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Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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Hab´akkuk (embrace), one of the most distinguished Jewish prophets, who flourished about 610 B.C., the name denoting as well a 'favorite' as a 'struggler.' Of this prophet's birth-place, parentage, and life we have only apocryphal and conflicting accounts. The Pseudo-Epiphanius states that he was of the tribe of Simeon, and born in a place called Bedzoker; that he fled to Ostrarine when Nebuchadnezzar attacked Jerusalem, but afterwards returned home, and died two years before the return of his countrymen. But Rabbinical writers assert that he was of the tribe of Levi, and name different birth-places. Eusebius notices that in his time the tomb of Habakkuk was shown in the town of Ceila, in Palestine; still there are other writers who name different places where, according to common opinion, he had been buried.

A full and trustworthy account of the life of Habakkuk 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. Now, we find that in Habakkuk 1 the prophet sets forth a vision, in which he discerned the injustice, violence, and oppression committed in his country by the rapacious and terrible Chaldeans, whose oppressions he announces as a divine retribution for sins committed; consequently he wrote in the Chaldean period, shortly before the invasion of Nebuchadnezzar which rendered Jehoiakim tributary to the king of Babylon (). When he wrote the first chapter of his prophecies, the Chaldeans could not yet have invaded Palestine, otherwise he would not have introduced Jehovah saying (), 'I will work a work in your days, which ye will not believe, though it be told you;' () 'for I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, which shall march through the breadth of the land to possess the dwelling-places that are not theirs.' From it is also evident that the ruin of the Jews had not then been effected; it says, 'the Lord ordained them for judgment, established them for correction.' Agreeably to the general style of the prophets, who to lamentations and announcements of divine punishment add consolations and cheering hopes for the future, Habakkuk then proceeds in the second chapter to foretell the future humiliation of the conquerors who plundered so many nations. He also there promulgates a vision of events shortly to be expected; () 'the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie; though it tarry, wait for it, because it will surely come; it will not tarry.' This is succeeded in the third chapter by an ode, in which the prophet celebrates the deliverances wrought by the Almighty for his people in times past, and prays for a similar interference now to mitigate the coming distresses of the nation; which he goes on to describe, representing the land as already waste and desolate, and yet giving encouragement to hope for a return of better times. Some interpreters are of opinion that Habakkuk 2 was written in the reign of Jehoiachin, the son of Jehoiakim (), 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 (). But of all this nothing is said in the book of Habakkuk, nor even so much as hinted at; and what is stated of the violence and injustice of the Chaldeans does not imply that the Jews had already experienced it. The prophet distinctly mentions that he sets forth what he had discerned in a vision, and he, therefore, speaks of events to be expected and coming. It is also a supposition equally gratuitous, according to which some interpreters refer Habakkuk 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 burnt (). There is not the slightest allusion to any of these incidents in Habakkuk 3; and from it appears, that the destroyer is only coming, and that the prophet expresses fears, not of the entire destruction of the city, much less of the downfall of the state, but only of the desolation of the country. It thus appears beyond dispute, that Habakkuk prophesied in the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim, about the year stated above. Carpzov and Jahn refer our prophet to the reign of Manasseh, thus placing him thirty odd years earlier; but at that time the Chaldeans 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; for if he prophesied under Manasseh he could not have reached the exile at an age under 90 years; but if he held forth early in the reign of Jehoiakim he would have been only 50 odd years old at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem and of the exile. He was, then, a contemporary of Jeremiah, but much younger, as the latter made his first appearance in public as early as B.C. 29, in the thirteenth year of Josiah.

The style of this prophet has been always much admired. He equals the most eminent prophets of the Old Testament—Joel, Amos, Nahum, Isaiah; and the ode in Habakkuk 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 (, comp. ; , comp. ; , comp. ); 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. The ancient catalogues of canonical books of the Old Testament do not mention Habakkuk by name; but they must have counted him in the twelve Minor Prophets, whose number would otherwise not be full. In the New Testament some expressions of his are introduced, but his name is not added (; ; , comp. ; , comp. ).





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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Habakkuk'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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