Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2002 James Melough
Habakkuk, meaning ardently
embraced, prophesied to Judah in the 7th century BC relative to
the impending Babylonian (Chaldean) invasion and captivity; and the propriety
of his name is confirmed by his attitude toward his people: he loved them
deeply, and mourned over the judgment they were bringing upon themselves
because of sin.
Nothing is known of him except
what may be deduced from his writing, which indicates that he was well
educated and therefore not poor. Someone has very aptly commented, “Who he
was, nobody knows; what he was, everybody knows.” The last chapter of his
prophecy suggests also that he may perhaps have been a Levitical musician.
The paucity of personal historical detail therefore makes it difficult to
accurately date his writing, it being generally accepted as having been
between 606 and 604 BC, thus making him a contemporary of Jeremiah.
His prophecy is unique in that
he doesn’t speak directly to the people, but rather engages in a dialogue with
God in the first two chapters, and then concludes in chapter three by his
worshiping God in a hymn of praise.
The revival in Israel under
king Josiah had been short-lived, the people, under his son the wicked
Jehoiakim, reverting quickly to the worship of Baal and Ashtaroth, with its
accompanying licentiousness and departure from all the righteous standards of
morality enjoined by Jehovah, so that Judah was as corrupt as her heathen
neighbors, and more culpable, for she should have known better.
Jehoiakim set the nation an
evil example, for when the people were already suffering under the heavy
tribute levied by Pharaoh Necho, he Jehoiakim built a magnificent palace,
compelling his subjects to do the work without pay. With the king himself
exploiting the people it was little wonder that the rich also did the same.
It is against this dark
national background that Habakkuk’s prophecy is set.
The broader historical
background of his prophecy, however, consists of the fact that Babylon in 612
BC had just attained world supremacy by destroying Assyria which had led
Israel (the ten northern tribes) into captivity about 130 years earlier, and
had been preparing to lead Judah also. Thus Judah was delivered from that
dread prospect of also becoming the vassal of Assyria. Her period of respite,
however, was brief, her increasing wickedness compelling Jehovah to bring
Babylon (the Chaldeans) against her, with the result that she was led into
captivity in that land in 586 BC. It was the wickedness of Judah during that
period of reprieve between 612 and 586 BC which occasioned Habakkuk’s
prophecy, and ended in her being led captive into Babylon.
In the Assyrian captivity of
Israel, and the Babylonian captivity of Judah; in the tide of wickedness that
enveloped the world of that day; in the rise and fall of great nations, and
the concomitant slaughter, famine, plagues, and anarchy, many have seen -
rightly I believe - foreshadowings of what will be worldwide in the now
imminent Tribulation which will leave the whole world in ruins even worse than
that of those ancient vanquished cities of Israel and Judah.
Another characteristic shared
by the destroyed nations, Israel and Judah, was their failure to believe the
prophets who inveighed against their wickedness, and foretold their doom.
That very same foolish euphoria marks our twenty-first century world even as
it too totters on the very brink of destruction.
Having seen no better
description of the world’s mad attitude than that of J. Ronald Blue, I quote
what he has written on Habakkuk in The Bible Knowledge Commentary,
“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.”
We should remember also that
while the book deals mainly with the wickedness of Chaldea (Babylon), and
foretells her doom, Judah was just as wicked, the rich oppressing the poor,
seizing their property and goods by force and by corruption of the judicial
system; worshiping idols, being gross immoral, and maintaining a haughty
arrogance which believed that they would never be called to account. What
therefore is written of and to Chaldea is written also of and to Judah, she
being more culpable by reason of having been given greater light. And in the
final analysis, it is written to today’s world whose wickedness is portrayed
in that of Assyria, Babylon, Israel (the ten northern tribes), and Judah
(Judah and Benjamin), the judgments which destroyed them being but
foreshadowings of those that will devastate today’s world in the imminent