Habakkuk - Introduction
The end of Assyria as a world power (the Babylonians destroyed its capital, Nineveh, in 612 B.C.E.) seemed to many in Judah the beginning of a new age. But before long the conquering Babylonians (called Chaldeans in the Old Testament) made clear that they too were embarked on world domination. In 597 B.C.E. they conquered the Judeans. The allusion to the Chaldeans in 1.6 places 1.2–2.3 of this book within the period 612–597 B.C.E. We know nothing about Habakkuk other than his date.
The book's three sections are in different literary forms. The passage 1.2–2.3 is a dialogue, in which the prophet seriously questions God's justice, that is, how God can allow the wicked Chaldeans to triumph. Chapter 2.4–20 is a series of denunciations of human injustice, which begin with “Woe.” Chapter 3 has the form of a psalm. The differing styles, plus the book's brevity, obstruct certainty that one hand produced the entire book. A basic unity is provided, however, by the themes of the justice of God and the need for human beings to have faithful confidence in God.
The dialogue section, though focused on theodicy, contains vivid descriptions of invading forces ( 1.5–11 ) and a splendid metaphor of a fisherman ( 1.14–16 ). The denunciations ( 2.4–20 ) excel in shrewd characterizations. The psalm (ch. 3 ) abounds in colorful cosmic symbols and images.