Thursday, June 09, 2016

Habakkuk at a Glance

Following is a very brief overview of the relevant background material for a study of the book of Habakkuk. This is summarized from information presented in more detail in the fuller background study of Habakkuk posted elsewhere on this blog.

Habakkuk At a Glance

Author: Habakkuk the prophet (1:1; 3:1)

Date and Historical Setting: The book of Habakkuk can be dated between the years 609 and 605 B.C., following the death of King Josiah of Judah (the last of Judah’s godly kings), and the deposing of his son Jehoahaz by the Egyptians. The Egyptian Pharaoh Neco installed another son of Josiah, Eliakim (whose name was changed to Jehoiakim), as king in Judah. Jehoiakim was an evil king and under his reign, the moral and religious reforms of his father Josiah were all undone. Internally, Judah became filled with violence and systemic social injustice. These conditions were decried by the prophet in the opening verses of the prophecy. As a means of bringing judgment on the nation, God promises to raise up the Chaldeans (the Babylonians, under Nebuchadnezzar) to invade the nation and plunder it. This began to happen in 598 B.C., as the Israelites were carried away into the Babylonian Exile (or Captivity), with Jerusalem falling in 586 B.C.

Audience: Unlike other prophetic books, Habakkuk’s words are not directed to a nation or a king, but to God Himself. Chapters 1 and 2 form a dialogue between the prophet and God, with the prophet’s words being a desperate prayer for judgment and mercy. Chapter 3 is a psalm of praise to God composed by the prophet after he came to an understanding of God’s nature and His ways of dealing with Judah and the nations.

Habakkuk’s Influence on the New Testament: The salvation of the faithful remnant that is promised in Habakkuk points forward, ultimately to the coming of Christ into the world. Paul takes up the words of Habakkuk 1:5 in his sermon in the synagogue of Pisidian Antioch recorded in Acts 13 (see Acts 13:41). Habakkuk 2:4, the key verse of Habakkuk, was also understood by the Apostle Paul and the anonymous writer of Hebrews as a cornerstone text of justification by faith alone and the perseverance of that faith through life’s trials (see Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38).

Key Doctrines:
Justification by faith (2:4); God’s sovereignty over nations and history.

Brief Outline:
I. Chapter 1 – A Burden: Faith grappling with a problem
II. Chapter 2 – A Vision: Faith grasping the solution
III. Chapter 3 – A Prayer: Faith glorying in assurance[1]

In-Depth Analysis:
I. A Dialogue with God: Habakkuk Previewed God’s Discipline of Judah (Ch 1)
A. Habakkuk’s distress (1:1-4)
1. Why is God indifferent to supplication? (1:1-2)
2. Why is God insensitive to sin and suffering? (1:3-4)
B. God’s disclosure (1:5-11)
1. God’s intention of discipline (1:5)
2. God’s instrument of discipline (1:6-11)
C. Habakkuk’s dilemma (1:12-17)
1. Why would God employ a people of iniquity? (1:12-13)
2. Why would God endorse a people of injustice? (1:14-15)
3. Why would God excuse a people of idolatry? (1:16-17)
II. A Dirge from God: Habakkuk Pronounced God’s Destruction of Babylon (Ch 2)
A. Habakkuk’s anticipation: “Watch” (2:1)
B. God’s admonition: “Write” (2:2-5)
1. God’s clear revelation (2:2)
2. God’s certain revelation (2:3)
3. God’s condemnatory revelation (2:4-5)
C. Habakkuk’s annotation: “Woe” (2:6-20)
1. Woe for intimidation (2:6-8)
2. Woe for intemperance (2:9-11)
3. Woe for iniquity (2:12-14)
4. Woe for indignity (2:15-17)
5. Woe for idolatry (2:18-20)
III. A Doxology to God: Habakkuk Praised God’s Design of Creation (Ch 3)
A. Habakkuk’s prayer for mercy (3:1-2)
B. God’s presence of majesty (3:3-15)
1. God’s arrival (3:3a)
2. God’s appearance (3:3b-7)
3. God’s actions (3:8-15)
C. Habakkuk’s peace in ministry (3:16-19)[2]

[1] J. Sidlow Baxter, Explore the Book (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1960), 212.
[2] J. Ronald Blue, “Habakkuk,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament (ed. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck; Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1985), 1507-1508. 

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