Nothing is known of Habakkuk outside the book that carries his name in this book of the Old Testament Scriptures. He was a prophet of Judah, having a name that means “love’s embrace” or “he who embraces.” He was possibly a Levite in Jerusalem who was in the company of the musicians (See Hk 3:19). Most Bible students have concluded that his ministry occurred during the rise of the Babylonian Empire, possibly at the beginning of the Empire. He was contemporary with the prophets Jeremiah, Huldah and Zephaniah, and thus ministered the word of God during the reigns of Jehoahaz and Jehoiakim (612-605 B.C.).
A. Historical/social background:
At the time Habakkuk ministered the word of God, the temple was still standing in Jerusalem (Hk 2:20; 3:19). And in view of his statements in 1:5,6, it seems that the Babylonian Empire was still developing in the east as a major power of the Middle East. The Empire rose to prominence once it defeated the Assyrians in 612 B.C., and the Egyptians at the battle of Carchemish in 605 B.C. This was a major battle of the Middle East for it signalled a change in Middle East empire dominance from the Assyrians to the Babylonians.
At the time of Habakkuk’s ministry, the “wicked” in 1:4 is probably a reference to the Chaldeans (Babylonians). The northern kingdom of Israel had already fallen, and because of the digression of the southern kingdom into the same moral degradation and social injustices as her northern sister, Habakkuk warns of the Babylonians who would eventually terminate the independent theocracy of the southern kingdom. This eventually took place in 586 B.C. This ended forever the presence of Israel in Palestine as an autonomous free state.
[Habakkuk preaches tomorrow.]