- Why does God allow oppression and injustice in Jewish life? (1:1 - 4)
- God will use the Chaldeans to punish Jewish sinners (1:5 - 11)
- Why will God allow the more wicked to punish the less wicked? (1: 12 - 2:1)
- God will punish the Chaldeans later (2: 2 - 20)
- Habakkuk's prayer and psalm of praise (3: 1 - 19)
Authorship, date, and background The prophet Habakkuk, whose derived from a Hebrew root meaning "to embrace," was the author of this book. Apart from his name and the fact that he was called a prophet, nothing else is known about him. He lived and prophesied during the closing years of the seventh century B.C. and the early years of the sixth century. The date for the book has been assigned to a period between 605 and 589 B.C. by conservative scholars. Nahum the prophet in his book had announced the doom of Assyria. Obadiah had pronounced divine judgment on Edom. Habakkuk was the third prophet whose ministry was limited to a single gentile nation. He pronounced God's judgment of Chaldea, one of whose great monarchs was Nebuchadnezzar. Nineveh has been destroyed by Nabopolassar, the father of Nebuchadnezzar. His son reigned from 605 B.C. to 562 B.C. At the battle of Carchemish Nebuchadnezzar defeated the Egyptians and re-established Babylon as the seat and center of world power in that era.
Nebuchadnezzar was God's instrument to execute divine judgment on Judah, bringing about the Babylonian captivity of seventy years. The people of Judah were guilty of violence, injustice, and of a refusal to obey the demands of the Torah (the Law). Habakkuk was disturbed about the conditions and wondered how soon it would be before the judgment of God would fall on his people.
Under the preaching of Jonah, the judgment of God against Nineveh has been suspended because of the nation's repentance. Now there is impending judgment unrelieved by any possibility if repentance. The nation was now ripe for ruin by God. The prophecies of Jonah and Nahum, separated by more than a century and a half, illustrate the mercy and the patience of god in dealing with sinful nations.
Characteristics and content Habakkuk engages in a conversation with God about the evils of Judah. When he learns that God will use the Chaldeans to punish his people, Habakkuk has serious reservations about the justice of using a nation whose sins are greater than those of Judah to punish the nation. Habakkuk announces God's prophecy that the Chaldeans are coming and will wreak vengeance on Judah. They will spread their terror, seize Judah's possessions, take the people captive and destroy Jerusalem. God says evil does not go on forever unpunished.
Habakkuk asks God how he can use a more sinful nation to punish a less sinful one. God announces that he will punish the Chaldeans after they have been used by him to punish the people of Judah. Habakkuk argues that Chaldea is greedy, covetous, cruel, and idolatrous. Because of this, Chaldea will be destroyed by God, but only after that nation has been used to punish Judah. Then it is that Habakkuk makes known to all men the good news that the just shall live by their faith (2:2 - 4). This theme is mentioned by Isaiah and is picked up in the New Testament in Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews. The prophet announces his own faith in God even though trouble besets him, the trees give forth no fruit, and the earth produces no food. He concludes by saying that if all these evils come upon him, "yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. 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" (3:18, 19).