The Book of Nahum The Book of Zephaniah


We know little of this prophet. He was probably of the tribe of Simeon, and a native of Beth-zacar. It is very likely that he lived after the Chaldeans, but makes no mention of the Assyrians. And he appears also to have prophesied before the Jewish captivity; see chap. 1:5; 2:1; 3:2, 16-19; and therefore Archbishop Newcome thinks he may be placed in the reign of Jehoiakim, between the years 600 BC and 598 BC.

As a poet, Habakkuk holds a high rank among the Hebrew prophets. The beautiful connection between the parts of his prophecy, its diction, imagery, spirit, and sublimity, cannot be too much admired; and his hymn, chap. 3, is allowed by the best judges to be a masterpiece of its kind.

Habakkuk 1:1. Who Was Habakkuk and When Did He Minister?

Habakkuk most probably served his ministry after the appearance of the Chaldeans in world history. Many scholars believe that he wrote after the battle of Carchemish in which Nebuchadnezzar defeated the Egyptians in 605 BC and before the first deportation of the Jews in 597 BC. From his writing it is also believed he lived in Jerusalem. (See James Hastings, ed., A Dictionary of the Bible, s.v. "Habakkuk.") If this is the case, then he was a contemporary of Lehi and Jeremiah, prophesying to the same people.

Nothing is known about the man himself other than what may be inferred from his writings. The traditional material that has filtered down concerning him is evidently legendary and cannot be comfortably relied upon. It is known that he was a great prophet who left "one of the noblest and most penetrating words in the history of religion" (J. R. Dummelow, A Commentary on the Holy Bible, p. 587).

Habakkuk 1:1-10. Why was Habakkuk troubled?

Habakkuk 1:2-4. "O Lord, How Long Shall I Cry and Thou Wilt Not Hear?"

Habakkuk, like other prophets through the ages, wondered why the Lord would not answer his prayers. Doubtless everyone who believes in God has felt forsaken at times. Joseph Smith and even Jesus experienced this loneliness at least once in their lives (see D&C 121:1-6; Matthew 27:46). Ellis T. Rasmussen described Habakkuk's dilemma in this way.

"Habakkuk's miseries likely arose in the days of Judah's degeneration, after the time of Assyria's conquest of northern Israel, and before the time when Babylonia came to carry the remaining tribe, Judah, away into captivity. The religious reforms of Hezekiah in his century, and those of Josiah a hundred years later (about 620 BC) had put the just and the right at the helm in Judah for a time. But as always, resurgent corruption in politics, in morals, and in religion swiftly reappeared when the champions of right were gone.

"Religious compromises, induced by the desires of the liberal and the libertine, ever seeking to soften the restrictions and responsibilities of Israel's covenant faith brought derision and persecution upon the 'pious' and the 'faithful.' Under these conditions Jeremiah suffered, and it is likely that this was also the setting of Habakkuk's ministry.

"Thus it is that he cries out against the iniquity, grievance, spoiling, violence, strife, and contention on every side, for the processes of justice and execution of the law seem endlessly delayed when the righteous are encompassed about by the wicked." ("Habakkuk, a Prophet with a Problem," Instructor, Sept. 1962, insert between pp. 306-7)

Habakkuk 1:5-17. "I Raise Up the Chaldeans"

Habakkuk's lament is one that has been raised by many: Why does the Lord allow wicked people and nations to operate, and why are they allowed, in some cases, to punish God's people? Habakkuk did not mention the Babylonians (Chaldeans) in his question (see vv. 1-4), but it is obvious from the Lord's answer that they were the ones of whom Habakkuk was thinking.

The Lord replied that He intended to use the Chaldeans for His righteous purposes in such a way that it would be difficult for Habakkuk to believe it (see vv. 5-6). The Lord's response merely increased Habakkuk's confusion: how could God condone the cruelties of a nation more wicked than Judah? Were the Chaldeans never to get what was due them for their evil ways? Habakkuk's faith was being tested.

Habakkuk 2. What Was Meant by "the Just Shall Live by His Faith" (v. 4)?

Sperry wrote that this verse "is one of the great passages of the Old Testament. It means essentially this: There is a moral and spiritual distinction between the Chaldeans and the people of Judah. The Chaldeans, puffed up and arrogant, priding themselves in their wealth and power and deceptive in their dealings with other nations, do not possess the moral and spiritual elements which alone can insure permanence and stability. The people of the Lord, on the other hand, [should] possess moral integrity, fidelity, and spiritual insight which insure for them a future. 'The future belongs to the righteous.' When the prophet says that 'the righteous shall live by his faith (more accurately faithfulness)' he implies permanency." (Voice of Israel's Prophets, pp. 371-72)

Habakkuk 2:4. What did the Lord promise?

Habakkuk 2:14. What would happen to the earth?

Habakkuk 3:1-2. What are a "Shigionoth" and a "Selah"?

A shigionoth may have been a stringed instrument, or perhaps a musical expression used to accompany singers. Possibly this prayer of Habakkuk was set to music and intended for use in the temple. A selah was a cue for the person singing or chanting the words. The use of this word in Psalms is further evidence that Habakkuk's prayer may have been set to music.

Habakkuk 3:4-20. Trust in God

The entire chapter is excellent Hebrew poetry. Habakkuk makes a number of references to events of Moses and Joshua's time. Anyone familiar with those biblical events will recognize the ones alluded to. The burden of Habakkuk's prayer is for Jehovah to return and sustain Israel as in days of old. This He will surely do in the latter days. Habakkuk's trust was fully in God. Rasmussen said of Habakkuk's song of praise:

"After [his] experience, Habakkuk felt inspired to utter a psalm of praise to God and trust in Him. In awe at the powers and glory of God, he poetically describes the power of Deity over all facets and functions of nature, and speaks of His might to overcome all of Hisenemies. Then in the spirit expressed also by Job who said, 'Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him: ...,' Habakkuk lists in six poetic lines the disasters that could come to him, but strongly he avers in his last five lines:

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,

I will joy in the God of my salvation.

The Lord God is my strength,

and he will make my feet like hinds' feet,

and he will make me to walk upon mine

high places ...

"It is for this trust in God in spite of the vicissitudes of life that Habakkuk's message is for us also today a wholesome stimulant." ("Habakkuk, a Prophet with a Problem," insert between pp. 306-7)

Habakkuk 3:16. Why did Habakkuk tremble in his prayer?

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