Habakkuk 2:4-2:20 — Bible Study Notes — Lesson 5

Habakkuk 2:4-2:20

Lesson 5

“The Lord is in His Holy Temple”

(For other lessons in the series, Click Here.)

In this passage, the Lord outlines his judgment for the Chaldeans. This coming judgment is very personal, reflecting (like the judgment to the Jewish people in chapter 1) the very evil deeds that they had committed. God judges according to His divine principle of sowing and reaping.  Also, as mentioned in Lesson 4, God uses an evil man in this description to represent the evil nation of Babylon.

The Sins of the Chaldeans (verses 4-5)

“Behold, as for the proud one,
His soul is not right within him;
But the righteous will live by his faith.
Furthermore, wine betrays the haughty man,
So that he does not stay at home.
He enlarges his appetite like Sheol,
And he is like death, never satisfied.
He also gathers to himself all nations
And collects to himself all peoples.

In verses 4 and 5, there are general descriptions of the sins of the Chaldeans. They are proud, haughty, and insatiable in both drink and greed for ill-gotten gains.  These character qualities summarize the evils that God had spelled out to Habakkuk in Chapter 1 of the nation that would judge Judah.

To contrast that sinful man with a righteous man, God’s word says…

Proverbs 8:13   ““The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way
And the perverted mouth, I hate.”

I Timothy 6:6-7   “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.”

Next, God delivers 5 woes specific to the Babylonians and their future downfall.  Each woe describes certain sinful acts and the specific judgment for those acts.  True to His words spoken back in Chapter 1 verse 11, “They will be held guilty.”

Woe #1 (verses 6-8)

Will not all of these take up a taunt-song against him,
Even mockery and insinuations against him
And say, ‘Woe to him who increases what is not his—
For how long—
And makes himself rich with loans?’
 Will not your creditors rise up suddenly,
And those who [i]collect from you awaken?
Indeed, you will become plunder for them.
Because you have looted many nations,
All the remainder of the peoples will loot you—
Because of human bloodshed and violence done to the land,
To the town and all its inhabitants. 

The Sin = greed and plundering what is not theirs, looting, loan–sharking

The Chaldeans plundered, looted, and stole everything they could as they conquered other nations. In addition, the surviving people of the defeated nations were forced to pay tribute or pledges to the conquerors.  Many could not afford to pay the steep tax. Some commentators pointed out that, when you have nothing left to pay a collector, you pay with the last thing you own, yourself, signing over your freedom to that person as a slave to forever pay your debt. In this way, the Chaldean warriors gathered to themselves, wealth and slaves.
Modern examples of this kind of behavior would be the thug collecting the gambling debt by terror; the loan-shark lending money to desperate people that cannot ever repay.

What does God say about it?

Proverbs 1:10… My son, if sinners entice you, Do not consent.
11 If they say, “Come with us,Let us lie in wait to shed blood;
Let us lurk secretly for the innocent without cause;
12 Let us swallow them alive like Sheol, And whole, like those who go down to the Pit;
13 We shall find all kinds of precious possessions, We shall fill our houses with spoil;

Proverbs 28:8 One who increases his possessions by usury and extortion, Gathers it for him who will pity the poor.

The Judgment

They will also be plundered by the remaining people.  What they had done to others would be done to them as described here in Isaiah 33:1.

Babylon was considered great in military might – the greatest in the world at that time. By enacting His judgment on Babylon, God was showing His sovereignty and omnipotence to the world.

(Wikipedia describes the conquests and might of Babylon at that time.

Woe # 2 (verses 9-11)

“Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house
To put his nest on high,
To be delivered from the hand of calamity!
“You have devised a shameful thing for your house
By cutting off many peoples;
So you are sinning against yourself.
 “Surely the stone will cry out from the wall,
And the rafter will answer it from the framework.

The Sin = They were creating prideful security for themselves after trampling the strongholds of the other nations.

This verse gives the image of a secure, unassailable house, yet one built on violence and bloodshed. David Baker, in his commentary, says that this wording implies dynasties built out of their cruelty. They tore down the homes, palaces, and strong towers of the other nations that they attacked, and then thought that they could make themselves secure.

Today, we might think of this as a criminal gang or mafia.  It is the picture of a notorious drug lord who terrorizes people and rules a town by violence and might. He builds for himself a huge, luxurious mansion. Then, to guarantee his security, he is always surrounded by his gang members, gates, armed guards, security cameras.

What does God say about it?

When you sin against “people” that way, you sin against yourself. You harm humanity. You bring shame to mankind and yourself. This is not how society was supposed to function.

Psalm 127:1 Unless the Lord builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless theLord guards the city, The watchman stays awake in vain.

Even the rocks and timbers of the secure house that they had built will testify to God of the sinfulness of the builders. How can you be secure in your home when even the building materials themselves cry out to one greater than you for help?

Babylon was known for its great engineering and building marvels. The hanging gardens of Babylon were considered one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world.  But even the building materials of Babylon’s magnificent creations called out to their sin.


Woe # 3 (verses 12-14)

Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed
And founds a town with violence!
“Is it not indeed from the Lord of hosts that peoples toil for fire,
And nations grow weary for nothing? 
 “For the earth will be filled
With the knowledge of the glory of the Lord,
As the waters cover the sea.

They indeed built a great city, but it was, again, built with bloodshed and violence.
The people’s time spent building the city will be wasted .. forever feeding a fire. There will be nothing left in the end. It will all go up in smoke.

I couldn’t help but think of the fiery furnace of Daniel chapter 3 when I read about feeding the fire.  They stoked the fire as hot as they could, yet it was no match for the power of God.

The Judgment

In Jeremiah 51:58, more description of the actual judgment of God upon Babylon is given.  “Thus says the Lord of hosts: The broad wall of Babylon shall be leveled to the ground, and her high gates shall be burned with fire. The peoples labor for nothing, and the nations weary themselves only for fire.”

This verse describes not only the leveling of the buildings of Babylon, but the fire that will burn the city.  All of the sinful effort, stolen wealth and misplaced diligence that went in to building Babylon would be effort spent just building the eventual fire.

This woe was very interesting in that the judgment portion of the woe also prophesies of God’s millennial reign on the earth. A time of peace. In this picture, God shows the perfect, correct, godly way for people to live in cities under the knowledge and obedience to the Lord.  The city of the Chaldeans will not endure and will not stop the Lord from bringing His plan into being.

Woe # 4 (verses 15-17)

“Woe to you who make your neighbors drink,
Who mix in your venom even to make them drunk
So as to look on their nakedness!
You will be filled with disgrace rather than honor.
Now you yourself drink and expose your own nakedness.
The cup in the Lord’s right hand will come around to you,
And utter disgrace will come upon your glory.
For the violence done to Lebanon will overwhelm you,
And the devastation of its beasts by which you terrified them,
Because of human bloodshed and violence done to the land,
To the town and all its inhabitants.

The Sin = drunkenness and exploitation

The Chaldeans were here accused of encouraging others to drink to take advantage of them. To shame them. They were not satisfied by increasing their own might and pride, they had to also bring down those around them. Like a date rape drug – selfishly taking unfair advantage.

What does God say about it?
Genesis 9 tells the story of Noah’s son, Ham, accidentally seeing his father’s nakedness, when Noah became drunk. Instead of honoring his father and covering him, Ham went outside the tent and told his brothers.  Even though he was not responsible for causing his father to be drunk, he took evil advantage of the situation.  Because of his act, God harshly condemned and cursed Ham and his descendants.

The Judgment
God will force them to drink HIS cup of wrath and their nakedness will be exposed. Naked, they will be shown to be against God (not circumcised). Some also interpret these verses to say that they will VOMIT great shame on their glory. They will be drunk to the point of throwing up with the cup of God’s wrath.
Isn’t it interesting that Daniel and his friends after they were captured by the Babylonians refused to drink the king’s wine?

Woe # 5 (verses 18-20)

“What profit is the idol when its maker has carved it,
Or an image, a teacher of falsehood?
For its maker trusts in his own handiwork
When he fashions speechless idols.
 “Woe to him who says to a piece of wood, ‘Awake!’
To a mute stone, ‘Arise!’
And that is your teacher?
Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver,
And there is no breath at all inside it.
But the Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him.”

The Sin = idolatry

What does God say about it?

Exodus 20:3-6   “You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing loving kindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

In the Ten Commandments listed in Exodus 20, God very clearly commands men not to make or worship idols.  In fact, God often even mocks the idol worshiper, as He does with the Chaldeans.  He points out that the idol is powerless to speak, to move, to awake.  There is no life in it.

I Samuel 6 tells the story of God’s judgment of the Philistines after they had stolen the Ark of the Covenant from Israel.  They were cursed with plagues of mice and with tumors on their bodies.  In order to remove the curse, they not only had to give back the ark, but also give golden offerings to the Lord in the shape of the mice and the tumors!  God was forcing them to acknowledge Him as the only true, living God.
The Judgment

God will always be the ruler in His holy temple. The whole earth, even the prideful, violent, haughty, destructive, Babylonians will have to be silent and acknowledge Him.
Also, thinking of the book of Daniel, I was reminded here of the great image that Nebuchadnezzer made and forced people to bow down to. This was not just a tiny image of stone. But, even that huge idol was dead, and had no authority over the Living God in His temple.


1. God begins by stating the Babylonians are never satisfied in their sin. This is shown very clearly in the progression of the sins for which they are judged:

They steal for themselves. They enslave others. They build their own wealth with violence and bloodshed.

They build a house/dynasty with violence and bloodshed.

They build a city with violence and bloodshed.

They destroy their neighbors with debauchery and violence.

They mock God by creating idols of wood and stone.

2. The sovereignty of God over ALL of His creation is shown in the passage.  His care about not just humans, but also the earth, the animals, the plants, etc. was shown in his judgments of the Chaldeans.

  • In the first woe, He condemns Babylon for the violence to Land, town, and people.
  • In the second woe, the Rocks and Timbers cry out to God (like the ground cried out about the blood shed by Cain)
  • In the third woe, while pointing to the millenial kingdom’s reign of peace, he alludes to his sovereignty over all of creation.
  • In the fourth woe, they are condemned for the violence done to Lebanon (known for its trees) and to the beasts, along with humans
  • In the fifth woe, against fashioning idols of wood and stone.

3.  God’s Timing.  God’s plan for His rule is shown for 3 different times or ages in His timeline.

1. During the time of Habakkuk (and now) God rules in the hearts of those who are His children by faith.  (Habakkuk 2:4, The righteous shall live by faith)

2.  During the millennial reign, God will rule on the throne of this world in peace and safety.

3.  For eternity, God will rule from His eternal throne forever. (Ever and always).

4.  God tells the Babylonians that all of their evil works will be burned… nothing will last.  God also reminds us, in I Corinthians 3:10-15,  that our works will one day be judged by fire.

In this world, where so much evil reigns, where we can’t always even know the truth about a situation, isn’t it comforting to know that we serve a God who not only cares about his people, but who also cares about his creation.  He judges righteously, in His time.  And, He saves those who look to Him in Faith.

With Joy,


All verses from the NASB

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6 thoughts on “Habakkuk 2:4-2:20 — Bible Study Notes — Lesson 5”

  1. Hi Kathleen,
    Your notes are very well-prepared. Organized in a visually appealing manner, and easy to follow. I appreciate the application at the end. The minor prophets are probably the most neglected books in Scripture, and aside from the difficulty interpreting them in places, the other reason is probably that people feel as though they lack application. Thanks for pointing it out.

    1. To be honest, I was a bit surprised myself when I saw how much application there was in the book of Habakkuk. All of scripture is profitable! Thanks for reading, Scott.

  2. Wow. I was really struck by how the Chaldeans got slaves. It made me think of how the price of our sins was so steep that we became slaves to sin until Jesus paid the price for us and redeemed us.

    1. That is a good insight, and application, Ailie! The price of sin, like the tribute required by the Chaldeans, is always more than we can pay, so we become more and more enslaved. Thanks!

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