Christians, across history, have wondered why evil seems to prosper and have become impatient with the apparent injustices in life. The prophet Habakkuk also questioned why God was using an evil and pagan nation to punish Judah. Babylon was worse than God’s disobedient people and even though He disciplined Judah, He destroyed Babylon. God is always a just God.
In Habakkuk 2:6-14, God revealed three keys to Babylon’s judgment and ruin. Habakkuk had his answer, but with the revelation, God gave him more than just a simple explanation to a nagging issue that nearly consumed the prophet.
Babylon would be judged and destroyed because it was a nation powered by selfish and ungodly ambition. The Chaldeans were wicked and godless and had an insatiable lust for property, power and possessions. Ambition can be good or bad. It can mean a determination to make progress — or have a desire for honor, power and fame. The Apostle Paul had a godly ambition. In 2 Corinthians 5:9, he wrote, “We also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.” Babylon’s ambition was the complete opposite.
There are five “woes” in what scholars often call the “taunt song” in Habakkuk 2:6-20. The first one in verses 6-8 pictures Babylon as a dynasty built on violence, theft and murder. Eventually, a person or nation who lives like this will fall prey to creditors. What Babylon did to others was done to it. During the time of Habakkuk, it looked like Babylon would gain everything — but, in God’s timing, the evil nation got nothing but destruction.
The second “woe” is found in verses 9-11 and focuses on covetousness. Babylon was a covetous nation. It used evil devices in attempting to achieve safety and security. The nest pictured in verse 9 draws attention to the pride of Babylon. Even though the dynasty thought it could build an invincible empire for its own glory, it was shown that there is no real security without God.
The creditor that came quickly was the Medo-Persian Empire. Babylon was devastated suddenly. The Medo-Persians took possession of everything Babylon had stolen from other nations.
An interesting phrase is found in verse 10 — “cutting off many peoples.” Originally this referred to a weaver cheating a customer with an evil or shorter cut than was purchased. Later, it came to mean making a profit by cheating, stealing and violence. Babylon was driven to gain wealth, fame, power and prominence any way possible. Instead, it brought shame to its ancestors and descendants.
The third “woe” is recorded in verses 12-14 and deals with the exploitation of other people, a sin that characterized Babylon. The Chaldeans loved things and used people, which is always a bad strategy.
Babylon, described in verse 12, was guilty of burning people to death, mutilating them with swords, or impaling them on stakes. The captured women and children were abused, raped and murdered. Those who survived were made into slaves.
The kind of living Babylon embraced, in time, destroyed it. God judged the Chaldeans and, instead of life, they found death. Instead of freedom, they experienced slavery. Their gains were lost and their vast empire was reduced to nothing.
Why? There is a just and all-powerful God who is sovereign over the world He has created. He moves according to His timetable and for His glory.
Verse 14 is a prophecy that will be fulfilled someday. It can be applied to the fall of Babylon, but it will not be fulfilled until the Second Coming of Christ. It is repeated five times in Scripture: Numbers 14:21, Psalm 72:19, Isaiah 6:3 and 11:9, and here in Habakkuk 2:14. The day is coming when God will fill the earth with His glory; righteousness will reign; truth will prevail. Until then, His people can live by faith, knowing that His promises are true.
As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote in “I Heard The Bells”: “God is not dead nor doth He sleep. The wrong shall fail, the right prevail.”