This book is not about the prophet's talks. It deals with his difficulties. Habakkuk had a huge problem. And many people have had the same problem ever since then. Good people often suffer very much. And wicked people often seem to succeed. The same subject is in the Psalms. (Two examples are Psalms 37 and 73.) Habakkuk expressed what he believed. He had complete trust in a God who is all-powerful. He determined to love and to obey God. And he would do this even when things went wrong.

There are many possible dates for the book. But it was probably at a time just before the exile. So its period could be from 626-586 BC. (BC means Before Christ.) If this is right, then Habakkuk lived at the same time as Jeremiah.

The Prophet's Pain (Chapter 1)

Events affected Habakkuk. Enemy armies were conquering everywhere that they went. And the people of Judah were suffering very much because of them. Habakkuk did not understand where God was in all this. He wanted to be sure that God controlled the world. It might be just religious talk, not fact. These were Habakkuk's difficulties. And Habakkuk wanted to know if:

God hears (1:2). Prayer seemed to be of no use. And Habakkuk wondered if it had any real value. He was not the only person in the Bible with doubts like these. David is one example (Psalm 13:1-3). And Jeremiah is another example (14:8).

God rules. Habakkuk wanted to know who ruled the world. And God spoke to him. God told him that God himself was making the enemy powerful (1:6). There were nations ‘whose power is their god’ (1:11). But God is The Power behind all national strength and military skill.

God cares. There is a change in 1:12-17. God had been speaking (1:5-11). Now Habakkuk spoke. He was anxious. He did not understand. Two things upset him. First, God seemed to be silent. Then, God did not seem to care (1:13). So many things were unjust. There was so much terrible cruelty. It mattered very much to Habakkuk. But he wondered if God cared as much as he did.

The Prophet's Answer (Chapter 2)

The book of Habakkuk has a clear word picture. It is about a watchman. (This was a guard who stood on the city wall. He would look for enemy soldiers. Then he could warn the people in the city.) The same word picture is in the book of Ezekiel. (Compare Ezekiel 3:17-21; 33:1-9. Read also Isaiah 21:8.) The message came from God. And God told Habakkuk to write it down clearly (2:2). Then the person who read it could run and tell other people.

The message is this:

Man's beliefs must affect his behaviour (2:4-5). The main words are in 2:4. ‘The good person will live by his faith’. There is another translation. This says that ‘those who are good will live because they are faithful to God’. (To be faithful means to be loyal.)

H. L. Ellison was a Christian writer. And he spoke about this subject. He said that Jews think about things. Usually, they do not think about ideas. So they do not speak about faith. They speak about being faithful (loyal) to God. Jews say that this is the same as to have faith (trust) in God. But faith in God must lead to being faithful to God. Then that person will find that God is faithful. God will keep that person safe. (‘Men Spoke From God’ by H. L. Ellison.)

Later, this idea became very important to Christians. (Read Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:1.) At that New Testament time, this word showed the difference between two groups (2:4). There were evil people, who did not know God. (Compare 1:11; 2:5.) They seemed to succeed. But their fate was certain. They destroyed other people. And the same thing would happen to them. Then there were good people, who loved God. They relied on God. And they would live. This was because of their faith (trust) in God, who is always faithful (2:4).

Man is responsible to God (2:6-20). If a person wanted to ‘live’, he must do certain things. And God declared what it was. Now God announced something. There were people who were not faithful. And God said what would happen to them. God said that bad things would happen to five types of people.

It would be very bad for people who were:

  • greedy for money and things (2:6-8)
  • selfish (2:9-11)
  • cruel (2:12-14)
  • wicked (2:15-17)
  • following false gods (2:18-20).

All these people were responsible to God. And they must explain their behaviour to God himself. Habakkuk's message was about God. God is:

  • faithful (2:3-4)
  • fair (2:8,16)
  • alive (2:18-19)
  • all-powerful (2:20).

The Prophet's Confidence (Chapter 3)

The last chapter is a song of joy. This was because there would be success in the end. It tells what would happen in the future. It shows God in action. (Compare Micah 1:3-4.)

Habakkuk had confidence in:

The God of nature (3:2-6). God created the world. It belongs to him. He has authority over mountains (3:6) and seas (3:8).

The God of history (3:7-15). Then the scene changed. Instead of the world of nature, there was the world of people. God controls the forces of nature. He showed this fact at the Red Sea. (Read Exodus 12-14.) God controls nations too. He decides what will happen. That is why his people overcame their enemies. (Read 3:12-15 especially.)

The God of experience (3:16-19). This great and powerful God rules the nations of the world. But he cares about each person too. Habakkuk had fears (3:16). There could be even worse troubles later. And he named some of the worst things that could happen (3:17). But he had determination. He decided what he would do.

Whatever happened, Habakkuk would trust and be glad (3:18). Habakkuk believed in God. But not because of what he would receive from God. The trouble might be very bad. But he believed that people should do two things. They should be glad (3:18). And they should trust (3:19). God was their strength. God would give them courage to continue. God would help them to overcome.