Let Justice Prevail
A study of Habakkuk 1:2-5; 3:2, 17-19
Read Habakkuk 1:2-5; 3:2, 17-19
Israel had fallen to Assyria in 722 BC and now the threat of the Babylonian invasion of Judah was
increasing. References in other parts of the Bible lead commentators to believe that Habakkuk lived in
Judah during the reign of Jehoiakim (2 Kings 23:36-24:7) which would make him a contemporary of
Nahum, Zephaniah and Jeremiah. He prophesied during the fall of the Assyrian Empire (610 BC) and the
final Babylonian invasion of Judah (588 BC), so that this book is set against a background of the decline
and fall of the Judean kingdom.
The reigning king in Judah, Jehoiakim, is described by the prophet Jeremiah saying, "your eyes and your
heart are intent only upon your own dishonest gain, and on shedding innocent blood and on practicing
oppression and extortion" (Jeremiah 22:17; Habakkuk 1:2-4; 2 Kings 23:34-24:5).
Violence, covenant violations and injustices abounded. The cries and prayers of the righteous seemed in
vain. The Lord seems to be complacent toward the evil generation and appears to do nothing to punish or
to correct the situation. Habakkuk was perplexed that God was letting evil increase and not punishing it.
He cried out, "justice is perverted, justice never prevails" (Habakkuk 1:4). Habakkuk puts forth his
complaint to God, and God's reply puts forth the divine perspective and the divine way of "letting justice
Like Habakkuk, we also ask, "How can God see the injustices and the wickedness in the world and appear
to do nothing?" This is a problem that is faced by every generation, including ours. Injustice is prevalent
and rampant. There seems to be no end or diminishing of it. Therefore, in this Bible study, we are going
to draw out some answers for our present time and context.
Cry & Complaint
The cry implies a situation of crisis from which the prophet seeks deliverance. The call to God to "listen"
carries the connotation of the desire for an active response. The crisis in which Habakkuk calls for help is
"violence," which has the underlying meaning of ethical wrong and possibly physical brutality; it is
malicious conduct intended to injure another.
"How long" shows Habakkuk's agony over God's delay in responding to his plea. The reign of Jehoiakim
was full of injustice and bloodshed (Jeremiah 22:17; Habakkuk 1:2-4; 2 Kings 23:34-24:5).Yet, God
seems not to hear these heartbreaking conditions. Habakkuk wants to know why God does not respond to
the corrupt and unjust conditions. Why does God not help or save? Why does God not intervene in the
Habakkuk's questions and complaint to God continue in verse 3, in these words used to describe the social
"Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife and conflict abounds."
"Injustice" and "wrong" usually translate as evil and trouble; "destruction" and "violence" are associated
with unjust oppression of the weaker members within a community; "strife" and "conflict" are legal terms
in Hebrew which evoke anger and dissension as a result of lawsuits and legal quarrels.
God has opened up the prophet's eyes to see the true condition of the situation around him and he is
saddened by the injustice and violence. He pours out his heart to God, wondering why God causes him to
see the loathsome condition and yet God seems to tolerate and condone it all by not doing anything about
The Lord’s Answer
In verse 5 the Lord says to Habakkuk:
"Look at the nations and watch- and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that
you would not believe, even if you were told." (1:5)
Here is the assuring word from the Lord, "I am going to do something in your days" to let justice take its
course and prevail. But what is the amazing and unbelievable way in which the Lord acts and deals with
injustice and wrong? God is going to use the Babylonians, "a feared and dreaded people,” to deal with the
rampant and unpunished evil in Judah (1:6-13).
"For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it
linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay." (2:3)
God answers Habakkuk with a vision that is truthful and an assurance that God does not tarry. The vision
will come in God's good timing. Habakkuk will need to keep watch, confident in God's compassion.
Habakkuk must wait in faithfulness between promise and fulfillment, between problem and solution.
Habakkuk must look and see that the spirit of the enemy is pride, but the righteous live by their faith (2:1-
God is with Habakkuk and will make what seems senseless to man lead towards goodness and mercy -
God's plan for all people. God empowers us to live by faith and in the darkest times to trust and believe
that God is the source of the power by which evil is thwarted. In God’s time, in God’s way, justice will
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION:
• What kind of situation is Habakkuk in?
• What crisis does he have to confront?
• What is Habakkuk’s complaint? To whom is he complaining and why?
• What is the Lord’s answer? What is amazing about it?
• When have you complained to God? What were the circumstances? How did you understand God’s
response to you?
• What similarities of differences do you see between your experiences and those of Habakkuk?
• Identify problems that are caused by issues of injustice in your country.
• How might Habakkuk help your group struggle with issues of injustice?
• What promise does the passage have for you in your struggle for justice to prevail?
Bible Study prepared by Fui-Yung Chong,
WDP Committee of Malaysia