The prophet * Habakkuk is primarily concerned about believing in God's just rule over a world that appears to be overwhelmingly unjust. In this regard, he is more like Job and the psalmists who lament undeserved suffering than he is like Israel's other prophets. The book of Habakkuk is organized as a dialogue between the prophet and God, in which Habakkuk twice challenges God's power and plan. To Habakkuk's first complaint about injustices in Judean society ( 1.2–4 ), God promises that the guilty will be punished by invading Chaldeans ( 1.5–11 ). To Habakkuk's second complaint that the Chaldeans themselves are corrupt ( 1.12–2.1 ), God assures Habakkuk that his rule is reliable, and God calls for the righteous to be steadfast ( 2.2–4 ). Following this dialogue, a series of sayings describes the suicidal nature of tyranny ( 2.5–20 ), confirming the inevitable and just end of oppressive power. The book's concluding hymn (ch. 3 ) has been interpreted variously as the full description of Habakkuk's vision ( 2.2 ), as Habakkuk's prayer that this vision be fulfilled, and as a hymn that later editors added to Habakkuk's speeches to further resolve the dilemma they raise. In any case, the theophany * in this hymn ( 3.3–15 ) draws heavily on ancient traditions in which God establishes order in the cosmos by conquering chaos, symbolized by raging seas.
Habakkuk's initial proclamation about injustices in Judean society ( 1.2–4 ) and God's announcement of the Chaldean invasion ( 1.5–11 ) probably occurred during the violent reign of Jehoiakim (609–598 BCE; 2 Kings 23.36–24.7 ) before the first Babylonian (Chaldean) invasion of Judah in 597 BCE. Habakkuk's second complaint, and perhaps the arrangement of the dialogues as a whole, logically arises from his firsthand experience of the Babylonians between their first invasion (597) and their final conquest of Judah and destruction of Jerusalem (587). The hymn in ch. 3 may be a very old victory hymn added by Habakkuk's editors after the fall of Jerusalem to reemphasize God's universal rule.