Book of Habakkuk
Category: Books sutras and myths
Habakkuk was a prophet whose oracles and prayer are recorded in the Book of Habakkuk, the eighth of the collected twelve minor prophets in the Hebrew Bible. He is revered by Jews, Christians, and Muslims.
What makes him interesting is that his prophesies and pleas were directed at a very specific Intelligence whom he refers to as ‘Lord’ – God is not specifically mentioned.
Furthermore, Habakkuk is unusual among the prophets in that he openly questions the decisions and actions of the Intelligence he calls ‘Lord’ :
"O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?" (1:2, ESV).
The only work attributed to Habakkuk is the short book of the Bible that bears his name. The book of Habakkuk consists of five oracles about the Chaldeans (Babylonians) and a song of praise to God.
Almost all information about Habakkuk is drawn from the book of the Bible bearing his name, with no biographical details provided other than his title, "the prophet".
For almost every other prophet, more information is given, such as the name of the prophet's hometown, his occupation, or information concerning his parentage or tribe. For Habakkuk, however, there is no reliable account of any of these. But we do know that the times he lived in were particularly bad
Habakkuk 1 International Standard Version (ISV) - Habakkuk’s Oracle
The Prophet’s First Complaint
2 “How long, Lord, must I cry out for help, but you won’t listen?
I’m crying out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you aren’t providing deliverance.
3 Why are you forcing me to look at iniquity and to stare at wickedness?
Social havoc and oppression are all around me; there are legal conflicts, and disputes abound.
4 Therefore, the Law has become paralyzed, and justice never comes about.
Because criminals outnumber the righteous, whenever judgments are issued, they come out crooked.”
The style of the book indicates he was a man of great literary talent. The entire book follows the structure of a ‘chiasmus’. In rhetoric, chiasmus is a "reversal of grammatical structures in successive phrases or clauses – but no repetition of words" and in which parallelism of thought is used to bracket sections of the text.
Even his name has been the subject of debate - its form has no parallel in Hebrew and the name Habakkuk, or Habacuc, appears in the Hebrew Bible only in Habakkuk 1:1 and 3:1. The spelling "Habacuc" is the one used in the Douay–Rheims Bible, an official translation of the Roman Catholic Vulgate into English that was completed in 1610. Most other English translations use the spelling "Habakkuk".
In the Masoretic Text, it is written in Hebrew: חֲבַקּוּק (Standard Ḥavaqquq Tiberian Ḥăḇaqqûq). This name does not occur elsewhere. The Septuagint transcribes his name into Greek as Ἀμβακοὺμ (Ambakoum), and the Vulgate transcribes it into Latin as Abacuc.
The Book of Habakkuk
The book of Habakkuk consists of five oracles about the Chaldeans (Babylonians).
The Babylonian captivity or Babylonian exile is the period in Jewish history during which a number of people from the ancient Kingdom of Judah were captives in Babylon, the capital of the Neo-Babylonian Empire.
After the Battle of Carchemish in 605 BCE, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon besieged Jerusalem, resulting in tribute being paid by King Jehoiakim. According to the Lives of the Prophets Habakkuk was from the tribe of Simeon and had a vision of the destruction of Jerusalem. When Nebuchadnezzar ‘came against Jerusalem’, Habakkuk fled to Ostracina in Egypt and then ‘sojourned in the land of Ishmael’.
Jehoiakim , meanwhile, had refused to pay tribute in Nebuchadnezzar's fourth year, which led to another siege in Nebuchadnezzar's seventh year, culminating with the death of Jehoiakim and the exile to Babylonia of King Jeconiah, his court and many others; Jeconiah's successor Zedekiah and others were exiled in Nebuchadnezzar's eighteenth year; a later deportation occurred in Nebuchadnezzar's twenty-third year. The dates, numbers of deportations, and numbers of deportees given in the biblical accounts vary. These deportations are dated to 597 BCE for the first, with others dated at 587/586 BCE, and 582/581 BCE respectively.
After the fall of Babylon to the Persian king Cyrus the Great in 539 BCE, exiled Judeans were permitted to return to Judah. And when the Chaldeans returned to their own country, Habakkuk went back home.
Archaeological studies have revealed that not all of the population of Judah was deported, and that, although Jerusalem was utterly destroyed, other parts of Judah continued to be inhabited during the period of the exile. The return of the exiles was a gradual process rather than a single event, and many of the deportees or their descendants did not return, becoming the ancestors of the Iraqi Jews.
Currently, one location in Israel and one in Iran lay claim to being the burial site of the prophet, although the Lives of the Prophets claim he was buried alone in his own field and died two years before the return of his people from Babylon.
- Habakkuk has been commemorated in sculpture and we have used these to illustrate this entry. In 1435, the Florentine artist Donatello created a sculpture of the prophet for the bell tower of Florence. This statue, now resides in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo.
- The Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome contains a Baroque sculpture of Habakkuk by the 17th-century artist Bernini.
- And between 1800 and 1805, the Brazilian sculptor Aleijadinho completed a soapstone sculpture of Habakkuk as part of his Twelve Prophets. The figures are arranged around the forecourt and monumental stairway in front of the Santuário do Bom Jesus do Matosinhos at Congonhas.
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