Book of the Week 35: Habakkuk

Hebrew Name: Chav’kuk

Human Author: Habakkuk                                                  

OT or NT: Old Testament

Number of Chapters: 3

Basic Facts

  1. Habakkuk is the thirty-fifth book of the Bible.
  2. In terms of literary genre, Habakkuk is classified as a book of prophecy.
  3. The Hebrew name for the book of Habakkuk is Chav’kuk, which means “Embracer.”
  4. Habakkuk was a prophet to the southern kingdom of Judah.
  5. Habakkuk’s ministry may have taken place during the time of king Josiah’s reforms.

Story of the Book

The structure of Habakkuk includes two series of complaints given by Habakkuk to God and then God’s response back to him. The book opens with Habakkuk addressing God and asking God why He allows the people of Judah to suffer injustices at the hands of the Assyrians. God then responds by telling Habakkuk that He is about to raise up the Babylonians to conquer the Assyrians and take their place. Habakkuk then asks God why He allows injustices to continue against the people of Judah by allowing the wicked Assyrians to plunder those more righteous than themselves (presumably the people of Judah). God responds to Habakkuk, telling him to wait upon the LORD for justice that is swiftly coming upon the enemies of Judah. The rest of the book is composed of a prayer given by Habakkuk to God in which he professes hope and faith in God in the midst of extremely trying circumstances. Through all the hardships that Habakkuk faces, he ends the book praying, “yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior” (Habakkuk 3:18).

Jesus Foreshadowed in Habakkuk

The central message of Habakkuk is about the need for Habakkuk to have hope and faith in God in the midst of suffering. In Habakkuk 2:4 he writes, “but the righteous will live by faith.” This statement sums up the attitude Habakkuk needs to have in the midst of suffering when the Assyrians are oppressing the people of Judah. Later on, Paul quotes this verse in order to make that case that, “all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse.” Paul continues by saying, “as it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.’ Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because ‘the righteous will live by faith.’ The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, ‘The person who does these things will live by them.’ Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.’ He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit” (Galatians 3:10-14). The righteous must live by faith in every generation, and Paul uses this principle as something that is pointing forward to the fact that none of us will ultimately be justified through obedience to the Law. Rather, we are justified by faith in Christ, who became a curse for us by dying on the cross. In this very indirect way, the principle that the righteous must live by faith as affirmed by Habakkuk points forward to the means of our salvation that is later revealed in Christ, a principle of faith that is later written about in more detail by the Apostle Paul.