The Superscription of the Book of Habakkuk   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Habakkuk

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HABAKKUK, PART I

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Habakkuk 1:1

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The situation for Judah had become worse since the days of the prophet Nahum, shortly before the Fall of Nineveh (612 B.C.E.).  King Josiah of Judah (r. 640-609 B.C.E.; 2 Kings 22:1-23:30; 2 Chronicles 34:1-35:27; 1 Esdras 1:1-33; Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 49:1-6) had died in combat against Pharaoh Neco II (r. 610-595 B.C.E.).  The Egyptian leader had sought to establish power in Syria; Judah was between Egypt and Syria.  The Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire had terminated Neco II’s plans for Syria.

In the wake of King Josiah’s death, Judah had become a vassal state of Egypt.  Pharaoh Neco II had chosen the next two Kings of Judah.  Jehoahaz/Jeconiah/Shallum (2 Kings 23:31-35; 2 Chronicles 36:1-4; 1 Esdras 1:34-38) had reigned for about three months before becoming a prisoner in Egypt.  Then Neco II had appointed Eliakim and renamed him Jehoiakim (r. 608-598 B.C.E.; 2 Kings 23:36-24:7; 2 Chronicles 36:5-8; 1 Esdras 1:39-42).  Jehoiakim was always a vassal while King of Judah.  After being the vassal of Neco II of Egypt for about three years, he became a vassal of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in 605 B.C.E.  He died a prisoner in that empire.

Two more Kings of Judah reigned; both were vassals of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  Jehoiachin/Jeconiah/Coniah (2 Kings 24:8-17; 2 Kings 25:27-30; 2 Chronicles 36:9-10; 1 Esdras 1:43-46) reigned for about three months before going into exile in that empire.  The last King of Judah was Zedekiah, born Mattaniah (2 Kings 24:18-25:26; 2 Chronicles 36:11-21; 1 Esdras 1:47-58).  He reigned from 597 to 586 B.C.E.  The last events he saw before Chaldean soldiers blinded him were the executions of his sons.

The Book of Habakkuk exists within the context of three years–605, 598/597, and 586 B.C.E.–and two Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian invasions of Judah.  The book, in its original form, dates to closer to 605 and 598/597 B.C.E. than 586 B.C.E.

The superscription tells us almost nothing about the prophet.  “Habakkuk” derives from an Arabic word meaning “dwarf.”  He may have been a cultic prophet.  The superscription does not even reveal the name(s) of the King(s) of Judah when Habakkuk prophesied.

The Book of Habakkuk contains fifty-six verses in three chapters.  The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) gives short shrift to the book, assigning only eight verses once every third years.  Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4 is one of two options for the Old Testament reading on Proper 26, Year C.  The lectionary includes:

the righteous live by their faith

(2:4b), taken out of textual context.

I invite you, O reader, to join me as I read all of the Book of Habakkuk, in historical and textual context.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 5, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOROTHEUS OF TYRE, BISHOP OF TYRE, AND MARTYR, CIRCA 362

THE FEAST OF BLISS WIANT, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER, MISSIONARY, MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR, ARRANGER, AND HARMONIZER; AND HIS WIFE, MILDRED ARTZ WIANT, U.S. METHODIST MISSIONARY, MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF INI KOPURIA, FOUNDER OF THE MELANESIAN BROTHERHOOD

THE FEAST OF MAURICE BLONDEL, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PHILOSOPHER AND FORERUNNER OF THE SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL

THE FEAST OF ORLANDO GIBBONS, ANGLICAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER; THE “ENGLISH PALESTRINA”

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