The Book of Habakkuk

I. Title

       The title of the book is the same in Hebrew as it is in the English and Greek translations. The name Habakkuk may mean "embrace", or it may be related to the Assyrian plant name hambakuku. The Greek form of his name lends support to this theory: Hambakoun.

II. Author and Setting

A. Author

       Almost nothing is known about Habakkuk; his name appears only in the titles to chapters one and three of his own book. There have been suggestions that Habakkuk was the son of the Shunammite woman of 2 Kings 4:16, or the watchman of Isaiah 21:6, all without any firm evidence of any kind. In Bel and the Dragon, the apocryphal addition to the book of Daniel that appears in the Septuagint, Habakkuk is shown making a journey to Babylon to feed Daniel while he is in the lion's den:

       The prophet Habakkuk, who was in Judaea, had made a stew; he broke bread into the bowl, and he was on the way to his field, carrying it to the reapers, when an angel of the Lord said to him, "Habakkuk, carry that meal you have to Babylon for Daniel, who is in the lion-pit."
       "My lord," replied Habakkuk, "I have never been to Babylon, and I do not know where the lion-pit is." The angel took the prophet by the head, and carrying him by his hair swept him to Babylon with the blast of his breath and set him down above the pit. Habakkuk called out, "Daniel, Daniel! Take the meal that God has sent you." Daniel said, "You do indeed remember me, God; you never abandon those who love you." He got up and ate; and at once God's angel brought Habakkuk home again. (verses 33-39, REB).

       There is one manuscript that says that Habakkuk was the son of Joshua, of the tribe of Levi. This later tradition that Habakkuk was from the tribe of Levi, combined with the fact that he is one of only three men in the Old Testament to be called a prophet in the superscription of his book, and the fact that he is presented as a prophet again at the start of chapter three, which is a song, suggests that he might indeed have been a Levite, making him a professional or temple prophet. 1 Chronicles 25:1-8 seems to suggest that the prophets were musicians near the end of the Old Testament period.

B. Setting

       Although we don't know precisely when Habakkuk prophesied, we get a pretty good clue in 1:6, where he refers to the "rise of the Chaldeans". If the "Chaldeans" are the Neo-Babylonians, then Habakkuk's words might be dated between the fall of Nineveh (612 BC) and the battle of Carchemesh (605 BC).
       Most scholars are agreed in dating Habakkuk to the period between 612 and 587 BC. Such a date would explain the tradition, recorded in Bel and the Dragon, that associates Habakkuk with Daniel, because they would then be contemporaries.

III. An Outline of Habakkuk

I. Habakkuk's first complaint 1:1-4
II. Yahweh's response 1:5-11
III. Habakkuk's second complaint 1:12-17
IV. Yahweh's response 2:1-5
V. Five woes 2:6-20
VI. A prayer 3:1-19

Questions on Habakkuk

1. When did Habakkuk prophesy?
2. With what two problems does Habakkuk struggle?
3. What does Habakkuk have to say regarding faith and trust?