We know nothing about Habakkuk other than he lived at a time of Babylonian aggression against Judah. Babylon’s capture of Jerusalem is not mentioned in this book, which suggests that Habakkuk’s prophecies deal with a time in the late sixth century BC, before the fall of Jerusalem was in the picture.
The book is three chapters long. The first two chapters consist of an oracle that Habakkuk saw (1:1). Habakkuk laments the injustice of Judah’s leaders in perverting justice and calls on God to do something about it. God informs Habakkuk that God will send the Babylonians in to attack Judah as a punishment for its wickedness.
This is hardly what Habakkuk has in mind and he asks God why he would use a wicked nation to teach God’s people a lesson. God responds that the Babylonians are indeed a wicked nation and that they will get what they deserve in the end. They are arrogant, corrupt, unjust, violent, and idolatrous. Eventually, however, the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the true God and be silent before God in his holy temple.
The third chapter is a prayer of Habakkuk. It begins with a musical notation called a shigionoth, which is also found in Psalm 7, suggesting that Habakkuk 3 may have functioned like a psalm. The prayer may also have been written separately and only added to the book at a later time, since it seems a bit out of place with chapters 1-2. It describes in mythical language God as a divine warrior and alludes to the exodus from Egypt, which is the central Old Testament example of God going to war for his people. One can understand, however, why a late editor might have added this prayer. It is a confession of trust in God to deliver God’s people in his day (under the Babylonians) as in days of old (exodus).