(Acts 13:41) Why does Paul cite Habakkuk 1:5?

CLAIM: Paul tells the unbelieving Jewish leaders, “Behold, you scoffers, and marvel, and perish; for I am accomplishing a work in your days, a work which you will never believe, though someone should describe it to you” (Acts 13:41). Here he is citing Habakkuk 1:5. Why is he citing this passage?

RESPONSE: There could be two possibilities:

1. There was judgment due to unbelief in Habakkuk’s day on the Jewish people in Israel. Thus Paul’s audience should exert faith in the God of Israel and his Messiah (Jesus) unlike their ancestors who went under judgment at the exile.

2. God was using the evil Gentiles (the Babylonians) in Habakkuk’s day, who judged the people. Likewise, in Paul’s day, God was using the unclean Gentiles to spread his love and message to. In the context of Acts 13, Paul next takes the gospel to Gentiles. This would have been very offensive to these ethnically Jewish believers.

Both views are complimentary to each other and are not mutually exclusive.