Study on the Book of Habakkuk
Book of Habakkuk, Habacuc
{huh - bak' - uk}

General Information

Habakkuk is one of the books of the Minor Prophets in the Old Testament of the Bible. It is named for the prophet Habakkuk, who probably lived during the 7th century BC, and contains a discussion of the problem of evil. The prophet asks how God permits his will to be accomplished through oppression and lawlessness; the answer given is that individuals survive through fidelity to God, even when nations tumble. Chapter 3, a poem, expresses the writer's unshakable confidence in divine deliverance. The Dead Sea Scrolls contain a commentary on the Book of Habakkuk.

 

George W Coats

 

Book of Habakkuk, Habacuc

Brief Outline

  1. Perplexity of the Prophet as to why the sinful Jews are not punished, and why God should use a heathen nation to punish the Jews. (1)
  2. God's answer that the proud Chaldeans will themselves be punished (2)
  3. Prayer of Habakkuk (3)

 


Hab'akkuk

Advanced Information

Habakkuk, embrace, the eighth of the twelve minor prophets. Of his personal history we have no reliable information. He was probably a member of the Levitical choir. He was contemporary with Jeremiah and Zephaniah.

(Easton Illustrated Dictionary)

 


Prophecies of Hab'akkuk

Advanced Information

The Prophecies of Habakkuk were probably written about B.C. 650-627, or, as some think, a few years later. This book consists of three chapters, the contents of which are thus comprehensively described: "When the prophet in spirit saw the formidable power of the Chaldeans approaching and menacing his land, and saw the great evils they would cause in Judea, he bore his complaints and doubts before Jehovah, the just and the pure (1:2-17). And on this occasion the future punishment of the Chaldeans was revealed to him (2). In the third chapter a presentiment of the destruction of his country, in the inspired heart of the prophet, contends with his hope that the enemy would be chastised." The third chapter is a sublime song dedicated "to the chief musician," and therefore intended apparently to be used in the worship of God. It is "unequalled in majesty and splendour of language and imagery." The passage in 2:4, "The just shall live by his faith," is quoted by the apostle in Rom. 1:17. (Comp. Gal. 3:12; Heb. 10:37, 38.)

(Easton Illustrated Dictionary)

 


Prophecies of Habakkuk

From: Home Bible Study Commentary by James M. Gray

Nothing is known of the personal history of Habakkuk, and but little as to the time when he prophesied. He is placed by some successor to Zephaniah, for he makes no mention of Assyria and yet refers to the approach of the Babylonian invasion. See 1:6; 2:3; 3:2, 16-19. The book seems to have been written by himself, as we judge from 1: 2, and 2:1, 2. His "burden" begins by lamenting the iniquity of his people 1:1-4. He then declares God's purpose of raising up the Chaldean nation as a scourge against them, 5-10. The probability is that the Chaldeans (or Babylonians) were still a friendly nation (see 2 Kings 20:12-19), but they were soon to march through the land as a ravaging enemy.

There were three invasions by the Babylonians, as the second book of Kings showed us; in the reigns of Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin and Zedekiah, and it is thought Habakkuk alludes to all three. Verse 11 of chapter 1 might be taken as a prophecy of the disease that came over Nebuchadnezzar when, as a punishment for his pride, his reason was taken from him for a season. The chapter concludes with an expostulation to the Holy One for inflicting such judgment on Judah and for using a nation to inflict them less righteous, as the prophet thinks, than themselves. In chapter 2 he awaits God's answer to this expostulation (verse 1), and receives it (verses 2-4).

This is encouraging. "The vision shall surely come and the just shall live by faith and wait for it." The continuation of the chapter is a prediction of the judgments that shall fall on the Babylonians for their cruelty and idolatry. "The prophet, hearing these promises and threatenings, concludes his book with a song, of praise and prayer (chapter 3). He celebrates past displays of the power and grace of Jehovah, supplicates God for the speedy deliverance of His people and closes by expressing a confidence in God which no change can destroy." Angus. Attention is called to the words in chapter 2, verse 3, which the writer of Hebrews, according to the law of double reference, applies to the second coming of Christ (Hebrews 10:37, 38). In the same manner notice verse 4 of the same chapter, "The just shall live by faith," and the application of it in Romans 1:17; 5:1 and Galatians 3:24.

Questions 1. What are the terms of the indictment against Judah, 1:1-4? 2. What features of the military power of Babylon are noted 1:8? 3. How would you interpret 2:1? 4. Have you identified the New Testament reference in this lesson? 5. What are the terms of indictment against Babylon, 2:5-19? 6. Memorize 3:17, 18.

 


Prophecies of Habakkuk

Henry Concise Commentary

Book Synopsis: The subject of this prophecy is the destruction of Judea and Jerusalem for the sins of the people, and the consolation of the faithful under national calamities.

 

Habakkuk 1

Synopsis: The wickedness of the land. The fearful vengeance to be executed. (1-11) | These judgments to be inflicted by a nation more wicked than themselves. (12-17)

Ver. 1-11 The servants of the Lord are deeply afflicted by seeing ungodliness and violence prevail; especially among those who profess the truth. No man scrupled doing wrong to his neighbour. We should long to remove to the world where holiness and love reign for ever, and no violence shall be before us. God has good reasons for his long-suffering towards bad men, and the rebukes of good men. The day will come when the cry of sin will be heard against those that do wrong, and the cry of prayer for those that suffer wrong.

They were to notice what was going forward among the heathen by the Chaldeans, and to consider themselves a nation to be scourged by them. But most men presume on continued prosperity, or that calamities will not come in their days. They are a bitter and hasty nation, fierce, cruel, and bearing down all before them. They shall overcome all that oppose them. But it is a great offence, and the common offence of proud people, to take glory to themselves. The closing words give a glimpse of comfort.

12-17 However matters may be, yet God is the Lord our God, our Holy One. We are an offending people, he is an offended God, yet we will not entertain hard thoughts of him, or of his service. It is great comfort that, whatever mischief men design, the Lord designs good, and we are sure that his counsel shall stand. Though wickedness may prosper a while, yet God is holy, and does not approve the wickedness. As he cannot do iniquity himself, so he is of purer eyes than to behold it with any approval. By this principle we must abide, though the dispensations of his providence may for a time, in some cases, seem to us not to agree with it.

The prophet complains that God's patience was abused; and because sentence against these evil works and workers was not executed speedily, their hearts were the more fully set in them to do evil. Some they take up as with the angle, one by one; others they catch in shoals, as in their net, and gather them in their drag, their enclosing net. They admire their own cleverness and contrivance: there is great proneness in us to take the glory of outward prosperity to ourselves. This is idolizing ourselves, sacrificing to the drag-net because it is our own. God will soon end successful and splendid robberies. Death and judgment shall make men cease to prey on others, and they shall be preyed on themselves. Let us remember, whatever advantages we possess, we must give all the glory to God.

 

Habakkuk 2

Synopsis: Habakkuk must wait in faith. (1-4) | Judgments upon the Chaldeans. (5-14) | Also upon drunkeness and idolatry. (15-20)

Ver. 1-4 When tossed and perplexed with doubts about the methods of Providence, we must watch against temptations to be impatient. When we have poured out complaints and requests before God, we must observe the answers God gives by his word, his Spirit, and providences; what the Lord will say to our case. God will not disappoint the believing expectations of those who wait to hear what he will say unto them. All are concerned in the truths of God's word. Though the promised favour be deferred long, it will come at last, and abundantly recompense us for waiting. The humble, broken-hearted, repenting sinner, alone seeks to obtain an interest in this salvation.

He will rest his soul on the promise, and on Christ, in and through whom it is given. Thus he walks and works, as well as lives by faith, perseveresto the end, and is exalted to glory; while those who distrust or despise God's all-sufficiency will not walk uprightly with him. The just shall live by faith in these precious promises, while the performance of them is deferred. Only those made just by faith, shall live, shall be happy here and for ever.

5-14 The prophet reads the doom of all proud and oppressive powers that bear hard upon God's people. The lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, are the entangling snares of men; and we find him that led Israel captive, himself led captive by each of these. No more of what we have is to be reckoned ours, than what we come honestly by. Riches are but clay, thick clay; what are gold and silver but white and yellow earth? Those who travel through thick clay, are hindered and dirtied in their journey; so are those who go through the world in the midst of abundance of wealth. And what fools are those that burden themselves with continual care about it; with a great deal of guilt in getting, saving, and spending it, and with a heavy account which they must give another day!

They overload themselves with this thick clay, and so sink themselves down into destruction and perdition. See what will be the end hereof; what is gotten by violence from others, others shall take away by violence. Covetousness brings disquiet and uneasiness into a family; he that is greedy of gain troubles his own house; what is worse, it brings the curse of God upon all the affairs of it. There is a lawful gain, which, by the blessing of God, may be a comfort to a house; but what is got by fraud and injustice, will bring poverty and ruin upon a family.

Yet that is not the worst; Thou hast sinned against thine own soul, hast endangered it. Those who wrong their neighbours, do much greater wrong to their own souls. If the sinner thinks he has managed his frauds and violence with art and contrivance, the riches and possessions he heaped together will witness against him. There are not greater drudges in the world than those who are slaves to mere wordly pursuits. And what comes of it? They find themselves disappointed of it, and disappointed in it; they will own it is worse than vanity, it is vexation of spirit. By staining andsinking earthy glory, God manifests and magnifies his own glory, and fills the earth with the knowledge of it, as plentifully as waters cover the sea, which are deep, and spread far and wide.

15-20 A severe woe is pronounced against drunkeness; it is very fearful against all who are guilty of drunkenness at any time, and in any place, from the stately palace to the paltry ale-house. To give one drink who is in want, who is thirsty and poor, or a weary traveller, or ready to perish, is charity; but to give a neighbour drink, that he may expose himself, may disclosesecret concerns, or be drawn into a bad bargain, or for any such purpose, this is wickedness. To be guilty of this sin, to take pleasure in it, is to do what we can towards the murder both of soul and body. There is woe to him, and punishment answering to the sin. The folly of worshipping idols is exposed. The Lord is in his holy temple in heaven, where we have access to him in the way he has appointed. May we welcome his salvation, and worship him in his earthly temples, through Christ Jesus, and by the influence of the Holy Spirit.

 

Habakkuk 3

Synopsis: The prophet beseeches God for his people. (1,2) | He calls to mind former deliverances. (3-15) | His firm trust in the Divine mercy. (16-19)

Ver. 1,2 The word prayer seems used here for an act of devotion. The Lord would revive his work among the people in the midst of the years of adversity. This may be applied to every season when the church, or believers, suffer under afflictions and trials. Mercy is what we must flee to for refuge, and rely upon as our only plea. We must not say, Remember our merit, but, Lord, remember thy own mercy.

3-15 God's people, when in distress, and ready to despair, seek help by considering the days of old, and the years of ancient times, and by pleading them with God in prayer. The resemblance between the Babylonish and Egyptian captivities, naturally presents itself to the mind, as well as the possibility of a like deliverance through the power of Jehovah.

God appeared in his glory. All the powers of nature are shaken, and the course of nature changed, but all is for the salvation of God's own people. Even what seems least likely, shall be made to work for their salvation. Hereby is given a type and figure of the redemption of the world by Jesus Christ. It is for salvation with thine anointed. Joshua who led the armies of Israel, was a figure of Him whose name he bare, even Jesus, our Joshua. In all the salvations wrought for them, God looked upon Christ the Anointed, and brought deliverances to pass by him. All the wonders done for Israel of old, were nothing to that which was done when the Son of God suffered on the cross for the sins of his people. How glorious his resurrection and ascension! And how much more glorious will be his second coming, to put an end to all that opposes him, and all that causes suffering to his people!

16-19 When we see a day of trouble approach, it concerns us to prepare. A good hope through grace is founded in holy fear. The prophet looked back upon the experiences of the church in former ages, and observed what great things God had done for them, and so was not only recovered, but filled with holy joy. He resolved to delight and triumph in the Lord; for when all is gone, his God is not gone. Destroy the vines and the fig-trees, and you make all the mirth of a carnal heart to cease. But those who, when full, enjoyed God in all, when emptied and poor, can enjoy all in God. They can sit down upon the heap of the ruins of their creature-comforts, and even then praise the Lord, as the God of their salvation, the salvation of the soul, and rejoice in him as such, in their greatest distresses.

Joy in the Lord is especially seasonable when we meet with losses and crosses in the world. Even when provisions are cut off, to make it appear that man live not by bread alone, we may be supplied by the graces and comforts of God's Spirit. Then we shall be strong for spiritual warfare and work, and with enlargement of heart may run the way of his commandments, and outrun our troubles. And we shall be successful in spiritual undertakings. Thus the prophet, who began his prayer with fear and trembling, ends it with joy and triumph. And thus faith in Christ prepares for every event. The name of Jesus, when we can speak of Him as ours, is balm for every wound, a cordial for every care. It is as ointment poured forth, shedding fragrance through the whole soul. In the hope of a heavenly crown, let us sit loose to earthly possessions and comforts, and cheerfully bear up under crosses. Yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry; and where he is, we shall be also.

 


Habacuc (Habakkuk)

Catholic Information

The eighth of the Minor Prophets, who probably flourished towards the end of the seventh century B.C.

I. NAME AND PERSONAL LIFE

In the Hebrew text (i,1; iii, 1), the prophet's name presents a doubly intensive form Hàbhàqqûq, which has not been preserved either in the Septuagint: Ambakoum, or in the Vulgate: Habacuc. Its resemblance with the Assyrian hambakûku, which is the name of a plant, is obvious. Its exact meaning cannot be ascertained: it is usually taken to signify "embrace" and is at times explained as "ardent embrace", on account of its intensive form. Of this prophet's birth-place, parentage, and life we have no reliable information. The fact that in his book he is twice called "the prophet" (i, 1; iii, 1) leads indeed one to surmise that Habacuc held a recognized position as prophet, but it manifestly affords no distinct knowledge of his person. Again, some musical particulars connected with the Hebrew text of his Prayer (ch. iii) may possibly suggest that he was a member of the Temple choir, and consequently a Levite: but most scholars regard this twofold inference as questionable. Hardly less questionable is the view sometimes put forth, which identifies Habacuc with the Judean prophet of that name, who is described in the deuterocanonical fragment of Bel and the Dragon (Dan., xiv, 32 sqq.), as miraculously carrying a meal to Daniel in the lion's den.

In this absence of authentic tradition, legend, not only Jewish but also Christian, has been singularly busy about the prophet Habacuc. It has represented him as belonging to the tribe of Levi and as the son of a certain Jesus; as the child of the Sunamite woman, whom Eliseus restored to life (cf. 2 Kings 4:16 sqq.); as the sentinel set by Isaias (cf. Isaiah 21:6; and Habakkuk 2:1) to watch for the fall of Babylon. According to the "Lives" of the prophets, one of which is ascribed to St. Epiphanius, and the other to Dorotheus, Habacuc was of the tribe of Simeon, and a native of Bethsocher, a town apparently in the tribe of Juda. In the same works it is stated that when Nabuchodonosor came to besiege Jerusalem, the prophet fled to Ostrakine (now Straki, on the Egyptian coast), whence he returned only after the Chaldeans had withdrawn; that he then lived as a husbandman in his native place, and died there two years before Cyrus's edict of Restoration (538 B.C.). Different sites are also mentioned as his burial-place. The exact amount of positive information embodied in these conflicting legends cannot be determined at the present day. The Greek and Latin Churches celebrate the feast of the prophet Habacuc on 15 January.

II. CONTENTS OF PROPHECY

Apart from its short title (i, 1) the Book of Habacuc is commonly divided into two parts: the one (i,2-ii, 20) reads like a dramatic dialogue between God and His prophet; the other (chap. iii) is a lyric ode, with the usual characteristics of a psalm. The first part opens with Habacuc's lament to God over the protracted iniquity of the land, and the persistent oppression of the just by the wicked, so that there is neither law nor justice in Juda: How long is the wicked thus destined to prosper? (i, 2-4). Yahweh replies (i, 5-11) that a new and startling display of His justice is about to take place: already the Chaldeans -- that swift, rapacious, terrible, race -- are being raised up, and they shall put an end to the wrongs of which the prophet has complained. Then Habacuc remonstrates with Yahweh, the eternal and righteous Ruler of the world, over the cruelties in which He allows the Chaldeans to indulge (i, 12-17), and he confidently waits for a response to his pleading (ii, 1). God's answer (ii, 2-4) is in the form of a short oracle (verse 4), which the prophet is bidden to write down on a tablet that all may read it, and which foretells the ultimate doom of the Chaldean invader. Content with this message, Habacuc utters a taunting song, triumphantly made up of five "woes" which he places with dramatic vividness on the lips of the nations whom the Chaldean has conquered and desolated (ii, 5-20). The second part of the book (chap. iii) bears the title: "A prayer of Habacuc, the prophet, to the music of Shigionot." Strictly speaking, only the second verse of this chapter has the form of a prayer. The verses following (3-16) describe a theophany in which Yahweh appears for no other purpose than the salvation of His people and the ruin of His enemies. The ode concludes with the declaration that even though the blessings of nature should fail in the day of dearth, the singer will rejoice in Yahweh (17-19). Appended to chap. iii is the statement: "For the chief musician, on my stringed instruments."

III. DATE AND AUTHORSHIP

Owing chiefly to the lack of reliable external evidence, there has been in the past, and there is even now, a great diversity of opinions concerning the date to which the prophecy of Habacuc should be ascribed. Ancient rabbis, whose view is embodied in the Jewish chronicle entitled Seder olam Rabbah, and is still accepted by many Catholic scholars (Kaulen, Zschokke, Knabenbauer, Schenz, Cornely, etc.), refer the composition of the book to the last years of Manasses's reign. Clement of Alexandria says that "Habacuc still prophesied in the time of Sedecias" (599-588 B. C.), and St. Jerome ascribes the prophecy to the time of the Babylonian Exile. Some recent scholars (Delitzsch and Keil among Protestants, Danko, Rheinke, Holzammer, and practically also Vigouroux, among Catholics, place it under Josias (641-610 B.C.). Others refer it to the time of Joakim (610-599 B.C.), either before Nabuchodonosor's victory at Carchemish in 605 B.C. (Catholic: Schegg, Haneberg; Protestant: Schrader, S. Davidson, König, Strack, Driver, etc.); while others, mostly out-and-out rationalists, ascribe it to the time after the ruin of the Holy City by the Chaldeans. As might be expected, these various views do not enjoy the same amount of probability, when they are tested by the actual contents of the Book of Habacuc. Of them all, the one adopted by St. Jerome, and which is now that propounded by many rationalists, is decidedly the least probable: to ascribe, as that view does, the book to the Exile, is, on the one hand, to admit for the text of Habacuc an historical background to which there is no real reference in the prophecy, and, on the other, to ignore the prophet's distinct references to events connected with the period before the Bablyonian Captivity (cf. i, 2-4, 6, etc.). All the other opinions have their respective degrees of probability, so that it is no easy matter to choose among them. It seems, however, that the view which ascribes the book to 605-600 B.C. "is best in harmony with the historical circumstances under which the Chaldeans are presented in the prophecy of Habacuc, viz. as a scourge which is imminent for Juda, and as oppressors whom all know have already entered upon the inheritance of their predecessors" (Van Hoonacker).

During the nineteenth century, objections have oftentimes been made against the genuineness of certain portions of the Book of Habacuc. In the first part of the work, the objections have been especially directed against i, 5-11. But, however formidable they may appear at first sight, the difficulties turn out to be really weak, on a closer inspection; and in point of fact, the great majority of critics look upon them as not decisive. The arguments urged against the genuineness of chapter ii, 9-20, are of less weight still. Only in reference to chapter iii, which forms the second part of the book, can there be a serious controversy as to its authorship by Habacuc. Many critics treat the whole chapter as a late and independent poem, with no allusions to the circumstances of Habacuc's time, and still bearing in its liturgical heading and musical directions (vv. 3, 9, 13, 19) distinct marks of the collection of sacred songs from which it was taken. According to them, it was appended to the Book of Habacuc because it had already been ascribed to him in the title, just as certain psalms are still referred in the Septuagint and in the Vulgate to some prophets. Others, indeed in smaller number, but also with greater probability, regard only the last part of the chapter iii, 17-19 as a later addition to Habacuc's work: in reference to this last part only does it appear true to say that it has no definite allusions to the circumstances of Habacuc's time. All things considered, it seems that the question whether chapter iii be an original portion of the prophecy of Habacuc, or an independent poem appended to it at a later date, cannot be answered with certainty: too little is known in a positive manner concerning the actual circumstances in the midst of which Habacuc composed his work, to enable one to feel confident that this portion of it must or must not be ascribed to the same author as the rest of the book.

IV. LITERARY AND TEXTUAL FEATURES

In the composition of his book, Habacuc displays a literary power which has often been admired. His diction is rich and classical, and his imagery is striking and appropriate. The dialogue between God and him is highly oratorical, and exhibits to a larger extent than is commonly supposed, the parallelism of thought and expression which is the distinctive feature of Hebrew poetry. The Mashal or taunting song of five "woes" which follows the dialogue, is placed with powerful dramatic effect on the lips of the nations whom the Chaldeans have cruelly oppressed. The lyric ode with which the book concludes, compares favourably in respect to imagery and rhythm with the best productions of Hebrew poetry. These literary beauties enable us to realize that Habacuc was a writer of high order. They also cause us to regret that the original text of his prophecy should not have come down to us in all its primitive perfection. As a matter of fact, recent interpreters of the book have noticed and pointed out numerous alterations, especially in the line of additions, which have crept in the Hebrew text of the prophecy of Habacuc, and render it at times very obscure. Only a fair number of those alterations can be corrected by a close study of the context; by a careful comparison of the text with the ancient versions, especially the Septuagint; by an application of the rules of Hebrew parallelism, etc. In the other places, the primitive reading has disappeared and cannot be recovered, except conjecturally, by the means which Biblical criticism affords in the present day.

V. PROPHETICAL TEACHING

Most of the religious and moral truths that can be noticed in this short prophecy are not peculiar to it. They form part of the common message which the prophets of old were charged to convey to God's chosen people. Like the other prophets, Habacuc is the champion of ethical monotheism. For him, as for them, Yahweh alone is the living God (ii, 18-20); He is the Eternal and Holy One (i, 12), the Supreme Ruler of the Universe (i, 6, 17; ii, 5 sqq.; iii, 2-16), Whose word cannot fail to obtain its effect (ii, 3), and Whose glory will be acknowledged by all nations (ii, 14). In his eyes, as in those of the other prophets, Israel is God's chosen people whose unrighteousness He is bound to visit with a signal punishment (i, 2-4). The special people, whom it was Habacuc's own mission to announce to his contemporaries as the instruments of Yahweh's judgment, were the Chaldeans, who will overthrow everything, even Juda and Jerusalem, in their victorious march (i, 6 sqq.). This was indeed at the time an incredible prediction (i, 5), for was not Juda God's kingdom and the Chaldean a world-power characterized by overweening pride and tyranny? Was not therefore Juda the "just" to be saved, and the Chaldean really the "wicked" to be destroyed? The answer to this difficulty is found in the distich (ii, 4) which contains the central and distinctive teaching of the book. Its oracular form bespeaks a principle of wider import than the actual circumstances in the midst of which it was revealed to the prophet, a general law, as we would say, of God's providence in the government of the world: the wicked carries in himself the germs of his own destruction; the believer, on the contrary, those of eternal life. It is because of this, that Habacuc applies the oracle not only to the Chaldeans of his time who are threatening the existence of God's kingdom on earth, but also to all the nations opposed to that kingdom who will likewise be reduced to naught (ii, 5-13), and solemnly declares that "the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of Yahweh, as the waters cover the sea" (ii, 15). It is because of this truly Messianic import that the second part of Habacuc's oracle (ii, 4b) is repeatedly treated in the New Testament writings (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38) as being verified in the inner condition of the believers of the New Law.

Publication information Written by Francis E. Gigot. Transcribed by Thomas J. Bress. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VII. Published 1910. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, June 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York

Bibliography

COMMENTARIES:

CATHOLIC:--SHEGG (2nd ed., Ratisbon, 1862); RHEINKE (Brixen, 1870); TROCHON (Paris, 1883); KNABENBAUER (Paris, 1886);

NON-CATHOLIC:--DELITZSCH (Leipzig, 1843); VON ORELLI (Eng. tr. Edinburgh, 1893); KLEINERT (Leipzig, 1893); WELLHAUSEN (3rd ed., Berlin, 1898); DAVIDSON (Cambridge, 1899); MARTI (Freiburg im Br., 1904); NOWACK (2nd ed., Göttingen, 1904); DUHM (Tübingen, 1906); VAN HOONACKER (Paris, 1908).

 


Book of Habakkuk

Jewish Perspective Information

ARTICLE HEADINGS:

Contents.

-Biblical Data:

Style.

-Critical View:

Contents.

-Biblical Data:

One of the twelve minor prophetical books. It readily falls into two parts: (1) ch. i. and ii.; (2) ch. iii. The first part is a "massa" (a condemnatory prophecy). But contrary to the usage in other prophetical books, it is not stated against what people the prophecy is spoken. As it now stands in the Masoretic text, the first part is in the form of a dialogue. Ch. i. 2-4 laments the prevailing moral corruption, which God does not seem to heed; i. 5-11 contains the divine announcement of an impending judgment through the Chaldeans; i. 12-17 gives the prophet's complaint of the excessive pride and cruelty of the enemy. In ch. ii. God admonishes Habakkuk not to judge hastily that evil is triumphant, but to remain confident (1-4). Five "wos," the contents of the "mashal" or "taunting proverb" (5-6), phrased by the very people oppressed by the conqueror, are enumerated (6, 9, 12, 13, 19). Ch. iii. is a psalm reciting various theophanies, describing God's warlike power, which bends earth, mountains, and rivers to His purposes-yea, even sun and moon, in behalf of His people. The song concludes with a declaration that though the blessings of nature shall fail in days of dearth, the singer will rejoice in the Lord (17-19).

Style.

The book abounds in striking expressions and rare words, e.g., the description of the invasion of the Chaldeans (i. 6 et seq.); of God as having "eyes too pure to behold evil" (i. 13); of "men as fishes of the sea" (i. 14); of the worship of the fisherman's implements (i. 16); of "the stone that crieth out" (ii. 11); of the folly of idolatry (ii. 18-19). Ch. iii. especially is rich in striking similes (14-15). The book is remarkable also for originality. The author departs from the usual method of the Prophets. In their addresses the nation is central; in Habakkuk's itis God and His government of the world. He attempts to unravel the meaning of God's tolerance of tyranny and wrong. In his questions Habakkuk voices doubts to God, though not against God (G. A. Smith, "The Twelve Prophets," ii. 130 et seq.).

-Critical View:

Ch. i. and ii., on the whole, are regarded as the work of one prophet. Still, the text as now presented has been found to contain certain difficulties. Taking i. 2-4 to be descriptive of Israel's moral corruption, critics have argued that this section could not have been part of a prophecy devoted to the setting forth of the wrongs under which Israel was suffering, a different sense thus attaching to the "wicked" and "righteous" in i. 4 and i. 13 respectively. Giesebrecht ("Beiträge zur Jesaiakritik," pp. 197 et seq.) and Wellhausen ("Kleine Propheten," in "Vorarbeiten und Skizzen") therefore consider i. 5-11 to be an older and independent prophecy written previous to the remainder of i. and ii.; ch. i. 12 is regarded as the sequel to i. 4. The subject of the complaint in i. 2 is different from that in ii. 1. Kirkpatrick ("Doctrine of the Prophets," p. 268) holds the book as a whole to be the fruit of religious reflection, giving conclusions reached only "after a prolonged mental struggle."

That i. 5-6, where the power of the Chaldeans is represented as still of the future, and i. 13-16, ii. 10, 17 disagree, though their descriptions of foreign nations appear to be based on actual observation, is another difficulty raised by critical scholars. Budde (in "Studien und Kritiken," 1893, pp. 383 et seq.), reverting to a certain extent to Kuenen's disinclination to assume an earlier and a later section (see Kuenen, "Historisch-Critisch Onderzoek," ii. 386 et seq., Leyden, 1889), showed that Habakkuk had in mind two world-powers: an oppressor (i. 2-4), and the Chaldeans, appointed to punish him (i. 5 et seq.). But this necessitates the placing of i. 5-11 after ii. 4. The oppressor to be destroyed is Assyria, and the Chaldeans are the implement of God's judgment. It is of the Assyrian's pride that the prophet speaks, not of the Chaldeans' presumptuousness.

Ch. iii. is a psalm, not free from mythological elements and not by Habakkuk. It must have formed part of a liturgical collection, accidentally incorporated with Habakkuk's prophecies (Stade's "Zeitschrift," iv. 157 et seq.). The text is corrupt in many places (Wellhausen, "Die Kleinen Propheten," 3d ed.). Verses 17-19 are additions by later hands, verse 18 being a eulogy, such as is frequently found at the close of liturgical songs.

Emil G. Hirsch

Jewish Encyclopedia, published between 1901-1906.

Bibliography:

Nowack, Die Kleinen Propheten, Göttingen, 1897; Rothstein, in Studien und Kritiken, 1894; Budde, in The Expositor, May, 1895.E. G. H.

 


Habakkuk

Jewish Perspective Information

ARTICLE HEADINGS:

The Age and Home of Habakkuk.

Prophet; author of the eighth in the collection of the twelve minor prophetical books. The etymology of the name of the prophet is not clear. It seems to be a loan-word representing the Assyrian "hambaḳûḳu," a garden-plant (Friedrich Delitzsch, "Prolegomena," p. 84; König, "Historisch-Kritisches Lehrgebäude der Hebräischen Sprache," ii. 1. 473, on the vocalization), and has the appearance of being a writer's pseudonym (F. E. Peiser, "Der Prophet Habakuk," in "Mitteilungen der Vorderasiatischen Gesellschaft," 1903, i. 12). That he was a Levite has been urged on the strength of the postscript to ch. iii. (verse 19, "on my stringed instruments"), which indicates that he owned instruments: only a Levite was authorized to use an instrument to accompany his songs in the Temple. The superscription of the Septuagint apocryphon Βὴλ καὶ Δράκωυ, in the Codex Chisianus, also designates him a Levite. The absence of exact information concerning his life left a vacuum that has been filled by myths and legends (see Franz Delitzsch, "De Habacuci Prophetæ Vita"). The above-named apocryphon makes him a contemporary of Daniel, whom he was miraculously privileged to visit in the lion's den and supply with food. In this Greek story his father's name is given as "Jesus" (Joshua). Jewish tradition makes him the son of the Shunammite woman (see Elisha), but nevertheless a contemporary of Daniel (see "Seder ha-Dorot"; Abravanel's commentary to Habakkuk; Zohar, Lek Leka; Neubauer, "The Book of Tobit," Appendix). Of the many conceits current among the cabalists with reference to this prophet, the most curious was that which declared him to be the reincarnation of Adam. His grave was shown at several places (See Hukkok).

The Age and Home of Habakkuk.

Peiser (l.c.) contends that Habakkuk is the pseudonym of a Judean prince held as a hostage in Nineveh, and who witnessed the attack of the Medes, in alliance with Chaldea and Babylon, in 625 B.C. But his book announces a second attack. This prince may have been the son or grandson of Manasseh. Peiser shows that Habakkuk displays remarkable familiarity with Assyrian literature, his similes indicating quotations from, and adaptations of, Assyrian mythological writings. By others, Habakkuk is made the contemporary of Jeremiah and a resident of Jerusalem, after the "discovery" of Deuteronomy (621 B.C.), but before the death of Josiah (609 B.C.). By many Jewish commentators he is assigned to the reign of Manasseh. He is, however, clearly under the influence of Isaiah; and the view which makes him a younger disciple of the greater prophet, advanced by Walter K. Betteridge in "Journal of American Theology," Oct., 1903, seems to meet best the situation reflected in the book. The Assyrians, originally regarded by the Prophets as appointed agents of Yhwh, looked upon themselves as "gods" (Isa. xiv.); but under Sennacherib, through a rebellion of the Babylonians (the Chaldeans), the plans of the conqueror are thwarted. E. G. H.

Emil G. Hirsch