UNDERSTANDING THE IDENTITY, ROLE & RESPONSE OF MINOR PROPHETS - HABAKKUK

The book of Habakkuk in the Hebrew bible comprises two compositions, namely the oracle of Habakkuk and the psalm of Habakkuk. They belong to different genres but share a common theme which includes the preservation of loyal trust in god amidst challenge to faith presented by the bitter experience of foreign invasion and oppression.1

Identity

At the beginning of both the parts of the book, the author is called “the prophet Habakkuk”. From the liturgical nature of both parts of the book, especially the second part, we can infer that he was a cultic prophet on the staff of the Jerusalem temple. Thus, we can locate Habakkuk within one of the Judean prophetic traditions. He was undoubtedly a central prophet in Jerusalem who had social maintenance functions within the religious establishment.2

He was also one of the temple singers.3 The literary features of the book thus suggest that there are several other indications that the prophet functioned writing Jerusalem’s central religious establishment.4 His name has been identified with an Assyrian garden plant, and it has been suggested that he may have been a captive living at Nineveh or at some other point in the Mesopotamian world. Traditions refer the inclusion of Habakkuk in the story of Bel and the dragon as found in the apocryphal book. Through his writing we can judge this prophet as a man of God who through the personal testament of a soul confronts go in the face of difficulties. Here the prophet appears as a person of high ethical sensitivity, capable of the same kind of graphic descriptive writing as that found in Nahum.5 He is called as a prophet but like other Judean prophets is said to have seen his oracles.

Role

Like many central intermediaries, he may have been required to produce oracles on specified occasions. He helped to insure the stability of the society by articulating Israel’s traditional faith and by uttering oracles against the people’s enemies.6 The problems on which Habakkuk seeks a response from god are evidently acute personal problems, challenging his own faith, even if he voiced them on behalf of others too. The prophet complained to god about the injustice of Jehoiakim’s rule. He also questions the presence of God amidst the evil situation around him.

Response

Habakkuk is made up of an extended and personal dialogue between God and the prophet. The major theme of Habakkuk is trying to grow from a faith of perplexity and doubt to the height of absolute trust in God. Habakkuk addresses his concerns over the fact that God will use the evil Babylonian empire to execute judgment on Judah for their sins. In the first chapter, the prophet expresses shock at God's choice of instrument for judgment. In his second prayer, Habakkuk focuses on the nature of God. In chapter 3, Habakkuk responds by expressing his ultimate faith in God, even as he doesn't fully understand it. Also the prophet gives a polemic against idolatry of the nation.7

Conclusion

The prophetic books of Nahum, Habakkuk and Zephaniah give us the role these prophets played in the Judean country. The identity of these prophets and their message of the day of the Lord, warnings against idolatry and other wickedness of the people, bought a revival in their faith journey.


1 Ibid., 831

2 R.R. Wilson, Prophecy and Society in Ancient Israel. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1980), 278.

3 Thomas Edward McComiskey ed., The Minor Prophets vol 2 (Michigan: Baker Academic, 1998), 832.

4 R.R. Wilson, Prophecy and Society in Ancient Israel. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1980), 278.

5 James H Gailey Jr. The Layman’s Bible Commentary vol 15 (Virginia: John Knox Press, 1962), 53.

6 R.R. Wilson, Prophecy and Society in Ancient Israel. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1980), 279.

7 C Hassell Bullock, An Introduction to the Old Testament Prophetic Books (Chicago: Moody Pub, 2007), 221.

Written By: 
Rev. Thomas Rinu Varghese

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