1:1 The oracle [means “burden” or perhaps “pronouncement”] that Habakkuk [probably a Babylonian name] the prophet [pre-exilic prophet who lived in Judah; contemporary of Jeremiah] received.
1:2 [Habakkuk’s first complaint] How long [implies Habakkuk had prayed before but seen no evidence God had heard], O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen [Habakkuk would not believe God heard until he saw God act]? Or cry out to you, “Violence! [King Jehoiakim was cruel and corrupt]” but you do not save?
1:3 Why do you make me [Habakkuk] look at injustice? Why do you tolerate [cf. Hab. 1:13] wrong? Destruction and violence [those who tolerated “destruction and violence” would be overtaken by the destruction and violence of the Babylonians] are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds.
1:4 Therefore the law [refers to God’s law in the general sense; may refer to religious and civil reforms instituted by Josiah (cf. 2 Kings 23:2-3)] is paralyzed [to grow numb or cold, to cease, to be helpless; conveys idea of ineffectiveness], and justice never prevails [because the wealthy controlled the courts]. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.
1:5 [God’s answer to Habakkuk’s complaint indicates that He was neither indifferent nor inattentive] “Look at the nations and watch–and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something [give His people over to the Babylonians] in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.
1:6 I am raising up the Babylonians [God would use them as His instrument of judgment; cf. Ps. 119:91b], that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwelling places not their own.
1:7 They are a feared and dreaded people; they are a law to themselves and promote their own honor [indicates arrogant attitude].
1:8 [the speed and ferocity of the Babylonians in battle had become proverbial] Their horses are swifter than leopards, fiercer than wolves at dusk. Their cavalry gallops headlong; their horsemen come from afar. They fly like a vulture swooping to devour;
1:9 they all come bent on violence. Their hordes advance like a desert wind and gather prisoners like sand.
1:10 They deride kings and scoff at rulers. They laugh at all fortified cities; they build earthen ramps [a siege strategy] and capture them.
1:11 Then they sweep past like the wind and go on–guilty men, whose own strength [their military might] is their god.”
1:12 O LORD, are you not from everlasting? My God, my Holy [a comprehensive term for God (cf. Isa. 6:3) that includes all that He is] One, we will not die [an expression of confidence that God’s people would not be totally destroyed]. O LORD, you have appointed them [the Babylonians (a nation of ungodly people)] to execute judgment [on God’s own people]; O Rock, you have ordained them [the Babylonians] to punish [carries the idea of rebuking to correct God’s erring people].
1:13 Your eyes are too pure to look [i.e., to look with favor] on evil; you cannot tolerate [or endure] wrong. Why [for what purpose] then do you tolerate the treacherous [an obvious reference to the Babylonians]? Why are you silent while the wicked [an obvious reference to the Babylonians] swallow up those more righteous [describes those like Habakkuk who were right in conduct toward God and people] than themselves?
1:14 You have made men like fish in the sea, like sea creatures that have no ruler.
1:15 The wicked foe pulls all of them up with hooks, he catches them in his net, he gathers them up in his dragnet; and so he rejoices and is glad.
1:16 Therefore he sacrifices to his net and burns incense to his dragnet, for by his net he lives in luxury and enjoys the choicest food.
1:17 Is he to keep on emptying his net, destroying nations without mercy?