The opening series of articles under this caption will expound the prophecy of Habakkuk. It is hoped that the series will become a basis for Bible study and marking. It is easy to “flip over” expositional articles because they are “heavier” reading, and you may not have kept up with previous articles in the series. We should be involved in a Bible study at all times to provide a focus for our minds. The world seeks to take over the mind and influence it in accordance with its ways. How can we effectively counteract this apparently all pervasive power? The Psalmist answers the question for us, “by taking heed thereto, according to thy word” (Psalm 119:9). Paul encouraged Timothy to “study to show himself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). This exhortation is for us today, for we are the custodians of the truth of God.

Who was Habakkuk? No absolutely definitive information is available. It has been suggested that he was a Levite from the fact that he wrote a psalm (Habakkuk 3), and gave directions to the choirmaster that it should be played “on my stringed instruments”.

The singers and instrumentalists were drawn from the tribe of Levi (1 Chron 25:1-7). Also Habakkuk’s concern for the lapse and disregard of the Law of God by his contemporaries suggests that he was a priest, for they were entrusted with the responsibility of teaching and administering its commandments and ordinances (Deut 17:9; Mal 2:7; Neh 8:1-8; Hosea 4:1-6).

Meaning of His Name

 Habakkuk means “The Embracer”, and significantly he embraced the Hope of Israel at a time of national apostacy (Hab 3:16-19). The writer to the Hebrews may well have had him in mind when he wrote, “These all died in faith not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them and EMBRACED them” (11:13). This seems to be the case because the foundationary statement which introduces that remarkable chapter on faith is drawn from Habakkuk 2:3-4: “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; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith”.

Time of Writing

 The prophecy was given at a time when the Chaldeans were being “raised up” by God to judge His people and when Judah had plunged into irremediable iniquity (1:5-6; 3:4). The early years of Jehoiakim’s reign appears to be the period. In the third year of his reign Nebuchadnezzar, the King of the Chaldeans, came against Judah for the first time and took captives to Babylon. This was in about the year 606BC and so the prophecy was written between the years 609-606BC. Jehoiakim was a wicked king, oppressing his people and even burning the roll of the Word of God (Jer 36:22-23). His sins and injustices helped create the carnival of wickedness that Habakkuk lamented.

Precis and Analysis of Habakkuk

 Chapter One

 1:1-4 Habakkuk complains to God of Judah’s lawlessness and the triumph of iniquity.

1:5-11 Yahweh answers the prophet and tells him that He is raising up the formidable Chaldeans for the express purpose of punishing His people.

1:12-17 Habakkuk is perplexed by God’s choice of the Chaldeans. Israel was righteous by comparison and how could this cruel and idolatrous power be a fit judge for Judah. He appeals to the holiness of God and wants Israel preserved.

  Chapter Two

 2:1-4 God again answers Habakkuk. The argumentative prophet is told that he must faithfully await the outworking of Divine justice. He had presumed to question God’s justice without full knowledge of His will, and had drawn wrong conclusions in chapter 1:12-17. He had not believed what God was going to do (1:5-12), even “though it was told him”. If he could not understand God’s will, he must not doubt it, for faith is the basis of acceptance. It is fundamental that God does not change and therefore justice will at length prevail. So faith in God’s Name must prevail however difficult it may be to understand His ways.

2:5-20 In five woes God declares sore judgment on those who practise iniquity (ie. the Chaldean in Habakkuk’s day and the Gogian confederacy in the latter days).

  • v5-8 Woe to those dominated by insatiable Ambition
  • v9-11 Woe to those moved by greed and Covetousness
  • v12-14 Woe to those whose power is built on violence and iniquity or “power politics”
  • v15-17 Woe to those given to intemperance and licentiousness – cp. Rome’s wine (Rev 18:6)
  • v18-20 Woe to those who trust in idols. Note:
  1. The first three woes relate to POLITICAL ambition and oppression.
  2. The last two woes relate to RELIGIOUS perversion.

In these pronouncements Habakkuk is assured that God has not forsaken His righteousness and justice, and that the oppressive Chaldean shall be “taken to task”. God is not indifferent to his sins at all and will surely judge him. The answer rests on three GREAT FOUNDATIONS.

  • That “the just shall live by faith” (2:4)
  • As certainly as God lives the “earth will be filled with His glory” and iniquity will not go unchecked as Habakkuk implied (2:14)
  • “Yahweh is in His Holy Temple” (2:20) This fact should strike awe in the inhabitants of the earth. He is holy and therefore His judgment will be righteous. He will be revealed in His sanctuary on earth soon and hence the inhabitants of the earth should cease from iniquity and keep silence before Him.

Chapter 3 – A Perfect Psalm

3:1-15 This chapter is in fact a perfect psalm, possessing the three classical parts, namely the superscription (v1), the body of the psalm, and the subscription (last sentence in v 19). In this chapter the prophet expresses his gratitude to God for the revelations and assurances of chapter 2. Guided by the Spirit he celebrates the omnipotence of Yahweh, and follows the route of the Multitudinous Body of Christ as it emerges from the holy precincts of Sinai. He sees the power of the Saints manifested against the head of the house of the wicked. He rejoices in the destruction of the enemies of Israel who have invaded the land and is glad at the deliverance of his people. He had wrongly assumed they would be utterly destroyed (1:12-17).

3:16-19 This is a final prayer of confidence in the justice of God for he is assured that the wicked shall be crushed. He has learned the great lesson of humble and patient waiting for God to work out His purpose (2:1-4), and is no longer presumptuous and argumentative. He has resolved to quietly await the trouble (RSV of v16) to come, in the knowledge that ultimately right will prevail. Despite the intervening misfortunes of his people (symbolised by the fig, vine and olive trees, etc) he can still rejoice in Yahweh, the God of his salvation. His faith is now strong and by it he is justified and shall live: “Yahweh Elohim is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet (safe and sure, cp Psa 18:33), and he will make me to walk upon mine high places”. Halleluyah!