The prophet Habakkuk was active near the close of the seventh century b.c., a chaotic time when the long oppressive Assyrian Empire was being conquered by the emergent Babylonians (609 b.c.). This book was likely written during Judah's tense transition from being an Assyrian vassal kingdom to becoming a vassal of the newly dominant Babylonian Empire. Outlying smaller kingdoms such as Judah experienced lawlessness, corruption, violence, poverty, and deep political infighting as leaders sought their own self-interest above all else. Habakkuk was anguished and outraged by the rampant injustice and violence that seemed to him to be everywhere, so endemic that even “the stone shall cry out of the wall” (2.11a). In the opening oracle, Habakkuk wants to know how God can let evil continue to happen and not intervene, and he challenges God to do something that would restore justice (1.1-4). God's reply (1.5-11) is terrifying: the fierce and relentless Babylonian armies are already being marshaled to come to Judah and in so doing will be agents of God's judgment on Judah. Habakkuk is shocked to hear this and asks God how such an arrogant and evil people could be used by God to bring harsh judgment on a much more righteous people?
Habakkuk challenges God to respond and stations himself high on a watchtower to await the answer (2.1). God's answer is first that God's timing is not calculable by human beings. And second, God declares that those who are evil will not ultimately survive, but those who are righteous will live because they are faithful to God (2.4). In God's own time the Babylonians will surely receive judgment for the evils they inflict on others, even though they may now seem victorious and invulnerable. The book of Habakkuk concludes with a prophecy of judgment on those who live unrighteous lives (3.1-7), and a brilliant psalm of praise of God that draws on multiple images of God's faithful acts of salvation in past years (3.8-19). Little is known about this prophet, but his poetry is of the highest quality.
Habakkuk Complains of Injustice and God Replies (1.1—2.4)
Prophecies of Judgment for the Unrighteous (2.5-20)
Habakkuk's Psalm of Praise and Trust in God (3.1-19)
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