Habakkuk's dialogue with Deity
1st March 2008, hej
1) Evil verus God
Habakkuk is told of the triumph of the knowledge of He Who Will Be Mighty Ones on the earth.
According to Unger (1957), we know nothing of Habakkuk's life. It is thought he belonged to one of the Levitical families charged with producing the music for the temple, as he addresses his song to the “chief singer on stringed instruments” (3:19). Unger quotes two likely dates as being in the latter part of Josiah's reigh 625-608 BC or the early part of Jehoichim 608-597BC. Both dates place him about the beginning of Nebuchadnezzar's reign, and the expansion of the Babylonian power. To place Habakkuk in context, he follows Isaiah, and was contemporary with Jeremiah and Joel. He preceeds Daniel and Ezekiel.
Habakkuk records a conversation between himself and Yahweh and at the conclusion of this record he pens a prophetic prayer of praise to be made a song for Israel.
Just as his contemporary Jeremiah laments the state of the nation, so does Habakkuk.
Yahweh, how long will I cry, and you will not hear? I cry out to you "Violence!" and will you not save? Why do you show me iniquity, and look at perversity? For destruction and violence are before me. There is strife, and contention rises up. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth; for the wicked surround the righteous; therefore justice goes forth perverted. (World English Bible, Hab 1:1-4).
The answer given is clear and unambigious: Yahweh is working among the Nations, though it is only evident to those who know and watch.
Look among the nations, watch, and wonder marvelously; for I am working a work in your days, which you will not believe though it is told you. For, behold, I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, that march through the breadth of the earth, to possess dwelling places that are not theirs. (WEB, Hab 1:5-6).
Certainly the rapid rise in power and expansion of territory under Nebuchadnezzar would be a 'wonder'. It is remarkable even to us in the era which has seen the rise and fall of such systems as the Nazis and Soviets.
Habakkuk, of course, quite rightly points out that these Chaldeans are pagans who subcribe their power to inanimate objects. As an aside Habakkuk notices the effect of this form of judgement is that it seems as if man is like the beasts of the field, with no ruler. It seems as if Yahweh is not in control, though Habakkuk knows He is.
You who have purer eyes than to see evil, and who cannot look on perversity, why do you tolerate those who deal treacherously, and keep silent when the wicked swallows up the man who is more righteous than he, and make men like the fish of the sea, like the creeping things, that have no ruler over them? (WEB, Hab 1:13-14).
In effect Habakkuk is asking the reason for the tolerance of evil on earth, and the reason for suffering.