Book of Habakkuk

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The Book of Habakkuk is the eighth book of the 12 minor prophets of the Old Testament. It is attributed to the prophet Habakkuk, and was probably composed in the late 7th century BCE. A copy of chapters 1 and 2 (of 3) is included in the Habakkuk Commentary, found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Chapters 1-2 are a dialog between the LORD and the prophet. The central message, that "the just shall live by his faith" (2:4), plays an important rule in Christian thought. It is used in Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, and Hebrews 10:38 as the starting point of the concept of faith.

Author

See main: Habakkuk

Habakkuk identifies himself as a prophet in the opening verse. Due to the liturgical nature of the book of Habakkuk, there have been some scholars who think that the author may have been a temple prophet. Temple prophets are described in 1 Chronicles 25:1 as using lyres, harps and cymbals. Some feel that this is echoed in Habakkuk 3:19b, and that Habakkuk may have been a Levite and singer in the Temple.

There is no biographical information on the prophet Habakkuk; in fact less is known about him than any other writer of the Bible. The only canonical information we have comes from the book that is named for him. His name comes either from the Hebrew word חבק (khavak) meaning "embrace" or else from an Akkadian word hambakuku for a kind of plant.

Although his name does not appear in any other part of the Jewish Bible, Rabbinic tradition holds Habakkuk to be the Shunammite woman's son, who was restored to life by Elisha in 2 Kings 4:16. The prophet Habakkuk is also mentioned in the tale of Bel and the Dragon, part of the deuterocanonical additions to Daniel in a late section of that book. In the superscription of the Old Greek version, Habakkuk is called the son of Joshua of the tribe of Levi. In this book Habakkuk is lifted by an angel to Babylon to provide Daniel with some food while he is in the lion's den.

It is unknown when Habakkuk lived and preached, but the reference to the rise and advance of the Chaldeans in 1:6-11 places him in the middle to last quarter of the 7th century BC. One possible period might be during the reign of Jehoiakim, from 609-598 BC. The reasoning for this date is that during his reign that the Babylonians were growing in power. The Babylonians marched against Jerusalem in 598. Jehoiakim died while the Babylonians were marching towards Jerusalem and Jehoiakim's 8 year old son, Jehoiachin assumed the throne. Upon the Babylonians' arrival, Jehoiachin and advisors surrendered Jerusalem after a short time. With the transition of rulers and the age/inexperience of Jehoiachin, they were not able to stand against Chaldean forces. There is a sense of an intimate knowledge of the Babylonian brutality in 1:12-17.

Overview

The book of Habakkuk is a book of Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) and stands eighth in a section known as the 12 Minor Prophets in the Masoretic and Greek texts. It follows Nahum and precedes Zephaniah, who are considered to be his contemporaries.

The book consists of three chapters and the book is neatly divided into three different genres:

  • A discussion between God and Habakkuk
    • An Oracle of Woe
      • A Psalm

A breakdown of the book's structure looks this way:
I. Title (1:1)
II. The Problem of Unpunished wickedness (1:2 – 4)
III. God's first response (1:5 – 11)
IV. The problem of excessive punishment (1:12 – 17)
V. Awaiting an Answer (2:1)
VI. God’s second response (2:2 – 20)

A. A vision (2:2 -5)
i. Announcement (2:2 -3)
ii. Life and Death (2:4 -5)
B. Taunting woes (2:6 – 20)
i. The pillager (2: 6 -8)
ii. The plotter (2:9 – 11)
iii. The promoter of violence (2:12 -14)
iv. The debaucher (2:15 -17)
v. The pagan idolator (2:18 -20)

VII. Habakkuk’s Psalm (3:1 -19)

A. Musical notes (3:1, 19b)
B. Petition (3:2)
C. God’s powerful presence in history (3:3 – 15)
i. God’s coming (3:3 -7)
ii. God’s combat (3:8 – 15)
D. Fear and Faith (3:16 – 19a)
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