The Minor Prophets: Habakkuk

The Minor Prophets Hosea


I. Historical context

    A. 612-606 B.C. (Hailey); 612-605 B.C. (Waddey); the middle of the seventh century B.C. (Coffman); “shortly before the rise of the Babylonians to power” (Lewis); 608-597 B.C. (Gill)
    B. “Babylon, formerly a tributary state of Assyria, was rapidly rising to prominence under king Nabopolassar….In Judah, the evil sons of Josiah, Jehoahaz and Johoiakim, reigned. Social, political and religious conditions were deplorable (See. 1:2-4)….For a look at the historical record, see II Kings 23:29-37.” (Waddey)

II. About the prophet

    A. “Habakkuk means ‘embrace’ or ‘ardent embrace.’” (Hailey)
    B. “He may have been a contemporary of Jeremiah and Zephaniah. If so, he prophesies shortly after Nahum.” (Gill)
    C. “Nothing is definitely known of the life of Habakkuk, his occupations, parentage, place of birth or anything else. There have been many traditions such as that of his being the son of the Shunamite woman who was raised to life by Elijah, and others; but none of them is considered to have any value.” (Coffman)
    D. “Tradition says that he fled to Egypt when the Babylonians took Jerusalem in 587 B.C.” (Waddey)

III. Lessons for today

    A. There is nothing wrong with seeking clarification when we don’t understand why things happen the way they do, so long as we seek in faith (1:2-4,13; Psalm 73:16-17)

      1. “Brief as Habakkuk’s writing is, it contains some valuable insights regarding two questions very much alive in our day. How can God allow, or rather how long will God allow social evil and violence to go unchecked? And how can a just God use the warfare of wicked men to punish those apparently less wicked than the punisher?” (Gill)
      2. The “social evil and violence” of 1:2-4 refer to Judah’s own sin, while the “wicked” of 1:13 is directed more at the Chaldeans

        a. Habakkuk is not the first of the minor prophets to decry the iniquity of the people of God (Hosea 4:2; Micah 6:12-13)
        b. “Despite all of the terrible wickedness, God apparently did nothing about it; at least it seemed so to Habakkuk.” (Coffman)
        c. “His complaint was that Jehovah would not save, but Jehovah does not violate the sovereign will of man by directly interfering.” (Hailey)
        d. It is not difficult to find evil in our day and age, either – it is everywhere: at work, at school, on the computer, on the television
        e. “Habakkuk’s question is simply ‘why doesn’t God do something about the situation?’ He has more courage than we moderns. He addresses his questions directly to God Himself. He accuses God of not hearing when he prays. His prayers have lifted the specific sins of violence before God. In return he sees more and more of that about which he has prayed.” (Gill)
        f. Yet, despite the evil in Judah, Habakkuk is confused why God would use a nation even more evil to discipline Judah
        g. “The answer to this lies in the truth that the redemption of anyone on earth was related to the fidelity and perseverance of a remnant of Israel until, in the fullness of time, the Messiah would be delivered upon the earth. Furthermore, the wickedness of Israel had reached a degree that threatened the achievement of that goal; and it was the utmost necessity of preserving a remnant of Israel to remain faithful to God that resulted in their destruction, judged a necessity by the Lord.” (Coffman)
        h. It was not that Babylon was more righteous, but that Judah had fallen so far from God’s Word – they needed to be set right
        i. When we struggle in life, even at the hand of an enemy, let us take a step back and reexamine ourselves and our spiritual situation and be sure we are doing all we can to live faithfully and set a proper example for others

      3. “The key thought of the book is, When we are bewildered at the apparent triumph of the wicked at the expense of the saints, we must trust God’s providential rule and be faithful to Him.” (Waddey)

    B. “The just shall live by his faith” (2:4)

      1. “The Chaldean shall fall, says, God, ‘because his soul is puffed up, it is not upright in him’ (2:4a). In contrast, ‘the righteous shall live by his faith’ (2:4). To Habakkuk, ‘faith’ means much more than our common definition. To him it meant faithfulness, honesty, integrity, trustworthiness!…Thus his message to his people is, Whatever happens, you must believe in God and trust that he is working all things for your good (Rom. 8:28; Acts 27:25).” (Waddey)
      2. “It is not a contrast between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ per se but between the haughty soul who sets his will against that of God on the one hand and the one who lives by faith on the other. The New Testament will make this contrast even more sharply in terms of the carnal as opposed to the Spirit-directed. (eg. Galatians 5:16-25)” (Gill)

    C. The five woes against Babylon (2:6-19)

      1. “The five woes decried against Babylon are interesting to not in light of the concept of a universal moral law. They are plunder (2:6-8); ill-gotten gain (2:9-11); violence and bloodshed (2:12-14); and human debasement (2:15-17); all of which would leave every rational and moral being in an outcry of rage. These things are universally morally wrong. The last charge against them is idolatry, which is, in essence, the rejection of the very God who created them (2:18-19).” (Lusk)
      2. “The universal arrogance and conceit which mark the conduct of evil men today is exactly like that of the ancient Babylonians, and shall be as little effective against the will of God, as was theirs.” (Coffman)

Coffman, James Burton. (1982). Commentary on the Minor Prophets, Volume 3: Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah and Haggai. Austin, TX: The Firm Foundation Publishing House. [Textual commentary excluding introductory notes on each book available online at]

Gill, Clinton R. (1971). Minor Prophets: A Study of Micah through Malachi. Joplin, MO: College Press. [Online at]

Hailey, Homer. (1972). A Commentary on the Minor Prophets. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

Lewis, Jack P. (1966). Minor Prophets. Austin, TX: R.B. Sweet Co., Inc.

Lusk, Maurice W., III. “The Living Message of Habakkuk.” (1977). The Living Messages of the Books of the Old Testament. Garland Elkins and Thomas B. Warren, editors. Jonesboro, AR: National Christian Press, Inc.

Waddey, John. (2011). The Testimony of the Twelve Minor Prophets. Delight, AR: Gospel Light Publishing Company. [Online at]

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