by Ken Cayce

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Habakkuk Explained

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Book of Habakkuk Explained

Title: This prophetic book takes its name from its author and possibly means "one who embraces" (1:1; 3:1). By the end of the prophecy, this name becomes appropriate as the prophet clings to God regardless of his confusion about God's plans for His people.

Author - Date: As with many of the Minor Prophets, nothing is known about the prophet except that which can be inferred from the book. In the case of Habakkuk, internal information is virtually nonexistent, making conclusions about his identity and life conjectural. His simple introduction as "Habakkuk the prophet", may imply that he needed no introduction since he was a well known prophet of his day. It is certain that he was a contemporary of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zephaniah.

Because the prophet is known to us only by name once again indicates the relative unimportance of the prophet, the major importance of the prophecy, and, more importantly, the God who sends the prophecy. The prophet's name means "Embracer" or "A Wrestler," and this provides the key to the prophecy. The prophecy is a record of the prophet's wrestling with God in behalf of his people. Further, he embraced God by faith (chapter 3), and embraces his people giving them the message that after the judgment to come, Chaldea (Babylonia), will itself be judged. Because of the description (in 3:1; and the inscription in 3:19), some have inferred that Habakkuk was a Levite who assisted in the music of the temple.

The purpose of Habakkuk's prophecy is twofold:

(1) To warn Judah of its coming judgment at the hands of Chaldea, and

(2) To comfort Judah concerning Chaldea's ultimate destruction.

The theme of the prophecy is judgment on Judah and Chaldea (Babylon).

The mention of the Chaldeans (1:6), suggests a late seventh century B.C. date, shortly before Nebuchadnezzar commenced his military march through Nineveh (612 B.C.), Haran (609 B.C.), and Carchemish (605 B.C.), on his way to Jerusalem (605 B.C.). Habakkuk's bitter lament (1:2-4), may reflect a time period shortly after the death of Josiah (609 B.C.), days in which the godly king's reforms (2 Kings Chapter 23), were quickly overturned by his successor, Jehoiakim (Jer. 22:13-19).

Historical Setting: Most commentators however, date Habakkuk's prophecy during the reign of King Jehoiakim. The fall of Nineveh occurred about (612 B.C.), in fulfillment of Nahum's prophecy. It may have been after this fulfillment that Habakkuk received his vision setting forth the overthrow of the Babylonian kingdom. If so, when Habakkuk prophesied, the southern kingdom was wallowing in its sin and tottering politically in view of the impending threat from Babylon, the current world power. Nebuchadnezzar may have already carried Daniel and many of Jerusalem's nobles into captivity (in 605 B.C.), with the second deportation to soon follow (597 B.C.). The final destruction of the city was yet to occur (in 586 B.C.). Habakkuk's description of the Chaldeans and their feats many even allude to all three of these events. Putting the above considerations together, the date of Habakkuk's prophecy is somewhere between (655 B.C. and 598 B.C.). Advocates of the former view would select (655 B.C.), as the date of writing, which advocates of the latter view commonly select (606 B.C.).

The date of Habakkuk is difficult to ascertain, since he does not mention the king or kings during whose reigns he prophesied. The best key that Habakkuk offers for dating his prophecy is his description of the Chaldeans (in 1:5-11). Some commentators, noting that God says He is in the process of raising up the Chaldeans (1:6), would date the prophecy as early as the reign of Manasseh. Habakkuk's message therefore, would be that just as God raised up the Assyrians to judge Israel, so He is rising up the Chaldeans (Babylonians), to judge Judah. This interpretation would date the prophecy before the destruction of Nineveh, which resulted in the exaltation of the Chaldeans to world prominence.

Background - Setting: The prophecy of Habakkuk is unique among all prophetic literature. Overall, it contains a high caliber of Hebrew poetry. The first two chapters constitute a dialogue between the prophet and the Lord concerning the invasion of the Chaldeans (1:1-11), and their destruction (1:12 - 2:20). Chapter 3 is a psalm with instructions given to the musicians for its rendering (3:1, 19). In the first two chapters the prophet contends with the Lord and in the third chapter he submits to the Lord.

The opening verses reveal a historical situation similar to the days of Amos and Micah. Justice had essentially disappeared from the Land; violence and wickedness were pervasive, existing unchecked. In the midst of the dark days, the prophet cried out for divine intervention (1:2-4). God's response, that He was sending the Chaldeans to judge Judah (1:5-11), creates an even greater theological dilemma for Habakkuk: Why didn't God purge His people and restore their righteousness? How could God use the Chaldeans to judge a people more righteous that they (1:2-2:1)?

Habakkuk prophesied during the final days of the Assyrian Empire and the beginning of Babylonia's world rulership under Nabopolassar and his son Nebuchadnezzar. When Nabopolassar ascended to power (in 626 B.C.), he immediately began to expand his influence to the north and west. Under the leadership of his son, the Babylonian army overthrew Nineveh (in 612 B.C.), forcing the Assyrian nobility to take refuge first in Haran and then Carchemish. Nebuchadnezzar pursued them, overrunning Haran (in 609 B.C.), and Carchemish (in 605 B.C.).

God's answer that He would judge the Chaldeans also (2:2 - 20), did not fully satisfy the prophet's theological quandary; in fact, it only intensified it. In Habakkuk's mind, the issue crying for resolution is no longer God's righteous response toward evil (or lack thereof), but the vindication of God's character and covenant with His people (1:13). Like Job, the prophet argued with God, and through that experience he achieved a deeper understanding of God's sovereign character and a firmer faith in Him. (Job 42:5-6; Isa. 55:8-9). Ultimately, Habakkuk realized that God was not to be worshiped merely because of the temporal blessings He bestowed, but for His own sake (3:17-19).

The Egyptian king Necho, traveling through Judah (in 609 B.C.), to assist the fleeing Assyrian king, was opposed by King Josiah at Megiddo (2 Chron. 35:20-24). Josiah was killed in the ensuing battle, leaving his throne to a succession of 3 sons and a grandson. Earlier, as a result of discovering the Book of the Law in the temple (622 B.C.), Josiah had instituted significant spiritual reforms in Judah (2 Kings Chapters 22 and 23), and grandfather Manasseh (2 Kings 21:11-13). Upon his death, however, the nation quickly reverted to her evil ways (Jer. 22:13-19), causing Habakkuk to question God's silence and apparent lack of punitive action (1:2-4), to purge His covenant people.


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Habakkuk 1
Habakkuk 2
Habakkuk 3

Habakkuk 1

Habakkuk Chapter 1

Habakkuk 1:1 "The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see."

Habakkuk 1:2 "O LORD, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! [even] cry out unto thee [of] violence, and thou wilt not save!"

Habakkuk 1:3 "Why dost thou show me iniquity, and cause [me] to behold grievance? for spoiling and violence [are] before me: and there are [that] raise up strife and contention."

Habakkuk 1:4 "Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment doth never go forth: for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceedeth."

Habakkuk 1:5 "Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvelously: for [I] will work a work in your days, [which] ye will not believe, though it be told [you]."

Habakkuk 1:6 "For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, [that] bitter and hasty nation, which shall march through the breadth of the land, to possess the dwelling places [that are] not theirs."

Habakkuk 1:7 "They [are] terrible and dreadful: their judgment and their dignity shall proceed of themselves."

Habakkuk 1:8 "Their horses also are swifter than the leopards, and are more fierce than the evening wolves: and their horsemen shall spread themselves, and their horsemen shall come from far; they shall fly as the eagle [that] hasteth to eat."

Habakkuk 1:9 "They shall come all for violence: their faces shall sup up [as] the east wind, and they shall gather the captivity as the sand."

Habakkuk "1:10 And they shall scoff at the kings, and the princes shall be a scorn unto them: they shall deride every strong hold; for they shall heap dust, and take it."

Habakkuk 1:11 "Then shall [his] mind change, and he shall pass over, and offend, [imputing] this his power unto his god."

Habakkuk 1:12 "[Art] thou not from everlasting, O LORD my God, mine Holy One? we shall not die. O LORD, thou hast ordained them for judgment; and, O mighty God, thou hast established them for correction."

Habakkuk 1:13 "[Thou art] of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, [and] holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth [the man that is] more righteous than he?"

Habakkuk 1:14 "And makest men as the fishes of the sea, as the creeping things, [that have] no ruler over them?"

Habakkuk 1:15 "They take up all of them with the angle, they catch them in their net, and gather them in their drag: therefore they rejoice and are glad."

Habakkuk 1:16 "Therefore they sacrifice unto their net, and burn incense unto their drag; because by them their portion [is] fat, and their meat plenteous."

Habakkuk 1:17 "Shall they therefore empty their net, and not spare continually to slay the nations?"

Habakkuk 2

Habakkuk Chapter 2

Habakkuk 2:1 "I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved."

Habakkuk 2:2 "And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make [it] plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it."

Habakkuk 2:3 "For the vision [is] yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry."

Habakkuk 2:4 "Behold, his soul [which] is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith."

Habakkuk 2:5 "Yea also, because he transgresseth by wine, [he is] a proud man, neither keepeth at home, who enlargeth his desire as hell, and [is] as death, and cannot be satisfied, but gathereth unto him all nations, and heapeth unto him all people:"

Habakkuk 2:6 "Shall not all these take up a parable against him, and a taunting proverb against him, and say, Woe to him that increaseth [that which is] not his! how long? and to him that ladeth himself with thick clay!"

Habakkuk 2:7 "Shall they not rise up suddenly that shall bite thee, and awake that shall vex thee, and thou shalt be for booties unto them?"

Habakkuk 2:8 "Because thou hast spoiled many nations, all the remnant of the people shall spoil thee; because of men's blood, and [for] the violence of the land, of the city, and of all that dwell therein."

Habakkuk 2:9 "Woe to him that coveteth an evil covetousness to his house, that he may set his nest on high, that he may be delivered from the power of evil!"

Habakkuk 2:10 "Thou hast consulted shame to thy house by cutting off many people, and hast sinned [against] thy soul."

Habakkuk 2:11 "For the stone shall cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber shall answer it."

Habakkuk 2:12 "Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood, and stablisheth a city by iniquity!"

Habakkuk 2:13 "Behold, [is it] not of the LORD of hosts that the people shall labor in the very fire, and the people shall weary themselves for very vanity?"

Habakkuk 2:14 "For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea."

Habakkuk 2:15 "Woe unto him that giveth his neighbor drink, that puttest thy bottle to [him], and makest [him] drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness!"

Habakkuk 2:16 "Thou art filled with shame for glory: drink thou also, and let thy foreskin be uncovered: the cup of the LORD'S right hand shall be turned unto thee, and shameful spewing [shall be] on thy glory."

Habakkuk 2:17 "For the violence of Lebanon shall cover thee, and the spoil of beasts, [which] made them afraid, because of men's blood, and for the violence of the land, of the city, and of all that dwell therein."

Habakkuk 2:18 "What profiteth the graven image that the maker thereof hath graven it; the molten image, and a teacher of lies, that the maker of his work trusteth therein, to make dumb idols?"

Habakkuk 2:19 "Woe unto him that saith to the wood, Awake; to the dumb stone, Arise, it shall teach! Behold, it [is] laid over with gold and silver, and [there is] no breath at all in the midst of it."

Habakkuk 2:20 "But the LORD [is] in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him."

Habakkuk 3

Habakkuk Chapter 3

Habakkuk 3:1 "A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet upon Shigionoth."

Habakkuk 3:2 "O LORD, I have heard thy speech, [and] was afraid: O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy."

Habakkuk 3:3 "God came from Teman, and the Holy One from mount Paran. Selah. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise."

Habakkuk 3:4 "And [his] brightness was as the light; he had horns [coming] out of his hand: and there [was] the hiding of his power."

Habakkuk 3:5 "Before him went the pestilence, and burning coals went forth at his feet."

Habakkuk 3:6 "He stood, and measured the earth: he beheld, and drove asunder the nations; and the everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills did bow: his ways [are] everlasting."

Habakkuk 3:7 "I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction: [and] the curtains of the land of Midian did tremble."

Habakkuk 3:8 "Was the LORD displeased against the rivers? [was] thine anger against the rivers? [was] thy wrath against the sea, that thou didst ride upon thine horses [and] thy chariots of salvation?"

Habakkuk 3:9 "Thy bow was made quite naked, [according] to the oaths of the tribes, [even thy] word. Selah. Thou didst cleave the earth with rivers."

Habakkuk 3:10 "The mountains saw thee, [and] they trembled: the overflowing of the water passed by: the deep uttered his voice, [and] lifted up his hands on high."

Habakkuk 3:11 "The sun [and] moon stood still in their habitation: at the light of thine arrows they went, [and] at the shining of thy glittering spear."

Habakkuk 3:12 "Thou didst march through the land in indignation, thou didst thresh the heathen in anger."

Habakkuk 3:13 "Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people, [even] for salvation with thine anointed; thou woundedst the head out of the house of the wicked, by discovering the foundation unto the neck. Selah."

Habakkuk 3:14 "Thou didst strike through with his staves the head of his villages: they came out as a whirlwind to scatter me: their rejoicing [was] as to devour the poor secretly."

Habakkuk 3:15 "Thou didst walk through the sea with thine horses, [through] the heap of great waters."

Habakkuk 3:16 "When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble: when he cometh up unto the people, he will invade them with his troops."

Habakkuk 3:17 "Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither [shall] fruit [be] in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and [there shall be] no herd in the stalls:"

Habakkuk 3:18 "Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation."

Habakkuk 3:19 "The LORD God [is] my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' [feet], and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments."