You know, all I can think of when reading some of these minor prophet books at the end of the Old Testament – Nahum, Obadiah, Habakkuk, etc. – is how the hell did I memorize all these book names for my church confirmation process when I was a teenager? I didn’t know jack shit about what any of the books actually said back then, so what was the point of memorizing all their titles? It seems ridiculous, but I can’t entirely blame the Methodist church for my lack of proper training, as I wasn’t exactly the best Sunday School student. If I had only realized what I was missing back then, maybe I would’ve been more interested. I’d be extremely curious to know how 13 year-old me would’ve reacted to these things. We’ll never know now.
So, Habakkuk. Another 3 chapters of prophetic charm and whimsy. I’ve complained many times in past reviews about how little set-up they give for many of these prophet books. Oftentimes we are given no timeframe for when the prophets lived and did all the things described in the book, which makes it very hard to determine context. But it wasn’t until I got to Habakkuk that I realized how spoiled I had actually been with all those other books. At the very least, they each gave some sort of teeny tiny hint, like “son of Pethuel” or a reference from an earlier book. Not so with Habakkuk. No sir. Habakkuk tells us that our protagonist is a prophet, and that’s it. No more, no less. Wikipedia points out that less is known about ol’ Habby than any other prophet in the Bible.
So we’re left to ascertain from Habakkuk’s prophecy what the setting of his story might be. And since Habakkuk spends most of the book talking about how the Babylonians are going to enact God’s punishment on his people, it seems that Habakkuk probably lived during the general timeframe of the Babylonians marching in and destroying Jerusalem. That would be at the bottom right hand side of my trusty succession of kings chart.
Here’s my cliff’s notes on the story of Habakkuk:
Habakkuk: “God, your people are so terrible and violent and unjust! Why do you just sit back and let them do these horrible things to each other??”
God: “Don’t worry kid, I’m gonna raise up those ruthless and unsavory Babylonians to come and give my peeps what they deserve.”
Habby: “Oh but God your eyes are too pure to look upon this evil!! Why would you choose even more treacherous people to carry out your judgement on Israel/Judah? What about the icky Babylonians, why do they get to prevail in all this??”
God: “Again. Don’t worry dude. I’m gonna punish those dumbasses even WAY more harshly. Just trust me on this.”
Habby: (prays to God) “Dear God, o.k. well I trust you, that you will punish all the bad guys … and even though everything suuuuper sucks right now, like there’s no grapes on the vines and the olive crops fail and the fig tree isn’t budding and all the fields are producing no food, there’s no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls and we’re all totally screwed … I still rejoice in you Lord. I still think you’re really cool and stuff.”
The thing about Habakkuk is, as short and dull as it is, there is one very critical tenet of Christianity that has a bit of a coming out party, of sorts, here:
2:4 Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.
I mean, it’s not that the general concept of faith hasn’t existed in the Old Testament before now, but I don’t think an entire book has been dedicated to it until this one. At least, not in this way. Here the word “faith” is used in the exact way you always hear it used in Christianity – Even though you can’t see evidence that God is going to take care of bidness, he’ll do it. He will. It may take a while, but he’ll get there, he promises. Habakkuk doesn’t see hard evidence that God is gonna punish all the baddies, and then punish the other baddies for punishing the baddies, but he’s gonna just have faith that God will do what he says he’s gonna do.
And of course beyond that, this form of faith can extend out a bit – you gotta have faith that God exists to begin with, even though you can’t see him and you don’t have any proof that he’s even there. And this is how my family uses it with me – “UGGH Rachael why can’t you just have faith in Jesus!?” Yes. Sorry, family. I’m very annoying in that way that I always need just a teeny bit of evidence for stuff before I dedicate my entire life to it. Maybe if I was a prophet like Habby and God was talking to me, I’d be a little more willing to take a leap here.
Anyway. I digress. Should I bother with a Good Stuff and Bad Stuff section for this? It’s the same as all the other books. Fine, there might be couple interesting things to point out …
I see exactly two good verses in here:
- 2:9 “Woe to him who builds his house by unjust gain, setting his nest on high to escape the clutches of ruin!”
- 2:12 “Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by injustice!”
O.k. Great sentiments, but wasn’t bloodshed the exact way God had y’alls establish Israel in the first damn place? You know, when you marched in there back in Joshua and stole it from the people who were already living there at the time? Riigghht.
3:10 The mountains saw you [God] and writhed. Torrents of water swept by; the deep roared and lifted its waves on high. 3:11 Sun and moon stood still in the heavens at the glint of your flying arrows, at the lightning of your flashing spear. 2:12 In wrath you strode through the earth and in anger you threshed the nations. 2:13 You came out to deliver your people, to save your anointed one. You crushed the leader of the land of wickedness, you stripped him from head to foot. 2:14 With his own spear you pierced his head when his warriors stormed out to scatter us, gloating as though about to devour the wretched who were in hiding.
I mean, I think it’s pretty obvious why the rest of this book all falls into the bad category.
3:15 You trampled the sea with your horses, churning the great waters. 3:16 I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us.
Look, it’s not that I can’t appreciate a good revenge tale. I actually tend to quite enjoy them. But I’m not a fan of revenge tales in The Bible for two reasons:
- When God is up there orchestrating everything, from the vengeance on the bad guys within his own people, utilizing Israel’s enemies to carry out his wrath, and then orchestrating revenge on Israel’s enemies for that attack on his people which was his doing to begin with, it all becomes quite pointless.
- Why are there vengeance and revenge tales in The Bible at all!? Shouldn’t the entire point of the Bible be to tell me how to be a good and kind and generous person?? Where is that part? There’s far too little of that in favor of faaarrr too much anger and vengeance. The ratio so far is like 98:2. It’s insane.
There you have it. That’s Habakkuk. It’s spelled weird, it’s hard to say, and it essentially gives us one interesting thing – the faith thing. Christians looove having faith. They are all about that shiz. Jewish people? I mean, sure, I think so. But they’re not so showy about it. Next up is Zephaniah. Another 3 chapters of fun with prophecies. See y’all then.