Lesson 3 of6
In Progress

Background of Habakkuk

Habakkuk’s questions about God’s interaction with the world center on internal community injustice and foreign invasion, but those two conditions could characterize several periods since the time of Amos. The book offers no dates and mentions no kings or other officials by name. Dating is therefore completely dependent on resonance with more datable biblical material. In his opening complaint to God (1:2-4), Habakkuk describes a slackness of the law and a lack of justice along with ensuing violence. That general portrait fits with the period between 609 B.C.E. (death of Josiah) and 587 B.C.E. (the Babylonian destruction of the temple and Jerusalem) as described in 2 Kings and reflected in Jeremiah.

Although the Babylonians (Chaldeans) were on the ascent from 626 B.C.E. onward, it is likely that they were not a source of terror for Judeans until they defeat the Egyptians at Carchemish in 605 B.C.E. In 597 B.C.E. Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem for the first time and deported a portion of its leadership. For the next decade the Babylonians remained a threat. When Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 B.C.E., the threat of destruction became an experienced fact. The Babylonians remain a threat, even in the final, edited form of the book. Thus, a date between the invasion of 597 and the destruction of 587 is the likely historical period for the origin of the book of Habakkuk.

Compounding the difficulty of determining the historical point of composition is the lack of an addressed human audience. Habakkuk has a dialogue with God and reports his reaction to the interchange. The book does not report any preaching to a contemporary audience, unlike Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, and others.