Historical Setting & Literary Genre
Historical Setting of Habakkuk
Based on Habakkuk 1:6, that mentions the rise of the Babylonians – or Chaldeans – Habakkuk’s conversation with God occurs in the latter third of the seventh century B.C., the final decades of the kingdom of Judah. The nation had just experienced the glorious days of King Josiah, who had instituted reforms that brought revival to the people and restored the worship of Yahweh among the people in 641-609 B.C (see 2 Kings 22-24). However, Josiah died in battle in 609 B.C. at the hand of Necho II, the Egyptian Pharaoh.
Who’s on the throne of Judah during Habakkuk’s book?
Following Josiah’s death, the Egyptians placed Josiah’s son, Jehoiakim, on the throne. During his reign (609-597 B.C.), Habakkuk witnessed his people waver in their loyalty to God. Thomas writes in Faith Amid the Ruins: The Book of Habakkuk, “Based on the dark, negative tone of Habakkuk 1:2-4, it is most likely that Habakkuk’s prophecies fit within the general time period of Jehoiakim’s reign. In this waning phase of the Judaean kingdom, the prophet gets a fresh word that God will bring judgment against his people and city and that this judgment will be a ‘work’ no one will believe (1:5).”
God’s plan for judgment raises questions for Habakkuk as he wonders how God could use the Babylonians – a nation that will not give God the glory but will attribute their success to their false gods (Habakkuk 1:15-17) – as His form of judgment and prompts Habakkuk to cry out to God in his distress for God to help and to act.
The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Revised and Expanded indicates that “Habakkuk is written in Hebrew poetry. The Holman Illustrated Bible Handbook explains that the book contains prophetic dialogue, woes, and prayer written in Hebrew poetry. The handbook states:
Habakkuk has a variety of literary genres
However, in Tyndale’s Old Testament Commentary, Nahum, Habakkuk and Zephaniah: An Introduction and Commentary, the authors indicate a variety of literary genres are used in the book of Habakkuk. They write:
What about the 3rd Chapter of Habakkuk?
Other issues related to literary construction of Habakkuk include whether the third chapter was part of the original book or if it was added later. Snyman writes in Nahum, Habakkuk and Zephaniah: An Introduction and Commentary:
Habakkuk as Poetry
Thomas writes in his commentary, Habakkuk: Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary [THOTC]:
Literary genres within the Poetry of Habakkuk
The book of Habakkuk, while its overall genre is poetry, contains several different literary genres within the poetry.
- There is prophetic writing in that a prophet, namely Habakkuk, communicates God’s message to the people of Judah.
- One can also find wisdom literature in that Habakkuk addresses some of the deep question of life, including his attempt to understand God’s character and actions in light of the evil and suffering that Judah would face.
- There is also a feeling of lamentation as Habakkuk cries out to God in his grief and sorrow.
- The reader also finds a complaint in the book as the writer complains that God has failed to judge the unrepentant and disobedient people of Judah. But then when God tells Habakkuk that He has chosen the Babylonians to carry out His judgement against Judah, Habakkuk complains about God’s plans for judging the nation.
- Then at the end of book, there is prayer that closely resembles many of the Psalms.
 Thomas, Faith Amid the Ruins, 8.
 Holman Illustrated Bible Handbook, 278.
 S. D. Snyman, Nahum, Habakkuk and Zephaniah: An Introduction and Commentary, edited by David G. Firth and Tremper Longman III. (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2020), 49
 Ibid., 48-49.
 Thomas, Habakkuk, 35
One Year Bible Reading Plan: March 1
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Praying, Meditating, and Journaling the Psalms:
Choose one of the following Psalms: Psalm 17, 47, 77, 107, or 137.
1: Read the psalm through in its entirety.
2: Take one verse at a time and pray the verse back to God as it applies to your life.
3: Meditate on the verse and ask the Holy Spirit what He is trying to teach you about God, your Christian walk, or about yourself.
4: Journal what you prayed about and the results of your meditation.
5: Move to the next verse. Continue through the entire psalm this way.
6: Write down one verse that stood out the most to you today on a 3X5 card and carry it with you throughout the day. Memorize the verse and hide it in your heart.
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Week 11: March 13-19
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