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HABAKKUK (ha-băk'ŭk, Heb. hăvaqqûq, embrace). The name of a prophet and of the eighth book of the Minor Prophets, which is entitled “The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet received” (Hab.1.1). Of the man Habakkuk nothing is known outside of the book that bears his name. Legendary references to him (in the apocryphal Bel and the Dragon and elsewhere) appear to have no historical value. The musical references in Hab.3.1-Hab.3.19 have led some to believe that he was a member of a Levitical musical guild, but even this is uncertain.

Most traditional scholars believe the book to be a unity, the work of one author, Habakkuk, produced in Judah during the Chaldean period. The reasons for this view are found in the book itself. The temple still stands (Hab.2.20; Hab.3.19) and the rise of the Chaldean power is predicted (Hab.1.5-Hab.1.6). The argument here depends on the understanding of the Hebrew word kasdîm, translated “Chaldeans.” Some recent scholars emend the word to kittîm, meaning Cypriots, and understand it to refer to the Macedonian Greeks under Alexander the Great. They therefore date the book to this much later period. There is no good reason to make this emendation. Kasdîm clearly means Chaldeans.

The Neo-Babylonian or Chaldean empire first came to prominence when the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar defeated the Egyptians at the battle of Carchemish in 605 b.c. and reestablished Babylon as the seat of world power. The prophecy of Habakkuk could hardly have been given before 605. Jerusalem fell to Nebuchadnezzar in 587. The book must be placed somewhere between these dates, probably during the reign of the Judean king Jehoiakim. Some date the book earlier, believing that the Chaldeans were known to Judah before Carchemish and emphasizing the unexpectedness of the attack mentioned by Habakkuk (Hab.1.5). Still, a date soon after 605 seems to be preferred.

In modern times the unity of the book has been questioned. The psalm of Hab.3.1-Hab.3.19 is certainly somewhat different in style from the rest of the book, but this is hardly a sufficient reason to deny it to Habakkuk. The theory that all psalms were postexilic in Israel is now discredited. The theme of the prose part (Hab.1.1-Hab.1.17-Hab.2.1-Hab.2.20) is the same as that of the psalm. And there are obvious similarities of language. Hab.3.1-Hab.3.19 is specifically ascribed to Habakkuk (Hab.3.1), and there seems to be no good internal indication that he was not its author.

The first two chapters set forth Habakkuk’s prophetic oracle, or burden. Twice the prophet is perplexed and asks for divine enlightenment; twice he is answered. First he is concerned over the violence and sin of his people, the Judeans. Why are these wicked men not punished (Hab.1.2-Hab.1.4)? God answers that he is about to send the Babylonians (Chaldeans) to judge Judah (Hab.1.5-Hab.1.11). This answer plunges Habakkuk into a greater perplexity: How can a righteous God use the wicked Babylonians to punish Judah, which, though it has become apostate, is still better than the Babylonians (Hab.1.12-Hab.1.17)? God’s answer is that the proud conquerors will themselves be punished (Hab.2.2-Hab.2.20). The Babylonians are puffed up with self-sufficient pride, but in this hour of national calamity the righteous will live by his faithfulness, i.e., by his constancy. The prophet sees only two ways of looking at life: in faith or in unbelief. This statement naturally becomes important to the NT writers and is quoted in Rom.1.17; Gal.3.11; and Heb.10.38. The second answer to Habakkuk concludes with a series of woes against the Babylonians (Hab.2.5-Hab.2.20).

Hab.3.1-Hab.3.19 is called “a prayer of Habakkuk the prophet” (Hab.3.1). In a moving lyric poem the prophet records his final response to God’s message of judgment. He describes the divine revelation in terms of a story theophany (Hab.3.2-Hab.3.15) but concludes that no matter what comes he will trust in God (Hab.3.16-Hab.3.19).

The commentary on Hab.1.1-Hab.1.17-Hab.2.1-Hab.2.20 found in the late 1940s at Qumran near the Dead Sea casts little light on the meaning of these chapters, though it gives us a glimpse of how the Essene community there in the first century b.c. understood the book.

Bibliography: D. M. Lloyd-Jones, From Fear to Faith, 1953; D. E. Gowan, The Triumph of Faith in Habakkuk, 1976.——JBG

HABAKKUK hə băk’ ək (Heb. חֲבַקּ֖וּק) embracer, wrestler; Gr. ̓Αμβακοὺμ, Lat. Habacuc), the name of a prophet and of the eighth book of the Minor Prophets.

The prophet

His name is derived from a Heb. root (ḥ-v-q) denoting “to embrace.” It is rendered by Philo amplexans, “embracing,” by Jerome “wrestler,” “because he wrestled with God” (quia certamen ingreditur cum Deo, Prologue to Hab.). Luther and modern commentators have favored this derivation. “It is certainly not unfitting, for in this little book we see a man, in deadly earnest, wrestling with the mighty problem of theodicy—the divine justice—in a topsy-turvy world” (L. E. H. Stephens-Hodge). Other scholars relate this name to an Assyrian plant, hambaququ. We have, however, no certainty. Several legends attached themselves to this prophet. According to a Jewish tradition he was the son of the Shunammite woman. It stated that she would “embrace” a son (2 Kings 4:16). The Heb. word is hāvaq, but the identification with the prophet is excluded on account of the difference in time: this son was born more than a cent. before the prophet. According to a second tradition Habakkuk must be identified with the watchman referred to in Isaiah 21:6. The correspondence with Habakkuk 2:1 is, however, superficial, and does not fit the same age and situation. In the Apochryphal addition to the Book of Daniel (14:30-42), it is told that the prophet Habakkuk had to bring food to Daniel in the lions’ den. This interesting story, engraved on a fresco in the Catacombs in Rome, is, also however, a fiction. Daniel’s experience in the lions’ den was about seventy years after the time of Habakkuk’s activities.

We know nothing about Habakkuk apart from his name and the fact that he was called “the prophet” (1:1; 3:1). This does not justify the charge raised by some scholars that he was an ecstatic. Jeremiah himself is called a nabî (“prophet” 1:5; 20:2; 25:2; etc.). From Habakkuk 3:19b some have deduced that the prophet “evidently was a member of the Temple choir, hence a Levite” (Laetsch). The fact is, however, that the musical allusions in ch. 3 form a minor and superficial part of the prophecy, and could easily have been added to adapt this chapter for liturgical purposes (Ridderbos).

Although nothing definitely is known of the prophet, he speaks forth in his books in such a way that one could recognize in him a man dedicated to his task to bear the sins and anxieties of his people, and to wrestle with God in prayer and through faith. The testimony of Paul is applicable to him: “I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7).

His book


Albright’s contention that “The Psalm of Habakkuk,” although forming a substantial unit with the rest of the book, contains reminiscences of the myth of the conflict between Yahweh and the primordial dragon Sea or River, is interesting, but presupposes “some thirty-eight corrections of the Masoretic text,” and is, therefore, hardly convincing (in; Studies in OT Prophecy, presented to T. H. Robinson, Edinburgh [1950], 1-18).


By changing the name “Chaldeans” in 1:6 to read “Kittim,” i.e., “Cypriots,” “Greeks,” some scholars bring the date of the prophecy down to the time of Macedonian conquest, c. 330 b.c. (Duhm, Torrey, Procksch). According to Paul Haupt the book must be dated in 161 b.c., just after the victory of Judas Maccabaeus over Nicanor (John Hopkins University Circular [1920], 680ff.). The procedure of changing the text of 1:6 is, however, subjective and without textual support.

Canonicity and text.

The canonicity of the Book of Habakkuk was never seriously questioned. It always has retained the eighth place among the twelve so-called minor prophets.


Habakkuk prayed and prophesied in times of crisis. Shortly before he began his ministry, the international scene was shocked by events of far-reaching import: the Assyrian Empire was crushed, never to regain its power; the Egyptians, after slaying Josiah, king of Judah (609 b.c.), were themselves utterly defeated (605 b.c.). The new world power, concentrated in Babylon and executed by the vigorous Nebuchadnezzar, was stretching itself across the breadth of the earth to seize habitations not their own. Within a period of approximately twenty years the Chaldeans swept over Judah in successive waves, and ultimately destroyed the country and took its inhabitants away into captivity (597, 587 b.c.).

Internally, the people of God were caught up in the crises of religious and moral bewilderment. The pious King Josiah was succeeded by Jehoiakim, who “did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his fathers had done” (2 Kings 23:37). The situation of depravity is described in Habakkuk 1:2-4 (cf. Jer 22). The last two kings of Judah, viz. Jehoiachin (597 b.c.) and Zedekiah (597-587 b.c.) maintained the status quo, and ultimately were taken captive by the Chaldeans. In these times of national and international crisis, Habakkuk “rechtet mit Gott” (Walter Lüthi).


The book may be subdivided into six sections.


The prophet cries to God because of the violence, inequity, strife, contention and injustice he sees around him, and asks how long God would suffer it to go on unpunished. Some critics refer this passage to a heathen oppressor: the Chaldeans (Giesebrecht), the Assyrians (Budde, Gemser), or even the Egyptians (G. A. Smith, who compares 1:2-4 with 2 Kings 23:33-35). We agree with Archer that there is no good evidence in the text of 1:2-4 that heathen invaders are referred to; the manipulation of the law courts to favor the wealthy points to a domestic evil (op. cit., p. 344ff.).


God answers that He is raising up the Chaldeans as His instrument of judgment, describing the fierceness of their armies and their contempt for any obstacle placed in their way.


This answer plunges Habakkuk into a greater perplexity: How can a righteous God use the wicked Chaldeans to punish His people, which in spite of its apostasy, is still more righteous than they?


The prophet waits upon the Lord. The answer, linked up with the history of God’s divine providence, comes in the assertion that the pride of the Chaldean will be his downfall and the faith of the believer will be his salvation.

5: 2:5-20. A taunt-song (măsāl) is addressed presumably to the Chaldean king, consisting of a series of five woes against aggression (vv. 6b-8), self-assertion (vv. 9-11), violence (vv. 12-14), inhumanity (vv. 15-17), and idolatry (vv. 18-20).


This psalm, voiced by the prophet, but on behalf of his people, is the “amen of faith” to the revelation of God. The prophet describes the divine manifestation in terms of a stormy theophany (3:2-15), with allusions to the mighty deeds of God in the history of the deliverance of Israel from Egypt. The impression created by this theophany is awe-inspiring (3:2, 16a). No matter what may befall them, the prophet and his people shall trust in God (3:16-19).


The content of this book is characterized as an oracle or burden (Heb. massa’, cf. Isa 13:1; 14:28; etc.) which Habakkuk the prophet saw. Its purport, therefore, is to represent the word of God. It is evident, however, that the prophecy of Habakkuk has a unique form. It consists partly of lamentations which the prophet addresses to God (1:2-4, 12-17; 2:1; 3:1-19), and partly of prophetic utterances (1:5-11; 2:2-20). Archer rightly observes that with the possible exception of Daniel, no other Biblical author employs this particular technique (op. cit., p. 346). We may, however, assume that the whole content of Habakkuk’s book is meant as revelation, as the imparting of God’s message to His people.

On the material side, the content of this prophecy is characterized by the following:

By the prophet’s orientation toward God.

By his reaction against sin.

By the objective and subjective aspects of his message.

Habakkuk called forth the judgment of the Lord first upon Judah, and subsequently upon the Chaldeans. This is the objective aspect of his message. In the course of time both prophecies of judgment were fulfilled. The oppressing nobilities first were taken into captivity in the two preliminary deportations of 605 and 597, and this was followed by the major deportation in 587 b.c. The prospect of a destroyed country (3:17), became a grim reality. God indeed was not an inactive Onlooker on the scene of His people. With these calamities the waiting time for the righteous remnant began (2:2, 3; 3:2). At the appointed time, the Chaldeans were judged (539 b.c.) and the captives of Judah allowed to return to the Promised Land.


O. Happel, Das Buch des Propheten Habackuk (1900); D. J. van Katwyk, De Profetie van Habakkuk (1912); W. Cannon, “The Integrity of Habakkuk 1-2,” ZAW 43 (1925), 62-90; H. Walter and N. Lund, “The Literary Structure of the Book of Habakkuk,” JBL 53 (1934), 335-370; C. C. Torrey, “The Prophecy of Habakkuk,” in Jewish Studies in Memory of George A. Kohut (1935); W. Irwin, “The Psalm of Habakkuk,” JNES 1 (1942), 10-40; P. Humbert, Problèmes du livre d’Habacuc, Neuchatel (1944); H. Schmidt, “Ein Psalm im Buche Habakuk,” ZAW 62 (1949/50), 52-63; W. F. Albright, “The Psalm of Habakkuk,” in Studies in Old Testament Prophecy, presented to T. H. Robinson...(1950), 1-18; S. Mowinckel, “Zum Psalm des Habakuk,” ThL (1953), 1-22; K. Elliger, Studien zum Habakuk-kommentar vom Toten Meer (1953); D. M. Lloyd-Jones, From Fear to Faith....(1953); J. Trinquet, Habaquq, Abdias, Joël (1953); Ph. Béguerie, Etudes sur les prophètes d’Israël (1954) (Lectio divina 14); W. Vischer, Der Prophet Habakuk (1958); W. H. Brownlee, The Text of Habakkuk in the ancient commentary from Qumran (1959); A. Strobel, Untersuchungen zum eschatologischen-Verzögerungsproblem, auf Grund der spätjüdisch-urchristlichen Geschichte von Habakuk 2, 2ff. (1961); W. H. Brownlee, “The Placarded Revelation of Habakkuk,” JBL 82 (1963), 319-325; J. H. Eaton, “The Origin and Meaning of Habakkuk 3,” LAIS, 76 (1964), 144-171; A. S. vander Wande, “Der Gerechte wird durch seene Treue leben. Erwägungen zu Habakkuk 2:4-5,” in Studia biblica et semitica Th. C. Vriezen dedicata (1966), 367-375.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

ha-bak’-uk, hab’-a-kuk:


1. Name

2. Life


1. Interpretation of Habakkuk 1 and 2

2. Contents

3. Style

4. Integrity


1. Date

2. Occasion


1. Universal Supremacy of Yahweh

2. Faithfulness the Guarantee of Permanency


I. The Author. 1. Name:

Habakkuk (chabhaqquq) means "embrace," or "ardent embrace." #Some of the ancient rabbis, connecting the name with 2Ki 4:16, "Thou shalt embrace a son," imagined that the prophet was the son of the Shunammite woman. The Septuagint form of the name, Hambakoum; Theodotion Hambakouk, presupposes the Hebrew chabbaquq. A similar word occurs in Assyrian as the name of a garden plant.

2. Life:

Practically nothing is known of Habakkuk. The book bearing his name throws little light upon his life, and the rest of the Old Testament is silent concerning him; but numerous legends have grown up around his name. The identification of the prophet with the son of the Shunammite woman is one. Another, connecting Isa 21:6 with Hab 2:1, makes Habakkuk the watchman set by Isaiah to watch for the fall of Babylon. One of the recensions of the Septuagint text of Bel and the Dragon declares that the story was taken "from the prophecy of Habakkuk, the son of Jesus of the tribe of Levi." This must refer to an unknown apocryphal book ascribed to our prophet. What authority there may be for calling his father Jesus we do not know. The claim that he was of the tribe of Levi may be based upon the presence of the musical note at the end of the third chapter. According to the Lives of the Prophets, ascribed, though perhaps erroneously, to Epiphanius, bishop of Salamis in Cyprus during the latter part of the 4th century AD, he belonged to Bethtsohar, of the tribe of Simeon. A very interesting story is found in Bel and the Dragon (33-39), according to which Habakkuk, while on his way to the field with a bowl of pottage, was taken by an angel, carried to Babylon and placed in the lions den, where Daniel ate the pottage, when Habakkuk was returned to his own place. According to the Lives, Habakkuk died two years before the return of the exiles from Babylon. All these legends have little or no historical value.

II. The Book.

1. Interpretation of Habakkuk 1 and 2:

It is necessary to consider the interpretation of Hab 1 and 2 before giving the contents of the book, as a statement of the contents of these chapters will be determined by their interpretation. The different interpretations advocated may be grouped under three heads: (1) According to the first view: Hab 1:2-4: The corruption of Judah; the oppression of the righteous Jews by the wicked Jews, which calls for the Divine manifestation in judgment against the oppressors. 1:5-11: Yahweh announces that He is about to send the Chaldeans to execute judgment. 1:12-17: The prophet is perplexed. He cannot understand how a righteous God can use these barbarians to execute judgment upon a people more righteous than they. He considers even the wicked among the Jews better than the Chaldeans. 2:1-4: Yahweh solves the perplexing problem by announcing that the exaltation of the Chaldeans will be but temporary; in the end they will meet their doom, while the righteous will live. 2:5-20: Woes against the Chaldeans.

(2) The second view finds it necessary to change the present arrangement of Hab 1:5-11; in their present position, they will not fit into the interpretation. For this reason Wellhausen and others omit these verses as a later addition; on the other hand, Giesebrecht would place them before 1:2, as the opening verses of the prophecy. The transposition would require a few other minor changes, so as to make the verses a suitable beginning and establish a smooth transition from 1:11 to 1:2. Omitting the troublesome verses, the following outline of the two chapters may be given: 1:2-4: The oppression of the righteous Jews by the wicked Chaldeans. 1:12-17: Appeal to Yahweh on behalf of the Jews against their oppressors. 2:1-4: Yahweh promises deliverance (see above). 2:5-20: Woes against the Chaldeans.

(3) The third view also finds it necessary to alter the present order of verses. Again Hab 1:5-11, in the present position, interferes with theory; therefore, these verses are given a more suitable place after 2:4. According to this interpretation the outline is as follows: 1:2-4: Oppression of the righteous Jews by the wicked Assyrians (Budde) or Egyptians (G. A. Smith). 1:12-17: Appeal to Yahweh on behalf of the oppressed against the oppressor. 2:1-4: Yahweh promises deliverance (see above). 1:5-11: The Chaldeans will be the instrument to execute judgment upon the oppressors and to bring deliverance to the Jews. 2:5-20: Woes against the Assyrians or Egyptians.

A full discussion of these views is not possible in this article (see Eiselen, Minor Prophets, 466-68). It may be sufficient to say that on the whole the first interpretation, which requires no omission or transposition, seems to satisfy most completely the facts in the case.

2. Contents:

The contents of Hab 1 and 2 are indicated in the preceding paragraph. Hab 3 contains a lyrical passage called in the title "Prayer." The petitioner speaks for himself and the community. He remembers the mighty works of Yahweh for His people; the thought of them causes him to tremble; nevertheless, he calls for a repetition of the ancient manifestations (3:2). In majestic pictures the poet describes the wonderful appearances of Yahweh in the past (3:3-11) for His chosen people (3:12-15). The remembrance of these manifestations fills the Psalmist with fear and trembling, but also with joy and confidence in the God of his salvation (3:16-19).

3. Style:

Only the Hebrew student can get an adequate idea of the literary excellence of the Book of Habakkuk. "The literary power of Habakkuk," says Driver, "is considerable. Though his book is a brief one, it is full of force; his descriptions are graphic and powerful; thought and expression are alike poetic; he is still a master of the old classical style, terse, parallelistic, pregnant; there is no trace of the often prosaic diffusiveness which manifests itself in the writings of Jeremiah and Ezekiel. And if Hab 3 be his, he is, moreover, a lyric poet of high order; the grand imagery and the rhythmic flow of this ode will bear comparison with some of the finest productions of the Hebrew muse."

4. Integrity:

More than half of the book, including Hab 1:5-11; 2:9-20, and chapter 3 entire, has been denied to the prophet Habakkuk. If the prophecy is rightly interpreted (see above), no valid reason for rejecting 1:5-11 can be found. Hab 2:9-20 are denied to Habakkuk chiefly on two grounds:

(1) The "woes" are said to be in part, at least, unsuitable, if supposed to be addressed to the Chaldean king. This difficulty vanishes when it is borne in mind that the king is not addressed as an individual, but as representing the policy of the nation, as a personification of the nation.

Aside from the fact that the argument from literary parallels is always precarious, in this case the resemblances are few in number and of such general character that they do not necessarily presuppose literary dependence. Habakkuk 3 is denied to the prophet even more persistently, but the arguments are by no means conclusive. The fact that the chapter belongs to the psalm literature does not prove a late date unless it is assumed, without good reasons, that no psalms originated in the preexilic period. Nor do the historical allusions, which are altogether vague, the style, the relation to other writers, and the character of the religious ideas expressed, point necessarily to a late date. The only doubtful verses are 2:16 ff, which seem to allude to a calamity other than the invasion of the Chaldeans; and Driver says, not without reason, "Had the poet been writing under the pressure of a hostile invasion, the invasion itself would naturally have been expected to form a prominent feature in this picture." Hence, while it may be impossible to prove that Habakkuk is the author of the prayer, it is equally impossible to prove the contrary; and while there are a few indications which seem to point to a situation different from that of Habakkuk, they are by no means definite enough to exclude the possibility of Habakkuk’s authorship.

III. The Time.

1. Date:

The question of date is closely bound up with that of interpretation. Budde, on theory that the oppressors, threatened with destruction, are the Assyrians (see above, 3), dates the prophecy 621 to 615 BC. Granting that the Assyrians are in the mind of the prophet, the date suggested by Betteridge (AJT, 1903, 674 ff), circa 701 BC, is to be preferred; but if the Assyrians are not the oppressors, then with the Assyrians fall the dates proposed by Budde and Betteridge. If the prophecy is directed against Egypt, we are shut up to a very definite period, between 608 and 604 BC, for the Egyptian supremacy in Judah continued during these years only. If the Egyptians are not the oppressors, another date will have to be sought. If the Chaldeans are the oppressors of Judah, the prophecy must be assigned to a date subsequent to the battle of Carchemish in 605-604, for only after the defeat of the Egyptians could the Chaldeans carry out a policy of world conquest; and it was some years after that event that the Chaldeans first came into direct contact with Judah. But on this theory, Hab 1:2-4,12 ff; 2:8 ff, presupposes the lapse of a considerable period of conquest, the subduing of many nations, the cruel oppression of Judah for some length of time; therefore, Nowack is undoubtedly correct, on this theory, in bringing the prophecy down to a period subsequent to the first exile in 597, or, as he says, "in round numbers about 590 BC."

A different date must be sought if Hab 1:2-4 is interpreted as referring to the oppression of Jews by Jews, and 1:5 ff, as a threat that Yahweh will raise up the Chaldeans, already known as a nation thirsting for blood, to punish the wickedness of Judah. These verses would seem to indicate (1) that the Chaldeans had not yet come into direct contact with Judah, and (2) that they had already given exhibitions of the cruel character of their warfare. Nebuchadnezzar advanced against Judah about 600 BC; but the years since the fall of Nineveh, in 607-606, and the battle of Carchemish, in 605-604, had given abundant opportunity to the Chaldeans to reveal their true character, and to the prophet and his contemporaries to become acquainted with this cruel successor of Nineveh. On this theory, therefore, the prophetic activity of Habakkuk must be assigned to shortly before 600 BC.

2. Occasion:

If Habakkuk prophesied about 600 BC, he lived under King Jehoiakim. The pious and well-meaning Josiah had been slain in an attempt to stop the advance of Egypt against Assyria. With his death the brief era of reform came to an end. After a reign of three months Jehoahaz was deposed by Pharaoh-necoh, who placed Jehoiakim on the throne. The latter was selfish, tyrannical and godless. In a short time the deplorable conditions of Manasseh’s reign returned. It was this situation that caused the prophet’s first perplexity: "O Yahweh, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear? I cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save" (Hab 1:2).

IV. Its Teaching.

In the Book of Hab a new type of prophecy appears. The prophets were primarily preachers and teachers of religion and ethics. They addressed themselves to their fellow-countrymen in an attempt to win them back to Yahweh and a righteous life. Not so Habakkuk. He addresses himself to Yahweh, questioning the justice or even the reality of the Divine Providence. He makes complaint to God and expostulates with Him. The prophet Habakkuk, therefore, is a forerunner of the author of the Book of Job. "As a whole, his book is the fruit of religious reflection. It exhibits the communings and questionings of his soul--representative, no doubt, of many other pious spirits of the time--with God; and records the answers which the Spirit of God taught him for his own sake and for the sake of tried souls in every age.

Habakkuk has been called the prophet of faith. He possessed a strong, living faith in Yahweh; but he, like many other pious souls, was troubled and perplexed by the apparent inequalities of life. He found it difficult to reconcile these with his lofty conception of Yahweh. Nevertheless, he does not sulk. Boldly he presents his perplexities to Yahweh, who points the way to a solution, and the prophet comes forth from his trouble with a faith stronger and more intense than ever. It is in connection with his attempts to solve the perplexing problems raised by the unpunished sins of his countrymen and the unlimited success of the Chaldeans that Habakkuk gives utterance to two sublime truths:

1. The Universal Supremacy of Yahweh:

Yahweh is interested not only in Israel. Though Habakkuk, like the other prophets, believes in a special Divine Providence over Israel, he is equally convinced that Yahweh’s rule embraces the whole earth; the destinies of all the nations are in His hand. The Chaldeans are punished not merely for their sins against Judah, but for the oppression of other nations as well. Being the only God, He cannot permit the worship of other deities. Temporarily the Chaldeans may worship idols, or make might their god, they may "sacrifice unto their net," and burn incense "unto their drag," because by them "their portion is fat and their food plenteous"; but Yahweh is from everlasting, the Holy One, and He will attest His supremacy by utterly destroying the boastful conqueror with his idols.

2. Faithfulness the Guarantee of Permanency:

The second important truth is expressed in Hab 2:4: "The righteous shall live by his faith" (the American Revised Version, margin "faithfulness"). Faithfulness assures permanency. The thought expressed by the prophet is not identical with that expressed by the apostle who quotes the words (Ga 3:11); nevertheless, the former also gives expression to a truth of profound significance. "Faithfulness" is with the prophet an external thing; it signifies integrity, fidelity, steadfastness under all provocations; but this implies, in a real sense, the New Testament conception of faith as an active principle of right conduct. A living faith determines conduct; religion and ethics go hand in hand, and especially in the hour of adversity a belief in Yahweh and unflinching reliance upon Him are the strongest preservers of fidelity and integrity. Faith without works is dead; faith expresses itself in life. Habakkuk places chief emphasis upon the expressions of faith, and he does so rightly; but in doing this he also calls attention, by implication at least, to the motive power behind the external manifestations. As an expression of living faith, 3:17-19 is not surpassed in the Old Testament.


Commentaries on the Minor Prophets by Ewald, Pusey, Keil, Orelli, G. A. Smith (Expositor’s Bible), Driver (New Century Bible), Eiselen; A. B. Davidson, Commentary on "Nah," "Hab," "Zeph" (Cambridge Bible); A. F. Kirkpatrick, Doctrine of the Prophets; F. C. Eiselen, Prophecy and the Prophets; F. W. Farrar, Minor Prophets ("Men of the Bible"); Driver, LOT; HDB, article "Habakkuk"; EB, article "Habakkuk."