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A Journey through the Book of Habakkuk

Who Wrote the Book of Habakkuk?

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The book opens by stating that Habakkuk is the writing prophet as he records his oracle. However, he does not provide us with any other information about himself. It could be that he was well-known among the people, and no further information was needed to identify him. But extrabiblical texts and traditions have something to say of the prophets. While such sources are unproven, they may provide some insights about the prophet.

Habakkuk in Extrabiblical texts

However, several unproven stories are found about him in extrabiblical texts. In Bel and the Dragon, a Jewish addition to the book of Daniel, it is said that Habakkuk, who was in Palestine, packs a lunch and is on his way to work in the fields when an angel appears and instructs him to go to Persia and give Daniel some food. He tells Habakkuk that the prophet Daniel had been imprisoned in a lion’s den with seven lions. Habakkuk replied that he did not know where Daniel, Babylon, or the lion’s den was, so he could not go. The angel then grabs Habakkuk by the hair and flies him to the Lion’s Den, where Habakkuk gives the meal to Daniel, and then the angel returns Habakkuk to the field in Palestine.[1]

What Tradition Says about Habakkuk

The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary indicates that “tradition makes Habakkuk a priest of the tribe of Levi.”[2] Thomas notes, “scholars in the past century associated Habakkuk with the cult in Jerusalem.”[3] He also states that the “Jewish tradition of Habakkuk being a Levite (as evidenced in Bel and the Dragon) further links the prophet with the cult. It is supposed that Habakkuk was a professional prophet in the service of the temple as opposed to a country prophet like Amos.”[4]

Habakkuk was a Contemporary of Other Prophets

In the Holman Old Testament Commentary, Stephen R. Miller states that Habakkuk was a contemporary of Jeremiah, Nahum, and Zephaniah. He also indicates that Habakkuk’s name means “embraced” or “embracer” and carries the idea that the prophet was “embraced” by the Lord as his child and messenger.[5] However, Thomas feels differently. He states that Habakkuk’s name may be related to the Hebrew word for embrace or could be derived from an Akkadian loanword referencing a kind of garden plant. Thomas points out that while many of the prophets’ names held meaning for their ministry, it is not true of Habakkuk and that there is no interpretative significance in the meaning of his name for the book and does not provide any clues to the life and ministry of Habakkuk.[6]

Habakkuk was a Unique Prophet

Miller describes Habakkuk as a courageous and deeply spiritual man who was “a unique prophet because he did not speak for God to the people but rather spoke to God about His people… Habakkuk uses dialogue as the primary method for presenting his material. He asks questions, and the Lord responds.”[7] The dialogue between Habakkuk and God provides the reader with an understanding of God’s character and sovereignty in difficult times

Habakkuk was a Praying Prophet

The reality is that virtually nothing is known about the prophet outside of what one can glean from the three chapters that tell his oracle. He does not appear anywhere else in the Old Testament, and no outside sources provide factual and proven information about him. Information such as where he came from, if he was married or had children if he had another occupation (like Amos), how old he was when he had his emotionally driven conversation with God, or what happened to him after this encounter is not known. What is known from his short book is that he is a praying prophet who is in distress and cries out to God.

Habakkuk Invites Us to Join Him on a Journey of Faith

When all we see around us is chaos, violence and injustice, it can be hard to maintain our faith. Through his interaction with God, he develops a deeper relationship with God. In Faith Amid the Ruins, Thomas writes, “It is possible to think of Habakkuk’s experience as a journey of transformation from faith to a deeper level of faithfulness. We are invited to join in this journey.”[8]

[1] Heath A. Thomas. Faith Amid the Ruins: The Book of Habakkuk, (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016), 19

[2] Chad Brand, editor. Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2015), 686.

[3] Thomas, Habakkuk, 12.

[4] Ibid., 13.

[5] Stephen Miller. Holman Old Testament Commentary: Nahum-Malachi, edited by Max Anders, (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2004), 57.

[6] Thomas, Habakkuk, 12.

[7] Miller, Holman Old Testament Commentary, 57.

[8] Thomas, Faith Amid the Ruins, 19

[1] Heath A. Thomas. Faith Amid the Ruins: The Book of Habakkuk, (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016), 19

[2] Chad Brand, editor. Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2015), 686.

[3] Thomas, Habakkuk, 12.

[4] Ibid., 13.

[5] Stephen Miller. Holman Old Testament Commentary: Nahum-Malachi, edited by Max Anders, (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2004), 57.

[6] Thomas, Habakkuk, 12.

[7] Miller, Holman Old Testament Commentary, 57.

[8] Thomas, Faith Amid the Ruins, 19

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Deuteronomy 26-27

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