Prayer, Oracle And Theophany: The Book Of Habakkuk -- By: Michael E.W. Thompson

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 44:1 (NA 1993)
Article: Prayer, Oracle And Theophany: The Book Of Habakkuk
Author: Michael E.W. Thompson

Prayer, Oracle And Theophany:
The Book Of Habakkuk

Michael E.W. Thompson


Habakkuk comprises laments, prophetic and woe oracles, and psalm (prayer), but there is progression of thought. In this book, a theological problem is stated and resolved. The different forms are used in purposeful and judicious ways. It is argued that there is one author, something of an eclectic who borrowed from wisdom and Isaianic traditions, in particular interpreting the latter and anticipating aspects of Isaiah 40-55. The theme of the book is theodicy. This is resolved in the psalm of chapter 3, through the language of prayer. Half the book is expressed in the language of prayer, making it unique among the prophetic books.

The book of Habakkuk comprises laments, prophetic oracles, a collection of woe oracles and a psalm, the last containing a petition, description of a theophany and a concluding expression of confidence. R.P. Carroll says: ‘As a ragbag of traditional elements held together by vision and prayer Habakkuk illustrates the way prophetic books have been put together in an apparently slapdash fashion’.1

This contribution questions the appropriateness in this context of the words ‘ragbag’ and ‘apparently slapdash’, and suggests a rather different assessment of the book. First, the various units that make up the book are considered, with close attention being given to the particular literary forms used in each. Appropriate attention is also given to the many notorious exegetical problems encountered in the book. In a second major section the eclectic nature of the book and the tradition in which it seems to stand is considered. In the third place the principal theological concern of the work is laid bare, and suggestions are made as to why this is handled in the manner that renders the book unique among the prophetical texts in the Old Testament.

I. Prayers, Oracles And Theophany

A. Habakkuk 1:1

The book begins with a title that employs the word maśśā’, ‘burden’. Apart from its general usage in the Old Testament for ‘burden’ this word finds its most consistent employment in the oracles against the nations in Isaiah 13-23. We should also note its usage in Nahum, a prophecy dominated by a word against a foreign nation. Perhaps we are intended to understand that a concern in Habakkuk is with a word of judgment against a foreign nation. We also note that in this title ther...

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