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Book of Habakkuk

Book of Habakkuk
by Timothy Kenney, PhD

The Holy Prophet Habakkuk (Greek=Habaccuc), the eighth of the Twelve Minor Prophets, was descended from the Levite Tribe of Simeon, and he prophesied around 650 B.C. He lived shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem and was a contemporary of the Prophet Jeremias. His book is distinguished for its clear, exalted and poetic language. Experts in the Holy Scripture praise this book for its simplicity, brevity and depth of depiction. His Feast Day is commemorated on December 2nd in the Orthodox Church.

The Prophet Habakkuk foresaw the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, the Babylonian Captivity and the later return of the captives to their native land. During the war with the Babylonians the prophet withdrew to Arabia, where the following miracle occurred. When he was bringing dinner to the reapers, he met an angel of the Lord, and instantly by the strength of his spirit he was transported to Babylon, where at the time the Prophet Daniel was languishing in prison. The food intended for the reapers assuaged the hunger of the exhausted Prophet Daniel.

After the end of the war with the Babylonians, the Prophet Habakkuk returned to his homeland and died at a great old age. His relics were found at the time of Emperor Theodosius he Younger (408-450), together with the relics of the Prophet Micah (August 14).

The Fourth Ode of the Psalter ("O Lord, I have heard thy report, and was afraid...") is based on Habakkuk 3:2-19.

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Brief outline:

Chapter 1:

1:1-1:17 The Prophet's Complaint

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Chapter 2:

2:1-2:5 God's Reply to the Prophet's Complaint
2:5-3:1 The Woes of the Wicked

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Chapter 3:

3:2-3:16 The Prophet's Prayer
3:17-3:19 Trust and Joy in the Midst of Trouble.

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A narrative outline summary follows below.

The prophet Habakkuk taught that the wicked and lawless would perish, and the righteous would be saved by their faith. This idea was first revealed in the form of a conversation between God and the prophet about the judgment and condemnation of the wicked people, and later on as the prophet's hymn, depicting God's judgment, which would result in destruction of the wicked and salvation of the righteous. "Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places" (Habakkuk 3:17-19).

The prophet Habakkuk foresaw the distant future when "the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea" (Habakkuk 2:14). His book encloses the prophet's bewilderment about the success of the wicked (1:1-4), God's reply (1:5-11), the prophet's further perplexities (1:12-17), the Lord's answer (2:1-5), and prediction of grief to the Chaldeans for their depredation (2:6-20).

The second and third chapters of the book of Habakkuk serve as the model for the heirmos of the 4th ode of the canon of Matins. Some expressions of these chapters are literally repeated in certain heirmoses, for example, "I will stand upon my watch" in the Canon of Easter, or "I have heard thy speech, and was afraid… His glory covered the heavens…" and so forth. The Apostolic Fathers see these phrases of Habakkuk as referring to the Messiah.

Chapter 3 is a poetic hymn to God.

Our next biblical article will focus on the Book of Zephaniah.

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Bibliography:

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