Description
In this chapter, Habakkuk questions why God allows violence and wickedness. He then has a vision of the rise of the Babylonians, whom God will use to punish nations. In an end-time context, this relates to the rise of Mystery Babylon and the Antichrist.
Commentary
In chapter 1, it isn't immediately obviously that Habakkuk's revelation is primarily about end-time events. This chapter sets the context for what develops in chapter 3 into a full-blown apocalyptic vision of Jesus defeating enemy nations and delivering Israel at his second coming.

In verses 2 to 4, Habakkuk pours out his complaint to God about the injustices of this world, and God's apparent lack of concern to intervene against those who commit violence and evil.

God starts to speak in verse 5, telling Habakkuk that in his days he is going to do something Habakkuk would not believe, that is to raise up the Babylonians. This suggests that Habakkuk most likely wrote this book before the Babylonians captured Nineveh in 612 BC, and that he lived during the reign of King Josiah who ruled Judah from 640 to 609 BC. Alternatively, if it was written in the reign of Jehoiakim who ruled from 609 to 597 BC, then Babylon had already arisen as a major power, but was yet to conquer Judah. In any case, this part of the vision is primarily about the rise of ancient Babylon in Habakkuk's own lifetime. However, as in Isaiah 47-48, in Jeremiah 25 and 50-51, and in Revelation 17-18, the rise and fall of ancient Babylon foreshadows the end-time rise and fall of the Daughter of Babylon (Isaiah 47:5 and Jeremiah 50:42), referred to in Revelation 17:5 as Mystery Babylon and the Great Prostitute. Isaiah 21 points to Mystery Babylon being in Arabia. The end-time relevance of Habakkuk's vision becomes clear in chapter 2 verses 3 and 14.

Verses 6 to 10 describe the ruthlessness of the Babylonian army as it advances, defeating fortified cities and taking captives.

Verse 11 is translated in various ways. In the first half of the verse, the NET Bible translates 'ruwach' as wind and the verse appears to refer to the onward advance of the army. The KJV translates 'ruwach' as mind and gives a different sense, "11 Then shall his mind change, and he shall pass over, and offend, imputing this his power unto his god". In this translation, it appears to be speaking about the leader of this army, described as 'the Babylonian tyrant' in 1:15. In its historical context, this was King Nebuchadnezzar, but in its end-time context this is the Antichrist, called 'the leader of the wicked nation' in Habakkuk 3:13. Habakkuk is similar to Jeremiah 25 which begins with a focus on King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, and ends with a promise of judgment against the King of Sheshach (Mystery Babylon), who is the end-time Antichrist. It is possible verse 11 alludes to the Antichrist changing his mind about his peace treaty as described in Daniel 9:27. If so, he 'offends' by invading Israel and setting up the 'abomination that causes desolation' on a wing of the temple. In the second half of the verse, the Antichrist is declared guilty, and depending upon the verse's translation, he either considers himself a god (as in 2 Thessalonians 2:4), or attributes his power to his god (as in Daniel 11:38).

Verses 12 to 17 are Habakkuk's response to this divine revelation about the rise of Babylon. In verse 12, he recognises that God has appointed this cruel army to execute his judgment and to punish sinful nations. In verses 15 to 16 he acknowledges Babylon's cruel military conquests. This lends support to the view that Habakkuk wrote this in the reign of Jehoiakim, as Habakkuk seems to be describing military conquests that had already taken place. But in verse 13 he questions how God can use such wicked treacherous people to judge those more righteous than themselves, and how he can tolerate such evil.

In the end-times, when the Antichrist and his armies advance mercilessly across middle eastern nations, including Israel, Christians and Jews will ask the same sort of questions that Habakkuk asked. In chapters 2 and 3, God reveals his end-time plan to Habakkuk, showing how God will personally defeat this wicked leader and how, in the end, 'recognition of the LORD's sovereign majesty will fill the earth just as the waters fill up the sea' (2:14).
Tags
Places: Babylon, Mystery Babylon
Symbols:
Tags: Antichrist as the guilty one, Antichrist claims to be God, Mystery Babylon
Habakkuk Complains to the Lord
1 This is the oracle that the prophet Habakkuk saw:
2 How long, Lord, must I cry for help? But you do not listen! I call out to you, “Violence!” But you do not deliver!
3 Why do you force me to witness injustice? Why do you put up with wrongdoing? Destruction and violence confront me; conflict is present and one must endure strife.
4 For this reason the law lacks power, and justice is never carried out. Indeed, the wicked intimidate the innocent. For this reason justice is perverted.

The Lord Reveals Some Startling News

5 “Look at the nations and pay attention! You will be shocked and amazed! For I will do something in your lifetime that you will not believe even though you are forewarned.
6 Look, I am about to empower the Babylonians, that ruthless and greedy nation. They sweep across the surface of the earth, seizing dwelling places that do not belong to them.
7 They are frightening and terrifying; they decide for themselves what is right.
8 Their horses are faster than leopards and more alert than wolves in the desert. Their horses gallop, their horses come a great distance; like vultures they swoop down quickly to devour their prey.
9 All of them intend to do violence; every face is determined. They take prisoners as easily as one scoops up sand.
10 They mock kings and laugh at rulers. They laugh at every fortified city; they build siege ramps and capture them.
11 They sweep by like the wind and pass on. But the one who considers himself a god will be held guilty.”

Habakkuk Voices Some Concerns

12 Lord , you have been active from ancient times; my sovereign God, you are immortal. Lord, you have made them your instrument of judgment. Protector, you have appointed them as your instrument of punishment.
13 You are too just to tolerate evil; you are unable to condone wrongdoing. So why do you put up with such treacherous people? Why do you say nothing when the wicked devour those more righteous than they are?
14 You made people like fish in the sea, like animals in the sea that have no ruler.
15 The Babylonian tyrant pulls them all up with a fishhook; he hauls them in with his throw net. When he catches them in his dragnet, he is very happy.
16 Because of his success he offers sacrifices to his throw net and burns incense to his dragnet; for because of them he has plenty of food, and more than enough to eat.
17 Will he then continue to fill and empty his throw net? Will he always destroy nations and spare none?
(NET)