The name “Habakkuk” means “embrace” or “embracer.” The Bible records nothing of this man’s personal life other than the fact that he was a prophet (1:1), meaning He was Jehovah’s spokesman.
Historical setting: Habakkuk identifies the Chaldeans, meaning the Babylonians, as the ones whom God would raise up against Judah/the Southern Kingdom (1:6). The message of this book was written sometime before the Babylonians’ first attack on Judah, which took place in B.C. 606/605.
Some key thoughts:
Habakkuk is perplexed. How can God see all the evil that is going on in Judah and not do something about it? How long will it be before God does something? (1:2-4). Why do the wicked prosper? God’s response was that He was going to do something about Judah’s evil: He was going to punish them through the Chaldeans (1:5,6).
That brought on another perplexing matter for Habakkuk: how in the world could God use the Chaldeans to punish Judah, when it was obvious that the Chaldeans were more wicked than the Lord’s people? (1:12-17). God then basically told Habakkuk, “Do not worry. After I use Babylon as My instrument to punish Judah, Babylon will get what she deserves because of her sins” (2:6-20; cf. Jeremiah 25:9-12).
In the end, Habakkuk is satisfied with God’s explanations and personally responds with this sentiment: “Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation” (3:2,18).
“The Book of Habakkuk differs from other books of prophecy in one special aspect. Instead of taking Jehovah’s message directly to the people, he takes the complaint of the people to Jehovah, representing them in the complaint” [Homer Hailey, A Commentary on the Minor Prophets (Baker Book House: Grand Rapids, MI), 1972, p. 272].
Other notable lessons and reminders:
(1) God’s children sometimes have questions about God and His activities which they do not understand completely. Habakkuk was human. Being human, he had some matters that he did not totally comprehend. As a lover of his country, Habakkuk was concerned that maybe his country was not getting “a fair deal.” It may be that Habakkuk really is speaking to God on behalf of the entire nation of Judah, expressing confusion over why things happen as they do.
Habakkuk’s first question is, “How long . . .? (1:2). It appears that for some time, Habakkuk has been appealing to God with an ongoing request. To this point, God had not yet “heard” Habakkuk; that is, He had not yet responded like Habakkuk wanted Him to since He had not yet “saved” Judah (1:2).
The prophet next wants to know, “Why?” (1:3). Why does he have to see all this evil in Judah’s society that seemingly goes unchecked and unpunished?
As we contemplate questions about God and His actions (or what we may perceive to be a lack of action on His part), let us be careful in our attitude and speech, always remembering that there is no wrongdoing in God (Psalm 92:15). Since God’s wisdom is unlimited, He does not need our advice or approval (Romans 11:33,34).
(2) As God rules in the kingdoms of men (Daniel 4:17), sometimes He uses wicked people to carry out His will. The ones whom God chose to punish His children, the nation of Judah, were the wicked Chaldeans (1:6,13,14). God referred to King Nebuchadnezzar, whom He used to conquer Judah, as “My servant” (Jeremiah 25:9). The Babylonians were responsible for their own character. Though God used them for His purpose, He could not be blamed for their wrongdoing (1:7). Yes, God saw the wickedness of the Babylonians, pronouncing five “woes” against them (2:6,9,12,15,19), and He would, according to His own time frame, punish them for such.
(3) In every age, those who please God are those who live by faith. It is written, “But the just shall live by his faith” (2:4). Despite the unrighteousness of Judah and Babylon which brought about their downfall, a “remnant” could be saved by living by faith. Habakkuk 2:4 is quoted three times in the New Testament: in Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, and Hebrews 10:38. What kind of faith is it that pleases the Lord and causes a soul to be saved? A: Faith that acts/obeys out of a heart of love (Galatians 5:6; Hebrews 5:9; 10:38-11:40).
(4) There is an unmistakable contrast between the Lord God and the idols which men serve. It was no secret that Babylon served idols (1:11,15,16; 2:18,19). Habakkuk points out some major differences between idols and the real God of heaven (2:18-20): idols do not profit (2:18), but the Lord is of profit – He saves (3:13,18); idols are made by men’s hands (2:18), but God is the Creator of the universe (Exodus 20:11); an idol is a teacher of lies (2:18), but the Lord cannot lie (Titus 1:2); idols cannot speak or hear (2:18,19), but the Lord does both (2:2; 3:2); idols are dead – there is no breath in them (2:19), but God is alive – He speaks (2:2); idols are located wherever their human- makers place them, but God is in His holy temple (2:20).
Most likely, the book of Habakkuk is one of the least read books in the Bible. Yet, it contains a number of great principles to learn and apply.
— Roger D. Campbell