v1-4: "Why Lord?" comes the prophet's question. The problem of injustice, when the wicked prosper, and the righteous suffer. There is destruction and violence, strife and conflict. The "law is paralysed," ie there is no restraint on the people.
We confess that our observation seems to contradict our understanding of God; we see an apparent tolerance of sins, the wicked enjoying freedom to sin, the righteous in sorrow. Yet we need to see how God sees, and Habakkuk himself learns this.
v5-8: God's work, for He is neither silent nor passive; He does speak and He does act. Watch what He is about to do.
God raises up the Chaldean army against Judah, and against many other nations. This army is described graphically; ruthless and impetuous, feared and dreaded, a law to themselves, promoting their own honour. Although they are God's instrument of judgment, that does not imply that He approves of all their methods, but it does indicate God's power to raise up such an army.
v9-10: The great power and success of the Babylonian army, gathering prisoners like sand, scoffing at other rulers, mocking fortifications erected against them.
v11: Babylon attributes his success to his own god, ignorant of the fact that their victories are due to the power of the true God. Babylon continues, apparently unstoppable, like the wind.
v12: As Habakkuk struggles with the circumstances he observes, and the apparent contradictions with the very character of God, he begins to see the distinction between God's people and Gentiles; "we will not die," is true of those who know and love God; in contrast, Babylon has been raised up to execute God's judgment upon nations.
v13: Habakkuk's understanding, that God is holy, "too pure to look on (tolerate) evil," and yet He has appointed the cruellest of nations to destroy other nations.
v14-15: Babylon's success, like a fisherman with a dragnet, gathering everything in its wake.
v16: Babylon imputes his numerous victories to his dragnet, his god; through such victories, he has gained great wealth.
v17: Unless God were to intervene, it seems, Babylon will continue her destructive career.