My Understanding of Habakkuk

The Book of Habakkuk is the eighth of the Twelve Minor Prophets.  We know almost nothing about Habakkuk, aside from the few facts that are in this book, since there are no biographical details about him.  For almost every other prophet, there were at least some mention of things as the name of the prophet’s hometown, his occupation, or information concerning his parentage or tribe, but there is none here.

This is the only work attributed to Habakkuk.  However, the style of this book indicates a great literary talent.  Habakkuk was unusual among the prophets, since he openly questioned the workings of Yahweh.  This work is usually dated around the 6th or 7th century BCE, as a contemporary of Jeremiah and Zephaniah.  As the final chapter of his book is a song, it is assumed that he was a member of the tribe of Levi at the Temple.  Thus, he probably lived in Jerusalem at the time when he wrote this work.

Habakkuk also appeared in the story about Bel and the Dragon in the Septuagint Book of Daniel, chapter 14, where he was making some stew in Jerusalem.  The angel of Yahweh told him to take this stew to Daniel, who was in the Babylonian lion’s den.  After proclaiming he was unaware of both the den and Babylon, the angel transported Habakkuk to the lion’s den.  Habakkuk gave Daniel the food to sustain him, and then Habakkuk immediately went back to his own home in Jerusalem.

Habakkuk went from a faith of perplexity and doubt to the height of absolute trust in God.  Habakkuk addressed his concerns over the fact that God would use the Babylonian empire to execute judgment on Judah for their sins, as he openly questioned the wisdom of God.

The Book of Habakkuk has five oracles about the Chaldeans and a song of praise to Yahweh.  The first part is a dialog of Habakkuk with God.  After the title of this work, Habakkuk has a cry for justice.  He saw the injustice among his people and he wondered why Yahweh had not taken any action.  Yahweh responded to him, saying that he was going to use the Chaldean cavalry to bring about justice and punish the people.  He had a prayer to Yahweh that they not fall into the nets of their enemy.  The righteous live by their faith, later an important Pauline concept.

Habakkuk was going to wait for the response of Yahweh.  In the meantime, there were a series of five curses against the Chaldeans.  These curses were against their greed, then their evil gains, their towns, their drunkards, and finally their Chaldean idols.

In chapter three, Habakkuk expressed his ultimate faith in God, even if he didn’t fully understand it.  Some have suggested that this chapter was a addition to the book.  However, this chapter was in all copies of the Septuagint.  This final chapter is a poetic praise of God, and has some similarities with the Book of Daniel.  However, the fact that the third chapter is written in a different style, as a liturgical piece, does not necessarily mean that Habakkuk was not also its author.  This hymn or prayer to Yahweh addresses him as the Almighty Holy One.  There was an emphasis on the glory and power of God.  He could move tents and curtains, as well as rivers.  He even used bows and arrows, since Yahweh controlled the earth, the sun and the moon.  Yahweh would bring salvation with his power.  Although there was bad times, they should all rejoice in Yahweh.

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