The Psalm of Habakkuk -- By: Richard D. Patterson
GTJ 8:2 (Fall 87) p. 163
The Psalm of Habakkuk
Thematically, textually, and literarily, the psalm of Habakkuk (3:3–15) differs markedly from the material in the rest of the book. Translation and subsequent analysis of the psalm reveal that it is a remnant of epic literature, and as such it focuses on the theme of the heroic. Throughout the passage, God is the hero whose actions divide the psalm into two parts. The first poem (vv 3–7) relates the account of an epic journey as God guides his people toward the land of promise. In the second poem (vv 8–15), God’s miraculous acts in the conquest period are rehearsed. The singing of these two epic songs was designed to evoke in the listeners a response of submission to Israel’s Redeemer. Habakkuk’s own response (in vv 16–19) illustrates the proper movement toward Israel’s grand and heroic Savior.
* * *
An enigmatic psalm of praise occupies the greater portion of the third chapter of Habakkuk’s prophecy1 and exhibits striking differences from the preceding two chapters. Thematically, the first two chapters are largely narrative, recording Habakkuk’s great perplexities (1:2–4, 12–17) and God’s detailed responses (1:5–11; 2:1–20); whereas, with the third chapter, a positive tone emerges in the
GTJ 8:2 (Fall 87) p. 164
prophet’s great prayer of praise of God. The first two chapters are written in the usual classical Hebrew that was prevalent in the seventh century B.C., whereas the psalm of chap. 3 utilizes older literary material that had been passed down since Moses’ day. Futhermore these two sections are written in distinctively different literary vehicles. The first two chapters were composed largely in literary forms that are typical of prophecy such as oracles, laments, and woes. However, the psalm of Hab 3:3–15 is written in an older poetic format that contains some very difficult Hebrew grammatical constructions and very rare words.
These factors, plus the inclusion of several musical notations (3:1, 3, 9, You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
Click here to subscribe