Composition of the Book of Habakkuk


Approximate date: 640-612 B.C.E. (Right, conservative-moderate, some Left); 400s-200s B.C.E. (some Left)

Time period: immediately before the judgment on the Southern Kingdom via Babylon

Author(s): Habakkuk exclusively (Right, some conservative-moderate); Habakkuk and/or anonymous other(s) (some conservative moderate, some Left); Habakkuk and anonymous redactors (some Left)

Location of prophet/author(s): somewhere in Judah (Right, conservative-moderate, Left)

Target audience and their location: Southern Kingdom Israelites

Theological Summary: Not much is known about the Prophet Habakkuk himself, other than that he was probably a contemporary of Jeremiah. The meaning of the name Chavaqquq is elusive, as it may be similar to an Akkadian word meaning “plant,” although others have suggested that it means “to clasp,” “to embrace,” or “wrestler.” Some have tried to link Habakkuk to the priesthood. Given the prediction of Babylon’s invasion (1:6), Habakkuk likely lived in Judah sometime near the end of Josiah’s reign (640-609 B.C.E.) or the beginning of Jehoiakim’s reign (609-598 B.C.E.). Theologians have speculated that the prophecy of Judah’s fall was probably given after the Egyptians were defeated in battle by Babylon (cf. Jeremiah 46). Habakkuk, like Jeremiah, could have probably witnessed the fall of Judah to Babylon.

While a small text, the Book of Habakkuk is debated because of various historical-critical issues, and with the interpretation of some passages in both Jewish and Christian theology. It is not agreed whether or not Habakkuk wrote the entire text, or that the entire text originates with him. The concentrated debate largely concerns ch. 3, and whether or not it was appended by another hand, particularly because of some stylistic differences. It is notable, though, that these discussions are modern, and there were no major ancient debates surrounding the text. Ancient Hebrew and Greek witnesses do include ch. 3. The dialogue that ensues between the Prophet Habakkuk and the Lord was considered to be Divine revelation, possibly via a similar process to how various psalms were considered canonical.

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reproduced from A Survey of the Tanach for the Practical Messianic

One of the major reasons that today’s Messianic movement has grown in the past decade is a significant interest by Believers in the Torah and the Tanach. In too many cases, the Tanach Scriptures were not probed in that great a detail in a Jewish Believer’s traditional Synagogue upbringing—and perhaps more serious, a non-Jewish Believer’s Christian experience often witnessed the Old Testament taking a back seat to the New Testament in the Church. With many of the ethical and moral controversies the greater Judeo-Christian religious community is experiencing in our age, a need for God’s people to return to a foundational grounding in the Tanach Scriptures is absolutely imperative. The Old Testament cannot simply be disregarded any more.

Many have stayed away from consulting the Tanach not because of a lack of interest, but because few want to have to deal with the controversies it addresses. Unlike the Apostolic Scriptures, constrained to the First Century C.E., the period of the Tanach stretches back all the way to the beginning of the universe itself. Questions like: Who was the Pharaoh of the Exodus? Did God actually condone the genocide of the Canaanites? and Am I the only one who thinks the Prophets are mentally disturbed? are debates that many people do not want to enter into. Even more significant is the effect of critical scholarship which has attempted to divide the Torah into non-Mosaic sources, question the inspiration and historical reliability of the text, and even regard much of the Tanach as Ancient Israel’s mythology. For a Messianic movement that claims to place a high value on the Tanach, it is time that we join in to these conversations.

A Survey of the Tanach for the Practical Messianic takes you through the Old Testament from a distinct Messianic point of view. It presents a theologically conservative perspective of the books of the Tanach, but one that does not avoid some of the controversies that have existed in Biblical scholarship for over one hundred and fifty years. The student, in company with his or her study Bible, is asked to read through each text of the Tanach, jotting down characters, place names, key ideas, and reflective questions. Each book of the Old Testament is then summarized for its compositional data and asks you questions to get a good Messianic feel for the text. This workbook can be used for both personal and group study, and will be a valuable aid for any Messianic Believer wanting to study the whole Bible on a consistent basis.

290 pages

1 Comment

  1. The translation of Habakkuk 2:4 seems to be difficult and rather subjective. “The righteous shall live by his faith” It seems to me that a possible translation could be “The righteous live by His faithfulness”

    Thanks for your well thought article.


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