Habakkuk Archeology

    The book of Habakkuk divides naturally into two clearly defined sections: A segment in which the prophet seeks and receives answers from God in response to some hard questions (Hab 1-2) is followed by a psalm of praise (ch, 3). The author, Habakkuk, is unknown to modern readers beyond the little we can glean from the book itself. The prophet's name appears both in the title of the book at 1:1 and at 3:1, where it serves as the superscript to the psalm (see "The Psalm Superscripts" on p. 795). In spite of this many scholars have questioned whether Habakkuk wrote the entire book, and in particular whether the psalm of chapter 3 was composed by the same man who wrote chapters 1 and 2. Interestingly, the Habakkuk Pesher (a pesher is an ancient Jewish commentary on a Biblical book) from Qumran (found among the Dead Sea Scrolls) contains only the text of Habakkuk 1-2. This commentary dates to the first century B.C. 

    Other ancient manuscripts do, however, support the unity of Habakkuk. The Scroll of the Minor Prophets from Wadi Murabbaat (in the Judean desert), dating to the second century A.D., does contain all three chapters of Habakkuk, as does an ancient Greek text of the prophecy contained in the Greek Scroll of the Minor Prophets from Nahal Hever from the first century A.D. In light of this evidence, together with the fact that the book explicitly claims that Habakkuk wrote all three chapters, there is no reason to question the text's single authorship. The prophet was clearly aware that Jerusalem and Judah were under threat from the Babylonians (1:6); therefore, most scholars date the manuscript to the late seventh century B.C., perhaps soon after the reign of Josiah. 

    The book of Habakkuk, presented as a dialogue between God and the prophet, was composed for the benefit of the people of Judah. Habakkuk was troubled by Judah's idolatry, indifference to God and social injustice and wondered how long God would ignore the blatant wickedness of his people. God responded by revealing that his judgment would come through the Babylonians. 

    Habakkuk, like Job, raised the question of the justice of God, but he did so in the historical context of the coming destruction of Jerusalem and in the literary context of the prophets—not through the more philosophical genre of Wisdom Literature. Habakkuk 1:3 asks how God could tolerate injustice, referring to the disregard for the law in Judah (1:4), and 1:6 delineates God's answer: He would punish his people through the Babylonians. This answer perplexed Habakkuk even more: How could a just God use the Babylonians, a people even more wicked than Judah, to chastise his own people? Habakkuk reminded God that the Babylonians were a pagan and ruthless nation who, for whatever reason, seemed never to suffer on this account (1:16-17). God assured his prophet by asserting that those who plunder many nations will themselves be plundered (2:8); he then went on to catalog a series of woes against all who practice evil (2:9-20). Habakkuk's prayer psalm was his response to this revelation. In short, the book of Habakkuk is a defense of the justice of God, a call for believers to maintain their faith even in the face of difficult times (2:4). 

    Attempt to enter vicariously into Habakkuk's frame of mind as he wrestled with God over what appeared to him to be evident injustice. You might want to take the time to compare and contrast Habakkuk's approach to God with Job's (skim through the book of Job and look for the passages in which Job addressed his Maker). Follow up by comparing Habakkuk's public expression of faith in chapter 3 with Job's eventual affirmations of God's love and goodness. 

  • Habakkuk is probably a Babylonian name, referring to a kind of garden plant (1:1). 
  • The timbers of the highly prized cedars of Lebanon had been ravaged for centuries by the kings of Assyria and Babylon to adorn their temples and palaces. Assyrian inscriptions record hunting expeditions in the Lebanon range, and the invading Babylonians may have engaged in such sport as well (2:17). 
  • Old Testament writers frequently combined recollections of the mighty acts of God with conventional images of a fearsome manifestation of his power: He is depicted as riding on the mighty thunderstorm as his chariot, his arrows flying in all directions, a cloudburst of rain descending upon the earth and the mountains quaking before him (3:3). 
  • "Plague" was one of the elements of the characteristic triad of divine punishment: sword, famine and plague (3:5). 

    Habakkuk's themes include: 

1. Justice. Habakkuk affirmed that God is holy and just (1:12-13; 3:3), never indifferent to sin and injustice. He will eventually punish the wicked (1:5-11; 2:2-20) and has in fact fixed an "appointed time" (2:3) in history for revealing his justice and judgment on evil. Habakkuk apprises the faithful of every generation that the current situation is never to be construed as the true and ultimate state of affairs. The righteous may have to wait for vindication, but it will certainly come. 

2. Faith. Faith is needed to endure injustice (2:4). Even when life seems confusing, God's people are to wait patiently for his deliverance, trusting that he will eventually make all things right (2:3). "The righteous will live by his faith" (2:4), not by what appears on the face of things to be true (1:4; see Heb 11:1). As Abraham waited patiently for God to fulfill his promise (Heb 6:13-15)—and as Habakkuk and the faithful remnant were to wait for him to respond in justice (2:3; 3:16)—so believers of every age are to wait in faith for God to carry out his purposes (Ro 1:17; 5:1-2). 


I. Habakkuk's First Question (1:1-4) 
        II. God's Answer (1:5-11) 
       Ill. Habakkuk's Second Question (1:12-2:1) 
       IV. God's Answer (2:2-20) 
       V. Habakkuk's Prayer (3) 

 Oracles of the Ancient World

    HABAKKUK 1 An oracle is any divine pronouncement through a prophet that directs human action in the present or foretells future events. In the Old Testament an oracle always refers to a communication from God through a prophet (2Ki 9:25; Isa 13:1; Hab 1:1; Mal 1:1).The three New Testament instances of oracles all have Israel's God as their source and refer to the revelation begun in the Old Testament and finalized in Christ (Ac 7:38; Ro 3:2; Heb 5:12 with 1:1-2). Significantly, Scripture (Nu 22-24; 1Ki 18:20 —40), along with numerous extrabiblical texts from Syria-Palestine,Anatolia,1 Mesopotamia and (to a lesser extent) Egypt, attest to the fact that peoples of other nations believed that they, too, received oracles from their gods. 

  • The Bible presents the classical prophets as ambassadors of the heavenly court (2Ki 17:13) who authoritatively presented the revelation of God to his people (2Ch 36:15-16; Isa 44:26). 
  • Prophets sometimes mentioned the Holy Spirit's role in inspiration (Joel 2:28-29; Mic 3:8; Zec 7:12). 
  • At times the source of the message is said to have been a dream or vision (Isa 6:1-13; Jer 31:26; Zec 2:1), but ordinarily the mode of inspiration is unspecified. 
  • Sometimes oracles provided a divine answer to human questions (2Sa 2:1; Hab 1 — 2), but often they were initiated by God. 
  • The divine revelations were at times framed as parables or allegories (2Sa 12:1-7), and sometimes oracles were acted out (2Ki 13:14-20; Eze 4).
  • The prophets pronounced oracles of warn-ing against both individuals (1Sa 13:13-14) and nations (Isa 17; Eze 15; Am 4:1-3) but also oracles of salvation that predicted a day when God would restore his people (Jer 31:31-34; Eze 36:16-32; Am 9:13-15; Zec 8:1-8). 
    Prophets of the pagan deities sometimes delivered messages similar to those of Israel's prophets. Like Israel's God, these gods purportedly demanded homage and declared judgments. But Biblical prophecy was distinct in at least three ways: 
  • Only Yahweh among the gods of the ancient world spoke in order to establish, maintain and enforce a covenant relationship with his people (Dt 4:5-9). 
  • Whereas many pagan oracles were ambiguous as to their intent and fulfillment, Biblical oracles were generally clear and specific (Dt 18:14-22). • 
  • Only from Israel's prophets did a staunch monotheism confront polytheistic idolatry (Dt 5:7-10; 6:4-5; Ps 115; Isa 40:18-31).