Background to Habakkuk

Author of Habakkuk

Not much is known about Habakkuk the man aside from the fact that he was a contemporary of the prophet Jeremiah.  The apocryphal book Bel and the Dragon tells a story of Habakkuk tending to Daniel after he was thrown in the lion’s den but this is not supported by the Bible and should be considered only a tale.  In reality Habakkuk lived too long before this event to have still been alive.  Daniel, carried off as a young man at the start of the exile, was probably 80 at the time of the lion’s den and Habakkuk had to have been older than this to have prophesied about the coming Babylonian invasion.

Date of Habakkuk

The time of the writing of Habakkuk is not completely certain but we have a general idea.  As a contemporary of Jeremiah the time is limited.  Furthermore, the book had to have been written in the last years of the Kingdom of Judah.  Habakkuk had to have been written before 605 BC during King Jehioakim’s reign or near the end of King Josiah’s reign which ended in 609 BC.

While God told King Hezekiah that the Babylonians would come more than 100 years before this time, the Babylonians were unknown and not a world power.  When God speaks to Habakkuk, the ferocity and sinfulness of the Babylonians is well known which leads one to believe that this is a near prophecy and not something to come in the distant future.  In all likelihood, Habakkuk sees his prophecy occur before his eyes.

Outline of Habakkuk

The structure of Habakkuk is quite simple and its three chapters are easily divided:

  1. Habakkuk’s first complaint (chapter 1)
  2. God’s answer (chapter 1)
  3. Habakkuk’s second complaint (chapter 1)
  4. God’s answer (chapter 2)
  5. Habakkuk’s prayer and praise (chapter 3)

 Introduction to Habakkuk

Habakkuk is a different kind of prophecy than what we are used to.  Rather than just being given a prophecy or vision to record, Habakkuk has a conversation with God.  Presumably, Habakkuk’s questions to God came in the form of prayers that God responded to but we can’t be certain.  The way the book is written is just as a conversation between two people might be recorded.  In this way we see a great picture of the way prayer should work.

Paul instructs us to pray continually.  The only way that we can do this is to make prayer a regular part of our life.  Talking to God should be so natural that it is just like speaking to a friend.

Habakkuk starts with a question and then receives a response from the Lord.  This prompts a second question and a second response.  Once these questions are answered, Habakkuk can’t help but respond to God in prayer and praise.

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