HABAKKUK (ha-băk'ŭk, Heb. hăvaqqûq, embrace). The name of a prophet and of the eighth book of the Minor Prophets, which is entitled “The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet received” (
Most traditional scholars believe the book to be a unity, the work of one author, Habakkuk, produced in Judah during the Chaldean period. The reasons for this view are found in the book itself. The temple still stands (
The Neo-Babylonian or Chaldean empire first came to prominence when the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar defeated the Egyptians at the battle of Carchemish in 605 b.c. and reestablished Babylon as the seat of world power. The prophecy of Habakkuk could hardly have been given before 605. Jerusalem fell to Nebuchadnezzar in 587. The book must be placed somewhere between these dates, probably during the reign of the Judean king Jehoiakim. Some date the book earlier, believing that the Chaldeans were known to Judah before Carchemish and emphasizing the unexpectedness of the attack mentioned by Habakkuk (
In modern times the unity of the book has been questioned. The psalm of
The first two chapters set forth Habakkuk’s prophetic oracle, or burden. Twice the prophet is perplexed and asks for divine enlightenment; twice he is answered. First he is concerned over the violence and sin of his people, the Judeans. Why are these wicked men not punished (
The commentary on
Bibliography: D. M. Lloyd-Jones, From Fear to Faith, 1953; D. E. Gowan, The Triumph of Faith in Habakkuk, 1976.——JBG
HABAKKUK hə băk’ ək (Heb. חֲבַקּ֖וּק) embracer, wrestler; Gr. ̓Αμβακοὺμ, Lat. Habacuc), the name of a prophet and of the eighth book of the Minor Prophets.
His name is derived from a Heb. root (ḥ-v-q) denoting “to embrace.” It is rendered by Philo amplexans, “embracing,” by Jerome “wrestler,” “because he wrestled with God” (quia certamen ingreditur cum Deo, Prologue to Hab.). Luther and modern commentators have favored this derivation. “It is certainly not unfitting, for in this little book we see a man, in deadly earnest, wrestling with the mighty problem of theodicy—the divine justice—in a topsy-turvy world” (L. E. H. Stephens-Hodge). Other scholars relate this name to an Assyrian plant, hambaququ. We have, however, no certainty. Several legends attached themselves to this prophet. According to a Jewish tradition he was the son of the Shunammite woman. It stated that she would “embrace” a son (
We know nothing about Habakkuk apart from his name and the fact that he was called “the prophet” (
Although nothing definitely is known of the prophet, he speaks forth in his books in such a way that one could recognize in him a man dedicated to his task to bear the sins and anxieties of his people, and to wrestle with God in prayer and through faith. The testimony of Paul is applicable to him: “I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (
Albright’s contention that “The Psalm of Habakkuk,” although forming a substantial unit with the rest of the book, contains reminiscences of the myth of the conflict between Yahweh and the primordial dragon Sea or River, is interesting, but presupposes “some thirty-eight corrections of the Masoretic text,” and is, therefore, hardly convincing (in; Studies in OT Prophecy, presented to T. H. Robinson, Edinburgh , 1-18).
By changing the name “Chaldeans” in
Canonicity and text.
The canonicity of the Book of Habakkuk was never seriously questioned. It always has retained the eighth place among the twelve so-called minor prophets.
Habakkuk prayed and prophesied in times of crisis. Shortly before he began his ministry, the international scene was shocked by events of far-reaching import: the Assyrian Empire was crushed, never to regain its power; the Egyptians, after slaying Josiah, king of Judah (609 b.c.), were themselves utterly defeated (605 b.c.). The new world power, concentrated in Babylon and executed by the vigorous Nebuchadnezzar, was stretching itself across the breadth of the earth to seize habitations not their own. Within a period of approximately twenty years the Chaldeans swept over Judah in successive waves, and ultimately destroyed the country and took its inhabitants away into captivity (597, 587 b.c.).
Internally, the people of God were caught up in the crises of religious and moral bewilderment. The pious King Josiah was succeeded by Jehoiakim, who “did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his fathers had done” (
The book may be subdivided into six sections.
The prophet cries to God because of the violence, inequity, strife, contention and injustice he sees around him, and asks how long God would suffer it to go on unpunished. Some critics refer this passage to a heathen oppressor: the Chaldeans (Giesebrecht), the Assyrians (Budde, Gemser), or even the Egyptians (G. A. Smith, who compares
God answers that He is raising up the Chaldeans as His instrument of judgment, describing the fierceness of their armies and their contempt for any obstacle placed in their way.
This answer plunges Habakkuk into a greater perplexity: How can a righteous God use the wicked Chaldeans to punish His people, which in spite of its apostasy, is still more righteous than they?
The prophet waits upon the Lord. The answer, linked up with the history of God’s divine providence, comes in the assertion that the pride of the Chaldean will be his downfall and the faith of the believer will be his salvation.
5: 2:5-20. A taunt-song (măsāl) is addressed presumably to the Chaldean king, consisting of a series of five woes against aggression (
This psalm, voiced by the prophet, but on behalf of his people, is the “amen of faith” to the revelation of God. The prophet describes the divine manifestation in terms of a stormy theophany (
The content of this book is characterized as an oracle or burden (Heb. massa’, cf.
On the material side, the content of this prophecy is characterized by the following:
By the prophet’s orientation toward God.
By his reaction against sin.
By the objective and subjective aspects of his message.
Habakkuk called forth the judgment of the Lord first upon Judah, and subsequently upon the Chaldeans. This is the objective aspect of his message. In the course of time both prophecies of judgment were fulfilled. The oppressing nobilities first were taken into captivity in the two preliminary deportations of 605 and 597, and this was followed by the major deportation in 587 b.c. The prospect of a destroyed country (
O. Happel, Das Buch des Propheten Habackuk (1900); D. J. van Katwyk, De Profetie van Habakkuk (1912); W. Cannon, “The Integrity of Habakkuk 1-2,” ZAW 43 (1925), 62-90; H. Walter and N. Lund, “The Literary Structure of the Book of Habakkuk,” JBL 53 (1934), 335-370; C. C. Torrey, “The Prophecy of Habakkuk,” in Jewish Studies in Memory of George A. Kohut (1935); W. Irwin, “The Psalm of Habakkuk,” JNES 1 (1942), 10-40; P. Humbert, Problèmes du livre d’Habacuc, Neuchatel (1944); H. Schmidt, “Ein Psalm im Buche Habakuk,” ZAW 62 (1949/50), 52-63; W. F. Albright, “The Psalm of Habakkuk,” in Studies in
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
I. THE AUTHOR
II. THE BOOK
1. Interpretation of Habakkuk 1 and 2
III. THE TIME
IV. ITS TEACHING
1. Universal Supremacy of Yahweh
2. Faithfulness the Guarantee of Permanency
I. The Author. 1. Name:
Habakkuk (chabhaqquq) means "embrace," or "ardent embrace." #Some of the ancient rabbis, connecting the name with
Practically nothing is known of Habakkuk. The book bearing his name throws little light upon his life, and the rest of the
II. The Book.
1. Interpretation of Habakkuk 1 and 2:
It is necessary to consider the interpretation of
(2) The second view finds it necessary to change the present arrangement of
(3) The third view also finds it necessary to alter the present order of verses. Again
A full discussion of these views is not possible in this article (see Eiselen, Minor Prophets, 466-68). It may be sufficient to say that on the whole the first interpretation, which requires no omission or transposition, seems to satisfy most completely the facts in the case.
The contents of
Only the Hebrew student can get an adequate idea of the literary excellence of the Book of Habakkuk. "The literary power of Habakkuk," says Driver, "is considerable. Though his book is a brief one, it is full of force; his descriptions are graphic and powerful; thought and expression are alike poetic; he is still a master of the old classical style, terse, parallelistic, pregnant; there is no trace of the often prosaic diffusiveness which manifests itself in the writings of Jeremiah and Ezekiel. And if
More than half of the book, including
(1) The "woes" are said to be in part, at least, unsuitable, if supposed to be addressed to the Chaldean king. This difficulty vanishes when it is borne in mind that the king is not addressed as an individual, but as representing the policy of the nation, as a personification of the nation.
Aside from the fact that the argument from literary parallels is always precarious, in this case the resemblances are few in number and of such general character that they do not necessarily presuppose literary dependence. Habakkuk 3 is denied to the prophet even more persistently, but the arguments are by no means conclusive. The fact that the chapter belongs to the psalm literature does not prove a late date unless it is assumed, without good reasons, that no psalms originated in the preexilic period. Nor do the historical allusions, which are altogether vague, the style, the relation to other writers, and the character of the religious ideas expressed, point necessarily to a late date. The only doubtful verses are 2:16 ff, which seem to allude to a calamity other than the invasion of the Chaldeans; and Driver says, not without reason, "Had the poet been writing under the pressure of a hostile invasion, the invasion itself would naturally have been expected to form a prominent feature in this picture." Hence, while it may be impossible to prove that Habakkuk is the author of the prayer, it is equally impossible to prove the contrary; and while there are a few indications which seem to point to a situation different from that of Habakkuk, they are by no means definite enough to exclude the possibility of Habakkuk’s authorship.
III. The Time.
The question of date is closely bound up with that of interpretation. Budde, on theory that the oppressors, threatened with destruction, are the Assyrians (see above, 3), dates the prophecy 621 to 615 BC. Granting that the Assyrians are in the mind of the prophet, the date suggested by Betteridge (AJT, 1903, 674 ff), circa 701 BC, is to be preferred; but if the Assyrians are not the oppressors, then with the Assyrians fall the dates proposed by Budde and Betteridge. If the prophecy is directed against Egypt, we are shut up to a very definite period, between 608 and 604 BC, for the Egyptian supremacy in Judah continued during these years only. If the Egyptians are not the oppressors, another date will have to be sought. If the Chaldeans are the oppressors of Judah, the prophecy must be assigned to a date subsequent to the battle of Carchemish in 605-604, for only after the defeat of the Egyptians could the Chaldeans carry out a policy of world conquest; and it was some years after that event that the Chaldeans first came into direct contact with Judah. But on this theory,
A different date must be sought if
If Habakkuk prophesied about 600 BC, he lived under King Jehoiakim. The pious and well-meaning Josiah had been slain in an attempt to stop the advance of Egypt against Assyria. With his death the brief era of reform came to an end. After a reign of three months Jehoahaz was deposed by Pharaoh-necoh, who placed Jehoiakim on the throne. The latter was selfish, tyrannical and godless. In a short time the deplorable conditions of Manasseh’s reign returned. It was this situation that caused the prophet’s first perplexity: "O Yahweh, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear? I cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save" (
IV. Its Teaching.
In the Book of Hab a new type of prophecy appears. The prophets were primarily preachers and teachers of religion and ethics. They addressed themselves to their fellow-countrymen in an attempt to win them back to Yahweh and a righteous life. Not so Habakkuk. He addresses himself to Yahweh, questioning the justice or even the reality of the Divine Providence. He makes complaint to God and expostulates with Him. The prophet Habakkuk, therefore, is a forerunner of the author of the. "As a whole, his book is the fruit of religious reflection. It exhibits the communings and questionings of his soul--representative, no doubt, of many other pious spirits of the time--with God; and records the answers which the Spirit of God taught him for his own sake and for the sake of tried souls in every age.
Habakkuk has been called the prophet of faith. He possessed a strong, living faith in Yahweh; but he, like many other pious souls, was troubled and perplexed by the apparent inequalities of life. He found it difficult to reconcile these with his lofty conception of Yahweh. Nevertheless, he does not sulk. Boldly he presents his perplexities to Yahweh, who points the way to a solution, and the prophet comes forth from his trouble with a faith stronger and more intense than ever. It is in connection with his attempts to solve the perplexing problems raised by the unpunished sins of his countrymen and the unlimited success of the Chaldeans that Habakkuk gives utterance to two sublime truths:
1. The Universal Supremacy of Yahweh:
Yahweh is interested not only in Israel. Though Habakkuk, like the other prophets, believes in a special Divine Providence over Israel, he is equally convinced that Yahweh’s rule embraces the whole earth; the destinies of all the nations are in His hand. The Chaldeans are punished not merely for their sins against Judah, but for the oppression of other nations as well. Being the only God, He cannot permit the worship of other deities. Temporarily the Chaldeans may worship idols, or make might their god, they may "sacrifice unto their net," and burn incense "unto their drag," because by them "their portion is fat and their food plenteous"; but Yahweh is from everlasting, the Holy One, and He will attest His supremacy by utterly destroying the boastful conqueror with his idols.
2. Faithfulness the Guarantee of Permanency:
The second important truth is expressed in
Commentaries on the Minor Prophets by Ewald, Pusey, Keil, Orelli, G. A. Smith (Expositor’s Bible), Driver (New Century Bible), Eiselen; A. B. Davidson, Commentary on "Nah," "Hab," "Zeph" (Cambridge Bible); A. F. Kirkpatrick, Doctrine of the Prophets; F. C. Eiselen, Prophecy and the Prophets; F. W. Farrar, Minor Prophets ("Men of the Bible"); Driver, LOT; HDB, article "Habakkuk"; EB, article "Habakkuk."