Habakkuk 1-2:4 “The just shall live by his faith.”
This burden which Habakkuk saw (v. 1), is unique in that it concerned his own troubling questions. The violence referred to (v. 2), would lead to judgment coming through the Chaldeans, or Neo-Babylonians (v. 6). These were “the threatening new world power…a period after the collapse of the Assyrian empire (612-605 B.C.) but before the Chaldean armies of Nebuchadnezzar II captured Jerusalem and deported the young king Jehoiachin to Babylon in 597 B.C. (2 Kin. 24:8-17). Habakkuk apparently ministered during Jehoiachin’s reign (609-598 B.C.) and as a younger contemporary of Jeremiah” (NGSB p.1442). The reason for the coming judgment had to do with the iniquity rising during Jehoiachin’s reign.
Judgment was coming because of the violence in the land, due to the rejection of God’s law, and therefore the lack of true justice, as the wicked surrounded the righteous (vv. 3-4). Judgment was promised for breaking the law-word of the covenant (Dt. 28:15-68). “They no longer lived like a chosen and saved people (Ex. 19:19:4-6)” (Ibid. p.1443). Verse 5 is in fact quoted by Paul in that what follows also found fulfillment in the judgment which was coming upon apostates in Israel, who rejected Jesus as their Messiah (Acts 13:41). Just as there was going to be a judgment that would eventually issue in the capture and destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, even so this was going to take place in Paul’s time.
The Chaldeans, like all pagan, godless nations take pride in themselves, which through their victories then leads them to idolatry (vv. 5-11). For this cause the prophet is troubled, because for this he knows judgment should be coming (1:12-2:1). The LORD answers the prophet that judgment will come against this sinful pride of men in themselves, but it will come in His timing, therefore he must wait for it (vv. 2-4). The only answer that could provide any assurance to any for escaping judgment, would be to look to the provision provided by God in the covenant for sin, a sacrifice and a righteousness appropriated by faith (v. 4 Jn. 3:36; Rom. 1:17; Heb. 10:38).