By J. B. Tidell, A.M., D. D.
The Prophet. His name means "consolation", and he was a native of Elkosh, a small town of Galilee. We do not know where he uttered his prophecy, whether from Philistia or at Nineveh. It is thought that he escaped into Judah when the Captivity of the Ten Tribe began and that he was at Jerusalem at the time of the Assyrian invasion.
The Prophecy. The date, if the above conclusions are to be relied upon, would be in the reign of Hezekiah, King of Judah, which would be between 720 and 698 B. C. Others put it between the destruction of Thebes, 664 B. C. and the fall of Nineveh, 607 B. C. claiming that it might be either during the reign of Josiah, 640-625 B. C. or in the reign of Manasseh, 660 B. C. The theme of the book is the approaching fall of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, which held sway for centuries and has been regarded as the most brutal of the ancient heathen nations. The purpose, in keeping with the name of the author, was to comfort his people, so long harassed by Assyria, which was soon to fall and trouble them no more. The style is bold and fervid and eloquent and differs from all the prophetic books so far studied in that it is silent concerning the sins of Judah. It is a sort of outburst of exultation over the distress of a cruel foe, a shout of triumph over the downfall of an enemy that has prevented the exaltation of the people of Jehovah.
I. The Doom of Nineveh Pronounced, Ch. 1.
II. the Siege and Fall of Nineveh, Ch. 2.
III. The Sins Which Will Cause Nineveh's Ruin, Ch. 3.
For Study and Discussion. (1) The striking features of the Divine character seen in the book. How many in 1:2-3? (2) The description of Nineveh-not only her wickedness, but her energy and enterprise. (3) The doom predicted for Nineveh-analyze the predictions to the different things to which she is doomed. (4) Pride as a God-ward sin and its punishment. (5) Cruelty, The man-ward sin and its punishment.
The Prophet. His name means "embracing," and he very likely was a contemporary of Jeremiah and prophesied between 608 B. C. and 638 B. C. at a time of political and moral crisis. He may have been a Levite connected with the Temple music.
The Prophecy. As Nahum prophesied the fall of Assyria for its oppression of Israel, Habakkuk tells of God's judgments upon the Chaldeans because of their oppression. The style is poetical and displays a very fine imagery. (1) There is a dialogue between the prophet and the Divine ruler. (2) There is a prayer or psalm which is said not to be excelled in any language in the grandeur of its poetical conceptions and sublimity of expression.
Its purpose grew out of the fact that they were no better off under the rule of Babylon (Chaldeans) which had overthrown Assyria than they were formerly while Assyria ruled over them. It intended to answer the questions: (1) How could God use such a wicked instrument as the Chaldeans (Barbarians) to execute his purposes? (2) Could the Divine purpose be justified in such events? God's righteousness needed vindicating to the people. (3) Why does wickedness seem to triumph while the righteous suffer? This is the question of Job, applied to the nation.
I. The Problem of the Apparent Triumph of Sin, Ch. 1.
II. The Impending Punishment of the Chaldeans, Oh. 2.
III. An Age of Confidence in God, Ch.3.
For Study and Discussion. (1) The morals of the people. (2) The character and deeds of the Chaldeans. (3) The Universal supremacy of Jehovah. (4) The proper attitude amid perplexing problem. (5) Faith and faithfulness as a guarantee of supremacy and life.