In Habakkuk, a slender book of 56 verses, one encounters glorious passages, such as 2:4, 14, 20; 3:2, and sparkling apothegms, 1:11; 2:2, 11, which beckon one to learn more about the book and its author.

The Hebrew proper name Habakkuk (from root hābák, “to embrace”) occurs only in Habakkuk 1:1 and 3:1 and apparently means “embrace” or “ardent embrace.” A few savants regard it as a nickname or pseudonym or the Assyrian name for a garden plant. The Septuagint equivalent Ambakoum (= abba koum) is defined “father rising up” by some of the patristic writers.

On the basis of the rubrics in 3:1 and 19, Keil and Delitzsch infer that Habakkuk was a member of the temple choir and therefore a Levite. On the other hand, Hezekiah, credited with a psalm to the accompaniment of stringed instruments (Isa. 38:20), was clearly not a Levite.

All that can be said with certainty about Habakkuk is that he is specifically termed “the prophet” in 1:1 and 3:1. The book bears marks of prolonged mental struggle and may have been committed to writing without having been delivered orally. Its author can appropriately be described as prophet, poet, and philosopher.

CRITICAL PROBLEM INTRODUCED

Some scholars allow Habakkuk all three chapters of the book, and others concede only nine or ten verses at the most to him. Chapter 3 in particular is held to be the work of a later hand or hands. Furthermore, there is no unanimity as to the time of writing. Dates varying from 701 to 170 B.C. have been proposed. The traditional interpretation of Part I regards the righteous in Israel as suffering at the hands of wicked fellow countrymen (v. 4) and the Chaldeans as being raised up to punish Israelite wickedness (v. 13). Recent critics, dissatisfied with this explanation ...

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