1:1) The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet received: oracles were often received by visions (Isaiah 13:1). They often referred to revelations of impending doom or warning. Habakkuk is the author of book (1:1; 3:1).
1:2-4) Habakkuk’s first complaint:
Why do you tolerate wrong? Why does God allow the wicked and lawless men of Judah continue to go unpunished? The rich exploit the poor and escaped punishment by bribing the officials. Many courts were crooked, and many officials were interested only in money. It sounds a lot like today. The rich and famous when they go to court get treated with “kid gloves”. Where as the poor or regular people get different treatment.
1:5-11) The Lord’s Answer:
The Lord was planning to punish or judge Judah by allowing the Babylonians to invade the land and take them into exile as slaves.
1:5) Look among the nations or look at the nations and watch answers God. The international scene during Habakkuk’s lifetime was full of turmoil. Assyria was in the decline and Babylon on the rise:
1:6) They will march across the world and conquer it, which is exactly what the Babylonians did. Babylon conquered the known world at that time. Babylon conquered both Assyria and Egypt and became the world power (612-539 B.C.)
1:9) They collect captives like sand: Babylonians deported conquered people
1:10) They heap up dirt against the walls and build earthen ramps (a siege method)
1:12 – 2:1) Habakkuk’s second complaint:
How can a just God use a wicked nation like Babylon, to punish a people more righteous than themselves? Judah is being punished by an even more wicked nation. Habakkuk recognizes Babylon as God’s agent to carry out His judgment.
2:1) My watch . . . on the ramparts: the prophet Habakkuk saw himself as a watchman on the walls of Jerusalem, waiting for a message from God. In ancient Israel, watchmen were responsible to warn the city of an approaching army, enemy, danger, or the arrival of important visitors (2 Samuel 18:24-27, 2 Kings 9:17-20). In ancient Israel, watchmen were stationed on the highest parts of the city wall to inform the people of the progress of the battle. The prophets were spiritual watchmen over God’s people. (Ezekiel 3:17; 33:1-3). (2:1) What He will say to me: the prophet waits for God’s answer.
2:2-20) God’s answer:
2:2) Write the vision: Generally prophets spoke “the word of the Lord first.”, then wrote them (see Jeremiah 36:2). Jeremiah had been ministering for twenty-three years before God told him to write his messages on a scroll. It was to be plain, written so that anybody could read it. It was to be public, so that even somebody running past the tablets on display could get the message immediately. This writing was to be permanent so people after this generation/time could read it. We wouldn’t be studying this book; had not the prophet wrote it down.
2:3) God told Habakkuk to wait: Habakkuk sees only a small part of God’s plan at that time. He didn’t see “the big picture” of what was going to happen in the future (but God could). He understands that God is in control of all things (including nations) Daniel 2:21.
God tells Habakkuk to wait, hold your horses, its not over yet. It’s not over till the fat lady sings, or it’s not over until the Lord says it’s over. God has to move a few more chess pieces “in the right places.” God is not through writing history yet. He raises up one nation, and brings down another.
God told Habakkuk to wait: “For the vision is yet for an appointed time” (NIV).
An appointed time speaks of a determined time in God’s eyes. Sometimes God sends us into the “waiting room” because it is not the right time yet. Moses tried to deliver the people of Israel “40 years early”. God had to send him back to the backside of the desert for 40 years, til’ it was the right time (Acts 7:23-34).
In Habakkuk 2:3, God tells Habakkuk to “wait for it”. The verse deals with the fall of Babylon in 539 B.C., about 70 to 100 years after Habakkuk’s prophecy. The Lord tells Habakkuk and the people of Judah that the fulfillment of the prophecy may “linger”, but the people are to expect it (3:16). “Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us” (Babylon). (Also see Jeremiah 50-51)
History: the Medes and Persians captured Babylon in 539 B.C. (Daniel 5). But they didn’t destroy the city. It was Alexander the Great who finally destroyed Babylon in 330 B.C., and left it a heap of ruins.
Today Babylon is a city of ruins (no one lives there). Never to be inhabited. Babylon was completely deserted by the seventh century A.S. (See Isaiah 13:17-20).
2:3) It will not delay or tarry. At the end of the Babylon captivity (586-539), a discouraged Jew living in Babylon might think and ask ‘will the Lord ever deliver us from Babylon and exile’. The fulfillment of the vision would not take any longer than God had planned. See Ezra 1:1-4.
2:4) The just shall live by faith: We are called to live a life of faith. “For we walk by faith, and not by sight” (1 Corinthians 5:7). This verse (2:4) is found three times in the New Testament (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11, Hebrews 10:38)
2:9-19) Five woes pronounced against Babylon: Habakkuk 2:6, 9, 12, 15, 19)
3:2) I have heard of your fame . . . deeds: Habakkuk probably remembering the stories (that he might have heard at the temple) or maybe reading about it, in the scriptures.
3:5) Takes us to Egypt where God revealed His power and glory in the 10 plagues and pestilences (Exodus 7-12).
3:6) He measured: To measure something is an implied action that it’s yours.
3:8) The Egyptians and the parting of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:15-21).
3:11) The sun and the moon stood still (Joshua 10:12-13).
3:14-15) Another reference to the destruction of the Egyptians and the Red Sea.
3:19) The reference to music may mean he was a Levite associated with the temple singers (1 Chronicles 25:1-8).
3:16) “Yet, I will wait patiently for the day of Calamity to come on the nation invading us.” This was Babylon. Babylon fell in 539 B.C. to Persia (See Daniel 5).
3:17) Habakkuk knows that disaster and ruin are coming on him and his nation (Judah). Buildings would be plundered, farms and orchards and animals would be taken or destroyed. The book ends with the prophet’s prayer and praise, and his acknowledgement of God’s sovereignty over all outcomes. The last three verses are a picture of faith.
Habakkuk comes to realize that he sees only a small part of God’s plan (visible) at that time, and that God would have him wait patiently for the fuller revelation. No matter how gloomy the outlook, the just person must not judge by appearance, or by what they see, rather by God’s word.
The prophet has learned the lesson of faith. He has gone “full circle” with God. His prophecy begins with questions and doubt, but ends with certainty, and a confession of his faith. “The just shall live by His faith.”
3:19) He will give those who live by faith the same confidence that a sure-footed deer has in climbing mountains.