Lesson 43: The Books of Nahum and Habakkuk

Reading Preperation:
  • Nahum
  • Habakkuk
Lesson Notes:
1. Introduction
The writings of Nahum and Habakkuk are included in the Hebrew Bible under the section: Prophets. Both books are part of the King James Bible.
Monte S. Nyman notes,
“The Hebrew Bible was divided into three parts. The Law referred to the first five books of Moses. The Prophets consisted of eight books: Joshua Judges, 1&2 Samuel (as one book), 1&2 Kings (as one book), Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Twelve prophets (Hosea through Malachi). The other books of the Old Testament were collected into a third book that was called the Hagiographa, mostly poetic books” (Footnote 4. Divine Ministry—The First Gospel. Orem, Utah: Granite Publishing and Distribution, L.L.C, 2003. 216).
While Nahum and Habakkuk are considered, according to the Hebrew Bible to be among the twelve prophets, the writings of both prophets make up only a small part of our current Old Testament. The majority of Nahum’s message is directed at the destruction of the Assyrian city of Nineveh, however its application extends beyond this event into the future. The writings of Habakkuk mainly focus on his query to the Lord regarding two questions that concerned him. Other prophet have been concerned about their calling and the response of the people to their message of repentance. Two that come to mind are Jonah (Jonah 3:10-4:1, 11), and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 15:15-18; 18:18-23, 20:7-18). Joseph Smith, a latter day prophet, expressed his concern regarding the trials his people were experiencing as well as the duration of his own confinement (Doctrine and Covenants 121:1-6). Other individuals have also wondered if the Lord was truly present during the trials of their lives and have questioned the meaning and duration of their suffering. It is important therefore that we do not let the brevity of their writings distract our attention from the value of their messages today.
2. The Book of Nahum
2.1. Background
We being our exploration of the writings of Nahum by asking the question, “Who is Nahum?”
Sidney B. Sperry provides the following introduction,
2.1.1. Name and birthplace
“The prophet’s name occurs nowhere else in the Bible except in the genealogy of the Joseph the husband of Mary the mother of Christ (Luke 3:25). It means ‘Comforter’ or ‘Consoler.’ The superscription of the Book of Nahum refers to the prophet as the ‘Elkoshite’ (Nahum 1:1)… It seems to mean that Nahum come from a place called Elkosh… Unfortunately, we do not know the exact location of Elkosh, which is not mentioned elsewhere in the Bible [though] many authorities are inclined at the present time to place Elkosh in southern Palestine…
2.1.2. Date of writings
“[S]ince Nahum’s prophecy deals with the coming destruction of Nineveh, we know it must have been written before 612 B.C., the date of her downfall. We may date Nahum’s ministry with some degree of probability, therefore between the years of 663 B.C. and 612 B.C…
2.1.3. Style of writing
“Nahum was a master of Hebrew style. The poetry of his prophecy is among the finest in the Old Testament. None of the Minor Prophets can be said to be finer in this regard, and only Isaiah among the Major Prophets possible excels him in animation, boldness and sublimity; or in proportion to the size of his book, in the freshness, richness, variety, elegance and force of his imagery” (Voice of Israel’s Prophet’s. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1952, 352-353, 357, topics added).
2.2. Outline of Book of Nahum
I. Nineveh’s doom decreed (1:2-15)

1. The Lord’s avenging wrath (1:2-10)
2. Reproaches or threats against a foe (presumably Nineveh) and words of comfort and deliverance to Judah (1:11-15).
II. The siege and destruction of Nineveh (2:1-13).

1. The attack upon Nineveh and sack of the city (2:1-10).
2. Sarcastic exaltation over the destruction of the city (2:11-13).
III. Nineveh’s wickedness and inevitable doom (3:1-19).

1. Retribution upon the city for outrages against other nations (3:1-7).
2. Nineveh’s fate to the be that of No-Amon in Egypt (3:8-11).
3. Nineveh’s inability to save herself (3:12-19)
(Voice of Israel’s Prophets. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1953, 356-357).
2.3. Nahum’s Message and the lessons he taught
Approximately one hundred and fifty years earlier, Jonah had received the assignment of the Lord to call Nineveh to repentance. Jonah tried to delay the responsibility, not because he was rebellious, but because he let his feelings regarding the Assyrians to interfere with the directive of the Lord. It is my belief that he wanted the Assyrians to be punished. The atrocities’ they had committed against Judah were well documented and he wanted her to be held accountable for her wickedness. To his disappointment, when he finally did arrive, she heeded his message and repented.
The problem with Nineveh and her citizenry is that she had become wicked again. Her iniquity was again overflowing and like “a dog returneth to his vomit;” (Proverbs 26:12), were again ripe for destruction. Nahum saw that now she will reap the seeds of her iniquity.
Nahum 1:3, 7
3 The LORD is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not acquit [set free] the wicked:…
7 The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.
In these two contrasting verses, we learn that the Lord is not without emotions, yet He is capable of exercising them in a just manner. While He is “slow to anger” He cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance. Mercy cannot rob justice.
Were God to be indulgent, punishing his children sometimes but not on other occasions for the same offense, his children would never know when their action will warrant his punishment and incur his wrath. Only when boundaries and consequences are firmly set and enforced, is a child able to feel sufficiently secure. While it is true that most of us push the limits, often a necessary step in our coming to learn the boundaries, when this occurs in an environment where there is love and concern, we come to learn that our parents care about us. Were they not to take any action or to be inconsistent, not only would we become anxious around individuals in authority, we would also not feel our environment was a place where we could safely learn the consequences of our actions.
Having had this life experience, many feel that God is like a punitive parent who harshly punishes the offender for the smallest infraction or they see God as an indulgent parent.
B/M, 2 Nephi 28:8
8 And there shall also be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless, fear God—he will justify in committing a little sin; yea, lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this; and do all these things, for tomorrow we did; and if it be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.
Nahum is saying to Nineveh and to all who break God’s commandments, the time will come for the consequences for our actions.
Nahum 1:8, 10
8 But with an overrunning flood he will make an utter end of the place thereof, and darkness shall pursue his enemies.
10 For while they be folden [laid over another] together like thorns, and while they are drunken as drunkards, they shall be devoured as stubble fully dry.
When the destruction comes, it will come swiftly and it will be all consuming. There will no place of refuge where the wicked can escape. All will be destroyed.
Nahum 1:12-13
12 Thus saith the LORD: Though they be quiet [still], and likewise many, yet thus shall they be cut down, when he shall pass through. Though I have afflicted thee, I will afflict thee no more.
13 For now will I break his yoke from off thee, and will burst thy bonds in sunder.
Adam Clarke states,
These verses refer to when “Sennacherib invaded Judea with an army of nearly 200,000 men… The angel of the Lord… slew of them in one night 185,000, 2 Kings 19:35… [verse 13] refers to the tribute which the Jews were obliged to pay the Assyrians, 2 Kings 17:14” (Adam Clarke’s Commentary of the Bible. Abridged by Ralph Earle. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1967, [Nineteenth Printing March 1991], 740).
The Lord previous had intervened to destroy the Assyrian army under the direction of Sennacherib when he sought to destroy the city of Jerusalem, he will now destroy the city of Nineveh. Not only will the Assyrians no longer “afflict” Judah, they will not be a source of power in the world.
2.4. Lessons to be learned regarding Nineveh’s destruction
Contrast Nahum 1:15 and Isaiah 52:7
Nahum 1:15 Isaiah 52:7
15 Behold upon the mountains the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace! O Judah, keep thy solemn feasts, perform thy vows: for the wicked shall no more pass through thee; he is utterly cut off. 7 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that said unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!
While Nahum speaks of the destruction of Nineveh and the end of Assyrian domination, he also reminds his readers of a time in the future when peace will reign and all wickedness shall end. This will come when the people heed the message of the Prophets as declared by the missionaries sent out during the last days—”the feet of him that bringeth good tidings—”perform thy vows” [teach the people to obey the commandments]—[and] “the wicked shall… utterly [be] cut off” [those who refuse to heed the voice of warning]. Isaiah also had testified to the people of this future event when Zion shall return and Israel will be redeemed.
Nahum 2:6
6 The gates of the rivers shall be opened, and the palace shall be dissolved.
When the Medes-Persians conquered the city of Nineveh they were able to do so by diverting the water that ran under the city and in this manner where able to enter and then occupy the city that many had believed to be impenetrable. Just as the city was venerable to the penetration of Assyrians enemies, so also are the wicked who seek to avoid the consequences of their actions. They will also receive judgment for their actions.
Nahum 2:8-10
8 Art thou better than populous No, that was situate among the rivers, that had the waters round about it, whose rampart was the sea, and her wall was from the sea?
9 Ethiopia and Egypt was her strength, and it was infinite; Put and Lubim [Libya] were thy helpers
10 Yet was she carried away, she went into captivity:…
The Old Testament student manual notes,
“As other wicked cities had met destruction, so would Nineveh. She was no better than the Egyptian city, No-Amon [Thebes), which was earlier destroyed by the Assurbanipal, king of Assyria. Neither of the allies of Thebes, Ethiopia or Libya, had been able to protect her. Nineveh, too, would “seek strength” in allies and find none” (Old Testament student manual: 1 Kings—Malachi. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1982, Second Edition, 220).
Nahum 2:13
13 Behold, I am against thee, said the LORD of hosts, and I will burn her chariots in the smoke, and the sword shall devour thy young lions [soldiers]: and I will cut off thy prey from the earth, and the voice of thy messengers shall no more be heard.
When a nation reaches the point where her citizenry seek only wickedness and no longer give obedience to the commandments, she becomes ripe for destruction. When that state occurs, the only antidote is complete and total repentance by the people and her leaders. Previously, Nineveh had been in a state of wickedness, but when the prophet Jonah cried repentance, she had listened.
Jonah 3:4-5, 10
4 And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.
5 So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest even to the least of them.
10 And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and [“God turned away the evil that he had said he would bring upon them” (JST Jonah 3:10)], and he did it not.
It appears this time the citizenry of Nineveh and her leaders were so entrenched in their wickedness that she no longer could or desired to seek repentance. Like the citizens of Nineveh, we are not immune to the hold which the forces of evil can have upon us. When we discount the words of the Lord to us or rebel against the counsel of our leaders, we too can become so comfortable with sin that we no longer seek to follow the promptings of the spirit. We become our own voice of reason and what was at one time evil now become good to us.
Alexander Pope states,
“Vice is a monster of so frightful mien,
As to be hated needs but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace”
We might ask what specific sins had Nineveh committed that were so heinous that the inhabitants deserved to be destroyed?
Nahum 3:1, 4
1 Woe to the bloody city! It is all full of lies and robbery; the prey departeth not;
4 Because of the multitude of the whoredoms of the welfavoured harlot, the mistress of witchcrafts, that selleth nations through her whoredoms, and families through her witchcrafts.
The sins of lies, robbery, whoredoms and witchcrafts are specifically noted by Nahum. Let us examine these specific sins more closely and their implication to citizens and the nation. Lies and other forms of dishonesty infer a breakdown of personal ethics among the members of the nation in their relations with themselves and others. Trust and honesty toward their fellow man no longer exists. Secondly, is robbery which often results when there is a breakdown in trust. By itself, it denotes actions designed to cheat others and “to get gain” by fraudulent means along with the complete disregard for the establishment of law. Third are whoredoms which include prostitution, sexual immorality and all other forms of immoral and lewd behavior. Adherence to the law of chastity which includes sexual abstinence before marriage and complete fidelity after marriage, is nonexistent in the individual’s sexual conduct. Last on the list is witchcraft which involves the individual or group turning to Satan as the source of guidance and direction in their lives.
Monte S. Nyman states,
“This could suggest… reliance… upon [the] philosophers, economists, educators, and scientists instead of relying upon the Lord, as well as the literal practice of witchcraft” (Divine Ministry—The First Gospel. Orem, Utah: Granite Publishing and Distribution, L.L.C., 2003, 332).
Choosing to follow the wisdom of the world rather than seeking heavenly direction always involves a denial of the Lord as the source of all guidance and direction in one’s life.
As we note the list of sins noted by Nahum, it is surprising that the Lord had not intervened earlier to bring about Nineveh’s demise!
Nahum 3:18-19
18 Thy shepherds slumber, O king of Assyria; they nobles shall dwell in the dust: thy people is scattered upon the mountains, and no man gathereth them.
19 There is no healing of thy bruise; thy wound is grievous: all that hear the bruit of thee shall clap the hands over thee: for upon whom hath not they wickedness passed continually?
Nineveh’s fate is sealed. She had procrastinated her day of repentance until it was now too late. This great city and nation were destroyed. The sun had set on Nineveh, never to rise again.
Victor L. Ludlow states,
“Nineveh was razed to the ground following its destruction [by the Medes-Persians] in 612 B.C.” (Unlocking the Old Testament. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 220).
3. The Book of Habakkuk
As we begin our review of the writings of Habakkuk, we ask the question we had asked about Nahum, Who is Habakkuk?
Sidney B. Sperry states,
“It is unfortunate that neither history nor tradition has left us with any reliable facts concerning Habakkuk’s person or the age in which he lived… [He] was a philosopher, original and forceful, inquiring and speculative, and very sensitive to spiritual impressions. He is known as the ‘supplant’ among the prophets and, as the Hebrew text of the superscription implies, was also a chozeh or seer” (The Voice of Israel’s Prophets. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1952, 365).
The date of Habakkuk’s writings is often inferred based upon the reading of Habakkuk 1:2-4.
Habakkuk 1:2-4
2 O LORD, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! Even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save!
3 Why dost thou shew me iniquity, and cause me to behold grievance? For spoiling and violence are before me: and there are that raise up strife and contention.
4 Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment doth never go forth: for the wicked doth never go forth: for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceedeth.
Sidney B. Sperry states,
“The question naturally arises, Who is responsible for the wickedness, oppression, and violence? Are the Jews? Is the prophet giving a description of the sins of his own people? Or, as critics have variously suggested, is the Jewish nation being persecuted by the Assyrians, Chaldeans, or Egyptians? The date for the writing of Habakkuk will depend on the answers given to these questions. [Sidney B. Sperry] dates the prophecy about 605 B.C.” (The Voice of Israel’s Prophets. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1952, 369).
The position of Sperry is that Habakkuk is addressing the circumstances of his own people in which wickedness, oppression, and violence is rampant! This position will provide the foundation for Habakkuk’s two questions.
Before we address Habakkuk’s query of the Lord, it is important that we take a brief side trip. The resurrected Savior when He appeared to the Nephites in the Americas, He taught them the following:
B/M, 3 Nephi 21:8-9 Habakkuk 1:5
8 And when that day shall come, it shall come to pass that kings shall shut their mouths; for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider. 5 Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvelously: for I will work a work in your days, which ye shall not believe, though it be told you.
9 For in that day, for my sake shall the Father work a work, which shall be a great and a marvelous work among them; and there shall be among them those who will not believe it, although a man shall declare it unto them.  
Monte S. Nyman states,
“The great and marvelous work [has] commenced, but was not limited to bringing forth the Book of Mormon… [The great work is that] the scattering is over and the time of the gathering [of scattered Israel] has begun… That some ‘will not believe it, although a man shall declare it unto them’ foretells that many of the Gentiles to whom the Book of Mormon is taken will reject it” (Divine Ministry—The First Gospel. Orem, Utah: Granite Publishing and Distribution L.L.C, 2013, 328-329).
Isaiah 52:15
15 So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.
Monte S. Nyman adds,
“It might… be concluded that the word ‘sprinkle’ was the original meaning, because with the first fulfillment of the prophecy, the scattering had not been completed, but [before the restored gospel would be taken to the seed the Lamanites in the latter days]… the time of the gathering had come” (Divine Ministry—The First Gospel. Orem, Utah: Granite Publishing and Distribution, L.L.C, 2013, 328).
This side trip serves to highlight that both Habakkuk and Isaiah, according to the words of the Savior, saw in vision the latter days when the gathering of scattered Israel would commence though the restoration of the lost truths of the gospel including the coming forth of the Book of Mormon as an instrument in the this process.
3.1. Outline of Book of Habakkuk
Sidney B. Sperry provides the following outline:
I. The two fold perplexity of Habakkuk and the Lord’s solution (1:2-2:4)

1. Query: Why does the Lord remain apparently indifferent in the presence of iniquity and violence (1:2-4)?
2. The Lord’s answer: He is not indifferent; the Chaldeans are to execute His judgment (1:5-11).
3. Query: Why does the Lord, who is pure, holy and everlasting, choose a wicked nation to punish a people more righteous than itself (1:12-17)?
4. The Lord’s answer: The Chaldeans may be temporarily puffed up, but their end is certain; the righteous may be afflicted temporarily, but they shall live by faith forever (2:1-4).
II. A taunt-song over the destruction of the Chaldeans (2:5-20).

1. Woe upon lust for conquest and spoils (2:5-8).
2. Woe upon base avarice [greedy], through which a dynasty seeks to firmly establish its rule (2:9-11).
3. Woe upon building cities with the blood and sweat of subjugated nations (2:12-14).
4. Woe upon cruelty in the treatment of conquered nations (2:15-17).
5. Woe upon idolatry (2:18-20).
III. Habakkuk’s prayer: Petition, Appreciation, Trust (3:1-19).

1. Superscription (3:1).
2. Petition (3:2).
3. A theophany (3:3-15).
4. Calm and joyous confidence in the Lord (3:16-19)
(Voice of Israel’s Prophets. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1952, 366-367).
3.2. The Questions of Habakkuk and the Lord’s Answers
Habakkuk, not unlike other prophets, complains to the Lord about the prevalence of the violence, iniquity, strife, and contention that exists in his nation and the result that the law seems to be paralyzed to do anything about improving the situation. In fact, when the guilty are finally brought to the judgment seat, judgment is thwarted.
As previously noted there have been other prophets who have also expressed their concern to the Lord regarding the wickedness of the people. Jonah and Jeremiah were also called to cry repentance to a people who had reached the brink of iniquity and were ripe for destruction. You will recall that when Jonah finally arrived and issued his message from the Lord that Nineveh was given “yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4). While Nineveh was truly ripe in iniquity, Jonah was able to experience the fruits of his labors as the citizenry and her leaders heeded the Lord’s call for repentance. This was however not the experience of Jeremiah. His efforts to cry repentance to the citizens of Jerusalem fell on deaf ears. The distinct difference between these prophets and Habakkuk is that Habakkuk concluded that the delay in the Lord’s actions in punishing the wicked was because “thou wilt not hear!… thou wilt not save[intervene?]” (Habakkuk 1:2). This led to Habakkuk’s first question.
3.2.1. Habakkuk’s First question
Habakkuk 1:2-4
2 O LORD, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save!
3 Why dost thou show me iniquity, and cause me to behold grievance? for spoiling and violence are before me: and there are that raise up strife and contention.
Habakkuk, like many of us when faced with adversity, did not fully understand the importance of patience and waiting on the Lord. This is in contrast to our acting as if we know what is best and it is us, not the Lord, who determines the action He will take and when. This is in direct opposition to the plan of heaven. I sense in this regard, Habakkuk, like many of us, needed to learn patience and to trust that the Lord will acting according to His infinite knowledge and understanding as to the action to be taken regarding His children and when. Habakkuk voices his belief that the Lord’s delay was because He was disinterested or worse did not care.
In Habakkuk’s defense, and our own, it is not easy to wait upon the Lord. Similar to young children, we often want what we want at the time we want it, which is immediately. The greater our pain and discomfort, combined with a delay in the Lord’s response, the more confident we are of His lack of caring. After all, we mistakenly conclude, if He cared, He would act immediately. I believe that Habakkuk lost sight, due to his own distress, that that the Lord does care for ALL HIS CHILDREN, in fact HE NEVER DOES STOP CARING. It is not in His nature. Because the Lord did not care, as we will discuss, is not why He had not yet t intervened according to Habakkuk’s timetable. In this instance, but not in all instances, the Lord did respond quickly and directly to Habakkuk’s concern.
3.2.2. The Lord’s response
Habakkuk 1:6
6 For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans [Babylonians], that bitter and hasty nation, which shall march through the breadth of the land, to posses the dwellings-places that are not theirs.
3.2.3. Habakkuk’s second question
Habakkuk is not pleased with the Lord’s response.
Habakkuk 1:12-13
12 Art thou not from everlasting, O LORD my God, mine Holy One? we shall not die. O LORD, thou hast ordained them for judgment; and, O mighty God, thou hast established them for correction.
13 Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he?
Habakkuk’s question is, how can you use the wicked to punish those who are more righteous? You know how wicked the Chaldeans [Babylonians] are and yet you are going to allow them to come upon Judah, who with all their faults, are more righteous! Habakkuk is so upset that he is going to take no further action until the Lord gives him a reply, even if he is reproved (see Habakkuk 2:1).
3.2.4. The Lord’s reply
Habakkuk 2:2-4
2 And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tablets, that he may run that readeth it.
3 For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; for it will surely come, it will not tarry.
4 Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: the just shall live by his faith.
Sidney B. Sperry states regarding this passages,
“The verse, ‘Behold his soul is puffed up, it is not upright in him; but the righteous shall live by his faith,’ while somewhat obscure, is one of the great passages of the Old Testament. It means essentially this: [Habakkuk] There is a moral and spiritual distinction between the Chaldeans and the people of Judah. The Chaldeans, puffed up and arrogant, priding themselves in their wealth and power and deceptive in their dealings with other nations, do not possess the moral and spiritual elements which alone can insure permanence and stability. The people of the Lord, on the other hand, possess moral integrity, fidelity, and spiritual insight which insure for them a future. ‘The future belongs to the righteous.'[F. C. Eiselen states… A living faith determines conduct; religion and ethics go hand in hand, and especially in the hour of adversity a belief in Jehovah and unflinching reliance upon him are the strongest preservers of fidelity and integrity. Faith without works is dead; faith expresses itself in life” (Voice of Israel’s Prophets. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1952, 371-372).
The important truth the Lord would have Habakkuk understand is that while the justice of the Lord may not fall immediately, the wicked will be punished just as the righteous will be blessed for their continued obedience and trust in the Lord.
Simply stated, in most instances, the judgment of the Lord does not occur immediately for either the wicked or the righteous. To the uninformed, it may appear on occasions that it is the wicked who prosper while the righteous suffer. This delay in punishment or reward is by the Lord’s design.
The wicked do not suffer immediate punishment for their sinful behavior so that they may be given the opportunity to recognize and repent of their abhorrent actions. If they were to be punished immediately, they would always choose the right based upon fear of punishment rather than due to their love of the Lord and desire to keep his commandments.
In turn, the righteous are not immediately rewarded for their obedience. If the blessing came immediately, the individual would never know if their choice to obey was due to their love of the Lord or because of their desire for the reward.
It is the desire of Our Heavenly Father that His children are obedient to His directions based upon their love for Him and their desire to honor Him by their complete and total obedience to His will regardless of reward or punishment. Two witnesses of this truth:
Neal A. Maxwell taught,
“The submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s alter. The many other things… He has already given or loaned to us. However, when you and I finally submit ourselves, by letting our individual wills be swallowed up in God’s will, then we are really giving something to Him! It is the only possession which is truly ours to give! (“Swallowed Up in the Will of the Father” in Ensign, November, 1995, 24).
Boyd K. Packer states,
“Obedience to God can be the very highest expression of independence. Just think of giving to him the one thing, the one gift, that he will never take… Obedience—that which God will never take by force—he will accept when freely given. And he will return to you freedom that you can hardly dream of—the freedom to feel and to know, the freedom to do, and the freedom to be, at least a thousandfold more that we offer Him. Strangely enough, the key to freedom is obedience” (“Obedience” Brigham Young University, 7 December, 1971; see also “Obedience” in That All May Be Edified. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982, 256).
You will recall that Satan’s pre-mortal rejection of the Father’s plan included his desire to nullify the opportunity of choice with consequences by Father’s children. Under his plan, then and now, once an individual chooses to follow Satan, often due to their rejection of the Lord, they then come under Satan’s total control.
B/M, 2 Nephi 2:18
18 And because he [Satan] had fallen from heaven, and had become miserable forever, he sought also the misery of all mankind…
3.3. Five Examples of those who appear to prosper but justice will prevail
Habakkuk provides a “taunt-song” each which begin with “Woe” written with reference to the eventual destruction of the Chaldeans.
Monte and Farres Nyman, under Interpretation, offer their commentary of the Lord’s responses regarding the five “woes:”
“1. A man who is fond of alcohol and neglects his home yet gathers to himself much from all nations and subjects many people to him.
The Lord’s reply:
Habakkuk 2:8
8 Because thou hast spoiled many nations, all the remnant of the people shall spoil thee;…
Interpretation:”The Lord declares that all these things will witness against him in the end.
“2. A man who covets earthly possessions and trusts in these riches to keep him from the evils of the world.
Habakkuk 2:10-11
10 Thou hast consulted [devised] shame to thy house by cutting off many people, and hast sinned against thy soul.
11 For the stone shall cry out of the wall, and the beam [rafter] out of the timber shall answer it.
Interpretation: “These things [that] he has acquired at the expense of other people,… these possessions will testify against him at the last days.
“3. A man who builds himself a political empire through blood and iniquity, and involves many other people in his empire.
Habakkuk 2:13-14
13 Behold, is it not of the LORD of host that the people shall labour in the very fire, and the people shall weary themselves for very vanity.
14 For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
Interpretation: “The conclusion is that knowledge of the Lord is the most prized possession [to be acquired during mortality].
“4. A man who influences his neighbors to indulge in wickedness so that he may take advantage of them.
Habakkuk 2:16-17
16 Thou art filled with shame for glory:… the cup of the LORD’S right hand shall be turned unto thee, and shameful spewing shall be on thy glory.
17 For the violence of Lebanon shall cover thee,…
Interpretation: “The Lord’s wrath will come upon him.
“5. The man who makes or worships graven images.
Habakkuk 2:20
20 But the LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.
Interpretation: “The Lord does not operate through graven images. The Lord dwells in his hold temple and is an all-knowing and perfectly just God. All earthly philosophies and powers will someday acknowledge his omniscience and his power and keep silent in awe of him. Those who will learn to do so now will be justified in the day judgment” (The Words of the Twelve Prophets. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1990, 106-107).
3.4. Expression of Gratitude by Habakkuk
It is interesting that when the writings of Habakkuk and accompanying commentary were discovered in 1947, among what has become known as the Dead Sea scrolls, they contained only the text of the first two chapters of Habakkuk, not the last chapter.
F.F. Bruce notes,
“It is plain from the scroll that it never reproduced or expounded the third chapter of Habakkuk, for the original ending is clear for all to see. The omission of all reference to the ‘prayer of Habakkuk’ is not due to any idea that such a psalm was unsuitable material for commentary of the kid that is supplied for the ‘oracle’ of Habakkuk [commentaries of this kind on the Psalter and other biblical poems have been found in Qumran), it is due, more probably, to the fact that Habakkuk’s ‘prayer’ was considered to be a separate work, quite distinct from his ‘oracle'” (“The Dead Sea Habakkuk Scroll” in The Annual of Leeds University Oriental Society I (1958/59):5-6).
It appears to me that Habakkuk, Chapter Three is a separate work from the other two chapters based upon both the content and expression of humility by Habakkuk regarding the lessons that he has been taught. It is designated as “A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet” (see Habakkuk 3:1). It stands in stark contrast to the previous two chapters.
Habakkuk 3:2
2 O LORD, I have heard thy speech and was afraid: O LORD,… in wrath remember mercy.
Habakkuk seems to have come to his senses as he in acutely aware of his nothingness in contrast to the majesty and power of the Lord. His previous conversation with the Lord had been almost as if they were on equal footing. Now Habakkuk has had his eyes open in vision to the power which the Lord has.
Ellis T. Rasmussen notes,
“Habakkuk felt inspired to utter a psalm of praise to God and trust in Him. In awe of the power and glory of God, he poetically describes the power of Deity over all facets and functions of nature, and speaks of His might to overcome all of His enemies” (“Habakkuk A Prophet with a Problem” in The Instructor, vol 97, no. 09, September, 1962, insert between pages 306-307).
Habakkuk 3:10-13
10 The mountains saw thee, and they trembled…
11 The sun and moon stood still in their habitation…
12 Thou didst march through the land in indignation, thou didst thresh the heathen in anger.
13 Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people, even for salvation with thine anointed; thou woundedst the head out of the house of the wicked, by discovering the foundation under the neck. Selah
Having been taught by the Lord, Habakkuk concludes his experience with these concluding words of happiness and gratitude.
Habakkuk 3:18-19
18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
19 The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places,…
Victor L. Ludlow concludes,
“The book of Habakkuk raises a universal question of humankind: Why do the wicked seem to prosper while the righteous suffer? Our response should include the realization of two things: first, the wicked sow seeds of self-destruction with their prideful behavior, and second, God’s deliverance in past times brings faith in his future salvation. As Habakkuk delivered a magnificent expression of victory of faith over the unrighteous aggression of evil, he presented this issue in a compact poetic message that finds relevance in our modern society” (“The Book of Habakkuk” in Studies in Scripture 4. Edited by Kent P. Jackson. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1993, 192).
4. Conclusions
D. Kelly Ogden states,
“Nahum’s message, however, does not end here. It is clear from his writings that Nineveh is a type of things to come, just as Babylon and other cities were types (see Isa. 13-14; 1 Pet. 5:13; Rev. 14:8; 17; 18… )… The hard message of Nahum to Nineveh is a hard messages to nations and people in all ages, particularly in these last days preceding the Second Coming (Nahum 1)… Nahum’s three recorded chapters stand as a forceful warning to people everywhere to repent and walk in the path of the Lord—or suffer the vengeance of a just God” (“The Book of Nahum” in Studies in Scripture 4. Edited by Kent P. Jackson. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1993, 186).
Along with No-Amon [Thebes], we could also add the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah among those cities that were destroyed because her citizens would not heed the word of the prophets.
The Old Testament student manual states,
Regarding the city of Sodom, “Most scholars agree that the most probable site of Sodom is now covered by the southern part of the Dead Sea… ” (Old Testament student manual: Genesis—1 Samuel. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1980, Second Edition, 77).
We might ask how many more cities will yet be destroyed before we learn the lessons of history. When we, as God’s children, refuse to keep his commandments and continue in our iniquity, the time will surely come when we will be held accountable for our actions and we too may yet be numbers among those who perish when our city is destroyed. The only antidote for wickedness, as the city of Nineveh once learned then promptly forgot, is heartfelt and complete repentance. If we do not repent or if our repentance is not sincere or complete, we too may learn from our own experience that “wickedness never was happiness” (B/M, Alma 41:10).
Habakkuk’s message to us is that both the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, care about each one of us. It is because of their caring for us that they give up on us. When we choose to be disobedient, they give us time before judgment so that we may choose to change. We may then re-evaluate our choices and then make other decisions so that we may again feel the Lord’s spirit into our lives.
When tough times come into our lives, they give us time to gain strength as we continue to persevere even when the way is difficult and the path painful. As we come to know that He is always there supporting us and that someday relief will come, yet for now that truth must sustain us, even if now we must continue to suffer.
We also learn that justice will come to the wicked in the form of their just punishment as well rewards to the righteous for their continued obedience. This truth will not be denied. Only the repentant will not have to suffer for having done all they can do to demonstrate their sincere repentance, then His suffering will meet the demands of justice for our sins and His mercy will surround them. The wicked having rejected the offering of their Savior, will now have to suffer for their own sins.
Doctrine and Covenants 19:16-17, 20
16 For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;
17 But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;
20 Wherefore, I command you again to repent, lest I humble you with my almighty power; and that you confess your sins, lest you suffer these punishments of which I have spoken, yea, even in the smallest, yea, even in the least degree you have tasted at the time I withdrew my Spirit.
Mercy cannot rob justice means that the law of justice requires that payment must be made when a law is broken. While there may be a delay between the breaking of the law and the demand for justice, eventually the day of individual reckoning will come for justice cannot be denied. At that time if there is no one who is willing to suffer in your place the penalty as prescribed by law, then justice demands that the individual must suffer themselves. Only when there is one who is willing and able to meet the punishment required by justice, can mercy be extended.
Boyd K. Packer states,
“… by eternal law, mercy cannot be extended save there is one both willing and able to assume our debt and pay the price and arrange for the terms for our redemption. Unless there is a mediator, unless we have a friend, the full weight of justice untempered, unsympathetic, must, positively must fall on us. The full recompense for every transgression, however minor or however deep, will be exacted from us to the undermost fathering. But know this: Truth, glorious truth, proclaims there is such a Mediator… The extension of mercy will not be automatic. It will be through covenant with Him. It will be on His terms. His generous terms, which include, as an absolute essential, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins” (“The Mediator” in Ensign, May, 1977, 55-56).
Having been enlightened by his discussion with the Lord, Habakkuk rejoices in his newly gained insight and shares his devotion and gratitude to the Lord for his understanding.
Contrast the words of Habakkuk with Job
Habakkuk 3:18 Job 19:25
18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. 25 For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand in the latter day upon the earth:
I believe the joy that Habakkuk came to understand, not just for himself but for all of God’s children, is his gratitude for a Savior. This insight can also bring gratitude to each of us. This link between our happiness and our gratitude can also be a real strength to us even during hard times.
Lloyd D. Newell noted,
“We tend to think of gratitude primarily as a byproduct of happiness—when life is good and things are going our way, we feel thankful. But this is only half of the truth. Those who choose to be grateful even during hard times discover that gratitude creates happiness. Gratitude to God for everything around us awakens wonder and awe; it stimulates kindness and affection; it deepens humility and creates space in the heart for love and warmth. Gratitude is not just a reaction to our quality of life—it is how we determine our quality of life. Indeed, happiness inspires gratitude, but gratitude also inspires happiness” (“A Feeling That Nurtures the Soul” Music and the Spoken Word, July 6, 2014, emphasis added).
I am especially grateful that the writings of Nahum and Habakkuk have been preserved for our days. They both have so much to teach us.