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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
Habakkuk, Book of
— A full and trustworthy account of the life of this prophet would explain his imagery, and many of the events to which he alludes; but since we have no information on which we can depend, nothing remains but to determine from the book itself its historical basis and its age.
1. The Rabbinical traditions agree in placing Habakkuk with Joel and Nahum in the reign of Manasseh (comp. Seder Olam Rabba and Zuta, and Tsemach David). This date is adopted by Kimchi and Abarbanel among the Rabbis, and by Witsius and others among modern writers. The general corruption and lawlessness which prevailed in the reign of Manasseh are supposed to be referred to in Habakkuk 1:2-4. Kalinsky conjectures that Habakkuk may have been one of the prophets mentioned in 2 Kings 21:10. Carpzov (Introd. ad libr. canon. V. T.p. 79, 410) and Jahn (introd. in libros sacros V. T. 2, § 120) refer our prophet to the reign of Manasseh, thus placing him thirty odd years earlier; but at that time the Chaldaeans had not as yet given just ground for apprehension, and it would have been injudicious in Habakkuk prematurely to fill the minds of the people with fear of them. Some additional support to our statement of the age of this book is derived from the tradition, reported in the apocryphal appendix to Daniel and by the Pseudo-Epiphanius, that Habakkuk lived to see the Babylonian exile. Syncellus (Chronographia, p. 214, 230, 240) makes him contemporary with Ezekiel, and extends the period of his prophecy from the time of Manasseh to that of Daniel and Joshua, the son of Josedech. The Chronicon Paschale places him later, first mentioning him in the beginning of the reign of Josiah (Olymp. 32), as contemporary with Zephaniah and Nahum; and again in the beginning of the reign of Cyrus (Olymp. 42), as contemporary with Daniel and Ezekiel in Persia, with Haggai and Zechariah in Judea, and with Baruch in Egypt. Davidson (Horne's Introd. 2, 968), following Keil, decides in favor of the early part of the reign of Josiah. Calmet, Jager, Ewald, Rosenmü ller, Maurer, and Hitzig agree in assigning the commencement of Habakkuk's prophecy to the reign of Jehoiakim, though they are divided as to the exact period to which it is to be referred. Ranitz (Introductio in Habakkuk Vatic. p. 24, 59), Stirkel (Prolog. ad interpr. tertii cap. Habakkuk p. 22, 27), and De Wette (Lehrbuch der Historischkritischen Eileit. Berlin, 1840, p. 338) justly place the age of Habakkuk before the invasion of Judaea by the Chaldeans. Knobel (Der Prophetisn. de Hebr.) and Meier (Gesch. d. poet, nat. Liter. d. Hebr.) are in favor of the commencement of the Chaldean era, after the battle of Carchemish (B.C. 606), when Judaea was first threatened by the victors. Some interpreters are of opinion that ch. 2 was written in the reign of Jehoiachin, the son of Jehoiakim (2 Kings 24:6), after Jerusalem had been besieged and conquered by Nebuchadnezzar, the king made a prisoner, and, with many thousands of his subjects, carried away to Babylon; none remaining in Jerusalem save the poorest class of the people (2 Kings 24:14). But of all this nothing is said of the book of Habakkuk, nor even so much as hinted at; and what is stated of the violence and injustice of the Chaldaeans does not imply that the Jews had already experienced it. It is also a supposition equally gratuitous, according to which some interpreters refer ch. 3 to the period of the last siege of Jerusalem, when Zedekiah was taken, his sons slain, his eyes put out, the walls of the city broken down, and the Temple burned (2 Kings 25:11). There is not the slightest allusion to any of these incidents in the third chapter of Habakkuk.
But the question of the date of Habakkuk's prophecy has been discussed in the most exhaustive manner by Delitzsch (Derd Prophet Habakkuk, Eill. § 3), and, though his arguments are rather ingenious than convincing, they are well deserving of consideration as based upon internal evidence. The conclusion at which he arrives is that Habakkuk delivered his prophecy about the twelfth or thirteenth year of Josiah (B.C. 630 or 629), for reasons of which the following is a summary. In Habakkuk 1:5 the expression "in your days" shows that the fulfillment of the prophecy would take place in the lifetime of those to whom it was addressed. The same phrase in Jeremiah 16:9 embraces a period of at most twenty years, while in Ezekiel 12:25 it denotes about six years, and therefore, reckoning backwards from the Chaldean invasion, the date above assigned would involve no violation of probability, though the argument does not amount to a proof. From the similarity of Habakkuk 2:10 and Zephaniah 1:7, Delitzsch infers that the latter is an imitation, the former being the original. He supports this conclusion by many collateral arguments. Now Zephaniah, according to the superscription of his prophecy, lived in the time of Josiah, and from Habakkuk 3:5 he is supposed to have prophesied after the worship of Jehovah was restored, that is, after the twelfth year of that king's reign. It is thought that he wrote about B.C. 624. Between this period, therefore, and the twelfth year of Josiah (B.C. 630), Delitzsch places Habakkuk. But Jeremiah began to prophesy in he thirteenth year of Josiah, and many passages are borrowed by him from Habakkuk (compare Habakkuk 2:13 with Jeremiah 51:58, etc.). The latter, therefore, must have written about B.C. 630 or 629. This view receives some confirmation from the position of his prophecy in the O.T. Canon.
On the other hand, while it is evident, from the constant use of the future tense in speaking of the Chaldean desolations (Habakkuk 1:5-6; Habakkuk 1:12), that the prophet must have written before the invasion of Nebuchadnezzar, which rendered Jehoiakim tributary to the king of Babylon (2 Kings 24:1), B.C. 606, yet it is equally clear from ch. 2, 3 that the prophecy did not long precede the fulfillment; and as there seem to be no references to the reigns of Josiah or Jehoahaz (B.C. 609), and as the notices of the corruption of the period agree with the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim, we cannot be far astray in assigning B.C. 608 as the approximate date of this book.
2. Instead of looking upon the prophecy as an organic whole, Rosenmü ller divided it into three parts corresponding to the chapters, and assigned the first chapter to the reign of Jehoiakim, the second to that of Jeheiachin, and the third to that of Zedekiah, when Jerusalem was besieged for the third time by Nebuchadnezzar. Kalinsky (Vatic. Chabac. et Nah.) makes four divisions, and refers the prophecy not to Nebuchadnezzar, but to Esarhaddon. But in such an arbitrary arrangement the true character of the composition as a perfectly developed poem is entirely lost sight of.
The prophet commences by announcing his office and important mission (i, I). He bewails the corruption and social disorganization by which he is surrounded, and cries to Jehovah for help (Habakkuk 1:2-4). Next follows the reply of the Deity, threatening swift vengeance (Habakkuk 1:5-11). The prophet, transferring himself to the near future foreshadowed in the divine threatenings, sees the rapacity and boastful impiety of the Chaldean hosts, but, confident that God has only employed them as the instruments of correction, assumes (Habakkuk 2:1) an attitude of hopeful expectancy, and waits to see the issue. He receives the divine command to write in an enduring form the vision of God's retributive justice as revealed to his prophetic eye (Habakkuk 2:2-3). The doom of the Chaldaeans is first foretold in general terms (Habakkuk 2:4-6), and the announcement is followed by a series of denunciations pronounced upon them by the nations who had suffered from their oppression (Habakkuk 2:6-20). The strophical arrangement of these "woes" is a remarkable feature of the prophecy. They are distributed in strophes of three verses each, characterized by a certain regularity of structure. The first four commence with a "Woe!" and close with a verse beginning with כַּי (for). The first verse of each of these contains the character of the sin, the second the development of the woe, while the third is confirmatory of the woe denounced. The fifth strophe differs from the others in form in having a verse introductory to the woe. The prominent vices of the Chaldaeans' character, as delineated in Habakkuk 1:5-11, are made the subjects of separate denunciations: their insatiable ambition (Habakkuk 2:6-8), their covetousness (Habakkuk 2:9-11), cruelty Habakkuk 2:12-14), drunkenness (Habakkuk 2:15-17), and idolatry (Habakkuk 2:18-20). The whole concludes with the magnificent psalm in chap. 3:" Habakkuk's Pindaric ode" (Ewald), a composition unrivalled for boldness of conception, sublimity of thought, and majesty of diction. This constitutes, in Delitzsch's opinion, "the second grand division of the entire prophecy, as the subjective reflex of the two subdivisions of the first, and the lyrical recapitulation of the whole." It is the echo of the feelings aroused in the prophet's mind by the divine answers to his appeals; fear in anticipation of the threatened judgments, and thankfulness and joy at the promised retribution. But, though intimately connected with the former part of the prophecy, it is in itself a perfect whole, as is sufficiently evident from its lyrical character, and the musical arrangement by which it was adapted for use in the Temple service.
3. The style of this prophet has always been much admired. Lowth (De Poesi Hebraeor. p. 287) says: "Poeticus est Habaccuci stylus; sed maxime in eda, quae inter absolutissimas in eo genere merito numerari potest." Eichhorn, De Wette, and Rosenmü ller are loud in their praise of Habakkuk's style; the first giving a detailed and animated analysis of the construction of his prophecies (Einleitung. in das A. Test. 3:333). He equals the most eminent prophets of the Old Testament — Joel, Amos, Nahum, Isaiah; and the ode in ch. 3 may be placed in competition, with Psalms 18, 68 for originality and sublimity. His figures are all great, happily chosen, and properly drawn out. His denunciations are terrible, his derision bitter, his consolation cheering. Instances occur of borrowed ideas (Habakkuk 3:19; comp. Psalms 18:34 : Habakkuk 2:6; comp. Isaiah 14:7 : Habakkuk 2:14; comp. Isaiah 11:9); but he makes them his own in drawing them out in his peculiar manner. With all the boldness and fervor of his imagination, his language is pure and his verse melodious. Eichhorn, indeed, gives a considerable number of words which he considers to be peculiar to this prophet, and supposes him to have formed new words or altered existing ones, to sound more energetic or feeble, as the sentiments to be expressed might require; but his list needs sifting, as De Wette observes (Einleitung, p. 339); and קַיקָלוֹן, Habakkuk 2:16, is the only unexceptionable instance.
4. The ancient catalogues of canonical books of the Old Testament do not, indeed, mention Habakkuk by name; but they must have counted him in the twelve minor prophets, whose numbers would otherwise not be full. In the New Testament some expressions of his are introduced, but. his name is not added (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38; comp. Habakkuk 2:4; Acts 12:40, 41; comp. Habakkuk 1:5).
5. Express commentaries on the whole of this book separately are the following, of which the most important are designated by an asterisk L*] prefixed: Theophylact, Commentarius (in Opp. 4); Bede, Expositio (in Works, 9, 404) Tanchum of Jerusalem, Commentaire (ed. Munk, Paris, 1843. 8vo): Abarbanel, Commentarius (ed. Sprecher, Traj. 1722. Helmst. 1790, 8vo): Luther, Auslegung (Vitemb. 1526, 4to; Erf. cod. 8vo; in Latin, Argent. 1528, 8vo); Capito, Enarrationes (Argent. 1526, 8vo); Chytraus, Lectiones (in Opp. p. 364); Grynseus, Hypomeamata (Basil. 1582, 8vo); De Guevara, Commentarius [Rom. Cath.] (Madrid, 1585, 4to; 1593. fol.; Aug. Vind. 1603; Antw. 1609, 4to); Agellius, Commentarius (Antw. 1597. 8vo); Tossan, Periphrasis (Francf. 1599, 8vo); Garthius, Commentarius (Vitemb..1605, 8vc): Tarnovius, Commentarius (Rost. 1623, 8vo); Cocceius, Antlysis (in Opp. 11:657); Marbury, Commentaire (Lond. 1650; 4to), *De Padilla, Commentaria [Rom. Cath.] (Madrid, 1657, 2 vols. 4to; Sulzb. 1674, 4to, Iome, 1702, fol.); Hafenreffer, Commentarius [including Nahuml (Stuttg. 1663, 8vo); *Van Til, Commentarius (L. B. 1700, 4to); Biermann, De Prophesie van H. (Utr. 1713, 4to); Esch, Erklarung (Wesel, 1714, 4to); Abicht, Annotationes (Vitemb. 1732, 4to); Jansen, Analecta (in Pentateuch, etc.); *Scheltinga, Commentarius (L. B. 1747, 4to); *Kalinskv, Illustratio [including Nahum] (Vratislav, 1748, 4to); Chrysander, Anmerk. (Rint. and Lpz. 1752, 4to); Monrad, Anmerk. (from the Danish, Gö ttingen, 1759, 8vo); Anon. Traduction (Paris, 1775, 12mo); Perschke Versio, etc. (Francf. et. Lips. 1777, 8vo): Ludwig, Erlä uterung (Frkft. 1779, 8vo); Faber, Commentatio (Onold. 1779, 2 vols. 4to) Wahl, Amerkung. etc. (Hanover. 1790, 8vo), Kofod, Commentarius (Hafn. 1792, 8vo); Tingstad, Anmadversiones (Upsal. 1795, 8vo); Hadnlein, Interpretatio (Erlang. 1795, 8vo) Bather, Application (in Sermons, i, 188); Plum, Observationes [including Obad.] (Gö tting. 1796, 8x o); Conz, Erlä uterung. (in Staudlen's Beitrade); Horst, Amerkungen (Gotha, 1798, 8vo); Dahl, Observationes (Neustr. 1798, 8vo); Wolfssohn, Amerk. (Bresl. 18.06, 8vo); Euchel, E1aut: (Copenh. i815, 8vo); Justi, Erlaut. (Lpz. 1820, 8vo); Wolff, Commentar (Darmst. 1822, 8vo); Schroder, Amerk. [including Joel. Nahum, etc.] (Hildesh. 1827, 8vo); Deutsch, תִּרְגּוּם, etc. (Bresl. 1837, 8vo), *Baumlein, Commentarius (Heilbronn, 1840, 8vo); *Delitzsch, Auslegung (Lpz. 1843, 8vo); Von Gumpach, Erklarung (Munch. 1860, 8vo); Robinson, Homilies (Lond. 1865, 8vo). (See PROPHETS, MINOR).
The following are on chap. 3 exclusively Barhr (, De equitatione Dei [Habakkuk 1:15תִּרְגּוּם, etc. (Rodelh. 1800,1826, 8vo); Anton, Expositio (Gorl. 1810, 4to); Steiger, Amerkungen (in Schwarz, Jahrb. 1824, p. 136); Stickel, Prolusio (Neust. 1827, 8vo); Reissmann, De Song of Solomon Habakkuk (Krauth. 1831, 8vo); Strong, Prayer of Habakkuk (in the Meth. Quar. Rev. Jan. 1861, p. 73). (See COMMENTARY).
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Habakkuk, Book of'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/h/habakkuk-book-of.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.