By Tyson Thorne

February 5, 2019

Habakkuk Large

Judah, after enjoying her “Reagan Years” under king Josiah, a time of plenty and peace was entering a time of uncertainty. The Babylonian uprising caused Assyria to stop raiding Judah and concentrate on putting down the uproar on the other side of the kingdom. During this time King Josiah instituted mass reforms, both religious and economic. But when Babylon’s army hoards  took Nineveh, then the Egyptians, Judah knew her time was about to end. Indeed, even the prophets had been foretelling of a time of great calamity. The entire nation was gripped by fear and panic spread like wildfire.

Political assassinations become common, the priesthood forsook the Lord and promoted idolatry, the people made personal pleasure their prime directive. Hedonism was born, the family structure died; drugs, divorce and debauchery were promoted by street villains and heads of state alike; “In YHWH We Trust” became a meaningless slogan propagated by politicians. The times, and Habakkuk’s book, seems to have been ripped right from today’s headlines.

Author & Date of Composition 

Besides the fact that that Habakkuk (a contemporary of Jeremiah) was a man of deep and intense faith, rooted in religious tradition, not much is known of him.  His name is from a root Hebrew word meaning “to embrace,” a fitting name for Habakkuk if applied to his action toward YHWH.  In 3.19 Habakkuk leaves instruction for the “director of music,” indicating that he may have been a Levite Musician. In the Apocrypha there is a legend regarding Habakkuk: 

Now there was in Jewry a prophet named Habakkuk, who had made a dinner of potted of stew and broken bread, and was leaving to take it to the reapers in the field. On his way, an Angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Go, carry the dinner that you have made into Babylon to Daniel who is there in a lion’s den.  
And Habakkuk replied, “Lord, I have never been to Babylon, nor do I know where this lion’s den is.” 
Then the Angel of the Lord grabbed the hair of Habakkuk’s head and began to fly, bearing the prophet up with him, and through the vehemence of his spirit set him down in Babylon, near the lion’s den. At this, Habakkuk cried out, “O Daniel, Daniel, take this dinner God sends to you!” 
And Daniel said, “You have remembered me, O God; You have not forsaken those who seek you and love you.” So Daniel arose and ate and the Angel of the Lord set Habakkuk in his own place again immediately. 

Though the story is likely untrue, there is often a kernel of truth in most legends; in this case the truth may be the description of Habakkuk’s heritage. The legend describes him as the “son of Jeshua,” of the tribe of Levi.  The most accepted dating of the book is sometime around 605 BC, give or take a few years. This was about the time of Babylon’s victory over Pharaoh Neco II of Egypt at the battle of Carchemish.

The Book 

  1. Habakkuk’s Question: How can a loving God allow such violence? 1.2-.4
  2. God’s Reply: Don’t worry, I’ll punish Judah’s violence with greater violence from invaders, 1.5-.11
  3. Habakkuk’s Follow-up: This is justice? Allowing the most wicked to cut down the less wicked? 12-2.1
  4. God’s Reply: Yes, justice! Judah will answer to the wicked, the wicked will answer to me! 2.2-.20
  5. Habakkuk’s Praise Prayer: Everlasting God is Savior! 3.1-.19

The ageless question, “If God exists, why is there so much evil in the world?” may have been inspired by Habakkuk’s Jeopardy game with God. In the first few verses the prophet asks God how He can tolerate the injustice against His people Judah. God responds by stating that Judah deserves to be punished. Not ready to quit, Habakkuk decided to go on to Double Jeopardy — where the score can really change -- and asks why God would punish His people with a group even more wicked than themselves. To which God follows up his original answer by asking if Habakkuk would prefer to face God’s judgment, or Babylon’s? Then He assures His prophet that while Judah may suffer, it is nothing in comparison to how much Babylon will suffer on Judgment Day.  

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