Study Guide

Habakkuk in The Twelve Minor Prophets

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“Are we there yet?”

“Why is the sky blue?”

“Why did God let my puppy die?”

These and other questions from the apocryphal Baby Book of Habakkuk explain a lot about the Habakkuk that made it into the Hebrew Bible. Bad things are happening to good people and the prophet can’t figure out why, so he launches into complaints disguised as questions that tap into the feelings of countless people suffering for reasons they don’t understand. You don’t have to be a believer living in the seventh century BCE to relate to questions like these:

O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? (NRSV 1:2)

Your eyes are too pure to behold evil, and you cannot look on wrongdoing; why do you look on the treacherous, and are silent when the wicked swallow those more righteous than they? (NRSV 1:13)

Of course, God has his reasons, inscrutable as they may be, and Habakkuk covers his theological bases by closing with a psalm. The theme: celebrating how God is going to kick the bad guys’ butts. Because of the notation at the end of the book about this psalm needing musical accompaniment, some scholars assume Habakkuk was a Levite working in the temple in Jerusalem. The Levites did most of the musical numbers.

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