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An Argument of the Book of Habakkuk

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The surprising judgment which the Lord is going to bring upon wicked judah through the evil, idolatrous Babylonians does not compromise his goodness, but engenders faith because he will one day also judge the Babylonians and deliver his people as their mighty warrior

I. Introduction: This book is the oracle which Habakkuk the prophet received 1:1

II. A Dialogue between Habakkuk and Yahweh--God’s Justice Revealed: When Habakkuk laments over Yahweh’s silence over the unrighteous behavior of the wicked among him, he learns to his surprise that the Lord is working by raising up the mighty, violent Chaldeans to judge Judah, that this is not a conflict with His uprightness as Judah’s God because those who are faithful will live through the ordeal and that the guilty Babylonians will also be judged for their idolatrous evil 1:2--2:20

A. Habakkuk’s Prophetic Lament--Oppression of the Righteous by the Wicked: Habakkuk cries out to the Lord because of the injustice which is being perpetrated upon the righteous by the wicked in society and wonders how long the Lord is going to go before He answers his prayers 1:2-4

B. Answer--Divine Revelation--God’s Solution through the Chaldeans: Yahweh answers Habakkuk’s questions by affirming that He is answering his prayer about the evil in Judah by raising up the evil Chaldeans to deal with them, even though they too will be held guilty for their evil 1:5-11

1. A Call to Look among the Nations: Habakkuk is exhorted to look among the nations because the Lord is doing something in his days which he will not believe 1:5

2. A Description of the Chaldeans: God is raising upon the dreaded, mighty, violent, mocking, swift Chaldeans who will be held guilty for their evil 1:6-11

a. God is Raising upon the Fierce and Impetuous Chaldeans: 1:6

b. Dreaded because They Make Their Own Justice: 1:7

c. A Mighty Military--Horses: 1:8

d. Violent Captures: 1:9

e. Mock at Kings and Kingdoms: 1:10

f. Pass through like the Wind: 1:11a

g. These Idolaters Will Be Held “Guilty”: 1:11b

C. Second Lament--Prophetic Response--How Could You?: After Habakkuk questions how it is possible for their good and holy God to use such evil people to judge them, he waits as a watchman for the Lord’s response 1:12--2:1

1. Questions of Theodicy: Habakkuk questions how Yahweh can be a good God who is the protector of His people and Holy and use such extremely wicked people to judge His more righteous people 1:12-17

a. First Question--”Are You Not Good?”: Habakkuk questions how God could appoint the Chaldeans to judge His people since He is everlastingly good, and their God 1:12

b. Second Question--”Why Is This True?”: Habakkuk asks Yahweh how this could be true since He is holy and cannot look with favor upon the wicked who defeat those who are more righteous than they (Israel) 1:13

c. Complaint about the Conduct of the Oppressors: 1:14-16

1) Chaldeans abuse people as though they were fish: 1:14-15

2) Chaldeans Are Idolaters in their Prosperity: 1:16

d. Third Question--”How Long Will This Continue?”: Habakkuk asks Yahweh how long He will allow the Chaldeans to abuse the nations 1:17

2. Resolve to Wait for Yahweh’s Response: Habakkuk stands as a watchman waiting for Yahweh’s reproving response so that he might answer him 2:1

D. Divine Revelation--Displeasure with Babylon: Yahweh wants Habakkuk to publicly record that through faithfulness the righteous will be enabled to live, but prideful Babylon will be destroyed in a talionic way for their idolatrous evil to the nations around them 2:2-20

1. A Direct Answer: Yahweh urges Habakkuk to publicly record his answer that the vision Habakkuk saw will certainly come to pass also affirming that Babylon is not right, and His people will live by faith 2:2-5

a. Publicly Record the Answer: Yahweh urges Habakkuk to publicly record his answer in letters large enough that when can read it when one is running by 2:2

b. Theodicy Will Be Worked Out: Yahweh answers that the vision Habakkuk saw will certainly come to pass also affirming that Babylon is not right, and His people will live by faith 2:3-5

1) The Answer Will Be Worked Out: The vision which Habakkuk saw will certainly come to pass at the appointed time 2:3

2) Arrogant Babylon Will Not Survive: The proud one (Babylon) is not right with his voracious appetite, but the righteous one (God’s people) will live by faithfulness 2:4-5

2. Answer of Judgment Developed--Five Woes:2 Through a series of five woes Habakkuk proclaims that Babylon will be judged in a talionic way by the Lord for their evil idolatrous acts 2:6-20

a. Woe One--Talionic Plunder: A Woe is pronounced upon Babylon by the nations because they will be plundered as they have plundered other nations 2:6-8

b. Woe Two--Oppressors for Strength: A woe is pronounced upon Babylon because they oppressed others to make themselves strong 2:9-11

c. Woe Three--Violence to Build: A woe is pronounced upon the Babylonians for building their kingdom by violently destroying others 2:12-14

d. Woe Four--Talionic Shame: A woe is pronounced upon the Babylonians for causing their neighbors to shame themselves, because they will be shamed by the Lord who will cover their “glory” with disgrace while His glory covers the earth 2:15-17

e. Woe Five--Idolatry: A woe is pronounced upon the Babylonians for their idolatry, because the Lord is superior over their god’s causing the whole earth to be silent before Him 2:18-20

III. Habakkuk’s Theophanic Vision of Yahweh:3 In a highly emotional prayer Habakkuk urged Yahweh to do His mighty works of Salvation as their great and mighty warrior as He had in times past, saw the Lord as the mighty warrior, and then proclaimed his unwavering trust in Him even though he would have to endure hardship now 3:1-19

A. Superscription/Heading: A highly emotional prayer of Habakkuk the prophet 3:1

B. Habakkuk’s Petition--Renew Your Work of Salvation-History: Habakkuk urges the Lord to do His mighty works as He did in the past, in the midst of this time--to be merciful to Judah 3:2

C. Theophanic Description of Yahweh as a Warrior: Habakkuk sees Yahweh as a radiant warrior who is coming in righteousness (from Sinai) as the sovereign ruler of the universe (nations) 3:3-15

1. Description of the Coming Warrior: The Lord comes from the South (Mt Paran/Sinai) in radiant splendor as He had in the days of Moses and Deborah with plague and pestilence accompanying Him and overtaking His enemies 3:3-7

a. Radiant Splendor: 3:3-4

b. Plague and Pestilence: 3:5-7

2. God vs. Creation & History in Battle: Yahweh has shown Himself as the sovereign ruler of the universe (nations) 3:8-15

a. Yahweh Overcame the Rivers (nations/Egypt?): 3:8-9

b. Yahweh Overcame the Mountains; 3:10

c. Yahweh Overcame the Sun and Moon (Joshua 10:12-14): 3:11

d. Yahweh Overcame the Nations (Babylon?): 3:12

e. Yahweh Delivered His People from the Nations: 3:13-15

D. Habakkuk’s Statement of Confidence--Trust in Yahweh Regardless: Even though Habakkuk was frightened when he heard of the Lord’s work, and knew that God’s time of ultimate victory might be long in coming, he vowed to wait for the judgment to come and rejoice and exalt in the Lord even without visible signs of His blessing because He will enable him to endure hardship 3:16-19a

1. Fear of the Lord’s Coming Judgment: 3:16a

2. One Must Wait for the Lord’s Time of Judgment: 3:16b

3. Vow of Unwavering Confidence--to Wait and Rejoice in the Lord Who Will Enable him to Endure Hardship: 3:17-19

E. Concluding Musical Notation: 3:19b

1 This outline is adapted through my own study from the analyses of Carl E. Armerding, Habakkuk, in The Expositor's Bible Commentary, VII:498; J. Ron Blue, Habakkuk, in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty: Old Testament, 1507-1508; Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., Interpreting the Minor Prophets, 183-196; Ralph L. Smith, Micah-Malachi, Word Biblical Commentary, XXXII:94-117.

2 Describing this section Smith writes, Here is a series of woe oracles. The form is common in the prophets (cf. Isa 5:8-23; 10:1, 5; 28:1; 29:15; 30:1; 31:1; 33:1; Amos 5:18; 6:1, 4). The interjection ywh or ywa probably originated as an expression of grief in the funeral dirge (1 Kgs 13:30; Jer 22:18; 34:5), but in the prophets it introduces an oracle of judgment. There are five woes in 2:6-20. Each oracle begins with ywh followed by a participle describing the sin. The second part of each oracle announces the judgment to come on the sinner, and the third part often introduced by yK (when it is included) states the reason for the judgment (Ralph L. Smith, Micah-Malachi, Word Biblical Commentary, XXXII:110).

3 Chisholm writes, Chapter 3 displays a pattern similar to that of chapters 1--2: prophetic initiative--divine revelation/response--prophetic response. Though God does not actually speak in chapter 3, the theophanic vision related by the prophet has a revelatory character and function, serving as the divine response to Habakkuk's petition (Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., Interpreting the Minor Prophets, 185).

Smith writes, Chap. 3 is a psalm in the form of a prayer. It is an intercessory prayer designed to be sung by the congregation or by one representing the congregation. It is a prayer on behalf of the king and his people that God will renew or revive his saving acts in the present. It is difficult to classify the psalm by type. Is it a hymn, lament, a song of thanksgiving, a liturgy, or a royal psalm? It has elements of all of these types in it. It is best classified as a liturgy ... (Ralph L. Smith, Micah-Malachi, Word Biblical Commentary, XXXII:114-15).

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines

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