The twelve Minor Prophets

The twelve minor writing prophets have shorter books than the major prophets.  These writing prophets range from the 8th to the 5th century BCE.  These include Hosea from the 8th century BCE, Joel from the 8th -5th century BCE, Amos from the 8th century BCE, Obadiah and Jonah from the 6th century BCE, Micah and Nahum from the 8th century BCE, Habakkuk and Zephaniah from the 7th century BCE, Haggai and Zechariah from the 6th century BCE, and Malachi from the 5th century BCE.  Some of these prophets had an influence on New Testament Christian writers.

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.

Rejoice in Yahweh (Hab 3:18-3:19)

“Yet I will rejoice

In Yahweh!

I will exult

In the God

Of my salvation!



Is my strength.

He makes my feet

Like the feet of a deer.

He makes me tread

Upon the heights.”

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.

Habakkuk ended his song or hymn with great rejoicing in Yahweh his God, who saves him.  Clearly this was a psalm or canticle with the notation about the leader or choirmaster and the stringed instruments.  Yahweh, God, was his strength, who gave him the ability to run like a deer.  He could even ascend to the heights.  This psalm has a very optimistic ending.

The bad harvest (Hab 3:17-3:17)

“The fig trees

Do not blossom.

There is no fruit

On the vines.

The produce

Of the olive tree fails.

The fields yield

No food.

The flock is cut off

From the fold.

There is no herd

In the stalls.”

These farmers have hit bad times.  The fig trees were not blossoming, while there were no fruits of grapes on the vines in the vineyard.  The fields were not yielding any kind of food.  The flocks were running aimlessly, while the herd was not in its stalls.  Things were in bad shape.

Waiting for the battle (Hab 3:16-3:16)

“I hear!

My body trembles!

My lips quiver

At the sound.

Rottenness enters

Into my bones.

My steps tremble

Beneath me.

I quietly wait

For the day

Of calamity

To come upon the people

Who attack us.”

Habakkuk was waiting for the eventual defeat of his enemy.  However, there would be a battle.  Thus, he could hear his body tremble and his lips quivering.  There was a certain rottenness in his bones.  He was weak kneed as he walked.  He was quietly waiting for the day of calamity when his attackers would suffer.

The battle power of Yahweh (Hab 3:14-3:15)

“You pierced

With their own arrows

The head of his warriors.

They came

Like a whirlwind

To scatter us.

They gloated

As if ready

To devour the poor,

Who were in hiding.

You trampled

The sea

With your horses,

Churning the mighty waters.”

Yahweh pierced the heads of the enemy warriors with their own arrows.  They came like a storm to scatter Yahweh’s people.  They were gloating, as if they were about to devour poor hidden people.  However, Yahweh trampled the sea with his horses turning up the mighty waters against them.

The salvation of Yahweh (Hab 3:12-3:13)

“In fury,

You trod the earth.

In anger,

You trampled nations.

You came forth

To save your people.

You came forth

To save your anointed.

You crushed

The head

Of the wicked house.

You laid it bare

From its foundation

To its roof.”


Yahweh in his fury and anger would trample the various countries on earth.  Yahweh was going to come forward to save his people and their anointed one, the king.  He was going to crush the head of the wicked house, destroying it completely from its foundations to its roof.  Yahweh would save his people and their king by destroying their enemies.  Once again, we have a meditative pause in this canticle with a Selah.

The sun and the moon (Hab 3:11-3:11)

“The sun stood still

In its exalted place.

The moon stood still

In its exalted place.

There was the light

Of your arrows

Speeding by.

There was the gleam

Of your flashing spear.”

As the sun and the moon stood still in the heavens, the speeding arrows and the flashing spears provided gleams of light.

Yahweh controls the earth (Hab 3:9-3:10)

“You split the earth

With rivers.

The mountains saw you.

They writhed,

As a torrent of water

Swept by.

The deep

Gave forth its voice.

It raised high its hands.”

Yahweh split the earth with various rivers, since he controlled everything on earth.  When the mountains saw Yahweh, they writhed as they twisted and squirmed, since they were swept away by torrential waters.  The deep sea had its own voice.  Thus, it raised its hands to Yahweh in compliance, because Yahweh controlled the deep sea as well as the land, the hills, and the rivers.

Bows and arrows (Hab 3:9-3:9)

“You brandished

Your naked bow!

Overflowing arrows

Were at your command.”


This hymn of Habakkuk talked about a bow ready to shoot many arrows, since there were more than enough arrows for this empty bow.  Then we have the psalmist pause for mediation with Selah, reminding us that this was a chant or hymn being sung.