Winners and Losers: Part 28 - Habakkuk

Kathy's Sunday School Lessons - Written for Young Boys and Girls by Kathryn Capoccia

© Copyright Kathryn Capoccia 2002. This file may be freely copied, printed out, and distributed as long as copyright and source statements remain intact, and that it is not sold.

Habakkuk was a man living in difficult circumstances; his country was experiencing lawlessness, war was on the horizon, and he was deeply troubled that God seemingly did not care, nor did He seem to answer prayer. Habakkuk received an “oracle” from God; this word can mean a “burden”, or “pronouncement”, usually of doom, but also sometimes of hope (Zec 9:1; 12:1; MAL 1:1). He held a dialog with God in this prophecy in which he questions God about wickedness within His nation. God then brought Habakkuk to an understanding of His sovereignty and brought him to a place of contentment in spite of his circumstances. We all need to come to that place, so let’s consider Habakkuk’s oracle.


I. Who Was He?


            A. What was his name? Habakkuk means “One who embraces”.


B. Who were his people? He was a Jew and a prophet of God; no other information is given about him.


            C. Where and when did he live?


                        1. Where? He lived in Judah.


                        2. When?


a. He was a contemporary of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and Zephaniah.


b. He lived in the late 7th century B.C., before Nebuchadnezzar marched into Jerusalem (605 B.C.).


            D. What were conditions like when he lived?


1. The Assyrian Empire was drawing to a close.


a. The Assyrian Empire had flourished from 900-600 B.C. While Assyrians had occupied the plain between Baghdad and the Persian Gulf as far back as 3,000 B.C., and had several notable warrior kings, especially in the 1300’s, as a formidable power the Assyrians only emerged during the reign of Tiglath-pileser (1116-1076). Her power waned after his death until Ashur-dan II (933-910). Other important kings were Adad-nirari II (910-889), Tukulti-Ninurta II (889-884), Ashunasirpal II (884-859; he built the capital of Assyria at Calah in the Nineveh complex), Shalmanezzar III (859-824; he defeated the Akkadians of Damascus at Qarqar in 853 B.C. under Ben Hadad II and subjected Samaria to tribute), Tiglath-pileser III or Pul (745-727; he subjugated Syria and Palestine: see 2KI 15:19, 29; 16:7-10; 1CH 5:6, 26; 2CH 28:20),  Shalmaneser V (727-722; he began a three year siege of Samaria after Hoshea failed to pay tribute), Sargon II (722-705; he completed the defeat of Samaria and deported 27,000 prisoners from there), Sennacherib (705- 681; he defeated a Babylonian coalition of Elamites, Babylonians and Chaldeans, besieged Sidon, conquered Lakhish, attacked Jerusalem, and established the capital at Ninevah), Esarhaddon (680-669; he continued to exact tribute from the subjugated city-states, helped rebuild Babylon and established friendly relations with her, and defeated the Egyptians at Tirhakah), Ashurbanipal (669-6 ; he besieged on Babylon in 61 B.C. and three years later installed an Assyrian governor over it ).


b. The Assyrians were poly-theistic, having 3,00-4,000 gods headed by the national gods of Marduk and Ashur.  Worship was of animal, fruits and vegetable sacrifices, plus fertility rites. Daily life was marked by drunkenness (in the beer taverns) and prostitution usage. The Assyrians were frequently involved in wars to enlarge or keep their territories; they controlled the land around the Euphrates River from the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf and upward to the 2/3 of the way to the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. They also controlled the land along the eastern edge of the Med. Sea and the along the upper Nile River. They were known to be extremely cruel in war. In 612 B.C. Nineveh was destroyed by Crown Prince Nebuchadnezzar of the Babylonian Empire. In 605 B.C. Assyria was crushed as a nation.


*This information came from “The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible”, Vol. 1, pgs. 372-391.


                        2. The Babylonian Empire was climbing.


a. Nabopolassar rallied the tribes of Babylon to expel the Assyrians from the land in 626 B.C.; he was subsequently made king. In 605 B.C. Crown Prince Nebuchadnezzar defeated the Egyptian army at Charchemish, and subjugated Palestine and Syria. Upon the death of Nabopolasser in September of that year Nebuchadnezzar became king. In 604 B.C. the Judean king, Jehoiakim became his vassal (2KI 24:1), but within three years rebelled and caused Nebuchadnezzar to march against Judah; in March, 597, Jehoichin was captured and Zedekiah was placed on Judah’s throne (2KI 24:10-17; 2CH 36:5-10; JER 37:1). Nebuchadnezzar ruled until 562 B.C. and was followed by Amel-Marduk (2KI 25:27; JER 52:31), who ruled for two years. He was succeeded by Neriglissar (JER 39:3), son-in-law of Nebuchadnezzar. He in turn was ousted by his son, Labashi-Marduk, who ruled only a few months until Nabonidus staged a coup and took the throne. Nabonidus was the last Babylonian king. 


b. The Babylonian Empire encompassed all of the Assyrian Empire and more; it extended from the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea to the Indus River, from Black Sea, the Caspian Sea and the Oxus River southward  to the upper edge of the Erythean Sea and across to Gaza. It was more than twice as large as the Assyrian Empire had been. It lasted until 539 B.C. when the Medo-Persian Empire defeated it in the reign of Nabonidus/Belshazzar, about 66 years after Habakkuk’s prophecy.



*This information came from “The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible”, Vol. 1, pgs. 439-448.


                        3. Egypt was declining.


During the 25th dynasty (715-664 B.C.) Egypt tried to aid Hezekiah against Assyria but failed to defeat her. She subsequently suffered two devastating invasions from the Assyrian army; a third invasion in 664/663 sacked Thebes. Egypt was in the 26th dynasty (664-525 B.C.) during the fall of Jerusalem. Psammetichus I was the ruler of the delta area and southward to Thebes. He reunited Egypt internally and created a period of prosperity for her. Psammethicus maintained a force of Greek mercenaries, as did his successor, Necho II; they tried to support Assyria against the rising power of Babylon. In 609 Necho II marched to aid Assyria against Babylon but was delayed by Judah’s king Josiah (2KI 23:29) so that Assyria lost that battle; Josiah was killed in that battle (Megiddo). In 608 B.C. Egypt placed Jehoikim on Judah’s throne and became the overlord of Palestine (Syria and Judah) in Assyria’s place, but Babylon defeated her in the battle of Carchemish in 605 B.C. and took over that area. However, in 601 B.C. Egypt gave Babylon a thorough beating and the Babylonian army had to return home for 18 months of rebuilding before it could return to the field. Egypt became neutral toward Babylon and remained so until 589/88 B.C. when Pharaoh Hophra encouraged Zedekiah to revolt against Babylon, but did not support him with troops. When Babylon responded to this rebellion she marched to Egypt but, apparently, came to a peaceful agreement with her, since both powers had become concerned with the emergence of the Medo-Persians.  


*This information came from “The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible”, Vol.2, pgs. 244,245.


                        4. Judah was in her last days.


a. King Josiah had reigned for 32 years in Judah, and he had tried to reform the country’s idolatry; but his reforms died with him in 609 B.C.. Jehoahaz (Shallum) was named king by the people but after three months on the throne he was deposed by Pharaoh Necho II and replaced by Josiah’s oldest son, Eliakim (whose name was changed to Jehoiakim to show his change of allegiance). Jehoiakim was Egypt’s vassal and was friendly toward Egypt, but with the defeat of Egypt in 605 B.C. his new overlord was Babylon and he paid tribute to Babylon. However, he was an evil king and he revolted against Babylon, against the advise of Jeremiah (2KI 24:1), and forced Nebuchadnezzar to come to Jerusalem and besiege the city. Sometime during the siege Jehoiakim died and his son, Jehoiachin, succeeded him on the throne; in 597 B.C. when the city fell to the Babylonians Jehoiachin was captured and taken into exile in Babylon where he died in 560 B.C.. Nebuchadnezzar put Mattaniah, another of Josiah’s sons, on Judah’s throne and changed his name to Zedekiah. Zedekiah took an oath of loyalty to Nebuchadnezzar but conspired with the Egyptians to revolt; this brought Nebuchadnezzar back to Jerusalem for another siege in January 587. Zedekiah never received the expected aid from Egypt and famine, disease and terror prevailed within Jerusalem until the Chaldens breached the wall in 586 B.C. Zedekiah and his followers tried to escape through a breech in the wall and fled toward the Jordan valley but were caught at Riblah. Zedekiah was forced to watch the execution of his sons before he was blinded and taken to Babylon in chains. Jerusalem was destroyed; the Temple and palace were burned, the city walls were destroyed and many people were deported.


*This information came from “The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible”, Vol.3, pgs. 724-726.


b. Josiah had discovered “The Book of the Law” in 622 B.C. and instituted religious reforms in Judah (2KI 22,23). He abolished many of the idolatrous practices of his father Amon (2KI 21:20-22) and grandfather Manasseh (2KI 21:11-13). When Josiah died his sons, Jehoahaz, Eliakim (Jehoiakim) and Matthaniah (Zedekiah), and grandson, Jehoiachin, reverted back to pagan practices which brought God’s wrath down upon Judah and expelled her from the promised land.


I. What Did He Do?


            A. He questioned (1:1-2:20).


                        1. “Why did he experience trouble?” (1:2-1:12).


                                    a. He complained (1:1-4).


1) He complained of indifference


2) He complained of unchecked lawlessness


                                    b. God replied (1:5-11).


1) He was sovereignly moving history


2) He was controlling an instrument of chastening


                                    c. He was refreshed (vs. 12).


                                                1) He reviewed God’s character as covenant partner


2) He understood that the Jews were merely being chastened


                        2. “How could God use the wicked?” (1:13-2:20).


                                    a. He complained (1:13-2:1).


                                    1) God must judge the wicked


                                                2) The Babylonians were in need of judgment


                                    b. God replied (2:2-20).


                                                1)  The Babylonians would be judged for their wickedness


                                                2) God was sovereign


B. He petitioned (3:1-16).


            1. He acknowledged God’s power


                        a. He asked for renewed mercy (3:2b).


                        b. He reviewed God’s acts of judgment (3: 3-15).


1) pestilence and plagues (EXO 7:14-12:30; LEV 26:25; PSA 91:3,6).


2) earthquakes (EXO 19:18; PSA 18:7; JER 4:24-26; 10:10).


3) fear (Cushan and Midian were Arab tribes near Edom that experienced anguish upon hearing of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt; EXO 15:14-16; JOS 2:9-10).


4) stoppage of rivers; the Nile, the Jordan, even the Red Sea (EXO 7:20-24; JOS 3:15-17; EXO 14:15-31).


5) arrows of judgment


6) stoppage of the Earth’s rotation to felicitate defeat of the Gibeonites (JOS 10:12,13).


7) trampling and crushing the Egyptians (EXO 14:5-9).


            2. He anticipated God’s deliverance (3:16).


            C. He rested (3:17-19).


                        1. He trusted in God despite his circumstances.


                        2. He realized that God would enable him to overcome.


III. What Can We Learn From Him?


A. God renews our faith in Him when we dwell on His past deeds in the face of current trials.


B. “Perfect love casts out fear”; when we grow in our love toward God we experience less fear of the unknown because we know and trust Him in whom we exist.


C. God does have a perfect plan of retribution and all evil will be punished in God’s own time.


 Added to Bible Bulletin Board's "Kathy Capoccia's Sunday School Lessons for Young Adults" by:

Tony Capoccia
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