, or slain by the enemy’s sword; but that if he would fly to the enemy he should escape death.” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book X, 7:4)

Habakkuk 1:11 Then shall his mind change . . . imputing this his power unto his god

Nebuchadnezzar was an instrument in the hands of the Lord to punish the Jews for rejecting Jehovah.  It was God who gave him power to win his battles, and early on, Nebuchadnezzar understood the source of his power.  Later on, he changed his mind and began to attribute his success to his own ability and to the power of Babylonian gods. 

   The king spake, and said, is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?

 While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven , saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; the kingdom is departed.

That they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen . . .  till thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will. (Daniel 4:30-31, 25, emphasis added)

Habakkuk 1:14 They take up all of them with the angle, they catch them in their net, and gather them in their drag

The imagery represents different ways in which a fisherman catches fish, with a hook, a net, or by dragging.  We think of the fishing net as a metaphor for the Lord’s servants gathering the fishes into the net of the kingdom of God.  In this case, Habakkuk is using the metaphor to represent the wicked one, whose servants trap men in their net of destruction as fishes in the net of the devil himself.  The wicked are taught by the great serpent to live like him as creeping things, imagining to themselves that there is no ruler over them, they heap to themselves idols made of their own hands, and burn incense to the instruments of their own success rather than to the Lord.