INTRODUCTION TO Habakkuk
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Before analyzing the test of any book of the Bible, it is well to learn the historical background.
Also, it is best to make a "skyscraper" view of its general contents. Accordingly, this introduction is divided into two parts: background and survey.
- Habakkuk is undoubtedly the author though nothing is known about him.
- Jeremiah, Nahum, and Zephaniah were contemporary prophets. Habakkuk spoke of Babylon's invasion. Zephaniah predicted Judah's fall. Jeremiah predicted the fall of Jerusalem. Nahum declared Nineveh's fall.
- Date and Place of Writing
- Events recorded in Habakkuk make dating possible. He knows that Judah's fall is imminent. This occurred in 605 B.C.
- Habakkuk prophecies started during the end of Josiah's and the beginning Jehoiakim's reign, the last sovereign king of Judah.
- Judah would fall to Egypt and then Babylon shortly after Habakkuk's prophecies. Habakkuk would have seen his prophecy fulfilled. His fate after Judah's fall in unknown.
- Unlike any other prophetic book Habakkuk is a dialogue between the Lord and the prophet.
- The oracle is addressed to Israel, though the northern kingdom had long been escorted into captivity. Israel here means God's people as a whole who have at least once in there lives ask, "Why this way?" Even Jacob wrestled with the Lord and thus was renamed Israel meaning "he struggled with God", "prince (sarah in Hebrew) with God (El in Hebrew)", and "he that perseveres".
- Occasion and Purpose
- Habakkuk, a devout believer knows of the coming wrath against Judah and its fall. Habakkuk argues with God over his ways that appear to him unfathomable, if not unjust. (chapters 1 & 2) Having received replies from the Lord, he responds with a beautiful confession of faith in chapter 3.
- Judah's sin and idolatry continued during most of Habakkuk's time in spite of reforms made by King Josiah. Mighty armies surrounded Judah and constantly threatened them.
- Thebes was destroyed at the hands of Ashurbanipal’'s Assyrian army in 663 B.C. Judah had lost much of its cities and fortresses at the hands of the Assyrians.
- In the 620s B.C. the Scythians (outlandish barbarians) invaded Canaan. They came quickly on horses from southern Russia (just north of Assyria). They destroyed the Philistine cities of Ashkelon and Ashdod, going along the Mediterranean Sea and right past Judah. They went as far as the Egyptian boarder who paid them off to stop them from destroying them.
- Nineveh fell in 612 B.C. at the hands of the Babylonians. Prophets like Micah generations earlier had predicted that Babylon would be God's hand of judgment against Judah.
- In 609 B.C., three years after Nineveh fell Judah's king was so confident that he attacked Egypt whose army was being sent to assist Assyria in their wars. Judah lost and became subject to Egypt.
- In 605 B.C. Babylon attacked and defeated Egypt at the battle of Carchemish (2 Ki. 24:1-7) making Judah subject to Babylon. After the battle of Carchemish, Nebuchadnezzar, as crown prince of Babylon, advanced to Jerusalem and then quickly left for Babylon to be crowned king when his father died. Then he returned to Jerusalem. Nebuchadnezzar spared King Jehoiakim, who had rebelled against him when he left to be made king. However, Nebuchadnezzar carried off several of the princes of Judah, among them was Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
- Form and Style
- The entire book is prophecy in a vision, a dialogue between the prophet and the Lord.
- The entire book is in poetic form.
- Place Among the Old Testament Books
- Habakkuk is one of the smaller books of the Old Testament with only three chapters. Scholars have placed it with the other eleven minor prophets.
- Just because scholars have classified twelve of the prophetic books as minor does not mean that their message is any less important than the four major prophets. In fact the New Testiment quotes the minor prophets more than the major prophets.
Habakkuk's first two chapters are a dialogue between the prophet and the Lord. The last chapter is a prayer praising the Lord.
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