Habakkuk comes from the Hebrew word for “embrace” (habaq). Rabbinical legend made him the son of the Shunamite woman, due to the use of this word in 2KI 4:16, “You shall embrace a son.” However, this would place him 100 years too early in history. Jerome gave the meaning of “wrestler” due to his struggle in reconciling the presence of evil with the existence of God. Since chapter 3 is written as a hymn (HAB 3:1, HAB 3:19), it has been assumed that Habakkuk was a priest or part of the Levitical choir.
Written late in the 7th century B.C. The Assyrian city of Nineveh was destroyed in 612 B.C.; the good king and reformer, Josiah, died in 609 (see 2Ki 22-23 for his reforms). The sin and corruption mentioned by Habakkuk (1:2-4) fits better in the reign of Jehoiakim, whose reign began in 609 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar began his attack on Jerusalem in 606, and took the city in 605, so the events of this book would fall between the death of Josiah and the coming of Nebuchadnezzar's army.
The prophet grapples with the “mysteries of Providence,” and the age-old dilemma of reconciling the presence of evil with the existence of a good and all-powerful God. This is called “theodicy,” the “vindication of the justice and goodness of God in spite of the existence of evil in the world” (Webster’s Dictionary). Habakkuk clearly declares that the ultimate resolution of the dilemma is found only by a living faith (HAB 2:4) in a loving God (HAB 3:13).
An extended quote from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia is fitting:
“This short book offers a glimpse of the theological and philosophical inner life of the poet dressed in the form of a short but gripping dialogue ... the prophet asks some of the most penetrating questions in all literature, and the answers given are basic to a proper view of God and His relation to history ... The faith prescribed … is still called for as a basic response to the unanswered questions in today’s universe. This theology for life both then and now stands as Habakkuk’s most basic contribution. That this faith or faithfulness is related in NT theology to the objective salvation provided by the work of Christ is both to be expected, and a natural development in the progress of revelation from the dark days of the late 7th century before Christ to the full light of God coming in the Person of His Son.” (vol. 2, p. 585)
The statement of HAB 2:4b is not only key to this book, but lays the foundation for all NT theology, as seen in ROM 1:16-17; GAL 3:11; HEB 10:37-38. These verses, in context, reveal that biblical faith is objective in nature, and its only fitting object is the Lord Jesus Christ in the glory of His Person and the victory of His finished work on the cross.
A. A Psalm of praise for God’s past dealings, HAB 3:1-15
As Paul points out in 2CO 1:10, what God has done in the past, He will do in the future. We can trust in His faithfulness (HEB 13:8). The immutability of God is the security of the believer!
B. The victory of faith-rest in the soul of the prophet, HAB 3:16-19.
We will build our study around six key verses in the text. These verses not only summarize the context, but show the flow of the truth revealed to Habakkuk and the doctrines which will sustain us in similar dilemmas and perplexity today.