Habakkuk Table of  Contents

Main Table of Contents


Minor Prophets: Major Messages

The Book of Habakkuk

How to Use This Study Guide

1. A slow unhurried reading of Habakkuk is essential. Reading the chapter before looking at the notes, while working with the notes, and after finishing with the notes will give each researcher a powerful sense of the series of meanings within each chapter. It is important to be comfortable with all the names and places in the prophecy and to understand the announcements the prophet makes on behalf of the Lord. When possible, historical information will be included in the notes to increase reading comprehension and enhance application.

2. Our study of each chapter of Habakkuk will begin with quotes from a work of the Writings called Summary Exposition of the Prophets and Psalms. This work includes a verse-by-verse overview of all three chapters of Habakkuk that provides general information about the internal sense. Our research will help move us from the generals to the particulars of the internal sense.

3. Another important reference tool is Searle’s General Index to Swedenborg’s Scripture Quotations. This reference is used to find passages in the Writings where a verse(s) from the Word is either explained specifically or used to illustrate a doctrinal point that we can use in our study. There is also another use of this work. As we study, each researcher will be led by the Lord’s Providence in myriad ways, according to specific needs or states. Knowing how to use this book will help each of us to explore relevant topics and look up related passages to increase our knowledge of the three-fold Word. 

4. You will soon discover that not every verse, word, name, etc. is directly quoted in the Writings. But there are often other references to the same name, place, or thing in the explanation of a different verse of the Word. The hope is that reflection on these other doctrinal explanations will help us see possible applications to our study of Habakkuk. We will need to use “derived doctrine” often. Please don’t run away from this maligned term. If we use it properly and admit openly that it is derived doctrine, we bring no harm to the internal sense.

5. Keep some kind of notebook handy during your study times. Write out insights, questions, and any summaries you find helpful in organizing your thoughts about each chapter. The goal of this study guide is not to give a detailed summary of the internal sense but to start each researcher’s quest for deeper insight.

6. At the end of each chapter in the study guide, you will find a study review. The review includes a summary of each section to help you reinforce and build on your understanding of several of the key points.

7. Begin each study unit with a devotional prayer asking the Lord to guide and direct your thoughts. Certainly beginning in this sphere has the power to inspire and open our minds with a higher spiritual priority that will keep us in the company of the Lord’s angels. As the Writings teach, we must seek to love truth for truth’s sake. Such an approach will free each reader from preconceived ideas that might limit his or her ability to “see” the intent and message of the Lord’s Word.


What the Lord said to the disciples was “said to all who are of the church, for the twelve disciples represented all such…” (Arcana Coelestia [AC] 3354) “‘The twelve disciples’ signify all who are of the church, and in an abstract sense all things of the church, which are truths from good.” (Apocalypse Explained [AE] 851)
Why begin this introduction to the book of Habakkuk with these quotes about the representation of the disciples? Each disciple represents some aspect of the quality of the spiritual life within us. The disciples are a complex of our spiritual life. Their complex seeks to reach out and touch us at some level of our spiritual development. The states and activities of this development are not static; they are ever changing. So, too, I believe, the prophets form a complex to touch our state. Each prophet we study has a unique prophetic style and message. The Lord inflows into that uniqueness and unfolds His plan to overcome the falsification and adulteration of His Word, and calms us with the news of the birth of the New Church. What we need to do is listen to the message of each prophet without getting caught up in his personage. “Unless the internal sense were to teach what these words signify and unfold within them, the investigators and interpreters of the Word might be led away and fall into opinions altogether foreign to the truth; or it might even happen that those who at heart deny the holiness of the Word might come to the conclusion that…” (AC 3651, emphasis added)
Habakkuk’s prophetic style is one of not talking to the people. He, like Job, asks the Lord hard questions. His questions are complaints. Listen to the “woes” he addresses:

  • Injustice is rampant.
  • The righteous are surrounded by the wicked.
  • The law is powerless to stop the wicked.
  • The Lord appears to be allowing evil to go unpunished.

With anguish Habakkuk cries out, “How long, O Lord, will I call for help, and You will not hear?” Habakkuk continues his list of woes:

  • Woe to the proud. (2:4-5)
  • Woe to the greedy. (2:6-8)
  • Woe to the dishonest. (2:9-11)
  • Woe to the violent. (2:12-14)
  • Woe to the sensual. (2:15-17)
  • Woe to the idolater. (2:18-20)

The Lord responds to Habakkuk, “Look among the nations and watch—be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe though it were told you.”  (Habakkuk 1:5, emphasis added)

So, like Job, Habakkuk complains, argues, challenges, and questions the Lord’s methods of bringing order to the church. But in the end, Habakkuk comes full circle, confidently praising the Lord’s providence and looking forward to the establishment of the New Church.
Is there some part of our spiritual life in which we can identify with Habakkuk’s argumentative approach to the Lord? When we read, watch, and see things going on in the world, don’t we want to cry out, “How long, Lord, will it be before you do something with this world of ours? Our laws are being made a mockery. Our politicians are misusing their offices for personal gain. Political correctness is pulling down the Ten Commandments from buildings. Displaying crèche scenes is being found unacceptable and offensive. Murders, pillage, and attacks are perpetrated with minor penalties.”
Habakkuk’s name means “to embrace” or “to wrestle.” He seems to be representative of our worrisome feelings. He wants to talk with the Lord and not the people. Isn’t Habakkuk’s style a great example for us? We need to talk more with the Lord and have less concern about public opinion.
Let’s pause again with the Lord’s answer to Habakkuk’s doubting state.

  • Watch. Like a watchman on a tower, we are to be alert and look intently for answers from the internal sense of the Word.
  • Be utterly astounded. Can we ask ourselves a question? Are we in a state of anticipation? Or are we in a spiritual rut going around in circles with little hope or belief in the reality of the New Church? Can we be astounded, or are we somewhat jaded in our philosophy of life?
  • I will work a work in your days which you would not believe though it were told you. I don’t know about you, but these words fire me up to believe the Lord. I want to come into a state that will open my eyes to see things that the doubter and nay-sayer will never see or believe. May the Lord help us learn truth through the continuous degree so that we will be found worthy to have the Lord lift us to the see the beauty and enlightenment of discrete degrees.

What do we know about Habakkuk?

We know almost nothing about Habakkuk’s life. He gives us no clue to his parentage. No home village is mentioned. Was he from the northern or southern kingdom? He gives us no clue about his work. We don’t know who was reigning over Israel during his lifetime. The only clue historians note is in Habakkuk 1:6, where the Lord says: “I am raising up the Chaldeans.” The Chaldeans are the Babylonians. On the basis of this reference, historians offer an approximate date of 620 B.C.
Once again, we need to ask the question, “Why does the Word of the Lord give so little information about the prophet?” The answer comes back each time that the Lord wants us to study His Word apart from the person conveying it to us. “Unless the internal sense…were to teach…the investigators and interpreters of the Word might be led away and fall into opinions altogether foreign to the truth…” (AC 3651) What the Lord does for our salvation is by far more important than background information about Habakkuk’s life.
With this teaching as our beacon, may the Lord guide and direct our study of Habakkuk. We pray that He will hear our concerns and that He will speak those wonderful words of advice to us: Watch. Be astounded. You are about to be astonished by My work of salvation; even if you have doubts and fail to see it all, the Lord’s New Church will come to fruition. SELAH!


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