We know nothing about the man Habakkuk except he was a prophet of God. Habakkuk doesn’t tell us who was king in Judah when he wrote, but from 1:5-6, we can determine it was sometime before Babylon had risen to prominence as a world power (626 BC), but after the Lord had decided the condition of Judah warranted destruction and captivity which happened in the reign of Manasseh (2 Kings 21:1-16).His reign was from 698 to 643 B.C..
Habakkuk is a unique book. Most of the prophets were sent to God’s people to rebuke them for their sin and warn them of impending judgment. However, Habakkuk’s writing is not addressed to the people of Judah—it is addressed to God. He certainly makes mention of the sins of the people, but not as one who is rebuking them and calling for change. He was a righteous man surrounded by unrighteousness. This is the backdrop to the book—his struggle as a righteous man living in a world where unrighteousness prevails.
In His first set of questions, Habakkuk noted that God’s law was ignored and violence and injustice prevailed. He cried out to God about these things—how long will I cry out? Will you not save? Why do these troubles persist? (1:2-4) In His response, the Lord was not blind to the wickedness which was among His own people—in fact, a judgment against their sin was coming from an unexpected source—the army of Babylon (1:5-11). They would come in violence and take captives of the people of Judah.
This prompts the prophet’s second question—how could a good and righteous God bring the Chaldeans against His own people? (1:12-17) They were a people more wicked than Judah, they were treacherous and wicked and rejoiced in the mistreatment of people to build their own empire. How could this solve Judah’s sin? Knowing God was righteous, Habakkuk states he will stand as a watchman over the nation, waiting to be corrected by God (2:1). In response, God acknowledged the Babylonians were not upright, they were arrogant, they were proud, they were wicked (2:2-5). God knew the wickedness of the wicked, and lists out many ways they abuse and mistreat others through oppressive debts, slavery, drunkenness, sexual immorality, and idolatry (2:6-19). Two things were key for Habakkuk and all the righteous to remember:
- “…the just shall live by his faith” (2:4), despite the presence and persistence of wickedness, we must still walk by faith in God’s way.
- “…the LORD is in His holy temple…” (2:20) No matter how evil man is—Judah or Babylon of anyone else—God is still righteous, God is still in control.
Chapter 3 is a prayer of Habakkuk. He prays that God would bring judgment upon the wicked, whomever they are, wherever they are. In his prayer, the prophet draws from imagery found elsewhere in the Scriptures. He speaks of God’s glory and power standing over the earth and people trembling in His presence, like it was at Mount Sinai (3:3-7). He alludes to the Lord’s power in parting the waters to save His people and destroy the Egyptians (3:8-10, 14-15) and to the sun standing still in Joshua’s day while the Lord gave His people victory (3:11-13). In essence, he cites the exodus story—God delivered His people from bondage and sin and brought judgment upon the wicked. And in this hope, that salvation is with the Lord’s Anointed (3:13), despite how bad things may get in life (3:16-17), the prophet will rejoice in the Lord, for He is the God of salvation (3:18-19).
Our next book summary will be on Zephaniah…