In this chapter, Habakkuk prophesies the defeat and humiliation of the Antichrist and his empire, with the nations paying him back for all he did to them. Jesus is installed as king in his palace and is recognised as Lord by the whole world.
At one level, this chapter addresses the rise of Babylon as a world power in the 7th century BC under the rule of King Nebuchadnezzar, God's use of the wicked and cruel Babylonians as instruments of his judgment against other wicked nations, and eventually Babylon's own fall and judgment. However, verse 3 literally says, "For the vision is still for the appointed time and a witness to the end and it does not lie" (see NET Bible notes). Further, verse 14 foresees a day when 'recognition of the LORD's sovereign majesty will fill the earth just as the waters fill up the sea'. So this is ultimately an end-time passage, and the rise of Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar foreshadows the rise of the Antichrist and his end-time empire. Similarly, in Ezekiel 30 Nebuchadnezzar's invasion of Egypt in 568 BC foreshadows the Antichrist's end-time invasion of Egypt (Daniel 11:42).

Verses 4 to 17 can therefore be understood to describe the arrogance and cruelty of the Antichrist and his followers. His desires are not upright (v4), and according to a phrase that is difficult to translate (see NET Bible notes), he will either faint from exhaustion (NET Bible) or be 'puffed up' with pride (NIV). In Isaiah 10:12, speaking of the Antichrist as the king of Assyria, God says, 'I will punish the king of Assyria for what he has proudly planned and for the arrogant attitude he displays.' Verse 4 also tells us how Christians must react to the rise of the Antichrist, "but the person of integrity will live because of his faithfulness". According to Jesus in Matthew 24:10, many 'will turn away from the faith' (NIV) or 'will be led into sin' (NET) at that time, and 2 Thessalonians 2:3 speaks of the falling away that will occur when the man of lawlessness is revealed. In Luke 21:8-19, Jesus describes the stand we must take at that time, in the midst of intense persecution. Christians must endure the Great Tribulation with faith and integrity.

Verses 6 to 13 describe Antichrist's defeat and humiliation, with nations taunting him (v6). Similarly, Isaiah 14:4 describes Israel taunting him as he is cast down into the pit. Antichrist will rob many nations, but in the end they will get their revenge (v8). All Antichrist's efforts, and those of the nations who serve him, will go up in smoke and be for nothing (v13). Instead, "recognition of the LORD's sovereign majesty will fill the earth just as the waters fill up the sea" (v14). Bearing in mind that every knee must bow and confess Jesus as Lord (Philippians 2:9-11), verse 14 is the global recognition of Jesus as Lord and victor over the Antichrist. This helps to answer Habakkuk's questions in chapter 1 as to why God allows such violence and injustice in the world without appearing to judge the wicked. There is a good ending to all the troubles and misery that so many people experience in this age. We can look forward with hope to Christ's second coming and Millennial reign.

The Antichrist will oppress every nation to some degree (Psalm 2:1-3; Revelation 13:14-17, 16:13-14, 17:12-14). Verse 5 tells us, "He gathers all the nations; he seizes all peoples". However, it is clear from verse 8 that he will not conquer every nation or rule the entire world, "Because you robbed many countries, all who are left among the nations will rob you". Micah 5:5 says, "…when the Assyrian shall come into our land and when he shall tread in our palaces, then shall we raise against him seven shepherds, and eight principal men" (KJV). There will be nations and leaders who are able to challenge the Antichrist and his military invasions.

Verses 15 to 16 portray Antichrist having to drink the cup of God's wrath, as in Jeremiah 25. In verse 15, Antichrist forces others to drink from a cup of intoxicating wine, the bowl of his furious anger, that he may take advantage of them. But ultimately tables are turned and Antichrist has to drink from the cup of God's wrath. This is similar to Revelation 17-18 in which Mystery Babylon seduces nations with a cup of intoxicating wine, but ends up having to drink from the cup of God's anger. It is a picture of coming destruction. Historically, Babylon was eventually overthrown and plundered by the Persians in 539 BC. In the end-times, the Antichrist and his empire will be overthrown by Jesus at his second coming.

Verse 17 speaks of the Antichrist's violence against Lebanon, destroying both people and animals. According to Isaiah 10:34, 'Lebanon will fall before the Mighty One'. Jesus will defeat Lebanon at his second coming because it will have become a stronghold of the Antichrist. The liberation of Lebanon is part of Jesus' Armageddon campaign.

Verses 18 to 19 portray the king of Babylon turning in vain to idols, seeking their help. In the end-times, the Antichrist will look in vain for Allah to help him.

The outcome of it all is that Jesus is installed in his majestic palace in Jerusalem and the whole earth is speechless in his presence (v20). This is similar to Psalm 2:6 in which Jesus is installed as king on Zion.
Places: Lebanon, Mystery Babylon
Tags: Nations invaded by the Antichrist, Defeat of Antichrist, Antichrist taunted by the nations, Jesus victorious over the Antichrist, Millennium, Mystery Babylon, Cup of intoxicating wine of judgment, Jesus as king of the whole world, All nations will worship God
1 I will stand at my watch post; I will remain stationed on the city wall. I will keep watching, so I can see what he says to me and can know how I should answer when he counters my argument.

The Lord Assures Habakkuk

2 The Lord responded: “Write down this message! Record it legibly on tablets, so the one who announces it may read it easily.
3 For the message is a witness to what is decreed; it gives reliable testimony about how matters will turn out. Even if the message is not fulfilled right away, wait patiently; for it will certainly come to pass – it will not arrive late.
4 Look, the one whose desires are not upright will faint from exhaustion, but the person of integrity will live because of his faithfulness.
5 Indeed, wine will betray the proud, restless man! His appetite is as big as Sheol’s; like death, he is never satisfied. He gathers all the nations; he seizes all peoples.

The Proud Babylonians Are as Good as Dead

6 “But all these nations will someday taunt him and ridicule him with proverbial sayings: ‘Woe to the one who accumulates what does not belong to him (How long will this go on?) – he who gets rich by extortion!’
7 Your creditors will suddenly attack; those who terrify you will spring into action, and they will rob you.
8 Because you robbed many countries, all who are left among the nations will rob you. You have shed human blood and committed violent acts against lands, cities, and those who live in them.
9 The one who builds his house by unjust gain is as good as dead. He does this so he can build his nest way up high and escape the clutches of disaster.
10 Your schemes will bring shame to your house. Because you destroyed many nations, you will self-destruct.
11 For the stones in the walls will cry out, and the wooden rafters will answer back.
12 Woe to the one who builds a city by bloodshed– he who starts a town by unjust deeds.
13 Be sure of this! The Lord of Heaven’s Armies has decreed: The nations’ efforts will go up in smoke; their exhausting work will be for nothing.
14 For recognition of the Lord’s sovereign majesty will fill the earth just as the waters fill up the sea.
15 “Woe to you who force your neighbor to drink wine – you who make others intoxicated by forcing them to drink from the bowl of your furious anger, so you can look at their naked bodies.
16 But you will become drunk with shame, not majesty. Now it is your turn to drink and expose your uncircumcised foreskin! The cup of wine in the Lord’s right hand is coming to you, and disgrace will replace your majestic glory!
17 For you will pay in full for your violent acts against Lebanon; terrifying judgment will come upon you because of the way you destroyed the wild animals living there. You have shed human blood and committed violent acts against lands, cities, and those who live in them.
18 What good is an idol? Why would a craftsman make it? What good is a metal image that gives misleading oracles? Why would its creator place his trust in it and make such mute, worthless things?
19 Woe to the one who says to wood, ‘Wake up!’ – he who says to speechless stone, ‘Awake!’ Can it give reliable guidance? It is overlaid with gold and silver; it has no life’s breath inside it.
20 But the Lord is in his majestic palace. The whole earth is speechless in his presence!”