J. Ronald Blue, A.B., Th.M., Ph.D.


Planet Earth may look marvelous from a satellite, but for those who live on the dusty globe things tend to look rather grim. Increased turmoil, rising terrorism, mounting tragedies, unprecedented trauma, increasing pollution, deepening trials, and unparalleled tensions cast dark shadows over earthlings. The world looks more and more like some ominous black sphere with a very short fuse, a time bomb sizzling to explode.

It is little wonder thinking people begin to ask questions. Why is there so much oppression? Why all the injustice? Why do evil men prosper? Why do the righteous suffer? Why doesn't God do something? Why doesn't God clean up this mess? Why? Why? Why?

These penetrating questions are hardly new. Centuries before Christ visited this planet, an ancient prophet looked around at the violence and wickedness of the world and cried out to God, "Why do You make me look at injustice? Why do You tolerate wrong?... Why are You silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?" (Hab. 1:3, 13) The prophet not only asked the mysterious whys that plague mankind; he also received answers to his questions. The answers given by the Creator of the universe are carefully recorded in the little book called Habakkuk.

Habakkuk is a unique book. Unlike other prophets who declared God's message to people this prophet dialogued with God about people. Most Old Testament prophets proclaimed divine judgment. Habakkuk pleaded for divine judgment. In contrast with the typical indictment, this little book records an intriguing interchange between a perplexed prophet and his Maker.

This is not merely a little on-the-street interview with God, however. Habakkuk went beyond that. The dialogue developed in chapter 1. The prophet's complaints were then met with the Lord's command, "Write down the revelation," in chapter 2. God's declaration included a lengthy dirge, or taunt-song, of five woes on the evil Babylonians. Chapter 3 climaxes with a magnificent doxology of praise. The ever-present "Why?" is best answered by the everlasting "Who!" Though the outlook may elicit terror, the uplook elicits trust. The prophet's complaints and fears were resolved in confidence and faith. This is the heart of the message of Habakkuk: "The righteous [by his faith] will" (2:4).

From biblestudymanuals.net

1) [Compare Hab 2:4]:

(Hab 2:4 NASB) "Behold, as for the proud one, (v. 6), His soul is not right within him; [Hebrew and Septuagint Greek word order]: But a righteous man by his faith will live."

The proud one [the one who is self-righteous, the Babylonian, (vv. 6-20)] his soul within him is not right - not righteous - with God. But the righteous soul - the one declared righteous before God through faith in God will live out his temporal life, the years appointed to him and forever in eternity, not so the self-righteous one.

This verse is best rendered from the word order of the Hebrew text wherein a man is not righteous before the exercise of his faith, he becomes righteous by the exercise of his faith in God's promise of eternal life through a coming Messiah / Savior by which faith he will live in the sense of have eternal life; and he will live out his temporal life in a righteous manner as he lives it by that same faith.

And by quoting the Old Testament in Ro 1:17, Paul showed that even during the dispensation of Law, legal obedience was not the basis for a justified standing before God because, as the Prophet Habakkuk wrote, "The righteous by faith will live," (Hab 2:4).

2) [Ro 1:17b Greek Interlinear]:

"Ho dE
...dikaios .............Ek pistEOs zesEtai"

"The but righteous [one] .by faith .....will live"

Note that most versions have "the righteous [one] / the just shall live by faith" [NASB, NKJV, HCSB, ASB, KJV, NIV]. Only a few like the YLT follows the correct word order:

3) [Compare Ro 1:17]:

(Ro 1:17 YLT) "For the righteousness of God in it is revealed from faith to faith, according as it [has] been written, 'And the righteous one by faith shall live,' " [Hab 2:4]

When the improper word order for Hab 2:4 / Ro 1:17 / Gal 3:11 is read as it appears in most versions, it could easily be misconstrued to mean that those that are righteous before God are those who live by being faithful to law, despite the fact that the context of the verses which precede and follow indicates that man cannot faithfully keep the Law or any law and will remain accursed if he tries to be righteous by any kind of human doing.

The Author

Whatever the meaning of his name, Habakkuk was a prophet. In the title of other prophetic books various items of information are given: the name of the prophet's father (Isa. 1:1), the names of the kings contemporary with the prophet (Hosea 1:1), the prophet's hometown (Amos 1:1). But only three times is the writer designated as a "prophet" in the title of his book: Habakkuk, Haggai, and Zechariah. Habakkuk, therefore, is the only preexilic prophet to be so designated.

All conjecture and speculation aside it is safe, and perhaps sufficient, to say that Habakkuk was an officially ordained prophet who took part in temple liturgical singing. He was well educated, deeply sensitive, and in his literary style was as much a poet as he was a prophet. Above all, he was God's choice servant who penned one of the most penetrating books of the Old Testament.

The Setting

Habakkuk wrote in a time of international crisis and national corruption. Babylonia had just emerged as a world power. When the Babylonians rebelled against Assyria, Judah found a brief period of relief reflected in the reforms initiated by Josiah. The Assyrians were forced to devote their energies to stop the Babylonian rebellion. The Babylonians finally crushed the Assyrian Empire and quickly proceeded to defeat the once-powerful Egyptians. A new world empire was stretching across the world. Soon the Babylonians would overtake Judah and carry its inhabitants away into captivity. On the eve of pending destruction, a period of uncertainty and fear, Habakkuk wrote his message.

The crisis internationally was serious. But of even greater concern was the national corruption. Great unrest stirred within Judah. Josiah had been a good king. When he died, Josiah's son Jehoahaz rose to the throne. In only three months, the king of Egypt invaded Judah, deposed Jehoahaz, and placed his brother Jehoiakim on the throne. Jehoiakim was evil, ungodly, and rebellious (2 Kings 23:36-24:7; 2 Chron. 36:5-8). Shortly after Jehoiakim ascended to power, Habakkuk wrote his lament over the decay, violence, greed, fighting, and perverted justice that surrounded him.

No wonder Habakkuk looked at all the corruption and asked, "Why doesn't God do something?" Godly men and women continue to ask similar "whys" in a world of increasing international crises and internal corruption. Nation rises up against nation around the world and sin abounds at home. World powers aim an ever-increasing array of complex nuclear weapons at each other while they talk of peace. World War III seems incredibly imminent.

While the stage is set for a global holocaust, an unsuspecting home audience fiddles a happy tune. The nation's moral fiber is being eaten away by a playboy philosophy that makes personal pleasure the supreme rule of life. Hedonism catches fire while homes crumble. Crime soars while the church sours. Drugs, divorce, and debauchery prevail and decency dies. Frivolity dances in the streets. Faith is buried. "In God We Trust" has become a meaningless slogan stamped on corroding coins.

In such a world of crisis and chaos, Habakkuk speaks with clarity. This little book is as contemporary as the morning newspaper.

The Message

In the dark days of Jehoiakim's reign just before the Babylonian Captivity, the Prophet Habakkuk penned an unusual message of hope and encouragement for God's people. Though doubts and confusion reign when sin runs rampant, an encounter with God can turn those doubts into devotion and all confusion into confidence.

Habakkuk's book begins with an interrogation of God but ends as an intercession to God. Worry is transformed into worship. Fear turns to faith. Terror becomes trust. Hang-ups are resolved with hope. Anguish melts into adoration.

What begins with a question mark ends in an exclamation point. The answer to Habakkuk's "Why?" is "Who!" His confusion, "Why all the conflict?" is resolved with his comprehension of who is in control: God!