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Habakkuk

Habakkuk is only one of three people to be named a “prophet” in the opening verse of the book named
after him. His message is called an oracle or “burden.” We don’t know precisely when Habakkuk lived
or ministered. Clues from the book, such as the coming of the Chaldeans or Babylonians, suggest it
was about 100 years after the fall of Samaria. Habakkuk’s name may come from the Hebrew word
“embrace” or it may be a foreign name for the herb Basil.

Habakkuk is an unusual prophet in that he does not speak directly to Israel or Judah about their sins or
to command them to repent. Instead he argues with God. If the Lord wants His people to be faithful to
the Covenant, then He must be faithful, too.

Habakkuk cries out against the wickedness in Judah and wonders why God does not act. The Lord
responds with the answer that He is raising up the Chaldeans (who were the rulers of Babylon) to
bring judgement on Judah.

Habakkuk is horrified, how can the God of Israel uses such a violent nation to chastise His own
people?

The Lord points out that wickedness leads to its own destruction, that the evil of Babylon will be
punished in turn, in its own time. Habakkuk must be patient. This vision is for the “time of the end”
and will not happen immediately. Habakkuk and Judah are part of a much bigger story – there is much
more to come.

Meanwhile the righteous will live by being faithful/ by having faith in God’s faithfulness.
This verse is quoted in the New Testament in Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11 and Hebrews 10:38. In the
letters written by Paul the emphasis is on personal faith, in Hebrews it is on remaining “faithful” and
not “shrinking back” from faith in Jesus.

A series of “woes” show how evil eventually collapses: robbery, extortion, violence, debauchery and
idolatry, they all prove unstable and useless, they all backfire on those who commit them.

In contrast to the dumb idols, the LORD is still in His temple and the whole earth should be silent
before Him.

Habakkuk prays to God, remembering what the Lord has done in the past and calling on Him to act
again to save His people – pleading to God “in wrath remember mercy.

Habakkuk has a vision, of God as a mighty warrior – it appears to be looking back to when God came
to rescue Israel from Egypt, the references to the “Sea” and “River” appear to speak of Pharoah’s army
being overturned by the waters rushing back over them. However, it can also be read as a promise that
God will come to rescue Judah in the future. (This image of the return from exile as a kind of new
Exodus appears again and again in the Prophets.)

The thought of what is to come, God’s judgement on Judah and then upon His enemies, is frightening
and yet it brings hope. God is in control. He knows what He is doing.

Habakkuk imagines a land without fruit or crops, without sheep or cattle and yet, he will trust in God
who gives him strength to cope.

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes …
… and no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in
God my Saviour.”
This document can be used for Bible Study. I hope people will respect the work that has gone into it
and not change it. Of course, you are entitled to your own views and I cannot enforce this hope.